Wednesday, November 30, 2011

a good meeting

You won't often hear me use those two words together in the same sentence. Still, it was a good evening. Jason had coordinated a meeting downtown. I arrived first, then Jason, and finally Allard. It was great to get to know him better and learn his background. And I was particularly pleased that he is comfortable as our project manager for the web site redesign. I believe that having him on the team will prove a great asset.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

more beta testing

Skyhound released a new version (the third, Capella) of the beta release of SkyTools 3 Starter Edition. I haven't been able to test it for a while. Took another cut tonight. Found that a number of changes have been applied. And I found more and new errors.

BenQ tips printed

Just heard from Diane. She appreciated my notes on adjusting the BenQ. Along with Tony, she printed up my notes and put them in the projector cases. Good stuff. Hopefully, there will be less anxiety when presenters are setting up (at the last-minute).

updates noted

Cool. The three mistakes I found in the Coloured Double Stars list inside the 2012 Observer's Handbook have been noted in the Updates section of the RASC national web site. With the changes to the supplemental material, this closes the loop on this matter.


The  Updates section was moved...

updated council listserv

Applied some updates to the RASC Toronto Centre council Yahoo!Group, adding and removing people, as the slate changed slightly.

Stellarium for Symbian

As my old Psion Series 5mx has been acting up, I heard about another port or build of Stellarium.

This time on the Symbian platform! And, purportedly, it is legit. Made by the original author of Stellarium. Is that Noctua Software?

There's a thorough review (of version 1.0.6) at the All About Symbian site.

Tony wants in too

Cool. Tony, past president, wants into the Stellarium workshop. Heh, looks like I'm going to have half of the Council!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

updated GBO log sheet

I updated the supervisor log sheet for the Geoff Brown Observatory. A fairly major change was required now that we're leaving the power on in the building.

installed pilot light

Charles and I took to installing the new small neon pilot lights in the switch panels for the outdoor lights. We worked live.

It was a little fiddly with the vestibule switch with the tiny light and the four existing switches. But I got it working. Then I heard Charles curse.

His light proved more delicate: one of the leads snapped off. We'll have to finish that little job later.

new contact page posted

With Tony's blessing, I made and posted an updated emergency contact phone list at the CAO. I merged info from lists previously managed by me and Scott.

rolled out new manual

Phil had printed a colour copy of the latest CAO Site Facilities Manual for me. He pointed it out this morning.

I had noted the large envelope from Phil's office with my name on it but hadn't clicked. I cracked it open. The new edition looked really good. I three-hole punched the new pages and put them in the duotang.

There were also new colour prints for the directions map as well as the updated Thornbury services map. Which I promptly posted on the bulletin board.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

they got the Dell going

Tony had requested a computer. Tom on the Yahoo!Group responded. Phil picked up the Dell system unit with hard disk but without optical drive. I brought up an external drive. Tony bought a new wifi mouse-keyboard combo on Black Friday. Someone dug out a CRT to monitor it. Steve took up with challenge of integrating it. I told him where to find a copy of Windows.

He got hung up when the Windows couldn't see the hard drive. I suggested checking the BIOS to see that it was listed. It did show. Dietmar wondered about the boot sequence but it was correct. Steve googled the matter. And learned, at last, that the drive could be configured to operate in an IDE compatibility mode. And that was the magic bullet. He was able to proceed with the Windows installation.

He and Tim worked on it for the balance of the evening to configure and update it.

they tried

The lads had tried to get the wireless camera going but just weren't getting what they wanted. Tony reassigned me to work on it after lunch. Dietmar brought me up to speed.

They had the software installed from the mini DVD to Tony's computer. They had the Chinavasion CVLM-I34 camera configured in a basic way, with our local area network settings at the CAO. They were able to interact with the camera through a web interface, when connected by hard line. Dietmar walked me through the login screen. But the wireless wasn't working.

I asked for some quiet and settled in.

Indeed, with the camera was working well with the ethernet cable connected to our upstairs router. I noted that the web user interface came up fairly quickly. I did notice however that I was inside Firefox and the link that Dietmar had directed me to use to login was associated with ActiveX and thusly Internet Explorer. Oops. I clicked instead on the "push" link for Firefox.

I checked the wireless settings. Scanned for wireless networks. Two came up. It looked like the Mac addresses for each WLAN was included. I paged the GBO and got Charles. Asked that he deenergise the Linksys in the observatory. Rescanning showed a single device. Good. Keep it simple. I wasn't sure it was detecting the proper encryption. I checked it again the WAP settings. Which reminded me that the d-Link unit is very poor. It didn't show the encryption, which I took to mean AES. I set the camera to match.

It was around this time that I noted the port number. It was 188. That was odd. I put it to 80. Keep it simple. I applied a name to the camera, Polaris (get it?) from anonymous, so that I would be able to tell that I was connected to the proper, reconfigured device. Double checked all the other settings. Everything looked pretty good. It looked like, previously, the guys had set the camera to use a fixed IP. I configured it to use dynamic. It rebooted automatically.

The IP camera tool was running in the background of Tony's laptop and after a moment, it showed the camera, with a new IP address, and with the name Polaris. Good signs. I hit the camera with Firefox with the ethernet cable plugged in, without a port number, and everything came up OK. The video feed was working. I rebooted the camera and disconnected the network cable. After a moment the IP camera tool popped up with the camera details. Tried Firefox. Made sure I used the push mode. The video feed came up! All right.

