Friday, October 29, 2010

Stu approves

Stu sent this:
For what it' worth, I saw Council's handling of the ST3 purchase as a good example of how Council works effectively for the benefit of members (not always the experience in recreational groups like this). I thought it was an excellent decision, well handled, and appreciated being able to participate in the purchase.
Kinda makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

ST3 winding down

Received a replacement cheque from Stu for his SkyTools3 Standard Edition. He was one of the Original Purchasers. I was pleased with this on a karmic level, having accidently destroyed his first cheque to the RASC.

I connected with Jim at the meeting. He had cornered me after the first NOVA course but, unfortunately, I had not brought any of the SkyTools software with me. I was pleased with this, to successfully conclude the sale of a Standard Edition with him. I thanked him for his patience.

Another member also expressed an interest in the software, SE version. Cash sale. Excellent. This offset some of the unpleasantness of the evening.

I was able to hand off the money immediately to the Finance team (our new Treasurer, to be precise).

There should only be 2 or 3 copies of the software left in inventory. I hope this will make the Council happy.

dropped TSTM handout

As I reached the Ontario Science Centre auditorium for the RASC Toronto Centre meeting, I was hot. All the running around, helping Isaac.

Chatted with John B. Reminded him that through his creative accounting while handling the SkyTools3 sales in my absence, he ended up owing me $5! Suggested he buy me a beer sometime.

I rummaged in The Magic Bag to locate my eyeglasses case and cleaning cloth. When I suddenly stumbled across the photocopies of The Sky This Month November handout that I had made for the NOVA people. Shoot! I had totally forgotten about that! I felt betwixt and between. The meeting was about to start... I sat there for a moment, unable to formulate a plan.

When Charles took to the lectern, I resigned myself to dropping them off later. But then, a ray of sunshine. Charles said that the presentation wouldn't start for another 5 minutes. I jumped up and boogied down the upper bridge. Again!

The NOVA session was in full swing. I apologised and explained that I had the TSTM. People were pleased, despite my interruption. Turned on my heel and made the auditorium before the start of the talk. Now I was really hot.

helped Isaac

Popped into the NOVA session to quickly say hello? Ulterior motive was to ensure the Elmo projector had been delivered to the Gemini Room - East. It had. Good.

Isaac asked me if we had booked internet access. I said, we had. And that Doug had told me it was set up. He could not get his netbook to work...

I ran down the upper bridge to ask Doug for an update. He assured me it was working. In fact, he had tested it with a computer. I said I would revisit Gemini and test it, if necessary, with my netbook.

Isaac still was not connected when I returned. I asked if he had his network profile configured correctly. He didn't know so he let me take the helm. The config looked OK. But I saw the wireless was on. So to reduce issues, I turned it off. The hard line immediately started working. Whew!

Ciao! I zoomed back to the auditorium for the main meeting.

read FL evals

I finally had a chance to read the "course" evaluations for the First Light session. Diane brought them to the OSC again. This time, I was not bookended.

Some wanted the programme to run longer. A few did not like where it was located. Many liked the Stellarium portion. One remarked that more discipline was needed to curtailed overly long discussions. Overall, people seemed positive and thankful.

There were about 12 forms completed.

I'm still a little surprised that the organisers have not asked the mentors for feedback...

dark velvet (Toronto)

As I left for work, stepping outside, I noted the dark intense blue sky. Nearing the back corner of the house, I could see pale moonlight illuminating the way. From the back garden, I looked up to see a gibbous Moon, Aldebaran glowing orange, Orion canted to the right, Sirius burning bright. Beautiful sky. No time to play.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The witch didn't get elected. Whew!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

booked for Dec 8

A presenter was needed for the December 8 The Sky This Month mini-presentation to the RASC Toronto Centre at the Ontario Science Centre.

I volunteered.

