Friday, June 23, 2017

congrats SpaceX

SpaceX reused a stage 1 rocket again. SpaceX landed the rocket on a barge again. Awesome! Oh, and Bulgaria now has their first satellite in orbit.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

scanned solargraph (Bradford)

Rhonda and I scanned the light sensitive paper from the pinhole camera.

We dimmed the lights in the man cave. Turned off monitor 2 of John Charles. I had rho remove the duct tape from the cover. She readied to remove the cover.

I ensured the hp scanning software preview option was turned off and the dpi was at 600.

She pulled the 5x7 sheet from the can and handed it to me. It was dry with no signs of water damage. I uncoiled it and placed it face down on the scanner bed. I placed it at the origin point [ed: Didn't need to do that.], and clicked the Scan button. It was like watching a pot boil.

At last the LaserJet stopped and the Windows bitmap was produced. After two attempts, we previewed the digital file. It worked! Launched Paint.NET to do the main edits.

I cropped, reversed the "colours," and rotated counter-clockwise. Rhonda spotted that it was backwards so I flipped horizontally.

solargraph from backyard

This represents the Sun from 21 December 2016 to yesterday. Solstice to solstice.

We were very happy.

Props to RASC TC and Risa and Ian W.


P.S. Rhonda said the can could be used. Indeed. Although I would invert the can, as Justin Quinnell suggested, so to take advantage of the seemless aluminium bottom.

noticed Noctua Sky was new

New and improved. I had a quick look at Noctua Sky to check some star names. Actually, when I first tried to visit the site the server through a 404 error. I stripped the filename from the URL and it worked.

Don't use:


I noticed some interface changes right away. Like the separate date and time buttons at the bottom-right. (The Time control is remarkably useful with a 24 clock!) Looked like there was better location-detection routines. The menu was restructured. Search bar immediately available at the top of the screen.

Curiously the News page was not updated so I don't know what else has changed or what motivated the change.

celebrated the solstice (Bradford)

After dinner and dishes, after hauling the bins to the curb, we ramped up to have a fire, partly in deference to the solstice.

While Rhonda readied the fireplace, I grabbed some lawn chairs, moved the little table between them, and took in the pretty sky. Fired up SkySarari on Ananke, saved the settings for the recent eclipse demo, switched to a clean saved profile, and activated red light mode.

Jupiter was bright. Rhonda IDed it quickly.

She pointed up near the zenith. "Ar... Ar..." I gave her a hint: "Arc." Arcturus. Right on. I saw many of the stars in Boötes. In the east, just over the coniferous trees, I saw Cygnus climbing. Was curious if I'd be able to see the Milky Way from my (new?) backyard.

The sky was still bright. Rhonda could see remnants of the sunset in the north-west. The longest day was ending...

The Big Dipper was just over the house. Pouring out all its water.

We tried my SkySafari app for a bit. I had to turn off the tilt function as it did not seem to be working right.

I fetched my green laser pointer.

Rhonda pointed to the bright blue-white point high in the east and wondered if it was Spica. I said Spica was gone; it was Vega in Lyra. Highlighted the nearly perfect equilateral triangle including Vega and the Double Double.

10:30 PM. No Milky Way yet.

I took in Ophiuchus, Serpens (Caput), and Corona Borealis. Noted Altair and Tarazed rising. Tagged Saturn in the trees to the south. Rhonda saw it when she shifted.

Corrected a previous error: Spica was in fact still up. Below and left of Jupiter. Rhonda observed the star.

Rhonda had a scathingly brilliant idea and returned a short time later with two mugs of lovely, lovely St Peter's Winter Ale. Sooo good.

warm fire by Rhonda

Lume, 4mm, Open Camera, f/2.8, 1/20 second, ISO 74 (auto), daylight white balance, Paint.NET.

10:59 PM. Shot a number of photos of the fire with the alcatel smartphone. Rhonda suggested a GIF but I could not find such an option in Open Camera nor the default app. [ed: Really should have used a DSLR with wide angle to get fire below and fires above.]

Stared nearly straight up into the body of Hercules. I wanted to tag Messier 13. Initially I was looking between π (pi) and ε (epsilon). Oops. SkySafari showed I needed to search between η (eta) and ζ (zeta) [ed: the long edge.] Couldn't see it.

I grabbed the SQM box, pad and pen, extinguished the deck lanterns, and returned to my lawn chair.

