Sunday, March 29, 2009

access from Toronto

Yesterday and today I tested remotely accessing the weather and security server at the CAO from my home office in Toronto. It works. I'm so very pleased.

455 mW saved

vote for the Earth signageWow. I didn't think people were very serious about it but the Toronto Star says the city of Toronto proper saved 455 megawatts this Earth Hour. Consumption was 15% less than normal at 9:30 PM. And that was a 7% improvement over last year.

Steps in the right direction. My congrats to all who got involved.

We still have a long way to go.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

quiet evening

I turned off all my lights, and most of my computers, and headed over to Grace and Tony's. They had all their lights off too. We enjoyed a quiet evening at the fireplace.

We wondered just how many people turned off their lights...

serial works, sorta

Dietmar and I performed further tests with the serial cable. It worked great on the tower computer. It worked on the laptop. But only if the Dell Latitude d531 laptop was stand-alone.

If the laptop was in the pr01x (advanced?) port replicator, it didn't work.

The serial port worked, to a degree, in the APR: we tested it with an old US Robotics modem. (Remember those?)

We tried to run the Dell diagnostics on the APR, as recommended in the Dell documentation. Except that Dell documentation and the diagnostics themselves do not indicate how to do this!

Maybe we can find another APR to test with...

Maybe it's under warranty and can be exchanged.

another convert

Grace sent this to me on Facebook:
Hey, I think we can add Daniel as a Galileo moment last week... he just reported the shuttle landed safely. I think he is looking forward to returning to the CAO to see some more of the night sky! He really enjoyed what you showed us.
Funny. I felt ill-prepared.

I'm glad it was positive for them!

Friday, March 27, 2009

remote access

Holy cow. I can't believe it. We successfully completed the implementation of remote access into the CAO network!

Dave, the antenna guy from, returned to the CAO. He logged back into their router and altered the WAN IP number for our new designated static IP. He then told me he had been told to deactivate the port forwarding numbers but I explained that this would prevent routing to our equipment. Even though the ports were open, I tested it (via my Sympatico dial-up), and we still did not have access.

He called the owner and they discussed options. When he concluded the call, he said that they wanted to remove one of the routers to flatten the network. I said that was unnecessary, that our routers could co-operate, and that all I needed was for them to apply one final change to their router. Dave accommodated me, we checked the forwarded IP address, found it was incorrect. We changed that and it all worked!

What a battle. Essentially, since about October or November, I've been trying to reach this goal. And in the end, it was something that could have done remotely, in seconds... Still, I'm grateful for their assistance, in particular, for Dave's on-site support.

For the RASC Toronto Centre, this represents a significant milestone. Not only can we better control our on-site hardware. But this opens the gate to remote telescope control.

hotwired Paramount

Dietmar and I, while at the CAO, hacked a serial cable from the tower computer to the Paramount ME. It worked! Dietmar is very happy. It means we can avoid using the USB which took a long time to implement and was a bit flaky, curiously with the modern laptop.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


It really is. The International Space Station looks wonderful. It is an impressive achievement. Major partners, who were once warring nations, have built this platform, despite significant setbacks and incredible economic pressures. And with this most recent addition, the ISS will begin to contribute more than ever before to science and research. Humans at the edge of space. We'll be able to tell our kids and grandkids, "We saw them build the ISS."

looking good

It must be something, as an astronaut on the space station, to be able to look out a window and see a spacecraft floating nearby.

You know, I'm going to miss the orbiters...

I understand the functional requirements for future craft. But I've always liked the look of the winged space trucks.

then there were 4

The space shuttle undocked from the space station this afternoon. They are now doing the fly-around.

Those space walkers must be very proud.

Size of a football field.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

still presenting

Paul asked me if I wanted to deliver The Sky This Month again. I said sure. He said, "June then!" OK. So I'm back on duty for June.

bumped to July

Paul asked if I could shift my Stellarium presentation to the July RASC Toronto Centre meeting.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


The ISS is symmetrical now. And NASA updated their graphical display.

I bet a cheer went up the room when that was first displayed...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

remote access, not, part 2 or 3 or something

A technician, Dave, sent from arrived at the CAO. Tony and I received him, told him a bit about what we were trying to do, learned that he was quite familiar with the area, and in fact knew Cliff! Nice. We learned he was an independent wireless contractor...

We led him to the work room, explained the configuration, and helped him jack into their router. Once he was logged in, and had his bearings, we provided him the port numbers we needed opened. I had to actually guide him through the Linksys interface to apply the changes. But when we tested it, no joy.

There was some confusion about the static IP number. But when I explained that it was a "new" number that had been recently allocated to us, he understood why he didn't recognise it. Still, we couldn't figure out why it wasn't working.

He packed up. We left it that he was going to tell his findings, get some clarification as to the next steps. Hopefully, the remaining changes he could do remotely. We wondered if a final setting needed to be changed at the office. I said I'd call in on Monday...

Friday, March 20, 2009

first observing for year (Blue Mountains)

I was at the Carr Astronomical Observatory for an overnight visit to affect computer repairs. But, fortunately, I had made some good progress during the day. And the skies were clear. And I had brought my winter coat. It looked like I'd be able to do a bit of observing.

I went out in the late afternoon to try to spot Venus. But the telescope was not aligned so no joy. Still, it was good that I popped out. The objective covers were not on the TV101 and finder scope and they were rather close to the Sun. I covered them.

I returned to the Geoff Brown Observatory in the early evening and rolled back the roof a little more. Searched briefly naked eye and with old smelly binos for Venus. No luck. Tried to tag it with the telescope. Tony reminded me that he had found the mount to be slightly off (but once sync'ed with TheSky6, it was fine).

I tried to sight some bright stars to align or sync the Celestron 14-inch. The obvious choice was Sirius. But it was in the dead zone for the Paramount, near or on the meridian. I had to wait a bit more to find some other stars. Tony was outside at this point and he helped me sync it up. And while he looked to the west, he noted Venus. What? Yep, there it was, very bright, and a few degrees above the horizon. Cool. I thought it was already set but was happy to be proved wrong.

Stunning, Venus, through the refractor and the SCT. The size of the planet was impressive, about a week away from inferior conjunction. The disk was incredibly large in the C14, but the atmospheric distortion was amplified too. The view was actually more pleasing in the smaller 'scopes. We tried to gauge the limb illumination, if it was more than 180°. Wow.

I looked at λ (lambda) Orionis again briefly.

Grace and some of the boys visited the GBO. We looked at The Great Nebula in Orion. We were able to split the Trapezium into 5 stars easily.

