Friday, September 30, 2011

early to bed

But I didn't get to sleep early.

People kept coming into the kitchenette room where I had set up my portabed and chatting with me. Sheesh. I was trying wind down. Finally, even though I wasn't really tired, I had to shut the light off. It was the only way I could signal I did not want to be disturbed.

Had to put earplugs in to drown out the noise of everyone upstairs and still more members arriving.

And still I could not fall asleep... Damn it.

October TESM downloaded

I grabbed the latest version of The Evening Sky Map. Tomorrow I'll print and distribute it around the CAO.

Sharmin made dinner

Sharmin, Lora, and Phil arrived the CAO. They unpacked all their gear. Lots of stuff!

Sharmin had offered us dinner. She served a chicken and veggie curry with freshly cooked rice.

Tom hovered around us like a vulture. He stood at the far end of the table, not really looking at us. Please! I looked right at him but he wouldn't meet my gaze. I guess he doesn't realise how disturbing that is.

It was a lovely meal and dessert. Very nice of her.

got script

Grace emailed the updated script for the public open house prep. I offered to print it and review with the project team.

good review of NSOG

I found a detailed review with lots of preview page shots for the Night Sky Observer's Guide books over at Ice in Space.

discussed atlases

Millie talked about two astronomy books she really likes. Gifts from Dietmar. She recommended them highly. But she couldn't show them to us. She said they are to big and bulky (hard cover, over 400 pages, each) so she doesn't carry them with her. Instead, she photocopies a few pages, for objects she wants to chase down, and puts the sheets in her kit.

She couldn't remember the name of the authors exactly but we were able to piece together various clues. Millie was referring to The Night Sky Observer's Guide (NSOG) by George R Kepple and Glen W Sanner from Willmann-Bell. There are actually three volumes, two for the northern hemisphere: spring/summer and autumn/winter. The third is for the southern horizon.

We noticed the price was about $10 less if you buy straight from the publisher. So, if the Canadian dollar remains strong...

Millie said she particularly liked the double star lists. They note colour, separation, and other details. She likes that the RA and Dec coordinates are shown. She enters that into your hand controller.

She made it sound like the maps are quite good as well.

The main charts go down to magnitude 9. They are black on white, show double stars, variables, clusters, and various nebulae. Included dark nebulae.

The total number of objects is impressive. But that's what makes for meaty tomes...

I asked Tom if we had these in the Troyer library. Sadly, no.

repaired refractor mount

I noticed the CAO Celestron refractor mount still in its half-way position. Oops. That was how Kiron and I had left it after the Farmer's Pantry star party. And that reminded me also that I had reassembled the head incorrectly. With a screwdriver, I was able to quickly fix the mount. And I extended the tripod legs. Good to go.


Our last errand before leaving the city, at my request, was to drop by a drug store. I got some Cold-FX. A little late, admittedly, but I figured it would prop me up for the weekend.

Grace said she ignored the directions on the bottle and took 3 a day. I followed her lead. I had taken the first capsule around 10:30 to 11:00 AM. I took one now. I'd have another before bed.

I didn't want to be completely useless for the impending work party and public event.

dirt dumped

Michelle arrived with 14 yards of top soil.

She refused to drive into the yard unless we offered to pay for the tow truck. So, near the THO it went. That meant more schlepping for us. Hopefully Cliff's front-end loader would make easy work of it. And, sadly, my poor health would probably prevent me from operating it.

Worrywart Tony called me and Dietmar a couple of times before. Were the hairs on his neck standing up? He phoned as I was trying to send a text via site.

practice with projector

I was a little surprised to learn that Kiron had little or no experience with digital projectors. And I got the impression, once we got into it, that he had never delivered a presentation. He had no idea what to do to get output video from his laptop. I suggested that if he set up the BenQ projector in the living room, for movie night, it would be good practice. He'd know what to do for Saturdays presentations. I suggested he, in fact, suspend it from the ceiling post. But it proved very challenging. I don't know if he was intimidated or distracted but he struggled with nearly every step. He was unhappy and frustrated, constantly complaining. Tony and I had to coach him a lot.

final files uploaded

Dietmar and I finally added the last imaging workshop presentation files, compressed to decent sizes, to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group.

Our efforts the day before, to upload the last two files, were thwarted but I thought it simply a gremlin with Yahoo. There were no issues today.

I uploaded Dietmar's file while he uploaded Steve's . We put brief descriptions on them. Dietmar sent out the notice to the group.

added diverter

Added the exhaust diverter to the muffler on the stargrazer mower. Unfortunately this required completely removing the muffler from the CAO riding tractor. Fortunately, the old screws (with some help from WD-40) came out without difficulty. The diverter aims the muffled exhaust toward the front of the lawn tractor, out through the rectangular opening in the heat shield.

I discovered that I had made a little mistake during my original disassembly and then instructions to Tim: the front two bolts didn't attach to the muffler heat shield. They only attached the cowling to the frame.

Noticed that the new muffler had some spot welds along the seams. Looks like others have experienced bursting mufflers...

Millie and Dietmar arrived the CAO parking lot just as I was wrapping up.

first to arrive

Kiron and I arrived at the Carr Astronomical Observatory around 12:30 PM. We were the first ones on site. Well. Not counting cluster flies.

It was grey and wet. There was fog on the mountain top. Not the most pleasant conditions for the CAO work party and public open house. Hopefully, Tony was right and it would dry out tomorrow. That said, I was glad we didn't have to install a new concrete pier today. It would have been miserable.

I told Kiron he could shack up in the Aquila room. I considered moving into the Library but then remembered the brothers Lutons were due. OK. I'd use a portabed.

I found a couple of problems as I opened up the house and garage. Some of the other CAO supervisors are making mistakes...

Hadfield badge

Kiron gave me a sticker from Cmdr Hadfield.

That was very nice. Thank you.

While we travelled to the CAO, Kiron told me about a number of Hadfield's remarks. Sounded like a great event. And he sounds like an awesome person.

I'm only one degree from an astronaut!

eleventh hour bike lights

Kiron sourced, pretty late in the game, bicycle LED blinkie red tail lights. A little more expensive. And just the tail light; no white light. I approved the amount. He asked if we could fetch some before leaving the city. Holy cow. Talk about leaving it to the last minute. Well, yeah, we should get them. We headed to Bloor St.

He parked in the tiny CIBC lot while he ran over to the dollar store on Bloor between Runnymede and Kennedy.

He returned a moment later. He asked, while I was trying to rest, if we needed batteries? I said, "No. We have some." He retorted, "But we'll need batteries." I repeated my remark, without further explanation. Come on, let's go. He headed to the store.

In short order he was back and he was happy. So was I. Although I felt like crap.

Hadfield talk

I actually heard about this, through the grapevine, pretty early but I was not sure I could go. Turned out I was getting sick with a cold. And the 2 or 3 hours of sleep would be very much needed.

Still, a bunch of Toronto Centre RASCals went. William went. Bill took his DSLR of course. Katrina tweeted it and shot photos for flickr; Sharmin posted on Facebook.

got keys

Kiron, while he headed to the Hadfield event, dropped his car off. So I could pre-pack. He hid the keys. I woke, with a start, and fetched the keys. Then crawled back into bed for another 40 winks.

Matt has some kit

Matthew announced that he was coming to the CAO to help at the work party and was thinking of bringing some kit for the wireless network. Unfortunately I was too wrapped up in other activities to give it much thought. With more time we could have developed a good plan.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

reignited inclement weather notice

After the last-minute snowy weather meeting cancellation in the spring, I prepared an article stub on the RASC Toronto Centre web site. I revisited it today. I can't remember what made me think about it. The sudden cold temperatures and rain conditions probably... I added some of the remarks and comments and made it visible, although with a stale date, so it wouldn't pop up. It is ready to roll, for when the snow starts to fly. I suggested we make a similar note for the appropriate winter SCOPE edition.

reprocessed Jupiter

Manuel sent over another image of Jupiter. He had reprocessed it. Specifically, he mentioned using a rotation compensation feature in Registax 6.