Hopefully life will be back to normal by then...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

returned one

Popped into my local Canadian Tire on the way home from work. Returned the bad Celestron FirstScope. "What's wrong?" the clerk at the Customer Service counter asked. All the technical responses went through my head: primary mirror cannot be aligned; secondary mirror not squarely glued; chromatic colour at low power; coma at high power; cannot focus; cannot collimate with centering eyepiece or laser collimator... Nope. None of those will do.

"It doesn't work," I replied.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

asked again

I was asked by Paul Ma again. If I would like to deliver The Sky This Month presentation (at the RASC Toronto Centre meeting) in November. I replied immediately, "I can't." I want to; but I cannot.

Monday, October 18, 2010

how to collaborate

I'm actively looking for a tool to allow a number of the RASC Toronto Centre "staff" to better collaborate on a common document. Initially, I was drawn to Microsoft's Web Apps in SkyDrive. But the PowerPoint Web App is incredible limited.

I didn't think PPT-WA would be fully-featured! That it doesn't seem to let me add images or clipart, set slide footer content, and right-click on thumbnails in the navigator... well, that just doesn't seem right. I'm not surprised that animation and build actions are not available. I don't care about those. I don't need those gimicky features. I want basic functionality. I want symbolic fonts. I want to be able to paste text and either strip weird format as I'm pasting or after with a Clear option...

GoogleDocs looks to be the most promising. Fast. But users will still need an account.

I'm not prepared to / interested / compelled to build an internet-accessible SharePoint WSS server. Too bad.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

star test failed (Toronto)

I tried the FirstScope for the first time after the alignment with Guy's laser collimation tool. It was no better.

The 20mm eyepiece showed Jupiter as a small, bright, featureless disk. I could see 3 moons, 2 left and 1 right. There was slight colouring when off-axis in the eyepiece.

Tried the 4mm. Once again, difficult to focus. With the planet's disc sharp, there was ghosting off to one side, flaring. Diffraction rings inside the pale white flare. Very distracting. I could see a cloud band or two. It was then I noticed a faint moon close to the planet on the left side. So, considering the rotation of the field by a Newtonian, I was seeing Ganymede, Europa, Io, Jupiter, and Calliso...

I did not like the view. At all. I cannot give this telescope as a gift! It is a dud. I shall return it.

huge bright meteor (Toronto)

Just saw a huge, bright white meteor rapidly moving, from around the height of Jupiter, a bit left (or right, between Jupiter and the Moon), heading south, almost vertical. I lost it in the trees. It was very brilliant, much brighter than Jupiter!

quick CAO visit

Charles, Tony, and I headed to the Carr Astronomical Observatory primarily to examine and repair (if possible) the roll-off roof wheels and bearings. It had been reported that some stopped turning recently.

Tony picked me up just before 8:30 AM. We loaded his MVP with my 2 toolboxes, 3 ton jack, 2 ton jack, cordless drill, impact wrench, impact socket set, the Mother of All Breaker Bars, and other bits. Headed to Charles. He gave me a quick coffee from the Braun. I noted that he is a true amateur astronomer: he has telescope gear in his kitchen. After we transferred tools and parts (mine and Tony's) to the pickup truck, we were on our way.

We arrived the CAO at 11:30 or so. Unpacked everything in front of the Geoff Brown Observatory. Fired up the house. Quickly, we checked the wheels as we opened the GBO roof. All steel wheels were turning. Whew! Easy. Be home for dinner!

It was somewhat satisfying to learn we did not have a catastrophe on our hands. So we headed to the kitchen to enjoy our lunch. Made plans.

After removing all the J-hooks, marking each wheel's position, breaking the torque on all the axle pins, notching an old wooden post, we jacked up the west side of the roof. Pulled out one of the wheels from a centre truck. Two washers on the outside; three inside. We found the wheel had a pressed brass bushing with some mild scoring but no major damage. The centre pin axle looked fair with some scoring on the weight-bearing side.

Again, we were relieved. Nothing major. Nothing urgent. We proceeded with our plan to clean and lubricate the axles and washers with grease, shuffle the pins one position south, and take one or two wheels back to the city for replication or upgrading.

