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Mars & Mercury Conjunction, ISS, Snow & Coyote

Posted: 9 February 2013

The observatory was opened Friday, 8 February 2013, at 1805 MST, 59°F. The sky was partly cloudy, with some wind blowing. The clouds were thickest to the south at sunset:


That portended some changes to come. But fortunately, there were few clouds in the west where Mars and Mercury were having a close conjunction. At 1811 MST, I viewed both planets well within the same field-of-view of the 8" telescope at 77X. At 1817 MST, I could see Mercury with 7x50 binoculars, but Mars was not yet visible. At 1818 MST, I took this afocal 77X photo using the iPhone 4, showing Mars on the left and Mercury on the right:


At 1823 MST, Mars was now visible, along with Mercury, in the 7x50 binoculars. These photos taken with the D7000 DSLR at focal lenths of 195mm (top) and 300mm (bottom) show Mars (below, obviously red) and Mercury (above):



I then began setting up for the night's ISS pass. I updated the ISS TLE in the AutoStar. A few minutes later, the batteries in the Wireless AutoStar II began dying. Had to quickly swap them out. Did a focus test using the Bahtinov Mask on the star Rigel. Locked the telescope focus and checked the finderscope alignment. All was ready at 1900 MST. This would not be an ideal pass for telescopic imaging of the International Space Station. It would be low in the western and northern sky, hence a long distance away, and there were thin clouds were along much of its path. During the pass, tracking was not too bad. I did a HD video recording with the D7000 DSLR at prime focus of the 8" LX200-ACF, 1/2000sec, ISO 2500. These are some captures from the recording showing the changing perspective of the ISS during the pass:


After the pass was completed, I could see the Zodiacal Light through the thin clouds in the western sky. Due to the clouds, I decided to end the session.

The observatory was closed at 1940 MST, 47°F.

As I said earlier, the clouds portended changes to come. I woke up this morning to about 2" of snow on the ground. Of course, that is nothing compared to what the east coast of the USA is getting now, but for Oracle, it is nice. My live webcam captured this view towards the observatory:


As I was writing this report I saw three coyotes go by, looking for breakfast. I managed to get a photo of one of them:


As my niece said when she saw the photo, "Stars & wildlife! The best of BOTH WORLDS."

Comments are welcome; use the Comments section below, or you can Email Me. Thanks.

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