Wednesday, September 29, 2010

no Grace

Had dins with da boys: Trevor, Jon, and Tony. Grace was not feeling well.

Tony picked my brain about embedding one PowerPoint presentation in another. In the 2007 version, I showed a variety of techniques. I also found some tricks on the weeb. And suggested some sources for high-quality planet imagery.

RASC TC on Facebook

Jason, Olena, and Paul slammed together a public Facebook group page for the RASC Toronto Centre.


The OPP RIDE program wanted to know if I had contraband in the car. Nope. Just lots of telescope equipment.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

that's it

Tonight was the last night for the new First Light program.

I was asked to demonstrate a typical observing session set up. Diane and Sharmin also asked me to show various web sites as they discussed the benefits of RASC membership and preparing for an observing session.

It was cloudy so would didn't spend time outside.

As we concluded, one participant asked, "That's it?!"

Always leave them wantin' more...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

cup warmer

Phil spotted the 12-volt coffee cup warmer on sale at Canadian Tire.

He found that the heating pad was 28 x 13 cm with a detachable 1.5 m power cable. The ends of the pad have Velcro to facilitate wrapping around a coffee mug. The power cable (12v cigarette lighter plug on one end) is fused at 10 amps. The rating of the pad is 10 W. The entire pad produces a very even warmth that is pleasant to the touch. He could not feel any individual wires (unless they are extremely thin) throughout the pad.

Tony has a 'scope! (Toronto)

I tease Tony terribly. I remark that I have never seen him at an eyepiece. Didn't recall every seeing a telescope at his house.

Surprise, surprise, I noticed a 'scope in the backyard as I was helping tidy up after his birthday party. He had his 6" MCT on equatorial mount aimed at the Moon. But by the time Kiron and I looked through the eyepiece, the tree was blocking it.

We moved the 'pod a little bit east, I roughly polar aligned, and we tagged bright Luna. I suggested the lowest power eyepiece. It was a great view in a surprisingly dark sky.

Tony came out at this point. Offered an adjustable polariser. Attentuated the intense light. Like my old PL lens caps... Nice!

Then I trained on Jupiter. Bumped to medium power. Could just make out some bands, when the tripod stopped vibrating. No GRS visible. All four moons were out. Kiron thought he detected different sizes. Tony suggested it was differences in brightness.

It's a great little 'scope. It's about the aperture I think would be suitable for a grab-and-go. Just gotta find a table-top set-up.

Friday, September 24, 2010

FirstScope at CTC

Wow. Canadian Tire is offering the Celestron FirstScope Telescope (76mm reflector on integrated one-arm mount) with 2 eyepieces at 40% off the regular price of $90. At that rate, they'll fly off the shelves.

Interesting little starter telescope. Bob's review is positive.

Another way we can telescopes to everyone!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

worked on web site

I worked on the RASC Toronto Centre web site this afternoon. That's not newsworthy. That's a regular thing I do...

That said, I was concentrating on the telescope loan content. There were little problems. I just did minor tweaks. However the main article has "jump links" to the specific telescope pages. They were all wonky. Took me a while to get them going again.

Finally, I made a new article for the Annual Algonquin Adventure wrap. Lillian sent the group photo. I hacked the Word document she sent me to extract a large image. Then I made a thumbnail and large version.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

meeting night

I went to the RASC Toronto Centre meeting (lecture) at the Ontario Science Centre. Got a few things done.
  • caught up with Terry
  • verified Diane received from me copies of the NOVA eval form and the Centre's "benefits of membership" document
  • chatted with Gilles about the incredible quantity of nichrome wire that I have (and the emergency use of 12 volt hair dryers)
  • gave Ralph the cash payments, to date, for SkyTools3, as per David's instructions
  • received Bob's cheque for SkyTools3 from Ralph
  • procured ride to CAO for work party / open house
  • received Stu's help request for his Centre email account
  • received Phil's requests for forwarding recent emails from Eric (SCOPE newsletter) and Lillian (AAA report with group photo)
  • chatted with Scott about CAO fire and safety equipment knowledge transfer and training
  • learned that ozone levels might not be steady over long periods of time
  • learned that the amount of "good" ozone in the upper atmosphere is equivalent to a layer 3 millimetres thick!
  • pointed out the date mistake for the DDO members only observing session on the announcements handout
  • pitched the SkyTools3 Standard Edition we now have in inventory, for sale to members
  • grabbed a couple of the new Transport Canada pamphlets on green laser pointers
  • said hello quickly to Sharmin
  • eyeballed the Galileoscopes...
  • played more with Stellarium on the iPhone (thanks, Steve!)
  • caught up with Van
  • talked to Van briefly about evaluating Rogers wireless internet service up north...
  • had a great chicken curry dinner at the pub
  • pointed Leslie to Eric and Ralph to track down our Publisher software, so to help Sue get up to speed
  • was able to give John B a ride home (he had taken the tube up); which, of course, gave me an opportunity to get up to date on the loan equipment
The weirdest part of the evening was when I was told the Guy and Ralph had both forgotten to bring the announcement presentation file. Ralph was very uncomfortable, very uncomfortable, with the prospect of delivering off paper... Fortunately, I had it in my email (POP; not IMAP) inbox. I jumped online, downloaded it. But, as we suspected, it was a slightly older version, so I did some quick updates.

Good thing they have an IT guy around...

webspotting skipped

Eric did not publish my webspotting column in the Oct/Nov 2010 issue of SCOPE for lack of space. Vacation!

other comet number

I asked Greg—of SkyTools—what the number in parenthesis meant, in the Object Info box, beside the comet magnitude value?
That is the calculated mean surface brightness based on the integrated magnitude and diameter of the coma. I put it in there during testing and on a whim left it in. Didn't get documented though (obviously!).

Moon and Jupiter (Toronto)

I saw the nearly full Moon rising over the green valley as I drove up the DVP.

Later, as we emerged from the OSC, brilliant intense Jupiter was hanging a couple of degrees below the bright white Moon.

SkyTools3 in Dacca

I was getting a little frustrated with SkyTools3. The observing lists from Dacca were showing zero entries out of 30 or 40. I couldn't figure out what was blocking them. I assumed, last night, as I was showing Sharmin the software, that I had entered something wrong.

Today, I checked and double-checked my settings. Couldn't see any issues. Scoured the Yahoo!Group for ideas. Nothing. Finally, I did a reset filter command, and everything came back. I still don't know what was wrong...

But this finally enabled me to send "showpiece" observing lists (as PDF files) for Bangladesh, for Oct 16 and then Nov 5, to Sharmin. She was very happy.

GRS location

Michael (a RASC Toronto member) emailed me yesterday. Somewhere, somehow, he heard I was a fan of Stellarium...

He asked how to adjust the software so to get the Great Red Spot on Jupiter to be at the "proper" position. Normally, in other apps, like Starry Night or SkyTools, you adjust the Jovian System II longitude value.

I explained that for Stellarium, the GRS position can be tuned by editing the rot_rotation_offset value in the ssystem.ini text file. And that I had mine at 120, at present.

He reported it worked for him.

But he then asked where I got the number 120.


Zippo stamps

Picked up two 133mL tins of Zippo Premium Lighter Fluid yesterday.

There is printing on the bottom of the metal containers: 0806 07110UV@ and 1108 01510UV&. Second part looks like a lot number; first part looks like a date code (mmyy).

Just tried the 1108 batch in the Restoration Hardware hardwarmer, assuming it to be from 2008. Works. Smells like fuel; not rotten eggs.

I'll try the other tin later...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stellarium in Dhaka

Sharmin asked me for help predicting astronomical targets while visiting Bangladesh. I pointed out that it is important to change the computer's date, time, time zone, and location, to get Stellarium to work properly.

Oooh. 10 degrees further south! She'll be able to see lots of cool stuff!

second First Light

I helped at the second session of First Light. Diane asked me to demo Stellarium. There was a lot of interest. Questions were fast and furious. I couldn't answer them quick enough! Got my hands slapped for going into too much detail.

The skies were a little clear so we headed outside. But the group got split. Some went to the foot of the dome; some went to the parking lot. I put up the Questar (the only compound 'scope on site) on the bootlid! What a great 'scope. Continued to use Stellarium to verify Jovian moons and faint stars.

minus 100

I have new winter boots by Baffin from Le Baron.

