Thursday, April 02, 2020

the sky this month online

The rough cut of the streamed video from last night's The Sky This Month presentation for RASC Toronto Centre online series is available. Enjoy.

The accompanying article on the RASC TC web site includes all the text as well as a downloadable calendar and observing lists in a couple of different formats.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

couldn't see Messier 45 (Bradford)

Checked again. Venus was visible now. But dim. Pleiades were not visible. Boo!

couldn't see Venus (Bradford)

After my webcast, I tried to spot Venus. Clouded out. Thick enough to completely block Venus. The Moon was enshrouded in an iridescent cloak.

fluffy viewer

I have a fan.

snapshot of Sandor Squeako

He's furry and he's squeaky.

top Stellarium shortcuts

I made a "top" list for shortcuts in Stellarium.

Like any rich and mature software application, there are many. There are so many in fact that it can feel quite overwhelming. I thought I'd make a short list of the ones I use all the time. I use them so often that they now stick in my memory. I tried to whittle this down as much as possible.

Note: When the Macintosh method is different than Windows, I show the technique after a semi-colon.
  • zoom close to selected object: / (slash)
  • zoom out fully: \ (backslash)
  • zoom in OR out: PgUp; Fn Up Arrow OR PgDn; Fn Down Arrow
  • quickly pan celestial sphere: drag
  • select an object: click
  • centre on selected object: spacebar
  • deselect an object: right-click; ⌘-click
  • set date/time to now: 8
  • increase time flow: l (lower case L)
  • decrease time flow (or reverse it): j
  • run time at normal rate (real-time): k
  • forward OR backward 1 day (solar): = (equal) OR - (hyphen)
  • toggle cardinal compass direction points: q
  • toggle constellation stick figures: c
  • toggle constellation boundaries: b
  • toggle constellation labels: v
  • toggle deep sky/nebula labels/indicators: n or d
  • toggle altitude/azimuth OR equatorial grid: z OR e
  • toggle ecliptic (planets) path: , (comma)
  • toggle meridian (N-zenith-S) line: ; (semi-colon)
You can see that some are mnemonic so will hopefully help you recall.

All tolled, there are over 120 mouse-keyboard shortcuts in Stellarium, particularly when you have a number of plug-ins active.

See my complete list for other shortcuts.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

drafted article for local papers

Drafted an astronomy article for Simcoe papers. First time in a couple of months.

attended RASC webinar on Stellarium

Registered and attended the Homebound Astronomy webinar by RASC national office. Jenna was support; the session was lead by Chris V.

RASC homebound astronomy graphic

Chris introduced the Stellarium software and gave a nice introduction to using the tool. I answered a bunch of questions on the Zoom chat channel. And I sent a follow-up to Jenna after explaining that this is still officially beta software.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

drafted BU for early summer

Drafted the next RASC Journal Binary Universe article.

heady stuff

Watched the final episode, number 6, of The Inexplicable Universe series. Tyson took us through Inexplicable Cosmology which had us considering higher dimensions, quantum foam, the multiverse, and antimatter.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

magical stars

Watched Govert Schilling at TEDxAmsterdam. He offered a quick crash class on astronomy with a dash of humble pie. My favourite bit was when he described what was going on inside stars, how stellar fusion makes elements like carbon and nitrogen. It's like "magic." Indeed. It is an amazing and wondrous thing.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

new contract for MDA

shaking hands, robot and human
It was announced today that the Canadian government is supporting continued operations and maintenance of the Mobile Servicing System which includes Canadarm2, Dextre, and the Mobile Base System on the International Space Station by MDA. Woo hoo! See the article at the Canadian Space Agency for more information.

astronomy hotline!

red dial phone
Out of the blue (er, dark), Willy pinged me. "What's bright object is above the moon?"

I was pretty sure; double-checked in Stellarium. "Venus," I told him.

"I knew you'd know. Thanks."

Keep lookin' up.

watched Inexplicable Universe e5

NDGT got into dark matter and dark energy in episode 5 of The Inexplicable Universe starting off with the Pioneer anomaly. Both craft are moving slower through space than predicted and we don't know why. Funny timing given the upcoming anniversary of the Pioneer 11 launch, 5 April 1973. Tyson also discussed the energy state of the Universe in the Inexplicable Space topic. Net zero. Which is a good thing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

another test

Did a full dress rehearsal for the online RASC Toronto Centre meeting.

empty house

Andrew and Ward started all the A/V stuff (from Toronto?), Zoom for the presenters, YouTube for the streaming and recording, Ralph did an introduction (from his home in Mississauga), I delivered my The Sky This Month presentation (from BWG), and then Ralph closed with his modified announcements. Wow. It all worked!

watched Inexplicable Universe e4

Watched the next episode, number 4, of The Inexplicable Universe, one of the The Great Courses available on Kanopy. The topic was called Inexplicable Physics. NDGT talked about atoms, fundamental particles, the three energy regimes, string theory, and black holes. He closed off asking for volunteers to explore the inside of a black hole. Um...

join us next Wednesday for TSTM online!