It looked like all the different options I had touched, IP address change, the standard port, the Firefox link, had worked. It was good to see the video working without the ethernet cable. I told Charles and Dietmar. They took the camera outside and bolted it up. I returned to my Stargrazer work.

They connected a few long extension cords to get power to camera. Then tried to view the camera with a laptop. No luck. But when they told me they weren't sure the laptop itself was working, I pointed out that there was no reason to have it beside the camera. Let the viewer sit in the house and use some of our radios to chat with the person near the camera.

Dietmar flagged me down as I was starting to cut some of the longer sections of the lawn. As I drew up, he started shaking his head. Oh oh. I returned to the house.

But when I tried to access the web UI, it didn't respond. I tried many times. No joy. Tried Internet Explorer without success. Nothing.

I removed the camera from its outdoor mount. Tried it from the kitchen table. Sometimes the page would partially load in FF. Nothing appeared in IE. It was weird that the Tool was always showing the camera.

Reconnected via hard line and put the camera back to factory settings. Then provided our network settings via the tool application. Once again, specified our network and wireless details. Double-checked the wireless encryption, this time by checking the settings in the netbook, and discovered it was, in fact, set to use TKIP. Set the camera accordingly.

Deinstalled and reinstalled the IP camera software. No improvements.

As I googled for information and tips, I kept running into articles and blogs of people panning it. That was not encouraging.

I considered upgrading the firmware but I wanted approval from Charles. He was in Thornbury trying to track down St Peter's Winter Ale. When he returned, I asked what his return or refund options were. None. He said it would be more expensive to ship back. Crap. So then trying to change the firmware might not be a bad idea then. We had nothing to lose. He agreed.

Exploring the upgrade options quickly revealed that it wasn't going to be automatic, that it wasn't going online for the proper source. You needed the files already installed on your computer to proceed with the upgrades. I tried to find the firmware and web UI software. I got nowhere with that. The Chinavasion web site didn't offer any downloads other than the user manual. The manual was not technical at all; it simply explained the screens. No troubleshooting topics.

So, I halted my activity. I reported to Tony, Dietmar, and Charles, that I could successfully operate the camera with a hard line connection but that it did not respond properly on wireless. That the web pages and Javascript worked fine with ethernet cable suggested the UI components were working correctly. It seemed to be something in the wireless section itself. I even went so far as to test the camera without and without its little antenna, with the GBO WAP powered back up. It saw the Linksys with its antenna screwed in; but it only saw the house WAP with the antenna removed. Very strange. I brain dumped with Tim and Steve. We couldn't see a solution.

I closed off by suggesting that we keep the camera. But the only way we'd be able to use it would be via hard line...

repaired Stargrazer!

I was very happy. I successfully affected repairs to the Stargrazer at the CAO.

Everything was in place on Saturday morning at the Carr Astronomical Observatory to work on the Motomaster riding mower with Briggs & Stratton engine. Even though it slowly dawned on me that I had forgotten my electronic toolbox back in the city!

At breakfast, I looked over the new parts that I had ordered and that Tony had picked, paid for, and brought north. In fact, when he dropped in to Kooy Bros new spacious shop, the brake actuator had just arrived, out of back order. But I wasn't too excited about the brake arm; I was most interested in the solenoid. I suspected it was the culprit in our no-start situation. So that was priority one. I also checked the pinion gear for the starter motor. Oh ho! New design. The redesign with metal teeth suggested that others had been running into trouble like us. And finally, there was the new oil dip stick tube seal. Dietmar had charged up the lead acid batteries a couple of days before.

As I readied for battle, Trevor asked if he could help. Sure! We took the new parts, a hot cup of coffee, the Fuji camera, my snap ring pliers (with interchangeable tips), tie wraps, the 2008 lead acid battery (which seemed to be performing better than the 2009), and the intelligent battery charger to the garage. Found the lawn mower still on the ramps.

10:33 AM. After taking some photos of the old and new side by each, we swapped the solenoid. Initially, I connected the power leads incorrectly. Once connected, we tried to start her up. I turned the key, the solenoid clicked, and the engine turned! w00t! Power and good lines and a solenoid doing its job.

The engine didn't seem to want to start. But I didn't think it a problem in the engine itself. It sounded like the starter motor gear was not working. No surprise there. So, it was onto the next step: new gear install. This I was most anxious about, with the small snap ring holding the cap and spring in place. I was not sure if my snap ring pliers would work.

We pulled the plastic starter drive cover and main engine outer metal blower housing cover off to give good access to the starter motor. Oops! Almost forgot. I asked Trevor to disconnect the battery...

We returned to the C-clip. And while not a perfect match, we found the snap ring pliers did work. Spreading the ring open slightly allowed us to coax it over the top of the shaft. And the tapered top allowed us to get a good handle on it, before it went flying! I had brought my two types of circlips, just in case. Carefully removed the metal cap. The spring was next. The spring appeared to have some fabric spacer or washer on top, slightly damaged. And then I tried to spin the old pinion gear off the clutch drive. It wouldn't clear the engine gear ring nor the inner blower housing. This required loosening the start motor mounting bolts.

11:13 AM. Photo'ed the old and new gears. Finally we installed the shiny new gear. Reinstalled the spring and cap. And then stared at the clip. How would we get this on?