I suggested Rigel as a double star target. Very cool (to me). It was not obvious in the TV101; but in the C14, it was fantastic. Rigel, β (beta) Orionis, is incredibly bright, overpowering the scene (it's 500 times brighter). But we could easily see a fainter companion nearby.

We looked at Saturn. It was spectacular in the C14. We could see Titan, Rhea, Tethys, and Iapetus! I think I could even see Hyperion, between Tethys and Iapetus!


When I was operating the C14, I felt a little out of sorts. I wasn't sure what to show. I didn't have any of my notes with me, I had not intended to do any observing, or even if I had, I wanted to pack extremely light for the hike in. I should have a "top ten" list for each season, good stuff to show people, nebula, globulars, a double star, etc. I could keep that on the network up there...


My pre-programmed ISS flyover alarm in my palmtop went off 5 minutes before the predicted 9:01 PM local start time. We headed to the front yard of the CAO where Trevor and Tony had a good bonfire going. It was cold out. I noted the Andromeda constellation standing straight up.

I spotted the International Space Station early on. It was low, I estimated less than 10° up. It was fairly faint, not a negative magnitude initially. We watched it slowly move below Cassiopeia and Ursa Minor and through Draco. It brightened considerably in the later half of the long pass. That was a good one. Ten people up there!

There were a couple of shooting stars spotted. Overall, I saw 4 this evening.

It was very cool to see the Beehive naked eye. It was satisfying to be able to resolve the Pleiades into 6 separate stars, naked eye.

The highlight though was seeing Zodiacal Light! Woo hoo. I forgot this was a good time to see it. Tony confirmed it. I saw a faint glow climbing high into the sky, not unlikely skyglow from light pollution. It was a thin triangle, canted about 10° to the left, underneath Aries, ending near the Pleiades. A career first!


While taking in the whole dark sky from the front lawn, I suddenly remembered that we should be able to see comet Lulin! So, as we warmed up for a short time in the house, I looked up in where the comet was supposed to be: between δ (delta) and ζ (zeta) Gemini, also known as Wasat and Mekbuda, respectively.

When I returned to the GBO and reconnected the software to the homed Paramount, I was pleased to see it was still in sync. But when I turned the mount to δ, the TV101 'scope started to slide out of the dovetail. Noooooo! I called Tony to come quick. He helped me secure it! Whew. Almost had a major disaster there!

Tony got out the 11x80 binos. Wow. Beautiful view. But heavy. He tried scanning but couldn't see it. I tried for a few seconds and spotted it. I put the 'scope on it now that I had my bearings. Bingo! We could even see the tail in the big 'scope.

server repaired

Once settled, with some more coffee on the go, I proceeded to work on the new server.

Tony had brought up the new computer to the CAO a couple of weeks previous. He successfully installed it and configured the Windows in a minimal way, as per my notes.

He also attempted to configure the LAN as per directions sent from our ISP/WPP Unfortunately, the service went down on the Friday night they arrived. So we were not able to test if the changes Tony to our router were effective. It actually looked very bad: there were no recent images from the UWO's SkyCam. It seemed that we had broken our local internet connection. Last night, Tony had reinstated our original LAN settings: their internet service was up and running again. Weird...

So, again, I had decided to visit the site, to take up the reins.

I installed the Davis weather software. This took a couple of attempts. At first, via the Windows Remote Desktop, on a different computer in the house, I tried to install the WeatherLink 5.8.3 download but it did not seem to work correctly. I don't know if it was due to the Remote Desktop or because it was a true software upgrade, i.e. not the complete software. At the server, with the original CD, I successfully installed the 5.8.0 software. Then I installed the upgrade. All went well. The only remaining problem was I had to completely rebuild the configuration for our weather station console, sensor pack, and internet upload. Frustrating to lose all this information. Need to get our backup process established...

Then I installed the security camera software. I wasn't surprised that there were difficulties with this being done via Remote Desktop. With the old server, there seemed to be an issue with the graphics. So, again, at the server, I installed using original CD. All went well. And, again, I had to rebuild the configuration. Regardless, I was very happy. Up to this point, we did not know if the DVR board was working. Clearly it had not been fried in the first server meltdown.

So. By dinner time Friday, I had everything back to the way it had been in November and December. Whew.

Tomorrow, I was hoping that the technician would in fact arrive to our site, so to inspect, and possibly reconfigure their equipment.

complained to ISP

From the CAO, I called our ISP. I explained that we had supplied the static IP information they had supplied to us into our router and when we did that we had no internet service, in or out. But when we reinstated our original IP information, everything worked fine.

This suggested that what they had given us was incorrect. I demanded a solution.

They offered to send out a technician! All right.

They said they could come by Saturday afternoon. What?! Really? Cool!

Bring it!

to CAO on snow tires

I had Malcolm's car, with snow tires, at my disposal, while he was skiing in Whistler. I went up Friday morning to the Carr Astronomical Observatory for an overnight visit. I went to work on the new server and network. Resumed the work I had David and Tony initiated...

So to get some supplies, and additional items for the Horvatin gang already there, I drove, via Barrie, through Collingwood. That's the time to go up the 400! Early morning.

I travelled along the eastern portion of 18th Sideroad and parked at the top of the hill. With my large Pelican toboggan, I sent my gear down the hill, ahead of me. Woo hoo! Oh oh. The Coke bottle, early on, bounced out of the rest of the gear! Jettisoned! Man overboard. Fortunately, the 2 litre bottle didn't not explode. Or get punctured.

Ben, the Australian Shepherd, greeted me as I reached the driveway.

I arrived at the house at my (revised) time, 10:00 AM (on the button)!

drove from winter to spring

Ha ha. Funny timing. As I drove from Toronto to Collingwood, the season changed. I was listening to Q107 morning radio, they pointed out that the season officially changed to spring.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tony fixed internet

Tony fixed the internet service at the CAO!

It's weird. We were told to enter static IP information into our router. We did that, as per our ISP's instructions, and the service didn't work since.

When Tony reinstated our original IP information for our router, everything worked again. They had internet access out (which certainly made the kids happy). And it allowed the University of Western Ontario SkyCam to start uploading images again.

This suggests the information we were given was incorrect.

pre-install position

The new solar array is near the pre-install position.

Space walkers will be heading to the area to eye-ball the balance of the installation. And then button everything up, of course.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

webspotting 9 - mag dec

First published in the Apr/May 2009 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. The URL is updated. Republished here with permission.


I'm assuming you're not the proud bouncing parent of the Orimeadostron UHBRO-10000XTC One-Touch Instamagic Wake-Me-Up-When-Its-Over Adaptive-Aligning Auto-Levelling Butter-My-Toast Self-Collimating Liquid-Mirror telescope with Self-Cleaning Polishing and Red Blinky Lights options. I'm assuming, in fact, your mount does not have a GPS.

