Saturday, July 31, 2010

cloudy observing (Blue Mountains)

Arrived at the RASC Carr Astronomical Observatory around 3:30 PM. I did not bring my gear. I thought I might be able to fly the Celestron 14" SCT and Tele Vue 101 atop the Paramount ME. No one opposed.
Instruments: Celestron 14-inch SCT, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
Phil had his refractor. Millie had her 8" RC. Both on the Observing Pad. Dietmar was in the Geoff Brown Observatory with his large RC imaging rig. (Later in the evening, Katrina arrived with her GOTO Dobsonian.)

I started off with MallinCam on Venus. Tested the new Tele Vue 2" Extension Tube. It worked! Then I played with the camera's sensitivity setting, the Automatic Level Control, shutter speed, white balance, etc.

Meanwhile, I looked at Saturn naked eye. Later, between wispy clouds I could see Mars (below, left). I was a little surprised to see that Mars seemed somewhat brighter. I was expecting the opposite. Stellarium said Saturn was magnitude 1.26 while Mars was 1.48. The apparent sizes 38.3" and 4.7" respectively.

Struggled a little bit with the alignment of the C14 and TV101. Slightly off. Exacerbated when operating the C14 at high magnification.

It was fairly cloudy. I was looking for large patches of clear sky.

10:51 PM. Just bumped the magnification to 301 in the C14 on Izar. It drew out the secondary star's colour: it's blue! At 145x, they were easily split but the colours seemed to be gold and white for the primary and secondary.

Heard Millie calling. She was on Izar too, at around 160x, and wanted to know my impression.

Oh. Moon's up...

My first thought looking through Millie's eyepiece was that the 'scope was not collimated; I couldn't focus on the primary without seeing coma. That said, I could see the blue colour in the companion. She however did not think it the same colour as me.

11:10. Just showed Izar to the the gang, Katrina, Millie, and Phil.

11:18. Viewed Izar in Phil's refractor, a Tele Vue 101 NP. Beautiful even at high mag, 270x. 2-4 mm Tele Vue zoom eyepiece. Good colours. Inky black background. As we zoomed out the secondary took on the colour of the primary. Neat. An immediate example of how the colours of double stars change or shift.

Millie thought the view the best of the three telescopes.

11:24. Tried for ξ (xi) Ursae Majoris. Too low. Murky, clouds.

I don't know where I got this reference from. But there's a sense of urgency to this. A fast-moving binary perhaps?

Sissy Haas, in her book double stars for small telescopes, describes the showcase pair as "the fastest easy one." The stars were 1.7 seconds of arc apart in 2004 but are widening. The period is about 60 years. So that means, one can see this change over one's life...

I was forced to chase sucker holes.

11:41. Viewed M9 (Messier 9) in Ophiuchus. Looked like a globular to me. Small. Faint with this combo of moonlight and cloud. And low.

And probably a bit cut off by the south wall (in its upright position). Merits another look.

Earlier in the season...

When the wall's fixed.

Couple of bright stars nearby.

It is a glob. Confirmed.

12:19 AM. Grabbed by Cambridge Double Star Atlas. Looked at the sky. No clouds near the Little Dipper.

A few moments ago I think I saw the mag 9 companion to 5 Ursae Minoris A. That was with the 27mm eyepiece. When I bumped to 13mm, I couldn't see it. Dropped to the 18mm. Still couldn't see it. But then, I found that we were socked in! Clouds everywhere.

And the gibbous Moon was messing things up.

Dietmar (the official CAO site supervisor) shut down his RC and handed the reins to me.

I popped out to the Observing Pad. Everyone there was packing up.

Chatted with Dietmar about collimating a RC 'scope. Sounded a lot like what you do for a Newtonian.

12:30. Ah ha! The companion in 5 Ursae Minoris is easy to spot when there's no cloud.

Tried MallinCam on Jupiter. Could see a couple of moons. No detail on the planet though.

Kiron and Dipak arrived. Actually, they had been on site for some time, unpacked, set up their bedding.

Jupiter through the eyepiece at 301x was amazing!

Backed out to 145x to take in all the moons.

Ha. We were tricked! Only 3 moons were visible. The object on the opposite side of Jupiter was a star. I should have known better. It was much dimmer (mag 8.9) than than Galilean moons (between mag 5 and 6).

1:24. After adjusting and focusing the MallinCam, we viewed the Moon on monitor. Wow!

Just fit in monitor frame (when zoomed out).

Millie and Katrina headed off to bed.

1:35. Millie suddenly returned and reminded me that Tempel was up.

Checked the location in my Stellarium (which I had updated earlier in the day using the Minor Planet Center site). Was about to use a nearby star when I noticed a comet icon in TheSky6. Hey. It looked about right. Clicked on it. It was Tempel. Slewed to it but we couldn't see anything. Sky was very washed out...

1:45. After making a wifi connection, I double checked that our software was correct. I didn't see it change location in the software. Slewed again but no joy.

This cemented the remark I had made earlier in the evening: this was really the wrong weekend to try to view this comet. Next weekend will be good, with the Moon well past.

1:56. Viewed κ (kappa) Herculis (from the summer Sky and Telescope list). Easily split, wide, maybe 15" (ah, no, 30"), with the C14. Both the same colour, straw yellow.

I found a note I had made in Sissy's book: κ Her is also known as Marfik.

She described the striking pair as a "grapefruit orange" and "whitish scarlet." Apparently Smyth thought them "Light yellow; pale garnet."

2:02. Viewed 100 Her. Tighter than kappa. Fascinating.

The stars are the exact same colour (white) and brightness. Exact!

Sissy described the pair as "interesting" and "identical." She went on to say that if they are not part of a binary system, it is rather remarkable.

2:04. Tired. Physically. Mentally.

Haven't made my bed yet!

OK. Let's wrap.


Viewed many meteors in the evening. I suspect many were Aquarids, heading south to north, bright, low over the horizons.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Did a little pit stop on my way north... I bought a Tele Vue 2" Extension Tube for the Carr Astronomical Observatory (CAO).

This is required to lengthen the focal path with the Tele Vue 101 and MallinCam. That is, to extend it without the need for the mirror diagonal.

Crazy expensive for a hunk of black aluminum...

I donated it to the RASC Toronto Centre.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

planet spotting in dome (Toronto)

Not the dome you're thinking... SkyDome. Now named after some capitalistic company.

While watching the Jays trounce the Orioles (again), I spotted Venus just above the wall and between two condo stars. Millie, Dietmar, and Phil all picked it up.

Later, with some effort, I finally found Arcturus naked eye. Tough to see with the high power flood lights contracting the pupil. Phil saw it too.

Outside, of course, we could see many more stars and noted the Summer Triangle overhead.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

610 to go

Started reading the SkyTools 3 Pro manual tonight... Didn't get too far in the 623 page PDF user guide.

bad ad

I had heard about this bad advertisement.

Just spotted it at NASA Watch.

Monday, July 26, 2010

group buy ST3

I'm coordinating an "astronomy club" discount purchase of SkyTools 3 with the RASC Toronto Centre. Today, we reached the 10 people threshold, activating the 40% discount. Sweet!

The developer is on vacation. I cannot finalise shipping prices for a bit...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

door on

Made a bit more progress this weekend... Mom's outhouse telescope shed thing has a working door. Sorta.

Door's on. Edging done. But I can't close the door! Mom or neighbour Chuck do not have cutting tools. I'll bring my rotary tool next time...

Redid roof. Put on new sheets of ice barrier. Then stapled on the roofing felt. Mom can't seem to find the shingles. She offered to buy some. In the meantime, I'll get the drip trim...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

new gift case

Mom gave me another metal case. I believe she found this at a garage sale.

I'd swear it's the one from CTC BBQ tool set.

It is a little worse for wear on the inside but I don't care.

I'm not quite sure what I'll do with it yet...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mom missing SkyNews

Mom said she had not received any other SkyNews... I'll have to figure out what's going on.


While ruminating on the Moon landing some 41 years ago, I decided to look back on one of our family trips. We went east in the summer 1971. I'll never forget the red sand of Prince Edward Island, all the covered bridges, and the cramped quarters of our first tent trailer.

The highlight though was walking on the ocean floor while the tide was out. On the Bay of Fundy. That was very impressive, even to a little kid.

Dad and Mom took turns shooting and then posing with me and my sis.

Mom has an entire photo album for whole east coast trip. I scanned a couple of my favourites. But, with Mom's terribly old Macintosh, running Mozilla 1.3, I could not immediately post...

Phil bought one

Phil reported that he bought a 10-light red LED notebook USB-powered unit from Canada Computers during lunch. Sneaky. Then Lora won't find out!