11:45 PM. Took some readings with the Sky Quality Meter on loan.

First reading, to warm the unit: 19.53. At the zenith:


with a temperature of 18, one beep on all occasions.

Rhonda suggested I try from the south-east corner of the lawn, in the shelter of the trees. I aimed slightly north-west of the zenith, 10 or 15°.



One time I accidentally dropped the unit down while it was still reading, and as I looked at the display, it scanned the black silhouette of the tree behind me, beeping a second time. The value was 20.54. Nope.

Discussed the sometimes rotten luck we have in RASC Toronto Centre. This week was the designated Dark Sky Observing session window. Monday was a no-go due to the intense weather. They scrubbed Tuesday. Tonight was perfect but it was the planned Recreational Astronomy Night meeting. And tomorrow looked to be bad conditions again. Many a meeting have run with clear dark skies overhead.

The fire died down. All of Cygnus was visible over the tree line. With the pointer, we outlined the wide wingspan. I also highlighted the classic diamond kite shape with the bright stars.

Rhonda asked about the dim little parallelogram of stars down and right of The Swan with another faint star to the right. Well spotted, that was Delphinus the Dolphin.

I asked rho if she could detect the wide pair of the Double Double. She was not sure, fuzzy to her eye. I thought I could see the split. They seemed to be oriented left and right for me and if I extended a line from them, it ran between Vega and ζ. I checked the planetarium app on the Android tablet and zoomed into Lyra. The main double appeared. The angle was close to what I had felt.

We examined Ursa Minor. We found all the stick-figure stars for the Little Dipper including dim (magnitude 4.95) eta at the bottom of the pot.

I traced sinuous Draco.

Cassiopeia was higher. When Rhonda considered going to the street to see the full constellation, I proposed the south-west corner of the lawn, near the shed. She was happy to see the upright W.

Pale beige Saturn required us the stand in the north-east patch of the lawn.

I wondered where Scorpius and Antares were. Kept looking south. Near the house, I spotted an upright line of three stars in a gap in the trees to the south-west. Libra? No. Then I spotted a faint naked double down and left of the top star. Ah ha! ω (omega) Scorpii! [ed: Not nu.] The three pincer stars. But where was Antares? As we bobbed and weaved, we found the orange star hidden behind branches.

We stood together, close, taking in the wonderful sky in the warm still air. All of Aquila was visible from this vantage which I outlined for rho. I kept looking straight up at Hercules trying to coax out M13. Asked Hawkeye if she could see it. Nope. I knew where it was now but didn't feel I was truly seeing it.

I kept trying to cleanly pull out the Coathanger asterism to the west of Cygnus. It was at the edge of visibility.

Traced the little arrow-like constellation of Sagitta. [ed: At the time, I called it Vulpecula. Oops.]

Rhonda thought she saw the Milky Way. Running through Cygnus toward Aquila. I said that was right. There was a very faint glow, to my eye. I had no doubt that with more time at dark adapting and letting it rise higher, we'd see it better. But it was late. And a school night.

The fire had put itself out. We gathered our gear, empty glasses, and headed to the house.

Reminded rho we needed to take down the pinhole camera. She asked if aluminium duct tape would be OK. Quite good. She shuttered the can. I gently shook the cylinder near my ear. No water, yeh! We're anxious to see our solargraph result...

Removed the batteries from the bright laser after letting Tucker have one more go. Packed my long sleeve shirt and cap in the bug gear bag. Spotted my cheapo binoculars on the nearby cabinet. Oh! One more look!

From the deck I spotted the great cluster in Hercules, just down from η, one-third of the way to ζ. Adjusted the right diopter of the Bushnell glasses. Better now. A little round fuzzball. I could see HD 150998 to the north-east (magnitude 6.85).

Shifted east to take in Saturn. A bright oval with some faint field stars to the east. Nice.

What a special evening! Somewhat impromptu Rhonda and I recognised the solstice with a warm fire, a fine beer, few bugs, under a canopy of stars, satellites, and planets. An anniversary of sorts for us.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

took more readings

Asked Rhonda to take SQM readings for me while I recorded the values.

The first (throw-away) reading was 18.95. 

From the middle of the Bradford backyard.


Then from further south, farther from the house.


Temp. showed as 22°C. More than once.

