Monday, July 16, 2018

brain bending stuff

Had a very interesting conversation with rho which started at the end of our after-dinner walk. As we slowly neared home, savoring the quiet warm air, enjoying the Moon and Venus in a pretty sky, the Moon down and right, just a couple of degrees apart, checking the separation with our hands, wondering where Mercury was, I think I said that the Moon was "drawing closer" to Venus. And that it was going to "zip past" Venus and be beyond it by a few degrees tomorrow. She immediately disagreed. She looked at me like I was from Mars.

"The Moon isn't going toward Venus; Venus is going toward the Moon." And they were going down, west. Like the Sun! Part of it was terminology. Was it an orientation issue? I wasn't explaining some of the concepts clearly. I felt that part of it was the complexity of the multiple vectors or sets of motion.

We talked briefly about occultations before heading indoors.

Later, winding down for the night, we enjoyed Ian's photo (on Facebook) of Venus "in the cradle" of the Moon, Earthshine showing, we reopened the topic of celestial motion. I launched SkyTools to get some data.

In the Interactive Atlas, zoomed in on the scene, I showed how moment by moment, the Moon could be seen moving eastward, toward Venus, very quickly. I had mentioned this outside that through a telescope, tight on the Moon, one would see stars disappearing on the east edge of the Moon. All the while, Venus was moving too, surprisingly fast actually, against the background stars.

This really threw Rhonda.

I included the horizon line in the chart to show how the planets, including Mercury, and the Moon, were setting, falling into the western horizon. That was the major or significant observed motion over the course of minutes and hours of time. Then I showed the scene the following night where the Moon was now a thicker crescent and left of Venus. I showed that the Moon had "hopped" over the planet. Day by day records would show the Moon travelling east.

I think I hurt her brain. She thought everything moved east to west. I explained that was true for all deep sky objects and the stars. Yes.

And, again, I tried to distinguish between the Earth's rotation. The diurnal motion. The 24-hour rotation of our planet. Under the sky.

Opened Stellarium for smoother time control. Tried to use the Solar System Observer feature but couldn't get it to work. Assumed the old version on John Repeat Dance didn't have the capability. [ed: Not true. Feature is present in version 0.12.4. Use the whole words, not the acronym SSO, while searching to select it.]

She asked why the ecliptic line was moving. Let's leave that for later, I suggested...

Tried to simulate the solar system motions in Solar System Scope web site but it didn't load properly in my old Chrome browser. [ed: And it no longer works on the John Charles computer—Javascript errors.]

Found another simulator, The Sky Live. I positioned us over the north pole of the Sun and speed up the time factor. We watched the planets orbit around our star. Unfortunately, this resource did not show the Moon around the Earth. But then, I assumed, the scale would be a challenge...

inner solar system view from above

I emphasised that everything was rotating counter clockwise. All the planets were moving counter clockwise. And that, in general, all the prime solar system objects, including all the moons around the planets, did the same thing. What?!

Something clicked. I could see her brain rewiring. "I never thought of it that way."

We talked a bit about spin and conservation of momentum in early solar system formation. We talked a bit about exoplanet systems and their motions. We talked about why up is up and north is north.

"The counter clockwise motion of the planets in the solar system and the Moon accounts for the eastward motion of the objects in the sky." I wanted to keep it simple, not getting into retrograde apparent motion, the inferior planet motions, etc. Another day...

We talked a bit about orbits and that in general they were all elliptical. Nothing was a perfect circle. She wanted circles. Nope. Ellipses are common. We talked a bit about solar system orbit migration.

We talked a bit about orbital speeds. I misinterpreted a question initially but clarified that the orbital speeds were in fact different: faster for the inner; slower for the outer.

I played with the date/time settings is TSL. We talked a bit about now being an awesome time to look at Mars from the Earth, given their proximity and given Mars's offset orbital path.

While in the tool, moving freely in space, I zoomed out. It was clear the Pluto is very different than all the other official planets, looping inside Neptune for a time, very elliptical, and highly inclined.

I still wanted to show a simulation of the Moon spinning around the rapidly spinning Earth all while the planets drifted slowly around the Sun. I mentally noted to look for a tool.

Mind blown...

Monday, July 09, 2018

today's Mars facts

Here is some updated Mars info.

The Earth-Mars distance is 0.4 AU right now. That's approximately 60 000 000 kilometres. This continues to decrease toward opposition.

The phase is 0.98 or 98%. Nearly full.

The magnitude is -2.44. Quite bright. And will increase.

Current apparent visible size is 22". This will increase too.

It crosses the meridian, above the south cardinal point, at around 3:00 AM.

Mars will reach opposition in about 17 days.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

colourful crest

Rhonda won a draw prize at the Open House and Awards Picnic. She picked out an embroidered patch, the new one for the RASC 150th anniversary.

RASC 150th anniversary crest

Then she handed it to me. Ah! Thank you!

We identified the Moon, colourful stars, comet, open cluster, galaxy with globular clusters, and the aurora. Very nice.