He described the "ultra-bright" keyboard light to me:
The LED are housed in a 9 mm clear plastic cylindrical tube, about 10 cm long. They are definitely not deep red and will likely benefit from a tiny strip of red film. I haven’t had a chance to try them out in a dark setting (tonight’s entertainment). I may have to bum a strip of film 3 cm x 10 cm from you one of these days.
So I'll have to scrounge up some small Lee Filters #25 bits...


26, not 25.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

need more light?

Charles sent a link to a page at Canada Computers. For the Logiix Ultra Bright USB LED 10 Light - Red (LGX-10027). I like the multiple light sources, they're already red, and that they're spread out. Would be helpful at a large laptop or full extended keyboard. Pretty cheap at 14.99.

Phil and I wondered if it might be too bright, not astronomer friendly. Tough to gauge, of course. Charles suggested blocking some of the LEDs. I'd be interested in seeing what some Lee Filters #26 red film would do...


Wow. Just checked the number of entries in my blog. 1507! Now some are off-line so I don't know if there are 1500 available now to read. Still...

Guess I like writing. Or shootin' my mouth off. Or saying what I wanna say such that no one can interrupt me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

delivered notebook lights

I delivered the converted LED notebook USB lights tonight. One to Kiron; one to Sharmin. They are happy campers. Or should I say, happy astronomers?

There was some interest in the lights. David, Scott, Chas, Rajesh, all wanted to know where I got them.

Chas said he found one that is already red and features 3 or 4 LEDs. Sounds bright. I'll have to check it out...

TSTM 2010 Jul-Aug

Delivered The Sky This Month presentation for July and August to the RASC Toronto Centre at the Ontario Science Centre.

There were lots of technical gremlins. The OSC A/V guy was scratching his head. It meant I could not use my computer. So then I couldn't see my presenter's notes. No great loss. But the Moon font was missing. Grrr! And I couldn't use my Stellarium, which I had painstakingly configured to show the current asteroids and comets! Bloody hell.

Made my handout available over on the Centre web site... Made 70 hard copies. Enough.


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

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

happy Moon landing

Didn't have any particular objective in mind when I asked people where they were on this date 41 years ago but it ignited a pretty lively discussion on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group.

I'm not surprised at the old timers (like me) getting nostalgic. I am intrigued by the younger members of our crowd who were babes or not yet of this Earth. They know about it, they've seen it, yet they are detached, and it somehow tugs at them.

It also got me wondering where I had put my copy of the London Free Press with The Incredible Headline...

Monday, July 19, 2010

webspotting 17 - Astronautica

As published in the Dec/Jan 2010 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. Republished here with permission. Minor edits.


It was at the gathering of the Gastronomical Society, the meeting after the meeting, back in February, in the back room of the Granite Brewery. After answering some questions of new member Uve Potisepp about the loaner Dobsonian, the conversation turned to the Space Shuttle program, its imminent end and the Russian counterpart, the Buran, that only flew in space once.

If I remember correctly, I had recently seen some photos of the Russian Shuttle clone which I had found utterly fascinating. Uve said that there were good photos and information on the Encyclopedia Astronautica web site. He promised to send me the link. I had it ( before midnight.

This gem will keep you busy! But you must be disciplined. Only view on cloudy or rainy nights. Do not let this site interfere with night-time observing! You have been warned.

There are well over 150 pages in the site, many of which are several screens deep. They are rich with photos, drawings, diagrams, charts, etc. collected and collated by Mark Wade.

I particular enjoyed the Buran and transporter facts and figures. The archival photos are, again, fascinating. The development drawings are mesmerising.

The history of cancelled space flights lets you imagine all the possible outcomes. It makes you wonder where we’d be today if any one of these had played out a little bit different.

The chronology of space flight reveals a remarkable effort on the part of the contributors to collect such obscure and arcane details. Did you know that some 87 countries on the third rock from the Sun have been involved, one way or another, in space exploration or travel? Places like Iceland, Mongolia, and Latvia?

While Ron Howard’s interpretation of Apollo 13 was sincere, it is insightful to read the log of events before, during, and after. I could go on but I want to leave off here so that you may begin your journey. One site. Hundreds of articles and images to enjoy! But remember: only visit Encyclopedia Astronautica on cloudy and rainy nights!

no firmware

Did some quick research. Looked in the Yahoo!Groups and then broadly. Looks like the MallinCams do not require firmware updating. Yooz gets what ya gets.

good test

That was a good test of a "fast" telescope. Really good test. The Questar I was able to set up in 5 minutes. Tear down in 2. To do all of 5 or 10 minutes of observing.

It helped that I could just throw stuff in the garage...

All I needed was a table, a chair, AC power, one extension cord, notepad, glow-in-the-dark pen, and an easy-to-set-up telescope. Oh. I could have used a time piece.

the railroad! (Toronto)

I just viewed the Lunar Straight Wall!

Quick and fast!

Wandered outside, when I continued to see blue sky from the west window. Saw thin, high cloud overhead. No low clouds speak of. Walked to the front sidewalk. I always forget this is south-east. Moon caught my eye, to the right. I backed up. Oooh. Hazy. But bright! OK. Let's go!

Fired up the Questar 3½ on my wiggly wood TV table at the end of the neighbour's driveway. 4x, focused the eyepiece. 40x, moved the mirror. Lovely. Filling about 1/3rd of the field. And there it was, plain as day, on the lower side of the dark mare! A thin, straight, dark line (just over 100 km long). The Straight Wall (or Rupes Recta).

Bumped up to 80x with the flick of a lever. Very clear. Seeing was above average. But these higher powers really drop the light level.

What's that little, round, deep crater right beside it, I wondered (Birt, according to Virtual Moon Atlas).

Didn't take long for the mozzies to find me...

Dashed inside to grab my notepad and pen.

Offered Diane's Mom a peek. She enjoyed the view, particularly the craters. Tried to coax Jane out. Jane said she wasn't dressed appropriately. Meanwhile, I looked around the corner of the garage. There was Venus, about 25° up.

Clouds moved in. Alas, I had my brief look! Success.

I packed up.

still too small

I tried a large Stanley Fatmax toolbox, the 28" model, the next size up from the one I tried last week. And still my C8 with finder scope and rings won't fit!

beep complaint

Denis asked if there was anything I could do about the beeping last night.

I shut off the audio alarms on the server UPS.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

documentation day

Spent the bulk of the day, as the clouds rolled in, working with our telescope hardware and software.

10:44 AM. Began updating my TheSky6 Quick Reference Card. Huh. Found a newer, more evolved version! With screen snapshots! Wow. Forgot about this one... It's quite far along...

2:00 PM. Continued updating my QRC for TheSky6 with some special items regarding the Paramount ME. I added some new topics. Added a few pictures. I found the new content nicely filled 2 pages. I think it is ready for high quality colour printing! In the meantime, I printed new b&w copies and posted them in the GBO warm room.

3:00 PM. I put Tony's MallinCam notes into a Word document, printed 2 copies, stuff one in the box, posted on in the warm room, and uploaded to CAO supers group. I made sure to incorporate the "summer DSO targets" that Ralph and I worked on.

3:18 PM. While rummaging, I stumbled across a small, instruction guide for the Unihedron Sky Quality Meter. I read it and learned that I've been using the unit incorrectly in dark skies: it can take a couple of minutes to do a proper reading! Doh! RTFM. I surfed into their web site, found the soft copy, and uploaded it to the CAO supers Yahoo!Group file area.

5:00 PM. Changed the fuel filter on the Stargrazer. I don't know if it did much good... That said, I was able to finish cutting the lawn on the west side of the house as well as out by the "camping area." Cliff visited briefly.

5:45 PM. I made a FOVI profile in TheSky6 for the MallinCam (using the StellaCam specs).

5:58 PM. Oh... Just remembered that I have Vit B-complex up here at the CAO. Along with antihistamines. Forgot to take it my B last night. I have a dozen (er, better make that two dozen) new mosquito bites today.

6:02 PM. Just figured out how to rotate the FOVI rectangle for the MallinCam sensor in TheSky6. It was not obvious.

6:49 PM. It has started raining pretty hard. Sangria time! That threw a wrench into my BBQ plans... Used some of my on-site pasta.

I was a little bummed. Had hoped to do some day-time ISS tracking. Wanted some clear skies in the evening. Well, looks like I'll get a decent night's sleep.


It was a quiet evening. Nicolas and Denis headed to bed pretty early, 9:30 or 9:45 PM. I got some reading and writing done.

