Monday night was so clear that several of us agreed to meet over at Fox Observatory. It was a really nice night, and it was very cool to see the building in use for something besides our public outreach functions.

Seeing was about 3.5 to 4 of 5, transparency was about 4 of 5. The night was crisp and cool to cold, with a sometimes stiff breeze from the northeast.

Arriving at the building, I did not notice that Leon had already arrived and had set up. I was expecting folks to show up later on, so I think I gave his pupils a start as I pulled up to the observatory with my headlamps on! Sorry, Leon! Saturn, my target for the evening, was already in good view for imaging by 7pm, which was when I arrived.

Saturn 013105a

Leon, Manuel, Don, Don’s friend Jason, Steve Cox and myself were in attendence on this evening, along with the occasional lights-off roll-by from the park rangers.

While I came specifically to image Saturn using the club’s C-14, others came to both observe and image. Those attempting to image outside in the breeze found it quite difficult to get clear frames, but the C-14 was relatively (almost completely) unaffected by this, being inside the building on its’ pier. You just can’t beat that observatory experience! I’m hooked!

I’ll leave the details of what those who were observing actually saw to the other gentlemen present, but what I did see visually through the scopes outside was nice and steady, relatively so even in the breeze (the camera is totally unforgiving of any vibration, after all).

Leon showed me a nice view of the Andromeda Galaxy before it set, and a couple of other targets that escape me at the moment (sorry, Leon).

I also experienced the almost surreal pointing accuracy of “AutoSteve” Cox, as he quickly set up his 10″ dob and pretty much instantly went to Comet Machholz for a view. Steve also unlocked the Brandon and did some observing on it. It’s nice to see such a rare instrument actually being used!

However, Saturn was my target for the night, and I needed to get busy!

Saturn 013105c

I set up in the observatory with my laptop and two cameras, the SAC 7b and my DV camcorder. I took roughly 20 minutes of video through the camcorder, and about eight or nine .avi sequences with the SAC 7b. The pictures displayed here are all from the SAC 7b through the club’s C-14 at prime focus.

Even though the C-14’s corrector is hideously dusty/dirty/fingerprinted, the images it provided are surprisingly sharp (as you can plainly see from the pictures). At prime focus, it was relatively easy to keep the image of Saturn on the imaging chip, and was reasonably steady through a good proportion of the RA worm’s travel, although it did drift somewhat dramatically at one point on the worm. If you’re looking to do some webcam shots of the planets and Moon and such at prime focus, this scope did a great job!

Things got dicier when we tried to boost the image size with a 2X barlow. The problem here is not the drift. Rather, in this case we were severely hampered by the “slow motion” control on the C-14, which I estimate is slewing the scope at somewhere around 100X sidereal – too fast to accurately position the scope with this level of magnification, and way too fast to guide.

Don worked really hard to help get and keep the image on the chip, and we did eventually get some video with the barlow in place. Thanks, Don!

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Overall, I had a really good time with the C-14, despite the difficulties, and got some good images from the session. I’m looking forward to getting in some more sessions on it as soon as possible!

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