Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Jupiter, Mars, and 37 (St Thomas)

Wow. Clear on a new Moon phase. Who'd a thunk it?!

6:08 PM. Testing, testing! Battery check. OK. Time remaining: 7 hours.

The 'scope had been outside for a few hours to chill down. I set the tripod lower this time, only extending the bottom segment half the full amount. Hoping this give a better and more comfortable sitting position. 

Adjustable height observing chair, the BIG doc, out.

6:54. Started the Sony ICD-SX750D ahead of observing...

Quick look at Jupiter in the Meade ETX 90. With the zoom eyepiece, the baader planetarium 9-24 Mark IV. Looked OK. 

Wanted my scarf. Felt humid. I hadn't look up the humidity in advance... Put on my small Dr Who scarf. I did not have the Sony recorder kick stand... 

Grabbed the battery pack for the telescope, hoping I could drive the tracking motor. Plugged into the hacked lead power wire. Toggled the power switch. Nothing. I couldn't remember the power switch layout on the bottom of the ETX base. Needed a flashlight... 

6:58. Headed inside again. Couldn't tag the Deep Red flashlight but I found the red bike head lamp.

Examined the bottom of the 'scope. Power slider switch was off. Set to on, heard the motor start running. All right. Train blew its whistle. It is Railway City after all...

6:59. In the mirror-reversed or laterally-inverted view, I saw one Galilean moon on the left and three on the right. Left one was a bit less than one planet-diameter away. On the right there were two moons close to each other and close to Jove: attractive, about 1/2 or 2/3 of a planet-diameter from each other, and about 1-1/2 PD away. The last (Ganymede?) was way out there, a dozen PD away.

I wanted a table. Back indoors... 


Grabbed John Grim too. The Surface Laptop Go computer with SkyTools 4 installed. 

Cops chased after someone...

Ugh. Button trouble!

7:02. I could not see some of the text in buttons in SkyTools with the red mode or Night Vision Mode active. Had to go from memory. Reminded me to review my notes from Killarney... {ed: Had trouble on 14 May 2022 while viewing doubles and a supernova.}

Added the Moon to the list. Got the error, as before! On adding an object, the Night Vision Mode got scrambled, with portions of the screen turning white. Had to turn red mode off and on. Also had that error at KPPO.

Have you turned it off and on again?

Why did I add the Moon?! Yuk.

Marked Jupiter as observed.

Needed my keyboard light...

Adjusted the Eyepiece View. Set the 'scope. Looked for the zoom eyepieces. Oh. Not here. Just used a similar one to approximate the view. 

I was wrong: it was Callisto at the far right. Europa was the inner one then Ganymede and finally Callisto. Io was on the left (or west).

Felt a little cold, particularly in my upper back. Headed inside for my winter coat.

Checked the tracking. Not bad. The planet had drifted up a bit. I centred. The drive motor seemed to be working OK.

The ocular fogged. Dang.

Carefully examined the disc of Jupiter. Zoomed in. Adjusted the focus (with the clothespin, of course. No obvious dots. The seeing was not bad.

7:08. The seeing was good, actually. The northern equatorial belt was nice, interesting. An orange colour, or a rich tan. Mottled, twisted. Southern band was not as distinct, not as colourful. The drift was more pronounced at the higher power.

The seeing was really good! Very steady.

I felt the Sun was to the left; limb darkening on the right. The southern equa. belt was weird, it just stopped at the meridian. Why? Looked different on the left edge.

Turned to the computer to see what was going on. Where was the Great Red Spot? Were there going to be any shadow transits? Zoomed the eyepiece view it a lot. Turned off the labels. Readied to advance time by the step (15 minutes). Noticed it was not set to Time Now. Click the clock icon. 

Boom! Crashed SkyTools! Crikey. 

7:10. SkyTools threw a "atan2 DOMAIN error." But it didn't completely clobber the whole app this time. Good. I was able to close the eyepiece window. Closed the Interactive Atlas. Turned off red light mode. Closed the main list window, gracefully, thinking it'd be good to save my current settings. Restarted everything although I didn't zoom in quite as much on the gas giant. Screen brightness at max.

Back into the eyepiece window. Time Now. No crash. Turned off. Advanced time. This time I got a rendering problem. Man! Display problems. Fire truck! Zoom out some more, medium level. Got the error again, the "atan2" message. Closed and reopened the eyepiece view. Could I keep going? Reopened the ocular view. Still saw the render problems... 

