2006 Observing Sessions
Yesterday, Jan. 14, Venus was in inferior conjunction. Today we
finally have a beautiful blue sky after weeks of clouds so I tried
spotting Venus near the Sun. Because Venus is just 6.4 degrees
north-west of the Sun I had to be extremely careful not to aim the
binoculars at the Sun by mistake, therefore the best solution was to
position myself so that it would be impossible to point the binoculars
at the Sun.
Purchased a lightly-used Meade 10-inch LX200 GPS (less than one year
photo at right shows the "new and improved" brass gears on the
declination assembly. In older models these used to be plastic and
had a tendency to wear out over time.
I was lucky to
have clear skies the next night after the purchase of the Meade 10-inch
LX200 GPS. The sky was quite clear and the temp was about -7°C.
Around 11 pm clouds rolled it. The Sky Quality Meter reading was
|Mar. 4 - 5||
It was great to get out observing after a mostly cloudy February. I set up the 12-inch Dobsonian on the deck earlier in the evening so by the time I got out the scope had cooled off. The sky was quite transparent but the seeing was poor, the temp was minus 2°C, and there was no wind. I bought this telescope in June 2005 and this was only the second time I have used it. I found the azimuth motion quite poor as the teflon pads would "stick" each time I tried to make a small adjustment to the scope's position. I will have to add ebony star laminate to the bottom of the board as soon as possible.
Sky Quality Meter measurements:
Tonight I observed two
"new" NGC objects that count towards the completion of my Herschel 400
list: NGC 3593, NGC 3489 in Leo
I also took a few minutes to observe M3, M104 (Sombrero Galaxy), Saturn, and Jupiter. Pictured above is the 12-inch telescope. It is considerably larger than a 10-inch Dobsonian, and although it's not much heavier it's much more difficult to handle and carry through doorways and into a car or minivan.
Setup the 12-inch Dobsonian (pictured above) on the deck well in
advance so it could cool off. By the time I was ready to observe
some haze moved in. It's nearly full moon and with the haze the sky in
rather poor. No wind, cool (about 2° C) and
pleasant. I sprayed Armor All on the base and now the azimuth no longer
"sticks" (see problem noted on March 4 -5 ). The purpose of
tonight's session was to view some brighter open clusters in the Winter
sky before they sink too low in the West.
All the above were rather poor due to the haze and full moon, so one day it would be good to observe them again!
|Mar. 26 -27
Logged my 1000th deep sky object !!
Setup the 12-inch Dobsonian (pictured further above) on the deck well
in advance so it could cool off. The sky is very clear, no wind, cool
(about 0° C) and pleasant. I sprayed Armor All
again on the base but this time the azimuth is "sticking" again! (see
problem noted on March 4 -5 ). The purpose of tonight's session was to
view some galaxies in Cancer, Leo, and Leo Minor.
The Sky Quality Meter reading at 00:15 was 18.29 (about as good as it gets, although I've had a few nights last September that were a bit darker - around 18.60)
|Apr. 8 - 9||
Set up the 10-inch LX200GPS on the deck in the early evening in alt-azimuth mode to see if imaging was possible without a wedge. Controlled the telescope remotely from inside the house - no technical issues of any kind!! Use the f3.3 Meade focal reducer on loan from a friend. The sky is quite clear with a waxing gibbous moon (3 days past 1st quarter). The temp is fairly steady between -1'C and -2'C. After a lengthy setup, I started imaging around 1:15am.
The scope was tracking well for alt-azimuth setup and I was able to image 15 sec to 20 sec exposures without trailing. 30 sec exposures trailed. Drizzle was able to de-rotate the images very well.
I did not set up the f3.3 reducer with the proper spacers so all images suffered from vignetting and elongated star images at the edges. Took images of M104, M49, NGC4535, M90, M100, M64, M3 and the comet.
Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3:
|Apr. 19 - 20||
|Apr. 28 - 29||
|May 6 - 7||
Set up the 10-inch LX200GPS in the backyard in the early evening in polar mode (with the wedge). Went out around 23:00 and did an iterative polar alignment - after only 3 iterations the two stars were dead centre. Then I did PEC training on Spica. The sky is quite clear, but a quarter moon is making the sky bright. The temp was about 4'C at the start and decreased to 0'C by 4 am.