It's a bit darker than the first one. But I think a bit crisper.


Wikipedia link: Jupiter.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

then there were 3

Uve, while in the 'hood, dropped off the sodium acetate hand warmer he had borrowed back in the spring.

sent QR to Eric

Eric asked me about using QR codes in the SCOPE newsletter. I said I had already wondered if it might be a good idea, given the increasing prevalence of smart phones. That said, I was frustrated by the fact that agenda entry, event codes seemed to be unreliable. We agreed that a QR code with the URL to the RASC Toronto Centre web site would be good.

I made one up and sent it over to him.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sharmin's first gallery

Sharmin was, of course, constantly updating her Facebook profile. She put lots of photos from her first Algonquin adventure online.

Katrina shared some pix

Katrina added some Annual Algonquin Adventure photos to her flickr account including some of her gear on the beach at Mew Lake and during the awards ceremony on Saturday...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

don't need white lights

Kiron and I talked about some preparations for the upcoming open house event at the CAO.

Conversation turned to the needed red lights. He conveyed that he had not yet bought them. While not a critical element, I thought he was leaving it a little late. He said he was going to get them shortly. I explained, again, the purpose, and preferred features.

He said he was intending to buy the same set he had before, a set he was using for his own purposes. It was a bike light set with front white headlight and rear red blinkie light. I told him we didn't need white lights. We had lots of white flashlights at the CAO already. It would just be wasteful.

He suggested that they could be converted to red. I wondered if it was the best use of our time, given there were only a couple of effective days left.

mount rendezvous

Geoff tried a bunch of the suggestions I made, answered some of the questions I had, but still could not get the CPC1100 mount going. He said he could bring it to the CAO next weekend. And that I could take it home to fiddle with it.

no car alarms!

It suddenly occurred to me that no car alarms went off, in the middle of the night, this year, at the Annual Algonquin Adventure. I guess I scared everyone with my warning...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

smore time

Stars fading out, Jupiter surrounded by a hazy glow, we rendezvoused at the Chowdhury-Ince-Lum camp site. I brought wood from Tracy and Adam's site. Fred already had the fire pit going. I brought the fixin's for smores (thanks to Lora and Phil). Lora told me where the telescopic (sorry!) marshmallow handle was. I grabbed some Cokes. Tony instructed me on the Perfect Smore. It was a great end to an excellent day.

sucker hole star party (Mew Lake)

We spent the night chasing sucker holes. Still, we were able to show the visitors a few interesting astronomical targets.

Kiron disappeared for a long time. I was a little irked as the Toronto Centre Dobsonian was sitting there not being used. Sharmin noticed it too. Later, Kiron told us the eyepieces and accessories were in his car, just the other side of the trees. Too bad he hadn't told us that in advance. And then, when he did show up and tried to use the 'scope, the towel he'd put over the Telrad was soaked with dew and then ineffective at keep dew away. The 8" reflector was out of commission.

I spent some time studying the pinpoints in the Circlet. Used the nearby trapezoid of stars, 29, 27, 33, and 30, ranging from magnitude 4.4 to 5.1. And determined, with confidence, that I was seeing Uranus, at mag 5.7, at 1 times power with the Mark I eyeball (and Dr. Chou specs).

I dunno

Not looking great.

Still, the visitors are showing up...

funny math

Something has been bugging me about the hoopla around UARS satellite falling from the sky.

Nicholas Johnson, chief orbital debris scientist at NASA's Johnson Space Center:

"We looked at those 26 pieces and how big they are and we've looked at the fact they can hit anywhere in the world between 57 north and 57 south and we looked at what the population density of the world is," he said. "Numerically, it comes out to a chance of 1-in-3,200 that one person anywhere in the world might be struck by a piece of debris. Those are obviously very, very low odds that anybody's going to be impacted by this debris."

1 in 3200. Let's review.

Um, that's not "low." That's not "very low." That's medium. One could argue high. High odds, as far as I'm concerned. If I can count it, it's high.

Winning at black jack, getting hit by lightning, winning the lottery, dying in a car crash, dying in an airplane crash, having a dry night at Mew Lake. Those are very low odds.

photo and awards

We headed to the beach for the Annual Algonquin Adventure awards and group photo.

The whole gang was there. Jason made it this year.

Callebaut and Skeena received awards! Lovely gesture. Mustn't forget Sky.

lunar b-day card

Grace found a lovely photo card by Frank Parhizgar featuring a lunar eclipse.

b-day surprise

Sneaky devils. Lora and Grace and I don't know who else had planned a little birthday surprise event at Mew Lake.

I should have clued in when Anu, Guy, Tracy, Adam, Trevor, Grace, Tony, Sharmin, Katrina, and Fred showed up.

I was minding my own beeswax, updating my blog notes, reading an astro book, when people, and cakes, and cookies, and gifts showed up. Two cakes, in fact: one for me and one for Tony.

Grace had found Bob the Builder napkins for me. We also had fun Space Shuttle napkins. Lora had made cookies galore, some in the shape of a moose, some in the shape of a star.

I received a Magic Wand! Can't wait to use the Glow-in-the-Dark jumbo glow stick. I shall have to wait for a special event. Perhaps up at the CAO. No one knew I had my Triforce shirt on!

What a wonderful way to celebrate. Good friends, fun times, relaxing day, beside a still lake, in a colourful Algonquin park.

could it be?

I was astonished.

I checked my Ursa Minor sketch against my naked eye chart and SkyTools3.


Last night I was pretty sure I saw HD 143803. Just inside the bowl, west of η and 19 UMi. And that is a mag 6.9 star!

Is is possible to see that deep?!

Started polling RASC members if this was humanly possible...

birthday breakfast time

Mmm. Phil and I made Blake Muffins with peameal bacon. Bodom coffee. And panfried potatoes, of course. Al fresco. Yum.

Great way to start off the birthday!

gift of pencils

About to crawl into my tent, Sharmin appeared out of the darkness. Gift bag in hand. Just after midnight! I thanked her and she disappeared in the night. How sweet.

Inside my tent, I felt through the wrapping. Thin, rectangular, ridges at the edge. It wasn't a book even the weight was about right. Even unwrapped, at first, I wasn't sure what it was, this flat black case. Scribbles. A Frank Gehry impulsive architectural sketch. It wasn't until I turned it over and noted the back sticker and saw the grades, 4H, 2H, H, F... all the way up to 4B, 5B, and still further to 8B.

Sketching pencils! From the AGO. What a wonderful gift. How thoughtful!

Wow. I didn't even know pencils went that far!


Honestly, I forget it was the eve of my birthday.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Yurtplex movie night

As the weather degraded, we discussed holding movie night inside Horvatin Yurt. Incredibly, we could not drum up a Windows laptop with DVD drive. Katrina and Fred could not seem to track down a VGA dongle for the MacBook. So, that eliminated watch a DVD flick. Lora and Phil's selections would not be seen. Too bad so sad.

I fetched my netbook. I had two ripped movies on board: Monsters Inc. and Pitch Black. No one had seen the SF thriller. I gave a little synopsis pitch and it was decided.

We rigged up the Panasonic projector and my USB speakers, beamed the image to a far wall, Trevor tricked out the ceiling light, we squeezed the horde into the Yurt, muddy boots to the side, made sure everyone had a beverage and snacks, waited for Sharmin to return from the loo, and dimmed the lights as the rain pounded the roof...


I was pleased that everyone enjoyed the flick.

We joked about strange noises in the dark. We could have used enhanced night vision like Riddick.

good day for panoramas

Nothing else to do after our big bike ride, I remembered that grey skies made it easier to edit panoramic landscape photos for Stellarium. I headed to the beach and shot a couple dozen photos.

It's also a good day for backgammon. I was so glad to learn that Trevor plays! He's good too.

suddenly clear (Mew Lake)

6:00 PM, 22 Sep 2011. The Mew Lake skies cleared up during dinner. Phil and I didn't notice it at first, at the picnic table, under the tarp. It was astro-spouse Fred who pointed it out. We started getting hopeful.

