Sunday, September 28, 2008

history made

At 16:26 PDT today, the SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket reached orbital velocity, 5200 m/s. It had a nominal second stage cut off and made some history.

Falcon 1 is the first privately-developed liquid-fueled launch vehicle to achieve earth orbit!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Andy's memorial

I attended Andy Schuh's memorial party this evening, at the Major Milliken pub. He stated that he wanted to have a gathering, after he was gone, so friends and family could celebrate his life.

It was poignant for me to attend. I have taken up the reins from Andy, in managing the RASC Toronto Centre web site. He's a tough act to follow.

It was a pleasant evening.

And it was a great idea! I'm gonna write something like this up in my will.

I particularly liked the Andrew H. Schuh Memorial Pocket Protector.

they were rained out

I was going to go to this year's Algonquin Astronomy Adventure. Alas, circumstances conspired against it. But then, the weather wasn't great. The days leading up to the weekend were very good; but the weekend proper was cloudy and rainy.

I phoned Phil C on Saturday evening on his mobile. He, ironically, had just arrived home, Richmond Hill. He reported that many people had bailed out.

Katrina and Fred went up early, like Lora and Phil. In addition to enjoying observing, they tested their new Snowtracker tent (complete with a little wood stove). Fred shot (as usual) some beautiful photos.

Photograph, used with permission, by Fred Lum.

Friday, September 26, 2008

what's up now?

I must admit that I have been struggling with this for a while...

I know, I know. I should plan ahead. But sometimes, the mood strikes me, the skies suddenly clear, I recall don't have to work the next morning. I impulsively decide that I'm going to do some star gazing. Last minute. Let's go. Hurry! Hurry harder!

planning applications
  • AstroPlanner
  • Deep-Sky
  • Deepsky
  • SkyTools2
I've looked at a few astronomy session planning softwares. There are a number of them out there. The one I perhaps the most experience with is AstroPlanner for Windows. But, with all of these "full" applications, I have often found myself overwhelmed. Not just with the act of learning a new software application. But with the volume of suggestions, targets, things one might look at.

As an aside, I don't like that for many of these applications, you cannot try-before-you-buy.

As a result, I have foregone using a particular application. When there is a star party coming up, or a trip to a dark sky site, I've assembled my own planning sheet. It includes info about planets, satellite flyovers, etc. I consult a variety of sources and use a number of tools to perhaps my 2-page report. But it takes a while, a couple of hours, to do it properly.

So, lately, I've been wondering about online, web-based options. Can I just quickly look up something on the internet and have it tell me about some good targets tonight? I have seen some of sites in my travels before. But I thought I'd finally collate all these sources. Here we go. In no particular order.

Sky & Telescope magazineSpecifically their This Week's Sky At A Glance page. Mentions on a day by day basis for about a week's time what's going on. Diagrams and maps. Palatable but brief. They also have an Almanac which will tell you, for your location, what the rise, transit, and set times are for the Sun, Moon, and nearby planets. Uses JavaScript.

Astronomy magazine
They have a bunch of tools, most of which require Java, to show the currently visible planets. On their home page, the Tonight's Sky, includes a ticker noting interesting events. Their StarDome is a mini-planisphere type program.

CalSky web site
The Celestial Observer appears to be a very powerful tool to present what is visible overhead. You can create a profile so it remembers your location. Supports email alerts.

Tonight's Sky web site
An easy-to-use tool. The Tonight's Sky page prompts you to enter your location, click the items in the check list for what you want to observe, what equipment you'll be using, and it builds a list. Supports printing.

I think I need to sink my teeth into CalSky. It looks really powerful...

Happy planning!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

backyard on birthday (Toronto)

Thought I'd pursue a bit of observing from the backyard (on my birthday). The Clear Sky Chart was looking fairly good, with "average" transparency and "good" seeing (although the update seemed a little stale). I was set up by 9:00 PM (although I forgot to polar align).


