The Emma Occultation - Nov 17/18, 2009

This event was a very high rank wide path, but was predicted to just miss Aptos to the south, although the odds of a shift into Aptos were near 50%. The event would be tough to do either visuall or by video because the combined magnitude was only 12.2 and the drop only 0.5 mag. Fortunately, there was a companion star nicely close by which was about magnitude 12.5 and acted as a good continuous comparison star for the visual photometry. The event was at 7pm on a Tuesday night, so I had to be at Cabrillo Observatory for my Astro 8A class. I drove off and got into the usual Hwy 1 traffic jam and about Morrissey realized "damn! I forgot to pack the camcorder!". But I had the digital tape recorder and the WWV radios were at the observatory, so I could go visual. It would've been too hard to get off the freeway and fight my way home and then get back into the traffic and still be able to setup and find the target. I turned out to have plenty of time locating the target, which was not far away from Hamal in Aries. As I waited, Astro 8'rs came driving up.

Weather was the biggest worry. It had been clear calm and good steady seeing all day and early evening, but rain was forecast to start within an hour or so. I couldn't believe it was still clear, but then an hour to go and the clouds appeared. By the time the event happened, the first two stripes of thin cirrus had passed over the target, which was now in a relatively clear patch before the next cloud band. The event was to last up to 16 seconds, giving decent odds that the small drop could be unambiguously detected. Luck was with me, and the path shifted north, and I had a 10 second occultation, although the reaction times were several tenths longer than usual because even the thinnest cirrus made it close to the limit. If it had not been for the comparison star adjacent, I'd have been less certain of what was cloud and what was occultation.

Shortly after the event, the clouds thickened and the class had to retreat to room 805, and light rain began soon thereafter.

Here's the Excel Report. and the reduced profile. I set up on the 10" lx200's usual concrete pier.