Sunday, August 30, 2009

while here

While at the CAO, I did some more work:
  • returned the point-and-shoot camera adapter (that I forgot I had borrowed; that Dietmar thought lost)
  • returned the Sky & Telescope magazine to the library
  • installed new power bar, tidied power cords, registered power bar online
  • entered some "staff" phone numbers into new Panasonic phone
  • verified the supervisor closet light is on same circuit as pantry light
  • created a "functional" listing of the electrical circuits
Nothing else to do...

happy birthday Discovery

What a great way to celebrate your birthday, on orbit.

Friday, August 28, 2009

just me

Ralph phoned me at the CAO. Said he's not coming up tonight after all. Said he's going to look closely at the weather and make a decision tomorrow about travelling up. And the weather's not looking good...

Looks like I'll be on my own.

Looks like the last presentation for the Farmer's Pantry is going to rained out.

new suit

Picked up a jacket, pants, and gloves today. From Lee Valley. From the garden department...

The hood on the jacket is very cool. Although my first thought was that the zipper on the front might be better if it was two, coming from the sides, to the centre. Then you could open up a little, say to pop in a snack or a drink straw. On the other hand, two zippers meeting in the middle are more complicated, and might leave a hole.

Looking forward to fewer mosquito bites while at the telescope. And less DEET on my flesh.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

John's comment

John sent me a note. He's a funny guy. Very dry sense of humour.
Thanks for sending me the link to your blog. Good reading! Only one small complaint - I begrudge you saying I "begrudgingly" gave you a high-five. It was dark. I couldn't see very well especially with my ageing and rapidly shrinking pupils and so it took me awhile to ascertain what was happening.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

searching for Moon details

I wanted to further confirm (or mimic) what I was seeing on the Moon from Monday night.

After launching Stellarium, I zoomed in on the Moon. I can see Mare Crisium but the image is soft. No hard edges, deep shadows in craters. Even the terminator is soft. I clicked here and there. Nothing happened. No features identified.

Over in TheSky6, when I zoomed it, I saw labelling and highlighting. But when I tried to laterally invert the field, the Moon remained unchanged! I could see the stars behind changing. Weird. Bisque has not applied the mirror effect to the Moon.

Maybe I'll download the Virtual Moon Atlas...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Malcolm reports dark skies

Of course, he's in New Brunswick... Nearest city is Sackville. He's staying with family. They're overlooking the Northhumberland Strait.

Sadly, there are no binoculars or telescopes nearby.

He pointed out the Milky Way, high overhead, to Courtney.

I urged him to look for Jupiter to the south.

Bayview - zero

I was disappointed to learn from Steve M, a new member no less, that last night no one showed up at Bayview Village Park! What a shame.

So, overall, I'd say it was a very weak City Observing Session. Only 3 members, myself included at High Park; and only 1, briefly, at Bayview.

I wonder why...

§

I replied to Steve and apologised. I encouraged him to try again. Hopefully, we didn't take the wind out of his sails.

found triangle

I was starting to get a little nervous about the metal triangle tray for the telescope tripod. I hadn't seen it for a while. Thoughts flashed through my brain: Where would I get one? Could I borrow the one at the CAO when there? Could I make one? Buy one used? Where could it have gone? Did I take it to the CAO and leave it behind? No...

I kept rummaging in the garage. I looked in all the usual spots. Finally I saw just a corner of it. Whew! Under a pile of rags. Probably tossed on top during the last car repair session.

Damn it. It's been about 20 years. And I still don't have a good spot for this thing!

huge power bar

Went to The Store Formerly Known as Radio Shack today to get some free, replacement S76E batteries. That all went swimmingly.

On a whim, I checked their power bars and surge protectors. We need a much bigger power bar for all the network gear at the CAO. It's a messy with extensions to extensions and the bulky wall warts.

I found a deeply discounted ($80 off) power bar with surge protection. It's huge (and heavy)! Hopefully, it will accommodate the various AC adapters.

I'll take it up to the CAO this weekend...

(Not exactly as shown. The unit I have is marked PureAV. The fine print says by Belkin. Our unit also has an additional pair of co-ax connectors as well as three RJ-11 ports.)

fireball sighting

Ross posted the following to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group.
Fireball Aug. 24. 2009

At about 9:15 pm last night, bright green with yellow flash at the end, (probably means nothing hit the ground?) From 401 and the Rouge River it ran across from NE (under Deneb) to NW (passing just under Polaris). Any one else see it?
This might have been what that woman saw in High Park...

Monday, August 24, 2009

hugh crowd at CNE!

Meanwhile, Sharmin and Denis entertained a huge crowd down at the CNE! They reported 206 Galileo moments! Mostly young people. While showing Jupiter, talked up the DDO as well as Saturn and the Mars Hoax.

small crowd (Toronto)

I almost went to High Park too early!

As I was building my "astronomy planning sheet," I captured the sunset times. Often, I use Solar Calculator and Sky and Telescope's Almanac to check this data.

Somewhere along the way, I went off by one hour. Probably because I didn't check a DST switch.

And, ironically, as I was building the document, I thought, "Oh, I should cross-check things." I do draw from different sources so this is easy to do; in fact, errors are regularly flushed out by this process. But I guess I was anxious, stressed, with the yoke of making the weather call for the RASC Toronto Centre City Observing Session, go too fast. I missed it. It was right in front of me! But I missed it.

When I shut down my email and instant messaging, grabbed my eyeglasses, and walked to the kitchen, it occurred to me: wow, it's still really light out. It can't be sunset soon... Something didn't seem right. I returned to my desk, fired up Stellarium, and simulated a sunset. Ah HA! 8:07 PM, not 7:07. Whew! Time to relax. That was my first thought. Time to review and double-check. Which, I should have done in the first place! I noted the corrected times of sunset and twilights by hand...

§

I arrived High Park around 7:35 PM. Popular place in the summer! I had to drive around the ringing roads once before I found a parking spot. Even then, it was just a lucky opportunity. Somebody leaving; I backed into their spot. I was steps from our usual digs.

Soccer games were being played in earnest all around as well as a little league baseball game (with very noisy, hopeful fan-parents) on the east diamond. The large west pitch featured a girls league, bright phosphorescent orange vs. bright day-glo green. The nearby small field was in use by a group of men, every race represented, clearly playing some pick up. The goalie suggested I not set up too close, "They're a little crazy." It was immediately obvious that there were no boundaries.

I took my time assembling the 'scope. Hey! Where's my tripod triangle...

I was a little concerned as sunset neared with the scattered clouds. Tumbling in from the north-west. What had I done? Had I made a terrible mistake? Would Toronto RASCals look outside and think, "That Blake, what a goof. He doesn't know what he's doin'! Give me Guy."

Through my C8, I started to look at the 4-day old Moon, about 15° up. It was a pleasing crescent in the 36mm wide field eyepiece. A few curious onlookers mustered the courage to venture over. I served up views and gave away RASC Star Finders. The Galileo Moments had started.

Suddenly, I decided to learn about what I was seeing. I pulled the Observer's Handbook 2009 and turned to the Moon pages (152-153). And began a long process of trying to understand the orientation... I was confused.

The clouds seemed to be getting worse. Oh no.

David Z arrived at the site with his Televue 76 APO tucked away in a compact case with a bunch of high-end eyepieces. He mounted the OTA on a sturdy alt-az mount. David explained to me that the 76 did not receive the NP treatment; it was only the 101 and larger.

I corrected one party regarding the "Mars as big as the Moon!" hoax email.

Now the slow-moving clouds were completely obliterating Luna. We'd get a few seconds of observing and then it would disappear. I was getting really bummed.

We were joined by John B and trusty 8" Dob. And then there were three.

And lots of mozzies! I put on layers and spritzed my hands and face (probably too late).

Suddenly, I noticed the clouds were gone. I was very happy! I demanded a High Five of John. He begrudgingly complied. Trust in the Clear Sky Chart! Now we were able to get down to business. It was 9:28 PM, the humidity was 86% and the temp. was 16.2°C (according to the Oregon Scientific portable weather station). I reminded the crew to prepare for dew.

And I resumed my study of the Moon. I adjusted the eyepiece and mirror on the back of my cat so that it was upright. Then, atop my tall stepstool, I looked down through the eyepiece. And saw a lit crescent on the left side of the presented field. As expected. Inverted view. With the 3 (or rather, odd number of) reflections. Ah. And the craggy area, at the bottom, is south! That matched the charts in the OH. And that region was up, at the top, in my rotated view, when standing beside the 'scope. OK. Now I knew where south was.

§

I flipped my Observer's Handbook upside down and everything started to make sense... Although I still had to do lateral flipping in my brain. Where's a mirror when you need one?! Or an inverted map?! Hmmm.

The medium-sized maria below the equator was an intriguing shape and kept catching my eye. Not perfectly round. My first impression was the symbol from a deck of cards for spades, with the tail heading north but toward the limb. Later, as I looked at it closely, it seemed more like the shape of a house, that classic pentangle shape, tip of the roof pointing toward the centre. After a great deal of consideration, I determined it was Mare Crisium. The Sea of Crises. John explained that to mean crisis upon crisis. Oh. I'm very familiar with that!

I could see a couple of tiny, small craters on the smooth maria. I didn't realise it at the time but one of those is Picard.

I was also attracted to the small craters near the north pole. One was lit well, sunlight falling into the floor of the crater, slightly larger; the other was closer to the terminator, such the far wall was lit but the floor lay in darkness. Following the lines of latitude. Atlas and Hercules. Very interesting!

