Last weekend, I was beset with lousy viewing due to low lying haze. Despite a fantastic forecast, I had haze going up to around 20-30 degrees above the horizon, so much so that Jupiter was nothing more than a round orange-y blob in the scope. We saw Arcturus and Antares, and a low-quality sight of Saturn, but I couldn’t get the scope to align. No biggie, I was also having power problems, and I thought that was the cause.
Last night though I headed off to the AstroPontiac viewing site. My friend Stephan is spearheading the initiative to bring a dark sky viewing site to the area, and he has been working on it for just over 7 years. I’m on the board and manage the website, but the yeoman duties fall to him for most of it. The site is next to Gatineau Park’s Luskville Waterfall Trail (sentier de les chutes de Luskville), and it is relatively stunning. With the hill behind you to the N and NE, you have a relatively open vista to the SE, S and W. The field was recently cut down to size for the flora, and a bunch of us set up.
Or more accurately, they set up. I have no idea what I was actually doing.
Viewing initially wasn’t promising, as the same haze that plagued me last weekend is still hanging around at dusk and into the evening. Like a low lying fog that just permeates the horizon. Jupiter was well hidden. Some people found Saturn, but I never got that far.
I started off with my basic setup — I put my mount together, set it up taller than I have been lately as I expected to be looking at some items higher in the sky so I knew I would need a bit more height to give me room to get underneath, and I set it up on the vibration suppression pads. I probably don’t need them a lot, but they also serve to help level the mount and stop the legs from sinking into the dirt. Added my scope, all looking good. Plugged in my Celestron tank, had power, connected the handset, all good to go.
My first attempt at an alignment was the standard 3-star approach. Now, by default, it thinks I’m in Ottawa, and since the city lookup isn’t that robust to include somewhere like Luskville, I just left it as is. I was having trouble doing some of the search-and-find for alignment for three good stars as my TelRad was fogging up. But I managed to work my way through it. And it came back and told me “success”. So I told it to show me Saturn.
If Saturn was anywhere near where it told me it was, I couldn’t see it. I panned around a bit in low magnification but it wasn’t anywhere nearby. Tried a couple more automated “go to” destinations, and nada. Not correctly aligned.
Tried alignment again, but it failed this time.
Tried it again, this time using the wifi attached connected to my phone. But for some reason, the phone app wouldn’t let me control the scope.
Tried it again, this time with my tablet. Same problem, no control once connected.
I tried a bunch of different configs, no dice with the wifi.
So I reverted to “custom site” which allows me to put in the actual longitude and latitude before doing the 3-star selection. At this point, I’d probably been at it for about 90 minutes with no joy in Mudville, errr, Luskville. But manually putting in the coordinates should avoid all of that. Entered time, date, updated a few things, chose three stars, told it to align, it whirred.
So I decided to try simple star-hopping. Except my stupid TelRad was still fogging up. I couldn’t move to the next star as I couldn’t SEE the next star to get to it. Heck I could barely get to the first star reliably, and I was starting with the Dipper!
I think if someone had offered me a nickel to not have to pack everything back up, I would have chucked the entire hobby right there. It’s almost adding insult to injury when after failing spectacularly for two hours, you still have to spend fifteen minutes taking everything down and putting it gently into the car. I understand why some golfers throw their clubs into rivers and lakes, that’s what I’m saying.
I’m officially starting a count-down clock. Five more attempts, then I give up completely and take up knitting. I might not be any better at knitting, but at least I can do that in my basement while I watch TV.