Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Venus calling

Just peeked out my window. There's Venus. Calling me. Urging, coaxing. Leave. Leave the horrible, confused city of stress and greed and smoke. Come. Come north. Come to me.

No. I can't. I can't leave tonight. Soon. Soon enough. I shall join you.

SkyNews review

Interesting... Uncle Rod just reviewed a few of the "other" astronomy magazines, including Canada's SkyNews. Very interesting...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

sparkling garnet

Sharmin just reported that she found The Garnet Star is Cepheus. Remarked on the huge sun's stunning colour. She wondered why it was twinkling less than before. I reminded her that Cepheus was rising and the night time air was probably cooling. I assumed she had been at it for a while. I suppose tube currents might be a factor...


Wow. Star twinkling in Stellarium is way cool with a modern DVI video board and a flatscreen LCD.

sticky focuser

Kiron reported that he's been using the RASC Toronto Centre Dobsonian on a couple of occasions but that the focuser is a "tad too tight." Via email, I suggested that it might be the focuser locking screw.

first time in a long time

Received an email from the Clear Sky Alarm Clock for the CAO! It's been a while since I've seen one from that location. Hopefully more will generated over the next few days...

Tony wants help

Tony is trying to finish off the OHAP 2010 articles for the RASC Toronto Centre web site. He asked me to help. Didn't we do this last year?!

Admittedly, I have a batch of digital photos from Scott on CD (or DVD).

So he's got the rollerskates and I've got the key...

Still, I deferred. I suggested we work on it together while at the CAO this weekend. My ulterior motive, of course, is to learn him on editing his own images!

Monday, June 28, 2010

added Skymaps RSS

I didn't notice it before but has a twitter feed. And now that I'm showing some RSS feeds on my desktop using Yahoo!Widgets, it's a no-brainer to include that.

This will hopefully augment what I'm already doing (manually) with my Yahoo!Calendar with astronomical events feeding my desktop...

Mostly importantly, I hope not to miss some interesting event.


I didn't notice it before because it's not noted on the website, that I can see! I learned of this only by reading the fine print on the latest The Evening Sky Map PDF.

repaired Questar case

When I received the loaner Questar, I was a little perturbed that I could not open the case! Seemed jammed. The locks wouldn't move. Looked like it had happened before. To the point where the locks had been forced open.

When I finally got the case open, I found some old tired padding inside, presumably to offer improved insulation and shock protection. However, it was disintegrating. It had filled the case with small green foam crumbs. Messy, unsightly, and possibly a source of debris to the telescope.

As I removed the pristine 3½" telescope, I saw the upper liner fall away, glue gone.

Today, I affected repairs to the Questar case.

I picked the locks so to unlock them. As best as possible, I reshaped the metal. Now they retract properly now, smoothly. Hopefully, others won't force the latches again!

I glued the detached top liner back in place. Stacked a pile of paperbacks inside, while upside-down, to weigh things down (up?).

Somewhere, I've got some modern high density foam... I intend to replace the old green padding.

Orion makes a little Mak

Over a thank-you pint, Guy shared that Orion makes little tiny Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescopes. Sans mount. He bolts his up to his iOptron.

He offered (when he's not chasing the shadow of an asteroid) that I try it for a bit. Cool!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

my proxy Guy

Gave my RASC proxy to Guy.

He's driving down east on Wednesday or Thursday.

Doing a couple of occultations along the way!

Why am I not surprised...

shotgun to DDO

Oops. Maybe I shouldn't use that word today, with Toronto under siege...

Tony called in the early evening asking if I wanted to go to the DDO. He has been asked to present so he wanted to get a lay of the land. I decided later to take up his offer to join him. We noted the lack of spot lighting for the speaker, the overhead projector (looks like the old Sanyo) in an inverted position, and the house lighting.

Dr Anne-Marie Weijmans was presenting on dark matter and dark energy. She referred to the Bullet galaxies cluster. I'll have to read up on that. The first direct imaging of dark matter. I told her about my lumpy domain name, inspired by the clumpy early Universe. The bit of her talk we caught was enjoyable. She made the dense subject very palatable.

