Saturday, November 26, 2022

waiting for Mars...

OK. I've got some time now...

Per my log notes from Wednesday, Mars won't clear the tree until 9:45 or 10:00.

So I can watch the rest of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Well, I should do a bit more prep... 

The John Grim computer is charging. Red lights on (including the one in The Office).

To do items:

  • drape an extension cord out the door
  • hook up the mount power
  • hook up the mount data cable (hopefully, it will work, the old cable)
  • prep the δ case (delta or dew heating)
  • install the dew strap to the objective
  • install the dew strap for the eyepiece

Ah. The baader zoom eyepiece is back inside. Good. Warming up.

Oh. I should do the polar alignment...

Oh. And I should preview the weather conditions... 

Particularly the dew point.

Then I can return to the movie...

put up blind

The blind is up!

It works!

I was able to make it happen with 2 clothes pins and 2 large clamps...

It'll do, Pig, it'll do.

scared myself, twice

Mounted the C8 in the jury-rigged ring.

Seemed stable.

We are "OK to go."

The mount started to slide backwards. No counterweights! Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Oops. Pushed it forward. Tightened up the latitude lock... Looked like it would hold. Scooted inside and grabbed the μ bag (mu or mount bag) with the shaft and counterweights. Scooted back to the deck. Spun in the shaft and slid on two weights. Good.

Put the ETX90 inside.

Moved the Vixen tripod to the south-east corner. Good.

Started to shuffle it to the edge.

The tripod collapsed. Whoa! One of the central metal tangs had let go from the middle bracket. Crikey!

Oops. Lifted the whole heavy assembly up. Drew the north leg. Latched it back into place. Sigh.

Enough of this drama... My old heart can't take this.

Tensioned the legs outwards. Lowered the legs as low as possible. Affixed the 9x50 finder scope with Amici prism.

Spotted Jupiter.

backup plan

Moved the 90mm OTA to the deck. In case I can't fix the C8.

found broken ring

Lovely day.

Clear Sky Chart for Fingal was reporting average transparency and seeing this evening.

"Well, let's do it." And then I thought about getting the telescope outside to beginning cooling.

At first, I was just going to grab the little OTA, the Maksutov-Cassegrain that I had used on Wednesday evening.

Hmm. I reconsidered.

Why not "The Big Gun?" The Schmidt-Cassegrain.

Yeah. All right. Big aperture for Mars!

Headed to the "Astronomy Closet" and carefully hauled down the covered 8-inch telescope tube.

Heard a clink as I walked to the deck.

Occurred to me that I had not inspected the Celestron 'scope since the move. The move before by the horrible movers. There wasn't the sound of a shattered objective or fractured mirror and glass dust sliding around. Thank the Universe.

Set it gently down in the shaded part of the balcony.

Back inside... misc. other errands.

Then I thought I should open the Orion bag to improve breathing, speed the cool-down.

Set back! 

broken ring

Oh no.

The rearward ring clamp was broken! The old white metal had split.

Damn it.

Immediately, I thought "They did break it!" Despite the "FRAGILE" labelling. Rotten moving company. 

But maybe not. This could be a stress fracture...

Now what am I going to do?

Immediately, I thought: well, now I can finally switch to a rail. But that's not trivial. And the Vixen mount would require an adapter...

So then, a replace ring is the simplest thing to do. But where in hell will I found one of these?

Is metal repair an option? It looks like what Poppa called "white metal" which I remember was difficult to work with.

Can I hack something? At least for the evening? Something to secure hold the 8" SCT?


Friday, November 25, 2022

noted Mars nearly overhead (St Thomas)

Another clear night.

On departing my sis and bro's, I pointed out planets.

Gleaming Jupiter.

Bright Mars over--wait... That ain't right. That was the orange star in Orion.

Where was Mars?

Ah ha! Way up!

Super bright.

Couldn't spot Saturn, beside the house.

Flickering Sirius was rising out of the south-east.

pitched in

Well, look at that.

Heh, heh, I noticed the Fingal Clear Sky Chart was not sponsored by any of the local astronomy fans...

So it's all mine!

Fingal Wildlife Centre chart with new sponsor


Thanked Attilla for all his hard work.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

counted the symbols

Text arrived from Chris V...

He was preparing for a presentation and wanted to speak to the RASC Isabel Williamson Lunar Observing Program.

Specifically he wanted to know the numbers... 

Required vs. Challenge targets.

I pulled up my slide deck and shared those. But confessed that I wasn't 100% sure.

So I opened the original or master copy of the guide book. Then I replaced the instances of the copyright and registration symbols in the book that were used in the notes, footers, etc.

That let me isolate the symbols used for the target objects.

  • 268 required program targets
  • optional targets
    • 178 program challenge
    • 12 libration
    • 7 Canadian 
  • extra special optional targets
    • the 1000 challenge - named features
    • 12 challenge - W.H. Pickering unaided eye
    • plus challenge - ray system extent
    • plus challenge - libration features unaided eye

That's the official count.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Jupiter, Mars, and 37 (St Thomas)

Wow. Clear on a new Moon phase. Who'd a thunk it?!