As we completed the work on the west side, I noted the time to Tony. He suggested that he and Charles could proceed with the roof repair while I could tackle other items on our short job-jar list.

I headed to the house with the new BenQ projector and installed it in the overhead shelf of the Great Room. Unfortunately, I found that the angle of the throw was even steeper than our old Panasonic. When I invited the guys to take a break, I got them to help me with an inverted test. I held the projector upside while Charles, using the remote, put the projector into ceiling mode. It would work well in this configuration.

Ralph phoned earlier looking for some paperwork. I located the requested membership forms in the library.

In the meantime, I swapped in the Panasonic for Ralph's upcoming event.

I reset the empty GBO mouse traps.

We found the recently repaired south doors had been closed in the wrong order. I reset them with Charles's help.

When I reported that it was 4:00 PM, Tony was surprised. We put the finishing touches on the roof, lubed and tightened the chain, quickly packed the truck, tidied the GBO, and locked everything up. Tony said, "the GBO is rolling again." Puny guy.

My car jacks came in handy.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

test delayed

I was hoping to test the FirstScope tonight, after collimating it with Guy's laser tool, last Wednesday. But when I got outside, I discovered it was no longer clear. A bit earlier than the Clear Sky Chart predicted... Boo!

SkyNews arrived while away

I was at the Shannonville race track, teaching, when the Nov/Dec SkyNews issue arrived. Last issue of 2010. And a brief article about Arthur C. Clarke's 2010.


Looks like the magazine's 15th anniversary is coming up...

you say astrology, I say...

Caught a brief news item on 680 News radio. The reporter suggested going to the Ontario Science Centre to learn about science, physics, astrology, chemistry, etc. Um...

Friday, October 15, 2010

case is in

Perceptor called. The case is in!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

wheel problem

Dietmar and crew noticed an issue with the steel wheels of the GBO roof: some are not turning. Apparently it is stressing the motor. Reported the problem to Tony.

Someone somewhere found some photos of the wheel-rail configuration (before painting, centre-truck).

Tony is assembling a team to affect repair. He's invited me (and my 3 ton jack!). We'll need to jack the roof up to take the load off the wheels...

put handouts online

All is not lost. Already had it on my to-do to upload The Sky This Month calendar (PDF, 170 KB) to the RASC Toronto Centre web site. I also sent up the meeting handout (PDF, 1.9 MB). Which now means it can be viewed in glorious colour...


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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

presentation screw-up

I worked on the RASC Toronto Centre meeting presentation for naught.

Guy took Ralph's copy from the evening before and tweeked it, not knowing that I had changed it already, and not knowing that Ralph had brought mine on USB.

I worked on the RASC Toronto Centre handout for naught.

Ralph and Guy didn't think to distribute the handouts that I had worked on and Charles had photocopied.

I made extra copies of The Sky This Month calendar for the members for naught.

Paul didn't distribute them despite prompting me to make them.

No one saw the stacks sitting on the table in the middle of the stage...

Why do I bother?!

delivered NOVA 1

The first session of the New Observers to Visual Astronomy course went pretty well. Good crowd. Couple of very enthusiastic kids in the front row!

Used the new BenQ projector. Nice and bright. Quiet. Not crazy hot. A little surprised it didn't have auto-keystone. But it was easy to find in the menu. Nice remote.

It was awesome having Jason there to assist Diane and Leslie.

Only minor glitches: not enough of the Preparing for an Observing Session handouts. It seems there were not enough of the EU handouts. Ran a little slow in the first half.

Very thankful for the help carrying on my gear in and out of the Ontario Science Centre.

ST3 finally to François

I was able to, once and for all, deliver the SkyTools3 software to François. Whew. He visited the Ontario Science Centre early and I spotted him after completing my preparations for the NOVA course.

This chapter is concluded. All the original purchasers have the software now.