Were the readings off a bit due to the stormy weekend weather?

found a simple simulator

Found a nice, easy-to-use simulator for the August solar eclipse. It only works for USA locations but for peeps in Ontario, you can choose a location just on the other side of the Great Lakes and it will give approximate times and mimic the Sun's appearance.

solar eclipse simulator snapshot

From example, Youngstown, NY state works well for Toronto; Madison, OH is good for London and St Thomas.

The Eclipse Megamovie 2017 web site for has lots of additional information on eclipses and eye safety.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

far afield

Learned of the description "field galaxy" tonight via the amazing Wikipedia. It is a solitary galaxy, one that is not a member of a larger cluster of galaxies. It is gravitationally alone.

Friday, June 16, 2017

sent an aurora alert

Pinged Rhonda after seeing the kp index chart spike. Confirmed in SolarHam. Possible aurora. Happily, they thought they could see it naked eye from the Kawarthas; unfortunately, they don't have a real camera to capture it. Raining at home so no joy for me.

watched Destin's video

I watched the Smarter Every Day podcast by Destin Sandlin on the upcoming solar eclipse. I first learned of this YouTube video via Chris Hadfield's Facebook post on the 14th. Yesterday, Gordon Telepun from Foxwood Astronomy referred me to it.

Destin interviewed Gordon and relayed lots of good facts. They talked about how things get busy just before Contact 2 and just after Contact 3. They discussed the Solar Eclipse Timer app and how it helps compute event times very accurately.

Destin was blown away by the shadow bands (or "snakes") phenomena and hopes to record it.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

found interference

Discovered there's an interference issue with Barn Door Tracker altazimuth base design I am considered. This was revealed when I decided to test fit pieces. I'm going to have to head back to the drawing board. One option is to back the bottom plates (already resized) even smaller.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

check for clouds

Heard about National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offering a "cloudiness" map for the big solar eclipse. The Ready Set Eclipse page has good information, helpful graphics, and an interactive map.

Personally, it was not news to me per se. The RASC Observer's Handbook features the Cloud Cover Frequency essay and charts (although, technically, for night-time scenarios). Many of us are going west, for geographic reasons and to be earlier rather than later, i.e. to avoid day-time heating weather effects. And basic, high school geography: you want to be in the arid and warm temperate zones on the leeward side of the mountain ranges. The map, based on 10 years of archived data, is quite telling. Wyoming will be a good spot.

predicted cloud cover near Lakes Erie and Ontario

I thought of friends and family in Ontario. Of course, the information is specific to the continental United States. Nothing above the border. But the information for Ohio, Penn, and New York should be good general indicators of likely conditions. And, frankly, they don't look good. Dark grey is bad.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

shot darks finally

At last, an evening around the same temperature. I shot darks for the recent star trails. Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm, f/5.6, ISO 1000, daylight, 35 seconds, 5 second gap, Neewer intervalometer, RAW.

measured the sky

Spotted stars as I set up the camera... The CSC had been right.

Took readings from the Bradford backyard with a loaner Sky Quality Meter. Rhonda recorded the values for me.

The first (throw-away) reading was 18.67. I wondered if the deck lights were interfering. We unplugged them. I moved west to avoid the hallway light.


Temp. showed as 20°C.

Those look like good numbers to me.

Monday, June 12, 2017

TS6 works on Win10

Tested Software Bisque's TheSky 6 under Windows 10. It works. This helps with understanding our software upgrade options at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

did mini work

Helped at the Carr Astronomical Observatory at a mini work party. The big task for me was to help with the refurbishing of the cutting deck of the Stargrazer ride-on mower. We completed that big job. We adjusted the lift lever and the deck height. I reviewed the start-up procedures for all the mowers so to prepare future quick reference guides. The lawns hadn't been cut for some time so we tackled that. Helped with the purchase and testing of some solar rechargeable stairway lights. Testing the security system. I returned the NexStar 11 data cable which I had found in my gear at home.

received more SN data (Halifax)

I totally missed the activity at the BGO robotic observatory. Sound asleep at the time. (And I missed the email in the morning.)

I continue to ask for data on supernova SN2017eaw in the Fireworks Galaxy. It seems just as bright as before.

supernova in the Fireworks Galaxy

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

Rhonda asked me how far away the galaxy was. I guessed 20 million. Wikipedia has 22 million light-years.


I will add this to the data from 25 May.