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ALP STARGAZING SESSION AT CALIRAYA , LAGUNA
by James Kevin Ty
Last April 29, ALPers that include James Kevin Ty, Allen Yu, Jett Aguilar, Joel Munoz, Rafael Lunar , Dante Noche and wife Rosie, went to Caliraya, Laguna again for the 2nd consecutive month to enjoy the dark skies there. Their plans were to observe first the Pleiades occultation by the Moon after sunset and later to observe the fragmenting 73/P Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann. ALPers James and Allen went to Shell Magallanes around 2:00pm to pickup fellow member Rafael there. Afterwards, they proceed to Shell Alabang to meet with members Jett and Joel before they proceed to Caliraya. Dante Noche and wife went to Caliraya on their own time and pace.
But due to unexpected heavy traffic along South Expressway as well as in Los Banos area, the group arrived at the site almost around 6:40pm already! As they were quickly setting up their scopes, the Pleiades occultation had already begun earlier around 6:15pm with bright stars Elektra, Taygeta and Maia and already entered Ingress :( Nevertheless, James was the quickest to setup his scope and was able to image the Ingress (disappearance) of both Sterope li (mag 6.43) and Asterope (mag 5.76) . Afterwards, he was also able to image the Egress of Electra (mag 3.72) dimly popping out from the limb of the Moon. Below are his images of the Pleiades occultation by the Moon. (Click the image for bigger pic.)
After observing the Moon sinks below the tree lines, they moved their equipment to the original area where they had decided to set for the entire night. Trying to observe the occultation forced the group members to setup along the highway just to be able to get the needed clearance to observe the Moon.
Upon setting up their scopes, they had a simple dinner before they concentrated on their observation and imaging session. James brought along his TV-101 refractor on Vixen GP-D equatorial mount; Allen with his Orion 80ED refractor on EQ-3 equatorial mount ; Jett with his Celestron C8 SCT on Vixen GP-D equatorial mount ; Dante Noche with his 8" f/7 Dobsonian reflector ; Joel with his 8" f/6 Truss Tube Dobsonian reflector while Rafael brought along his trusty 50mm binoculars on sturdy tripod.
James, as usual, started the whole night imaging the night sky. But that night , he mostly concentrated on trying to image the 73/P Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann Fragment C and B. Although the new site they had planned for this session was better, there is always old Uncle Murphy trying to spoil the night for the them :) LOL Some of the instances were :
1) Jett accidentally plugging his inverter into a reverse polarity terminal which blow out the inverter's regulator!
2) James , Allen and Jett having tracking problems with their respective mounts majority of the event.
3) Allen having lots of frustration trying to test and focus his new Canon EOS 350 on his Orion 80ED refractor.
4) Allen having probably a heat stroke because of the very hot afternoon heat which lead Allen to have a headache and majority of the night resting than observing.
5) Dante Noche forgot to bring any eyepieces for his telescope use that night.
But most of above problems were solve by them as the night goes by. Among the problem solved were:
1) James was able to lend his inverter/power pack in exchange for one of Jett;s car battery so he was able to use his laptop for imaging.
2) James was able to solve his tracking problem when he discovered that he forgot to turn off his ignition switch which had a 35W chiller turned on and that leads to power drain on the car battery that leads to the mount's tracking badly. After turning the chiller off, his mount tracks OK. As for Jett, balance problem seems to be the culprit but he later shorten his imaging session when some clouds started hovering the sky for about an hour. He took a nap that time but overslept a little and woke up almost 3:45am already and the sky is already starting to brighten up a little :( As for Allen, his mount's tracking problem didnt improve that night but since he got a headache, that severely handicapped him majority of the night :(
3) Since it was his first time to use his new camera, he got some confusions on the settings and that eat a lot of his limited time to image efficiently that night.
4) Allen's headache did a lot of damage on his concentration so he opted to take some good rest that night.
5) Dante's problem is easily solve as Jett lend his eyepiece set to him as Jett, like James, spends most of his time imaging .
Dante was able to observe the Omega Centauri, Jupiter and many deep sky objects around Scorpius and Sagittarius the whole evening. Joel was thrilled with his view of Swan Nebula through James' Orion Ultrablock barrow band filter. The details of the nebula was like a textbook shot sans the color!
As for the comet, the group was able to locate and image Fragment C and B easily. James said that the two brighter fragments seems to be almost identical in brightness already that night. Fragment G was attempted by James but G seems to had dimmed or is in the magnitude 14-15 range for him not to be able to capture it :( After the comet shots, James image the globulars M4 in Scorpius as well as M13 in Hercules to capped his imaging session that night.
At around 4:30am, they started to dismantle their setups and end the session with a traditional group shot for posterity. Overall, amid the jinx that haunted them most of the time that night, they were still very happy and thrilled on the new observing site and are looking forward for another new schedule stargazing session there on May 27.
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