Monday, June 29, 2009

RASC stuff

Did a bunch of things for the RASC today...

Monitored the weather and security servers. Both are working.

Learned from Tony that the weather station is working fine, on battery power. No messages on the console. Good news.

After a reply from Tony, I tried to gently deflect Eric from the CAO supervisor group. I encouraged him to ask, if he needed anything.

Helped Tony with the old Dell laptop. He couldn't get it to connect wirelessly to the CAO network. Was OK wired. We checked all the settings. Everything seemed in order. But he reported it showed the IP number as 0.0.0.0. So I walked him through renewing the DHCP lease. It worked.

While chatting, he reported that the new remote control for the Panasonic projector worked fine. That's a relief. He tried the mute, menu, adjusting the keystone. Sounds like the arrow keys, enter, backup, are all working. Thank you!

He reported the new phone / intercom worked well. Maybe too well. Apparently he received many pages while in the GBO... Be careful what you wish for.

Phil had made some comments based on observations of the CAO Bookings page(s). I made a number of adjustments to the content to clarify things. He thinks it is better now. I looked into, once again, how to change the calendar itself, the fields and prompts. Something just does not seem to be working right. Oh well. I'll let this work itself out later, with a new server setup. In the meantime, we can add a bit more detail to the booking details themselves...

This reminded me that a bunch of this content lives outside the CMS. I need to move it inside.

Sent yet another message to the WPP...

I updated the CAO GBO telescope-eyepiece matrix spreadsheet. Switched to a landscape layout. Seems to flow a bit better now. Some improved formatting. Added a row for a "guest" eyepiece. Uploaded it.

Did some tiding up in the CAO supervisors Yahoo!Group. Sent the councillors the list of files contained within that group.

All that said, I turned down a lunch meeting with Leslie and Diane, as they work on education materials.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

remote untested

It's been quite a while now. Tony has the new Panasonic remote. And I still have no idea if it works with the Panasonic projector.

When he returns from the CAO, I will collect all the equipment and test it myself.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Moon over Toronto

It rained most of the way back from Calabogie Motorsports Park. That said, I successfully dodged some I-Don't-Think-We're-In-Kansas-Anymore-Toto dark clouds. As I neared Toronto, the skies cleared out. At one point I noticed the young Moon. It looked about 3 or 4 days old, a curved crescent.

Hopefully, Tony and gang were enjoying clear skies up at the CAO.

I had entertained the idea of going up...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

happy customers

Nice note from Stu:
I just wanted to post a quick note to say that my wife and I were able to spend 2 nights at CAO this week. Blake, Dietmar and Millie were great company and showed me and Nancy a lot. I was able to find 35 Messiers, 26 of which were firsts for me, and Nancy got to identify a whole lot of constellations and look through everything from my 85mm refractor to the C14. We hiked the loop of the Bruce Trail during the day and generally enjoyed ourselves.

If you've been thinking of going to the CAO, it's well worth the trip. Check with Dietmar on availability and get out under the Milky Way.

Stu
I'm glad they were happy. I had to keep reminding myself that I was there for them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

batteries only

On Monday and Tuesday, I tried a bunch of other things to resolve the Davis WeatherLink communication issues. I swapped the "simple" cable for one with a ferrite bead. No improvement. I made a point of keeping the cables far apart. I thought this worked but no go. In a moment of inspiration, I installed a USB hi-speed 2.0 PCI adapter card, from another CAO computer, into the server and hooked the camera to this port. Different port; distal from the main board 1.1 USB connectors. Thought this was the magic bullet. No joy.

In the end, I asked Dietmar to disconnect the AC adapter. Now we're running the Davis Vantage Pro 2 weather station on batteries only.

All seems well...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

debugged dew system

Well, not the dew heater; the power supply.

When I fired up the GBO telescope and checked over everything, I noticed the Kendrick dew heater controller was not illuminated. It normally shows a message on the red display (I forgot at the time, but one of the words is simply STATUS). Nothing. Blank. I.e. off.

I asked Dietmar if there was a switch or special procedure. He said, "Don't touch it. It's normally on."

I said, "It's not on."

We traced the problem upstream to the power supply. Various voltage tests with DMMs and plugging into a 12 V DC device (their portable fridge) later, we deduced the power supply was dead. I asked Dietmar if it had a fuse. He didn't know. I took the cover off. We found 2 fuses inside. One was not conducting...

We sent a note with a photo to the CAO supervisors.



And made a point of avoid dew on the C14.

I remembered to install the dew shield!

§

Stumbled across 2 Ziploc bags with little fuses and little zip-ties. Incredibly, the fuses were the correct size, and amps, for the dew heater power supply! We were back in business.

I have no idea what these little baggies are for.

southern stars

Tried to spot stars of Centaurus but that was out of the question. Still, I could see a couple of stars of Lupus.

This gave me an opportunity to verify my CAO landscape in Stellarium was working properly.

circle of faeries (Blue Mountains)

After all the talk on the RASC Toronto Centre listserv, I decided to try to view this so called Fairy Ring in Cygnus. Easy to hit the target with the C14.

Interesting view with the 55mm eyepiece. All of the stars were fairly faint. There were a couple of bright yellow stars. Lots of field stars, of course.

Geoff found a good photo on the net...

Monday, June 22, 2009

measuring Porrima (Blue Mountains)

With Dietmar's assistance, with the RASC Toronto Centre's C14, I tried to measure the separation and position angle of Porrima.

While I had forgotten to bring along Teague's article, describing easy-to-do methods which would yield more accurate results, I had a freshly downloaded copy of the Celestron documentation for the Micro Guide eyepiece. It would have to do.

preparations
I installed the society's 2" Tele Vue 4x Powermate onto the big SCT. Wow. The view was unusable. So, I grabbed my 1¼" Celestron 2x Barlow from the THO.

Now I needed to measure the drift time given the optical path...
  1. Celestron 14" SCT (on Paramount ME)
  2. Optec Temperature Compensated Focuser (on)
  3. Tele Vue 2" mirror
  4. 2"-to-1¼" adapter
  5. Celestron Ultima 2x Barlow (mine)
  6. Celestron 12.5mm Micro Guide eyepiece (Geoff's)
For some reason, the 2"-to-1¼" adapter did not tightly grip the Barlow. So I had to angle it up a bit to not fall out. And be careful when turning it... It worked out OK.

First, I needed to figure out how to stop tracking with the Paramount. I asked Dietmar but he wasn't entirely sure. So I explored a bit in TheSky6, checking the on-board help and some web sites online. Found something that sounded promising. Tried it and it worked:
  1. Choose the Telescope command.
  2. Hover on the Options command. Tracking is listed in the submenu and checked if on.
  3. Click the Tracking command to disable (or enable).
I roughly aligned the Micro Guide-Barlow assembly to the celestial equator. I put the target star at one end of the Linear Scale. The Celestron documentation said to start from the middle but I did not see the point in that. Then I asked Dietmar to shut off the tracking. After a couple of tries, I had the reticule well aligned.

