Sunday, November 17, 2019

answered lots of questions

Helped my cousin's husband with some astronomy questions. He's looking to buy. The Lowbrow club is nearby. Left him with some notes, homework to do, and my copy of SkyNews magazine.

Friday, November 15, 2019

saw stars (Pinckney)

Saw stars on climbing out of the car... Which ones? I couldn't tell for the trees. Disoriented, didn't know the direction. Pity I had not been able to bring a telescope. It was very clear.


Mcgregor Road runs north-south. For some reason from the driveway I thought I was facing north when I think I was aimed west...

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

fixed SynScan key pad

Had a go at Elaine and Tony's SynScan hand controller. They reported significant problems with the 3 button on the keypad.

After fixing my digital multi-meter, I started by testing the main control cable. All good. Good continuity and no apparent shorts.

DB 9 male
RJ 45 male
1 = 7
4 = 4
5 = 1
6 = 6
8 = 8
9 = 5

The pinout agreed with diagrams I found on the interwebs.

I did not stress-test the cable. Considered that would take a bit of doing... So I decided to open up the hand paddle. I was not expecting to find anything.

Surprise number 1 was the broken bit of glue flopping around. Jammed down by the connectors. Removed.

Surprise #2 big label on the board.

inside of SynScan hand controller


Surprise #3 was the daughter board for the jacks separate from the main board. This would allow for flexure and forces that would not find their ways to the main board. Smart. Not going cheap.

Surprise #4. No detachable plug for the power leads to the backlight. What the hey? Now that was cheap. Lack of foresight.

Detached the header connectors from the daughter board and removed the small PCB. This allowed the main board to flip up. Removed the rubber button monolithic sheet.

inside of rubber button sheet

It seemed A-OK. Clean. No debris. Completely fine. Noted two conductive pads per button. Redundancy. Right-handers and south-paws?

Then I turned my attention to the contact pads on the "top" side of the main board. Oh ho! Surprise #5.

main board with contact pads under buttons

Corrosion. Well, that's a strong word. Discoloration, debris, stuff on some of the contact pads. The worst? The number 3 key! How about that. Water intrusion.

Rigorously cleaned all the contact points with isopropyl alcohol. Buttoned everything up. Connected the control to a HEQ 5 Pro mount. Booted up: version 4.37.03. Got myself to the Longitude and Latitude screens and entered 3 digits everywhere. Tested every other key. Positive and immediate responses. All good!

Phoned Tony and relayed the good news. He was very happy. He said they are expensive.


We came up with a great idea. An astronomy tip for those encountered dew. At the end of an observing session or imaging run, disconnect the hand controller, and (like a wet phone) throw it in a sealed container with rice (or a few silicone desiccant packs). Assume water got it so don't let it sit for a long time without getting the moisture out as fast as possible.

Monday, November 11, 2019

vicariously watched 1st/2nd contact

Woke around 7:15. Programmed behaviour. The Android clock app alarm would go off at 7:30 PM. I started surfing.

The NASA site had a page that was automatically updating the images. There were two sets: one fixed on the Sun; the other tracking Mercury. The latter was most interesting a few minutes before first contact.

Then I found a live feed on YouTube. White light filter on a shakey mount. But it worked. I could see a moment or so after first contact with a little indent out of the Sun. The view seemed to worsen, poor contrast, at second contact but it was still obvious.

Think I feel back asleep for a while...

Sunday, November 10, 2019

helped at CAO

Helped at the CAO with Phil. We hosted a Streetsville scout group. Flash snow storm on Thursday greatly impacted the Blue Mountains area. Happily we were able to drive in. Partly cloudy on Friday night so I wasn't able to run a full star party campaign. Good group.

transit article published

I was published in the regional newspaper, Orillia Today. They featured my article on the Mercury transit.


Updates: York University is planning some activities.


Weather Update: prospect for clear skies is looking very poor.

Friday, November 08, 2019

received alert

Spotted an alert on my sorta smart phone. From SkySafari.

notification for Monday

Thanks. But. Too bad it's gonna be cloudy.

doubles for Nov 2019

Sent out my double star "bulletin" for November 2019. It is a short list of suggested targets. I shared this on the RASC Toronto Centre forums. And I post here for all.


The Moon is bright again. That means it is doubles time!

Here's a short selection of double and multi-star systems from my life list for your observing campaign. They are all pretty easy. Below are some targets best viewed in November.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
γ (gamma) AndAlamak, Almach, or Σ205SAO 37734, HIP 9640
WZ Cas STT A 254SAO 21002, HIP 99
ο (omicron) CepSTF (Struve) 3001SAO 20554, HIP 115088
Σ2958 (Struve) PegHR 8724SAO 108275, HIP 113311
35 PscSTF 12SAO 109087, HIP 1196

Remember doubles are fun, easy, sometimes challenging, always interesting, often colourful, and dynamic! If at first glance, you don't see anything obvious, keep staring. Sometimes a dim companion will emerge when the seeing conditions allow. That's always exciting!

Share your observations. Keep warm. Be seeing you.

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

Thursday, November 07, 2019

card from Mom

Received a nice greeting card from Mom. She caught me up on some of her fun creative activities.

The card showcases some beautiful work by the U.S. artist Gwyn Wahlmann.

Can't tell in the photo but the stars are done with a silver, shiny material. Catches the light.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

ran the final event

Well, the final regular programme night at the David Dunlap Observatory. Tonight was the last Family Night for 2019. Unfortunately, we were rained out. Good crew of volunteers.

got laminate

Received laminate pieces from Clay via Chris. Long thin strips for the altitude bearings and a large square piece for the azimuth bearing.

received 2020 OH

Received the 2020 Observer's Handbook from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Yes!


Page 306 has the reference to the new submitted essay by Ian W and me: Visually Observing Quasars. The file is stored on the RASC national web site in the supplements sections.

Direct link:

Friday, October 25, 2019

the reboot worked

Steve and Denis helped me with the new gennie webcam at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. A power cycle worked. My Android app popped a notification as soon as it came online. Weird.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

eROSITA works

The German eROSITA instrument is up and running. It is the primary payload on the Russian Spektr-RG astronomy observatory.

new Russian-German space telescope

It will work in X-ray band. First-light images are being downloaded and processed. Looking forward to future images.