Tuesday, September 27, 2016

during the short walk (Blue Mountains)

Weird. A little bit of everything in the brief walk to the house!

Good portions of the sky was clear as I exited the THO. Stars. The Milky Way angling east-west.

Still, I noted clouds. Particularly thick/dark clouds to the south.

Distant layered clouds to the north. Those clouds, over the bay, would periodically fill up with soundless lightning.

Faint aurora above or beyond those north clouds continued.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flare, high up. Spotted a rather bright pair of points, above Dubhe, heading north-east. Initially, the right one brightened up to a minus magnitude! There were about a half degree apart.


Looked up satellite and ISS flyovers for this morning. Nothing yet.

tested in the field

Conducted a test of the custom Canon mirror lock-up cable with the special version of Backyard EOS. In the field this time (versus the bench), with the NexStar 11, on a double star. Everything worked rather well. I was able to shoot very fast exposures, which will be necessary with some bright stars, and have the mirror up in advance of the shutter opening, in an effort to reduce or eliminate vibration. And, at the end of the imaging runs, I was happy to see the open-shutter command cleared, and everything, the camera, the software, working normally. While the seeing was very poor, I was happy with the results overall.

Monday, September 26, 2016

imaged a portion of NGC 7000 (Halifax)

I continue to image the RASC Finest NGCs with the BGO robot. One of these objects is the very large North American Nebula or NGC 7000. In fact, to capture the whole object, out to the peripheries of the diffuse nebula, I'd need to gather nine or more panels or frames in a mosaic. Not sure I want to do this.

Aimed in the "Central America" region by targetting the star GSC 03179 00422. Requested luminance, red, green, blue, and hydrogen alpha.

RASC Finest emission nebula NGC 7000 portion luminance

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

RASC Finest emission nebula NGC 7000 portion hydrogen alpha

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

Also caught, in the net, a couple of double stars.

Left or east of centre is ES 1451, a tight pair of equally bright stars.

Near the bottom right, to the south-west, is a wide pair of stars, a bright one with a faint neighbour. But that's not the official double. It's the bright star, ES 1450, that has a very tight companion. Not sure this is split in the images.

new date set

The new date for the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting is Thursday 29 September in the evening. Location: the Saint Joan of Arc church near Keele and Bloor.

explained date entry

Updated the CAO income workbook primarily to clarify how valid dates can be entered in a spreadsheet.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

cloudy, cold, windy (Blue Mountains)

Spotted an aurora alert. Popped out to the deck. Cloudy, cold, and windy. And no aurora visible. In fact, few stars were visible.

helped a bit

Did a bunch of things at the CAO.
  • tested the John Deere mower
  • taught a member how to operate the John Deere mower
  • helped as a roadie at the Probus event
  • helped Phil with some supervisor tasks including some safety matters, updating the white board, opening the observatory, cutting the lawn, etc.
  • did an inventory of the Star Adventurer camera release cables
  • dropped off some keys
  • sold a RASC 2017 calendar
  • installed a fresh propane tank to the BBQ
  • double-checked the location of the red LED flashlight in the GBO
  • rebooted the server computer (again)
  • did some succession planning
  • labelled the Celestron NexStar data cable
  • explained to Erwin how to join
  • gathered information about the big bed in the master bedroom
  • reprogrammed the lights
  • helped a bit in the closure
  • researched GIMP; I'll install the 16-bit version soon
  • checked the fridge for extra food stuffs (in advance of the work party)
Helped Thursday through Sunday. But not on the Computer Ease national holiday.

processed NGC 147

Cranked out, thanks to Ian W, a final luminance image from CCDStack v2. I was pretty happy with the results, particularly given how faint, diffuse, and dim the target NGC 147 was. This was from data collected on the evening of 4 Sep.

faint galaxy NGC 147 in luminance

900 second subs, about a dozen frames, RCOS 12.5, f/9, SBIG STL 11000M, CCDStack, GIMP.

tested focuser control in BYE

Tested the RASC TC CAO GBO Optec TCF-S focuser with Backyard EOS and its ASCOM interface (via my hacked cable). It worked! With a USB-serial adapter based on the Prolific chip!

screen snapshot of Backyard EOS controlling a focuser

I was able to read/see the current focuser position and temperaure data. I was able to move/nudge the focuser from within BYE. Sweet.