We tried a few ways without success. The edges of the clip were too rounded for the snap ring pliers to work. Tapping down over the top of the starter shaft taper seemed like a possibility. Borrowed a hammer from Charles and tried a hex socket to drive it down. It wasn't a good line. No joy. Went back to spreading the ring with the pliers. Ping! The C-clip had disappeared! Trevor started looking around the front of the mower but I knew it had not gone far. It had gone inside, inside the inner blower housing! OK. Time to remove it. And it was good we did!

We found gobs of yellow fiberglass insulation packed all around and through the fins of the cylinder and the head! Damn! Sucked up by an inattentive operator? Or pulled in by a nesting mouse? We carefully plucked the spongy material out. It was easier on the right side of the engine where there were openings in the cylinder heat shield. The left side was trickier but finally cleared it. Wow. No wonder the mower was running hot! Ah ha! Trevor spotted the retaining ring! Just under the magneto. Yeh.

With the inner blower cover off, it afforded excellent access to the top of the starter, so we tried hammering on the clip. Still no luck. With no other option, we forced it on by coaxing it around the groove with a combination of the snap ring pliers and bent-nose pliers. It worked! It distorted or opened the clip a little but I was able to force it to compress and then nestle in the top cap.

11:28 AM. Stupid little 5 cent part, as usual, giving most of the trouble.

OK. Now I was keen to see if we had a working mower. Dietmar had asked earlier who would be the test pilot. I wanted the job. After Trevor hooked up the negative terminal and we cleared the foot wells of tools and parts, I climbed in the seat. Throttle low, choke on, in park, neutral, brake on, key to on... I turned to the Start position. She fired up! Yes! Amazing. I was overjoyed. What a great feeling.

12:06 PM. We reinstalled the inner blower cover and the front and rear brackets. We turned in the new seal into the engine block. Screwed it in so it was completely flush with the metal of the engine. Then we test-fit the dip stick tube. It was a good tight fit.

It was time for a test drive. She started up right away. I rolled her off the ramps and out of the garage. I headed over the house where Tony, Dietmar, and Phil were chatting. I updated them. They were curious to see how the starter motor worked. So I shut down and then restarted it. With the starter motor cover still off, we got a good look at the clutch raising the pinion gear into the flywheel teeth and then disengaging once the motor caught. The thing was starting easier than ever before. We were all really happy.

12:22 PM. I reversed and headed to the garage. It was a little tricky finding right shifter position with the forward/reverse lever, without the cover plate, but all worked well. The main hurdle surpassed, it was time to work on the oil dip stick tube. And it was lunch time.

Ironically, Tim arrived a few moments later. I was grateful for his support last week, comforting me that my train of thought was sound. Clearly, the solenoid and the starter motor gear were causing major problems. Now the Stargrazer lawn tractor was back in business.


After lunch we buttoned everything up.

We reattached the outer blower cover. We test-fit the dip stick tube once more and observed, again, that the markings on the blower were higher than were the dip stick mounting plate wanted to lay. I suggested a new hole in the blower cover, down, and a little to the right, would allow for a new mounting point, while leaving some metal between the old screw hole. Trevor agreed. We borrowed Charles cordless drill and probably the dullest bit in his kit but at last we were through. The self-tapping screw went in fine as Trevor applied pressure downward on the dip stick. Engine repair done!

Reinstalled the shift cover (with cutout), after reattaching the kill ground wire to the reverse safety switch. Reinstalled the rotating cover atop the flywheel fan. And rerouted the wiring near the dip stick and the starter motor, primarily so to make draining the oil easier in the future. Secured them with a tie wrap. Trevor cut off the excess. Checked the oil level and added a splash.

And, at last, cut some grass!


Every once in a while, someone from the house would come by to pick my brain. They were working on the IP wireless camera. I'd give them a suggestion and they'd head back indoors.

I noticed Tony and crew pulling the new security wiring through the underground conduit.

Friday, November 25, 2011

reviewed BenQ settings

As a couple of the Education people had encountered some frustration trying to use the BenQ digital projectors after they had been set in a ceiling mode, I noted the menus and options necessary to change the image orientation. I'll tidy them up later and send them off.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

astrophotography talk redux

I delivered my "astrophotography can be simple" presentation to the Orillia Astronomy Club at the Lakehead campus.

Great night. I was a little stressed at the beginning of the evening, having not given myself enough time for the journey. But it all worked out. Nice group of people. And it was a treat being able to present in a modern facility with great tools!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

webspotting 24 - constellations

As published in the Dec 2011/Jan 2012 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. Republished here with permission.


During the brilliant, amazing, 7-night clear patch at the beginning of October, I spent every night out under the stars. I left the telescope on the porch so I could hit the ground running on each successive evening. It was like having a permanent observatory. And it was sweet.

I hadn't had a good run like that since February. But there was a little gotcha. In the winter, I can see more sky. Now, with leaves clinging to branches, in the treed High Park neighbourhood, there was relatively little of the celestial sphere to work with. My options would be limited to whatever I could hunt down in Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Lacerta, or Ursa Minor. But that was OK. I knew there was much to see. Lots I could learn. Up to this point, for example, I had only viewed one double star system in Cepheus. And I had no idea where the lizard was exactly—I didn't even know the main stars.

It was in this context, forced to view a small sliver of the sky from my small deck, that I realised I wanted constellation-specific lists. I have the wonderful Tirion SkyAtlas 2000 charts and the handy-dandy Pocket Sky Atlas. But I was suddenly interested in a different book, one I had only recently seen for the first time. A book a number of our members recently purchased together. It was Bryon Czarnik  who suggested, last year, Peter Birren's Objects in the Heavens and coordinated a group purchase at a reduced rate. It features constellation charts and for each there is a list of all the notable objects within. It would have been perfect.