Took a screen snapshot for Greg. Hrmph.

Continued searching for shadows... Error again! Gar! Tried again but avoided the eyepiece simulation. Zoomed in with the Interactive Atlas and mirrored the view. It worked fine. Whew.

Oh. Moon transits... er, events. Io went behind the planet (around 9:15 PM) to emerge from its eclipse at after midnight. 12:40 AM. Would I be up that late? Five hours from now. Doubted it. Surely Europa and Ganymede would create shadows. Yep, Europa shadow started around 1:40 AM. No shadows at present, unfort. Europa would merge with the dark limb at 10:45 PM. Europa popped off the disc and then it's shadow appeared. Interesting timing. Europa's shadow was gone by 3:40. Ganymede's big shadow skirted low starting at 7:45 AM. Still glitchy. Io drawn in front at one point. The line in the spherical wrapping of the planet was distracting. 

Red spot showedup at 2:30. 

I backed up in time. Ah, the red spot HAD been visible and was turning away... now. I think that's why the southern equatorial band looked weird to me! The GRS was in the area, though I could not see it directly. On the limb and turning away. Low resolution in this little OTA. But the seeing was really good.

Eyepiece fogged again. I could use a dew heater, I thought. But I wasn't really set up. I couldn't remember where the gear was... Or how I'd get power...

The brightness dropped. 

Completed fogged, the eyepiece. The 'scope objective was clear. Covered the skyward finder lens.

Checked the software: Mars was up. Right behind the tree, unfortunately. Maybe it would take an hour or two to clear it. Checking items and using Jupiter as a reference, I looked for marks nearby. Nothing. There were lots of squares on the display, a little distracting. They were dark nebulae? The 37 Cluster was below Mars, so also blocked by the tree, currently. Flipped to the Deep-Sky Gems list and adjusted the filters. 38 items. Sorted by constellation. Tagged some items in Pisces, Cetus, Andromeda, Triangulum. Not Aquarius. A lot of galaxies, might be tricky. Copied them to my list.

A dog barked. A cop car chased someone else. A car alarm went off. A truck backed up.

Rock solid seeing at low power.

Looked for a bright star to begin the star hop. Looked for some field stars...

7:35. Wondered if I had a finder-sized ring in the software for the Meade. Nope. Had to make do without.

After a long hop, I was not sure I was in the right area. Tried to do field identification. Tried to find a flattened triangle.

Another dog barked. Once. Once every 30 to 45 seconds.

Not a lot of bright stars... Stumbled across a large hockey stick. Suddenly realised where I was. Centred on the spot where the galaxy should be... But I couldn't see anything.

Well. I star hopped successfully and found star HD 7991 near to NGC 474. But the island universe was not visible in the bright sky. This confirmed that the light pollution was too much for these faint, magnitude 12, galaxies.

8:02. Decided to not do more galaxies. I had two open clusters in my evening program.

My right hand was getting cold, while using the touch pad. A physical mouse would help... Also wanted my specs to do some whole sky identification. Still wished for some keyboard illumination.

Considered NGC 752. It was at the far left or east edge of the Andromeda constellation.

Feet felt a little cold. In my slippers...

Went inside for a bit. Returned with my eyeglasses, eyeglasses strap, docking adapter, and my hacked USB keyboard light. Forgot the mouse. Touch pad doesn't work with my glove on.

Tried to attach the eyeglasses strap but the plastic ends were rock hard. No longer flexible. Well, that's just great. My favourite strap no longer works. So much for that.

Considered a target in Pegasus.

All these squares in the IA view. I pointed to one. "GN" identifier. Huh? Double-clicked and read the Object Info description. Reflection nebulae? OK. Turned 'em, and emissions, off. Much better!

Sorted the list. Schlanger. It mucked up dark mode again.

Whoa. The 'scope fell... That's not the right word: slipped. Rotated. Tilted nose-down while the Dec clamp was loose.

Finally tagged Aries.

The lights in the area were annoying. It would be good once I had the blind put up... Blocked with my arms and hands. And the hood of the old winter coat.

Tried to figure out where I was. It looked so familiar. Mirror option off, Flip off. I was getting frustrated. OK... near Triangulum. Hopped from β (beta) Tri.

The factory alarm sounded.

