Friday, February 12, 2016

Moon behind clouds (Collingwood)

Noted the crescent Moon through cold clouds over the lit Blue Mountains. It would not be clear tonight. And even if it was, the wind was ferocious.

spotted prisms (Bradford)

Spotted a bright prismatic sun dog to the left of the Sun as we headed south toward Holland. And then I saw a very large bright prismatic pattern nearly directly above the Sun, slightly to the right, about half the distance of the dog. So that'd be about 10 degrees. Lots of ice up there. Pointed it out to Lora and Phil. Then we noted the brooding low clouds to the north-west...

cross hairs part 1

Had a look through the old Celestron finder scope. And, once again, I was not convinced the cross hairs were centred. Very gently I nudged one. It still didn't look right. Meh.

I wanted to test it. So I made a jig. Simply a small box to cradle or hold the finder tube. I cut appropriate sized holes on opposite sides to fit the tube snugly. Strapped it to a camera tripod. I was then able to gently twist the tube. Confirmed! I could see the cross hairs clearly rotating around a centre point.

I get it that in doesn't matter, in a telescope-finder scope application, particularly if the finder scope is fixed, i.e. does not rotate. One aligns for the cross. And you're done. But with a rotating finder, like my bigger Orion, and for this repurposed unit, now on the barn door tracker, for polar alignment, it's rather important! As much as possible, I want these wires centred.

A quick search on Google turned up an article on Ice In Space by RG. He showed how to disassemble the finder, procure new thin wires, tension them, and glue in place. This is what I decided to do.

Tore down my finder. Yikes. Almost dropped the air-spaced eye lenses (the ocular)! Set them aside in the correct orientation. Put aside the long spacer and closely examined the cross hair ring. I believe the thin copper wires have stretched over the 25+ years and/or the glue has relaxed.

The key step would be to find some very small gauge wire. Happily, in the rolly-polly parts bin, I stumbled across an old busted mobile phone ear bud/mic. Cut open the lead wires to find loose, fine copper. The gauge looks exactly the same! All right.


Next steps are to remove the old wires, remove the old glue, determine the correct weight to tension the wires, find a pedestal, install, glue, and let cure.


Remembered when Gilles repaired his finder after I almost set it on fire.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

lots of CAO stuff

Lots of Carr Astronomical Observatory matters today. Private group arrangements, group rates, administrative paperwork, photography workshops, hard water, the new supervisor schedule, new supervisor candidates, UDM software updates, winter parking options, web site content, etc. Busy busy.

just great

Looks like two clean nights in a row are coming up. Without a Moon.

Why does it have to be -22?!

unstuck BOINC

I discovered BOINC was not working on the Linux box. Stuck on the downloading step. Turned on the computing preferences:
  • While computer is in use
  • Use GPU while computer is in use
And things started happening...

Hmmm. No appreciable sluggishness. Maybe I'll let it use more cores...

gift of nature

Watched the webcast from the National Science Foundation regarding the detecting of gravity waves from the USA-based LIGO detectors.

On 14 Sept 2015, even before the official science run had begun, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatories detected a strong signal. And it was exactly what Einstein had predicted.

The event was from a binary black hole merger 1.3 billion years ago. The black holes were about 30 solar masses each. Like a stone dropped in a smooth lake, ripples went out.

The 4 kilometer long interferometer at LIGO can accurately detect very tiny shifts in gravity, on the order of 1/1000th the diameter of subatomic particles.

David Teitze, the LIGO lab executive director started the press conference. He acknowledged the funding from NSF. He noted that in the future the detectors may be able to detect 100 or 500 stellar mass black holes as the sensitivity is increased.

Gabriela González, research scientist at Louisiana State University and spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, described the two detectors, called Hanford and Livingston. She talked about the brief signal, less than a 1/10th of a second, being first observed in Livingston. The space-time "strain" or deformation was very minute, on a scale of of 10-21. Then, 7 milliseconds later, the signal appeared in Hanford detector! A "gift of nature."

They have been able to infer extraordinary detail from the signal detections:
  • the black holes were 29 and 36 solar masses
  • the resulting single black hole had 62 solar masses
  • there 3 solar masses were emitted in energy
  • the distance was 1.3 billion light-years
  • the frequency of the event is in the range of human hearing (slowed down it sounds like a chirp)
  • they localised the signal to the southern sky in the direction of the Magellanic clouds
Gabby spoke of more instruments. The GEO600 was a pathfinder system. The VIRGO in Europe will be online later this year. The KAGRA in Japan is due in 2018 or 2019. And still more are planned.