I'm assuming you're using an equatorially mounted 'scope, with R.A. motor for tracking. Or you have an alt-az GOTO. You're not working from a permanent observatory. You're in an unfamiliar location and you don't know which is north, exactly. You're not planning an astrophotography session. You're observing from the top half of this planet. You're going to set up early, while it's still daylight. And finally, you have access to a half-decent compass.

Let's say you've been invited to a friend's new cottage. They report tall trees to the north so you will not be able to pick up Polaris. Hoping to provide many IYA Galileo Moments, you've prepared an ambitious plan, a gaggle of celestial targets for the entire evening, including some planets at dusk.

You want to hit the ground running. You want to be very close to the North Celestial Pole when you pop off the lens caps, as close as you can get without visually seeing it.

But where's NCP? It's above the Earth's rotational axis, of course. How can you find that? You can use your compass. But of course the Earth's magnetic pole and true North Pole are different. Geographically, they're 1600 kilometres apart. For people in Toronto, the difference, in an angular measurement, is about 10 degrees. i.e. your compass bearing will be 10 degrees different than the NCP.

Before leaving for your destination, surf over to National Resources Canada Geomagnetism web page ( and look for the Magnetic Declination Calculator. If you're very close to a major city or town, you could select it. For greater accuracy, enter the site latitude and longitude (which you'll need anyway). This will produce a measure in degrees and minutes. For example, for the City Observing Session in High Park for Monday 23 February 2009, the magnetic declination was 10° 37' west. Yes, it varies with the date and (by small amounts) time! How do you interpret this?

You're outside looking at where the compass is pointing. But the declination value means the compass is pointing further west than it should. True north a.k.a. grid north is back a bit. Assuming you're facing north, you need to look 10° 37' further to the east to know where the planet's North Pole and NCP is.

If your compass has a compensating dial, like a protractor compass, you can pre-set this declination for your observing session (or hiking trip).  

Off you go. Now you can set your tripod mount quite close to NCP in a new location in the day time.

LPA section up and running

I uploaded a ton of content, articles and links, for Peter Hiscocks today. The Light Pollution Abatement section of the RASC Toronto Centre has some meat in it now.

robotics begin

The robotic arm work began this morning with Sandy Magnus. This so to position the final solar array wing for the installation onto the starboard end of the truss of the International Space Station. It will sit there overnight for final installation tomorrow.

Monday, March 16, 2009

right over Mississauga

The International Space Station flew directly over Mississauga. Right on schedule, 8:47 PM for about 4 minutes. From Malcolm's backyard, near Eglinton and the 403, I picked it up low, to the right of Orion, about 15 to 20° up. It brightened rapidly as it flew over head. It went way brighter than Sirius. Then it faded into shadow as it fell through the feet of Ursa Major.

Randy said he was watching with his binoculars:
Looking thru 7x50's at closest approach (overhead) I could swear it was "lumpy" - ie. not a stellar image.
He said lumpy! Look at that!


I tested the new Kendrick 2" eyepiece heater. It cranks out lots of heat.

And, at long last, I finished wiring up one of the 12 volt heating pads. I used some old ratty speaker wire. And I used a red RCA male connector. This too I tested on the Kendrick controller. Gentle heat was detected.

Both tested with my portable battery pack.

There. No reason to get waylaid by dew. Or frost.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

watching NASA TV

At long last, it looks like STS-119 will fly tonight. New valves. New hydrogen tank junction. Helium pressure manual adjustment effective. Perfect weather.

I've been watching over the afternoon.

Collecting more acronyms.

I'm looking forward to seeing the last solar array installed on Space Station.

It's gonna be a pretty sight, this launch, around sunset...


Saturday, March 14, 2009

an evening with Jenna, Colette, James (Oakville)

Jenna introduced me to her friends Colette and James.

They have a Bushnell North Star 3" reflector atop an automated (and talking!) mount. Obtained around Christmas. They had not used it per se. They were looking for some assistance...

So we all congregated in Oakville for dinner, drinks, and some learnin'.

From their backyard we were able to view Orion's Great Nebula or Messier 42 (42), the Pleiades or Messier 45 (45), and multi-star system Mizar and Alcor. After dessert and a brief warm up, we headed to the front yard, to tag Saturn and Titan.

Three more Galileo Moments!


The telescope's computer / hand controller is relatively easy to use. But a pressing issue is to get it to track, particularly if the alignment is off a little. I need to look into this some more...

Friday, March 13, 2009

back in business

Me, that is.

Popped into the nerve centre at Kendrick, the back section of the floor, behind the empty showroom, behind the "office" of cubicle partitions. The workshop was populated by three people. One of the men, the son of Jim, guided me to the back office. The woman, Jim's wife I presume, helped me with my purchase.

Forgot my debit card but fortunately I had enough cash in my wallet.

While concluding the transaction, I asked about the new dual channel controller. She took one out of its wrapping and showed me. Very compact. And confirmed that 2 of the 4 outlets are on separate circuits, so you can control the temperature (rather, the pulse width modulation) for each channel. That's smart.

Anyway, I am up and running again with this new 2" heater. Woo hoo!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

observing with cubs, scouts, siblings, parents (Toronto)

Tony and I returned to the Runnymede United Church to make good on our promise to show some planets, stars, and other goodies to the cubs and scouts.

I headed over early, hauling all my gear in my little green wagon, and set up on the south lawn. Grace dropped Tony off a bit later. He had John's Dobsonian and eyepiece collection.

In short order, we found Venus. A very large disk. But a very thin crescent. That was a first for both of us! Tony spotted Saturn using the finder scope from the Dob. He charged me with finding it in my SCT. Just as the boys came outside. Giddy up! Lots of Galileo moments with Saturn! Later Tony turned to the Orion Nebula. It was pretty spectacular in the Newtonian. Meanwhile I targeted λ (lambda) Orionis and α (alpha) Geminorum. I returned to Saturn. We could now see Titan.

At 9:30 PM, we packed up, everyone gone. It was chilly but lots of fun.

Discovery to go Mar 15

Hydrogen leak. They're delayed now to Sunday.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"C" star confirmed

Paul just confirmed that he can see the "C" star that I've drawn on my sketch. He can see it in a 1 second exposure. If he goes for 20 seconds, he can easily see to mag 15.

He's gonna send me photos tomorrow...

astronomy is exciting!

I'm on the edge of my seat! Paul emailed me to say he's photographing λ (lambda) Orionis right now. Holy cow. I hope I can sleep tonight...