Yes, I was planning to use my computers and software applications, like SkyTools and Stellarium, so I'd have no trouble finding and locating targets. But the experience would be different. Here, I wanted to view an object, and then, on a chart, see what was interesting and proximal, so I could do a little star hop, if that, maybe just slide a little, to the next object. Save time. Observe more.

All this got me wondering if there was a web site that had charts like this. And after some initial searches, I wasn't really pleased. Most of the promising searches dropped me into a web page that listed items of interest, but, invariably, the list was rather short, and there was never a chart or map. I gave up the search at the time, reverting to a hybrid approach with my current paper and electronic resources.

But I just gave it another go. And was very happy to find some useful charts, small, in colour, constellation specific, with objects identified, and—joy—completely free. Guess where? The official source! Yes, the organisation we all know and love, the International Astronomical Union. Surf into where you’ll find the constellations alphabetically arranged, with pronunciation tips, the genitive form, and then links to two versions of a chart, a GIF (small, for on-screen) and PDF (large, for printing).

Each simple chart emphasizes the constellation boundaries and lines. It shows if there are any variable stars, planetary nebula, bright diffuse nebula, globular clusters, open clusters, and galaxies in the area. Star magnitudes are visually expressed in the usual way with appropriately sized filled circles (down to 6). Bayer identifications (the Greek letters) are noted for stars with  some proper names shown. The equatorial coordinate lines appear as well. My only complaint is that double stars are not marked. Come on!

These charts may look a little familiar. The Sky and Telescope logo at the bottom right hints at who made them. Wish I had these in early October.

surveys coming back

Found 4 paper survey responses in the mailbox today. All right!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

survey link out

Jason sent a note to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group with covering note and the link to the web-based survey. The ball is rolling fast now!

And that means, I need to email the rest of the membership, using the bulk email tool...

not a panic

Tony made it seem that we must have a printed lease ready to sign for the new MODL 4 lessee tomorrow night. It was Dietmar that smoothed the waters, reminding us that we must get the new party signed up with RASC National Office first, affiliated with the Toronto Centre, and buying a CAO Annual Pass. Then we can do a lease...

I printed a sample for our interested person to review.

hacked a cable

Denis needed a custom cable for his astro equipment. Asked me to make it for him. Gave me long 60" cable with male RCA plug as well as one of those little universal power plugs.

I'm trying to put a USB hub on my imaging rig and I would like to run it off my Kendrick controller's 12V DC output (similar to what you did with the Telrad this past summer).

Misplaced the original note so I had to spend some time snooping. I knew I had put it in my Psion... but it wasn't showing up on various keyword searches. It wasn't until I considered that it could be the archived that I was able to confirm the required configuration. It needed to be 20" long and tip negative.

That made we wonder where negative was on a Kendrick controller... I powered up my old trusty Type IV and checked the polarity. Centre pin was positive! As I suspected.

I noted the layout of the RCA cable: central white wire was the pin; with the bare wire the shell.

The last piece to the puzzle... the plug configuration. The centre hole was the far pin; the outer shell was the "near" pin.

So, that means the bare wire goes to the far pin.

Fabricated a strain-relief, bowed the cord, and glued the strain-relief to the plug.


announced the ST3 raffle

Sent a note to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group for the opening of the SkyTools 3 software raffle!

$5 for a ticket.

Get three for $10.

A smoking good deal. Hopefully we'll get some takers! And generate some proceeds for the Centre...

223 photos

I uploaded 223 photos to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. And some of those I put in the CAO Supervisors group. Many were provided by Scott. Open houses, star parties, solar observing sessions, events at the Carr Astronomical Observatory and the Ontario Science Centre. Hopefully there's lots of new eye candy for people.

supplement updated

Mr Duval updated the supplemental list to the Coloured Double Stars for the Observer's Handbook, after I reported the errors I found. Fixed a bunch of the missing character problems. It's better; but not perfect. Yet. An improved version of the PDF file is on the RASC national web site, in the Supplements section. Updates to the web site have not yet been posted...


A week later, an update was posted on the RASC National web site addressing the errors I had found.


The Supplements section was moved...

in Gemini Rm E

I heard back from Sara. In fact, she forwarded the Ontario Science Centre booking information. The Stellarium course will happen in the Gemini Room - East.

Now I can send out the official notice!

fixed search results

I had never gotten around to updating the advanced search and search results pages in the Toronto Centre web site with the "nice" banner. Not sure why. Done now. And it looks good.

Monday, November 21, 2011

praise from T

Tony took a look at the changes I made on the web site.
WOW!! That's a great upgrade to our site, Blake! Thanks for making this happen, TH :-)
Yer welcome.

nudge from Sharmin

Sharmin quickly reviewed the site and gave some feedback on the social networking. Overall, she liked it. She did request little birdie and f and Y! icons. It was enough to push me over the edge.

I made small icons. Loaded them to the server. And rejigged the top bar.

Looks pretty good, actually.

Phil printing colour

I asked Phil if he could print a new copy of the CAO Site Facilities manual on his colour laser printer. He said sure. I also asked if he'd print a separate copy of the directions and Thornbury maps. He's traveling to the Carr Astronomical Observatory this weekend so we'll be able to get updated information on site.

