Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: Failure at Glen Major

On January 9/10, 2015, my father and I decided to go to Glen Major Forest to image the comet.

It was -13 C that night, with windchill making it worse. Within a few minutes of arriving, we started setting up the telescope outside. We quickly aligned the telescope to the Moon, and we saw the majesty of the Moon up close. We tested the mount’s tracking capabilites by letting the telescope track the Moon, and it was successful. We decided to move towards Jupiter next, and we stayed there. However, it started to drift greatly. This gave us the theory that the planetary alignment is only good as long as the telescope doesn’t move around. It was a revelation. We then begin to realign using the Two Star Alignment method.

We aligned the scope to Betelgeuse, and Polaris, but the mount started to slow down at top speed. Having been exposed to the cold for over an hour, the motor started to freeze, and soon enough froze all together. Luckily, we brought two telescope mounts with us, and we debated whether to switch out the mounts. Eventually we did, but when it came time to align the telescope, the mount did not respond to my commands. It was heartbreaking for me. Our second chance at imaging the night sky failed for some reason.

After that, I took a few random pictures, and then we quickly packed up and left. That session went really badly. I didn’t get any good pictures that night. The only thing I took away from that night is that Solar System Alignment is only good for planetary observing. The next time I go outside, I will not make that mistake again.

Back in Action

I had telescope troubles earlier this year. As a result, I was out of commission for a large part of the year. Earlier, this week, my dad was able to resolve one of those troubles, and On Friday, May 16, 2014, I took the newly resolved telescope on a test run.

Once I brought everything out, I decided to align my telescope to Mars. My biggest worry in the repairs is that the tracking ability of my telescope would not work. After aligning it to Mars, I left it pointed at Mars for a while. When I returned to Mars, it hadn’t drifted from its position. This is a good sign that tracking is still working in the fixed scope.

After checking it a few times, it had drifted but not enough that tracking failed completely. I was happy with the results I was seeing. To see if tracking works away from the alignment object, I slewed my telescope to a random star. Leaving it for a while, the star did drift, but not far enough to conclude that tracking is not working. As far as I am concerned, tracking was working. I was really happy with the results I was seeing.

My next test took place in the opposite part of the sky. There was a dim star in the Western part of the sky, which I pointed my scope at. I looked at it for a while. I had to readjust my scope a couple of times, but it didn’t drift fast enough to conclude that tracking was failing. I was really impressed with the great job my dad did in resolving the issues in my telescope.

Lastly, aligned to Mars, I decided to point my scope at Saturn. There, it drifted a great distance, which concerned me. If it didn’t track with Saturn, then what is the problem? Has the gear burnt out? Has the software failed? Luckily, there was no problem. Saturn was able to stay inside the field of view of my telescope for a long time after readjusting it back to the center of my field of view. This confirmed the results that I had received, that my telescope troubles were over at last.

Happy with the results of my test run, I decided to pack up my telescope, and bring it inside. However, I wasn’t done. Before packing, I saw the rising of the moon through dense trees. This gave me the idea of watching the Moon rise. Therefore, after packing up and bringing all my equipment inside, I decided to head to a dark spot where the moon can be easily observed. Sadly, the moon had already risen, but it was no less beautiful. With my tripod and camera, I was able to compose a number of images of the scene with the moon in the background. It was very nice. A short while later, when it started to get too cold. I packed up and headed home. I was very happy with the results of that night, and with my telescope troubles officially over, I can continue to observe and image in the near future.

 

Return of the Observer

Hi Everybody,

These past months have been somewhat difficult. My telescope was experiencing technical difficulties. However, I was able to resolve the issues, and I can continue observing now. Here is my recollection of my latest observations:

During the night of Saturday March 8, 2014 the skies were clear. Before that, an old Newtonian was discovered in my family’s closet. It’s a cheap one with only 30x magnification, but works nonetheless. That night, I looked at the moon with it. It definitely projects an image, but not a clear image. It looked very dusty. The image is not as good as my 8″ SCT (Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope). After observing the moon, I decided to take my SCT outside the driveway to find Jupiter.

Because of my issues with my telescope, I had to recalibrate my finderscope with my Telescope. Luckily, the Moon was above the horizon. I was able to find the moon after some struggle, and calibrate my equipment with it. It was satisfying to see the moon up close since my telescope developed problems. Pointing away from the light side of the moon I saw, without light interference, how the dark side of moon and the darkness of the sky look compared to each other. It was intriguing.

Sketch of the Moon meshing with space.

Sketch of the Moon meshing with space.

After that, I decided to find and look at Jupiter. It was easy to find Jupiter, falling to the horizon on the western Sky. Looking at it through my 25 mm eyepiece, it looked the same as always. In addition, three of its four moons are visible. It was lovely. However, I had an idea. The newtonian telescope that my family found has a 20 mm eyepiece. I know that when you divide the focal length of the telescope with the focal length of the eyepiece, you get the magnification of the telescope. A 2032 mm telescope with a 25 mm eyepiece will yield 80x magnification. Knowing that, I decided to put the 20 mm eyepiece from the newtonian onto the SCT. If the math is right, then my telescope should have 101.6x magnification and, as a result, Jupiter should appear larger. I put on the eyepiece, and then my put my eye on the eyepiece, and I saw a slightly bigger Jupiter. It was beautiful. If the math continues to hold, then I plan on getting smaller eye piece to get closer to Jupiter. It was a step forward in my astronomical journey.