I'm getting a little frustrated looking at things I've already looked at. When it is my intention to see new things, particularly double stars!

I've already made up hard copies of the of my life lists. I'll make sure these are up to date...

But I'm going to do some other cross-checking. For example, I'm going to go through my copy of double stars by Haas to ensure my Sky & Tel list and life list are correct and current.


It's good I'm doing this. I'm finding mistakes everywhere. More typos on my life list, items not checked in my Haas book!

life lists expanded

Now that I've taken an interest in asteroid occultations, and have already participated in a couple of events, I realised I needed to log these incidents. Added a new life list tonight over on the companion web site.

Included four entries, one of which was the "mockultation."

The opening statistics are not looking great: one partial hit, one miss, and two "no data." Those no-date instances were flubs on my part.

Hopefully, I can get a hit soon...

Stellarium updated

Funny timing... I spent the morning pulling Stellarium 0.9.x from the laptop, installing version 0.10.1 in its place. I need to get more comfortable (whether I like it or not) with this newest release. All in preparation for my software demo to the RASC Toronto Centre in May.

Moments later, an email from the SourceForge forum showed up, announcing the release of 0.10.2! OK. Let's try that again.

ordered heater

I phoned around today for a new eyepiece dew heater...

Khan had a couple of Kendrick 3" units in stock for $69. Sales dude tried to argue the merits of up-sizing. EfstonScience carries the complete line of AstroZap but nothing in stock. Things that make you go hmmm. Sales rep stumbled across, while I was on hold, some Kendrick gear. 2" wrap for $65. Is that so? Exact same price as from Jim. Might as well give my money to him...

Wishfully thinking (in a couple of respects), I called Kendrick, right at closing time. Jim answered (I think). I apologised for calling so late.

He let me put in an order. He checked his inventory for this popular item. There was one ready to go. He put it aside for me! Nice guy. The best part? He said that I can pick up, even though they don't officially have a retail shop anymore, even though the place doesn't look like much from the front. Not a problem, he said. All right!

I'll have a new heater by the end of the week...

photo shoot

Paul emailed me a few moments ago. He's been watching the weather at his remote telescope location, from the Sierra Remote Observatories in California. It looks like it's gonna be clear. Cool. So he's gonna try to photograph Meissa in Orion for me! Very cool! So to get some current imagery. See if we can figure out what's going on in terms of stars in the area. Track down the mystery star...

I'm excited.

Monday, March 09, 2009

coffee with Guy

Guy needed one of the RASC projectors; I wanted to borrow his collimation tools (again).

I was to work in the morning in Scarborough. Then, serendipitously, I'd have to drive westwards back home, along the 401, crossing Yonge St...

So, Guy and I hatched a plan for me to drop by his house, very near Yonge and The World's Busiest Highway, 'round noon.


Guy had a fresh pot of java ready when I arrived. I could smell it as soon as I walked in. First things first. Guy showed me his video of the Arethusa occultation. He wasn't rubbing my nose in it; it revealed his satisfaction at his 11th successful hit. And I could tell he was disappointed for me. I could have captured some more data to help build up the profile.

I vented. I was frustrated with the situation. That I had "lost" my eyepiece dew heater some time back. And therefore was without a complete anti-dew solution. Not that I hadn't been thinking about it. But it was frustrating in retrospect, that I had not expediated my efforts to build my own. Heck, I still had not found a supplier of nichrome (or equivalent) wire in the GTA. Notwithstanding, I didn't think to put an eyepiece in my pocket as a back up. A simple thing! Guy mentioned using an eyeglasses cleaning cloth, one of those microfiber, proper, soft cloth things, keeping it in a pocket. I have a bunch of those! And I told Guy about my discovery of the 12 volt heating pad sheet things and that just a couple of weekends ago I realised they would come in very handy as a pad under my radio and recorder and that I had even bought a male CLA plug but, before leaving for Union, decided to not take it (and all my soldering gear) for lack of time or space or whatever but now, in hindsight, again I saw that it was flawed logic! ARRRRGH.

Sympathetic, Guy tried to assure me that these types of problems were common. That with the best of intentions, things can go wrong. Experienced observers forget things, skip something on their checklist, overlook something.

He was genuinely concerned that I was discouraged at this stage. That I was going to throw in the towel.

Funny, it hadn't crossed my mind...

But that remark made me realise that one could get discouraged in this particular branch of astronomy...

Anyway, it was good to chat about occultations, see what software he used (OccultWatcher) astromony in general, equipment, etc. As I am want to do, I "interviewed" Guy, to learn how and when he got started (mid-80s). Curiously, only a short time before I bought my 'scope.


At one point, I remarked that Guy had a lot of portable battery power tanks! He explained what he needed them for and how one was destined for his cottage. For him, in particular, a video-recording occultationist, it made a lot of sense to have separate, indepedent power supplies for each piece of equipment: a battery for the telescope mount, a battery for the video camera, a battery for the TV monitor, and so on.

I hadn't thought about it before, but I should probably get another battery. Increasingly, I'm trying to operate a lot of gear. I'm on the verge of finishing my LED light box. It would be good to have it on an independent supply so to avoid the pulsing feedback interference that I see when on the same circuit as the Kendrick dew heater controller...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Union omnirama

I shot photos from Mom's backyard. I stood on the west end of the concrete pad, soon to be Mom's completed "studio/observatory."

I went inside to download the photos. Weird. One of them wouldn't transfer. And finally when I previewed them, they were all messed up. Some strange striping within them. Corrupted... For a moment, I was worried the memory card was damaged. But, happily, the photos of Donna, Mom, and Steve, shot at dinner the night before, were fine. Huh. Downloaded the good photos and turfed the rest. Was ready to head back outside but now it was raining...

A couple of hours later the rain let up. I snagged a good batch of photos. I shot 43 and used most.

Like before, I used HugIn to stitch all these together. Easy work. Incredible software. Free.

Did some touch-up in GIMP.

Now, I'll be able to simulate views of Mom's backyard. And I think I'll be able to push the landscape image down a bit to accommodate for the height we will be above the ground, on the upper deck of her studio building... (Although, I'll have to change my omnirama from spherical method to "old style" so to have more control in Stellarium.)


It is curious how my old cars keep showing up in these things.

remote access, not!

Tony and crew went up to the CAO for some R&R. Also, Tony wanted to look over things, make sure the house was OK. He offered to take up, by mule pack, one of our spare computers. If the dead server had completely melted, we could sub in the new, spare computer. Hopefully, the security video board would not be fried...

I had prepared notes for Tony so to how to affect changes. I considered the option where the boot hard disk in the old server was still OK. However, it did not function when Tony put it in new computer. So, we used the new computer's prepared hard disk as the boot drive. Tony moved the "storage" hard disk and video board to the new computer. Everything seemed good.