Ralph on board

w00t! Now that there's no executive committee meeting on the 14th (they rescheduled), Ralph wants to attend the Stellarium session. All right!

good news for MODL

Tony sent over some great news. Looks like we might be renting out MODL 4 and 5 very soon!

As Dietmar said, making it all worth while!

how far apart

Tony was wondering out loud how far apart the house and the observatory were from one another. I was pretty sure I had seen the information somewhere. Regardless, I checked the site plan drawings that I current am holding. And found a proposed diagram from Jun '99 that showed good detail: 21 metres.

I photo'ed the drawing with the Fuji camera in text mode, cropped and sized the image in Fireworks, and then squished the histogram while shifting the mid-range to extreme white. Finally, I converted the GIF output to black and white. Sent the file to The Man for review.

big little revamp

Did a big revamp of items related to the RASC Toronto Centre's use of Yahoo!Groups and Facebook. I created a new section on the web site called online community. I hope this will go to great lengths to show what we do, encourage members to participate, and clarify how things work.

Asked Sharmin and Katrina to take a look.

Now I need to tear down the old purple Join button (that's never ever worked) from the top "toolbar"... That will be a subtle change.

Dec 14 conflict

What?! Ralph said that a Exec Comm meeting was planned... the same night I wanted to run my Stellarium course.

He told me Eric and Scott were scheduled for that meeting. What?! Two participants. Noooo.

Without pleading (yet), I asked if it would be possible to change the meeting date...


While Ralph and I were chatting about RASC matters today, he said, tangentially, "I'm going to have to miss your SkyTools workshop."

Huh? SkyTools workshop?

I asked if he meant my Stellarium workshop.

Then he said, "Oh well, I could do with some training on Stellarium too."


Dec 14 a go?

Phoned Sara at the Science Centre. It looks like we're a GO for Wednesday 14 December for the Stellarium workshop. She tried to get into the old system (via Citrix) but it wasn't working for her. So, it is still to be confirmed. But she said she thought it looked good.

I activated the information page on the RASC Toronto Centre site and sent an email notice to the existing candidates. I set the start time to 7:00 PM this time. I also asked Ralph to check if there were any executive or council or FinComm or Inner Star Chamber meetings going on...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

not good

I appeared to have pissed off Jason, Katrina, Manuel, and Stu. All in one day.

date settings in ST3

Oops. I just discovered a mistake in my Location profiles in SkyTools 3. I had misinterpreted something when creating new profiles. I had chosen, for many entries, the Daylight Saving option. That was because I was, in general, creating them when DST was applicable. But now, back in Standard Time, I noticed some odd results in ST3. It came to light, playing with the beta version of Starter Edition, that I realised I had selected the wrong option. I should have used the Daylight Saving Rules option, since it automatically changes over the year.

I went through and changed all the active profiles I had created (some 13 of them)!

prepped raffle tickets

Finalised the layout. Printed off 20. Cut them. And stapled them into one deck. Ready to go.

Made up a slide for Ralph's presentation. And Charles's handout. Asked for a moment to speak.

Put items by the door: the software; the tix; some scissors; and a pen!

Ready to go.

If I can sell the minimum number of tickets this Wednesday, or a good portion, then maybe would could have the draw... after my presentation. How apropos...

OK to talk about it

Greg at Skyhound said it is OK to talk about his new product (which I started beta testing yesterday). Cool! I'll mention it in my presentation on Dec 3.

thanks from Greg

Greg at Skyhound sent me a personal note:
Thanks for all your "catches" on the Starter group! Wow! I took yesterday off so you [will] see some responses today on the group.
He also ruminated on what to charge... Not an easy decision.

Jason touched it up

Jason touched up the U of T article he posted. He renamed the file too. And then sent out notices, to the Council group, the members group, and to Katrina, so to tweet on the national site. Thanks!

It still needs a bit of work though. There are problems with the copy.

And Katrina noted that there is no URL...

another one

Sent another item to Jason for posting.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Jason posted

Jason sent me a quick note. He had posted the U of T article on the RASC Toronto Centre web site. Thank you.

I reminded him to proof read and test in different browsers. If he had the time and felt inclined, to gather more info. Referred him to the submission guidelines I wrote, which he could inflict upon the contributor. Suggested entering filenames as opposed to letting the system generate one. Reminded him that I wrote quick reference material.

Asked that he notify members on Yahoo!Group, particularly for items that wouldn't show on the home page.

And, finally, suggested that he notify the national team so that could tweet it or note it on Facebook.

Stu's reviewing

Stu messaged me to say he was finally gettin' 'round to checking the SkyTools 3 list I had sent him. Yeh! If it checks out, we should be able to send the RASC double star list to Greg soon.

beta tester

Started beta testing some astronomy software. Downloaded the app. Joined the Yahoo!Group. Installed the app. Starting to shake it down.

sent activities by category

Tony called, back from the Lindsay road trip. We reviewed some missing items. Then I sent over the list of activities completed at the Carr Astronomical Observatory during the last fiscal year, organised by category. Even he had forgotten some of the things we did at the CAO. I suggested he write an executive summary at the top and then something at the bottom. And then button it up.

He copied me in the email to the secretary.

Cross that one off.


I'm still shakin' my head.

I can't believe how many posts I made!

Projecting to the end of the year shows 1020. That's just incredible.

Total is over 2700.