Mark commented

Mark responded to my City Observing Session report:
It was a very rewarding night for me at High Park. Not only did I get to see Uranus for the first time (I can check it off my to do list), but with help from Blake and his information gadgets, I was able to clearly see the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. At first it was subtle, but as jupiter rose in the sky and as the seeing improved, there were moments of very nice views of the GRS.

Peter commented

Peter replied to my High Park City Observing Report:
Nice report, Blake. I'll pass it on to the Parks and Rec people. The baseball season has ended and the lights on the baseball diamond should be out until the end of April.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

popped over to park (Toronto)

I was feeling pretty stressed at the prospect of sleeping in an alley... But I felt a strong pull to attend the RASC Toronto Centre City Observing Session at High Park. Mostly to support John. OK. And try out his Celestron 8x56 binos...


John asked me to submit a report to the Yahoo!Group listserv. Edited slightly for public consumption...


I arrived around 8 PM or 8:30. Found the baseball diamond/soccer pitch lights were out! Hurrah! John was already there with the society's loaner Edmund Scientific 6" reflector on equatorial mount and Celestron 8x56 binoculars. Joining him was Mark with his fork-mounted 8" Celestron go-to Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope (SCT). They were showing a visiting couple Jupiter and its four moons. I scared them off when the guy thought I was going to crash into his car.

I learned from John there were a few other walk-throughs before me.

We took a quick peek at the pale blue disk of Uranus and hoped to see its moons but that was crazy talk, with them all hovering around mag 13.

Jas and Steve arrived out of the blue. NOVA alumni, they said they regularly lurked on our web site and decided drive down from Yonge and Lawrence. Steve had his new and improved LightSwitch 6" SCT (LS-6). John, Mark, and I were mesmerised as it homed, levelled, took wide field photos, and aligned itself. Meanwhile, Steve grabbed some modern 2" eyepieces. He too then tagged the King of the Planets.

In the cool air, we chatted about Uranus's tilt and alignment of moons compared to the solar system plane, who had seen comet 103/P Hartley2 (unfortunately inaccessible to us behind trees), it's distance from Earth (0.1 astronomical units), how close it would get to the Sun (1.1 AU), current meteor showers, dew heating equipment, infinitely adjustable-height chairs, getting to know the sky, and the benefits of RASC membership.

Before it set, I viewed the half-lit Moon in John's binoculars. Very crisp, very three dimensional with the Earthshine easily visible. We viewed the Andromeda galaxy with binoculars and in the LS-6. We took in the double stars of Albireo, ε (epsilon) Lyrae 1 and 2 (a.k.a. Tim Horton), and β (beta) Lyrae in binos and the LS-6. We also put the LS-6 on Messier 11, the Wild Duck, and M45, the Pleiades. Sadly, could not find the comet in the Celestron binos.

We kept returning to Jupiter. Waiting the for Great Red Spot to emerge. It did not disappoint. Stunning when the seeing was good.

Everyone was cold. We packed up around 10:30 PM.


I didn't take anything. That was on purpose. I certainly couldn't afford the time to set up my regular SCT telescope. With nothing big erected, I could peel out quickly. Only wanted to do some binocular viewing. I did pull out the netbook (with red film) to look up the GRS crossing, using SkyTools3. That was helpful...


In the end, I was glad I went. It was a break, a distraction, for me. Change of pace.


No one had a green laser pointer... Made instructing/helping a challenge. Totally forgot that my telescopic pointer was in the Magic Bag.

Monday, October 11, 2010

NOVA starts this week

Preparing, I am, for the next NOVA course. Once again, I start off the astronomical visual observing course developed by the RASC and hosted by the OSC.

Doing all the typical updates to the presentation and handout. Made up a The Sky This Month calendar... Maybe I'll provide that to the main group too, since no one is doing a TSTM presentation...

