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Jagow's Astronomy Page
October 1st, 2017
All the way through September it seems as though the upper 80s and 90s temperatures were clinging on, and with the nearly constant threat of a tropical storm coming, it was an unsettling month, though we faired a thousand times better than our Southern neighbors in Florida. Only two more months of hurricane season to go. Some of the worst storms have hit toward the middle of the season so we will just have to wait it out.
Friday night brought another opportunity to take the big scope out and share it with the public. The BBAA was invited to attend the Mount Trashmore Movie Night. The City of Virginia Beach setup a large screen that unfolds from a big truck and then they project a movie onto the big screen for all to see. This time they showed one of the later Star Wars movies and we were setup with our telescopes a few hundred feet away. We only had three telescopes at the event, myself, our VP Shawn and Bill from across the HRBT came to help out. I counted at least 284 people before I lost count, still need to get me a mechanical counter. The City was expecting a couple thousand, I don’t think we had that many at the telescopes but it sure seemed we had our share. I had left my light shroud at home (a pattern is beginning to form) and asked my Bride to bring it to me. Setup went much smoother with collimation only taking five minutes or so. I initially set up where I thought would be a good view of Saturn early on. Come to find out, I missed by about ten feet. Saturn was in the right side of an offending tree. After it got darker I was able to get Saturn shimmering between the leaves, but it was a poor view so I attempted to move the ½ meter scope by myself. I knew there was no way I was going to lift it, so I got down on my hands and knees and pushed and drug the ground board about ten feet West so that Saturn would be clear of the trees. I was huffing and puffing when I finished, but the effort was well worth it as the view of Saturn improved immensely. Toward the end of the evening I moved away from Saturn and showed a few souls the double star Albireo as well as the Ring Nebula and finally the Moon at 290 power, to say it was bright was an understatement, but the detail was devastating.
The East Coast Star Party hosted by Kent Blackwell is in two weeks, I intend on taking the ½ meter down to Coinjock’s dark skies and see what I can see. I hope to work a great deal on the Carbon Star AL list that I started last week at Chippokes. I do not plan on taking all of my imaging gear, but I may take enough to try and take a few DSLR shots from the big scope.
September 17th, 2017
Our Daughter Cheryl turns 37 years old today. Late last summer the house Cheryl, Chris her fiancé and three kids renting caught on fire, the damage was significant enough that they had to come spend a couple of months camping out in our house while repairs were being made after the fire. During this encampment Cheryl learned of Chis’ cheating with another woman. The ensuing breakup did not go well. I could spend about an hour commenting on what was observed, suffice it to say that Cheryl was the “other” woman about eight years ago. So Chris is a 40 something year old prolific sperm donor, who is now living with a third woman, whom he will discard as he has done before, I just hope no more offspring must endure the pattern.
And to top Cheryl, our son Michael and his family have relocated back to Virginia from the wondrous wilds of California. Michael has taken a directorship for church in Portsmouth who helps wayward souls. Michael was a wayward soul affiliated with this church himself a number of years ago after his last significant incarceration. Since then he has found a bride, Mavel, and she has given him a new daughter Mary who is just under two years old. Michael and Mavel had moved to greener pastures in California a couple of years ago, and now as with most things in California, the green has ripened a bit and hence their move back. Michael and I have been at some form of “odds” with one another pretty much since birth. I am keeping an open mind and continue on assuming this is a fresh slate for both of us.
Saturday night we had a successful Back Bay Amateur Astronomers SkyWatch event at the North West River Park in Chesapeake. The weather guessers all indicated overcast and miserable. The sky had been clear all day up until about 5:30, which is when I left for the park. I arrived at the park a little before six and found that clouds were high and thin, but covering half the sky. There were three folks setting up and another waiting, I also discovered I left a case to my new telescope at home which was vital to setting up the new ½ meter telescope. I left my unpacked gear there in the good hands of Mr. Hiser and off on a quick trip to get my forgotten items. The clouds were building more and more and I was wondering if I was making this 32 mile round trip for naught. I did notice going over the Albemarle bridge that there was a break in the cloud cover just at the horizon and I hoped it would travel all the way to the NWRP and help us out.
