Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Made tethers for the telescope. Used 1/16" wire rope with double-barrel aluminum sleeves. One cable, short, for the finder scope. One cable, long, for the camera. Drilled a small hole in the finder scope mount to receive a key ring. On the free ends of the tether I used a small carabiner. The risk of dropping something now is reduced.

Monday, April 14, 2014

oh my

All the way from Vulcan.

Or Pluto's Moon.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

received SJA training

Took the St. John Ambulance Emergency First Aid + AED training. Whew! Feel much better now. And I feel that I'm a little better equipped for when I'll be up at the Carr Astronomical Observatory where, even in the summer, we're a bit remote. Hope I never need to use it...

Friday, April 11, 2014

verified supernova location

Did some digging into supernova SN 2014a. Double-checked the position noted in SkyTools.

The ST3P Context Viewer chart is centred on the exploding star.

My photo from 5 April clearly shows a bright point in this location. To the right of the galaxy core. Forming a right-angle triangle with J091946.4+334529 and J091947.8+334605. Between J091946.4+334529 and J091939.9+334632.

And I checked the area with the Aladin previewer. No star in the Aladin image.

I think SN 2014ai is about the same brightness as J091946.4+334529 and brighter than J091947.8+334605 and J091939.9+334632.

Nicole used my clouds photo

Nicole did a story on increasing noctilucent clouds, as reported by NASA. She asked the Facebook crew if anyone had a "local" photograph. Bill remembered mine. I sent Nicole the link to my blog post of Jul 2011. She liked what she saw.

The Global News article—Rare, shimmering nighttime clouds on the rise, NASA says—is up now. Ha! My photo is front n' centre.

I thanked Nicole. And Bill!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

lost at Sky & Tel

Sky and Telescope changed their web site. As usual, it's gonna take a while to find stuff. They assure us it is still all there. That may be so but I'm struggling to find things.


The links I have to the double star lists still work. But they are mapping stuff...

a bit more detail

And again.

Much more aggressive wavelets. Touched the gamma a little. And I did some RGB shifting.

Too much?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

stacked Mars from last week

Tried stacking Mars again. Registax 6.

Manually selected the best frames.

Monday, April 07, 2014

whole sky planet viewing (Mississauga)

Mars was very low, orange, like an ember, over the houses to the west. Saturn was higher up. Moments later I lost it in the brightening sky. Venus was bright, rising over the roof tops to the south-east. Less than 20° up.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

a great finish (Blue Mountains)

11:11 PM, Sat 5 Apr 2014. The icd-sx750 voice recorder shutdown. Headed to the house. Put some alkaline AAA batteries from the kitchen in the Sony; my 8 Duracell rechargeables were bad.

Seeing looked good! Hopefully, with the early collimation adjustment to the Celestron 14-inch, I'd get some better Mars data.

Shutdown the EOS Utility. Disconnected the long USB cable. Dismounted the camera.

Decided to go to Mars now. The Paramount flipped over the meridian. Viewed Mars. Tried high power, up to 391. The windy seemed to be shaking the 'scope. Could see some detail even though my right eye did not seem to be working. But the seeing was not good enough for that high magnification.

Reviewed the Nightly Planner in ST3P. Applied filters. First up was ε (epsilon) Persei. I was a little anxious about moving the roof further north. Switched to a Puppis target. Dropped the south wall flaps.

Thornbury weather from Weather Network. 0 feels like -3. Wind SW 10 km. Humidity 61. Pressure 102.1 and rising. Saturday overnight -4 feels like -10, POP 0, wind 20 gusting to 32, humidity 63. Sunday morning still cold. -1 feels like -7. Winds picking up. Humidity a titch higher. Collingwood .

Slewed to HR 3315. aka SAO 175378. Back across the meridian. The 'scope was nearly horizontal!