David asked if the large crater above Crisium (he had a mirror diagonal on his refractor so he too was seeing a laterally inverted view), just above the equator, was Copernicus. I said I thought it was Langrenus. John agreed. But I remarked that I thought it looked like Copernicus, with the peak in the centre. It seemed to be about the same size. John reminded us that Copernicus was on the opposite side, the west side. My recollection was that it was also closer to the meridian.

I also identified crater Macrobius. "The Micro Bus?" John asked. He's got a funny sense of humour.

The south polar region was very interesting with craters on top of craters. Some seemed very deep.

For me, that was very cool. I've never paid much attention to the Moon before. I enjoyed learning some lava seas and crater sites before the skies darkened. No pun intended but this is a whole other world.

§

I decided, for the balance of the evening, not wanting to bounce around, that I'd stay in one constellation. Cassiopeia. And I'd chase down double stars. I pulled my Pocket Sky Atlas and looked at it closely for circles and sticks.

First stop (even though I knew I had already observed it) was η (eta) Cassiopeiae, aka Achird, between α (alpha) and the wide pair ν (nu) 1 and 2. It was very different than Albireo which we had all looked at one point or another. Here the colours were burnt yellow and dull orange (Haas says brown). Those colours stayed whether I was at 55 or 110 power.

Next stop: φ (phi), close to δ (delta). I found φ to be a wide double. Pale white stars, if I remember correctly. I didn't notice it at first but there were a bunch of very faint white or blue stars nearby. Or perhaps this double was in front of the fainter stars... Hey! That's an open cluster. I reexamined PSA. Ha ha! That was NGC 457, marked with a small round yellow circle with dotted outline: open star cluster. Nice! [ed: aka The Owl or E.T. Cluster. Or Caldwell 13.]

I looked for NGC 463 without success.

OK. Over to ε (epsilon). Then from there, it was a short jump to the double star Σ (Struve) 163. Wow. Stunning. But a little challenging in the glow of city light. I saw an orange primary and very faint blue (maybe aqua) companion (pumpkin and pale sky blue, says Haas). A wide pair, their separation was about the same as Albireo (Haas agrees). That was fun.

Further away now was ψ (psi). I was expecting a tough star hop, without a lot of bright stars along the way, but I arrived on target very quickly. This double reminded me of Polaris: a bright main star but very faint companion. I could see it easily but David found it tough. Haas says this is a triple star. I'm going to have to look again now...

Finally the lights over the empty baseball diamond extinguished. It was 10:20 PM.

We turned to Jupiter. Io and Europa had continued to separate. More detail was visible increase in elevation.

I reminded the guys that Neptune was in the area. That excited John. I helped him get in the neighbourhood, pointing out δ (delta) and γ (gamma) Capricorni, 42, 44, and 45 above, then, further east, μ (mu). And that the ecliptic was nearly parallel to a line between 42 and μ. We spent the next half-hour trying to find the last planet. We interpolated the position using the Observer's Handbook chart. It seemed surprisingly difficult. Bad transparency perhaps. Light pollution. No dark adaptation. Without a computer! I think we all came away feeling unsure. I sketched my target area at around 10:45 PM.



Sketch details: 36mm baader planetarium in an SCT with mirror diagonal. That should really say "Neptune?"

At 11:01, John proclaimed he was done, offering to drop David at the subway. I noted the conditions: 97% humidity and 14.7°C.

§

I believe this was the first occasion for me to use the newly affixed Velcro strips. It was a pleasure to be able to quickly stick the controller on whichever tripod leg was closest.

It proved advantageous to be able to reach between the upper struts of the leg to firmly squeeze the loops and hooks together. The controller was very secure. I never felt it was going to fall or dislodge.

Many times, when needing to use the controller, I would simply leave it attached to the leg and push the required buttons. I.e. I did not remove it. This worked quite well.

I'm happy with this new setup.

§

It was a very small crowd, this High Park COS. I wondered how they were doing at Bayview; they usually have more people than we do. And I wondered how Denis was doing down at the CNE. Boardwalk astronomy!

Despite our numbers, I thought we had a good time. Over the course of the evening, we served up views of the Moon, Jupiter, and some double stars. I counted, roughly, 14 Galileo Moments. We gave out 7 Star Finders to couples and families and the odd soccer player.

We viewed the Double Cluster, the Andromeda galaxy, M13. I saw a northbound meteor which I thought was a κ (kappa) Cygnid. A park visitor rushed over to us and reported a really bright object northbound but none of us saw it... Ironic.

We helped each other a lot. John and I assisted David as he had a bit of difficulty finding some constellations and stars. So, with my green laser, we pointed out objects for him. This helped him target Albireo, Polaris, the Keystone, etc. Every time we aimed at the object, he emitted a little "Oops!" and then quietly acquired this quarry. Made me giggle.

I learned a bit about David. He started really young. He remembers getting fired up about astronomy before he was a teenager. He might have been the youngest member to join the Montréal RASC.

John was impressed with my planning sheets. I talked about how I was not pleased with any astronomy planning software, to date.

I was particularly happy with the evening. It turned out to be a decent night weather-wise. Looked like I made a good call for the RASC TC COS. Whew!

§

Confirmed!



I saw Neptune...

weather duty

This week is the designated City Observing Session week for the RASC Toronto Centre.

Normally, Guy makes the weather call. If he's not around, then Rajesh does it. Both are out of town. So, Guy asked me to do it. He wants me to make the decision and then post to the Yahoo!Group and web site. Sharmin, recent graduate from the NOVA course, will change the StarLine.

I'll be watching the weather predictions closely today, using all my resources, but primarily the Clear Sky Chart. And so far it's looking very good for tonight. That I received an "alarm" from Clear Sky Alarm Clock is making my decision even easier...

oh, now they come out (Toronto)

Finished my graveyard shift work. Emerged from parking garage at around 4:30. And I saw stars. Great. Just great. Clear skies after a crummy weekend. But I'm very tired and need to go to bed.

As I drove home, I saw Venus through trees.

Drove up the driveway, probably waking all the neighbours, and quickly shut down. In the west, I could see Andromeda was setting.

Pleiades, Aldebaran off to the east. Orion rising. Wow.

Where's Mars, I wondered?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

that was odd

There were lots of awkward moments after Karen, John, and Bob arrived at the CAO.

It was like they wanted to be a part of what we were doing. They stood around (mostly behind) us as we enjoyed the early evening. When we encouraged them to get lawn chairs, they finally sat. Karen lit up a cigarette. I asked her if she'd not smoke beside us. Did she not see Milly take her break down-wind? When they joined in conversations they took things in peculiar directions. Then conversations fragmented, which is OK, but the volumes were competing. I could not clearly hear what Phil and Milly were saying to me and they were beside me. Then, most peculiar, Karen moved her chair into the centre of the circle with her back to us. How strange. That was the diametrically opposite signal from before. I thought they wanted to belong. Party killer.

In the morning, Bob started arguing with us the merits of private education vs. public. He was totally bashing the public institution. Does he not know that Sue is a principal? He doesn't have kids. Is he even married? At least they agreed that young kids get too much homework.

Karen and John stayed up really late Saturday night. They seemed to forget to be very quiet given the time. Perhaps they forgot that people weren't observing. That people were actually sleeping. I could hear them slamming doors in the basement when I went to bed.

Karen gave us a little scare but was, in the morning, back to normal. I'm not sure what happened exactly. Again, a very uncomfortable situation.

They left in the morning. I'm not sure why they came up, knowing the weather forecast was poor. John didn't get to try his makeshift camera adapter.

I suppose we have all kinds of people, with different interests, who come from different walks, in the society. It was eye-opening for me, as a supervisor. I need to steel myself for possible future incidents. And be prepared to confront people who forget to respect the other people present. And be prepared for all manner of emergency situation, medical or otherwise, at any time of day or night...

more work at CAO

I did a bunch of things at the CAO. Not much else to do with the poor weather...


  • returned beer and booze bottles for refund; put refunded cash in alcohol fund jar
  • replaced the Red Bull's that I had drank
  • received and distributed the new colour versions of the network diagram (from Phil)
  • labelled the spine of the IT documentation, user guide binder
  • recycled the duplicate copy of the generator installation manual
  • had Dietmar review my TheSky6 Quick Reference draft
  • rerouted the USB cable behind the weather server (again) and moved the USB cable to a different port on the weather server, in an effort, once again, to improve the communication between the base and the server...
  • added a e-memorandum to the dining room computer (Hercules) telling people to not install software, or else...
  • reinstated Internet Explorer icons on the desktop and Quick Launch for Hercules, so to benefit less-comfortable users
  • shored the sunken portion of the accessibility ramp (with Dietmar's help and my 3-ton jack)
  • repaired the east window damaged by storm (with Phil and Dietmar)
  • took (and downloaded) photos of the antennae on the roof and their respective junctions in the work room (with Dietmar's very nice Canon 40D and USB cable)
  • measured the GBO door, for possible screen door installation
  • searched for stove hood light in the circuit breakers (and found it); checked (again) the circuits in the kitchen (with Dietmar's help); updated documentation
  • double-checked the circuits enabled by the generator (which Dietmar was most interested in); verified living room is supported
  • made shelf for the router equipment in the workroom, suspended from ceiling, installed
  • tidied up the network and power cables
  • inspected and tagged the newest fire bottle
  • began an information guide sheet with warnings for the Coronado SolarMax filters
  • tidied up the storage area under the stairs
  • reworked my Field of View Indicators in TheSky6 removing references to NP from the Tele Vue 'scope and, in general, shortening all the labels
  • looked for the Litovitz telescope accessories
My to-do list is getting short, finally.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sue's fault (Blue Mountains)

Sue and Eric arrived at 11 PM. Back from StarFest. Or RainFest. Or TornadoFest. Sue exclaimed, "What are you guys doing inside?!" She said, during their drive from Mount Forest to the CAO, they could see lots of stars and the Milky Way. I thought she was pulling our legs. But when we stepped outside, we were shocked. In a few seconds, we could see the galaxy. Wow. We had just completely assumed that the sky was a write off. And that it would be...