The Impact model is rated for -100°C. Surprisingly lightweight. Built-in gaiter and big clips. The 8-layer inner boot with Thermaplus is very comfortable.

Hopefully these will keep my feet warm while not moving at the telescope in the colder months.

small planet

Bumped into Nancy and Stu at LeBaron...

damn, missed it!

I missed Nerd Nite at Paupers!

Monday, September 20, 2010

last rollout

Space Shuttle Columbia is rolling out to the pad. For the last time.

Katrina tipped us off.

They are including the audio. You could hear the fans cheering. No doubt, a lot of employees.

STS-133 is her last trip to the International Space Station.


Sharmin agreed with me that we should do a teleconference phone call or chat for the next big thing!


Phil phoned me to say it was like watching paint dry.

Very exciting paint drying!

Yahoo makes new myth

Yahoo! should stick to search engine and web directory services. Oh, and I'm OK with group services. But stay out of the news business. They clearly do not care about facts, staying "out of the way," helping me search the web faster.

And now they are creating a new astronomy myth...

Which object is in the centre of the image. It's not the Moon! It makes me think of Venus...

Why are they all the same size?!

And they're assuming no one will live past 50 or so!

This is probably going to create a new flurry of email spam trumpeting "Jupiter as big as the Moon!" Oh boy...


EZ Heat instant reusable hardwarmer packs by Pristech Products Inc. are perfect for outdoor activities. And people who don't like stinky petrol-based handwarmers!

Some neat chemistry going on here, with sodium acetate, some water, external heat energy!

Just in time for the sudden end of summer in Canada!


I found Perma Fluid, in a petrol lighter refill tin, at a local convenience store. It's by Ronson. But the Restoration Hardware hardwarmer refuses to light. The fuel stinks! Bad. Really bad. Can lighter fluid go rancid?!

I was told once, by MEC staff no less, to throw out my "old" camping white fuel: it was rancid.

There's printing on the bottom of the 100mL container: 08.08.03. So then it's either 3 years old or 8 years old!


Poured some on the ground and lit it. It worked.

That was not a very conclusive test...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Zippo works

Phil just reported to me that the Zippo fuel works well in the metal handwarmer. With the usual stinky side effects...

Woo hoo!

widescreen red

I cut 2 pieces of Lee Filters #42 red gel film for the 2 Dell LCD widescreen monitors, 12" x 20.5". Finally. Looks like a submarine in here...

can hide

Oh. Just learned, in SkyTools3, that I can associate the "observed" status to an observing list item which has a log entry. And then observed items can be hidden! Nice.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

no music

Cleared out the music from the Sony digital voice recorder. A bunch of music was synch'ed in, somehow. Chewed up a bunch of space...

This explains why I ran out of space on Mew Lake.

quick link

Tony learned that a recent article about the CAO open house used the wrong link. Sheesh! He thought a "backtracking" link from the map/directions page to the invitation would be a good idea. I held his virtual hand as he edited the page and made a hyperlink.

updated CAO map

Tony requested the map show distances. I added distance cues and tweaked a few other things.

Friday, September 17, 2010

quick log entries into ST3P

I have been a bit concerned the few times I've been using SkyTools3 Pro that some of the targets it suggests I have already viewed. In fact, the doubles 39 and π Boo that Kiron and I recently looked at, I had previously viewed. Not that it wasn't enjoyable... I just want to concentrate on new items. For now.

After some brief searching in the help and documentation as well as the Yahoo!Group, it seems that there is not a viewed/unseen status. At least, not a permanent one. Rumours that this will be added in version 4.

So, it appeared to me that the best way to make a note of already seen objects was to produce a log entry. Oh boy... I've viewed about 75 Messiers, a gaggle of NGCs, and over 120 double stars. I wasn't about to create properly-dated, detailed log entries for all of these!

After a bit of fiddling, I found that I could create an empty log entry with dummy location and telescope details. This will suffice as a simple, fast tag. And this lets me, at a glance, know what I have already looked at.

All that said, there is no way of filtering on logged/unlogged items. Will have to be done manually. At least a list can be sorted by this.


Oh! I was happy to discover that when using the automatic generation option, one can exclude previously logged items!

Phil found Zippo

Phil found a 133 ml can of Zippo lighter fluid for $4 (light petroleum distillate) at a smoke shop attached to Longo’s. He purchased 1 can to try out.

He also relayed that LeBaron only had the compressed butane.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

soft tissue

Just learned that our injured rider did not break a bone.

sent seals

Jon is working on some posters for the fall Open House.

He needed a hi-rez version of the RASC Toronto Centre seal.

He was very happy to learn that I had some of the original AI files.

Sent 4 over.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bavarian gremlins

As I still had telescope gear in Will's car, I took it to the DDO, so to help with the First Light program. Car worked great.

But, last night, as we closed up and left the premises, I could not start the car. Nothing. No clicks or clunks or spinning of the starter motor. Lots of power. It was not a dead battery! Tried rocking it, clutch in, neutral, wiggling the key. Weird. Woke Willy up.

In the end, I abandoned it.

Will and I drove to the DDO this morning. He was freaked out by the place. Never been. He was awestruck by the admin building. So I did a quick tour of the grounds, talked a bit about the recent history. I encouraged him to bring the family up for a Saturday night lecture!

We checked the time on the sundial.

In the parking lot, after chit chatting with the MoE guy, I tried to spark it up. It started!

Ah ha! The Bavarian gremlins fixed the car overnight! Took Will to lunch at the Vietnamese BBQ Restaurant for his trouble.


Tried to start the car! The problem was back! So strange. We tried everything we could think of.

Finally, as Will played with the remote, locking and unlocking the car, it occurred to me that the strange signature pattern of the car cycling the locks had changed recently. I went to the trunk and unlocked it. Tried starting the 530. It worked!

Something wrong with that bootlid solenoid!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

casual observing (Richmond Hill)

The second half of the RASC First Light session was reserved for casual observing, weather permitting.

The first half was for introductions. Diane and Sharmin started us off.

While Guy had called a no-go for the City Observing Sessions, we enjoyed almost completely clear skies.

We pointed out constellations and looked up ISS flyovers (none). I fired up the netbook and used Stellarium and SkyTools3 to determine the configuration of Jovian moons.

Through Katrina's small refractor, Diane's 8" Dobsonian (flown by Rajesh) with zoom eyepiece, Don's image-stabilised Canon binoculars, and the big 74", I observed the first-quarter Moon (noting Crisium), Jupiter (with Europa's shadow), the Andromeda Galaxy, Albireo, and a fuzzy smudge that might have been comet Hartley.

It was the first time Rajesh had seen a shadow transit!

Kinda cool.

P.S. Katrina has an Orion 80mm APO refractor on a Vixen Porta mount and Manfrotto tripod (from her partner, Fred, the pro photographer).

P.P.S. Don's binos are the Canon 10 x 30 IS model.

delivered ST3

I delivered Caroline's copy of SkyTools3 while at the DDO.

First Light starts

I'll be heading up to the David Dunlap Observatory shortly for the first session of the first run of the new First Light program.

Jason phoned me to say he'd be a little late...

Monday, September 13, 2010

picked up da stuff

Dropped by John's, as I did some car errands, to retrieve the monies he collected from SkyTools3 purchasers. One person didn't pick up unfortunately but I can cross another 3 people off the list.

Nibo data

Lora and Phil did some digging.

The distributor for Nibo is located in Markham. Phil called them yesterday for local retailers. They said the product can be found at any Wal*mart or Loblaw's that sells cigarettes.

Out of curiousity, Lora called Le Baron. They sell a 155 g size of fuel for about $2.50.

It is possible that the Nibo sold at Le Baron is the compressed version and not the liquid. Phil is gonna investigate further.

spotted oil

Noted the Phil Wood's bottle of chain oil laying in the garage, up against the west wall. Huh. How'd it get there?! So, it never made it into Willy's car...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

helped Tony

Tony continues to struggle with updating the RASC Toronto Centre web site pages. He asked me to do something for him, convert raw text to a hyperlink. I turned it into a teaching moment. I felt strongly that he should know how to do this. I referred him to the online guide I wrote, in particular, the quick reference.

Will it stick? I dunno. I have my doubts.

wouldn't you know it!

Popped outside to close up things.