Then I charged Tony with reconfiguring our router, now that had changed our account to use a fixed IP. He successfully entered the new WAN IP, subnet, DNS server addresses. However, we could not test if this was working...

At some point on Friday, our internet connection to had gone down. When Tony called Friday afternoon, they reported that their technicians were working on it. That was the last we heard from them... We had no idea if or when they resolved it.

So, some baby steps. New computer in place. Looks like it's OK. Router reconfigured. But we'll have to wait to see what's up with our ISP. Again...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

red clock

As I try to make my home more astronomer friendly, I realised that my bedroom digital clock radio was not ideal, with a green LED segments. A bit retro, but I wanted a red display.

I shopped for a long time... and I finally settled on the Emerson dual-alarm clock radio (with LED projector to boot) from Canadian Tire for $30 (product #44-2015-0). It's a pretty amazing unit, actually.

It features a large red LED display with digits about 3.5 cm tall. Two brightness levels. It receives on AM and FM. I like how the alarms can distinguish between week days and weekends. The battery back up is rather efficient using coin-style batteries which simply keep a real-time clock up-to-date. This concept is most impressive. It means the clock knows the time, always, without a human having to set it. You just plug into a wall socket and, presto, it shows the correct time and date! It is very unusual knowing I'll never need to adjust it (unless it drifts). And yes, that also means it automagically changes for Daylight Saving Time! Finally!

I didn't set out to get a projector clock. But the more I thought about it, the more interested I became. I recall Cameron saying he really liked his. It is very convenient certainly, just glancing at the ceiling. I like how the image can be flipped.

There's an argument for not wanting to know the time. But then, the projector can be shut off.

damn dew (Union)

My eyepiece dewed up!

There's a good chance I would have been successful with tonight's asteroid occultation, 95 Arethusa. But the 18mm eyepiece started to dew up leading up to the 2:55 prediction. And I didn't know what to do...

Guy was successful. I phoned him on his mobile. I could tell by his tone that he had nailed it. He captured good video of an 8 second event.

He said that I fell victim to Murphy's Law. But again, I'm not as inclined to say that. My 2" Kendrick eyepiece dew heater failed some time ago. I've been trying to make a replacement. But I still don't have the correct bits. The new nichrome wire I most recently purchased is not the correct resistance.

This just shows that I should have escalated this job. I should have replaced, or bought new, the dew heater by now.

It's a critical piece of equipment in these activities.

Lessons learned:
  • have all dew prevention gear installed and ready
  • have an eyepiece in a pocket, warmed
  • have an eyeglasses microfiber cloth at the ready
  • have a completed, working "anti-dew pad" built, tested, plugged in!
  • if near an AC power source, have a hair dryer handy
  • have a medium-sized cloth that the radio and recorder can both sit on and be covered by
Man, there's a lot of stuff you have to do...

getting to know Corvus (Union)

It was interesting this evening to get a chance to view some objects very low in the south. Huh. If there wasn't the hill off Mom's back yard, we might be able to see bits of Centaurus. In fact, at one point, I thought I had seen a star that belonged to that constellation. But it turned out I was misreading, in the dark, the chart. The constellation boundary lines in Pocket Sky Atlas are a bit difficult to make out in dim red light. Still, spotting γ (gamma) Hydrae, in the tail of the snake, was fun. Looks like it was about 18° up in elevation.

Shortly before 1:06 AM, I prepared to locate a double star in Corvus. Geese were nattering away off in the east somewhere. Coyotes yipped to the north. I found the finder scope on my Celestron SCT dewed up! The Oregon Scientific weather station reported 63% humidity and -0.4°C. My custom dew heaters were still installed but they are broken and I've not gotten around to fixing them yet. So I took the 8" heater from the corrector plate, after covering the open end of the dew shield with the cap, and I wrapped it length-wise around the finder scope. I left it try for about 5 minutes. That worked nicely.

δ (delta) Corvi, aka Algorab was easy to find. It is a pleasing double, easily separated at low power. The main star is bright, but the other is faint. I took a wild guess at the separation being a bit less than 30 arc-seconds (Haas, from her book double stars, says they are 24.9" apart). The main star looked yellow-white while the companion was a challenge to put a colour to. Perhaps pale blue. Hey! I remembered to guesstimate the Position Angle and remembered to use the correct orientation through my SCT with mirror diagonal, i.e. clockwise. I estimated the PA to be 220 degrees (Haas says 217°).


Once again, I learned, after the fact, that I have already looked at this double star!

But this has highlighted an error. I had recorded the wrong short form for the constellation name upon my first observation. My old entry shows as "Cor" when it should be "Crv."


As the evening wore on, despite the improvement in altitude, I could not see Crater clearly. Only δ Crateris stood out.

set up after nap

I set up the 8" telescope beside Mom's veggie garden. It was humid and the Moon was bright.

After cap nap number 2, I was ready to go.

When I finished aligning on Polaris, I headed to Saturn.

I saw three moons to the right of the rings, at low power. Some light clouds interfered. Later, at 76 magnification, I picked up a fourth moon to the right.

Friday, March 06, 2009

initiated CSC sponsorship

At long last, I have completed the RASC Toronto Centre sponsorship of three Clear Sky Charts.

A short time ago, as I was surfing through Attilla Danko's Clear Sky Charts pages, I noticed a couple of things. The sponsor page did not include the RASC Toronto Centre. And on the CAO in particular, the sponsor area was empty. Huh.

I read the sponsor information, sent a report to council, and urged we support the resource we all use and rely on.

Kepler away!

The Kepler space telescope (atop a USAF Delta II rocket) blasted into orbit. This new telescope will continuously scan a region in the Cygnus constellation searching for exoplanets. In particular, it will search for smaller ones, perhaps ones about the size of Earth, in the "Goldilocks" zone, the zone around a star where water may remain in liquid form!

There are lots of articles about. Spaceflight Now has a note about the launch. Lots of videos. But you gotta pay for those... NASA has overview information in their portal. But you really want to visit the separate Kepler Mission site. It has detailed information, photos, stuff for kids, etc. And it will be updated regularly...

This is an interesting time. More and more space telescopes are going up. Next month, ESA will be sending up the biggest one yet!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

quick response

Wow. I just received a response from my asteroid occultation report... Fast!
Thanks, Blake! Are you another "Guy" recruit?

Your Report looks good. One question; how did you get your position? Google maps and a GPS unit would give WGS84 while a topo map would give NAD1927.

