Terrestrial Triumps and Tragedies This Past Tuesday

Transferred from my MySpace blog (originally posted October 5, 2010):

Second star gazing journal.  After calling Meade Support on Monday, I recalibrated the drives and retrained them as well as finally dialing in (for the most part) my viewfinder … all before the sun went down.

Then I packed everything up (carefully) and headed west to my local community park a couple of miles west of my park.  I was a bit disappointed to see what appeared to be a soccer practice occurring even though the sun had set at five minutes before seven.  Since I didn’t want a stray hyperactive youngster to knock over and destroy the expensive and sensitive telescope equipment, I resolved to wait until everyone left.

In the meantime, at five after seven, while sitting in my car, I could already see Jupiter with my naked eye … clearly the brightest object in our autumn evening skies.

I waited another thirty-five minutes before everyone finally left.  So by 7:45 p.m. I was finally set up and ready to try again.  I first manually found Jupiter and confirmed my viewfinder was centered and in sync with the telescope.  It was for the most part.  I then spent fifteen or twenty minutes looking at Jupiter and it’s moons.  I started out with the 26x eye lens and then added the 2x barlow which really brought Jupiter in close and didn’t dim it too much.

By then it was dark enough to attempt an alignment.  I aligned on Altair but didn’t recognize (nor now do I remember) the second star the AutoStar wanted to use for alignment.  I centered on the brightest star I found in the viewfinder.  Then I told it to find the constellation Cassiopeia and it tried, but ended up off by half a sky (basically looking southwest instead of northeast).  I interrupted the sidereel so I could synch it by moving the telescope around to the correct portion of the sky.  My goal was to attempt to find the Double Cluster near Cassiopea and eventually the comet Hartley 2 which is between the two (Cassiopeia and the Double Cluster).  I didn’t have much luck, but I enjoyed viewing so many stars … layers upon layers of them.

Next, I then went in search of the binary star in the handle of the Big Dipper … Mizar and Alcor.  That was easy to find and quite interesting to view.

Lastly, I focused on a bright flashing object in the northwestern sky.  When I attempted to focus on it it appeared to flash green and red rapidly.  (I later determined this flashing star was Arcturus and the red/green was caused by the Earth’s atmosphere).

Unfortunately, about that time, the local constabulary arrived with bright headlights (thankfully not pulling out the spotlight) to inform me he needed to close the park.  I replied the posted sign stated the park was open until 10:00 pm.  He rebutted my statement by saying it was supposed to close at sundown.  I replied the posted sign did not state that caveat.  So, I took one final look at Jupiter and it’s moon, then packed up the equipment and was home by 8:45.  I barely got an hour’s worth of star gazing in.

I’ve learned, though, that my telescope probably needs to be serviced.  Meade, in it’s proprietary wisdom, does not provide parts or service partners, so the telescope will have to be packaged and shipped to their world headquarters in California for service and repair.  I’ll call them tomorrow to get the gory details.

I enjoyed a wonderful but short hour of moonless nearly perfect dark sky viewing.  Not too cool, no wind, and not a cloud in the sky.

Keep looking up!