Clear skies! Bright, crescent, setting Moon, low.

Isn't that a pisser. Crap weather for days in Algonquin; now, back in the light dome, it's clear.

home via 35 & 48

I wanted to avoid the Hwy 11 & 400 madness on returning from Algonquin.

After breakfast, I pulled out the netbook and with Lora and Phil's guidance, plotted a route through Minden via Hwy 35, past Balsam Lake provincial park via Hwy 48, then over to the top of the 404.

It proved good. Not fast, but no tie-ups. Beautiful vistas while north, cliff faces, falling rocks, lakes, everywhere lakes, and green. Continuous green. And, near civilisation, with Kiron in the car, we got to use the High Occupancy lanes!

Now? Time to decompress, clean the loaner car of sand, prepare for the launch of the First Light, plan for a teach the middle of this week, and—somehow—find time to update the blog.

bag tearing

I noticed that the cooler bag which houses and protects the two (heavy) gel-cell batteries is tearing at the handles. Each battery is 40 pounds.

It was the dolly cart that I thought would break under the weight. It's working fine.

When I lift the bag by the handles, it is tearing the bag.

I put two straps around the entire kit, under the dolly and around the bag. I will lift the power tank by this, going forward.

Hmmm, I could perhaps fabricate a custom strap with the old race car seat belts...


Packing up. Getting ready to go.

up early

Should have seen the look on Lora's face!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

group photo

We headed to the beach for the AAA group photo.

Lots made it, including Ostap, Dave S, Anu, Guy. I looked for Jenna but no one knew exactly what she looked like in sunlight! Jason didn't show. But maybe he didn't know.

Trevor, Tony, and others received Moose awards.

I asked Guy about the occultation. "A clean miss." But then we expected that.

Fred brought cheezies!

I asked Erich if the 'scope was working OK. He said the motor was working. But something else had gone wrong for them. He suspected they pushed an incorrect button.


Article and photo by Lillian and Bob Chapman appeared on the RASC Toronto site.

soldered battery pack

Repaired the Toronto Centre's Dob Telrad that Kiron and I had worked on the night before.

Fortunately, Phil had brought his soldering iron (never used) and helping hands (never used). We broke 'em in! I soldered the broken wire to the battery case. I reinforced the other lead.

Noticed the little foam piece to prevent the battery holder from flopping around was missing...

Then I noticed the knob on the Telrad! This is the one I fixed before. Sheesh!

tested heater

As I dried out all my equipment, Katrina dropped by the site with her Kendrick secondary mirror heater, adapter plug, extension cable, and controller.

With my voltmeter from the power tank kit, we performed a variety of continuity and resistance checks. Everything seemed OK.

Bill, new member, observed for a bit. His multi-tool came in handy when we decided to open her (off-warranty) controller case. No burn marks, scoring, cold solders. I was a little worried the RCA jack pins through the print circuit board might be touching the metal case. So we lined the inside with electrician's tape. Bolt everything up.

We performed operational tests with my identical controller and its 7 amp fuse. Everything worked! Weird!

So, one possibility is that her setup is pulling more than 6 amps. Another is that was a short against the case. I dunno...

drying out

Phil and I took advantage of the sunlight to dry out our gear. We spread things out all over the site.

SCT and upper Dob ring atop the truck, to avoid enquiring dogs and sand-kicking humans.

Other stuff on the ground. I pulled Kiron's loaner 'scope out too. Found water on the primary.

I also charged up the 12 volt batteries.

at the loo (Mew Lake)

Tony and I bumped into each other (OK, not really) at the comfort station. Chit chatted briefly.

On leaving, we looked up, from the parking lot, at the stars. It was so clear!

Tony remarked that it was a little peculiar that we had all packed up and gone to bed...

planets and Messiers (Mew Lake)

6-ish, Fri 10 Sep. Went down to the beach early. There were lots of 'scopes set up (Lillian said over 50 by night's end). Phil had his Obsession, Kiron was with one of the Toronto Centre's 8" Dobs, Stuart with his fork SCT, Adam-Bob had his Tele Vue 85 refractor, Sue and Erich with the SkyWatcher refractor, Katrina has her collapsible go-to Dob.

The corrector plate of my C8 looked amazing. I was so happy. Other were surprised that I had taken it apart...
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: star hopping
Put my LED blinkies on, bottom of the tripod legs, for crowd control. Set up the picnic table and umbrella. Then fired up the netbook with red film.

Answered a number of questions of an early guest.

Viewed Moon, Venus, Mars. The Moon was extremely pale through the Celestron 8" SCT. The seeing, so low, made for poor viewing.

8:01 PM. I started my audio recording. Geese squawking.

Jason dropped by the beach. Met Jason's friend Jeff. Whoa. Tall, 6'5"! How did they fit in that tiny car?! Jason didn't bring his 'scope. Hmmm. 'Cause there was no room left! He did bring his (soon-to-be-illegal) green laser. 200mW (like mine). $50 on the web. "Use 'em if you got 'em." We compared beam brightness and found them the same. And, no, we didn't cross the beams!

Jason asked if there were any Iridium flares. Nope.

Put my glasses strap on. I found that my eyeglasses fogged if I took them off for a while. Could see my breath on the air—not from the cold either. Need dew heaters for my eyeglasses!

A gaggle of geese were munching away at the shoreline. They flew in front of Venus at one point. Sounds like they went through the field of view of Adam's 'scope. Phil said, "Ah, the Flying Geese Cluster."

While checking Stellarium, I noticed that Mars was nearby. Up and to the right of Venus. 6° away from Venus, 30° angle up from the horizontal, to the right. I wondered if I might be able spot it in the finder scope. Didn't see it at first.

A visitor spotted a bright star. Adam-Bob clarified that it was Arcturus in Boötes, a red supergiant star. He pointed out Vega and Deneb and Altair. Began his alignment.

The Japanese tourism contingent (rather, the Tenmon Guide astronomy magazine team) was around, interviewing people, photographing astronomers and the Milky Way. They were shown Venus.

8:08. Someone said they could see Polaris. I spotted it. Just to the right of the pointy tree. I had the Super Polaris mount pretty close, based on my earlier magnetic alignment. I also had to tune the latitude slightly. Helped Adam-Bob find the North Star, with my laser pointer. Erich too.

Phil had his white parka on. Tracy liked it. "We're gonna need it tonight," Phil said. My red winter coat was ready to go...

Reacquired Venus. It was shimmering badly. Very colourful.

8:13. Found Mars in the telescope. 55x. Tried to sight naked eye. Hard to see. Came and went. About a finger width above the tree line. Stuart also thought I said 30 degrees up.

Stuart took a look through the eyepiece. "A little blurry dot." Indeed. About 2 AU away. He headed off to do his alignment process, now that a good number of stars were appearing.

A guest came by to view Mars. I offered a view. Explained it was very far away. She asked about the shape of Venus. I explained that Galileo saw phase and how it intrigued him. "I didn't know that," she admitted. Then asked "How strong is this?" I had the baader eyepiece in, so I shared that it was 55 power.

Someone asked about the ISS pass. I couldn't remember the exact time. I knew it was a 6 minute pass. I noted that I had an alarm programmed in my palmtop with a 10 minute warning.

8:18. Erich found the tube of his refractor already wet. Phil said, "Man, it's dewy."

8:19. Viewed Albireo. Showed my guest. I shared some double star facts. At the eyepiece, she said, "Oh, that's cool." She assessed the colours as pink and blue. I pointed to it, in Cygnus, with the laser beam.

I think I heard a cat in the background (time stamp 18:06 and 18:09)...

Pointed out Mizar and Alcor. She could vaguely see them. She thought that cool.

She asked me, "How did you get into this?" Interesting question. I talked about my early interest in science. The simple answer though I forgot to share: "Mom."

She asked about the cost of telescopes. I told her about finding my SCT on consignment. But I pointed out the society's Dob, an excellent and inexpensive starter 'scope. Simple, easy to use, cheap. She said she wanted to get one.

Kiron showed up. I asked him if he remembered his pants. I asked him if he remembered his toque. He reported he was good to go!

Got out my red flashlight. Attached the lanyard.

8:23. Suddenly remembered the fuse for Katrina. I had my 5 amp "backup" spare. Helped her install it in her Kendrick dew heater type IV controller.

