Wednesday, December 31, 2008

happy IYA

While others celebrate HNY, I wish you a very exciting IYA.

one of two (Toronto)

Shawn sent out a reminder to check the "double conjunction." That was at around 4:30.

I immediately checked Stellarium with my back yard omnirama. It showed Mercury and Jupiter below the tree line! Bah!

I headed outside in my pajama bottoms, shirt with fleece sweater, winter boots, toque. From the back yard, near to the garage, I could easily spot the stunning Venus and Moon. I scanned the horizon with my binoculars for bright points but... nothing. I decided to try from the front of the house.

The wind vectored between the houses. Holy cow it felt cold! I scanned again from the street between the house and the school. Nothing low.

Quickly, I headed back inside.

§

Courtney emailed me later from her Dad's BlackBerry asking what the bright point was near the Moon.

2009 calendar updated

I completed the major updates to my online calendar of astronomical events for 2009.

It includes notes about planetary and lunar conjunctions, major meteor showers, local RASC Toronto Centre events, special Jovian moon events, comets, and other special events to do with the IYA.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

measuring doubles

After a brief chat with guru Geoff Gaherty, I am now under the impression that there are only 2 suitable eyepieces available for measuring double star separations and position angles: the Celestron or the Meade.

Celestron has a eyepiece that is laser-etched reticule and is illuminated. It is multi-coated. It is a 12.5mm Orthoscopic. It is popular it seems for photography but it can be used to measure position angles and separation of double stars. This is the item Tanguay referred to in his article. Khan Scope Centre it would be "very very difficult" to get.

Meade has something called the "astrometric." It is 12mm "MA" eyepiece, with illuminated reticule. That's a Modified Achromatic. Geoff made his feelings abundantly clear to me... Comes in a wired or wireless (i.e. battery-powered) format. In stock at Khan Scope Centre.

I found a brief review of the different types of reticule eyepieces...

let it be known

I posted the following to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Groups listserv. And now I post it here, for all to consider.
Hi there,

This year, I'd like to kick it up a notch.

I've been enjoying viewing double stars but I think I'd like to move up now to accurately measuring separations and position angles.

Any advice on tools, illuminated eyepieces, other supplies needed.

I've started looking at the Celestron Micro Guide 1.25" 12.5mm Eyepiece. Is this a good choice?

regards,
Blake

Monday, December 29, 2008

fun and science

I have decided that I want to measure double stars.

I don't remember the trigger, for certain. It might have been the "Spirit of 33" that started it all... It might go further back than that.

So to add some depth to a RASC Toronto Centre SCOPE newsletter article in development, I wanted to research double stars. Or rather, the people who studied double stars. How they did it. What they measured. The tools they used.

Somewhere in my web travels I stumbled through the Spirit of 33. And I didn't quite understand it. I couldn't tell if it was a club. Or a web site. Did the 33 mean something? 33 double stars? 3.3 magnitude? What was the significance of 33? Surely that wasn't the number of doubles in all constellations? Was that what was required for a certificate?

Web searches some how proved futile. I wasn't seeing logical or appropriate information.

One clue was a repeated reference to an article in Sky and Telescope magazine. In the February 2000 issue...

That Tom had recently completed the cataloguing of everything in the RASC TC library (up at the CAO) was good timing. I checked if we had the S&T 0002 issue. We did. During my visit to the CAO over the first November weekend, I "signed out" the magazine.

I believe it was on reading this article that I learned of the Feb 99 article (in S&T again) by Ronald Charles Tanguay. It was entitled Observing Double Stars for Fun and Science. Intriguing title.

Today I found that article online!

And something clicked...

fluid

I found a proper fluid for the Restoration Hardware hand warmer: Nibo!

I bought it at a local variety store, the 7-11, at Dundas and Runnymede. For less than $4.

On the back of the container, it is described as for "petrol" lighters. I gather this is opposed to wick lighters.

The Ronsonol I bought previously would not ignite in the hand warmer. It is for wick lighters...

