Monday, October 13, 2014

started the ball rolling

Started preparations for The Sky This Month in December. Now. Yes, now. Increasingly upset with my lack of readiness the last few times. And I'm sure it will be a zany time, then. So, while I have a few cycles... Asked the Operations group for a handful of dates in the first bit of January. I'd really like to know when the next Recreational Astronomy Night meeting will be. That's what I usually use as the framework. Eric sent me a weird Excel attachment. It had some astronomical events noted, all of which I knew about. And no RASC Toronto Centre events. And in the body of the message, he referred me to the 2015 Observer's Handbook. Sent a clarifying email.

final schematic

Hopefully this is the final schematic. Ian seems to think it is OK. Voltage divider added. Squished, both vertically and horizontally. Text tuned. Traces, particularly around the motor simplified. A pure schematic; does not represent the physical structure with various jumpers.

From ExpressSCH. Inverted in Paint.

divided the output

Put a voltage divider on the output side. 100 and 330 ohm resistors. Pulling output now from the 330 channel. Now I can vary the volts from 0.6 to 3.6. It looks like 1.35 volts is the around the sweet spot turning the motor at 4 RPM. And that's 2.5 turns (out of 10) on the pot. Before I was less than 1 turn from the end. I suppose there are different VRs that would work but I have lots of resistors kickin' around.

got it working

Rewired it from scratch. Measured output. Yeh. Saw volts as low as 1.2 and change. Connected the motor. 4 revs in 1 minute 6 seconds. In the ball park now, unlike the first attempt.

Still, I'm down at the very end of the pot. No more room...

Reviewed Ian's notes. "VOUT... with the pot turned down to 0 [should] be 1.25." My results agreed with this. But I wondered if I could get it lower. He showed the formula:
Output voltage = 1.25 x (1 - R2/R1) 
where R2 is the pot and R1 is the... resistor [on the output side].

I punched that into Excel and got crazy numbers. Rising exponentially?

He sent me a link. But it didn't work. Crikey!

Fortunately, the 404 page was smart and offered a search. Looked up the LM317. Ah ha! Formula was wrong too!
Output voltage = 1.25 x (1 + R2/R1)
Then I found the calculator!

And learned, quickly, why it doesn't matter that it's a 1k pot...


LED seems to be responding better too...

prototyped with components

Prototyped the circuit on the Maxitronix Electronic Lab. Used all the provided and cobbled electronic parts, except for the switches. Didn't seem to work initially. No red LED. Motor not turning. Started to debug. Something downstream? Grabbed the digital multimeter.

Something was not right. Input volts checked out OK: 9.0 volts. Volts at the north-south switch showed high initially, 8 volts. Then 1 or 2. Oh. The momentary switch on the lab was bad. Shorted it. Tested again. Smooth now. But never went really low, like to 1 or 2. Minimum was 3. Checked the output of the N-S switch. Saw the polarity flip. Connected the motor. It turned. Looked too fast.

Fired up the stopwatch. Was not surprised to see RPMs twice as fast.

probably too crowded

Took a look at the layout. Not happy. I was very worried about physical space. I think the project box might be too small. The main power switch, north-south switch, and big multi-turn pot would all protrude into the available space. Last night I had forgotten to include the motor connection, the RCA female. All competing with the 9 volt battery... I decided to put it aside and test the components.

started the layout

Downloaded the latest ExpressPCB. Fired it up. Weird. Was up to speed in no time. It all came back. Sweet. In the schematic tool, added all the components and built the circuit. Then switched to board tool, and started the layout. I want to try and fit it in the Hammond red project box with the Sayal PCB. Ugh. Crowded. Woo! Getting late...

supplemented parts

Dove into my parts bin to supplement and better match.

Found 10μF and 100μF electrolytic capacitors. Substituted them for the 0.22 and 1 from Ian W.

Found three printed circuit boards. One specially designed. Probably wouldn't work. The other two were general prototyping boards.

Grabbed a round, with red toggle, single-pole switch. That would work nicely for power.

Decided to add a LED power indicator. Found a 2.5mm diffuse red LED. Snagged a 470 Ω resistor.

Stumbled across the transparent red project box! Ha. A little small but it might work...

