Wednesday, May 25, 2016

compared SQMs

Checked the readings from the rooftop of the Carr Astronomical Observatory with the Unihedron SQM-LE meter from last weekend...

23:00:00.104 - 19.35
23:30:00.103 - 19.21

Quite different than the readings captured with the handheld unit. By about 0.2 to 0.3 units.

followed the Moon

Stacked, with StarStax, the Moon trail images, from last weekend. Wow!

27 light frames and 2 darks.

two right one wrong

Received the battery order from British Columbia. Some rare rechargeable lithium-ion 2032 coin-style batteries (for the squeeze-handle flashlights). And a Varta dual-coin battery for the GoToStar hand controller! Wait a second... 3.6 volts?! That's not right. Right? Right. Sadly, the shop picked and sent the wrong unit. Ordered the 2/60DK-PC, which shows on the order form, but I received the 3/60DK-PC. Ugh.

Monday, May 23, 2016

captured Mars (Blue Mountains)

2:34. Wanted to video record Mars.

Quickly switched over from EOS Utility to Backyard EOS.

Slewed to the planet. Performed the Star Search.

Huh. The exposure settings were working! While in Frame & Focus, while adjusting the settings at the bottom right, I saw the appearance of the Live View changing. It was doing exposure simulation. All right. Couldn't remember what exactly I had done before but it was OK now. Doing exactly what I wanted.

Holy fire truck! Mars was amazing.

It looked like the mirror had moved, after the big slew. Redid focusing on a nearby star. Centred.

Set exposure to 1/30. Amazing detail. 1/15 was too bright. ISO 100. Daylight. Image count: 1000. Loop: 1. Save to: AVI. 5X. I could see a really dark region on the planet. The capture occurred at 7.9 frames per second.

I started to tidy up things in the observatory.

2:54. Video grab done.

Queued box showed a flashing "1." Ah. With stills, it blinks briefly, then gone...

Disconnected from the focuser.

Started the next video run. I was ready to shut down.

800 frames...

And done. Closed the observatory. Remembered to do the roof first, then the wall sections. Parked the 'scope. Torn down the camera. Packed up camera gear. Packed up laptop.

3:11. Readied to leave the GBO.

period go

I wanted to make more traces of star light. Building on what I did last August.

I wanted to see more colour.

I made a mistake on the first shot, forgetting, for a few seconds, to turn off the tracking. I like what happened.

stars in an open cluster as points then traces of light


from centre, stars in an open cluster as points then traces of light


stars around mu Cep as points then traces of light

mu Cephei. Garnet Star.

stars around UX Dra as points then traces of light

UX Draconis.

reconfigured for traces

12:21 AM. Reviewed my traces notes...

I had used the electric focuser. Right. Grabbed all the associated cables. The Optec cable, the 6-wire extension, and the USB-serial adapter. Gah. Would need the software only on the Dell laptop... Not in the Warm Room. Forgot to get it earlier. It would help offload tasks from the lowly netbook. It almost stopped me. Ahh. Went to the house... It was the right way to do it. I really wanted to do it.

Ian D popped in.

Set up the Dell and transferred telescope control. Slewed to M13 as a test. Went smoothly. Connected and tested the focuser. COM port issue; easily corrected. 7. Remembered to set to Manual at the hand paddle. Set to 3500.

Prepared the camera. I would need to power it continuously. Detached the battery grip. Hooked up the DC coupler. Removed the intervalometer. Removed the long lens and added the t-ring and 2" eyepiece shaft.

Grabbed the USB-ethernet extension bits, including power supply. Interconnected the Canon to the ASUS. Powered the camera. EOS Utility automatically launched. Closed it. Launched Backyard EOS. The new version was different--the camera type screen presented more technical information including the date range for the camera. It was not obvious but I chose the "215" line.

Turned on more lights in the Warm Room. Removed the red film from the monitors.

Risa returned to warmth.

