This is the April 2020 installment of current events at Orion’s Belt Remote Observatory, Mayhill, NM.
Routine maintenance on Pier 2 mount. The Paramount MX+ mount gets a “grease change”. This is recommended every year “or so” depending on usage. I usually go closer to 1.5 years. The procedure for this mount is not too complex. The worm block covers on both axes are removed allowing ready access to the gears. You then remove the old grease with a tooth brush and towel and reapply the grease to the gears by hand while manually rotating the mount axis you are working on to gain access to the entire gear. A detailed video is available on the Software Bisque website.
Current imaging projects:
- It is “galaxy season” as discussed in an earlier post and that means that Pier 1 (RiDK 400mm or 16″ scope) has to get busy! We are working on 2 targets now.
This is a single raw luminance image of M101, also known as the “Pinwheel Galaxy”. It is a very large galaxy with diameter of 170,000 light years. Our galaxy is 100,000 by comparison. One of the unique features of this galaxy that hopefully we can demonstrate when the project is completed is the high density of what are known as “HII” regions. An H II region or HII region is a region of interstellar atomic hydrogen that is ionized. It is typically a cloud of partially ionized gas in which star formation has recently taken place, with a size ranging from one to hundreds of light years, and density from a few to about a million particles per cubic cm. These will show up as bright red areas in the spiral arms of the galaxy. In fact some of these are so prominent they have their own NGC catalog numbers!
Our second galaxy project is M104, the “Sombrero”. This is another single luminance image. This has been an elusive target for me probably because of its low altitude. It reaches just above 40 degrees at maximum altitude from this location which means the seeing has to be better than usual at the very least. Thankfully this year I have had better luck with that so it looks like it will finally happen! The compelling nature of the thick but intricate dust lanes encircling the bright bulbous core makes this a must target on anyone’s list! The Sombrero is actually part of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster and has a rich system of globular star clusters within it, about 2000 of them.
2. The current target for the wide field platform is NGC 6823, an open cluster and emission nebula in the constellation Vulpecula. This object doesn’t become visible until around 2 am but it should be a great target for the Tak180!
Finally we briefly discuss new efforts being undertaken at the observatory for pest control! Those of us operating remote observatories all have to deal with some aspect of that. Fortunately for me I do not have a problem with mice (yet). We are coming up on 4 years since the observatory was built so perhaps that won’t be a problem here. What I do have is a significant miller moth infestation. They apparently are nesting inside of the roof motor! The first year of operation I was seriously startled when upon opening the roof about 1-200 flew out of there! The next year they decided to move into the 16″ telescope and a similar thing happened when I removed the cloth cover of the scope. While they did get into the housing behind the primary mirror there was no moth residue on the mirror itself. Also thankfully they did not take up residence inside any of the cameras. I ran the mirror fans for a day or so to get rid of as many as possible. So this year we have a new approach to this and we will see if this strategy will work:
- No covers on the 16″ scope ever. I have a brand new set of mirror shutters which is an upgrade from the originally purchased ones. They never worked that well to begin with and now that I have seen what covering the scope can do for the moth problem I decided not to install them.
- Moth traps. I tried these last year but unfortunately got it started after the moths hatched, but they do seem to work. These are cardboard containers coated with a resin that supposedly attracts the moths. Each container can collect up to about 30 of them!
- Continuous airflow directed at the nesting site which in this case is the motor. I installed a simple fan that I can turn on and off remotely and leave it on all of the time until I open for an observing session.
So far I have not seen any moths but it is probably way too early. We should know in a couple of months if this is going to work or not!
Ok folks. That’s it for now. From astronomy to pest control, you read it all right here!
Thanks for reading!’