Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blue Moon facts

My buddy Malcolm asked me about the "Blue Moon" thing. He asked me specifically, "How often do Blue Moons occur?" Hopefully, I clarified matters for him...

There is a "common" understanding that if you have 2 full Moons in a month, like what happened in December, that the 2nd full Moon is called a Blue Moon.

This is however an urban legend ultimately started due to a factual error in, ironically, a 1940 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.

The Moon doesn't appear blue. Two full Moons in a month is not an extremely rare event. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 so that means by chance coincidence a double full Moon could fit within every month [including but very rarely] February. Statistically, it happens about every 3 years.

SkyNews magazine published a good myth-busting article.

So, in summary, there really is no such thing as an astronomical Blue Moon.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kendrick moved

Phil told me about this. Kendrick moved from Dundas St W. Still in the neighbourhood, fortunately (bottom end of Cawthra). I had no idea!


Participated in the second part of the RASC Toronto Centre Strategic Planning Conference, this time at U of T. The easy part of developing initiatives. I brought my shopping list! The hard part was picking 5 of the 3 groups. The harder part was working on Mission, Vision, and Values.

Laila did amazing work getting us together and thinking about these things.

Already there is some good stuff happening. Just the awareness factor alone will, I think, help our cause.

Friday, January 29, 2010

six degrees (Toronto)

All the lights were off, having watched a scary movie. I was dark adapted. As I returned to my desk, before staring into the bright computer monitor, I glanced out the window. Wow! That moonlight was bright! Impressive how much pale blue light there was.

Popped outside for a moment, to view the pairing, and to see Mars during moments of opposition. The Moon was indeed bright, nearly full. Mars, about six degrees away, was very bright too. The sky looked really clear...

But it's as cold as outer space. I can not get energised to fire up the telescope. No way.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

beta version

Wow! Snuck up on me. After I got the window frame working, I decided to complete the buttons and, in particular, the links to the CSC web pages with the full reports. I was hung up briefly on the definition of the variables but just got it going. And suddenly... there it was. A fully-functional (while still crude) Yahoo!Widget. The damned thing works!

Updated the About box. Shut off the debug mode...

I should send it out for peer review...

dark glass

I added the "dark glass" edges, like the standard Yahoo!Widgets use, to my Clear Sky Chart project. I added the code to make these window elements show or be hidden, according to user preference.

I'm pretty happy with the look. It really looks like a proper widget now!

Oh. And I added hyperlinked buttons. The little house will take the user to Attilla's main home page. The arrow at the top-right is temporary; I intend to place a Refresh Now button there. The arrows beside each bar chart is to jump to the full Clear Sky Chart web page for the specified location.

another OH?

Huh. I received another RASC Observer's Handbook 2010 in the mail...

Shortly after I renewed online. A coincidence?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mars, 1x, 99400000km (Toronto)

The skies are not great but it's somewhat clear. Some haze. Some high thin cloud. And the Moon is bright, 13 days old. Bit of a halo. Still I popped outside to see Mars, on this important day. 99400000 kilometres away. 2/3rd the distance to the Sun. And there it is, high up, glowing orange, near Castor and Pollux. Pretty. Tempting.

hello Mars!

Long time no see...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

webspotting 14 - Lunar Republic

First published in the Feb/Mar 2010 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. The URL is updated. However the original name or brand of the site was kept intact for contextual reasons. Republished here with permission.


I'm not interested in the Moon. Never have been. It is a nuisance. It's too bright. Interferes with my pursuit of Messiers, fine NGCs, comets, and meteors. When the Moon is up, I limit my observations to double stars. If I even bother to go out...

The Moon defines my summer. I’m off to the Blue Mountains for new Moon weekends. When full, I book in all my other hobbies. About the only time I enjoy the bright Moon is while camping or sans flashlight when I need to make the late-night trip to the loo.

When I learned that the Moon is a required target on the Explore The Universe Certificate, I was perturbed. You have to spot twelve features on the lunar surface for crying out loud. Twelve items. Find, observe, and log! Twelve! Crikey!

I know some people are fascinated by our nearest neighbour. Studying it, sketching, chasing X's and Straight Walls with their low power 'scopes, wide field eyepieces, and neutral density filters. These lunar lovers have all the good guides. It seems Antonin Rükl is The Man. I have no books on the Moon. I have not read the Moon chapter in my astronomy tomes.