How about that. I have all the electronic bits now...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

reviewed tracker parts

Inspected the parts from Ian W for the barn door tracker. That he handed to me at the CAO. Electrical and mechanical. I was very pleased to receive the gears and pre-formed threaded rod. And the ¼-20!

The capacitors are different than what I was expecting, different than Ian's schematic.

part expected received
C2 non-polarised 0.1 0.01
C3 polarised 10 0.22
C4 polarised 100 1.0

I didn't think C2 would matter too much. But I thought the C3 and C4 wildly off. How would it impact things? These are for smoothing. On the input side (even though on a battery) and output (for consistent tracking).

The multi-turn potentiometer was also different. The circuit said 500 ohms; the provided one was 1000.

The diodes were different. 1N4003 as opposed to 1N4004. I didn't think this would matter. The power rating of the 3 was still more than sufficient for the project.

The big surprise was the motor. When I removed it from it's bag, I noted the battery pack what was attached. Huh. To hold one D type battery. And that, in turn, meant the motor would operator on 1.5 volts. Half the rating as specified by Gary Seronik.

library of darks

Added a new page to the lumpy companion, a list of dark frame captures, for durations, ISOs, etc. For the Canon 40D.

Omni online

From Facebook, spotted a Wired post on Omni magazine.

Wired showcased, in a slideshow, a few "amazing" advertisements from the '80s. Atari, Apple, Commodore, Casio. Funny.

Then I learned that the magazine made much of its back catalog available on the Internet Archive.

Not new news. But wow.

Bought the first issue, October 1978. Bought many issues after that. I was a fan.

nearly done Watch

All but done the second book in the WWW series by Robert Sawyer, Watch.

Curious, these books. Very close to home. I went to University of Waterloo. I know of the Perimeter Institute, through my astronomy contacts. I'm involved in the computer industry. I'm fascinated by emergent behavior.

The connections and spinoffs are interesting. I paused to read the (real) paper The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era by Vernor Vinge. Referred to in Sawyer's book. Weird, intertwining. An real SF author talking about a read SF author in a fiction in which the SF author wrote a non-fiction piece. And I know this author, having read some of his fiction work.

A persistent image in these tomes: the view of the earth from the Moon by the Apollo 8 astronauts. An image burn into my consciousness.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

brief planning

We talked briefly about the CAO work party. Now a week away. But I was awfully tired...

SCOPE in the wild

Eric reported being able to access the latest SCOPE edition on the web. Oops. He wondered if a security setting was awry. Allard said he'd look into it. Our own data breaches to worry about...

morning, Moon (Etobicoke)

Spotted a gibbous Moon down the back lane as I departed for Tony's work party.

Friday, October 10, 2014

remotely rebooted

Helped Wayne with local area network issues at the CAO. He reported "no internet." But I suspected it was no local IP. Had him reboot the main house router to rejuvenate the DHCP server. He sent an email. Working again, clearly.

assembled calendar team

It doesn't look like anyone is taking charge of selling RASC calendars. Guy sent a note to the main listserv if anyone would be selling at the meeting—no one replied. I guess I'll have to step up. Figure out who will order and receive them. I was worried about my workload, given work-work, and my upcoming Council responsibilities. Perhaps I could employ a helper. Reached out to Peter. He offered to assist. Yeh!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

CCtCap work resumes

NASA authorised the commercial crew contractors to continue their work. Good. Too much risk was introduced. Space X and Boeing can resume work. I suspect they never stopped. The GAO will continue to investigate Sierra Nevada's protest.

Uranus from the backyard

Tony sent me some of his recent Uranus images, from September 25. Wow. He did great. I could Oberon, Titania, Umbriel easily. Ariel is just barely visible. And, of course, the star GSC 00018-0699.

Image by Tony dos Santos. Made by eyepiece projection. Canon 60 Da on bulb. Eyepiece 8.7 mm in CGEM 1100. Eyepiece adapter CNC Parts Supply. 42 seconds, unguided. Minimal processing. Cropped by moi.