I didn't see an AUTO mode switch or button. But it looks like I can run out to the focuser and switch the hand paddle to an automatic mode and forget about it.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

viewed Mercury in the blue (Blue Mountains)

Viewed Mercury in the TEC telescope. Fantastic view against the blue sky. Very obvious crescent. Every once in a while, the seeing would get very steady. Wow.


Tony said the seeing improved.

tried a different hand controller

Had a look at Uncle Tony's Celestron CGEM mount. The hand controller was acting very strange. We tried the HC from the NexStar 11 with little success. His, though, seemed very sick: nothing on the display while the slew buttons worked. He said he's had trouble before.

swapped marine batteries

Delivered the new Nautilus battery to Elaine and Tony; received the damaged one. I look forward to opening up this unit.

imaged NGC 1907 (Halifax)

The Burke Gaffney Observatory robot imaged NGC 1907 aka Collinder 66 for me. An open globular cluster in Auriga, just south of Messier 38. An item I wanted to view again. BGO happened to shoot it on my Happy Orbit Day. Thank you! A small collection, a compact OC, harbouring a multi-star system. While it is not a great image, it was a nice treat.

open cluster galaxy NGC 1907 in luminance

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

Seems I had first viewed this object, in passing, in March 2013. Did not make a very detailed note.

SEI 268, a five-element star system, is buried in the middle of the cluster. There's a line of three similar, equally spaced stars: that's the A, B, and C stars, from north to south. The bright star to the east is D. The dimmer star to the west is F, opposite D, slightly further away. SkyTools does not show an E star.

Above and left, or to the north-east, is the double star HJ 699. The brighter star is further afield.

a couple of multiples (Blue Mountains)

Returned to the THO.

Opened the roof and aligned the 'scope. Connected the computer. Shut down Evernote. Turned off the radio. John Repeat Dance was still acting strange: no audio. Forgot the mouse; battled with touchpad.

Slewed to Alpheratz. Almost straight up. Noted the multi-star system nearby, HR 8, at the edge of the field. A quad on the Andromeda-Pegasus border.

Noted the eyepiece was dirty.

A was bright.

There was a line of stars below or to the south-west. The line was oriented north-west to south-east. About 4 or 5 stars.

HR 8 A was a lovely yellow-orange. All the others were a similar colour.

B was the west-most or left-most star. Brighter than C-D. But dimmer than the far-right star.

The east-most stars were not related.

I could not split the C and D stars. C looked really dim, in the software. Magnitude 12 for C; 10 for D.

Never thought about that before that elements of a multi-star, or even a simple double star, could be in different constellations.

A cloud made the stars fade out. Not a good night to go for galaxies...

Added HR 8 aka STT 549 to my observing list.

I wanted to dive a bit deeper but I did not have my 26mm with me (on loan to Denise). Looked in the N11 kit. Nothing in that range. So I grabbed my 20mm Pentax.

Considered, again, that an outrigger tray or table would be helpful. The computer could go there, freeing up the space on the inner tray for eyepieces. Really the best place to avoid them falling off or rolling away.

Could not see the C star at the higher power.

The seeing was not good.

After syncing, I slewed to the next target in Pegasus. PPM 89370.

Tight pair. I spotted the A and B stars. Delicate. SkyTools said there was a C star nearby. In the chart, it showed as mag 10.1; in the Object Information, 9.2. Oriented left-right for me.

[ed: Upon review, I think I was seeing the A and C stars. ST3P sayd the are separated by 5.2 seconds of arc; B however is 0.5"!]

I was tired.

Bad skies. Gah! I saw lots of clouds. Mottled clouds. Clouded out again. Damn it.

Decided that since Hibernate mode is not really working well for me, there was no point using it. I powered off the mount.

Fair session. Had high hopes but the clouds dashed that. Computer worked better this time.

Returned to my bed.

checked alignment (Blue Mountains)

Was winding down, in my cot, when I suddenly had the munchies. Headed up to the kitchen. It was quiet. Everyone was asleep except for Clayton.

I peaked out the back door to discover a sky full of stars! What?! It was very clear. But still in my PJs, having readied for bed, I struggled with the idea. Finally, I decided to suit up.

Before returning to the Tony Horvatin Observatory, I thought I'd check the sight lines, angles, etc. for the Milky Way over the road way. Walked down the driveway in the dark, taking in the northern sky.