More going on this year? Or me getting chatty?

kicked people out

Three months ago I started the clean-up process of tidying the membership inside the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group (initially, so to determine who we'd need to email directly, when sending out the IT survey). Found a bunch of people hangin' on, lurking, or happily receiving messages, even though their RASC memberships had expired. I put them on notice and deactivated their profiles. Today, after reconciling with a fresh update from National Office, I kicked out these people (minus the renewals). That brought the group down to around 300 people. Somewhere around half the membership! Weird.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Grace likes it too

Just as we were leaving, Grace walked in. And as I exited, she said she liked the timeline document I was working on. Thanks!

evening with Tony

Tony invited me over for dinner. We talked shop, discussed plans for our impending visit to the Carr Astronomical Observatory, etc. After dessert, we hammered away more at the CAO annual report. I continued to scrape my blog for notable items while Tony looked over articles on the web site. But, for Tony, it was proving a very long day and he was getting tired. We adjourned to finish over the weekend...

RASC web redesigned

Denis reported that the new RASC national web site was live.

So it is. I like the drop-down menus. Sorta.

Windows 7 issue

Dietmar is trying to view the CAO security cameras from a different computer, one running Windows 7, who-knows which version of Internet Exploder. It's not working. He's getting H.264 and other errors. I don't know what the issue is exactly but I suspect I'll need to upgrade the software on the server...

snow at CAO

Tony sent out a snapshot from the CAO cameras. Looks like we got a good dusting of snow. Maybe a centimetre or two.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nicole wants a workshop

Nicole wants to know Nebulosity. She asked me if someone could do a workshop on it.

Short answer: Yes. I sent her the long answer...

Encouraged her to table it, on the Yahoo!Group.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

meeting done before midnight

Incredibly, the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting finished before midnight. Incredible. That, despite some big issues, such as insurance, the finance madness switchover issues, and the new fiscal year budget. But we got through it. And I think everyone felt a bit better at the end than at the beginning. I was pleased that my budget for information technology was approved. And I was particularly pleased to have council think on the matter of inquiries by new, young astronomy clubs.


I took a few copies of the draft timeline document for people to review. In particular, I wanted Dietmar to have a look. He noodled on it and made a few notes. Tony mentioned it formally at one point and it went around the whole table. Eric was particularly interested. Ralph alluded to "the big phone call" from Cliff, way back when... Hopefully, I can extract a few more keys dates from other people.

Jason lost his notes

I have been asking Jason to help me with RASC Toronto Centre web site edits. Partly to spread the work load around. But also to get him working on the back end, to get some exposure to the editor environment, to experience for himself some of the issues with the CMS.

He turned me down on one occasion. Too busy. Fine.

I asked him a month or so ago about getting more involved. No answer at all. For a while. So, clearly too busy. But then, as he resurfaced, he started making noises. Offered to help. Wanted some tasks.

Finally, a week ago, something came up. So I delegated.

He replied today. Said he lost his notes and doesn't have the documentation. And also did not have the emails with the login credentials.

reoriented timeline

I changed the orientation of the CAO timeline from horizontal to vertical. And Visio clobbered it! Several of the expanded timelines got screwed up. Damn it. Looks like this will be a lot of effort to complete...

paper survey arrived

My test survey arrived in the mailbox. Quick. As expected.

watched docking with Manny

We had been talking about getting together anyway. Manuel was hoping for clear skies so to do some imaging of the Pleiades with the new refractor. We decided to meet up anyway. And then, via NASA TV (HD), we could watch the Soyuz dock to the International Space Station. I also took over the Tele Vue photo extension tube. He wanted it.

It looked like a smooth docking.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Amalthea in Stellarium

I don't remember seeing Amalthea in Stellarium before.

Apparently more moons have been added. And rings...



Stellarium 0.11.1 now shows the rings of Uranus!

vertical time lines

Yeh! Vertically-oriented timelines are possible in Visio. Via the Shape menu (in 2003 or 2007). But it took some Googling to figure out that deceptively simple format option... Is it my imagination or is the documentation and help on timelines inside Visio weak? Regardless, I'm happy. A portrait orientation my work better for the CAO timeline I'm working on, particularly if I'm going to put it on the web somewhere.

sent Stu STX

The final version of the 2012 Coloured Double Stars list for SkyTools, I sent to Stu for him to proofread. It'd be good to put this one to bed.

chatted with Nicole and Manuel

After Manuel noted that the Yahoo!Group chat room was empty, I jumped in. No sign of him. So I phoned him. He had already shut his computer off. I encouraged him to try again. But we ran into a snag. He was not seeing any of my messages; whereas, I saw his. I tried 2 different browsers on 2 different computers. No joy.

I asked what he was using. Internet Exploder 9. Ah. There's your problem. He admitted that his Gmail doesn't work well either. I convinced him to download Firefox. And in minutes we were chatting.

Nicole joined us a little while later. It was fun to talk telescopes and mounts and people we knew. They both enjoyed it a lot.

Monday, November 14, 2011

submitted IT report

Quick and dirty... Pulled most of the time line from this blog... Formatted it like Stu's. Thanked lots of people. And wrote an exec summary.

Celestron has not answered

Marc, a rep from an authorised dealer, said that Celestron had not replied. He said he'd follow up.

oooh, RGB

Well, well. I didn't know about RGB LEDs!

Maybe I can make a double star simulator...

Stumbled across this, surfing during dinner, in Instructables, by ledartist. Nice!

improved ocular tool

Finally! The ocular plug-in tool in Stellarium (specifically version 0.11.1) has been improved...