Hartley spotted (Toronto)

After trying the binos and 76mm without success, I was ready to throw in the towel. But then Paul Ma. said he had spotted comet 103/P Hartley2 (from Unionville) in a big Dob at low power. Kicked myself for not setting up the 8" telescope in the garage a couple of nights back. But I've been distracted and stressed. Suddenly I remembered the other (rapid setup) 'scope nearby. And with 3.5" MCT at 40x, finally, I was able to pull out the extremely faint comet between star TYC 03706-0622 1 and TYC 03705-0098 1 in Perseus.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

no comet in binos (Toronto)

Tried to spot comet 103P/Hartley2 from the back yard with my crummy binoculars.

It's a little early in the evening for this... Early, because Perseus is still low in the sky. Behind trees and rooftops and hydro wires. And because everyone else in the house has their lights on!

I was looking in the right area. Hopped, with the 7x50s, from α (alpha) Persei (aka Mirphak) amidst the loose cluster, up to γ (gamma), and on to η (eta). Back down to γ. I knew the comet was almost in-line from γ through HIP 14392 and k Per.

Can see all the field stars. Switched to averted vision... Nothing. Pretty sure I didn't see anything.


Tried to split Albireo with the binos. No joy.

Couldn't remember the name of the bright star beside Altair (oh, right, Tarazed). I knew it wasn't Sadr—that's the middle star in Cygnus.

Split ο (omicron) in Cygnus with the binoculars. Bit of colour...

Split ε (epsilon) in Lyra.

Leaned between the fence and wall to steady the view of Jupiter. Could see a moon to the left (Callisto) and two to the right (Ganymede way out, Io and Europa at 1 arc-minute apart were merged to me).

All hand-held. Huh. The $50 binos are working OK tonight.

sexy rocket

The Virgin Galactic VSS Enterprise was let loose yesterday!

We're a little bit closer to commercial space flight...

That is one beautiful space ship.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Soyuz docks

I watched some of the launch and docking of the new digital Soyuz TMA-01M.

Looks like everything went really well!

new foam for Questar

When I first borrowed the Questar, I found little green bits and dust inside the case. The old foam padding was disintegrating.

Today I swapped the old stuff out for some spare grey 3/8" thick closed cell foam. I cut one large piece that nicely fits inside the case and wraps around the 'scope proper.

daytime crescents (Toronto)

From the sidewalk of Evelyn Crescent (for the last time), I viewed Venus and the Moon, as they displayed their thin crescents.

First scanned with my rickety hand-held Bushnell binoculars. Then, knowing the general area, I found them in the blue sky.


Found the focusing wobbly. A screw had backed out. Huh.

Geoff likes the FunScope

Geoff has one of these mini-Dobsonian 76mm reflectors. He likes it!
I'm finding the 76-mm is living up to its name "FunScope"! For 50 bucks it's an amazing little telescope. With a 15x minimum power I'm finding I hardly even use the red-dot finder...I just sweep until I find what I'm looking for. Mostly last night I was observing sitting slumped down in a garden chair with the mini-Dob mount resting on my chest!
He was using it to view comet Hartley 2! He also reported M33 obvious in it. Wow.


Geoff confirmed he has the Orion FunScope. Comes with red-dot finder, 20mm, and 10mm eyepieces, which he suspects are Kellners.

Friday, October 08, 2010

telephone binocular support

Oh oh. Kiron's first impression of the "exchange" binoculars recently received from Nikon is not positive. He wondered if I could take a look.

I explained that I was up to the eyeballs in a home search so couldn't really come out and play. I so want to partake of these dark skies but know I wouldn't be able to enjoy them.

Over the phone, I suggested he visit John, so to conduct a side-by-side comparison of his binos to John's Celestrons.

I also suggested he carefully inspect the objectives for marks, the oculars for eyelash oil, double-check the documentation, review the focusing and ocular controls, set them outside to cool to ambient temperature, avoid dew, and turn them upside-down!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

little better

Tried to collimate the 76mm Firstscope reflector.

Removed the primary mirror. Made a 76mm diameter circle. Punched a hole in the centre. Marked the mirror. Reassembled. Someone suggested that if the back screw holes were slotted, you could tilt the primary.

The mirror is fairly thick glass. About 7 or 8 mm.

