Astronomy Log: 2019003

Date/Time: 2019/03/23 21:51 EST
Location: Barrie, Ont, CA
Temp: -2°C
Seeing: 2/5
Conditions: Clear / Hazy
Telescope: Meade 2080 LX6 Premier operating at f/6.3
Eyepieces: Meade 24.5mm SWA, Tele Vue 15mm, 11mm, 8mm Plössls
Filters: n/a

Prolog

So for the first time in ages it was: (a) clear, (b) not freezing, (c) open grassy spots in the yard. I therefore hauled my Meade 2080 into the yard and set it up. It was still fairly breezy and at -2°C it wasn't exactly balmy. However I hadn't been out in ages, so I was excited to finally get back out under the stars. It was a very short session, however, as the breeze made observing quite uncomfortable and the seeing simply wasn't worth sticking it out for.

Target: Gamma Leo | Algieba

I elected to not hook up my dew removal system on this night as I didn't anticipate it would be a long session - however I still hooked up the drive base to my power source so that the scope would track the targets I was looking at. First up was double star Algieba in the constellation Leo. It is located in the "sickle" part of this constellation. I started with my Meade 24.5mm along with the f/6.3 focal reducer (52x) the double-ness of the star was evident, however the stars were little "balls of fire" due to the poor seeing. The scope had been out for over an hour to cool, and a quick check of the collimation indicated it was a smidge off, but nothing major (I'll fix that later in the house where it is warm!). I jumped up to the TV 15mm (85x) which gave a better view of the double but reinforced the fact that the seeing was quite poor. For fun I went the last step and put in the 8mm (160x) - it was fun to hear my recording as I did mental gymnastics trying to figure out what power (approx) that I was running! The double star now clearly showed it's duplicity with Gamma 1 appearing slightly brighter than Gamma 2 (mag 2.2 [K7] vs mag 3.5 [G7]). Both stars had a yellow-ish hue to them. Although the seeing was poor, the view was wonderful! The separation of the components was only 4" (four arc-seconds) which at a distance of 130ly translates to a true separation of 170AU. Both stars are giants!

Target: NGC 3034 | M82 | Cigar Galaxy

Backing down to my 24.5mm again (52x) I went to check out the pair of galaxies in Ursa Major M81 + M82. I roughly positioned my scope using my Telrad and peeked throught he eyepiece - there they both were, perfectly framed! Perhaps that's just muscle memory? LOL! Looking at M82, I used the helical focuser on my scope to get the best focus possible. The elgongated shape of M82 was clearly visible, however I had to use averted vision to hold it. Direct vision caused most of the image to disappear, with just the very central core still being barely detectable. Again with averted vision, the colour of M82 is a visibly darker grey than M81. With the seeing so poor, there wasn't much else to see here.

Target: NGC 3031 | M81 | Bode's Galaxy

Sitting aobut 150,000 light years away from M82 is it's famous spiral companion M81. The core was easily visible with direct vision and the disc was easily seen with averted vision. My comment from my recording was "I'd like to think I'm getting a hint of the spiral structure but what I'm really getting is the sound of a dog whining because he's stuck outside!". In hindsight, I think the spiral structure is just from my memory - the seeing was quite poor, so I moved on.

Target: Beta Geminorum | Pollux

This is a K0 class star with a visual magnitude of 1.14. It clearly shows a yellow hue. Upping the magnification actually improved the view a bit, but the star was still a roiling mess. I quickly moved on to the twin.

Target: Alpha Geminorum | Castor

In contrast to Pollux, the double star of Castor has a distinctive blueish colour to it. The view was very similar to Algieba. However the seeing was a little better, as I was able to get a hint of the Airy disc, however the first diffraction ring was very broken and for the most part not descernable. The double compoents had one brighter component (α = 1.93, β = 2.97) and both stars are A-class main sequence stars. The view was very pretty, and with the separation (of about 5") and angle, it had an almost 3-D effect. There was a trio of mag 10 stars "below" the doube which gave the whole view a very nice look.

Epilog

The whole session was around 30 minutes. I did do a little free-styling in Auriga, however the breeze had kicked up and with the poor seeing, I decided to pack it in. But getting out under the stars again was joyous - I look forward to some warmer nights coming up!