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Venus on SkyShed POD Dome; More iPhone Adapter tests;
Stars in Andromeda Galaxy

Posted: 30 October 2016

The observatory was not opened Wednesday, 26 October 2016, as I supported a star party that night for the Oracle Dark Skies Committee at a local tourist ranch. I used my LXD55 GEM mounted ETX-105 and Revolution Imager to provide telescopic views to an enthusiastic group of visitors from all around the country who wanted to enjoy our local dark sky. Thursday, 27 October, the sky turned cloudy. The sky dawned clear on Saturday, 29 October, but clouds began appearing from the west mid-morning. Fortunately, the sky was mostly clear as sunset approached.

Open: Saturday, 29 October 2016, 1719 MST
Temperature: 96°F
Session: 1032
Conditions: Mostly clear

Equipment Used:
12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
Wireless AutoStar II handset
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece
2" 9mm 100° eyepiece
2" 50mm eyepiece
12x70 binoculars
2X nightscope

iPhone 6s Plus
D7200 DSLR

This night I did some final tests of the new smartphone adapter. I hope to have the review posted in the next day or so.

1734 MST: LX600 ON, StarLock OFF, High Precision OFF.

1737 MST: viewed Venus, 102X.

1742 MST: I placed my Celestron Cometron 12x70 binoculars on a camera tripod and viewed Venus. Saturn, about 3° from Venus, was not yet visible against the still bright sky.

1745 MST: returned to the 12" telescope and viewed Saturn, 102X. Fairly nice view although the planet was low in the sky.

1752 MST: Saturn was now visible in the 12x70 binoculars in the same field-of-view as Venus. Nice. Saturn's Ring System was also visible in the 12X binoculars. Unfortunately the collimation of the binoculars has worsened over time. As I noted in my initial review in November 2013 and a follow-up in July 2014, the first Celestron binoculars I received had a serious collimation problem due to a wobbly eyepieces holder. The replacement binoculars were better but still had some wobble and hence poor collimation, which was easily correctable. This night I could not get the binoculars collimated on any objects I was viewing so I have decided to give up on the Celestron Cometron binoculars and get better high power, large aperture binculars. In the meantime I will resume using my old Orion 7x50 binoculars from the observatory.

1815 MST: back in the observatory. I projected the bright planet Venus on the SkyShed POD dome using 102X and 271X. It was easy to see although faint on the dome. 1830 MST: Venus was now approaching a tree so I took this photograph of Venus, 271X, projected onto the dome with the D7200 DSLR, f/3.5, 30 seconds, ISO 1600, FL 18mm:

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Mouseover or tap on image label

Some stars are visible at the upper left and right of the photo.

1843 MST: viewed the Double Cluster, 49X. Using the new adapter, took this photo with the iPhone 6s Plus using NightCap Pro (Long Exposure, Light Boost, ISO 8000, 1 minute):


On my report of the 20 October 2016 observing session I discussed observing individual stars in the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) using the 12" telescope and a Sky & Telescope blog article. On 25 October I imaged those same stars but the prime focus + 2X PowerMate image was slightly out-of-focus. This night I re-imaged NGC206 in M31 with the DSLR at prime focus. This is a (cropped) image, 3 minutes, ISO 6400, White Balance 4000K, StarLock autoguided, showing the star cloud and the faint stars I had observed on 20 October:

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Mouseover or tap on image star magnitude labels

1940 MST: did some focus test images, then ended Deep Sky Object (DSO) imaging.

1950 MST: viewed the Double Cluster and the Pleiades (M45) using the 12x70 binoculars.

2010 MST: clouds were now covering the western half of the sky. Slewed to M33 (Triangulum Galaxy) in the hope of doing some observing of objects in the galaxy. While waiting to see what the clouds did I got out an old 2X nightscope and did some observing. M31 (Andromeda Galaxy), the Double Cluster, and the Pleiades were interesting views with the nightscope.

2050 MST: the clouds were now mostly gone. Began observing the Triangulum Galaxy using an article from the December 2016 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine as a guide. I began with 102X. NGC604 in M33 was easily seen as well the spiral arms. Several other faint "smudges" in the galaxy were visible but I could not positively identify them using the article. Switched to 271X. Again, several "smudges" were visible, especially with averted vision, but none (other than NGC604) were identifiable. Perhaps viewing was hampered by high thin clouds.

2133 MST: took a tour of DSOs in the constellation of Cygnus, 102X: NGC6819 (Foxhead Cluster), NGC6826 (planetary nebula), NGC6888 (Crescent Nebula), M29 (open cluster), NGC6960 (Veil Nebula, impressive view), NGC6992 (nebula, nice view), and M39 (open cluster).

2147 MST: tried to view NGC1300 (galaxy) but it was still too low in the eastern sky. Took a tour of DSOs in the constellation of Aquarius, 102X: M72 (globular cluster), M73 (open cluster), NGC7009 (Saturn Nebula, planetary nebula), M2 (globular cluster), and NGC7293 (Helix Nebula, planetary nebula).

2209 MST: began closing up for the night.

Close: Saturday, 29 October 2016, 2220 MST
Temperature: 69°F
Session Length: 5h 01m
Conditions: Mostly clear

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