Stargazing: Pegasus: Fairbanks, AK, USA 2023-12-27 (publ. 2023-12-29)

We had clear skies on the evening of the 27th. I was rather tired due to some illness working through my family. Also, the full moon was very bright, dimming the stars considerably. But clear skies are rare around here, so I decided to head out to the boat launch anyway.

I saw a bright star glittering just above Birch Hill, and decided to do a sketch of the binocular view. I later identified it as ε Pegasus.

logbook scan

logbook scan (low resolution GIF)

Here is a reproduction of my view in Stellarium, attempting to adjust for actual brightness conditions:

binocular view around ε Pegasus

binocular view around ε Pegasus (with markings)

Here is the wide angle view, for context:

SW sky

SW sky (with labels and constellation art)

The star ε Pegasus is and interesting color and size, listed as spectral type K2 Ib, that is, an orange supergiant. It is listed at 520 ly distance, yet comes in at a decent apparent brightness magnitude of 2.35. My field guide calls it a "multiple star system with 8th and 11th magnitude companions", but I am unclear exactly which stars those are and what setup you would need to see them.

The sketch took up most of my time, but I also spent a few minutes with the binoculars off the mount, enjoying the beauty of Orion and one or two other constellations. All glory to the Creator of heaven and earth for the delightful view!

The next evening, the stars were clear again. But rather than stargazing, I decided to try to fix the collimation of my PowerSeeker 172EQ. I looked up some generic documentation on the Internet, but I must say I learned almost nothing, since the procedures all required tools I don't have, and nobody was on hand to walk me through it. So, I decided to just attack it as best I could, staring down the focuser hole, and adjusting screws and such until the optics and reflections seems sensibly aligned.

I tested it out on the moon, and to my surprise my efforts seem to have actually worked, as I could see good detail on the moon without *persistent* blurriness. However, there was something going on where the image was flucuating constantly between blurry and sharp, even after letting the telescope reach thermal equilibrium, and also cleaning up the eyepiece. I'm not certain, but I'm inclined to think the problem was due to high-altitude ice crystals, since the other stars in the sky seemed (at a glance) very glittery and diffracted. It would be nice to have an expert take a look at my telescope, but there do not seem to be any astronomy clubs in Fairbanks at the present time.

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