Saturday, May 14, 2022

doubles and a supernova (Killarney)

Viewed and imaged from the Kchi Waasa Debaabing dome of the Killarney Provincial Park Observatory (KPPO).

Used the Sony voice recorder to avoid typing, as usual.

I planned to image a flyover of the International Space Station.

Set up camera outside the Kchi dome, facing north-west. Decided on the fisheye Rokinon lens as the kit zoom at 18mm wasn't wide enough. Framed it to just catch the dome.

As I readied the camera, I noticed the number 3 on the display. Wait. What? Only space for 3 images (RAW)? Really? Oh oh. Set to Auto mode (JPG) and the number rose, obviously, but it was still but a handful. Oh no. I forgot to clear out the memory card. Tried the other: it was full! Sheesh. Did not plan ahead properly. Should have cleared out old images. The only option was to copy to the Surface computer.

When I started the 16-inch, I did some other stuff for a bit. Then I went to the Moon and it was way off. So I parked it and re-started, slewed, and it was close. At least the Moon was in the finder scope. I don't fully understand that behaviour. Do you need to acquire a target immediately after start-up?

9:16 PM Friday 13 May 2022. Started the audio recorder, 7 hours space left. Battery level about half.

9:16 PM (file 22051302). Found a working arrangement. The Sony ICD-SX750 digital voice recorder was on the little POD shelf table to the right of the computer. 

Somebody texted my phone.  My sister, on her recent birding sightings.

Copied the photos from the memory card and it took a while. All these photos have been transferred previously; I just never did the clean-up. Or I need to buy more memory cards! Almost there... Folder 100 has 49 files - check. Folder 101 has 687 - check. Folder 102 - 756 - check. Renamed the third one, for clarity. That worked swimmingly. I used my very old card reader which I didn't think would work. It did, great news. This new Surface has limited things (ports), as do all modern slim laptops, it seems. I have the new USB-C adapter doohickey and it has a number of slots (SD and microSD for example) but not Compact Flash. Finished the backup. 

Headed out of the dome to format the memory card in the 40D. Took me a moment to find the command.

That chattering sound was bats! Spotted two flying around, chasing each out, then they flew vertically until I lost sight. War games? Loud chirps!

Programmed the intervalometer. Took me a little bit to figure out why it wasn't working right: I had the camera's dark subtraction turned on, so it was doubling the exposure time. Set ISO, f-stop, exposure, BULB mode, duration, interval, etc. f/5.6, 10 sec, ISO 400. Went to infinity and back a tick. Took some test shots.

Re-read the ISS shooting notes made earlier in the day. I might need to go to a higher ISO, 800. Checked the flyover start time: around 11:30. I set an alarm for 10:45 to do final test exposures.

9:37. Low battery warning on Sony recorder. Loaded fresh batteries. 

Oh, wait a minute! I wondered how I would sync my voice recordings. At home, I plug into the desk stand. On the road, with the old ASUS netbook, I'd connect by USB cable. And the Eee PC had the Sony playback software... New machine did not have the voice recorder app installed. Hmmm. Well, I did have my USB kit.

9:40. Just used the DIVIDE feature. Activated the dark mode in the Chrome browser. Once again, on wi-fi! Disconnected and reconnected the ethernet cable. Reacquired the Dog House. Is it a bug with Abiwazy adapter? A glitch when I connect and disconnect other devices? Or a loose-fitting ethernet connector? No click?

OK. What should I observe? The 37 Cluster was going down. Alula Australis really high up. The SkyTools list I was looking at had RASC Deep Sky Gems, a few of my monthly "fast movers" or short-period binaries. Couple of random items. Spotted some stars with my Mark I eyeballs. I was thinking about Haas double stars later.

Chose Alula aka ξ (xi) Ursae Majoris. Looked in the Meade AutoStar II menus. It was not in the "named" stars list. But I did find it in the "multiples" list. Slewed. There was a star in the finder scope but it was off a bit. Nudged. Back-breaker, with a straight-thru and nearly at zenith.  Wish the cable on the hand controller was longer. 

