Monday, May 23, 2022

more gems (Killarney)

As the skies remained clear, I decided to head to the dome.

Lovely sky.

The plan was to go through the LX600 alignment process to get more familiar with it. Then do some visual observing, mainly RASC Deep-Sky Gem targets. With many layers on, I headed to the Kchi Waasa Debaabing observatory.

10:58 PM, Sunday 22 May 2022. Arrived the dome. And there was a gaggle of people! What the heck? Two couples and a group of 4. Another couple. I said "Hello." I wondered what were they waiting for?!

Opened the clamshell. Power up the UPS. Caps off. Installed the dew shield. Removed the roof clamps and pushed the dome onto the table. Started up the Surface computer.

Asked if everyone was enjoying the nice dark sky. Handed out copies of The Evening Sky Map to all and encouraged them to identify stars and constellations. Told them to holler if they had questions. Explained we did not have programmed activities tonight. Sorry!

Powered the mount. Went to Arcturus. It was not too far off actually. But out of the FOV of the frac. Aligned with the ES finder scope. Started reading the instruction for the re-alignment process.

A young man asked if there was a satellite flyover about a half an hour prior. I looked it up with Heavens Above. Yes. 10:46 PM, in the north, the International Space Station flew between Polaris and Cassiopeia, brighter than any star. Fun fact: the Boeing spacecraft is at ISS, just arrived. Another man asked about chains of satellites. Yep, easily seen.

When I released the Dec clutch and turned the OTA, I noted the camera didn't fit. Ah! I had extended the electronic focuser. So I retracted it and was able to reach 90 degrees.

The last of the park visitors left...

I believe I encountered a missing step. I think you do the alignment from the park position. I'll have to check... I carried on. As the forks rotated I watched for cable snags. Used the step stool to look through the frac to align on Polaris.

Not a trivial process... But target objects were in the refractor field of view. Tested with Arcturus and Regulus. Updated the documentation. Re-centred the electronic focuser.

Chose my first target, from the Deep-Sky Gem observing certificate program run by RASC. NGC 5371 (also known as NGC 5390). Almost exactly between Seginus of Boötes, Alkaid, and the bright stars of Canes Venatici. I decided to start from Cor Caroli, the lovely double.

Slewed to α (alpha) CVn.

11:50 PM. A glitch in SkyTools. I could not see the Field of View circle in the Eyepiece View window though the direction arrow was shown. Buggy. The direction arrow did not respond. Closed the charts, reopened. No circle. Turned off Night Vision mode. Boxed in, can't use SkyTools 3 and SkyTools 4 is... frustrating. Checked the View settings. The circle feature was turned off. Why? I never changed that setting. Grrr. Enabled it and everything worked again. Waste of time. Finally turned the field to mimic the view in the Meade 130 mm with the Meade 21 mm.

Used the step ladder as a table for the hand controller.

Started the star hop. Uh huh. Noted a bright star. A gaggle of stars. A large oval. Arrow heads and boxes. A line of stars.

I don't think the 21mm ocular is planar. One side of the field is soft.


Bathroom light in the other apartment. The west windows are distracting down in the observing area. All the west windows should have black-out or dark curtains. For the hard-core visual astronomers...

12:05 AM, Monday 23 May 2022. I saw a whole bunch of things!

I saw NGC 5371 in the refractor. SkyTools shows other designations including NGC 5390, MCG 7-29-20, UGC 8846, Z 219-29, H II-716, and PGC 49514.

Interesting bird call in the middle of the night! Close.

A neat circle of stars with SAO 44804. The galaxy was right beside SAO 44805. This oval or circlet with fainter stars was to the north-east.

Diffuse, oval-shaped, angled to the first star, i.e. 44804 (a position angle of 8°. [ed: ST4V says the PA is 6.]

Down and left, at my 7 o'clock (west), was a somewhat bright star. Looked like a double. Put my close-up specs on to read the hi-rez, small pixel computer screen. HD 121197. Not a double in ST4. To the right of the star (south-east) I saw fuzzy things, two. NGC 5354 was to the north; NGC 5353 below. I could not see NGC 5350 even though the software showed it was bigger.

I wanted to view in the big gun. I removed the camera assembly from the Meade 16 ACF SCT. Dug out my Williams Optics dielectric diagonal and my baader planetarium aspheric 36mm. Grabbed my Big DOC astronomy chair and set it way down low. Under The Beast.

I was right on it!

Now, west was to my 10 o'clock.

Used the coarse then fine focus. Damp time was long, more than a couple seconds.

Oval shape. Some structure. A spiral, canted. A nice view beside the two stars. Soft and diffuse. Nice.

Panned to the west and spotted the two previously viewed islands. Oh! There's the third. Bigger, yes, but fainter, lower surface brightness, more diffuse. That's why it was not easily seen in the smaller aperture. Looked like a face-on spiral.

I thought it a nice double star! Bright orange star. Seeing was bad. Wow. Looking nearly straight up through the least amount of air, and the seeing was bad.

The galaxy furthest down was quite bright. But they were all ovals in shape.