As the lightning flashed through every window, I re-examined the house circuitry. Tony and crew had moved around some circuits, pulling more off the main panel, so to be supported by the generator. Unfortunately, there were no notes made on the panel stickers. So I couldn't tell what was happening now. Still, I noted the configuration of new breakers, breakers that were open.

I'm a little irked that no one made notes, given all the trouble I went to, to label everything.

I waited for the lightning to strike nearby. I wanted the house power to go off! Would have been the easy way to test generator-supported circuits.

Power didn't go off. Wouldn't you know it.

Still, the UPS supporting the server did not like the fluctuations and spikes. The beeping alarm went off many times...

I installed glow-in-the-dark stickers on the receptacles and switches that I knew (at present) were generator-supported. Little stars beside the sockets. Big stars on the heater controls. Thanks, Lora!

slash and backslash

Sharmin asked me if there was a gradual way of zooming in and out in Stellarium, as opposed to using the slash and backslash keys. You bet.

I suggested she use Page Up or Page Down instead or the rollerwheel on a mouse, if available!

I reminded her that I have all Stellarium 0.10.5 keyboard shortcuts documented...


Sharmin wanted one of the deep red converted USB notebook lights. Lucky I have one left...

nice sky but

Back from the Farmer's Pantry gig. Air was cooler on the mountain. Skies looked good. Denis was out on the Observing Pad, taking in the whole sky, using his binos, waiting for Jupiter... (Good thing I ran up the driveway with no lights.) The GBO was closed. No one else was around... Weird. But I was feeling so tired. Sore from standing for so long. Considered napping and then observing 'til sunrise. In 3 or 4 hours. Barely keep my eyes open.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

we did it! (Beaver Valley)

The Farmer's Pantry, near Clarksburg, after 2 years of trying, finally offered an astronomy evening without clouds and rain! We finally were able to offer a tour of the night sky, naked eye, through binoculars, and through the telescope!

After handing out our new RASC explore the universe cards, my brief talk on astronomy, and quick walk-through of the RASC Star Wheel, we headed into the orchard. I fired up the 'scope, removed the caps, and we were on our way.

We viewed Venus and Saturn through the 'scope while noting Mars in between. As the 20 people took turns at the eyepiece, I did a tour of the bright stars, Summer Triangle, and the emerging constellations. We then viewed some double stars starting with 1x power of Mizar and Alcor, followed by 55x. Then Albireo. Finally, we took in the First Quarter Moon. The crowd was culled by the ferocious mosquitoes.

A few diehards remained. I gave them some challenge targets, the Double Double and M57, before my corrector plate completed dewed over and my eyeglasses fogged up. It was damp in the apple orchard!

It was a good crowd, young and old, and in between. One very enthusiastic boy with a lot of the correct answers. I gave him a comp. SkyNews. I was pleased to see a young couple anxious to learn how to use the planisphere. They got a tutorial. Mary-Lynn was very happy—we broke the jinx.

MallinCam research (Blue Mountains)

I took a break from the CAO lawn care... Riding mower was acting a bit weird anyway. Started sputtering. Now it won't run under load. Fuel problem?

Re-examined the MallinCam. Noted the label stickers on each side saying "MallinCam Hyper Color." Oh ho. What's this? Found a little sticker on the bottom. Below the serial number:
MC Color
Model: Hyper
I connected to the LCD monitor and started looking at the OSD menu...


Denis wanted to do a bit of prep for his group tonight. Too bad they shifted from Friday to Saturday. I could have helped him out more. We tested his TheSky6 config and TPoint model. I showed him the little grey icon. All good. I suggested we test it. We looked at Venus at 3:55 PM. Fantastic at 27mm in the C14! Well-defined, clear, pretty good seeing. If the darned clouds would stay out of the way.

Denis was impressed. Said he was going to try to image it. Rigged up his StellaCam3. Of course, clouds rolled in...

Denis showed me his two occultation kits. Nice setup!

I took down the SolarMax equipment for him so he could use the TV101 from other stuff.

Oopsie. Something got dropped! I think Denis pulled one of his cases off the bench without latching it and everything fell out. That did not sound good... I hate it when that happens!


In the late afternoon, I finishing noting all the MallinCam settings in our camera. Including the hidden second options menu!

I learned that all MallinCam manufactured "to date" utilise an "On-Screen Display" Menu (OSD) to control camera settings.

I accessed the menu by pressing and holding the centre button for 2 seconds. I noted the following commands:


Didn't know what a bunch of the acronyms meant (and Denis didn't either) so I dug through the documentation. I found the "Mallincam Guide.pdf" file in the Yahoo!Group very helpful. I noted the description of the feature above the menu text; I noted the options or choices for each menu, separated by commas. I resisted the urge to fully document each item.

Toggle on or off image title text.

Adjust sensitivity or frame integration. Enable external HYPER switch.
OFF, x2, x4, x6, x8, x12, x16, x24, x32, x48, x64, x96, x128

Choose Automatic Level Control or Electronic Level Control (i.e. shutter speed).

Set Back Light Compensation for variable background or foreground adjustment on bright objects. Control 48 zone area.

Control final Gain.

Adjust White Balance of camera. Set to Auto Trace White balance, one-push white balance (AWC), or manual. Use separate Red and Blue adjustments in manual.

Factory setting for NTSC or PAL. Do not adjust.

Access Options submenu (1 of 2).
* press centre button to access submenu...

Activate the electronic zoom function.
OFF, ON (very slow to respond)

Use motion detection for observing moving objects - like meteors.

Save, Preset

I then explored the (first) Options submenu:

GAMMA 0.45

Block any bright object in the field of view from affecting the rest of the objects in the screen.
MASK A (top-left):

MASK B (top-right):

MASK C (bottom-left):

MASK D (bottom-right):

Use negative option for detecting faint objects or additional details in objects.

Flip left and right the image seen on the monitor.
OFF, ON (bit sluggy again)

Flip up and down the image seen on the monitor.
OFF, ON (bit sluggy again)

Freeze or lock the current image on the monitor.

Set sensitivity priority. Use AGC at all times.

Darken monitor background.
0.45, 1.00

It was not at all obvious but I learned that to access the second option menu, select Return in the first Option menu, and then press the Left or the Right arrow button. When Next appears, press the Centre button.


Use Advanced Pixel Control. Enhance pixels horizontally and vertically by adjusting the amount of on board Digital Signal Processing (DSP).

Darken an area that is too bright.

Used to calibrate the monitor used for observing.

That was some good learnin'. I hoped I could try some of these options later over the weekend...

I will reorganise all this information in a human useful form. Man. I hate menu-oriented instructions!


I tidied up the GBO, packed up my presentation stuff, and prepared my low-carb, high-protein dinner.

During a telephone call to the orchard earlier, I had arranged for an early arrival. I was assuming it was going to be clear. So I intended to set up my telescope first. Then, after my presentation, it would be ready and waiting.


No signs of other visitors today. Did I scare them off?

Sun busy today (Blue Mountains)

Looking at the Sun in Hydrogen alpha with the RASC Toronto Centre SolarMax filter system on the Tele Vue 101 refractor while at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

Bolted up the point-and-shoot, while using the CeMax 25mm eyepiece...

There are prominences all around the limb.

FujiFilm FinePix J20, 1/60, f/5.6, 19mm (no zoom), ISO 100, white balance daylight, exp. comp. -2 step, 2 second timer, RASC eyepiece-camera mount

Did some web searching so that I was clear about terminology. Found a couple of good sites...

Lots of filaments. One very large filament in the north-east quadrant. A small thin filament in the north-west zone, like a stretched out T.

There are active regions on the surface and dark filaments clearly visible to the naked eye. I can see lighter areas in the centre of the second photo.

FujiFilm FinePix J20, 1/72, f/5.6, 19mm (max. optical zoom), ISO 100, white balance daylight, exp. comp. -2 step, 2 second timer, RASC eyepiece-camera mount

Exciting stuff!


Kiron saw my active Sun message to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. Wished he could be at the CAO. And asked me to explain the term "limb." Oops. I was using geek speak. I explained limb, prominences, and filaments.


Wikipedia link: Sun

smooth yet crisp

Stuart commented on my very old Moon shot:
That's a pretty shot! Very smooth yet crisp lines on the foreground. Nice! You might consider cropping out that distracting reflection from the foreground (car?).
I explained the reflection was from the THO.

watered my planets

Oops. Slip of the finger. Plants! I watered my plants!

Used to typing the other word...

I watered my recently planted Dutchman's Pipe ivy surrounding the CAO back deck. Some don't look too healthy... Some are OK and climbing up the pergola.

