Wednesday, March 31, 2010

helped with NOVA 2

Helped the NOVA crew tonight. Phil took the group down to the planetarium. Leslie did a little sesson after. Good support: Sharmin and Diane helped out.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I wonder

From CERN. I clearly need more monitors on my desk...

I wonder what that red button does.

must work

Can't play tonight despite a good CSC for Toronto and CSAC email notifications. After meeting Malcolm for dinner, I returned home to continue some new software course development.

CERN running LHC

The Large Hadron Collider is working! I read the article at The Toronto Star. No mini-black holes observed. Highest energy level ever used: 3.5 TeV each of the 2 beams.

So close to April 1. So tempting...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Saturn popped (Toronto)

Went out tonight with no particular plan. That was the plan! I wanted to observe quickly, simply, easily.

I had one of the RASC Toronto Centre's loaner 8-inch Dobsonian telescopes with (1¼") eyepiece kit. I wanted to make better use of this unit, better than I did the first time I borrowed it.

My overall intention was the same as before: shake down a Dob to see if I might enjoy using it. Dobsonians are very quick to set up, pretty easy to transport (to an observing site), very easy to move slightly (to get a better view). It would be easy to tear down. But will I like the push-to effort? The regular collimation? Have I become spoiled by equatorial mounting and tracking?

But that was only part of what I was trying to test or measure tonight.

I started to wonder recently if all the preparation effort I felt I needed to do was becoming a roadblock to ad-hoc observing. Was I getting discouraged by the time commitment required to do a "proper" plan?

So, tonight, I had a "instant" telescope. And I would not spend any time formally planning. In a way, I was simulating a suddenly-clear evening. That it might be a school night but that the skies were suddenly dark and I could observe for an hour or two. Being able to set up in less than 5 minutes, just going out and targeting whatever came to mind, meant that I could get more time at the eyepiece.

Also, short star hops were on the menu. I was planning to staying generally within a constellation or two. Or a region of the sky. No big hops. From the postage-sized backyard, I have good south-west views...

Lastly, operating this beast would give me more experience points... I would be able to better support people with Newts, Dobs, and the like.


All that said, over the afternoon, I was keeping tabs on the Clear Sky Chart. Also, I checked sunset time (in my Yahoo!Weather desktop widget) and the end of astronomical twilight (with SpectralCalc's online Solar Calculator). 7:24 PM and 9:21 PM.

Curiously, Stu sent out an inspiring note to the listserv at 5:33. He encouraged members to "get out there." While it wasn't a Toronto Centre observing session, even though the Moon would be bright, it was gonna be clear.


I have no idea what time it was when I was at the eyepiece sticking out the side of the white tube. Maybe 9-ish? It wasn't completely dark as I unload the eyepiece kit and installed the 9x50 finder scope. I hadn't brought out a watch, portable weather station, my palmtop, mobile phone... Nothing to tell time. I could hear the wall clock ticking in the garage.

I was surprised to see Orion still fairly high up. Let's get another look at θ (theta) Orionis.

I cranked up the power. It was with the 6mm Plössl (at 200x) that I was able to finally spot the F star! w00t! It was tricky though, it came and went with changes in the seeing, and changes in my eyeballs.

I crudely sketched stellar nursery and then compared this to the diagram on Jerry Lodriguss Trapezium web page. Good correspondence. Even my rough westerly direction estimate was pretty good. I did not notice, at the time, that it is almost in-line from D to A...

The E star (mag 10.3) was easy to see between A and B, but to the outside. Yet not as far as Jerry's diagram perhaps? Is it moving?

Happily, I spotted the F star (mag 10.2) in-line with A and C but to the outside of C. w00t!

[A happy improvement over my viewing and sketching in February.]

Is it moving too? It seemed closed to C then Jerry's diagram...

With averted vision, the Great Nebula popped. Bright. Intense. Ha. Without an intensifier!


House mates are goofs. So wasteful. No concern for the environment.