11:38 PM. From the RASC Observer's Handbook coloured doubles—supplemental list. They call it S 568 Pup. A pair. Colours are great. Widely separated. Very different magnitudes. The primary is a bright orange star. Secondary. Dull. Sparkling, shimmering badly. 2.8 airmasses, at the moment. Mag 5 and 9 stars (normally). Very colourful. Neat pair. Saw a gaggle of stars nearby. Found HD 71142 at the 5 o'clock position. Spotted another pair, off to the side, between S 568 and HD 71142 . Equally bright. Almost the same orientation as 568. HD 71175 and PPM 728610 around magnitude 9. Very nice. 568 is a great double star. Glad I saw that, even though it was so low.

[ed: Haas says "bright apricot-orange" and "small ruddy."]

11:48. Chose Hubble's Variable Nebula aka NGC 2261. In Monoceros. Just as it was dropping below the 2x airmass. Very interesting. At low power in the C14, it had something of a V-shape. SkyTools also showed a bright star, R Mon, at the tip of the V. Like the nebula was trailing away. Like a comet. Lots of stuff in the area... Nice. Pleasing with the 27mm eyepiece. Cool shape. Noted other stars, one to the south-east, GSC 00746-0913 at mag 13.6, south star GSC 00746-1835 at 13.5, a little gaggle above, the double below, to the east. Neat object. Diffuse cone shape or fan shape. Close to the Moon which is probably decreasing the contrast. Glad I viewed it. It was suggested from the RASC Finest list. Also TAC. At some point I had added it to my Showpieces list, which will be good, in dark skies. Not far from the Cone Nebula and the Rosette (NGC 2244).

Considered HR 3674 or SAO 220978. In Vela! I've not viewed doubles in this constellation. It'd be fun to add one, I thought. TheSky protested, said it was below the horizon. Indeed. Scratch that, I thought. Not visible in the Tele Vue either, despite being mounted higher. The Year Bar suggested the time is nigh. Maybe an hour ago it might have worked.

Considered the another target from SkyTools's observing list. Noted a big comet—C/2014 E2 (Jacques)—in Pyxis, near θ (theta) Pyx. Took out the 55mm ocular.

Verified I was on θ in the Tele Vue. With the 5mm. About a field away from the comet. Tried to pan manually straight up (mostly east) in the field. No... Floundered. Took out the 10mm ocular for the refractor. No.

12:05 AM, Sun 6 Apr 2014. Did not see anything. Double checked the location. Checked again. Manually slewed to where the comet should be and took the 10mm TV eyepiece out for the refractor.

12:12 AM. Still no luck. In-line with a pair of stars, HR 3770. Went down (or west). A mag 10 comet. Huge. But extincted to mag 12. 4.3 airmasses. Yikes. With a Moon-lit sky. Well, the Year Bar showed it would be much better later in the year... Aug/Sep. I wondered what the extended magnitude was.

I was on the west side of the sky. Considered Ursa Major. But it was just crossing the meridian. What about the Lynx area? Noted a supernova from SkyTools albeit 15.6 mag. Oh. Way up there, in the limit of the big 'scope, but would I be able to see it? In a galaxy cluster ACO 779. Headed to α (alpha) Lyncis. Then randomly moved to the area near the group. Looked for a right-angle triangle.

12:28. Figured out where I was. Off target. Identified the super bright star HR 3707 in Cancer. And realised I wanted to go the opposite direction of it. I headed north, into Lynx.

Spotted galaxy NGC 2832. But not the supernova within. A big-L pattern. A T-shape. Confirmed I was in the right area.

Decided to hook up the camera. Returned to α Lyn for focusing. Centred with the 27mm eyepiece. Returned to the galaxy area. Connected to the camera (after wiggling the cable and waking up the camera). Focused manually. Bit of a connection issue again... Tried a 1 minute exposure.

Was lost. Star hopped but couldn't get my bearings. Slight pointing issues with TheSky again. Was trying to find a medium-sized triangle in SkyTools that was taking up about 1/5th of the field of view. Gah. Took a couple of 300 second exposures.

C14, unmodded Canon 40D, 300 seconds, f/11, ISO 1600, daylight white balance, no noise reduction, no processing,converted from RAW to JPG with DPP.

