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Imaging: Planet Mercury, Quasar 3C273

Posted: 24 June 2019

Thursday, 20 June 2019, I facilitated the rocket building classes at the Oracle Mountain Vista School for their Summer School Model Rocket Program. It was another all-day event for 5 grade levels. The students will continue to build their rockets with launches planned for the coming week.

Photo courtesy of Julie Formo

Before sunset on Thursday the wind began blowing. Did not open the observatory that night.

Friday morning, 21 June, I was at the local school for more rocket classes. Strong winds came up mid-day. Saturday, 22 June, dawned clear and calm, but with some wind forecast before sunset. The wind and even some clouds arrived mid-morning, with the clouds in about 50% of the sky by mid-afternoon. Sunday, 23 June, dawned clear and calm with a clear and calm forecast for the night.

Open: Sunday, 23 June 2019, 1906 MST
Temperature: 90°F
Session: 1366
Conditions: Clear

Equipment Used:
12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece
1.25" 15mm eyepiece
2" 2X Powermate

iPhone 8 Plus

1930 MST: LX600 ON, StarLock OFF, High Precision OFF.

Slewed to the planet Mercury. 1934 MST: viewed Mercury, 102X, 163X, and 325X.

Mounted the iPhone 8 Plus using the Phone Skope adapter.

1938 MST: sunset.

This is a stack of 330 video frames using Lynkeos taken with the iOS app NightCap Camera (ISO 22, 1/35sec, 10 seconds) and the Phone Skope Bluetooth Remote:


1948 MST: removed the iPhone and slewed to the planet Jupiter which was behind a tree and began waiting for it to appear.

Prepared the D850 DSLR for prime focus imaging.

1955 MST: viewed Jupiter, still partially hidden by the tree, 163X. The four Galilean Moons were visible.

2002 MST: Jupiter was clear of the tree but still too low for good viewing.

2010 MST: viewed Mercury using the Vortex 12x50 binoculars. Then viewed Jupiter using the binoculars. Only 3 moons were visible; the 4th was too close to the planet's disk.

2020 MST: smoke from the Woodbury Fire (about 60 miles north of Oracle) was visible along the horizon, northwest to northeast. The fire was about 100,000 acres and 25% contained.

2030 MST: Kissing Bug #1 terminated.

2032 MST: the view of Jupiter was getting better as it rose higher in the southeastern sky, 163X.

2036 MST: Kissing Bug #2 terminated.

2045 MST: viewed Jupiter, 163X and 102X.

Slewed to the star Spica and SYNCed the AutoStar in preparation for prime focus imaging.

2050 MST: Meade Stella Wi-Fi Adapter ON. Used SkySafari 6 Pro on the iPhone to GOTO Quasar 3C273 (Mag. +12.9, 2.5 billion lightyears away). Viewed Quasar 3C273, 102X.

Mounted the D850 DSLR at prime focus, focused on the star Spica, and locked the 12" mirror.

2103 MST: saw a nice bright meteor moving west through the constellation of Leo.

2010 MST: StarLock ON.

Began imaging Quasar 3C273. Seeing was not very good and I was not able to get exposures longer than 1 minute. But Quasar 3C273 is bright enough that it was captured in this 1 minute, ISO 6400, White Balance 5000K, image:


2126 MST: StarLock OFF, Wi-Fi OFF.

2127 MST: ended imaging as I would have a long day of activities the next day.

2128 MST: saw Kissing Bug #3 but it was too high on the observatory dome to reach.

2133 MST: viewed Jupiter, 102X. The South Equatorial Belt was nearly invisible.

2140 MST: Kissing Bug #3 terminated.

2142 MST: viewed Jupiter, 163X and 325X.

2143 MST: LX600 OFF.

Close: Sunday, 23 June 2019, 2156 MST
Temperature: 72°F
Session Length: 2h 50m
Conditions: Clear

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