Brad Timerson
Head Coordinator
IOTA Asteroid Occultation Program
North America

Results at:
Funny. As I read Brad's remarks, I suddenly recalled that I had never completed the "method" by which I determined my location. I remembered looking at it as I filled out the form but I didn't understand the options. I don't think they are explained in the on-board hints page. And I remembered thinking, "Oh, I'll do it later." Clearly, I forgot (and curiously, Guy didn't catch it).

I relayed to Brad they I knew my home location data having borrowed a friend's (i.e. Ken's) WAAS-capable GPS (a Mio C210s).

lovely assistance

I felt a little like the assistant of game show host...

Tony was delivering a presentation at a local scouts and cub meeting at the Runnymede United Church. I stayed at the back and operated the computer and projector. That worked out well actually. Smoother, faster transitions.

Once again, we were surprised by the number and rapidity of questions from the cubs. They were really keen!

my first occultation report

I submitted my first official asteroid occultation report.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

still planning on it

Paul, as we spilled out of the pub, said that he was still thinking about my multiple star dilemma. He said he wanted to photograph the region but the weather's been crappy at the remote observatory.

I told him there was no rush for my situation. My strange star isn't going anywhere.

received omniramas

Eric gave me a burned CD tonight, after the RASC meeting. It contains omniramas for Barksdale Air Force Base, the David Dunlap Observatory, and the Ontario Science Centre.

I'm going to try to use these in Stellarium!


paid for CAO

I paid my annual pass fee for the RASC Toronto Centre CAO. $75. I'm good-to-go for the new season.

I plan to be at the observatory a number of weekends this year, during New Moons. Continue working on my Deep Sky Objects. I've blocked off the Open House weekend. Hopefully, I'll make it this year! And I need to get more comfortable with the C14 telescope atop the Paramount driven by TheSky...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

gold harp for chas

I bought some beer for chas for enhancing my tripod with the strap eyelet.

Swirling clouds of black gold, I picked up some Guinness.

Thank you, dude!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Stellarium demo

I've been asked by Paul to deliver a brief talk on the Stellarium astronomy software. This will be during the Wednesday 3 June RASC Toronto Centre meeting.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

no way

I was hoping this weekend to do some back-to-back evening observing...

Last night was pretty good. Pretty cold but I was warm all through it. Lots done. Lots more double stars to chase down.

Tonight? The air temperature was to go a bit lower. But the winds will be ferocious! Gusting to over 50 km!

Nope. I'm not going out.

heating pad idea

I just figured out a good application for one of the 12 volt heating pads I have: a warm (and dry) surface for radios and digital recorders.

I stumbled across these large, 10x10", thin, self-adhesive heating pads at Sayal. Cheap, I've picked up a couple. But I haven't come up with any really practical uses for them.

Last night though, I saw that the Samsung digital recorder's LCD display was not working in the extreme cold. Same with the Grundig radio's display. They were sluggish or non-responsive. It's not difficult to imagine that these displays could be damaged in even colder temperatures.

Thinking ahead, in the middle of the summer, there might be a lot of dew. A lot of moisture on the radio or recorder would not be good.

So, I'll rig up one of these heating pads with some long leads and a male Cigarette Lighter Adapter plug.


Some sort of fabric cover over this thing might be a good idea. Removeable. Washable. Fire resistant. ;-) But I'll worry about that later...

In the meantime, perhaps I'll just use an old cloth, or towel. Wash cloths might be the perfect size...

very cold observing (Toronto)

Got lots done tonight! Some new and exciting double stars, got to know the neighbours, bit of show-and-tell for the neighbours, couple of Messier favourites, some planets and moons, did the best sketch yet of λ (lambda) Orionis, and participated in my first official asteroid occultation (a miss). But it was bloody cold...


I don't remember when the whole plan started to form. It must have been some time on Thursday or Friday as I looked at the weekend weather reports and saw clear skies predicted. Feeling optimistic I thought I could get some back-to-back observing nights in. That said, I already had an event Friday night, not one I was going to cancel. So Saturday would be the "big night" then, for astronomy! And maybe Sunday too? I considered a quick pack in case I wanted to reset for Sunday night.

Not that I need any help in the matter but I was able to sleep in a bit Friday morning. That would benefit me gaming Friday night. I could repeat that sleep shifting, staying in bed Saturday morning too, and then I'd be primed for Saturday night. But for some reason, I woke around 7:00 AM. I tried to fall back asleep. Alas.

Something of an unknown quantity was if Malcolm needed my help for repairing his car on Monday. When he called me live on Saturday afternoon suggesting he could drop the car directly, that relieved me of early morning duties.

So, I started to ramp up Saturday afternoon. Added asteroid (51222) 2000 JE24 to Stellarium. Reviewed my session pre-flight check list. Slowly began the assembly of the tripod and mount. Put the tube outside for a long cool down. Red lights on. New red light bulb to the garage. One of the big things I wanted to get a good handle on was light. Light pollution? Light interference?


I phoned Diane and Mark, neighbours to the west, ground level. Diane answered. I asked if they could keep lights down at the back of their house. She said they would be happy to oblige. I encouraged them to pop outside with the kids. I would have some RASC star finders on hand...

I phoned Lise and Don, neighbours to the west, upper level. Left a message. Don called back a little while later. They would be very happy to keep lights off. He said he was "intrigued," he had noticed me outside at other times. Nice! Some good bridge building there. I've never officially met them until now.

Visited the top floor of the house and spoke to Brian. He said he'd take care of the lights at the back of the house.

Phoned the middle floor and left a message. Kris didn't answer his cell. Looks like he was away anyway.

Phoned the Chernys. No answer again. Looks like they're definitely gone for the weekend. The back yard was lit up last night. Presumably the same thing would happen again. I considered putting up a tarp on the fence to serve as a light shield. But I forgot to do that in the afternoon.


Another objective for the evening was to make sure the hand warmer worked! I'd need it tonight. I revised my pre-flight check list, incorporating some new cues. And after dinner, as the sky darkened, I filled up the fuel cell so it was soaking, and then lit the burner. It took a long time to fire up, maybe 30 to 45 seconds of continous flame, but then it was good. In fact, it worked great for the rest of the evening.

It was still running long after I had come in for the evening. That was over 7 hours!


I was outside at 7-ish doing final preparations. I could see Polaris so I wanted to complete the alignment of the mount. Weird. From where I had set and leveled the tripod, I could not see alpha. Huh? Oh well. I just eyeballed it. I suspected it would be fine.

At 7:07 PM, I noticed a satellite. It was moving from south to north, between Ursa Minor and Casseiopeia. I just caught a little bit of it. It was medium brightness, brighter than Polaris. Possibly Cosmos 1766?