7:16 PM. The sun set.
naked eye;
Sky-Watcher 8" Dobsonian by star hopping;
custom 12½" Dobsonian by star hopping
8:30. I hung with Adam at the beginning of the evening. He had his little Tele Vue 85 refractor going. The apo doublet has a 600mm focal length making it f/7. He had it atop an old Vixen Great Polaris mount.

We viewed Albireo. Pretty. Tack sharp. He wanted to bump the power but I suggested lower power was better, for wide doubles, to draw them closer together. I couldn't remember the number, the "rule of thumb," I had seen in the Sky and Telescope double star lists...

[ed: "Doubles look their best at a magnification that is approximately 750 divided by the separation in arcseconds."]

Next, we went to the Tim Horton star! I suggested 100x for this one. It would nicely frame the wide pair but, for those with good eyes, and with some patience, offer a chance to split the two pairs. It proved a good. Adam liked it. We were able to just split the tight pairs.

I started wandered about the beach, chatting with members, asking what they were viewing.

I looked through Dave's big Dob. It was an Antares 12". He had a 13mm baader Hyperion eyepiece in while he was viewing M13. I enjoyed the view. There was good detail. I did find it a little dim though. I was a little surprised by that. Was it the sky? Or a dirty mirror? I didn't ask.

Walked about some more. Found Kiron. He had set up the Toronto Centre's loaner Dob 8". I asked if I could borrow it. I went to the Messier 101 (M101) galaxy, a supernova on my mind. I saw a very bright star within the galaxy. I wondered, out loud, if that was SN 2011 fe. No one had any finder charts. No computers were nearby.

I sauntered back to our camp site and fetched the netbook. I wanted to confirm the position of the exploding Sun.

9:45. I viewed the supernova in Bob's Dob 'scope. He created the 12.5", f/5 himself. A beautiful instrument. We used a 31mm Nagler along with a 13mm Nagler. He was particularly pleased with the nice focuser by Moon Lite and it's little filter switch.

After several cross-checks with SkyTools3, I confirmed that we were seeing the supernova, some 28 million light years away.

Bob was really happy!

10:05. Some clouds started rolling in. And that sent people packing. Members started to cover their 'scopes and it got quiet on the beach.

I headed back to camp site. Had a snack with Lora and Phil. Was getting a beverage when the Horvatins showed up. Yeah!

Tony wanted to see what was going on down at the beach, through the various sucker holes, so I walked him over. He wasn't dark adapted so had to step carefully and stay close to me. It had cleared a little! The transparency seemed fairly good.

I decided to try a naked eye mag limit test. I sketched the Ursa Minor stars from Kiron's lawn chair. Back and forth between direct and averted vision. I thought I was seeing more stars than I've seen at the CAO.

Sharmin called. She asked if I could help her out. I headed over in the darkness to her setup. She had her little Galileoscope with 20mm eyepiece on her camera tripod. She wanted me to confirm she was splitting Mizar A and B. I took a look and relayed the good news.

Sharmin was really happy.

I told her I'd look up the separation numbers for her... [ed: Mizar AB-Alcor: 711.4"; Mizar A-B: 14.4".]

Returned to Bob and crew. He's so passionate. He was very excited with the current view in his Dobsonian. He wanted to share it with. We viewed the East (NGC 6992, Caldwell 33) and West (NGC 6960, Caldwell 34) Veil nebulae fragments nearly overhead. He had the O-III filter in. Of course, the fibrous object popped. Initially he was on the east; let me fly to the west, with 52 Cygni glowing green. Lovely view.

Dave was still observing. All the hard core types were here. Hanging in, despite the clouds. I viewed comet Garradd with Dave's Dob, with the 30mm GSO Plössl. Nice view.

Katrina was still at it too. I helped her find the comet, using Altair, Tarazed, and 109 Hercules at waypoints. After borrowing a GLP from another member, I was able to more easily guide her. She quickly reached the target in her Orion 80mm ED refractor with 9mm Nagler.

After a moment she reported it very faint. I looked. It was rather dim. I asked, "How's your objective?" She moved around to the front of the small 'scope. "Ooh..." she replied. As I suspected. She had not been using a dew heater to that point; only a shield. Give us some heat, man.

I took a look through Rob and Monique's beast, the big white 16" Dobsonian. It is a Meade Lightbridge, f/4.5. They had a monster ocular in. It offered an incredible field. I could not see the field stops. They revealed it to be a 100° degree eyepiece, a 13mm Ethos. I helped the young couple find the comet. Their enthusiasm reminded me of Brenda and Eric.

Was the sky going off? It was a little tough reaching good focus. I found it harder to see the tail, compared to earlier in the evening, with Dave's Dob.

We agreed the sky was getting bad again. I left the beach.

12:37 AM, 23 Sep 2011. After the comfort station visit, Phil and I talked about the purported water shortage. It was unclear whether this was still a concern or not. As we walked back to camp, we agreed that not doing telescope-teardown was a real treat...

I had a fun tonight. I had no regrets.

In short order, I was in my tent, in my sleeping bag, and in my PJs. And found it warm! That was a change! I took off my heavy socks and threw off the covers. Tried to do a bit of reading but was surprisingly tired.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

where's the projector?

I had everything unpacked and organised. Tent up. Mattress inflated. Regular clothing and cold-weather items in the tent. Bike and accessories ready to go (although I still had the slicks on). When a creeping, ugly feeling rummaged around in my belly. Where is it? Where's the small black canvas bag?

I played back the loading of Kiron's car from my foyer. No... didn't remember seeing it then. I certainly had not spotted it in his car while unpacking. Where was it? Where could it be? It had been with the camping gear in the garage the night before. That I remembered clearly. So where had it gone between—

Oh no. Oh oh. I remembered, slowly, the sequence, from the morning routine. I had gotten thrown off, when Kiron needed more time, and I decided to do a little shuffle of items from the garage. I had picked up the black projector bag, concerned about it falling or getting bumped, and put it on my car, the black beauty, leaning it against the windshield. And, in my rushing, in this departure from my original plan, I missed it, when I scanned the garage, missed it, black on black, trying to be efficient, and worrying about the garage being secure while I would be away.

It was Kiron's fault. Yeah! I blame him! ;-)

Damn. No easy way to get it now. Not without involving Malcolm and some complex logistics.

I phoned Tony, back in the city, tail between my legs, and asked him to bring the other projector. They were due late Thursday night.

RASCals arriving

As Kiron checked in with the Mew Lake park office, Katrina and Fred pulled in. We chatted with them. They would be my neighbours, once I set up on Lora and Phil's site.

Sharmin had a lot of luggage! A lot for a weekend camping trip. And no telescope. Wow.

Went to Dave's site and caught up. I fetched my bicycle from the car.

Popped over to Lillian and Bob's site. They were just setting up their camping gear.

don't forget the smore ingredients

My mobile phone rang. It was Lora. She and Phil were in Huntsville waiting for the Princess. A freight train had derailed and Sharmin would be delayed. They were killing time. Lora asked if they could get some groceries for me. OK, you asked for it!

ready to leave

Kiron arrived. I had, when he was a bit delayed, moved items from the garage to the foyer. We loaded the car with my gear, one day's worth of foodstuffs, and strapped up my bike. Returned to his place to fetch his bike. And started north, under partly cloudy skies. The cloud cover increased the further we went

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

perfect silence

I enjoy the perfect silence of astronomy.

Apparently Walt Whitman did too as conveyed in When I Heard the Learned Astronomer.
When I heard the learn’d astronomer,

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,

Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
Despite knowing much of the math and science behind celestial objects, I still enjoy the power of their silence.

Mom was skeptical

Mom emailed a photo image sent from a friend. Asked if it was accurate.

The text said "this is one of the rarest pictures that you will ever see in your life when the moon was closest to the earth. The date the picture was taken was Thursday, March 13, 2011." The subject line read, "Sunset at the North Pole." Ah, no. A new type of astronomy-related spam message. Damn.