6:08 PM. Testing, testing! Battery check. OK. Time remaining: 7 hours.

The 'scope had been outside for a few hours to chill down. I set the tripod lower this time, only extending the bottom segment half the full amount. Hoping this give a better and more comfortable sitting position. 

Adjustable height observing chair, the BIG doc, out.

6:54. Started the Sony ICD-SX750D ahead of observing...

Quick look at Jupiter in the Meade ETX 90. With the zoom eyepiece, the baader planetarium 9-24 Mark IV. Looked OK. 

Wanted my scarf. Felt humid. I hadn't look up the humidity in advance... Put on my small Dr Who scarf. I did not have the Sony recorder kick stand... 

Grabbed the battery pack for the telescope, hoping I could drive the tracking motor. Plugged into the hacked lead power wire. Toggled the power switch. Nothing. I couldn't remember the power switch layout on the bottom of the ETX base. Needed a flashlight... 

6:58. Headed inside again. Couldn't tag the Deep Red flashlight but I found the red bike head lamp.

Examined the bottom of the 'scope. Power slider switch was off. Set to on, heard the motor start running. All right. Train blew its whistle. It is Railway City after all...

6:59. In the mirror-reversed or laterally-inverted view, I saw one Galilean moon on the left and three on the right. Left one was a bit less than one planet-diameter away. On the right there were two moons close to each other and close to Jove: attractive, about 1/2 or 2/3 of a planet-diameter from each other, and about 1-1/2 PD away. The last (Ganymede?) was way out there, a dozen PD away.

I wanted a table. Back indoors... 


Grabbed John Grim too. The Surface Laptop Go computer with SkyTools 4 installed. 

Cops chased after someone...

Ugh. Button trouble!

7:02. I could not see some of the text in buttons in SkyTools with the red mode or Night Vision Mode active. Had to go from memory. Reminded me to review my notes from Killarney... {ed: Had trouble on 14 May 2022 while viewing doubles and a supernova.}

Added the Moon to the list. Got the error, as before! On adding an object, the Night Vision Mode got scrambled, with portions of the screen turning white. Had to turn red mode off and on. Also had that error at KPPO.

Have you turn it off and on again?

Why did I add the Moon?! Yuk.

Marked Jupiter as observed.

Needed my keyboard light...

Adjusted the Eyepiece View. Set the 'scope. Looked for the zoom eyepieces. Oh. Not here. Just used a similar one to approximate the view. 

I was wrong: it was Callisto at the far right. Europa was the inner one then Ganymede and finally Callisto. Io was on the left (or west).

Felt a little cold, particularly in my upper back. Headed inside for my winter coat.

Checked the tracking. Not bad. The planet had drifted up a bit. I centred. The drive motor seemed to be working OK.

The ocular fogged. Dang.

Carefully examined the disc of Jupiter. Zoomed in. Adjusted the focus (with the clothespin, of course. No obvious dots. The seeing was not bad.

7:08. The seeing was good, actually. The northern equatorial belt was nice, interesting. An orange colour, or a rich tan. Mottled, twisted. Southern band was not as distinct, not as colourful. The drift was more pronounced at the higher power.

The seeing was really good! Very steady.

I felt the Sun was to the left; limb darkening on the right. The southern equa. belt was weird, it just stopped at the meridian. Why? Looked different on the left edge.

Turned to the computer to see what was going on. Where was the Great Red Spot? Were there going to be any shadow transits? Zoomed the eyepiece view it a lot. Turned off the labels. Readied to advance time by the step (15 minutes). Noticed it was not set to Time Now. Click the clock icon. 

Boom! Crashed SkyTools! Crikey. 

7:10. SkyTools threw a "atan2 DOMAIN error." But it didn't completely clobber the whole app this time. Good. I was able to close the eyepiece window. Closed the Interactive Atlas. Turned off red light mode. Closed the main list window, gracefully, thinking it'd be good to save my current settings. Restarted everything although I didn't zoom in quite as much on the gas giant. Screen brightness at max.

Back into the eyepiece window. Time Now. No crash. Turned off. Advanced time. This time I got a rendering problem. Man! Display problems. Fire truck! Zoom out some more, medium level. Got the error again, the "atan2" message. Closed and reopened the eyepiece view. Could I keep going? Reopened the ocular view. Still saw the render problems... 

Took a screen snapshot for Greg. Hrmph.

Continued searching for shadows... Error again! Gar! Tried again but avoided the eyepiece simulation. Zoomed in with the Interactive Atlas and mirrored the view. It worked fine. Whew.

Oh. Moon transits... er, events. Io went behind the planet (around 9:15 PM) to emerge from its eclipse at after midnight. 12:40 AM. Would I be up that late? Five hours from now. Doubted it. Surely Europa and Ganymede would create shadows. Yep, Europa shadow started around 1:40 AM. No shadows at present, unfort. Europa would merge with the dark limb at 10:45 PM. Europa popped off the disc and then it's shadow appeared. Interesting timing. Europa's shadow was gone by 3:40. Ganymede's big shadow skirted low starting at 7:45 AM. Still glitchy. Io drawn in front at one point. The line in the spherical wrapping of the planet was distracting. 