Brian went into his room on the top floor, turned on his ceiling light, which flooded the backyard. Moments later, I heard him out front and he drove away. Hello. Turn off the damn light.

Then Kris did the same thing. Some time later I heard him return and arm his car alarm. All the while the ceiling light was on. Kris has blinds but he didn't shut them. Brian appears to not have blinds.

Chernys had all their lights on. Didn't stop the 'coons from walking all over their roof.

Fortunately, Diane and crew are gone on vacation. Dark. Allowed me to move in the driveway further west than I normally would.

With a small Dob, I could easily pick up, shuffle somewhere different without worrying about alignment issues. Drawing close to the house, I was able to keep in the dark as I viewed the western sky.


Without a specific plan tonight, I simply looked at the sky (without any eyeglasses) and chose targets. Ah. There's Mars!

The view of the 4th rock, overall, was frustrating. The low power eyepieces (32, 26mm; 38, 48x) in the Dob did not show any detail on the orange disk. At higher power (10, 6mm; 120, 200x) I could see the ice cap but there was a lot of distortion, glare, lower resolution. Lens flare?

Does this 'scope need collimation again? John said he had done it before the OSC star party, before giving it to me. Before 2 trips in my car. But is it off again? Isn't it the case that one should collimate a Newtonian every time before use?

Certainly the planet is much smaller. Smaller every day. Changing fast now. Let's move on.

Gemini was high up. I now had my Pocket Sky Atlas outside. I spotted the double star Σ1187 (Struve) nearby. Rotated my book. Fiddled with the orientation. And star hopped from Pollux.

Arrived at the bright yellow star which seemed to be a very tight double. But even at high power, I could not split it. Is this one of those wide doubles? Sketched the field for further analysis. I noted κ (kappa) Gem. For a moment I wondered if I had accidentally arrived at π (pi).

It was some time later that I realised I was confused. I had thought of going to Σ1187 but then went to κ. I noted kappa but didn't see an obvious double. The sketch however is correct, i.e. I was at κ. I was seeing to mag 11.1 at least.

[ed: Confirmed with SkyTools3. The bright star is κ. The west direction is pretty good. ST3 also shows that A is mag 3.6 and the B companion, at 7.2", is mag 8.2...]

On consulting Sissy Haas's double stars book, I was surprised (and satisfied) to hear her say, "[hard] to resolve." So it's not just me.

Interestingly, Stellarium doesn't show anything either.

We'll count that as a miss.


The AA batteries inside the loupe leaked! 3 of 4. I discovered this as I went to change them.

The light was getting dim so I popped the cover and found white goo. I dumped the batteries directly in the hazardous materials box in the garage and then scrubbed out the nasty residue.

No major damage fortunately.


10:24 PM. Just spotted Σ872 (Struve). Near θ (theta) Aur. Dim stars almost equally bright. Easily split in 26mm, they look white?; in the 10mm, colours stand out more although that are very similar. Pale shades. The main is yellow and the companion is orange. I roughly estimated (considering the Newtonian rotated field of view orientation) the Position Angle to be 200 degrees.

(Haas says "bright" stars, "white, nearly equal." Mag 6.9 and 7.4. PA is 216, as of 2004.)

The OneWorld weather station read the humidity as 38% and the temp as 4.6°C. However, it had recently come from the duffle bag in the trunk of the car in the garage...


Got chilled. In the middle of my back. Damned Windriver jacket. I flipped to my MEC winter coat. I was fine after that.


11:27 PM. Saturn was showing well. Tethys and Titan were easily sighted. Not to be confused with the distant in-line field stars.

There were moments of wonderful seeing. Breathtaking clarity to the point where I could imagine I was in orbit. At times, the equatorial belt was clearly visible below and above the ring and various bands showing on the surface of the planet. The rings took on stark dimensionality. The 10mm eyepiece is good. Good contrast, fair eye relief.