9:08 PM, 17.1°C, 77% RH. I star-hopped to 61 Cygnus as recommended by the Turn Left At Orion book. Initially, I tried to bull's eye it directly, using relative positioning, but the finder scope was not showing anything recognisable. I backtracked to Deneb and then headed to ν (nu) and ξ (xi) Cygnus. It was an easy jump to 61.

I first viewed it at low power (56x). It was a satisfying separation in the wide field. They are almost identical colour, gold (not orange like TLAO suggests). The fainter star is perhaps slightly more orange or red. Just a hint. When I jumped to high power (110x), now I felt the colours were the same.

I could see a dozen faint blue/white stars in the field.

Mirror-reversed view.

The separation, in this 22' field, appeared to be about 1/30th of the total diameter. By my calculations, I estimate the stars are 43 arc-seconds apart. double stars by Sissy Haas says, in 2004, they are 31 arc-seconds apart.

I was intrigued to learn that this binary is very close to us. 61 Cygni is within 12 light-years. And it's proper motion is very high. But the orbital motion is slow (approx. 650 years).

9:36 PM, 16.9°, 81%. I noticed that τ (tau) Cygnus was a double star (according to the Pocket Sky Atlas). So I jumped to the bright beige star, not far from 61. But I did not see a companion. I tried 56x, 77x, 110x, 144x, and 220x. Nothing. At 220, the star was bouncing around and the airy disk was swelling and shifting.

Maybe this isn't such a good night after all.

9:54 PM, 16.7°, 81%. I had a similar experience with υ (upsilon) Cygnus. I could not split the single white point at 56x or 110x. That said, there's a nearby star, fairly bright. It's about 1/4 of the field away (in the Meade 18mm).

9:58 PM. I spotted Jupiter over my shoulder! Very interesting. There are 2 bright stars nearby. That would mess people up. Looks like the moons have been scattered and fractured!

Arrow indicates drift, i.e. west. North is down.

Hey... I think I see the GRS (despite the bad seeing)! Could it be? I headed inside for a break, and checked the Jovian system. Yep. There are the 2 bright field stars. And there's the GRS. The position of the spot in Stellarium is a little different that my take of the live view. To me, it looks like it is 2/3rds of the way from the west.

Stellarium said Jupiter was about 16° in elevation. I recalled reading early in the year that it would not get very high in 2008. When I looked again, the orb was getting colourful, with chromatic distortion.

I was getting distracted by the upstairs bedroom ceiling lights reflecting off the white sides of the garage...

11:18 PM, 15.2°, 92%. I was waiting for the house mates on the top floor to turn off their bedroom lights. One of them did. As returned from the long break, I was surprised by the brightness of the sky. The Moon was due to rise after midnight. That was a ways away. Still, I was having a hard time spotting constellations. I could not find Delphinus, for example. Suddenly, I threw in the towel.

As I wrote my closing notes in my notebook, I switched to my Space Pen. A dozen words in, the ink ran out!


Used the picnic table to set up boxes, my books, etc. Opened the sun umbrella. It worked! Everything near the centre of the umbrella was kept dry.


I noticed the back light of the Oregon Scientific weather station remarkably dim. Impossible to read. Later, outside, I noticed that the low-battery indicator is on. I'll need to swap the batteries soon. And, again. I must update the battery log with this information. It seems short... Whereas the OneWorld is still going strong in "continuous display" mode.


Speaking of low batteries, the red LED pen is looking a little dim.

And I forgot to replace the AA batteries in the Astronomy Case Alpha...


Forgot to clean the eyepieces again!


You know. The output from the re-purposed desk lamp is still not bright enough.

Monday, September 22, 2008

webspotting 6 - alpha beta

Published in the Oct/Nov 2008 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. Republished here with permission. Very minor edits applied.


In the spring of 1974 we moved house. It was not a "big" move. Normally, every 3 or 4 years, when Dad was transferred, we’d relocate to a new town. This time, as the crow flew, we moved 250 metres from a semi-detached to a full house. We moved from Cedarbrae Ave to Lynnbrook Cres. We remained in north Waterloo. 