We repeated this process now to capture the times for the target star to travel across the whole length of the Linear Scale. Using my palmtop Stopwatch program with the lapping feature, I saved the times into a text file. It moved fast!

8.53
9.04
9.14
9.04

The first time I started with the star on the 0 (zero) mark, told Dietmar to "go," and then when I saw the field start to move, I started the timer. I realised this would have inherit delay. For the 2nd and subsequent tries, I put the target star outside the Large Circular Scale, and then hit the lap time key for when it crossed 0 and then 60. Just like a race car.

The mean with all four times is 8.94; the last three times: 9.07.

This gives a scale division of 2.24 to 2.27.

separation
I estimated the primary and secondary stars of Porrima to be approximately 2/3 of the distance between the divisions along the Linear Scale.

I turned the Micro Guide 90° to double-check. The stars straddled just outside the parallel lines of the Linear Scale. I recalled that the parallel lines are half the distance between the tick marks.

Using my scale division values above, this gives a separation of 1.49 to 1.52.

position angle
Using the outer values of the Large Circular Scale, I estimated the position angle to be 30°.

§

The PA looks way off. But I need to find some "current" PA and Sep figures to know if I'm on or off track. Haas stated that Porrima is PA 179° and sep 0.4" in 2004. And, again, Eric stated 1.25" a couple of weeks back... He did not quote his source. And he did not quote a PA.

Also, interesting to note: after re-reading Teague's article, I learned/realised that it is not useable, his "better way," for extremely tight doubles, when they are not separated by more than 1 tick... Maybe I should have left the 4x TV in...

No worries. I'm just getting my legs. Learning all the methods. And presumably I'll get so comfortable with all of them that I can dash them off and compare the results.

clouds again?

We were all closely watching the weather. It was looking like it was going to be a repeat.

I decided to stay with the C14. Faster. Quicker.

showed Saturn (Blue Mountains)

Once again, after dinner, I fired up the C14 to view Saturn. This evening we were joined by Nancy and Stuart. Good to have some "customers" finally.

viewing from THO (Blue Mountains)

I was warm. Sweating in my RASC pullover. In the 18° air. No doubt exciting mosquitos in a 5 km (100?) radius. I remember this happening last summer. I need to move more slowly. Slow down. I opened all the floor vents to let the air move through the THO observatory.

I had not done any of my normal observing planning. I.e. I had not selected any particular targets. My main objective, really, was to start using Geoff's calibrated eyepiece on some double stars.

And wouldn't you know it. In my haste to leave the city, I forgot all my new double star materials! In particular, the Double-Star Measurement Made Easy article by Thomas Teague. I had carefully read this article, making notes. I wanted to use his second method, one that seemed relative easy but that yielded accurate results. I had already built a spreadsheet in my palmtop to assist with the calculations. Ironically, this article was in the July 2000 Sky and Telescope magazine which I had signed out two weeks ago from the Troyer Library—here at the CAO! I even forgot to transfer the actual documentation PDF I had previously downloaded from the Celestron web site.

Oh well. I resigned myself to just winging it.

I resolved to use June 2009 The Evening Sky Map as a guide...

I was pleased to see that the ASUS netbook was able to connect to the CAO wireless router. Barely. The signal strength in the THO was very low and occasionally I'd get very sluggish response. I briefly tried searching for Teague's article but while in the S&T archive, it is not available for free.

I considered doing immediate updates to my blog again but I didn't want to spend all my time at the computer. And without a proper chair it was a little uncomfortable. I had forgotten to bring my lawn chair. Didn't think to get one from the house.

It was challenging observing. With my "push-to" telescope, if I chose a target, but then took too much time planning my star hop, by the time I'd get there, clouds were covering that region of the sky. Tried finding some interesting doubles in Cepheus but had to scrub.

12:22 AM. I turned to Rasalgethi, α (alpha) Herculis. I enjoyed the yellow and blue colours. I put my Celestron 2x Barlow in front of the Celestron Micro Guide. I estimated the separation to be 1-1/3 ticks on the Scale Division rule in the centre of the reticule. I turned off the clock drive to find west in the field. And then I guestimated the position angle 100°. I did a little sketch to help me with the PA.

I left the notes as is, to do the calculations and checks later. [I calculated the separation to be 6.86". Haas says it was 4.8", with a position angle of 103°, in 2003.]

1:42. Once again, I had put my two portable weather stations to use. The Oregon Scientific was inside with me, muggy; and the OneWorld was outside, dewy, with the bugs. Inside it was 16.4°C and 73% humidity; outside: 13.8° and 99%.

Overhead was clear. OK. Let's go for Messier 39 (M39). Eye-catching in the finder. Should be a good binocular subject. Viewed with the baader planetarium 36mm at 56x. It is a large, loose open cluster. Pretty, fine, blue-white stars with the yellow or orange sprinkled in. But it was cropped in the 1° plus field. I need less power! I checked the telescope specs spreadsheet in my palmtop: minimum recommended power for the C8 was 29x. Time for a walkabout... I visited Millie on the observing pad and then Dietmar in the Warm Room. While in the GBO, I grabbed the Tele Vue 55mm Plössl. This offered a more satisfying view, at 36x, of the cluster. The TESM said it can be spotted naked eye! Really?

I was getting frustrated chasing sucker holes. So, I popped out of the THO and headed over the observing pad. Millie, unencumbered by walls, could quickly turn any which way. She was getting stuff done. A good polar alignment and GOTO helps too. It crossed my mind to close up the THO and use the ultra fast 'mount in the GBO...

I laid prone on the seat of the picnic table and took in the whole sky. At times it was difficult to distinguish between the Milky Way and high clouds. But, gradually, happily, it was clearing. I pointed out Jupiter rising!

I tried to use Millie's Celestron binos but had trouble. I wondered if they were dewing up...

2:10. Back in the THO. It was clear in the north-east. Found δ (delta) Cephei. Wow! Very pretty. Very wide pair, wide even at 55mm (Haas says 40.6"). Yellow and blue. Apparently the main star of the pair is a famous variable star. I didn't think to note it's current magnitude...

2:27. The Jovian planet and moons were calling. And I recalled that Neptune was in the mix. I viewed them all at low power. I put the Tele Vue 10mm Radian (also nabbed from the GBO) on the last planet in the solar system (yielding 200x). Dark blue. Hard to resolve.

I sketched the wide field view (mirror-reversed). Neptune is nearest to the West marker. The four moons are in a straight line of course, with Ganymede above and left, then, down and to the right, Europa, Io, and finally Callisto.



