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More on Tiangong-1, Critter, New Neighbors,
NGC288, Lots of DSO Observing

Posted: 29 September 2013

After my successful attempt at imaging the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 Wednesday morning, 25 September 2013, the observatory was opened again in the evening at 1819 MST, 84°F. The sky was clear but it was windy. I opened the dome but decided to delay removing covers from the telescope due to the wind. The wind was forecast to die down after sunset. At 1848 MST, about 30 minutes after sunset, it was still windy. I powered on the telescope and did a GOTO to my first planned object. I still left the telescope covers on though due to the wind.

While waiting (and hoping) for the wind to die down I did some sky observing with and without 7x50 binoculars. Unfortunately, by 1925 MST the wind was still blowing so I decided to call it a night. The forecast for Thursday was for more wind.

The observatory was closed at 1935 MST, 74°F.

On Thursday, 26 September 2013, featured my Sun-Tiangong-1 transit iPhone 5s image on their front page:



By the way, for those who don't know, slo-mo (slow motion) video on the new Apple iPhone 5s shoots at 120 frames per second. That really helped to capture the rapidly moving Earth satellite.

The sky was cloudy Thursday night, 26 September, with a strong wind blowing, but that didn't matter as I wouldn't have been able to observe anyway. Friday night was clear but once again, I was unable to observe due to other commitments. The observatory was opened on Saturday, 28 September 2013, at 1812 MST, 85°F. On my way to the observatory I saw this beetle (over an inch long) on the pathway:


Sunset occurred at 1814 MST. At 1820 MST, viewed Saturn, 83X and 222X. Then viewed Venus, 222X. Venus looked very nice, showing a nearly "half-moon" phase. Seeing was not very good on the planets as both were low in the western sky. Returned to Saturn at 1828 MST; Cassini Division was visible in the Ring System. Saturn became naked eye visible at 1835 MST, if you knew where to look. Saturn's moon Titan became visible in the 8" telescope using 222X at 1839 MST.

At 1840 MST, I was surprised by a very bright light shining directly into the observatory from a newly completed house 2 plots to the south. Not knowing whether the building contractor was there or whether the owners had moved in, I decided to walk over and discuss the light with whoever was there. As it turned out, the owners were just moving in. We had a long and very nice visit. And they agreed to shield the light. Thanks neighbor! And welcome to the neighborhood.

I got back to the observatory at 1917 MST. At 1927 MST, viewed the planet Neptune, 222X. I then did some GOTO tests with the 8" LX200-ACF. I wanted to see what GOTO modes were available in both Alt/Az mounting and Polar mounting modes. I didn't actually change the mount; I just changed the mount setting in the AutoStar II. I learned the following about the Mode display GOTO coordinates:

Mount set to Alt/Az:
GOTO RA/Dec - allowed
GOTO Alt/Az - allowed

Mount set to Polar:
GOTO RA/Dec - allowed
GOTO Alt/Az - not allowed

I then had to realign the AutoStar. I first did a "fake" Alt/Az Easy Alignment to clear out any bad stored alignment data. I then did a real Polar One Star Alignment. That was completed at 1959 MST.

I returned to Neptune viewing, 222X. A new light at the new neighbor's house came on that was highly visible from the observatory. It wasn't as bad as the first light I saw earlier but will still be a problem:


I will have to let them see its effects when they come to visit the observatory.

At 2013 MST, I began setting up for iPhone 5s imaging of Neptune using my homemade afocal adapter. I made a slight adjustment in the adapter in an attempt to avoid the optical alignment problem due to shifting of the mounting wires. Unfortunately, some shifting still occurred and due to Neptune's faintness I could not see it on the display to align the camera to the eyepiece at 154X. I will need to make some improvements in my adapter until I get a better one for the iPhone 5s.

At 2026 MST, I viewed the planet Uranus, 222X and 83X. I then slewed to the galaxy M74 to check on the supernova SN2013ej. At 83X, the supernova was not visible, probably due to M74 still being low in the eastern sky. At 2041 MST, the supernova became faintly visible using averted vision.

