Thursday, April 20, 2017

another one, NGC 5005! (Halifax)

All right. The Burke-Gaffney robot captured a third party. NGC 5005, another lovely galaxy. This RASC Finest NGC lives in Canes Venatici.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 5005 in luminance

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

Noted LEDA 2095155, north of 5005, above and left of the star J131056.4+371034.

The very small dim fuzzy LEDA 2091749 is just west of the big galaxy.

LEDA 2089756 is obvious to the south. While large, it is very faint.

I can see the tiny faint almond of LEDA 2095424, north-north-east.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

BGO also imaged NGC 5033 (Halifax)

Wow. Another one. BGO imaged NGC 5033. A fantastic large special galaxy in Canes Venatici. One more RASC Finest NGC. Look at those magnificent arms!

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 5033 in luminance

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


received NGC 3432 data (Halifax)

w00t! The Burke-Gaffney Observatory fired up and started imaging. I was happy to see it image another RASC Finest NGC for me. This time, the interesting edge-on galaxy NGC 3432 (aka Arp 206) in Leo Minor. It looks bent!

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 3432 in luminance

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

LEDA 2083781 is visible to the west of NGC 3432. It is a very bright but compact ball near the star J105145.0+363633.

The soft diffuse glow off the south-west edge of the big galaxy is MCG 6-24-27. Is this the culprit? It this small galaxy disturbing the big one?

LEDA 2081645, a faint oval smudge, is just north of J105154.4+362902.

There seem to be many more galaxies south-west of the 3432 but they are not identified by SkyTools 3 Pro. To the south and south-east too!

I see LEDA 2081544 above and right of J105245.4+362846.

captured NGC 5746 (Halifax)

BGO imaged RASC Finest NGC 5746 for me. An intriguing edge-on galaxy in Virgo. Dark lane in foreground. Bright core. 

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 5746 in luminance

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

Spotted PGC 52633, a faint, small fuzzy galaxy north-west of the needle, near the top-right of the image.

Noted LEDA 1214810, a small, oblong fuzzy, north-east of the big galaxy. Nestled in the top-left.

Is that a double near the bottom-right?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

third time for NGC 3003 (Halifax)

I had tried to improve on my image of NGC 3003 (the galaxy in Leo Minor) from 4 March without success. The Burke-Gaffney Observatory had another go. The results seem a bit better than 3 February. Maybe.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 3003 in luminance

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

watched OA-7 launch

Tuned into the launch of the Cygnus OA-7 aboard an ULA Atlas rocket on Spaceflight Now. The John Glenn is bound for the International Space Station for a Saturday docking.

Monday, April 17, 2017

noted Stellarium 0.15.2 shortcuts

I downloaded Stellarium 0.15.2 on Saturday to check its use of the new IAU official star names. Spotted the Astronomical Calculations window. That was new to me. I wondered what else was different. Found a number of interesting changes...

This is an update of my keyboard and mouse shortcuts listing. This reference is for Windows and Macintosh computers (although not all shortcuts have been tested on a Mac).

controlling the surroundings

show Location window
Fn F6
toggle cardinal compass points qq
toggle ground and buildings
toggle ground fog
toggle atmosphere or air
toggle sky glow/building lights
Shift g
Shift g
toggle ground (e.g. mountain) labels
Ctrl Shift g
⌘ Shift g
return to "home" (start-up) view
Ctrl h

controlling the sky - deep sky

toggle stars
toggle star labels
Alt s
Option s
toggle constellation lines
toggle constellation boundaries
toggle constellation labels
toggle constellation artwork
toggle DSO/nebula labels and indicatorsn or d
n or d
toggle nebula background images
toggle quasars
Ctrl Alt q
⌘ Option q
toggle zodiacal light
Ctrl Alt z
⌘ Option z
toggle Milky Way
toggle digital sky survey *
Ctrl Alt d
⌘ Option d
show Sky and Viewing Options
Fn F4