I explained that it would never happen...

preparing for clouds

With the weather predictions looking so dismal for Algonquin, I thought it would be good to have some evening entertainment.

I find it a little strange the RASC members do not play cards. I packed some movie DVDs including Disney's 20000 Leagues Under the Sea from the Toronto Public Library (TPL). Packed an extension cord with multiple outlets. I picked up the digital projector from the Horvatins. Meanwhile, Lora had been scouting out possible locations to use as backdrop. After putting the car to sleep in the garage, I put the projector with the camping gear I had previously set aside. We were all set, if it was cloudy or raining every night. I was kind of looking forward to another outdoor drive-in theatre...

submitted two reports

The Council was going to meet at the DDO in the evening. I wasn't planning to attend. Neither was Tony. I submitted a report for Info Tech. Asked Tony if he wanted me to send a report from the CAO committee. He said yes.

more bits found

Son of Egli contacted me again. They had found some more telescope bits, to supplement the donated 'scopes Tony and I had picked up. Asked if we'd fetch them on the weekend. Dietmar was not available. I asked Ralph if he could tackle it. The rest of us would be at Mew Lake...

tether or leash?

ASUS netbook: $500.

Blackberry Torch: $600.

Tether cable: $25.

Electrical site fees: $46.

The look on Skeena's face... Priceless.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

upgraded Registax

Downloaded the patch. Briefly read some of the documentation. Quickly reviewed a tutorial. And noted a number of recommended steps that Manuel had not done. Curious. I should see what I can come up with...

urged members to upload

I sent a note to the RASC Toronto Centre listserv reminding people to upload their photos to the Yahoo!Group Photos area. Particularly if they did not have their own web site or dropbox.

more space now

The weather reports were looking gloomy. Rain during the days and evenings. As we got closer to the weekend, these predictions would prove more accurate. It really was starting to look like there might only be one good night of observing. And the prospect of setting up and tearing down in the same evening, for possibly only one night... ugh. I was not looking forward to that at all. When, it hit me. The solution. It was so simple. And immediately I felt better. A bit radical but it just made so much sense to me. I'd sleep on it but it just felt right. Already.

I would not take my telescope to Algonquin.

Monday, September 19, 2011

survey finalised

Jason and I completed the edits on the RASC IT survey. It should be ready to go out. We just need to stuff and mail envelopes then do a few email blasts...

logistics planning

I did not feel comfortable asking Will if I could borrow his wagon or touring. So I asked Kiron if he was OK with taking his car to Mew Lake. He correctly noted that we'd have to pack very efficiently.

I had already been comparing packing lists with the Chows. They invited me to use their gear, utensils, cutlery, etc. So, in terms of camping equipment, I needed a tent, a sleeping bag, and that was pretty well it.

No electronic or repair tools for me this time. No RASC or IYA materials to transport. Kiron had reserved and received one of the Toronto Centre 8" Dobsonians.

I hatched a plan to buy groceries on day 2. Not on the way. That would decrease the spare space requirements on the way up.

We still wanted to take our bicycles. My bike rack we knew worked well on his bootlid. We change from the usual routine: Kiron would pre-pack, fetch me, my stuff, the bike rack, and my bike, then we'd return to his place to grab his bike.

bubble wrapped eyepieces

For the new aluminum eyepiece case I need some pluck foam or foam sheets that I'll custom cut so to prevent the eyepieces and various accessories from flopping around. In preparing for hauling the new case to Algonquin, I stuffed it with bubble wrap.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

processed Jupiter - round 1

Manuel sent over a Jupiter image he had produced with Registax 6.

From one of the 5 or 6 capture AVI files. Approx 1:35 AM EDT on 18 Sep 2011. A stack of 2500 frames out of 5207. Approx. 46° altitude; 1.4 airmasses. North is down; east is to the right.

Manuel remarked that the seeing was poor and that results should be better if the planet had been near the meridian.

Still, nicely done.

I like the detail and the colour.

[ed: Manuel reprocessed it on 29 Sep 2011.]

loaned SCT book

Loaned Manuel my copy of Choosing and Using a Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope by "Uncle" Rod Mollise. I wanted him perhaps get some ideas and inspiration.

collimated Manuel's C8

Headed over to Manuel's after dinner. The plan was to check and correct the collimation of his Celestron 8" Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope. I wanted to do it with a false star... So we could avoid issues with set-up time and sky conditions.

We set up the OTA in his living room. We installed a high power eyepiece directly in the back of the telescope. Popped off the secondary mirror cover. Phillips. Manuel fetched a small driver. The spherical reflector (a blue 1" glass ball Christmas tree decoration) I set up in the den beside the kitchen. It was about 35 feet away. Aimed a single bulb white LED light at the sphere. Dimmed the lights. Racked in to get focus. Had to move the 'scope and ball further apart a little and fiddle with the eyepiece to get perfect focus.

Showed Manuel the non-concentric patterns at in-focus and out-focus. I did the roughly collimation. Then I focused perfectly. Showed him the diffraction rings. I think he say them. Still out a bit. Tuned the secondary a little bit more. Perfect!

I reminded him that we needed to double check this under good skies.


While I wasn't getting him to look through the 'scope, Manuel started processing the Jupiter files from the night before. There were a few snags but then he got things going. He wanted to show me what he was doing. He showed me the simple, fast process he used. He let the software automatically select the best frames. The quick results were not bad.

no net

Phil sent a message, some how, from Mew Lake complaining that the internet service was bad. No service whatsoever at the site. Only 1 bar near the garage bins. Attractive. But it was warm and they were in t-shirts.

Looks like I won't be tethering and blogging this year...

guided Dietmar

Dietmar said that he wanted to put the presentations from the imaging workshop online. Asked for some advice given that some of the files were large.

I recommended PDF format for several reasons. Being a more common format, we wouldn't have to get into Macintosh vs. PC issues, iPad vs. computer, file versions such as PPTX vs PPT, etc.

I suggested that him get the owners to convert their own files. Reminded him to tell them to compress their files, convert to PDF on their computer, not to use 100% quality on JPEGs, and then send us the final PDF file.

He agreed.

the Sun for the gang (Toronto)

Took the little Questar over to the garden party. Set it up on a table in the backyard. Didn't power it; so I had to keep panning manually.

Let the boys all have a look. I was thinking mostly of Jamie. The big kids peeked too. Assured everyone I wasn't burning holes in their retinas.

The Sun was sporting a few small spots.

delayed collimation

I forgot that Laurie, Stuart, Ben, Jamie, Suzanne, John, and their kids, were all arriving in Toronto today, over at chez Inwood-Bramwell. I apologised to Manuel and asked if he was OK with doing the collimation work after dinner.

Dietmar observed

While walking around last night after the imaging workshop, Dietmar noticed a few things. He reminded people not omit steps so to improve their astroimages. And he thought it worth repeating.
  1. make sure your telescope is leveled
  2. have your scope properly balanced
  3. obtain the best possible polar alignment
  4. do a 2 or 3 star alignment
  5. go to a bright star and precisely focus—and don't touch the focuser again
  6. go to your target and shoot away
Isn't that interesting...

imaging workshop report

It sounded like the RASC Toronto Centre workshop was a great success. No surprise there, with Dietmar at the helm. Niels was the first to reply. He was blown away.

who me?

Lora sent me an email reminder.
Don't forget your lighter fuel for your hand warmer. Someone was a Dungeness crustacean last year when they couldn't find it.

Yeah, and who brought the wrong type?!

Anyway, it was already packed. Sheesh.

notes for Manuel

I touched up my equatorial mount polar alignment notes from the evening and sent them to Manuel. If he's not going to write them, I will.

imaged Jupiter (Etobicoke)

Manuel wanted to photograph Jupiter. It was scheduled to rise at 9:00 PM sharp and go above the 2x airmass threshold around midnight. The roof line of the houses to the east were a few more degrees up. We waited.

Sadly, after all our prep, the extra time spent on polar alignment, I could not see the end of the handle in the Big Dipper. It had set behind the roof line of the houses to the north-west. No chance for the supernova in M101...