Friday, July 16, 2010

quiet here

Arrived at the CAO to find everything closed up. All the outside lights off.

Two cars in the driveway.

GBO was closed. There were some clouds, yes. But the clear bits looked good! The Milky Way was bright. It was an interesting perspective, with Earth-based clouds, low in the southern horizon, blocking our the centre of the galaxy, like dark nebula, like dense dust clouds.

The house was closed. And locked! I fumbled with my keys for a while in the darkness before I successfully unlocked the backdoor.

Four pairs of shoes by the door mat.

Quiet. Nobody up.

I seriously considered firing up the observatory. But I didn't know if the weather was going to improve or not. I was tired. It wouldn't be a good idea to pull an all-nighter. It would take me a while to unload the car, load the fridge, prep a bed. Had no idea if the GBO was configured yet. I conceded that booking an additional night would give me another chance later.


Oh. It was Wingko's car... according to the guest book.

quick visit (Richmond Hill)

Went to the DDO primarily to receive the Panasonic projector for my astronomy presentation at the Farmer's Pantry. It was Members Only night...

Karen let me in. I put on my bug jacket and gloves. Couldn't find my baseball cap (had I forgotten it again?!). Nicole and Gilles were there with the Meade 8" SCT. I think Gilles was tutoring somehow on how to set up a 'scope, including doing a polar alignment. Rajesh and Diane were stewards for the evening. In fact, Rajesh was flying the 74". The glob we viewed was dim. Transparency was poor. Bryon and I chatted briefly. Diane and I chatted about how to possibly insert the red gel into the walkway lights. Spent some time chatting on the front lawn with Stu while glancing through his small refractor on an iOptron. The Moon was great.

I identified Mares Crisium and crater Picard!

I was drawn to the 3 equally sized craters (Theophilus, Cyrillus, and Catharina, according to Virtual Moon Atlas) near the terminator, just below the equator. We noted the multiple peaks in the centre of Theophilus. Initially we saw two. Later, I could see another peak, a third one (apparently there are four).

Tempted to stay a bit but I wanted (more) to get north.

A few members had shown up by the time I left.

picked up goodies

Leslie had arranged for RASC planispheres, our new "info" cards, and some SkyNews. Tony had received them. I made arrangements with Grace to get them.

The new "explore the universe" cards, by Jason, are very nice.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

USB lights done

I finished the hacking of the USB notebook lights. Swapped out the white LED for a deep red (660 nm) water clear super bright. Swapped out the 47 ohm resistor for 470. Swapped the masking tape for shrink wrap. Just buttoned up all three.

hacking notebook light 2

Kiron found some USB-powered notebook LED lights at XS Cargo. He asked if I would hack it and put a red LED in it vs. the stock white. Sure! We could try my "deep red" 660nm LEDs.

Getting them apart proved easier than I first anticipated...

I found a 47 ohm resistor inside. Insulated with masking tape!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

couldn't help

Phil and I could not participate in the City Observing Sessions happening at High Park and Bayview Village Park; we were watching The Boatmen finally regain the lead over the Stamps in the open Skydome—game 1, gate 11, seat 1. Skies did not look great though. We couldn't see any of the bright stars from within the dome... And only a couple on the walk to Union Station.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

too small

Picked up a Stanley Fatmax toolbox from Rona. Sturdy. I like the water seal. I measured the inside dimensions. It looked like it would snugly fit my 8" SCT. But, unfortunately, the rings and finder scope prevent this. I'll need a slightly large one...

more sketching supplies

I picked up an artist chamois, kneadable eraser, some tortillons (of various sizes), and a Strathmore coiled field sketchbook with smooth white paper.

searching for docs

Trying to learn more about our MallinCam. Step 1 would be to download the manual...

No. Wait. Step 1 is to figure out which model you have...

Monday, July 12, 2010

why green?

Why, when they go to so much trouble to make a good device, when they hand build them, do they put a green LED on the MallinCam?

threat received

Mysterious message received today...
Earth date: July 8, 2010

Time: 12:09 am

You're a DEAD man!!! Be afraid, be very afraid!!! A cherry pit was child's play compared to what's in store for you....................

From a Red Lectroid? From Lemmy?! Oh, oh, I know: Joseph-Louis Lagrange! That's gotta be it. No, wait, then he'd sign off JLL. Hmm. Luboš Kohoutek perhaps.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

video loss

I upgraded the security software on the CAO server. And promptly experienced a "video loss" message on all four cameras. What the hell?

Never used it before but I tried the Windows System Restore and used a restore point from a couple of weeks back.

The old security software returned. It's not perfect but at least the camera views are back.

That'll teach me to attempt a last-minute computer repair...

incredible ISS, more camera tests (Blue Mountains)

6:20. I had a short nap in the early evening.

Had dinner around 7 PM. I tried to reduce carbs again, like last night, to improve alertness. Lora said, "The new you?" Oh no. Make no mistake. I'm not drinking and eating these greens and protein for science.

8:16 PM. Changed to evening wear. Used OFF spray (like last night) on gloves (versus directly on skin). I also used repellent on my RASC toque this time. Lora said something that reminded me to take my B-complex vits.

8:28. I checked the weather from the Wiarton Airport.
  • Pressure: 101.4 kPa falling
  • Current Temperature: 21.5°C
  • Dewpoint: 13.0°C
  • Humidity: 58 %
I looked at NOAA's web site, the infrared radar. There's stuff coming in, crossing the lake. Lot of haze and white in the sky to the west... Made for a colourful sunset. Like we were directly viewing of the Sun in Hα!

Phil and I helped Kiron with some of the number crunching one should do with a telescope and eyepieces. For example, we reviewed powers, eyepiece, telescope maximum, minimum, pupil diameters, resolution, etc.

9:33. I spotted Arcturus a few minutes back. Somehow, from the lawn chair, this evening, I was able to focus quickly at infinity.

I opened the GBO roof and powered the Paramount. Started observing Saturn in the Celestron 14".

Titan was visible. I saw Tethys for a second... initially, with the 32mm. Bumped to 27mm to improve the view.

9:43. I could see a moon right near Titan. Checked the software. Ah, it's Rhea.

I tested Kiron's laptop with VMA after initiating the process of upgrading the video drivers. It worked! I fixed a Vista problem! Wow. Now the disc of the Moon was showing (including a remarkably thin crescent) along with the coord grid. And we didn't need to roll back to an old version. He was pretty happy.

9:52. I just picked off Dione between Rhea and planet!

10:00. I had set an extra early alarm to prepare for the ISS pass. I configured the C14 with a 32mm eyepiece and TV101 with MallinCam at zero integration. Turned on the TEC (assuming it was for cooling, but not knowing that it meant Thermoelectric Cooling System) switch. Checked cables. Got the ladder ready.

10:17. I issued the 5 minute warning for ISS fans...

10:28. We just finished watching a very good ISS pass. Another incredible view in the eyepiece, possibly the best to date. Everything worked well. I remembered all the steps necessary.

The camera and monitor worked. We were on the station. But the camera was, even at zero integration, still overwhelmed by the brightness. Perhaps if we make a mask for the TV101 objective, we could attenuate the input...

The crowd was very happy!

10:50. Ralph and I started a long test of viewing faint fuzzies with the MallinCam and monitor, making notes of which ones rendered well. This will mark the beginning of the "summer favourites" list for public events in the GBO.

As Tony and I found a week ago, many targets appear better at integration setting 7, as it yielded a darker sky. This will be important if there is any moonlight.

I wondered if the Garnet Star colour would show on the camera/monitor. As Dietmar was imaging, we put that on the list to be checked later.

I took an SQM reading: 21.16. A better reading. But we all agreed the skies were not good. Transparency was way down. When I viewed M13 in Stu's Dob, it was washed out.

12:22. Dietmar, Millie, and Ralph went in to take a break. I grabbed a Red Bull and headed back to the big 'scope. I started checking my top ten list...

I had a note that 57 Aquilae was kind of in the middle of nowhere. So it might prove a challenging star hop... But once there, it is an easy wide split through the telescope. It's not a great candidate for video presentation as the stars are just touching double star on monitor... That suggests the minimum separation we want to use is 36".

θ (theta) Serpentis is a great double star for optical viewing for star parties. Easily separated and they look like car headlights.

I had noted 61 Cygni on my top ten list as "too tough?" but I would argue that it's easy. Same sep. as θ Ser.

12:57. Ralph returned. We viewed a couple more objects.

I was pretty tired. Ralph said he was too.

Tried some whole sky viewing on my back from one of the picnic tables. Reviewed my constellations. Tagged satellites. Caught the odd meteor.

