Fishing for Dim Objects

August 26, 2014 was a good night to observe the skies.Not only were the skies clear, the Moon was at its new phase. That meant the sky would be extra dark that night.

Taking advantage of that, my dad and I went to a dark area to observe it. That dark area was all right. The western sky is completely blocked with light pollution, but the eastern sky was perfect. There were various insects flying around, making noise, and biting us. In the distance, we could hear howling of an unknown animal; probably a dog. Despite all those distractions, we decided to park there, and do astronomy.

This time, since all the major planets were setting and the Moon was below the horizon, I decided to align my telescope using its skyalign feature of my telescope. Since it uses three anchor points to align the telescope with the sky, it should be more accurate than the Solar System align, which uses only one anchor point. I aligned my telescope, with expert precision, and we began looking for our first target, Comet Jacque.

Comet Jacque is located North West of the constellation Cassiopeia. I read online that, if you start from the center star, and move North-West of that, you will find Comet Jacque. I followed the instructions, like they said. Looking at the sky, I found what looked like a star north west of the star. It was more north, than west, but it might’ve been the comet. I slewed my telescope to the bright star. Then my dad and I took many long exposure images of the picture, using various exposure times. When we did that, we got a variety of images, but not only was the object not a comet, the images were displaying star trails. This meant that the tracking feature of my telescope was not fixed. This was a major problem for my dad and me, because all the hard work we put into fixing it did not pay off. We were disappointed.

We kept looking for a while more, but to no avail. We moved on and began looking for Uranus. We had trouble finding it as well. One reason is that we disagreed that both of our Skyview apps were showing different positions of the planets. Later on, my dad found out his phone thought they were in Italy. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to find Uranus.

We decided to pack it in and go back home. Before we packed up our equipment, we spent some time looking at the constellation of the night sky. My dad talked about how he would find Cassiopeia using the Big Dipper and Polaris. It was an interesting way to find Polaris. We then found the constellation, Boötes. It was interesting to be able to find and see that constellation. It’s not an ecliptic, nor a northern constellation, which is why it was cool for me to see it. Hopefully, I can find more constellations in the near future.

After that, we packed up and went back home. It wasn’t a completely successful night of astronomy, but we did learn some more about the telescope and the night sky. Tracking isn’t working at all, therefore we need to fix it; comets and dim planets are harder to find than normal, but we saw the constellation Boötes, Cassiopeia, Big Dipper, and the Little Dipper. Hopefully we can fix these problems, and come back to do better astronomy in the future.


Full Moon

Hi Everyone,

Before reporting my latest observational session, I would like to announce that I will be attempting to obtain a “Explore the Universe” Observing Certificate offered by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC). The website of the program is: Wish me luck in my quest to see the stars.

On December 15, 2013, the night sky was graced with a full moon. This one was unusual, because it was not only the last full moon of 2013, but the smallest. That’s because the Moon was at its farthest, or at its apogee, at the time. As a result, it looked smaller than the average full moon. Luckily, the sky was clear at that time. I decided to take my telescope out to view the smallest full moon. It was a really cold night, however there was not a cloud in sight. After the telescope was set up, straight away, I slewed my telescope to the Moon. After getting it in focus, I saw a beautiful full moon with all its mares (grey sea) and mountains. It was beautiful!

Smallest Full Moon

After looking at the moon, I decided to turn my telescope to the constellation Cassiopeia; more specifically,  the star “Schedar”. Looking at the constellation Cassiopeia was part of the requirements to obtain that certificate I mentioned above. It was a bit difficult to find Schedar due to the light pollution in Markham at the time, however, as I was slewing the telescope I couldn’t help but notice a lot more dimmer and farther stars that could not be seen unless with a telescope. It astonishes me how so many stars exist, yet we see only the brightest stars in the sky in places like Markham, let alone Toronto. It was an intriguing sight!

Eventually, I found Schedar. Looking at that star, it was a bright ball of light that outshined all the other stars in its vicinity. A rule I set for myself is to observe the brightest stars before checking off the constellation for my program. As a result, seeing that star allowed me to check Cassiopeia off my list.

After viewing Cassiopeia, I was thinking about whether to call it a night, or continue. After looking at Orion, I remembered how one of the stars was close to the Horsehead Nebula. Therefore, I decided to observe it. Unfortunately, the telescope was not slewing. Pressing the buttons to slew the telescope only nudged it instead. Turning it off for a small amount of time allowed the slewing function to work again, if only for a short time. This led me to conclude that the batteries had died. Having no replacement batteries, I decided to call it a night.

During my December 15, 2013 session outdoors, I observed the full moon at apogee and I observed the star, Schedar, in the constellation, Cassiopeia. It was a good start on my list of objects to observe. Two down, fifty-three more to go.