Wednesday, January 15, 2020

starlink train

I saw my first Starlink satellite train tonight.  The first of many, I'm sure.  I happened to look up Heaven's Above and noticed there would be a pretty high pass around 6pm, so I set an alarm on my phone. I interrupted my dinner and went outside.  It was cloudy, with some sucker holes.  After a couple minutes I noticed one satellite, but then no others.  But after a little while more started coming across and visible through gaps in the clouds.  Usually I could see three or four at a time, and I could trace the line which they were following backward so I could spot new ones as they approached.  I didn't count, but it took about three minutes for the train to complete.  Everyone came out for a look.  Pretty neat.  The only other time I saw satellites close like this was watching a supply ship chase the ISS.


It was clear enough to go outside last night.  Though there were some high thin clouds, viewing was surprisingly good.  I used my 15x70 binoculars with mirror mount, and I hit several winter sky highlights.

First up was M42 the Orion Nebula; I could clearly see the Fish's Mouth and hints of the larger circular nebulosity.  The whole of the sword was visible in one FOV.  Also panned around the belt, with the nice wandering of stars around Delta Orionis.  There's a noticeable cut-off of stars north of the belt, which I know is due to nebulosity but of course can't see that.  M45 looked great, high in the sky.  I panned around a little and was able to find M38 & M36 in the same field -- M38 tight and bright, and M36 diffuse.  M37 was a little more difficult and was a greyish diffuse patch, with a distinct red star beyond the outer edge.  I found M35 after some panning -- it was pretty large and a ragged spray of stars.  I panned from one to the next.  Then I dipped down to Sirius, and M41, and then finally the very large open cluster around Eta CMa, which had a nice arc of bright stars.

I then changed my seat at the picnic table and swept up M31 -- the bright hazy core and, fleetingly with averted vision, the extensions of its arms, which I at least imagined stretching to most of the FOV.  Then the double cluster, and Stock 2, and Stock 1 -- which fit in the FOV with loops of stars like a ribbon dancer.

I had been craving a night out to look at stars; it made me happy and calm to be able to get out.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

6 january 2020

To my disappointment seeing was not very good last night. Even with the 8" mask the images would not support anything above 205x. I avoided roof tops and observed on either side of the waxing moon (which was throwing off a strong glow due to also poor transparency), picking easier targets to observe. Still satisfying and productive over two hours. I have to add, I really love the winter Milky Way: plenty of fine stars in the fields I was observing in, and in the finder, to keep me enchanted. It was pretty cold out, but less dewy than the night before. I happened to see a mouse running along the top of the fence at one point, likely headed toward the bird feeder. Fortunately none have made it into the shed, yet. Weather will be mixed the rest of this week, so I'm not sure when I'll get out again.

HLD 7 AB; 8" 533x; Yellow A and bluish b, just split the faint B, in a swimming mess due to poor seeing.
02h 25m 25.96s +58° 12' 09.3" P.A. 182 sep 1.7 mag 7.98,9.86 Sp A3V dist. 150.38 pc (490.54 l.y.)

STF 158 AB; 8" 205x: Nice split, pretty wide considering low magnification. Orange-yellow stars about half delta mag.
01h 46m 44.07s +33° 09' 45.5" P.A. 272 sep 2.2 mag 8.96,9.40 Sp F8 dist. 104.06 pc (339.44 l.y.)

BU 1016 AB; 8" 205x: Suspect elongation, seeing not supporting higher magnification
01h 49m 46.70s +33° 03' 57.9" P.A. 43 sep 0.7 mag 9.94,10.13 Sp A0

HJ 645 AB; 8" 205x: The A star is a yellow-orange and B is wide and faint but a nice little point, seen with direct vision but just at the edge of where averted would be needed.
01h 52m 36.06s +31° 27' 22.8" P.A. 106 sep 7.7 mag 8.90,10.70 Sp K0

A 1920 AB, 8" 205x: ! Nice clean split, very pretty white stars, seems a bit more than half delta mag.
01h 57m 52.62s +33° 10' 19.6" P.A. 236 sep 1.8 mag 9.47,10.05 Sp K0

AG 28 AB; 8" 205x: Fine pair, well split, one delta mag white-blue stars
01h 58m 25.93s +31° 55' 42.7" P.A. 175 sep 3.2 mag 9.85,10.81

STF 201 AB; 8" 205x: ! Epsilon Tri. Very nice! Bright A star is a white blaze, and outside of its glow is very small point of the B star, very fine. Very nice indeed
02h 02m 57.97s +33° 17' 02.9" P.A. 119 sep 4.2 mag 5.52,11.40 Sp A2V dist. 120.05 pc (391.6 l.y.)

