Wednesday, April 21, 2021

helped at fun SN meeting

Helped at the RASC TC meeting. It was a special speaker's night with Tim Russ, actor, musician, and amateur astronomer.

Link to the raw video is available on the RASC Toronto Centre YouTube channel.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

met the SPAC team

Had a rehearsal run-through with the crew of the Seven Ponds Astronomy Club. I'm on deck for Saturday evening, 7:00 PM EDT, to talk about double star observing. All are welcome to the Zoom online event.

Monday, April 19, 2021

learned of next council meeting

I heard through the grapevine that the next RASC Toronto Centre council meeting is on 6 June.

celebrating National Volunteer Week

It's National Volunteer Week! April 18-24. Woo hoo, go volunteers!

meeting RASC

Attended the committee terms of reference working group meeting with RASC Toronto Centre crew.

listened to Chris and Shane's podcast

Listened to an Actual Astronomy Podcast by Chris Beckett & Shane Ludtke. Episode 110 - New Gear and Observing Reports.

They talked about various matters but Shane then discussed his new exciting observing targets with this small refractor, double stars. And he referred to the new RASC Double Stars program! Cool! Takahashi 76mm and Panoptic and a 2-inch baader mirror diagonal.

He said he found the list to be a "ton of fun." It shows pretty doubles all over the whole sky. He "highly [recommended] it" even for people not in RASC.

Chris recounted being on the RASC Observing Committee when I first started working on the program. He said the list is "so interesting and so good" and clearly a "labour of love." Chris said "it's really nice."


The mention is between 18:25 and 21:38 in the 1 hour audio 'cast. Incredible. 

Effectively, it's a review.

I'm so touched.

heard Ginny flew

Learned that the Ingenuity drone 'copter flew. An exciting day for NASA.

The SpaceFlightNow web site has a good article.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

wrangled participants

Did some class management for the Stellarium course next week.

Saturday, April 17, 2021


Too tired. It was cold. I was feeling lazy. Earlier I had considered some imaging with the barn door tracker...

submitted photos

Shot some requested photos for my SkyNews editor.

learned about sundials

Attended BSS meeting... Frank King welcomed everyone from 15 time zones. The speakers were Roger Bailey, Woody Sullivan, and Fred Sawyer. Amazing talks. 

Roger gave us a sundial tour in the French Alps, featuring the historic sundials of Zarbula and the modern dials of Remi Potey. Woody talked about how he prepared (with 700 observations) and built his reflection sundial in his man cave. And Fred (of Canada) showed incredible hybrid Peaucellier sundial designs.

I learned a lot.

Heh. Sure were a lot of grey haired white dudes...

Friday, April 16, 2021

applied more updates to VHC

More updates to my IDEA GoToStar Virtual Hand Controller app...

Foreshortened some of the data boxes. Changed labelling around the pier data box. Added a user confirmation to the Sync button. Added system date/time display. Change Window form title. Similarly, changed the titles of all the message boxes. Relabelled the direction buttons. Up, Down, Left, etc. was redundant. Indicated Declination and Right Ascension. Renamed the position button. Fixed the left and right direction buttons. Now the left button moves to the east with increasing RA. Added code to compare the system and mount times and throw a warning if different by more than 5 minutes. Added a Tracking checkbox. Filling it turns tracking on. This will make it easy to do drifts, when needed. Or, after I issue a Stop command.

Did a bench test of the Sync button. w00t! Looks like it is working correctly. That's huge! 

Virtual Hand Controller evolved

Made a read position code a procedure, so it wasn't buried in the read Position button. Now I called it after any release of a slew button.

Killed Visual Studio at one point. Note to self. Don't rename variables while in break mode...

I was not surprised to discover port conflicts when trying to use Stellarium and my VHC at the same time.

Not done... Re-watched Kelvin Le's video series.

selectable COM port added

Yes! Got the port selector working!

Set up a button enabler, using a trick learned in my Access VBA class!

returned to 1327 (Halifax)

I wanted to get some more data on Σ1327 (HD 79552) in Cancer. Queued up a job on 29 Mar 2021.

Struve 1327 in luminance

Luminance only, 4 seconds subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

Looks like good data.

