Friday, April 20, 2018

saw TESS on DSN

Charles shared a screen snapshot on Facebook.

snapshot of the DSN network page

Very cool to see TESS listed on the Deep Space Network.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

learned TESS is powered

Missed the launch; I was shovelling the driveway! Sheesh. Received Tony's email from Florida as they were heading to the viewing site. Finally checked Spaceflight Now and Facebook. Learned SpaceX successfully launched. Yeh! Reloaded Spaceflight and learned that, as of 19:58, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite was "power positive." The feed history reported:
The TESS spacecraft is receiving power generated by its twin solar arrays and ground controllers are [pouring] over telemetry as they check out of the spacecraft's systems following launch.
Great, great news.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

OK to go

Spotted Charles's note on Facebook regarding TESS. He says they are good to go for tomorrow.

Monday, April 16, 2018

read tracker comparison

Found a good comparison of tracking mounts. It compares camera mounts I've heard of like the Star Adventurer and the Polarie with ones I've not heard such as NanoTracker and Minitrack-LX. The article by Lorenzo Comolli, while dated, contains mini-reviews of the units with a large table showing features and capabilities.

learned about SkyGuider

Chatted with Wayne today via Facebook. He has ordered the iOptron SkyGuider Pro. Never heard of it. It is a new astronomy tracking mount for cameras. This summer, it'll be neat to see it in action. Told Wayne about my BDT progress. This whole arena is getting very interesting...

explosions and green fuzzies

Nick recently put out a query on the RASC TC forum. He wanted to know good sources for supernovae and comets.

He indicated he preferred a simple website. He said he found "some resource websites are not very intuitive or user-friendly."

Bryon suggested for comets.

Eric said "the best site for... supernovae is not far away, just over Lake Ontario in Rochester, NY."

I reminded Nick that his SkyTools Starter Edition software should help.

He thanked us.

TESS scrubbed

Learned the TESS launch was scrubbed for today! Grace (on Facebook) and Tanya (on Twitter). No reason why yet... I think I read somewhere that there are no good windows until later in the week.


From SpaceX's Twitter feed:
Standing down today to conduct additional [Guidance, Navigation, and Control] analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of @NASA_TESS on Wednesday, April 18.
The next launch opportunity will come at 6:51 PM EDT Wednesday. The launch times change based on TESS's orbital target and the position of the moon, which the satellite will use to help maneuver into its final high-altitude science orbit.

they made it

I was glad to see the Toronto contingent made it out of the ice storm for Florida for the TESS launch.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

2¼ years

Wood finishing aside, finder cross-hair repair aside, the integrated altitude-azimuth base for the barn door tracker is done. From first thoughts to today, 2 years, 2 months, and 5 days. A long journey surprisingly but satisfying. I'm excited to try it. Overall I'm very pleased with the build. And it accomplishes something that I wanted, that it is a complete DIY solution, drive train, electronics, barn door wedge, and now alt-az base made of the same materials and accessible hardware, constructed with tools available at home.

tapped a bracket

w00t! I suddenly realised I could complete the azimuth adjuster of the barn door tracker. While looking at web pages for ideas on how to fasten a metal nut to a metal plate and discovering threaded rivets and wondering if I had a J-nut that might fit, it registered: I could make a threaded hole in one of the brass L-brackets, employing my rarely-used tap-and-die set. Right! Decided to tap the outer bracket and lock the bolt in the inner. Grabbed a fresh bracket from the 4-pack, drilled a 13/64" hole, lubricated with lighter fluid, tapped with the ¼-20 tapered tool, and then bolted everything up. And, amazingly, it is fully functional.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

missed Mars event

I missed it! There was a recent interesting Mars milestone.

I was checking the S&T Mars Profiler and noticed that the Earth-Mars distance was 0.98 astronomical units. I missed the 1.0 AU boundary.

catching up to Mars

Must have happened a short time ago.

hacked a cap

Found a container that will work as a cap for the finder scope. Rhonda had the ends of a supply of bath salts in a small diameter clear tube. It will work well I think.

snapped a hair

Discovered that one of the cross-hairs broke or snapped in the finder scope. Oops. Probably happened when I knocked it over, the first time. Or maybe the second time... Uh boy. Gotta fix it again! Asked Rhonda if she could donate to the cause once again.

worked on the BDT alt-az base

More work on the barn door tracker alt-az base.

Drilled new holes for the motor, which sits to the outboard side now.

BDT with new altitude adjuster

Notched the bottom plate of the alt-az plates to improve clearance issues. I see there's the possibility of the curved rod touching.

Countersunk the new tripod T-nut in the alt-az bottom plate. Went down about 1 or 2 mm into the wood.