I don't know why exactly but it still seems very strange to me to do this. I felt the same way when I set up the camera in the forest for the star trails. Is it because it's novel, that I've just never done this before, that I've always stayed on the grounds? I think that's part of it, there's a comfort factor. Is another part just the activity of walking around on roads and paths in complete darkness? It's not like I've never done that; while camping, I've often walked to and fro in the night. But this is different from that. Such a peculiar feeling. There's something primal in it.

At the foot of our driveway, I found that the Milky Way was almost perfectly lined up with the road. It would have lined up or converged maybe in 30 to 60 minutes. I think. Low clouds bloated the galaxy as it neared the western horizon. It was not exactly vertical either. I wondered if that was ever possible, mathematically, for this road. Still, I felt, overall, it should work.

Next clear night. Around 2:00 AM...

What surprised me was the light pollution. I could clearly see many lights from Thornbury. I didn't expect that. I crouched down. It helped. If the camera was mounted low, some of the bright lights would be occulted.

Lyra was falling. The Circlet was rising.

Friday, September 23, 2016

tried to wait-out the clouds (Blue Mountains)

We're an optimistic bunch. Many were busy-bodies setting up on the Observing Pad for a night of astronomical observing and imaging. Despite wall-to-wall clouds... Damn it.

I spotted Venus through the clouds. Just over the south peak of the Geoff Brown Observatory.

I settled into the Tony Horvatin Observatory.

8:38 PM. Restarted my computer. It was still not great.

Some sort of conflict with Evernote?

9:06. The computer-telescope interface seemed OK now. And it was cloudy. Still.

I thought the wind was picking up. I hoped that would push off the clouds. They had been hanging around since noon.

Aligned on Arcturus. It was shimmering. Oh boy.

I wondered about an outrigger tray for THO cart, for my portable computer... Pondered designs.

9:18. Slewed to 57 Aquila. And I waited for for a clear patch. And waited...

Still cloudy.

9:32. I heard a low rumble. Phil closed the roof of the GBO.

9:35. I suddenly realised I had not looked at the radar. And then realised that was probably a good idea. If there were big clouds moving in then there would be no point waiting... Strangely, I couldn't see anything... That was kinda weird.

I wondered about replacing the battery in the NexStar 11. But after some googling, I came to the conclusion that it was not something to worry about.

9:47. From the Observing Pad, I heard someone packing up.

I was frustrated. I didn't get it. There were clouds everywhere I looked. But why were the clouds not showing on radar or satellite?!

Spotted Mars. Low. Orange. Bright.

Killed some time in the GBO.

Dietmar and I saw it was still cloudy.

11:13. I saw lights on in the garage. That suggested Clayton was still up. In the kitchen I saw that it was now relatively quiet (compared to earlier in the evening). Only Mary-Ann, Ian D, and Art were left. I headed to bed. Passed Chris in the Great Room. It looked like Phil was winding down. I grabbed a beverage and started reviewing my notes...


Forget the exact time but I saw a meteor in the west. Seemed to be coming from Perseus. A final Perseid perhaps?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

helped at Probus event

Helped with the Probus group event at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. This education and public outreach event was scheduled with a main date on Thursday and, originally, a rain date on Friday. Unfortunately, both of those nights looked grim weather-wise. So we offered Saturday night for a make-up date.

Generally, I monitored. Helped set up the Great Room seating. Arranged our loaner telescopes. Set out our RASC brochures. Answered questions of visitors. Guided some members, in the dark, to the Geoff Brown Observatory. Wore my scrolling LED badge.

Quite a good event, with 40+ visitors, despite the weather. I sense all our guests were rather impressed.


Dorte blogged the evening.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

worked Miram in colour

Processed Miram in LRGB. Worked with the data obtained 13 Sep. Lovely colours.

multi-star Miram in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

updated the map

After fixing exploding directories, I updated the map to the CAO. Redisplayed a couple of the common landmarks. Added a new marker for the vineyard on Grey Rd 2 near the observatory. A few other embellishments.

examined NGC 6882 (Halifax)

A few days ago I considered some targets for the BGO robot. There did not seem to be visible candidates from the RASC Finest NGC list. I was considering the affect of the bright Moon. Found some bright View Again items in my life list, in particularly NGC 6882 within Vulpecula.

This is a curious open cluster. SkyTools 3 Pro shows it around the bright star at the top or north. That star is 19 Vul. But there don't seem to be a gaggle of stars obvious near to it. Is this why I thought I needed to view it again? Was my first impression, "Where is it?" Or, "Am I in the wrong spot?"