Took the Lee Filters roll of red gel film north. Offered it to Paul. He seemed a little surprised. Perhaps he forgot about it. He and Rajesh wondered out loud if 2 linear feet would satisfy their needs. Gilles helped me cut off a chunk. I still have over 6 feet which I can offer to members.

No observing at the DDO, sadly. Rainy, damp, overcast, and foggy.


Of course, as Tony returned me to my front steps, the sky had cleared! The Full Moon was blazing to the south. Some stars shimmered overhead.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

ETX pros and cons

Chatted with Phil and then Gilles about the Meade ETX telescopes.

Phil is urging me to consider an APO. They are small, compact, have excellent wide fields. But, he acknowledges that then I still have an outstanding tracking problem. How should it be mounted? And will I be able to met my objectives of a compact, self-contained, rapid-setup telescope?

As I walked into the David Dunlap Observatory dome, I noticed Nicole near our presentation booth materials and a 90 ETX. I suddenly remember when first meeting them seeing this little telescope! I briefly tried the 'scope. It is clearly patterned off the Questar. I learned that it can work on a table top, the newest versions come with a GPS, that while a camera can be mounted on the back it is better on the top.

I'll have to look at these more closely.

added Spaceflight RSS

When I discovered that Spaceflight Now had a twitter feed, I realised I could show it on my active desktop using my Yahoo!Widget RSS feeder. This should help me stay on top of NASA activities as well as those of all the other space agencies and all the new private companies too.

more sketching tools

While picking up some technical training office supplies, I picked up additional sketching aids.

I found a Staedtler eraser, pen style, with retractable white plastic (vinyl) erasure cylinder. This will complement the Pink Pearl rubber eraser I already have.

I also stumbled across an enclosed manual pencil sharpener, by the same manufacturer, with two holes, one normal, one slightly larger. It has a clever little cap to prevent shavings from falling out.

It's so nice having a sharp sharpener!

Friday, June 25, 2010

must say no

Tony asked me yesterday, in a roundabout way, if I might take over for him, when he is to give his annual astronomy talk at Thornbury's L.E. Shore public library in August. I slept on it. And today realised just how uncomfortable I was with the idea. Not the content; that I'm OK with. But the timing, my other commitments, the distance, etc. So, my mind became (unusually) clear: no. Sad news for Tony perhaps but I immediately felt relieved...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sun worshipers rejoice

Sun people! Enjoy your 15 hours and one minute of daylight... Astronomers, meanwhile, moan.

Friday, June 18, 2010

suddenly 1100

The Kepler results from 34 days of scanning are in. And the team found 700 candidate stars. If there are small planets around these suns, then they will have doubled, almost tripled, the current number of known exoplanets!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bayview only

Stu called the 2nd RASC COS event this week, but at Bayview Village Park only. Skies look pretty good. Unfortunately, he could not drum up people in the High Park who wanted to go down and stare at the floodlights until 10:30 or 11:00 PM...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

happy birthday APOD

Wow. 15 years. Keep on sharing the cosmos with us.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

gun shy

Huh. Just spotted the 3½ day old Moon through the blinds. Still, it is not a cloud free sky... Outside, I could see Venus...

FujiFilm finepix J20, f/5.1, ISO 200, 1/8 sec, 16 mm

Isn't that frustrating.

Hubble in Omni

Went to the Ontario Science Centre with my buddy Alan to catch IMAX Hubble at the Omnimax theatre. Alan plotted a course to seats dead centre.

I've never been to an Omnimax before. A true surrounding, immersive experience. Using soft-focus and taking in the entire peripheral visual field, I could tell that the screen—er, dome—filled almost all of my visual field. Impressive.

It was an enjoyable film but I was a little sad there wasn't more hi-def footage. Still, I enjoyed revisiting the last mission again, STS-125.