We missed the Manicouagan astrobleme alluding to impact cratering in the Canadian Shield.

recognised for double star work

After recognising the recipients of the Ontario Volunteer Service Awards, the president Ralph Chou announced the winners of the RASC Toronto Centre awards. I was astonished when I heard my name called for the Bert Topham Award for Observing, notably for my double star work, both at the local centre level and nationally. Wow. What a surprise!

Bertram J Topham became fascinated with astronomy after the First World War and built a large observatory behind his home. He observed rather faint variable stars with great precision. He also searched for novae and comets. He was a careful observer of aurora and made significant contributions to meteor research. The Toronto Centre created the award for outstanding observers in 1984.

I am honoured to have my name with the likes of Guy Nason, Bob Chapman, Andy Beaton, Tom Luton, to name a few.

Friday, July 06, 2018

scanned solargraph 2 (Bradford)

Scanned the solargraph from our backyard pinhole camera, installed December 2017. A rather different result than June 2017.

backyard solargraph 2017-2018

There was some strange shadows but I like the look better. Processed with an hp scanner and GIMP.

Monday, July 02, 2018

no Mercury but a fantastic fireball (Bradford)

During the drive home, Rhonda repeatedly looked for Mercury, staring out the car window and comparing the scene to the view in SkySafari.

As we arrived home, we decided to try for some elevation, atop the water tower hill west of the St Teresa Of Calcutta Catholic School.

Too late. We noted Venus was low while Leo was still fully visible. When I checked her smartphone, I found the time was not current. When set dynamically, we found Mercury was well below the horizon. Oh well.

We turned west for the car and followed the foot path to Mills Court. As I scanned the sky, I spotted something strange. For a good second of time, I was transfixed. But then I called out and pointed. Rhonda saw it too.

It was a relatively slow-moving fireball! Low in the eastern sky, exiting Sagittarius, travelling below Aquila and Cygnus. Parts were breaking off, it was fragmenting, leaving a long glowing train. The meteor was yellow, not terribly bright. It was amazing.

We noted the time. Headed home. And I submitted a report to the International Meteor Organization. We were assigned number 144047 (link).


Several observations were added to ours. The IMO issued a formal report, number 2018-2286 (link).

northbound fireball

The plotted trajectory closely matches our observation. Exciting!

Friday, June 22, 2018

rough cut up

The rough cut of the live stream is online. This is from the RASC Toronto Centre Recreational Astronomy Night meeting on Wed 20 Jun. Presenters include Chris Vaughan delivering The Sky This Month and the Nath family on predicting potentially hazardous asteroid impacts. I talked about my barn door tracker with alt-az base. My presentation begins at 1 hour 7 minutes.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

assisted at DDO

"Worked" at the David Dunlap Observatory for the day with Chris and Bhairavi. Sorted many things including computers, info tech equipment, the new Skylab projectors, telescopes for lawn observing, craft supplies, etc. Did some prep of the SkyLab room for my delivery on Sat 23 Jun. As Chris did some tests in the dome, I was able to observe. The day went very fast!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

RASC meeting tonight

Remember if you can't make RASC Toronto Centre meetings in person you can watch online. Our live stream will start shortly before 7:30 PM EDT.

Once again, this evening, I'll be delivering a talk on my barn door tracker (with integrated alt-az base) construction project.

And with respect to tonight, 20 Jun '18, as there is another big event happening at the OSC, RASC members are reminded to bring their ID cards.

And to be clear, your RASC member cards are not mailed out anymore; you can print your own after you log into the RASC store and access your membership account. Or copy the PDF to your smartphone or tablet.

photographed SAO 186216 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged HD 164863 aka SAO 186216. This is a multi-star system in the constellation Sgr. In the middle of open cluster Messier 21 (M21). Viewed the star system in July 2015. I had not split the G, E, and the C stars.

multi-star system HD 164863 in luminance

Luminance only, 1 second subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

A is the brightest star, of course.

B and C, merged, are to the north-west. They are too close together for BGO to resolve.

D is the somewhat bright star north of A.

E is an extraordinarily dim star north-east of A, inline with a number of bright stars aligned to the east-north-east. Barely visible in the photo! That seems very strange.

F is east-south-east of A, opposite BC, twice the distance.

G is the dim just close to F, just north. Actually, north-north-west. Never spotted before.

H and I are the equal stars, dim, to the west of BC.

Good to get a couple more...

Double star V4202 is visible to the south-west, far away, near the edge of the image. A bright primary and dim secondary to the north-east. A non-related star to the east makes for an attractive little triangle.

The wide pair LYS 32 is due south, also near the edge. Nearly equal stars, oriented south to north.

imaged HD 164492 (Halifax)

Ordered the BGO robot to image HD 164492 aka H N 40. This multi-star system is in the middle of the Trifid Nebula. I have tried on many occasions to split the stars in the centre of the M20 and B85.

multi-star system HD 164492 in luminance

Luminance only, 1 second subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

A is the brightest star, to the north.