12:13 AM. We were ready to image with the Celestron 9.25" SCT. Particularly now that we had a very good polar alignment with the Orion Atlas mount.

He hooked up his new DFK 21AU04 CCD USB camera from The Imaging Source to the f/10, 2350 mm focal length telescope. With the 2x barlow. So now we had a f/20, 4700 mm fl. Manuel did not set up the guiding camera. Nor did he set up his (new) dew heating equipment.

While we were waiting, I tried to look up the camera settings in SkyTools3. Was curious what it would recommend in terms of settings. Sadly, I did not find this camera listed. That would mean I'd need to build my own profile. Didn't know where to start really. Without good internet access in the middle of the parkette, I couldn't research it. And I didn't feel like reading the docs...

I added the MallinCam colour, just to have something.

The seeing was pretty bad. We saw only minor drifting during our imaging runs. We imaged for about an hour or so. We captured about 6 or so AVI files.

The planet never got above 50° elevation...

At one point, with the Celestron E-Lux 25mm Plössl eyepiece, with the help of the Telrad, I took a quick peek at M57.

1:45 AM. We packed up everything and moved inside. It was pretty late and I was tired.

We agreed to our original plan to meet up tomorrow. This session's objective was to collimate the 8" SCT...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

polar alignment training

After awesome Italian food, I trained Manuel on performing a proper polar alignment with his Orion Atlas EQ-G mount. I had prepared extensively and was ready to be assertive. It went well and I think he grew to appreciate the number of steps required and the time it takes, particularly if he wants to do imaging.

We set up in the parkette beside his home.

I started off by reviewing and checking a few things. We made sure we had the correct location numbers for the hand controller. I talked about the "levels" of accuracy. I reminded him where the North Celestial Pole is and that it is constantly moving. Verified he had the latest version of the hand controller firmware.

I discussed preliminary day-time steps such as verifying that the polar scope was focused for stars and that the polar scope itself was in alignment with the mount. The cone error should be checked (he's never done it). I suggested we assume these things were OK for now.

Then I walked him, in detail, through all the normal steps. And at various stages, I got him to practice.
  1. prepared tripod
    • stablised
    • leveled
    • latitude set roughly
    • polar alignment set roughly (Polaris in polar scope)
  2. prepared polar scope
    • secured in mount
    • mount rotated to expose openings
    • mount powered to illuminate reticule
    • reticule focused
  3. aligned on NCP
    • constellation orientation and NCP position double checked in software
    • reticule accurately rotated (by turning the mount in RA) to match constellation orientation
    • RA axis carefully locked
    • Polaris put in little circle (by adjusting mount altitude/latitude and azimuth controls)
  4. telescope mounted and balanced
  5. polar alignment double checked (after mount is loaded up)
  6. drift alignment performed
    • diagonal installed as per usual
    • illuminated eyepiece installed (with Barlow) to yield approx. 200x
    • N, S, E, W determined
    • star in south near meridian and equator selected and centred
    • reticule adjusted to be parallel to RA and Dec
    • drift in declination adjusted out with azimuth controls: if star drifts south, polar axis is too far east; else too far west
    • star in east near equator selected and centred
    • reticule adjusted to be parallel to RA and Dec
    • drift in declination adjusted out with altitude/latitude controls: if star drifts south, polar axis is too low; else too high
  7. Pointing Accuracy Enhancement (PAE) performed, if nec.
  8. Periodic Error Correction (PEC) training performed, if nec.
I don't how exactly, without taking any notes, but he said it got it.

We used his Meade dual-line reticule 12mm modified astrometric (Kellner) eyepiece with the cheapo stock Celestron 1¼" star diagonal. We didn't need his Celestron 2x Ultima SV barlow as we were already near 200 power. It turned out that we pretty well nailed the polar alignment with the onboard polar scope. We had very minor drifting.

disaster averted

Lora messaged me to say that they would have real mayonnaise at the campsite. Whew. Good. I don't have to cancel my trip now.

don't touch them!

When Manuel emailed me to confirm our polar alignment/imaging meeting tonight, and that he wanted to use the Orion Atlas mount, he talked about being confused by the tiny screws on the polar scope. I phoned him right away. "Don't touch those screws!" Whew!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tim installed new muffler

I sent Tim instructions and photos and directed him to order, pick up, and install a new muffler to the Stargrazer riding mower at the CAO. He got the parts from a local shop, presumably around Meaford.

He reported that the repair went fine.

It gave him an opportunity to open up the CAO on his house and garage on his own...


He sent a note to the Yahoo!Group. Manuel decided, in the end, to not try for Algonquin this year. Clearly disappointed, he was not happy that he couldn't find a powered site at Mew Lake. Work complications meant he could not spend a longer time with us. It really was too late to try for a proximal powered site. But, hopefully, he'll meet with success next year. I advised him to plan to book early!

Chows going early

Phil spotted that their Mew Lake campsite was not reserved for Sunday. He also noticed that it was not suppose to rain that day and the skies were predicted to be clear that night. So he and Lora decided to head up one day earlier than planned. Puppy Princess Skeena was pleased.

now he wants to go camping

Manuel suddenly decided that he wanted to go to Algonquin. I cautioned him that the powered sites are no longer available, at least in Mew Lake. Forwarded him the old note from Lil and Bob, that lots of electrical sites were still available at Two Rivers. I suggested he might ask, on the listserv, if someone wanted to share. Last-minute cancellations might happen. Told him to check the online booking system. Or call the park office. Reminded him that he'd need power at the beach. Battery power. I offered my spare deep discharge gel batteries. But, all things considered, it was all a little late in the game...

I guess all the talk of the dark skies got him fired up. That said, the weather predictions are not looking very promising.

He wanted to know if I wanted to travel with him. He offered to rent a large vehicle. But his timing was very restricted by his work. I wanted to go up earlier, make a long weekend out of it.

unbooked from workshop

Manuel messaged me to say that he decided not to go to the RASC imaging workshop at the DDO. Because, he explained, he had learned that it was "designed for DSLR image capture and processing instead CCD imaging." What?

I was a little disappointed. I don't know who he talked to. I don't know how he came to the conclusion that it was inappropriate. But he could have gone...

I really wondered if he should stayed the course. He might have learned a lot. Yes, there were talks planned for using DSLRs but much or most of the presentation content would be applicable to all types of image capture. The talk on processing alone would have been insightful. He would have been excited by the potential. And it would have been really good for him to mingle with the other up-and-coming imagers. Yes, he would have had to make special arrangements to get out of work... I knew that would not be as easy, on this occasion. He had made up his mind.

He had already made new plans. He wanted to do imaging on his own at home. Jupiter was the target. And he had already invited me over. He noted the weather forecast was favourable.

I saw it as an opportunity to still help him. It would just be a private tutorial! Hands-on. I decided that it would be a fantastic chance to properly coach him on polar alignment. So with mixed feelings I booked in with Manuel.

all over the place

Phil emailed me to say Manuel had contacted him to help with collimating his 'scope. They had discussed doing so on Saturday night. He had hatched the idea of visiting Phil before going to the imaging conference.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

ridiculous constellations

Trevor started an interesting thread on Facebook, talking about how ridiculous Canis Minor was. I agreed. And told him to have a look-see at Canes Venatici... And then Aries.

lined up for Sunday

Over the phone, Manuel booked for me Sunday, to collimate his 8" SCT. He invited me over for breakfast. Good, we'd get an early start!

nice new S-video port

Received the repaired MallinCam from Rock. The Hyper Color is sporting a new S-video port. w00t! In time for the RASC Toronto Centre public Open House at the Carr observatory.

binary solar system found

Now this is pretty exciting: the Kepler space telescope team has confirmed the presence of a planet around a double binary star system. Hello Kepler-16b.

There's been a lot of debate about whether a solar system like this could exist, if the planetary orbits around a binary star would be stable.