Red spot showedup at 2:30. 

I backed up in time. Ah, the red spot HAD been visible and was turning away... now. I think that's why the southern equatorial band looked weird to me! The GRS was in the area, though I could not see it directly. On the limb and turning away. Low resolution in this little OTA. But the seeing was really good.

Eyepiece fogged again. I could use a dew heater, I thought. But I wasn't really set up. I couldn't remember where the gear was... Or how I'd get power...

The brightness dropped. 

Completed fogged, the eyepiece. The 'scope objective was clear. Covered the skyward finder lens.

Checked the software: Mars was up. Right behind the tree, unfortunately. Maybe it would take an hour or two to clear it. Checking items and using Jupiter as a reference, I looked for marks nearby. Nothing. There were lots of squares on the display, a little distracting. They were dark nebulae? The 37 Cluster was below Mars, so also blocked by the tree, currently. Flipped to the Deep-Sky Gems list and adjusted the filters. 38 items. Sorted by constellation. Tagged some items in Pisces, Cetus, Andromeda, Triangulum. Not Aquarius. A lot of galaxies, might be tricky. Copied them to my list.

A dog barked. A cop car chased someone else. A car alarm went off. A truck backed up.

Rock solid seeing at low power.

Looked for a bright star to begin the star hop. Looked for some field stars...

7:35. Wondered if I had a finder-sized ring in the software for the Meade. Nope. Had to make do without.

After a long hop, I was not sure I was in the right area. Tried to do field identification. Tried to find a flattened triangle.

Another dog barked. Once. Once every 30 to 45 seconds.

Not a lot of bright stars... Stumbled across a large hockey stick. Suddenly realised where I was. Centred on the spot where the galaxy should be... But I couldn't see anything.

Well. I star hopped successfully and found star HD 7991 near to NGC 474. But the island universe was not visible in the bright sky. This confirmed that the light pollution was too much for these faint, magnitude 12, galaxies.

8:02. Decided to not do more galaxies. I had two open clusters in my evening program.

My right hand was getting cold, while using the touch pad. A physical mouse would help... Also wanted my specs to do some whole sky identification. Still wished for some keyboard illumination.

Considered NGC 752. It was at the far left or east edge of the Andromeda constellation.

Feet felt a little cold. In my slippers...

Went inside for a bit. Returned with my eyeglasses, eyeglasses strap, docking adapter, and my hacked USB keyboard light. Forgot the mouse. Touch pad doesn't work with my glove on.

Tried to attach the eyeglasses strap but the plastic ends were rock hard. No longer flexible. Well, that's just great. My favourite strap no longer works. So much for that.

Considered a target in Pegasus.

All these squares in the IA view. I pointed to one. "GN" identifier. Huh? Double-clicked and read the Object Info description. Reflection nebulae? OK. Turned 'em, and emissions, off. Much better!

Sorted the list. Schlanger. It mucked up dark mode again.

Whoa. The 'scope fell... That's not the right word: slipped. Rotated. Tilted nose-down while the Dec clamp was loose.

Finally tagged Aries.

The lights in the area were annoying. It would be good once I had the blind put up... Blocked with my arms and hands. And the hood of the old winter coat.

Tried to figure out where I was. It looked so familiar. Mirror option off, Flip off. I was getting frustrated. OK... near Triangulum. Hopped from beta; (beta) Tri.

The factory alarm sounded.

I got a cluster! Finally, a visible target! But then in faded out. Damn! It was going behind the little roof over the balcony. Rotten luck. Moved the tripod a bit further out. Reacquired. After rotating the field in the eyepiece window, I identified stars. Still, I was running out of time. It faded out. There was a bright triangle of stars in the bottom-left. Big object... Nearly straight up. The bright star was HD 11885.

Marked it to re-observe.

8:39. Break time. Capped the eyepiece. Tilted the OTA down.

Good long break. Warmed up.

9:52. Back outside. Mars was almost clear of the tree branches. I could see the Pleiades up high. Some bright stars were visible to the... east.

Struggled with the dock accessory. Its short thick cable has a memory. Finally got it to work with the keyboard light and external USB mouse.

The 90mm objective was clear.

9:59. First sighting of Mars! Was there something white at the top-left? At low power. Then cranked up to high power. 

SkyTools messed up again as I marked the 4th planet as observed.

the Fingal Clear Sky Chart

Eyepiece was completely fogged. I wondered where my lead acid batteries were... I could use a heat pack. Fetched a sodium warmer. Held it to the glass and waited. It took a long time. Wondered what the dew point was. According to the Final Clear Sky Chart, the predicted humidity was 85% to 90%.

I saved the chart.

Reminded me I had not done my usual weather analysis prep. This had been a bit shotgun.

Enjoyed the views of Mars.

I wanted to dial out the drift. Accidentally changed the angle control of the head, oops. Finally released the horizontal handle and turned a bit clockwise.

Just dropped the heat pack! Off the balcony. Great, just great. 

Put my sneakers on and was off to rescue the hand warmer... No harm done.