I only observe the Moon when civilians are around. During star parties I like to show the remarkable similarity to Swiss cheese! As usual, for the August 2009 City Observing Session at High Park, I initially targeted the only object visible in the darkening sky.

A bit bored perhaps, nothing else to do, no one else around, I pulled my 2009 RASC Observer's Handbook and flipped to page 152. But between scattered clouds, mozzies, the influx of other RASCals, and the Schmidt-Cassegrain's mirror-reversed orientation, I was getting confused. Still I grew increasingly intrigued by the small dark region on the right (lit) side of the lunar surface. The shape reminded me a little bit of a house, the classic pictogram shape, pentagon with flat sides and bottom with gabled roof. Or the spade on a deck of cards. Determined to correlate what I was seeing in the eyepiece to what the Handbook showed, I realised that if I could stand above my telescope, I could eliminate the field rotation. Atop my large 3 step stool, eyepiece pointing up, I found the view as expected: the illuminated portion of the crescent was to the bottom left. And while still a challenge, now knowing where north and east were, I was able to mentally flip the diagram from the book. Ah ha. It is Mare Crisium I am looking at. 

I notice tiny little craters on the smooth maria. I learned one was Picard. Some of the small craters along the terminator near the north pole caught my eye: Atlas and Hercules! The black shadows told of their depth. Mr Zackon  asked if the large crater above Crisium, just above the equator, was Copernicus. I said I thought it was Langrenus. John Bohdanowicz  agreed. But I remarked it was like Copernicus, with the peak uplift 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 returned to Crisium and then was able to identify Macrobius. And then I lost myself in the heavily cratered region near the south pole, marvelling at the density of craters, how they overlapped one another, the variety of forms and depths, the interplay of sunlight and shadow along the terminator. 

Later that evening, as usual, I consolidated my field notes, reviewed what I saw, and tried to recreate what I had seen in software. Stellarium, my very old version of RedShift, and TheSky6 all did not show satisfying views of the Moon. 

Online, I stumbled across the Lunar Republic  web site at Seems they help you with “settlement, tourism, and resource development” of the Moon. OK then. I dived into their new full Moon atlas, clicked a sector map, and hovered over distinguishing features. Handy. Should I want… err, should someone want to explore the Moon again…

it works!

Wow. It updated! My Yahoo! widget for the Clear Sky Charts is working!

Ah, after a slight fix. Version 0.02 now. ;-) You can see how some of the images have been updated in the CSC web site, the midnight line shifting to the left...

CSC widget version 0.01

I took a crack at it... And I've impressed myself! Tinkering in the Konfabulator, with XML, a dash of HTML and pinch of Javascript, I have a basic Yahoo! Widget up and running.

It supports user-entered location aliases (nicknames) and small-image URLs.

Now I'm just waiting to see if the automatic timer function is working and that it updates itself.

Monday, January 25, 2010

booked for Mar TSTM

I offered to deliver the March The Sky This Month for the RASC Toronto Centre. Paul happily accepted.

Considered February but I think I'll have too much on my plate...

CAO pass anniversaries

Denis caught that I did not apply for the CAO pass during the RASC online membership renewal.

I explained to him that my "anniversary" date for the CAO pass application was in May, versus my January membership expiry date. I know that some feel they should be effective on the same date, a common date. I explained that this issue has been bantered around before without clear direction or intent. And there's certainly no clear information anywhere about this.

And I hinted at that I will resist a combining of the two.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

active editor

Wow. Stu is wasting no time. He's edited articles, created some new ones, and generally improved the Observing Session content on the RASC Toronto Centre web site. 48 changes, so far! Keen! It's great having someone like this on board!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

parallel or separate?

Did up a simple wiring plan for the gel-cell dual-battery power tank...

I like how the testing circuit can be switched to measure one battery only.

But the more I thought about it, I didn't like it. A couple of major concerns emerged.

The negative charging junction, while slick in its placement ahead of the selector switch, meant that I'd need heavy gauge wiring in many more places. Ugh.

If the dual battery system proved too heavy and I'd built a solution wherein they were tied together, then it would be a significant redesign effort to separate.