Slewed to Vega. Did a spiral search.

Manually focused. Then fine-tuned with the Optec. While using the BYE software.

1:01. Noted the targets. Closed SkyTools.

Considered how to time the drift. I could use the stopwatch on the Android. Affixed the small red film piece to Ananke's screen.

Slewed to Messier 29.

I couldn't remember how I set things, like the exposure. I was expecting the Live View image to change... It didn't seem to be working. The simulated exposure... How the hell had I done this. Floundered. So I went back and carefully re-read my earlier notes. Spent a l-o-n-g time re-reading my notes... Frustrated that I did not have a quick reference somewhere.

1:37. Finally clued-in. I had used EOS Utility, not Backyard, to focus and then shoot. I realised it all by inference. Sheesh.

On Vega. I went back into BYE. It carried over the camera settings. But the quality showed as JPG S, the lowest. Why? Maybe that was a feature. Simply used by the Frame and Focus routine. Set the focuser to automatic.

Launched EU again. Set up a target folder. Activated Live View. Adjusted the camera settings. Went to M29. Programmed an image run. 2 minutes. No delay. Set the interval time to a very high value.

Ho ho. Wow.

Oops. When I forgot to deactivate tracking for a few seconds, it caused the stars to burn in, a bit. Then, when I finally switched off the sidereal tracking, the stars trailed away. I didn't mean to do that. That's not what I did before. But it created a very neat effect. It seemed like they were falling! Just wild. Happy accident.

Tried again.

While waiting for the next 2 minutes exposure, I reviewed the work flow:

Slew to target with TheSky.
Start EOS Utility.
Go into Live View.
Use simulation exposure to see the stars.
Start exposure.
Turn off tracking.

Dropped to ISO 800. It darkened the sky a bit. Blues, yellows, whites.

2:00. Could not figure out why I did not see Sadr. Found it. Figured out the centring/pointing bias: moved up and right a bit.

Imaged M29 again. Hopefully centred. It worked!

Went to Alderamin. Noted the bias was above. Slewed to The Garnet. I saw the star in the Live View (magnitude 4.3)! Awesome.

Started the timer. Stopped tracking at 15 seconds. Oops. Pointer not moving... Flubbed it. Reset.

Optec said the temperature was 7.7.

Holy Scheat. It was amazing.

But, 2 minutes was not long enough, in this case. Bumped up to 2.5 minutes. Started shot. Verified it was tracking.

Suddenly realised I was not using the tablet.

Started packing up, while waiting.

Wow. Frickin' crazy. Incredible colours.

Considered NGC 6939. Wait! What was the super-red star I had seen a short time ago... UX Draconis. Looked up an alias. SAO. Slewed. Increased the exposure time to 3m.

Continued packing up gear. Including the tripods outside.

Amazing colour!

Slewed to the open cluster.

2:33. Was waiting for the NGC image to finish.

Wow. Interesting. Very interesting.

Done. All I wanted to do. Closed out EOS Utility.

knocked down doubles (Blue Mountains)

10:24 PM, Sunday 22 May 2016. Viewed the double star φ (phi) Ursae Majoris. aka Otto Struve 208. Seeing was not good. Must have been a super-tight pair as I did not see anything (with the 27mm). In my View Again list. In my Fast Movers list. Looked like I had been trying for it over the last year. Checked the blog. Actually, my doubles life list. "Could not split" in 2014. Checked SkyTools 3 Pro. The separation was 0.4 seconds of arc. The aphelion was calculated, in the 105 year period, to go to 0.35. So, tightening up. Zoomed in a lot in the Context Viewer. Decided to bump up the power to the outrageous 391 (with the 10mm).

Got a rod! It was oriented left-right for me.

I saw a star at the 11 o'clock at the edge of the field. Perhaps GSC 03814-1315. Then spotted two faint stars at my 4 o'clock.