Forty three minutes later and fifteen minutes before sundown I arrived back at the NWRP and began the 45 minute setup of my telescope. During my trip at least a dozen visitors had shown up and at least ten more telescopes were being set-up and to my glee, the clouds were scattering. I helped a friend from work slightly with his scope before I notice a crowd around my scope. I went back to my scope and even though it was still not dark yet Vega and Saturn were showing. I moved the big scope to Saturn and began letting folks see the ringed jewel of our skies. By the time the night was over we had observed M13 the Hercules cluster M13, M103 an arrangement of stars that resemble a tiny dipper with a very bright red super giant star in the handle. We looked at the Ring nebula M57. We nearly burned our retinas on the Andromeda galaxy M31. We also looked at the carbon star WZ CAS which is a lovely red carbon star with a blue companion, we also looked at Polaris showing its companion star as well as Arcturus and Albireo the blue and gold double star in Cygnus. We tried to find M51, but it was in the light pollution adequately provided by the City of Chesapeake and not to be found. I found the carbon star La Superba which quite garnet in color. Those with good eyes found six or seven moons about Saturn which was a favorite to spin around on between other objects. We looked at the Blinking Planetary nebula as well as globular cluster M2. We showed off Neptune, Uranus was in the trees at first, but we never went back to visit it after it would have been over the trees. The dumbbell and little dumbbell were good. This was the first night for the Sky-Watcher Stargate ½ meter scope under darker skies than I have in Greenbrier. I can’t wait to use it in Coinjock next month. If the weather holds I will get to take it to Camp Silver Beach for a Girl Scout event next Friday.
Karen and I arrived at Camp Silver Beach about a half hour later than I had wanted to. This put me setting up my big scope after dusk. As it takes a good while for setup I ended up trying to collimate it in the dark, without an acceptable light source I had a much more difficult time than I usually do, it took me an hour to gain decent collimation. Dark time collimation will be something to practice on at home for sure. The night was a hit despite Saturn getting even lower in the sky than at Skywatch. The Girl Scouts loved the view and I was pelted with questions of “is that real, or a picture” a common occurrence with Saturn. Karen and I decided to not spend the night in the cabin and drove back and arrived home about 2:00 AM. It was a good outing for George, Karen and I. The bugs did not win, even though they managed to bite through my shirt and I ended up with mosquito bites on my back, I guess we need to come up with a way to “dip” ourselves in bug juice.
Saturday afternoon I began noticing that there was almost no cloud cover at all. I checked the calendar and sure enough it was our weekend for Nightwatch at Chippokes plantation near Surry. The BBAA have a special use permit with the Virginia Parks Department to allow club members once a month to observe from dusk until the following dawn, so I checked with What’s Her Name if she could spare me for yet another evening. It took me about a half of an hour to repack the truck after unpacking it earlier in the morning, the drive to Chippokes took about an hour, fifty-two miles to the Mansion Parking lot where I found club members Ron Repinski, Mell Spruil, Chris Ayers and another fellow whom I can’t remember his name. The three-day old moon was very nice before it dropped below the trees. I setup the big scope and started to work on the AL Carbon Stars list, I made a good start into the list before I noticed it was just after two thirty. I began breaking down as did Mel, we were the last two and left for home. I backed into the driveway a little after four AM and slept until eight and unloaded the truck again. Next week is Movie Night at Mount Trashmore, usually lots and lots of people, I hope we have good weather.
September 4th, 2017
My preparations for Eclipse 2017 began in July of 2016 when I booked three rooms, one in Kentucky, one in Tennessee and one in South Carolina. I was also looking into my sister’s old wheat farm in Wyoming to see if we could stay a few days there so I thought I was all set. At the August or September BBAA meeting I shared my eclipse plans and eventually my Anderson hotel info with the club. In late June of this year I decided to double check my hotel reservations, to my surprise I found that the Tennessee and Kentucky hotels had dropped my reservations and now if I wanted a room it would be $300 a night in Kentucky (for a $48+tax room before eclipse) and no rooms were available in Tennessee. I called South Carolina and my reservation was still good at the rate I initially booked. So now all of my eggs were in Anderson.
