I posted awhile ago about restarting my hobby (#50by50 #05 – Re-start my astronomy hobby), and some other posts over the last couple of years about trying to figure out proper alignments and use of my Celestron 8SE scope. This past weekend, we were heading to my wife’s family’s cottage near Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon, and I was debating whether or not to take the scope. Their property has a lot of trees so Eastern views are out, but if I put my scope next to the lake, I have a pretty good SW view.
I hemmed, I hawed. Then I pulled up the Clear Sky Chart for Fenelon Falls (who knew there was even one for the area?), and the decision was made — every indicator for Saturday night was off the charts. I’m usually doing viewing in the Ottawa area and lucky to get medium predictions for quality (3/5), while the one for Saturday in Fenelon had 4s and even 5s! I wasn’t organized to take all my stuff with me, but how could I not? It delayed our departure by half an hour as I crammed every thing in after finding it all, and we went.
About 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, I started setting up the scope with my solar filter. It was fun to see the sun spots, and Jacob and Andrea saw them too. I confess, though, that sun spots are not the most exciting thing to see. Andrea’s father and aunt took a peek, as did her uncle.
As night fell, I was a bit excited. I was debating using the built-in settings or the wifi adapter that connects to my phone or tablet, all exciting options.
Right up until my Celestron power source died. Not for any other reason than the fact that I wasn’t planning on going, grabbed it and didn’t grab the charger, and there wasn’t much left to power the scope. I ended up putting the mini tank away, popping open the mount and inserting 8 batteries for the night. Not the best of solutions, but it works. Back in business.
Except my phone wasn’t fully charged either — one of the downsides of being in a remote area with dark skies is your little phone may not connect, and if it’s like mine, and trying to repeatedly connect without success, it eventually dies during the day. Tried running my tablet app, couldn’t connect, and then it said my app wasn’t valid. It is, and I reinstalled it later just fine, but wouldn’t work.
So I tried the hand set alignment, and it failed, but I expected that. On to regular star hopping.
Except I was not very enthusiastic. That amazing clear night that was forecast? Total crap. There was haze EVERYWHERE. Maybe drifting from BC, but looked more like heat hazes. Definitely in the west up almost 20-30 degrees and even Saturn and Jupiter were hazy. I showed off Saturn and Jupiter to Andrea and Jacob, and they were far cries from what we had seen even in June. I showed Andrea’s mom and aunt Saturn, but it wasn’t awesome. I did manage to show Arcturus and Antares, even if I couldn’t remember their names at the time, and they loved them because they actually were twinkling.
It quieted down, I was left to my own devices. So I pulled up a planetarium app, found the names for Antares and Arcturus. Looked at them again. And then I started looking for Messier objects, which I almost never have much luck with on my own. Just not organized enough to figure it out, and although I have a Go To scope, that’s kind of cheating.
But I surprised myself. I found M3. While it may be a nice globular cluster that seems super bright when you look at it on pages on the internet, it always looks like a light faint smudgy to me. Still, I found it, on my own, didn’t use my go to function, just star hopped to it. I was a bit “lucky” more than skilled, but hey, it counts. 🙂
Not the night I was expecting, and my backup batteries died shortly thereafter, but fun nevertheless.