Tony popped by. The kids were enjoying the bonfire. Asked if he was trying photography. Nope. We talked about the GBO roof issues. He asked what the arc-second resolution was for our locale. Not sure. But SkyTools said the Dawes limit was 0.3!

Tony's impression was different; I thought the orientation 11 o'clock and 5. i.e. north-west to south-east. Which matched the software. Also, the two widely separated stars to the east (GSC 03814-1061 and GSC 03814-1473) were in the same orientation.

Wicked! Another pair at my career limit! I was happy about that.

[ed: Odd. I didn't notice it at the time but the life list did not have an asterisk for this item although clearly marked as did not split...]

10:32 PM. Next: HD 95658. aka HO 47. Of course, I could not spot it with the 10mm still in... Interesting. Came from the automatically generated list. It was also in my View Again. Tried to split the BC in June 2014.

Risa popped in. She shared her impressions of Jupiter. She too thought the air very still.

10:36. Wow. Freaky. An interesting alignment, straight line of stars. Saw the faint star GSC 02521-1268 equidistant from A. There were most stars, including TYC 02521-1484 1, inline again, further to the east. Way off to the east was TYC 02521-0508 1.

Zoomed in in SkyTools. Holy foxtrot. I was seeing the B and C split! In an 11 and 5 o'clock orientation. Or north-south. Very, very cool.

I wondered if there was an error in the software. Three stars? It was showing the star TYC 02521-1237 2 at magnitude 10.71 above B. Ah... no...

Getting some tricky things!

10:48. Break time. Squish!

Checked the Sony. Oh, oh, low battery indicator. Swapped in some fresh ones.

10:54. Dietmar popped in to warm up. He was waiting for the danged Moon to rise up higher. I briefly showed him my shots.

Viewed HR 4439. aka Otto Struve 235. It did not seem to be in my blog or life list. Although I had added it a few times. I saw the big line of stars and the short line at 90 degrees.

Had another look at the stars in Ursa Major. Rotated the mirror diagonal so the T-shape tilted up and to the right. Noted the faint star GSC 04153-0118, which ST3P said was 14.7.

Returned to the OTA with a higher power eyepiece. Considered that A and B were now vertical for me. C was up and right, at about a 30 degree angle (or due east). When I zoomed in on AB, it showed a similar view. B was directly above. Much fainter. A was yellow; B was orange. No colour, very faint, the C star. Wow.

Applied a dark theme to Chrome on John Repeat Dance.

11:09. Noted something in the 'hood. HD 100054. Wide pair. Easy split. 12. Yellow and pale blue. Possibly yellowy-orange. Very similar brightness, with B very slightly dimmer. Added to observing list.

Next up: 15 in Canes Venatici. Reviewed my past notes.

In the ocular, I noted a big L. 15 CVn was on the bottom left for me. 17 to the right (east). Above (north) and two times of the separation of 15-17 was the random star HD 114427.

Thought I saw something in a 10 and 4 o'clock line. That did not match the SkyTools presentation. Looked again. I thought the stars north-south but the app was showing them east-west. Inconclusive.

Changed the SkyTools Real Time frequency update.

11:23. Took SQM readings with our handheld unit from the observing floor of the Geoff Brown Observatory. First reading was 19.01 with a temperature of 15. The official readings were 19.01, 18.99, 18.95, 18.69, and 18.91.

Millie popped in. Asked if she could moved her stuff in at the end of the night. The garage was not an option now.

Slewed to 78 UMa. Took out the 10mm and unpacked the 18. On previous attempts had not split. In my View Again list. I thought it odd that it was not in my Fast Movers list. Did not separate again.

Chose 57 UMa. aka STF 1543. Neat system! I saw the A, B, D, E, and F. I was sure I had seen the C. And the G. It was in the View Again but not in my Multiple Stars list. Odd.