While somewhat conjectural, it was pretty thrilling touring through the Trapezium nursery!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Denis on team

The DDO online payment team has brought Denis on board to help with the PayPal and Fusion Ticket integration. This is good news. I imagined he'll nip this in the bud quickly. I helped him to server access.

lots of people; lots of clouds

Too bad it wasn't clear tonight, we had a good turnout. David Z, John B, Kiron, Michael B, Mickey, and me.

Well, at least Mickey was able to hand the Toronto Centre's loaner directly to Kiron.

So the evening was not a complete write-off.

Actually, we had fun looking at Kiron's new gadgets. He geeked out in NYC and bought some Nikon Extreme binoculars with tripod adapter. He let me put the neck strap on. Beautiful glasses.

Stu called a GO

Stu thinks it's going to clear up so he's called a GO for the City Observing Sessions at High Park and Bayview Village Park. He said John B is going to help at High Park. He twisted my arm.


Ah. Finally I have a spot to sit to avoid the Moon.

And the Sun.

And dew!

A couple of summers back (excuse me, three), I snagged this used portable picnic table. It is awesome. Remarkably strong yet extremely compact.

Upon receiving it, I noted the hole in the centre, clearly to accommodate a umbrella pole.

It took several attempts to find a suitable umbrella. Also portable. The only problem with this umbrella system, is that they designed the inner shaft inside the base with a safety mechanism so that the shaft would not slide up and out of the base. And, as such, I had no way of getting the inner shaft through the table centre.

Today, I hacked the base. I drilled out the four indents on the inner shaft safety collar. After removing the collar—with handy dandy oil filter wrenches no less—I was able to pull the inner shaft from the base. w00t!

It all fits together like a puzzle now. Looking forward to using it (in this final configuration).

(Can't say much for the colours... But heck in darkness, who cares!)

I know it actually works. Last week at the Deep Sky Observing Session, when I was packing up, the umbrella was soaked with dew, but my paperwork underneath was dry.

Now... I just gotta figure out how to string some red lights...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

welcome home Hayabusa

The JAXA Hayabusa probe returned to Earth, lighting up the Australian winter night sky.

(Sorry, that's not an interactive player. That's a snapshot!)

Hopefully the capsule with asteroid samples has survived the incredible journey...

I'm having flashbacks of The Andromeda Strain.

It'll be fine!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

rain in Richmond Hill

Paul sent out a note to the RASC Toronto Centre listserv: "Given the current weather status, I doubt we'll open the dome tonight."

So, I'm not going to head to the DDO.

They might still get some humans there, expecting the 74" 'scope to magically punch through the cloud deck... They just have to enjoy Paul's tour of the facilities.

GLP preparations

Randall sent out a draft yesterday of the poster the Green Laser Pointer committee is preparing for the 2010 RASC General Assembly out east.

Randall and I finally met recently, at the CAO Open House. It was good to put a face to a name. He encouraged me to remain active in the GLP group.

I proposed that we add a couple of suggestions for the safe storage of GLPs when not in use. Randall thanked me for the recommendations.

Friday, June 11, 2010

made the call

Sadly, as the designated supervisor, I had to make a NO GO call for the CAO this weekend. Looks like it is gonna be crappy pissy and rainy and otherwise grim. What a drag. Was looking forward to a New Moon dark sky weekend...

Already looking ahead. If next weekend is clear, maybe I'll head north. I already have the July New Moon weekend blocked off...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

didn't go for Thursday

I had the option of going to the CAO for Thursday night. I had booked Friday off although I had some important client work I needed to catch up on. Could have been done anywhere. But in the end, after watching all my weather resources, and after chatting with Stu, "retired meteorologist disguised as an amateur astronomer," I felt that I was not going to get two clear nights. They didn't need to be consecutive... I even blocked Monday off, in case Sunday night was going to be clear. No alarms from CSAC. I'm not interested in going that far for only one clear night.

