Looks like fine observing weather tonight and tomorrow. The moon is just two days old and the skies are clear.
I need to find the time to put up maps to various observing sites, along with an easy way to announce when people are planning to be there.
I’m planning to go to the Boundary Bay observing site at the south end of 72nd street this evening at around 10:30pm. It would be nice to have company.
On the weekend of April 30 and May 1 we held a display at the ValleyFair Mall in east Maple Ridge. The Management and staff of the Mall were very enthusiastic about us holding our event at their location. We were warmly greeted into their fine establishment and given every support they could to make our weekend a success. On behalf of our RASC membership I wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to Nicole and Valerie and their staff for making us feel so welcome.
Mark Eburne brought a whole truck load of astronomy gear to show the public. Not only did he bring his ED80 and mount, his binocular parrallellagram mount and his freshly made easels for our new posters; he also brought the “water heater”. Mark also supplied his projector so that we could show slides and presentations when the public gathered. I brought the RASC solar telescope and mounted it on my EQ3 as well as my Eclipse which I mounted on my HEQ5 as a static display. Mark also brought a formidable amount of handouts and literature on light pollution.
On the Saturday, Mark and I were kept busy answering the public’s questions about our equipment, light pollution, and viewing in the Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Mission regions. The “water heater” was a real magnet for drawing people in towards our display table. Everyone wanted to have a closeup look at the “old beast”. Many were impressed by that 14.5″ mirror at the back end. Unfortunately, the Mall is not long enough to allow us to achieve focus so they had to be satisfied with views through Marks ED80 and my Eclipse 150.
Our new posters were also a very big draw and sparked conversations around our solar system and future exploration and discovery. I took the oportunity to point out that Saturn was in the evening sky and would be available for viewing that evening. I soon found myself promising children and adults that I would be setting up a telescope that evening in front of the SaveOn Foods to do just that. The solar posters got me into promising to set up the solar telescope on the next day at the same location. I had two families as well as a few other groups of people visit me on both ocassions to look through the telescopes. Their enthusiasm was infectious.
Mark was kept very busy having conversations about light pollution and what we can do to plan for a darker future. I think he found a ground swell of support from the general public for the cause. I believe more people spent more time talking to Mark about light pollution than to me about the night sky. I was almost jealous ;).
I wish to also thank Dave Smith, Operations manager at SaveOn Foods, for allowing me to set up on Saturday night in front of his store. He also permitted me to store my EQ3 mount and tripod in the store overnight so that it would be quicker to set up the next day for the solar viewing. Even at that, I had some kids waiting for me on Sunday to get the solar scope aligned up and focused in.
On Sunday we also had the help of Ron Jerome. This allowed me to spend the afternoon at the solar scope showing our closest star to the public. Although I didn’t get to see Ron much, lots of people told me they were sent to me by Ron. Ron also brought more handouts and reference materials for the public, which was timely as Mark and I were close to running out of supplies. I also know that one gentleman went home and brought his telescope to Ron for advise and education in its use. He couldn’t have been luckier than to have Ron manning the booth that day.
Overall I would have to say that the event was very successful. We promoted the Astronomy Day event as much as possible, we sold raffle tickets, and discovered a lot of people in our community interested in astronomy as well as a few “closet” astronomers. I hope we can put on similar events at other malls in the lower mainland in the future.
Mark arrive: 7:30 pm, Leigh arrive: 8:30
Temp: -8 C
Weather clear with some moisture at hight elevation.
Mark & Leigh set up Mark’s Tak on EQ6 and Leigh set up Vixen 95mm on HEQ5 on outdoor pad. Mark took images of M101 and M42 with DSLR. Leigh tried out new laptop to test battery durability and whether programs set up properly. Leigh was able to control telescope mount with laptop, however the cameras would not be found. Probably do not have correct drivers yet for Windows7 64bit system. Will need to do more work in warmth of own home. Laptop battery performed as advertised. Ran 4.5 hours and still showed 4 hours remaining. Happy!
Liquid mirror telescope working tonight. Laser visible and showed incoming clouds by 12:15am. Bands of cloud moved throug between 1:00 and 1:30am.
Departed: 1:30 am
Darkness meter: n/a
Spring is when the galaxies in Leo and Virgo are at their best.
I bought a 15″ scope in 2008, partly so I could see more objects through the city skyglow, but also to give me better views of things like the galaxies in the Virgo cluster. Yet somehow, weather and events had conspired to keep me from seeing them in 2009 and 2010. This spring, I was bound and determined to finally hunt down Markarian’s Chain, the Leo triplet, etc with my no longer quite so new scope. Until last night, I thought I might be stymied for another season.
I had my scope out on the front lawn on the one clearish night we got in mid-March, but between the haze, the city lights and the rising just past full moon, I could just barely make out M66. After poring over charts to make sure I was in the right area, I eventually managed to convince myself that I could see the smudge of M65 where it was supposed to be. It felt like an accomplishment to have found them, but wasn’t very satisfying viewing.
So I was quite excited when the clear sky clock promised decent viewing for yesterday evening. I decided to drag my scope out to Boundary Bay to take advantage of the darker skies. The drive there was a bit daunting. I could see two rainstorms over Vancouver Island, a giant cumulus cloud over toward Maple Ridge and a wall of high haze well up the southern sky. I feared a repeat of my mid-March near washout, but decided I would set up anyway. I’m glad that I did.
I set up at the south end of 72nd Street. The last strollers on the dike startled a heron, a small raptor and a few ducks as they returned to their car and drove away. I nervously watched the rainstorms over Vancouver Island as I set up and collimated my scope, but they didn’t seem to be coming nearer. The haze to the south started to clear.