I had spread my gear everywhere. I cleared off half the picnic table for Kiron. Phil had decided, at the last minute, to bring his own table, the aluminum unit from the camp site. So we had lots of space for stuff.

We discussed comet Hartley. I reminded Phil that it was "up," that is to say, near Andromeda and Lacerta. I think Adam-Bob was trying for it too. Phil's paper printout disagreed with my Stellarium presentation. Phil and I didn't see it.

Sue and Erich finished their telescope setup with help of a friend. But seemed to be struggling with their polar alignment. Sue said, "This is a good place to get help."

8:28. I enjoyed Albireo. I noticed a lot of field stars! The view looked quite good. Very clear. Amazing, in fact.

It occurred to me that the view was very good. Clear and crisp. As a result of the corrector plate cleaning, I assumed!

And the stars... they were round and crisp at good focus. In other words, the collimation looked good. I defocused and saw good, concentric diffraction rings. Woo hoo! No need to fiddle with it. Phil said I should leave it. Done.

Someone asked when the next shuttle was. Phil and I interpreted this as the flyover; but they were interested in the next launch—so to go to Florida to watch it.

Kiron asked if he needed to change the location in Stellarium. It didn't really matter unless he was doing detailed planetary.

I wondered how the yellow-blue pair would look in the binoviewer, suddenly remembering I had the evaluation unit with a pair of 20mm wide angle oculars.

Kiron grumbled about car headlights... He was facing right into them.

8:32. Adam-Bob complained briefly about all the laptop people. He asked Kiron if he could turn his monitor. Some irony in that...

Poor Kiron getting really upset with Stellarium. Said he was having persistent font problems on the display. I recommended he launch it without the OpenGL option. Not through Explorer. Had to show him where that was in the Windows (Vista) Start menu system; he kept launching it from the "historical" menu.

I unpacked the binoviewer components. Heard something fall on the table. Put the eyepieces in. Hey! There's a screw missing. Ah. That's what fell out.

Sue discussed her fall. Said it was a gentle fall. Treating it kindly. Was getting used to using her left hand.

8:43. Tried the binoviewer. One of the eyepiece screws fell out. I thought they looked chintzy. Not enough meat in the metal... If you undo it 2 or 3 times it falls out.

Oh, oh. You need dual heaters for a bino viewer! It really is twice as expensive.

Kiron said his does the same. He also complained about the screws being close together on the inside but I pointed out that the shafts can be turned.

I offered to move stuff around for Kiron, so he could put his back to the parking lot, but then I forgot. Oops. Maybe it would not have mattered, in the end, as someone over near site 113 or 114, across the lake, left their car headlights on...

Wow. It was really different looking through the binoviewer. Hard to describe. 3D? There did seem to be some dimension to the view. It was fuller. Somehow.

Adam-Bob shared that this was his eighth AAA. In a row.

8:44. My palmtop went off for the 10 minute warning of the ISS. I relayed the starting point, elevation, direction.

Kiron asked where the North Pole was. I showed him but he then said that the Pointer Stars didn't point directly to it. True. But it was close. He asked where the Little Dipper was. Green laser again. He got it. I suggested that use the dim stars in the constellation to rate his naked eye mag limit. Possibly he'd be able to see to mag 6 or 6.5.

Kiron said he was going to get his Heavy Duty Toque out. The one he wore in the Himalayas.

He found the Telrad dewing up. Without a heater, I suggested covering it when not using it, perhaps with a hat, glove, piece of fabric. Everything will dew up instantly, I warned.

Phil said the stars were shimmering. Complained about the dew. He wondered if the mirror was still cooling.

8:51. I spotted the ISS. I pointed to it with the green laser. I shared that it would rise to 56° and would reach mag -3.5. Only one pass tonight. I heard one nearby operator tracking it in their telescope. Viewers could see the solar panels. When overhead, it was 350 kilometres away; when we first spotted it, it was 2000 km away. Reminded everyone that there were 3 people up there. And a working cooling system. A viewer noticed it turning red as it faded in the west; ah, the same effect terrestrial sunsets.

8:57. Adam-Bob complained about bright lights across the lake.

He viewed Kemble's Cascade. Tagged it quickly.

8:59. Kiron asked for help with the Telrad: it was dimming out. I wondered, at first, if it was just his alignment behind it. He assured me that he was comfortable with that. As I looked at it, it dimmed. Ah ha. Some sort of electrical problem. We pulled the battery cover. The battery holder was covered with Scotch tape. As Kiron held my flashlight, I removed the tape, hoping to spin the batteries. Then we found a piece of foil. When I removed the final piece of tape, a wire came loose! It looked like someone broke the wire and then jury-rigged it. What a mess! Kiron retrieved some electrician's tape so we could temporarily get it working again. I was cursing like a sailor (unfortunately) while there were kids still around... Not good. I suddenly remembered that Phil had his soldering kit. We could correctly fix it tomorrow.

Sue was visited by a very young guest. She exhibited tremendous knowledge of the skies. Cute kid.

9:08. Put my RASC toque on.

As Phil showed guests M57 (Messier 57, the Ring Nebula), they asked who we were, if we went to university for this. "We're amateurs. It's a hobby!" I shared that I had taken a university course but it was all math. Took all the fun out of it. We never looked through a telescope during the entire course.

I viewed my computer notes (with a sinking feeling that they were out of date) and decided to examine Messier 9 near Ophiuchus.

Some guests came by but I was in the middle of the star hop.

The stars, in the finder scope, were dim. Mind you, the target was low.

Reviewed Stellarium and SkyTools. Sabik, eta.

One of Phil's guests said, "So, have you been to the Dunlap." Phil replied, "Yeah. We run it."

The recorder stopped. I had used up all the available memory... Struck me as a little weird but I moved on.

9:28. I discovered that I had let the finder scope dew up. Damn it! Got distracted at some point and left the caps off. I had been good up to that point. I tried using a hand warmer pack but it did not seem to work. I moved the eyepiece heater to the finder objective. Took forever to clear it. OK. Maybe 30 minutes. What a waste of time.

9:30. Humidity 88%, temperature 10.0 deg C.

10:31. Viewed M9 for some time. Tried to correlate the view on the computer.

Horvatins arrived the beach. I gathered they had been in the park for a while and had set up camp already. Good to see/hear them.

11:18. So frustrated. White light everywhere: from the parking lot; from the camping sites on the far side of the lake. Half my eyepieces are fogged. I had lost a lot of time clearing the finder scope. Was upset that the loaner Dob was not ship-shape. Cursed up a storm (oops, didn't mean to be so crass at a family event). It occurred to me that I really need dew heaters for the finder scope. Could use dew heating for the eyepiece case! The vault toilets stink. We could smell them on the beach. Dejected, I thought seriously about packing up.

11:33. ST3 suggested the Pinwheel, M33. I found it! Huge. I could see arms faintly. Adam-Bob said Messier 33 is filled with star-forming regions. He kept talking about the active area NGC 604. I think I saw it...

Phil looked at the Spindle Galaxy.

12:12 AM Sat 11 Sep. Been on NGC 891 (Caldwell 23) for a while. Tried all the eyepieces. The 9mm was too dark. I enjoyed the wide fields. Just tried Phil's Pentax XW 20mm. He said it was first light. Wow. Wikipedia described it as "visible in small to moderate size telescopes as a faint elongated smear of light with a dust lane visible in larger apertures."

12:40. Viewed M74 (Messier 74). Very faint. Tried 36mm and 20mm. Wikipedia says that "the galaxy's low surface brightness makes it the most difficult Messier object for amateur astronomers to observe." No kidding.

Before packing up: 98%. 5.7 deg C.


Late, I checked the old Century Booster battery which Kiron was using to power his laptop. It read "empty." Once again, not responding well to the cold.

I threw a hand warmer in the bag.


At one point in the evening, I heard new member Jenna had arrived. I didn't meet her but Phil and Katrina and Tracy helped her get her bearings. She had rented a car and cottage. It was good that she made it.


Thinking back, I had no power issues. And that is awesome!

The gel-cell battery appeared to hold up well for the evening. With 3 heaters this time (8" objective, 2" eyepiece, tray sheet)! The charger reported it low the next day but hey. That's OK. I didn't touch the second battery.

And the Eee PC netbook! Wow. It went all night. Mind you, it kept timing out, which was annoying. Still, it worked great. While the batteries may not be pumping out 9 hours any more, 5 or 6 is plenty!


