Saturn & the Spring Galaxies at Charterhouse Observatory
Sat May 11th 2013
The night was a great success - amazing sky, completely clear from 21:00 until we left at about 01:45. We had about 40 people, including a number of newcomers and some families with kids. Several people brought telescopes, binoculars or cameras, Chris took his big Meade reflector and Adrian (whose birthday was the day before) opened up the dome. We saw Saturn, some great galaxies and globular clusters.
Wow! Best summed up by this message which one of the kids left on the classroom white-board.
..and an explanatory note from Adrian.
"Some of you may be wondering what on Earth was happening in the dome last night!
The Fullerscope sits on a German Equatorial Mount (GEM) and one feature of this design is that it cannot operate through a full 360 degrees without large pieces of metal hitting solid lumps of concrete! Most of the time, the telescope points east and can cover a 180 degree area from north, through east to south. If we need to look at something more westerly, it is not possible to cross the Meridian and the software executes a "Meridian Reversal" which literally flips the whole optical tube assembly around and over to cover the western half of the sky.
To further confuse matters, the telescope can always be moved manually by hand and of course, the software has no idea that this has happened.
Basically the AWR drive system thought the Meridian had been crossed, even though it hadn't and we had no idea whether the crossing of the Meridian was in an eastery or westerly direction. The software would allow us to calibrate on a known star, but then when we accessed the "goto" facility to have a look at one of Chris's targets for the night, it slewed up instead of down, left instead of right!
Aware that time was passing, we gave up and several visitors managed to see M53 after we had used the alternative "goto" system involving a Telrad finder and an arm!
Thanks to the persistence of Eddie Marsh and Mark Woodland, we had another go and eventually the software got its head around where it was pointing. Re-calibrated the system on Sirius and then using Stellarium as the control software, it slewed straight to M13 in Hercules, with the cluster dead centre in the eyepiece. By then it was past 1am, so we called it a night.
The Fullerscope is now out of commission for a while as the 6 inch reflector mounted on its side has been taken off for restoration - kindly being done free of charge by Telescope House. Without it, the balance of the main telescope is completely off. Rest assured, we will have everything working properly for the next WMA evening at the observatory!
As a final note....if anyone is ever using Stellarium to control the telescope and you receive an error message saying "telescope is not pointing to the instance of an object" what it actually means is "you haven't plugged in the USB cable"!
Oh.....and thank you all for the rendition of Happy Birthday....didn't see that coming!