SkyNews arrived

The Jul/Aug issue of SkyNews arrived in my mailbox. Cover story is about how this year should be very good for observing the Perseid meteor shower. It was pretty good last year...

I peeled the address label off the front, once again. I noticed a letter to the editor criticising the large labels on the front cover blocking the beautiful images and how this is a disservice to the artist.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

sent AI files

Jason, new RASC Toronto Centre member, is keen to produce a small information card which we can give out at star parties, observing sessions, etc. I sent him the Adobe Illustrator files for the seal and wordmark.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Cracked open my 140 watt inverter with the intention to change the green POWER LED for a red one. Uh huh. They've glued down the LEDs!

OK. I'll just have to cover it then. So to not be annoying at future star parties.

some deep sky (Pontypool)

Finally... It finally worked out that when a Deep Sky Observing Session (DSOS) by the RASC Toronto Centre was going to happen, and in fact was called a "go," I could (personally) go, and I didn't have to be anywhere early the next day, and I had a working car, and I had the energy and wherewithal. At last!
Instrument: Questar 3½-inch Mak
Mount: equatorial table-top legs
Method: star hopping
I left the city on time. As predicted, the bulk of the rush hour insanity had abated. There was only some minor lane reduction work in Whitby that impacted my progress. I made the Long Sault Conservation Area (LSCA) by 8:15 or so. An astronomer was ahead of me. Some cyclists were squeezing in one more ride.

I immediately unpacked my portal picnic table, lawn chair, astronomy box α, the Centre's Questar, and dual gel cel deep discharge battery bank (which I had offered that Jason could tap into). Ready to conduct an experiment. The air was cooling off so in short order I put on long pants, long sleeve shirt, and RASC vest. Others astronomers were rolling in, RASC members, and civies too, the general public.

Jack (member) and Bill (non) peppered me with questions as dusk fell. Jack had his new telescopic telescope, a collapsible 12" Sky Watcher Dobsonian. He assembled it at the east edge of the parking lot. Bill had his relatively new Meade 125 ETX. He settled in near me.

Oh. I was interested in learning about the little Meade.

It was clear. The temperature was around 11°C. The wind had died down.

9:32 PM. Spotted Venus just over the trees. I put the Questar on it and at high power (80x) could see the gibbous phase. Clear in Questar. Although, my little table was prone to shaking. I let people take a look. Jeanie and Bill enjoyed the view. The bright stars, Arcturus overhead, Vega to the east, Spica to the south, started appearing.

9:46. Just viewed a bright satellite. First caught it very near Spica heading due north, brighter or possibly the same as Spica (~1) but less than Arcturus (~0). Lost it (and got distracted) around zenith. Heavens Above says the USA 129 flew over starting at 9:43 and finishing at 9:49 on a generally S to N path with a maximum elevation of 88°. The predicted bright was 3.1. No way. It was way brighter than that. The database entry has that maximum brightness can reach -0.2 at perigee when 100% illuminated. Yeah. That's more like it.

More people arrived. Stu set up his tracking Dob on the other side of the lot, north of Jack. Jason set up near me so he could reach my marine power tank. Steve arrived with his new iPad and GPS-sensitive astronomy app. Wow. A true portal experience. Like the smaller iPhone version I had seen some time back, this dynamically panned with movement, a window on the sky (oops, sorry, Mac people). I aimed it down. Ha ha! We tried to imagine the Earth being transparent. It was like a super-duper x-ray machine! OK, enough of that gadget; back to the real sky.

Could see more stars in Leo—hey hey, look at the that! Mars and Regulus, Mars above, pale orange. The view of Mars near Regulus was fantastic! Beautiful naked eye view. The colours were incredible. It would have been interesting to attempt to photograph them. I wondered if the colours would have held up. Later Jason put his refractor on the pale orange world and blue white star. We encouraged him to use a longer eyepiece to improve the view. Simply spectacular.