Mom and Dad were happy. They went from renting to owning. My sister and I avoided trauma. No switching schools. We’d keep the same friends.

I don't remember if I already knew Frank. Probably it was after settling in that I met him. His parents lived on Lynnbrook Place. From our front porch, you could see the cul-de-sac. Frank's place caught my eye. The driveway was filled with unusual cars.

There were two, maybe three, cars in peculiar colours. There was something strange about their shapes, body work, and insignia. A griffon! Years later I would realise these foreign vehicles were Saabs, probably 96 or 99 models.

Flash-forward to 1982. Ironically, I'm back in Waterloo. My university pal Mary-Rose introduced me to her very interesting boyfriend. I fell in love with Steve's car. It was a very pale light green Saab 99 stick. I vowed that I would buy one. A few years later, they needed something newer, they lamented.

In 1996, I signed up for my first high-performance driving school. It was co-run by local BMW and Saab car clubs. I got to experience a variety of these cars "in action." The affair continued.

Advertisements for Saabs caught my ear. They said the car maker's name phonetically. It rolled off the tongue: Sierra Alpha Alpha Bravo. Clever, given Saab's history, their deep roots in aviation.

As my interest in radio and precise conveyance of data increased, I decided to teach myself the NATO phonetic alphabet. I still use it today, particularly when spelling names, or email addresses. I live at Mike Six Papa Three Echo One.

As my interest in astronomy increased, and I saw how stars were labelled, I felt I needed to learn the Greek alphabet. It was tough, perhaps because I had already jammed a new alphabet in my head. The fact that the number of letters is less and the sequence is different, challenged me. In the summer of 2005, I was quizzing myself weekly, listing the letters in sequence. Later, I began to draw the characters.

In November 2006, I finally found an online tool to test my memory in a way appropriate for mastering star charts. Henrik Theiling built a web site which randomly displayed Greek characters (and variants). I continued my drills.

You can try his script teaching page.

I still use it to stay sharp. And I still like Sigma Alpha Alpha Beta cars.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Received an email from Tony today: he has keys, an access card, and an access code for me. I am officially a CAO supervisor.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

cottage clouded out (Port Elgin)

Clouds moved in around dinner time...

Later, as we sat around the firepit, we'd periodically look at zenith, through the darkening trees.

Occasionally, you'd get a glimpse of something.

Pity. Tonight was the better ISS flyover opportunity.

left Stuart with paperwork

I left Stuart with 2 documents.

I gave him the current edition of Skymaps. I suggested he print them in the future before heading up to the cottage.

I also gave him my copy of my "observing" plan sheets. Hopefully, it will give them a sense of all the things they can watch out for.

Sounds like his youngest son might enjoy these too.

no solar!

Oops. Totally forgot to bring the solar filter for the SCT or the PST telescope! Damn.

We could have enjoyed the Sun after our big bike ride.

Alas, we didn't want to get out of our chairs...

Friday, September 19, 2008

high clouds (Port Elgin)

It was Guys Weekend hosted by Stuart. He had invited a bunch of the regulars (Cam—my high-school friend, Eric, Mike, John—whom I had met before) and me. We were to congregate on Friday evening at Laurie and Stuart's cottage, just south of Port Elgin. Saturday, Stuart had planned a big bicycle ride, 80 klicks round-trip. A big steak dinner was promised. Cam would be supplying excellent wines, as usual. Stuart asked me to bring my telescope.


Cam and I made arrangements to travel together. I took telescope gear and a few bike items over to Cam's on Thursday night and we began the loading of his car. On Friday afternoon, Cam drove to my house. We loaded up the last few items and my road bicycle.

We had intended to get away earlier but Cam was delayed. We departed my house at about 4:00 PM. Then we had to do the requisite pit stop at the LCBO.

The traffic exiting the city was terrible. Maddening. All because, as best we could tell, of a delaminated tire in the left lane...

We stopped for dinner in Waterloo. I wanted pasta! That was probably around sunset. I took over the driving after our meal.

It didn't occur to me until Cam cleared the alarm in my palmtop that we would arrive very late to Stuart's. That would affect our being able to see the Pleiades occultation.

