My Rambling Thoughts

A rare clear night

Field report, posted on CN:

Last night (23 June) was the first cloud-free night I had in almost a month.

I had taken excellent seeing for granted in past months. But it was very bad in June. I managed to observe only on three nights, and even then, there were very thin high-level clouds that reduced Jupiter's brightness.

Not yesterday. I observed around 8pm. Jupiter was at 59 degrees altitude. It shone very brightly and the GRS just rotated into view. Wonderful!

I have an array of cheap eyepieces, but I have settled on just three for Jupiter: 15mm (100x @ 1.2mm exit pupil), 10mm (150x @ 0.79mm e.p.) and 8mm (187.5x @ 0.6mm e.p.). The last two are a perfect match for my 127SLT.

It did not disappoint. With my 8mm EP, Jupiter was still bright — whitish with brown belts and a pale orange GRS — and showed as much details as my scope could give.

(In comparison, on a poor night, 10mm EP is already marginal.)

As I had a good feeling about the seeing, I brought along my 6mm EP (250x @ 0.48mm e.p.). With it, Jupiter was still pretty bright and detailed, and the main belts were still brownish! That's how I knew seeing was excellent!

(I could go higher if I had brought my 2x extender along. I had stopped doing so as there was no point. But it was nice to see how brightness limits magnification.)

So, I took out my binoviewer. My lowest EP pair was 15mm. (I had been too optimistic about viewing conditions.) In the past few times, even that was too much — it stole so much light that it was dimmer than 10mm solo, and looked worse than 8mm solo. (On those same nights.)

Yesterday was different. I had enough light at both 15mm and 10mm. I had a 8mm pair, but I didn't bring the second EP along. 10mm is about the highest I can use on my binoviewer anyway — it is as bright as 6mm solo. I was very optimistic.

Strangely, I had more issues with my 15mm than 10mm EP. While there is some pseudo-3D look, it looked a tad softer. I will continue my struggles with binoviewing another time. :lol:

A very satisfying night.

Addendum:

The Moon was just next to Jupiter, so I slewed over for a quick look after viewing Jupiter. It looked a bit tighter in the 15/70 EP than I remembered — perhaps it was closer this time.

When the Moon becomes full, I must pull out my ES 11/82 EP and see why I can't fit it in! :lol:

I forgot to use the binoviewer on the Moon! :duh:

A big view of Jupiter, or not

Last Friday (22 June), the skies cleared up, so I made a trip down to my local observatory (Science Centre) for their weekly stargazing session.

My objective is to view Jupiter through some bigger scopes and see how much I'm missing out.

The main telescope is a 16" f/13 Cassegrain reflector, housed in a 2nd-floor dome. I have very high expectation. If they target 1mm exit pupil, the magnification would be 400x! (The sky here can support such magnification on good nights — with room to spare.)

Unfortunately, the last time I was there, clouds had rolled in and all I could see was a dim brown marshmallow.

This time, they set up a C8 (8" f/10) at the open space as well, also pointing at Jupiter. Wonderful! It'll be a more meaningful comparison against my scope — at least I can afford to upgrade to this scope if it proved much better!

After half-an-hour of waiting (there is a time slot and you need to queue), it was finally my turn. I looked up. Sky was clear. Jupiter was shining bright at 55 degrees altitude. Perfect!

What fabulous sight awaited before me?

A bright white disc. It was big, but not as big as I had expected. I could vaguely see traces of the main belts. And three donuts on one of its side.

"Is it focused?", I asked.

Why sure it is, the person manning it answered. He even double checked.

Hmm. I went back to make the most of my time at the scope. (There is no set limit, but keep in mind the queue behind you.)

After that, I checked what eyepiece was used. It was a 40mm Tele Vue eyepiece. The magnification works out to be 130x (@ 3mm exit pupil).

Disappointed and puzzled, I exited the dome, climbed down the stairs and walked over to the C8. After a short wait, it was my turn. Jupiter was very bright and very small. And it was a little out-of-focus.

This time, the person manning the scope said I could adjust the focus. Finally, Jupiter snapped into focus. I could just barely make out the two main belts in brown. It was too bright.

I gave up after a while because the image was just too small and glaring to see any details beyond the main belts. The C8 was on a manual equatorial mount and needed constant adjustment. I looked at the eyepiece. It was a 40mm Tele Vue eyepiece. The magnification is just 51x (@ 4mm exit pupil).

"Jupiter is pretty small", I remarked. The person agreed. She said this scope was meant to view the Moon.

I gazed up at the sky. Jupiter was still shining bright and clouds were still some way off. If I hurried home, perhaps I could get a proper view of Jupiter.

What went wrong?

First, I wonder if the focal point of my eyes is so far from norm? Even with my glasses?

Second, it didn't dawned to me that I could ask to adjust the focus myself.

But lastly and most disappointingly, the magnifications used were too low. They should at least be doubled: 100x for C8 and 250x for the main scope.

Home

When I reached home, clouds had blanketed the skies. Unexpectedly, they blew over rather quickly (within an hour), so I hurried out to observe.

I used both 15mm EP (100x @ 1.2mm exit pupil) and 10mm EP (150x @ 0.79mm e.p.). Jupiter was at 73 degrees altitude and was bright white, but not excessively so, much sharper and detailed. As a bonus, the GRS was in view. The four moons were dots with airy disc around them (as usual).

I did not go higher as high-level clouds were limiting Jupiter's brightness (but not its stability).

