Sunday, December 30, 2007


While recovering from my belated birthday beer and wings evening with Cam, I realised what I need to do in the future when visiting Mom to better enjoy her dark skies. Until she builds the studio/observatory that is... Prepare. Simply prepare.

By this I mean that the moment I arrive, get her telescope ready. Get all my gear out. Do all my formal preparation. Even if the weather is grim. Simply, be ready. Then when the clouds open up, I can throw on a coat, press the button, open the garage door, and wheel everything out! Good to go.


So, next time, I will be in a standby position.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

quick observing (Union)

  • date Thu 27 Dec
  • time 10:04 PM
  • Union back deck
  • 0.1°C
  • 85% humidity
Wouldn't you know it. I popped outside to lock the garage and found a clear dark patch overhead... Last night, we had invited Al over for dinner and possible telescoping. Alas, it was overcast and foggy. We should have done it tonight.

But I had been watching the weather all day! It was not looking like it was going to clear. Now I felt lazy. And it would take a while to get Mom's telescope out...


Well, I got the binos at least. My Bushnell 7x binoculars only. No tripod.

Eastern horizon is brightening. The Moon would rise soon. Mars was brilliant. Looked at Messier 42 (M42). Could see the luminosity and 2 stars. Tried looking left of the belt to see what I could see... Nothing caught my eye. Looked at Messier 45 (M45) briefly. Very nicely framed at 7x. Recognised Gemini.

Located Comet Holmes by scanning near Perseus. Confirmed it's position on a chart at Sky & Telescope. Reviewed the position, confirming it was outside the "Eiffel Tower" near Algol. Actually, it was closer to κ (kappa). Later I could see it naked eye.

Scanned for Comet Tuttle "below" Cassiopeia. I don't think I saw it... The S&T (online) charts didn't go beyond the 25th of Dec... There was a faint blob, smaller than Holmes, quite far away, only visible in the binos, almost in-line with M45...


I put a sheet of dark red cel onto Mom's iMac computer. Perfect!

(sent via webmail while from Mom's iMac)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

received book from Mom

I received from Mom for Xmas a "modern" hard cover book. It is the National Geographic Encyclopedia of Space.

It appears up-to-date. For example, it refers to the solar system having now only 8 official planets...

(sent via webmail from Mom's iMac)


Mom gave Jodie Foster's movie Contact.

She found the special edition which includes a couple of audio commentaries, documentaries explaining the special effects, and so on.

I really enjoy this movie...

new warm clothes

I know, I know, one does not normally get excited about clothes received at Xmas. But my Mom gave me a fleece balaclava and thermal socks. These will be happily worn during future wintry astronomy sessions!

(sent via webmail using Mom's iMac)

Friday, December 21, 2007

solstice lanterns

I've been going to the winter solstice festival in Kensington market for a couple of years. Since the beginning, I envisioned a lantern design which, frankly, I was surprised that no one else had thought of and made. This year? I did it!

Photo by Alexa Clark. Above, a good shot showing the overall mobile. Saturn is just barely visible, cut off, on the right.

Photo by Alexa Clark. Above, detail of Saturn.

Photo by Jeff Plotnikoff. Above, the Sun looks really good.

Photo by Jeff Plotnikoff. Above, the mobile behind my chair during dinner. To my right is my good buddy Gerry. I made quite an entrance at House of Gourmet... Aah, the Moon's caught in a shrubbery!

Big thanks to Hilary and Cam for giving me a ride down to the event (in the Volvo wagon). And to Margot for the ride home afterwards (in her SUV). I don't know how I would have transported this in a regular vehicle. And I would have bonked a lot of people on the streetcar!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

hand warmer

I finally bought my own pocket hand warmer from Restoration Hardware.

It is a chrome-plated device, 5 x 7.5 x 1 cm. Apparently they were popular in the 1950s. Safe and simple to operate. It promises to deliver 8 to 12 hours of heat on a single fill. It uses butane or lighter fluid. Includes a red fabric sack.

This will come in handy on those chilly observing sessions...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Track Dog has an Oregon

As a pseudo-Xmas gift, I gave Diane a Oregon Scientific portable weather station.

This, piggybacked on the RASC order, was one of the extra units I impulsively purchased...

I used to bring mine to the race track when I crewed for her race team. It was helpful knowing what the upcoming weather would be.

She loves it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

weather stations delivered...

Some, anyway. Dropped off a bunch of the Oregon weather stations during the RASC Toronto Centre meeting at the Ontario Science Centre tonight. But I think one person missed me. And another didn't show. When am I every gonna close this deal?!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

weather stations in...

Finally! The Oregon back-order is filled. I'll pick them up shortly. And I'll believe it when I see it.