Saturday, June 25, 2016

imaged NGC 6781 (Halifax)

BGO imaged the planetary nebula NGC 6781 for me. From within Aquila, one of the RASC Finest NGCs. Wow, huge! Unfortunately, there are problems with the image... lines, artefacts...

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 6781 luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GiMP. North is up; left is east.

Friday, June 24, 2016

imaged the Blinking (Halifax)

The BGO 'bot also photographed NGC 6826. A planetary nebula in Cygnus. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Also known as the Blinking Planetary. Neat! Unfortunately, there's a focus issue... or a planar issue, noticeable on the left edge of the frame.

RASC Finest The Blinking Planetary nebula luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GiMP. North is up; left is east.


I didn't notice it at first but on the right edge of the frame, abbove (north) of the star GSC 03565-0243, there's a small round fuzzy: galaxy PGC 63573. Possibly an elliptical. Or a compact spiral.

imaged NGC 6210 super fast (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 6210 for me. A re-do (from Jun 20) of the Turtle planetary nebula. Grabbed 1.0 second luminance frames so to reveal the central star. It worked!

Also grabbed more O-III and hydrogen-alpha data.

RASC Finest Turtle planetary nebula luminance

Luminance only, 1 second subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GiMP. North is up; left is east.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

finished mirror control cable

Finished the custom serial mirror cable build. Just needs a proper project box...

I wanted to make my own cable for controlling the mirror of the Canon 40D DSLR while using Backyard EOS. This will allow still photography with the mirror locked up to eliminate vibration.

schematic of mirror control cable using opto-isolator

Ultimately, this design is based on Paul Beskeen's circuit where he uses an opto-coupler. Initially, I had made a cable based on Michael Covington's circuit with MOSFETs, which worked, but I was attracted to the isolation benefit and the status indicator feature. I changed to discreet yellow and red LEDs from Beskeen's plan. I added the switch on the input side to block junk falling out of the serial port on starting a computer. Used the fantastic Express SCH and PCB once again.

The parts:
  • old Psion serial cable with female DB-9 connector
  • 470 and 330 ohm resistors, from the spare parts bins
  • diffuse red LED (for exposure indication)
  • diffuse yellow LED (for standby indication)
  • small SPST switch, from the spare parts bins
  • Lite-On LTV-817 opto-isolator transistor from digi-key
  • female 2.5mm submini audio stereo jack (with screw terminals) from Sayal 
The other cabling to make it all work:
  • Neewer Canon N3-to-2.5mm submini plug from Amazon
  • serial 9-connector extension cable
Learned a lot on this build (ironic, given the small circuit). Serial communication signals and that voltages flip from positive to negative and can vary by 12 to 15 volts. What MOSFETs are and how they work—field effect transistors are not unlike regular (bipolar) transistors. What opto-couplers are and how they work—they too act like a switch; the input side, with the internal LED, must be current limited. And that the focus (half-press) and expose/shutter release (full-press) channels carry voltages from the camera. And that I do not enjoy soldering submini jacks.

Again, it works (on the bench). I look forward to trying it in the field!

Monday, June 20, 2016

captured NGC 6939 (Halifax)

BGO imaged NGC 6939 for me. A lovely open cluster in Cepheus. A member of the RASC Finest NGCs catalogue.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 6939 luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

received blue data (Halifax)

BGO helped me with another re-do. The first attempt at NGC 7129 was interrupted and I did not receive blue data. No problem this time...

RASC Finest open cluster and nebula NGC 7129 luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

imaged NGC 6210 faster (Halifax)

I continue to struggle with imaging planetary nebula. They seem to be incredibly bright and exposure times used for galaxies, 60 seconds, 30 seconds, are not appropriate.

I asked BGO to reshoot the Turtle Nebula for me. One-third the speed of the first go-round. It complied. Sadly, I still cannot see the central star...

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 6210 luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

reshot NGC 6940 (Halifax)

Another redo. The May 21 image of the open cluster NGC 6940 showed some trailing. This one worked out much better. Also, I used a different stretch function, Log(x), which seems to be much nicer on star groups...

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 6940 luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.


There's an interesting triple star south of centre: L48 (Thomas Lewis). The B star is shown to the south in SkyTools 3 Pro; the image shows it to the east.

Oops! I think I judged the first run images based on the bright star at the bottom right—and interpreted the elongated shape as trailed images. In fact, that peanut is a bright pair of stars! That the double HD 196021, aka Σ2698. SkyTools shows the 8.7 and 9.7 magnitude stars just outside the boundary of the open cluster.


