Thursday, December 01, 2022

viewed Mars briefly (St Thomas)

Prepared to head out after a little nap. Yawned.

Had my old MEC winter coat on. But couldn't find my doc Who scarf...

Inspected the temporary table, piled high with astro-gear.

Eyeglasses. Ah ha. With the strap installed.

Deep red flashlight.

Out the airlock.

Polar aligned the mount. Woo hoo.

Fired up the dew heater system. Set the duty cycle to near maximum.

9:41 PM. I was ready to power the mount but first went indoors to get the TV table, "netbook" (er, small laptop), and astro-chair.

Started up the GoToStar system. Checked the date/time, it was off by a few minutes. Initiated a one-star align process. I chose Aldebaran.

I could see more stars!

Not bad... near the orange star. Right in the middle of the Hyades. A good sign. Centred on Aldebaran in the Orion finder scope. Installed the baader planetarium zoom eyepiece. Got distracted by the dew heater, for a moment. Centred on the bright star. Did not touch the focus; noted the collimation was way off...

Secured the dew strap for the ocular.

Decided to tackle the collimation so went inside, destined for the "tools" closet. Located the long, narrow case with Allen keys. Grabbed the good Tekton kit with Metric and Imperial wrenches. 

9:51. Guessed I need a 2 mm. 

Immediately saw an improvement. The seeing looked bad at one point, the concentric rings apparently at the bottom of a fast-moving stream. Worked all 3 bolts. Got it nearly perfect. It would be much better than before. Centred the star—of course, it was out a bit, in this position. 

So had another go. Made it worse for a while... Worked slowly and got the rings much better. Done.

The focused star looked good.

10:00. I relished working at home. With access to all the tools. 

This reminded me to check for a 2mm in the telescope case. Part of the mobile tool kit...

Did a sync. In the hand controller, I requested Mars.

Huh? It moved in a weird direction. What? Hit the STOP button.

Checked the solar system list carefully. Had I chosen Mercury by accident?

Double-checked I had highlighted Mars and pressed the ENTER key. Nope! STOP. Still wrong.

Manually panned to make some room near me and get the mount out of a dangerous orientation.

Tried to slew to Aldebaran. Went the wrong way. Definitely something was wrong with the sky model. Had I knocked the power cord? Had the mount reset?

Parked the mount (manually), powered down, powered up, did the one-star alignment to Aldebaran again. Looked good.

Noted clouds...

Slewed to Mars. Better—it went the right way. Short slew. It was in the eyepiece! A good point. All was well now. 

10:08. Mars was extremely bright. Albedo features were immediately obvious at low power. Syrtis Major was very apparent. The dark wedge was pointing up and left, toward the 10 or 11 o'clock position. 

Loaded up the Mars Mapper. Yep. It matched. Woo hoo. Syrtis was near the meridian, slowly drawing near the meridian.

Tracking was holding.

Noted a few stars in the field: a bright one at the 5 o'clock position (further out) and a fainter sun at the 7 o'clock.

Launched SkyTools. Activated red light mode. Opened the Interactive Atlas. Zoomed out; it was presented correctly. Opened the eyepiece view window. Noted a bright dot near the planet in the software, had to be a moon.

The bright star was HD 32922. A magnitude 8 star.

Created a new observing list and added α (alpha) Tauri, the Caldwell 41, and the red planet to the list.

Added the faint star. A Tycho object. Tycho 1849-1589-1, mag 9.8.

Hey! SkyTools didn't screw up the Night Vision Mode! Huh.

Enjoyed the view again. Adjusted the zoom level. Oh. I was at the mid-point already (thought I was at the lowest). Clicked to the 8mm position. The seeing was OK. 

It faded. It must have been a cloud. Dimmed a lot. Then way down...

Caught myself bent over. Turned the mirror diagonal more upright.

Dim view. Examined the sky. Ugh. That was more than 40% cloud.

It came back to full brightness. 

I saw it again, a small bright white region, at the 11 o'clock position. Was this an ice cap?

More clouds slid through. Mucked with the seeing. Cleared. Oh. Definitely a white spot.

Checked the stars again. The HD was at 5; the other was at 8.

Overall, the seeing was good. The high-power view was working {ed: over 250 times magnification}. Holding up.

Zoomed in on John Grim.

Mars simulated in software

The presentation in SkyTools looked good too...

Oh boy. Lots of clouds. More like 70 to 80%. Smoke 'em while you got 'em.

Helias was down and right.

Checked the whole sky: yikes. Clouds everywhere.

Went inside to check the weather pages on John Starbird...

10:28. Reviewed the tools. 

AWS looked OK, clouds still to the west, but I wondered if it had loaded the most recent satellite images... GTS said the cloud was currently 28% then increasing over my 30% constraint. Not good to stargaze for the balance of the evening. Astrospheric followed the CSC. At 10, cloud cover was 19%, trans below average, seeing above average. Observed the marker at the bump on the lake. Ah. The Clear Sky Chart (Fingal). 10 PM, 40% cloud cover, increasing to 80%. The European model said 2% at 10 going to 6% cloud at 11. Trans was too cloudy to forecast at 10 and beyond. Average seeing all along. CO had gone red! At 11 o'clock it said 66% total cloud at 10, 65% at 11, 99% beyond. 

Played around again with the Aviation page. Tried other modes but difficult under the red film.

I realised that might have been it...

Env Can: partly cloudy, winds becoming light, low -4, rising to +3, Friday day a mix of sun and cloud, Friday evening, rain beginning after midnight.

Decided I could leave the gear out.

Parked the 'scope. Capped all the glass. Powered down all equipment. Brought the eyepiece, table, Deep Red, and computer in. 

Coat off.

Removed the red film from the office computer screens.

10:38. Stopped the recorder.

Captured the current conditons from EC for St. Thomas, ON:

  • Clear, -6°C
  • Observed at: London Int'l Airport
  • as of 10:00 PM EST Thursday 1 December 2022
  • Condition: Clear
  • Pressure: 103.0 kPa, Falling
  • Temperature: -6.1°C
  • Dew point: -8.4°C
  • Humidity: 84%
  • Wind: ESE 9 km/h
  • Wind Chill: -10

Short but sweet. Good views the big Mars.

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