Monday, December 09, 2019

doubles for Dec 2019

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


I did a double header last night with the clear skies in Ontario and in Nova Scotia. Featuring double stars, of course! I popped out to the backyard with the little ETX for an hour or so while monitoring four imaging jobs being processed by the Burke-Gaffney Observatory. You too can check out double stars regardless of light pollution or the cold. Get out there.

Here's a short selection of easy double stars and multiples from my life list.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
15 TriAG 304HIP 12086
HD 23107 PerSTF 434SAO 56667, HIP 17424
HD 36073 Tauh 3275, β891SAO 94589, HIP 25745
ζ (zeta) Psc
SAO 109739, HIP 5737
Groombridge 34GRB 34, GX AndSAO 36248, HIP 1475

I look forward to hearing how you make out.

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Clarke and Kubrick

While watching a Cinema Tyler YouTube on the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, I noted an interesting still shot that he included.

There's A.C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick looking through a Questar 89. Cool!

captured Struve 1664 (Halifax)

One more, before dawn!

Double star HD 109875, SAO 157411, Σ1664 in Virgo. On my "view again" list, had seen the C star.

double star Struve 1664 in luminance

Luminance only, 1 second subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

C, no problem, even though dim. It's to the north-west of the primary. About 2x the AB split.

B is south-west, fairly bright, the closest.

D is west of C, south a touch, dimmer still. Less than the AB split.

E is east-south-east, brighter than B. About 4x the AB split.

Why is that other star not included? [ed: It is. According to the WDS, this is 12383-1131STF1664EF, first discovered in 1890. In fact, it is noted in SkyTools, in the Object Information box. It's just not labelled in the chart, some sort of catalogue error.]

First viewed from the backyard with an ETX 90 on 3 Jun '19.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

two doubles in one hour (Bradford)

Planned the backyard observing session. Wanted to do some quick observing. Capella was high in mind. And I wanted to verify a couple of the double star certificate programme candidates.

Reviewed the weather prediction sites. Looking good...

6:29 PM. Rhonda found Elf starting at 7. I told her my plans. She programmed the DVR. She looked outside to report the skies completely clouded. Yep. But it was supposed to be gone by 8...

6:56. I reviewed the observing session preparation checklist in Evernote. Having finished dinner, I started working the "bare minimum observing" list.

Prepared the ETX with external battery pack, the dew shield with new elastic band, and big metal tripod. Found the hex plate in the camera bag. Grabbed two eyepieces, the 26 and 20. Astronomy chair, deep red glasses, deep red flashlight. The old bike light flashlight was weak so I installed some fresh AAAs. Packed the audio recorder, some rechargeable batteries, my regular eyeglasses (in case), eyeglass straps, and the house keys. All in a bin. Considered not taking out the TV table, opting to use furniture already outside. Prepared the ASUS Eee PC with SkyTools. Affixed the red film with new elastic bands. Activated the list I made a week back. Grabbed the Black Cloak of Doom. Considered hand warmers but decided I wouldn't be out long enough. Backed a sketch book and pencils.

Couldn't find the keyboard USB red light thingee...

I put the OTA outside. Deactivated the driveway light.

Switched to red light mode to begin my dark adaptation. Switched to Evernote in the browser 'cause the Windows desktop version still does not have dark mode!

7:42. I noticed the Moon reflecting off Rhonda's car. Right on schedule.

The clouds were gone!

7:19. Checked the Sony ICD-SX 750 recorder for space and power. About 10 hours left for space; mid-level for the batteries.

Suited up and headed outside.

Set up the Mamiya tripod (with Manfrotto head). Mounted the Meade ETX RA Maksutov 90mm telescope. Polar-aligned the mount. Set up my adjustable height Big DOC astronomy chair. Grabbed Rhonda's lawn chair for a platform for the computer.

8:16. Ready to go. But I wondered if I needed more space in my "workstation."

8:17. Plugged in the battery pack and powered on the mount. Motor was running. Amazing, actually. Super-fast start up this evening. I was happy about that.

8:24. The finder alignment (with my 3D part) was good. Landed on Capella, fairly quickly and easily. Started field identification with the Celestron 26mm Plössl eyepiece (48 magnification).