It turned out that our late departure was serendipitous. As I turned the car from Highway 86 (west-north) to County Road 21 (east-north), we saw the Moon rising! It was just over the horizon, as usual, looking enormous. But, those clouds! The clouds I had seen earlier were still in the sky... And they would surely obscure the stars of the Pleiades. Still, we enjoyed the view. The vista was classic Hallowe'en Moon.


I set up the 'scope shortly after arrival. I decided, while there would be vibrations, that viewing from the deck offered the largest view of the sky.

Jupiter was out of the question.

I could see Andromeda and Pegasus directly over the roof. Cassiopeia, standing on end, was off the left gable. Cygnus was straight over head. Lyra just about to set behind the pine trees. I looked briefly at the Andromeda galaxy but it was not a good view. So, I decided to bull's eye M57. The guys enjoyed the Ring Nebula at 56x and 110x. We talked about exploding stars. I corrected John: he thought that all stars would end in a black hole.

While challenging, I wanted to catch it before Lyra would be occulted by coniferous. I targeted the "Tim Horton" star. They enjoyed the low power view of ε (epsilon) Lyra. Then I went to 110x. We could easily split one of the stars. But the other one would not consistently resolve. I noticed the seeing was wavering and the contrast was poor. Streamer clouds could be seen. I apologised for choosing such a tough target.

For fun, we hopped over to Albireo. That was a treat.

The thin cloud was becoming increasingly illuminated by the Moon. The glow to the north-east was intensifying.

The boys enjoyed the green laser pointer. They like their toys.

We retired to the living room. Using Stuart's little one, I showed John how to use a planisphere. Periodically, I'd pop outside to see what we could see.


When the Moon cleared the roof top and tall trees, I centred on it and invited the guys back outside. They really like the view of the Moon. It was quite good in the waning gibbous phase.

Some spectacular crater shadows.

One crater (Aristarchus, I believe) was very bright white! Markedly different than the other craters.

Mike spotted a halo around the Moon. Like the sun dogs Cam and I had seen earlier in the day, it had a radius of about 15 to 20°.

I pointed out the wavering effect, like a heat mirage, to Stuart. A problem when viewing over a house...

Stars were blinking out. The clouds were getting thick.

We moved the 'scope to the garage.

Stuart asked me how far away the Ring Nebula was. I didn't recall the distance. I pulled my RASC Observer's Handbook and was surprised to see it was not listed with the Messier data. Curious. Later, I directed Stuart to my observing plan sheet wherein I had noted the number (2.3 kilolightyears).

Someone asked me how fast the Sun rotated. I quickly responded 11 hours or so. But then immediately retracted the answer; I was thinking of Jupiter. I could not recall the rotational period of the Sun. I'll have to look that up. I did recall however that it was quick different between the poles (34 days) and the equator (25 days).

sun dogs (Milton)

As Cam and I laboured west on the packed freeway, still in the Milton area, bound for Port Elgin, I noticed in the high cirrus clouds, a bright point. Hey, a sun dog!

For the next hour, I watched the cold clouds change and shift and in turn produce different effects.

Dual sun dogs (parhelia) appeared on several occasions. Sometimes just one. At times, they were colourful, prismatic; other instances just bright white. Halo arcs and tails could be seen at times.

I estimated they were more than 15° away from the Sun.

The air temperature sensor in Cam's car side it was 20°C.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rick the Builder

Met Mom's contractor Rick. She invited him over to meet me and to have a group discussion about her studio / observatory plans.

One design I was proposing had the telescope permanently mounted inside the loft within the gabled roof. Then, to view the sky, you'd open the roof flaps or doors. Rick expressed his immediate dislike of this idea. There would difficulties with the seals. There was a potential for leaks and, down the road, water damage. True, these are challenges. But I like the idea of the 'scope base being fixed and aligned and less need for regular collimation. I would think this would make it more attractive for Mom to use.