The comparisons have already been made to the most famous, perhaps, of all fictional dual sun worlds, Luke Skywalker's Tatooine. But the discovered world is a gas giant about the diameter of Saturn. So unlikely to harbour Tuskan Raiders and Jawas. Thank goodness.

Curiously, I stumbled across this headline over at; not in Sky and Telescope.

delivered TSTM for Sep-Oct

I delivered The Sky This Month presentation for the RASC Toronto Centre at the Ontario Science Centre on the evening of September 14. I highlighted events for the next 4 weeks, taking us to the next Recreational Astronomy Night meeting. I uploaded the notes to the Centre web site, along with a downloadable PDF file for the calendar.

The highlights:
  • an active Sun
  • deep sky objects near the Summer Triangle
  • comet Garradd in Hercules
  • Jupiter, moon shadows, and the Great Red Spot
  • the bright supernova in M101
  • Mars diving through the Beehive
  • nearby Uranus and some challenging moons
  • three of the First Four asteroids
  • the next Roscosmos launch...


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

hardware with carriers

Tony said that the bolts and mounting hardware for the CAO projector carriers was "assembled to the mounts." He copied me and Kiron.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

asked about bolts

I asked Tony to clarify where the mounting hardware was for the projector carriers. This information would be needed by Kiron to suspend the BenQ projector in the Great Room.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

carriers in posts

Tony confirmed that the projector carrier assemblies were in the ceiling posts. This is where they are normally kept.

blinkies clarified

Grace advised Kiron what the red blinkie lights were for, that we did not want headlamps, we had AA, C, and D batteries in stock, and to keep the receipt from any purchases.

relayed projector mount info

Kiron asked for some clarification on setting up the projectors for the Public Open House.

I advised him to book or reserve two projectors. The one for the Great Room would have to be the BenQ as it was tuned for that make and model. I also advised that it would have to be mounted in an inverted orientation on the ceiling post with the "carrier" piece. I said that Tony could confirm the carrier location.

I cautioned Kiron that given it would be used in the inverted position, he'd best install it well in advance and familiarise himself with the menu commands for flipping the image.

With respect to the living room presentation, we'd use the old Panasonic. It could use used on the shelf or on the ceiling mount.

CGEM 800 support

I put out collimation questions on a couple Yahoo!Groups, the RASC Toronto Centre, and the SCT listserv. Wanted to know if there might be any special issues or challenges with Manuel's 8" Celestron telescope.

Denis, of RASC, suggested getting Bob Knobs. He also offered that I borrow his artificial star rig.

William, of the SCT group, said that all the Celestron SCTs were the same except, possibly, the Edge HD versions. Something about a correcting lens near the focal plane.

Monday, September 12, 2011

blinkies needed

I reminded Grace to arrange that more red LED blinkie lights be obtained for the Public Open House. These would be worn by the volunteers out of doors so that our guests could easily spot helpers at the CAO.

I said we'd needed about a dozen. And that it was required that they use standard batteries, i.e. AAA or AA. I did not want to employ types that used unusual, hard-to-find, environmentally-unfriendly batteries. If we could find a bunch for $1 or $2 ea. that'd be awesome.

She relayed the request to Kiron.

false star

It worked! I made a false star to help with telescope collimation.

I put the big telescope on my desk in the office. I put a small 1-inch shiny ball Christmas decoration in the kitchen. They were about 28 feet apart.

I put a white LED flashlight in the hallway, half-way between the two, aimed at the ball.

Had to really rack in the focus...

I found that the collimation of the 8" SCT was pretty good! But I tweaked it. One screw only. About 16th of a turn. Ha!

This gave me a good opportunity to review the process and refamiliarise myself with the steps for a Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope. In preparation for helping Manuel. I made a note to let him know the good news. We could do collimation any time now! Didn't matter the weather conditions...

I found Thierry Legault's collimation notes most useful.

measured eyepieces

Measured all the oculars and accessories should I need to custom-cut foam for the aluminum case.

found Telrad base

I've been looking for months! I still thought the spare Telrad base was in the garage, packed away in some unlabelled box somewhere, packed randomly from the move. And there it was, under my nose, right there the whole time! Crikey. I found it as I moved equipment out of the oculars toolbox into the new bigger aluminum case.

note to self

Always do a walk-around after observing at a dark location...

Thank you Bill Findley.

wants to master alignment

Manuel shared that he wanted to master polar alignment. His anxiety was showing. I, once again, offered to help. And said that we could do so as soon as we had good skies. But, once again, I emphasised that we needed to concentrate on the topic. I thought it better to focus on this one activity. Not try to do too much as once. And that with two different mount manufacturers, we'd best block off a lot of time, so to go through it properly for each rig.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

promo wrangling

Manuel was keen to discuss some promotional products ideas with the RASC Toronto Centre. I thought it important to answer his questions and tap into his enthusiasm. The challenge is that there is not an official person in the centre, at the moment, who is overseeing this. I convinced Tony to at least given Manuel audience. I introduced them tonight.

offered to help, with conditions

I offered to help Manuel with collimating his SCT telescope. But I asked that we not plan any other activities at the same time... Sorry for the pun but the point was to focus on one thing, avoid distractions, do the work needed, and get him trained up.

I also reviewed what we'd need:
  • two humans
  • telescope cooled to ambient temperature
  • telescope on mount that can be aimed at zenith
  • several eyepieces of various focal lengths
  • some bright stars
  • some dim stars
  • tool(s) to remove secondary mirror cover
  • tool to adjust secondary mirror
Forgot to mention, at the time, a barlow...

Phil also sent over Rod Mollise's handy notes.

That got me thinking that I should loan Manuel by SCT book by Rod...

He tried to book me for Wednesday evening. I reminded him that was RASC meeting night. And that, for this one, I was on duty, presenting. I reiterated that whenever we get together that our plan would be a simple one, so to concentrate on the task at hand.

Geoff asked for help

Geoff emailed me to say that he feared something had gone terrible wrong with the electronics or motors of his Celestron CPC1100 mount after a lightning strike. Asked if I could help him with it.

I started noodling on the problem.

Started researching on the internet.

collimation trouble

Sounds like Manuel ran into some collimation issues with his 8" SCT last night.

He emailed Phil, referred by Dietmar, for help. Phil, ever generous, briefly explained the process, how it's different than for a reflector, what would be needed, and when he was available.

He also said that Manuel might want to contact me, an "expert in SCT collimating," since I was closer.

An expert?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

late invite

Kiron phoned. Asked if I was heading over to Manuel's. Huh?

Seems that Manuel wanted to do some imaging and get some advice on setup. He invited Dietmar over to get some help.

He extended the invitation to Kiron as well. Kiron said that Manuel asked about me too. But I had made other plans.

5 sunspot groups (Toronto)

I viewed the Sun with the welder's glass and I could see a sunspot! It must be big, I thought.

Fired up the Questar with the solar filter. Saw 5 groups of sunspots, including a very small pair near centre. I roughly sketched it.

I correlated the spots to images on and SDO. They labelled everything except the small pair.

fetched 4 'scopes

We were contacted by a son helping prepare his father's house for sale. His father had been a very active amateur astronomer as well as telescope maker. Tony and I picked up four 'scopes from the small Islington home, one having a 10-inch mirror! I hope we can put these, after some refurbishing, into service at the DDO and CAO.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Mom wants to visit

I booked for the CAO work party, for the first weekend of October. I included one guest: Mom! She said she wanted to visit again.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

asked to print

Sent a note to the CAO supervisor list. Asked the next person on duty to print some new GBO log sheets. We were down to one. Sent a link to the Files folder in the Yahoo!Group. And reminded everyone that the three-hole punch was in the warm room.


Kiron hammered me with emails and voice messages about going to Manuel's tonight. Funny how we don't hear from him for days and then suddenly... the deluge. I couldn't take any of his messages while I was at work. After work, after neighbourhood errands before shops closed, I asked what was up. Apparently there were plans afoot to get together and use Manuel's telescopes. In this weather? I had a mountain of work to do any way.

Net-C works

I tried Net-C again, on my home LAN. I got it working between the netbook, desktop, and Linux box. Told Phil. He wondered if we really needed it...

