Saturday, November 26, 2022

observed Mars in the C8 (St Thomas)

Readied for another observing session from the deck.

Everything (mostly) was ready to go.

9:18 PM. I had finished:

  • preparing my eyeglasses with strap 2, secured with the small flexible plastic loops
  • leveling the tripod (the deck must be canted a fair amount!)
  • trying to polar align... but I couldn't see Polaris with mount toward the south end...
  • checking the balance on the RA axis, OK with the 2 counterweights at the bottom
  • powering the mount, from the existing extension cord snaked through the door
  • configuring the GoToStar hand controller for local time, Standard Time
  • attaching the Kendrick objective dew strap
  • powering up the None More Black dew controller, set to 90% of so
  • bringing in the extra Velcro straps and scissors

Mars was high but still behind branches.

9:26. I looked for drift alignment instructions in Evernote. Found 'em. Cross-linked.

Oh. On briefly skimming, I realised a potential fault. Wednesday night, I had been looking east... I should have been raising and lowering the mount, I think... Meh. Behind.

9:34. I readied the Surface computer.

  • red film attached
  • Evernote ready
    • observing notes created
    • drift notes open
  • SkyTools 4 Visual Pro running
  • Night mode on
  • Mars Mapper opened
  • battery full charged

I noted it was 4 degrees out... brrr. I'd wear the old MEC red winter coat again.

9:42. Grabbed the Sony audio recorder as I moved to the deck. Oh oh, forgot to erase the audio files. But I recalled seeing 4 hours left. Should be fine, I thought.

Computer out, cables out. Mirror diagonal installed. Other bits and bobs.

Needed the eyepiece... Grabbed the baader planetarium Mark IV Hyperion 8-24 zoom ocular from the Meade. But it was without—so to work in the ETX—the the 2-inch adapter ring. Looked in the astronomy closet for the baader box. Didn't see it. Looked for the corrugated cardboard it had been in. Found it but the baader box was not there. Where had I put it? Spotted the fabric case for ETX. Unzipped it. Ah ha.

Forgot gloves.

Bolted up the eyepiece and avoided the mirror falling out.

More crowded on the little deck with this 'scope. The Vixen's bigger footprint. I'd need to move the table during the alignment process...

tarted the process, a one-star alignment, for speed and convenience. Chose Aldebaran. 

Fetched my specs. Attached the eyeglasses strap. 

I was pretty sure I had α (alpha) Tauri. Not a lot of other stars were visible. Off a good amount. After a bit, put the orange star in the finder. I landed in the Hyades. OK. Got it. Removed the front and back caps. Slowed the rate and centred in the eyepiece. Done. Made the finder co-linear.

Slewed to Mars. In the finder. Centred. Synced.

I had carefully watched the OTA during these processes, hands at the ready to catch things should they slip or fall. A little anxiety-ridden. But the big tube was stable, solid. My hack was working! 

Moved the table and observing chair into position.

SO MUCH better with the blind!

Installed the dew heater for the eyepiece. My custom heater into my custom controller.

The seeing didn't look as good... No.

9:56. I noted some slight drift but it was OK. 

I noted albedo features, depsite the poor seeing. Low power setting, 24mm.

Light at the 11 o'clock position of the planet. A dark region, dead centre, on the meridian. 

Stepped up 2 levels. Click-stop. At 16mm. Too bad, the seeing was not as good as Wednesday. I wondered how good the collimation was.

A big triangular dark region. Still in the tree. It was contributing to the flaring I was observing.

Crouching. Caught myself curved over, uncomfortably so. Angled the William Optics dielectric diagonal a bit higher for a better body position.

I spotted a star at the 10 o'clock position. Better light grasp of this the 8-inch mirror.

I was happy.  Even though I had not seen Polaris, I was pretty happy with the polar alignment.

Checked SkyTools. It had the Meade config active in the eyepiece window; switched to the C8 and the zoom eyepiece at 16mm. The software showed the moons of Mars, again within the reach of the larger aperture. Ensured west was to the left. Noted a star but it seemed too close. While ensuring the star diagonal option was on, I saw a 2x magnifier was active--disabled. I switched to zoom 12 to better match the view. The star was nearly at the edge of the field. Oh. Got another one, at the 6 o'clock position.

Someone drove around on a little motor bike. Memories of tropical islands. OK then!

Defocused. Yep. Collimation was definitely out. Stoopid movers bonked it. That's what broke the bracket. Now the 'scope optics were out.

Added the Taurus star, HD 241953, to the observing list. Marked it viewed. As expected, the Night Vision Mode of ST4V went loopy. Toggled it off and on.