The Back Bay Amateur Astronomers as a club were well supported in Anderson South Carolina with a gaggle of members including myself & What’s Her Name (Karen, yeah that’s it, Karen), Jim and Lisa Tallman, Leigh Anne and Jason Lagoe with kids Liam and Jack, HL & Jane Marks, Jeff Goldstein and family, Mel Spruil, Robyn & Larry Korn and the Jeff Singer and his wife Julie, eighteen eclipse experience hopeful souls.
It seems that the weather reports for Anderson never fluctuated much from mostly cloudy to clouded over for all of June, July and most of August. I feared for the worst, but figured the good folks at Accuweather were just having fun taunting people. I acquired an elaborate camera control program, Eclipse Orchestrator, and began setting up and testing scripts that would run my DSLR in auto for the entire event, freeing me up to observe the event. I began dry runs of the event inside my house with cameras and mounts for weeks prior to. I took off from work the Friday before the eclipse and finally had a dry day to do my last outside dry run. I was planning on using my two iOptron Cube mounts, one would hold the solar funnel and the Coronado HA scope and the other would hold my DSLR with a 300mm lens. Nothing but problems, the Cube mounts were overheating in the direct sunlight after about three hours and stopped tracking. So I bit the bullet and pulled out the big gun, the Losmandy, and I figured if I was going to do the Losmandy, then I might as well use the Explore Scientific 127mm refractor with the cool motorized focuser. After an hour setting that beast up, another dry run was started and ran flawlessly, I did another run after entering a false time into the mount. Now all I had to do was pack everything into the Honda. I packed backups for everything, that poor Honda was full.
Karen and I left for Anderson at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning, drove out and caught I-85 South and expected about five & half more hours of driving on the Interstate. That turned into nearly eight hours, we checked into the hotel in Anderson at about 6:30 that evening. Our ground floor room turned into a room on the 3rd floor. We ate dinner at an Outback that was in walking range. Later I contacted Jim and Lisa Tallman to find out they were in the room directly above us.
That night Jim and I noticed how bright the parking lot lights were and combined with the tall streetlights illuminating the Interstate exit loops we would not be able to image the corona. Sunday Morning Jim texted me that he found the perfect spot, over behind the Regal Starlight Cinemas. Got up and threw on my shoes and came over to the theater and we both agreed that this location would be far better than the hotel parking lot – no lights to come on during totality. Sunday afternoon I set up in the hotel parking lot and did another dry run with all of my equipment. Several other BBAA members did the same, Jim, Robyn and Mel. I found out that I had left the rings for the Solar Funnel’s 70mm scope at home. However we met a new astronomer friend, Paul Supan from Northern Virginia who was also staying in our hotel. It was agreed that one of his mounts would host the solar funnel for the eclipse. Paul had an old Tasco refractor that he had used to watch Haley’s comet, the Venus Transit and several other memorable astronomical events that he was planning on using to watch the eclipse. The dry runs went off with no issues with the exception of the iOptron mount with the HA scope overheated in the sun again. Later that afternoon Karen and I drove around a bit as I wanted to find the spot on the Eclipse map where 100% totality would cross directly over. We found the Baptist church about eight miles away that had an enormous parking lot with an invitation for ALL to come watch the eclipse with them on their enormous electronic billboard. Jim and I discussed changing our plans but decided to hold firm on the theater parking lot, if we went to the church, we would be doing outreach for possibly thousands. I then walked over to the theater and confirmed with the manager and assistant manager that it would be OK to set up in their back-parking lot. The said it would be fine and did not actually expect very many movie goers Monday afternoon.