Turned to the ringed planet. In the Questar, I could see Titan to the left of Saturn (mirror reverse). Tried desperately in the 3½" aperture to coax out more moons... Alas, they would not come out. Regardless, the view was breathtaking.

10:00. As the sky darkened the view of Saturn improved. The ring shadow became more prominent, or darker, although still a razor thin line. All reported no trouble seeing that. I could see the equatorial belt easily. Others struggled with this feature.

10:09. Conditions check: the OS said 76% humidity, 8.1°C temperature; OW said 66% at 8°C.

We double checked our location. I think Steve looked it up on the iPad. 44° 33' 0" by 78° 44' 30". (Later pinpointed the spot on Google Maps: 44.049863 by 78.741983. That's pretty well bang on.)

Stu had a look through the Questar.

Bill was fiddling with the Meade.

Jack came over to ask for some help. He could not seem to find objects. Wasn't 100% sure if the finder scope was aligned. He wanted to see M13. I flashed Hercules with the green laser, showed the Keystone, and pointed out where I knew the Greater Cluster to be. I sighted along the big OTA but could see he was off by about 5°. I wiggled the open truss around until it looked about right, looked through the finder. Ah ha! There was M13 pretty well dead centre. Looked through the eyepiece. Voila.

I looked like a hero! But I was just lucky I think.

Jack was pleased.

I suggested he change the tension on the handle bar knobs. They were way too tight. The azimuth action was beautifully smooth.

Headed back to the centre of the parking lot. Bill was still struggling with the Meade. I asked if I could have a go. We started from the top. Powered it up, walked through the menu, and initiated the two star alignment process. The 'scope moved toward Spica. But it was way off, by 5° or so. So I slewed manually and centred. Star 2 was off again. Slewed, centred, and tested an object. It was pretty close. I was satisfied it was working. I asked Bill how we could "sync" but he had no clue what I was talking about. I briefly scanned the manual to no avail.

It was around then that Bill kicked the tripod. OK. Well, that's an opportunity to practice! So I got him to run through the process.

Lots to learn, my friend.

I saw a bright meteor, heading from E to SW. At the time I noted the path but I forgot to write it down...

They enjoyed viewing double stars. We looked at Mizar and Alcor naked eye. Then Mizar A and B, Alcor, and Sidus Ludoviciana between. Then off to Albireo. Lovely.

Helped Jason spot the Ring Nebula. He exclaimed, "That's it?!" He admitted that he's a bit spoiled by Hubble photos...

11:50. I was feeling a little chilled. I checked the weather stations. The dew was high! The OS said 94%. I suggested everyone get out the dew shields and heaters.

Bill grabbed his from the car. He had never used it before. So, we got more learnin' done.

It occurred to me that my efforts at getting some personal observing in had been somewhat thwarted. Still, I was happy to help people. I decided to sit down to finally do some drift tests, so to confirm the field of view sizes of the Questar eyepieces. I fiddled and fuddled for a while but was having a hard time starhopping. I stuggled with mirror-reversed laterally-inverted images. I wondered if I should have a small mirror handy. That might be helpful. Tried some more but I was getting foggy. Was a little uncomfortable (not having put more layers on).

I packed up.

Stuart and I chatted with Jeanie and Bill and then other non-members. Curiously, while we pitched the society, we both forgot to handout flyers! DOH!

I left around 1:00 AM.


I took the Questar and my portable table so to conduct an experiment. It was partly successful. I wanted to see how stable the view would be.

But my little plastic portable picnic table shakes and vibrates. Even if you sit still, you can see your heartbeat in the eyepiece. The whole table flexes and shifts as you move. So, at high power, if you lean one way to examine an object, and then shift to the other elbow, the object drifts out of view.

So, the table is OK for spreading out gear. And hiding under. Especially with the umbrella. But a separate table for the portable 'scope would be best.

While I had my lawn chair there, I didn't use it. I could have sat in the lawn chair and not touched the picnic table. That would have likely offered better views.


Another experiment, albeit impromptu, was running two 'scopes off one of my deep discharge batteries. It worked out well.