Verified the time of the computer and the recorder.

8:27. I had α (alpha) Aurigae aka BAR 25 prime pretty well centred. To the 10 or 11 o'clock position, a dim star, G. Two stars including a fairly bright one, 1 o'clock or north-east. I saw a star opposite G, i.e. SAO 40191. With averted I could see other things which I thought included the H star.

8:30. Remembered to set out the Oregon Scientific eb313hg portable weather station. It was still warm from inside. Steady air pressure, prepcip tomorrow, humidity 36%, 2.7°C.

8:32. I could not see the F star. I could not split the tight companion to A.

Switched to the Pentax XW 20mm ocular (62x).

Wait. Briefly saw a star, more than one, with averted, about an 1/8th of the AH distance. That's F! Was the distance right? Then I couldn't see it. Bad seeing? It was rising...

8:40. To the south-east I could see the nearly straight line of 3 or 4 stars with H in the middle. It did look like H was not a single. Yep, two stars. I? No, the L star. Very faint. In-line with the other stars. PPM 47943 on the north-west end.

Kept looking.

8:44. Definitely was seeing the F star. F was very dim. H and L were tough but there. Equally bright.

Went looking for E, toward G. But the software showed it dimmer still so I was not hopeful.

Changed eyepieces.

Scanned around the primary but did not expect to see others. Did not try for B, C, D, b, I, Q, R, O, or P.

Wanted to see Altair but I couldn't see the Summer Triangle. Too low. Cygnus was diving down. [ed: The Eagle was even lower.]

Rhonda popped out to say hello. She noted the skies were good. Indeed. Cold though, she headed back in.

Orion rising.

Changed eyepieces.

Tried to get to my next target, beta Cam aka S 459. It was about 1/3rd of the way between Capella and Polaris. "Oh boy." Could not figure out where I was.

The finder view was mottled. Weird. Checked the objective lens—it was fine.

9:20. Noted a low battery warning on the recorder. Oh oh. Hopefully it would last. Checked the weather station. Now it showed the air pressure dropping, humidity 77, air temp -5.7.

Ah! The finder had fogged, the eye lens. I warmed it and waited for it to clear.

I continued in my quest for β (beta) Camelopardalis... Switching to star hopping with the finder, starting from Capella.

Spotted 11-12 Cam along the way.

Finally! Finally made it to β Cam.

Cops were busy tonight...

9:26. That had been a long star hop. Whew! But worth it! Viewed the target with the 26mm. Wide pair. Yellow and blue stars. Intense deep blue. For me, oriented 12 to 6, nearly perfectly, nearly vertical. There was a bright field star to the 4 to 5 position, 4:30. [ed: Tycho 4079-2279 1.] SkyTools made it seem like the companion was much dimmer but it seemed only 1 or 2 magnitudes fainter.

A triple according to ST3P. The software said 4.9 magnitudes different! Was curious if I could nap the C element so I loaded the Pentax.

Oh. A firetruck. That didn't sound good. [ed: A bizarre accident near downtown injuring a 67 year old man! Sheesh.]

9:34. I wasn't sure. Maybe I saw it for a fraction of a second. A hockey stick. C toward the 5 o'clock position? Dunno for sure. [ed: ST3P says C is mag 11.4.]

78%, -5.9°. Good timing. My hands were starting to get cold.

So, that was good. Tagged a couple more double stars, setting up and tearing down quickly. Taking advantage of the rare clear skies.

There was also the "proving" aspect that I was pleased with. Capella was easy but beta Cam was challenging. Still, under bright skies without a computer driving the mount, I was able to get to the target. And I was able to see some companions

curious about STF 681 (Halifax)

Ordered BGO to capture Σ681. Also known as HD 34533, SAO 40251, and HIP 24951, this Auriga double star is noted in Sissy Haas's book with interesting colours: banana yellow and ocean blue! OK, I gotta see this.

double-star STF 681 in luminance

Luminance only, 1 second subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

I look forward to processing in colour.



STF 681 in colour

Photoshop CS2.

Well, yes, yellow and blue. Banana yellow? Dunno about that... Ocean blue? Um, yeah, it'd be great if you could resubmit that colour report. And don't forget the new cover sheet.