And finally I remembered seeing flickered or pulsing in my red LED light table while connected to a common power source. Coming from the dew heater controller and its pulse width modulation circuit. I don't want this distracting effect.

So, maybe, I should keep it simple. Segregated, separated batteries... But still in the same cooler buggy, of course!

Friday, January 22, 2010

funny timing

In the post mail I received my RASC Toronto Centre membership renewal materials! Nice cover letter from Ralph. Application / renewal form with my contact info pre-filled. And a membership card signed by the national treasurer. Huh.

Obviously I won't be completing this paper form. But I'll sign the membership card and stuff it in my wallet with last year's...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

test fit

A bit of good news today. Two of the deep cycle gel cells batteries, side by each, fit inside the rollie pollie cooler.

Rolled around the kitchen!

A step closer to my dual battery plan...

It's super heavy though... Ugh. With both batteries, bits and bobs, the cooler and card—getting close to 100 pounds. Will be a challenge to lift in and out of the car.

more than ever

I wanna do some observing. After last night's fiasco, I'm chomping at the bit.

The crescent Moon just peeked in my window, calling me, tempting me. But when I opened the blinds, bashful, she slipped behind a hazy veil.

don't email angry

Too late!

I was still brooding over the High Park non-event on Wednesday...

I sent a message to Stu and Guy suggesting that we discontinue the use of High Park for City Observing Sessions. I also said, "It's just a waste of everyone's time."

That's harsh perhaps but in a way quite true.

Very few people in general have come out. My gut feeling is that the average is 3 or 4. Those who do attend complain about the lighting, especially in the summer. When people are more likely to come out. But, after all this time, we have not made any headway at changing the lighting in the park.

ice cold

The 50-Can IceCOLD Cooler with Cart from Canadian Tire (#85-3469-6) looks like it might hold 2 gel cell batteries.

The soft cooler includes a foldable all-terrain cart that holds up to 80 lbs. Oh. This will be right at the weight limit... Each battery is 39.75 lbs! And that means I better be careful with the peripherals, wiring, etc.

Retractable two-position handle.

The performance insulation is supposed to keep ice for 48 hours. I'm hoping it will do the opposite well; keep cold out.


I didn't notice it at first but that little silver flap looking thing on the top with the oval in the centre, that's a "quick access" door. Instead of opening the entire zippered lid, you can flip open this insulated flap. Hook-and-loop holds it closed.

This will be perfect for routing wires from the inside to outside.

battery bolts

From Canadian Tire, got some long battery bolts with square heads, two pairs, for the planned dual gel cell battery set-up. They appear to be 5/16" with an 18 tpi. Oooh. NASCAR Advantage. Does that mean they'll go fast?!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

17 at Bayview!

Oh, now I'm really upset. I just read Guy's report of the RASC City Observing Session at Bayview Village Park.

He said they had 15 to 17 participants! Holy cow! Now, that is a bit of an aberration. Apparently, a teacher had brought 8 to 10 students from her Seneca astronomy course. Still, they approx. 7 other people manning 5 telescopes.

Me? None.

It stinks. Makes me question the entire High Park undertaking.

small joy (Toronto)

The City Observing Session in High Park tonight was a bust, from the point of view of no members attending and setting up telescopes for a few hours.

I had the 'scope but I wasn't going to set it up just for myself. Tony didn't bring observing equipment; just the happy dog.

So, I ended up doing limited observing, mostly whole sky, at 1x power, wide field, naked eye viewing.

Brief looks through my cheapo binos were ultimately frustrating. I had elected to not bring a tripod, my eyeglasses would fog after a few seconds, and my eyes were watering (due to temperature, wind, and/or allergies). Enjoyed the Pleiades in the 6° field.

True some scattered clouds to the west, I observed Jupiter setting and the waxing crescent Moon. I knew Neptune was up there, to the right (west) of Jupiter; Uranus to the east.

I observed the ISS flyover on schedule at 6:51 PM. In the first 30 seconds, it brightened incredibly. I estimated mag -5 to -6! Maybe more. Then it resumed typical brightness as it moved overheard. It faded near Pleiades. That was one of the better passes I've seen. When Tony arrived about 15 or 20 minutes later, he said he had watched the first part of it from his back yard.