I ran the Questar at 120V off my 400W invertor.

Jason ran his equatorial mount at 12V.

The battery did not run out! Although it reported low the next morning.

Had the second battery on standby but we didn't need it.

Monday, June 07, 2010


Visitors Jeanie and Bill had their Meade 125 ETX at the RASC Toronto Centre Deep Sky Observing Session last night. When I warned that the humidity was rising over 80%, Bill headed for his car, and returned with some additional gear. A Kendrick wrap for the OTA. A power cord with CLA adapter. And the MICRO FireLite Controller. Tiny.

He plugged in the power cord but I wasn't sure it was seated properly. We checked the plug for an LED indicator. There was one. Good. We reseated the connector in the power tank and the LED glowed red. We have power.

I connected the dew heater to the controller. Very small plug. It was hard to tell if we had it the right-way 'round. But the fit seemed positive. I pressed the centre button on the controller. The first LED light up. Kept pressing the button. Second LED, third, fourth, then all of 'em. I assumed all meant full power. I suggested this, for now, to ensure it was all working.

But what struck me as odd was the output indicator colour. Why on Earth would Kendrick use green LEDs?! Four bright green LEDs in your face?! Makes no sense. It is especially strange given that the photo on the web site shows red or orange...

looks good!

Haven't seen skies like this for a while...

Stu called a GO for the RASC TC DSOS at Long Sault.

I'm packing gear and charging batteries...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Stellarium improves

I've been using the newest version (0.10.5) of Stellarium for about a week now and, in general, I'm happy.

When the preceding versions (0.10.3 and 0.10.4) were released, I immediately noted a flurry of messages from users and the developers. It seemed some were having extreme problems with the astronomy planetarium application. I briefly tested the program and encountered issues myself. The big one was frame rates. I rolled back to 0.10.2 which was, for me, quite stable and quick. I cautioned others...

Happily, it looks like a lot of the kinks have been worked out with this latest release. The web site reports, in fact, that 0.10.5 resolved over 30 bugs! That's commendable work by the development team.

All that said, one must remember, we're still in beta stage... There be dragons.

While I'm irked by the font display problems, I am excited by some of the new and improved capabilities and features in the software.

I think my favourite so far must be the ability to shut off the interface! Pressing the (Windows) keyboard short Ctrl+t causes the little information bar at the bottom and object information text at the top-left to disappear. And suddenly you're looking at a view that is eerily real. Stellarium already receives accolades for realistic sky presentation. This just kicks it up a notch.

It's not a new feature in the application that you could show planet paths. I used this in the past, with the early 0.9.x version, for demos and lectures. Very handy for checking where a wanderer will be over the next few days, weeks, or months. Now, it's quick and easy to use: press Shift+t to toggle on or off. Then, you start moving forward or backward in time. Of course, for the more profound effect, you'll want to move by sidereal time...

Speaking of time, you'll want to keep in mind the handy new keyboard shortcut to stop it. Stop time. Yep. Press the 7 key. Done. Frozen. Don't you wish you could do that in the real world?! This addition simplifies the process; in the past, you had to set the time rate to normal (k) and then hit the decrease time (j) once. Less fiddling is good.

The planet orbits display appears to be improved as well. This may have changed in 0.10.4, I'm not sure, I didn't play long enough. Presently, if you activate the orbit feature, a red path will appear on the display for the selected planet. Tip: If you click the Sun, all the orbits appear. Nicely done.

Another pleasing little change is the ability to toggle the meridian line, all by itself. I.e. without the entire azimuthal grid. It's a strange keyboard shortcut, is all: semicolon (;). Useful when timing when to view objects at their maximum elevation. Or when tracking down daytime planets.

Miss the horizon line though.

Still lovin' the other improvements from before, like the angle measure and oculars plug-ins, the compass marks, etc. Tip: with the ocular plug-in installed and activated on boot, you can use Ctrl+b to display Telrad circles. Very nice. Super handy for gauge size and distance.