Nibo works good! Toasty!

And it is a lot less messy than the pressurised aerosol butane dispensers!

geek glasses

While at Canadian Tire today, I bought some Hawkeye Laser Enhancing Glasses. They are a deep red colour and have side shields, i.e. the arms are thick and also red. I will wear these goggles when trying to improve or keep my night vision. Very inexpensive at <$5! And they come with a 2 year warranty!

I'm going to have to find some sort of case or cover to prevent scratches...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

greyed out

Not one clear night...

reassembled and collimated

With the mirror cleaned, its centre marked, and reloaded into the cell, I reinstalled the cell in Mom's Super Space Conqueror. I then collimated the 'scope.

I first used Guy's Tectron kit. I followed some collimation notes at the Amateur Astronomers Magazine web site for using the sighting tube and lining up the secondary. I found John Reed's ray-trace diagrams and notes very helpful for when using the chesire. The second mirror angle was off so I removed it and changed the angle on the bench, in the vice. Now the primary was way off so I brought it back in line. I then used the autocollimator and I could see I was very close to where I should be.

When I first tried the laser collimator, the secondary was off. I re-aimed the beam to the centre of the primary. Now the laser beam is a mere 4 mm away from the start. Not bad.

In my travels I had found another article on collimating, over at Astro-Tom. I'll have to try these similar steps to see if I can improve, simplify, and speed the process with Mom's 'scope.

O marks the spot

I marked the centre of 6" primary mirror of Mom's telescope. I needed this to do a proper collimation.

While the mirror was out of the cell (for cleaning), I traced around it onto a piece of paper. I then carefully cut this circle out of the paper. I folded it in half. And folded it in half again. I cut out the centre of the circle, eyeballing in about 4 or 5 mm from the centre tip.

I asked Mom for a white, self-adhesive eyelet paper reinforcement. She first offered me some clear ones. Tempted, I suspected it would be too hard to see, declined. She directed me to her computer desk but I couldn't find said items. She groaned out of her chair, looked in another spot, and located them. I peeled up the edge of one.

I carefully placed the clean side of the paper atop the mirror and lowered in, using tweezers, the white ring. I gently tacked it down and double-checked the position. Pretty good.

§

Ironically, I believe it was my request for the paper reinforcement that drove Mom ultimately into the kitchen, causing the "Mirror Cleaning Incident."

cleaned mirror, twice

I wanted to collimate Mom's Newtonian telescope. The images didn't look as crisp to me the last time I used it (back in the summer? my birthday?). I suspected it needed a tune up...

With Tectron tools (long sight tube, cheshire, and autocollimator) and Kendrick laser collimator—on loan from Guy—I was ready to do a good job on the old Edmund Scientific.

But it became clear to me that to use all these tools properly, I needed to know where the centre of the primary mirror was. And that would require removing it. From the OTA. And from the cell. And if I was going to do all that, I might as well clean it.

§

Once removed and examined closely, we were all (Donna, Steve, Mom, and me) left with the impression that it was filthy! Cleaning was overdue!

§

I reviewed my Newtonian cleaning notes. And made a shopping list. Mom headed into town in the morning and picked up 8 litres of distilled water and 2 boxes of large sterile gauze pads (presumably cotton). I steeled myself.

I removed the mirror from the cell. The 3 edge clamps came off easily. But the mirror was stuck in the cell. With some force, I was able to separate the two pieces. A rubber donut on the back of the mirror I was able to separate from another donut affixed to the cell frame. The cell donut was torn in the process but not damaged severely.

Mom has a suspended-style dishrack in one of the kitchen sinks. I rested the 6" Pyrex mirror in the dishrack such that it was inclined at a 45° angle. Then I used Mom's kitchen sink retractable spray nozzle to give the mirror a good soaking. Sadly, it seemed, none of the debris was washed away in this process. Oh boy. How badly stuck is this stuff?