2:52. While in da 'hood, I decided to check some doubles in Capricornus. Viewed α1 (alpha 1) and α2 (alpha 2) Capricorni. Wow. One is a yellow-blue double. Other is a single yellow star. Unless that distant blue is its companion. There are some other field stars here. I better view this again and make some better notes and do a sketch...

β1 (beta 1) and β2 (beta 2) Capricorni is interesting. Yellow-blue-blue flattened isosceles triangle. (I didn't realise I had already viewed this pair.)

I tried to split π (pi) and ρ (rho) again. No joy. This is weird. Haas lists them so they should be easy for me... I'm not very happy.

3:42. Tried for 16 Cygni. I observed a wide pair of faint white stars, easily split with the 36mm (Haas says they're 39.1" apart). I tried to further split the stars into sub components. No joy.

My back was sore. I was yawning like crazy despite having drunk some coffee. I decided to lock up. I couldn't go any longer. I couldn't wait for sunrise...

Millie had gone to bed some time before.

I popped into the GBO. Dietmar was packing up too. Something was wrong with his guiding. I could see the trails in the photos. We locked up with my keys.

Hey, hey! As we walked back to the house, I saw Mars and Venus rising over the mountain. No sign of Mercury though. Still, we enjoyed the view.

4:30. From my bedroom, as I turned out the light, I looked out the east window. Still couldn't see Mercury.

avoided crash

I almost crashed the big 'scope. Dietmar caution me about leaving the C14 unattended. I thought I had parked it (which disconnects) but the 'scope was still running when I headed out to the THO.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saturn at dusk (Blue Mountains)

Now that I had a properly configured TheSky6 setup, with Tpoint model active, I put the C14 on Saturn. While Dietmar set up his imaging equipment, Millie and I viewed the ringed planet in a blue sky. We watched the moons slowly emerge from the bright background: Titan, Rhea, and then Enceladus. We tried to coax out more but just couldn't do it.

The seeing was slowly getting worse.

Clouds started rolling in...

got Tpoint

It was good to work through some things with Dietmar here at the CAO. We were able to properly configure my installation CAO telescope mount software.

I logged into my account on the GBO laptop and fired up TheSky6. I verified a wireless internet connection and double-checked that the time was correct. We checked the location as well.

I asked Dietmar to check if everything looked OK.

He pointed to the top-left corner of the display space in the program and said that this is where one would see the Tpoint icon. I had expected to see it there. Clearly, I did not have his model. No wonder I have been having trouble in the past.

We quickly copied it from his memory stick. I made a couple of backups.

Now I'm good to go.

respite from rain (Blue Mountains)

With some work cancelled, and after a dismal grey weekend, I suddenly decided to head up to the E.C. Carr Astronomical Observatory for Monday and Tuesday. I was craving some dark skies. This time would actually centre on the New Moon. Also, I needed to do further computer work and chores at the CAO.

I had tried to hitch a ride with Millie and Dietmar but they had loaded the Outlook to the gills. No room for another human.

I drove up via Highway 410 and once again took Heart Lake Road (even though the conditions did not merit it). The plan this time was to stay on it. I wanted to see what this route was like. In the future, if the Highway 10 construction and traffic combination between Caledon and Orangeville is bad, this might prove an excellent alternate. Straight as an arrow (except for the little east jog at Olde Baseline Rd). There are 2 problems though with this road: 60 km/h all the way from King St up to Hwy 9. And solid yellow line. Still, very lightly travelled...

At 10:55 AM, I was the first to arrive at the CAO. I began some repair and maintenance and other activities.
  • scooped stinky coon poop from back step
  • delivered my new donated copy of the Peterson Field Guide Birds of Eastern and Cental North America
  • delivered the Compaq mini-tower #3, keyboard, and mouse (which I may put into service very soon...)
  • delivered dried basil leaves to kitchen; put in little jar; excess to freezer
  • delivered small tube of Instant Krazy Glue to kitchen
  • installed new Panasonic cordless phone system, putting handset #1 and the base in the kitchen using the wall mount (although it's a little high), putting handset #2 in the Geoff Brown Observatory, and—unable to decide where—I put the third handset in the dining room, to charge
  • decommissioned the corded phones in the kitchen and GBO
  • printed additional copies of the GBO supervisor log sheet; installed in duo-tang book
  • removed 2008 supervisor log sheets from book; moved to cupboard archive
  • printed a new version of the GBO telescope-eyepiece power-FOV matrix
  • inspected all of the fire extinguishers (5); signed
  • redeployed the old 3-station FM-wireless intercom to garage, workshop, and kitchen
  • fixed a couple of the red LED solar lamps; super-glued one of them
  • inspected the Davis weather station box, the main large box, to see if I could learn the precise specs of the Integrated Sensor Suite (but I couldn't find anything)
  • replaced the damaged female end of an extension cord
  • replaced the damaged male end of the power cord on the table saw
  • replaced the old ends of the garden house with new brass fittings
  • checked the fuse type in the electrical cut-off for the water heater
  • debugged the non-functional dew heater on the C14; determined it was an internal fuse; asked Dietmar to photograph it
Ironically, Dietmar called my mobile at noon; I had been trying to reach Tony. I rang Dietmar back from new cordless phone and told him where I was. "Good for you!" he said. Funny. I asked him how the phone sounded: he reported it was fine.

Millie and Dietmar arrived mid-afternoon. When I confirmed that no one wanted to use the THO, I moved in. No active paper wasps.

Throughout the afternoon and evening we tested the new phone system's intercom. Even Millie tried it. In particular, we tried the handsets between the THO and GBO. They worked! "Excellent range," Dietmar said. So, that's it: we shall keep the Panasonics.

§

This new phone system "avoids" another issue, the loose, badly assembled phone connection in the GBO, both the pooring wiring in the junction box, and the loosely fitting RJ45 connector on the wall...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

LEDs to eyepiece case

At long last, I installed red LEDs into the lid of the eyepiece case. I suddenly felt motivated to do something...



It turned out to be a big job. About 4 to 5 hours of work! Actually, there's still a bit more to do. But the hard stuff is done.

I had stumbled across a little Ziploc of 38 ohm resistors. With them, I quickly prototyped and tested the circuit. I put 4 of the small dome style red LEDs in the breadboard. As I connected each LED, I watched the brightness of the lit domes. There was no noticeable degradation. Heck, let's put 6 LEDs in the lid then, versus the 4 initially planned. I had lots of LEDs and it looked like 8 of the resistors.

I cut out a small piece of a general circuit board and soldered in the 6 resistors. I wired up long black leads. I drilled small holes in the lid baffles. Then installed this main harness in the lid, trying to centre the circuit board.

Found a small switch from one of the garden solar lights. Perfect! I mounted it in the lid and wired it to the circuit board. Then I connected this to the gravity switch. I had bought 2 of these old tilt switches, with the metal ball inside the clear case, many moons ago at Active Surplus. Always wanted to use one.