A final observation. I don't know how they're doing it but the start-up and shutdown times are amazing. And a fringe benefit to the lightning start-up is no more annoying bright busy distracting garage graphical gobbledygook as this amazing piece of software launches.

still have it!

I just pulled my "drafting kit box" out of storage. I still have my old stainless steel eraser shield! Can't believe it.

I noticed one used a lot in Astronomical Sketching. Seems to be a required aid.

So glad I found it.

Geez. Nice Staedtler Mars Masterbow compass set too...

Hold the phone! I found charcoal! I'm all set.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

foot repair

Would you trust this man with a screwdriver? Power tools? Expensive telescopes?

Too late!

Repaired the RASC Toronto Centre's loaner Dobsonian base. One of the feet, or rather its screw, had torn from the base.

I drilled a new pilot hole a little clockwise of the original and screwed in the foot.

Sharmin is happy.

go; no, no go...

Paul originally called a GO for the DDO star party at 5:08. By 6, the sky was clouded over. By 7, I felt rain drops. Looks like it is a wash... Too bad. I was gonna fly the Questar.

sketching guide

Wow. This looks like it's going to be a fantastic book! After a quick skim, I feel myself entranced by the inspiring sketches.

I think I noticed something very interesting in the galaxies chapter: random sketches of galaxies on a single sheet, what appeared to be practice sketches. What a great idea! Practice on cloudy nights.

Sharmin ordered Astronomical Sketching: A Step-By-Step Introduction via her Amazon account. I received my copy from her. Can't wait to read it.

She bought a copy for herself too!

Friday, June 04, 2010

this looks like a job for...

Oh oh. The Toronto Centre's loaner Dob is broken!

Sharmin sent this photo. Apparently the foot keeps falling off...

I'm packing my drill and small tool kit (ironically shaped like an old doctor's bag).

See?! Even telescopes need LRF support!


Phone Charles as the F9 was launching: "Thunderbirds are go!"

We chatted about the commercialisation of space travel, the sluggish progress in the electronic handling of tickets by RASC at the DDO, and the continuing need for more DDO operators.

Go SpaceX!

Watched the Falcon 9 launch... Nice to see!

Another step for humans, the beginning of a new era, helping the common man get into outer space.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Godspeed Mars500 crew!

The Mars500 mission got underway. We'll find out if these people can be self-sufficient... And not kill each other!

10.5 keyboard shortcuts

Stellarium 0.10.5 has some new features and capabilities. Time to update the keyboard shortcut list (for Windows)... New or changed shortcuts are marked with an asterisk.

controlling the surroundings
show location dialog

toggle cardinal or compass points—— q
toggle ground and buildings

toggle ground fog
toggle atmosphere or air


controlling sky appearance

toggle stars
toggle constellation lines
toggle constellation boundaries
toggle constellation labels
toggle constellation artwork
toggle planet labels and circles
toggle planet orbits

toggle planet trails

Shift t
toggle nebula labels and circles
show Sky and Viewing Options dialog

controlling gridlines

toggle alt/az grid lines
toggle equatorial grid
toggle ecliptic line
, (comma)
toggle celestial equator
. (period)
toggle meridian line


changing image presentation

toggle horizontal flipping
Ctrl Shift h
toggle vertical flipping
Ctrl Shift v

controlling "regular" time

show date/time dialog

set date/time to match computer

set time rate to zero

increment forward time speed

l (lower case L)
increment reverse time speed

run time at normal speed
decrease time speed a little

Shift j

increase time speed a little

Shift k

jump forward 1 hour
Ctrl = (equal)
jump backward 1 hour
Ctrl - (hyphen)
jump forward 1 day
= (equal)
jump backward 1 day
- (hyphen)
jump forward 1 week

jump backward 1 week


controlling sidereal time

jump forward 1 sidereal day
Alt = (equal)
jump backward 1 sidereal day
Alt - (hyphen)
jump forward 1 sidereal week
Alt ]
jump backward 1 sidereal week
Alt [


quickly zoom in or out

mouse roller up or down

zoom in
PgUp or Ctrl Up Arrow
zoom out
PgDn or Ctrl Dn Arrow
zoom close to selected object
/ (slash)
zoom out fully