controlling the sky - solar system

toggle planets and Moon
toggle planet and Moon labels
Alt p
Option p
toggle planet markers
Ctrl p
⌘ p
toggle planet orbits
toggle starlore planet names
Ctrl Shift n
⌘ Shift n
toggle planet trails
Shift t
Shift t
toggle exoplanet labels, indicators
Ctrl Alt e
⌘ Option e
toggle meteor radiants
Ctrl Alt m
⌘ Option m
toggle meteor radiant labels
Shift m
Shift m

controlling lines

toggle altitude/azimuth grid
toggle equatorial grid
toggle ecliptic line
, (comma)
toggle celestial equator
. (period)
toggle meridian line
toggle horizon line

changing image presentation

flip horizontally
Ctrl Shift h
⌘ Shift h
flip vertically
Ctrl Shift v
⌘ Shift v
toggle equatorial/azimuthal mode
Ctrl m
⌘ m
look in direction, east (or n, w, s)
Shift e
Shift e
look up to zenith
Shift z
Shift z
look to NCP *
Alt Shift n
Option Shift n
look to SCP *
Alt Shift s
Option Shift s


zoom in
PgUp or
Ctrl Up Arrow

Fn Up Arrow
zoom out
PgDn or
Ctrl Dn Arrow

Fn Down Arrow
zoom in or out slowly
Shift with keys
quickly zoom in/out
mouse wheel
mouse wheel
zoom close to selected object
/ (slash)
zoom out fully
\ (backslash)
zoom very close to planet
/ twice
/ twice
set field of view (FOV) to 180°
Ctrl Alt 1
⌘ Option 1
set FOV to 90°
Ctrl Alt 2
⌘ Option 2
... through ...

set FOV to 2°
Ctrl Alt 8
⌘ Option 8
set to 1°
Ctrl Alt 9
⌘ Option 9
to ½°
Ctrl Alt 0
⌘ Option 0


quickly pan celestial sphere
pan right
Right Arrow
Right Arrow
pan left
Left Arrow
Left Arrow
pan up
Up Arrow
Up Arrow
pan down
Down Arrow
Down Arrow
pan a small amount
Shift Arrow-key 
Shift Arrow-key

controlling time flow

set date/time to now
set time rate to zero
increase time flow
l (lower case L)
decrease time flow
run time at normal rate
increase time flow a little
Shift l (that's L)
Shift l
decrease time flow a little
Shift j
Shift j
drag for time *
Ctrl drag

controlling time with mouse wheel

increase/decrease by minutes *
increase/decrease by hours *
Ctrl Shift
increase/decrease by days *
Ctrl Alt
increase/decrease by years *
Ctrl Alt Shift

controlling "regular" time

show date/time window
Fn F5
forward 1 hour solar
Ctrl = (equal)
⌘ =
backward 1 hour
Ctrl - (hyphen)
⌘ -
forward 1 day solar
= (equal)
backward 1 day
- (hyphen)
forward 1 week solar
backward 1 week

controlling sidereal time

forward 1 day sidereal
Alt = (equal)
Option =
backward 1 day
Alt - (hyphen)
Option -
forward 1 year sidereal
Ctrl Alt Shift ]
⌘ Option Shift ]
backward 1 year
Ctrl Alt Shift [
⌘ Option Shift [

working with objects

select an object
centre on selected object
toggle tracking of object
deselect object
display search dialog box
Ctrl f or F3
⌘ f or Fn F3
go, i.e. travel, to a planet
Ctrl g
⌘ g
toggle angular measurement †
Ctrl a
⌘ a
copy object info to clipboard
Ctrl c
⌘ c
add custom marker *
Shift click
remove custom marker *
Shift right-click

working with satellites †

configure artificial satellites
Alt z
Option z
toggle satellite display
Ctrl z
⌘ z
toggle satellite labels
Shift z
Shift z

controlling the screen

toggle night (red light) mode
Ctrl n
⌘ n
toggle full-screen mode
toggle toolbars/menus, i.e. GUI
Ctrl t
⌘ t
save screenshot to disk
Ctrl s
⌘ s
toggle planet selection marker *
Ctrl Shift p
close a window/dialog box

controlling the application

show configuration window
Fn F2
show help/about window
Fn F1
show script console window
show keyboard shortcuts window
Fn F7
show Astronomical Calc. window *
Fn F10
show Bookmarks window *
Alt b
Option b
show Exoplanets config window † *
Alt e
Option e
quit from Stellarium
Ctrl q
⌘ q

* Recently added or changed shortcuts are marked with an asterisk.