Rick suggested a porch or deck off the gable from the loft. Ironic, in that I had considered this idea. One version I proposed was to store the 'scope (assembled) inside the studio loft but wheel it out. I remarked how I had seen "rail systems" for easing the movement of the 'scope but keeping it aligned.

A disadvantage to both of these designs is that vibration will come up from the structure and the floor.

I proposed another idea, still using the porch / deck. Mount the 'scope on an independent pier. It might use neighbour Chuck's old satellite dish pier (if tall enough). Or a concrete pier in sonotube could be poured... They both seemed to like this idea. Disadvantage, you have move the telescope OTA and mount in and out! That will then require more frequent collimation.

So, we need to make some big decisions very soon... They are pouring the concrete pad next weekend. When the hurricane weather stops.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mom's new atlas

Walked into Mom's living room to see she her proudly displaying a new tome. A friend gave her The New Atlas of the Moon by Firefly Books. The large-format, hard-cover book contains many wonderful photographs by Thierry Legault and well-written text by Serge Brunier (translated by Klaus R. Brasch). I like the acetate overlays atop the large photos. The brief historical essays are interesting.

One could get very excited about lunar observing with a book like this...
Rich Handy wrote a balanced review for Cloudy Nights Telescope Reviews.

(submitted via email while in Union)

if it's on the internet...

Richard J sent over the link to the LHC web cams. Sweet. We can watch the technicians, support staff, the odd exec wander through. Assuring. We can see the CERN staff just going about their daily routine.

It reminds me of "sleep periods" while monitor NASA TV. Nice, interesting, transparent, on one hand. But, well, not too too exciting...

You be the judge.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

still here?

Ed sent this URL. It is a page showing the status of the Large Hadron Collidor. You know... in case, well... you were wondering... if, um, if this was all a dream...

this superb machine

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is super-cooled and about to come online. Lyn Evans (not sure who he is exactly) says, waxing poetically, "let's bring the machine alive!"

That's exactly the kind of remark that is scaring the bejeesus out of people.

Fascinating that they have successfully cooled the ring down to 1.9°K. I don't get to use the Kelvin scale very often. During bitterly cold winter days in Canada, when friends complain it is terribly nippy, perhaps when the ambient temperature is -20°C but there is a viscious breeze which produces a wind chill of -30°C, I switch to Kelvin. I remind people, "Hey, it's 250 degrees today! Quite balmy, don't you think?" I usually receive glares or birds. Feh. Go live in Nunavut. Or Ottawa. Or Winterpeg. And then describe how cold you feel.

Personally, I'm terribly interested in the goings on at CERN. It seems to me that the discoveries regarding the nature of matter (and the gaps between) are occurring here. I wonder if they need an Excel trainer...

It is still very puzzling why, despite all the very smart people on the planet, that we still can't satisfactorily explain where most of the mass of the Universe is. I think it wiggled between the cushions. Fire up the vacuum and you'll find it all right.

The LHC experiments might just crack this open, this little mystery. Plug in the popcorn pumper and melt the margarine on Oct 21!

But, in the end, will this improve the prices at the gas pumps? Hey! Now there's a business opportunity: start up an alternate fuel company and jack up the prices. $1.30/L for Dark Matter Plus...

Saturday, September 06, 2008

fixed laptop USB LED

Some time ago I bought a cheap-o laptop keyboard light. It used a white LED for illumination. It stole power from a USB port.

It was my intention on buying it to hack it, figure out how it worked (although I did not expect there to be much to it), and possibly convert it. I wanted to make it astronomer-friendly, changing it to emit red light.

I started to use the keyboard light (in bed) with some laptops, primarily the Dell Latitude D800. Curiously, in very short order, I noticed the metal shield at the end getting very hot! Then the colour and intensity of the white LED changed. Huh. I guess you get what you pay for... To be honest, I simply assumed that they didn't bother to put a resistor on the white LED and it overloaded.

Today, when I finally opened it up, I discovered, in fact, the maker had included a resistor. ¼ watt. But 15 ohms?! That's a weird number. I backwards computed the values. Assuming the white LED had a forward voltage of 4.5, then a 15 ohm resistor would dump 35 to 40 milliamps into the LED. That's a little high. But. If the white LED was a low-voltage type, then this resistor would be way too low.