Earlier in the day I cleaned out the CCD chip window and was able remove all dust, so no dust donuts tonight!! Later in the night I noticed that I still could not take images longer than 30 seconds, even with PEC, so I turned it off and saw no difference! Obviously something is not quite right. Took images of M5, NGC4565, Comet SW3, M57, M27, Comet c/2004 B1 Linear, NGC6781.
|May 7 - 8||
The 10-inch LX200 GPS was already set up in the backyard from the previous night. Refined the polar alignment by doing an iterative polar alignment and got it very precise.
Then I did a two PEC training session using the 12mm reticle eyepiece plus a 2x Barlow lens for a total 417x. Even after the PEC, the RA is still not right (if I recall correctly it was running too slow, so I’d have to press the West button). On hindsight, I may have been correcting movement caused by bad seeing at such high power! Next time use less magnification.
Around midnight M57 and Comet SW3 cleared the roof of the neighbour’s house in the east and I was able to see the pair extremely close to each other. Interesting sight! I would have liked to have taken an image, but it was getting too late and had to get up for work the next day.
The May/June 2006 issue of Night Sky Magazine (page 24) featured the asterism "Markov 1" in an article by Sue French. More info here about Markov 1 - http://www.astrobuysell.com/paul/markov1.htm
|June 20 - 21||
Set up an older 5.1-inch SkyWatcher reflector on a Meade LXD500 equatorial mount in the backyard for some experimenting. I did a very quick polar alignment using the polar scope and was able to obtain good tracking with exposures up to 1 minute. The slight problem was that I had trouble reaching focus so for future use I may have to move up the mirror inside the tube. This setup has great potential for quick setup and wide-field imaging.
M57 - 22 x 30 sec = 11 minutes
|July 8 - 9||
Set up the 10-inch LX200GPS in the backyard in polar mode mainly for filming a video presentation I was preparing on remote imaging (the video presentation was made at the RASC Toronto Centre July 12 meeting). After the filming was complete, I could not resist doing some CCD imaging. The temp was 23'C around 22:00 and decreased to 18'C by 2:00.
Below are identical images of M57, but with different image processing. It's an LRGB image with the following specs: L = 50 x 15 sec, R = 25 x 15 sec, G = 50 x 15 sec, B = 50 x 15 sec
|July 19 - 20||
Set up the 10-inch LX200GPS in the backyard in polar mode. Clear and transparent sky, but some thin cloud at times. Temp 21'C to 18'C. Did an iterative polar alignment and got excellent centering between Polaris and Altair after 5 iterations. Then I did two PEC training sessions, this time with just the 12mm eyepiece (208x), but as before PEC did not seem to help any. The scope also had a strong north shift in just a couple of minutes, meaning the polar alignment was off. Not sure what's going on, so my only solution may be a drift alignment next time.
Sky Quality Meter reading: zenith - 18.2, west - 17.9, east - 18.3
|July 28 - 29||
Arrived at the CAO on Friday afternoon July 28 - sunny and hot (about 30'C). Some clouds at sunset but it got progressively worse. It was very windy, so imaging was not possible. Looked at many Messier objects while dodging clouds.
Sky Quality Meter reading: 20.8 to 21.0 depending on direction.
NGC7000 with binoculars:
M57 in the 10-inch with 14mm Ultra-Wide-Angle eyepiece (178x):
I also checked the tracking on the scope. After 5 minutes the RA was dead on, but I had a slight northward drift in declination. After 10 minutes there was a very small RA drift but a continued northward drift in declination.
Today was the hottest day I've ever experienced in Canada.