Connected to the negative lead on the AA battery box. Tested my work so far for continuity, shorts, and proper ohms at the black leads. 38.

I drilled more small holes and completed feeding the negative leads through the lid.

For a long time, I considered where to place the LEDs. Once I settled on this, I drilled smaller holes to the thin leads from the tiny dome LED packages. I deliberately angled these holes to bias the LED forward or outward, versus straight down. I did all this for the 4 inner LEDs. The outside LEDs I decided to position at the bottom of the upper trays. Now I was able to attach the black wires to the cathodes.

After drilling more holes, for the positive path this time, I fed a single long red wire through the baffles. I routed it close to the LEDs. I scraped the sheath from the red lead at the appropriate locations and soldered to the anodes.

I made the circuit live as I attached each LED so I could immediately test. The tilt switch works great.



I finished assembly with the outer, lower 2 LEDs. These I'll affix to the edge of the lid compartments with some glue; I did not want to drill through the lid.

Turned off all the living room lights and did a full darkess test. Awesome.

ε (epsilon) case improved! Version 1.1, I guess.

§

I need to glue everything down, including the tilt switch box. Need to figure a way to secure the battery box. Strong glue? And I need to bolt down the kill switch. And then photograph!

Friday, June 19, 2009

good call

I think I made a good call on the weather this weekend...

I popped into NOAA's site to see what was going on.



Zoinks! Look what's heading straight for the CAO!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

SkyNews in mailbox

Well, at least there will be something astronomical to do this weekend...

The July/August issues of SkyNews was sitting in my mailbox.

Hey, there's an article on sketching deep-sky objects. I look forward to that.

Hey, Stef got the cover!

made a no-go call

The weather is not looking good for the weekend. So, as the fill-in CAO supervisor, I made a no-go call. There was only one person signed up anyway...

Still disappointing. I wanted to get up for a New Moon weekend. Jennifer's a bit bummed too. I invited her to try in August. Weather should good then.

historical images updated

Wow. The WeatherLink software ran over midnight! The historical images on the CAO weather page have finally updated.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

no rest

Dietmar reported the security software didn't seem to be working. Crikey. What now? I tried to log into the server. And that worked! Wow. But, I found nothing was running. There hadn't been any power failures or brown outs, according to the UPS log. So it is not clear why the server reset itself and why none of the applications weren't running. It must be something to do with the security software...

Cloudy day. Let's put in some volunteer time for the RASC Toronto Centre.

I taught myself the basics of PowerShell 1.0. I built a script to launch the security software and then a minute or two later minimise everything. It works when I'm logged in. But it doesn't seem to work when I disconnect the Remote Desktop. Maybe I need to use PowerShell 2.0.

Curiously, I started up the WeatherLink software. And saw it running. And running. And running. No communication errors. Bizarre. What's changed now? Sheesh. I reported it to the CAO Committee. I also took the opportunity to add a bit of JavaScript to allow the visitor to change the background colour. Now you can run it in astronomer-friendly Night Mode! Just need to set up a cookie handler to store the user's preferred colour...

I was feeling a little anxious about Tony's comments recently regarding the StarLine computer needing to be moved to the DDO. So I thought I'd get a jump on this task. I asked Charles for particulars of the voice messaging software. I asked Tony to remind me who owned the UPS. And I asked Council if I could purchase a new UPS. Paul piped up. Argued against a bunch of Tony's suggestions. He asked us to stand down. OK by me.

I asked Dietmar what he uses to make his weather call decision as CAO supervisor. He sent me some links which I'll monitor. He also sent me the list of people signed up. There's one name on the list... Here we go again.

Still, I'm betwixted and between. I could go up and get lots of errands down. Tony's all hyper about the security system. I've got some new things to try with the weather station. I'd like to finish my picnic table. I dunno... If Dietmar goes up Sunday and Monday, maybe I can hitch a ride.

I emailed Steven once again. I'd like to finally arrange a meeting with him to get him up to speed on editing the web site.

Notified the group about on-going construction on routes up to the Carr Astronomical Observatory. This initiated a decent dialog with some alternate routes.

Remembered to tell Leslie about my booked dates at the Farmer's Pantry; and to in turn ask them if they were OK with higher per person rates.

I applied a number of edits to the CAO Site Facilities Manual. Ian W had submitted a bunch of great ideas which I incorporated in. I updated the local driving directions map. Remembered to print copies for my car. Then recruited Phil to do some proofreading. That reminded to relay a note to Dietmar. Tony had suggested we send out the updated manual to all the CAO Annual Pass holders.

Finally, I added a link to the Algonquin Adventure from the site calendar.

use Barlow with Micro Guide

Ah ha! As I was reading the July 2000 Sky and Telescope article Double-Star Measurement Made Easy by Thomas Teague. He said you need to use a Barlow. Confirms what I felt at the CAO a couple of weekends back. You need to get the binary stars much further apart to effectively use the scales in the etched reticule. He explains it differently: you need to increase the focal length of the telescope. He recommends getting it over 3 metres.

leaky shuttle

NASA scrubbed the STS-127 launch early this morning. The hydrogen leak at the umbilical persists. Our RASC Toronto Centre friends in Florida are disappointed and tired. It's been a roller coaster ride for them.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

set up Dietmar and Tony

The new security software at the Carr Astronomical Observatory is working. And because of the new implementation, I am finally comfortable providing Dietmar and Tony access. We won't be damaging files of their Windows operating system.

I walked them through the process over the phone. I wrote up some documentation and sent it out. Dietmar double-checked it. They're happy.

§

This has been such a long and arduous battle that I almost forgot the goal.

When I learned of the new security software version over the winter, I immediately was hopefully that it would eliminate the Windows installation bug. I didn't want to inflict this on Dietmar or Tony. I hatched a plan to upgrade in the early spring.

But with the early port forwarding challenges, the P4 server meltdown, new machine integration and set up, all the intermittent ISP problems, the misconfiguration mayhem of sending email alerts on motion detection, the inability to control the security software by remote control, the new weather station issues (admittedly, a distraction), and other issues, many of which occurred over the winter when I could not access the CAO... I almost forgot.

Now, looking back, I see now it has all worked. Wow. The new software has better features (which I've yet to fully explore). Most importantly, it avoids the corruption / damage problem. The developers did this by employing an altogether different strategy. Maybe that was another contributing factor. By solving the problem with different software, I missed the direct impact.

Anyway, it's been a long time coming. November last year I set up the security system... Over 6 months ago.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

security camera access

Finally!