It was a nightmare before. It's not perfect but at least you can pop-up an on-screen display and directly select a telescope or an eyepiece, without sequential walking through them all, with nasty keyboard shortcuts. Yeh!

sent IT budget

Charles wanted it in a spreadsheet. So I reworked the IT budget info. Submitted it during my lunch break.

Should I call it a lunch break if I don't eat?

Stellarium slow

It's true. The frame rate of Stellarium 0.11.1 is terrible. It is only practical for me to run with the no OpenGL option. This, on the Dell laptop...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Soyuz successfully makes orbit

Got home from Tony's. Happily, the John Smallberries computer had not suddenly shutdown (again). So, fired up Thunderbird and reviewed emails. And there was a note from Katrina at 10:18 PM reminding us of the Soyuz launch at 11:14 PM. Ah, OK.

Didn't want to run Firefox on Smallberries (so to further test what's causing the main computer problem). Turned to John Littlejohn, still in sleep mode. Once logged in, I accessed an existing Firefox window, created a new tab, and jumped into my Google calendar. Updated the Soyuz entry, changing it from an all-day timeless entry to a timed one, starting at 11:00 PM. Saved it. It popped up where it should have... And I noted the little red line horizontal line showing the current time... And still didn't clue in right away. Hold the phone. That was imminent... The launch was in 15 minutes or so. Crikey!

I immediately opened another tab and pulled up's live Mission Status Center with live updates and streaming video. Woo hoo! Everything was a go... Found the feed. Astronauts were in the stuffed cabin of the Soyuz. Ha ha... I noted their gravity gauge. Very funny.

I wondered where Katrina was. I wondered if other members were watching. Opened separate browser windows for the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group chat room and for Facebook. No one in the chat room. Katrina was not visible in Facebook; but Sharmin was. Said hello. She was watching NASA TV. It was around this point that I heard the announcer refer to the weather at the Cosmodrome. I flipped to the feed. Holy hanna! Look at the conditions!

That was incredible. I had never seen conditions like that before. Oh, I suddenly feared they might scrub... I couldn't remember what the launch window was. Wondering about cryogenics, ice build-up... Hold on. It's the Ruskies. They won't scrub. It's just snow. Snow means go!

Turned up the volume. Sharmin counted down. Her TV feed was about 30 to 45 seconds ahead of mine. Snow launch, here we go. Engines start...

It is a little eerie watching the Soyuz launch, being so used to Shuttle launches. The Soyuz stays clamped down for a long time, as the engines ramp up. Finally... lift off!

I just love that colour contrast. I knew it was going to be good. I was ready with the Print Screen key. Go baby go.

It was a smooth launch, down the pipe. Everything sounded nominal. I waited for the red angry bird to go weightless...

There he goes!

Ha ha. There are his feet...

Awesome. Awesome on a lot of levels. I've very happy for all concerned. We can hopefully get back to good science at the space station.

reviewed timeline

After dinner at Tony's, I produced a small printed version of the CAO timeline that I started working on about a month ago. I was hoping he could supply some corrections and missing information. He remembered a few tidbits but turned to the home computer for some more information. He showed me a number of documents and images that provided a number of facts and dates. But there were a few things he could not recall. I might need to hit up The Sage, chas, and Ralph for some more data.

He loaned me a bunch of optical disks loaded with photos. We reviewed them. Lots of good stuff. I will upload these to the appropriate Yahoo!Groups.

Tony also sent me a bunch of Word documents which I can cull for info. He also sent an interesting document which had been sent to CAO annual pass users, a letter giving an update and thanking the member for their support. He said he wanted to ignite it. Good idea.

Al signed up

I received an automated message from Yahoo noting the Al had joined the RASC Toronto Centre group. Guess he found my message...

still nothing from Marc

I phoned Efston. Learned that Marc doesn't work on Sundays. I'll have to try later. Or bug him again on Book of Face.

Was really hoping for an update...

sent IT budget

Sent Charles a quick and dirty budget message for the Information Technology budget for the RASC Toronto Centre, focused mostly on activities and plans at the Carr Astronomical Observatory (CAO).

found a bunch of errors

As I was working on the Coloured Double Stars list for SkyTools 3 (that Stu and I started a while ago), I found a number of errors in the new RASC Observer's Handbook (2012 edition), the hard copy, on pages 298 and 299. I also found a lot of mistakes in the additional new companion PDF document, on the RASC national web site supplemental section.

I sent a note to the new OH editor, David.

I also note the errors here, for your records... Some are minor typos, some more severe, and some very confusing.

From the hard copy, i.e. the book proper...

  • A minor nit. "Σ 1327 Uma" should show Ursa Majoris as "UMa".
  • "35 Sex" is very wrong. Or maybe the wrong star? The declination for 35 Sextantis is 4° 45'. The AB star separation is 7" and the AC sep is 334"... So, I don't know what to suggest. I also searched for widely separated stars in the area and didn't see a candidate. So this is just confusing. [ed: Confirmed 4° 45' and 7.]
  • Another minor nit. "K Her" shows kappa in upper case. This should be lower, as per convention. kappa Gem in the Winter list is fine. [ed: Confirmed.]
  • 2 Peg is also strange. Wrong star or wrong data? The B star is mag 11.8 and sep is 30". [ed: Should be denoted as h 1647 with Dec 22° 11'.]
From the supplemental document on the web site...

