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.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

spotted a flashing satellite (Bradford)

I spotted a tumbling or spinning satellite from 11:05 PM to 11:12. Picked it up around Mizar/Alcor and followed it to near Altair. It looked like it reach magnitude zero or perhaps a minus value a couple of times.


Reported it on the RASC Toronto forums.


I looked it up on CalSky and learned about the TELKOM 3 satellite. The path in Heaven's Above looked correct.

by the campfire (Bradford)

Well. It's not really a campfire. It is backyard fire-pit fire. Anyhoo, Rhonda and I were enjoying the pleasant air temperature and clear skies, enjoying each other's company, having a beer, and feeding the mosquitoes. Encouraged rho to try her SkySafari. I kept watching the sky for tumbling or flaring satellites. Caught something bright just over the house for a tiny fraction of a second. A fireball?

invasion beer

Stumbled across a funny beer. Brought some home for Rhonda. Unfortunately, it is a rather tart IPA and neither of us are fans. So, I just had to drink it.

Space Invader beer

Space Invader is made by Amsterdam Brewing Company (Canada).


Did a bit more work on the observatory today. Installed the synthetic barrier material to the south gable, temporarily removing the vent Ian had just installed. Then I installed the north gable sheathing and fabric barrier.

Jo did it

Learned from Grace that Jo worked on the design of the Cosmic beer label. Small planet.

first light with RC 16 (Blue Mountains)

Saturday 16 June 2018. First light with the GSO Ritchey-Chr├ętian 16-inch telescope! It worked.

the RC 16 ready to go

But the skies were not great. Still, we were happy. Millie, Grace, Sailu, Tony, Ian W, Dietmar, Thomas, and myself herded into the Geoff Brown Observatory.

We viewed the Moon. Very nice. Ian did a walk-up hand-held iPhone shot. Quite good. Mare Crisium was obvious. Little Picard was stark.

Ian and I were happy with the collimation.

Pointing was wobbly. Had to manually align then sync on objects.

10:33 PM. Viewed something... I forget what... Jupiter? Saturn? Venus?

I asked for Porrima. They entertained me, viewing a double star. Asked people about the colours.

Ian asked for the 10mm eyepiece. I thought it was in the Tele Vue.

Sailu and I talked about red stars. The Garnet was not my favourite.

I created a new telescope profile in my SkyTools software. 16" or 41cm aperture. Focal length is 3251mm. Focal ratio is 8. It was nice to be able to use the optical condition of "very clean" for a change. New info sheets will need to be made up.

I wondered about a galaxy. We headed for the Leo triplets. Sky not quite dark enough yet.

Sailu and I talked about software. He used EKOS. We talked about kStars.

Millie and Dietmar headed to bed.

Sailu and I viewed M66, M65, and NGC 3628. We could see the dust lanes in galaxy 3628.

Rhonda and I chatted by SMS. Told her we were enjoying first light.

Everyone was gone. I considered my own programme now with the new OTA.

Ian returned. Asked to go to Jupiter as the sky was better. A pretty good view.

Slewed to HD 125906, a double star target. Almost exactly between the stick figures of Virgo and Libra. Suggested by the ST3P software from the Nightly Observing List Generator. Nice. Noted the tight pair in the centre. Noted a pattern of stars up and right for me (north), evocative of Auriga.

11:18. Reviewed the Virgo star field in SkyTools 3 Pro after ensuring I had the GSO 16 active with the Tele Vue 27 Panoptic. First use of the new telescope configuration with the atlas screens. Nice. Working well.

A triple. The brighter star was to the right or north. The B element was a touch fainter. Magnitudes 6.8 vs 7.5. I did see a faint star to the left or south. The closest star of the Auriga pattern was PPM 197487. I saw a faint star between in and the AB: GSC 5562-648.

I saw the C star, STF 1833 C. Opposite the PPM. Closer than GSC 5562-648. South of AB. Magnitude 13.9. Oh...

Hotel foxtrot! Suddenly realised with the bigger 'scope now I could see fainter moons...

Slewed to Jupiter... Started verifying the field.

Thomas dropped in. Told him I was going for Himalia.

I saw it for a second...

Messaged the super.

Helped Thomas. Guided him to the three vertical stars (north-west to south-east) with GSC 5577-564. Nearly equidistant. The top was slightly further. There was a brighter star to the right or north-east: GSC 5577-566. Further north-east GSC 5577-273. A bit fainter. Left or south-west of 566 was the moon. About the same brightness as the dimmest of the three vertical stars.

I saw it again, briefly, with averted vision.

11:39. Got it! Happy about that. Very happy. So my plan worked, using the new 'scope, that Ian suggested had 30% more light gathering power. The mag limit of the new 16-inch 'scope is 16.5; Himalia is 15.1.

Asked Thomas what he wanted to look at. He had no preferences. I noticed the handle of the Big Dipper up high. Suggested M51 (Messier 51).

Ian W arrived for a look at the elusive moon.

Thomas called it a night.

Slewed to a new target. The Ring Nebula (M57, Messier 57). Lovely. Lots of detail in the nebula. Could not see the star.

Ian chose M27, the Dumbbell. Big! Very nice. Bad point. I panned to it using the 101. Ian wanted to look at it with a UHC but I couldn't remember if we had one. Regardless, he liked the view.

Ian wanted Saturn... OK, fine.

We chatted about the new observation work for Sunday morning and general CAO close-out Sunday afternoon.

Added M51, the Whirlpool, to my list. It was pretty spectacular. Thought I could see The Bridge.

Synced then slewed to M100. Didn't see anything so I picked a bright star nearby. Synced on Denebola. Then back to the galaxy. OK. Super faint. No interesting field stars. Large. Lots of averted vision. Face on. Nothing like M51. The single bright star was HD 107726.

Sounded like Ian was closing up.

Tried for the comet again, C/2015 O1, in UMa. Used NGC 4088 to start.

A mottled galaxy, 4088. Canted. Bright star nearby. Streaky bright small galaxy "over there" (to the south): NGC 4085.

The comet should have been above or north of the galaxies. Near a backwards L. Nothing obvious. It should have been near the mag 13.2 star GSC 3457-80. Nope.

12:43, Sun 17 Jun '18. I was tired. Considered eta CrB. I had seen all the elements. Still it was on my View Again list. And it is a Fast Mover.

Synced and slewed. Tough. Told the software I had the 10mm installed. West to the 8 o'clock positon. I saw a rod oriented west-east. 0.4" apart as of May.

3 hours left on the recording.

Mosquitos were bugging me.

12:57. Chose HD 85458 in UMa. Used the HIP number 48369 in TheSky. Cool! Beside Bode's. Switched back to the 27mm. Probably not a good candidate. Really faint. Hold the phone. A quad.

A and C are oriented north and south with A to the south. C and D are a close pair but easy. In the TV101 one can see the A and C. In the RC16 all four stars are visible. A and B are 2.1" apart. Wow! Fun with the galaxy right there. OK. It's a keeper.

Parked. Did a big shutdown, thinking ahead to Sunday day proper...


That was a ton of fun using the new telescope.