Observing with Street Lights

Observing with Street Lights
Dark sky sites not always necessary to see the Milky Way (This image was taken ouside of a B&B in Julian, CA)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Julian Star Party, Mendini Winery, Orchard Inn B&B, Double Star Albireo and Epsilon Lyrae and Mizar, Visible Milky Way, Mt. Laguna AFB,

Well this week we were offsite at the Star Festival in Julian.  Astronomer assistant Danny was sent to vacation with Bob in Costa Mesa.  Resident astronomer Peggy concentrated on doing binocular observation and tried using my camera tripod with tilt/pan head to support the weight of the binoculars.  Resident astronomer George tried to build on his success in alignment and last week of observing globular clusters by aligning successfully once again and observing
how well double stars could be resolved.

We stayed in a fantastic B&B called the Orchard Inn, which we picked by reviewing its location as seen with the help of Google Earth, which indicated that the place had good parking and a relatively flat yard in front of the unit for us to set up the scope and do some individual observing.  So we were able to observe from there on Friday night and Sunday night while setting up the scope for the public outreach party on Saturday night.  The Festival, with a dozen vendors and half a dozen speakers was held again this year at the Menghini Winery, so if things don't go well you could easily get some liquid comforter.

My first target was the double star Albireo.  The scope's go to command worked well and slewed the scope to get Albireo in the eyepiece.  Then using the camera, I took first one image in focus and then tried a trick we heard about that makes the colors of the double stars stand out much more and that was by taking an image with the scope a little bit out of focus.

Note here in the second image how the blue and gold colors of the two stars are much more apparent.


Defocus your scope to get good color rendition of Albireo

The next targets were two sets of double stars, themselves orbiting about each others common center of gravity.  The first set is called Epsilon 1 Lyrae and the second set called, appropriately, Epsilon 2 Lyrae.  Just image these two sets of stars orbiting in a very complex way, first around each other and then the two sets orbiting around a common gravitationally bound center point.  Wow, what if this four star system has any planets?  What strange orbit this would be and would the planets even be possible to be in stable orbits?

I've only pasted one photo of the double star because my bookkeeping and note taking are definitely in need of improvement.  I took an image of the second double star system but apparently skipped over it when I was processing the images.


 So, now the amateur again needs to become a bit more professional in taking notes about who, what, when, where and image numbering.

Many folks in Julian that were there for the pie or hiking maybe showed up for the public star party and had a lot of fun looking at what was happening on the assortment of scopes that were set up at the winery.  During one of the public viewing sessions with a group that landed on us, a bunch of really knowledgable and curious folks asked a lot of questions about what was in the image when I was looking at M57 or maybe M22 or even M3, that I suggested we do some science and take some more images to find out.  We all were curious about one or two of the little smudges that were seen next to the target object.  So we proceeded to take some more 30 second exposures to better identify what the smudges were.  Again I wish I had taken better notes.  The smudges were still there but I noticed at the same time that some of the images seemed blurred, not so much because of focus, but because of star trails as if the scope was not tracking very well.  Earlier in the evening I found that my camera adapter was not threaded as tight as it should have been, but this tightening didn't seem to fix the problem.

 So, at the end of this science project, it seems that the smudges might have been real other galaxies close to the target, but the blurring seemed to be result of tracking error.  But how could this be in that the scope tracked well over several hours and could be commanded to return to an object that was first observed early in the evening?  Look at the image associated with an example of this tracking error.  Is it possible that the scope mount can keep track of long term position and be able to point towards different targets, but not track very well over the short tome span of 30 second exposures?  Is this why the more seasoned astro imagers stay away from the lower cost mounts, such as mine, and always go with the higher precision. Higher cost mounts?  I don't know yet and will have to do some more tests.  Any suggestions?

Anyway, I finished up the evening with one more double star and got an image of Mizar, in the Big Dipper, which is one of the first double stars I looked at months ago.  That image is pasted below.



That star festival was a big success with the tourists and we had a good time too.  The next day we had a chance to tour an old gold mine, which had a temperature of only 58 degrees, which was a welcome relief to the surface temperature reaching up almost to 99.  A drive up higher in the local mountains was a little cooler.  We drove up to Mt. Laguna, where SDSU has some telescope domes, and the FAA has a radar dome.  I think that site is on the old abandoned Air Force radar base location, which we assumed, and all the locked gates on the roads we explored, seemed to confirm that visitors were not encouraged to the site.

Finally, after a great weekend at our fantastic B&B, we concluded our observing with some camera tripod type observations of the Milky Way, or what I assumed was the Milky Way, because in light polluted OC, it is difficult to even see the Milky Way.  So my final shot of the Milky Way was taken just outside our B&B on the grassy plain. 
Great view of Milky Way from B&B in Julian

When I showed the image to the proprietors, they apologized for the lobby lighting and the wanted to know if they could post the image on their website.  I agreed and noted to that the lobby lights didn't really interfere much with our other observing and that a ten second exposure was needed.  Also we could walked much further away and been able to block out any lobby lights.  We certainly found that staying in a B&B, where we have walking distance to dark skies is mic h better than driving to the OCA dark sky site at Anza.  Besides we learned of another dark sky party to be held at a resort in Anza Borrego in November timeframe, so again we will be able to get the dark skies and not be without any of the amenities, e.g. lemon drop martinis.  The Orchard Inn had great hot breakfasts, with champagne, afternoon treats with free drinks and excellent staff and great observing sites, so it's going to be hard to beat that.  I think it is safe to say that it is definitely a sister observing site to the Palmia Observatory.


Until next time,




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