Wait a minute. I remembered the Sony voice recorder run out of space. Why?!


It was not a good idea to put all the eyepieces in the triangle tray under the mount. Yes, handy; but exposed to the air, they will dew up. Phil immediately puts oculars he's not using back in the case and closes the lid on the case. Blocks the sky.

Phil also has a towel with his gear. He flips it over his charts and other gear to keep them out of the dew and dry.

Friday, September 10, 2010


One of our members is mighty upset about something... Very angry. And they are blowing off steam. I'm not the only one in a foul mood.

Or is it me?! Have I pissed off others?! Oh...


Talkin' with the hands, again.

Photo by Lora.

ST3 to Dave R

While picking up Kiron, before heading down to the beach, I dropped off Dave R's copy of SkyTools3 Pro. And collected his cheque.


That man has a tarp so large, it has its own postal code.

gonna clear! (Mew Lake)

4:00 AM. Someone's car alarm went off, again. For crying out loud! We are not going to steal your car. Or the crap in your car. Be considerate you jackass!

8:04. Awoke. Grounds were fairly quiet but some were rising.

I don't think it rained overnight. But there was still a lot of water atop the tent fly.

9:00. Phil showed me the clear sky chart for the evening. It looked fantastic! Well, not fantastic, but way better than what we had experienced so far! He suggested we set up on the beach early this afternoon. Sounded like a great idea.

10:00. Young Phil, Jedi apprentice, attempted the English muffin breakfast sandwich. For his first try, it was good. But he really needs to consider better cheese.

10:53. Stuart and Jenny dropped by. They talked of their new trailer home. Small house on wheels. Their trip out east. Stuart regretted not taking his 'scope. Dude! Not like you don't have the room.

11:15. Phil planned another bike ride, starting at 12:15. Pain freak. Sounded like a large crew might come along, including Jenny and Stuart on a tandem, Sue with an overnight rental bike, Jason on a day rental bike, two tall Horvatins.

I rode to the comfort station. I had major bikebutt! Ugh. It's gonna be uncomfortable... Wished I had proper bike shorts.

Mew Lake Relay Team. Photo by Lora.

12:27 PM. Group photo and then we were on our way.

On the old air field, we paused for a mechanical: Stuart's clipless shoe wasn't working right. 2 or 3 klicks in, two riders turned back, one suffering extreme buttitis. I was feeling OK at that point, but not great. 5 km in, one rider fell. We couldn't tell if it was a break or bad sprain. Fortunately, we had a tensor. A few of us elected to turn back. Reviewed the R.I.C.E. rule...

1:30-ish. We returned to site 59. Katrina and Lora headed over to check on the injury. Later, Guy's wife met with the patient and recommended some meds. I pulled the Advil from my kit.

3:36. I rested after a very hot shower. But, I needed to get a jump on setting up the 'scope...

Setting up. Photo by Lora or Phil. Or maybe a sneaky dog!

Phil and I headed to the beach to set up early. I remembered to align the (new) finder scope to the OTA. And set the latitude. Covered the rig with a blanket and then a tarp.

Someone spotted the thin Moon between the clouds. And then Venus. I had to wait a bit for some clear sky but I saw them too. Very cool. Helped others, using nearby clouds as sign posts. This reminded me that tomorrow would be interesting (if clear), when the Moon would be very close to the second planet.

What does Phil say? "Mark I Eye Ball."

5-ish. Had an early dinner. Tried not to rush. Did up the dishes. Packed away all the food. No alcohol tonight!

wrong stuff

Phil told me he had lighter fluid and asked if I'd like some for my Restoration Handwarmer. Sure!

But when he showed me his supply, I immediately recognised the yellow container. "Wrong type," I said. Ronsonol is for wick lighters, I explained.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

misty day at Mew Lake

Didn't sleep well. But then I rarely sleep well at my first night camping.

Was warm enough.

I had to chase a coon away at one point, as he carefully unzipped my car emergency duffle bag, extracting the first aid kit and tow rope. Searching for emergency fruit bars. Crafty critters. Incredible scent detection. Moved the bag to the car. Kickin' myself.

Tossed and turned. Was feeling frustrated, in the middle of the night. Stared at the ceiling (peak). Listened to the rain. Might as well work, I concluded. Optimised my packing list on the palmtop. Made a new (inclusive) category specifically for the Annual Algonquin Adventure.


I'd like to know, who sets their car alarm such that it goes off, not once, but twice, in the middle of the night at a campground. Humans, not thinkin' ahead. Humans, not thinkin' of others. Not giving a rat's ass... And what car camper allows their smoke alarm to go off in the early morning. Toast burning jackasses. At least that was at a more civil time in the morning.


Heard the crew rustling about in the morning. But I slept in a little. Felt good.

10 AM. Finally got up. I was greeted by Skeena! Demanding her first belly rub of the day. Then human smartasses: "Good afternoon!" Made my big (but not huge) breakfast: blake muffins! I learned that Phil was so is interested in my breakfast (having seen it at the CAO) he brought his own supplies. The Padawan learner is going to try to make the sandwiches for himself. Meanwhile, Fred was drooling over my shoulder.

Made up some Mexican organic java in the bodum. So good! So brilliantly good in the fresh air. So fxxxxxx good! Joy.

Lora revealed a batch of homemade Nanaimo bars, just for me. Delicious! Dank ew! For her first attempt, they were awesome. I hid them.

11 AM. Electrician came by to fix the 15 amp service. GFCI zapped by lightning. A little irked, Phil said it only taken them 2 days. I was pleased to hear we were up to full power, in case I needed to recharge lead acid batteries. Had 3 with me! If it every stopped raining, that is.

I put up my portable picnic table to afford us some additional space. Especially if four of us were to have dinner at the (one) park picnic table. Put up the umbrella too so to offer some cover from the rain.

Brought out my portable weather stations. Partly to keep an eye on the Oregon. It can issue extreme weather alerts. It showed a black disk for the new Moon. Hopefully we can enjoy it soon. Looked like a good day for a duck. The OneWorld air pressure was way off...


To the old train trail (via bike rental shop). Photo by Lora.

Phil wanted to go for a bike ride. After finishing off my coffee, I readied the bike and myself, but couldn't find my chain oil! Was certain I had it! I searched the car cabin and trunk. Looked in the tent. Searched again. Gone. Searched again. Vanished. I didn't want to hold them up but Phil suggested we visit the bike rental shop. The young man accepted my request for some assistance. We gave him a small tip. The bike worked pretty good.

Katrina, Kiron, Phil, and myself were on our way. We took the Old Railway Bike Trail, the abandoned bed of the historic Ottawa, Arnprior, and Parry Sound Railway, opened in 1896. Both Kiron and I were surprised to learn the trail was not a loop.

After travelling about 11 km, one way, from the bridge at the base of Whitefish Lake, we turned around and headed back. There were many pleasing vistas, wonderful smells, and interesting mushrooms. I imagined riding the old train through the woods.

It was cool and misty. The weather continued to be very unsettled. Fortunately, we did not get dumped on.

On the return, Phil and I played bicycle repair men. We fixed Kiron's front tire after a puncture. "I've got a brand new tire repair kit and you've got a brand new pump..." If it hadn't been for Phil's patch kit and my mini pump, it would have been a 10 km slog for Kiron!

Bumped into Stuart N on the way back. He had arrived with his wife and their (relatively new, massive) RV rig.

It was late in the afternoon when we returned to home base.

I took Phil's excellent suggestion to heart but then I couldn't find my mobile phone. Was getting frustrated not being able to find stuff! He let me call Tony on his crackberry. I asked if Tony had chain oil. He did. They were due late Friday.


Lora offered me dinner. Very generous. Shank stew, very tasty. She found pasta in the shape of stars! Closet astronomer, I swear. Homemade bread. In short order, I was stuffed. And there were still leftovers.

Kiron asked about where to keep the loaner Dob. I was OK with it staying in the car. Made sense in that we'd take everything to the beach together (if it ever clears).

I reminded Kiron that he needed to collimate the Newtonian. Offered to help him with it. Encouraged him to do it in the daylight. Asked if there was a pinhole collimator. He wasn't sure.