I observed a bright orange Mars and a scintillating Sirius rising over the city. I pointed out Mars to Tony. Surprised him a little.

As I was getting oriented with the winter constellations, I spotted the Andromeda galaxy overhead naked eye (again, when my eyes weren't watering). The Great Square of Pegasus so high made it easy. Orion was obvious, Auriga too; Taurus looked different (probably due to poor contrast); Gemini too, the twins parallel to the horizon. Cassieopeia was high up. I was pretty sure I was seeing Polaris but could not make out all of Ursa Minor, just β (beta) and γ (gamma). Ugh, grim, that's a mag 3.1 sky... I knew the Big Bear was low, climbing. But I couldn't see any of it for the trees and orange glow.

The bright lights were on over the ice rink but in general did not interfere with the south, west, and north views. Especially with the winter coat hood pulled forward.

Clouds came and went. Not ideal conditions. But the best seen in some time. By 8:30, it was completely clouded over.

no one

No one showed up to High Park. I was disappointed, frustrated, a little angry.

I spent time preparing for the RASC City Observing Session at High Park. Did up my usual 2-page observing plan sheet. Booked a rental car. Spent time fetching (and returning) said car; loading and unloading my (very non-portable) 'scope. I was really looking forward to observing, seeing some "old friends" (up in the sky), seeing some new friends (from the society), helping, learning! But it was all for naught.

I got to the frozen soccer pitch about 6 o'clock. No cars in the nearby lot. Didn't see humans milling about. Backed in, cranked the heater for a couple of minutes, baked it, and then shut down. Got out for a moment to survey the partly cloudy sky. Sat in the car, watching the drivers drive by, watching the running clubs run by.

When I suddenly realised I had forgotten the new gel cell battery! DOH! That was a key thing I wanted to test tonight. In the cold. Under load. Ya goof. Not to mention a required item if we got close to the dew point. I could see it sitting by the door... I blitzed home.

When I re-entered to the park moments later, there still were no RASC people around. Backed in, cranked the heater, and sat there. I decided to not immediately set up my telescope. "Let's wait and see..."

OK. Now what. Let's check conditions again.

Turned on the new Heat Gloves and headed out to the field. Sat on the hydro box for a little while. Returned to the car. Listened to the radio for a bit. Grabbed by binos from the trunk and returned to the field. Got cold. Got frustrated between glasses fogging and handheld viewing. Back to the car. Warmed up. Fetched a red flashlight, ensured the gloves were on the high setting, and crunched back to the hydro box.

When a mini van pulled up... It was Tony! Sans observing gear. He had brought Ben, for some walkies. Still, it was good to see a familiar face. And to catch up. And have an opportunity to vent. It was around 7:30 when he took a phone call. Duty had called. He left around 7:45. And eluded I should do the same...

In a effort to get some value of my AutoShare wheels, I considered car errands. Unfortunately, some things I would have enjoyed doing were not possible given the time. Still, I got a couple of important things crossed off.

As I returned to the 'hood, I drove 'round the park again. At 8:30, there was no one to be seen in the RASC designated area. And the sky was bad. I headed home to unload.

How did I get sucked into this?

OK. That's a little severe. But the point is, I'm not The Man. I'm not the High Park guy. I have never wanted to be the lead for COS events at High Park. When we started to "branch out," I expressed my diluting concerns. But, at the same time, the Centre wanted to offer a COS to western residents. Certainly, it was a benefit to me. Initially using Humber Bay West, it was Ken who took up the charge. But he soon stepped away from this role (as he aligned himself increasingly with other factions). All the while, I had made it clear that the Centre should not assume that I was lead for points west. I offered to be backup only, if available.

I was being protective, sure. Partly of my variant commitment level. Not to mention already having too much on my plate.

This is how it happens, isn't it. Not saying "yes," but still getting more put on your plate, slowly, subtly, small things, over time. Here I was, the lead for the High Park, tonight.

If one person had shown, it would have turned it all around! Especially, say, a new member. Or someone with their new, Christmas gift 'scope, desperately in need of assistance. It would have all pivoted with one visitor. Funny.

But with no one, I just brooded. And by the time I got home, done unpacking, done car logistics, I was pretty bummed. Yes, I was able to return the car 1.5 hours early. I don't know what the cost savings will be. If any. Yes, I saw a very good flyover. Still, what a bad taste in my mouth.

