Saturn, the Moon, Castor

I started off this (late) evening just looking at the Moon, which turned out to be a good way to go blind. After staggering around with no night vision I decided to try my luck with Saturn, which was just rising, It was low in the east, perhaps 5?? or a little more above the horizon. I worked my way through my eyepieces, not really thrilled by anything I saw, with a great deal of wobbling and waving around. I decided to check out stars at various altitudes to see how (or if) things would improve as Saturn rose higher. Things definitely got better the higher I climbed, but never got beyond fair. Castor was an obvious double but still the images swam together and apart in a blurry dance. During this I kept tweaking the Telrad to improve the alignment so I was able to place the objects I wanted in the field of view even at high magnification.

Returning to Saturn, I watched as it slowly rose out of the murk. Titan was obvious, but other satellites were essentially invisible, though there were occasional hints. Under perfect skies I think I could have expected to see Rhea, and possibly Iapetus, and Enceladus, while Dione and Tethys would have been in the wrong phase for viewing – assuming Starry Night got it right.

Despite the murk and haze, the shadow of the rings on the planet was clearly visible, and there were hints of Cassini’s division from time to time. I wasn’t able to spot the shadow of the planet on the rings.

I packed up around 3 am, but as usual quiet packing took until about 3.45 am.

Observing Venus

I went out on Sunday morning to watch Venus rise. It was cool and not too humid, and I was mainly going out to say that I had. Once again I hadn’t set up my scope ahead of time, and getting it out quietly at 2 or 3 in the morning is just too hard right now. In addition, one of my neighbours continues to leave one of his house lights on all night, ruining my night vision most of the time. I have to face away to have any hope of adapting to the dark, and it’s not too effective.

The sky was clear, and for this neighbourhood getting down to magnitude 3 or better at the zenith is pretty good. I was trying to watch Venus when I ws distracted by an unusual (to me, anyway) phenomenon. Venus was apparently jinking about! the observed motion was comparable to the diameter of the moon, so it appeared that Venus was moving fairly rapidly – less than a minute – from side to side through about 30 seconds of arc. Had I not known I was looking at Venus I would have assumed I was looking at some kind of flying object which was hovering around one spot. The altitude at this point was around 10?? and the planet was framed between a couple of trees, which were not moving in any kind of breeze, but appeared about 15?? apart..

So, if I hadn’t known what I was looking at, I would have probably been reporting a UFO. Ooooooh, very scaary, boys and girls!

But I did know what I was looking at, so what was I seeing? I’ll toss out two possible explanations, and leave it open after that. First, Venus was low in the sky. Turbulence in the atmosphere could have been diverting the light path, making it appear the planet was dancing around. I don’t buy that explanation – the motion was too extreme. What I’m running with is some sort of physiological effect resulting from the low altitude and the extreme brightness of the planet itself. I suspect that my eyes were very rapidly overwhelmed by the bright light and in the absence of close references my brain interpreted the motion of my eyes as a motion of the planet itself. I held up my hands to reduce the brightness (essentially forming a pinhole between my hands to view the planet) and the motion stopped pretty much immediately. The combination of reduced brightness and a couple of reference points tamed everything right down. A very interesting phenomenon, and new to me.

Nothing much to report…

I sent a cheque in to cover 20% or so of the SkyShed order, so things are starting to move there, but otherwise there wasn’t much going on in the way of Astronomy. This post is backdated, though, because I wasn’t able to post over the net – sftp failed whenever I tried to get a directory, so I wasn’t able to synch to my laptop. I’ll have to look at it later, though, because family events are having an impact on my work – I’m not working too effectively – so I’ll have to put in extra time to compensate for my reduced productivity. Life is one damn thing after another!

I got to do some observing!

It’s been a while since I’ve been doing much more than recovering data, but this weekend at least I had moderately clear skies, and since I had bought a release for my camera I thought I would check out how bad my skies were. I’m putting in a Sky Shed, which is a roll-off roof observatory designed and pre-fabricated here in Ontario, but I’ve been worried that it might be a useless thing to do. I’m deep in light-polluted territory, and sometimes it’s hard to pick out even the most obvious constellations.

However, one constellation I’ve never had trouble with is Orion, and even though it was rising around 4 am I thought I’d try a one-minute exposure to see if I could image M42. It was a spur of the moment decision based on the fact that I hadn’t been able to make it up to the Huronia Star Party earlier in the weekend and I hated to let the weekend go by with nothing related to astronomy at all. I wound up dragging out the scope around 2 am, doing everything very slowly to be as quiet as possible. I was set up around 3 am, but even trying to be stealthy wasn’t enough – my daughter’s dog began barking around 2.30 and took quite a while to calm down. Eventually, though, I was able to focus the scope and start taking shots.

The focus wasn”t good enough, and that’s an issue I’ll have to deal with, but with much tweaking and stroking I managed to get one shot which I can live with. I made a pseudo-flat by blurring the image, then inverted it and added it back to the original to get a reasonably black sky. The colours are still a little off, but the image is at least acceptable. (this is an imported note – I’ll fix up a link to the image later)

I’m swamped with work so I doubt that I’ll be able to do much more over the next week or so (even if the weather cooperates), but at least I managed to start.

Small victories, deeply felt.

Rebuild, recover, reconstruct

Not much to report this week. I spent most of the week on recovering as much of the lost content from my dead hard drive as possible. Some of the material was recovered from Google caches, some from relatives who had saved a little info from files I had sent. It appears that some of the software is gone for good, or at least until I buy it again. In particular, Vuescan is wiped out. This is software which comes down from the web and you buy an activation key. I saved the activation key on disk, bu I appears the disk I save it to was the disk that died – and there are no backups. Photographs I can rescan, but this will have to be repurchased. Since I’m in the middle of putting up a Sky Shed, I’ll have to wait.