I explained why I was attracted to the idea.
  • software runs INSIDE our network
  • impervious to spam attacks
  • keeps internet consumption low
  • supports file transfer
  • acts like an intercom
  • avoids shouting (late at night)
  • cross-platform
  • Net-C is "thin"
I said that I was curious about finding a solution for when he or Dietmar were in theirs PODs, away from the action. I shared that I sometimes feel "detached," especially when I've been in the THO.

He thought these were good reasons to try it again.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Tim offered

Tim offered to complete the Stargrazer muffler repair. I wondered, out loud, if it might make more sense for him to order the parts from a local guy, in Meaford. Tim agreed.

If the stars aligned on this little project, we'd be able to affect the repair on the long gap before I'd be back the CAO.

Monday, September 05, 2011

radiometer smashed

It was a bad idea leaning the radiometer up in the front window, leaning it up precariously in its base, the base that had come unglued some time ago, leaning it up in the window the kitty liked to sit in.

I found tiny curved shards all over the living room floor, the wings bent under the couch, the centre post the only thing intact.


Sunday, September 04, 2011

THO measurements

For Tony, Phil and I took some measurements in the THO. Physically, we measured the ring. Then we guestimated good rotational speeds for the roof. Tony wants to implement a hand-crank drive.

We measured the ring. I.D. is around 133 inches. We measured from several points. Minimum was 132.75"; max. 133.25".

We turned the roof a ¼ revolution at different speeds. Very fast took 15 seconds. Fast took 30 seconds. A ¼ turn in 60 seconds might be reasonable. The thought of polar aligning and then doing a 180 to view southern objects and taking 2 minutes, on paper, sounds like a long time.

[ed: Tony didn't like our time estimates...]

archived old lists

Tidied up SkyTools3.

I was feeling a little overwhelmed, if that's the right word, with the increasing number of observing lists being presented by the planning software tool. My "urban observing" group had a couple dozen entries; my "dark skies big 'scopes" group had about three dozen! And, invariably, the one I wanted to use was near the bottom. A combination of the netbook's small screen and the alphabetic/chronologic menus, I was struggling to quickly find and choose my preferred lists. When it occurred to me... these are old lists. So, get them out of our face!

I created an "archive" observing list group. And promptly moved old star party, urban observing, and dark sky lists into the new group. There! Much better.

fixed GLP 1 - again

I fixed the green laser pointer #1. The emitter assembly, once again, had rotated inside the tube. Grrr.

removed muffler

Ah. Now I know why it is so loud.

It never clicked, the burn mark, on the front of the heat shield...

So, at last, I know—for certain—what source of the extreme noise. A new muffler must be ordered. I snapped 2 of the bolts as well. So we'll need more of them.

I'm hopeful I can get the diverter off without fuss.

This will take the Stargrazer down for a week or so.

trained ivy

Coaxed the Dutchman's Pipe at the south-west corner of the pergola through the trellis lattice work at the top.

I'm really pleased with how well the ivy plants did this summer. They've all done quite well. The north-east one will also reach the top this summer...

Soon we will have some shade from these. Hopefully next summer at the CAO we'll experience a green canopy.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

foggy viewing (Blue Mountains)

I think Manuel was desperate.

They had come all the way. All the planning they had made. Time from work. And he had convinced Ida to join him. He wanted to put on a good show. So, when he stepped outside after our evening movie (inside the house, this time), and said that it was "clear," I felt a mix of emotions. I knew the conditions were really not that good (with the intense fog early in the evening) so there wasn't much point to trying to observe, but I felt that we needed to make that effort, for our guests. We should at least try.

We booted up the Geoff Brown Observatory. In short order, we had the roof open, the Paramount running, and eyepieces in the Celestron and Tele Vue 'scopes.

The comet proved very hard to see.

M13 was pretty faint.

We did see Jupiter sporting 4 moons.

But it was pretty socked in. It felt like we were in a bowl! Nothing was visible below 40° altitude.

The humidity value was 100%. Distant lightning.

It was too bad. Manuel had high hopes and I think wanted to impress Ida. We wanted to put on a good show. But it was grim.

We gave it a shot.


I was thinking about Manuel's remarks on observing, on the conditions, how things looked through the eyepiece. Was he being optimistic? Hopeful? Thinking wishfully? It occurred to me later that it might be lack of experience? Perhaps he doesn't have a lot to compare with. The skies tonight were not unlike the light-polluted views from the city.

Manuel's maybe not experienced a truly dark sky at the CAO (although he was up before, but then, struggling with dew). He doesn't know how dark it can get... So the misty views tonight seemed "normal" to him. When Phil and I found this substandard, poor, almost not worth bothering.

It will be very good when he gets a truly dark moonless night up here...


Manuel also kept talking about the air, having a lot of electricity, being ionised. I've never heard before that ionised air can affect seeing.

LAN chat test

I asked Phil if he wanted to do some testing with me.

I was curious if we could find a good tool to use at the CAO for chatting or instant messaging within our local area network. That way, we could keep in touch, from different parts of the facility. If Phil was in his MODL dome and I was in the GBO while Lora was in the house or T@B.

That would mean we need a Windows and Macintosh solution. I learned of Net-C. Sounded promising.

We tried it, with our nearly identical ASUS netbooks, but didn't seem get it going correctly. Not sure why.

learning TheSky

Spent some time learning more about TheSky6 software.

Last night, I had downloaded some new constellation line data files for TS6. After reviewing some online tips, I installed the new line patterns and tried each one. I like Levy's the best. What I'm most used to.

I wondered if there were others. Tried to find Rey's for TS6; no joy. It was interesting to see these patterns are available in the newest version, in TSX.

Phil asked about red/purple meridian marker or banding, specifically how to get rid of it. Said he found it very distracting. And didn't think it really necessary. I tried a few things but couldn't figure out how to do it. Alas, it must be possible... This software is so powerful.

Along the way, I discovered the artwork drawings for the constellations. I didn't know TS6 could do that. I occasionally use this feature in Stellarium. It's good to know it's an option, if needed. That said, it seemed clunky. Not all the drawings appeared at the same. And when you zoomed in and out, they would randomly appear and vanish.

last lease signed

Got Ostap to sign his MODL lease agreement. The last of the three renters. Two copies which I kept, so to forward to executive staff to complete.

But he did not bring any cheques. It was a little disappointing Ostap didn't think of this. But we know where he lives. I asked that he mail them directly to Scott.

He thought he spotted a typo with respect to future term dates. I said I'd follow up with Phil.

[ed: No error.]

tested Ostap's ethernet

Tested Ostap's ethernet connection: 1Gb good! So now we know that all the 3 MODL lines at the CAO are working good.

It felt good knowing we successfully expanded the LAN to our renters. It will be some time though before we'll know that the BAO line is working OK.

Ostap told me to hang onto his key.

rewired power box

Kiron had miswired a couple of the breakers for the MODLs. Tony said he hadn't checked his electrical work after it was installed. I fixed the problem. Only took a couple of minutes.

Forgot to take photos. Made a note to do that tomorrow.

brief observing after movie night (Blue Mountains)

10:58 PM, 2 Sep 2011. After the movie, with the sky suddenly clear, we fired up telescopes in the Geoff Brown Observatory. I had to repurpose the laptop from movie projector to mount control. In short order, we were ready to observe.

The crickets were loud!

We aimed at M13 with the Celestron SCT 14" telescope.

Saw a shooting star. A Perseid perhaps. in Oph or Ser (the left or east part).

11:01. Put SkyTools3 into red light mode. Started a Notepad document. Was missing my keyboard light.

Couldn't tell if it was crappy conditions. M13 looked a bit soft. Was it my dark adaptation? Vision blown out after the drive-in theatre movie projection and the awesome lumens of the BenQ? It is supposed to take 20 minutes or so, right?

Kiron popped into GBO. Asked if he could drop the south doors. Sure. He set up his binos on the new tripod I had procured for him.

Phil and Lora came in to see what was up.