The 6mm is challenging to work with. It is very small, has very low eye relief, and the field stops are either crummy or you can't get your eye close enough to even see them. Still, this EP is needed. It coaxes out the moons.

I could see Rhea and Dione under the rings. Very tiny points of light.

Every once in a while, I could see another point in-line with the rings and below Titan. That was Enceladus! Wow.


As much as I wanted this to be casual, ad-hoc, on-a-whim, there are still some things I should do, in preparation, if I can. Rather than fumbling around in the dark, at the last minute, trying to do important things, like find my thick, warm, RASC hoodie, or my leather gloves, or ask the neighbours to turn off their lights. I could have done these things in the afternoon!

experiment with Dob

I have one of the RASC Toronto Centre's loaner Dobsonians. I'm going to use it tonight. Yep. Gonna do some astronomy tonight. Weather seems to be improving. Clear Sky Chart for Toronto looks OK. Just received a Clear Sky Alarm Clock message.

But I'm not going to prepare. I'm going to do an experiment...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

only 10

This year's Earth Hour was less successful than last year. Toronto Hydro reported a 10% decrease in consumption yesterday; in 2009, we reduced by 15%.

I heard someone say the temperature was colder. So more people had their heat on.

Is it just that people don't care?

hurrah Humberside

After dropping John off at his home, I travelled north along High Park Ave, and then turned left on Humberside. At the bottom of the short block, I noticed something different. That the school was completely black! They had turned off every light. It was amazing!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

EH 2010 at OSC (Don Mills)

I, with other RASC volunteers, helped at the Earth Hour celebrations at the Ontario Science Centre. We were essentially clouded out with limited, sporadic views of the Moon. The Aristarchus crater (identified with Tom's chart) was pretty amazing. Small but incredibly bright. Could not see Saturn or Mars through the cloud deck. Sara estimated the OSC had 2000 visitors.


Did some ride-sharing. I offered to take John. He took the opportunity to provide me the Toronto Centre's loaner Dobsonian. He fly that 'scope at he OSC. We would leave it in my car at the end of the evening.

polar alignment tutorial

I helped Jason with the polar alignment of his 'scope.

energy saving

I am reconfiguring my electric devices. Putting as many non-critical items onto power bars with on-off switches so that I may decrease the vampiric consumption in my household.

So far I have found 62 items that consume power... But only 6 are critical.


Shut or powered off:
  • palmtop AC adapter
  • cordless phone satellite base
  • toothbrush charger
  • microwave oven (with clock)
  • mobile phone charger
  • NiCd/NiMH battery charger
  • NiCd battery charger
  • 2 AC adapter for painting artwork lamps
  • television (with clock)
  • stereo receiver
  • CD / DVD player
  • cassette tape deck
  • turntable
  • 2 VCRs
  • paper shredder
  • spare DSL modem
  • LCD monitor AC adapter
  • Lord John Whorfin computer, monitor, external CD reader, and external CD writer
  • red LED lights (on desk)
  • illuminated block heater cords (in garage)
It's amazing really how many devices are connected, draining small amounts of power. Parasites.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

started NOVA spring 2010

I delivered the first presentation for the spring 2010 NOVA course at the Ontario Science Centre. Wasn't entirely on my game but we had good volunteer support and an excellent turnout. The audience seemed very keen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

webspotting 15 - exposure advice

As published in the Apr/May 2010 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. Republished here with permission.


One of the most common questions asked by people starting out in amateur astronomy is: How do I take pictures?!

You have a telescope (or are about to buy one), you have a good little camera, why not use 'em together, right?

The response from experienced astronomers is interesting. Or should I say surprising: Don't!

This may sound severe and discouraging but there's a method to our madness, of course, or so we believe (I hope). Astrophotography is one of the most challenging things to do. The occultationists would argue this point till the Sun comes up but we all agree that there are special skills required, a high degree of telescope and camera knowledge, and Murphy's Law, which tends to be a factor. So experience and perseverance in large quantities are needed also.

