Tuesday, August 30, 2011

1481e 2011/08/29–30

1481e 2011/08/29–30 20:30–22:30 EDT Foxmead POD 8 ne 13cmrr Maria, Derek, Connor & Madeleine Friesen
Visit by the Friesen family. Maria is one of my dialysis nurses at Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital.
I had a bit of a problem aligning the mount, but once aligned we observed double stars Albireo (gold and blue) and Epsilon Lyrae (the Double Double), the Lagoon Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Owl Cluster (E.T.) We also watched a nice pass of the International Space Station, and spotted several other satellites, especially with Connor's keen eyes. I gave them a laser tour of the late summer sky, including the Summer Triangle (Vega in Lyra, Deneb in Cygnus, and Altair in Aquila), Sagittarius, Delphinus, Sagitta, Cassiopeia, and the Big and Little Dippers. Then we came inside to warm up and Louise showed the kids her spinning wheel.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Louise and I moved the CPC1100 into the house, and I installed the 127mm Explore apo triplet on Sirius mount in its place.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

1480e 2011/08/28–29

1480e 2011/08/28–29 21:00–00:35 EDT Foxmead E deck & E pad 8 ne 13cmrr

ISS: I noticed in Starry Night that the ISS was currently in the W, went out on the deck, and there it was!

Observing with 127mm Explore triplet apo on Sirius GoTo mount, 38x:

Deep sky objects: M71. From here slewed to:

Comet Garradd: Tiny wisp of fuzziness.

DSOs: M27, M31, M32, M110, M8, M16, M17.

Double stars: Albireo, Epsilon Lyrae, Eta Cassiopeia, Polaris, SS Cygni.

Neptune: Tiny blue green spot.

The Sirius mount is really cool, how it moves in RA and Dec to get from one object to another!

Back out again a few minutes before midnight for my first look at Jupiter for the year.
Jupiter @ 190x; is crystal clear and contrasty. The SEB is back in spades.

DSOs: Had a look at M31/32/110 @ 24x and 60x. The latter was most impressive (Nagler 16): all three galaxies nicely framed, and M31 stretching right across the field of view. M33 huge @ 60x. Double cluster magnificent @ 24x. Also looked at M34 and M76.

Setting up and taking down the refractor is a real pain—I've been spoiled by the POD! Since I suspect it will be a while before the CPC1100 is back in action, I think I'll install the 127mm apo in the POD tomorrow.

Temperature: 8.1°C

Friday, August 26, 2011

1479e 2011/08/26–27

1479e 2011/08/26–27 22:40–22:55 EDT Foxmead S deck 9–3 8cmrr 10x50b ne

I discovered tonight that a lightning strike last week has knocked out the motors in my Celestron CPC1100. I'll have to have a look inside tomorrow in daylight, but for now I've set up my little Orion 80mm GoScope achromatic refractor.

Comet Garradd (C2009 P1) in Sagitta @ 18x. Right next to M71, and almost identical in brightness. M71 is slightly "twinkly" and the comet has a slight tail, but otherwise the two are almost identical at low power.

Deep sky: Besides M71, I observed M27 and M11 with the GoScope. Clouds had moved into Andromeda and Triangulum, but earlier I had observed M31 and M33 with 10x50 binoculars. In binoculars, M71 and Comet Garradd formed one indistinct blur.

Once again, the GoScope has proven to be a delightful little telescope, quite amazing for $100. I now have it mounted on my Manfrotto tripod which is very handy because I can crank it up and down to match my sitting eye position. All the DSOs were bright and clear in the stock 20mm eyepiece, and the mini-Dob mount and red dot finder make it really easy to use.

Temperature: 15°C

Here is an image of Comet Garradd in Sagitta made by Rick Fienberg the same night:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

1478n 2011/08/12–13

1478n 2011/08/12–13 11:00–02:30 EDT Foxmead E deck 3 ne
Meteors: I checked the sky from time to time, but the combination of high clouds, poor transparency and Full Moon kept the limiting magnitude around 2. No meteors seen.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

1477m 2011/08/10–11

1477m 2011/08/10–11 04:00–05:30 EDT Foxmead bathroom window 8–3 ne
Observing naked eye out upstairs bathroom window facing east. Observed 04:00–04:15 looking for Perseids. This is two mornings before the peak, but there will be a Full Moon coinciding with the peak which will dim the meteors. This morning there is a small window of dark between moonset and the beginning of morning twilight. My view includes most of the eastern sky below Jupiter, including Taurus, Orion, Gemini and Mars. No meteors seen.

One of the advantages of living in a house with large windows is that I don't have to get dressed and go outside to observe. This is especially handy on cold winter nights (or cold summer mornings—it was only 12°C at 4 a.m. this morning!)

Monday, August 8, 2011

1476e 2011/08/08–09

1476e 2011/08/08–09 21:30–22:35 EDT Foxmead POD 8–3 28cmsc

Tonight was my first attempt at astrophotography in many years using my Celestron 28-cm Schmidt-Cassegrain at Cassegrain focus, Canon Digital Rebel XT, 2-inch T-adapter, remote release, and angle finder, set to aperture priority (Av) and mirror lockup enabled. Otherwise all default settings on automatic. First the southern half of the Moon:

Then the northern half:

Then I made an image of Altair with the same settings:

Comparing this image to Starry Night, I find I've reached down to magnitude 15 with a 15 second exposure. The stars have trailed, probably due to the jumpiness of the drives on the CPC1100.

I was going to try to image Albireo, but clouds moved in and I called it a night.

I haven't tried any adjustments of these images other than shrinking them to 650 pixels wide and rotating the Moon images. Not bad for what my goal is: to make images to show what normal astronomical objects look like to the human eye through amateur telescopes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

1475e 2011/07/31–08/01

1475e 2011/07/31–08/01 22:15–23:45 EDT Foxmead POD 8 28cmsc 10x50b
[Translation: Session #1475 on the evening of 2011 July 31–August 1. Began observations at 10:15 pm and ended at 11:45 pm EDT. Made from Foxmead POD observatory, sky conditions dark, using 28cm Schmidt-Cassegrain and 10x50 binoculars.]

I've tended to become very terse in my observing log. Because others may be reading these blogs, I'm trying to be a bit more verbose here.

When I opened the POD I discovered a little praying mantis sitting on the hinge—very extraterrestrial! Taking the shroud off the telescope I was stung by a wasp lurking underneath it. So much for wildlife!

I woke the telescope from its "hibernate" mode and had it point to Albireo to make sure alignment was OK. It was very slightly off so I replaced M57 in previous alignment with Albireo. Telescope seemed to be running more smoothly this evening, with less clicking and jumping. Since I haven't had an observing session in two weeks, I concentrated on my variable star program, taking up where I left off last time. I have a list of about 30 variables that I cycle through.

Variables: [click on image to magnify]

While  observing next star (T Cep) thin clouds began to move in, making variable estimates impossible, so I packed it in for the evening.

Vesta: During the day, I'd written an article for Space.com on this week's opposition of Vesta, which has just been reached and is currently being orbited by the Dawn spacecraft, so I had a look for Vesta in my 10x50s. It is passing through an area of Capricornus devoid of bright stars, so is very easy to spot at around 6th magnitude.

This was a warm humid night, with sparkles of heat lightning around the horizon. When the clouds moved in, they were totally invisible, only detectable by stars in my observing field brightening and darkening. When I came in, the moist air was condensing on the outside of the sliding door.