1:17. Ha! Activated the ALL button in the Context Viewer. The image showed many faint galaxies! I had actually been in the right spot. Focus was poor, sadly. Still, I could see lots of fuzzies! I figured out the field. Damn! Right on it. The photo is pretty well centred on the ACO 779 group marking in SkyTools.

[ed. NGC 2832 was the bright fuzzy galaxy in the centre; NGC 2831 is just below; NGC 2830 is the edge-on below again; NGC 2834 is to the left of the pair of stars TYC 02496-1181 1 and GSC 02496-1354, yellow and blue. LEDA 139185 is visible to the left of the star GSC 02496-1254. NGC 2825 is near the bottom centre. Possibly LEDA 2037597 is visible; if not the galaxy then the star J091945.6+334312. LEDA 2036350 is down and left of TYC 02496-1118 1. NGC 2828 is at the right edge. It looks like TYC 02496-1118 1 might be a double star... Fascinating. Amazingly, I caught the supernova SN 2014ai.]

1:54. After another round of imaging of the Auriga area, I returned to Lynx. Tried to image the supernova with 5 min exposures. Now I had better focus.

[ed: The host galaxy is about 310 million light-years away from the Earth. So this supernova makes my life list as the most distant!]

1:55. The sky was looking very dark now. And Mars had crossed the meridian.

1:56. I would need to empty the Sony recorder soon. I continued waiting... waiting for the images...

1:59. The first image downloaded. Ha. I nailed the area! I blinked it but didn't see the supernova.

2:25. Focused on Spica again for Mars. Use AJT again.

2:31. The seeing looked crappy. I tried 1/250 of a second every 5 secords. Took 50 shots. It was frustrating. The conditions seemed worse now.

2:40. I shot darks. Removed the dew shield which seemed to be picking up wind...

2:42. Viewed HD 79210, aka Σ1321, from the spring RASC Coloured Doubles list. I initially saw two equally bright, equally coloured stars. Both orange. Widely separated in the 27mm in the Celestron 14" SCT. These are the A and B stars.

RASC says yellow and blue. Wha? Are they talking about the A and D stars? [ed: The RASC list says the separation is 18", the mags are 8 and 8, and that's the AB pair.]

3:03. I took SQM readings: 21.19 first, then 10, 16, 11, 06, and 10 again.

3:08. I tore down the camera and USB cable.

Viewed the double again. Definitely orange. They were faint in the Tele Vue 101 refractor at 50x. It's a nice quad. D is blue. C, wow, is very faint! Didn't notice it... Averted vision is needed for C. [ed: Haas says "interesting object." Indeed. "Cool M" stars, "widely apart," and "identical." She thinks they are "peach white" whereas Webb says "yellow." At 17.7" separation, it seems she is commenting on the AB pair. No mention of other stars. M stars would be orange or red. She says they are identical. Both she and Webb use descriptions in the yellowy-orangey end of the spectrum. So, in summary, Haas and I are in agreement in terms of appearance, separation, colour, brightness. But the yellow-blue colours from RASC seem wrong. The RASC list also makes no mention of the other two companions. I'll report to Duval.]

The stars B and C and D are all about the same distance apart and form a nearly perfect equilateral triangle. Wow: the AC separation, in the ST3P Object Information dialog box, is totally wrong. The chart view however agreed with what I was seeing.

[ed: Some more details from SkyTools... From the OI box, the magnitudes, rounded: A 8, B 8, C 15, D 11. The separation and position angles, rounded: AB 17" 98° (as of March 2014), AC 28" 283°, AD 133" 140°. In the Context Viewer, with the Angle tool, AB 17" 97°, AC 152" 64°, AD 150" 126°. Again, the AC pair is way off. The AD is different too but in the ballpark. Wow. I'll report to Crinklaw.]

3:21. Viewed the Baby Eskimo. It was tiny, bluish, not round. There was either a bright star in the centre or the region was bright. I noted a faint double below. I felt that the planetary nebula IC 3568 deserved higher power. I should look again. [ed: Added to the View Again list.]

It was getting windy. I was feeling tired. But I wanted to finish with something... wow!