[ed: Alula Australis is also known as 53 UMa, HR 4375, HD 98231, SAO 62484, HIP 55203, and STF 1523.]

9:49. In the biggen... Quite a tight pair. ST4 said 2.4 seconds-of-arc apart. Using my baader planetarium Hyperion aspheric 36mm ocular in the Meade ACF 16-inch catadioptric. Right-hand star, at the 4 o'clock position, same colour, slightly dimmer. Noted some faint field stars off to the left. Oriented 10 o'clock to 4. Faint star way off to the right. Went to check the view in SkyTools 4 Visual Professional. John Grim computer off again; plugged it in to avoid time-outs. Used the nearby power bar. Simulated the view. Ew. An image appeared in the chart so I disabled the photos from showing. Switched from the KPPO 130 to the 16. West was up. Oops. Turned on the "star diagonal" feature. Correction: west was left.

West was slightly down from directly left. Spotted two faint stars up-and-right or to the east: GSC 02520-0017 and GSC 02520-0190. Around the 1 or 2 o'clock. Faint. Had to use averted. [ed: Mags 12.9 and 13.0.]

Decided to try my new zoom eyepiece, the baader planetarium Hyperion Mark IV Universal Zoom 8-24mm. Not an official first unboxing (did that at home a week or so ago) but first time in a 'scope. First light! Oh. Found an inner cap, which covers the 1-1/4" shaft. Three caps! Clean, virgin, optics. Moved through the detents. The 'scope really shakes when you touch it. 

Pleasant temperature. 

Tried the Meade integrated LX600 electronic focuser. Why was it racked in all the way? Drove it all the way out. About 12 or 13mm of shaft shows. Put it in the middle and then adjusted the primary mirror coarse focus to suit. That'll make the e-focuser usable. (Is this documented?)

Dead centre. Used the e-focus. Good airy discs. Good diffraction rings. A touch of flaring. I was at the max. mag. i.e. 8mm. I couldn't remember the jumps. Checked the box. Didn't say. Looked at the tube: 8, 12, 16, 20, 24. Jumps by 4. OK, and that meant 5 positions, not 6.

10:08. I thought there was something else about Alula. The A and B stars are the main attraction but I saw a note about a faint companion. Checked ST4: there was an Aa companion, but way too close for normal amateur gear; and there was a C star, mag 15, well away [ed: aka POP 1219 C.]. Would it be visible in this big OTA? [ed: SkyTools calculates the limiting visual magnitude as 16.2, so theoretically possible.] Checked the Interactive Atlas view. Inline with A and B? Nope. No way. No can-do. 

A 60-year period. Looked for nearby stars to mark against. OK, about a 90 degree angle to the aforementioned GSC stars. They were at a position angle of 62 so therefore about 152. ST4 said it was 144° as of April.

[ed: OK. Again, the data from SkyTools... Object Info box says "PA 144° Sep 2.41" (2022.4)." Right. If north is up and east is to the right, then B would be at the bottom-right, between E and S. This is what I was seeing. A SCT with mirror diagonal and three reflections puts north up and east to the right. The GSC reference stars were NE. The Interactive Atlas chart in ST4V showed a consistent layout. Eyepiece chart orientation looks OK. But... the B star mag shows as 3.8 on hovering in the charts while A is 4.4. In contrast, the OI box says "AB: 4.39+4.9 mag." So the angle in the software matched my eyepiece views but the dimmer star was to the SE. Stelle Doppie says A and B are 4.33 and 4.80. Plotted position in the web site matches my view. SD also says the last reported observation was 2015...]

Noted a bug in SkyTools: I just changed the status of Alula Australis to Observed and all the list rows went bright, as if in a white colour. Good thing I had a red film in place. I flipped Night Vision Mode off, then on, and things reverted: light text on a dark background. That's like what I saw yesterday. The same thing happened when I added something to the planning list. Grrr.

(This is my first serious use of SkyTools, version 4, in the field.)