Rainer "Ray" Weiss, a LIGO co-founder, discussed some history and the detector design. He was key in considering how to eliminate noise from detection. He is thrilled to see Einstein's field equations validated.

He spoke briefly of the LISA Pathfinder in space now and that he hopes to see increased collaboration between ESA and NASA.

Kip Thorne, another LIGO co-founder, spoke as well. He made the analog to watching a glass-smooth ocean and that they happened to be present to see a storm. The merger-collision took 20 ms and produced 50 times the power of all stars in the Universe.

He emphasised the LIGO system is still at only 1/3rd of its rated capacity and they are anticipating more detections this year. Regardless, this event gives us a much deeper understanding of highly warped space-time. This also places limits on the theoretical graviton mass.

Ronald Drever, the Scottish experimental physicist and third co-founder was ill and could not attend.

Dr France Córdova of the NSF recognised contributions by the UK, Germany, and Australia. The results were made possible by a world-wide village.

Caught a question by our own Ivan Semeniuk. He noted that these were fairly large black holes. He was curious what this meant for the future. Gabby emphasised these were stellar mass black holes, relatively small, compared to others, compared to super-massive systems in the cores of galaxies. A fascinating aspect is that these objects could not be seen in electromagnetic range; now they are "visible." That's it right there. LIGO opened a window.

where is the GRS?

I've been wondering about the longitude of the GRS. Been a while since I changed it. {ed: About one year ago.} According to JUPOS, the Great Red Spot is around 239. Will need to check SkyTools.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

the next phase

A couple of days ago, as I was thinking about the custom barn door tracker, and mounting it to a tripod, and then trying to accurately polar align it, that, somehow, putting it atop a small but finely-crafted, adjustable, machined, somewhat expensive, mount—made out of metal—was just not right. Not right...

Tonight I entertained the notion of building some sort of wedge or adjustable base that I would attach the barn door tracker too. I looked for homemade DIY wedges and found lots. Then I searched for homemade alt-az mounts. Started collecting some images, noting some ideas. Altitude would be easy to adjust. Azimuth? That'd be tricky. Actually grabbed a sheet of paper and sketched a few things still pondering how to rotate the second axis, now right ascension, considering the interface between the wedge and the bottom plate of the barn door.

When, I noticed something in a photo... Another piano hinge... low down. Two horizontal pieces of wood sandwiched. A long threaded rod, horizontal. Went down the rabbit hole and landed, at last to ZZJ's Barn Door Tracker (NSFW) post. And it's brilliant. Exactly what I was looking for!

So, this means, there's a new phase to be undertaken! A new enhancement! A barn door tracker with an integrated mount for fine-tuning polar alignment. A single complete tracker. The missing component! To elegantly solve a problem. I really like this. I really like the idea that the tracker will be much easier to set up and use. And that the new bits will be mostly wood and some hardware from the hardware store. Very happy.

3rd box searching

Added a third machine to my BOINC profile to analyse SETI data: a new Ubuntu install.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

updated capture plan, again

Revised the ISS capture plan. Expanded greatly on it, after reviewing steps with the Canon and Backyard EOS. As I suspected, it was in Planetary mode that the exposure settings would be configured. Other things occured to me too. Like: don't forget to click Record...

sorted BYE

Went to check something in Backyard EOS and I found it was in a simulated mode. Huh? Better correct that before I head into the field...

It showed a 450D was connected. Ah. OK. But how do I get rid of that? How did I set this? How do I connect to a real camera? Also noted I had version 3.0.3 running. Huh. There's a newer version...

Found Guylain's notes in an old email. Checked the CONFIG files on John Repeat Dance. Weird. I didn't see the simulator setting... Sorted the search results by type. Ho ho. Spotted three versions!

That explains it. I had launched the wrong version! Deleted the reference in the old XP Start menu. I had installed 3.1.4 previously... Looked deeper in the Start menu. There it is!

updated CAO timeline

Updated the timeline for the Carr Astronomical Observatory in Visio 2016 with recent events, a few missing things, and activities I had learned about reading the early log books. Also gave up trying to fit everything on a legal sheet of paper; went tabloid!

Sent to Tony (in PDF) for review.

Monday, February 08, 2016


Check your passport in ultra-violet...

Starry night. Oh, yes. And the Moon. Over Niagara Falls.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

a bit of space

Installed the spacer from Phil. A simple piece of acrylic.