Back at it.

Still drifting. Rotated clockwise a bit more, manipulating the correct handle on the Manfrotto head.

10:21. I thought it was better. 

I could see albedo features on Mars. White on the top, small. Smaller than it seemed at low magnification. And dark regions on the bottom.

Fingerprint reader was acting up.

Looked for the Mars Mapper. Realised I had not put links in the recent posts. That was dumb. Loaded up the page. Ensured it was set to time now.

Mars Mapper screen grab

Pale orange Aeria was up, to the north-west; dark Sinus Sabaeus was to the south. Syrtis Major was starting to appear. I took a screen snap, dropped it into Windows Paint, and did rotate and flipping. That better matched my view. Spot on. Yep.

Mars from the mapper, adjusted for MCT view with mirror diagonal

The MCT with the mirror diagonal makes north up and east to the left.

Lovely at 8mm. Fantastic disc at 24mm. Very attractive.

Considered the next goal. The 37 Cluster, aka LE Cluster, aka NGC 2169). In the arm of Orion.

10:35. Made a note to reset the Declination knob. Centre it on the screw. That should always be done. Part of prep before a session? That should go into my astronomy session prep notes...

Started the hop from Betelgeuse. It progressed well...

Got it. 

Turned off the open cluster markers in the ST4V eyepiece view.

I was not seeing all the stars that SkyTools was showing! Earlier I had set the eyepiece view to Actual mode versus Ideal. The telescopic view was really faint. Just a handful of stars. No obvious 37 or LE shape.  

I could dial back the software presentation, I knew, by playing with the light pollution and weather parameters... but I didn't feel like doing that.

Someone hammered at something.

As I sketched the view.

sketch of 37 Cluster

After finding some pencils.

Tried maximum magnification, at 8mm, to draw out more stars... but it felt about the same.

Capped the glass. Done.

10:54. A good session. Tripod height was great. Quick and easy set-up and tear-down. Not crazy cold. No Moon!

Hauled stuff inside. Worked slowly and carefully so to not trip. Briefly ruminated on leaving the 'scope out; but brought it in too.

Tired. Climbed out of the winter coat. Took to the coach. Reclined. Ahh.

11:01. I only got about 10 of the stars. Clearly on it. That's the important part. Oh. Realised I didn't have a working scanner...

Removed the red film from the monitor.

11:04. The Windows theme is a little wonky. The background windows have a bright title bar. Maybe I can create a custom colour palette that will be better.

Marked 37 as observed. ST4V glitched again. 

Reviewed the evening campaign. 20 plus objects on the list. Viewed about a 1/3rd. 2 to re-examine. Another Deep-Sky Gem completed.

There was a Cygnus star in the list. Weird. Don't know where it came from.

Considered to-do items, such as doing a better polar alignment.

Remembered to turn the mount drive off.

11:17. Shut down the recorder.

let the cooling begin

Telescope outside to cool. Aimed roughly to the pole.

Tripod legs shortened to hopefully make for more comfortable fiview viewing.

Blind fabric and dowels moved to the porch.

Now... where are my clamps?

good meeting

Video meeting with Samantha... It was good to sort the non-trivial certificate activities this week.

good outlook

More positive notifications came in...

For my two local profiles, this time.

First Fingal...

Favorable observing conditions at Fingal Wildlife Centre
Based on your Fingal subscription.

Opportunities to observe at:  (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
11-23 @ Hour 18 for 5 hours (0%/Average/Average)
Then St T...

Favorable observing conditions at St. Thomas
Based on your St Thomas subscription.

Opportunities to observe at:  (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
11-23 @ Hour 16 for 1 hours (0%/Average/Average)
11-23 @ Hour 18 for 3 hours (0%/Average/Average)
11-24 @ Hour 04 for 3 hours (0%/Average/Good)
11-24 @ Hour 08 for 1 hours (10%/Below Avg/Good)

OK. I definitely should observe tonight.

picked up some cable parts

After my medical appointment, I asked The Driver (i.e. Mom) if we could run another errand, while in London, while relatively close.

I wanted to head over to a nearby electronics shop! Needed a couple of parts...

She said, "Sure." So I took to navigating us to the east end of the city. As we drew up to Clarke Rd at Gore, I spotted the store in the plaza. 

Hardcore Electronics was my destination.

Store clerk (owner?) greeted me. I cut to the chase and he helped find the items I needed.

cable build parts plus shrink wrap

The phone hand set plug and the female serial DB-9 connector are for the new data cable I'm going to make, for the GoToStar motor drive system. The existing cable is going wonky...

I desperately wanted to stay longer to browse and geek out but we needed to get back to St T.

Oooh. Shrink wrap!

received a good report

Read the message from the Clear Sky Alarm Clock system. Generated at 3:26 AM.

For my St Thomas profile...

The last time slot in particular looked promising.,,

Opportunities to observe at:  (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
11-23 @ Hour 06 for 1 hours (0%/Average/Average)
11-23 @ Hour 08 for 9 hours (0%/Average/Average)
11-23 @ Hour 18 for 3 hours (0%/Average/Average)
Been feeling better lately. So I could take advantage.