B is north of A, somewhat bright, with a hint of a black line between.

C and D are merged in this photo but clearly making a rod shape oriented east-west. SkyTools says they are 2.3" apart, below the BGO's limit.

E is the dim star below or south of CD. I have never split the E element before.

F is the very dim star east of AB. At a 90° angle to the line of the other stars. I have never seen the F partner before.

G is the dim star, about the same as E, to the south-west, inline with B, A, CD, and E.

It is really good to dig out some of these challenging stars.

Only C and D remain...


Wikipedia link: Trifid Nebula.

aimed to M24 (Halifax)

I asked the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to image Messier 24. This open cluster or "star cloud" aka IC 4715 in Sagittarius I only have a single log note for so I wanted to revisit. First viewed this target on 5 Jul '08.

region near Messier 24

Luminance only, 5 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

It look me a while to identify the field. Compared to the location marked in SkyTools 3 Professional, this field of view is west and south. The amazing wikipedia says that some improperly identify M24 as the faint cluster NGC 6603. This is what happened in ST3P.

Ending up in this slightly different location however was fortuitous. This field includes other catalogues clusters and some double star systems.

West from centre, near the edge of the field, is a tight, nearly equal pair of stars orientation north-west to south-east. This is the double ARA 468.

South-west of centre, a short distance away, is a small grouping of bright stars. This is the Turner 4 open cluster. It appears to have some double stars within it!

South, near the edge of the frame, is a large grouping of stars, some of which are arranged in a scraggly vertical line. This is open cluster Turner 2. The wide pair ARA 470 is at the southern limit of this line.

Open cluster Turner 3, with what looks like a little Cassiopeia W-shape of stars, east of 2, is partly cut off.

South-east, well away, is the multi-star system HD 167863 aka SHJ 263. The primary is the bright star to the south. B is bright too, not as much, to the north-north-east. Between A and B are the pair of stars S and T, west to east. They are equal. Inline with S and T but further east is the U element. U is dimmer. West of S and T, in a similar alignment, is the fainter pair of V and W. V is to the north-west and dimmer than W. The R companion is near B, to the south-east. A neat little system. Note: it is a target in the AL advanced binocular programme.

ARA 473 is a simple pair to the north-east. Wide. Actually, the A star is slightly dimmer than B. The SkyTools chart shows B is mag 10.9 vs 11.7.

A busy part of the Milky Way...

Upon review, I think I"ll leave M24 in the View Again list. It should really be viewed with binoculars or at very low telescopic power.


Wikipedia link: Sagittarius Star Cloud.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

found a blinking satellite

Found the TELKOM 3 satellite in the star trails images. The images below were captured on the evening on Thursday 14 June from the Carr Astronomical Observatory on the Blue Mountains. The times shown are Eastern Daylight.

The satellite information from Heaven's Above:

Spacetrack catalog number: 38744
COSPAR ID: 2012-044-A
Name in Spacetrack catalog: TELKOM 3
Orbit: 246 x 1,930 km, 49.9°
Country/organisation of origin: Indonesia

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - A

Shot 8012. At 11:47:36 PM. North-bound airplane over the house.

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - B

Shot 8013. At 11:48:23 PM. That plane continues north.

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - C

Shot 8014. At 11:49:10 PM. Flashes appear inside the Big Dipper pot.

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - D

Shot 8015. At 11:49:57 PM. Flashes above UMi and thru Dra.

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - E

Shot 8016. At 11:50:44 PM. Flashes below the head of Draco.

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - F

Shot 8017. At 11:51:31 PM. Flashes in Cygnus.

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - G

Shot 8018. At 11:52:18 PM. Gone?

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - H

Shot 8019. At 11:53:05 PM. Gone.

satellite TELKOM 3 plot

Image from Heaven's Above, rotated.

quick star trails

Did a super-quick stack of the star trails, still hoping to see something... Made from 1024 wide JPGs. Using the data gathered on 14 Jun.

star trails from the CAO

200+ lights. 15+ darks. DPP. StarStaX.

Funny Dietmar's disco car.

shot the missing darks

Made a series of darks for the star trails on the weekend. Did it indoors as the air temp was around 14 to 15 degrees. Shot at ISO 1600, 45 seconds, daylight WB, with the fisheye at f/5.6. RAW format! With the same 2 second gap.

looking good out east

I received a notification from the Clear Sky Alarm Clock system for the BGO - SMU location. Good skies were predicted for 22 hours. And I knew the robotic observatory was "back from vacation."

Favorable observing conditions at Halifax
Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
06-19 @ Hour 22 for 2 hours (0%/Above Ave./Poor)
06-20 @ Hour 03 for 1 hours (0%/Above Ave./Poor)


Monday, June 18, 2018

received cards

Rhonda and I received our RASC membership cards from the national office. Ooh. Colour! Just in time too: the Wednesday meeting at the Ontario Science Center? They'll be carding people (on this occasion).

to protect the primary

Posted a note to the CAO supervisors group with a recommended procedure that Ian W and I had considered for the new RC 'scope.