He in turn said I could do mine too and asked if he could help. I pointed out that while collimating a SCT is a two person job normally done at night on stars it was a risky affair. I said that the person at the front could drop the Allan key onto the corrector plate and that the person at the back needed to know how to analyse diffraction rings. I don't think was as graceful as possible. I asked Phil if he'd help. I also argued that while being familiar with the procedure was fine, he really needed to focus on the process for a reflector, so to not muddy the waters.

Dave R dropped by, as we were eating. He wanted to introduce himself and pay for SkyTools but apologised about his timing. We agreed to rendezvous later. Before he left, I asked about his deep discharge batteries. He said he had not used both but the one worked very well.

Deers caught in the headlights. Photo by Lora.

Phil helped me get AC power to the tent. Glad I brought my blue extension cord...


8:30 PM. I was in my tent. I was tired. Damp too. I wanted to dry off. Warm up the tent with the candle lantern. Needed a break. Needed some solo time. To catch up on blogs, do some reading. Do some astro-planning.

Got quiet at one point... Wondered where they went.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

John collected

John B provided the SkyTools3 software to 3 of the 4 planned recipients, David P, John M, and Don. Collected member payments for me too. Ralph even made an announcement. Francois, however, did not seem to be there.

adventure begins

8:00 AM. After showering, lugging the last few bags out to the car, cleaning out the email box, I strapped the bike rack to the E39. Did the car shuffle.

Tried to find Nibo petrol lighter fluid at local 7-11. They didn't have any! Now what am I going to do. That was the only place I found it... Looked like I wouldn't be using the Restoration Hardware hand warmer on this trip. Fortunately, I had chemical ones. I expected I would need these to keep hands (and batteries) warm...

Popped to the drive-thru bank.

9:20 AM. Picked up Kiron. I still don't know how we got everything in the car! It was jammed packed. To the rafters. Kiron said, "It's like a bomb." Really could have used Will's touring and the extra 10 cubic feet. Alas, it was a blessing to have the 5 series sedan. And I still can't believe we did it within 30 minutes, including attaching a second bicycle.

9:50 AM. Visited John's, within his requested 1 hour window. Dropped four sets of ST3 discs. He offered to deliver the planning software, on my behalf, upon collecting fees, to the RASC meeting later in the day.

10:00 AM. Found a mailbox on old Weston Rd so to return my Zip movie.

The 680 News traffic reports sounded OK. No mention of our planned route. Good. Bought half a tank of gas at the first northbound Hwy 400 service centre to top up the car. Kiron was most impressed by the mini-drive-thru Tim Horton's.

The partly sunny weather slowly began to change as we pressed. We drove through occasional rain. The skies did not look good... The temperature slowly dropped.

Next stop: Gravenhurst. Bought foodstuffs at the Sobeys. Oh, and Red Bull! From memory—didn't have my list with me. Bought Red Bull! But I goofed on my preliminary calculations: bought for 3 days; not 4! Fortunately, this year, I remembered (at the last minute) to buy block ice for the large cooler.

12:30 PM. Phoned Phil to see if they needed anything. They were in good shape. He asked if I was bringing good weather... Ha!

1:45 PM. The arrival. We checked in. I was bound for Lora and Phil's site, number 59. Paid my car fees. Kiron needed a spot for the night. The park staff person said that site 24 was available! How about that?! The place where he and Dave R would set up for the balance of the weekend. That seemed the logical place to book. But he entertained a few options, possibly staying with Lillian and Bob. All the talk of bears had rattled him, perhaps.

Guard dogs. Photo by Lora.

Skeena and Callebaut greeted us at the driveway! It was really good to see them! Took Skeena about 37 seconds to coax a belly rub outta me.

Site 59 is a nice site. Very nice water access. Phil had a large tarp up over the picnic table. Like a cat, I padded around for a while, looking for a spot to sleep.

It was cool. It was a little misty.

Put up my tent while the Peanut Gallery (Lora, Phil, Adam, and Kiron) observed and critiqued. They timed me. Of course, we couldn't help wonder how Kiron would fair when attempting to erect his new tent.

After loading the old Pingo with my clothing, candle lantern, palmtop, netbook, I put on a few layers to keep warm. I still felt OK with shorts and sandles.

I gave Phil his right-angle DIN connectors from Digi-Key. He gave me his SkyTools payment.

Sue dropped by. Erich was out and about.

Let the relaxing begin...

It was Kiron's turn! After hounding him, Kiron hopped on his bicycle and headed to the camp office. He returned with interesting news. Site 24 was no longer available! Snooze, you lose. So he had to take 25 for one night. I drove the car over to his temporary home so that he could unload his gear.

As he began to learn how his tent worked, I went to the wood lot. Only to find it closed! Perplexed, I went to the camp office. It was then I noticed the covered trailer with wood inside. I paid for 2 bags of regular wood but took 1 wood and 1 kindling...

When I returned to site 25, I saw Kiron's tent was pitched. With a little help from his friends (Lora, Phil, and Katrina).

How many astronomers does it take...? Photo by Lora.

I wondered how to sharpen my axe. It has a little rust. Felt dull. Maybe I'll ask for Trevor to help me.

Fred brought over a neat little manually operated splitter. However, after a few tries on our own, Lora broke the thing! A plate holding the latch mechanism fell off, three small black cap screws and spring washers falling to the ground. Phil and I fixed it with one of his Allan keys. The 3 bolts were enough to get it functional again.

I wanted a fire! No need to preserve one's night vision tonight... I split some kindling into small strips. Borrowed Phil's hatchet to feather the wood. I made a nice little fire in the deep pit. One match! Yes!

Had a late dinner. Lora and Phil did not have a grill so I made a little fry pan out of foil. Butterfly pork. Yummy. Tried to roast the corn but I burnt some of it and left another part undercooked. Still, it all tasted great.

It was dark when we did the dishes. Put all the food away. Knew better to leave my cooler outside the car.

We spent the balance of the evening at the low fire.

11-ish. I was feeling tired and headed to bed. Er, bag.

Fired up the beeswax candle lantern. Stuffed the sleeping bag with tomorrow's clothes.

One consolation of this poor weather is that I could get some sleep.


Posted via Phil's netbook tethered to his Blackberry. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

created new account

We discussed, at the work party, having a new, publicly accessible, email address for future CAO open house reservations. That task falls me now that I have total control of the email accounts for the RASC Toronto Centre.

But it slipped my mind.

Tony called to remind me. Good thing.

We also briefly chatted about Dietmar not being able to see the article in the editor and Ralph observing that the preview feature didn't work. I reminded him that better way is to use our Test Category and back-date an article.

got car; will camp

Kiron and I discussed ride sharing to Mew Lake.

Last year, by myself, in the 2-door E30, I was packed to the gills. The prospect of taking, this year, 2 telescopes, 2 tents, 2 bicycles, 2 sets of clothes, associated gear... We'd need a bigger vehicle! Much bigger, if we wanted to be comfortable.

Kiron rejected my idea of renting an SUV or minivan. Way too expensive. By the time I got 'round to reserving a rental car, as part of the back-up plan, one couldn't get a truck anyway. I put a hold on a "large" car (Malibu or equivalent). Kiron said that wouldn't be much larger than his...

Phil, ever helpful, suggested I could use his Thule roof rack system. But it would require the roof attachment kit for whichever car we'd take. Too complicated...

Then an idea dawned on me. I emailed Willy to see if he had a spare car kicking around, one with large capacity. I was thinking of the champagne 5er touring. He said it would be no problem my borrowing it. But it didn't have a hood, front grill, or front fenders! They were being repainted. We'd have to fetch them then bolt them up. When we visited the paint shop (memories of Orange County), son and pop shook their heads. Not done yet.

Willy, thinking out loud, said, "What about the X5? What about one of the sedans?" I was worried the X5 he'd need for hauling stuff. The green 5er sedan would work although with a bit less space than the wagon. It would also support my bike rack; likely not an option for the touring's rear glass door.

The final snag was that the green car was in Markham, at the (dumbass) mechanics. So, off we went.

Now it's in my driveway, ready to be loaded.

I'm grateful to Lora and Phil for letting me stay with them and, in addition, letting me use their gear.

I now must pack very light.

hope to update remotely

While far away...

While I'm at the Annual Algonquin Adventure, I am going to try to do
daily blog updates.