I used a 100 ohm resistor with a super-bright red LED. I assumed the forward-voltage was 2.1. The 100 ohms would put about 30 mA into the LED. A tad high but I want maximum brightness.

We'll see how long it lasts...


Even though the old IBM ThinkPad has a super-cool integrated keyboard LED, I will make use of this hacked keyboard light, with it's good colour, high brightness, and long flexible neck.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

thanks on cheque

Email from the RASC Toronto Centre treasurer David today:

Just thought I'd let you know that I received a cheque from Twin Meadows for a presentation that you did on July 12th.  There is a note on the cheque that says "Thx Blake, we had a great time.  See you next year."

Good job Blake,
This is in reference to the presentation at The Farmer's Pantry.

He also copied the vice president Ralph...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


One of those strange circular conversations ensued during the ride home after the RASC Toronto Centre meeting...

Tony asked me if I still wanted to be a CAO supervisor. Curiously, a little cautiously, I answered that I did. I thought it a unusual question. He said that I did not give him the impression that I did, given my questioning to him, previously, about the pros and cons. I did not mean to make it seem I was ambivalent; just wanted to know what I was getting into.

I told him that I was taking my time since nothing could be done this year. He asked me why I thought that. Because that's what Dietmar told me! He said he thought Dietmar simply meant that all the weekends for this season were already booked so we didn't need anyone (unless something goes wrong) for 2008. OK. So?

Tony said that didn't mean I couldn't be trained. I told Tony I already was being trained. That Dietmar and Ian W had spent a lot of time with me coaching, training, explaining. That's part of what last weekend was all about! Learning the C14. Practising...

He talked more about what it meant in terms of commitment. And, of course, what the perks were. I acknowledged that I understood these.

He talked about if I was trained formally now I could be a backup. And I could go up any time over the balance of the year. All that sounded good.

OK. Where did that leave us?

Tony said he'd initiate the subsequent steps... Good. Now that we got that settled.


OK. Maybe I didn't come right out and say, "I want to do this!" But then, I thought I had the whole winter to let them know...

It's water under the bridge.

Still, I sent Tony an email to confirm my interest.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

great turnout (Toronto)

We had a tremendous turnout for the RASC Toronto Centre City Observing Session (COS) at the Humber Bay West location!

John B and I arrived a little before 8 PM. We had the 2 society's Sky-Watcher 8" Dobsonians in tow. Stuart set up a bit later and let his fork-mounted LX200 find and level itself. Ken arrived (courtesy Zip). Holy cow: Millie and Dietmar showed up! Very cool. Millie had her trusty binoculars at the ready and started picking off Messiers. At some point—I missed when exactly—Darlene and Clive arrived. They operated an Antares 520 8" Dob. Another surprise visitor for the evening was Ed—The Budget Astronomer—Hitchcock! He was staying with family in the 'hood and surprised himself at how proximal he was to the park...

photo by Stuart Norman

Over the course of the evening, we looked at the Moon, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Jupiter's moons, M13, M11, M31, and a whack of double stars including Albireo, γ (gamma) Delphinus, Cor Caroli, Polaris, Izar, β (beta) Andromeda, and, of course, the Tim Horton star (aka the Double-Double in Lyra).

Park visitors enjoyed the views.

The most incredible event: catching Dietmar at an eyepiece!


Millie always amazes me at her general knowledge of the sky, constellations, how she knows exactly where Messier objects are. She seemed amazed by my ability to bull's eye double stars. Funny how it goes.


Stuart has a couple of other shots on his flickr page...

antenna mounted

I took a new, high-gain antenna up to the CAO over the weekend. Connected it to our old D-Link wireless router (acting as a wireless access point). We saw improved signal around the property.

When I raised the antenna, it worked even better.

So I left it there (and brought back the Linksys Wireless-N router).