Strange. There's the sweeping expanding arc of stars around it. Starting to the right or west and curving over top and looping down to the south-east, reminding me of the Fibonacci formula. Is that part of the cluster proper?

[ed: I just discovered a note in SkyTools under the Comments for the object: "Contains approx. 3 member stars." Uh huh.]

open cluster NGC 6882 in luminance

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

Just above centre in the image is a medium-bright star (HD 192043) with a small grouping of less-than-a-dozen stars. ST3P shows this is open cluster AH03 J2011+26.7. OK.

The increasing general density of stars at the bottom of the frame, to the south, is part of NGC 6885, a large, widely disbursed open cluster.

The thicker clump of stars to the south-west is open cluster Collinder 416. I would argue most if not all of the stars in this cluster are contained within this photograph.

20 Vul is the very bright star to the south, at the edge of the image field.


Did a bit of research. Seems the old (paper-based) cartographers are confused about NGC 6882 and NGC 6885. I read Doug Scobel's remarks with interest. The centres of the two open clusters in Aladin/Simbad do seem to coincide with SkyTools. As does the location of Cr 416.

A low power, it is certainly an interesting area, with conglomerations of faint stars with bright 18, 19, and 20 Vul outlining a large triangle.

put together NGC 1491

Played with NGC 1491 using the data gathered 10 Sep. The Hα data is amazing! I think, though, I was overhanded with the luminance layer.

emission nebula NGC 1491 in colour with H-alpha data

FITS Liberator, Photoshop.

drafted Journal piece

Drafted my next RASC Journal article. Trying to get ahead, a bit.

what goes 'round

Don't mess with karma. Humans pay attention to this. The Universe carries on. Still, I would so love to relay the consequences of previous actions. Is that vindictive on my part? Or is it that stoopid want of mine to help people get better? See the light. Doesn't matter. Let it go. I will make for good memories. 335 to go.

three now

Another sleep-challenged night. That's three nights in a row that I have awoken, thinking about RASC matters, and can't get back to sleep. Through to dawn.

Monday, September 19, 2016

yellow LED!

Did some tests with the special Backyard EOS version that Guylain provided. It worked! After a TV run, after the last exposure, the mirror lock cable went from shutter-active to standby, indicated by the red LED extinguishing and the yellow LED firing. All right!


Guylain committed the change. The next release of BYE, 3.1.9, will include the mod!


My cable works!


Field tested the cable and software. It worked.

puzzled together NGC 772

Put galaxy NGC 772 together using the complete data set from 12 Sep. I had a hard time with the FITS files. They seemed very noisy. The luminance and red channels had significant gradients so I dialled them out. I also did my most aggressive luminosity layer to date. Seems a bit harsh.

FITS Liberator, Photoshop.

assembled NGC 1501 in colour

Put together NGC 1501 in full colour, finally, with the good LRGB data from 12 Sep. I knew it! I have seen this planetary nebula in other images before. A fantastic blue colour. Wow.

blue planetary nebula NGC 1501 in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop.


Risa was intrigued.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

processed NGC 7510

Processed the open cluster NGC 7510 in colour and was pleasantly surprised. For some reason I expected the stars in the cluster to be young but it looks like they are old and wise. Yellow and orange, most. Couple of deep orange and red stars in the field.

open cluster NGC 7510 in colour

Used the data from 13 Sep. FITS Liberator, Photoshop.

The tight double, HD 240221, with bright primary and dim secondary, appear to be white and white.

built an Aladin Lite query tool

I built a query tool to work with the Aladin interactive sky atlas. I specifically wanted a light-weight solution for rapidly using Aladin Lite within a browser. I deployed it within my evergreen site.

loaded Stellarium 15

Installed Stellarium 0.15.0 to John Charles. Explored around. These are not necessarily very new features but a few things caught my eye. I haven't used it for a while...

Could not see my mouse pointer when in full screen mode. OK otherwise.

I like the option for detecting one's location from "the network." The app showed I'm near Keswick.

All right! The Great Red Spot can be adjusted without diving into a text editor.

Noted some new line/grid options such as Prime Vertical and Circumpolar Circles.

Saw that some of the artwork is in colour.

I enjoyed the Ojibwe artwork. The wintermaker is coming.

Orion high (Bradford)

Couldn't sleep. Again.

Noted it was bright out. Moon off to the south-west somewhere. Tried to spot stars to the south.

Oh. There's one. Oh. There's Orion. The harbinger.