The "new" galaxy was half the distance, approx., as HD 121147 (west) was from HD 121197, in the other direction (east).

Three galaxies, boom, boom, boom.  Bottom (5353) was oval, a spiral.  The middle (5354), even though with a bright core, was tiny. Smallest. Curiously, both were brighter than the upper. The top galaxy (5350) upper was a face-on. 

Tried to fine-tune the focus. It was fine (sorry).

Returned to 5371. The biggest of all these galaxies. Big object. Definitely a spiral. Structure visible, hints of mottling, hints of spiral arms. Popped with averted.  SkyTools said it was a spiral--good.

Two faint stars above, flanking it. 

Nice double off to the left, very faint, equal, inline with the bottom of the two bright ones. Aiming toward the triangle. I would classify that as a double star. ST4 didn't show it as such. The bright member is Tycho 03030-0993 1. The fainter star was inline with the star SAO 44805. So this pair's alignment was roughly to the north-east.

SkyTools revealed two more galaxies, smaller still. I did not see them. The 3 that I spotted and the missing 2 were part of a galaxy group, Hickson 68. [ed: I did not realised, or pay attention to, that this was previously viewed.]


SkyTools glitched, once again. When I set the status of the 5371 galaxy, it made the rows go white from black. I had to turn off and on the red mode in the application to recover.

Oh! Just discovered that NGC 5350 was another target in the DSG list. How about that?!

A two-fer!

That big faint one near 5353 and 5354 that I didn't see at low power. Yeh. SkyTools did concur: it was a spiral. Marked it observed too!

Next on the list was 5377. It must have been nearby. Ah. Quite close to Alkaid. But that meant more star hopping...

Spotted Antares over the southern trees.

Checked the time (around half past 12) and considered the setup for the star trails imaging run. Collecting the gear and setting up would take about half an hour? Noted the dew power was here in the dome but the strap was with the camera and tripod. Checked the clearances--OK. Fetched the stuff.

At first, I set the tripod down near the west bench but that would require an extension cord. It occurred to me it really didn't matter where the camera was so I put it beside the dome. Rigged everything up: camera, camera power, lens, intervalometer, dew strap, dew controller, dew power. Programmed the camera for ISO 1600. Programmed the intervalometer for 35 seconds plus a 5 second gap. Removed the entire lens hood from the fisheye.

Bonked my head. Owww.

12:48 AM. Checked the Oregon. Relative humidity was at 70% but as I was looking at it, it dropped to 69%. The ambient temperature was 3.3° Celsius. Barometric pressure was dropping. Clouds tomorrow. The display was foggy.

Took a moment to rest.

Decided, since I was in the area, to go for one more DSG. I'd jump off from Alkaid. Wow, the LX600 was even higher up.

Short distance away. Oops. Rotated the FOV in the software. Satellite went through...

I saw it. Very, very faint in the refractor, almost invisible when stationary. Three stars, a little triangle (with PPM 53808). Not a lot of field stars. Almost a void. Turned the WO mirror to view from the other direction and sat on the step ladder. Right there. An edge-on galaxy. Very faint. Diffuse pattern. 11 o'clock to 5 o'clock. Small compact core. Really canted. Fairly large with averted vision. The galaxy angle was about a 90 degree angle to the triangle. Actually another star there reminded me of a mini-Corvus.

SkyTools glitched again. Greg's gonna get an earful.

Looked at my rough plan in Evernote. DSGs, a comet, a double. I was losing steam. Already had accomplished more than planned with the DSG. It was around 1:00 o'clock.

Bat flew by.

The dew-covered Oregon now reported 73% and 3.1.

1:05. Very humid. 

I could see the Milky Way. Wondered if my regular eyeglasses were nearby. Yes, they were. Put on my specs. Took in the view, focused. 

Whoa. A meteor. Southbound! Weird. It went between Lyra and Hercules. 

Next clear night like this I would use the tracker and pull in the Milky Way.

Enjoyed the dark rift, star clouds near the core. 

Saw a tumbler satellite, through Serpens Caput. [ed: No, the left side is Cauda.]

1:10. Didn't feel like I had done much. Although it was good to go through the align process, and accommodated for the electronic focuser. Stumbled across a few more typos. The pointing did seem improved.

Viewed The Coathanger. Hey, not upside-down! Early in the season.

Eyeballed Hercules. Third of the way down, right hand side. Confirmed! Messier 13! A naked eye globular cluster. Pretty good...

Planned to shut down. Then I'd have a nap and get up at 3, before the Moon spoiled the view. Everything went well overall but I bonked my hacked weather station and it fell to the wood deck. The belt clip went one direction. The display was blank. Oh oh. I'd have to do some diagnostics in the morning...

1:23. Carried on. The new close position marks are handy! Left the UPS on, of course. Closed the SkyShed POD.

1:28. Checked the camera. When the intervalometer completed an exposure, and paused 5 seconds to transfer the data, I quickly shone my red flashlight on the lens. No dew. Yes!

Left the dome.

1:32. Made a little pile of the things I'd need later and set an alarm in my phone for 3.

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