Tuesday, October 30, 2007

tough day for NASA

Those damned solar arrays continue to haunt folks on the ISS and Space Shuttle.

Monday, October 29, 2007

surprise in mail

The new Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Observer's Handbook arrived today! Woo hoo. Encased in a protective plastic bag, a nice touch.

This is the 100th year for the renowned publication!

It's a little thicker than usual...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

helped at a wet work party

Assisted at the fall work party at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. I helped spreading 19 cubic yards of topsoil around the Observing Pad. I also helped with the installation of the 17 tempered glass panels on the new deck. I helped removed some of the water damaged interior panels on the inside of the south wall of the Geoff Brown Observatory.

solar lights endangered...

On Saturday, Trevor smashed one of the repurposed red LED solar lights while driving the lawn tractor about.

Today, I learned that Denis Grey, Toronto Centre president, damaged the other two solar lights during installation! Back in August... He didn't tell me.


Only one light remains of the four that I gave to the RASC-TC for use at the CAO.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

comet slightly fainter (Blue Mountain)

Tom came in from outside reporting the sky was clear. Amazing after raining all day...

We all blitzed outside to check the surprisingly bright Comet Holmes.

I set up my binos on my big Manfrotto tripod so we could all take a look.

It seemed slightly fainter than a couple of nights ago. Someone pointed out this is because it is closer and more dispersed.


Could see more stars in the Alpha Persei cluster. In fact, I could see about 5 or 6 stars naked eye...


When the clouds near the horizon broke, we could steal looks at Mars.

solar event (Blue Mountain)

The clouds parted over Thornbury briefly on Saturday...

Photo by David P.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

blurry (Toronto)

This might make you laugh...

I pulled out my cheapo binoculars. Headed over to the tennis courts of the Western Tech high school. Aimed up, essentially straight up, and picked a target to focus on. Used the Bushnell Quick Focus rocker bar to get the left eyepiece focused. Then dialed in the right eyepiece barrel. Still fuzzy. Tried again, rocking in the main focus, then adjusted the right barrel. Still off a bit. Crappy old binos! OK. Let's try something not straight up in the sky, give my neck a break (no pun intended). Found a nice bright star, focused, aligned, ah, that looks better. Reacquired initial target. Damn, still fuzzy...

When it dawned on me...

That large pale yellow fuzzy blob with the bright centre which I can't seem to focus on... IS THE COMET!

So, um, yeah, I guess I saw Comet 17P/Holmes tonight...

location: High Park, Toronto
time: 9:35 PM EDT
binos: Bushnell Ensign 7x50
magnitude estimate: between 1 and 3


Noted a few stars of the Alpha Persei open cluster (Melotte 20) just above...


Mars was above the trees...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

cap from Alaska

Mom gave me an excellent astro-themed gift, something she brought back from her Alaska trip.


I knew this... I had seen it before. But I forgot that their flag showed the Big Dipper.

astro cake

Mom ordered an astronomy-themed ice cream cake.

Out of this world and yummy.


Bought a 3x magnifier or loupe from Princess Auto. It is foldable magnifier with 4" diameter lens, scale on the base, and built-in light! Uses 4 AA batteries. It is hands-free or, to put it another way, self-standing. This will prove handy when I am reading notes and charts.

I put some dark red theatrical cel over the light bulb to quickly make it astronomer-friendly.

Now I can bring my "helping hands" tool back in the house, for my various soldering projects...

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Don't, shortly after meeting me, tell me that everything we believe true in the physical universe around us is wrong and that one man has it all figured out...

Don't tell me we didn't go to the Moon.

Don't tell me that Einstein had it all wrong.

Don't tell me the Earth is hollow.

Don't tell me astronauts do not see stars while in space.

Don't tell me that Mars is 3 times larger than the scientists say it is.

Don't tell me to put a bright light over my head to reduce the effect of gravity on my body.

That's not a good way to convince me to consider your idol.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

cloud day research

Wanted to learn a bit more about the difference between magnetic north and celestial pole. Scott and I had discussed it at a couple of recent (Toronto area) star parties, that it was about 10° off. But I couldn't remember if it was east or west.

Looked at wikipedia briefly. The article referred me to the US and UK geological surveys but I didn't really see what I was looking for. Went to the telescopes Yahoo!Group and searched the message archive. Sure enough, found a note. The author described using a compass and then compensating. He referred to Canadian and US geomagnetic web sites.

In the Natural Resources Canada web site, I found the Magnetic Declination Calculator. Very handy. I've added a note to my observing checklists to review this. While it doesn't need to be checked often for a particular location, it should be used if observing from different sites, distant from one another.

This will prove useful for day time observing...

Friday, October 12, 2007

so clear (Toronto)

Popped outside to take out some garbage and composting, looked up, dark blue, beautiful! A break from the thick grey clouds.

Arrrgh! Have to work today...

The skies were beautifully clear. There was Venus, up high, burning bright. Mars was a little west of zenith.


Got to my training gig. The client cancelled.

Arrrgh! Don't have to work now...

I could have star (or rather, planet) gazed this morning. Oh well. I'll try Saturday morning.

Monday, October 08, 2007

he likes it!

Karen reported that her son likes the Oregon Scientific weather station. "He loves it, thanks again, money well spent!"

Friday, October 05, 2007


During the Saab Club advanced driving school at Shannonville, I received a great number of gifts. The surprise one was from Phil!

He included a third book with the two I had lent him. It is Full Moon by Michael Light (hard cover, small format version, with a number of gatefolds). Wonderful, rich photography.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sputnik 50 years old

Helped at the Sputnik Star Party at the Ontario Science Centre in conjunction with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Toronto Centre.

Interviewed by CTV and two local newspapers.

The skies were crappy. We saw Jupiter for about 15 or 20 minutes. Tried to target Vega to then hop to the Double-Double. No luck... Fog and low clouds blocked the ISS and Iridium flyovers. Still, we had fun.

I turned the telescope to the corner office of a nearby building... Not much else to do.

Said hi to Sara as she blitzed through...

Finally met Randy Attwood of the Mississauga Centre.

pillar of light (Scarborough)

Saw a sun pillar, early in the morning, driving to Whitby.

In the clouds, the shaft of light moved upwards from the sun.

some morning planets (Toronto)

While unpacking and packing gear, I enjoyed the early morning planets...

Venus was incredibly bright. Mars was almost straight overhead. I enjoyed the waning Moon.

Earlier in the week, during an early morning sojourn, I mistook a star near Mars for Saturn. Reviewing my charts or software, I learned it was closer to Venus. I tried to spot it this morning but was unsuccessful.

Monday, October 01, 2007

OS faster than Nexxtech

Ken confirmed that the Oregon Scientific eb313hg weather station is faster than the Nexxtech unit he has. That is to say, it responds more rapidly to being moved from inside or indoors to outdoors. Both in terms of temperature and humidity.