† Keyboard shortcuts noted with a dagger are associated with a plug-in. They may not function if the plug-in is not active.

Some shortcuts were omitted. Notably those for the oculars plug-in. And those to do with scripting.

Please report errors in the comments below...

checked latest version

After the star name work, I looked for new features in Stellarium 0.15.2.

The Astronomical Calculations Window is new to me. It is triggered with the menu or F10 key. It includes four tabs: Positions table; Ephemeris generator; Phenomena calculator; Altitude vs. Time graph. The last panel reminds of the Night Bar in SkyTools.

I like the custom marker feature. Immediately I wanted to label them. Still, it might prove handy when noting new objects or the expected position of comets or asteroids. Or something found and not on the chart.

When did they add the Bookmarks? I like this idea, that you can quickly tag favourite items, or things to look at.

sky settings window from Stellarium with colour buttons

Oooh. I really like the colour paint chips. Super-convenient to change the appearance of lines without diving into the config text files.

Very impressive improvements!

But what are hell are cubewanos?

collected more star names

After searching for the missing file (again), I updated my star names table. One key objective was to incorporate the International Astronomy Union's official names, some 225+ entries. There were a couple of surprises there, like Ogma (HD 149026) and Veritate (14 And). Checked things against the wikipedia list. Tabulated entries from the Frosty Drew listing, which accounted for a number of unusual entries not shown elsewhere. Noted (and reported on) issues with SkyTools. Finally, after downloading the latest version of Stellarium, I checked against the popular planetarium app. Whoa. Somebody's been busy! There are now over 650 named stellar objects in Stellarium. Had a quick look at the Yale Bright Star Catalog. Finally, when the dust settled, I found that my list had grown from 600 or so entries to over 940!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

rebuilt finder scope again

It had been over 48 hours for the glue to dry/cure on the second cross hair.

I began the reassembly of the finder scope. Oh oh. I could not remember the sequence! Found notes on John's repair blog. The Meade is slightly different than the Celestron but it was enough to get me going. Curved, convex surfaces toward the inside, facing each other. The small, thin glass element went into the ocular section first, flat side toward the output, near to the viewer's eye. I didn't realise it at first but there's a recess to fit the glass. On second try it settled into place. Then the rounded spacer. The thick glass element. Then the spacer tube. And finally the locking ring (with new strands).

finder scope ocular reassembled

Done. Back together. In the right order. [ed: Looking at the photo from the first attempt thought suggests I did it wrong.]

true crosshairs

Had a look. Much better than my first try. The human hairs were smoother. Everything appeared straight. I didn't have big gobs of glue everywhere! And, as Gilles noted, they do seem semi-transparent.

I'm still not convinced the factory-made alignment grooves are perfect. But then, for the normal application of a finder scope, they don't need to be.

Thanks, Rhonda!

doubles before the Moon (Bradford)

8:45 PM, Friday 14 April 2017. Awoke suddenly from my nap! Yikes. Let's get going. Moved the gear outside. Changed my clothes. Headed out. My eyeglasses: I didn't know where they were... Wanted them to ID stars.

9:05 PM. Put the baader planetarium Hyperion aspheric 36mm wide angle eyepiece in but couldn't reach focus. Oh yeah: removed the paracorr.

9:13. Finished the finder scope alignment. Looked at Procyon.

9:15. I was ready to go.

My glasses were not on my desk so I went to have another look.

9:21. Returned with old glasses. Found them near my desk. I had put them to the side. On the BDT box, actually.

Left a note for Bree on the kitchen table: I was out back...

Grabbed my point-and-shoot camera. Snapped the setup. A bit further south and west than previous attempts. Out of the direct line of the third floor bedroom ceiling light. Borrowed Rhonda's campfire bench as a table.

quick 10-minute setup in backyard

Now that I had my corrective lenses, I could see stars and constellations. Mars, pale orange, was behind the trees. Auriga was setting. Taurus was low. Realised, sadly, that the targets in Orion were probably off limits. Gemini was almost straight up. Canis Major was falling behind the branches. Monoceros was no good. Andromeda was definitely out.