I know some of this is personal. Just me. Something inside me. The iceberg of a deeper frustration. A knot of angst. With my gear, with my C8. My beloved SCT. I so enjoy using this telescope and the SP mount. I'm having so much fun getting proficient with it, getting faster. But I'm not enjoying setting it up. The time, all the bits. I am especially not enjoying tearing it down. I was determined to not set up nor tear down in the park by myself. I so would have in my back yard!

I vowed to follow up with the observing team.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SoftLive works

Just finished renewing online. Looks like it all worked. Got my email confirmations. They've done a good job.

SoftLive ready

Denis informed me that the RASC online registration system is ready for SoftLive testing.

I had a few moments so I began to test the renewal process.

Found a glitch. Let Denis know.

He sent a humorous response and noted he had applied a fix.

Now I don't have time to test it further...

tested gel cells

Finally tested the four gel cell deep cycle batteries from the South Pickering Amateur Radio club. This after charging them for a few hours to overnight. And then letting them sit overnight (to scrub off surface voltage). Tested in the order that I charged them. Room temp (25.4°C).

I always get nervous doing this. Put my safety glasses on. Looked away...
  • alpha: 13.19
  • bravo: 13.42
  • charlie: 13.33
  • delta: 13.35
Looking good (I think).

Phil said he got 13.24 of his...

Decided to test my ole' trusty portable car booster battery pack: 13.15. Interesting.

trained Stu

Stu volunteered to be the new Observing chair for the RASC Toronto Centre, taking over from Guy. While not officially ratified by the council, I thought I'd get him up to speed on editing the web site. Over the telephone, I coached him on editing the observing session pages in our CMS and had him make a new article. His Dreamweaver experience helped a lot.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I won!

I received this missive in my e-inbox today!
And the Golden Geek Award Goes to...


Okay, bring on the acceptance speech.  Oooooops, sorry, you've used up your time allotment.  Roll to commercial.

Man, one week in solitary confinement in [Virginia] and consumerism goes wild at CTC yesterday.  Had I know, I would have bought shares.  I made Phil track his expenses for the battery boxes - he's ahead but not by much.


P.S.  When you say "don't tell Lora", that's an open licence to tell.  Next time, try reverse psychology.
Thank you, thank you!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

deep red board done

When my new Psion started freezing erractically, I took it apart. When I removed the mobo from the chassis, a microswitch fell out. Ah. Short circuits make computers do weird things. I soldered the surface mount switch back in place and buttoned everything up.

Then, it occurred to me, with all the soldering equipment out, I might as well complete the circuit board for the deep red flashlight. I followed the Express PCB diagram I had done. It took me about 3 hours. After the large cap and the right-angle socket were attached, I connected some temporary power.

Woo hoo! It works!

charging data

I dunno. The charger seems to be working OK but I'm not happy with the charging voltage. It says it is using 14.8 volts. I thought deep cycle gel cell batteries should only be charged at 14.1 and 14.4 volts. That said, it is using low amps, around 3 to 4.

The batteries get warm!

And I don't think it is my imagination... I think that swell a little. Scary.

charger gift

Donna & Steve recently gave me a $50 gift card for Canadian Tire. I used it today to buy the MotoMaster Eliminator Intelligent 75/25/4A Battery Charger (11-1519-6), on sale at $70, down from $120.

I picked it up on-spec. I wanted to see if it would work properly with the gel cell deep cycle batteries. While the online advert referred to gel cells, there was no mention of deep cycle. But in the little manual, it does say that it works with deep cycle batteries. Yeh!

It has an optimal charge setting where it purportedly analyses the battery. It is supposed to automatically select the ideal charge rate to protect against damage and reduced battery life caused by overheating. Also, it should automatically switch from full charge to maintenance mode to maintain batteries during prolonged periods of storage without overcharging or damaging the battery. It features a digital LED display which shows voltage, current, charging status and diagnostic fault codes.

Let's see how it works...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

so close

It was brought to my attention that I'm very near the Smithsonian! I didn't know that!

It'd be so cool to visit the National Air and Space Museum.

When I'm back to Reston, Virginia, then I will tack a day on, or a weekend, and visit...