Our reasoning is simple enough. We don’t want people starting out to get discouraged. And we want to, as gently as possible, alter expectations. Someone just starting out should not expect to immediately produce work like those made by the Hubble Space Telescope. With time, effort, and money (of course), spectacular results can be achieved. All that said, there is a form of astrophotography that is relatively simple and easy to do with the potential for very good results, particularly if your target is the Moon or a bright planet.

There are different forms of astrophotography, like prime focus and wide field guided, and different cameras, such as CCD and DSLR. Discussing all of this is well beyond the scope of this column. But, arguably, afocal shots with a Point-and-Shoot are the easiest form of photos to make.

Briefly, afocal or projection photography refers to positioning your camera near the eyepiece, where your eyeball would normally be, and snapping away. Sounds simple, right? Are you sitting down?

Equatorial mounts, RA motor drives, polar alignment, good eyepieces (cleaned of course), appropriate exposure and/or aperture control, ISO control, appropriate optical zooming with the camera, optical alignment (in 3 dimensions), camera stability, touchless shutter release, wind, dew... you have to worry about all these things! Perhaps the most challenging is appropriate focus. The gotcha? You don't focus the telescope for your eye (which produces converging rays of light); you have to focus for the camera (with parallel rays)!

I recently found a good little web page that covered these items concisely and clearly, all the while reducing intimidation.

So, fire up the 'scope, choose an eyepiece, choose a target (start with an easy one like the Moon), look up your exposure and ISO numbers, focus, mount your camera (if possible), and start shooting!

Good luck. Let us know how you do.

fixed newsletter upload

Eric attempted to upload the RASC Toronto Centre SCOPE newsletter to the private members area on the web site. It failed. I found some old legacy links in the perl scripts. Fixed that up.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

slow progress

I made some progress on Mom's observatory shed cover outhouse thing. My hopes of completing it, I quickly realised Friday afternoon, were dashed. I had forgotten about dry and cure times. I still had to attach the external siding by glue.

Still, I completed 2.5 sides!

So, on my next visit, I will be able to affect the final main steps. That'll be good!

Friday, March 19, 2010

can see again!

Received new eyeglasses today. Bifocals, actually. But this will mean I can resume wearing my glasses during astronomy observing. I'll be able to do whole-sky panning, find constellations, other landmarks (er, skymarks?), and then look at my chart, or log book, or computer. Yeh. This is gonna be great!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

downloaded photos (Toronto)

I kept forgetting to download my crescent Moon photos from the RASC Toronto Centre City Observing Session from Wednesday at High Park. Finally got 'round to it.

I attached the FujiFilm point-and-shoot camera to my telescope eyepiece with the society's adapter while the RA motor was running. I had only aimed roughly to north at this point (later, when I checked the polar alignment, it was nearly perfect). Shots triggered with 10 second self-timer.

The first photo slightly zoomed. If you look closely, you can see Venus ensnared in the tree.

FujiFilm finepix J20, manual mode, 1/4 second, ISO-200, white balance daylight, 0 exposure compensation, 16mm focal length, f5.1, 6:54 PM

This second photo is also slightly zoomed. Also at a slightly higher altitude angle. Is there a hint of Earth shine?

FujiFilm finepix J20, manual mode, 1/4 second, ISO-200, white balance daylight, 0 exposure compensation, 19mm focal length, f5.6, 6:56 PM

The shots I tried later, at 7:16 PM, to better catch the Earth shine, did not work out.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mac tests

Tested the RASC Toronto Centre web site on my friend's iMac running OS X. Looks good in Safari 4.0 and Firefox 2.x.

The gamma makes the astroimages a bit bright. Off-axis, on the LCD, some don't look great. The wordmark looks better than on a PC.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

header to all pages

After making a few little cosmetic changes, I rolled the new header out to all the RASC Toronto Centre public pages. Done.

youngest Moon (Toronto)

I spotted a very young Moon tonight.