Gotta look at Mars...


Oh yes. My barometer concurred!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

noted clear skies (St Thomas)

Saw stars. And Jupiter. With my functional Mark I eyeballs. From the parking lot behind Braxtons.

Looks like a nice night from astronomy. Clear. And it's near the new Moon.

Alas, I'm catching up with a dear old friend. That takes priority.

received test shot (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory processed my latest job.

I wanted to do a test shot inside the North American Nebula (aka NGC 7000).

In particular, I wanted to see if the token star would work. Will it serve as the anchoring start for all the shots in the mosaic of 24 panels?

And I wanted to check the offsetting from the token star, horizontal -35, vertical 0, to gauge if all the panels will align well.

Initially, I tried to use HIP 103519 as the anchor but the robot protested. Selected star GSC 03179 00039 instead. Not too bright. And actually a bit better, I hope, for aligning the mosaic.

To the Ubuntu workstation, I downloaded the zip archive with luminance, hydrogen α, and ionised oxygen shots. 

Downloaded FITS Liberator 4 deb archive from the NOIRLab site and installed it, per their instructions. But it crashed when I loaded any of the files. I'll have to but the Thinkin' Cap on to figure out that issue...

luminance frame of NGC 7000 in Kstars

Tried double-clicking a file in the Files app and was surprised to see KStars program launch. OK. It works. I'll take it.

The Clear Sky Chart showed below average transparency at the time. There appear to be registration problems (or there are a lot of double stars in the area). There's also a sharp dust donut at the bottom left.

North is up and east is left.

The extremely bright star in the field is HR 8035.

The clustering of bright stars near the top right of the frame is actually an open cluster within the nebula: NGC 6997 (aka H VIII-58).

Lots of magnitude 18 stars in the field.

SkyTools 4 Visual Pro also identifies LDN 935 in the area. I believe this is the dark region in the NA nebula that is normally considered the Gulf of Mexico.

I believe the -35 offset is a bit too much. Maybe I'll try -30 or -25. The vertical looks perfect.

noted the latest asteroid namings

I accessed the latest bulletin from the Working Group Small Bodies Nomenclature (WGSBN) from the IAU site.

Volume 2, Number 15, for November 2022.

It features a number of Royal Astronomical Society of Canada members, some of whom I know.


(10486) Teron = 1985 CS2

Associated with Chris Teron. I know him from the RASC Ottawa Centre. He's been sending me observing certificates for his local members. I sent a congratulatory note.

(10491) Chou = 1986 QS1

For Dr B Ralph Chou. My good friend from the Toronto Centre. Past president of the centre. Long time volunteer. A professor of optometry at the University of Waterloo and a world-wide authority on solar-eclipse eye safety.

(10493) Pulliah = 1986 QH2

How fitting. Associated with the late Linda Pulliah of the the RASC Sudbury Centre.

Nice to see Jeremy Hanson and David Saint-Jacques, Canadian astronauts, recognised as well.

use maximum elongation

As Chris V talked about locating the moons of Mars during the RASC Insider's Guide to the Galaxy, I recalled the plotting tool I have used before.

I did a Google search and found the tool. Then I edited the URL to land at the site. But, curiously, I didn't see the menu offering Mars. So, did another web search with Mars in the criteria. Found it!

Use the direct link for the Mars moons charting tool. It generates sinusoidal graphs which help determine the times of maximum elongation.

plot of moons of Mars for week starting Nov 22

For the "Start time" and "Stop time" fields, I used the date format: Mmm d, yyyy hh:mm:ss" followed by "am" or "pm".

The parameters I used where:

  • Interval: 15 minutes
  • Ephemeris: MAR097 + DE440 (that's the default)
  • Viewpoint: Earth's center
  • Moon selection: both Phobos (M1) and Deimos (M2)
  • Plot scale: 10 Mars radii
  • Title: "Mars's moons - week of ..."
  • Output to: Webpage & links 

The 15 minute Interval smooths the lines.

The Viewpoint you might set to your observing location to get a topographical result. 

The Output suggested gives you lots of options.

I did the colour inversion myself...

By the way, the magnitudes of the moons is 12.5 and 13.6. So you'll need a telescope aperture of 8-inch or bigger. Chris said "much bigger."

Happy hunting.

downloaded the Journal

The Journal of the RASC is out, last of the year.

Wonderful astro-images. I congratulated Adrian on making the issue.

cover of the December 2022 Journal
David Levy says farewell to two important people.

Rick Stankiewicz celebrates a 30th anniversary of Roberta Bondar.

Phil Mozel shares some of the interesting history of Urania.

In my Binary Universe column, I revisit an app that's gone through a major update. Our Galaxy, formerly known as Where Is M13?, now works on all computers and devices and offers a through three-dimensional perspective.

I'm honoured to write once again for this publication.

Monday, November 21, 2022

the Moon and the Earth

Looks like the flyby of the Moon went well.

This is a great shot from the Artemis Orion spacecraft.

Moon and Earth from the NASA spacecraft

It is now heading to its distant retrograde orbit or DRO.

