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Gibbous Venus, Moon on Dome with planets & ISS,
Full Moon

Posted: 9 February 2020

After being clear most of the day, and with a clear sky forecast for the night, clouds began arriving from the southwest mid-afternoon on Saturday, 8 Februry 2020. These clouds could potentially ruin a planned photographic opportunity this night.

Open: Saturday, 8 February 2020, 1700 MST
Temperature: 80°F
Session: 1435
Conditions: Mostly clear, breezy

12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece
1.25" 15mm eyepiece
2" 30mm eyepiece

iPhone 11 Pro Max

SYNCed the observatory clock to WWV.

1708 MST: LX600 ON, StarLock OFF, High Precision OFF.

I prepared to do a TRAIN DRIVES on the 12" LX600, something I had not done in over a year. I slewed the telescope towards the western horizon where I planned to use the prominent Picacho Peak (31 miles distant) as the target. After locating the Peak in the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece (102X) I switched to a 12mm reticle eyepiece. I then located a better target; a high tension powerline pole. TRAIN DRIVES was successful.

1725 MST: viewed the planet Venus, 102X. The gibbous phase was a pretty sight against the bright blue sky.

I then viewed Venus, 163X. I mounted the iPhone 11 Pro Max on the 15mm eyepiece using the Levenhuk adapter and switched the camera to the 2X telephoto lens. Took this afocal 163X photo using NightCap Camera (ISO 21, 1/4000sec, 2X lens).


1739 MST: I tried to view the planet Mercury but without success. Clouds in the western sky kept it hidden.

1740 MST: SYNCed on the star Aldebaran. The star, 102X, appeared a nice orange-red against the still bright blue sky about 30 minutes before sunset.

I then began preparing the D850 DSLR for one of my "Moon on Dome" photographs. This night I hoped to capture the International Space Station (ISS) passing high over Cassiopeia Observatory with the Full Moon projected onto the dome and the planets Venus and Mercury in the western sky. Timing would be a challenge as Mercury would be very low in the sky at the time of the ISS pass (1915 MST). Clouds might be an issue as well, as seen in this iPhone photo of the D850 with a 14mm UWA lens set up outside of the observatory at sunset.


I then began waiting for the ISS to appear.

1820 MST: the Full Moon rose over the hill to the east. I slewed the 12" telescope to the Moon and set up the projection onto the observatory dome using the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece (102X). The Moon was very bright in the eyepiece. I set the tracking rate to Lunar.

1844 MST: I began taking test exposures with the D850 DSLR to see what exposure settings would work best to show the Moon on the dome and still show the planets without trailing. It quickly became obvious that Mercury would disappear before the ISS pass began. But at least the clouds were cooperating.

1857 MST: took this photo of the Moon on Dome with the planets Venus and Mercury and some stars (f/8, 15 seconds, ISO 1250, FL 14mm, cropped).

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1915 MST: the International Space Station passed over Cassiopeia Observatory, along with an airplane in the first photo (f/8, 30 seconds, ISO 800, 14mm, cropped). I was able to get the Moon on Dome and the planet Venus as well. Mercury was too low to be seen.


After the ISS pass ended I returned to the 12" telescope and viewed the Full Moon, 102X and 81X. I mounted the iPhone 11 Pro Max on the 2" 30mm eyepiece using the Levenhuk adapter.

1929 MST: took this iPhone afocal 81X photo of the Full Moon with NightCap Camera (ISO 32, 1/2900sec, 1X lens).


1934 MST: removed the iPhone and took a last look at the Full Moon, 102X.

1935 MST: LX600 OFF.

Close: Saturday, 8 February 2020, 1943 MST
Temperature: 52°F
Session Length: 2h 43m
Conditions: Mostly clear

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