Around 7:15 PM, I fetched the binoculars and compass from the garage. Started scanning the western sky (around azimuth 264) from the picnic table, first looking for Venus about 15° up. Couldn't find it. Double checked the alt-az in Stellarium and returned outside. Tweaked the cheapo InstaFocus binos. This time, I found Venus. When it wasn't behind wispy clouds.

Once again consulted the software to determine the separation and angle. Looked like the Moon would be about 7° away (one binocular field), to the right, and down slightly. I realised from the backyard that I was out of luck.

Headed over to the school tennis court. Along the way I bumped into Maia, Evan, and Diane playing tennis. I showed Evan Venus naked eye. It was getting bright. He then showed his Mom. Cute! Everyone took a look through the binoculars too.

It wasn't until I went to the middle of the courts that I was able to pick up the Moon! Woot! I got it!

I was surprised by the angle. I was expecting it to be pitched more but it seemed almost horizontal in its orientation. About the only clouds in the sky where right in this area! Made it tough to see in the Bushnell binos. About 5 minutes later I was able to find it naked eye.

This broke my career young Moon sighting (previously 42 hours)! Tonight's Moon was about 27 hours old.

I sent a note to the RASC Toronto Centre listserv... A few other people were trying.


Check out Steve Irvine's fantastic photo...

Used with permission.

Beautiful clear skies. Just the right exposure.

ready to go

Packed up my telescope and gear. Chatted briefly to Imre about the hobby. Consolidated everything in the garage for loading into the car. Packed light. But the driveway was blocked, so I had to defer that to later. Back inside I reviewed my planning notes. Ready for the RASC Toronto Centre City Observing Session.

John B said he'd attend. All right! I won't be alone!

It was then I noticed the Toronto Clear Sky Chart. Didn't look great after sunset. Tomorrow looks good.

Stu made the tough call.

Monday, March 15, 2010

herding cats

While he's giving his kids a tour of NYC, I headed over to Malcolm's to house-sit and spend some quality time with Oskar. Looked like the skies were clearing as I made dinner on the barbie. But I don't have any gear with me. And there are buckloads of light pollution in Mississauga to boot.

Stu called a no-go for the RASC Toronto Centre COS. His trained eye said it was going to clear until too late... Looks like tomorrow might be a go.


Affected more changes on the RASC Toronto Centre home page. Increased the height of the banner zone a smidge. Cleaned up the wordmark to show a better shadow on light backgrounds (but it's still not right). Incorporated the tag line and established date. Which in turn allowed me to simplify the table structure. While at it, I changed the table to ice vs. jello for better rendering in Internet Exploder. Established a new directory for the "sample" images. Prepped some Hubble Space Telescope photos. And, finally, I applied the Javascript code to make the images change each time one reloads the page.

Eric said, "Blake, Whoah! That's different. Thanks!"

No, thank you.

release 2

Dietmar and Eric commented on the RASC Toronto Centre photograph release. I did a bit of digging. And, happily, found some text that the CBC uses. Good. Close to home. I've drafted version 2. Probably ready for Council approval.

new header

For some indescribable reason, perhaps because of all the other screwing around with the site, I suddenly felt like tackling the header banner area of the RASC Toronto Centre web.

I started out by moving all the... stuff... that was cluttering up the top-right corner. Mostly links off our site. I moved them into a new "quick links" bar below the seal and wordmark. It looked OK, actually. So I made the change through the entire site.

Then I started to slog at the header area. Had to rework the logo seal in Fireworks to get the background transparent. Then I had to rework the wordmark in Illustrator and then Fireworks to get it reversed and, again, with a transparent background. Can't see it here but there's a shadow behind that text.

I drafted a "form" to Council for proposed wording of the photograph release. I first asked for this sometime before 25 July 2008. 'Cause on that date, I was asking the second time.

In the meantime, I grabbed a public domain image. Fiddled again in Fireworks finally converting a foreground gradient rectangle to alpha to get the proper fade-to-black on the left edge.