\ (backslash)


quickly pan celestial sphere


pan right
Right Arrow
pan left
Left Arrow
pan up
Up Arrow
pan down
Dn Arrow
toggle equatorial or alt/az mount
Ctrl m

working with objects

select an object visually
centre on selected object
toggle tracking of selected object
deselect object
display search dialog box
Ctrl f or F3

travel to object, i.e. go to a planet
Ctrl g

controlling the application

show configuration dialog

show help/about dialog

show script console window

toggle application fullscreen/window
toggle GUI toolbars/menus

Ctrl t
save screenshot to desktop file
Ctrl s
quit from Stellarium
Ctrl q

Most quick reference listings (including the one inside Stellarium's help) are improperly designed. They show the key first then the action. You'll see I've done the opposite!

new Stellarium

Noticed today that people were chatting about Stellarium 0.10.5. Sounds like they improved on the many issues with 0.10.4. I shall try it on the netbook...

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

doubles in 3½ (Toronto)

Lost my e-file! I was keeping some notes in the Stargazing Journal and some on the computer. I will have to go from memory, re. objects and targets. I don't think I'll be able to recall the weather details from the Oregon Scientific and CTC OneWorld portable weather stations...

The loss was due to, ultimately, forgetting to quit the Stellarium application. When I restarted the netbook the next morning, it was in a bad way. After a couple of attempts, I successfully logged into Windows. But then... BSOD! Windows shut down to prevent damage. And, poof, there went my Notepad file. Note to self: don't let Stellarium run overnight.


Arrived home late, around 11:00 PM. Malcolm dropped me off. As I looked up at the night sky, from the street, it seemed incredibly dark, velvety black. Wow. Darker than a couple of nights ago, it seemed. Maybe, I thought, I could squeeze in some observing.

Grabbed the Questar, the netbook, Double Star Atlas, double stars for small telescopes, the Stargazing Journal, and headed to the picnic table out back. Opened the garage and fed out the extension cord. Put on my bug suit! Hot now.

Noticed that the Cherny's had all the back lights on, particularly the one up high, under the soffet, aimed toward my yard. Damn it. I'm not gonna take it anymore! I phoned the house, at 11:15, and tersely asked Milo to shut them off. Amazingly, he complied.

11:30 PM. 48% humidity, 20.4°C. Did a rough polar alignment. Took in Saturn again. I was surprised to not find a bright moon... Were the conditions worse?! Went up to 160x and still could not see other moons. Checked Stellarium. Oops. That's not Titan, one ring-width to the east; that's Rhea. Ah. No wonder it was dimmer. Tethys was a half ring-width to the west but I could not confirm it visually.

That said, I could see ring shadow on the planet surface and bands of clouds.

Chased some double stars...

Looked at β (beta) Leonis aka Denebola. I don't remember my impressions. I don't remember what I logged in Notepad... Gone. I only recall confusion, not being sure how to interpret Haas's notes, and having the field of view numbers handy...

Starhopped from Alkaid to nearby κ (kappa) and ι (iota). Interesting at low power in the Questar seeing both of these pairs at the same time. It was some time later that I discovered that these stars were in Boötes and not Ursa Major. And later still that I learned that I had already visited these! That was a little discouraging. So much so I didn't note colours, brightnesses, etc.

Very tired. Was it 2-ish when I wrapped?!


Here's a good example of where I should have sketched what I was seeing...


Elastic band around the tube worked well, preventing the dew shield from slipping down.


Second note to self: don't use Notepad for logging!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Sharmin's order

Amazon delivered Sharmin's book order. She bought the Stargazing Journal for herself and a copy of Astronomical Sketching: A Step-by-step Introduction for me.