Sunday, December 04, 2022

viewed doubles and sketched Mars (St Thomas)

Put socks on with the sneakers. Layers for the torso. Old red winter coat. Gloves.

Check the computer.

6:28. Oh! Noted a Jupiter-moon transit happening, while getting SkyTools ready, so I headed out immediately!

Lots of moonlight...

Grabbed the rolled up scrap of rug on the way out, what Mom and I trimmed off the large piece for the deck. I could use it for a light shield, at the bottom of the railing, perhaps...

Polar-aligned the mount. No problem seeing the North Star. It was pretty close to centre!

Installed the zoom eyepiece. Powered the mount. Time was OK in the hand controller. 

Performed a one-star alignment to set the data model, after settling on Capella. I was curious why Aldebaran wasn't suggested: too low, too close to the Moon? I dunno. α (alpha) Aurigae was OK but a little challenging in the tree branches. Done.

Jupiter was drawing close to the balcony roof. I didn't want the mount to slew automatically to Jupiter; I wanted the OTA on the east side of the mount. Started manually moving...

6:42. Something happened! The mount stopped moving in one axis and then suddenly reset. Did I hear gear hop? Damn it.

Oh... The OTA had touched the railing (underneath the blind). Not enough clearance. The mount was simply too close the railing.

Noodled on it for a bit. Moved the mount about 10 cm to the west. Redid everything. But I was running out of time...

Decided to forego the star alignment. Just get on the planet and turn on sidereal tracking...

6:52. Couldn't find Jupiter. Dag nab it. Oh well.

Fetched the astro adjustable-height chair. Did a proper one-star alignment with Capella again. Considered targets before Mars. Stuff in the south-east?

Brought the table, computer, mouse, keyboard light, dock, and power supply out. Plugged into AC so the Surface computer would not frequently timeout the evening. Checked the Overhead Chart in SkyTools 4 Visual Pro. The two stars near the Moon were in Aries. Noted that zooming in with the Overhead always stays centred on the zenith. Switched to the Naked Eye view.

7:06. Identified the only star I could see in the SE: Diphda. Tried to locate it in the GoToStar hand controller—not there. Grrr. β (beta) Ceti. Looked up the SAO catalogue identifier. SAO 147420. Got it. Synced. OK, this would be launch pad for targets.

In the Interactive Atlas, I activated the labels and the double star companions. There were a few doubles nearby. Activated my handy  finder FOV in the software. A good match.

7:16. Aligned the finder scope. Selected a nearby pair: HR 206. Manually slewed or star hopped. Yellow star. Was it two? Clicked up one level with the zoom eyepiece. Viewed. Just one star... The view was soft. Clicked up again. I didn't see anything... SkyTools said it was 2.9" apart. Not too bad. But 4 magnitudes different. Hmm. Looked again. Nope. Added to the observing list but marked as "did not split."

7:23. Very crowded. Moved the table.

Went inside again, this time to retrieve Sissy Haas's book. Checked the recent text messages.

Moved the chair a bit. Flipped open the book. Not a lot of checkmarks in Cetus, good. Selected h 1957. Added it into the list.

Gah, the screen colours were annoying, invisible text in the buttons. Took a screen snap for Greg...

Checked how far this star was from Diphda. Not bad. OK. Let's go. Couldn't get it to immediately work in the hand controller; to resolve that I'd have to hop to it.

Wait. What? It was behind the roof of the neighbour's balcony. Crikey. Had to abandon. After all that!

Went back to Diphda.

Chose John Herschel 1968. Added to the software to check the location. Oh. I had viewed it... Hold the phone, it was in my RASC Double Stars program! Ha. So, previously observed (2 years ago). Also in the AL advanced binoculars program. Interesting. This was a double I had observed but not checked or marked in Sissy's book. (Made me wonder how many others were like that.)

Next: Struve 39. aka HD 3125. Or D2.

No luck.

OK. Next. Stone 3. Never seen this designation before. Searched in ST4. It gave me Neptune! Weird. Tried again, added a star, but it showed in Ophiuchus. So manually located it in the chart, by RA and Dec. Found it. Hovered. Ah, STN 3. Makes sense. Added it.

Not in the HC, again!

Someone's dog had a little freak out. Made me jump.

Continued the star hop.

Arrived. Viewed. Got it. White. Soft. Faint! Faint companion, no colour, or grey. Noted a faint companion at the 8 o'clock position. It was the C star. The A and B were on top of one another. Went to the 8 mm. Saw it many times before at the lower power. Extremely faint. Interesting. ST4 said 19" apart and a delta mag of 5.