Next I placed the mirror on the counter and filled the parabola with distilled water. I placed a new sterile pad in the centre of the mirror and let it soak up the water. Then, by gently tugged on one of the pad's corners, I pulled the pad off the mirror. I was thrilled to see a cleaner surface in the pad's wake. I filled the mirror again. This time, I tugged the corner of a new pad in a swirling pattern, letting the large pad sweep from the mirror's centre to edge. I did a couple of loops and tossed out the pad. Wow. Already it looked better. I repeated this about 10 times. And I reviewed my notes. Oops!

The notes said to use soap-water for this process as opposed to distilled. OK. Let's get a cleaning agent on it. So I filled the other basin with tap water and, as directed, put in one single drop of dishwashing liquid. I used this water with a couple of more gauze pads. The mirror looked much better than when I started!

Rinse cycle! Back into the elevated dish rack and I poured about 6 litres of distilled over the mirror to ensure it was totally clear.

Back to the counter, I gently blotted up the water with a clean pad. Wow. I should have taken before and after pictures...

I showed the mirror to Mom.

Curiously, looking straight down on the mirror, you can see a mottled pattern. I wonder if it is something deeper in the aluminum coating. Oxidation? Looking obliquely, the mirror looked significantly better than before. Oh well, regardless of the coating, the overall state was much improved.

I set the mirror down in the kitchen and began the steps of making a template so to find the centre of the mirror. I heard Mom in the kitchen puttering about.

When I returned to the kitchen a few moments later, I saw 3 large smudges on the mirror. It looked horrible. "What happened?!" I gasped.

Mom said something splattered and fell on the mirror. She had tried to wipe it clean, perhaps with a dishtowel. I was horrified. "Why didn't you tell me?!"

I didn't see any scratches but I blurted out, "You might have destroyed it." A bit severe perhaps but I was just stunned. My heart was sinking but I was trying to shore up. I was truly hoping there was no damage.

"I'll have to clean it again." And I set about repeating the process while Mom retrieved more cotton pads. I washed with tap water, went immediately to the soap water, and was relieved to see the mirror coming clean, and did the final rinse (from the remaining distilled water jug). After blotting, I looked very closely at the mirror. I don't think there were any scratches made. If there are, they are microscopic; nothing I could see naked eye.

I was relieved but still upset. Perhaps it was good that I needed to retire to the garage to reinstall the mirror. After which I collimated...

Mom was pretty quiet when I returned. She must be upset too.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Stan's calendar

I stumbled across Stan Shadick's Skywatchers calendar (for 2009) in a discount bin today. I like how it shows the actual sky in a particular direction at a certain time, how it will generally appear for the month.

Mr. Shadick is based in Saskatchewan. He teaches astronomy.

He says he was inspired by his teachers and members of the RASC.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

book and mag

Donna and Steve gave me an astronomy-themed book for a Christmas gift. It is called Entering Space: An Astronaut's Odyssey. It is written by Joe Allen, a NASA astronaut. I don't recognise him but he's been to the International Space Station recently.

I look forward to reading a current astronaut's treatment (although I think I saw the book is circa 1985). The photography is very nice. Apparently, a number of these photos were taken by Joe.

Mom gave me an astronomy-themed "magazine." I hesitate to use that term. It is from National Geographic. But this is a special edition. The Once and Future Frontier Space. Wonderful photography of course. It includes a forward by Ray Bradbury.

NG is celebrating our 50 years in space.

There is a very cool chart showing the various missions orbiting the Earth and travelling to the Moon, essentially a bar chart where the height of the bar indicates the distance from Earth, over the last 50 years, differentiated by country.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

slip-joint

It was Guy's idea. Really!

Guy and I were talking, either at a RASC meeting, or perhaps it was when he dropped of the collimation tools. I was explaining that I needed to fabricate some sort of tube for Mom's telescope in order to use the 4mm eyepiece, to get the eyepiece further away from the focuser. He said that he used a plumbing extension tube, the kind used under a sink. Huh.