Quite lovely. A was beige. B was a deep orange. D was light orange. All the others were colourless. C is to the north. Dim. Near some faint stars. D is brighter than C. B is very faint! Tight to A. The D, E, F, and G stars form a short arc to the south-west, curving about the AB. B almost points to the C. G is opposite the C, further afield.

Took another break. Cookies!

11:46. Dietmar was processing images. Some were watching a movie. Many were on the Observing Pad, still. I was feeling a bit zoned out.

Noted Saturn this time. Clearly visible beside the Moon. The murk, low down, must have blocking it.

Slewed to 35 Com. aka STF 1687. I thought C at my 3 o'clock. And A and B were in a 11 and 5 orientation (north-south). The SkyTools software Context Viewer showed the same. All right! I have been trying for these for a long time. Foxtrot wild! B was below. Awesome. Much dimmer. Possibly 2 or 3 magnitudes. 4.9 vs. 7.2. A was yellow and B was orange possibly; C looked blue, at low power. Really happy about that. Cool. Just knockin' 'em down.

Next up was. Big slew into Ursa Minor. Crazy. Huh. B was brighter. Crazy faint pair. Where had it come from?! Interesting. I had viewed it a long time ago. SAO 16732. Could not split before. Well I had now!

Risa visited. To warm up. She was happy with her tracked images. Showed her 57. We talked about intervalometers, dew shields, and the NexStar 11.

Noticed the Davis weather station had stopped reporting at 2:15... Scheat. Tried to pull the local weather from Environment Canada for Collingwood. Humidity was 46%.

Crazy tight double! HD 151070, aka Σ 2094, in Hercules. Ho ho. Wow. A and B were identical. Aiming kinda east and west. Same brightnesses. Same colours? A was yellowy. B was maybe orange. C, much dimmer. Part of a little little scorpion, which includes TYC 02045-1195 1. Risa had a look but could not split the A and B.

12:20 AM, Monday 23 May 2016. Millie dropped in. Reported having packed up in the car. She had a look. She thought A not round. White (AB) and brown (C).

Sunday, May 22, 2016

planets at various mags (Blue Mountains)

Amazed to see Mars just above the hill...

Mars trailing up, above tree, from CAO grounds

Switched to subs, versus a single frame. 2 minute subs with a 2 second gap. Classic star trails.

9:49 PM. Spotted the Moon rising. It was a bit left of where I was expecting. Moved the camera.

Moon trailing up over the tree line from the CAO

I could see Mars in the initial shots. Didn't know if they would be together now, after moving the camera.

Stopped down to f/22.

Planned to let the rig go for an hour. I'd rescue around 10:45.

I noted a star below Mars: Dschubba or δ (delta) Scorpii. Directly.

Tried to see Saturn... Could not tag it. Probably washed out by the Moon...

Also noted Acrab (Graffias?) or β (beta) Sco to the left of Mars. [ed: Yes.] In a 90° angle with Mars to Dschubba.


Just remembered spotting a satellite, perhaps an Iridium, possibly around 9:20, in the south-east. [ed. Checked Heavens Above: no Iridiums at that time. Possibly the BREEZE-M DEB (TANK)...]


9:55. Slewed the Celestron 14-inch SCT atop the Paramount ME to Jupiter. I had been on Mars--to help eyeball it.

Huh! Only 3 moons... Scanned for shadows... No...

Io was going in... On the "one" side. I.e. same side as Callisto. Going in. According to SkyTools and the Context Viewer display.

Bumped the power with the 27mm Tele Vue eyepiece. Nice view. Seeing was fairly good.

I actually saw Io, as a white dot, in front of the disc, in front of the northern belt! It was not merging or touching the edge of the planet's disc as suggested by ST3P. When I zoomed into the software, it correctly portrayed it, over the planet. I had initially been thrown off by the course zoomed out display.


10:05. Spotted Saturn directly right of the Moon. Fantastically dim.


10:40. Grabbed the camera and tripod...