Diphda was gone from view. If I wanted more Cetus targets I'd have to use RA values of 1 or more.

8:01. Selected 26 Ceti. It was higher. SkyTools was behaving tonight: when I added things to the list the Night Vision Mode continued working properly... Tried to look up the number but couldn't read it. Used the Windows Magnifier (Windows key and Plus key). SAO 109643. aka STF 84. Didn't look away this time. The HC accepted it. Slewed.

Good point. Saw my fuzzy target star. Oh ho! A faint companion. Blue or white and orange. Nice. 10 o'clock position. Wide pair at lowest power. Very different mags: 9.3 vs 6.1. Bumped up one click on the baader. Tried for the field stars. Oops. Turned on the Star Diagonal (forgot after using the finder ring). Right. View matched!

8:09. Easy split with the low power.

ST4 told me there was a faint C star, 10 times the distance. Tried to dig it out. The Eyepiece chart didn't show it (neither Actual nor Ideal); checked the IA chart, zoomed. Not successful spotted the cohort. Oh, on hovering in the IA, the mag appeared as 15. That would not be possible. Saw the field stars at 3 o'clock. I'd have to check Stelle Doppie...

{ed: the SD database says that C is magnitude 14.09 with the last record from 2015. So not doable in the Celestron 8-inch.}

I could not see the Moon from my seat. A moon shadow was creeping across the my legs.

Considered something from the Deep-Sky Gems. Cleared the check-marks. Applied the time constraints, had to be Obvious. 37, ah done. The V signal - OK. The other target was for the Duffy Duck target, part of the NA Nebula. So, no. Looked north, thought I could see Dubhe. Set the chart to Time Now: oh! Really low. The object was 8 degrees up. I'd have to wait a while. Added it to the list for later.

Wanted to go in and warm up.

The mount was tracking along... The Vixen Super Polaris would run out of room soon. I could have paused the celestial tracking. Slewed to Mars to avoid collisions or limit issues. Observed a good point: Mars was in the finder. Centred. Synced.

Took a break.

8:21. Checked the view. Not horrible. The tree branches created spikes. Seeing seemed OK. Mars was bright.

8:26 PM. Warmed up in the office. Checked text messages and emails.

Turned on red mode on the RedDragon keyboard. Earlier I had turned off the aurora lamp--a bit distracting. Covered the mobile phone with a glove. My fingers were cold; my toes were cold.

8:31 PM. Powered off two of the Globe wifi bulbs and and dimmed the remaining. It was much better!

8:34 PM. From my desk I could see Betelgeuse and Bellatrix.

9:09. Back at the eyepiece. Wow. Mars still in the field (at lower power). Nice, the polar alignment was rather decent. Star model was good, despite using but one star. Tracking was working well. Lovely disc.

Centred. Almost free of the tree branches. Some flaring.

Albedo features were apparent. White area to the top-left. Intense white during moments of good seeing. The North Polar Cap.

Noted a very distinct line. Between the pale orange and light brown. All the way across. The seeing was fair. Started low power, 24mm. Clicked to the mid-point: 16mm. Then went all the way, max mag with 8mm.

Field star opposite the north polar cap.

Pretty nice view.

Recreated the view in SkyTools 4 Visual Pro.

How about that! I identified the dark region to the right of the NPC. 12 o'clock position. Utopia.

Southern part of the Red Planet. A bit of a point, a triangle of the brown feature, near the meridian. Check Mars Mapper (the new version), removed the labels. Minus Cimmerium. Syrtis Major was turning toward us. Pointy thing. The peninsula features of Cimmerium. Neat.

Did a sketch (awfully small). Not real happy. Grey region to the left, south of the equator.

[C8, external focuser, mirror diagonal, zoom eyepiece at 8mm. Fair seeing. -5°C. North is up, west is right. Polar cap at 11 o'clock. Dark region at 12 o'clock. Distinct line below mid-point from upper pale orange to light brown. Light gray at left edge. Mottled brown and grey. V-shape point near meridian which I just couldn't get in the sketch. See corrective attempts below. Drew it too small!]

I felt tired. I felt cold. Decided to quit. But left the C8 out, for a speedy shut-down.

9:26. Sony recorder fell of the table as I tore down. Oops. When I tried to play back something, it reported the battery was low and did not work. Hmm. {ed: I believe the last file was did not save properly and is corrupted.}

Short session, less than 2 hours. But great to see Mars, a different face of the red planet.

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