Finally, everything is working. Well, except for the weather station software. But that's low priority.
  • The security camera at the CAO is powered and is capturing video data.
  • The SuperDVR video board is working.
  • The new version (6.2.2.4) of the security software is working. Again, Charles assisted me, starting the software, and minimising it, which I could not do by remote.
  • The security software is configured properly. The new version is similar to the old but there are a few things different. I didn't screw up anything in the transition. In particular, the port numbers are working.
  • Obviously, the server is running.
  • Our network equipment is working. Our router port numbers are working.
  • The Georgian.net equipment is working. Their router port forward numbers are working.
  • The new security software is responding correctly to queries and upon first use properly transmitting the ActiveX software.
This is a milestone, I think.

from the new deck (Union)

At about 10 PM I headed out to Mom's new studio observatory. I could see Saturn as I got about half way across the lawn. I attached the Telrad to Mom's reflector 'scope after remembering to install the batteries.

With the installed 1" eyepiece, I could see Titan to the right of Saturn. And, faintly, on the same side as Titan, at the edge of my vision, with the 18mm at the edge of the focus range, I could see Rhea.

There was a magnitude 9 star almost directly above Saturn.

I called Mom on the handset-to-handset telephone intercom. I asked her to bring an extension cord so I could run the clock drive. She joined me on the balcony of the studio. I plugged in the motor to the nearby AC outlet. Handy. It started whirring away...

We looked at Saturn, Algieba, ε (epsilon) Lyra, and the Ring Nebula. It was difficult to split these double stars with the 18mm. On the Double Double, I tried my Celestron Barlow with both my Celestron 26mm and the Meade 18mm. The problem, at 136x, was the telescope shaking.

The damn focuser limits I had forgotten about. Couldn't quite get the 18mm in sharp focus. Need to replace this focuser. Upgrade time!

We had to stand very still when the other was viewing.

Mom understood now the effect of small vibration through the wood structure.

I totally forgot to go for the Great Hercules cluster high overhead.

We talked about Gemini (low in the west), Leo, Arcturus and Boötes, Altair and Aquila , Antares and Scorpius, and the Summer Triangle.

We discussed kill switches on the security lights, red lights under the railing, dimmers, my workstation ideas. She's pretty keen.

Later Mom made notes of everything we did. Cute.

The skies were very clear (like last night). Even though we were off the ground 7 feet or so, there was still some dew to contend with. That reminded me that I have yet to make a Telrad cover...

The view was pretty spectacular. The little deck on the studio will be a great spot to observe from! It was a lot of fun, our unofficial opening of the observatory.

moved in (temporarily)

I asked Mom if she wanted to try the deck out tonight. I was expecting clear skies. She was in.

We carried parts out to the studio observatory. The Edmund Scientific base is so heavy.

She helped me move items up to the loft. I assembled the 'scope, did a rough north alignment, and left it to cool.

more help from Charles

Charles phoned me. I walked him through logging onto the server. Then I had him put a password on one of the Windows user accounts. That should let me log in again to the server by remote. In the weather application, he checked the USB connection. Error. I had him disconnect the USB cable below the console and then reconnect it. The software saw the console. OK. I also had him start the security software and minimize it. That should allow me to log in and not crash the security software... Sheesh.

retrieved my dew cap

During a past trip to Mom's, I had left my SP-C8 plastic dew shield behind. I saw it sitting on a pile in the garage. I put in my car before I forgot... again.

while the cat's away

I went out to Mom's new studio building. She's built this to serve as a workshop for projects and a place to store craft and garden things. Hopefully freeing up garage space...

When she hatched the plan, I perked up. I suggested the roof could serve as an observatory! She liked the idea, nay, embraced it. I've been surprised how supportive she's been.



I unlocked the door and stepped in. And was immediately surprised how bright it is. This will be enjoyable for her, I think.

It's wired. Her contractor has put in sockets around the perimeter. We'll have power for the telescope(s) and computer.

I climbed the step ladder to the loft level. This too is a good size. Mom had explained that the builder is going to make a staircase which turns or switches back so to reduce the footprint into the studio. Sounds like a good plan.

You have to duck in the loft, otherwise you'll bean yourself.

Through the short door, I stepped onto the deck. And was blown away. It's huge! Roomy. There will be lots of space around Mom's Edmund telescope, full access. The deck will accommodate a chair or two for guests. There will even be room for a table or stand. Wow.

I looked at the skyline from the north and south ends of the deck. I like the south a little better.

Hey! There's a plug out here. Very cool. We've got power on the deck.

This is gonna be great.

I stepped back into the loft. It's generous. Suddenly I realised that there's so much space up here that I'll be able to build a workstation! I'll make an integrated table and some shelves. It will make a good space for resting, planning the next star hop, warming up in the winter. It will be excellent for keeping materials out of the dew. I immediately started consider red light options... Amazing.

The cordless phone works out this far...

All my concerns are allayed.

STS-127 scrubbed

Reading in bed with hijacked wifi on the netbook, I learned that NASA had scrubbed the Saturday launch of STS-127. I felt bad for our intrepid RASC Toronto Centre members in Florida.

Friday, June 12, 2009

oh crap

So, I thought I'd log into the CAO server to do a bit of housekeeping. I'd like to simplify the login process. I could probably eliminate all the extra accounts, keep one. Hopefully resolve the quirks I'm experiencing logging in remotely... As an experiment, I removed all the passwords from all the accounts. Broke the connection. Tried to log in. No go! What the hell?!

Seems like Windows Remote Desktop will not tolerate user accounts with no password. For crying out loud!

I just locked myself out...

off to Union

Headed to Mom's. We were to belatedly celebrate my sister's birthday. I had promised to change Mom's tires from winter to summer. Better late than never! And I would have a chance to see Mom's "studio observatory" in the making.

Frankly, I was a bit anxious about that...

The drive westward was not too dramatic. By delaying my departure to after 7:00 PM, I avoided most of the rush hour madness. When I got out near Dixie, I grew galvanised. I was not going to tolerate people hogging the left lane. While curiously heavy around Milton, with everyone tailgating with 2 to 3 feet to spare, there were no major issues. Aggravated one left-lane bandit. But I made the trip in good time. And I arrived Mom's as the Sun set...

I stole peeks between Mom's garage and house and from the back windows. The new studio seemed nearly done. It's rather large! The deck, a good height from the ground, it too looks large. Mom said even she was surprised by how spacious it is. She suggested we could fit 2 telescopes up there!

It was tempting to go out and get a closer look.

Skies were very clear. I had already received a few Clear Sky Alarm Clock messages. But I was too tired to do anything. Hell of a day.

Besides, I hadn't brought my gear. Well. Except for the eyepieces.

able to log in again

Charles rebooted the Georgian.net equipment as well as our router at the CAO. I'm able to log into the server again. Good news, one on hand. But I see the weather station software is not working. Again.

I asked Charles if he would uncrimp the USB cable as it goes under the vent cover from the kitchen into supervisor closet.