The secondary mirror appears to have been glued to the holder slightly rotated. Does this affect performance? There are 3 long screws that go through the vane into the mirror mount. Between the vane and mount is a small rubber grommet. It appears that the 3 screws can be loosened and tigthened to change the tilt.

The secondary vane screws (with a locking nut) into a tall nut (both 7mm) which holds one side of the focuser. Remounting is a challenge. It's easier to lock the secondary vane to the big nut, then tighten down the big nut with the (Phillips) screw atop the focuser.

Never could see the entire primary through the pinhole collimator. Is this critical?

With the dot on the mirror, I believe I was able to finally get the optical path collimated. And I believe the star and planet images have improved. Particularly when objects are kept in the centre of the field. My left eye had something in it that wouldn't clear; I just can't see (perceive) as well with my right eye.

tried good eyepieces

I tried some of my regular eyepieces in the Firstscope. The Celestron 26mm Plössl, the Meade 18mm orthoscopic, and the Tele Vue 9mm Type 6. I didn't think the view looked any better at all.

Oops. I had not attempted collimation...

terms of endearment

So? What do you call your binoculars, for short?

I don't recall now, when I first heard the term, but it is regularly used by the RASC Toronto Centre peeps I hang around: binos.

While at the conference for provincial park staff, I heard "bins" for the first time.

Today, I stumbled across a new one: bincies.

H and SR

Trying to figure out what the letters mean on the Firstscope H20mm and SR4mm eyepieces. Found some "opinions" over at Astronomy magazine's forums...

H might mean Huygens or Huyghenian.

SR? Symmetrical Ramsden? Confirmed the 35° AFOV. Also learned that it has 2mm eye relief!


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

first light for Firstscope (Toronto)

Noticed a break in the clouds. During new Moon! Incredible. The swirling grey vortex over Toronto has abated. For now.

Took the Celestron Firstscope, and 2 eyepieces, out to the picnic table to cool. I wondered how thick the mirror was in this thing...

Scouted an observing location. The best was really in the middle of Diane and Mark's driveway but then I'd need a table and chair. Both of which were buried at the back of my garage. Whose access was impeded by battery power tanks, bicycles, empties, oil, and other bits. I stood, key in lock for moment, debating internally whether to fetch them. But conceded that this was, in part, to test the rapid speed of impulsive observing, with a grab-and-go telescope. So, no tables, chairs, power cords, batteries, computers, polar alignment, etc. Firstscope on picnic table. C'est tout.

About 30 minutes later, I propped it up on the BBQ (don't worry, cold, just to use as the stand), out of the glare of the streetlight, and took a look at Jupiter. Popped in the lower power, 20mm, eyepiece.

Immediately, I noticed colour on the planet. Fringing blue and red on the bright disk. Like a damned cheapo, department store refractor with plastic oculars! Then I tried to focus and I couldn't get good, precise focus. The damn thing needs collimation! Sheesh. That said, I could see clearly the 4 Galilean moons, 2 abreast. Well, at least in that respect, it works.

Put in the high power, 4mm, eyepiece. There was non-uniform fogging on the planet, again, illustrating the collimation problem. But then, I could see cloud bands on the surface of the gas giant. That surprised me a little.

After I loosened the big knob, I found both the altitude and azimuth motions smooth. The focuser was a tiny bit stiff. I did not detect any significant image shift when transitioning from in to out focus.

I checked the secondary mirror. There are 3 screws. Perhaps they can be adjusted. The secondary itself is held in place by a single bar. It looks like too can be adjusted, for elevation and tilt (just like an old Edmund Scientific!). The primary mirror might be adjustable—there are 3 screws, outside, near the back of the main tube. The centre of the mirror is not marked, however...

Considered Mizar and Alcor but quickly realised they were low, behind the neighbours to the north.

Considered Albireo. It was well-placed. I moved the feather-weight 'scope to the table top. It was too high, if I was going to sit on the bench. Could not spin it, like the Questar does within its fork mount. I moved the tiny reflector to the bench itself. This would work.