Borrowed Steve's iPad for a few moments so that I could try SkyGazer by Carina Software. Pretty cool stuff.

Couldn't wake up. I shut down the C14 and let Ralph know.


It was curious watching Dietmar tread carefully through the observatory, carefully not to bump into his rig. His night vision was gone after staring at his laptop screen for some time, without any red filtering, without a dark red colour scheme. It was a very peculiar feeling, being full dark adapted, watching him move as if blind.


The MallinCam List... so far.
  • M17, the Omega or Swan was good on the LCD monitor
  • M16, the open cluster was good; with 14 integration we could see the nebulosity
  • M26, a good OC
  • M11, the Wild Duck was good
  • M14, was very good at 14
  • M27, the Dumbbell was excellent at 14
  • M71, diffuse globular cluster, good at 14
  • M56, compact globular cluster, good at 14
  • M57, very good, the central star is just visible
  • ε1 & ε2 (epsilon 1 & 2) Lyrae, easily split from one another (but splitting each pair is not possible)
  • M29, nice open cluster, good at 14
  • M15, good globular cluster, good at 14
  • ν (nu) Draconis, excellent bright double, good at 7
  • μ (mu) Bootis, interesting double (the second is a double split optically)
  • 32-33 Comae Berenices, good double, nearly equal brightness
  • M2, good
Objects that don't work:
  • the North America nebula did not show, even at 14 integration
  • the Double Cluster does not fit in the camera monitor view; you can only show one cluster at a time; and that's no fun
I'll publish this to the Supervisor's group...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

H-alpha and Calcium-K (Blue Mountains)

Ralph and I set up Toronto Centre's Coronado PSTs on dual-arm clock-driven mount. Used my blue extension cord with the one provided. Borrowed Phil's adjustable height chair. Used my Black Cloak of Doom to afford better views, particularly the deep violet of the Calcium PST.

The mount altitude was wrong. We need an Allan key from the work room to fix it.

The Sun was not nearly as active as last week unfortunately. Few flares. And those were small.

(if only the Sun had been so entertaining)

Everyone had a hard time with the K-line. Very hard to see any detail.


I looked up rise/set times, careful this time to consider the midnight/morning hop.
  • Sun sets 9:01 pm
  • twilight begins 3:31 am
  • Venus sets 11:08 pm
  • Mars sets 11:45 pm
  • Saturn sets 12:15 am
  • Moon rises 5:25 am
  • Sun rises 5:47 am
I noted some other particulars...
  • Moon is 9° from the Sun
  • Moon is 6° from Alhena
  • Beehive is 5° from Mercury
  • Regulus is 1° from Venus
Most of this info I gleaned from the S&T Almanac.

Double-checked the ISS pass(es) for the evening.


Fiddled with Dietmar's new iPod to get the Carina Software astronomy application to work, to show different views as we moved it. We came to realise that the unit he has did not have the Compass feature active. So while it could detect location (by some mysterious means), it did not have a magnetometer to detect direction. Too bad.


Started the planting of the Dutchman's Pipe...

Made rainbows with the hose...

bushy tailed

Everyone is very chipper this morning...

Problem with communal living is that I have to be chatty before coffee...


I think the antihistamine worked. I didn't wake up in the middle of the night scratching at myself all over.

ISS flyover up close, an old Moon (Blue Mountains)

At 9:13 PM, we were all setting up for the evening. A bunch of people were on the E.C. Carr Astronomical Observatory Observing Pad. I was getting the Geoff Brown Observatory Paramount ME (Go To), Celestron 14" SCT, Tele Vue 101 refractor ready. Dietmar was getting his imaging rig configured, with his laptop near the telescope.
Instruments: C14, TV101
    imaging: MallinCam
    visual: 55mm, 32mm
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: go-to
I responded to Grace's text on ISS flyover time and location.

9:28. Grace phoned the CAO. She hadn't received (or checked for) my text message. Once again, I relayed the details for the International Space Station flyover. She and Tony were down at the Ontario Science Centre for the Summer Star Party. Guy and Sara had called a No Go based on possible cloudy conditions but the indoor portion was still proceeding.

I showed Dietmar the ISS tracking set up in TheSky6 software. It's pretty easy. It will be good for other operators to know.

9:46. Kiron arrived from the city. Once again he brought the Centre's loaner Skywatcher 8" Dobsonian. He asked to borrow my extension cord; I had it ready for him. He also brought his binoviewers! Good thinkin'.

10:04. Wow. We just watched the 9:56 ISS flyover. Naked eye and in the TV101 and C14 eyepieces. Phil thought the view in the TV was better. We saw the individual solar panels! An overall H-shape, fairly clearly defined, with the outer panels connected by white structure. Unbelievable, incredible detail. The colour, brilliant coppery-dark gold colour of the solar panels, was striking! Fantastic! Everyone enjoyed that. Even I was stunned by the amount of detail. I was very pleased that the operation of the Paramount. Incredibly accurate tracking...

I had not had to set up the camera on the Tele Vue in time for the pass. So I started working on MallinCam. Reviewed Tony's handwritten notes.

I had to add the 2" mirror diagonal to lengthen the light path.

Tony suggested recording it... perhaps with a video camera on the monitor. Not a bad idea. But this first run was a trial to see if the tracking even worked. Perhaps for the next pass I'll have the camera ready.

10:26. Ralph arrived. With lemon meringue pie! Always thinking of the membership, that's what I like about Ralph.

He just reported to me that the TV101 and C14 were out of alignment. So I spent some time aligning the refractor along the SCT. Took a while but I finally got it. This made the eyepiece view correspond to the camera/monitor view.

This also allowed us to gauge the power and field of view of the camera: 145 times and 0.75 degree.

Wandered to the pad to see how everyone was doing. Kiron called me over. He had previously downloaded and installed Virtual Moon Atlas but there was some sort of problem. When he showed me the screen, the moon image was not visible. It wasn't a completely black screen; the labels were there. But the moon disk and grid lines didn't show. Perplexing. I asked about his computer OS and learned he was using Vista. Ah ha! There's the problem! We resolved to investigate the issue in the day...

11:10. Steve wandered into the GBO as I was still tweaking the camera and C14. He took a look at M51 on the monitor and through the eyepiece. Enjoyed the view. It is impressive what we could see with the MallinCam.

11:15. I took a couple of SQM readings: 21.04 was the average, straight up.

I was trying for M94 and M64 when my alarm went off!

11:35. We just watched the second ISS flyover. While short, it was good. We got a slightly different orientation, of course, of the structure. We tried using the MallinCam this time but, unfortunately, couldn't see detail on the monitor. The camera was overwhelmed. That was partly my fault. I goofed in the configuration, forgetting to turn off the integration on the camera. Also, the whole event snuck up on me... I'll need to set an alarm further ahead to get everything ready...

I parked on the Owl Nebula, M97, while Ralph and I took a break. Just barely visible on the monitor. Mmm, pie.

12:13 AM. Back from break. Dietmar checked his latest image but it's got tracking or trailing problems. He wasn't sure why. He showed me the tracking deltas on the dimmed laptop screen and they looked OK.

1:17. Did a bunch of testing with the MallinCam so to get a sense of good targets to show in the future, at public events. M101 is too faint. But M81/82, 51, 31/32, 57, 10, and 27 are great!

Bode's and The Cigar can just fit on the monitor. We need to turn the camera to put each galaxy in a corner of the display. Amazing, you can see that big dark lane in the foreground of M82.

The Andromeda Galaxy is huge, of course. But turning the camera to an optimal orientation and shifting the mount slightly lets one see the companion to the great galaxy. We could see dust lanes on the monitor. Wow.

The 14 integration setting on the Dumbbell works really well!

Dietmar, Ralph, and I discussed the light path length with the Tele Vue 'scope and the MallinCam. I had used the 2" mirror to get it to work. Dietmar said we really should have photo extension tube, 2" diameter, so to eliminate the mirror but improve the focal path length. He loaned us his Williams Optics accessory. It worked well. He needed to position the focuser out approx. 2". There was still room to focus in and out. This will be a good config.

We also tried Dietmar's 0.8 focal reducer in an effort to decrease the size of the image. Unfortunately, we couldn't reach focus. We racked all the way in but it was not enough.

1:30. I viewed M40. The simple double star in the catalog. What many describe as one of the "mistakes" by Messier. Sadly, it is not even that interesting as a double.

I spotted a small faint nebula nearby (NGC 4290, mag 12), forming a triangle with a bright star. Oval shape. For a moment I thought I could see the other, smaller fuzzy, 4284 (mag 13.6). Others took a look: they could only see 4290.