As per usual, I cannot launch the security software by remote. I'll have to ask another favour soon...

asked for Charles's help

Charles is the supervisor on duty at the CAO this weekend. I asked him, if he was inclined, to me help out with computer stuff.

The weather station images had stopped updating around Tuesday. And the Windows Remote Desktop was not responding. Something was wrong with either the Georgian.net equipment or our server. I was confident that the server was still running. When I left on Sunday, everything was working fine. And, for a couple days at least, the server had uploaded the local weather data.

I talked to the support staff at Georgian.net (incredible, I know!) and they reported they couldn't log into their router. Needed a hard boot, they suggested. So we definitely needed someone up there to help.

The plan was to reboot all the gear in the workroom downstairs. The Georgian.net router and switch and our router and switch. Not touch the server upstairs in the supervisor closet. Then I'd see if I could log in. Just logging into the server would be telling, indicative of a working network and a working server.

Then I'd check if the weather station software was OK. If there was a communication error, then that would indicate the "old" problem was back, despite my efforts to resolve that the previous weekend. That would be bad / sad news.

Tony agreed with my plan. Charles said he'd be happy to help, once he got settled.

fixed omission

Shawn spotted an omission in Tony's article on the OHAP. I immediately jumped online and fixed it.

Pity that Shawn declared his discovery publicly.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

helped on OHAP 09 article

Tony had completed entering the copy for the Open House and Awards Picnic 2009 article on the Toronto Centre web site. For the second time... The poor guy.

He had written the content earlier but had taken so long in the Content Management System that it timed out! I had to relay the bad news: no way to recover. Tony was not happy, I could hear it in his voice.

I thought of blogger.com and how it autosaves. I wonder if I can find the Toronto Centre a new CMS which includes such a feature.

Anyway, Tony was finally done the content. He had also uploaded small images. But, once again, he was struggling with the page layout, getting the images to fit nicely, and the text to word wrap.

I said I'd take over. I threw a table in the content and wrangling the HTML for a bit. It's not too bad.

new remote

To be tested...

I found a shop in Mississauga, Hy-Tech Electronics, that supplies Panasonic parts. Fortunately, I could buy items for about the same money as parts on eBay, avoiding return issues, avoiding cross-border crap. Serendipitiously close to where I was working today.

I bought a replacement remote control for the RASC Toronto Centre's Panasonic digital projector. It seems small.

Charles has the projector. And he's heading to the CAO (supervisor duty). So I cannot try it out. I'll test it when he gets back. Maybe I'll use the projector the following weekend...

And I'll have to document the heck out of this, engrave, ID sticker it, so that if it grows legs, we can maybe get it back...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

temp sol'n

Bogdan Marinov sent me a workaround: Change "telescope_circle_color" to "telescope_circleColor" and "nebula_circle_color" to "nebula_circleColor". Cool!

Seems to me he's one of the programmers working on Stellarium. I noted he's assigned the project to manage telescopes in the GUI. I'm looking forward to that!

found Stellarium bug(s)

Version 0.10.x appears to have 2 related bugs...

Regardless of changes made to CONFIG.INI to the telescope or nebula color option, either in the regular or night mode sections, the circle colors do not change in the display.

nebula_circle_color = 1.0,0.68,0.20
telescope_circle_color = 0.8,0.2,0

The label color changes DO work; just not the circles...

telescope_label_color = 0.8,0.2,0

I submitted a bug report.

Monday, June 08, 2009

sponsored CSC for DDO

Started sponsorship of the Clear Sky Chart for the David Dunlap Observatory. Eric initiated the discussion. I shared what we had done for the charts for Toronto, Long Sault, and the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Paul cut a cheque and sent it off.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

always use dew cap

I just read a note about using a C14: "Good contrast if you use a dewcap."

Oops. I totally did not consider this while observing on Thursday and Friday nights, during the nearly full Moon. Saw it sitting there in the corner of the observatory.

Note to self...

wow, lots

Wow. I did a lot at the CAO this weekend...
  • printed draft floor plan drawing for main floor and bedrooms showing emergency exits; so to validate while at CAO
  • charged, overnight, in my wall charger, AA batteries from weak (red-enhanced!) solar lights
  • observed Saturn and various double stars in Boo and Her
  • tested new pair of keys for garage; engraved them; kept one set for self; brought one set back for Leslie
  • measured the external junction box and cable conduit to generator for Tony
  • switched cord on GBO phone to normal RJ-11 vs. smaller, looser RJ-9 style plug (I had bought a crimper, bought some RJ-45 and RJ-11 connectors, as well as a RJ-11 F-F adapter, brought up some ethernet cable scrap, and was all set to build an adapter cable when I discovered someone had plugged a handset cable from the phone to the wall; no wonder it was so sloppy in the jack)
  • found a RJ crimper at the CAO (doh!)
  • observed Sun in H-alpha; observed Venus half-lit
  • moved wood posts off ground behind garage
  • installed fresh AA battery in clock in Warm Room; checked clock in observatory was working
  • put up June TSTM sheets at everywhere (i.e. on the kitchen bulletin board, beside the dining room computer, in the GBO Warm Room, two sets in the GBO observatory proper, in the THO); perhaps a bit of shameless self-promotion; I had extras!
  • swapped BBQ propane tanks
  • moved Dell dock station out of the way (why are we keeping this?)
  • warned visitors about baby killdeer
  • protected baby killdeer nest in middle of parking lot
  • moved tiny blue egg from picnic table to swallow territory
  • put more thumb tacks to the THO
  • knocked down hornet nests on garage (above camera and human door)
  • observed Moon rising naked eye
  • observed Saturn and Porrima briefly before closing GBO
  • made notes on fire exit floor plan; ready for next draft
  • checked C batteries in Davis weather station
  • changed background colour of Davis weather station images to transparent (so to permit a red astronomer-friendly background colour)
  • checked electrical outlets on east side of GBO (all function when GBO powered; off-line when GBO power is cut); made note to revise Facilities manual
  • checked electrical outlets at observing pad (functional at all times)
  • installed red LED in garage security camera
  • cleaned lens in garage security camera
  • discussed additional safeguards with garage security camera
  • monitored generator during exercise Saturday afternoon (2:50 pm)
  • made a note to buy more dried basil
  • made a note to buy SuperGlue (to repair my smashed solar lights)
  • installed fresh 9v battery in Sky Quality Meter (SQM); works now but no dark sky to test it on...
  • worked on new picnic table: cut lower bolts; tightened all nuts; ground flat; engraved "do not sit here" on cantilevered end; engraved wheel chair icon; engraved credits; cut end pieces; attach one end piece
  • made a note to request cantilevered end be cut with circular saw
  • dismantled come-along and wire rope from driveway gate
  • erased pencil marks by new supervisor closet vent in hallway
  • printed eyepiece magnification matrix document and installed in GBO
  • tested big flat LCD screen at 1680x1050, from the ASUS netbook no less; screen died after 30 minutes (why are we keeping this?)
  • printed revised alarm notice for foyer entrance
  • worked on weather / security server for about 8 hours!
  • left some coloured cardstock at the dining room laser printer (for future labels)
  • throughout weekend, moved tools and building hardware to work room
  • throughout weekend, marked our territory (damn 'coons)
  • throughout weekend, ran GBO dehumidifier as much as possible
  • visually verified water was running out of the dehumidifier!
  • gathered supplies to make a fake paper wasp nest in THO
  • randomly improved security at CAO
  • got more comfortable with the C14, the controlling Dell laptop, and TheSky6
  • brought back the urn (the coffee one!)
Easy to do all this stuff when other humans aren't around...

glad I came up Thu night

What a day... Got a lot done. I hope I've figured out this server issue. Man... I don't wanna do this every weekend.