I got a cluster! [ed: NGC 752, between Tri and And.] Finally, a visible target! But then in faded out. Damn! It was going behind the little roof over the balcony. Rotten luck. Moved the tripod a bit further out. Reacquired. After rotating the field in the eyepiece window, I identified stars. Still, I was running out of time. It faded out. There was a bright triangle of stars in the bottom-left. Big object... Nearly straight up. The bright star was HD 11885.

Marked it to re-observe.

8:39. Break time. Capped the eyepiece. Tilted the OTA down.

Good long break. Warmed up.

9:52. Back outside. Mars was almost clear of the tree branches. I could see the Pleiades up high. Some bright stars were visible to the... east.

Struggled with the dock accessory. Its short thick cable has a memory. Finally got it to work with the keyboard light and external USB mouse.

The 90mm objective was clear.

9:59. First sighting of Mars! Was there something white at the top-left? At low power. Then cranked up to high power. 

SkyTools messed up again as I marked the 4th planet as observed.

the Fingal Clear Sky Chart

Eyepiece was completely fogged. I wondered where my lead acid batteries were... I could use a heat pack. Fetched a sodium warmer. Held it to the glass and waited. It took a long time. Wondered what the dew point was. According to the Fingal Clear Sky Chart, the predicted humidity was 85% to 90%.

I saved the chart.

Reminded me I had not done my usual weather analysis prep. This had been a bit shotgun.

Enjoyed the views of Mars.

I wanted to dial out the drift. Accidentally changed the angle control of the head, oops. Finally released the horizontal handle and turned a bit clockwise.

Just dropped the heat pack! Off the balcony. Great, just great. 

Put my sneakers on and was off to rescue the hand warmer... No harm done.

Back at it.

Still drifting. Rotated clockwise a bit more, manipulating the correct handle on the Manfrotto head.

10:21. I thought it was better. 

I could see albedo features on Mars. White on the top, small. Smaller than it seemed at low magnification. And dark regions on the bottom.

Fingerprint reader was acting up.

Looked for the Mars Mapper. Realised I had not put links in the recent posts. That was dumb. Loaded up the page. Ensured it was set to time now.

Mars Mapper screen grab

Pale orange Aeria was up, to the north-west; dark Sinus Sabaeus was to the south. Syrtis Major was starting to appear. I took a screen snap, dropped it into Windows Paint, and did rotate and flipping. That better matched my view. Spot on. Yep.

Mars from the mapper, adjusted for MCT view with mirror diagonal

The MCT with the mirror diagonal makes north up and east to the left.

Lovely at 8mm. Fantastic disc at 24mm. Very attractive.

Considered the next goal. The 37 Cluster, aka LE Cluster, aka NGC 2169). In the arm of Orion.

10:35. Made a note to reset the Declination knob. Centre it on the screw. That should always be done. Part of prep before a session? That should go into my astronomy session prep notes...

Started the hop from Betelgeuse. It progressed well...

Got it. 

Turned off the open cluster markers in the ST4V eyepiece view.

I was not seeing all the stars that SkyTools was showing! Earlier I had set the eyepiece view to Actual mode versus Ideal. The telescopic view was really faint. Just a handful of stars. No obvious 37 or LE shape.  

I could dial back the software presentation, I knew, by playing with the light pollution and weather parameters... but I didn't feel like doing that.

Someone hammered at something.

As I sketched the view. Levy 402.

sketch of 37 Cluster

After finding some pencils.

Tried maximum magnification, at 8mm, to draw out more stars... but it felt about the same.

Capped the glass. Done.

10:54. A good session. Tripod height was great. Quick and easy set-up and tear-down. Not crazy cold. No Moon!

Hauled stuff inside. Worked slowly and carefully so to not trip. Briefly ruminated on leaving the 'scope out; but brought it in too.

Tired. Climbed out of the winter coat. Took to the couch. Reclined. Ahh.

11:01. I only got about 10 of the stars. Clearly on it. That's the important part. Oh. Realised I didn't have a working scanner...

Removed the red film from the monitor.

11:04. The Windows theme is a little wonky. The background windows have a bright title bar. Maybe I can create a custom colour palette that will be better.

Marked 37 as observed. ST4V glitched again. 

Reviewed the evening campaign. 20 plus objects on the list. Viewed about a 1/3rd. 2 to re-examine. Another Deep-Sky Gem completed.

There was a Cygnus star in the list. Weird. Don't know where it came from.

Considered to-do items, such as doing a better polar alignment.

Remembered to turn the mount drive off.

11:17. Shut down the recorder.

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