Without a finder scope, it proved challenging to find targets. Jupiter was easy. I just eyeballed it and did a bit of scanning. That I was now over top the OTA, not behind it, I had a harder time. In the end, I could not find the colourful double star. I turned to Vega with the intention of checking the Double Double. Again, it took a bit of effort but I finally found the bright blue white lucida star. At low power, I just needed to shift the field (100.0 minutes of arc) only slightly to spot the wide (faint) pair. They were nicely separated at the low magnification (15x).

Tried the highest power (75x, 26.4'), to see if I could resolve all four stars. No joy. Probably the collimation was interfering again. And the stooped angle I was viewing at. The terrible short eye relief of the 4mm is a problem too. Out of habit, I had taken off my eyeglasses; I put them on again to test the view. I could not see the field stop with my goggles on.

Considered trying "real" eyepieces in the little 'scope but I couldn't remember exactly where they were. I didn't want to fiddle. Again, this was partly of test of speed. Certainly the Firstscope is tough to beat in terms of setup (and tear down) time—you just need to consider cooling. I was surprised by the poor optical performance. But then, it is a golden rule, n'est pas, of reflectors, that before every session you collimate?!

I'll try tuning this thing, before round 2. Maybe pop on my old 6x30 finder scope. Or make a simple pinhole alignment jig. And I must try my regular oculars...

Maybe this one is a lemon...

why legs?

Phil made a good point. If the alt-az tracking capabilities of an ETX can keep an object in the field, why bother with legs?

True, if you're not doing photographer, you don't need highly accurate tracking.

One less thing (er, 3 fewer things—4 things! including the huge, massive counterweight) to carry...

found missing cheque

Oops. I laundered one of the SkyTools3 cheques...

like a Questar

I was surfing around Weasner's incredible Meade ETX site.

In the tripod section, I stumbled across a brief article by John H. The included image made my day.

This proves that the 125 mm 'scope can be mounted on a table top, in an equatorial orientation, just like the old Questar 3.5". How about that.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Jason posted

I gave Jason access to the RASC Toronto Centre web site CMS. Charged him with posting an article.

It will be good having him on the team especially with his good design sense.

new light

Caught up with Tony today. Learned something fascinating. And that caused me to re-examine my thoughts and feelings back to Mew Lake...

calendar updates

In preparation for the upcoming NOVA course, I did a bunch of updates to the October and November pages of my astronomical calendar.

updated Fun Facts

Noticed that Tony had an older version of my astronomy pre-presentation Fun Facts. Turned out that the version on the netbook was a little old too. So that's all I could give to Leslie while at the CAO.

I was quite certain the one at home was more up-to-date. Indeed it was. Still, I took the opportunity to freshen it up.

The thing's getting pretty big, at 125 slides or so: it's over 10 MB.

I'll try emailing the new version to Leslie and Tony...

Sunday, October 03, 2010

lit a fire

Noticed that the RASC Toronto Centre web site was lookin' a little... tired? Out-of-date? Short?

The Upcoming Meetings list was very lacking. There was nothing about the annual general meeting or nominations for November. Nothing about the One World, One Sky event at the Ontario Science Centre. Nothing about the Hallowe'en Star Party. Not a peep about the Galileoscopes for sale. No word about the newest benefit of membership, the First Light program.

Doesn't matter what the web site looks like if there's no current content.

I sent nudges to Leslie, Guy, Tony, Charles, Rajesh, Diane, Sharmin, and others.

back seat observing (Shelburne)

While noting some colour is the high-level clouds on the way back from the CAO, as Dietmar drove, I spotted a crescent Moon. Pointed it out. Kiron, from the front seat, found it.

I explained that it was an old Moon, waning, with the new Moon coming up on Thursday.


The weather cleared as we left the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

Kiron and I tried to talk Dietmar into staying at the CAO...

helped at CAO

This weekend two events were planned. It was the fall work party wherein we prepare the E.C. Carr Astronomical Observatory for winter use. It was also the public open house with an open invitation to the local communities to gather for an astronomy presentation, tour of the facilities, and (weather permitting) viewing of astronomical objects.