So today I visited the plumbing section of Canadian Tire. I found a drainage 6" slip-joint extension tube. It has an outer diameter of 1¼" at the bottom end. This will fit in the focuser. The upper end is slightly flared to accept a 1¼" at tube, presumbly from a sink. This is where I will insert an eyepiece. It also has a large nut and a rubber washer. This makes a good friction fit for an eyepiece.

While not very elegant, this should prove useful.

Monday, December 22, 2008

couple of stars and a planet

As I unpacked the car, I glanced into Mom's backyard. The clouds were broken in a few places and I could a few stars. When I took a good look to the south-west, I spotted Venus.

I wonder if this is the only time I'll see anything...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

quiet celebration

I'm not out celebrating the winter solstice tonight.

I've been down at Toronto's Kensington Market Festival of Lights the last couple of years. But an abrupt, intense sore throat, waking me late Wednesday night, signalled an attack on my body. While I did not have to work on Thursday, I had a busy day planned. I tried... I tried to get things done. But I couldn't even sit at my desk. I couldn't sit upright. Back to bed I went and slept most of the day. Crazy fevered psycho never-ending spiralling daymares tortured me. I waited until the evening before taking sedative drugs and finally rested. 24 hours completely lost. Friday, as the storms moved in, I slinked off to work fighting intense headaches, sweating, and trying to conserve energy. I made one critical shopping stop on the way home and deferred everything that I could.

This unbridled bug messed up my whole weekend. I cancelled all my appointments and buckled down to complete all my work related commitments. I finished a few hours ago. I can finally relax.

I'm still not well. It feels like I've have half-swallowed a strand of yarn, part of it down my throat, part of it caught in my mouth. A most disquieting feeling. I miss seeing everyone but I really need to be careful. If I partied hard tonight I could mess up the rest of the week off!

So, I sit at home, glancing out the window, across snow laden fences to dark amber clouds reflecting city lights thinking about the stars beyond and our Sun as it begins it's long journey out of the depth of night.

I'm going to light lots of candles now to chase away the darkness.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

ready to collimate!

Guy dropped by briefly this afternoon, while shopping about the city... He left with me:
  • a cheshire eyepiece
  • laser collimator
  • auto-collimator eyepiece
  • and another doodad for collimating
Watch out! I'm gonna tune up Newtonian telescopes everywhere!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

IT team

I'm pleased to announce a large group of volunteers now make up the RASC Toronto Centre's Information Technology team.

I asked the following people if they would join, or remain on, the team:
  • Charles D
  • David P
  • Geoff G
  • Gilles G
  • Rajesh S
  • Steven D
I feel optimistic that with this large and varied group we'll be able to effectively improve our web site, our LAN at the CAO, and the utilisation of all our computing resources.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

don't like painting

I was thinking about repainting Mom's telescope this holiday. If it looked like we had gloomy grey skies, I was considering dismantling, stripping, and repainting her old Edmund reflector tube from the gloss white to a flat black.

But after reading Jeff Beish's article I decided it wasn't worth it. He intimated that for reflectors, there were many other factors, and that tube paint colour was really a matter of personal preference.

That's good. I don't like painting.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

wine, cheese, and stars

Went to Scott's wine and cheese party. He intimated that there'd be a few of the astronomy crowd there, the people who he travelled to Florida with, in the spring, to watch the shuttle launch. But when I got there, I was greeted by a large contingent! Which was fine by me.

Good fun, wine, and discussion!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

helped tune a Newt

Ralph received a query from a woman in my neighbourhood. She and her son were having difficult using their small telescope. He, the boy, had assembled it by himself (and done a fine job) but they still could not see anything. When Ralph learned they lived in the High Park area he dispatched me.

I took a look at the Swift 114mm Newtonian. Overall, everything looked OK. I aligned the finder scope as it was off. Finicky thing. Found 3 Kellner oculars. I explained how the different eyepieces worked and how the affected the power and the amount of sky your could see. It was impressive to see this thing sitting on an German equatorial mount! Still, I had to set the it to the proper latitude.