Read all about it at SpaceFlightNow.

heard from Professor Brown

Peter Brown of Western University, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Planetary Science, sent out two items today regarding asteroid 2022 WJ1.

I had a feeling I'd hear from him, after learning of the asteroid on from Rhonda on Sunday.


Item 1:

Subject: Fireball and meteorite dropper

As many of you will know from media reports, asteroid 2022 WJ1 fell right in the middle of the network over the weekend (0326 on Saturday night to be exact).  We will be sending out a public call for people to keep an eye out for meteorites as we think some may be on shore near Grimsby (map attached).

I will send out the full release with video links as soon as it is published.

A big shout out in particular to Bob Lewis as his camera was right below the fireball and captured stunning footage.  Yeah, Bob!

Thanks again for hosting these cameras and helping with a unique science event.

He included an image  

2022 WJ1 strewn field map

This is the potential debris field.


Item 2:

Subject: Media release and videos

He shared two hyperlinks.


And for those in the Port Dalhousie, Port Weller, St Catherines area, happy hunting.

he added a 4th option

Ade messaged me. He rolled out another version of his Mars Mapper. So now you can view the Red Planet virtual globe with maps by Martin Lewis or Makoto Adachi, either one with or without labels. Fantastic!

added another dozen

RASC Weekly came out triggering another round of requests for the Stellarium webinar.

Processed another dozen registrations.

We hit 72.

72 people!

That is twice the largest past webinar.


the lost calendars

While doing some online banking, I searched for transactions with the word "Royal."

Spotted two orders for RASC Observer's Calendars on 18 October.

The proved that payment had been taken for the missing order...

Malcolm M received his calendar on or before 31 October, essentially 2 weeks out. Sent directly to him.

Still no sign of my set, to be directed to my home address.

Reached out to the RASC national office, to Shannon, listed as the marketing and sales coordinator on the web site. Asked if she could help with an e-store purchase issue.

In short order she replied. I removed the 24-hour reminder from my calendar.

I explained the situation.

She said she'd look into it.

I'll look this up in our system right now and get back to you.  Those orders should have been sent out, so there may have been a shipping issue.
I kinda figured that...

Later she reported:

The order was shipped on October 21st, so it likely was lost in transit.  I will send a replacement package from our office for you tomorrow.
I asked what shipping address was used.

She replied, "Bradford."

Nope. I told her that was wrong. If that was truly used, that was wrong on a lot of levels.

A short while later, she said:

My apologies.  That was the listed customer address. 

OK. Billing address was still my old digs.

She provided my new mailing address from the order. Good. Scared me for a bit there. I confirmed everything.

Checked my mailbox. Just flyers.

So, I guess they're going to send out another order...

What colossal waste. Three calendars lost. Postage or shipping that can't be recouped. Time lost, angst to the customer. What is wrong with this system? This should be trivial. It's been over 4 weeks and I still don't have what I wanted, what I paid for. If staff weren't involved in the original process, now they're quagmired in my redo.

found option without labels

Popped into Ade's Mars Mapper.

Had a quick peek in the menu.

Yes! A mapping without labels.

Mars mapper update for option without labels

That was quick.

Thank you!

Sunday, November 20, 2022

found an error in SkySafari list

Decided to have a go at the NGC Finest observing lists in the RASC folder in the online repositories for SkySafari.

Opened the Fall (or Autumn) file.

And immediately found an error!


The list showed NGC 289.

Ah, no. The official RASC Finest NGC list from the Observer's Handbook has IC 289.

I don't know who made these lists but unfortunately this is a gross error that we need to get corrected.

There are minor issues that I might nitpick about if the Simulation Curriculum people with entertain me.

close to home

Rhonda pinged me at 10:30.

She shared an article from EarthSky

The headline, Asteroid hit Canada hours after discovery, sounded a little dramatic. I skimmed it. It had only been detected a short time before it entered our atmosphere.

A Leonid?

And then I tried to corroborate it.

On the SpaceWeather web site, I spotted a piece. Echoed a lot of the same information. Close to home!

The CN tower image was doctored. Not sure why...

Scrolled down.

I noted the addition in the table below, marked in red:

  • asteroid 2022 WJ1, 2022-Nov-19 (UT), distance 0 LD, speed 14.8 km/s, size 1 metre

Zero lunar distances... Don't usual see that. And it means—duck!

Forwarded the SW page to Rhonda.


I'll keep an eye out for a message from Peter Brown at Western...

heard from the aurora dev

Another message arrived in the wee hours...

I had reached out to the developer of Hello Aurora app for Android a couple of days ago.

I asked if there were any plans to integrate the Canadian weather data into the app. I shared that Environment Canada provides the amazing astronomy-related information which is used in the Clear Sky Charts. And that includes cloud cover predictions.

So it was a little surprised to hear from Jérémy Barbet.

Are talking about the cloud coverage on the map?  It's something we want to do for sure, but didn't have time yet.  We already have the weather forecast that you can find on the home screen but it's not coming from a Canadian source.


Who knows what the future holds.