BDT with new azimuth adjuster

Drilled a new hole in the outer L-bracket for the azimuth adjustment screw. This aligns with the existing hole on the inner bracket. Decided to mount the screw handle on the "outer" side as I imaged it will get crowded around the tripod head.

Trimmed the cut or drilled pieces of the bottom tile to remove rough spots.

All but done. I need either metal-to-metal glue or to tack-weld the nut to the inner L-bracket. I think it should go on the inside face...


I found the finder scope bracket was mounted backwards. I think. Flipped it around.

Friday, April 13, 2018

made M47 colour image

Processed Messier 47 in colour using the LRGB data from 20 Dec '16. Most of the stars are blue-white.

open cluster Messier 47 in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop.

built alt-az base

Worked on the barn door tracker, taking steps to add the altitude-azimuth base, now that I have figured out how to make it work...

It's elegant, I think, the pivot away from the hinges and the azimuth adjuster completely out of the way.

Attached the hinges to the bottom (large rectangular) plate of the BDT proper. Removed the motor. It will need to move outboard...

I'm running out of ½" number 6 brass screws... Cut down some longer screws.

Attached the top plate of the alt-az to the hinges. After a couple of attempts, installed the altitude adjuster using an eye bolt, t-nut, and mending plate. Had to ensure clearance between the finder scope and the triangular moving plate of the BDT. Locked two nuts on the eye bolt just so it can't go astray. It works great!

After clamping the alt-az plates together, I bore a 3/8" hole for the pivot bolt. Installed the bolt with washers and locked the two nuts together. It too works great! Smoother than I anticipated.

Determined where to place the azimuth adjuster parts. At first I thought I had a new problem with interference with the hinges; when I realised I could put the L-bracket in a different orientation and between the sliding plates, I knew I could move forward. Notched the bottom tile plate for the L-bracket.

Tore the base apart and glued the slippery tile pieces to the respective boards with Home-bond Solvent Contact Cement. Left it to cure under several mount counterweights...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

reworked the alt-az plates

Whoa. Figured it out. Finally, I found a way to effectively mount the bottom altitude-azimuth plates for the barn door tracker. It's only taken me 9 months!

sketch of alt-az plates, flipped

In a moment of inspiration, I realised by turning the whole assembly upside-down, I could get the azimuth pivot point away from the hinges, and the azimuth adjuster would be away from the plate above.

A fringe benefit is there is now greater clearance for the altitude adjuster.

just a couple more

The capture of NGC 4517 even though not in ideal conditions checks off another box. One more RASC Finest NGC photographed. Nearly done.

received some NGC 4517 data (Halifax)

Wasn't expecting anything as the Clear Sky Chart for Halifax did not look good... No email alert from CSAC. But BGO was up and running I guess and tried to shoot NGC 4517 at 12:28 AM EDT. A message however was generated at 1:02. "Your special observation... was not fully completed!" Uh huh. Only luminance and red data was collected.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 4517 in luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

This needle galaxy in the constellation Virgo is a RASC Finest NGCs. It is referred to as NGC 4437 in some catalogues. Other designations: PGC 41618 and UGC 7694 and MCG 0-32-20. For BGO to work, I had to use the 4517 moniker; in SkyTools 3 Pro, I used 4437.

The edge-on spiral galaxy appears dappled with dark material. Despite the low image quality, it is very interesting. The right edge, west, appears stretched or elongated. Reminds me a bit of The Whale.

North-north-west of the big galaxy, in an empty dark space, is a very faint round smudge: LEDA 1161319.

Very close to a star in a diamond pattern is a round fuzzy, slightly brighter: LEDA 1161987.

To the south-west, there are many small, distant galaxies. Close to 4517 is a small bright almond: LEDA 1156277.

Beyond is a very small but bright round fuzz ball: LEDA 1155353.

South is a larger brighter oval: PGC 41566.

LEDA 1154647 lies to the south-east. It is a curious shape, like a wedge. It might be among 3 or 4 other tiny, faint galaxies!

Further away is LEDA 1153315, a tiny seed-like shape.

LEDA 1156614 is east of the trapezoid of stars south-east of the big spiral. Perfectly round and small.

I also spotted the very tiny faint smudge east of NGC 4517: LEDA 1157892.