11:14. Slewed to the comet. Bit of green colour. Garradd was near the Coathanger. Using the 27mm Panoptic in the TV101. Very pretty. I hoped people were snapping some photos of it.

[Check out the awesome image at APOD as the comet slid past the hook...]

Did a plot in ST3. C/2009 P1 was moving to the left in our field, parallel to the base of the Coathanger.

Phil borrowed my green laser pointer (#2) of death, with fresh batteries. Super bright!

We viewed asteroids Vesta and Ceres.

11:22. Viewed the comet some more. Used the 55mm in the C14. Lovely in the TV101 with the 27mm. Never noticed that the top star in the Coathanger is yellow.

Lora was getting the whole schebang sky tour thing. Comets, Messiers, asteroids. Kiron showed her Vesta in the bins.

We went back to M13.

11:33. We viewed various Messier targets... including M57 and M11 aka the Ring Nebula and the Wild Duck. At Phil's request. First viewed the Ring with the 55mm then with the 27mm. Lora seemed to have a hard time focusing.

Slewed to Jupiter. Kiron said, "Hey, five moons." We corrected him. Two were far apart, on the right, Io, Ganymede, nearest then farthest. Other side, inside out, Callisto and Europa.

I checked when the shadow transit was going to happen. Much later...

We found that we were looking through 3.5 air masses, at an elevation of 16 degrees. That's why the view was not great.

Huh! I did a bit of Googling in response to Phil's complaint. He doesn't like the stick figures that TheSky6 uses. I learned that you can draw your own constellations in TheSky6. We could show figures by Moore, Levy, and Astronomy magazine. I found a collection of alternative constellation lines online. Downloaded them but wasn't sure how to install so left it for later.

12:10 AM, 3 Sep 2011. There was a request for Kemble's Cascade, in the Giraffe. I could not seem to search for the asterism in TS6; but it was accessible in ST3. This let me scan the surrounding area. Fortunately, NGC 1502 is in the 'hood. I used it to move the mount.

12:17 AM. Viewed comet again. Right near a faint star.

12:18. We went to Messier 101 but the view was poor and the galaxy was low. Nothing in TV with the 27mm. Tried the C14 with the 55. Sheesh. A super faint galaxy. Unconfirmed, viewing of the supernova in the spiral galaxy.

12:38. Ain't easy, this one. Not like M51. I looked for a while... I saw HD 122601 above and to right. There was a hockey stick of 4 stars below it. There was TYC 03852-1069 1 at 12.4 and GSC 03852-0070 at 12.27 below. They were pointing roughly toward the SN.

12:51. I made some hot chocolate and brought Kiron some water.

I remembered to capture the conditions. The on-site Davis weather station reported:
  • wind 6.4 km/h
  • humidity 86%
  • barometric pressure 1010.0
  • temperature 22.8°C
It didn't feel that humid. It was a lovely.

I took a Unihedron SQM reading. It reported:
  • 21.1 to 21.2
  • 20°
And, finally, I reviewed the little sensor in the Warm Room:
  • 69%
  • 24°
I looked at ADDS infrared satellite imagery. Yikes. The radar showed something big was heading our way...

Returned to the eyepiece. M101 was washed out... Even harder to see anything.

1:05. We returned to comet Garradd again. It was getting close to HD 182718. It continued to move through the night sky. It was beautiful at low power.

1:16. I tried to look at the comet again but clouds had rolled in. Tried to get to NGC 7027 but too late. Wrapped it up...

That was kinda fun. We had not expected to do any viewing. So, dinner and a show and a show! Perfect temperature and no bugs!

Friday, September 02, 2011

drive-in theatre

After a yummy lasagna dinner by Lora, we discussed plans for the evening. It was looking cloudy. A pleasant evening, few bugs, warm, but overcast. Perfect for watching a movie—outside.

We elected to use the garage and it's large white door for our movie screen.

Lora, Phil, Kiron, and I hauled the Paramount laptop computer and BenQ projector over to in front of the garage. We closed the main door. We found a wire spool to serve as a table. Dug out an extension cord. Phil produced a squid for our various power needs. I grabbed my portable USB self-powered speakers. We moved lawn and deck chairs. Brought out some treats and beverages. And we hooked everything up. Woo hoo! Lookin' good!

Phil showed us the movies he had (randomly?) selected from his local library. We voted and chose one. Something none of us had seen. A crime drama. Untraceable. Kinda creepy actually. Maybe not the best movie for a fun, casual evening...

Still, it was wonderful being outside. Awesome, in fact!


Every once in a while, I looked skyward. And increasingly saw stars. It was clearing...

pleasant evening

It was a beautiful evening, warm, without bugs. But cloudy.

It looked like a good night for going to the drive-in!

photoed reducer

Tony wanted specs on the reducer used with the Geoff Brown Observatory roof, in particular the gear ratio. I took a look at the unit. And found, unfortunately, that the informative plate was on the back of reducer. Almost impossible to see. And it could not be photographed effectively as such an oblique angle. Good thing an astronomer was on duty! I grabbed a small mirror from astronomy box α and altered the light path.

Labour Day weekend duty

I was the designated supervisor for the Labour Day weekend. I was looking forward to fun times with friends. The skies were looking sketchy though...

Lora and Phil were due. Ida and Manuel would hopefully make an appearance.

Having "raised the bar" on the Canada Day weekend, as it were, I wanted to have something special and fun for the members to do, if we were clouded out. But, despite scouring camping and cottaging web sites for inspiration, I could not seem to come up with any scathingly brilliant ideas.

I kept coming back to drive-in movie theatre night. Yes, outdoors. So I booked the projector and packed my USB speakers...

Thursday, September 01, 2011

rallied the troops

Sent out a cheer leading memo to the POH volunteers. Noted that Grace will be the team lead. Asked Sharmin to take care of promotion, Kiron to handle A/V and tech, and Steve to coordinate consumables. Charles, Tony, and I will be backup and support. All this will help Tony out a lot, so he can concentrate on work party matters.

poster proof good

Jon sent over poster drafts.

While I preferred the legal size, we elected to go with the letter format.

pier problem

I heard, through the grapevine, that Ostap's pier top-plate did not fit his telescope. Perhaps due to wrapping from the welding. He has to get it re-drilled and tapped. That's not good. That messed up his CAO plans today...

Apparently the same thing happened in the GBO, way back when.

POH planning

Met up with Grace and Tony. Did a bunch of pre-planning for the CAO Public Open House coming up in early October. I'm very happy that Grace has volunteered to be the project leader. We reviewed the big checklist I made last year, divvied up tasks, and charged Jon-o with making the new poster.

sent warning

I sent out a reminder notice to guests expected at the CAO on the Labour Day weekend. Asked that they minimise their internet use. Told them that we were over-quota. Reminded them to plan ahead! To update their operating system or browser software, download planning lists (e.g., install software patches, update asteroid lists or satellite TLE data or star catalogs (for their astronomy software), and so on, before arriving at the observatory. Not that it will make any difference.

Ostap heading to CAO

Ostap reported that he was going to head to the CAO. To continue his set up in his MODL no doubt. I messaged him that I'd bring the lease agreement for him to sign. Asked him for his rent cheques. I was looking forward to finally getting the third of three lessees dealt with.

collimation close

Finally, the mount working, more or less, and the OTA having been outside for a while now, I felt we could go to the next step. I removed the 1¼" mirror diagonal from his telescope. I requested a more powerful eyepiece. Still hadn't see any tools (screwdriver or hex Allen key) out so to adjust the secondary mirror. And I quickly checked the collimation.

It was quite good. Not perfect mind you but good. It was so minor that I wasn't completely sure given our conditions. It could have been that the telescope was still cooling. It could have been the bad skies. It could be the infrared heat from the building wall, two metres away.

I noticed that the time was midnight. I was tired. And a little frustrated. I had a lot to do tomorrow. I suggested to Manuel that we leave it until we could get into dark skies. He was OK with that. I assured him that in the meantime he could still do stuff, the collimation was pretty good.