There is a point of light above or north of the main star. It's visible in the black and white but I didn't think much about it. It's there in the colour, somehow more obvious. In the colour image, it's a dim red star! Hmmm. Checked the WDS.

STF 681AB    1831 2017   42 181 183  23.4  23.3  6.61  9.21
FYM 198AC    1999 2015    4 346 346  16.5  16.6  4.6   9.5

Oh ho. There's a star to the north, at 346 degrees. Discovered in 1999.

Curiously, it says magnitude 9.5. I'd argue that.

Anyhoo, I tagged the C companion.

returned to 16 Eri (Halifax)

Centred on star GSC 05878 00248, I tried to image 16 Eri, aka tau 4 Eri and JC 1, again. Previously imaged this object on 7 Jan '1820 Jan '18, and on 25 Sep '18. Wanted to have another go.

multiple star 16 Eri in luminance

Luminance only, 0.1 seconds subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

I continue to try to coax out the B star in this system. According to SkyTools, it should be to the west. On a line between D and E. Um...

The primary sure doesn't look round but there are registration issues.

I think it's time to let this one go, at least in terms of imaging. A is too bright and B is too close.

imaged CTA 102 (Halifax)

I asked the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to image the quasar CTA 102.

This object is in the constellation Pegasus. This quasar, also known as Q2230+0114, is not particularly far... But in 2016 it apparently had an outburst, changed in brightness in 2016. I learned about this is an article at Sky & Telescope magazine.

Thought I'd have a look. I aimed at the star GSC 01154-0584.

quasar CTA 102 in luminance

Luminance only, 20 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

SkyTools 3 Pro says the quasi-stellar object has a redshift (z) value of 1.04 with a light time of 6.8 Gyr. The magnitude is 17.3. It is just west of the star J223239.8+114348. It is slightly brighter than this star which ST3P says is mag 17.9. Up and right of the tiny Delphinus-like pattern.

There are some fuzzies in this image.

West of the quasar, the brightest galaxy in the frame, is NGC 7305. The software shows a very small object here but it seems quite large to me, a large oval oriented north-south. It shows a bright core. Looks like an elliptical.

To the north-east is a very small wisp, extended slightly north-south. This is galaxy LEDA 1398097.

There are some intriguing star groupings in the field...


Wikipedia link: CTA-102.

double header night

Double header tonight! As it was predicted to clear in town (for a change), I planned to head to the backyard for an hour. Some doubles in the ETX 90. High priority, actually. And it was to be clear in Halifax, so I queued up some targets. Imaging with the CDK 24. Mostly doubles!


From Environment Canada for New Tecumseth: A few clouds. Wind becoming south 20 km/h after midnight. Low minus 7 with temperature rising to minus 2 by morning. Wind chill minus 4 this evening and minus 14 overnight.

Clear Outside prediction

Green blocks from Clear Outside. First time seeing contiguous green blocks for a while...

removed logged status from Altair

Late November I noticed something strange. Today I reviewed my life list entry for Altair aka α Aql aka STFB 10. It was on my life list with a 0.9 separation.

The life list entry said: "I'm a little confused. Not sure if I've actually split these. Looks like I tried at the DDO on 20 Jul '07 but couldn't figure out which of the surrounding "small faint stars" was the "violet" one. Inspired by the CDSA I attempted on 2 Jul '10 at the CAO and at the time misread Haas's notes thinking it was a wide pair. ST3 says it's a triple. And curiously the ST3 software shows a log entry, suggesting I tagged it before the summer of 2010. Now that said, the View Again reference shows... Anyhoo, there are no clear notes so we need to have another go. AB magnitudes: 0.8, 9.6."

I checked a few sources for the separation values:
  • Haas says AB 192 but the mag of 1st is 0.9, oops
  • CDSA says AB 192 and AC 247 (with A at mag 0.9)
  • ST3 says a triple with AB 187.0 and AC 247.2
Reviewed the first blog entry: July 20, 2007 entitled the "DDO show (Richmond Hill)". I viewed some double stars using my C9 and with Haas's book in hand. "Looked briefly at Altair, a very bright star, surrounded by many small faint stars. I could not tell which star was the 'violet' companion."