While waiting for full dark, I turned my scope on the crescent moon. The edges of the sunlit craters were highlighted in sharp relief by the slanting light of the lunar dawn. The earthshine was bright enough that I could make out Tycho, Copernicus, Aristarchus, their rays and all of the lunar maria. It was worth setting up the scope just for that.
Next up was Orion. I used the middle star of his belt to align my telrad, then shifted my view to the nebula. Even though it was not yet full dark, I could see lots of detail in the dark filaments that give the nebula such a rich texture. I took a quick peek at Sirius, but the seeing down low wasn’t good enough to let me glimpse its companion.
Finally, it was time to start my galaxy hunt. I began by returning to M65 and M66, since my March hunt had taught me where to find them near Chertan in Leo’s hind leg. This time it took me less than a minute to get them in the scope. Both M65 and M66 were clearly visible, with NGC3628 also easy to spot nearby. A quick hunt also brought me to NGC3593, a nice edge-on spiral.
I was so excited by how quickly I found these little treasures that I didn’t take time to enjoy them. I wanted more! The hunt slowed down as I started looking for things I hadn’t found before. With the glow and haze of Vancouver skies, there aren’t too many naked-eye landmarks near M95, M96 and M105. After some poking around and three or four consultations of my Collins Atlas of the Night Sky, I decided that although I love my 13mm Ethos eyepiece, it might not be the right tool for the job. I switched to the wider field 24mm Panoptic and almost immediately stumbled on M105. One of the nearby NGCs, 3384 or 3389, I’m not sure which, was quite obvious while the other was invisible. That had me wondering whether I was in the right place, but once I spotted M95 and M96 there wasn’t much doubt. From there it was a short hop up to the star 52 Leonis which makes a nice triangle with galaxies NGC3367 and 3377. Still, I was on a hunt, so once I found them, I didn’t linger. It was now full dark and Virgo had risen a bit higher above the murk, so I set off for the wonders of the Virgo galaxy cluster.
I seem to be a bit slow at learning the sky and I often get confused about how the charts map to what I’m looking at. I spent about half an hour trying to find M84 and M86, which are supposed to be bright and easy to locate halfway between bright Denebola in Leo’s tail and fainter Vindemiatrix in Virgo. There are so many galaxies nearby, it should have been almost impossible not to stumble across at least one of them as I pushed the scope back and forth. Eventually I realized that the star which I had thought was Vindemiatrix was actually Omicron Virginis. Oops. I had been searching one of the few patches of sky in the area that didn’t contain any bright galaxies.
Looking at the right patch of sky brought immediate rewards. M84 and M86 were visible as fuzzy patches almost immediately. I could just make out the “Eyes”, NGCs 4435 and 4438 which are the next link in Markarian’s Chain of galaxies. I spent the next hour or so making my way through the neighbourhood, spotting lots of galaxies and trying to identify them. Truth be told, there were often big differences between what I could see through my scope and what I expected based on the charts. Many of the dozen or so galaxies I found were probably different objects than what I was trying to find. Still, the stars around M87 are distinctive enough that I can be confident I saw it.
I hope to go out again tonight if it’s clear. Maybe I’ll be able to tear myself away from the galaxies long enough to look at Saturn this time.
Arrive: 2:40 pm
Temp: 4 C
Weather was drizzle. Inspected dome and found no sign of leakage. I did notice that a roller on the east side of the dome is not taking any of the domes weight. There is actually a gap of between 1/16″ to 1/8″.
Spent rest of time counting inventory in file drawers. Removed all the old disks from the drawer marked “Disks”. There is no drive at the AOMO for the 5″ floppy discs nor for the digital tapes. The floppy discs and the CD’s need to be analyzed to see if they are worth keeping.
Temp: 3 C
Darkness meter: n/a
Arrive: 2:40 pm
Temp: 4 C
Weather was gusty, rainy and foggy. I entered dome to inspect for leakage and found none.
Spent rest of time counting inventory in file drawers. Removed all the old hard drives, a zip drive and adapter, two floppy drives and two optical drives from drawer marked “Drives”. My reason is to have one of our tech savy members analyze the drives and see if any data on them can or should be recovered. As these drives will probably never be used again I will recommend disposal in a responsible manner.
Temp: 3 C
Darkness meter: n/a
Members: Mark, Leigh, Wayne, Brett
Arrive: 8:10 pm
Temp: -2 C
Wayne took photos outdoors with his DSLR.
Brett & Mark removed finder scope in order to take measurements for a new finder scope bracket assy. Also removed bracket on top of scope for camera mount in order to make final measurements for accessory mounting plate mounts. Brett machined mounts out of aluminum and they look very good. Plate will allow the mounting of a guide scope and other equipment that members may wish to use in the future.
Re-mounted finder scope and moved telescope to Alnilam to synchonize scope with hand paddle and The Sky6. Mark mounted his DSLR onto the telescope and we attempted to obtain focus. We found we could not bring the camera close enough so we removed the extension tube and mounted the camera directly onto the focuser. Still unable to move camera close enough, we removed the T4 mount ring tube and Mark and Brett performed delicate surgery upon it. (note: need to buy new hacksaw blades, and a vise would be a useful tool for toolroom.) We still had to unlock the main mirror and move it slightly to obtain focus with the focuser near the middle of its travel. We then moved the telescope to M42. Mark took a series of 30 second images.
Brett and Wayne had to leave at 11:10pm.
Mark and Leigh continued taking 30 second images for awhile longer. Determined that the next step would be to remount Sbig camera and see if focus could be obtained without moving main mirror. It was too late to attempt so we started to shut down for the night.
Temp: -1 C