Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Binary Universe: expand your mind

The October edition of the RASC Journal is available for download for members.

cover of the October 2018 RASC JournalHuh. There's an article on astronomical rug hooking! I'll have to show my sis and mom.

My Binary Universe column this month features Constellation Mind, an Android app for learning the constellations and testing your knowledge. It works for all 88 constellations.

This issue features astronomical paintings, in watercolour, on the back cover. Very nice!


My bio description was updated. Yeh.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

M45 quickly (Blue Mountains)

Imaged captured quickly last night with teeth clacking and body shivering. Very quick stacking and processing. I shot the Seven Sisters for Rhonda.

the Pleiades in one-shot colour

Tele Vue NP 101 refractor, Losmandy GM-8 with Gemini mount on pier, FeatherTouch electronic focuser, StarryNight, FocusLynx Commander. Guided through a Tele Vue 70 Ranger with Orion SSAG and PHD2. Canon 40D, Backyard EOS. 5x150sec, ISO 1600, daylight white balance. Dark frames applied. Canon DPP, Deep Sky Stacker, Adobe Photoshop. North is bottom-left; east is bottom-right.

Happy with this result although I need to do more work in post-processing.

Thanks, Phil!

chose NGC 6820 (Blue Mountains)

After a long delay, I finally imaged a deep sky object using Phil's rig. NGC 6820 in Vulpecula, aka Sh 2-86 or LBN 135, in a busy star field. SkyTools describes it has a diffuse nebula.

In the centre of the nebula there's a small open cluster, NGC 6823.

diffuse nebula NGC 6820 in one-shot colour

Tele Vue NP 101 refractor, Losmandy GM-8 with Gemini mount on pier, FeatherTouch electronic focuser, StarryNight, FocusLynx Commander. Guided through a Tele Vue 70 Ranger with Orion SSAG and PHD2. Canon 40D, Backyard EOS. 12x150sec, ISO 1600, daylight white balance. Dark frames applied. Canon DPP, Deep Sky Stacker, Adobe Photoshop. North is top-right; east is top-left.

There are some multi-star systems within the NGC 6823 cluster.

The three bright, beige stars in the centre I believe are HD 344784 or J 490. This is a different presentation than in the SkyTools 3 Pro chart.

A bit to the right or north-west I can see a very tight pair of dim stars. Part of the triple POU 4021.

There is a triangular grouping of stars. to the right or north-west. This harbours some multi-star systems.

The brightest system is at the upper right. This is HR 7485 aka Σ2560. A is bright white. B is tangled in the glare of A. C is above or north-east, pale orange.

There's HD 185820 aka POU 4004 is visible. The bottom point of the triangle is clearly two stars. The system is actually a quadruple but only the A and C stars resolve. Both pale yellow.

Further to the north-west is the tiny, tight pair of POU 4000 A and B. A is slightly orange; B is pale yellow.

The weird orange comet-looking fan-shape is Collinder 404, I believe. A tiny open cluster.


I'm happy that something showed. Hints of red, I'm thrilled to see. I think there are hints of pillars!

Hopefully as I get better at post-processing I can draw out more detail.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

received a cool thing

Received a cool gift from Rhonda. From the Wanakita online Tuck Shop store. A clothing item featuring Umbrella Island at night with the constellations overhead. And green aurora in the background. Very nice.

Wanakita clothing thing

Except we don't know what the item actually is... Muffler? Head band? Foulard? Tube top?!

Friday, August 31, 2018

quick doubles run (Bradford)

After seeing Clear Sky Alarm Clock messages from all my Ontario sites, I thought it appropriate to check the predictions. Wow. Clear, for a change. No good Saturday night. So, a one-night opportunity. I decided to try for a quick backyard session with the little Meade ETX-90 Maksutov.

Noted sunset was around 8:00. The sky would be without Moon (yeh) for 2 hours.

Put on my big jeans, a long sleeve over the tee, my hoodie (still smelling of a campfire). Thought my boots would be appropriate for easy on and off.

While setting up, one mozzie found me. Sheesh. Still around? Not cool enough to dampen them? Not enough bats either. Then I remembered! Dang. I gave rho the Good Stuff, my high-power DEET cream... Have I not donated enough?

Tossed an extension cord from the deck. Set up the big Mamiya tripod. Attached the 'scope. Securely! Didn't want the thing to topple over again. Crude polar alignment. Fired up the motor.

8:53 PM. Viewed Mars with the Celestron 26mm Plossl (magnification 48). It looked good. Steady. Colourful.

Made a quick dew shield with an old file folder.

Aligned the little finder. What a joke that thing is. I have to use my right eye on the short tube. Ugh. Somehow, though, it shows right side up. I don't know exactly how it erects the image...

Found some bug juice, old stuff, dregs from a tiny Muskol pump. It'll do.

9:00. Put the Meade 18mm orthoscopic in (69x). Apropos, Meade in Meade. Unfortunately, this revealed the seeing conditions. Not great at the moment. Was it the sky affecting Mars or the trees at the edge of the yard? I thought I could see light and dark regions on the planet surface. Was the polar cap to the 11 o'clock position? Didn't seem like the correct direction.

The neighbours had the bathroom light on when I re-emerged from inside. A little distracting but I was facing away. Then someone in the townies to the west flicked on their dining room or kitchen light. Flick off! A smoke alarm was triggered nearby. I heard scampering.