It was 10:15. The list showed the Christmas Tree Cluster in Monoceros. I thought that a weird thing to look at. I wondered if it was a DSG object. Yes. Also, I have imaged it... as it is a Finest NGC. Yikes, Mon was falling, no good. I moved the start time limiter up. Noted a target in Corvus. Kinda toward the Moon. 16° away. No thanks.

Considered the Type I supernova, identified as 2022hrs.

Text came in from Chris V. He had just realigned the black finder on the 74-inch telescope at the David Dunlap Observatory. I had screwed it up the last time I was there... Glad to hear it got it sorted.

I didn't see any clouds. Seeing was bad, to the naked eye. Tagged a faint satellite moving to the east. Near Boötes? Was that bright star Arcturus? Yes. Was it an early ISS? They are 90 minutes apart... (math in my head, the one I was interested in was at 11:30 so the prior would be 10:00, right?). So, no. Some other satellite.

Looked at the wide chart of the sky. I had it mirror-reversed for telescope views. Flipped it off. Oh, the Moon was very near Spica. I could see it naked eye. Ah, Hercules was rising.

The supernova was between Leo and Virgo. OK, let's try it. While the Moon was brighter now, it was further away.

Centred the star, accommodated for the polar misalignment, then synced the hand controller. Selected Messier 60 via the shortcut button. Spotted two stars. Noted another three. Looked to be close... Panned about and compared field in the software. Refined the focus. Panned some more and spotted a fuzzy! Ah, that was Messier 60, the big elliptical galaxy!

10:35. A star above, TYC 00878-0293 1,  at 1 o'clock. 90 degree angle, from the centre of the galaxy. SN mag was 12.54 and the star 11.85. Could not see NGC 4647 integrated mag of 12.1. This would be good to image when the Moon is not interfering.

Headed out to prep for the ISS shots. Checked the exposure settings. Did some light painting for fun. Bumped the ISO from 400 to 800. 10 seconds. Set a new alarm. Zoomed on stars, looked like they were in focus.

10:44. Did not like any of the suggestions in my SkyTools list. Grabbed Sissy's book. 

10:48. Checked the Oregon Scientific portable weather station: 65% relative humidity, 11.9 degrees Celsius, barometric pressure dropping, predicting rain tomorrow. Is that 12 or 24 hours out? Stayed hydrated.

Looked for a good part of the sky, at least at a right angle from the Moon. Decided to work in Leo. Maybe I've done about half... Chose κ (kappa) Leonis. aka Al Minliar al Asad. 

Went to add to the target list. Problems with red mode in SkyTools 4. Given my experience, I know what is where. But the text on buttons is not showing. E.g. I could not see the Add label.

Did it not add? Tried again. List refreshed. OK. Fine. (Did not make the list items go white.)

Old alarm went off. Start time was 11:29. Set an alarm for 11:25 PM with the Google 'bot for the final ISS prep.

Synced. I could not read the SAO number. Used an alternate designation, HIP 46146. The given name appeared. Good--go!

Nothing in the centre of the ocular view of the refractor. This mount is hard to use if you're not going for big obvious things in a bright washed out sky. The poor polar alignment is causing pointing issues. Takes advanced skills to locate... Panned about. Various bright stars and zig-zag patterns.

Looked like a super-wide pair. The deep blue star far away, to the south-west. Gold primary. Very colourful. I did not see the B star though. Sissy was talking about the tight pair. AB was 2.4".  AC was 149". Almost the same position angles in the Object Information, 211 and 212. The Interactive Chart was showing B at PA 67, above! Inconsistent.

[ed: Checked Stelle Doppie. The AB separation is 2.0" as of 2015. The PA of AB is 209 and AC is 212. Nature uncertain. But the separation has been decreasing slow over the years. This confirms the chart representation in SkyTools is incorrect.]


Felt damp.

Zoomed in to 8mm.

Collimation is off a tiny bit.

I noticed drifting in the RA after using the Left arrow. What's the called? Slack in the gears [ed: lash]. I had to use the Right button to load up the gears.

Nothing. I could not see another star. Scratch. Will need to look again.