It was amusing the sudden flurry of activity. Phil and I fired up the GBO. Dietmar went to set up his digital camera with new wide angle lens. Milly went for her binoculars. Paul N enjoyed an impromptu sky tour.

When we aimed the C14 at Jupiter, we thought, at first, there were only 3 moons. But a closer examination revealed two moons (Io and Europa again) entangled, very close together like a double star. I ran a time simulation in TheSky6 and learned that they were drawing closer. I checked the RASC calendar and it said there would be an occulation at 6:10 (I missed the bits about "completely" and for western Canada). But clouds started to hamper our efforts.

It wasn't long before much of the sky was covered and we couldn't, even with the Paramount ME and with TheSky6 and me trying all my newly memorised keyboard shortcuts, chase the sucker holes fast enough. Still, we were in good spirits, and thanked Sue for nudging us off our butts, if only for a brief time.

big sticker

The latest SkyNews arrived (perk of RASC membership). The magazine arrived in a plastic bag. With some brochure. But on the front cover of the magazine proper, there is a huge white self-adhesive sticker. With my mailing address. Covering nearly half of the cover photo! Hello!



This is at least the second time that this has happened.

Why was the sticker not on the plastic bag?

Why not put the sticker on the back of the magazine?

Why was the sticker so big?

I gotta find out who's responsible...

trial run

Dietmar and I talked to Phil about supervising at the CAO and getting comfortable with the GBO and its telescopes. We urged Phil to go through an open procedure on his own.

While I repaired a laptop on the back patio, I reminded Phil to check the rails outside the GBO before rolling back the roof.

He started to fire up the mount and laptop. When I heard a rapid beeping coming from the observatory, I knew something had gone wrong. Phil reported that a light on the mount was blinking rapidly along with the fast beep. I gave him a few suggestions, which he put in work. I then hopped into Bisque's web site. It remembered my previous login and I was able to quickly access the forums.

One note suggested the mount was out of balance. Another note suggested a board was bad. Please, not again... I headed to the observatory. Shortly afterwards Dietmar joined us. He, calm, thought it a balance problem.

Dietmar said we should check the clutches. He turned one of the screws, cursing. It was too tight. He walked us through adjusting them. We went to fully released, checked the balance, then we turned until snug (they are reverse-thread!), and then we went the other way 1 or 2 notches. Both axes. Fired up the mount again: all good! Whew!

The OTA is nose heavy but that was without any eyepieces or camera gear. The other axis was pretty well perfect. The massive weights were in good spots.

The laptop needed to be on too, Dietmar said, so that the booting mount could find the serial port. I've never found that to be an issue.

I wonder if whole incident scared Phil... Trial by fire.

We agreed that this was a good item for the "contigency" user guide for supervisors.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

did not spot tornados

Traveled to the CAO via Etobicoke. Somehow avoided the tornados.

As I traveled west, I met a storm front. At Jane St, a wall of water came toward me. People crammed in the bus shelter. Mailboxes shaking. Like videos you see of hurricanes!

Briefly visited Will. We chatted on the front porch. At one point lightning struck very nearby [ed: neighbours house behind us]. Incredible.

Notice hydro service vehicles when I got into the Grey county area. Some west down Side Road 21.

Learned they had "some wind" at the observatory. Damaged a window in the Cygnus room. Then we learned just how close the tornado had come...

§

The wikipedia article on the tornado outbreak on this day was pretty chilling.

Barry's site

You'll find some Stellarium subversion and texture information on Barry's Stellarium web page.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ctrl S or Ctrl P?

William asked a question on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. He was trying to figure out how to print in Stellarium. Somewhere along the way, he had learned about the keyboard Ctrl S. But he reported that "it did not work."

Almost immediately Jeff piped up saying that, normally, in a Windows application, it was Ctrl P that one would use to print.

I had to step in before things got out of hand...

I referred to the Stellarium user guide (available as a link for the main site), in particular pages 24 and 38 regarding saving screen snapshots, keyboard shortcuts, etc. I directed people, once again, to my Stellarium handout, in PDF format, the handout that I provided during my astronomy software demo. It notes the current features, and lack thereof, in the program. And finally I encouraged people to examine my list of the keyboard shortcuts for version 0.10.x.

When William contacted me privately for a clarification, I laid it all out:

Stellarium 0.10.x does not print. It has no printing features. Sadly. So, Ctrl P truly does nothing.

Ctrl S makes a snapshot of the screen. On Windows and Macintosh computers, it normally puts an image file on the desktop. This file, if one knows how, could be brought into another program, another document, for printing.

I explained that I take screen shots from planetarium software all the time, put them into MS Word, inverted the colours to black on white, and successfully printed them.

And finally, I reminded William that Stellarium 0.10.x is a beta release. So we must expect there to be problems...

He sent me a thank you.

Jupiter & Summer Triangle (Buffalo)

While waiting for the transport company to unload a vehicle for Will, I waited by my car. I looked up into the Buffalo night sky. Lots of light. Not great conditions. But I could see Jupiter due south, opposite Polaris in the sky. I could see part of Cassiopeia. A few minutes later some high clouds rolled in, high over head, blotting out the Summer Triangle.

Monday, August 17, 2009

memory loss

Dropped in on Charles at his work briefly. We caught up. We talked about the DDO, the Perseids, and the weather.

He relayed the tale of his aborted observing at the cottage: he had forgotten to pack a critical piece between the tripod and telescope. Zoot. Back in the truck. I told him that I had forgotten my entire tripod for my C8! So much for me helping with a tracking telescope out on the pad during Tony's library talk and tour. Alas, Tony said there were enough 'scopes.

When it occurred to me, on the spot, standing in front of Charles, looking up at the milky white sky, feeling like we were in the tropics, blistering sun beginning its descent, it occurred to me at this moment, 120 hours too late, that the tripod under the refractor in the living room is the exact same type as mine! DOH! I could have completed my setup. Too late now. Hopefully I won't make that mistake again...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

gift stamps

Malcolm had left out a little gift for taking care of Oskar the Cat while he and the kids were out of town for a "power" weekend. I picked up the protective envelope and looked inside. Cool! The IYA stamps from Canada Post. Both a the Booklet of 10 stamps and the Official First Day Cover.



Thanks!

Friday, August 14, 2009

using a Dob (Toronto)

14 Aug 09. Friday eve. Toronto. 9-ish. Humid.

Using the RASC Toronto Centre 8-inch Dobsonian and four included eyepieces. Thought something wrong with the focuser. Aligned the finder scope and Telrad. There wasn't anything in the kit for doing a collimation. But then maybe John B wants it that way.

9:25 PM. Split Izar with the 15mm, 10mm, and 7.5mm.

80% humidity on the OW.

9:39. I thought I'd try for Messier 94 (in Canes Venatici) but it was too bright still. I could barely see α (alpha) Canum Venaticorum.

9:45. I decided to do a Beginner's Observing Guide exercise. I ranked the stars in Ursa Major according to their brightness in a sketch. Fascinating! I've added the magnitudes...
  1. ε, 1.8, double, variable
  2. η, 1.9, suspected variable
  3. ζ, 2.0, multi-star system, suspected variable
  4. α, 1.8, triple, possible variable
  5. γ, 2.4, suspected variable
  6. β, 2.4, double, suspected variable
  7. δ, 3.1, double, suspected variable
That's not bad! It is interesting how far down I ranked Dubhe...

Needed my Messier Card to find M94.

I wondered why I was writing notes down, in the little note book, when I was at home, with computers at my disposal...

Lots of mosquitoes! I was hot. I had so many layers on it was making me sweat. Ha ha. A reason for a Lee Valley bug suit! Then I could wear shorts. And avoid chemicals.

9:53. Virgo was setting and the paws of the Big Bear were behind the houses and trees.

Sitting at the picnic table, under the big umbrella, fumbling with flashlights, I considered ideas for lighting. Perhaps I could make a red light to somehow suspend from the umbrella! I could tap into the power from the garage...

10:03. I was getting fed up! Lit some mosquito coils!

10:06. Double star 24 Com was too low, at least for city viewing.

10:20. Tried to star hop to κ (kappa) Herculis aka 7 Her. Took me a moment to realise the finder scope was not lateral inverted, despite the little mirror diagonal. Then I read the label: Orion 9x50 correct image finder. Duh. There you have it. Huh. That makes things a lot easier.

Star hopped from Alphecca to γ (gamma), δ (delta), and ε (epsilon). Then headed toward the equator and to π (pi) and ρ (rho) Serpens. The bright star (QY Ser) near ρ formed a straight line to 5 Her and finally κ. Nice. A wide double in the wide angle 32mm ocular. The main star is yellow; the companion dark yellow. Or orange. Both are faint.

WD = 1.

283° pre-lim. This was hard. The Dob was sticking. 282°.

DAMN! It was going behind the garage.

11:24. 1012mb, 80% hum, 22.4°C.

one more night (Blue Mountains)

Last night, Wednesday night, was a good night. Clear skies, not too hot, not too many bugs, Tony's big group from the Thornbury Library, lots of Galileo Moments, and then, later, when the visitors had gone home, snug in their beds, we counted Perseid meteors. A career high point for me.

Thursday morning, as some headed back to the city, those remaining considered the sky prospects. The Clear Sky Charts and regional weather reports were looking really good. It seemed a shame to travel back to Toronto when the evening sky promised so much.