He thanked me for showing him our distant planets at Starfest.

no go Nov 1

I'm very said I won't be able to see Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood introduce 2001 by TIFF Cinematheque. Sold out. Stop. It would be so amazing...

operators needed

Sent a message to the CAO supervisors group on Ian's behalf. He needs a couple of telescope operators for the next EPO event at the observatory.

blue data

Shared some observation notes with Mr Crinklaw. That both Ian and I had not been able to see (or image) NGC 7325. Asked where he obtained his galaxy dimension data. Greg replied:
This galaxy is indeed small. If you download a blue next generation DSS image you can see that it is tiny, although it does have a roundish halo around it. The dimensions of the galaxy are for the halo. This galaxy has a very bright core (it was even picked up as a GSC star). The magnitude reflects this bright core, which is very small.
So, the dimensions come from a slice of the spectrum. Perhaps not representative of full spectrum visual observing. Or one-shot colour. Once again, it means, while viewing charts in SkyTools, one must take the display with a grain of salt.

coming soon

Caroline asked about the status of the 2015 RASC Observer's Handbook. Denis replied:
The OH is usually distributed to members by the end of October. There are no production issues or delays that I am aware of.
Looking forward to it.

second clear morning (Etobicoke)

Another clear morning. Sirius blazing to the south. Brilliant Jupiter up high. Wonderful blue-to-orange gradient to the east. Today I spotted the Moon, over the house, as I looked over my shoulder.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

roof funded

Tony and Phil ran a 50-50 draw at the meeting this evening. Michelle drew the winning ticket. One lucky party took home a tidy sum of beer money. The balance went to the Carr Astronomical Observatory roof fund.

ready for your posts

Leslie asked, yesterday, by email if the web site editing processes were different, had been changed. We chatted during the OSC meeting. Nope. She could go ahead and add her articles. She conveyed that she was disappointed the session back in Dec 2013 did not have more hands-on time. I agreed. Told her about my plans to run a webinar.

members signed the banner

Learned of World Space Week and the Canadian Space Society tonight from Michelle Mandes. They brought a "I'm on board!" banner for all to sign. It will make its way to Florida for the NASA Orion test-flight launch.

World Space Week is an international celebration of science and technology, and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition. The United Nations General Assembly declared in 1999 that World Space Week will be held each year from October 4-10.

The Canadian Space Society (CSS) is a national non-profit organization made up of professionals and enthusiasts pursuing the human exploration and development of the Solar System and beyond. Its principal objective is to stimulate the Canadian space industry through its technical and outreach projects and promote the involvement of Canadians in the development of space.


Later, Sharmin gave out stickers.

delivered TSTM

Delivered my The Sky This Month presentation at the Ontario Science Centre for the RASC Toronto Centre. For Oct 8 - Nov 12. Not my best work.

Typos in my handout. Challenges with Stellarium. The netbook seemed very slow even though I had no other apps running, Super Performance Mode on. Always challenging on an extended desktop. Open Office Impress was finicky too. Showed a white panel when I started my presentation. Had to kill Stellarium to recovery. Crikey. Forgot my keyboard light. Didn't see a light on the lecturn. It was a struggle to see the keys on the keyboard. Looked like I had enough handouts (60). Overall, I felt out of sorts. I had not rehearsed.

Photo by Sharmin.

I'm betwixt and between. I like using Stellarium on one hand to simulate events in a realistic way. But it cumbersome. It's probably too clunky and distracting to the audience member. Maybe I should stick with screen snapshots... I dunno.


Highlights include:
  • partial solar eclipse on October 23 (caution!)
  • Mercury visible in mornings
  • Mars moves eastward rapidly
  • Uranus close, try to see its moons
  • Neptune, similarly, close, try to see Triton
  • three bright comets to view or image
  • C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will pass close to Mars
  • ESA probe at 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
  • view targets in Perseus, Cepheus, Andromeda, Lacerta, and Pegasus
  • help assess light pollution

Presentation notes and calendar are online at the RASC Toronto Centre web site as well as the lumpy companion.

go direct

Helped, hopefully, a member with Stellarium and his Celestron. He said he tried driving his Celestron from the computer but when he finished the hand controller no longer worked. In fact, he had to reflash it! Yikes. That didn't sound normal. I learned that he was using the StellariumScope client-server program. I said that wasn't necessary. He could use the built-in driver. Quickly showed him where it was. He said he'd try.