Unfortunately, the skies were grey so there was nothing celestial we could view. And her son wasn't in attendance. So I offered to return again, during a clear night, and we could do a full demo.

I'll also drum up a laser collimator to check the mirrors.

Friday, December 12, 2008

what's with small orgs?

What is it with small organisations?

Why are they so unusually political?

I've worked at federal government branches (e.g. Health and Welfare) and provincial branches (e.g. Food and Agriculture). I've worked at public (e.g. IBM) and private companies (e.g. Mother's Restaurants). I've helped volunteer organisations at various levels, from within (e.g. the Saab Owners' Club of Canada as a director; Computer Trainers Network as president) and outside the executive (e.g. RASC Toronto Centre as webmaster). I think I can fairly say, I've seen lots of levels of company strata, levels,

No matter where I've travelled, I've seen or experienced or been subjected to politicking. But there seems to be an inverse relationship: smaller the organisation, the more the political mess.

bright objects (Toronto)

As I made the brief walk from the bus stop to my home, I noted the jewel of Venus up high in the dark sky. I wondered if Jupiter might be nearby. I caught it, low, between some houses, when at the right angle. As I reached the intersection of Evelyn and Evelyn, I knew I'd have a good sight line to the west, so was anticipating the view. Still, I glanced east—whoa! Look at that Moon! Just past full. Quite the contrast (in terms of clarity) from last night (where it was diffused by mottled lumpy clouds). As I rounded the corner, I took in Vega, the body of Cygnus, the centre of Aquila. Tempting. Very tempting! But I could see clouds low in the west...

what?

Denis Grey quit from the RASC Toronto Centre executive today.

He issued a resignation by email.

What's he up to?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

according to my sensors, Captain...

Even as a kid, I found it a bit of a stretch. While watching Star Trek (the original series), the Enterprise would wander into some uncharted solar system, and with their ship sensors, monitored by a Vulcan half-breed peering into a shielded display (what was that about?), would pick off the habital planet and describe its atmospheric composition. Presumably, from 50 or 100 AU away. Crazy.

Now, today, not-science-fiction, we're picking up atmospheres of planets dozens of light years away! Crazy.

Previous observations of HD 189733b by Hubble and the Spitzer Space Telescope found water vapor. Earlier this year, Hubble found methane in the planet's atmosphere.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/news/CO2.html

Mark Swain, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used Hubble's near infrared camera and multi-object spectrometer to study infrared light emitted from the planet, which lies 63 light-years away. Now they are identifying carbon dioxide.

And that really got my brain going...

Maybe, in the not too distant future, stuck on Earth, still unable to travel near, at, or above light speed, we'll be able to spot planets with a thin layers of nitrogen, oxygen, some argon, and a bit of CO2.

beginning of cloud season

Grey skies everywhere. It seems to me that last winter, there were very few days with clear skies. I don't remember but one clear evening (maybe 2) when down at my Mom's for the Christmas holidays last year. I don't remember the RASC Toronto Centre conducting a City Observing Session for a number of months. I truly hope that we have some breaks this winter.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Uranus and Neptune plots for 09

Here are plots of Uranus and Neptune for 2009.

Uranus:



Neptune:



I had considered reproducing these as I have done for the last 2 years, i.e. getting Cartes du Ciel to plot each planet's position on a week-by-week basis into an animated GIF which I would then use to create a Bezier path overlay using Fireworks and then finish the illustration with certain embellishments. The problem with this is it takes hours of work, assuming I don't do anything wrong...

I wondered if there was some software to do all this. I searched briefly on the weeb to see if there were any utilities or tools. Nothing obvious came up.

One site though discussed capturing the ephemeris of a planet and then plotting that. I suddenly remembered the US Naval Office site. I downloaded the RA and dec values for Uranus and did a plot using Excel! Ha ha. Very easy, and quick, to do. But, now I had a path without a star field background. To add in stars required new additional steps. So, it was beginning to turn into a laborious process again (although a fun application in a spreadsheet).