Monday, January 11, 2010

first light (Herndon)

Arrived Dulles airport in darkness, yesterday. It was still very clear out...

Finally saw the Sun, this morning. Hey! Who's that?

Photo meta data:
  • camera: FujiFilm FinePix J20 (point-and-shoot)
  • shutter speed: 1/8 second
  • lens aperture: f3.1
  • focal length: 6mm
  • ISO speed: 200
  • exposure compensation: zero
Handheld, shot through glass.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

camera in cargo (Lake Ontario)

In an effort to comply with all the wild new flight-to-US restrictions and requirements, I packed very light and I greatly reduced what I had for carry-on. Consequently, my digital camera was in my checked baggage. Somewhere below in the cargo hold. Pity.

The sunset at 27000 feet was stunning. Absolutely beautiful colours from the cloudless horizon up to the deep indigo up high.

When we were somewhere over the lake, and we continued toward Virginia, I spotted Jupiter about 30 degrees up in the west-south-west.

Friday, January 08, 2010

deep red board laid out

I wanted to see how everything would fit on the board. So I laid out all the components. Overall, it looks good.

It was a good exercise. I'll have to change a couple of networks slightly, route them along the bottom, or to different holes, given the size of some bits, interference issues.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

deep red PCB

Using ExpressPCB, I designed the circuit board. After a few iterations, I got everything into a pretty compact space.

This version features the large capacitor in the centre. It looks like there is interference but I plan to lay the cap down horizontally.

Conversely, to help reduce footprint, the R3 and R4 resistors are upright, vertical to the PCB.

S1 is the right-angle socket dohickey from Digi-key. P1 is the 100k pot. And U1 is the 555 timer, of course.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

SoftLive soon

I asked Denis at National Office when the new RASC online membership system might be up and running. He said in a couple of weeks and added me to the team of people to do SoftLive testing.

That's good timing, it seems; I expire at the end of the month.

Monday, January 04, 2010

50 min on SLOOH

Lora and Phil are very kind. I dropped off digi-key bits to Phil (which he paid for) and new glass pie plates to Lora (replacing the metallic one I damaged). Lora gave me a little package as I left. Opened it when I got home.

It's time on SLOOH! Wow. The Observer Edition card offers 50 minutes. That's very cool.

Gotta choose my target carefully... My very first thought was Meissa. But maybe a dual transit on Jupiter would be cool. Hmmm. Will have to compare notes with Phil.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sun close

Earth is at perihelion today, a mere 147,097,907 kilometers away. Sure doesn't feel like it in Toronto...

deep red schematic

Using ExpressSCH, I built the schematic for my deep red LED flashlight, employing pulse width modulation.

The main intent is to have control over the colour of the LEDs. Using germanium diodes means I can make it highly efficient.

This design is expandable. I could use more LEDs if required.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

year in review

I was feeling a bit bummed. It had felt to me that I had not accomplished much the last year, astronomically... Despite the number of entries in this blog, 459 in 2009 vs. 313 in 2008. That's 146% of the previous year!

Geoff posting his "year in review" to the RASC Toronto Centre and Talking Telescopes listservs got me thinking about it. So I thought I'd also review what I did, re-read my blog, particularly reacquaint myself with things some 12 and 11 months ago. Just what did happen?


I viewed all the (official) planets of the solar system. With and without magnification. Night time and day time!

I viewed Mercury early in the year naked eye and through binoculars and telescopes at other times. Saw Venus during greatest eastern elongation. And on two occasions viewed the second planet in the day time / naked eye (after spotting it with binos)! Watched Mars return to the night sky late in the year. Observed Jupiter many times. In the summer, I enjoyed its festoons and chasing the GRS. Sadly, I did not see the black spot due to the comet collision nor did I catch any of the occultations of moons. Neither shadows on the surface. I watched Saturn through year, edge on in January, and marvelled at seeing cloud bands from my backyard. Saw many moons of Saturn: Titan, Rhea, Tethys, Dione, Iapetus, Enceladus, and Hyperion. Many times I tried for Mimas. Happily, I saw a moon of Uranus (Oberon) and Neptune (Triton). Pretty exciting stuff.

I viewed comet Lulin early in the year on a few occasions, with binoculars and telescopes.