Not quite sure how yet. Maybe I'll tether a netbook computer to Phil's
blackberry. Maybe I'll just use Mail2Blogger.

We'll see.

so tired

So tired yesterday! From the work party. From staying up late Sunday night observing; and then getting up early Monday, to get back to the city. Scrambling to get to the air show. Walking all over the CNE.

I went to bed at 9:45 PM.

I heard from my friend Will. The touring wasn't ready... Now he's asked me to help him prepare the car (we need to install the freshly painted hood). I suspected something like this might happen.

I haven't even started packing my camping gear yet!

A departure today looks unlikely.

Monday, September 06, 2010

do we have to go?! (Blue Mountains)

Kiron and I were the last people at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

We were taking our time packing. Moving slow. Tired. I had released Tony; said that I would lock up. We wrapped up our packing. We were getting ready to leave the house. A couple of final trips to the car. We both noticed the sky to the west clearing. Damn. It had been such a miserable weekend for weather. Now we have to leave and it starts to clear. What rotten luck.

Wait a minute...

Neither of us had to be in the city tonight. We had food. The damned skies were clearing! We had to be back in the 'hood to rendezvous with the Horvatin clan for the air show. But an early morning start would allow that...

After some consideration, we decided to stay!

First light for the new doors!

8:13 PM, Sun 5 Sep 2010. Saw the International Space Station flyover in the Celestron 14-inch. Never set up so quickly!

Used the 27mm eyepiece. The ISS didn't initially appear in the field of view; a moment later I saw it.

We saw it in the C14! Woo hoo! But on the edge of the 27mm field.

Reviewed TESM from SkyMaps. Reviewed week's events from Sky and Telescope. Used SkyTools3 Pro to get a list of targets and check on Jupiter. The Great Red Spot was predicted to cross the meridian late, 2 or 3 AM. Too late for us. There were no shadow transits predicted for the evening.

8:51. Started recording audio. Turned on stereo mode. Reminded Kiron the big telescope was still cooling.

Viewed a double star, 39 Boötis as suggested by ST3P (which I didn't know I had already seen). Kiron was surprised that it was part of Boötes. It must have been close to the border of Ursa Major.

Learned that 39 Boo was 230 ly distant, after adding the distance column to the SkyTools3 observing list.

Reviewed eyepiece powers in C14. 55mm gives 71x, 27mm gives 144x, 18mm gives 217x. I didn't think it looked as good at 200+ power. Kiron agreed. We dropped back to the 27mm.

We enjoyed not having to share the 'scopes with anyone! "Too bad, so sad."

8:57. I suggested we do dual viewing, that is put an eyepiece in the Tele Vue refractor and angle the mirror diagonals so we wouldn't bonk heads. We could also run, simultaneously, low and high powers. Wide objects in the TV and small objects in the SCT.

It was hard to split the stars in the Tele Vue.

Jupiter had risen just over the trees.

8:58. Huge Perseid. Huge! It was perfectly horizontal. Very bright. In the east, it went very near Jupiter. About 4 degrees away. I was on the big step ladder, fiddling with the 'scope, facing the right direction (for a change). Kind of orangey, probably due to the low elevation. Kiron was on the floor and didn't, unfortunately, get to the ladder in time. When I first saw it, for a second, I thought it was an aircraft. But then I saw it moving fast, very fast! Bookin'!

Kiron said he had seen a huge one, started yellow and then went greenish, on Friday night.

9:00. As I was describing the Perseid to Kiron, he spotted something over my shoulder, due north. He said he was stunned by the brightness. I spun and saw a faded point. "That's an Iridium," I told him. We made a note of the time: 9 on the button.

Used the Divide feature on voice recorder. Handy.

Revisited the double star. I asked Kiron his impression of the colours. He said: left was yellowish; right one was whitish-bluish.

The left one he thought "bigger." I clarified that it wasn't bigger but brighter. He wanted to know if they were orbiting each other. I wasn't sure. SkyTools said they were 2.6" apart in 2003.

9:04. Explained double star Position Angle and Separation impressions and measurement to Kiron. Where's a sketch pad when you need one? Gotta know where celestial north is. Reminded that the telescope type and use of a mirror affects the presentation.

9:14. Discussed eyepiece presentation depending on the type of telescope. I told Kiron that I believe people, books, web sites complicate it; it's simple. Count the number of reflections. If odd, the image will be rotated; if even (including zero), the image will be mirror reversed. The GBO SCT and refractor had 3 and 1 reflections, respectively, which created the same view. The Centre's Dobsonian, a Newtonian, gives a rotated view. That said, I relayed that my new finder scope has a corrected image.

9:16. Demonstrated the SkyTools3 year bar feature, night bar, the arranged list.

9:20. Kiron corrected me about Boötes. He is not carrying a shield. Nor does he have his arms outstretched. I was thinking about Orion. In Stellarium, we turned on constellation artwork. Hey, the Herdsman was carrying a sickle.

9:23. We looked at the details of the next ISS. 9:46. Shortie, 3 min long. Looked at the path in Heavens Above. Would start from NW and head through Ursa Major. Kinda toward Polaris. And stop in the shadow. Kiron thought it was a funny configuration on the site. I picked up the computer and rotated the screen.

9:29. Showed Kiron how to track the ISS with the telescopes on the Paramount ME. I would tell TheSky6 to get the ISS orbital (TLE) data from the web (although I don't know where it is getting it from). Then I would plot the path (while that's optional). Search for one of the station components (e.g. Zarya). Centre on it, if nec. Then using the telescope tracking command and Start Tracking. It might do one or a couple of slews, to catch up.

9:32. Kiron asked if TheSky could be used to identify a spotted satellite. Talked about determining details of a satellite spotting. Probably TheSky6 could do it but it might not be a good idea, if you loaded too much satellite data and then asked the computer to simulate it. I said that I used Heavens Above in combination with good log entries. And reviewed the Iridium flyover. 9 PM sharp. Confirmed! Satellite 61.

9:33. The sky looked fantastic. "The sky has opened," Kiron said.

Went to π (pi) 1 Boo. Very nice. My first impression was that they were the exact same colour. Kiron did not think so. While defocused, the colours emerged. The primary was blue white; the secondary was orange. Kiron said bluish (brighter) and redish or pink (fainter).

(I had also previously viewed this star...)

9:34. While we were both looking through eyepieces, we saw a satellite. Stereo! That was funny. I reacted first; then Kiron. Ha.

9:36. Alarm for the ISS went off. Ten to go.

9:38. Checked my email. Dietmar replied to my CAO booking / extension. He said he would have been too tired to do anything, if he had stayed. Told us to have fun. We already were!

We prepared for the next ISS pass. Originally I wanted the 55mm eyepiece from Kiron did not like the view. "It's kinda OK," he said.

I took a look. That was the eyepiece I cleaned (after dropping it). Did I put it together correctly? So, we put the 27mm back in.

9:43. I decided to do a little experiment. I chose the Soyuz TMA 18 vs. the Zarya. Started tracking... The software protested, at first.

Once again Kiron reported that it was at the edge of the field.

I tried the spiral search. It was improved. Second time was better. Manual repositioning. Couldn't stop fast enough.

Could see the panels. A bit of colour. Not very crisp. Low in the sky.

Stars zipping by.

While I looked in the C14, Kiron took a look in the TV 101. He really liked the view. It was a much better, razor sharp. I actually enjoyed the view in the Tele Vue a bit better. It is also somehow more interesting in a large field, stars drifting through the background.

I was happy to see it in the field of the TV 101. It meant that if I had connected the MallinCam, I likely would have had an image.

I finished off with Mark I eyeball viewing while Kiron used his old crummy binos. (His new Nikons are in for repair.) He tracked it a little bit longer while it had dimmed to low for me...

We agreed that the view in the TV was better. "Nice," Kiron said.

I felt a bit more confident. It confirmed that I was doing the general steps correctly. Probably the missed on the previous CAO visit were due to old TLE data... An interesting experiment.

Off to the Lagoon. Messier 8 (M8). Kiron checked clearances. "Andromeda's up." As I walked into the observatory floor, I looked up. It was a great sky. Wow.

Kiron commented, "Hoo. Very nice." He noted many stars, a bunch of stars. Reminded him of the Pleiades. There is a cluster, around the 8 o'clock position. There were 2 stars on the right-hand side, almost horizontal. I noted a bright central star. A glow around it. He spotted another satellite, in the wide field. I wondered if the faint stars were in the foreground, simply faint, or in the nebula or behind it. Intriguing.