Hacked the home page template using DIVs and bunch of CSS-P to get everything to work.

It actually works in Firefox and my old crappy version of IE. Amazing.

We'll see how people react tomorrow...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

old links

So to flush the old (bad) links to the old (bad) web host (, I renamed the directories on the old server. Then hit all the pages in our site. Found a few loose ends, as expected. Mostly in the Members Only area where clearly a lot of hand coding has been performed...

Looks like it is all done! The move is complete. Everything's working.

Woo hoo!

PSA correct

I learned that there might be errors in the Pocket Sky Atlas (PSA).

Surfed into the Sky and Telescope web site and found an article noting printing errors with PDFs available for download.

I randomly compared some of the PDFs to my copy. They looked the same. So I must have the "second printing" although that is not noted anywhere.

Regardless, I'm pleased I have the correct version.

found my data

Checked the Globe at Night map (provided by ESRI). I now see my data. Twice actually. And a couple of other Toronto area submissions.

You have to be zoomed to 5km or lower to see them.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

blems are back

I heard through the grapevine that Tele Vue "blems" will be back at NEAF. I wonder how much eyepieces are reduced...

GaN lost my data!

I contacted the Globe At Night people today to find out why my light pollution assessment had not appeared on their web site. It is also interesting to note that there are no other Toronto entries...

The first response said, "there was a glich at that time for mag 3/4 data points." (Typos not corrected.)

Upon their request, I forwarded details of my location and submission (from memory). They replied, "I search the database for your specific lat/long and I encountered no entry matching yours. I am not at all certain what the error was-- I encourage you to make another observation and entry." (Typos not corrected.)

I relayed my discouragement and asked for more details...

weather station reconfiged

While at the CAO site for a family get-away, I charged Tony with changing the configuration of the weather station server so to point to our new web host. Just received an email saying the changes had been completed—no issues. The Trev lent a hand and double checked Tony's work.


Thanks guys!

Friday, March 12, 2010

uploaded my presentation

To the RASC Toronto Centre web site I posted my Mar / Apr 2010 TSTM (The Sky This Month) presentation notes and monthly calendar (in PDF format). Enjoy.

The highlights, in case you're interested:
  • 7 days to practice before St. Paddy’s Day
  • you'll lose time this month
  • you can measure your light pollution
  • try to catch a super young Moon
  • view ISS flyovers in the evening
  • view Mercury & Venus together
  • enjoy the equinox
  • Saturn’s will be a mere 1 272 200 000 km away
  • see the Straight Wall
  • and bid "be seeing you" to Mars

Link killed. Look on the lumpy darkness companion site's presentations page.

positive reviews

The reports from RASC Toronto Centre members are starting to come in... Lots of thumbs-up for the IMAX Hubble film!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

missed Hubble movie

We missed the IMAX Hubble movie tonight. The preview. The private screening. The Ontario Science Centre invited members of the RASC to take in the new NASA movie. But Phil and I were already locked into a Leafs-Lightning game. We resigned ourselves. Fortunately the buds won! At the last moment (sudden death 5 minute overtime)! Sheesh. Felt like the Olympics again. I submitted that we'd be in a position to hear the early reviews of the Hubble flick. It might bomb, you know.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

delivered TSTM

I delivered my The Sky This Month presentation to the RASC Toronto Centre at the OSC Imperial Oil auditorium. Seemed to go well. Some praise afterwards, from Denis, Phil, Chas, et al.

I'm feeling more comfortable. Getting used to the stage lighting. More comfortable with the amp'ed microphone.

Used PowerPoint 2007 for fidelity purposes. The new layout in Presenter View is more pleasing. It was handy being able to zoom in (increase the font size of) the notes.

I did however discover a weird bug / feature in Stellarium. When I move the Stellarium window to the second monitor but then try to display the dialog boxes, they do not appear.