3:27. Found comet K1 in Corona Borealis. C/2012 K1 (Pan-STARRS). Yes! It sported a bright centre and an oval coma. The fan tail was diffuse off to the south-west. It was within an arc of bright stars lead by HD 140847. Very pleasing. It was obvious in the TV101 at 50x. Nice.

3:57. I was in bed.

What a week!

in search of weird fuzzies (Blue Mountains)

8:45 PM, Sat 5 Apr 2014. Used AstroJan Tools again for focusing.

Wanted to control the camera in the Warm Room. I wondered if the powered, amplified USB cable would work.

Coyotes going again.

9:30. Viewed Nicole's video. Correlated it to the chart in TheSky. I was in the area. Her blob a bit further east of where I was pointing. Did 90 second exposures with results similar to the other night. Then 120. She had done 600 second exposures—10 minutes. Her blob was very near 5 57 38.83 +46 00 1.68 (2000), near the star 2MASS ID 1291544811, mag 13. My camera frame included her candidate area. I thought I might also be able to see the galaxy LEDA / PGC 2271984 and perhaps PGC 2276793. Nope. Kept trying longer and longer exposures. 

9:37. Put the dew shield on. Felt like the wind had died down. Hopefully it will help with the Moon light. And hopefully it wouldn't catch the wind.

In the zone. My object was in the bottom of the frame. Didn't see the planetary, IC 2149. Probably just off the frame. Added 1 minute to the exposure time.

Was definitely colder. Frost already on the observatory tables.

Adjusted the field rotation in TS6 to match her blinked video. Nicole's blob was near the mag 15.2 star 1291544865. There's a little triangle of faint stars in her image.

Checked the distance traveled in her video. Almost one arc-minute, 53 seconds. Speed? Unknown. I didn't know the dates and times between them. The position angle was 326°.

Oh boy. Might be late night...

Got out the USB extension cable. Checked the ends. Initially thought I'd test it on the observatory floor, just in the camera-computer loop, just to see if it would work. Not as long as I thought. Checked the length... Ugh. Not really long enough to lie on the floor. Just barely. Brought the netbook in from outside. The ASUS detected the active cable as a hub. Shuffled the desk, moving the laptop to the right side, affording space near the door. Hey! Looked it it was not working. The EOS Utility launched immediately but did not activate the control menu. Checked the camera status. Ah. It was off. Tried again, saw the EOS Utility lag, as per usual—it worked!

9:50. Put the camera to Bulb, programmed a 5 minute sub! With a 15 second pause for downloading. Look at that. Fire trucking eh! Back in the Warm Room!

Left the red film off, to watch for colours. Connected John Phil to the network.

Learned about a feature in Canon Digital Photo Professional. I wanted to view photos at a large size and move sequentially through them. Found a suggestion on the web, to use the "Edit Image Window" or Ctrl+Right Arrow (weird). So, select the images to view in the Main window, then go into the Edit window. It has its own toolbar including Next and Previous buttons. It has an optional navigation bar on the left, with thumbnails. Seems like the Home and End keys work. Up and Down arrows work. Left and Right don't work (as per the documentation). Anyhoo. Nice, way faster for browsing!

Also learned that it is the Main window of DPP that wants 768 pixels; it's not the preview itself.

Continued waiting for the 10 minute sub. Examined the 3 minute sub for Nicole's fuzzy. Nothing... Dimmed the red lighting. Reinstalled the red film. Cranked the LCD brightness.

10:06. Reviewed a 10 minute sub. A lot of motion in the photo. Periodic error, wind, etc. Such a weird object. I did not see anything in the area like Nicole's images.

(The trailed stars made me wonder if RASC shouldn't get a guider camera for the C14 for when member's would want to do long exposures. I couldn't remember if the SBIG had an off-axis guider. Damn. I still don't know how to use that camera...)

Still I did not see Nicole's object. I wanted to invert it. DPP didn't seem to offer that ability. Made a copy, exported it. Fired up Paint! Inverted it. Ha! Nothing. Nothing in the area.

Was very happy to remain in the Warm Room.Very enjoyable!

Decided to change position a little bit. Now that the Dell was driving the Paramount I could nudge it!