Venus was very pleasing in the dark sky. It was fun finding it in the day. But somehow it is more dramatic in high contrast. I thought about the "ashen light" that some report. I wonder if there's anything to it, or if it's a mental trick, or brains filling in details as an optical illusion.

The Moon was bright even though a fairly thin waxing crescent. I didn't want to look at it through the 'scope as I began to protect my night vision.

I thought my activities might attract the attention of Diane and Mark but I did not see them over the course of the evening...

I found the Cherny's damn lights on again. The one just under the roof overhang, I just realised, in fact trepasses into our yard. It goes over there tall fence into our driveway. That's not right. It's clearly on a timer but not a motion sensor.

From my garage, I grabbed one of my green camping tarps. From the car, I grabbed the box of bungees. I strapped the tarp to the fence between our back yards. It successfully blocked the light coming from their porch light through the fence slates. The upper light is a problem though... I'm going to have to talk to them about fixing this. I do not want to have to deal with this again. Take 'em a light pollution brochure?

An upstairs house light was on. Steadily. I couldn't see anyone about. I had to remind Brian to shut it off. He immediately extinguished it. Much better! Thank you!

According to the Oregon Scientific (OS) weather station, it was 9:02 PM. Initially I misread this: it was still set to summer time. It was much later that I figured this out. The weather station reported 50% humidity and -8.5°C. I had remembered to check the dew point for this evening: -18. Brrr. The predicted low was -15. I was finally ready to go!


OK. Let's have some fun. It was as dark in the back as I was going to get it. I had over 3 hours to play before the occultation. I had a new working (rendition, formatting?) of the Sky & Tel's winter double star list, sorted by constellation. I looked for a target. I considered objects in Andromeda but she was setting behind the coniferous. So, Aries then. Let's try γ (gamma) Arietis, just above the thin Moon.

I was ready to star hop from β (beta) but I realised I had bull's eyed γ in the finder scope, the middle of the grouping of 3 stars, including ι (iota). I thought the double stars were identical, in colour and brightness. A yellowy white colour. They were easily split at low power, 52x [ed: that's 56x, not 52x]. I went up to higher power but their colour and brightness remained the same. They looked like a pair of little tiny car headlights. Or moth eyes! Have you ever seen moth eyes?! Exactly the same.

The seeing is not good. Airy disks were jumping around...

(It turns out that I've seen this double before. It is clearly marked in my Haas double stars book, checked off. It is also noted in my double star life list. Huh! But that check mark, for whatever reason, had not found it's way to my winter list. Honestly, I had a funny feeling about this... But, at the time, I couldn't put my finger on it. And I didn't bother to check my hard copy of the lift list... Oh well, it's still a fine winter double.)

Next up: ι (iota) Cassiopeiae. I star hopped from ε (epsilon). There is a little gaggle of stars near ε that served as a handy little arrow. Blinking, clearing my eye, at lowest power, I didn't see anything at first. Did I have the right star? I looked again... ah ha! To the right of the blue white star, I could see a much fainter dusty orange star. It was fairly close. I cranked up the power, first to 77x, and then 111x. Hey! It's a triple! There was another star closer to the main star, but below and to the left. It looked orangey too, same colour as the other nearby star. The closer star is slightly brighter than the more distant one. Very nice. Got out the Barlow and went to 222x. Now all the stars were easily split. A triple...

Oh, let's do a Position Angle notation, I thought! In order to make better log entries, I need to get comfortable with the PA. I shut off the drive for a moment to get the east-west bearing. Everything drifted to the left. This bearing was close to the line with the more distant star. North was up. In my mirror-reversed orientation, west was really west (like looking at a map). So I got that bit right.

Mentally I pictured an arc sweeping from the top, around the main star, down to the very close companion, counter-clockwise. So that put the A-B Position Angle at about 135°. And continuing around counter-clockwise, to the more distant star, the A-C PA was about 270°. I had no sense of the separation. I couldn't remember the size of the FOV for the 18mm eyepiece (which I assumed the 2x doubler would halve). Regardless, the AC separation was 3 times AB.

(I realised later in the evening, I messed up the orientation of the PA. My east-west, north-south was OK. But in a mirror-reversed orientation, the Position Angle for me will go in a clockwise direction. Right? So that would put AC at 90° and AB at 225°.)

And all this has made me wonder how the AB and AC and AD, etc, labelling goes. Are stars labelled by proximity or how they are encountered along the Position Angle arc?

So, on checking double stars for small telescopes, I saw that iota is described as a "grand triple." That it is. AB (the closest star) is noted having a PA of 230°. Uh huh. So the AB, AC is based on proximity (here, in this case). Then it showed the AC (distant star) at PA 115° (in 2004). Oh. That's different than what I noted... Close, in the correct general area. Has it moved? Or was my orientation off a little? Haas showed C is mag 9.0 while B was 6.9.

I was pleased. I was starting to figure out the whole PA thing...

The colours though. Haas says the main star is lemon yellow and the companion is blue. Webb and Smyth say: A is yellow, B is lilac, and C is blue. Man. Crazy.

That was fun, that triple star. I enjoyed that. Next!

I kept thinking about λ Orionis (and the faint star nearby that I cannot find on my charts). It was past the meridian. I wanted to get a good look while it was up high in the sky. And I wanted to have a good amount of time to do a detailed sketch. So at 8:57 PM, I headed back to λ Ori for another view. It was -8.7° and 54%. I pulled one of my custom sketching sheets, with the very large circle. I had remembered to bring out a clipboard. I attached my little red LED cliplight. Grabbed my B pencil and pink eraser. And tucked in.

I ended up plotting 14 stars.

Note: I had not drawn "G" on the sketch on my first examination. I added it later.

All right. I couldn't see anything else in the field of view. I glanced at the Oregon unit. It showed 10:22 PM. I hadn't realised at this point it was an hour ahead. I had set an alarm for the occultation on my palmtop to go off one hour before the event. I wondered why I hadn't heard anything at 10:13 PM... I was feeling a little chilled so I decided to take a break, warm up, and check my Psion.

There was ice on the mirror diagonal from my breathing.


The neighbours Lise and Don came out as I was finishing up my sketching. Awesome!

We shook hands, formerly meeting for the first time. I thanked them for turning off lights. They were keen to learn what I was doing. Lots of questions. The first was how much it cost. I let them have a look at the double star. I explained how I was trying to track down an uncharted star. We talked about the RASC. Then I turned to the Great Orion Nebula, M42. We enjoyed the grey nebula cloud surrounding the Trapezium. Don asked me how far away it was. I couldn't remember... I'll have to get that to him (1600 ly). Finally, I turned to the Moon. Lise was blown away by that! She said more than once that she never really looked up at the night sky. I gave them a RASC planisphere. Don was really interested in this stuff. I think Lise had a Galileo Moment.

