Sunday, January 28, 2007

atlas comparative table

Snooping around today. A little anxious, for some reason, to see the new February Evening Sky Map document. Gotta hold my horses, I guess...

I noticed a link to let one compare star atlases. Very cool!

Ironically, I started doing this on my dark skies companion site library page with the various atlases, old and new, that I have accumulated.

Whoa. The numbers for my Tirion Sky Atlas 2000.0 are way off... Or did they add more into the second edition?!

I like how they document the number of stars, the magnitude limit, price, and the overall "skill level." This is a very useful guide, tremendously helpful for people starting out, and people—like me—looking for more! There are even sample pages from some. Now that's just smart.


Ah ha. Now I've realised that the second edition of Tirion's Sky Atlas 2000.0 goes down to mag 8.5 and thus adds another 40 000 stars...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Saturn from Bloor West (Toronto)

Took Cam out for his birthday dinner. Good eats, wine, and discussion (as usual). He invited me over for a glass of wine after. So I dropped him off, drove home, and walked back to his place. The skies (it was around 11:30 or midnight) were clearing...

I enjoyed Orion, low, through the trees. Straight up was Gemini. I knew Saturn was in Leo and Leo was east of Gemini. I got a bead on a very bright object, a candidate. When I arrived at Cam's, I kicked him off his computer, fired up Your Sky, and saw that Saturn was indeed in Leo.

I suggested to Cam that I bring the 'scope over in the next few weeks so we all (the boys, particularly) could enjoy the ringed planet.

On the way home from Cam's, I did not retrace my footsteps; rather, I walked south on Drury first, so to take in the southern sky. Orion was very low, Gemini had shifted west, and Leo was now overhead. And nestled in The Sickle was Saturn, brighter than alpha Leo (which is Regulus).

The soccer field at Western Tech is definitely the darkest part of the neighbourhood...

Friday, January 19, 2007

book from Hil and Cam

They gave me Astronomy | 365 Days. This hardcover book is by Jerry Bonnell and Robert Nemiroff and is published by Abrams.

It is a small format but very thick book featuring a stunning photograph for every day of the year.

I think I have seen the APOD web site in my travels...

Thank you Hil and Cam!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

iOptron takes over IDEA

Headline: Boston Applied Technologies and Nanjing IDEA Jointly Announce the Formation of Joint Venture - Nanjing iOptron Scientific.

Woburn, MA and Nanjing, China, January 18, 2007 - Boston Applied Technologies, Incorporated (BATi) and Nanjing IDEA S & T Co. Ltd, (IDEA) jointly announced today that they have completed formation of the joint venture company, Nanjing iOptron Scientific, Inc.

IDEA has transferred its complete production lines of GoToStar™, GoToNova™, and SmartStar™ intelligent auto-tracking telescope systems to Nanjing iOptron Scientific, while BATi has moved its state-of-the-art 3D optical profiler system and optical coherent tomography (OCT) system to the newly formed unit for immediate production.

On the same day, iOptron's major R&D center and business development front, iOptron Corporation, also started operation in the United States. With the combined core competences of IDEA and BATi, and business operations uniquely adapted to both China and USA, iOptron would be one of the most competitive companies in the industry.

"With many years' development efforts and a group of industry pioneers, Nanjing iOptron is ready to take off from a leveraged starting point," said Mr. Ning Xu, the former President of IDEA, currently the President of Nanjing iOptron.

About BATi:

BATi was formed in 2002 by the key management and technical team formerly with Corning Applied Technologies, a subsidiary of Corning Incorporated. BATi's basic technology (Materials Division) includes state-of-the-art OptoCeramic® materials for solid-state light controlling devices and systems. BATi's Photonics Division combines its expertise in optics, fiber-optics, and packaging to produce low cost and high performance photonic products for applications ranging from fiber optic communications to optical sensors and instrumentations. BATi's technology is protected by 25 US and international patents and 15 patent disclosures.