The job jar had about 15 items on it, some small, some big. I helped Tony move some of the house electrical circuits from the main to the generator-supported panel. Did all our work live. No sparks, fortunately. I took the opportunity to update the breaker documentation. Speaking of the generator, I installed the new outdoor timer for the battery blanket, so to avoid cooking the battery over the winter. I installed the new set-back programmable thermostat which Dietmar and Tony adjusted to operate at non-peak times. I swapped out the old 12 volt battery for a new one in the garage security system. I formed a crew to install the new felt pads to the kitchen chairs. Finally, reviewed the new fire-safety documentation.

For the open house, I actually hit the ground running, for Friday afternoon, with Ian, Nick, Tom, Kiron, and Dietmar. I prepared the Geoff Brown Observatory, including connecting the MallinCam, and moving the big "battleship" binoculars from the house. With Tony and Kiron, arranged parking lot cones. Turned on all the red lighting in the house and the GBO. Helped Tony with some technical issues before he started up his presentation. Got him a bottle of water. Then I floated for the evening, Friday. We got a bit of observing in. Saturday, Tony asked me to welcome guests and introduce the first speaker. Helped Leslie get Fun Facts on her laptop. Later, I received guests to the GBO and gave a brief talk. The weather did not permit observing this time.

It was intense at moments, a challenge with running two events simultaneously. Some communication issues, as usual. But overall everything went fairly well.

No one seemed interested in using my radios...

Photos have appeared on Sharmin's Facebook gallery and Ian D's flickr site.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

received last payment

With François's payment for SkyTools3, the centre has received payment from the "original 18," the people who made up the bulk of the group purchase. Thank you!

Friday, October 01, 2010

fantastic Jupiter (Blue Mountains)

Someone said it was clear again. We peeked outside. Almost the entire sky was free of clouds. Very nice. What a surprise. I asked Sharmin if she wanted me to open the GBO. She described the big smile on her face. Let's do it! Tony, pooped, went to bed.

We viewed Jupiter. Ah. All four moons now were visible with Io having emerged from the bright disk. When suddenly I noticed the seeing! It was incredible. Absolutely incredible. Perfect, rock solid seeing. I called everyone around. Someone went to wake Antonio.

Phil wanted to bump the power. Slowly, we moved from 71x, to 144x, then 217x, and finally 321x. The imaged started to break down a bit but it was still amazing. The north equatorial belt was dark and seemed to have some mottling in the middle near the meridian. The thin north temperate belt was clearly visible with festoons or clumps. The white region between was clear and separated it from the polar region. The south equatorial remains pale white.

Meanwhile, I put the battleship binos on the Pleiades and then, at Greymi's request, some double stars.

Tried Steve's image-stabilised binoculars on the Pleiades. Then we scanned for comet Hartley 2 near α (alpha) and η (eta) Cassiopeiae. There was a small, compact smudge nearby. With these conditions, it would be hard to tell something from a cloud.

As clouds rolled in, we tried for Uranus. I had to back out to 144x to find it. Centred. Then went back to 217x. And then I asked if people could see any moons. Steve thought he might have seen one (Ariel?). Kiron and I could not spot any points nearby. We called it quits.

I got Steve and Kiron to help me close up. As we emerged from the GBO, we felt rain drops. Good timing.

Back in the house, Kiron said, "That 5 minutes of observing Jupiter [so clearly] made the whole evening." Indeed.

clear, now cloudy

I was hoping to sneak in a quick bit of observing this evening.

As Jenna and I walked from Bloor to Evelyn, I noted the clouds breaking up. I saw stars to the north. Then the entire Big Dipper.

Wondered if Jupiter might be visible. We needed to move a little east of a tall pine tree to spot the bright planet, in a halo, through the thin clouds.

Now? Horizon to horizon cloud cover.