STF 219 AB; 8" 205x: Pretty white, bright A star and wide B, three delta mag
02h 10m 16.10s +33° 21' 55.2" P.A. 186 sep 11.7 mag 8.03,8.89 Sp A0 dist. 160.26 pc (522.77 l.y.)

COU 1068 AB; 20" 333x: Seeing isn't what it needs to be. Suspected elongation at 205x, 333x elongated it more but did not split, the star images are too hairy.
02h 10m 18.35s +35° 10' 24.1" P.A. 246 sep 1.1 mag 10.65,11.15

STF 227 AB; 8" 205x: 6 Tri. Yellow A, white b, pretty. Wide, about two delta mag.
02h 12m 22.28s +30° 18' 11.1" P.A. 69 sep 3.7 mag 5.26,6.67 Sp G0III dist. 89.13 pc (290.74 l.y.)

STF 229 AB: 8" 205x: Bluish stars, B is a bit faint but wide and clear.
02h 13m 58.92s +34° 30' 50.8" P.A. 356 sep 2.5 mag 9.21,10.29 Sp Am dist. 181.49 pc (592.02 l.y.)

STF 232 AB: 8" 205x: Pretty white stars, only a slight delta mag, well split.
02h 14m 42.16s +30° 23' 41.2" P.A. 66 sep 6.5 mag 7.82,7.90 Sp A0V dist. 274.73 pc (896.17 l.y.)

STF 239 AB; 8" 205x: Wide, white, one delta mag.
02h 17m 25.29s +28° 44' 42.1" P.A. 212 sep 13.6 mag 7.09,7.83 Sp F7V+F9V dist. 34.52 pc (112.6 l.y.)

J 2016 AB; 8" 205x: Xi Ori. There are a few faint stars around the bright white A star, but certainly the closest is the B. Surprised I can see it given A's glare. [5 star system all faint & wide]
06h 11m 56.40s +14° 12' 31.6" P.A. 187 sep 37.8 mag 4.41,13.00 Sp B3IV dist. 186.22 pc (607.45 l.y.)

STT 126
AB; 8" 205x: Wide, three delta mag, yellow-white A and faint white B star
05h 59m 24.50s +17° 48' 53.1" P.A. 61 sep 10.7 mag 8.00,10.69 Sp F5 dist. 87.18 pc (284.38 l.y.)

STT 125 AB; 8" 205x: ! Yes, I have the split! White stars, a half delta mag, close but very clean separation. Nice.
05h 59m 42.46s +22° 28' 15.0" sep 1.4 mag 7.89,8.89 Sp A0

HDS 824 AB: 8" 205x: Fine pair, yellow-orange A and white-yellow B, two delta mag.
06h 03m 48.13s +18° 15' 53.3" P.A. 149 sep 2.3 mag 8.15,9.25 Sp B8 dist. 869.57 pc (2836.54 l.y.)

J 310 AB; 8" 205x: Beautiful matched orange pair, nicely split, very delicate. [surprisingly not a physical pair]
06h 03m 54.49s +10° 14' 50.9" P.A. 319 sep 2.4 mag 9.83,10.03

J 335 AB: 8" 205x: White A, B resolves with seeing, hairline split and two delta mag. Tough at this aperture.
06h 04m 08.29s +11° 00' 57.0" P.A. 274.1 sep 1.19 mag 8.45,9.49 Sp F8

HO 228 AB: 8" 205x: Very fine indeed. A white and bright in comparison to B which is in A's glow but faint, resolved, ~2" and two delta mag.
06h 06m 00.88s +12° 28' 45.6" P.A. 267 sep 2.4 mag 7.74,10.17 Sp B9.5V dist. 327.87 pc (1069.51 l.y.)

STF 840 A-BC: 8" 205x: White A and slightly blue B, wide, two delta mag. [Did not see BC, 0.4" near equal]
06h 06m 28.04s +10° 45' 01.0" P.A. 248 sep 21.4 mag 7.17,8.95 Sp A0V+F0 dist. 225.73 pc (736.33 l.y.)