Read the second entry: July 02, 2010 entitled "Canada Night observing (Blue Mountains)". At 1:11 AM, I helped a RASC member. Then I returned to my C8. "As the sky brightened, I shifted to double stars. I pulled my new Cambridge Double Star Atlas and flipped to constellations crossing the meridian. The CDSA said that Altair is a double! I targeted it. Didn't see anything per se. Started zooming in but couldn't split the white star. I wondered if it was a another wide double. Consulted double stars by Haas. Yep, she says it is separated by 192". Didn't think to put the binos on it..." And at 1:27 AM, I helped the RASC member again.

So, inconclusive. No clear indications of sighting the B or C stars.

Pulled the WDS data for WDS ID 19508+0852. Noted the A star magnitude: 0.95.

disc       pair   PA   sep    mag
STFB 10 AB    286 195.8  9.82
STFB 10 AC    110 186.4  10.3
DAL  27 AD    105  26.8  11.9
SMR   5 AE    354 151.3  11.0
SMR   5 AF    48 292.4  10.3
GMC   5 AG    121 185.1  13.0

I plotted the stars in Excel.

plot of Altair elements

Again, Haas only refers to B. There is correspondence in PA and Sep between the WDS and ST3P for B and C. SkyTools shows a double called J 3019 at the location that WDS says is the F star. The primary of J 3019, aka HD 187716, is magnitude 10.3. That matches the WDS mag for F.

I looked in Aladin. Switched to the 2MASS view, in infrared. Annotated the image.

image of Altair from Aladin

I spotted the B, C, E, F, and G stars. D is lost in the glare. I see the bright star north-north-west of F, like in SKyTools. ST3P says this is GSC 1058-1773.

My conclusions after this review...
  1. I incorrectly recorded the separation in my life list as 0.9 mis-reading, at some point, the magnitude number from Haas's book. I need to change this.
  2. I don't know why I set the "logged" status in SkyTools. I should remove it as I have never clearly noted the companion(s).
  3. I need to add the AB designation to my life list entry.
  4. Too bright to photograph.
  5. I should be sketching this the next time!
  6. With the 8-inch 'scope, I should be able to get all 7 stars!

Friday, December 06, 2019

proofed paper

Reviewed my paper proof. I was surprised by the number of issues. Nothing major but still, about 10 revisions needed.

saw Venus and the Moon (Bradford)

Walking to the Leisure Centre, I spotted brilliant Venus to the west. Bad seeing, it was shimmering madly. Tried to see Jupiter but couldn't tag it through watering eyes.

A bright Moon, just past First Quarter, was to the south-south-east.

The blue and red flashing LEDs atop cop cars and fire engines were distracting.

Clouds where pushing in but I could see the Summer Triangle. Tried to tag Albireo—no joy. Capella behind me, quiet dull.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

found more Miram companions

While I was reviewing and updating double star data for the RASC programme, something caught my eye about Miram aka η Persei aka Σ307. More stars.

It is a septuple system. There are (currently) 7 visible stars in this system.

I re-read my logs.

From the section 2 of 2 of my lift list, I noted I had first viewed the double in October 2011. Following Haas's lead, I thought it a pair.

Later I learned it was a quad. However a session in February 2013 did not serve up the C and D stars. So it made it's way to my "view again" list.

I had a go with the imaging rig in Halifax. Captured photons in September 2016 and a week later assembled an LRGB image. Colourful!

And, I accomplished my prime mission. I sussed out the C and D stars, faint little things, close to each other, to the west.

As I re-examined the black-and-white and colour images, I noted lots of stars. And that made me wonder if I hadn't captured these "new" or extra stars, some of the seven.

Checked the WDS data via in Stella Doppie. The 02507+5554 system components are:

STF 307AB177920185630128.73.768.5
STF 307AC1878201414269643.7611.61
SHJ 34AE192520128297242.93.769.24
WAL 19AF1904201372557.73.7611.44
WRD 1CD18782015141165.211.6112.7
FYM 161CG20032015622915.811.6114

Loaded the component codes, the PAs, and the Seps into my updated Excel modeler.

multiple star Miram plotted up to G star

Wow. My new plotter version was working well is the indirect references.

Anyhoo, the great news was that in addition to A, B, C, and D tagged earlier, now I had identified a few more elements.

