Saturday, July 23, 2016

waves all around

Stumbled across a short but informative video by Minute Physics on gravitational waves. Check it and other great bits on their YouTube channel. Seeing the video reminded me of a feeling I had shortly after learning of the results of the first LIGO detection.

I saw that the ripples in spacetime caused by the gravitational waves detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatories in the US was like us seeing the small waves on the surface of a pond, ripples caused perhaps by a stone tossed into the water, or a fish surfacing to catch a bug.

Scientists determined that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the merger of two black holes approximately 1.3 billion light years away. Something predicted but never observed previously.

Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity says that a pair of black holes orbiting around each other lose energy through the emission of gravitational waves. Over billions of years they slowly approach each other. In the final seconds, they move together very quickly. When they collide, they convert a portion of the combined mass to energy. This energy is emitted as a burst of gravitational waves. Spacetime stretching and flexing. A large rock thrown into a vast ocean.

gravitational waves detected by two LIGO stations

rain drops making expanding ripples on the lake's surface

Elasticity and a source of energy are required for periodic motion. When the elastic object is an extended body, like a pond, then the periodic motion takes the form of traveling waves. It is easy to see these sinusoidal waves. Consider a disturbance in air. A change in air pressure at a single point produces a spherical traveling pressure wave. Or sound. Like a sonic boom. The invisible sound wave in air is a longitudinal wave. 3D.

Of course, the fascinating thing is that space is three-dimensional. The surface of the lake or ocean is two-dimensional and correspondingly easy for us to visualise and grasp. But consider, for a moment, that ripples are being generated all around us in every direction. Every direction. Behind you, above, left, right, from straight ahead.

The other mind-blowing thing to me is to consider that gravitational waves should be produced constantly. Things throughout the Universe are vibrating and shaking and collapsing together. Pulsars, black holes, other cataclysmic events. And, so far, we are only detecting the big events, like black holes merging. But imagine what it will be like when our detection methods improve and our resolution and sensitive increases.

We will, no doubt, see spacetime rippling like a pond in never-ending rain.

  • gravitational waveforms readings by the LIGO detectors from Caltech
  • rain drops on Mew Lake in Algonquin by Blake Nancarrow

Friday, July 22, 2016

next council meeting set

The proposed date for the next RASC Toronto Centre council meeting is Thursday 29 September. It will likely be held at the St Joan of Arc church near Bloor and Keele.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

found the button!

I found the small plastic button switch cap cover thing for the GoToStar motor control system! It was at the bottom of astronomy case β.

It's grey! I thought it was black. No matter.

Finally, at last, she's whole again!

time was right

Fired up the GoToStar system for some quick tests. The time was right (within a few minutes)! Looks like the battery swap on 9 June worked. The onboard clock is running! All right.

stars and bugs

Tried processing my firefly shots from 3 July. Surprising!

First, in Canon DPP. Stretched the histogram on the highlights side 2.0 units, set the colour temp to 4300°K, bumped the brightness to 1.0, and then minor adjustments to contrast, shadows, etc. Cropped 4:3 but I don't think that did anything. Applied the recipe to all. Batch converted to a small TIF.

Then, in StarStaX. Set the Blend Mode to Gap Filling with Comet Mode off. Stacked over 200 images. Set the Threshold to 9/10 or High and the Amount to 8/9 or More. Saved as JPG.

fixed Finest list

Cleaned up the SkyTools RASC Finest N.G.C. Objects list. There were some strange things going on...

Monday, July 18, 2016

learned of Space X successes

Missed the Space X launch today.

Space X launch and landing

But learned it was doubly successful: cargo in a Dragon on its way to the International Space Station; and the Falcon first stage rocket succesfully landed back on Earth.

See the Space X flickr page for more awesome pix.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

we piped Geoff away

Attended the memorial for Geoff Gaherty. A sad event but light too for this wonderful man. Denis spoke very well of his astronomy interests. I did not know he was a herpetologist. Saw many fellow amateur astronomers, not just from the RASC Toronto Centre.

imaged a summer snowball (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 7662 for me. A planetary nebula in Andromeda aka the Blue Snowball. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Sadly, there's a focus issue—bottom-left corner. Also, a satellite went through the luminance data.

RASC Finest planetary nebula the Blue Snowball luminance

Luminance only, 15 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

Spotted a bunch of fuzzies in a highly stretched version...

stretched image to show the faint fuzzies

Top-left corner or north-east, there's a large canted oval galaxy. That's LEDA 2203327.

Toward the top, slightly right or north-north west, I noted a small non-round fuzz ball: LEDA 2203587.

Immediately west of the nebula is a dim small lint ball: LEDA 2200608.

Near the bottom-right corner of the image there appears to be a double or triple star. It is not noted as such in SkyTools. I'll have to look into that later.

Between this item of interest and the planetary I think I see a very dim edge-on. Also not IDed in ST3P.

South-south-west is a dim oval: LEDA 2198265.

Slightly east I think I see a dim fuzzy. Not IDed.

Due east of that there's a small faint fuzzy thing: LEDA 2197897.

Due east of 7662, south-east of the bright star is LEDA 2200851.

Actually, that star is throwing double diffraction spikes...

And there are still more that SkyTools highlighted!

worked on some doubles (Blue Mountains)

Ian W and I chased down some double stars with his 8-inch Dobsonian. He let me use his ASUS netbook and SkyTools softtare.

Ian and I hunting double stars

Photograph by Malcolm Park, copyright © 2016. See Malcolm's Facebook photo album for more shots.

It was a very cool evening. Could have used some gloves.

We viewed (and enjoyed) Asellus Tertius, ι (iota) Boötis, HD 234127, δ (delta) Boo, Alkurhah, HD 213224, and δ Cephei.