I was not bookended. I could stay on one more night. Beyond that though, I was "on duty." Malcolm was heading out of town with the kids and I was his designated cat sitter. Speaking of cats, Nancy was running out of food too. I asked Ed what his plans were. He too did not have any immediate work commitments. Stu said he was going to stay on. I checked my email, I checked my voice-mail. No one needed me. I finally decided: one more night!

§

I napped in the early evening. I thought I'd snooze on the living room couch. That's not a great idea. People coming and going. People clacking away at the Hercules computer. Oh well. I think I did occasionally sleep. Briefly. I was a bit disoriented when I finally rose.

I didn't have much of a plan going into the evening. I had noodled a little bit on it through the day. The big thing I considered was viewing some DSOs in the Scorpius and Sagittarius regions, before the Moon bleached everything. After that I could go back to some tricky double stars.

We talked about Geoff G's notes on Antares: we could assess its brightness. Stu was keen to observe the shadow transit and occultation of Io and Europa. We were all interested in re-examining Uranus and Neptune and their tantalising moons. At various points through the day I kept thinking it would be fun to try the Bushnell 4.5" Family "ball" telescope (it would be Tony who finally remembered it).

§

[ed: Never finished updating these notes. They are presented here in their very raw form. Minor edits and formatting applied.]

Mercury. Saturn, no rings.

10:01 PM, Thursday, August 13, 2009. Just checked weather local. It's working! Hurrah.

wind speed 3.2
wind dir east
humidity 62
barometer 1019.5
temp 18.8
dew point 11.3

δ (delta) Cygni in Stuart's refractor. Very tight. Diffraction rings.

11:41 PM. Messier 70 (M70). Small bright glob. Quite small. Faint stars running across the Messier. Doesn't seem quite round. Hard to spot in the TV101 with 27mm. Obvious in C14 with 55mm. But averted vision.

12:05 AM, Friday, August 14, 2009. Neptune and Triton! 10mm is awesome. Very steady. Widely separated. Could see it in the 27. Neptune was pale blue; the moon was white.

12:50 AM. τ (tau) Oph. Very tight double. Almost equally bright. Same colour. Pale yellow white. 27mm - good view, very tight; 13mm - shimmering; 10mm - not good.

70 Oph. Bright stars. Main is light gold; companion is fainter and slightly darker colour. Stuart took a look. Very pretty in the 27mm.

1:10. Trev and Tony just left. Ed is turning in. They did a donut run earlier!

1:16. ρ (rho) Her. Nice double. 27mm. Same colour? White with hint of blue. Slightly different mag. I guessed 1 mag diff. Correct!

2:03. ρ Cap again. A is bright yellow white. Might be a double... Poss. a very tight companion at PA 190. B is orange star at PA 160. Its 4' (min) away. Blue star near B, PA 150 compared to A. Tried 5mm in TV, then 3mm. A is split! Very, very tight. Stuart came by. He's not sure that he can see it. We were both guessing at the PA.

2:25. I put the small portaball 'scope on the Moon and the Pleiades.

2:37. Split 72 Peg in brief moments of clear seeing. 13mm. Stars form oblong shape. Every once in a while I got a black line. Same colour, same brightness. Very tight.

78 Pegasi. Couldn't convincingly split. Were the conditions getting worse?

2:57. 12 Aqr. Returned to re-assess colour. Through C14, I thought pale yellow and dark yellow; through the TV101, yellow and white.

3:23. NGC 6910. Open cluster. About 40 to 50 stars. Most are faint small blue. 3 or 4 yellow stars in midst. Loose, open. An open V shape.

Jupiter's moons.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

orange tube C8 help

Ed T decided to use the old orange tube C8 from the GBO, a bequest from Mr Litovitz. He lugged the monster while I guided him through doors and over steps. As he took a break, I humped it the rest of the way to the observing pad.

The old girl operates on AC so we put her very near the centre post GFCI. I assumed the fork tines were to point north.

Ed found a 1¼" diagonal from the eyepiece cabinet (the one used the evening before with the MallinCam). He then started to track down some eyepieces. I confessed that I did not know if there were any specifically for this 'scope. I directed Ed to the storage closet but all he found was a box for the finder scope with the donor's name. I offered my eyepieces and 2" visual back and mirror. Initially, Ed declined, opting to use some of the GBO oculars.

He fine tuned the mount, aligned a Telrad, and learned the general operation of the 'scope. We verified the clock drive was working.

As it got dark, Ed reported that the light in the mount was distracting. I had noticed the orange (neon?) bulb inside the housing early. I wondered if a plate was missing. We rummaged up some black electrician's tape and covered the opening. It resisted sticking, in the humidity, but I think it worked out well, overall.

Later, Ed remarked that the old cat seemed out of alignment. He wondered if it needed collimation. We looked through different eyepieces and could see coma. Very distracting. It seemed worse at low power.

I admitted that I had only done collimation a couple of times with my SCT and I was rusty. But I offered to find some instructions on how to do it. I charged Ed with finding the tiny Allan key for the 3 adjustment screws on the secondary while I began a search... After a bit of digging, and a moment of inspiration, I found, on one of my USB memory thumb key stick drive flash things, a general C8 document which included adjustment notes. Woot! I rushed to the observing pad, netbook in hand, red cel firmly attached to the LCD, PDF on screen.

It was dark.

From memory, I reviewed the overall plan. It was coming back to me now... I thought it appropriate that it be done by 2 people: one could stay at the eyepiece while the other adjusted. We would switch between inner and outer focus watching for concentric diffraction rings. I remembered that we needed to select a bright star and then dimmer star and then progressively fainter stars to complete an optimal collimation. Then I told Ed we should use a star near zenith. Oh. Oh. Fork mount. Right. Looking at objects overhead might be a back-breaker. Would the mirror and eyepiece fit? Oh! Right. The mirror. Suddenly, I remembered that it was recommended that the mirror diagonal be removed during collimation, so to eliminate any possible issues or problems... with that element in the optical... path...

The mirror!

What if the mirror was causing the coma problem?!

I suggested to Ed that before we start any collimation that we switch the mirror. I pulled the old Celestron star diagonal (in metal body) from my eyepiece case. "Blake," Ed noted, "you're the only person I know with lights inside their eyepiece case." Surely, I'm not the only one with little red LEDs and a tilt switch, surely! We slotted in the old diagonal. And despite some chips out the corner of the mirror, it offered a crisp, clear, coma-free view.

We agreed that a mirror diagonal with a chintzy plastic cover was not likely going to be good quality and not necessarily in good alignment. I wondered if the mirror itself could be collimated. It has 4 little screws (ur, 3, one's missing) on the back of the plastic case. Merits a look inside. Or, we should just get a replacement... Hmm. This, again, was in service with the MallinCam the night before. We wondered how much it might have degraded the view...

Anyway, I was happy. It was kinda cool working on the vintage SCT. It was fun mixing in my parts to make it work. Ed was happy. He got some mileage out of the classic Celestron. Got some observing in after I had convinced him to stay one more night.

§

So, some issues with the C8:
  • earlier in the evening, we had noted the ocular was missing from the finder scope
  • mirror diagonal is in bad shape; needs repair or replacement
  • find eyepieces, if there were any
  • if we're going to replace the mirror, why not upgrade to 2" visual back and diagonal?; then we can tap into full range of GBO eyepieces
  • add a plate / plaque with the donor's name
  • the RA (if I remember correctly) knob is very stiff, jumps; lubrication needed? tension adjustment?
  • find missing plate or cover
I will see who fixes 'scopes in our crew...

§

C8 fork-mount photo by wikipedia user (and photographer) Opoterser.

fixed, broke Stu's Stellarium

Stu M had recently added Stellarium to his Acer netbook. He was enjoying the software.

I offered to add the CAO and DDO landscape omniramas. He gave a thumbs up. While his Aspire One has a camera, it does not have Bluetooth. I had to "sneaker net" the data with a USB memory dongle stick thingamajig key drive.

I also offered to enter the CAO location into his locations, pointing out this would give more accurate lunar and planetary positions. I transcribed the latitude, longitude, and elevation from my screen to his.

It all seemed to go well. We saw the landscapes listed and working upon selection. We added the new location to the list and then tried to make this the default location.

Stu reported to me afterwards that none of it was working. He could not see the landscapes. And on starting the software, he noticed it thought he was in Paris.

I cannot fathom why this all stopped working...

I hate computers.

in search of moons

Last night we tried to see Oberon and Titania around Uranus. I think I saw Oberon below the planet (in the C14). Isaac was certain he was seeing Titania above.

We then thought it would be good to try Triton orbiting Neptune. Ed T, after some research, suggested it should be quite possible, at a magnitude of 13.something. He reminded us that it is one of the larger moons in the solar system (it's 7th).

Last night we found neither TheSky6 nor Stellarium showed the Neptunian moons.

I decided to add the missing solar system data into Stellarium. I first looked in the JPL SSD site but it seems the small body browser is not for moons. I was referred to the HORIZONS site but it looked like it was only going to give ephemerides. Still, I initiated a search for Oberon, just to see if Stellarium data agreed with the current figures.

Well, it did offer up some handy data for Oberon (704): semi-major axis (km): 582.6 (10^3); orbital period: 13.463 d; eccentricity: 0.0008; rotational period: synchronous; inclination (deg): 0.10. I pulled the ssystem.ini for Stellarium. Huh. It's format is very different than what I've seen for asteroids and comets... To the point that I could not tell if Stellarium was right or not. So much for that.