Early on eclipse morning Jim and Lisa were out doing their walk and found that people were already driving into the theater parking lot surveying potential eclipse spots. Jim called me and we drove our vehicles over and blocked off about a dozen prime parking spots. Mel and I sat there and held down the “fort” until Jim could get back over from his walk. About 9:00 AM we decided to go ahead and set up our equipment while we were still in the shade. Mel was almost completely setup, Jim was setup, and I was just starting to do my “alignment” with the Losmandy when a little dark VW pulled up with a frantic man telling us we had to get out of HIS parking lot. I explained that we had cleared this with the theater manager the previous afternoon. He said he was the General Manager of the theater and that his Corporate VP had contacted him directly and told him that there should be no eclipse viewers in their parking lot. To say that this made few of us upset was an understatement, kind of like saying Kent has a passing interest in astronomy… Mel started breaking his stuff down, I parked the Losmandy while still cussing and crying. Others were indicating they would wait until the cops arrested them. It was at this time that a college student that was watching us set up, piped up and said he was a third-year law student at Clemson (imagine that, a Clemson student in Anderson) and he had found the SC statutes on business’ parking and that it said in essence if all the entrances and exits are not clearly marked that the business is not open and the parking lots are closed then the parking must remain open. I asked the kid to send me the link to the SC statute and off I went in search of Volkswagen man. I found him at the front of the theater talking with someone on his cell phone in hands free mode. I overheard that the GM was actually trying to convince the individual on the other end of the phone to let us stay, when I overheard the other person starting to talk about liability, I excused myself and explained that I represented the BBAA and that a group of about a dozen of us had made the trek from Southeastern Virginia just for the eclipse and that if it was only a matter of liability, I assured them that our club had a multi-million dollar liability insurance policy for our activities. I offered to provide an Internet link to our clubs organizing documentation and incorporation documents, I explained that I would be happy to send a copy of our Insurance policy’s declaration pages, as it was NOT online. This fellow took a couple of seconds and then told the GM that we were good to go and could stay. I profusely thanked them both and returned to the near revolting eclipse group and gave them the good news, now Mel had to set back up again and I could restart my alignment.
Weather. The weather for our trip down was good, the sun was cloud free Sunday during our dry runs in the parking lot and the weather guessers were now saying 10% cloud cover until about 5:00 PM and a temperature in the mid-low 90s for Eclipse 2017. Once we were all setup we began noticing a few fluffy clouds here and there, not too bad, but noticeable. I began taking shots of the sun, refining my focus, I set up the HA scope on one of the iOptron Cubes. Robyn set up her big binos and her solar filtered 8” dob. Jim set up his manual imaging rig complete with sun shade and Mel set up his suite of electronics and cameras. As time grew close I began my automated camera scripts to take pictures of the sun before, during and after the event. My only involvement was to occasionally ensure that the Losmandy was tracking old Sol dead center.
First Contact (C1) was made at 12:08:47 local EDT and my camera was clicking. Jim was manually tracking/following and clicking images. Mel had employed the same Eclipse Orchestrator software to do his imaging as well. Robyn’s 8” dob provided the very best visual presentation of the sun and the eclipse bar-none. The eclipse progressed for almost an hour and a half with a small passing cloud here and there. My last clear picture of the sun before totality was taken at 1:26 PM. A few very cloudy pictures were recorded before totality commenced at 3:37:37 PM and lasted until 3:40:12 PM. We were clouded out by a very stubborn group of clouds. We all experienced the darkness of totality, some street lamps came on, but overall not quite as dark as we were all expecting. The Canon 60Da regained the sun after C3 around 3:22 PM and the last picture it took was at 3:47 just before the Losmandy hit the stops. By that time everyone else had broken down their equipment and left the parking lot, I was alone. I finally packed everything back into the Honda and drove back to the hotel for a shower and Birthday Dinner for Lisa Tallman, imagine that, Jim arranged for an Eclipse for her birthday!
Some folks left that night for home, I know that Jim and Lisa left very early on Tuesday morning with Karen and I following them by a couple of hours. The trip back was worse than the trip down. We thought we would outsmart the construction mess on I-85, but with adding in the extra forty minutes to get to Columbia and the resulting rush hour traffic there (Jim & Lisa were smart to leave earlier) is still took us ten hours to get home using I-95. I was so bummed out that we had missed the eclipse event because of that stubborn cloud, that I did not even analyze my pictures for nearly two weeks. I am glad that so many got to see the event and I am sure they will remember it forever, I will remember this trip for a long time. We are fortunate in that the next full eclipse to cross the US is only in seven years.
Here are some shots I took during our trip to Anderson.
Michael & Cheryl Jagow, Karen and I's offspring.
Michael Mary and Mavel.