The Dudu Occultation - June 29, 2010

Yeah, funny name I know. But it was a success so I'm going to write it up anyway. It was a very promising event; 9.4 mag star, rank=75 and straight through Santa Cruz. I didn't promote the event well enough to really get the troops excited though, and it turned out to be just me and Chris Angelos (Chris K was at a meeting in San Diego). Chris planned to observe from home, but fog was clearly coming in. 3 days earlier, Jay and I had skipped the lunar eclipse as it looked like fog would cover all the Santa Cruz mountains. And therefore missed a nice event. Not this time; the balloon sounding today showed a marine layer only up to less than 1000 ft. Derek Breit was all set to observe from his home at about 17km south. I suggested Chris drive up to Highland Way and use our old meteor shower observing site, at 6.2km south. I looked at the latest GoogleEarth maps and it seemed that the big fire a couple years ago off Martin Road would clear a nice horizon there (the event was at only 16 degrees altitude, in the head of Scorpius in the southwest. I allowed enough time to get up there over an hour ahead of time. I was concerned as I drove up, that it was still foggy even over 1200 ft elevation, but it did clear as I got to Ice Cream Grade and drove to Martin Rd .... where I found a forest of burned but standing trees that ruined the horizon. Guess that dead tree poles don't show on the GoogleEarth pictures. I continued to Pine Flat Rd, checked out BD School but it didn't work, and the next possibility was a building on the aerial photos at the corner of Pine Flat and Bonny Doon Rd which did not look like a residence. It turned out to be a church, and had a great parking lot which overlooked the BD vineyards and had a great view towards the southwest, and this was my observing site, at 9.2km north.

My usual pre-packed box of equipment was not as per usual - instead it was my pre-packed Hayabusa Expedition setup. That meant some more time in finding and assembling everything and getting going. In particular, I had trouble finding the barrell which fits over the PC 164Cex2, till I remembered where it might be and found it. Next problem was that I absolutely forgot that I always use the f/3.3 Meade reducer, and so was frustrated in trying to focus and find the star. That kind of thing happens at 1am when you're already not sleeping well. After fumbling with this for more minute, it was 4 minutes till event. DecisionTime, and I pulled it all off and went visual. A good thing, too! Because my camcorder is again not recording and I'd have lost the event. As it was, I got an accurate D and R as the bright star was relatively easy to find and easy to follow. I always have the WWV and tape recorder at the ready, as this is not an uncommon backup to have to use lately. Both events were very sharp; no gradual fading as is not uncommon for short events like this. The predicted length was only 6 seconds, and my event was 5.4 seconds long.

I'll have to figure out why the ZR45mc is not recording as using the tape head cleaner is not succeeding. Now I realize that the problem in Australia may not have been dew and temperature, but something more serious.

The other observers weren't so fortunate. Derek had the star set behind the Santa Cruz mountains 28 seconds(!) before the event. Chris Angelos arrived OK but had only 15 minutes for target acquisition - not enough. Walt was out of town, and so was Chris Kitting. David Herald in Australia, where the path started shortly after sunset, had a miss. And so did Jim Westphal in Antioch here in the north Bay.

Here's my .xls report sent off to Brad Timerson the next evening. Here is the sky plane plot from the 3 observers who tried it.