I had my answer.

It's all about exit pupil

Third post on Cloudy Nights with some corrections:

Bright and/or high contrast objects can defy the usual law of useful magnification, but the rest, such as Jupiter and Saturn, have to obey them.

A commonly quoted limit is 1.3 x aperture-in-mm. At this magnification, the scope is already at full resolution. Anything higher is simply to make it bigger for you to see, but it will not be more detailed. For your Mak, it would be 234x (using 11.5mm eyepiece). You can turn this around and think of this as the minimum magnification to use. :-D

So, what stops you from using higher magnification? One word: exit pupil. As magnification increases, the image gets dimmer, more blurred, and floaters become more visible. At some point, they are not worth it anymore. (Mount and seeing issues aside.)

Another way to phrase 1.3x aperture-in-mm is 0.77mm exit pupil.

Another limit is 0.7mm exit pupil, the lower bound for our eyes to detect low contrast features. This is important if you want to view the low contrast features of Jupiter and Saturn. Higher magnification works, but you may see less. This is 257x (10.5 mm eyepiece) on your Mak.

These numbers will vary by person, but I guess they won't deviate by much.

While it is good to experiment with extreme magnification, after a while, you may find that you don't need very high powers after all.

I can see the two main belts of Jupiter at 60x (25mm EP), with a hint of a third belt below. It had not dawned to me to look for the GRS at 60x, but I see it distinctly — it is really pale — at 75x (20mm EP). To see anything else, I need to use 188x (8mm EP). Somewhere between 170x (0.74mm exit pupil) to 188x (0.68mm exit pupil) Jupiter dims just enough to reveal gradual shading (I didn't try 176x [17mm / 2, 0.72mm exit pupil]). I have used as high as 448x (6.7mm / 2), but it just shows more-of-the-same (the image quality is still surprisingly okay).

For Saturn, I see the Cassini Division distinctly at 60x and a hint of the equatorial band. At 88x (17mm EP), I can see A ring is much fainter than B ring. (I didn't try 20mm.) Sadly, that's all I can see, no matter how much power I use, but I haven't spent much time on it.

It took me a while before I realized the futility of using too-high magnification. The truth: the scope forms the image, the eyepiece magnifies it. 0.7mm exit pupil is the max for every scope. Want to see more details? Get a bigger scope.

Piling on debt

News: Malaysia's debt at alarming level of S$337 billion, says Dr Mahathir

Date: 22 May 2018. Source: Today.

Malaysia's debt has reached an alarming RM1 trillion (S$337 billion), said Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Monday (May 21), as he pledged to restore the nation to its former glory.

Blaming the previous government led by former protégé Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who now faces domestic graft investigations, Dr Mahathir said important measures must be taken for the South-east Asian country to quickly recover from the situation, pointing out Malaysia had debts of about RM300 billion only when he was previously prime minister for 22 years.

"We find that the country’s finances for example, was abused in a way that now we are facing trouble settling debts that have risen to a trillion ringgit," he said in his maiden address to civil servants of the Prime Minister's Department.

"We have never had to deal with this before. Before we never faced debts higher than RM300 billion, but now it has climbed to RM1 trillion."

The next few months will be very interesting. Introducing fuel subsidy and doing away with GST will make it worse.

In other news, Finance Ministry has been paying 1MDB debt since April 2017 (for a total of RM6.98 bil), and the next payment, RM143.75 million, is due 30 May. And the next payment is RM810.21 mil (of interest!) between September and November.

And these are small potatoes compared to its guaranteed debt of RM38 billion (US$9.54 bil). And even this pales against the country's debt of RM1 trillion...

I won't be surprised if Dr Mahathir pulls a rabbit out of his hat — something he has done in critical situations before. 1MDB has to be contained somehow.

Update: Dr Mahathir has decided to cancel the HSR project.

Peak bazaar rent

News: Rising rents worry some Geylang Serai bazaar stall owners

Date: 21 May 2018. Source: ST.

Rent for 2.7m by 2.7m food stall has doubled from $10,000 in 2014 to $20,000 this year

The annual Hari Raya bazaar in Geylang Serai has drawn huge crowds in recent years, but stall owners say they have had to pay a price for the bustling event.

They say rental costs have jumped by at least 10 per cent to 20 per cent from last year, and some even claimed to be paying more than double the rate.

The Straits Times interviewed 13 hawkers at the bazaar, which officially opened last Thursday - the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan - and runs until June 14.

The bazaar features more than 800 stalls which sell food, cookies, traditional clothing, jewellery, rugs and many other items.

It cost about $10,000 to rent a 2.7m by 2.7m food stall in the bazaar in 2014, but that figure has doubled to $20,000 this year. Clothing and decoration retail stall tenants had to fork out an average of $9,000 for the same space this year.

This HWZ forummer puts it much better than I can:

Singapore is well known to be an extractive rent-seeking economy in which significant wealth is accrued by individuals who are economically unproductive relative to those they are collecting rent from, namely the biggest landlord, the government and its cronies.

This is Singapore's downfall as capitalism is in essence meant to reward those who are most productive, not those who can pass laws and regulations to sap wealth from other productive working individuals.

Of course, the biggest landlord, its cronies, rent seekers and other obvious direct beneficiaries of rent seeking behavior here will strongly disagree with me or maintain their silence.

Everyone aspires to be a landlord because they see how easy and profitable it is.

I'll calling peak rental this year, as there are now not enough stalls to fill up the whole space (gap between stalls).