All of this jostled a memory of enquiries to the Stellarium team about plotting Neptune's moons. I had a vague recollection that it required the use of a subversion. I wondered if I'd need to download it... After some frustrating but brief searching of the SourceForge forum, I found a dump of content needed for Triton and Nereid.
[triton]
name = Triton
parent = Neptune
radius = 1353.4
oblateness = 0.0
albedo = 0.76
lighting = true
halo = false
color = 1.0,1.0,1.0
tex_halo = NULL ;star16x16.png
tex_map = asteroid.png
rot_periode = 16.11
rot_rotation_offset = 71.5
rot_obliquity = 156.8
coord_func = ell_orbit
orbit_Epoch = 2447763.5
orbit_Period = 5.8768541
orbit_SemiMajorAxis = 354765.286
orbit_Eccentricity = 0.00002285
orbit_Inclination = 156.826240
orbit_AscendingNode = 147.899288
orbit_LongOfPericenter = 293.092400
orbit_MeanLongitude = 315.726316

[nereid]
name = Nereid
parent = Neptune
radius = 170
halo = false
color = 1.,0.9,0.75
tex_map = asteroid.png
tex_halo = NULL ;star16x16.png
lighting = true
albedo = 0.16
rot_periode = 11.52
rot_rotation_offset = 0.0
rot_obliquity = 0.0
coord_func = ell_orbit
orbit_Epoch = 2447763.5
orbit_Period = 360.13619
orbit_SemiMajorAxis = 5513400.
orbit_Eccentricity = 0.7512
orbit_Inclination = 6.68
orbit_AscendingNode = 190.678
orbit_LongOfPericenter = 17.690
orbit_MeanLongitude = 36.056
I decided to conduct an experiment. What's the worst that could happen? I copied the code (dated 1 Jul 2009). Saved the ssystem.ini file. Restarted Stellarium. Located Neptune. Zoomed it. Hey! There it was: Triton! OK!

We'll have to look for Neptune's biggest moon later tonight...

contact sport

Watching a meteor shower near Tony is like being at sport match. Full contact! Rambunctious fan? No, he's hooping and hollering like a player! He grunts like Maria "Smasha" Sharapova, hollers like a hockey player on a breakaway. "WHOA!" "YES!" He lets you know he saw one.

And it's like he's rooting for his team. "I GOT ONE, HA HA!"

If you're a little tired or sleepy, you'll have no trouble staying awake, 'round Mark Anthony.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

hard to read to end

It's not often while I read something that I get angry. Usually this only happens when I'm wading through a poorly written user manual, typically associated with a computer software application I'm trying to learn.

Actually, I remember getting pretty hot reading the user guide for a Celestron GOTO controller two summers ago...

Early on with Visual Astronomy in the Suburbs, I grew upset. I alluded to this back in July shortly after I picked up Antony Cooke's book from my local library. It seemed that the author was a big fan of image intensifiers and used one to help him view from his Californian backyard.

(The eerie green glow on the cover should have told me something was amiss.)

By the time I reached the chapter "Practical Applications and Viewing Aids," I was angry. I could not put aside the feeling that I was being misled, that the author was biased. Cooke was talking about and showing in photos his typical observing session setup. I was stunned. Are you ready for this? Are you sitting down?!
  • telescope (an 18" Dobsonian with digital setting circles no less)
  • image intensifier
  • extension
  • eyepiece component
  • adapter
  • video camera
  • media converter
  • recursive frame averager
  • desktop (yes, desktop) computer
What?! Pardon? Hello! I thought the title of this book included the word "visual."

Curiously, the owner of all this astronomical and technological equipment does "not see the necessity... of 'go-to' telescopes."

Cooke relayed his excitement seeing a deep sky object from his light polluted backyard. I wanted to share this joy. But his observations were made looking at his computer monitor or the tiny green screen of the intensifier (which he admitted affected his dark adaptation). That's not what I would describe as visual observing.

He clearly has a very different interpretation of visual astronomy. What Cooke really meant was "real-time" astronomy. Observing the here and now, what was overhead, from the comfort of his home, not wanting to drive out of the city for 2 hours, what he could see right now—with a great deal of light amplification!

Cooke talked about sketching. But he was typically sketching from the enhanced image shown on a digital device. He admitted drawing from video taped images. Intriguing on one hand, coaxing out very faint details of very faint fuzzies in far less than ideal conditions. But not normally sketching what he was seeing directly through an eyepiece. Just because you’re using eyeballs in your head does not make it visual astronomy. He argued that since he's not taking a picture with a CCD that it was visual astronomy...

I plodded on. I felt it important to hear what he had to say. And surprisingly found myself actually enjoying his suggestions on gauging weather conditions and making astronomical sketches. His sketches of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were tantalising. His flat maps, while very artificial, were rich with surface detail. Things were looking up. I was anticipating his list of targets accessible from an urban environment. My hopes were quickly dashed.

As Cooke launched into chapter 6, as he recommended what would be required to view each of his favourite objects, I looked at his first choice and noted the "INT" at the bottom. INT meaning: intensifier needed. OK... Next object? Ah, INT again. Next target, INT. Um. What about the... INT. And on and on it went. I counted 62 targets in his primary list, of which 59 included INT. Now I was real angry. He gave me a whopping 3 targets to work with.

I must admit, I started skimming here. I was boiling. There seemed little point in reading his impressions of objects that he said needed amplification, that probably I would not be able to see visually, without aid. He said, "Andromeda is not resolvable visually." Huh. I can see it with my naked eye in the city. I remembered viewing M42 at 77x from the rooftop of my apartment near Yonge and Eglinton and being blown away.

What a minute. That was a curious remark about M31. That made me wonder about his actual sky conditions and imagine for a moment that they were quite a bit worse than what I have experienced. Fine, OK. But then why hadn't he made quantifiable measurements for us? Clearly a gadget freak, he could have aimed a Sky Quality Meter up into his orange-tinged, smog-filled, sea breeze layered skies and given us a reading. Surely, he could afford the $120. If nothing else, for typical nights and perhaps his best ever on record evening, he could have given us some naked eye magnitude limit observations. Oh! Right! He doesn't like using his eyes. Directly. What was I thinking...

I barely looked at his "Second Viewing Catalog." More INTs. I didn't even bother reading the Southern Hemisphere chapter. How thoughtful he provide this information to people who will not even be able to buy his recommended intensifier legally outside of the United States.

Winding down, I read the Postscript of the book. I had wondered if Mr Cooke was going to ever divulge this information. It took him 246 pages to work up the nerve to tell us the price of all this hardware. I had already hardened myself, reading the wikipedia article on intensifiers, learning that they had limited life spans (which the author only hints at), doing some online shopping and experiencing extreme sticker shock. Crikey. One could buy a whole telescope (or two) for the kind of money he wanted us to drop. One could buy a lot of car trips out of town.

The icing on the cake though was that Cooke turned over the last few pages of his soapbox message to the manufacturer of his favourite device. It was crystal clear now. I had wondered for a long time if the author was getting a kick-back. Yes. Yes he was.

I feel I've been had. Sucked in. Misled by a bad book title. There's a bitter taste after this experience. I had two other titles by Cooke on my list of astronomy books to read...

What troubles me is that Antony Cooke oppresses the reader. The tone is that nothing is possible inside the city (save a couple of planets) without extreme amplification. I fear novice amateur astronomers picking up this title will walk away thinking they must either spend thousands of dollars more to see anything inside in their backyard or not use their telescope at home. And that's a shame. My career best view of Jupiter was last summer from the sidewalk in front of my house opposite street lights. The best ever! With a lowly 8" SCT. There is much to see, in natural light, subtle hues, with minimal equipment, and with, admittedly, some assistance, a high-quality mirror or two, and a good, clear lens or two. That's visual astronomy. Direct simple astronomy. Real. Visceral.

Antony Cooke disagrees. He would call me "old fashioned." He doesn't think I should observe "the heavens the old fashioned way." He thinks I am a "fanatic" and that my way is "elitist thinking."

§

Perhaps the title should be: Image-Intensified Astronomy in the Suburbs.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

double stars, simulated

Had a bright idea a day or two ago. Instead of waiting for a clear night and good conditions to try various methods for measuring double star position angles (PA) and separations (sep.), I could simulate it! In astronomy software! Yeah! With some graphical software! Cool! OK. Small things amuse me sometimes. This would also afford me the opportunity to shake down my notes from Teague's article. I liked the idea that I wouldn't be wasting time at the eyepiece. All right, into the incubator for a little while...

§

In TheSky6 I created a field of view (FOV) circle for the Celestron 14" SCT combined with the Celestron Micro Guide 12.5mm eyepiece.

It was at this point that I discovered a mistake in my personal telescope-eyepiece spreadsheets. I had noted the Micro Guide as a Plössl design with a 50° apparent FOV (AFOV); in fact, it is an Abbe orthoscopic type with only a 42° AFOV.

With this data, I was able to create the proper true FOV (TFOV). But as I viewed the virtual sky, I could not separate some target double stars. They were too tight. That didn't seem right...

When I suddenly remembered that I didn't have a Barlow factored in. Right! This would double the power but halve the field size.

It seems that TheSky6 does not have a quick and easy way of adding or activating a Barlow in the optical path so I simply create a new telescope, called "C14 w/ 2x Barlow," with twice the aperture. Now the doubles were closer, er, closer to me, more widely split.



Having corrected my telescope-eyepiece matrix spreadsheets, I also saw that final TFOV would be 0.065° give or take.

§

I considered staying with TheSky6 for capturing the sky images but I was a little worried that it might be out of date. I wondered if my Stellarium 0.9.x would have more current PA and sep. information. That said, TheSky6 has the nice little N-E indicator. This would definitely be handy for the upcoming work. And Software Bisque's tool allowed for infinite field rotation. That might prove helpful. But then I thought what's wrong with using both? I minimized TheSky6 and launched Stellarium 0.9.x. I'd be able to cross-check things.