CAO work party notice sent

Lora sent out the CAO work party notice. On the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. Thanks!

heard from Gary

Heard from Gary in Hamilton. Down with pneumonia. Get better. Then we can talk about the CAO work party weekend.

very clear (Etobicoke)

Wow. Clear. Assumed it would cloudy and rainy. Looked like people might be able to take in the lunar eclipse this morning. Happy for them. I was probably too late to see anything. Even with a clear western sight  line. I kept looking over my shoulder as I headed toward the Scarlett Road bus stop. No luck. Nice colourful sky to the east. Spotted a very bright point up high to the south-south-east. Jupiter? {ed: Confirmed in Astrolabe.} The distant cloud bank looked like a mountain range.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

TMT ground broken

The Thirty Meter Telescope dedication took place atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea or "White Mountain." Ground was broken for the $1.4 billion project. Due to be completed in 2022, it will gather eight times the light of any other optical telescope.

Monday, October 06, 2014

next First Light

Sharmin asked if I was preparing the handout for the upcoming meeting. And if I was if I could include notes about First Light. November 6, 13, and 20. For new members, as per usual. I told her I wasn't. Referred her to Charles for the meeting handout. But offered to put the dates in my calendar.

pause please

Oh boy. NASA has ordered Space X and Boeing to halt work on their crew-rated spacecraft develop in response to a complaint by Sierra Nevada. Great. Just great. The USA is trying desperately to get back into the space taxi business while one company stirs the pot. An article appeared Jalopnik which might sum up what many are thinking: Sore Loser Puts SpaceX And Boeing Spaceship Development On Hold. Now, that said, SNC may have a legitimate complaint. If the competition wasn't fair and balanced, they have a right to challenge the decision. It is difficult for the public to know what's truly happening with all the secrecy and cloaking. But SNC's early Dream Chaser failure did not inspire confidence. Then again, I don't recall Boeing demonstrating a lot of progress, compared to Space X. Yet, it has station reboost capabilities. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has 100 days to respond.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

flew over to 51 Peg

That's freaky. I just fired up Eyes on Exoplanets and zoomed in on 51 Pegasi.

Solar eclipse (occultation) from orbit. Wow.

RASC stuff

Wow. Today became a pretty intense RASC day. I wanted to do a bunch of prep for the TSTM presentation I have to deliver. Still working on that... Did a bunch CAO work party planning, setting up a meeting with Tony, responding to Lora's preamble message, reaching out to the Hamilton crew, reviewing Tony's initial job list. Also sent a note out about the listserv, encouraging people to include their real names, responding to Joe's security privacy concerns. Responded to Ian's idea for a telescope locker. Followed up with Ralph on sound playback at the CAO. And relayed the meeting start time complaint to the operations group. Asked about the solar observing entry on the 18th.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

made an imaging list

Just made a list in SkyTools for objects to image. Don't know why I never thought of this before. Of course, SkyTools will filter out things that are no good. This will be handy when I'm viewing something and I think, for whatever reason, I should photograph this. It should also prove helpful when I feel like imaging but I can't remember what I considered before.

lumpy dunes

SETI, on Facebook, linked to Lori Fenton's Blog, a planetary research scientist. She explained why some sand dunes on Mars are lumpy and bumpy. Included an image from HiRISE, thanks to NASA, JPL, University of Arizona.

Enjoy the lumpy darkness in the sand.

went relative

Corrected a bunch of link issues in the NGC and other deep sky pages. Absolute to relative.

checked 7325

Checked NGC 7325 in Aladin with the Simbad overlay. It is definitely smaller than 7326. And fainter. Simbad suggests it is magnitude 16.

I submit that the presentation in SkyTools is a little off.

Sent a note to Greg.


Found my hand warmers! In storage. Forgot I put them there. In a box labelled "cold weather." Ah, yeah.

Now I can easily do the Bill-Supergenius-Longo-Special. He's so genius.

removed hot pixels

Worked on the first aurora movie again. I was not happy with the hot pixels. Spent way too many hours on Friday night trying to apply a filter inside VirtualDub. After struggling with HotSpot Remover and LogoAway, I gave up. In the morning, I fired up Photoshop, tweaked a master dark, and then ran a script to apply it to all the individual frames. Redid the movie. Much better. But I'm in the week cycle before I can upload another HD movie to Vimeo...