Pulled my book Turn Left At Orion for some additional targets. Started going through the summer list... I've done a bunch of these already. But I started reviewing the "also in the area" notes.

I tried viewing ζ (zeta) Bootis but could not split it. Consulted double stars for small telescopes by Sissy Haas and she said the stars were 0.7 seconds of arc apart. Ah. Tight.

2:25. Dietmar used the SQM. He got 21.04, like I did.

Kiron was playing tour guide for Bob and Margie. They had arrived some time earlier, for a quick visit, and had spent time on the Observing Pad. Grilling the operators. Taking peeks. Kiron brought them into the GBO, which they had not seen in full operation. We looked at Jupiter and Uranus. Kiron, over my shoulder, spotted a comet in the area, on TheSky6 screen. I cautioned that could be old data and that I had not updated it. We targeted the comet Temple object according to TheSky6 software but there was nothing to see in the eyepiece. Bob wanted to see the Milky Way through the telescope. I thought that a little odd but parked on a few dense regions. We suggested binoculars were better for that sort of thing. Margie guided Bob from the observatory, through the dark parking lot, and a short time later they headed back to the city... The NOVA grads still don't have binoculars or a telescope.

3:06. While in Lyra, I viewed (Struve) Σ2470 and Σ2474, the other "double double." They fit in the 55mm (71x) and then the 32mm (122x). I found them angled in the same direction, almost exactly. They were also very nearly equal in terms of separation. The one pair (bottom right, 2474) seem equally coloured, a light gold. Haas says "yellowish white." The other pair were different: the primary was pale blue white; the secondary was a slightly darker blue. Haas says the "primary is pure white." 2474 is slightly wider. Haas says 2470 is 13.6" and the other 15.8". Haas says they are optical. That's fascinating, similar angles and separations.

3:19. Viewed β (beta) Lyrae again. Doubles everywhere! Primary is brilliant white star, very intense. Quite some ways away (in the 32mm) is the secondary, a pale, fainter star.

3:34. Viewed ζ Sagittae (again). An attractive double star in the 32mm. Primary is white; secondary looks white as well but is pale.

Guys came rushing in regarding a dark spot on Jupiter. We put The Beast on it. I checked the software apps. Stellarium and TheSky6 didn't offer much. So I checked the Sky & Telescope javascript tool. It's Callisto's shadow. Easy to pick off in the C14. It was to end in a few minutes. Steve described it as a little "bite." That was kind neat.

We discussed the Moon rising. I had thought it 3:11 at the time (it was 4:11). And then it had to rise over the hill and trees. People packed up as we waited. I got the Point-And-Shoot camera ready on the tiny table-top tripod. Did some bracketing.

5 AM ish. We all watched the Moon rise. It was 28.1 days old. That marks a career oldest moon for me.

FujiFilm FinePix J20, fireworks mode, 1/2 sec, ISO-100, f/5.6, focal length 19mm (near top end of optical zoom), 5:08 AM, mini-tripod tabletop mount, 10 second timer

Worth staying up? I thought so...

5:16. Looked at Jupiter before shutting down. Very nice contrast now, easy to see clouds bands, festoons, and the GRS.

The Moon was amazing one last time as the sky brightened.

I closed up the GBO.

Everyone left standing headed to bed. Good night. Good morning!

I took some antihistamine...

Friday, July 09, 2010

more people arriving

The good report from Phil attracted additional visitors. Jean (and Cassie) arrived around noon. Millie and Dietmar arrived in the afternoon. Stu arrived around 6 PM.

We had a little powwow by the Observing Pad. Talked about all manner of things astronomical and meteorological. Stu said he was willing to give us a weather analyses tutorial.

Meanwhile, I checked the Sky & Tel Almanac for rise and set times:
  • Jupiter rises at 12:20
  • Saturn sets at 12:23
  • Moon rises at 3:11
Took some vitamin B-complex. Lora said some believe it drives away mosquitoes...


Oops, I was an hour off for the Moon rise time, I learned some time later. I forgot to hop over midnight to get the correct time...

still poor

Tested the wifi signal at the Tony Horvatin Observatory. It's still crap. The "new" WAP, that I relocated in the south-east corner of the house (albeit in the basement), is still not offered any better coverage.

got supplies

Did a food and errand run in Collingwood. Noted the top of the mountain in the clouds. Found some Dutchman's Pipe ivy... Bought some computer bits. B-complex. Antihistamine. Bungee cords...

Found a 1GB RAM DDR SIMM from Staples which it took! Yeh. I was very happy about that. I thought I had read somewhere that 512MB was the max memory. I reinstalled the original 256MB and it took that too! So I was able to successfully boost this machine to over 1.1GB.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

ISS tracking practice

I researched if the Paramount ME could track satellites. It was possible.

Reviewed some web site materials and the user manual. Configured the Paramount with TheSky6 software. It looked like it was easy to load the International Space Station TLE data (without actually getting my hands dirty). It also looked like someone else had done some work here, before me.

Played with the plot feature. Then finally found the "Track Satellite" function.

While it was cloudy and the roof was closed, I did a test. It worked! The mount was clearly driving at an appropriate speed to follow a satellite and it appeared to be in the correct area for the ISS pass of that time, as shown by Heavens Above.

I shall have to add these steps into my QRC document...
  • have the telescopes ready as per usual with wide field eyepieces (e.g. 55mm or 32mm in C14)
  • if you wish to view on monitor, have MallinCam installed, aligned, and focused
  • get ISS TLE data (it is easy inside TheSky6, via the internet: choose Data, Satellites..., click Import From Web..., choose International Space Station, click OK)
  • display the track or path (check Plot paths, enter Number of increments (up to 100), click Compute, click OK)
  • observe a point moving along the path
  • slew to an object, near to where you want to pick up the ISS (so to minimise acquisition time)
  • plan cable paths, eyepiece orientation, step stool locations, etc. given the rapid movement of the telescope
  • search for "Sat Zarya" (one of the ISS elements; this will cause the Object Information dialog to appear)
  • if nec. select "Sat Zarya" and centre on it
  • click the More information button in the Object Info dialog, if nec.
  • click Telescope tab, if nec.
  • click Track Satellite button (the Satellite Tracking dialog will appear)
  • confirm the Slew messages
  • watch for possible collisions; use the Abort Tracking button, if nec.
This looked very promising. But who knows if anything will be visible in an eyepiece.


Helpful info:

Kali set up

Weather was not looking good for today... Although it had cooled off.

I spent much of the day installing the "new" dining room computer, Kali. I tore down the old Hercules computer running Windows 2000 and then installed the donated eMachine AMD box running XP.

I wanted to take it back to it's factory settings but the original CD was not provided. Had to deinstall stuff. Defrag. Optimise, etc.

After checking the apps on Hercules, I rolled out a fairly minimal configuration. Browsers. With Flash and Java. OpenOffice 3. TheSky6. That's about it. I checked with Dietmar. He didn't think we needed anything else.

Finally, I put the "new" flatscreen on it. Unfortunately, I could not seem to find the appropriate drivers to run it in 1440 x 900 resolution. So 1024 x 768 will have to do. Needs a stand. I could build something out of wood.

Rained in the afternoon and evening.

Should have taken Phil up on his request to go for a bike ride, in the morning...


I also fiddled with the alternate Linksys wifi router. I brought the second WAP back from the GBO into the house. I wanted to try it in the south-east bedroom but ended up installing it in the basement, atop the other network gear. We'll see if this improves wifi coverage out to the THO...


Listened to the fridge all day. Was making weird knocking noises. Pulled it out to get a better listen. The signature changed. Pushed it back. At least it's still keeping things cold. The new appliance is almost off warranty...

hey you

Lora found a funny sticker.

There are days...

Phil's report

As Blake mentioned earlier, Wednesday night was an excellent observing night. In the early twilight, we were looking at Saturn and 5 of its moons at crazy-high powers. I went as high as 263x on the 15" Dob while Blake was well over 300x on the C14 with very little image breakdown. My main targets for the night were many of the globular clusters in Ophiuchus and I knocked off about 17 of them ranging from the big and bright like M10/M12 to magnitude 9.7 NGC6342. There are still a few more in Oph, some of them beyond 10th magnitude that I hope to have a chance to chase before the weekend is over. I observed comet McNaught C/2009 K5 fairly low in the northern sky; now almost 12th magnitude. This is the same comet I looked at through Katrina's 10" Dob last weekend where it looked much brighter and better that it did last night through my scope.