Was curious about the field of view choices in TheSky. Did not have anything for the Canon. Checked the MallinCam FOV option in the software but it was not right. Rotating. Zooming.

10:16. The next 10 minute downloaded. Blurry again. A lot of motion. Drifting. I decided to go back to 5.

Boring! Nothing to do when you shoot long subs! Ha. Got find something else to do while waiting... Considered new CAO supervisor candidates.

I could just make out the LEDA (PGC) 2276793 and LEDA 2276793 galaxies near the top-right of the frame. And  PGC 2273637 just at the bottom edge of the frame. There should have been another galaxy 2273367...

Did a tiny slew to offset a bit. Chose star GSC 3361:989... Moved east a bit. Started a photo run.

Considered my object, what started this whole chase. Such a strange shape. Most unusual pattern. Very bright. Not in Aladin! Possibly a cometary globule? A galaxy lensed?! Meanwhile, Nicole spotted something that appeared to be moving, but did not see my object. Possibly a comet? Two things going on. Or two flaws?

10:31. The first 5 minute image finished. Made my SkyTools match her photo/video by manually setting the zoom. Blinked it. I spotted something near GSC 03361-0989. A point or an extended point below the star, quite bright, about magnitude 15.0 to 15.5. Brighter than mag 16.0. A comet? No. Probably just a star to the west not in the chart. [ed: the companion star shows in the Aladin previewer...]

10:50. Slewed back to my original area. Wanted to reshoot at 5 minutes.

11:11. Set an alarm 1 hour away to return to the Auriga area.

Nicole forwarded an e-mail from Pete. He thought that her "moving thing" is an artifact in the T20. He talked the collimation mark on the mirror, taking flats, etc.

12:12 AM. Psion reminder alarm went off to return to the Auriga area.

Felt I was losing time, while trying to spot the supernova in Lynx, with Auriga setting in the north west. Opened the roof all the way, for a better view. The roof worked! Minor protesting from the contactor but no apparent strain to the motor. Whew.

1:15, Sun 6 Apr 2014. I returned to Aurgia. Back in the zone. Did a 2 minute sub again. Little bit too high. Pretty well where I was supposed to be.

The focus was off. Refocused with the Optec TCF from approx. 3625 to 3525. Shot another 2 minute exposure. Wondered, out loud, if I could do focus control in the Warm Room. Then I'd be able to do everything. [ed: Yes. Optec offers software control. There are ASCOM drivers.]

Felt colder in the observatory. Spotted my mystery object. Focus looked a bit better. 

1:32 AM. Went 50 less on the focuser, 3475. Changed the sky position a bit.

While waiting for image acquisition, I looked at the browser. Noticed a special weather statement from Environment Canada. Great. Wet snow! 10 centimetres in some areas. Crazy. Current conditions for Collingwood as of 1:00 AM. Temperature was 0. Actually -0.4. Dew point -0.6. Wind is 9 km, chill -4. Humidity 65%. Temp dropping to -8. Pressure was 102.1, rising. Reviewed the forecast from 3:30 PM. Tonight, clearing in the evening. Wind west 40, gusting to 60, 20 after midnight. Light after midnight. Low -8. Sunday is clear and sunny.

Focus looked better again. Could have shifted the field more. Decided to take the focus down another 50. And the frame was still a little high. Went back to a 5 minute exposure.

Tried to hit Divide on the Sony. The memory filled up on the recorder. Nooo. 1 minute left... Oh oh. Switched to hand-typed notes. Damn.

1:41. Continuing the imaging run. 5 min subs. The Optec was at 3422.

I checked the current apparent data from the Auriga area. Going through 2.9 airmasses. It would further deteriorate the image.

The first 5 minute image came in. I didn't see anything moving from earlier this evening.

1:47. Checked the Davis weather station. Our locale conditions at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Wind from the west. Humidity was 85%. The outside temp was -3.4. Dew point -5.6. The barometer was at 1021.2.

OK. Done. Done chasing these weird objects.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

tried tuning the C14

Tried to improve the collimation of the Celestron 14" telescope.