9:24. Moved the cover down the truss tubes to reduce stray light. Didn't think dew would be a factor.

Reviewed my planned list. Huh. Learned that Procyon (aka SHB 1) was a multi-star system. [ed: Forgot that I had attempted this before. Spotted C star on 17 Apr '16.]

9:27. Viewed with the 36mm (at 35x). There was a little arrangement of stars to my right (or east of Procyon). There was a triple to my left, slightly up. So I was viewing pretty close to north-down and east-right. Within the hockey stick, just inside the apex, there were two faint stars, one I could see direct, one with averted. Saw a star beyond the hockey stick (SAO 115779).

Noted the diffraction spikes from the secondary mirror holder.

Some neighbours to the west were enjoying the outdoors. Did they have a fire going?

Learned that the stellar group to the east was a separate system, nothing to do with Procyon.

9:32. Put the Celestron Plössl 26mm 1¼" eyepiece in, using my 2" adapter. Now at 48 power.

Thought I could see the Procyon C star. Below or north. Well away. Very, very faint. Almost inline with the stars BRD 2 and the middle star (SAO 115732) of the line of 3 stars to the west. The dim C star was near or in a diffraction spike. That was distracting. Just at the edge of visibility.

I viewed the apex of the hockey stick. SkyTools 3 Professional was not showing the A and B stars of HR 2950 (aka Σ1126) separately. I zoomed in all the way with the Context Viewer screen. The Object Information showed they were equally bright stars with an angular separation of 0.9 seconds of arc. I returned to the eyepiece. Could not see anything.

9:43. A car pulled in the driveway.

Upped the power with the Tele Vue Type 6 Nagler 9mm ocular. Oh. There it is... The C star of STF 1126 appeared.

The higher power (140x) also made the Procyon C easy.

[ed: The Washington Double Star database has good information about Procyon. Like that the D star is magnitude 12. It also shows that, currently, it is an 8-star system. D should be along the way to SAO 115746, about 1/3rd the distance. The E designation, aka D 29, is with a position angle of 67° and a separation of 467"! Well, that's the BRD 2 star. I don't know what the F star refers to: nothing shows in ST3P or Aladin/SIMBAD. AG at PA 314 and sep. 356 is the aforementioned SAO star. H is the dim partner to G, to the west. I added skymarks in ST3P to hopefully help in future pursuits.]

9:49. Realised I did not have my house keys...

Found that HR 2950 was already in my logged list (curiously, successfully, viewed almost actually one year previous, with a 14" no less).

Person on top floor went back into their bedroom and turned the ceiling light on. It lit the back yard.

10:02. Landed at Capella. Checked the field orientation in the ST3P software. Readied for my first starhop.

Arrived at Al Anz in Auriga. A 6-star system according to ST3P. Not in Sissy's book. Easy starhop with the low power eyepiece. I was a little surprised that this was not in my previously observed list. A bright straw-yellow light. Part of a big triangle shape of stars, with HD 32017 to the south-east. None of these stars were related. There was a thin, backward 7-shape of stars above or to the south-west.

Al Anz (aka ε or epsilon or Burnham 554) was along the upper (or south-west) edge. Opposite edge was a faint star (south-east of A). That was the E element (aka SAO 39960). Plopped in the 26mm. Saw a faint star to the west, almost opposite E, about the same distance as E. That was the F star.

Light upstairs went out. Yeh.

10:09. Spotted what appeared to be a classic double star to the west, far away from Al Anz. But ST3P said they are non-related stars. The bright member was HD 31691. A possible WDS candidate?

10:11. Saw PPM 47643 to the south-east of HD 32017 (the right-most point of the big triangle). Quite faint. The software said it was mag. 12.2.

With the 9mm, I saw Tycho 2907-0440 1. North of the E star. ST3P said it was mag. 11.2. Need averted vision to see stars near Al Anz. No joy.

10:14. I could not see the B, C, or D partners of Al Anz. Sadly. [ed: Strange. I was seeing mag. 12 stars in other places...]

I was feeling cool so decided to go indoors for another layer. Chatted with Bree briefly. I was not done. Not for a while.

