City observing report - 30/12/2007

By amar_universe; Published 01 Jan 2008

After the usual BAS meeting, Hemant and Me had already pre-planned to have an observing session at his place, beside Airport, with his 12 f/4.5" Dob scope. However, one of our friend, Pavan Kumar from Aurangabad who had come here for a project at Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIAP) also joined us, with his Canon 400D DSLR.

We reached Hemant's place and setup the 12" scope for visual observing and his 6" f/6 equatorial scope for astrophotography. The session started with a cumbersome formalities involved in setting up, taking up most of the time. This went on from around 9pm to 12am, with breaks in between; ofcourse polar alignment from city was as hard.

The skies here were just pathetic!! The amount of lights being spread up was simply disgusting. However the window above your head was just a 'little' better than the horizons. I was all eager for the comet 8/P Tuttle which had brightened to 6th magnitude and was quite diffuse. Morever, it was close to M33 galaxy, a good photographic rendezvous from a dark place, but an impossible sight from city!

Using Hemant's laptop, we star hopped from one star to another, and then to the position of comet. Believe me, the background was so lit up that someting this bright was just rendered invisible by lights, how much ever you stare. Finally, with sufficient staring, Hemant and Me got something very diffuse at our limit of visibility, that was a soft diffuse fuzzy patch. With confirmation, we had glimpsed 8/P Tuttle from the city, all thanks to the large 'light-bucket'.

Then began astrophotography with tracked images of Orion with the DSLR. Few multiple images using ISO 400, 800 and maybe 1600 were shot; Hemant and Pavan were tracking a field star precisely. Their results were pinpoint even though there was enormous of light glow registered on film. And the 2 astrophotographers were excited by their successful venture.

At around 2am, we looked east above a building and there was one of the best naked-eye sights. We saw a perfect Half-Moon rise, and was it beautiful! Knowing what to expect from this, we aimed the 12" scope there, and were the least shocked; cos the sight was just as scintillating and stupendous as ever.

The craters along the Terminator (boundary of day and night) was a feast to your eyes which you could *go on* relishing, no matter how many hundred times you have seen Moon. We used a detailed Lunar Map to get known with the plethora of features on Moon. Ahhh...once again we got back to the Rupes Recta mentioned in my previous report, which we could not nail down then. We had wanted to get this 100 km long and ONLY 2 km wide 'fault' on the Moon, and this was the best time when it would be well illuminated.

Now from last time's practice, we knew where to look and it took no time for us to see the extremely thin hair-like feature we were longing for! The magnification used was around 340x (using a 4 mm Plossl eyepiece) There was Rupes Recta, there was Birt A too (just 7 km in diameter) I mean how deep can telescopes go??!! And there close by we could, ofcourse with some difficulty, we could see another extremely small and dim patch, the awaited crater. Man..ONLY 5km wide Birt B!! It was success at could not fathom nabbing something *this* small...truly unbelievable!!

We wound up our session only at 3:30 am realizing we have to go for work early next day!! We had, needless to say, a deep sleep till 7:30am after which Pavan and Me left for our home, with a satisfaction of a wonderful session even from light polluted city; who says nothing can be done from a city?! I request one and all to have a good inspirational look at Moon, atleast once in your life!