June 16, 2017

Conditions had finally improved just around dusk and after another gloomy day, so I decided on a whim to head for the cemetery.

I’ve been keeping my telescope equipment ready for just such an impromptu situation. I totally missed a great night on June 16. Good conditions were predicted but I noticed high clouds streaming in around sunset and decided to cancel my viewing session. Yeah, I screwed that night up!

But tonight I just jumped in the car and went. I’m glad I did! I fired off a quick email announcing the impromptu outing and headed out the door. Whew! It turned out to be a great night – this astronomy stuff is fickle! Everything I needed was in the car, ready at a moments notice.

I ran into Chris and Christine, who were just up there enjoying the view (they own an 11″ Dobsonian scope but it’s bulky and doesn’t see much use). We our exchanged greetings as I set up the scope and then saw some nice views of Jupiter along with its four main moons. The bugs were bad, and the two Chris’s soon departed.

The midge flies (no-see-ums) were quite pleased that I stayed around though, and enjoyed having a nice feeding frenzy. I guess the bug spray was called for but that stuff bugs me as much as the bugs do. I decided to endure.

After performing a two star alignment on Arcturus and Merak, the next stop was Comet C/2015 V2 Johnson. It was right there – 14h22m13s/+4°50’51”, just as predicted by Stellarium. The CPC-800 sure makes eases the task of finding such smudges in the night sky. I did want to center the object a bit better. I discovered that I could save the centered position as a user object – this allowed me to slew the scope back to Arcturus to focus the camera and then return to the comet with no fuss when I was ready to shoot through the camera.

Comet Johnson looked considerably better than I’d seen it before. It’s still a fuzzy smudge in the eyepiece, but was more distinct and clearly different from the surrounding stars. I set the camera to work taking 45 second exposures every minute as I walked around trying to throw the bugs off my trail. Later, towards midnight, it looked even better as the sky had darkened considerably.

The Milky Way was becoming visible and then I saw the best meteor I’d ever seen! I looked up at the perfect time to catch a beautiful fireball from atmospheric entry straight through to its total destruction, leaving a bright orange incandescent trail. It lasted a full four seconds (as I counted off 1-second beeps being emitted from my camera’s intervalometer).

Next up were a couple of deep sky objects from my list of objects to photograph. Bode’s Galaxy and the Cigar Galaxy (objects M81 and M82). I decided these would be a good test of my new focal reducer and sure enough, I could spy both objects in the eyepiece at once! That’s a nice site and worthy of connecting the camera up again.

Finally, the Pinwheel Galaxy. I set up the camera to get some photos of that.

Conditions weren’t perfect for sure, but it was the air was nice, and it was worth giving up a night of TV watching for. My computer was dewing up around midnight which is when I called it quits for the night. Were it not for the bugs though I would have stayed for another couple of hours!

 

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