Join RASC Toronto Centre for our online meetup, webinar, webcast... I don't know what to call it. :-D

I will be delivering a The Sky This Month presentation for April 2020, doing my usual thing of discussing and showing what's up in the sky for the month. With the audio-visual team, headed up by Andrew Reid, we'll be streaming live and recording the session, on the RASC TC YouTube channel.

date: Wednesday 1 April
time: 8:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
duration: about 1 hour

The format is a talking head and slide show for about 30 minutes or so then some question & answer relayed via the YouTube chat. We'll also be joined by president Ralph Chou for some brief announcements.

Please join us!

Be seeing you (online).

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

watched Inexplicable Universe e3

Watched Inexplicable Life, the third episode of The Inexplicable Universe. A few laugh-out-loud moments with Professor Tyson. And the very intriguing aspect of molecules, their "handedness." I have never heard of chiral molecules (or I don't remember learning about chirality chemistry). It's astonishing that organic molecules found in asteroids are split evenly; but on Earth, all are one type.

Monday, March 23, 2020

imaged NGC 4762 again (Halifax)

BGO captured NGC 4762 again. First imaged this thin edge-on galaxy on 13 May '17.

galaxy NGC 4762 in luminance

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

Oooh. Definite improvement. No stoopid moon around this time.

one more time for NGC 4388 (Halifax)

Ordered BGO to return to NGC 4388. First imaged this edge-on galaxy on 3 Jan '18. I was not happy with the results.

galaxy NGC 4388 in luminance

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

Bleech. Slightly better definition in the core but it still seems soft. Still has lots of gradient. This one is vexing.

inspected table

Discovered a few things about the TV table.

The hook-and-loop tab on the leg armature is gone. Missing. MIA. It probably fell off. The other piece though is safe and sound, still attached to the table top underside. Because it was stapled.

So the fix here is easy. Add some material to the leg piece. Glue it, sure, as before. But staple it down at the ends so it won't go anywhere in the future.

The metal tab? It is not gripping the leg assembly when the legs are opened. It is not obvious why but I suspect, over time, it bent outwards. So it is now not putting any stiction or grabbing force to the leg rod while open.

Solutions here include bending the metal tab and chiselling out the inset area it sits on.

I had wondered about locking the legs into position. But as I examined the side rails and leg assembly, it became clear nothing was possible. Going through the table top was not attractive.

Hold the phone. I noted a hole trough the stop/brace. What? Ah. Someone (a human) had drilled through this brace into the leg assembly before. The trailer coupler latch pin, my sqaure lock pin for keeping the legs closed, could feed through here! It was clear I had run into this issue before...

While this would not offer complete protection, it would resist the legs closing.

Huh. When did I do this? It is a faint dim memory.

In the future, I'll put the latch pin through to resist the legs snapping closed. And I'll dig out some new hook-n-loop material for the leg bar and staple it down this time!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

imaged NGC 3628 again (Halifax)

With BGO, I imaged NGC 3628 again. First imaged this hamburger on 24 Apr '17. The Leo galaxy seems to have very low surface brightness and the first image seemed to lack contrast.

galaxy NGC 3628 in luminance

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

I was able to pump up the core this time but there's a nasty gradient. Overall, I think it's better.

tried NGC 2371 again (Halifax)

With the Burke-Gaffney Observatory, I imaged NGC 2371 or the Gemini Nebula again. First imaged this planetary nebula on 27 Apr '16. Imaged again on 1 Nov '17 with oxygen and hydrogen filters.

planetary nebula NGC 2371 in luminance

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

The luminance from 2016 was rather good. This seems comparable.

planetary nebula NGC 2371 in ionised oxygen

O-III, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

planetary nebula NGC 2371 in hydrogen-alpha

Hydrogen-α, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

I think the results with the oxygen and hydrogen are better than 2017. Perhaps because there was no moonlight.

queued BGO jobs

New Moon. Robotic telescopes. Work alone and stay away from humans. I suspected the queues were short at the BGO and it looked like good skies were heading toward Halifax so I piled in some requests. I hope to improve on some past imaging runs.

do not allow undue attention

Huh. Discovered an interesting statement in the Meade ETX user manual.
Do not allow undue attention to precise polar alignment of the telescope to interfere with your enjoyment of the instrument.  In those unusual cases where more precise polar alignment is desirable, refer to [the appendix].
Wow. That's kinda interesting. That's a roundabout way of saying, Don't sweat the small stuff. Chill. Enjoy the view.

watched Inexplicable Universe e2

Watched episode 2 of The Inexplicable Universe called The Spooky Universe. Atomic particles, quarks, and quantum tunnelling are on the docket. Tyson wraps with the matter-energy equivalence, the most profound, to date, formula for everything happening in the Universe. And then asks, what formulae are yet to be discovered.

the morning after

Had some follow-up items from last night...

Tested my hacked KMN lights. They all work fine, more or less, with the external battery packs, powered by my old Duracell rechargeable alkalines (which the Sony audio recorder doesn't like).

Removed the button batteries installed in the standalone KMN lights. Oops.

Tested the button batteries. About 25% were below 1 volt. Ditched 'em.

Opened up Rhonda's LED string light battery pack. Damn it! Battery leak! Two cells were bad and the third was starting to ooze.

Cleaned out the goo with vinegar.

Reprogrammed the Oregon and OneWorld portable weather stations for Daylight Saving Time.

Found an unopened wind sock pack in my FRS/GRMS radio gear but it is too small. Now I have lots of regular foam...