Previously imaged on 5 Mar '21.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

reviewed viddie

Reviewed a RASC Toronto YouTube video.

commanded mount

Holy Universe! It works. From my Visual Basic app, I commanded the GoToStar mount!

next version of the virtual hand controller

Tonight I added movement buttons and was thrilled to nudge the mount! This was a major objective. I want to have a virtual hand controller on the computer to move in any direction as per a set speed. It is so amazing to see it work.

Added a big Stop button.

Added a Sync button. Another major objective. This is to be tested but if it works, it will be huge.

Hydra weirdness

Chris found a strange bug (two actually) in Stellarium.

If you search for Hydra, it takes you to the constellation. No mention of the other Hydra...

You can easily add this found item to the Bookmarks. 

But if you go to the Hydra in the Bookmarks list, you're taken to the location of Pluto's moon Hydra!


I reported the error.

registered for BSS event

Signed up for the British Sundial Society Virtual Conference! Woo hoo!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

received out of focus stars

Tried to image 11 LMi again. Queued on 9 April. Shot 15 Apr at 00:49:33 ADT. Not good.

read data from the mount

At last, I successfully coded a simple interface to read data from the GoToStar mount!

working VB code in Visual Studio

Look at that! After opening the (hard coded) port, I read some data from the mount, namely its date, time, time zone offset from GMT, and the latitude and longitude. And, finally, the side of the pier I was on. I was pointed at Alphard, at the time.

Woo hoo!

This has been a bit of a journey to this point... Sadly, because of incomplete resources and people that are making assumptions.

A couple of months ago I downloaded Visual Studio 2019 Community. Had a quick look 

When I went back in a week ago, it wouldn't let me proceed. At first I thought it was a trial and it had ended and that was it. But I was certain a variant of VS was free. And after some digging I confirmed it was. But Microsoft wanted some credentials. Fine.

Then I started following one tutorial on serial communications but I could not seem to reference any computer or system IO features.

Was it not possible in the free Community studio product?

I looked again at the ASCOM Telescope class and form code LXP source. Didn't make sense.

And oddly I did not find clarity in the Microsoft online docs.

Finally, a fresh Google search lead me to a post on MSDN. Leo Liu explained it. He said a Class Library using the .NET Framework was needed. 

I tried that and only got so far. Some progress. But I didn't know how to get the form to work with the class object.

But another look revealed it! A Windows Form based on .NET Framework. Filtering helped! It had been there the whole time but there are so many options presented I had missed it. And all the videos I had watched had not stated that requirement!

Didn't need a Class. Not yet, anyway.

I was in business finally.

Then I watched MISperry's video on YouTube again, a joy in simplicity.

Opened the port. He showed how to write to the port. Then I read the port. And was thrilled to find the smart ReadTo method. Yes!


I knew it! I knew it didn't need to be so complicated! And I knew my VBA experience would be helpful. The IDE in VS sure it convoluted though, sheesh.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

wired up a heating sheet

While installing a new CPU cooling fan to John Max, I wired up another (the second) 12V heating pad sheet thingee with RCA plug and lead wires for dew heating/warming at the telescope.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

updated the DS page

Updated the Double Stars program page at RASC national after uploading updated main PDF and Excel checklists, an updated PDF supplemental file, updated log book, and new Stellarium JSON bookmark list. One major change was to the notes for HR 3963. My notes in the supplement were rather confusing as reported by Melody. Good call. So I rewrote the descriptive text.

lovely chat

Helped Melody. We had a lovely phone chat. Clarified some bad text on my part in the Supplement for the Double Stars program. I wonder if an astrometric eyepiece is in her future...

reviewed an ETU

Reviewed an Explore the Universe application. Fun notes and sketches.

some fixes applied

Cool. Found in the inbox some messages from the Stellarium development team, encouraging me to check a pre-release version. A number of updates were applied. 

pre-release Stellarium with corrections

A carbon star list was added to the WUT and Search list. Great. The Hercules reference was corrected. The search result shows "Hercules" and "Hercules [star]." Brilliant. And then, a fix to the double star designations for items in the Struve appendices. Yes!