Lora joined us on the observing pad around midnight, interested to see what was up there. I showed her a few of the globular clusters in Oph which didn't impress her at all (too faint, too fuzzy). So I changed tactics and dove into some showpiece nebulae like M57, M27, M17 which she thought were pretty cool. We then looked at M11 which is a beautiful open cluster, M51, M81 and M82 galaxies, and then Blake suggested some double stars. Starting with Mizar/Alcor, we moved on to Gamma Del, Epsilon Lyr, and Albireo (of course). Lora really enjoyed the double-star tour as well as all the factoids from Blake.

Blake showed me Herschel's Garnet star (mu Cephei) through the C14, a red supergiant in Cepheus - something I had not observed before so that was a real treat. I then tracked it down in my own scope and spent a bit of time on it (learn something every day!).

I closed out the evening with the Saturn Nebula, Neptune and Jupiter (still too low to afford a good view). It was a fantastic evening of observing, but as Blake mentioned, the bugs are horrendous. The early evening started off with blackflies, it then moved on to horse/deer flies (not too many of those) but once it got dark, the mosquitoes were relentless. Coupled with very warm temperatures, it made for a rather uncomfortable observing experience. Thank goodness we had great skies to off-set the bug factor.

6 hours with the Paramount (Blue Mountains)

I started flying the Celestron 14" SCT with piggyback Tele Vue 101 atop the Paramount ME driven by the RASC dedicated laptop and TheSky6 software (Go To).

10:51 PM. I was looking at Saturn in the C14 up to 391 power. It was a surprisingly good view. Phil said it held up well. I could see many moons!

Titan was far to the west. Immediately as I started viewing Saturn, I could see Dione and Tethys, close together, close to the rings, between Titan and the planet. Rhea was immediately visible to the east, about 1 ringwidth from planet.

Checking software, I noted that Enceladus was between Rhea and the rings. I returned to the eyepiece to try to find it. And had a hard time seeing it. I thought it possible despite the 12.46 magnitude. I wondered if it was the moon with 2 faces, one light, one dark? [ed: no; it's fairly uniform.] Phil couldn't see it.

I could however easily see Iapetus (mag 11.89) on the west. It formed a lazy triangle with Titan and the gas giant.

Lora visited the GBO. I explained what I was doing with the high power eyepiece. She was having a hard time splitting Tethys and Dione. So I backed out the magnification. In the sharper view, Lora was able to see the two moons near the ring. Then I encouraged her to tackle the challenge of spotting Iapetus. Finally, she did it.

Of course, it helps with something like the Paramount. Phil remarked it sure is nice having the tracking. I'm jaded, I guess. Certainly it makes it easier for the casual observer.

I took off the RASC hoodie for my Lee Valley bug suit jacket. The mosquitoes were incredible...

The warm room was still hot. I was baking. Headed to the basement of the house in search of a floor fan. I wondered if the furnace fan was in the On position. It was awfully quiet.

Noticed Skeena was the designated supervisor. Excellent. That can only mean lots of sleep. And the main tasks in the job jar will be bellyrubs.

I returned to the GBO with fan. I was looking forward to keeping the mozzies at bay while I sat at the computer. I could tell however they are still biting me, through my bug gloves and bug jacket and very holey socks...

I took a Sky Quality Meter reading: 19.40. Not bad. That was around the middle of the scale printed onboard.

12:09 AM. We just spent the last 30 or so minutes looking at double stars through Phil's Obsession. She probably doesn't want this getting out but we definitely helped Lora get more points for her Astronomy Badge.

We started off looking at Mizar and Alcor naked eye. Lora could see the 2 stars (with her eyeglasses installed). Martin reminded us that they had been historically used as a vision test. Then we viewed the pair through the 'scope and split Mizar into two components. We talked about the colours, or rather, lack.

Phil picked off Albireo. They've looked at it before together. But it's always a treat, being easily split, and very colourful.

Off to the Double Double in Lyra, as a challenge object. Phil slowly bumped the magnification so that we could split the individual stars. It was a very nice view as we split ε1 (epsilon) and ε2. This afforded a mention of the one of key rewards of double star observing: separating tight pairs. But that you needed good optics, good eyes, and steady air.

I recommended γ (gamma) Delphinus. Took us a mo' to find it. Phil and I started off arguing about the constellation. Then neither Phil or I could remember which star that was [ed: the nose]. He finally tagged it as I was consulting Sissy Haas's book. I read details of her entry: a "close pair" at 9.1 arc-seconds. To Lora's question, I briefly explained the use of arc and seconds. Then I asked Lora her impressions of the colours. She thought the primary orange and the secondary white. I relayed Haas's description of "grapefruit orange." But I said that in the secondary I could see a hint of green. And that I wasn't the only one. Smyth thought it "light emerald."

I told that I always enjoyed viewing jewel-like double stars. I think she enjoyed that impromptu double star tour...

We remarked on how sky was good and that the clouds were gone. I was glad that I came up early. I thanked Phil.

12:25. I had started going through the monthly list from the The Evening Sky Map from I looked at the Garnet Star is the C14 with the 55mm and noted the intense deep orange colour. Phil walked in at that moment. Showed him. "Oh, red!" he said. I referred him to the Bayer designation so he could find it in his Dob: μ (mu) Cephei.

Phil and I discussed the CAO bedroom arrangements. He said he gonna take one of the upstairs bedrooms. Fine with me. I admitted I wanted the library. Primarily, on this occasion, to stay cool. We agreed to offer a space to Martin since it looked like he was in it for the long haul...

Ironically, Martin walked into the warm room. We helped him relight his red candle lantern.

12:47. I viewed Melotte (Mel) 111 near γ Coma Berenices and found a large open cluster. I had to use the TV101 refractor with TV55 eyepiece to fit everything [ed: that's 10 power]. The bright stars formed a V-shape, like a flock of geese.

I visited Phil. He was knocking off globs. He had seen a dozen so far.

12:52. When I re-examined the view of Mel 111, I spotted a faint fuzzy. I learned that this was NGC 4565 (aka The Needle Galaxy and Caldwell 38). Immediately, I remember Paul's fantastic photo. In the 55mm, it was large, edge on. Very faint, it required averted vision. I changed to the Panoptic 27mm eyepiece. This emphasised the core, a bright centre.

Did I see another fuzzy patch above? And a bright star below?

I read that M39 is visible naked eye. I headed out to the Observing Pad to do some 1x power observing. And catch up with the lads. All I could see was a single point. Well. It's a busy region. But in binoculars (even cheap ones) I could see a few of the stars of the open cluster.

Phil invited me to look at the Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009, Caldwell 55) is in the big 'scope. What an interesting shape. Seemed bluish in colour. We tried the different filters (easily done with the filter slider thing). It was a bit better in the UHC.

We viewed Neptune in the Obsession. Very nice. Hey; what's the little point? Triton perhaps? Phil ran it up to 263x. I checked my Stellarium software (the latest version) but it doesn't have Triton. Shoot. I had added to a previous version. I made a note to upgrade in the daylight.

Martin reported success with his 'scope, at last.

I wandered back to the GBO to find that my netbook had suffered BSOD!

1:57. I just recovered from a severe windows crash! I had forgotten about this problem. I had had 2 such crashes last weekend... I was developing a theory that they had to do with the EverNote Windoze client so I immediately shut it down. I hoped I would not have more issues.

Happily, it looked like I hadn't lost any of my blog notes! Moving on...

I read that M10 and 12 were close together. I checked the FOV indicator in TheSky for the TV101 with 55mm eyepiece and found that they fit in the same view! I viewed the two faint fuzzies at low power.

2:10. I found Phil winding down. I helped him navigate the "wheel barrel" into the GBO. He took a look through the C14 before trundling off.

Hey. There was dew on the tables in the observatory. Fortunately, none on the SCT corrector.

2:17. I found an omission in my companion site.

2:25. I observed the lazy S-shape of NGC 6633. The 55mm in the C14 was too close; the 55mm in the TV was too small. I found the 32mm was better. It appears as a lazy S of pale blue stars with one bright yellow-white star nearby. It looks dispersed or disturbed. Made me wonder if in the past it had been more uniform but then had been perturbed by gravity?

2:32. An interesting idea just popped into my head. While I have my telescope-eyepiece matrix information sheets hanging up in the "cold" and "hot" rooms of the GBO, I wondered if a small info card with each eyepiece, noting the FOV and mag (for both telescopes) might be more helpful, for tour guides.

Continued to tick off items from the TESM sheet. But it was too late for a group of targets. Too low to view were M94, M51, and M64.

2:39. Well, will wonders never cease?! I just learned that β (beta) Lyrae, aka Sheliak, is a double star. Doubles everywhere! Lots o' doubles in Lyra.