Wikipedia link: NGC 4517.

the only way

Stumbled across John McCue's short article (with very nice sketch) for the BAA's Journal entitled "Observing Double Stars." His opening remark is intriguing:
Observing the time it takes for two stars to orbit each other in a binary system is still the only direct way to measure the mass of a star - knowledge that is central to the study [of stars].
He uses a stopwatch and calibrated eyepiece to measure doubles. He notes that one can use Aladin with their own photos and it will calculate the separation and position angle.

easy to do

Found Jason Nishyama's article entitled "Measuring Double Stars" at the Calgary RASC website. He walks through the whole process for people using either an alt-az or equatorial mount. He also discussed who to compute separation and position angle from photographs. There's a bit of math but he presents the topic clearly.

all this beauty

A Google search lead me directly to a PDF article on the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association web site called "Observing Double Stars." The overall tone of this piece is like how I presented things in my recent RASC TC double star presentation. The author (not identified) begins:
Some of the most beautiful and intriguing objects in the night sky are not enshrouded in nebulosity, shaped like rings or dumbbells or eagles, or crossed by mysterious lanes of dark, cosmic dust.
While I like faint fuzzies, doubles offer glittering gems with real colours.
Tracking down and observing double stars can be like going on a nocturnal treasure hunt.
Well put, if I may say so.

Then, later, the author laments.
With all this beauty and interest going for them, you would think double star observing is one of the most popular aspects of amateur astronomy.  And yet, although this facet of amateur astronomy has a respectable number of participants, it does not currently enjoy as much popularity as it has in years past.
This, while sad, is affirming. I'm not the only one who feels this way. Why are double stars not popular today?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

clear from the curb (Bradford)

Quite clear out as I carried compost to the curb. Many stars. The Big Dipper was straight up and upside-down. After closing the frost-covered lid, I tried south, and spotted bright Mars, glowing pale orange. We have a rendezvous...

upgraded deep red

Upgraded my deep red flashlight. Now it operates 4 LEDs as opposed to the 2 of the original build. Had the angle DIP socket ready to go with 2 vacant spots. I don't know why but I didn't future-proof the circuit board when I made it so I had to do a wee bit of soldering... Anyhoo. Quick fix.

deep red flashlight now with 4 emitters

Happy to have more 660nm emitters now when I need a bit more light... Easy expansion was designed in from day 1.

confirmed TESS time

Confirmed the planned launch of TESS is 6:32 PM Eastern Daylight on Monday 16 April.

TESS at the Cape

Spotted the item posted by Charles on Facebook. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in the fairing it ready to be mounted.

SpaceX TESS fairing at NASA

Gettin' real.

battery options

Given the difficulty we have had at finding a replacement 33Ah battery for the Sealake FM12330, I've been starting to think about options or alternatives...

original battery configuration with positive on right

The perfect solution. An OEM battery that matches what I found inside the MotoMaster Nautilus power tank would be ideal. The correct dimensions, close to the amp-hours, and the nut-bolt terminals in the correct configuration. Interesting, the stock sealed lead acid battery is lying on its back.

alternate configuration with positive on left

Option 1. Actually, this is Wayne's solution, as he bought a similar (slightly larger) battery that had the terminals reversed. He needed heavy gauge interconnect wires to reach the terminals.

alternate configuration with upright short battery

Option 2. I have looked a little for a battery that is short but deep, in an upright configuration, the same overall form factor as stock battery when on its back.

alternate configuration with two smaller batteries

Option 3. And lately, I've been thinking we are barking up the tree. Maybe we should rethink the solution. Would it be easier to find two smaller batteries and interconnect them in parallel?

In a parallel arrangement, the same battery terminals would be connected. Positive to positive and negative to negative. When done, we can add the amperage and average the volts. So two 18Ah 12 volt SLAs in parallel would put out 36 ampere-hours.

Again, this option needs heavy gauge wire to interconnect the batteries. And there needs to be clearances inside the casing and mounting to support this.


A problem with the dual battery option is that 1 + 1 ≠ 2. The case for individual small batteries looks to be around 3 inches, maybe just under. But combined, it exceeds the depth limit of 5¼". Each separate battery should not be deeper than 2-5/8"...

chatted on apps

Murray P, a RASC west member, and I chatted today as he prepares an article for Jul/Aug SkyNews magazine. He wanted to know my thoughts on the recently reviewed Mars app. I assumed he was asking about the Android option. Told him I had not heard back from the developer despite many attempts. Echoed my findings: the Android app is missing a number of features.

imaged galaxy NGC 4214 again (Halifax)

I tried imaging NGC 4214 with the BGO before in July 2017 but the results were not great. The robot captured more data again. This time when the galaxy was nearly straight up.

galaxy NGC 4214 in luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

Much better.

It also looks like there's a boat load of little distant galaxies in this image...