10:27. Overshot my target and bumped into χ (chi) Geminorum (aka ES 2628). A neat multi-star system. Not in Haas's book.

A very interesting pattern of stars. There was a pair (with SAO 79902) to the east, not related. There was a wide pair (with HD 66139) to the north. And then a single star further north. With the 26mm, I saw a faint star to the east of the primary, about 1/3 or 1/4 of the way to the east pair. But I was not getting a good presentation from the software. At least, from the Context Viewer. In the Interactive Atlas, the star appeared. Oh. That was the C star!

10:31. With the 9mm, I got the B star! All right. But it was fainter than C. The primary was a rather pale orange. The B and C were at a 90° angle from one another. I saw GSC 1934-1123. ST3P said it was mag. 14.8. Can't be right. Oops. That was slightly to the right... along a line through B and C. I also saw GSC 1934-0888 (at mag. 14.0), slightly to the left. When hovering over the C star, the software reported the brightness at 14.4. Wrong. When I examined the OI box, it showed better numbers matching my experience: B at mag. 12.0 and C, 11.0. B was dimmer. Only revealed with the high power eyepiece. Happy accident, stumbling onto that star.

Next. My original planned target: HD 66176 (aka STT 186). One of the targets from the Sky & Telescope double stars spring "romp."

10:34. My first impression was that I didn't see anything. Swapped out the old Plössl eyepiece for the new TV. Empty field. Holy fire truck. Incredibly tight stars! Equal brightness. Oriented roughly east-west. Damn. No. North-east through south-west. Blue-white in colour. Sub arc-second! 0.90" according to SkyTools (and 1997 data). Wow. Noted a faint pair above... [ed: Very good seeing.]

Was having a hard time seeing the keyboard of John Repeat Dance...

Considered stars in Cassiopeia. Couldn't see it from my vantage.


Quiet to the west now. GO train to the east. A bird chirped madly.

11:02. Hands were cold. Made ο (omicron) Leo; was not yet at ω (omega).

Returned from house with USB mouse. This would allow me to keep my right glove on more. I noticed my legs felt cold when I was inside. But didn't grab my longies.

I was fairly sure I was seeing the B star of omicron (aka Subra).

Neighbours started up again. Nice night.

11:12. Bumped into 6 Leo (as I moved from ο to ω). Previously logged. Colourful. Delicate with the different magnitudes.

Finally reached omega. Changed oculars.

Left for the house again.

11:22. More layers: a vest for the torso and long johns for the sticks. Hard candy for the core. Checked the Oregon Scientific portable weather station. It said the air temperature was 3.2°C, humidity was 33%, and the air pressure was steady. I had noted Rhonda's thermometer said it was 10!

Essentially no wind.

Noted the flag-shape to the south-west (with SAO 117710). A faint star to the west.

Security light was on again. It is way too sensitive.

11:26. Super-tight pair. Light gold colour. They seemed to be oriented to the faint star to the left. Waited for good seeing. OK. Almost perfectly east-to-west.

11:29. Before it was good. Now I was getting touching stars. A rod shape most of the time. Extremely tight.

ω Leonis was in a couple of my SkyTools lists. It was a fast-mover with a 118 year period. It was included in the recent S&T "romp" list.

Quiet again.

11:45. Hopped to Talitha in UMa. I did not see anything. Hmmph. Will have to visit again.

The wind chimes started up...

11:49. Viewed HD 77078 (aka ES 598). Saw the B companion. Briefly. Much dimmer. ST3P says the difference is 2 magnitudes. North-west of κ (kappa) Ursae Majoris. Looked again. Definitely there.

Wondered if Cepheus was visible. No, not really.

Changed eyepieces.

Prepared to visit Lynx target with α (alpha) as the starting point. Huh! I had never viewed it before. The BC pair was far away. Incredible orange and blue.

Another GO train rolled in.

Jumped directly from the 36 to the 9mm. Oops. Too much? I was lost for a moment.

11:57. What a great system. STT 571 was lovely. I already had it on my candidate list. C was to my left, colourless. A wonderful subject, good at low power, good at high power. ST3P said the primary was a K class star. No doubt. The AB angle was north-east; C was at 90 degrees so the BC line was north-west. B-V was 1.5.

