Began the evening on Paynes Prairie where I caught up with Chuck and
Judy looking for Comet McNaught. Clouds prohibited us from seeing the
comet but we enjoyed dinner at the Blue Highway in Micanopy.
Returned home and spent the rest of the evening under the... Murky
Way. There was quite a lot of high haze until after midnight. Still,
it was steady so I continued to work on the AL double star list from
my new 'observatory'. If you haven't seen the place, understand that I
can only see about 30 degrees from zenith in any direction. In the
winter, when a certain oak has lost its leaves, I can see stars in
constellations as far south as Lepus for a few minutes at a time.
To make observing just a little more challenging, the wood platform is
not very well reinforced. If I stand on the wrong plank, the telescope
will wobble almost an entire field of view. No pacing visitors
Furthermore, it isn't worth lugging up the 12.5" Dob considering the
circumstances (the narrow spiral staircase would not permit it
either), so I'm using my old Russian-built 4.25" Newtonian EQ called
'Mizar'. Judging by the rattle, I'd say its best eyepiece is on its
last legs. I can't use my good EPs because the focuser does not have
enough inward travel.
I dutifully recorded 9 doubles from the list but 2 others would not
split for me: Theta Aurigae has a 3.8" separation but the 4.5
magnitude difference is difficult to overcome. The usual tricks did
not seem to work, and a long vigil for steady air was not rewarded
38 Lyncis was the other finicky double. Even at lowest power (43x) it
appears elongated, yet it would not reveal itself all the up to the
impractical power of 240x. Given, 2.7" separation is a challenge for a
low-end telescope but considering that I had just split the triple 12
Lyncis at 1.9" sep (without any knowledge that I should see three
components), it's puzzling that 38 would give me a harder time.
A quick aside, if you have any interest in double stars, then "Double
Stars for Small Telescopes" by Sissy Haas is a must. It's easy to read
in low light and gives all the pertinent data for over 2,100 doubles.
I particularly like the observed colors since most other texts presume
color based on temperature class alone.
At any rate, the last double I aimed at was Iota Cancri. You'll recall
that this is the same star that we expect to be occulted by an
asteroid in mid-April. It's a very easy target -- naked-eye visible
even in suburban skies (in an otherwise dim constellation). I had
forgotten what a beautiful double this was -- a yellowish star with a
brilliant blue companion. Tripod-mounted binoculars can see both
components nearly as well.
It surprised me how close Iota Cancri was to zenith. I now see that
from Gainesville, Iota comes within 1.5 MINUTES(!) of zenith. Indeed,
it occured to me that if Iota was too close to zenith at the time of
the occultation, some instruments would have a seriously difficult
time staying on target. Fortunately, Iota will be about 20 degrees
west of zenith at the fateful time, giving Dob owners enough room to
maneuver. Binocular viewers, on the other hand, will certainly need a
reclining chair and a tripod that will accommodate that posture -- a
parallelogram comes to mind. Too bad Orion no longer sells them.
I finished the evening at Saturn with what may be my last observation
for telescope "Mizar." Last light for my first scope? I'm expecting a
new Orion StarBlast in the mail this week. I decided it was better
economy to buy a new grab-and-go scope than new eyepieces.
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