Viewing the moons of uranus, Round 2.

Reports for 2019
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Apollo XX
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Viewing the moons of uranus, Round 2.

Unread post by Apollo XX » Mon Dec 23, 2019 11:19 pm

Last night I got together again with my observing friend to attempt the moons of Uranus for a second time. As we did the first time, I procured all the pertinent information regarding planet location and the orientation of the moons and he brought the big telescope. I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but the S&T 'Moons of Uranus' tool has quit working. For reasons unknown to me - and apparently to the S&T crew as well - it decided that December 1st would be its last day on the job. Looking up any date from Dec2 onward yields nada. They're looking into it.

No worries here though. Although the S&T online tool is highly useful (especially in the field) most planetarium programs will provide the positions as well. For last night's foray I used Cartes Du Ciel. In fact I made all my charts with CDC, and although I like how my finder charts come out better in Stellarium, the moons charts was great. This time I made two moon charts - one showing them fairly close to scale in the eyepiece and one zoomed in just for the heck of it - you never know when those great conditions are going to strike and all of sudden you hit the jackpot.

I can tell you this, last night was not a jackpot night. The seeing was SO, SO bad! Focusing was nigh impossible and it was all we could do to draw 13.9 mag Titania out into the FOV. I knew we were in for it when a very conveniently located 12.7 mag star was just mush no matter what magnification we used. I'm not a meteorologist, but something tells me that the incoming warm air had something to do with it. Whatever it was, the atmosphere was a mess last night and it didn't help our observing at all.

I had also brought along my 4"F11 refractor in an effort to do some confirmation viewings for some of the stars on my DSC60 project. Sigma Cass was one that I needed to confirm what I had seen through the 60mm, and even the 4" was having trouble with it last night. We got it done, but I can now say with great confidence that I don't think my observations match. The secondary is actually nearly 180* from where I drew it back in late October. I know the sky has moved, but not that much. Back to the drawing board.

Alpha Pisces was another DSC60 no-go and it wasn't happening in the 60mm no way no how, but I figured the 4" would bust it open no problemo - until I put it in the eyepiece. At 1.7" seconds separated it's a tight one, so I jazzed up the magnification to the mid-200's and while I was definitely able to split the system it was jumping around like a cat on a hot tin roof. Like I said, the seeing was bad. But I am happy to report that the secondary is definitely located right where I *thought* I saw some elongation in the 60mm @ 200x, so I felt good about that.

Speaking of high magnifications, a funny thing happened to me last night. While working alpha Piscium I was switching out eyepieces and barlows in an effort to land on the ideal magnification for the conditions. Well somehow, in the dark of course, I dropped the 3x barlow into the 2x barlow and then put in my 10mm eyepiece. To say that I was having difficulty focusing is an understatement. I'm sitting there the whole time thinking I've got the 3x in and I'm switching out eyepieces trying to get things back and I'm chasing the field of view like crazy and wondering what the hell happened and why it is so damn fuzzy...and then I finally noticed it. Now I'm not sure how that really works. Does the 2x double the focal length then the 3x triples that? It seems logical, and if so I was messing with a focal length of 6600mm on a lightweight alt/az mount and working magnifications in the vicinity of 660x...with a four inch refractor. Suffice it to say, bad seeing or not, that the lens is not up to that.

After that misgiving I got back to viewing alpha Pisces at a much more normal mid-200's power and while I was often able to confirm a good split between the two, this is still a system that I'd like to go back to again for a better look.

The final star that I wanted to confirm from my recent observations with the 60mm scope was Gamma Ceti. At just 2.1" separation and nearly three magnitudes difference in brightness, it wasn't happening even in the 4" on this night. I spent a fair amount of time staring into the eyepiece and messing with magnifications in an attempt to confirm what I thought I had seen through the 60mm on a better night, but it was all for naught. Hopefully a better sky will present itself in the near future.

The whole time I was sitting at the 4", my friend was staring into the eyepiece of the 18" in an effort to suss out more moons of Uranus. Occasionally I would here something like "ooh, got 'em", or "there they are" from the vicinity of his scope. Having had enough of chasing double stars in very poor seeing for one night, I shuffled over to the big scope for a look. When I got up to the eyepiece, I saw just one big mess of fuzziness with the occasional appearance of Uranus, a mag 12.7 star, and Titania. The last time we tried we were duped by a transparency issue, but on this night it was seeing. And as the saying goes - what's not happening now, will happen one day, keep trying.

This was in all likelihood our swansong observation for 2019. I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year, and may everyone enjoy a banner year for astronomy in 2020!
Mike M.
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Pete
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Re: Viewing the moons of uranus, Round 2.

Unread post by Pete » Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:10 am

Always enjoy vicariously viewing with you Mike.

I was out last night as well but cloud rolled in around 19:00. It cleared a bit by 04:00, when I attempted to view P/Borisov (2i) This 15.2 magnitude object is the first interstellar comet ever discovered but the sucka was at -22 dec. The air was still but seeing that low was HORRIBLE. All stars were big and fat regardless of attempts to focus sharp and guide tight. Two hours without success even with 25 minute stacks.

But any night out under the stars (preferably with clear sky) is good.
Pete P.
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