About IDEA:

Nanjing Idea S & T Co. Ltd is a private high tech company formed in 1994. Located in Nanjing, China, the company has earned its fame from the GoToStar™ (now GoToNova™) intelligent auto-tracking telescope system, and thus became the only Chinese brand competing in the global market with technological and economical advantages. Another key product of IDEA, NCY-4 viscosity meter, has an 80% market share in China. IDEA's technology and business are protected by numerous patents and patent disclosures, trademarks and software licenses.


Content retreived from:


Article created retroactively.

card-carrying member

It's official! I received my card in the mail yesterday. I am a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, affiliated with the Toronto Centre.
Haven't written my thank-you speech yet...

(Originally posted by email sent from Thunderbird 1.5.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New title

This is a test of posting a blog entry straight from Word 2007.

It works!

It's pretty easy.

Monday, January 15, 2007

library page added

Having added a few new books to the collection lately, I thought it high time I document all of them. Added a new page in the companion web site.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

under my nose

In one of those unpredictable flashes of inspiration, having just walked by my "old" SLR camera bag, a Lowe-Pro TrimTech Traveller, which was sitting empty on the floor, collecting dust (and who knows how many crumbs from this winter's murder of ants), I wondered... would it fit the Celestron SP mount and counter-weights?!

The TrimTech Traveller served me well as a camera bag. It travelled with me to the Caribbean (more than once) and Europe. I used it for a reasonable amount of time but when I got a second camera body after the wide-angle lens, it was getting a wee bit crowded. It was around that time I received a Blacks camera bag which was slightly larger and designed differently and just worked a little better. Not perfect but better. Having vacated the Lowe-Pro, I stuffed it into a corner.

Other old carrying bags I have successfully put into service for various things. For example, I took an old, largish leather laptop bag and stuffed my portable car battery into it. Works perfectly. I even keep the AC power supply and in-car CLA-to-CLA adapter with it. The strap is helpful given the weight of the lead-acid battery. Very handy when I need to zap the dew.

Another old laptop bag stores my old Nintendo 64 game console, two controllers, power adapter, and cords. There's even room for a couple of games. Again, brilliant, for toting the (ancient) cartridge system around.

I was just thinking how good the Lowe-Pro was. Integrated straps to turn it into a back pack. Moveable Velcro dividers. Well-padded case and well-padded shoulder strap. Still in good shape, nothing broken on it. It would be a shame to not be able to use it.

When all of a sudden it occurred to me that the main compartment is about the right size... Could it be?

It works!

I finally have a convenient way of carrying the mount, weights, and shaft.

I can't tell you how long I have been struggling with this. How I have fantasised about a metal case with a custom insert or some well-padded fabric case. How many toolboxes I have considered. How many hockey bags I have pondered...

And all the while it was sitting here.

I'm one step closer to being able to carry all my telescope gear in two trips, maybe even one.

I'm in!

Experienced a pleasant surprise when I opened my (electronic) inbox this morning: a welcome note from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Toronto Centre! This message included the current issue of SCOPE. I also received an invite to their Yahoo group. In short order, I hopped onto the national RASC site and downloaded the latest issue of The Journal.

Learned all the secret handshakes too.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

pale rhombus

On returning from a late-night visit to the loo, flicking the light off, I noticed a pale blue white rhombus floating on the wall.

A moon beam!

Stuck my head around the corner. Luna was hovering outside, slightly more than last-quarter, somewhere in the south-east sky, lined up so the shaft of reflected light passed through the window on the upper floor and continued unimpeded down the stairwell.

Monday, January 08, 2007

new books arrived

I bought two books online at Chapters Indigo (using my recently renewed member discount card) and they arrived today.

The first book is double stars for small telescopes by Sissy Haas from Sky & Telescope (CDN$21). This soft cover is essentially my "exchange" book. My sister gave me Practical Skywatching for Christmas but I was concerned it was too basic. When I asked about exchanging it, my Mom said she'd buy it from me. She wanted a primer. So we struck the deal.