§

I needed an image of the reticule inside the Micro Guide. There are photographs on some vendor web sites which are quite clear but the overall dimensions are small, maybe 500 pixels tall. I decided to use, while clearly photocopied, copied badly, and not perfectly round, the image within the Celestron documentation. At least with this image, inside the PDF file, I could scale up to a very large size. Which I did, up to about 1000 pixels. I captured the screen space with the Windows PrtSc function.

Then I launched my trusty old version of Macromedia Fireworks, created a new document (which automatically detected the dimensions of my recent screen grab command), and I pasted in the reticule. I inverted the colours in the image to white on black and cropped the extra bits from the screen snapshot. Using Fireworks's rubber stamp tool, I removed the big numbers, used as references in the documentation. The last thing I wanted to do was change the black background to be transparent. But after a bit of fumbling, I gave up on that...

I created an additional layer in the drawing. The intention was to superimposed the reticule atop the star field. Once I had the reticule in its own layer, I remembered that I could change the layer transparency. Ha ha! Solved that problem with a little workaround. I set it to 25% for a realistic view of the reticule, though white not red.

§

I pulled my updated lists of summer and winter double stars suggested by Sky and Telescope. I looked for some wide doubles. I thought it would be best to run my early simulations with some easy targets.

For some reason, I rejected ones that were optical. I don't know what made me think along these lines. But it wasn't until some time later that I realised it would actually be better, for simulation purposes anyway, to not choose stars in true binary systems. The orbital movement might confuse matters.

I settled on 61 Cygni (wide, slow moving binary system) for my first test. Switched to Stellarium. Searched for the constellation. Turned on the star names. There it was... Centred on 61. I remembered, off the top of my head, the command to type into the script box, to zoom to a precise level: zoom fov 0.065. Perfect. I miss this feature in version 0.10... I turned on the equatorial grid to help with orientation to north (since Stellarium does not have a little N-E indicator) and to verify the direction the stars would drift. I flipped on the horizontal inverting mode to simulate using a mirror diagonal. OK. The star field was ready.

I took a full snapshot of the screen in Windows and dropped it into the background layer in Fireworks. The reticule hovered, faint, atop the stars. The sizing of everything was pretty well bang on. Lookin' good!

§

When I realised that I'd needed to see clearly where the stars would drift to, I decided to use another layer. I created a third level in the Fireworks document and in this new layer, I then draw a straight line. I set it to a bright colour, 2 pixels wide.

With the subselection tool, I dragged the line endpoints so the bright line was parallel to the lines of declination in the background star image.



OK. I was finally ready to do my first double star measurement.

§

Every time at the telescope when trying the Micro Guide, I have spent time calibrating it. I didn't want to do this, this time. I was tired of doing that. I wasn't exactly sure if I could do it, simulate it rather, in the software. And I also considered that I could just use an approximation, based on the published specifications of the telescope and eyepiece... Eh, whatever. I was primarily doing this mock run so that I could refine Teague's advanced methods for measuring binaries. So, let's get on with it, I thought.

§

I eyeballed the PA of 61 Cygni to be around 90°.

90°, going CW from north in a mirror-reversed view. I had to double check my notes about this, which direction one should go. 90°, according to the Stellarium image. Which I noticed was very different than the image TheSky6. Huh.

(It was around this time that I noticed something odd in TheSky6. I think. Unless I'm going crazy. Which is always a distinct possibility. I noticed that Bisque's program suddenly rotated the view at a certain threshold of zoom level. I think what's happening here is when you're zoomed in really tight, the software puts north to the top of the screen; whereas, when you're zoomed out to the point where you can see the horizon, it adjusts the view so that the horizon is... well... horizontal. I dunno. That's my theory. Anyway, it jumps, big time, when you are zooming. But, all that said, you can rotate the field any which way you want so it doesn't really matter, I guess. It just threw me for a while.)

Where was I?

With the Scale tool in Fireworks, I turned the reticule image clockwise (CW) and counterclockwise (CCW) until I had the centre linear scale (LS) lines of the Micro Guide parallel to the line between the stars.

Using Teague's "better" method, I noted the number of whole divisions on the LS to be 9.

I turned the reticule until I had the 0 (zero) position along the large circular scale (LCS) near to the primary star. But I wasn't sure which 0 to use, the mark outside the LCS or inside. I decided to use the outer. In fact, it seemed to me that it wouldn't matter.

As per my notes, I twisted the reticule CCW and shuffled it about until I bisected the 2 stars with LS lines exactly 9 divisions apart. After the second or third time trying this, I came to realise that the angle could vary widely, depending how far along the next whole division the secondary star was. And I learned it wasn't a matter of putting each star along the 2 long lines of the LS; it was most important to get the tick marks along the centre of the stars. Sometimes that would put the long lines far from the stars.

I moved the reticule so a star lay in the middle of the LS, between the 30 marks. I simulated the star drifting out of the field by grabbing the thin bright line (previously aligned due east-west) and putting it over top of the centre of the reticule (and the star) and observing where the line crossed the western edge of the reticule's LCS scale. The angle was 184° (according to the outer markings).

Now, as per my interpretation of Teague's notes, I turned the CW (something niggling at my brain) until I had the 2 stars 9 divisions apart. I simulated the drift. The angle this time was 177° (outside marks again).

I punched these numbers in the little spreadsheet I had built into my Psion Series 5mx some time back. The sheet was a work in progress—it still needs a few IF functions to do everything automatically—but it works. It kicked out a number of 270.5° for the position angle. Whoa. Way off. Hey... add 90 and that's 360. Curious. I double-checked my formulae, the exit angles. I re-read Teague's notes.

It was then that I realised I had been flip-flopping on the inner and outer numbers. Oops! I re-measured the angles, aligning the 0 mark to the primary star and taking the two angles from the consistent side during the drift tests. OK. This time I got the angles 3 and 354. The spreadsheet said a position angle of 268 and change. Damn. I re-read the S&T article again. Ah. Found something not in my notes. Something that I had intended for the worksheet to do but that I had not yet built-in. Teague cautioned that if one angle was between 0 and 90 while the angle was between 270 and 360, you would need to add 360 to the smaller number.

I noodled briefly on how to revise my formula to accommodate for this. Bah. Leave it for later. I was anxious to see a correct result. I typed the numbers 363 and 354 into the cells. And was promptly rewarded with a PA of 448. What?! Back to Teague's dense notes. OK. If the resultant is more than 360, simply subtract 360. Ah. That I wove into a new IF function. Bingo! I got a PA of 88.5°, very close to the visual impression I had of the 2 stars.

The separation seemed to be OK. But that was a struggle to get the PA figured out...

All that said, I was a little perturbed that the PA of my image did not match that recorded by Haas. I knew it could have been a problem with Stellarium and the catalogs it is using. I resolved to not spend too much time worrying about it. As long as I got PA numbers close to what I was visually seeing, that was the objective. Oh. Sorry. No pun intended.

Let's practice that again!

I tried working with Albireo. And ending up getting very strange numbers. I could see visually the PA was around 50 with a sep. about the same at 61 Cyg. A little frustrated, I decided to start over. I recaptured the image at the correct scale. I made certain I knew where celestial north was. I made certain I knew which way the field would drift. And on re-reading the article by Teague once again, I noted a remark early on: you must use the inner numbers on the LCS for a mirror-inverted view. Oooh. OK then. My observations this time?

whole divisions: 12
angle 1: 304
angle 2: 348

The calculated PA was 56°. Woot! Nailed it.

§

The niggling thought crystallised. The rotation of the reticule CW from the line through the 2 stars should be the same as the angle CCW. If you measured another angle, but early on, before rotating the reticule, the centre-line, this would give you a handy clue, a little bit more data. So, I made a new note in my sequence of steps: After aligning the LS to the 2 stars, after estimating the whole divisions, centre on a star, let it drift, and note this preliminary angle. With my Albireo simulation, it was 326. Then, carry on with the rotational steps and measurements. The 304 and 348 results were both 22°, plus or minus, from the centre-line.

On one hand, this might suggest you only need to rotate the reticule and then drift once. You could infer the other measurement, then. But it's probably better to measure twice... Carpenter's rule?! Measure twice and note if they are about the same delta from the centre-line. If they're not, then it tells you, early on, you did something wrong.

This struck a cord. I remembered, while reading Teague's article the first time, about a possible "weakness" in his approach. He said: rotate, align, drift, record; then rotate the other way, "keep going," align, drift... As I read that, I thought, how could you get back to the exact parallel alignment between the two stars (especially if they were tight). If you were off a small amount, the distortion would skew all your calculations.

I think I've found a little self-check in the process.

§

Again! Yeah. Yeah. Again!

Target: ψ1 (psi 1) Draconis.

Eyeballed PA: 15.

Once again I made a lot of mistakes, not starting with the correct inner zero LCS orientation, having the drift direction wrong (at least this error would not happen in real observing). Finally got my ducks in a row.

whole divisions: 11
preliminary angle: 285
angle 1: 271
angle 2: 302

16.5 was the calculated PA. Yes!

§

I was feeling pretty comfortable with PA work. But the separation numbers seemed all over the place. In general, they were way too high. Went through Teague's instructions again. Looked very closely at my spreadsheet formulae. When it dawned on me. Of course the LS calibration is important! In all cases! No matter which method you use! This is a critical factor in Teague's final trigonometric calculation of the sep. What a dumbass.

OK then. Let's do some drift timings and see what we get.



Hopped back to Stellarium. Turned on the disk viewport. I needed a star at a declination between 65 and 75°. Hello ψ1 Draconis! I was cued up and ready to go! Like I have done in the field, I fired up StopWatch on my Psion, activated the lap timer, and captured several timings across the entire virtual eyepiece field. I wasn't after high accuracy; just wanted to see I was in the ballpark.