Made 75 handouts this time. More than enough.

space swag

Phil (the mule) delivered gifts from Lora (the buyer). Goodies from NASA Kennedy Space Centre. A navy blue long sleeve shirt emblazoned "Established 1963." Apropos. And a khaki beige cap with the NASA meatball. Very nice.

The L/S Cap and T Combo (p/n 4401-1883). Not exactly as shown.

Lora said she wanted to thank me for assistance with her Apple Mac.

Monday, March 08, 2010


All the work over the weekend on the RASC TC web site transfer has put me a bit behind. I have to do a bunch of prep for The Sky This Month presentation on Wednesday and my Advanced Access teach on Friday. No time to play tonight either. Despite clear skies.

SkyNews gift on its way

Phoned SkyNews Subscriptions Department today. Confirmed that they were in receipt of my gift subscription. Yeh! ;-)

didn't observe with 'scope

I didn't go out last night, other than to count stars in Orion, despite some favourable conditions. Didn't have a client gig on Monday, telescope was ready to go in the garage, could use the entire garage (with the car moved out) as the warm room, could do rapid shut down (back into the garage) when done, fairly good sky conditions (although I did not receive email alerts). But it occurred to me late last night or early this morning that there is another factor, another time constraint issue.

It's not just having rapid access to a 'scope, quick start-up and tear-down times. There is a time investment required, time commitment required, to my observing.

As I have already considered, I need a good plan to feel fulfilled. Targets, objectives, a checklist. But to build that plan some times takes hours.

I hadn't realised that part before.

And that might explain why even having a grab-and-go 'scope at my disposal, I'm not observing.

I keep thinking about Phil and how he doesn't log or blog his observations per se.

Maybe there's a different tactic I should contemplate: if I don't have a lot of time, don't make a plan, just do some quick observing, and don't worry about detailed notes, recording keeping, having everything right. Just observe. Aim the 'scope high. Just observe for the joy of it...

tips from Tom

I heard back from Tom Teague. I asked if he had any suggestions as to how to report double star observations.
I haven't had a chance to evaluate the figures, but the format is OK, subject to the following. It's conventional to include the magnitudes of the components, even though you haven't actually assessed their brightness yourself. [I suppose the discipline of checking makes it more likely that you'll notice if the magnitudes don't quite fit with the figures in a catalogue, suggesting that perhaps one of the components may be variable.]

Also, and this is important, you should state the number of measures, even if it's only one. If (as ideally you should) you spread the measures over three or four nights, give the number of nights. Seeing, funnily enough, is not usually included (although obviously you should always record it, as you have done).

I will integrate his ideas into my routine.

old letterhead

Started drafting my "your fired" letter. Downloaded the RASC TC letterhead from the Council Yahoo!Group. Still has the STARline on it. Huh. They shut that down in November...

I updated the document, deep-sixed the old one, uploaded the new version, and strongly urged everyone to get with it.

main calendar GUI good

The main calendar GUI is working again! Somehow it got zapped in the move. Ever since I did direct editing, I wasn't able to apply changes through the csCalendar interface. But now the CGI interface is able to access the calendar. I just successfully deleted an RASC TC event. Can add again.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

CAO calendar works

I just tested the CAO bookings calendar for the RASC TC site. It works beautifully!

it's all coming together.

I think the 406 error is the only outstanding issue.

calendar corrupted

Gilles found that the calendar CGI was corrupted. He reinstalled it from the backup. It started working. I activated the config file I had already adjusted for our new server. It worked! Holy cow! The RASC TC mini and large calendars are up!

We're not sure why or how the file got corrupted. Doesn't really matter.

mag 4 sky (Toronto)

Submitted my GLOBE at Night sky light pollution rating.

Waited for the end of astronomical twilight. I spent about 30 minutes dark adapting. Used my laser enhancement glasses to go in and out of the house. Took the clip board with large format observing log sheet. Sketched Orion and as many faint stars as I could see.