It works! Thank you!

Saturday, February 06, 2016

cleaning priority

Attended the members night at the DDO.

Reviewed the Questar with Tom. Reminded Paul we were still waiting to set the next council meeting date. Met David G over the Beginner's Observing Guide. Met David H, after our long Jupiter light angles email exchange, at last. Plotted with Peter H on recruiting our own minions! Followed-up with Peter R on RASC calendars. Caught up with Lucy.

Enjoyed the talks by Chris, Jim, and Phil.

The big take-away from Jim's talk on cleaning optics was to work on the ones closest to the eye.

The main take-away from Phil's talk is that a barlowed laser collimator is an excellent tool for a Newtonian (albeit expensive).

made a naked list


Made a list in SkyTools for 20 interesting naked eye doubles stars. It was prepared by Jerry Lodriguss, originally for Sky and Telescope. The article on his site includes some background and photos, of course.

Friday, February 05, 2016

fixed Pit flashlight

The LED flashlight from Scott (when we raced at Exhibition Grounds), which I had put into astronomy service with red film, had been acting up lately. Had another look. Ugh. All three AAA batteries had since leaked! Wow. Pried them out of the carrier and tossed them into the growing dead battery pile (sorry). Cleaned the carrier with vinegar. Cleaned the inside of the flashlight body too. Bad leak—paint came off. Did not see any activity at first but then the diodes flickered. Fiddled for a bit to determine the switch is wobbly. Corrision made. When I turned if off and on again (sorry) several times, it settled down. Back into astronomy box α (after removing the batteries).

watched Ottawa cast

Dialed into the Ottawa RASC meeting. Great presentations on unusual features and volcanism on Mars, Planet X, and cooking. But I really dislike the ads from Ustream... And, over time, I think it meant I was out of sync.

found Stellarium archives

As I continue to cleanup the computer drives, mostly of my photographs and videos, I stumbled across a bunch of Stellarium executables.

I've usually kept them around thinking that if a new version didn't work I'd be able to roll back. And if it worked well, I could copy the EXE to other computers through the SOHO network. Today though it become clear that these were taking up a lot of space. My first thought was to drop them into a ZIP. But then I wondered if they were stored online... If old downloads are easy to get to, if they went back a few versions, then I wouldn't need to store them.

A quick search revealed that, in fact, every version of Stellarium is available at Source Forge, in the project files area. Great. I'm not a warehouse.

found SQM data

Found some missing SQM data from the CAO—the summer of 2015. Happy about that. But there's still more data missing... Did I photograph the late-2014 sheet? Did I bring it home?

Thursday, February 04, 2016

my own wallpaper

Suddenly occurred to me to show my own astro-image as the wallpaper on Ananke, the Android tablet.

For this one, I used the photograph of the noctilucent clouds from 4 July 2011. I scaled it for the screen in landscape.

primary mirror done!

The James Webb Space Telescope primary mirror assembly is complete! A robot placed the final compound mirror segment.

The completion of the primary mirror is a significant milestone. It will be launched in 2018.

the same!

I just looked up the drive time to Long Sault from the new place. One hour fifteen. Ha!

Bet it will be faster. More sane...

found indices

I was trying to find an article in the RASC Journal quickly. I wondered if there was an index.

I spotted one on the Journal information page on the national web site but it is for volumes 61 through 90, i.e. 1967 to 1996.

As I started checking the issues I had on the John Charles computer, I noticed, in a December issue, an index for the year. OK!

And suddenly I found the article I wanted. So, didn't use the index after all. But now I know.

updated a list

Updated my portable database, in the Android tablet. My personal contact list was missing a couple of CAO supervisors. I added some tags too so all the committee team members would show. Updated old email addresses. Fixed the odd typo here and there. Miss the shared clipboard of my Psion...

took stock

Did a batteries-for-astronomy audit, including the "new" Telrad, and considering accessories retired or broken.

type need in stock
AA 12 0
AAA 8 9
LR44 8 2
LiR 2032 2 0
389/AG10/LR1130 0 5

I want to rejuvenate the rechargeables too... I think the ones I have are very tired.

there it is

Updated my astro calendar with information from Mitsky's February report.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

cleaned source folder

Tidied the local source folder on the E drive for the blog. One location now... Images that were only here: moved to F drive. Duplicates: deleted. No surprises. I.e. didn't find anything that had not been used or referenced or posted. Save one overlooked post with a photo of the C8, for the cat page!