However I ran out of time before hitching a ride back home. I did not get a chance to permanently mount the antenna on the wall.

Phil did so, on my behalf.

Monday, September 01, 2008

look at that!

On beginning to read the User Guide for TheSky6 by Bisque, it occurred to me that there were a lot of keyboard shortcuts in the software...

As usual, the documentation lists some as almost an afterthought.

I wondered if they were listed somewhere.

We should have this list beside the controlling computer in the GBO. Most RASC Toronto Centre supervisors don't know the shortcuts. But then, they've probably not read the manual...

Look what I found!


lost with a GOTO

I felt kind of lost or confused. Or something...

With Ian D and Phil off to bed, and having the entire Geoff Brown Observatory to myself, I didn't quite know what to do!

I considered "constellation hopping." That's my term (perhaps a bad choice of words) for working through all the interesting objects in a constellation. After looking at one object, say a galaxy, I look at what is nearby, a short hop away. Perhaps a double star. Or another deep sky object.

On one hand, this doesn't matter any more... I've learned to appreciate that while not using a GOTO 'scope, you don't want to jump all over the entire sky. You lose time. But with a GOTO system and a mount with really fast slew rates, pfft, who cares! Go anywhere! The entire sky is your oyster.

Still, I tried it. And I kept to targets within a few degrees. I tried to split some tight doubles. I went for a couple of galaxies.

Maybe it was the chart I was working from. As I referred to the Pocket Sky Atlas, it suddenly seemed to me not detailed enough! It only goes down to magnitude 7.6 stars. When I turned off the stars in TheSky6 and turned on the deep sky objects, is was mind boggling. The database was showing me thousands of objects on the screen. With a telescope that can go well beyond magnitude 15, it was very intimidating. What do you choose?

I didn't even think to bring my Tirion charts! Then again, they are the first gen. Only go to 8.0 magnitude stars.

I was using a loaner ThinkPad for my notes and planning. I only had Stellarium on it. And I'm not convinced it is accurate beyond magnitude 12 or 13. I should install Cartes du Ciel on it...

Before the weekend, considering I was only going to use the C14, I pondered some targets:
  • M33 in Triangulum
  • M31 briefly (just to see what a difference aperture would make)
  • Uranus
  • the moons of Uranus
  • Neptune
  • the moons of Neptune
Now, looking on it, a pretty small (pathetic?) list for such powerful equipment.

Sunday during the day, I considered new targets, having ticked off a few earlier in the weekend. I expanded the list using the RASC's Finest NGC certificate as a starting point. That tripled the size of the list.

And, all things considered, it was still lame. I finished it in minutes. (With my C8, it would have taken all night probably!)

I didn't sketch anything. I should have done that perhaps. I had my new pencils. My new stump. My brand new pink eraser. Did I grab a piece of paper? No. Why?! Why didn't I do something other than rip through this list?

I felt without direction. Without a plan. And couldn't move.

quick viewing (Blue Mountains)

1:01 AM. C14. 72 and 78 Peg. Tried to split. 0.5" and 0.8". Used my 36mm, TV 27mm Panoptic, TV 20mm Nagler, and TV 13mm Nagler—no joy.

1:15. NGC 7789. Wow. Cas. Beautiful rich dense field, open cluster.

1:18. Small faint globular cluster, NGC 6712 in Scu.

1:24. Cat's Eye in Dra. aka 6543. Could see green or aqua. Almond shape, bright centre. [ed: aka Caldwell 6.]

1:27. Blinking Planetary (6826). Fantastic aqua green colour. Even. The central star looks green. Fascinating. The blinking effect is marked with averted vision. [ed: aka Caldwell 15.]

Helix (7293), very faint in the C14. Pulled my eyepiece for the Meade 55mm Super Plössl. Still faint. What did Ian do? Did he use a filter? [ed: aka Caldwell 63.]

1:42. NGC 253 in Sculptor. Canted galaxy, dust lanes. Very large in my 36mm FOV. Edge to edge! [ed: aka Caldwell 65.]

2:04. NGC 5907. Small, edge on galaxy.