Looking back now, I'm sure glad I came up to the CAO Thursday night. It turned out to be the only good night for observing. Friday, with the wind, was a wash. Tonight: nothing. It's raining lightly now.

It would have been disheartening.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Antares clouded out (Blue Mountains)

I was looking forward to watching Antares get occulted or grazed by the Moon. Not much else to do with a full Moon. Alas, the clouds have moved in. No observing tonight.



But I'm going to continue to work with TheSky. I plan to make some FOV circles for the various eyepieces. And I need to double-check if I'm using the Tpoint configuration correctly...

comm errors

Very frequently, the Davis Instruments weather station is having communications errors with the server. Very frustrating. This cannot be fixed with a reboot of the server. So far, the only fix I've found is to disconnect the USB cable. Not easily done by remote control...

Friday, June 05, 2009

sensitive to wind

I suppose if one has a larger telescope then it will be a bigger sail in the wind.

Lot of perks to using the C14 in the GBO's Warm Room. It's an incredible luxury. But it buffets in a 20 km/h wind...

I remember being in the THO last summer, with my PUSHTO, slowly star hopping, during a breezy evening and I was fine!

I'm done. I'm tired. I'm back in the house now.

SQM dead

I found a Sky Quality Meter in the eyepiece cabinet. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work.

I tested the voltage of the 9 volt battery, first with my tongue, then with my voltmeter. Should work...

Porrima shimmering (Blue Mountains)

10:48. And shaking. Tried to split Porrima. It can be done at 217x but it's not great. The split is clear at 391x but the seeing is really bad so everything jumping around.

Tempted to try measuring it with Geoff's eyepiece. What the heck! I'm gonna pop it in...

11:03. I think the split is about one-half or one-third of a single tick (without a doubler). I'll calculate that later. By the way, the Celestron Micro Guide eyepiece is 12.5mm (yielding just over 300x).

It's tough to say for certain. In addition to the seeing conditions, the wind is shaking the 'scope. The 10 Minute Average Wind Speed is 20.9 km/h. The Davis Instruments weather station shows a high of 32.2.

§

The linear scale divisions are approximately 5.3 arc-seconds (in the C14). So the separation is approx. 2.6" to 1.8". This seems inconsistent with estimates in wikipedia... But Eric said in his The Sky This Month May presentation that they were 1.25" apart.

Hmm. If I divide by 4, I get a separation of 1.32!

§

I wonder if, with extremely tight doubles, it would be worth increasing the magnification even more, say with a Barlow. Then, the apparent image would be larger. Instead of having stars between the tick marks, you'd have them spanning several.

what's with zeta Crv? (Blue Mountains)

Um, did I goof on this?

For my The Sky This Month presentation, I suggested trying for ζ (zeta) Corvi.

But when I look at it, at low power, I see some interesting field stars. ζ itself is white. The nearest, brightest star is pale yellow. At high power, I don't see anything different. No double...

Did I write down the wrong name?

There's nothing listed in Haas's double stars book... It's not on the S&T summer doubles list. It's not in the June Skymaps targets.

Huh.

looking at Saturn again (Blue Mountains)

Using the C14 again, trying to coaxing some faint moons, in a bright sky. I can see Dione just off the rings toward Titan but I cannot see Mimas on the other side.

Curiously, Stellarium says Dione is mag 10.96 which seems more appropriate. TheSky 6 says it's 10.2. It seems to me fainter than Iapetus. Stellarium says Iapetus is 11.77; TheSky shows 11.2.

Looks like Tethys and Enceladus are coming out from behind. I'll have to try again later... Just need to remember it sets around 2.

Moon in murk (Blue Mountains)

It occurred to me during dinner al fresco that the Moon would be rising shortly before sunset. From my new picnic table, I looked around in the east but couldn't see it. Probably still down.

I just remembered this again now. Refreshed Sky and Telescope's Almanac JavaScript thingee and it said that the Moon was 3° above the horizon. Grabbed the binos and scanned the horizon. Nope.

Popped over to TheSky software. It showed the Moon in the south-east. With a bearing, and the binos, I headed back out. Bingo! Just at the edge of visibility. That's probably the lowest I've ever spotted her.

Daddy killdeer protests every time I outside.

no joy for Mars (Blue Mountains)

That shows what few magnitude values different makes. Remembering it is a logarithmic scale, it's a lot more than 5 times fainter. Venus is -4.3; Mars is 1.2. Venus is 24 arc-seconds in size; Mars is 5. Not really surprising it can't be seen in daylight.

Makes me wonder what the day-time limiting magnitude / apparent size factor is...

no joy in white light (Blue Mountains)

I put the baader filter on the front of the C14 to view the Sun in white light. I can't see any spots. Well, spots on the Sun. I can see all the bits of dust and debris on the ocular and mirror and all the floaters in my eye. I can see the shadow of the central obstruction. But I simply cannot pick off this small sunspot.

half-filled Venus (Blue Mountains)

Man, it's easy with a highly-tuned GOTO telescope to spot a half-filled "first-quarter" Venus in the daylight. Huge through the main 'scope with the 18mm.

§

The Paramount and computer seem to be working better today. They were off by half a degree last night. I was getting frustrated trying to find objects.

Today, Venus was almost dead centre.

§

Oh. Venus will be fun at the Solar Observing Session tomorrow...

sunspot in H-alpha (Blue Mountains)

I don't know if I've ever seen a sunspot with a hydrogen-alpha filter. This feels like the first time.

I only started looking at the Sun in Hα since I began hanging around all these astronomy geeks and freaks. And the Sun's been quiet. The last couple of years!

It's very spectacular, sun spot 1019! Lots of structure, all knotted and twisted, and detailed, light and dark swirls. It looks so three-dimensional!

This single sunspot complex reminds me of the navel on an orange...

I viewed it through the Tele Vue 101 APO (with a 540mm focal length) first with the Meade 56mm Super Plossl (9x) and then with the TV 18mm Radian (30x) using the Coronado SolarMax front and back elements (the back element is the blocking filter). I played with the T-Max de-tuning filter but it was perfect.