Whoa. The big ASUS monitor in my office went bright blue. What the...? Oh, the new John Starbird computer timed out.

Noted drifting down. And I was looking east. Considered the drift alignment corrections from my notes but did not feel like adjusting. The drift was manageable.

Clicked up to the highest power, 8mm now. Nice. A big disk. It was soft, this high mag view.  Spotted another star, a point of light, at the 4 o'clock position. Looked for the star in the Interactive Atlas view. Mirror flip. Horizon mode was already active. It was in Time Now mode. Oh, actually, it wasn't on. Hold the phone. That meant the eyepiece view was wrong before. OK. Noted the star beside the planet now. Not a moon. HD 242033. 

Up to move up, right to move right. Centred again. Drift faster, of course, at the extreme magnification.

I was not getting a lot of detail. Too mushy. Could still make out the light and dark regions. Fully clear of the tree. A light breeze moved the branches. The seeing went away...

Went down one click, to 12mm. A much cleaner view. A good view. A great disc.

10:14. Noted the drift was both down and left. 

I decided to look up the features. Switched to the Mars Mapper tab in the browser. It showed Syrtis Major was front and centre, beginning to turn away. 

the mapper tool - labels showing

I snapped the image with the Windows screen grab shortcut and dropped it into Paint. Rotated 180 and flipped horizontally. Yep. That was it.

Mars view simulated for the SCT

Syrtis Major was a bit to my left. Sinus Sabaeus was below. Aeria was to the right. Seeing was bad. Wanted it now. Dang!

Covered the finder lenses.

Felt a bit stiff.

The 'scope had definitely been banged around. Cops took up pursuit. Next time, I'd do a collimation run, with the appropriate tool and my camera attached.

Sabaeus was right, coming into centre. Helias was down and right. Seeing was better.

Was I done? Was that it? Maybe. I wanted to look at Mars, primarily. It was a good. I had wanted to sort out the blinds. Check. I had wanted to set up the C8. Despite a set-up, this rig was working well, overall. Decent pole alignment, motor drive system working, tracking OK, go-to pointing fair. 

Some deep sky? A Deep-Sky Gem target? Didn't feel like it...

OK. One more thing. Messier 42 (M42), the Great Orion Nebula. Synced on Mars and slewed. Way off in the finder. 

There it was. Trapezium was obvious, four stars. No problem. Grey clouds of the nebula, the wing shape, was obvious. Not a large extent at low power, the local light pollution interfering. The seeing was quite bad.

Clicked up to medium power. Ugh. Mushy. Difficulty focusing between optics issues and sky conditions. Pretty soft.

All right. That was it. Considered a very quick shutdown, leaving the 'scope out. Then I could inspect in the light of day.

I parked the mount. Powered down. Installed all the caps. Secured the tether of the 8-inch cap around the base plate.

Tightened up the front ring bolt (should have done that before). Grabbed everything else, all the small items, to take inside. Hauled the TV dinner wood table in, with computer atop.

All right. I noted the screen door was almost fully closed. At the top edge. There's a +1/4" gap at the bottom, naturally, for the power cord. But this would work nicely in the future, during winter sessions. Or (possible) summer sessions and the bugs.

The goose neck lamp was way too bright. Need a dimmer for it, or a dimmable bulb...  Creating light pollution!

Removed the winter coat. Tired. Headed to the coach. Reclined.

And reflected.

The blind worked really well. It's a keeper.

The next go... Tomorrow night didn't look good. The Clear Sky Chart showed white tomorrow and patchy on Monday. The Fingal chart. Monday around 8 PM was a possibility. Checked Clear Outside was worse. All red. All red for the next 6 days. Monday night was high-percentage cloud. Looked at Environment Canada. Ah. It was going to rain. Oh, a lot, 10 to 20mm. Dang, that meant I should not leave the 'scope out... Rested a moment...

10:37. Went to the deck... Decided to bring the 'scope in, intact. Carefully worked my way through the door and over the tall threshold. A little tricky but it worked.

10:45. OK. I was done humping stuff back indoors.

  • chair and table back inside
  • OTA back inside
  • dew case back inside

But I had left the blind out...

Edited the location profile in ST4V on John Grim: Dropped to Bortle 7. And set the current weather conditions. In an effort to get the eyepiece view to look more appropriate.


Oooh, had been using the Fingal CSC for the evening, not, specifically the St Thomas, only received email CSAC alerts for Fingal...


Charged up the electric hand warmers but I never used them. Neither did I use the rejuvenated sodium hand warmer.

One spotted one sodium acetate pack. The other box was empty... Where did the second one go?

Did not install the red film to the office computer monitors. Will need to do that in the future...

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