12:01 AM, Saturday 15 April 2017. Oh wow. When I returned to the low power ocular, I could still see the third element, the faint C star.

12:05 AM. Viewed 38 Lyncis (STF 1334). Whoa. Wow. Pretty neat. A was white, B was orange, above, beyond there was a faint star above, left was another faint star. Looked like a quad. The A and B were very close. Quite lovely. Different intensities. ST3P said the A and B were 2.7" apart and about 2.5 mags different. The star to the south-west was C; the faint point west was D. Added it to my evening planned targets. It was then I realised it was previously viewed. It is in a lot of other double star lists.

[ed: While I had viewed it previously (5 years ago), I only took in the AB pair.]

Carried on to my target HR 3701 (aka Σ1338). Arrived. Wow.

12:12. Pair of beige stars. North-west through south-east. Equal in brightness. I estimated more than 1 arc-second. ST3P said 1.0" and 1.0 delta mag. I could not see the third partner.

Tried again to spot C.

Noted the Moon to the south-east beyond the coniferous. Probably bleaching the sky. Ugh.

12:23. Fell onto 10 Leo Minor. Lovely colours. Orange. Flanked by two blue stars. Noted the bright, light orange 9 LMi nearby, to the north-west. None of these are considered members of a multi-star system. Kinda strange.

Viewed 11 Leonis Minoris from my list. Spotted two faint stars above. Crikey. View again...

Looked again to the south-west. The galaxies were pooched now... Comets pooched.

Decided to wrap up after one more target, near Zosma.

12:31. I had not viewed δ (delta) Leonis before! How about that. Blue-white lucida. At low power I saw the B star to the north, below. At high power, I found the P component. No problem. P is at a 90 degree angle to the outlying flanking stars PPM 101001 and SAO 81724. Maybe a good addition to my double star programme.

12:36. Viewed HD 97561. There's an equally bright star to the south-east that makes a very wide pair. It is between I noted the faint point of light. That was the C companion of STF 1517. The software revealed that the B is a 1/4 arc-second from the prime star. Ah no.

[Haas listed the separation at 0.6 but suggested it was closing. ST3P says the orbit is 4000 years.]

OK. Last object: Jupiter.

Wow. Very interesting! Three moons, all about the same separation from the planet, to my left, about the 8 o'clock position (west side); one moon opposite the others, further, 2 to 3 times the separation. The Great Red Spot was very orange-red, on the 3-moon side, upper hemisphere (given the rotated view). It did look small. Whoa! The view was really colourful! Fantastic. The seeing was extraordinary. Very good surface detail.

12:38. Started to pack up. Noted Alula Australis on my list. Gah. Too tired to proceed.

Table and chair to the deck.

12:42. Temp 3.5, humidity 34. OS said it was going to be sunny.

The little plastic bin was very helpful for cargoing small items—glad I brought it out.

12:48. Rest of the equipment was back inside.


Things forgotten: laptop keyboard light; house keys.

It was a treat to try the Starmaster telescope (from the late-Geoff Gaherty collection). Certainly it was easy to use. The 11" instrument offered good views (at the centre of the field of view). I was impressed with the collimation—it appeared spot on. Didn't have to touch it. I was surprised that I could not go terribly deep with it. Probably the sky conditions.

If I only had a Dobsonian. It certainly allows rapid setup and quick teardowns.

It was a joy to use my neighbour's deck. I could avoid the bright front porch light. I could avoid the parking lot security light. Nearby warm-up hut. A few less steps.

A fun night.

I had really wanted to get some more double stars under my belt.

My only regret was not being able to share.

Friday, April 14, 2017

planned an easy session

A chance to observe! The Clear Sky Chart was looking good for Ontario locations. The Moon would be bright (after midnight) but I could view some double stars. I really wanted to do that. That said, I wanted to keep it simple. No tent, no EQ mount. Fast and easy. Ah, I could try the Starmaster...

Consulted my observing prep checklist in Evernote.

Started recharging batteries including the 12v SLAs and 12v Li-Ion.