But I was happy to know that I'm am getting appropriate wx information on my phone.

heard from Ade

On a lark, I fabricated an email and messaged Ade, developer of the Mars Mapper.

I had a question about the tool...

He replied at 3 AM in the morning. Well, I received it at 3 AM. He must be far away... [ed: UK maybe?]

Thank you for taking the time to write to me and for your kind comments regarding Mars Mapper 2022.  You must've read my mind regarding the "plain" Martian maps;  I was going to render those this weekend!  I'll drop you another message shortly when it's ready to view.

What great news!


Spotted this message when I woke around 10 AM.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

spotted a new astro-tent

Well, well, look at that!

There's a new astronomy tent available.

Stumbled across a review of the Explore Scientific pop-up astronomy tent.

The write-up is on the Astronomy Now web site, by Ade Ashford.

This is good to know, 'cause it sure seems like Kendrick is not going to make theirs again...


Found the product page at the ES web site.

Not a bad price.

found the Mars globe mappers!


Finally found it.

When Chris B shared with me his last Mars sketch on 25 October, I wanted to identify the albedo features that he had drawn.

And immediately I thought of the Mars globe simulator tool I had used back in October 2020. Ade Ashford's cool Mars tool—my favourite aspect of it was that it showed the Red Planet as a three-dimensional globe; I preferred this to the S&T mag rectangular map. 

In fact, I recalled downloading the assets and hacking a version locally that looked a bit better. 

I tried to find this and I couldn't. 

Tried several searches on my computers, to no avail.

I thought for sure it was on John Max... Ran searches on drive E and drive H. Didn't see the files.

Fired up John Repeat Dance. Did I move it over to the netbook, which I used a lot for astronomy? The old battery was dying so I had to tether it to an extension cord. Had a good look around. Nothing. 

Certainly not on John Grim. It's too new.

Looked in the astronomy USB key, the little Maxwell drive. Nope.


Too many computers...

Manually scanned the directories in E and H on the AMD tower. Carefully examined drive D on the ASUS netbook. Came up empty...

Where could it have gone? 

Dale's talk during the RASC London meeting Friday night got me thinking about it yet again.

So I tried one more time. Tonight I ran a search on John Max but at the "my PC" level, all the drives, C:, D:, E: (which I used a lot in the past for astronomy content), and H: (the newer drive with astro files). Using the keyword "profiler." Maybe I had misfiled it.

Still nothing.

Redid the search with the keyword "mars" but only saw a handful of hits. Well, that ain't right. I have lots of files related to Mars! Should have been more results. Why, why so few results, I wondered...

Oooh. Some search criteria was interfering. I checked the advanced options and File Exploder was searching for the text within the files. OK. Cleared that option.

Ran the search again. 

Ah ha. Immediately, lots of results starting showing. I flipped the view to Details and sorted on the Folder column and then left it alone.

Came back a few minutes later and started scanning...

When I spotted hits referring to the "Ade's Mars Mapper" in the H drive. That's it. I recognised that name!


(How did I miss this before?!)

Jumped into the folder and spotted the downloaded assets and my hacked HTML files.


Whooped out loud.

Been weeks looking for this damned thing.

Opened the original file in Chrome. Yep. Mars as a globe. Had to roll the year back to 2020 to meet the constraints. The advancing and rewinding buttons then worked.

Opened my custom HTML file. Cleaner look, a few bug fixes.

As good as all this was, the planet tilt was wrong. The circumstances facts were wrong. Would need to be updated for 2022...

Scrolled down. I had kept the author's original remarks but added a colophon with notes on my changes. 

And, happily, I had a hyperlink to the author's web site.

Clicked it...

And would you look at that!?!?

Ade's mapper for the Mars 2022 opposition

He's updated it. Ade Ashford has updated his Mars Mapper for the 2022 opposition.

So happy.

Immediately, I sent this to Chris B!


Chris was happy.


Early November, on or before the 3rd, I had rolled back the clock in the blog:

Found my long comparison piece from October 2020 (after the last Mars apparition) where I looked at a bunch of different software tools and apps and web resources, evaluating how they presented the Fourth Rock from the Sun and helped identify its albedo features.

I had also found my old blog post on the 3D Mars mapping web app. At the time, again first week of November, I re-encountered this. In Evernote, I wrote, "won't work for this time period."

Had I tried this before? Couldn't clearly remember. Oldmanitis. But I must have, if I wrote that note. I must have visited Ade's web site around 3 Nov but gave up as it wouldn't tolerate 2022 dates. Blocked it out?

Also in Evernote, I saw that I had revisited the tool provided by Sky & Telescope. Which did work for the current apparition. I just don't like the projection. Way too much distortion at the poles.


One nit to pick is that Ade's new version does not allow the suppression of the labels. I liked that option...


Ooooh. I don't recall seeing this before... Ade's also made a web app for the moons of Mars! Yes! The little moons are on the bucket list.

Friday, November 18, 2022

caught part of meeting

Popped into the RASC London meeting after finding the link online.

Katelyn Beecroft was talking about astrophotography. Unfortunately, I missed the beginning of her talk but joined when she was explaining her workflow in PixInsight.