The faintest star was μ (mu) Orionis (4.30), up and to the left of Betelgeuse. No problem for σ (sigma) Ori (4.00) below the belt.

Everyone had their lights on. Housemates on the top floor. Cherneys to the east. No respect.

not a sundial

It's not exactly a sundial, but I have a crystal dodecahedron suspended in my west window over my office desk. On sunny days, sunny afternoons, for a brief period of time, with the perfect alignment, the sunlight catches the crystal ball, and fills my living room with little spectrums and small white triangles. Two days in a row now I have enjoyed the sparkling light show.

I'm looking forward to spring and summer.

The porro prism I have (which I bought surplus years ago) up in the sill is also catching the Sun.

The Crookes radiometer is slowly turning.


Actually, it's not a dodecahedron. It has more faces. Each face is a triangle. Non-uniform shapes to the faces as well as the overall shape. So, until I find the official term, it is a polyhedron...

fixed forms

More progress made. Repaired the HTML forms on the RASC TC web site after the move. They are working now. People can book their loaner 'scopes and book the CAO again! Woot!

fixed private sections

Got the private member-only sections of the RASC TC site going.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

fixed index bug

Stu found a little issue with the RASC TC site. Depending on how one accessed the home page, slightly different content was loading. I remembered that my directly modified index file was still sitting there. I replaced it with a SSI redirect. One more bug fixed!

web data updated

I uploaded the CMS database snapshot from yesterday to the new RASC web server. Refreshed the site from the administrative GUI. Saw Stu's article from yesterday afternoon! Woot! Saw all my recent updates. Incredible.

Downloaded some 40 or 50 new images and attachments; uploaded them to the new system.

It all works!

There are some issues with the little calendar I can't figure out. Asked Gilles to take a peek.

Friday, March 05, 2010

finally on new WPP

Earlier today I asked Dave VIII in Nova Scotia to switch the nameservers for the RASC Toronto Centre web site to those of HostPapa. Of course, the change started to ripple through the DNS system a couple of hours later.

I was thrilled to see our web site appear. Actually, the version from about 1 month ago, when Gilles transferred a tarball to the new Web Presence Provider, showed in my browser. That was the tell-tale I was looking for—the site to revert to an old state.

Some of the logo images weren't loading so I directly hacked the index file. I was so happy to see that the menu links worked! It was clear that the site was going to function in its new home!

I still have some work to do. But it's essentially working.

I took a backup of a database from the old server.

We can finally rid ourselves of, an utterly incompetent, backwards, cash-strapped, unreliable, antiquated, unstable host. If I could sue the unprofessional Collingwood organisation I would. It is amazing to me that this unethical provider could still operate in this day and age with such horrible down-time statistics. They clearly cannot affort a UPS. It is asinine, screwed-up, opaque, dishonest companies like this that make one demand service-level agreements.

beautiful night

Clear, beautiful, cloud-free. And I received 2 alarms from CSC.

But I have a rendezvous with Jenna. We have some catching up to do. Looking forward to it.

Then I have to rush home to hack the RASC Toronto Centre site. After the "big switch."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

asked to do May TSTM

Paul asked me if I wanted to deliver the The Sky This Month for May to the RASC Toronto Centre. Unfortunately, that's the last night of the NOVA course. And I think I wanna make an appearance there...

Monday, March 01, 2010

count stars again

It's that time again. Time to count stars in Orion. Part of the GLOBE at Night project to gauge light pollution. Around the world! So, starting Mar 3 and running to Mar 16, assess your conditions.

Quick and easy to do. That said, you should dark-adapt! Fun for the whole family.

no time for doubles

Received a CSAC email around 5 PM for Toronto...

Favorable observing conditions at Toronto
Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
03-01 @ Hour 21 for 4 hours (0%/Average/Average)
I wasn't surprised. I saw it clearing in the afternoon.

But the Moon was full. I had a mountain of stuff to do. I have to teach tomorrow (well, do a demo; but it's in the morning). Early start required. So... no time to chase double stars...