More web searching. Of course, I kept stumbling across notes astronomy applications like Starry Night and TheSky being able to do this. So, I thought I'd try it in TheSky (the loaner copy I have), as an exercise. I continue to work with this software to better learn it to, in turn, better support users at the CAO, next summer, when I'll be on duty...

So, after some fiddling and reading and experimenting, I got it to work. And, overall, easy and fast! That's what I was after.

scheduled?

What does "scheduled" mean? Two recent blogger posts did not show up immediately. They are listed as scheduled. I don't know what that means.

§

Particularly interesting when this one showed immediately. Is it because of certain words that I used?

§

Turns out I had somehow future or post dated the articles. Interesting feature, actually...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I'm in

After one and half years, I successfully hacked into the RASC Toronto Centre listserv and community groups owner account! This sole owner had died 2 years ago. He took his password to the grave. The remaining active moderator could not control the group at a higher level. in particular, he could not add another moderator. The group services system administrators were not willing to help us. I tried various methods to regain access to the owner's account. Today, I got in. With some help... I can't take all the credit. Sneaky devil, Andy, using a fabricated city and postal code. I still can't believe it. Incredible. I was able to regain control of the group and designate Ralph and Rajesh as co-owners of the group. This is a great day for the Toronto Centre! We can finally breathe easy.

back from the CAO

Tony and I went to the CAO today to do some "extra" things with the generator...

Tony was afraid that heavy snow around and on the generator would prevent it from running. We agreed that snow around the intake side of the generator cover would choke it for air. If massive snow drifts covered the aft end, where the hot exhaust exited, would that affect anything? I proposed that the hot exhaust would quickly form a port. Still, what if there was significant snow, say, 1 metre? What then? Well... we hacked a solution. We've helped the unit breath in and breath out. We also accommodated for the generator cooling inlet.



It was, once again, non-trivial getting to the CAO. There was now about half a metre or more of snow on the ground. With the intense south winds, there were a lot of drifts.



I checked over the computers while there. Everything was working well although the new hard disk started squealing again... Sheesh. Sounds like a disk crash! Ugh.

I reviewed the uninterruptible power supply log. Huh! No failures in the last week... I had expected to see something here. Particularly given the problems with our ISP/WPP and the Hydro One reports for the area.

Regardless, we simultated a utility failure. Wow. That generator is cool!

I remembered to nab the Windows XP Pro CDs before departing... Will come in handy as I refresh the computers from Adam...

On the way out, we were passed by a local utility crew. They had a snow cat! They were heading east, up the "unpassable" route, clearing out bowed branches and felled trees. We caught up with them and asked if we could hitch a ride. Sure made it easier slogging up the hill.



Sweet.

§

All photos by Tony.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Stellarium 10 keyboard shortcuts

Here is an updated listing of the extensive keyboard and mouse shortcuts you may use in the Windows version of Stellarium (0.10.0). Some of these are changed from version "9." I've tagged shortcuts that are new or different...

Most quick reference listings (including the one inside Stellarium's help) are improperly designed. They show the key first then the action. You'll see I've done the opposite!

controlling the surroundings
show location dialog
F6
*
toggle cardinal or compass points—— q
toggle ground and buildings

g
toggle ground fog
f
toggle atmosphere or air

a

controlling sky appearance

toggle stars
s
toggle constellation lines
c
toggle constellation boundaries
b
toggle constellation labels
v
toggle constellation artwork
r
toggle planet circles
p
toggle nebula labels and circles
n
show Sky and Viewing Options dialog
F4
*

controlling gridlines

toggle alt/az grid lines
z *
toggle equatorial grid
e
toggle ecliptic line
, (comma) *
toggle celestial equator
. (period) *

