Friday night and Saturday night were both clear this weekend, but on friday night I was exhausted and collapsed into bed by 8 p.m., sleeping through until morning. My waking and sleeping hours are becoming more and more distinct now, and I am having a great deal of difficulty staying awake beyond the so-called normal. If I try – and I did try earlier in the week – I can stay up longer, but I pay for it later. Friday night was apparently payback for the earlier wakefulness, though since I got a solid eight hours of sleep on Thursday, I thought I was going to be ok. Despite the full night’s sleep, Friday was difficult during the day, and as mentioned, I collapsed when I got home. Diabetes has all kinds of side effects, and this seems to be one.
I had problems staying awake on Saturday night as well, so I decided, since the weather was predicted to be clear, to get up early and take a look at the planets. Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus were definitely available, and Mars was a possibility. I set the alarm for 4.30, but in the event I woke up earlier and crawled out of bed without prompting. I put a pot of coffee on and staggered around until I eventually returned to full consciousness. By 5 am I was out heading for the observatory with a thermal cup of coffee in my hand.
It was only about -5 C, so I didn’t expect much problem with the cold, but over the summer I’ve become used to much warmer temps, and I soon found that even dressed for the cool weather I wasn’t ready for it. I should have dressed for weather about 10 or 15 degrees colder, and I’ll do that next time, at least until I toughen up again. Reaching the observatory I immediately ran into a problem with the lock. It was cold, and the key was hard to insert, and hard to turn. Everything sounded like a gunshot, though I was trying to keep fairly quiet. I’ll see if the neighbors have any complaints tomorrow.
I had dismounted the scope last time, and took about 25 minutes to set up, even without powering up the mount (gotta get power out to the observatory – batteries go flat!). The effort was worth it. By 5.30 I had rejected Venus as an object worth looking at – too damn bright! – and concentrated my efforts on Saturn and Jupiter.
I believe my right eye is too astigmatic to be useful in focusing, but my left eye seems fine. I started with a 40 mm eyepiece, which gives about 17x magnification. Jupiter was bright, but banding was readily apparent. Saturn was also clearly ringed – none of Galileo’s confusion here (though it helps that the presentation of the rings is close to optimal)! I moved on to my remaining eyepieces, a 15 mm (45 x) and an 8.8 (78 x) and both gave excellent views, again with the left eye. The right eye continues to present trilobal stars, so there is definitely something peculiar going on there. I didn’t check my glucose levels, but it’s possible the level was high, which would exaggerate the astigmatism which I know is present. I’ll have to keep track of this, since it’s not something which showed up in my last exam.
Meanwhile, though I have a Powermate 5x, for some reason I didn’t even think to try it with the eyepieces available – I bought it recently and don’t think of it as being in my optical armory . That’s a real shame, because I strongly suspect the air was steady enough to try high powers on both Jupiter and Saturn. Nominally the scope is only worthwhile up to about 220x, but in retrospect I would have liked to try the 390 x which is reachable with the 8.8 and the 5 x in combination. In previous attempts the image was unstable, but the conditions this morning seemed very good, and it would in any case have been interesting to try.
I think one thing I need to do is build some sort of eyepiece box. Right now the eyepieces are in their individual cases but roll around freely in a Rubbermaid??? case, so there is a tendency to forget what’s under the wires and cables if the scope isn’t completely set up. I think that’s what happened with the Powermate – I simply forgot it was there, because it was buried in the power cables, and with the battery down I didn’t bother to pull the cables out. At least when I use the observatory the Rubbermaid??? case isn’t needed, so I should change my setup accordingly.
Another thing to change is the location of the desk, which is currently in the north east corner of the observatory. The observatory is small enough that the counterweight of the GEM comes uncomfortably close to the desk, and could be a hazard if someone – me! – is sitting at the desk and gets up without thinking about it. The scope is still not on the permanent mount, so the tripod is being used beside the pier (come on, Losmandy, ship the damned adapter!) and the tripod interferes with the placement of the desk, but once the scope is mounted more permanently the desk will have to be moved.
The observatory carpet is still not in place, so I have fears that small parts will fall and roll out through the pier piercing in the floor. I hope to fix that later today.