12:21 PM. Recharged some AAA batteries for the Sony voice recorder.

Checked the audio device. It was showing that battery level low. No surprise. Checked remaining time/space: 17 hours.

Grabbed my red glasses. Deep red flashlight. Checked power: OK. Grabbed the black cloth. Might prove handy if I was not going to use the tent.

Readied astronomy box ε with my (recently-cleaned) eyepieces. Checked the netbook computer. Removed the red film from the carrying case. Moved the portable table and observer's chair to the hall. Checked the sunset time: around 8 PM.

Oh. What if the Newtonian needed work? I hoped I would not have to collimate...

12:36. Found the 2016 RASC Observer's Handbook in astronomy box α 1. Removed it.

Grabbed my eyeglass strap.

Built an observing list in SkyTools 3 Pro. About 60 items. Mostly double stars.

1:08. Checked my astro calendar for current events. Nothing really. All those comets...

1:37. Tried red light mode on John Charles using Backyard Red. Never used it before. Not bad. But I don't like that you cannot move the applet from the top edge of the screen. For me, that's an issue, for I run my Task Bar there.

Checked the satellite imagery. Pretty clear. Cold lakes...

Clear Sky Chart for Friday night

Dark blue. Yeh! Transparency looked very good. Seeing not bad.

Pulled the Environment Canada data for Newmarket.

The 24 hour forecast showed Fri 14 Apr would be sunny and 15°C. Tonight would be clear and drop to 1°C. Brrr. Sat 15 Apr would bring a few showers but would warm to 19°C. Saturday night: chance of showers, 30%, at 12°C. The detailed forecast, issued at 11:00 AM EDT Friday 14 April 2017, showed: Today: Sunny. High 15. UV index 6 or high. Tonight: Clear. Low plus 1. Sat, 15 Apr: Increasing cloudiness. A few showers beginning in the morning and ending late in the afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm late in the morning and in the afternoon. Wind becoming south 20 km/h in the afternoon. High 19.

1:45. Checked Clear Outside. It was showing green to midnight! All right.

Then the CSAC alerts started pouring in...

2:24. CSAC Alarm for 2017-04-14 21:00:00 at Toronto.

Favorable observing conditions at Toronto.
Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
04-14 @ Hour 21 for 8 hours (0%/Above Ave./Good)
Thank you for using the Clear Sky Alarm Clock,

3:33. Then one for home...

Favorable observing conditions at B. Williams Mem. Observatory.
Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
04-14 @ Hour 16 for 7 hours (0%/Average/Average)
04-15 @ Hour 05 for 3 hours (10%/Average/Average)

Everything was ready... Had an early dinner.


In short order, I felt super-tired. Nap-jerking at my desk. Effect of the early start today. Headed to the bedroom for a cat nap...

enjoy meeting video

It really was a treat watching RASC Toronto Centre meeting video from Wednesday. Harald Pfeiffer's talk was very interesting. But I greatly appreciated the work done to make this happen. It looked like there were two videographers, someone acting as a director, switching between camera views, grabbing the computer presentation data feed, and managing the sound input. Someone took care of the Youtube storage. Of course, the Ontario Science Centre was instrumental with the internet connection. Well done, all!


Dang. An alarm came in for Halifax.

CSAC Alarm for 2017-04-14 22:00:00 at BGO - SMU
Favorable observing conditions at Halifax.
Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
04-14 @ Hour 22 for 1 hours (0%/Above Ave./Average)
Thank you for using the Clear Sky Alarm Clock,

But I suspected the robot was still offline...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

received SN May/Jun 2017

SkyNews magazine 2017 May-June cover
Nice surprise. The SkyNews magazine showed up today. The May/June 2017 issue.

Lots of stuff on solar eclipse viewing. Immediately read those articles.

Saw a review on the latest iOptron tracking mount. I'm sure I will enjoy reading that.

