JOINT SAO/ VAO JASON DISCOVERER OBSERVING SESSION MARCH 16TH THRU 17TH 2008
Melvin E. Dawson
Mel Dawson in Riverview, FL with his clock driven 60mm f/15 Jason 313 Discoverer refractor as he looks upward at the moon in Cancer during the ‘over-the-phone’ joint observing session with VSC founder Gary Barabino in Waggamans, LA. The photo was captured at 12:38am EDT on March 17, 2008.
Photos taken by Mel Dawson – SAO - Vega Sky Center – Riverview, FL
On Saturday afternoon
(03-15-2008), Gary Barabino proposed partaking in a joint observing
session on Sunday night with our 60mm f/15 Jason 313 Discoverer
refractor telescopes. The idea brought back many a memory of the times
we spent using our meager 60mm scopes back in the late 1970’s when we
both lived in the Desire Housing Projects in New Orleans, LA. I relished
the thought and was eager to oblige.
In preparation for the
event, on Sunday evening (03-16-2008), I prepped my 60mm refractor to
make certain everything was in order. Upon inspection, the optics looked
good and clean, so I decided to do some exterior cosmetic work. There
was a light layer of dust on the instrument, but nothing major. It was
easily removed with a slightly damp terry cloth towel. As I was cleaning
the scope, it hit me to try one of my battery powered clock drives on
the 313’s equatorial mount. In my garage I spotted one attached to my
4.5” Cosmos Newtonian and quickly relieved the reflector of it. In
attaching the drive to it, I had to do some rigging. Though the flexible
connector on the clock drive fit the worm gear shaft on the Jason
perfectly, the bracket used to attach it to the scope securely did not.
So I instilled a 7/8 thick chunk of Teflon (a remnant from the
construction of my 10” f/5.6 Fork Mounted Newtonian Reflector) to aid
in bracing the drive’s bracket to the equatorial mount as
perpendicular to position of the clock drive’s shaft as possible. Once
installed, I flipped the drive on and Eureka!!! It worked! Now I was
ready to bring the telescope out to acclimate it.
Once the Jason was
placed outside and aligned with the north celestial pole, I gave Gary a
call on his cell at around 10:30pm EDT. He said he was on his way home
from his son’s house (Gary Jr.) after installing a ceiling fan and
would be home shortly to setup his 313. In the meantime, my telescope
was acclimated in short time and at around 10:50pm EDT, I was set to
observe. First, I would like to point out that though the sky was clear,
there was a heavy haze to it. Winds were out of the east at about 13
miles per hour with gusts close to 20. Despite the brisk breezes, I held
fast to performing the session. The temperature was 62 degrees, and the
humidity was about 70%. The haze along with a glaring gibbous moon
absorbed much of the light from stars below 3rd magnitude. It
was definitely not the sort of night to do any deep sky object viewing.
The Moon’s Position in Cancer
I could easily make out
many of the moon’s prominent namesakes such as the large crater
Clavius, brilliant Tycho, and the symmetrical Copernicus. After a short
while I increased the magnification slightly to 45x power bringing out
even more detail with my William Optics 20mm WA eyepiece. Then it
crossed my mind to try my hand at capturing a few photos of the lunar
surface. The camera I uses was a Gateway DC-T50 5-mega pixel point and
shoot digital. But, before I got starting with imaging, I pulled out
some big guns to further increase the magnification. This time I took
aim using my University Optics 12mm Koenig. Though it dimmed the moons
image a great deal, the details were sharp. It generated a power of 75x.
Simply outstanding! And the clock drive was working perfectly!
After some virtual
flybys of the moon’s surface at the 75x power magnification, it was
time to try out some photography. At around 11:00pm EDT, I gathered the
photography equipment. As mentioned earlier, I used my Gateway DC-T50
digital camera. To connect it to the Jason 313, I used my homemade
wooden universal camera adapter. The eyepiece selected was the William
Optics 20mm WA eyepiece I initially started my observing session with.
With the eyepiece firmly grappled within the clamp of the adapter, the
camera was then attached to its bracket and then centered at the rear of
the ocular. I was not sure if the clock drive was going to pull the
scope and the adapter, but it trucked along just fine after it was
attached to the telescope. The moon was coerced into the field of the
view of the William Optics 20mm WA eyepiece, and was visible in the LCD
display at the rear of the DC-T50 camera. Then the drive was activated
after securing the equatorial mounts axis’ lock bolts. The camera was
set to AUTO mode and the 3x optical zoom fully engaged. I focused the
image within the camera’s display until it was as sharp as possible.
The image actually filled the entire display screen without showing the
field edge of the eyepiece! Great, no cropping needed, I thought to
myself. So with the scope pointed at the southern most region containing
craters Clavius, and Tycho, I began snapping shots at 11:14pm EDT. The
photo session continued until Gary called, which was about 11:30pm EDT.
Additional photos of the northern region of the moon that include Mares
Tranquillitatus, and Serenitatis, plus the crater Plato were taken as I
spoke with Gary over the phone. I have included some images in this
report. Lunar imaging concluded at 11:44pm EDT.
