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Federal Government Electric Company Destroys ISS,
Shortens Moon Session

Posted: 31 October 2012

Opened the observatory Tuesday, 30 October 2012, at 1803 MST, 79°F. The sky was clear. I immediately began preparations for the upcoming excellent ISS pass that was to occur about 30 minutes after opening the observatory. I updated the ISS TLE and then mounted the D7000 DSLR at prime focus of the 8" telescope. Did a focus test using the star Altair and the Bahtinov Mask. I locked the telescope focus and tweaked the finderscope alignment. Everything was ready. The ISS would be making a pass directly over the observatory, and so be very close (i.e., large) when at the zenith.

The AutoStar was slightly off target when the pass began and tracking was not great. But the camera was video recording this bright pass (1/2000sec, ISO 2500). Shortly after the pass began, I noticed the red lighting in the observatory "blink". Apparently there had been a brief electrical power interruption. (There had been a previous similar interruption about the time of sunset, before the observatory was opened.) The telescope was not affected and tracking continued normally. After the pass was over I discovered that the power interruption shut off the camera, which was operating using its AC adapter. Grrrrr. This rare very high pass of the ISS was destroyed by the electric company.

At 1852 MST, just prior to the start of the ISS pass, the waning gibbous moon rose over the hill to the east. After the pass was over, I added the focal reducer. At 1910 MST, there was another power interruption. The telescope was not affected. And another interruption occurred at 1926 MST. And another at 1946 MST. At this point I called the electric company, which is run by the USA Federal Government "Bureau of Indian Affairs". I got a "call director" saying to "press 1 to report an outage". I pressed "1"; the line rang for a few seconds and then I was told that the party I was trying to reach was not available. I was then told to "press 1 to report an outage". Sheesh. I pressed "1" and this time someone answered. I reported the power interruptions and was told that utility crews were working on a line (someplace) and having to open and close circuits to troubleshoot the problem. Since I'm in Arizona, the problem was not related to Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath along the east coast. The rep on the phone gave no indication how long the problem would last. Even though the observatory electric power is protected by a "whole house surge protector", I decided to end the session early just to be safe.

But first, I grabbed some quick moon images, even though the moon was still low in the sky. This cropped image, 1/500sec, ISO 100, shows the slight terminator visible:


I removed the focal reducer and added a 3X TeleXtender for these next two images (cropped), "Hat Trick", ISO 200, showing portions of the terminator:



Ended imaging at 1959 MST. Took a quick look at the moon, 77X. I then powered down the telescope and disconnected it from the AC line.

Closed the observatory at 2011 MST, 65°F. As it turned out, there were no more power interruptions.

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