9:01. OK. I was ready to start a small campaign on... you guessed it: double stars! Double stars in a small 'scope tonight.

The first choice was near Saturn. Took me a moment to find the dim planet. No. Too near the trees initially. I decided to try later.

Huh. No wind per se...

9:16. Considered going to 44 Boo but it was setting. And the trees that way were are bigger now. I could see θ (theta) Boo naked eye as I stood a bit south-east of the 'scope.

What about Hercules?

9:19. Also considered μ (mu) Dra aka Arrakis. But it was straight up. Nope. Not with this rig. Spotted it naked eye near the head of the Dragon.

Turned south again. Had a quick look at Saturn. Tiny in the little telescope. Shadows in the field--still in the tree. But pretty.

9:25. Ah. I thought so. Spotted Titan at the 2 o'clock or east-north-east. Oddly, my software showed Iapetus as being visible but I didn't notice anything obvious in the direction indicated.

9:29. All righty then. I star hopped to the Lagoon and ended up right at the edge of the tree branch.

I actually saw it right away, at the low power, the double HD 164536 aka RST 3149 in Sagittarius. I spotted a wide pair. No colours detected. Faint. The brighter element was to the south. The dim cohort could be viewed directly. In the 18mm the view was not much better. I was seeing the C star. An easy split. SkyTools 3 Pro says 35.4" apart. [ed: Due to gaps in log updated, I didn't realised I had already viewed this target.]

9:39. And it went into the other tree now!  That's it. Done. Moving on. I decided that I would keep this target on my double star project. It works in a little OTA; it should be fine at high power. And it has the eye candy nearby...

9:45. Woo hoo. The teenie finder scope has a really wide field. I coulld see λ (lambda) and 12 Aquila eas well as η (eta) Scuti no problem. I could also tag β (beta) and R Sct. I was certain that I saw a dim small cloud in the finder so I aimed to it. Bam! I was on the lop-sided cluster of the Wild Duck. That was easy!

Moved up and left or north-west. I saw the pair, HR 7083, aka H 6 50. The A and C stars were easy. Yellow and blue.

Viewed the whole sky. Nice night. Sagitta, Delphinus, Pegasus, Cygnus.

10:00. The lights on upper porch blazed on. Then the dog freaked out, hearing me rustling about below. The human could not control the beast so they headed back inside. And turned the light out. OK, thanks.

10:06. I hopped directly to μ Aql! Wow. Quick. Noted a little C-shape at the 4 or 5 o'clock. Um, more of an arrowhead. There was a triad to the north.

Burnham 653 A was orangey yellow. I could see the E star easily though dim. It was inline with some other similar stars, tailing off up and right.

Tried for the D companion. Not sure, even with the 18mm.

The seeing was good. Quite good.

Tried to see the double HD 184152 to the west too. No luck. Just too dim for this little tube.

10:16. Was the sky getting brighter? The Moon was not due yet.

I was starting to lose my mojo. I had been at it 1 hour. One more...

10:18. Where to  next? I couldn't get Cas or Cep--I had plunked down too close to the house.

Not all star hops are so easy...

10:42. Finally completed the long star hop (in the eyepiece) to HD 200392 aka BU 69. Three stars in a big hockey stick. The lower tighter two were the target of interest. A was a touch brighter than C. A and C were easily split. I noted in ST3P that it was a multi-star system. It will be fun at high power.

Dim stars in Vulpecula, a challenging hop, but I think it's a keeper. It seemed like a little cluster.

C'est tout. I quickly packed up.

Happy. A little bit of play at the end of an intense week. Some observations of never before viewed objects. Quick and easy.

The mount needs a bit of work. It is sticky or jumpy in azimuth.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

one month past

Huh. Clear. I peeked out the bedroom window for a second and say, without my specs, a couple of stars. And a bright orange point to the south-south-west. A quick glimpse of Mars. One month past opposition. So long! Good night.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

normal motion

Mars resumed normal motion in the sky over the last day or two, halting its retrograde direction. Sad...

Thursday, August 23, 2018

attended orientation

I attended, with a couple dozen other RASC members, the introductory orientation session for telescope operator candidates at the David Dunlap Observatory. Chris V gave us a tour of some parts of the dome, explained the need for new operators, highlighted responsibilities, and relayed significant operational considerations. I feel honoured to be considered.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

getting missing data

Delivering part 2 of my double stars presentation series tonight for RASC at the OSC. Specifically, I'll be talking about how to measure stars casually or with an astrometric eyepiece. The evening's programme will be streamed live started at 7:30 PM EDT.


The rough cut of the live stream recording from 15 August 2018 is available for viewing. My double star talk entitled "Missing data" starts at the 32:20 mark and runs about 45 minutes.

The companion article for the presentation is online at the RASC Toronto Centre web site.

Monday, August 13, 2018

hazy in the west (Bradford)

Moon and Venus were hazy and mingling in low cloud. Talked about Earthshine and albedo with Rhonda.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

don't drink and perform stellar navigation

Tried the Saint of Circumstance citrus blonde ale from Collective Arts. I like it better than the IPAs they make but it is still rather avantgarde with a strong fruity flavour.

Off Course artwork by Matty Jenks

The can featured artwork by Matty Jenks from Boston. A pensive astronaut sans helmet examining a 3D map of Jupiter and area.

Curiously, Rhonda and I had talked of the moons of Jupiter earlier in the evening.