Photos of the Jason 313 Discoverer with Orion 5.2 Lanthanum
The observing session continued with us now pulling out the nuclear bombs to get a closer look at the moon. This time we chose to try an even shorter focal length eyepiece within the auspicious Lanthanum family. I used my Orion 5.2mm Lanthanum, while Gary pulled out his Vixen LV Lanthanum 4mm. They both produced powers of 217x and 227x, respectively, pushing the telescopes well beyond their theoretical limit. The lunar surface looked rather well with little to no CA, and was relatively sharp. But, the moon appeared much dimmer. As I swept the scope near the lunar terminator, I picked up Copernicus. I could easily note the array of three mountain peaks at its center; one small mountain flanked by to larger ones. The symmetry of the 50-mile diameter crater is assuredly one of the moon’s most beautiful appendages. Copernicus’ ray system beautifully embellished part of the huge plateau of Oceanus Procellarum. And the Apennine Mountains rendered dynamic relief to the lower plains. Muted by the sun’s intense rays was the infamous lunar crater grouping of Alphonsus, Arzachel, and Ptolemaeus, as well as the lesser group of Theophillus, Cyrillus, and Catharina. They all looked fantastic though this small aperture instrument!
The Moon as Captured with my Gateway DC-T50 through the Jason
Saturn’s Position in Leo
Saturn’s position in the constellation Leo during the morning of 03-17-2008 as portrayed by the Meade AutoStar Suite software.
Moving on in great anticipation, we aimed our instruments at the ringed planet Saturn. It was past midnight EDT, and Saturn was near the meridian. Using a lower powered TeleVue Plossl to easily capture the planet into the field of view, we then switched over to our 8mm TeleVue Plossl, which rendered a power of 114x. Though the eye relief was a bit tight (about 6mm), Saturn snapped crisply into view. I could definitely see the polar darkening at its pole, a few belts, distinct shadows cast by the planet’s disk onto the rings, and the ring’s shadow cast upon the planets disk. Gary was expressing the same. Cassini’s Division was ever present, but the haze of the earth’s atmosphere along with the moons glow reduced contrast tremendously. Titan flanked the planet to the southwest at a distance of about four and a half Saturnian disk diameters. At this time and date, Saturn is in the constellation Leo, a few degrees east of Alpha Leonis (Regulus). A diagram depicting Saturn’s location in the Lion asterism can be seen above as rendered by Meade AutoStar Suite software. After relishing the view for a while with the 8mm eyepiece, I wanted to do something out of the ordinary. I grabbed my Orion 5.2mm Lanthanum (217x) and put it to use on the planet. Because of the limitations of the small objective in the Jason 313, I knew the planet was not going to appear favorably. But, to be honest, it showed better then I had imagined. I could not get a tack sharp focus, but I could still make out some of the most profound detail, such as the shadows mentioned earlier. Plus I could still see Titan! I could almost sense that the optics was crying from the strain. I wonder how Saturn would have appeared in this telescope with the Orion 5.2 Lanthanum when it was at opposition back on February 24th of this year. Hmmm!
Mars’ Position in Gemini
As we neared the end of our observing session, Mars was our next target subject. It was now after 1:00am EDT, and the winds and haze continued to play havoc with my observing pleasure and equipment. Gary reported that a few clouds were moving in, and he was close to calling it a night because he had a doctor’s appointment later in the morning. But, we managed to take in a few views of the Red Planet before we called it quits. As the planet dropped lower in the western sky, we trained our Jason’s on it using our TeleVue 20mm oculars. As you already know, the power manifested on this scope by this eyepiece was 46x power. Not particularly a striking image to behold. But, I could make out the fact that the planet projected a gibbous phase. That was about it. So, will increase the power by using our TeleVue 8mm eyepiece at 114x power. Still not esthetically pleasing, yet I could just make out a small dark patch on its surface, and a slightly bright tip where the polar cap resided. Since Mars was approaching the western horizon, a pinch of Chromatic Aberration was being introduced. I figured this was being caused by the light of Mars hitting the upper atmosphere of the earth at an obtuse angle, which causes a slight prismatic effect. This refractive property appears to affect Mars more than any of the other planets observed at this angle. Mars is definitely best viewed when it is near or at the zenith.
our observing session has come to a close, and I have enjoyed every
minute of it. I am sure Gary did so as well. Observing with instruments
this size can be quite enjoyable as you the reader could gather after
reading this synopsis. Gary and I will no doubt perform additional
observing sessions with the 60mm f/15 Jason 313 Discoverer refractor. It
is indeed a fine optical instrument that should never be retired no
matter its age, or if you acquire a larger telescopic instrument. The
care put into making these objectives as created by the TOWA Optical
Company is a testimony to how manufactures should now base their current
processes. Their performance is a joy and surprise. So, until our next
observing adventure, I would like to bid you all…
…Clear Skies, Forever!!!