Sheliak is close to the Ring Nebula. At 17x, I observed a close pair; at 71x, they were widely split. The primary is white with hint of yellow. Hold the phone: the secondary looks green at high power. Haas says the primary is white but says the companion is a "little sapphire." Smyth says they are white and grey.

2:48. I just looked for Martin: no sign. His telescope appears to be wrapped up... With what? I'm not sure.

The Milky Way was soaring directly overhead, beautiful.

I finished reviewing the TESM for July. I have viewed most of the suggested targets. Later this weekend I'll try to knock off the others.

I checked local weather station for the CAO. I found that the humidity was still rising: currently 90. It was 1.8° from dew point... Hence the dew everywhere.

3:05. Needed a break. So I lugged some of my luggage to the library. I signed into the guest book. I got some more water.

3:11. I viewed the fifth planet. Hey! Jupiter has a pimple! Ah ha! Io is emerging from behind the planet, according to Stellarium, to join all the other moons to the east. Wow.

I wondered if the GRS was visible. I thought I could see it... This reminded me I hadn't checked (and adjusted) the Stellarium software... Another thing to do, in the daylight.

I noticed that the Moon was up. A crescent rose over the trees of the mountain. [ed: damn, didn't realise, at the time, that it was very near the Pleiades.]

3:17. I returned to viewing Jupiter. Neat. There was a thin black line now between the moon and the largest planet in the system.

3:32. I took a SQM reading (with this partial Moon): 20.40. Started reviewing double stars, on my life list, that required more data, a revisit.

I tried to pick up the companion to γ And B, i.e., the companion to the companion. No joy with the 10mm (391x) or 18mm (217x). The seeing was no good. Oh. The altitude/elevation is only 36°. That's not helping. I should try for this later in the evening (or season).

3:51. Revisited ρ (rho) Capricorni. I still don't know what's going on here. And I was not too keen on doing a sketch... Tired.

3:56. I closed the roof. I turned the Paramount off. I turned the power bar off. I set the dehumidifier to max dry. I turned the control laptop off. And then began to lock up.

I tried to shoot some photos of the Moon using the car as a pod. The puppies thought me a prowler. I thought they were bears!

4:35. And SLEEP!


I made a to-do list over the evening...
  • add Neptune's moon Triton to this new version of Stellarium
  • program the ISS flyover times into my palmtop
  • research if the Paramount can track a satellite like the ISS
  • check Jupiter's GRS meridian crossings
  • plan my daytime naps!
  • and plan early evening targets, e.g. 35 Com, Black Eye, etc.

confirmed CAO open

I sent a follow-up to Ralph's message saying that a bunch of us were at the CAO already. Said we had a good night but the bugs were bad.

Even Lora observed!

officially GO

Ralph is the CAO supervisor this weekend. He just sent out his GO notice. Pointed out that while he's not planning to arrive until late Friday night that there were already people up... He also hoped the humidity would ease off.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

out of the oven

Skeena, Callebaut, Lora, and Phil were heading to the E.C. Carr Astronomical Observatory. Expected to be there between 7 and 8. Phoned up to see if they needed anything.

I left Toronto around 7:30 PM. And watched (and felt) the temperature steadily drop. Around 10 degrees!

It was around 9:45 PM that I arrived at the CAO. I made good time! Partly because it was smooth sailing on the 400. It might have been in part to the new route or alternate I took, near the end, so to avoid Collingwood. I continued west from Stayner, through Duntroon, until the T-intersection just north of Singhampton. For a moment I was feeling a bit disoriented (due to how 124 bends) but when I reached Singhampton, I knew exactly where I was. And almost all of the westerly drive was without other cars. Only one road hog.

I avoided collisions with large fauna.

The skies gradually improved the further I went. The sunset was spectacular with a deep orange red colour. At one point, I noted a thin band of cloud bisecting the oblate Sun. It looked very much like Saturn! Except a crazy colour. I debated stopping to photograph it but pressed on.

I was thinking, on the way up, about my arrival time. That I'd get to the RASC Toronto Centre observatory after sunset, later, even. But the prospect of setting up in the dark, feeling rushed, did not enter my thoughts. I could simply use the Paramount in the Geoff Brown Observatory. No one else would be using it. That was a load off my mind.

As I rolled up the driveway, I killed my lights. I saw Phil wave. Lora and crew were milling about. There was another white truck, the second one backed up to the Observing Pad. Phil introduced me to Martin from Mississauga Centre. He was in the middle of setting up a huge SCT on a custom wedge. I left him to it. Phil asked if I was gonna fly the C14. You bet.

Immediately, the covering of skin began, despite the heat. Phil was already bundled up and unfortunately sweating. I scrambled to get into long pants, socks, and a sweater. The mozzies were out in full force. It was at this moment that I realised I had forgotten to bring a baseball cap! At least I had a toque! Two actually. (There's some Canadian joke there.) I had intended to wear my gift NASA cap from Phil, having washed it earlier in day, but in the rush to leave, I had forgotten it. Tried to find my heavy socks in the dark but resorted to then white tube socks. I wondered if I had forgotten them too.

Despite leaving The Big Sweat, the house was incredibly hot (I had noted the internal temperature earlier at 32). The GBO warm room was incredibly hot too, forcing a name change!


I'll go today. Happy, now?!

reminder from Phil 6

"Do or do not . . . . there is no try."

reminder from Phil 5

"Looking good tonight, clear, dark, good seeing, average transparency, low wind, comfortable temperature, humid as heck. You should go up today!"

reminder from Phil 4

"Saturday is looking pretty good."

reminder from Phil 3

"We’re leaving today after work. Should arrive at CAO by 7 or 8 pm tonight."

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

reminder from Lora 1

Lora's in on it too!

Tempting me with little "glow in the dark" trinkets.

reminder from Phil 2

Tempting me with interesting books...

"I'm bringing up volume 2 (spring / summer) of Night Sky Observers' Guide to CAO with me. It has, by constellation, all the interesting stuff up in the sky including double stars, nebulae (including dark), and all manners of DSOs."

happy aphelion

Boy it's hot.

Monday, July 05, 2010

9 are astronomical

Just read an article over at New Scientist about 13 things we haven't figured out, such as dark matter. I find it interesting that 9 of 'em are related to astronomy or cosmology.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

what a weekend!

Wow. What a weekend! From personal angst work issues, back-to-back observing nights, fun bicycle rides, astro rookie coaching, big meal planning, collecting astro hat and t-shirt accolades, puppy tummy rubbin', sunspot chasing, Questar demonstrations, security camera upgrading, ISS following, chillaxing, the extended weekend flew by. It was so busy that I didn't have time to update the blog each day!

The days are just packed.

(Thanks to Bill Watterson.)

(I will be posting log entries, retroactively, starting from last Thursday...)

reminder from Phil 1

Phil started early, twisting my arm, digitally, to join him and crew, at the CAO. For the "extended" weekend of July 10 to 11.

Hadn't even finished the preceding weekend, officially...

"Don’t forget to bring your bike..."

day time Moon (Blue Mountains)

After berating a CAO visitor for taking food that was not theirs, I prepared the GBO for daytime lunar observing. I knew Grace was very interested.

We viewed the Moon in the C14. Grace was very impressed.

Bri exclaimed: "Epic!"

Later, from the patio picnic table, in the little Questar, I finally found the very pale Moon.

Dean had a change of heart. Not sure what brought it about but he offered to purchase the piece of red film he used. Thank you for your business.

I stumbled across a portable smoke alarm in the pantry during cleanup. I installed the 9V battery and tested it. Nice. I'll install it on a future visit. We'll have resiliency in our smoke detection system.

Nothing like leaving it to the last moment. But he was keen. I helped Tony replace security camera 1 with new unit. Better resolution and a slightly wider field of view.

Spotted some Red Bull way at the back of the mini fridge. Coulda used some last night...

I packed the car in a different order so to avoid having to open the trunk to unload. Made it a little interesting. But Kiron helped and we somehow squeezed everything in. Amazing.

Everyone else bailed out. John left early, as usual. Katrina and Fred and new canoe. The kids, Lora, and Phil left, intending to return next weekend (actually, in 3 days). Dean and crew packed up and were gone before I knew it. Kiron, me, and the Horvatins closed up shop.

I elected to stick to Hwy 10 home. It proved a good plan. There were no traffic issues. Kiron pitched in for fuel. I thanked him! He's interested in going up the next weekend. I told him I book the New Moon weekends well in advance. He said he likely won't be able to get more time off though. That will impact our rideshare plans...