In Markham (a suburb of Toronto) it got to 38'C (100'F), yet the
humidity was only 40%. The humidex made the temperature feel like
|Aug. 4 - 5||
Set up the 10-inch LX200GPS in the backyard in polar mode and did a very fast and simple polar alignment. Quite clear but warm. Temp was 20'C at 23:00 and decreased to 16'C by 4:00. Tonight I used the IR filter for the luminance frames. Sky Quality Meter reading: 18.5
|Aug. 24 - 27||
Arrived at the campground around 3 pm on Thursday Aug. 24 under partly cloudy skies and warm temp. Set up in the usual place – just south of the main tent. The forecast for the weekend looks terrible – clouds and rain only, no clear skies are forecast. I did not pull out the scope from the case all weekend.
Raymond Li and Mahesh Aravamudan from my work place joined me for part of the weekend. Camped with Walter MacDonald and David MacDonald as usual.
I slept in the minivan as usual but this year I added a camping cot with an air mattress - quite comfortable!
Thursday, Aug. 24: Mostly cloudy, wondered around the campground and looked at a few telescopes. Caught a brief glimpse of M13 thru a 25-inch dobsonian thru a hole in the clouds. The night was fairly warm, but then cooled off in the early morning hours as the rain started falling.
Friday, Aug. 25: Rain all day (almost non-stop!). Attended several presentations, and bought a 2-inch extension tube for my dobsonian telescopes. Night time was overcast and warm. Participated in “celestrivia” and formed a team with Walter MacDonald, Dave MacDonald, Damien Lemay. We came in first place and each won a Starfest 25th anniversary hat.
Saturday, Aug. 26: Some sunny breaks during the day and no rain! Attended one talk and delivered my presentation at 2:30 in the small tent called “star hopping primer”. The tent was about half full – not a good turnout. In the evening (around 7 pm) a thunderstorm rolled through and dumped lots of rain. Attended the main talk by Story Musgrave which was quite good. Won a 25mm Skywatcher KE eyepiece (low end) in the door prize draw. Night time was overcast and foggy.
Sunday, Aug. 27: Woke up to clouds, light
drizzle and fog. Dave Macdonald helped me pack the van and I was on the
road just before 11 am.
|Aug. 30 - 31||
Set up the 10-inch LX200GPS on the deck on alt-azimuth mode. Quite clear, cool, and a bit windy. The temp went from 15'C at 23:00 to 13'C by 1:00. Concentrated on taking a colour image of M27. The true colour is less green and more teal.
M33 in 10x50 binoculars!! - I was quite surprised to be able to just see M33 from the city in 10x50 binoculars. It appears to be a very transparent night!
Sky Quality Meter reading: west - 18.4, zenith - 18.5, east - 18.6
|Oct. 7 - 8||
Set up the 10-inch LX200GPS in the backyard in polar mode. Full moon, quite clear, except for a few clouds passing by. I did an iterative polar alignment and for the first time I figured out how to get the DSI Pro and the LX200GPS to guide between exposures. That eliminates image drift when stacking images. The temp went from 5'C to 3'C and the humidity went from 91% to 95% by 4:00 !!!
|Dec. 24 - 25||
Set up the 12-inch Dobsonian on the deck in the early everning, quite clear and cool (about 4'C). By chance the crescent moon was about to occult a mag 7.3 star in Aquarius (HIP 108958) so I was able to see the occultation on the dark limb. Then I noticed a much brighter star would be occulted next (Iota Aquarii, mag. 4.2) so I decided to film the occultation with a webcam. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to set up everything and I missed recording the occultation by a few minutes!
I observed 3 "new" NGC objects that count towards
the completion of my Herschel 400 list:
I did a very
quick comparison between the Orion Ultrablock filter (narrowband filter)
and the Lumicon O-III filter (line filter). A few years ago I wrote this
simple article that explains the basics of deep sky filters:
Sky Quality Meter reading: 18.15 (taken at 1am)
|Year End Stats||
|Observing / Imaging Frequency||
|Final Comments||A fairly good year
with lots of imaging and some observing. In 2006 I never made it to a
dark country sky (Starfest was clouded out) mostly because I can do
imaging from my backyard in the city. The biggest highlight of the
year was surpassing 1000 deep sky objects! I am continuing to learn how
to take images and how to process them - both are very time consuming
tasks with steep learning curves.
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