I took a guess that the Micro Guide eyepiece field extended 20 units past each end of the LS. I multiplied the average drift time of 50.75 seconds by 6/8ths directly within the sweep time cell of my spreadsheet. After entering the declination decimal number, I saw the LS constant value of 2.92 appear.

And, in turn, the sep. value of 33.4 appeared at the bottom of my spreadsheet. Holy cow. It looked like I had the whole thing working correctly!

§

Rinse and repeat!

Target: κ (kappa) Herculis.

I estimated the sep. directly on the LS to be 10.1 ticks. The preliminary exit angle for the stars centre-line, on the inner scale of the LCS, was 282. The first angle at 10 whole divisions was 276; the second was 287. Everything was looking good so far.

Computer says...

PA 11.5° and sep. 29.4".

Wow.

§

That was a long battle. But a very good exercise. I was feeling tired but satisfied. Earlier I had considered Mizar for a test but rejected it. Now, I wanted to do it!

eyeball PA: 140
eyeball ticks: 5.7
preliminary angle: 59
angle 1: 40
angle 2: 71

This yielded a PA of 146° and a sep. of 15.18".

Haas says 153° and 14.3" (as of 2003).

Now I'm ready.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

the planet hunt is on!

So says Jon Morse, director of the Science Mission Directorate's Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. This after the Kepler space telescope, launched in March, detected the atmosphere of a known giant gas planet using test data.

This is going to get very interesting...

won't fit in car



I don't think Johannes Hevelius's telescope will fit in the back seat of his car. Or pickup truck.

both wrong

In an effort to figure out which was correct about the double star in Camelopardalis at R.A. (2000) 12h 49.2m and Dec. (2000) +83° 25', I learned that both Sissy Haas's double stars for small telescopes book and Sky & Telescope's summer doubles web page are incorrect!

Finally, I found the correct information. At the amazing wikipedia web site, no less.

Haas refers to the star in question as 32 Cam. This is incorrect. The Flamsteed number 32 should not be used.

S&T refers to this as 35 Cam. This is completely wrong.

The correct short name is 32H Cam. This is in reference to Hevelius's catalog and his 32nd star in Cam. A correct double star catalog reference is Σ (Sigma) 1694, from Struve's work.

closing in on 100

Did some reconciliation, tidying up. Found some missing entries. Added some proper names. Printed update checklists for my next outing.

My double star life list is sitting at 93 entries! Getting close to 100. Wow.

Make that 95! I found 2 more observations that I had never recorded to my life list. Weird. Perhaps because these stars were not listed in double stars for small telescopes...

Looks like my record for splitting is around 1.4 or 1.5 seconds of arc. I could not split ζ (zeta) Cancri at 0.9" and still cannot split 78 Pegasi at 0.8".

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

number 1 and 3

I needed curry tonight. After dinner (and a pint, or two) at the local Firkin, I walked north, home. It was clear.

Over my shoulder I saw the full Moon was within 10° of the third brightest solar system object.

§

I was intrigued to see one of the camera operators down at the ole' Skydome turn, during a lull in the NY vs. Jays baseball rout, to the bright Moon visible out the open roof.

fixed Aquila

Tony was having some trouble with the old Dell inspiron 2650 laptop which we use for RASC presentations. He reminded me of difficulties when we was last at the CAO. The problems persisted. He could see wireless networks around the computer but was not able to connect to them. I finally got 'round to testing the computer tonight. It would not connect to my wifi. So I started hammering away at it...

An hour later I finally successfully removed all the old D-Link wireless adapter utility software and the driver. And then I carefully reinstalled everything. I concluded with connecting to my LAN.

If this acts up again, maybe we should abandon using the D-Link tool for managing the wireless and just let Windows XP do it.

Tony's going to drop by in a few minutes to pick it up. Ah. He, too, did not go to the RASC meeting...

circuit breaker directory

The reason for verifying all the circuits at the CAO was to provide this information to Tony so that, using Charles's label marker, he could label all the circuits. Big job.

David and I had tested all the circuits on the 3 electrical panels on Sunday mid-day. I wrote notes by hand. I transcribed my notes (as well as older generations of notes by Tony and others) into the computer, into a spreadsheet, in fact. So to provide clear notes to Tony. And to create a document for record keeping. I discussed the panels and labelling conventions with Tony and applied changes as he suggested.

Then it suddenly occurred to me, hey, I could repurpose this spreadsheet into a form that could be printed, making single-sheet labels! Ha ha. When I explained this to Tony, he stopped yelling at me. Hey, Mikey, he likes it!

It was fortunate that we had a guest on-site. Dean did us huge favours by shooting reference photos (with his phone camera, no less) and taking measurements of the existing labels and panel wings. Thank you, Dean!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

IE in foreign language



One of our guests visiting the CAO reported to me that Internet Explorer on the dining room computer is displaying a menu with "strange symbols." Is that so?!

I phoned and emailed David. When he called back, I explained the problem. He said, "Yeah, I noticed that Mozilla Firefox was different." Or something to that effect. I explained the problem again, that the IE menu was showing different characters. He said, "Oh, in Chinese?" I said that I didn't know for certain, I was relaying the email sent to me. He said, "I think I know who the culprit is..." and laughed.

Damn it. This is not funny. We've got a computer in a public space that has been altered by the child of a member. They didn't know better perhaps. But they should have been told to not do this. The parents should have advised the child of how to behave using a shared computer.

Then David it seemed put the phone down and began a long discussion with the people near him. There was a lot of ambient noise. I could hear Jerry in the background saying something about having installed another version of IE. But the connection was poor. And the phone's microphone is crap. So I only got every other word. I hung up.

I was angry. I have a hard enough time keeping these computers running... Then these unsupervised kids muck them up. I should just lock everything down. See how that flies... Or just let them do what they want to do. And I'll stop fixing these damaged computers. Clean up your own mess.

how quick they call

Oh. Now Georgian.net needs our help. Curious, how quick they call...

Something's wrong with their repeater antenna. They want to do a service call and want to know if anyone's there.

So ironic.

Not a peep about our outage...

Monday, August 03, 2009

busy on 10

Oops. I should not have taken the Windmill Route back from the CAO at the end of a long holiday weekend... I got slotted into the hordes descending from Owen Sound. Note to self.

more work at CAO

I did a bunch more things up at the CAO this long weekend:
  • rebooted the print server
  • altered when the dining room computer updates virus signatures and scans, hopefully avoiding day-time use
  • defragmented both hard disks in dining room computer
  • tested and printed updated notes on "no internet" condition
  • destroyed old and obsolete hardware and software notes
  • moved found WeatherLink manual to storage closet
  • noted the nominal LED configurations on all our network equipment
  • created a Windows account for Phil on GBO laptop
  • verified all AC electrical circuits (95 in all) in the house, GBO, garage, and THO, with Jerry and David's assistance
  • tested the old FM wireless intercom between the kitchen, furnace room, and garage - they all work!
  • checked for LEDs or other indicators on the WISP 5.8 and 900 antennas
  • marked and documented the WISP 5.8 feed antenna elevation
  • cleaned the outside of the all-sky camera cover; reported the condition of the inside of the all-sky camera
Lora commented on my busy body nature... I'd rather loaf.

CAO GBO LED pen

Wow. Look at all those TLAs.

I noticed a LED pen (like mine) in the GBO. I wondered if it was red. I opened the case, removed the protective cover from the switch, clicked it on... Nothing. Dead batteries?

I opened it up to find 2 tired looked AG13 batteries. I tested them with one of the CAO voltmeters. Barely moved the needle.

Hmm. These things look exactly like my LR44 or 357 or S76E or whatever the hell they're called... From Astronomy Box α, I popped in some of my spares. Presto! The GBO pen is back in service.

It was red.

WeatherLink up

Hmm. Now the WeatherLink's working again. The only thing that I can see that is different is that David and crew are gone...

OK. It's not David's fault directly. But almost immediately upon arriving, he started working on his laptops in the kitchen, migrating from old machine to new, and of course he needed power so he plugged in one of these portables to the receptacle near the table, the socket to the left of the pantry door, the socket that, on the other side of the wall sits my server!

It seems like that his electronic gear was somehow interfering with the server USB. Now that the receptacle is empty, the USB connection is working fine again.

This doesn't make any sense to me. But it is a smoking gun. And that is useful.

It is particularly strange to me that there is interference since I rerouted the USB cable through the wall. I did that on Saturday mid-day...

Anyway. It seems fine now.

I'll ask people in the future to avoid using this plug.

20 pairs (Blue Mountains)

I visited over 20 double star systems tonight. Most were new to me. Wow.

§

I had been trying every day to plan for naps in the day. So to improve my staying power at night. But it just didn't happen. I was in danger of repeating the mistake again but I forced myself to sleep immediately after dinner. Put my ear plugs in and set an alarm for 9:30 PM. At first, I didn't think I was going to be able to sleep deeply. But then I suddenly woke at 9:45! Wow.

I dressed for cool air and bugs, brushed my teeth, and headed upstairs. The Moon was bright. And we were desperate. Took a few looks through Phil's Dob.

David took the Losmandy out to the observing pad for Jerry to play with.

OK. Let's crack off some of the unchecked items on Sky & Telescope's pretty summer doubles list...

12:07. 39 Boötis. It was split in the 27mm (in the C14, that would be 145x) but tight. Tried the 13mm (301x) but it was too blurry. Are these stars the same colour? I think they are golden colour. Maybe that's just the main star; perhaps the secondary white or very pale blue. They are almost equal in brightness. The 18mm (217x) offered a good view. But it made the colours look similar. Even the experts disagree: Haas says both as whitish gold; Smyth: "white, lilac;" and Webb says both are white. 2.7 seconds of arc separated these stars in 2004.