E (aka SHJ 34) is the bright blue-white star beyond B, maybe 9 or 10 times the AB separation. Is the position angle the same? It's very close to that angle. The star is a touch dimmer than B. But I think the exact same colour.

F (WAL 19) is the dull yellow star to the north-north east. Slightly closer than CD.

And finally G. Crazy G. aka FYM 161. It is an extremely faint star south-west from C, 3 or 4 times the CD separation. Hard to get a colour. A fairly new discovery, from 2003.

How about that. Three more items tagged. Just by going through old data! So I'm very happy about that.

Still. It is very curious to me that there are still more stars buzzing around Miram A... Why have they not be included?! Strange.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

searched for 99 Aqr

Searched the Washington Double Star catalogue for 99 Aquarii. Used "23260-" which returned 1 result. Not applicable. Tried "23261-" which yielded 4 results but no matches. This is shown as a double in the Pocket Sky Atlas, the martini-olive symbol. But I guess no one else thinks it an official pair.

what's up article Dec 2019

My article in the local newspaper was published this morning. I discuss what's up for the month, the line up of planets after sunset, and that the Andromeda Galaxy is visible to the unaided eye.

snapshot from Bradford Today - December skies

(I think I'll need to write the headlines for them...)

Friday, November 29, 2019

the perfect occultation

And it's gone.

I had had high hopes. But the weather scuttled it. The perfect asteroid occultation... On 29 Nov 2019, at 23:14 UT, asteroid (3548) Eurybates was to block the star HIP 113020 for about 5 seconds.

Rank 100.

Star magnitude 10.4.

The best part? The path went through my back yard!

I didn't recall ever seeing this before, the perfect circumstances. High rank, a bright star, and without moving I'd be in the shadow path.

the perfect occultation in OccultWatcher

There was only one possible problem...

When I learned of this event, I was very intrigued. I recognised right away that it would be an easy occultation with a fairly bright star, easy for the 8-inch 'scope for certain, a star with a good elevation in the sky, in Aquarius, just below the Water Jar, but above the tree line, in a dark sky, after sunset, no Moon, no stoopid moonlight to contend with. And I didn't have to go anywhere! Like it was made for me. Truly perfect. And I was keen to try.

First time I felt this is a long time.

Days ago I tested my shortwave radio. I reviewed my backyard planning lists. I checked various software apps. Double-checked things in OccultWatcher. Reviewed the web pages and maps. Readied to go out the evening before to set up the mount, for a good polar alignment, and to double check the sight lines. And I loaded all my weather resources. That was the catch, right? This is possibly the worst time of year with winter coming, continuous gear skies, and, well, location. So I checked every day, sometimes a few times a day, watching the predictions shift and change.

My heart sank during my walkabout this afternoon. Mostly cloudy. And it only got worse.

This could have been my first ever successful asteroid occultation.

Will I have to wait another 10 years?

Another miss.


Lots of clouds.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

processed 7 Leo

Created a full colour image for 7 Leo from the LRGB data collected back on 21 Mar '19.

double star 7 Leo in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop.

Sissy Haas noted the stars are "deeply bluish white [and] blue-green." Perhaps...

Both stars in ARN 72 look yellow to me.


Noticed I didn't have a checkmark beside this entry in Haas's book.


Where they'd come from? Scratch polar alignment.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

deleted aurora app

The little aurora app, actually the widget Solaris, on my phone stopped working a little while ago. I deleted it.

meteors happened

I found this chart. Certainly there was some activity associated with the alpha Monocerotid meteor shower. But no huge outburst that all the media outlets seemed to think was going to happen...

plot of meteors

Did you see any?


Don't blame the scientists...

Friday, November 22, 2019

lumpy pasta

Watched another Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell video, this time Neutron Stars – The Most Extreme Things that are not Black Holes.

screen snap from the Neutron Stars movie

Take in the brief but informative video on YouTube.

At the 4:35 mark, while discussing the solid crust of the neutron star, diving down to the base of the iron crust, we are told that the neutrons in the atoms begin to merge. They form long chains or sheets like spaghetti and lasagna. Nuclear pasta! It can form lumps, form into very dense but small mountains.

Lumpy nuclear pasta in outer space. Ha!