Next viewed was M31 (the Great Andromeda Galaxy) and its companion galaxies M32 and M110. At 2045 MST, while viewing M110 in the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece (83X), a faint satellite came into the field-of-view. It slowly approached M31 and passed very close to the nucleus of M31. I then viewed the following Deep Sky Objects at 83X and 222X: Double Cluster (open star clusters), M15 (globular cluster), M92 (globular cluster), M13 (Great Cluster in Hercules, globular cluster), M56 (globular cluster), M57 (Ring Nebula). Switched to 154X and viewed M57. I then returned to M74 and checked on the supernova at 154X; it was nicely visible. I also viewed M31, M32, and M110 at 154X. Nice views.

Beginning at 2130 MST, I did DSO tours in several constellations using 83X. Cetus: NGC246 (planetary nebula), NGC247 (galaxy), Caldwell 51 (galaxy), and M77 (galaxy, but it was too low for good viewing). Lacerta: NGC7209 (open cluster) and NGC7243 (open cluster). Vulpecula: NGC6830 (open cluster), M27 (Dumbbell Nebula), NGC6885 (open cluster), and NGC6940 (open cluster). Pisces: M74 (galaxy). I then viewed M45 (the Pleiades). Perseus: M76 (Little Dumbbell Nebula), NGC860 and NGC884 (Double Cluster), M34 (open cluster), NGC1245 (open cluster), NGC1275 (galaxy), NGC1342 (open cluster), IC248 (diffuse nebula), NGC1499 (California Nebula), and NGC1528 (open cluster). Sculptor: NGC55 (galaxy), NGC134 (galaxy), NGC253 (galaxy), NGC288 (globular cluster), and NGC300 (galaxy). I ended to the DSO tours at 2235 MST.

I slewed back to NGC288 (globular cluster) and began preparing the D7000 DSLR for prime focus imaging with the 8" telescope. I then waited a short while for NGC288 to get higher in the sky. At 2301 MST, did a focus test on the star Fomalhaut using the Bahtinov Mask. At 2311 MST, I began imaging NGC288. I first some framing test exposures, followed by this image, 30 seconds, ISO 6400, unguided:


I completed imaging at 2316 MST. I then did a tour of some DSOs in the constellation of Taurus, 83X: NGC1647 (open cluster), NGC1817 (open cluster), and M1 (Crab Nebula, too low). While waiting for M1 to rise higher I checked my Twitter timeline and saw a tweet from @davidwogan about iOS 7 Maps showing ground lights when zoomed out. I checked and sure enough, it works:


The blue dot is my location. One striking thing is apparent in the above image: why do people, businesses, and governments send light into the sky so that it visible from above? What a waste of energy and money. There are reports that unneeded and inappropriate night time lighting adds about 13% to the United States energy costs. That has to contribute to global warming, as well as all the other problems created by light pollution, including impacts on human health, wildlife, and the environment.

At 2348 MST, viewed M1 (Crab Nebula), 83X. It was still low but was a fair view. I next did a DSO tour in Auriga: NGC1664 (open cluster), Caldwell 31 (diffuse nebula), NGC1857 (open cluster), NGC1893 (open cluster), NGC1907 (open cluster), M38 (open cluster), M36 (open cluster), and M37 (open cluster). I returned to M1 at 0000 MST; it was a better view now. At 0020 MST, returned to M74; the supernova SN2013ej in the galaxy was now easy to see at 83X. Went back to M1; some structure was now visible at 83X.

At 0048 MST, Jupiter was now visible above the hill to the east. Viewed Jupiter (through tree branches) at 0053 MST, 83X. The four Galilean Moons (Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa) were visible.

The observatory was closed at 0110 MST, 67°F.

I have posted a slow motion video version of the Sun-Tiangong-1 transit on 25 September 2013. The video shows the 0.5 second transit in 8 seconds, with arrows showing the Chinese space station as it crossed the sun. Click the image below to view the video in a new web browser window:


For an excellent history of Meade Instruments, see Uncle Rod's Astro Blog.

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

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