As I get into double and multiple stars more, I thought it would be good to get a highly recommended book.

The second book is Turn Left at Orion (TLAO) by Consolmagno and Davis from Cambridge University Press (CDN$22). Hard cover.

I first borrowed (sic) this book from the Toronto Public Library and was, like when reading All About Telescopes (AAT), blown away. Even though an old work (first published in 1989), I found the content applicable and exciting. Stuff I probably should have read years ago, when I first got my telescope. And I realised a book like this would be most useful right at the telescope!

Lots of reading to do!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

benefits of membership

I had essentially promised myself that I would join the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada - Toronto Centre chapter in the new year. So I revisited the web site today, carefully reading the membership page, and I downloaded the membership application, checking it closely. This is a pretty incredible deal.

You get 6 issues, an annual subscription, to Canadian SkyNews. This ordinarily costs CDN$26. I'm very interested in following this magazine for a year, for several reasons...

As a RASC member you also get the Observer's Handbook. This costs CDN$26 retail (at least it does at Efston Science). I used to faithfully buy this publication. I miss it. I have wanted to get a current copy again.

These 2 items alone tally $52. When the RASC membership costs $55. Wow. One of the reasons why they're pushing to paperless delivery of The Journal and SCOPE, I guess.

They say you can get the RASC wall calendar for $18 (including shipping). Curiously, this calendar is available at Efston Science for $17. But you'd have to ride your bike there to save the buck! Mind you, ScienceCity notes on their web site that calendars are deeply discounted. I used to get these calendars for friends. Be nice to have one.

More intriguing is the comment that you can get a discount on a Sky & Telescope subscription. But on checking the US magazine site, I learned that they're charging $50 (including GST). What's the benefit? I sent an email to the membership person to clarify this. This however is not a deal-breaker for me. I don't think I'd buy this mag, given I will get SkyNews, that I probably wouldn't be able to keep up, and it would just mean more paper in my life...

Regardless, the ability to access the Carr Observatory is very attractive. You can buy an annual "permit" for $50 or pay-as-you-go from $5 (when camping) to $10 (when sleeping inside) per night. So, clearly, the annual access would pay for itself if you stayed more than 3 weekends (i.e. sleeping inside Friday and Saturday nights).

I'm also curious if memberships are annual on the person's anniversary or prorated to a common date. Thought I saw a note somewhere about that. Can't find the paper brochure. Hopefully I'll learn the answer to this in short order. In the meantime, I'll print the completed form and get ready to mail it.

I trust that this membership will help me learn more about astronomy, my telescopes and accessories, about film and CCD photography, and—in the end—get me observing more.


I heard from back from the Toronto Centre RASC membership secretary (and past president, no less).

Q: Is affiliation an extra charge, above the regular member fee?
A: Yes. Affiliate memberships allow you to belong to two Centres without paying full fees to both and getting two sets of publications.

Q: Is there an inter-chapter affiliation between London and Toronto?
A: It's done on a case-by-case basis. I would not expect that there would be a problem with setting it up for you either way.

Q: Is the membership 12 months long or prorated from a common date?
A: Your membership is for 12 months from the month that you join. We don't prorate to a defined membership year.

Q: Finally, what is the RASC member discounted amount for a Sky & Telescope subscription if they're charging $49.95 direct to Canadians?
A: The discounted subscription fee is US$39.95. It can be paid by providing a credit card number which will be charged by Sky Publishing upon receipt of your subscription order, or we can buy the money order for you and the cost is CDN$50. In order to maintain the discounted subscription fee, you have to be a member in good standing and submit payment through the Toronto Centre.

I don't get it. At the exchange rate of 1.17, the subscription would cost CDN$46.75. OK. That's like one free issue... Again, not that I'm going to pursue it but what's the benefit?

Oh... Maybe this was crafted some time ago, when the US dollar was much stronger...