7:15 PM. I made a Duncan collimation mask for the C14 out of corrugated cardboard. Made it hodge-podge with minimal tools. Scissors and carpenter's square. Without a protractor. No idea if it would work.

Briefly considering using Stellarium on the Dell laptop, so to monitor the whole sky. But then TheSky 6 can do the job, when in Zenith mode. No point adding more software.

Realised I would need to use the standard configuration for controlling the Paramount, i.e. use Taurus, to control the 'scope. To then use John Phil for camera control, the monitoring, beside the OTA, during the collimation process. Hooked up the serial data cable to the Dell. Homed the Paramount with Software Bisque's app.

Chose Capella for the collimation star. Up high.

Tilted the 'scope back some more, for clearance. Tried to open the roof. Experienced the roof contactor problem. Huh. No issues the night before. Hit the motor shell (with the small counterweight) and it worked. Decided to stop at the 50% mark. Thinking it would put more weight middle pier. Stopped about one foot away. Had to coaxed the motor before moving again. Grrr. After a few more seconds, I stopped again. Bingo.

8:20. Reaquired Capella. Centred with medium power eyepiece. The wind was gusting a bit as I attached the camera. Hmm.

8:23. Noted the pattern from the focusing mask. Shot a photo. Canon 40D, f/11, ½ second, ISO 1600.

8:28. Felt cold. Realised that being on the observing floor would require more layers. Headed to the house. Returned with three more layers, including the red coat.

Took the netbook out to the telescope. Removed the red film and dropped the screen brightest. Put the small computer on a chair while I stood on the ladder so to reach the Bob's Knobs. Camera was powered with the DC coupler. The Canon USB cable between camera body and computer.

8:35. All set up. Ready to collimate. Saw the outward lines in the collimation mask but found it really hard to nail it. When the lines switch from the curved to the outward is very close to the perfect focus. Tried a few times and gave up. Reverted to the traditional means, with the mask, diffraction rings, inward and outward focus. Later used to Optec to avoid mirror shift.

Astonishing sensitive the collimation screws.

I think it is a tiny bit better. But the seeing was not good at all... I should probably have another go at it.


Forgot about the recommendation of being at 400x with the Duncan mask. That's for visual use, the recommendation, of course.

ST3P says the field is 19'29" x 12'58" with the 40D. The software says the field is 18'20" x 12'12" with the 13mm. That's like 300x. Didn't think to put the doubler in...

spotted Jupiter (Blue Mountains)

Moved into the Geoff Brown Observatory. From the house, brought out the Canon DSLR camera. And the ASUS netbook, of course. Other items for the evening.

Made a point of looking for Jupiter from the south porch.About 10 degrees, left of the Moon, still in a fairly bright blue sky. The Moon helped me focus. Neat.

skies looked good

The plan tonight was rich and multifaceted.

Get more data in the area of β (beta) Aurigae. Collect more information on Nicole's potential moving object and my weird stationary shape. In the area of IC 2149. See (rather image, with the DSLR) if anything was moving or different or there or not there. Her short blinking movie showed something comet-like moving in the area; but, curiously, still no sign of my object. Two objects?!

Wanted to try collimating the big SCT. With a mask.

And after that, try imaging Mars again!

I also wanted to have some fun, do some general deep sky observing. My initial list was mostly double stars. Earlier in the day I had added many DSOs to the SkyTools list. Some from the Finest NGC, the RASC 40 Brightest, etc. Over 100 objects now.

Although the Moon would be setting later, around 2:00 AM, I still wanted to view some fuzzies. The Moon, according to SkyTools 3 Pro, would be magnitude -9, at 37% phase, 6.2 days old. Unfortunately that would add more light for some of the evening. The Moon would be about 37° from β Aur.

Not a lot of clouds. Yeh! Lucky. Another clear night. At the beginning of this trip, I had expected maybe 1 or 2 clear nights. 3? Awesome!

sent note to CBAT

Sent a note to the IAU Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams at Harvard.

Friday, April 04, 2014

blah day

Grey day. Windy and rainy at the observatory. Good day to blog. And fix stuff.