I suggested they come out later, perhaps in a couple of hours, and we might get a look at Saturn. From the sidewalk, I showed them where Saturn was, below Leo.


Once inside, I quickly discovered I was way ahead of time! So, I decided to take the opportunity for a long break. Get really warm before sitting, in the cold, not moving, for up to an hour! I realised I need to wear another layer. I put my ski pants by the door...

In Stellarium, I reviewed lambda. My diagram was pretty good, surprisingly good positioning. I was seeing some stars down to 11.90 magnitude. But there was one star within the magnitude range, to the north, that I hadn't picked up.

So, around 10:00 PM I headed back out, encased in ski pants, to find this other star. And there it was. I hadn't noticed it before. It required averted vision to catch it. It was good to see it, to give as best a range of stellar magnitudes. I labelled this new star "G."

My candidate star "C" I noted was brighter than "G." That would then put C's magnitude higher than 11.70. I forgot to write down what it was less than! DOH!


I heard my palmtop alarm inside the house. It was 10:13 PM. Occultation time! 1 hour to go. OK. Grabbed, from inside the house, the shortwave radio for time signals and Samsung yepp digital music player for digital recording. Set them up near the garage. Couldn't get a signal from the Canadian channels; I picked up a medium quality signal on 2500.

Then, using my custom finding charts from Stellarium, colours inverted thanks to old Fireworks, I began to home in on the target star.

Just then Don came out to see what I was up to. Unfortunately, I was in the thick of it. I was not real good company at this point. I kept getting lost. He apologised for being distracting. I felt bad. I told him I'd keep him in the loop during my future observing sessions. He went back inside. I tried again from finder scope, 36mm, 26mm, and finally found the faint target star, and centred on it in the 18mm. The target star was GSC 02423-01036, a magnitude 10.1 star in Auriga, 3 degrees, 40 minutes due south of θ (theta) Aurigae.

It was about 20 minutes before the occultation prediction time of 23:13:00. I verified the recording was working OK. The radio signal was fading. I switched to 5000 kHz and it was much better!

I settled in at the eyepiece and dug the toasty hand warmer out of my pocket...

Not a lot to report here... For 45 minutes, I waited. The target star did not wink out. It did not waver in brightness. The only thing that happened is that my toes got cold. I had forgotten to double up on socks!

I wondered if Guy, up at The Forks of the Credit, had seen anything.

I packed up the occultation gear at about 11:45 PM. I was a little worried that the yepp had stopped recording. The display wasn't blinking! It did respond correctly though as I shut it down.


OK. What now? It was 12:01 AM (really). It was -10.3° and 56%. I checked the OneWorld weather station: air pressure was 1023 mBar. There was frost on the telescope case and some of my books. Saturn was still not clear of the house.

I scanned visually, with the finder scope, and with my binoculars, but I didn't see Lulin. Kept bumping into the Beehive.

More double stars then? Sure. Off to ζ (zeta) Cancri. I made the short star hop from M44 via θ Cnc. It was pleasing at low power. The primary star was pale yellow; the companion was very similar in colour. Perhaps a hint of orange.

Admittedly, going into this, I knew there was something interesting about ζ. It is listed twice on the Sky & Tel list. So that suggested it is a triple. But I wasn't seeing anything obvious. Was it the main star? The main star didn't seem entirely round. My imagination? I bumped up the power. All the way to 222x with the barlow. A figure-8, an hourglass shape, perhaps? I think I was just splitting the main star. Again, was it my imagination? I pulled out the 4mm eyepiece. 500x! Whoa baby! That didn't really help matters. The crappy seeing, the light pollution, I couldn't tell.

All that said, I'm pretty sure that I was seeing two equally bright, identically coloured points almost perfectly in-line with the more distant companion. The Position Angles should be similar. Those two points in the main star though? Incredible close.

Haas says: the AC pair is split at low power and are 5.9" apart. But the AB pair is 0.9 to 1.2" apart. I've split down to 1.5 (in fact, that was 57 Cnc). I've split Porrima (listed as 0.4" in 2004). Magnitudes between 5.1 and 6.3. And the PAs are 61 and 72°.

This will merit another look under better, darker, cleaner skies. Perhaps more horsepower will be needed...


I was feeling tired, lethargic. I was tempted to pack it up. But I saw now, if I swung the mount around the meridian dead zone, I'd be able to tag Saturn. Giddy-up!

At 12:34 AM, I could see a few moons.

Brian came out at that point. Or perhaps he had just returned from a midnight snack run. "You've been out here a long time." I hadn't really thought about it but, yeah, about 5 hours... I thanked him for turning off lights. We looked at Saturn, at 56x [ed: corrected]. He could spot the faint moons as I pointed them out. I explained why the rings looked the way they did, and why we could see moons, and how in general you knew moons from stars.

He asked some interesting questions:

"What's this?" looking at the whole thing. I wasn't quite sure what he meant. Really? The whole thing? "A telescope?" I answered. "Yeah, that's it." And I knew where he was going with it. "I couldn't remember if it was a microscope or a telescope." I pointed out, "They're essentially the same. It's just a question of which end you look in."

And, as per usual, "How far away is that?" And this time, I remembered. "Saturn is 1.3 billion kilometres away."

Cold, he headed inside. I dropped in a more powerful eyepiece and picked up another moon. Mirror-reversed, left to right, I saw Titan (4 to 5 total ring widths away), Rhea (1 rw), Saturn, Tethys, and Dione (both about 1/2 rw).

But I too was thinking of being inside. I packed up at 12:40.

That was a good night.


I got an idea for the OS weather station. I shouldn't place it in the triangle tray within the tripod. Space is at a premium there and it is easily toppled over. I'll fasten it to one of the tripod legs. I'll just need a strap of some kind around the leg.


I realised during the occultation, as the signal faded in and out, that you really need to keep the shortwave radio within arm's reach. If the signal was completely lost, you'd need to select a new station.

That also will require being able to operate the radio "blind..." Oh. That's gonna take some practice.


Another surprise during this occultation was that my seat position became increasingly uncomfortable as it carried on. This was because I had my adjustable seat set too low. I had not considered an observing session of 45 minutes. The telescope would move almost 15 degrees.

Also, I continue to find the seat angled slightly down. I should shim it again. Or put something grippy on the seat proper.


Another occultation note. I totally forgot to have a stopwatch with me, in case the radio and recorder failed. I'll have to make sure that's on my packing and pre-flight check lists.