Tuesday, June 14, 2016

1st Attempt at Microlensing

Last night after the Auckland Astronomical Society meeting I headed out to Kumeu with the coordinates of a current microlensing event thanks to Grant Christie and Tim Natusch, over at Stardome the sky looked good so I was looking forward to having a go at finding the star field and taking some images using the Kumeu equipment, after traversing the road works that had shut down the North Western Motorway I finally arrived at Kumeu to find the weather was nowhere near as good as it was back in the city, after waiting out a bout of heavy cloud I opened up the dome and attempted to get good focus, all my focus attempts were giving me results of very poor seeing (FWHM of 5.6) so after a few attempts I figured that the seeing might actually just be bad which was later confirmed by seeing very bad scintillation overhead, by this time another bout of heavy clouds arrived and this time brought significant rain so I was forced to close up the dome, instead of packing it in I decided to at least enter the microlensing coordinates into my chart elements so at the next opportunity I would be ready to point at the correct star field, while waiting for the sky to clear I also set about capturing new calibration files seeing as the camera can now stay consistently down at a temperature of -20, the sky did clear but by the time I had opened the dome and slewed to the field took a couple of test exposures the sky had clouded up again and started to rain again, so frustrated I was forced to close up the dome again and went back to capturing calibration images, this was the pattern of the night mainly clouds and rain with the odd sucker hole that quickly closed up before anything useful could be done, I should have just stuck to taking calibration images for the rest of the night as it ended up being a waste of time trying to get work done in the few gaps the clouds provided, I think if the conditions had been better I would have been on target and capable of capturing some useful images, so it was a great learning exercise and at least we now have some new Dark and Bias frames for calibration, by 4 am I closed the dome up and headed home, I had no way to check the weather reports as the internet was still not working but I think I made the correct call as it was still raining when I got back to my house in Coatesville.

In the foreground you have Jennie McCormick's old dome with Kumeu Observatory in the background, overhead rain clouds kept me on my toes all night, I don't think I've ever opened and closed the dome as much as I did last night so that was good practice for being able to close the dome quickly when rain showers passed by. ^

Posted by Jonathan Green.

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