Looks like a cosmic ray hit north-west of the galaxy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

processed HR 8025 in colour

Processed HR 8025 aka β1137 in colour using the LRGB data from 12 Sep '16. I like how the colour image makes it easier to see the dull orange B star beside the aqua-white primary.

double star HR 8025 in colour

FITS Liberator 3, Photoshop CS2.


Opened an envelope today that I thought, at first, was from MTO, perhaps with information about my driver or auto licence. No. It was from Citizenship and Immigration... Holy Universe!

2018 Ontario Volunteer Service Awards invitation

I am honoured to be considered a recipient of Ontario Volunteer Service Award. I thank the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada - Toronto Centre for allowing me an opportunity to lend my skills and knowledge to the organisation so to ultimately help its members.

checked locations

Asked BGO to look up two objects...

object found position
NGC 4517 RA=12:32:47.5 DEC=+00d06'55"
NGC 4437 RA=12:26:47.5 DEC=+09d34'57"

So there ya go.

RASC says 4517 is at RA 12 32.8 and Dec +0 07. OK.

Should have requested 4517...

only one left

The capture of NGC 6445 means that I have seen 109 of the 110 RASC Finest NGCs. Holy Universe. One to go!

captured NGC 6445 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged NGC 6445 for me. It is one of the RASC Finest NGCs. Another planetary nebula. This time in Sagittarius.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 6445 in luminance

Luminance only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

A fascinating shape, more rectangular than round. Flying squirrel?! Curiously, the RASC Observer's Handbook describes the object as "annular;" no, it's not a ring, nothing like the Little Ghost. In a rich field, salted with fine faint stars. I don't see a star in the centre; there's a bright point though at the south-west corner...

This is another NGC I initially thought too low for the BGO. Glad I got it. This is a RASC Finest NGC that I have never viewed.

Forgot, again, to gather data in hydrogen alpha and ionised oxygen.

Left or east of the pecular planetary is a bright double star HD 162010 aka HJ 2810. The A star is very bright; B is dimmer by a magnitude or two, well away, almost due south.

snapped the Little Ghost (Halifax)

The BGO robot photographed the Little Ghost Nebula also known as NGC 6369. A planetary in the constellation of Ophiuchus and one of the RASC Finest NGCs. It's also a Herschel 400 target. Very nice.

a RASC Finest - planetary nebula NGC 6369 in luminance

Luminance only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

Originally, this is a target that I thought was too low for the Burke-Gaffney system. Alas when I learned that the default minimum altitude was not the lowest possible, I happily added this NGC object to the queue. It can reach a maximum altitude of 21°.

A lovely little donut. In a rich field of fine stars. The ring is brighter along the north edge. The central star is easily spotted. Slightly off centre. I believe I see hints of a shell beyond the main ring, particular to the top-left (north-east) and bottom-right sides. I first viewed this tiny target in August 2011.

Forgot to get HA and O-III data...


Wikipedia link: Little Ghost Nebula.

went for NGC 4437... (Halifax)

I sent BGO to NGC 4437 but was confused by what I received. I was expecting an edge-on galaxy in Virgo oriented east-west. The photograph did not match the graphical display in SkyTools. Also, I thought it was one of the RASC Finest NGCs...

not NGC 4437 but some other galaxy (or two)

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

I wondered if it was NGC 4517. No...

Fired up, logged in, and loaded the FITS. It identified the galaxy quickly: NGC 4417 (with NGC 4424 to the south). Oh my. This suggests there's an error in the BGO catalogue. Also neither NGC 4437 nor 4417 RASC Finest entries. I'm more confused than ever.

Still, it is an interesting photo. Two in the view!

Virgo galaxy NGC 4417 aka PGC 40756 appears to be a lenticular with no discernible structure in the canted disc. The core is very bright.

South-west of 4417 is a very low contrast but soft smudge. It is more apparent while panning. It is north-east of and near the star GSC 874-423. This is PGC 40722.

There is a very small oval to the south-east of 4417. This is LEDA 213990.

Near the bottom-left of the image is the very large distorted galaxy NGC 4424 aka PGC 40809. also identified it as IC 3366. The outer limits of the galaxy appear fan shaped. There are hints of structure near the muted core.

North-east of 4417 and well away is a round star-like object. This is PGC 40815. It almost looks like a globular cluster.

Up and left from this is a much dimmer fuzzy: LEDA 1369041.


OK. The confusion around NGC 4437 is due to an old catalogue error. Many consider that 4437 refers to NGC 4517 aka PGC 41618 and UGC 7694. SkyTools 3 Pro uses 4437. But BGO goes to 4417. Huh. I'll have to reshoot with BGO and try the designation 4517 instead...

I want 4517 as this is the entry in the handbook.