I used the Re-observe status on 44 Boo, HR 8357, and Scheat. We were not impressed with these targets.

received 7009 blue data

I also asked the BGO 'bot to image NGC 7009 again. So to get the missing data not acquired on 14 July. Got the blue this time.

shot 7027 faster (Halifax)

I asked the BGO robot to again image NGC 7027 for me. I shot faster than the first run on 5 July and also collected O-III data.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 7027 luminance

Luminance only, 15 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

happy day

We had a wonderful Star-B-Q and open house at the E.C. Carr Astronomical Observatory. The Friday rain cleared off. Solar observing (with some large sunspot groups), model rocket launches (soundtrack by Chris), guided nature hike, new equipment demonstrations, barbecue hotter than the surface of the Sun, door prizes for many, a surprise birthday cake, Mercury and Venus together, good conditions for night-time observing, despite a bright Moon. And for those with dew heaters. Sadly, the wind was fickle as we tried to fly kites. Everyone went home with batteries!

Many new members attended. That was a treat to show them our amazing asset. Young and old, all walks. Everyone welcome.

I was especially pleased to receive our neighbours from the east side, at last. A pleasure to meeting them both, in the summer, for a change!

Along the way, I helped one of our new supervisors get settled. He did a great job.


A photo album was set up in our private Yahoo!Group.

Ian D, our official photographer, shared photos on his flickr account.

Friday, July 15, 2016

arrived to help

Arrived the Carr Astronomical Observatory, for the Star-B-Q weekend. To help with lawn care. Deliberately tried to arrive a little after 1:00 PM. One couple was already on site. Had been for about 20 minutes. The supervisor arrived 15 or so minutes after me.

The big job ahead was to get the lawn cut before the rain arrived.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

council met

Attended the Toronto Centre council meeting. Wow.


w00t! Received my code. Now I can read the RASC Observer's Handbook anywhere!

screen snapshot of Handbook on Android in Javelin

Assuming I take the tablet everywhere I go.


The Javelin reader on Android is a little funky. The menu icon at the bottom right does nothing, which is a little off-putting on first try. But double tapping on the doc opens everything up.

installed Javelin

Installed Javelin PDF Reader on the netbook* and the tablet. In preparation for loading the RASC Observer's Handbook.

* Yeh! They still support XP!

the new calendar process

Julia, while she had me, when she learned I was a councilor, asked about RASC calendars for the centre. They are trying to get them out earlier this year. The plan will be to ship orders directly from the publisher. I said I'd check with our team.

Julia helped

Phoned the national office. Julia took my call and handled the e-book sale. Thank you!

the entire West Veil

And all of 'em togther. The West Veil Nebula is oxygen.

mosaic of 3 images West Veil Nebula in O-III

Assembled quickly in Paint.NET.

imaged the Saturn Nebula (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 7009 for me. The planetary nebula in Aquarius. Also know as the Saturn Nebula. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Hints of the "rings."

The imaging run was halted and I only received luminance, red, and green photographs. The error message said it was likely due to clouds; I suspect it was the Sun.

RASC Finest Saturn planetary nebula luminance

Luminance only, 15 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.


Got the blue on 17 July.

reshot the middle (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged the middle of the West Veil for me. This was a re-do. The first attempt on July 12 had problems... This looks better.

RASC Finest middle portion of the West Veil Nebula luminance

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

imaged southern structure (Halifax)

I thought it might... The BGO robot imaged targets for me. Starting with the third panel (of three) for a mosaic of the Western Veil Nebula. Chopped on the bottom; maybe I need to reframe... [ed: Or the pointing was off—the requested target star is not centred in the image.]

This is the southern-most portion of the supernova remnant NGC 6960. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. It really stands out in the doubly ionized oxygen (O-III) imagery.

RASC Finest southern portion of the West Veil Nebula O-III

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

This will be combined with part 1 and part 2.

glorious NGC 6781

Processed the big planetary nebula NGC 6781 in RGB using the latest data acquired on July 6.

planetary nebula NGC 6781 in colour

I'm pleased—while I didn't do anything (yet) with the luminance, hydrogen, or oxygen data. Don't know what to do!

In particular, this represents the first time I applied anti-vignetting techniques to one of the colour channels. The red image had a bad gradient.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Juno snapped

The Juno proper sent back a nice image.

Jupiter and moons from Juno probe

I quite like the colours.

downloaded the e-OH

Downloaded the electronic version of the RASC Observer's Handbook. I hope to deploy this on Ananke and John Repeat Dance.

full colour fireworks

Processed, quickly, the Fireworks galaxy (NGC 6946) in full colour using the data from 3 July.

Fireworks galaxy (NGC 6946) in colour

LRGB, 60 seconds subexposures each, 10 stacked shots each. Photoshop. North is up; left is east.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Binary Universe: Aladin

The August issue of the RASC Journal was made available today. My software review column Binary Universe featured the Aladin interactive sky atlas software made by the Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg. I demonstrated the desktop application for looking up deep sky objects. Version reviewed: version 9. Free.

captured the Western Veil part 2 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot imaged the middle section of the West Veil Nebula for me. Part 2 of 3. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Double start 52 Cygni shines brightly. Looks like I will have to redo as there are double images of all the stars...

RASC Finest middle portion of the West Veil Nebula luminance

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

This will be combined with part 1 and part 3.


Redid the middle on 14 July.

received all part 1 data

The BGO 'bot reshot the West Veil part 1. This run worked well (where the first attempt was halted). Received luminance, red, green, blue data plus H-alpha and O-III. The images look good.

captured a gem (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged the Little Gem aka NGC 6818 for me. A small planetary nebula in Sagittarius. One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest planetary nebula Little Gem luminance

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