I tried for two asteroid occultations: (51222) 2000 JE24 and 95 Arethusa. Both misses. One was due to dew. With properly functioning equipment, I probably would have seen it.

As I am not a big fan of the Moon, I generally ignore it. But while killing time at a RASC City Observing Session, I took a closer look. I viewed and identified a number of lunar features. And actually enjoyed it. But then kicked myself for not trying to photograph Moon dogs (a first for me) that I witnessed in the fall.

An exciting first was seeing zodiacal light. Totally random how that happened. But I knew, as soon as I saw it, what it was. Helps with dark skies, like those at the Carr Astronomical Observatory near the Blue Mountains.

While at the CAO in August, I enjoyed the Perseid meteor shower. I've seen these meteors before, so not a first-time event; but I've never seen them in a clear horizon location, taking in the entire sky, with a cool group of people around. Or with Tony nearby...

I observed a number of ISS flyovers, the most exciting of which was when 13 station and shuttle crew, including Canucks, were on board. At the DDO, I enjoyed my first Iridium flare.

It was the year for double and multiple stars! Early in 2009, I observed Meissa. And I think I discovered something odd about it. With Orion well placed for night time viewing, I'm looking forward to re-examining it to see if anything has changed. Over the course of the spring, summer, and early fall, I observed and noted over 40 double and triple stars and multi-star systems. With a better understanding and a loaner calibrated eyepiece, I started to measure them. While at Mew Lake in September, I observed the Coathanger naked eye.

Speaking of which, I finally made it to the Annual Algonquin Adventure inside the massive park. I enjoyed the very dark skies and the unique gang of people. It was made more enjoyable with a gaggle of Toronto Centre members around. And it was here that I took in my first stunning views of Veil Nebula. Incredible.

There were some interesting equipment issues over the year. I finally replaced the broken Kendrick 2" dew heater with a new one. Too late for the occultation but in time for Dew Lake—I mean—Mew Lake! That said, my trusty old car battery booster pack did not respond well in the low temperatures. It doesn't owe me anything but it seems that at 8 or 9 years it does not have the umph needed for chilly conditions. Hopefully, the "new" (used, very cheap) gel-cell, deep-cycle batteries I picked up will prove powerful.

The netbook, acquired in Q2 for computer training gigs and personal presentations, with Stellarium and my notes loaded, was usually nearby. I haven't really had a chance to try the new digital pen (deeply discounted) but it should be very useful for logging.

The new digital camera (free, on points) offers many more pixels and controls than my old camera. While point-and-shoot, I've already successfully captured some constellation and planetary astrophotographs.

I borrowed an 8" Dob and barely used it.

I delivered the second annual astronomy session to a local public school. We got very lucky with last-minute clear skies. I helped at numerous RASC public events.

I contributed to Mom's observatory with design concepts and some logistics. When the structure of Mom's workshop studio was completed, I built a workstation in the loft. Work continues on the telescope mounting and protection.

Of course, I continued to be involved with the Toronto chapter of the RASC. They made me a CAO supervisor: I was assigned 2 weekends with another added later in the season. I ran (co-ordinated) the spring NOVA course and then returned the reigns to Leslie. Continuing to help, I taught, to positive reviews, first session of fall course. I delivered The Sky This Month presentations in Feb and then by popular request in Jun and Dec. I designed and built a wheel-chair accessible picnic table for the CAO. And while at the CAO, I spent as much time as I could learning the C14, TV101, Paramount ME, and controlling software TheSky6.

Counting roughly, I was at the CAO 15 times. Not necessarily to observe; there were a couple of main and mini work parties and a couple of rained out events. Still, I got good use of my annual pass.

Finally, I went through this blog and counted all the times I observed. And by that I mean observed astronomical phenomenon or objects with magnification. And I arrived at a number that surprised me: 46 times!

I think what's throwing me is that much of that, observing, was early in the year. I did practically nothing in Oct, Nov, and Dec.

Geoff reported "61 successful observations." I didn't think I had a number anywhere near that.

Also fascinating was the number of "firsts," like the zodiacal light, Triton, Oberon, which I had simply forgotten about.

Now, I see, I actually did a lot in 2009. Now, after this tally, I'm pretty satisfied.