It kinda worked. I could see the Moon in the shots. It did not look completely burned out.

set up for Moon trail

Set up the Canon camera for a Moon trail shot. Gonna try it...

Used the Vivitar 70-210 lens. Put the polariser filter on. Used f/16. Set ISO to 100. Attached the intervalometer so I could take a really long exposure.

Used some suggestions from the Finnish photographer Janne. He used a 100-300 lens at 300 at f/8 on a Nikon D800 at ISO 100. He used a 10-stop neutral density filter. A single shot!

Spica would be in the area. Mars would rise ahead of the Moon. In daylight. 21:27. Moon rise was predicted for 22:26. Oh. Saturn was in the mix. And Antares! Might be quite interesting. Stellarium helped with the timing.

Eyeballed the alignment area.

spotted a big spot (Blue Mountains)

Viewed the Sun briefly, through Millie's little refractor, with white filter, atop her All Sky View mount. A huge sunspot (2546) and large penumbra. Huge!

I could see a tiny spot beside the big one. Does not appear in the SDO image.

Sun in HMI filter from SDO - single large sunspot

She was on the Observing Pad. I asked if others wanted to see the Sun in hydrogen alpha. I put my cards on the table. I was not chompin' at the bit. No one else was terribly interested.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

bad bad bat

Helped Risa with a bunch of electronic and power related things.

She built power adapter cables for her compact no-name Chinese lithium-ion batteries. We tested the stock 12 volt cables. Happily, they are compatible with the Kendrick dew heater as well as the iOption SkyTracker. That makes for very portable solutions. The soldering of the male barrel connector for the custom CLA cable was very fiddly.

I tore down the 17Ah Celestron power tank. We found a common SLA battery inside. After an overnight charge, the display flicked between "BAD" and "BAT." Indeed.

imaged NGC 6940 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged the open cluster NGC 6940 for me. In Vulpecula. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. This is a big cluster so, consequently, cropped by the camera. Looks like there's some trailing in this image.

RASC Finest NGC 6940 a large open cluster in luminance

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

reached end of roll

Wow. Cut the last "full" pieces of red film today. 12x24" and 12x18" pieces for First Light participants. I found a 7" strip left on the end of the roll. That's it. The Lee Filter #026 order from last July. Sizes for tablets or smartphones only.

Monday, May 16, 2016

resized plates

I resized the bottom plates, the altitude-azimuth plates. Initially, I had made them 15 cm square. Dunno why, just seemed like it was enough. But now I've made them match the size of the existing barn door plates, 16.5 cm wide.

3D diagram of barn door tracker with larger bottom plates

As I suspected, this allows for clearance of the altitude screw in the current position. This will mean I have to move the motor. But then I had to do that with the 15 cm plates.

also checked SCJ 17

I also checked SCJ 17 in the WDS. Only one pair is noted. That just seems weird to me when there are all those other similar stars at similar distances. Why is it not catalogued as a multi-star system?

checked GCB 31

Had a quick look at GCB 31 in the Washington Double Star database.

The full WDS identifier is 18266+0627GCB  31.

It seems there have only been 8 observations... The first was in 1900. The PA was 60 and the separation was 4.5. As of 2009, 76 and 4.4. Interesting! This matches my visual impression of the stars in the photograph from a couple of nights back. And it shows SkyTools is using some really old data.

Also, the WDS shows the magnitudes of A and B both as 9.5. Which also supports what I saw. Looks like the mag data in ST3P is wrong.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

processed the Splinter

Holy moley. I can't believe it. I made this... The Splinter galaxy (NGC 5907). Using the data collected on 11 May '16. Using the layers method for colour channel processing.

RASC Finest NGC 5907 Splinter Galaxy in full colour

FITS Liberator. Photoshop. North is up; left is east.

This is starting to get really fun!

processed 6633

Processed NGC 6633 using the data captured last night. This is my first time working with an open cluster while doing LRGB management. Used a different approach this time and I am rather pleased with the result. This feels like my best effort to date with respect to star colours.

