Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bad Weather, Broken Telescopes and Sirius B

An infrared view of the 2.3 and 4 meter telescope domes atop Kitt Peak.

Well, this was a week to remember - NOT. I had signed out the Bok 2.3 Meter (90 inch) telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory for an engineering run to analyze a problem with the lunar tracking rates in my control system. As "luck" would have it - that also happened to be the night of the February 20th/21st total lunar eclipse. In anticipation of photographing the eclipse I brought my Van-load of equipment and set it up by the dormitory near the 90" scope. The weather looked good at sunset - a large hole in an otherwise thick set of clouds from an approaching cold front had elevated my hopes for capturing another eclipse in much the same way I did last August - only from a dark site.

Alias, the weather gods didn't smile on Kitt Peak. The moon rose beautifully over the Rincon mountains - already in the penumbra.

But soon after U1 contact the front swallowed the event for the remainder of the spectacle. Sigh.

Not to be completely skunked I returned to the 90 inch to look at my lunar tracking problem and using the now uneclipsed moon, began to look into the coding problem. As it turns out the algorithm I use to compute parallax is being incorrectly called resulting in a 20% error tracking rates both in RA and Dec. A complete re-write of the lunar rate code is now in the works. (2nd sigh).

The following morning I awoke to find the 90 inch being worked on by the day crew of engineers - the telescope was literally being dismantled when I arrived. So much for daytime testing of the new code.

Fortunately "the beast" was back to working status when sunset came. Not wanting the night to go to waste (an since no observer was scheduled) I decided to use my lumenera web-cam on a couple of double-stars. Rigel was the first target - a pair separated by 9 arcseconds and about 8 magnitudes . . .

With the success on Rigel - I decided to try for Sirius B - much more challenging at 7 arcseconds and 10 magnitudes! Here is the result . . .

The above telescopic images were obtained at the Cass-focus of the 90 inch using the Lumenera Skynyx 2C camera. Approximately 50 of the best frames from each video run were stacked to create each of the images.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

On top

Man its cold up here! 10,500 ft. above sea level - late January in the northern hemisphere - -7 degrees Celcius (well - cold for a low desert dweller). Here is a view from the VATT Observatory looking east toward the SMT and LBT telescopes. Twilight is closing and the telescopes are waking . . .

Taken handheld with my little Canon SD700 P&S - 1/6 sec | F/2.8 | ISO 1600