Very informative.

I congratulated her on the recognition received at StarFest.

I asked if she had an online gallery; Katelyn uses Instagram

She also shared learning of her recent win, the Nov 5-11 Photo of the Week at SkyNews magazine. Fantastic image of the North American Nebula. Very interesting colour palette.

Chatted briefly with Dale.

found a cheap dual-bulb lamp

Scored an old-style table lamp from Goodwill.

Been searching for a desk lamp for a while that I could use when in astronomy mode, in other words, red light mode.

I've been looking around for lamps for the bedroom and the office desk that I could screw a red bulb into and flick on when doing some astronomy and wantin' to keep my dark adaptation.

The lamp I found can operate two bulbs. I totally had not considered that!

For the bedroom, this is great. 

I can put a white and a red bulb in the one lamp and have the best of both worlds.

I also didn't wanna spend a lot of money. I wanted to reuse or upcycle or whatever; not buy new. Keep stuff out of the landfills.

Needs a shade. I'll look for something dark...

received astro-clipboard

Sis arrived after her work.

We're ready to go shopping...

But before starting out, she emptied her loot bag! 

Gave me the weather station. Cool! It looked great. Nice to finally have it in my hot little hands. I tried the barometer dial and it was firm! All right. I set it to the current pressure.

Then she pulled out two clipboards she had spotted at the Dollar Store. Asked if I wanted one. Yes, please!

clipboard with Starry Night image

Isn't that lovely? The Big Dipper.

Now I can take notes in style.

I showed her my photos in the Allan I Carswell Observatory calendar.

chatted with Mr B

Caught up with Ian B.

We talked about strikes, unions, jerk premiers, astrophotography, dark sites, focusing, Bahitov masks, Y-masks, a V-mask, Stellarium 1.1, bookmarks are back, mouse and keyboard shortcuts, The Mac Way, social media, anonymity, and the upcoming Stellarium webinar.

He offered to help. That'll be awesome. If more than 60 people show up, I'll need a hand!

Promised to send blog links for my camera lens focus mask builds.

showed Mom the calendar

Mom popped in for a bit, before my first training gig started.

Dropped off an item for me to fix.

I gave her an old cleaning tool.

Showed her the calendar from Allan I Carswell Observatory with my two photos. 

Proud Mama, she took a photo of me with the wall calendar.

made a sheet for each version

Chris B, while commenting in the forum on the situation with the Deep-Sky Gems list, found in the RASC Observer's Handbook... he hinted at that separate lists should be made.

Oh boy.

So I made them!

And, curiously, seeing them all laid out beside each other, tabs in the Excel workbook, revealed the extent of the changes.

There's a version for 2008, 2009, 2013, 2020, 2021, and 2023.

The original and then 5 revisions!

That ain't right.

brace yourself - revisions are coming

OK, hold up. To be fair, the DSG observing certificate program was launched a couple of years after the list first appeared in the handbook. I believe it was unleashed in 2010. So, in theory, people started working from a list after the first revision.

And then no changes happened until 2013.

It's really 4 revisions, I believe, that might affect RASC members in the middle of their observing campaigns. 

Still, the frequency of change sure appears to be accelerating! Some nasty dark energy there...

And the last one, for the 2023 edition, was completely unnecessary!

That was upsetting.

Hopefully—hopefully!—in all of this, we can clarify things for members. The Observing Committee needs to assure members they are not going to need to go back and do more work...

We're ramping up to publish our findings. Then we can breathe easy.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

helped Dave with southern doubles for bins

Dave C pinged me, again. He's heading to Cuba, again, and asked if I had a list of double stars for binoculars. Some southern targets.

I replied.


I didn't think so. 

But I'd snoop around. 

In the meantime I suggested he check the Astronomical League and the Sky & Telescope web site.

Then I jumped into SkyTools and pulled up the previously downloaded AL binoculars list. Hmm. Decidedly northern hemisphere.

But then I surprised myself. I had made back in 2018 an observing list based on the book Observing and Measuring Double Stars book, second edition. It had a few targets with low declination values. All right. I found that the existing location profile for Dacca had the same latitude, so I activated it to generate appropriate altitude values. Made a custom column set and output a PDF. Mailed it to Dave.

I had reached out to Chris V for ideas. He said there was a Texas Star Party list in the SkySafari repository. He wondered if there might be ones for the winter star party in Florida. Good tips, which I relayed.

Dave reported back. He now had his list made in SkySafari. "Should keep me busy," he said. He's looking forward to observing in November in shorts and a t-shift.

And I'm jealous.


Such a shame all the times I was down south, the Dominican, the Caymans, I wasn't into astronomy!

received AICO '23 calendar

Checked the mail. Junk, junk, flyer, junk...

Ho ho. A package from York University. From the Department of Physics and Astronomy!

Dr Elaina Hyde had sent me a calendar from the Allan I Carswell Observatory.

And the 2023 edition features two of my photos!

AICO 2023 calendar

The March and April months show dark-sky images I captured at the Killarney Provincial Park Observatory during my stint at the Astronomer-In-Residence.