Saturday, March 25, 2006

An Ideal Observing Night

Well, it seems that a little bit of DIY can go a long way with the hobby of astronomy. The power box not only worked as desired, but it made for the best night of visual observation I have had in a long time.

I got to the observing site well before sunset so that I could have a nice clean setup and not have to fumble around in the dark for screws, knobs etc. Power box wasn't too heavy or uncomfortable to set up. I was the first one there, but slowly and surely another 15 folks turned up with scopes of various sizes and types.

The seeing conditions throughout the night were excellent. A few light clouds moved over us fairly quickly, as of they knew full well that they were unwanted. The air achieved nice stability around 10:ooPM, but the temperature dropped to around 34F at about 11:30. Still, the images tonight were amazing.

The scope with the new power supply performed admirably, confirming my fears that that the power supply I had been using prior to tonight was weak and unstable, in turn affecting the slewing performance of the scope. Tonight, after one aligment procedure, the scope wad dead-on for goto and tracking, all night long. And I was out there for about eight hours!

Unfortunately, I couldn't image. I took my work laptop, but for some reason it would not recognize the LPI imager. My lovely wife volunteered to drive the old laptop out to me, and brought the kids with her. They got to see Saturn through the LX200 (my oldest recognized it immediately!) and I showed my wife the Orion Nebula, which she enjoyed. Anyway, the laptop she brought out had a wasted battery, so I was not supposed to take images last night!!!!

So, back onto the visual stuff. The seeing conditions were superb. I got my best view of Saturn yet, clearly being able to see Cassini's Division and several moons. Surface detail was also quite prevalent. I could easily see the shadow of the planet on its rings last night, very well defined. At about 10:00PM, Jupiter rose from over the nearby hills. I watchied it from about 11:30 onwards. At 12:30am, one of its moons (Europa) appeared from a transit (we missed the shadow as the main part of the transit appeared before Jupiter rose) and it was spectacular! To actually watch a Jovian moon move in front of your eyes was amazing. In about 30 minutes, we could see black space between it and Jupiter. I'll never forget that. I also spent the night looking at clusters like M36, M37, M38, M46, M47, and took a look at the Eskimo Nebula also.

In all, a fantastic night of observing and well worth braving the cold for!


Observer said...

Wow, congrats on getting that power supply working. That's always the curse of the outdoor Astronomer, professional or amateur. Sounds like all that hard work paid off.

Phil said...

Thanks! It made an awful lot of difference, much less stress during my session.

Naturally, Murphy has paid me a visit and my LPI is now dead, so no more photos for a while. But I'll be saving for a deep sky model over the next few months.