STF 851 AB: 8" 205x: Fine white nearly matched pair of white stars, very nice.
06h 08m 04.43s +03° 17' 23.7" P.A. 33 sep 2.6 mag 8.88,9.47 Sp A0

STF 854 AB: 8" 205x: White stars, one delta mag, wide. In a pretty winter Milky Way field.
06h 08m 32.08s +05° 48' 01.2" P.A. 321 sep 5.7 mag 8.81,9.78 Sp A2

STF 848 AB: 8" 205x: The "37" cluster. This pair is the star at the tip of the upper part of the three where it turns down to the center. Fine white pair, close but nicely split, two delta mag, busy field.
06h 08m 30.36s +13° 58' 15.8" P.A. 110 sep 2.6 mag 7.28,8.15 Sp B1V+B2V dist. 300.3 pc (979.58 l.y.)

STF 849 AB: 8" 205x: Snow man at this aperture and mag, near equal.
06h 08m 44.48s +17° 24' 07.0" P.A. 241 sep 0.9 mag 9.18,9.48 Sp G0

HO 22 AB: 8" 205x; Very fine hairline split, near equal. Nice!
06h 13m 27.53s +10° 14' 52.4" P.A. 209 sep 1 mag 8.50,8.64 Sp A2 dist. 146.84 pc (478.99 l.y.)

STF 877 AB: 8" 205x: Near equal white, wide
06h 14m 42.67s +14° 35' 10.8" P.A. 263 sep 5.7 mag 7.55,7.96 Sp B9.5V dist. 150.83 pc (492.01 l.y.)

STF 880 AB: 8" 205x: Nice near equal orange-white, well split.
06h 15m 29.13s +10° 34' 42.4" P.A. 55 sep 5.6 mag 8.40,8.71 Sp G5

A 2446 AB: 8" 205x: Can just keep faint B star with direct vision. It's quite faint, well away from A.
06h 15m 29.11s +19° 31' 22.1" P.A. 103 sep 2.9 mag 9.03,11.50 Sp A7V

STF 898 AB: 8" 205x: Equal pair, wide, may be part of triple, in nebulosity? [Is part of a triple, WAL 44 is AC, 9.00/11.28 26.5"]
06h 21m 57.42s +10° 58' 16.5" P.A. 122 sep 6.2 mag 9.00,9.61 Sp B8

Monday, January 6, 2020


...after weeks of cloudy weather at home it was clear enough to observe last night.  Heavy dew and mediocre transparency, along with rather poor 4/5 seeing, but still.  When I opened up the shed I found the primary had dewed over -- not sure if because of a temperature change when opening, or if dew had formed during closure.  So I gave it a quick rinse with distilled water.  I found an easy way to clean the mirror without removing it from the structure: I took a 4'x2' sheet of stiff plastic and shoved it in front of the mirror and out the back (with the scope at 45* altitude), forming a kind of sluice.  I used a clean ketchup bottle to squirt the distilled water on the primary.  I didn't use any soap, but I still gently rubbed the mirror surface with my fingertips while irrigating where I rubbed.  I daresay the result was just as clean as a full-on wash.

I turned on my dew heater early, and added a warmer around my finder scope objective.  This time I only observed the moon using the binoviewers at 117x.  Seeing was poor, like looking up through pool water.  I started out to at Copernicus and crater-hopped around from there, picking out objects from the 21st Century Atlas of the moon.

Had long looks at the Hortensius Domes & Kepler.  North of Kepler there is a flat area bordered by a curving range of mountains, almost paisley shaped.  There are three hills or mounds in a row in the far northern section -- they were just on the edge of the terminator and were lit up a brilliant white, like three round beads or shields.  The opposite hills cast long cone shaped shadows toward them, and two of their hills were also illuminated white.

 From there I observed the Herigonius Rille, very subtle, flowing between a gap in mountains.  Gassendi was in shadow so I could not see its crater floor features.  "The Helmet" old volcanics area showed very well.  The Hippalus Rilles were very engaging, three prominent concentrically curved rilles running through mountains.  Very faintly outlined Kies and the dome Kies Pi showed up too.  I was also able to see the branching Ramsden Rilles.

Sight of the night was Hesiodus A, a concentric crater with and inner ring.  The atlas described it as a hard find, but I thought it rather easy -- very satisfying indeed.  Piratus's Rilles were a bit faint.  Alpetragius was interesting, a crater with a prominent central rounded hill, like an egg in a nest.