My next object I wanted to observer were the galaxies located at opposite sides of Benetnasch, which is part of the Big Dipper. It took a while to set up. I had to dig out an area of snow in the backyard to place my telescope. After a while, I was able to safely move my equipment to the dug out area, where I set up my equipment. I went about aligning my telescope to the limited about of stars visible. The first time failed for some reason. However, the second time was a success. I pointed my telescope towards the big dipper scanning for that object. However, I failed to find anything. During my search, I stumbled upon a star that had a clear halo around it. It was quite amazing to see such a star like that. I was thinking it was a deep sky object. However, I didn’t know. But it did look like this:

The star halo I saw was a bit more pronounced than the image.

Looking at my clock, I realized it was three in the morning. Daylight Saving Time had already come into affect, which means it was actually four in the morning. Knowing that, and that the cold is starting to get to me, I decided to pack it in for the night bringing all my equipment inside safely.

Overall, It was a successful observation. I saw the beauty of the moon, Jupiter, and an intriguing star. When I was doing research and talking to experts, I learned that it might be a deep sky object with only the heart visible, either M51 or the Ring Nebula. It’s interesting that a galaxy could look like that to my eye. However, I can’t be sure; not until I see it again and image it. I have taken many steps forward in my astronomical observations. I hope to continue that in the coming days.

IMAGES USED

A Cold Christmas Night

Last night, three days after the Toronto Ice Storm, Santa brought us astronomers a Christmas gift: Clear Skies! Therefore, I decided to take advantage of it.

My goal for this session was to view a rare astronomical event: the occulation (blockage) of a star by an asteroid. The star was a 10.4 magnitude star (not very bright). The asteroid was a 15.4 magnitude asteroid (dimmer than the star). To see it is a slim to nil chance, but I tried.

At 10:50 pm, I took my telescope out in the bitter cold and got it ready to view the stars in the snow. For the first time, I was able to align the telescope using the SkyAlign feature. In previous sessions, I failed to align the telescope using the SkyAlign feature. Yesterday, I succeeded in that. After aligning the telescope, I got the coordinates for the star in Ra/Dec and Alt/Az coordinates. When the telescope slewed to it, it was behind the trees. I had to readjust the telescope to view it away from the trees. When it came time, I looked into the telescope and I saw small stars. However, I don’t think I saw the star that was to be occulted. It was disappointing, but I wasn’t surprised. I was not prepared or experienced enough to find such a small and unknown object. I decided to move on to other objects on my list.

I first slewed to the bright object in the sky, Jupiter. I saw the beautiful stripes, and its 4 beautiful moons. It’s always a sight to see Jupiter. I can check it off my list now.

The next object I saw is Sirius. One fact about Sirius is that it is a double star system, with a star 2 times the size of the sun, and a white dwarf that already died. Looking at it myself, I saw the star, and I think I saw a bulge from one side of the star, which is probably Sirius B. I can’t be sure until I view it closer. I can now cross the constellation Canis Major off my list.

The next objects I observed are the two brightest stars of Orion: Betelgeuse, and Rigel. I first slewed to Betelgeuse, the bright red supergiant. It was magnificent. I next slewed to Rigel. I had to move my telescope a bit, but I was able to find it. It wasn’t as bright as Betelgeuse though. I was able to cross of Orion off my list of constellations.

I looked into the sky and saw a small cluster of stars, and I saw M45 also known as the Pleades, or the Seven Sisters. It is a star cluster that is visible to the naked eye, and is made up of 7 stars. I decided to  look at it through the telescope. Doing that, I saw the magnificence of the 7 sisters in its formation. It was awe-inspiring. I crossed it off my list under the Deep Sky Objects Category.

Remembering my previous session where I could not see the horsehead nebula due to the battery dying on my telescope, I decided to slew towards Orion’s sword, a collection of three stars that represent the sword of the mythological hunter, Orion. The vicinity of those stars are quite interesting. I see dim stars close together and in interesting patterns that one can’t see without a telescope. The most notable one that I saw was at the middle star. There I saw a dim green-tinted cloud of sorts in the sky. I have never seen that before, but I learned about it in the first few lecture videos in my Astronomy class. I believe I saw M42, otherwise known as the Orion Nebula. This was my first sighting of a nebula. I was very excited, and will explore further in the future.

Image

The Orion Nebula through my telescope imaged using an iPhone 5s.

Continuing my journey, my telescope started to become sluggish and unresponsive, which lead me to conclude that the batteries died once more. With that, I decided to call it a day… but not before manually moving my telescope to the rising Waning Gibbous Moon through the trees. It was a very nice sight and another addition to my list.

After that, I packed up my telescope and decided to call it a night.

Overall, it was a very eye-opening experience. I tried to find a unique star event, however, I failed to find it. I was able to observe Jupiter, Sirius, Betelgeuse, Rigel, The Pleiades, the Orion Nebula, and the Waning Gibbous Moon. It was truly an interesting and productive night, which took me a step further in my astronomy adventure. I hope you will come with me.

WORK CONSULTED

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sirius

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleiades

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_%28constellation%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betelgeuse