Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Observing Session - 2/28

Last night I went down to the local popular observing site. Three other folks were there; one had a nice older model Meade reflector on a very solid looking equatorial mount, another with an Orion XT10 Dobsonian, and another chap had a GPS LX200 10". Seeing conditions were so-so, but I noticed the light pollution is definitely getting worse in Austin. On a clear, moonless night, I could maybe see up to magnitude five visually without optical aids. I helped the LX200 owner collimate his optics. he had installed some collimation knobs to make things easier (Bob's Knobs) but could not set them back to produce a decent image. We had a cheat sheet for Schmidt-Cassegrain collimation, which I had only been using for about two months, and together we got the scope nicely aligned. He was a happy camper for the rest of the night, and I was fairly happy with myself for being able to pull it off successfully. I also managed to get some time with the Orion XT12 Dobsonian. I have been curious about these for a while. They are what we amateur astronomers have begun calling "push to" scopes. After a short two-star alignment procedure, the computer keypad tells you where to move the telescope in order to locate the object that you select. So we messed around with it for a while, and helped him center some of the fainter Messier and NGC objects that he couldn't quite see. I enjoyed using that scope, though. Nice images and quite easy to control once you got the hang of it.

My scope was back to its old tricks. Took me five attempts to align the GOTO, but then it slowly decreased its pointing accuracy with each slew once I did have it aligned. I got there eventually, but I'm not sure why it decides to suddenly stop accurate slewing. Artifical intelligence? Maybe. I do not want to send it up to the Arkansas Sky Observatory for repairs, way too much money. I know it can work, I just need to mess with the settings maybe or check my power source. I did get to observe some nice objects. At about 10PM Saturn was almost at zenith, and the view through my barlowed 21mm Stratus was gorgeous. I could see the main cloud band and the polar clouds, and Cassini's Division was quite prominent despite the so-so seeing conditions. I also viewed M1 for the first time. Other notables were Eta Cassiopeia (double star), M35, M37, M38, M42 and the Christmas Tree cluster. I finally got to try out my UO 6mm othoscopic on various doubles and maged to split them easily.

However, that may be my last excursion for a while. I have several research papers and other family commitments due, so i need to have my head down.

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