Suddenly thought about red lighting inside the dome during the ISS photos. Grabbed my other red flashlight and shown it upwards. 

Time was 11:12. Noticed a double in the area (south of kappa): L 9. Panned over. Not sure. Both faint stars. Soft view. I thought I saw a faint star above. SkyTools showed the faint below. The angle looked right. SkyTools was presenting the pair in an unusual way with A being dimmer and B brighter. View again.

[ed: Stelle Doppie shows the magnitude of the primary as 11.4 and the secondary as 11.9.]

10 minutes out from the flyover.

11:20. Went out. A bit early but better to be ready... Took in the whole sky.

Started the run a couple of minutes before the start. Sat with it for a bit. Posed inside the observatory. And resumed my doubles stuff.

(Meanwhile, the camera stopped shooting (at the 14 minute mark). It didn't fully occur to me that I did not hear the shutter working...)

Decided on double star STF 1447 aka HIP 51699 or HD 91427. Slewed. Viewed the ISS from inside the dome.

Hey! No clicking... Went out. The intervalometer was working but not the camera. What the heck? Once again, the plug had wiggled loose. Always the wire. Got about half the run. I also checked the lens and it was fogged. Yes, fogged in that short amount of time. A bald-faced lie. Hauled the gear inside. 70%, 11.1 degree C, tonight was very humid. Should have installed a lens warmer...

11:42. Returned to the dome. Nice double. Maybe STF 1447 was a triple? Seeing was bad. Yellow-orange. The other was white or blue. Faint. No. Yellow and white? Secondary kept changing colour, orange and blue. Delicate pair. Haas said the gap was 4.4". ST3 said the mags were 7.3 and 9.2. ST4 said it was only a double, no other stars. Haas said it was a binary but ST4 did not echo this [ed: Stelle Doppie says it is uncertain.]. I saw another star below, at a 90 degree angle, about 2 minutes away. A bit of a hockey stick. OK, done! Didn't have a pencil handy so will have to mark the book later...

Put the book inside the pod bay. It was getting wet atop the rails... Really damp. 

Manually slewed down, horizontal, to look inside the tubes. No moisture. Shot a flash photo of each.

Selected Struve 1448. Searched for it and added it. Filtered list went from 10 to 11 entries. Weird, Struve name did not show [ed: Another ST bug. Funny it came up in the software search.]. SkyTools showed it as HD 91527. I could not find it in the mount. The Meade controller did not offer it up by SAO or HIP or HD. Ugh. Didn't feel like star hopping. Meade offers a nearby star option. Movin' on.

Felt cold. 

Selected 65 Leo. Used a Notepad document to show the designation! New screen's finer resolution, I'm struggling with. In Notepad, it used a lightly larger font for these old eyes. Entered SAO 118668 into the AutoStar. Pointing was way off.  Noted two stars. Seeing was really bad. And the candidate was low. An interesting pattern of stars. A group of four stars, a trapezoid. 65 was the bright one. Could not split. Quite tight, plus very different magnitudes. Darn.

I made it to midnight!

I wanted to finish on a good one.

STF 1529. 

(I suddenly remember Levy's way of referring to Struve. He threw me the first time I heard it...)

Slewed. Ugh, yukko, even lower. Nice though. Easy peasy, 9.4". Yellow and pale blue. Wide at 24mm. Binary. F and G class stars.

12:12 AM,  Saturday 14 May 2022. Started the shut down. Packed stuff to take with me. Parked. Dew shield off and stowed. Caps on. Dome off table and back on the rollers. Attached the brackets. Closed the clamshell and inserted a locking bolt. Powered off the UPS. Last items out and locked up.

12:25. The weather station was water-soaked, 78% RH, 10.4°C, pressure dropping, rain tomorrow, time 11:27 (oh, it's on standard time).

And that's a wrap.


A little unsatisfying. The conditions were not great. The poor pointing is irksome. And I did not use the refractor. I should have done that, like what I've done at the CAO, big 'scope, little 'scope.


Corrected the times in the log notes; the Sony was 9 minutes fast. Yesterday, synced the time in the voice recorder.

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