It's interesting to me that this latest image is not exactly the same framing as the earlier. Why? Why would BGO point to a slightly different spot?

dark skies over Runnymede (Toronto)

There was some astronomy content at Hil & Cam's 25th anniversary party. ;-)

The thick clouds moved off later in the evening. I spotted Mars over the neighbour's house, to the south, toward Colbeck (the old stomping grounds). Orange. Bright. Intense. And beautiful. I pointed it out to many. No, that was Antares, twinkling—up and right was the planet.

A lovely temperature. Dark trees and Space Cadet blue.

The nearly full Moon was, fortunately, blocked by the tall trees. At least in the early evening. One thing the Bloor West Village has going for it is that there are fantastically old and tall and healthy trees lining the streets and towering up from people's yards.

Had to wait for it. As people imbibed and reminisced and wallowed. It was probably around 11:00 PM or midnight that Saturn revealed itself, down and right, about the 4 o'clock position from stunningly brilliant Luna. She'll make you a little crazy. I watched the Moon slowly move eastward.


One of the boys asked me if Saturn would be visible tomorrow. Yes. I pointed out the Moon however, if looking for a reference, wouldn't be there. "What?" he asked. It would be further east, about 15 degrees. "What?" That seemed to throw him. I said, "Simply put, same time, tomorrow, sit in that chair, Saturn will be in the exact same spot." It's be there for a month. That worked.


Reconnected with Laurie and Stu. So good. Too long. So overdue. They seemed very interested in my exploits on the Blue Mountain. I promised to invite them up. Sounds like Jamie is still keen about astronomy.


One of the boys asked me if I had heard about Laniakea, the super-super cluster of galaxies. What? A structure larger than the super clusters of galaxies like the Local Group or the Virgo Super Cluster. Wow. No, I admitted, I hadn't. Later he pulled the issue of Scientific American. Wow: big!


I looked up the Laniakea article. The video was quite illuminating.

reshot NGC 6503 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 6503 for me. Galaxy in Draco. This was a redo from May 12. But again, I see problems in the bottom-left. Possibly worse than the first time.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 6503 luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

imaged NGC 6210 (Halifax)

A clear night over Nova Scotia triggered my imaging run. The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robotic telescope completed three captures. First up, the Turtle, or NGC 6210, a planetary nebula in Hercules. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. These things are bright! Good round stars in this image.

RASC Finest Turtle planetary nebula luminance

Luminance only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.


Wow. There are a bunch of faint fuzzies in this image... Katrina, using Starry Night and her tablet tried to help me tag them.

Near the top-left corner (that's north-east) are two LEDA/PGC galaxies, both identified by SkyTools. The northern one is, a small oval, LEDA 1696456 and the southern LEDA 1695920. It looks a bit deformed.

Left of the planetary nebula is an extremely faint face-on object. None of our apps labelled this. I had to use Aladin with the NEDS layer. SDSS J164456.12+234621.6.

Near the bottom-left, close to the edge of the frame, is LEDA 1690678, a long thin oval.

Beside the bright star at the bottom left but still close to it is a canted galaxy. It is GALEX J164504.3+234221.

Finally, bottom, right at the edge, centre of the frame, another canted galaxy: GALEX J164420.2+233641.


Found the Turtle in my View Again list in SkyTools. I removed it.


Imaged again, 1/3rd the exposure time.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Canadian astronauts wanted

The Canadian Space Agency announced a recruitment campaign for two new Canadian astronauts from today through to 15 August 2016.

David Saint-Jacques should be going up in 2018 and Jeremy Hansen before 2024.

We want you!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

he shared his shots

I asked Bill if he had processed any of his photos from his recent CAO trip. Of course.
All shot with the twins. He regrets not bringing his 9¼". But I like 'em, the wide fields.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

received SN Jul/Aug 2016

cover of SkyNews magazine - Jul/Aug 2016 issue
Woo hoo. Newest SkyNews arrived. Feels thicker than normal. Ah: there's a new "section," the RASC national newsletter within...

The July/August issue has an article on the black hole in the Milky Way, a special report on solar eclipse sites next year, and a piece on Canadian dark skies sites.

Best of all: an article on double stars visible in city limits. Nice.

Monday, June 13, 2016

processed NGC 6819

Assembled NGC 6819 in full colour using the LRGB data from 11 Jun. Another go at the new method... Does it seem a little blue? Or is it that there are a lot of young stars?

open cluster NGC 6819 is colour

FITS Liberator. Photoshop. North is up; left is east.

made new wx pages

I built weather portal pages for my new home and the robot out east.

checked another set

Compared the roof-top SQM values from the evening of 2 Jun to the ones Bill helped me capture...

3:00 - 21.39
3:30 - 21.31

Our four readings, captured at 3:26, averaged: 21.16.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

saw single dog

Spotted a huge prismatic vertical sun dog to the right of the Sun. Colourful.

sent merge request anew

Sent another request to to merge my accounts. Used the recommended subject line this time...