10:02. My palmtop issued an alarm to cancel the Mew Lake car reservation. Reprogrammed my palmtop. We discussed Monday morning plans. When to wake, closing the GBO fully, etc.

Kiron saw a Perseid. A small one.

10:04. I headed to the loo.

10:07. Back. "I normally hate winter," I shared with Kiron. "But the earlier starts," to observing are good.

10:16. SkyTools suggested the Turtle Nebula, aka NGC 6210, in Hercules. Kiron said, "Oh, I can see it beautifully." Then, he said, "I can't see anything." Then, "There is something in the 'scope. It looks like a planet." He thought the colour blue. Small.

I was fiddling at the computer. Doubling checking the Jupiter's GRS predictions. It was to emerge at 1:30 AM. Kiron said, "It's moving fast." Indeed. Paul had reminded me that the rotational period was 9 hours. Kiron asked me to display the Jovian moons so to confirm what he saw after we concluded movie night.

10:38. Tony phoned with CNE info. They wanted to be at the Ex ground at 11; so that meant leaving the High Park area at 10:30. That moved everything up a bit for us. It impacted on our departure time. Kiron was concerned about possible dress code. We checked with Grace. Casual.

Grace asked about an object viewed at 6 AM a night or two previous. Said she had seen a bright orange object above Orion. It was Aldebaran.

Wow. The GBO cordless phone created a lot of interference into the Sony recorder!

10:46. We talked about absolute and relative scales in Stellarium. 1.0 and 1.0, the out-of-the-box settings, I thought were a bit artificial. Helps the novice spot the constellations. If you drop the absolute, you can simulate light pollution. Talked about Dynamic View. Simulates contrast.

10:52. We viewed the Turtle Nebula. We tried different eyepieces in the two 'scopes. At 400+ power. Asked Kiron if he could see any shape in the Turtle. Reminded him that we're not supposed to go over 300 power, under a thick air blanket.

We were keeping the doors of the warm room closed. It was cool outside.

11:04. I returned from the house. We discussed going to comet Hartley. We should have been lookin' at this an hour ago, according to SkyTools. I had already loaded it into Stellarium. Checked the ocular settings but I didn't have the C14 entered. Aimed for the comet. It was near ο (omicron) Andromeda (at the time, I misread as omega). It was about 2° from ο Andromedae. Wait: 16 Lacerta was closer.

I tried to load the comet data into TheSky6 but it didn't work.

11:21. Suggested we put the 27mm in the TV 'scope, so to give a 3.5 degree field. The predicted mag was 10.4.

I moved the 'scope a little bit.

Could not confirm it.

We talked about shutting down soon. Couldn't play too late, with our early start plan for tomorrow... Earlier now.

Kiron wanted to look at a few more objects before we wrapped, including M13, Andromeda or Messier 31 (M31), and Jupiter. OK. While I was yawning like crazy, the globular offered a lovely view.

11:39. We viewed the neighbour galaxy. Tried to pick out the dust lanes. Kiron returned to the C14 and did some panning to spot Messier 110 (M110). He couldn't find it. So I put the 'scope on M110 and then, from the control room, panned to the centre of M31, and finally stopped at Messier 32 (M32). Then he did it himself.

12:00 AM, Mon 6 Sep 2010. I advised Kiron of the time. And off we went to Jupiter.

We went for the moons around Uranus. We had the 27mm in the C14; 18mm in the TV. Kiron noted the stars around Uranus, forming a triangle, with Uranus in the middle. There was a mag 14.65 star inline with Oberon, at mag 14.15. I could see it when the seeing improved. Titania was mag 13.95; could not see it. SkyTools3 and Stellarium showed similar views. I was yawning again.

Clouds were spotted.

Started packing up.

12:26. I closed the roof while Kiron removed eyepieces. Closed the new and improved south wall door flaps. In the proper order now, as per the new procedure. Latched. I parked the 'scope. Kiron powered off the mount, power bar, and UPS. Fired up the dehumidifier.

12:37. We shut down the GBO. Fully. So we wouldn't have to re-enter in the morning.

Outside. Black sky. It was cold.

We got lucky this evening.

We hadn't had dinner yet...

Sunday, September 05, 2010

doors repaired

I assisted at the mini workparty at the Carr Astronomical Observatory (CAO) this weekend.

The south wall door flaps of the GBO had been tearing out the piano hinge screws. It turned out that the wood sill underneath was rotted from water damage. Further exploration showed that the south wall repair from last summer had been ineffective: the lower part of the wall was also badly rotted.

A small team demantled and rebuilt the south wall and doors. It was intense hard work in less than ideal conditions (again) but the finished result is very good. We don't expect water to find its way into the wall.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

worked up the nerve

I cleaned the corrector plate of my C8. Properly. By disassembling it. Following the advice of Ozzzy and Thierry and others on the Classic Celestron Yahoo!Group.

Brought the OTA in from the garage. Also, from outside, grabbed my cleaning kit, with isopropanol. Worked in the kitchen.

Fil-thy! Could have used more light. Considered, briefly, bringing the car halogen work lights. But that would have been way too hot.

The hardest part, probably, for the whole project was getting the damned screws out. Or rather, the one frickin' stubborn screw. Man, that would have been a major... problem, if I had not been able to get the one bad screw out. One site had good advice: replace them. I will.

Grabbed my Christmas silver glitter marker! Marked the ring before removal. I don't know if it really matters for the ring...

Finally, I coaxed the final fastener. Removed the plastic retaining ring.

Wow. There it was. The corrector plate. Little cork and/or paper pads keeping it snug. The glass looked thick...

Marked the glass and the frame at three points to ensure proper placement on reinsertion.

Tried to use my little plastic orange peeler thingee as a shim but it was too thick; grabbed a tiny flat screwdriver. Tick! The plate shifted. I rocked it back and forth and out it came.

The glass is surprisingly thick! Chunky. I don't know why but I pictured the corrector lens as being very thin, so thin that it might be broken upon removal. Pshaw. This will deflect bullets!

This handsome glass was also doubly dirty. I could see the goo on the inside of the plate. Huh. So I will have to clean both sides...

Mixed up 2 litres of distilled water, 1 drop of dishsoap (you're soaking in it, Madge!), and 250 mL of 99% alcohol. Grabbed a box of surgical pads from the bathroom. And I started scrubbin' and polishin'!

Not really. First a loosening bath, then lightly drapped the solution soaked pads across sections of the plate. Inside and out. Periodic inspections showed it was improving. Didn't think until too late to clean one half inside and out and then take a snap.

Overall, it went pretty smoothly. And quickly.

No more grunge. Final bath of the remaining mixture. Then a 2 L distilled water bath. It was a very good sign watching the water run right off. Nothing to grab hold of. And then I gently dried it. Unfortunately, the Kleenex I used to dab water drops left lint behind. But I used the horsehair puffer to get rid of that.

Took a peek down the tube before reassembly. Hellooooooo!

What a lovely mirror.

Bolted everything back up.

Amazing. Not mint. Not perfect. But better. Better than bad; it's good. I can't wait to use it.

Didn't take long for cat hair to find it!

Cleaned up the kitchen. You know what they say: for something to get clean; something else has to get dirty.

with a bullet

Was reviewing my blog. Surprised myself at times.

Did a little chart to see how much of a busy bee I've been. Did a little projection too. Although, August past is probably a blip...

Still kinda wild.

got plugs

For Phil. Big DINs. Via Digi-key Canada.

I can't believe how incredible fast they are!

Maybe too fast. They did screw up part of my order...

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Steve's got ST3

Steve picked up his copy of SkyTools3. He dropped by after work. Doesn't live too far away.

finished Tony's article

Tony wrote the OHAP 2010 report article some time ago. Then he asked for some help getting the images into it. I offered to coach him on this but we didn't have photos. Later, we received images from Scott. We tried to find and schedule a meet-up. But after a lot of back and forth, Tony finally said he didn't have the time! He asked that I complete the work for him.

I had some significant resource problems on my computer as I did this task. An aggravation I didn't need. Not to mention the bitter-sweet taste. Anyway, it's done now.

Next time, he will have to do it on his own.