Monday, 17 May 2010

TSP Day 5 - Jets and Quasars

It was a quiet day spent around and about on Friday. As mentioned in my previous post, I went to Indian Lodge State Park and did some birding (and, I hope, I got some decent photos; I'd brought my 400mm Canon telephoto to the US as it's my birding lens and produces excellent results) and in the afternoon, I visited fellow Brit's Keith and Jan Venables for their 4.30pm Happy Hour which is now a TSP institution. Up to 15 people gather at their bunkhouse for beer (or wine), pretzels and chat. I can't always make it, but it's a very civilised way to spend an hour on a TSP afternoon, chatting, drinking and talking astronomy.

I had made a promise to myself not to spend much money this year but guess what? Yep, entirely predictably I broke that promise and exceeded my self-imposed budget by at least $200. But, as I told myself, that prevents me being royally ripped off when I come to change US dollars back into Her Britannic Maj's British Pounds. If I had spent them on things I want here in the States, then I am not going to be shafted at the airport or the travel agent back home.
I did buy an Arcturus Telrad dew shield from Camera Concepts - I'd been looking for one for ages in the UK and not found a decent one at a non-scandalous price until TSP, plus I bagged an Antares 2-inch to 1.25 inch eyepiece adapter which, instead of having a screw to hold the eyepiece securely, twists closed. It's much more secure and there's no annoying little screw to fall out and get lost, so it will be an improvement on the one I currently use.
I also bought The Night Sky Observers' Guide Volume Three - The Southern Skies from Bob Kepple, one of the authors, plus the Digitised Sky Survey on CD Rom for $45. Both were bargains and the book was $34 which is much better than the outrageous prices charged in the UK - Amazon UK wanted a ridiculous 70 quid for a copy! I obviously won't get much of an opportunity to use it in back in the UK, but I wanted it to join my Volumes 1 and 2 and I will be taking it on my next trip to the Southern Hemisphere, whenever that will be. As for the DSS I nearly bought a copy for a hundred quid from someone at the IW Star Party earlier this year but decided against it due to the price. I also bought a Lumicon 2-inch UHC filter - I already have 1.25 inch filters but now I also have 2-inch eyepieces in my collection and using 1.25 filters with these is a pain and the filters inevitably get dropped, with the risk of loss or damage. I can also screw the 2-inch filter into the Antares adapter, which means I don't have to swap the filter between eyepieces when viewing nebulae.
I am hoping I get the dew shield home in once piece as it's made of a fairly brittle plastic and it won't take much to crack or snap it. I have borrowed a round cake tin and wrapped the dew shield up in socks and - clean! - underwear and placed it in the tin. It doesn't move around so hopefully the combination of underwear and socks acting as bubble-wrap and the metal cake tin will prevent an annoying breakage.

I also bought Turn Left At Orion - I don't need it, it's a beginner's book and I am not a beginner and haven't been a beginner since the early 1990's, but I wanted it for my collection and, besides, Dan and Brother Guy were signing copies. Plus, I also bought Brother Guy's autobiography Brother Astronomer to read on the plane home. I am interested to see how he reconciles his Catholic beliefs with science, especially as I am an ex-Roman Catholic myself. I say 'ex' as I was brought up in the Church but I am a non-believer - I believe in science and not any mythical omnipotent being. I didn't tell Brother Guy that though, when he was signing my book, that would have been rude and I would hate to cause offence!

Friday night, I was invited back up to Jimi's 48 inch for some more deepest of deep sky observing so, once the talk (a hilarious account of the making of Turn Left At Orion by Brother Guy Consolmagno - who is a Jesuit priest and also a professional astronomer at the Vatican Observatory - and Dan Davis; Brother Guy, especially, would have been a great stand up comedian) and the Great Texas Giveaway were done - as usual I won the square root of bugger all! - we headed up the hill to Jimi's place.
By the time we arrived, it was dark and the skies looked very promising indeed but, unfortunately, this state of affairs did not last long as fog and clouds built up. The humidity was already up to 63% and by the end of the session it had got up to 78%, just like observing from home!
We didn't do much, but we did see Hickson 50, an optical jet in IC1182 (the jet has a designation in Larry Mitchell's MAC catalogue, MAC 1605-1747B, as it does look like a tiny galaxy) and an uncharted lensed quasar in Lynx. As the clouds and fog were becoming a serious PITA, we called it a night and headed back to the house for a sandwich, beer and astronomy talk. I again crashed on Jimi's sofa and later in the morning, Alvin and I headed back to the Ranch.

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