Sun's moved to the meridian. I'll give the 'scope a break.

I'm going to try in white light later...

§

Oh! This must be making for some excitement at the Solar Observing Session at the Science Centre (tomorrow). Finally. Something interesting to look at.

asked to supervise mid-June

Dietmar asked me if I'd like to supervise on the June 20-21 weekend. I think Ralph was the original supervisor but something's come up. Dietmar saw that I was already planning on going to the CAO...

In fact, this is the weekend that I invited Jennifer up. Supervising might complicate things a little but I think we'll be able to work it all out.

Rasalgethi (Blue Mountains)

I wanted to view something new before I packed it in... So I headed over to α (alpha) Herculis.

Lovely.

A brilliant shimmering orange star with a pale blue companion. They seem relatively tight but in the C14 with the 18mm they are easily split.

iota and kappa (Blue Mountains)

I viewed ι (iota) and κ (kappa) Boötis again this evening.

I'm struggling a bit with the alignment of the finder scope and accuracy of the mount-software.

The software is off by approx. a half-degree. The 4" finder scope was out a bit too. I've fixed the finder. I'm not sure what to do about the software. Other than manually compensate.

§

κ is definitely white and bright-white at 217x. At 391x, I think I see some colour on the secondary star.

Izar again (Blue Mountains)

Popped over the Izar. ε (epsilon) Boötis is almost straight up. It's a tight double at 217x! At 391x, I think the colours are white, for the main star, and pale blue, for the companion.

§

Re-read my life list notes for Izar. Sounds like I had a little trouble splitting it in the 8". Easy peasy in this big 'scope, the 14". And no trouble with colours.

view worse now (Blue Mountains)

The view of Saturn is worse now. TheSky says it's 16° in altitude. There's more colour. Tinged yellow. I cannot see that bright field star anymore.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

can't see other moons (Blue Mountains)

I dropped the power for a crisper view. Now I'm using the Tele Vue 18mm Radian (that's 217 power). It's definitely brighter and crisper. Shows off some of the field stars.

I wonder how long it takes to cool down this huge tube...

The view is wavering quite a lot.

§

Dietmar says it takes 1 hour to cool down. If it hasn't been in the Sun.

viewing Saturn (Blue Mountains)

In an effort to begin the cool-down of the Celestron SCT 14" telescope, I opened the roof immediately upon unlocking the Geoff Brown Observatory.

When I got TheSky software going, I saw the Moon, while nearly full, was sitting in Libra. Quite a distance from Saturn. OK! Let's check out Saturn then. There won't be very many chances left.

A few moments later, I had the eyepiece cabinet open. Hmmm. Which eyepiece? How about 200x then? (Of course, I incorrectly figured the focal length to be 2000mm; that's for my little 8") I grabbed the 10mm ocular (the Tele Vue Radian).

[ed: I realised later that I was working at about 400x.]

Saturn was spectacular. I could see the shadow of the rings on the surface of the clouds. Two faint moons (Dione and Rhea) flanked on the east; I saw Titan off to the west. There was another moon near Titan (Iapetus).

Tried to coax out Mimas, Hyperion, and/or Enceladus...

Tube was cooling. But the beige planet was getting low...

live blogging (Blue Mountains)

This is a first!

This is freaky.

I'm actually doing what you're supposed to do, while blogging. I'm blogging what's happening right now. Right now!

Like before they invented twitter.

I'm sitting in the Warm Room of the E.C. Carr Astronomical Observatory (CAO). I'm blogging on the computer that I'm using to control the Paramount ME mount. Listening to my music. Enjoying some suds. And looking at Saturn at approx. 200x 400x.

I had grabbed my little notepad pocket book and pen, which I normal use to record my notes, do my sketching, when I suddenly realised, on this occasion, I could update my blog directly, immediately, as soon as I observed something! Huh.

Freaky.

phones (and intercom) approved

My motion was carried. Council approved getting new cordless phones (with an intercom feature) for the RASC Toronto Centre CAO. I'm going to look for the following features:
  • 3 stations, i.e. base unit, and 2 remote stations with charger stands
  • intercom communication between each handset, ideally all three
  • astronomer-friendly display and keypad lighting, i.e. amber or red
  • speaker phone, so to facilitate computer work or physical activity
  • excellent range and clarity, particular when used inside the metal-framed GBO
  • no interference from or to our wifi network
  • without digital answering machine, to keep costs down
  • expandability, in case we want to add more handsets
Let the shopping begin!

should I go early?

Found a Clear Sky Alarm Clock notice for the CAO in my inbox this morning. That rarely happens. Huh. Maybe I'm go up to the CAO early...

on duty this weekend

I'm the designated supervisor at the CAO this weekend. Weather's not looking great. And it's a Full Moon. But I'm going to go anyway. For a bit of R&R, to tend to a few outstanding errands, and attempt some double star measurements. I let the RASC Toronto Centre group know when I'm going up and returning. We're expecting 2 people...

delivered TSTM

Once again, I delivered the multi-media presentation The Sky This Month at the RASC Toronto Centre monthly meeting at the Ontario Science Centre.

As I was setting up, Doug explained that unfortunately we did not have access to the internet in the Telus room (it is curious to note that these types of problems happen even to OSC staffers).

People seem to really like the monthly calendar format that I use.

I went first but fortunately did not run on too long. I didn't get the hook!

I was amused to receive questions at the end about Stellarium. I reminded people I'm scheduled to do a software demo at the July meeting.

§

Content also available on the lumpy darkness companion site's presentations page.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

tweets from The Cape

Katrina and gang from the RASC Toronto Centre are heading down to Florida to watch the STS-127 shuttle launch. Julie Payette from the Canadian Space Agency is part of the crew taking more gear up to the ISS. Katrina's going to post on twitter to keep us up to date!

Monday, June 01, 2009

assisted at NHE event

Ontario Parks was having a conference for their Natural Heritage Education staff up in Barrie. Being the International Year of Astronomy, the organisers want their park staff to offer some astronomy programmes, activities, star parties, etc.

The organisers contacted some local astronomy clubs and the Society and in turn found Geoff Gaherty. Geoff then called me. We were to conduct a small star party (weather permitting), show off our telescopes, and help answer questions.

Unfortunately, we were clouded out. Still, a bunch of us set up our telescopes and other gear (indoors) and answered questions. It was fun.

Hopefully, more Ontario Parks will conduct astronomical activities this summer. And perhaps more nearby amateur astronomers will be able to help out. And get a bunch more Galileo Moments.

It was a pleasure meeting Rick Stankiewicz of MNR, science writer Peter McMahon, Tobi Kiesewalter—Acting Natural Heritage Education Coordinator, and fellow RASC Toronto Centre member Francois van Heerden.