A strong contender for sight of the night was the intricate shadows along the western rim of Clavius.  A row of hills formed shadows on two sides, like two almost completed figure eights, starting from crater Porter to Rutherford.  Also in this area is Newton, highly foreshortened, but I could see D's tall rim mountain and get a sense of the height difference between summit and floor on the opposite side.

I poked around Aristoteles a while, and could pick out the Gartner Rilles and the very faint Sheepshanks Rilles, but the angle of light was too high for good views.

Seeing is supposed to be very good tonight so I have hopes of some good double star work.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

stars over tahoe

This week we had a brief vacation to Lake Tahoe.  We stayed on the west shore and the house we stayed at had access (albeit after a walk across Route 89) to a pier and a small beach.  I walked it a couple times during the day.  When driving home after a dinner out I noticed it was clear, and Orion shown huge, striding over the mountains.  So after returning I walked out onto the pier to have a look.  The sky was nice and dark, with plenty of stars shining, I would guess limiting magnitude of better than 6.5.  M31 was naked eye and I could just pick out M33.  Beetlejuice did not go supernova while I watched.

It all didn't last more than 10 minutes, though, as some high clouds rolled through.  A great experience, though, looking out at the sky from the end of a long pier, with the gentle waves of the lake breaking along the shore.  Elemental.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

80mm f/15 first light

After what seems like a month of cloudy and rainy weather, we had a pocket of clear skies tonight.  It wasn't especially good -- transparency still poor and seeing worse -- but it was my first opportunity to look through the 80mm f/15 Jaegers refractor I acquired.  I intend it for a H-alpha solar scope, but I've discovered it's a very pleasing nighttime instrument as well.

When the scope arrived the focuser was jolted out of square with the tube, and I was surprised to find no set screws for the focuser.  So during the day today I affixed the focuser to the tube by drilling holes and using thread forming screws.  I accidentally broke off one drill bit into the hole I was drilling, but it serves the purpose to set the focuser!  I also made a make-shift dew shield with some black foam and Velcro.  I set up my tripod with simple alt-az mount to its tallest setting, and find that it is still not tall enough to comfortably view with the scope at zenith.  It's a shaky mount too and not able to handle the 20 pounds this 80mm weighs.

The first target was M42, and I was able to sight up the scope tube and find it pretty quickly with a 40mm plossl eyepiece.  Nebulosity looked really good, especially the dark nebula, which was a surprise and indicates the scope has very good contrast (it is baffled by I think three or maybe four disks inside the tube).  I steadily increased magnification, first a 26mm plossl then a 13mm Ethos -- and yet I could not find the E or F stars in the trapezium.  The Ethos gave a stunning view, as it usually does.  Stars were nice and pin point and a rough star test showed round on both sides of focus (though seeing was not nearly good enough).

Next was M45, which was at zenith, and I needed to sit on the ground to reach the eyepiece.  So, a taller mount is called for.  A telrad at the objective end of the tube would be very helpful.  But the main issue is the height and steadiness of the mount.

I tried Rigel next, and could not find its B star.  M35 showed a pleasing spray of stars.  No question but refractors show the prettiest sky images.

So now I can move with confidence to make a cell for the energy rejection filter, and to go ahead with the solar scope.  My only worry is if there is enough in focus.  And of course the mount.

During the day I had a quick look at the sun with the PST, and it showed one large faint fan like prominence on one end of the limb and a small bright spike on the other side.  Looking forward to more views.

Friday, December 6, 2019

great flares

I tried to spend some time outside this morning, since there is a storm approaching with rain starting this afternoon and lasting until Tuesday.  Out on the trail I was very surprised to see a bald eagle, flying right above me and landing on a tree.  He was being harassed by crows.  Large bird, with the distinctive white head, hooked beak, and large yellow-orange feet.  He flew off after a minute or so.  First time to see one.

After lunch there was a nice bright clear window between the clouds so I brought out my PST.  There were two very nice prominences visible.  One was a short but very bright hook, and the other, about 60 degrees away, was a very large faint fountain, spraying in an irregular fan shape very far from the limb.  There was a smaller arc nearby but I don't think they were connected.  The SDO image shows the bright hook at 9:30 and the large fan at 2:00.  I did not see the third prominence at 11:00; maybe it sprung up between when I had lunch then came up here to post!  I could see very fine graining / orange peel on the disk but only along the rim of the disc.