RASC Finest NGC, open cluster 6633 in colour

FITS Liberator. Photoshop. North is up; left is east.

captured the Blue Racquetball

The BGO robot also imaged NGC 6572 for me. A planetary nebula in Ophiuchus. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. There might be a slight focus issue...

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 6572 green filtered image only

Green filtered image only, 10 seconds subexposures, 5 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

captured NGC 6633

Wasn't expecting anything tonight but the BGO robot imaged the open cluster NGC 6633 for me. In Ophiuchus, right at the edge of the Serpens Cauda border. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Looks like there's some trailing in this image.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 6633 luminance

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


There's trailing in the other frames! Particularly bad in the green. Damn.


There are a number of double stars in this open cluster but most are too tight to resolve, like HD 170114 at 1.0 seconds of arc. The focus and tracking issues aren't helping.

GCB 31 is interesting, just at the right edge of the frame, 2/3rds of the way down. SkyTools reports this pair as magnitudes 12 and 10 (i.e. the primary being dimmer) with a separation of 4.50" (in 1946). ST3P says the position angle is (or was) 60°. In the image, it looks more like 75. I wonder if this is a binary.

Finally, there's a wide double in the middle of the Cassiopeia-like W shape on the right centre. SAO 123480, aka SCJ 17, The bright light orange star is the primary. North (up) and slightly right is a fairly bright white star. That's the companion.


Processed in full colour.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

ran into interference

Oops. Bit of an interference issue...

3D diagram of full barn door tracker with interference of elevation bolt

Last weekend, I started to noodle more on the barn door tracker alt-az base mod. Sorting angles, considering clearances.

Looks like I'll have to move the motor. That's actually moot now that I have the big bottom plate!

But I still have to figure out the elevation screw...


Happy Astronomy Day!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Binary Universe: GoISSWatch

The June issue of the RASC Journal was made available today. My software review column Binary Universe featured GoISSWatch (for iOS)—a follow-up on ISS Detector (for Android). I demonstrated the iPad/iPhone application for planning for and observing flyovers of the International Space Station. Version reviewed: version 3.2.0. Free. Note, there's a complete rewrite of the app available, GoSatWatch, for a nominal fee.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

tidied up

Did a bunch of clean-up. Added the "RASC Finest NGC" notation to my NGC life list, as well as to various entries in the deep sky lists. Also, I ensured the Caldwell designations are in place for the logged NGCs. Fixed a couple of sorting issues. Added a missing item in the Arp list. Collected and documented more SkyTools database issues. I directly modified the R.A.S.C. Finest NGC observing list in SkyTools to include NGC 4568 (of the Siamese Twins) and NGC 884 (of the Double Cluster). Added a bunch of cross-referencing links associated with the Jupiter triple shadow transit. As I responded to passive aggressive council emails and invited members, via the Yahoo!Group listserv, to help at the CAO work party.

rejected low targets

Tried to request some low RASC Finest NGCs of the BGO robotic 'scope. The bot rejected items at 16, 21, and 24 degrees. I'll have to check the documentation. That's a little disappoining, from the perspective of my project...


Re-read the docs. Default altitude value is 25 degrees. The smallest value allowed is 20 degrees.

captured NGC 6503 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 6503 for me. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. A misshapen galaxy in Draco. In fact, I get the feeling of a comet: the right side of the galaxy seems to be stretched out, extended, as if it is rapidly moving to the left. Neat.

Fairly good stars... in the centre and right. But there's a lot of distortion in the left. Out of focus. Not flat. I think I'll redo.

RASC Finest canted galaxy NGC 6503 luminance

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

Once again, I think I'm seeing a lot of distant galaxies in the background. The one that caught my eye is the small round fuzzy south of the big canted galaxy. SkyTools IDs that as LEDA 2733888.