changing image presentation

toggle horizontal flipping
Ctrl Shift h
toggle vertical flipping
Ctrl Shift v

controlling "regular" time

show date/time dialog
F5
*
set date/time to match computer

8
increment forward time speed

l (lower case L)
increment reverse time speed

j
run time at normal speed
k
jump forward 1 hour
Ctrl = (equal)
jump backward 1 hour
Ctrl - (hyphen)
jump forward 1 day
= (equal)
jump backward 1 day
- (hyphen)
jump forward 7 days
]
jump backward 7 days
[




controlling sidereal time



jump forward 1 sidereal day
Alt = (equal)
jump backward 1 sidereal day
Alt - (hyphen)
jump forward 7 sidereal days
Alt ]
jump backward 7 sidereal days
Alt [

zooming

quickly zoom in or out

mouse roller up or down

zoom in
PgUp or Ctrl Up Arrow
zoom out
PgDn or Ctrl Dn Arrow
zoom close to selected object
/ (slash)
zoom out fully

\ (backslash)




panning



quickly pan celestial sphere

left-drag

pan right
Right Arrow
pan left
Left Arrow
pan up
Up Arrow
pan down
Dn Arrow
toggle equatorial or alt/az mount
Ctrl m*

working with objects

select an object visually
left-click
centre on selected object
spacebar
toggle tracking of selected object
t
deselect the object
right-click
display search dialog box
Ctrl f or F3
*
travel to object, i.e. go to a planet
Ctrl g

controlling the application

show configuration dialog
F2
*
show help/about dialog
F1
*
toggle application fullscreen/window
F11 *
save screenshot to desktop file
Ctrl s
quit from Stellarium
Ctrl q

There may be more shortcuts. And of course more may added during the beta testing...

new Stellarium version

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across the new Stellarium version, 0.10.1 (beta). At the time I didn't give it a really good look. I tried installing it on a Celeron-based computer and it was painfully slow so I yanked it pretty quickly. But I did notice the cleaner interface.

Over the last 2 days I've started looking more closely at it. And, overall, I like it. I like the new features.

The "title bar" has been relocated to the bottom edge of the screen. This is a better spot for it. It seems less cluttered. By default it does not show buttons. When you hover the mouse pointer near it, it reveals buttons. The buttons do not have borders around them. Perhaps this bar will need to be renamed the "status bar" or "menu bar?"

There's an additional bar now, popping up, when needed, on the left edge of the screen. It contains borderless iconic buttons for some of the configuration and setting panels in the program. I believe this is officially the "button bar."

Both the title and button bars can be "locked" on the screen such that they do not auto-hide or minimise.

As I installed and ran the program on a Pentium M-based laptop, I noted it launched much faster than 0.9.x version! That was pleasing. And if I understand correctly, this is despite loading more stars. Impressive.

While in the program, things seem to work well, quick response, with the new graphical interface elements, the additional stars, etc. But, when you unfocus the application, to say, check your email, visit a web site, read the Stellarium forums or FAQ, your computer will c-r-a-w-l! It's like Stellarium is sucking all the cycles. Nasty. Almost unusable. I need to look into this issue. Perhaps there's a property setting that I can adjust. I'll check the forums for complaints. Or perhaps this is just the territory with a beta version...

The other notable change in the program is keyboard shortcuts. Yep. Some of the keyboard shortcuts changed. Like the 1 (one) key. Pretty important, frequently-used, key in the old interface. Or h, for the help. Hello! All that said, it sounds like the development team won't be making more interface changes, any time soon.

So, stay tuned, I'm working a revised list of keyboard shortcuts...

Monday, December 01, 2008

drag

This is what the president, Denis Grey, said of the RASC Toronto Centre web site: "I feel our website is a major drag." Nice. Real nice.

presentation at Humberside

Tony asked me if I would help and co-deliver a presentation for one of the science teachers at Humberside Collegiate Institute in the new year. This will be a first for both of us, delivering to grade 9 high school students. Should be an interesting challenge...