Also noted the article on focusing a DSLR camera lens. The Bahtinov diffraction pattern images caught my eye. I wondered if I might learn some new techniques.

updated the firmware

After reading the notes on Swanson's NexStar Resource Site, I successfully updated the firmware in Nicole's CGEM mount hand controller. The Windows firmware application made it pretty easy but it does not make it obvious the mount type. It's easy to load the Alt-Az version rather than the EQ. Initial inspections looked good.

second strand

Phase 1 done. Started phase 2. That is, gluing the second cross hair into place.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

completed test 2

Ran Nicole's mount for 8 hours, tracking Capella. No issues!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

not pink

Rhonda and I chatted about the media's latest love affair with the Moon.

She was irked by the "pink Moon" articles. Many gave the impression that the Moon would appear pink in colour. Some images showed a rising/setting satellite with an obvious colour shift. Some images showed a pink background! I even found an ostentatious article on the CBC web site. All that said, a good number of the articles (if you read far enough) clarified the Moon would not appear pink. The term was referring to a pink flower that often blooms this time of year.

I relayed by consternation about "super" Moons. She agreed. Large Moons are not new. This has been happening for a long time. Before recorded history. The Moon's orbit is elliptical. Apogee and perigee. I don't like how many articles give the impression to the reader that the Moon will appear larger in the sky.

Something crystallised (at last). I shared that I was worried about people losing interest. These articles raise expectations and people that go outside and look (itself, a good thing) may become discouraged when they experience nothing unusual. They may exclaim, "the Moon's not blue!" Or, "It doesn't look pink to me." Worse: "It doesn't look bigger than usual..." It's the crying-wolf effect.

I'd much rather see pieces with managed expectations and more scientific facts. But, I guess, science is boring.

"Click bait!" I remarked. We agreed the newspapers and media outlets are trying to make more money.

completed test 1

Test 1 complete. It looks like the CGEM performed correctly. The mount (in RA) moved through 80 degrees.

checked firmware

Checked the firmware (NexStar+ hand controller and motors) in Nicole's Celestron CGEM mount.

version info for CGEM mount

HC showed 5.21.2064. This appears to be current but I will need to investigate further.

MC showed 6.17 and 6.17. This appears current.


Update: The latest hand controller firmware is 5.29.6226 released February 2017.

greased CGEM contacts

Had another go at Nicole's CGEM mount. I was unhappy with the previous results.

Cleaned the board-ribbon cable contacts. Used some of the special nasty goop from the new tube of MG Chemicals Carbon Conductive Grease. Buttoned everything up including the black plastic washer for the power connector. Booted it up. OK.

Set it to track on Denebola. Set an alarm to check in a few hours. Should be at the meridian 'round midnight.

tethered again

I had a note to check the tether situation with the C8.

Two years ago, I had made my own wire rope tethers for the telescope to ensure the finder scope, or perhaps DSLR body, would not fall to the ground if they came loose.

I made one new line. This one for the corrector cap cover. Now, hopefully, it won't fall in the drink.

A loose end (no pun intended) from this project was that I had never covered the frayed ends of the metal cable. As I suspected, they would catch on fabric and prick fingers. I covered them with electrical tape..

checked fit

Checked the fitment of the C8 corrector plate cap or cover. Back in May, I had added 3 shims to the cover to improve the grip. I remember one falling off in October. Now there was only one left. Still, it seemed to be a firm fit...

redid crosshairs

Decided to redo the cross hairs on the finder scope, for the barn door tracker. This time with human hair. Phase 1 curing...

Rhonda donated to the cause. Thank you.

Was not happy with the results from early 2016.

Must be patient...

shared solar info

Shared an app I like and a web site I regularly use to check solar activity. And assured her that Earth-bound CMEs were fairly common. Thank you, magnetosphere.

CME from Sun

Also sent a link to Phil Plait's book, Death from the Skies!

Monday, April 10, 2017

found green flash data

Charles suggested I look for a web site at San Diego State University regarding the green flash. In short order, I found Andrew T. Young's very good resource, An Introduction to Green Flashes. Google also offered up a specific page, Advanced Advice about Green-Flash Photography.

received green flash tips

Chatted with chas again. This time on Facebook Chat. We talked about telescopes, mounts, NEAF, etc. Before closing, I asked him for green flash tips and tricks.

too big

Tried to provide a telescope to a family member for Louise. But when they saw the Dobsonian, they realised their vehicle did not have enough space. We postponed.

big mirror for a telescope

OK. It's not that bad...