12:26. I was headed to σ (sigma) Coronae Borealis but went to δ (delta) by accident. When I got back on track, with the 18mm, I was rewarded with a nice double star. They seemed to be the same colours, both pale gold. Phil was taking a break from the pad. I asked what he thought about their hues. He said "whitish, the bright one is slightly more yellow." I thought they were similar magnitudes. Haas reports them to be lemon-white, mildly unequal. Smyth sides with Phil: "Creamy white; smalt blue." Except I don't know what smalt blue means. Hartung is more to my liking: "Deep yellow." There you have it.

12:40. Viewed μ (mu) Cygni. Very tight double. Haas reports the 2004 separation to be 1.9". Nice. They seem to me to be similar colours. Perhaps there's a hint of blue in the secondary (oops, I forgot to note the primary's colour). Smyth told Haas: white and blue. Phil suggested they were a full magnitude different. Haas says 1.5. We enjoyed the view in the 13mm.

David and Phil wanted to take a break. So we headed inside and made some popcorn. Jerry came out of nowhere. I sipped another Red Bull. But when I stood up for round 2, at 1:30, they said they were gonna quit. OK. Just me then.

At 1:45, I had viewed π (pi) Capricorni again. I noted the companion was faint, it was a tight double. The main star was bright blue white which can overwhelm the companion which is a dark orange. With the 27mm, I could split them when air was steady. The 18mm did not improve the view!

I also decided to look at ρ (rho) Cap again. There is a bright star distant from a medium star. At about a 90° angle to these two stars there is a fainter star still. Makes me think of a hockey stick? I cannot split the main star. Haas says they are 1.3" apart. I was thinking I should sketch this, measure the wide double. Next time...

2:01. I turned to ζ (zeta) Aquarii. I thought these stars to be overall rather bright. A very tight double. Haas reports 2.0" in 2004. They seemed nearly equal in brightness and colour. The main is pale yellow; the secondary is pale white. "Whitish citrus orange," says Haas.

2:19. I tried again to split 72 Pegasi. I used the 27, 18, 13, and 10mm (391x). No joy. I'll need better conditions to split these 0.5" stars.

2:27. Hoping to get lucky, I moved again 78 Peg. No luck. Hints though... Very possible. Even at low power with 27mm I did not think this object perfectly round. In 1999, the separation was 0.8". The period is 630 years. Gonna have to wait a while to see any change...

2:37. 12 Aqr. A nice double. I was just able to split them at 27mm; easily split with the 18mm. I think they are exactly the same colour! Different brightnesses though. S&T (3 rating) and Haas (yellow and blue) say very different colours. Haas lists the magnitudes as 5.8 and 7.5. I dunno about the colours... I tried a higher magnification: very blurry. Let's mark it as one to revisit.

2:48. 95 Herculis. A gold and blue-white combination, widely separated. Haas and Smyth disagree. Smyth is on drugs: "light apple green; cherry red." What?!

Hey! What's going on. It is getting cloudy in the west... That's no good.

2:51. I can see how 16 and 17 Draconis would be a good bino double. Very cool with the 18mm eyepiece. Easily split 27mm. All three are similar colours and brightness. 17 B is a little dimmer, perhaps with a touch of yellow. 16 and 17 were 90" apart in 2003; whereas 17 A and B were 3". Haas says they're set 90° from each other. Nice.

2:56. I noticed Mars rising. It was directly left of Aldebaran. Interesting. They are the same colour and magnitude!

Next: μ (mu) Dra. Ha! They are the exact same brightness and colour. Exact! A nice, tight double (Haas: 2.3" in 2004).

3:02. ζ (zeta) Lyrae. How about that... An easy wide double near ε (epsilon). Perhaps we should use this before showing victims, visitors, the Double-Double. The sep. is 43.8". The main was white-beige; the compansion was pale yellow lime. Look at that. Smyth agrees, "Topaz; greenish." A cloud moved in and dimmed everything out. Boo!

3:08. I saw that the Moon was almost down.

3:18. I went looking for STT 525 in Lyra. Using the R.A. (18h 54.9') and dec. (33° 59') numbers, I landed at WDS SHJ 282 in TheSky6. It is a nice wide double. Classic colours: pale yellow and pale blue. What catalog is this, that Sky & Tel is referring to? It is not Struve's... I'm a little confused about that. I'd like to understand the reference (ah, it's a catalog by Struve's son Otto).

3:21. Some birds are waking up. I heard a few chirps. Are there a few early risers in the avian community? For me, the skies are dark again.

3:28. At long last, I visited ν (nu) Dra. It is a nice easy wide double. The stars look to be the same brightness to me. One is white; the other has a hint of yellow. Hmm, if 2 stars are exactly the same brightness, which one is the primary, for PA?, for the A label? Inquiring minds want to know. Oh! Haas calls these stars the Dragon's Eyes. Scary. Webb describes this as "Yellow white. A grand object." Indeed.

3:34. Over to ψ (psi) Dra. This double might be a good candidate for an every-season double star list. Being so close to the NCP. It is a wide pair, about half the sep. of ν (correct). They are surprisingly bright stars. The main is bright yellow; the companion? Dark yellow or yellow with a hint of orange. Interesting.

3:41. Landed at 41 Dra. Another nice wide double. Maybe half the sep. again (correct). Nearly equal colour and brightness. Surpringly close to Ursa Minor. Might this be another good year-round double. Except that these stars are not very colourful...

I saw that the glow in the east was increasing.

3:49. Feels damp now. I saw that I was close to some deep sky objects. So I made a pit stop at M56 (or NGC 6779). It is a small globular, faint in these conditions. It does not look uniform to me.

4:02. Moving along, I took in 35 Camelopardalis. It is a wide double, once again with equally bright stars. They have the same white colour it seems. Again, not too exciting, although they can likely be seen year-round. Curiously, this pair is not listed is Haas's book. Hey, 32 Cam in Sissy's book matches this star. Who's right? [Neither, it turns out.]

Venus was up! Dawn is not far away.

4:14. It looked like I had exhausted the summer double star list. For now. A bunch of choices in were off-limits now, like those in Ophiuchus and Scorpius. So, I switched ot the winter double star list.

And headed to 11-12 Cam. This was interesting. The bright star is blue white; the companion is a deep orange. Haas says: "whitish lemon and citrus orange." Did she have fruit for breakfast that morning? Fantastic colour in the companion. There were widely separated (179" according to Haas). Now that would be a good one to show off...

4:22. Next stop: α (alpha) Piscium. Also know as Alrescha. Wow. A very tight double (1.9" in 2004 says Haas). Two pure white bright stars, the same colour. I estimated the companion to be about 1/2 or 1 mag different (1.1 says Haas).

4:28. ζ (zeta) Psc. Bright stars again. The main is yellow. The companion is about 1/2 mag fainter (no, 1) and is slightly redder. Webb said, "Yellowish, pale lilac or rose."

A bright satellite went through field rapidly. I tried to spot it naked eye without success.

4:33. ψ1 (psi 1) Psc. I thought these to be two equally bright (Haas states 5.3 and 5.5) pale yellow stars with a medium separation (Haas has recorded 30" in 2004). There's a nearby blue star at a 120 angle to the yellow stars. It has a sep. twice that of the yellows. I noted that this pairing along with ψ2 and ψ3 are good for binocular viewing.

4:49. Hmmm, looks who's nearby. I tried for the Triangulum Galaxy. Again. Being almost directly overhead, using the Big Gun, I thought it would look awesome. M33 is such a frustrating object. It is so faint! Stellarium says it is magnitude 5.70. But that's over 1° of sky. That said, I can see blobs. Are these part of its structure? The 27mm eyepiece was too tight. The 55mm was better but still... Next time, I'll switch to the Tele Vue 101 'scope... During a moonless winter night!

5:00. I took a quick look at Mars through the Celestron 14" SCT. I used a bunch of oculars: the 55mm, 27mm, and 18mm. It was a lovely colour. But the air was shimmering in the east. And getting bright, obviously.

Feeling a sense of accomplishment, for a change, I tidied up, closed the roof, and locked the observatory. As I walked from the GBO to the house, I took in the dawn sky, with Jupiter (and Neptune) behind me, Mars and Venus heralding the Sun.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

sky tour (Blue Mountains)

I really wanted to give our guests, Tom, his wife, and the girls, a good tour of the sky, partly because of being clouded out the night before. At 10:05, we aimed to Jupiter with the C14. Hey, wait a minute. There were 5 moons around Jupiter... But that can't be! I checked Stellarium and it showed 45 Capricorni to be perfectly in line with Jovian moons. At mag 5.95, it was trying to blend in... Very cool. I did not know that was going to happen but we were in the right place at the right time.

We looked at a bunch of other objects. I responded to their requests. I discussed some bright stars and the Summer Triangle. M57, the Ring Nebula was very spectacular, a great subject while overhead. And, of course, I showed them lots of double stars, including Mizar A and B and Cor Caroli and the Double Double. I showed them Izar, as our challenge double star.

Some of us saw a brief bright satellite in the north. I suggested that it might be an Iridium flare. We discussed how to identify a satellite, the best times to view them, etc.

They chose some targets from the copy of August The Evening Sky Map I had printed earlier and tacked up in the observatory. Huh. We should continue this.

As usual, they were most impressed with the green laser pointer! Always the green laser...

At one point, I had brought the netbook out. It was helpful for immediately identifying objects, showing what things looked like up close. Handy. Along the way we talked about a lot of constellations. Stellarium was useful for showing the artwork.

We had a lot of fun. But they were tired and underdressed so, at midnight, they headed back inside.