  • 476 Per is missing Σ (Sigma upper), i.e. for the Struve double star catalog. [ed: Corrected.]
  • This looks like a minor issue but maybe merits a closer look. Σ 1327 Cnc has a AB sep of 6" with mags of 8.6 and 10.6.
  • 1604 Crv is also missing Σ. [ed: Corrected.]
  • The row below 1604, Crv is missing δ (delta). [ed: Corrected.]
  • The first row, Oph, is missing ο (omicron). [ed: Corrected.]
  • The "Fall" itself label not consistent with book. Minor. Book uses Autumn. [ed: Corrected.]
  • The "O 252 Peg" appears to be missing Σ for the Otto Struve catalog, i.e. should show as "OΣ 252 Peg." [ed: Changed, but not correctly.]
  • The first instance of Cru (at 12 26) is missing α (alpha). [ed: Corrected.]
  • Then here's the second instance of Cru (at 12 31). It's in wrong order in the list, should come up one row. And it's missing γ (gamma). [ed: Corrected.]
That's pretty significant, the number of errors. And some are serious.
The corrections or "updates" to the 2012 RASC OH normally go online. Nothing there yet...


Heard back from editor.
Blake:  thanks for the detailed analysis.   I will have to refer them to the author for action!


The supplement was updated 9 days later...


Supplements section moved...

Updates section moved...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

rain data

It's working again! Tony had started to say something about this, I think, last week. I suddenly remembered it now... Loaded up the CAO weather station page. Yep. There it was. Accumulated precipitation numbers. Weird.

I guess it unstuck itself.

all surveys out

Well, the paper ones. Jason messaged to me to say that his were away too. So, that's about 50 sent by the Queen's post. In a couple of days, we'll send the link to the electronic one... And, by then, I should have kicked all the slackers out of the Yahoo!Group.

next Stellarium course

I've started eyeballing December for the next introductory Stellarium software course. The March one was a bit hit; I already have seven people on the waiting list. Asked Sara at the OSC if she has an open date. Asked the waiting list people if they're still interested. Sharmin and Leslie might have some takers from the First Light and NOVA courses.

updated the benefits page

I updated the benefits of membership web page after reviewing a recent handout from an RASC Toronto Centre meeting. The big one was adding MODL. I advised Charles, Leslie, Sharmin, and Diane that they might want to update their handouts.

invited Al

Al phoned me. Good, we'd be able to get things sorted quickly. I asked if he wanted to be on the Yahoo!Group for the RASC Toronto Centre. He kept talking about the EQMOD group. I told him I didn't know anything about it. Then he starting talking about cable connectors and polar alignment. OK, OK. Let's get you on Yahoo. He asked which address he should use. I said it didn't matter but it would be ideal if he had a Yahoo account. He said he had a Gmail one. OK... I didn't know it; I only knew of the Hotmail he had used to communicate with me in the past. I asked which address he used with the EQMOD group. He didn't know. Never mind, I'll attach it to your Hotmail. Suddenly, he said he'd make a Yahoo account. OK, great. Let me know when you're done. He did, by replies sent to my Sympatico account. I had asked him previously to not reply to my Sympatico address but rather use the one in the footer. I invited him to Yahoo with his new account. And sent a separate email. Not a peep...

sent my surveys

Jason took the lion's share of the survey envelopes. I had the "special case" ones: they needed return envelopes. Mine are on their way now.

update CAO manual

I applied a number of changes to the CAO Site Facilities Manual. One of those, sadly, was removing Cliff's contact information.

we did get snow

Ah ha! There was snow up at the observatory... But it looks like it is burning off.

Friday, November 11, 2011

spotted light

Mom said Barrie got "a lot" of snow. Indeed.

I immediately jumped into the security system to check the conditions at the CAO. But forgot it was dark already. So the cameras were in black and white infrared mode. The ground looked white but I couldn't tell for sure. Could have been the temperature.

I reviewed the altered position of camera 3. Looked OK. I suddenly remembered I had not changed the motion sensitivity zones; but I think Tony had. I'll have to check with him...

It didn't register at first but I noticed a funny thin white mark in the centre of the field in camera 1. At first I though it was an insect buzzing around. But as the camera refreshed, it didn't go away. And then it dawned on me: it was the red LED light string inside the stairs railing!

Some one had left the lights on...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

stuffed envelopes

Jason and I met, at long last, to stuff envelopes for the mailing of the paper survey. I brought all the label stickers so we could affix them. We didn't have postage so we unfortunately couldn't send them. We were a little short of envelopes. I took the stragglers.

I strongly suggested we begin using an online to improve our project tracking and intercommunication opportunities.


The photocopying was not done correctly. Several pages were missing.

big Moon and bright Jupiter (Toronto)

As I walked west toward the restaurant, where I was to rendezvous with Jason, I followed the big round Moon. It looked nearly full. The man-in-the-Moon face was obvious. It was tinged yellow, so low in the sky. Bright Jupiter was just over 10 degrees away, to the right, slightly above. There was very little cloud.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

delivered TSTM for Nov-Dec

In Francois's absence, I delivered The Sky This Month presentation this evening to the RASC Toronto Centre meeting at the Ontario Science Centre. Got a thumbs-up from Sharmin!

I will put the materials online, on the RASC TC web site, in short order.


The article was posted... Link killed. Look on the lumpy darkness companion site's presentations page.


The highlights:
  • the Sun is regularly spotty now
  • the Moon will likely interfere with the Leonids peak
  • the Moon will pose, with Mercury and Venus, for photos on Nov 25 and 26
  • Jupiter is still fantastic, particular when there are shadows and GRSs
  • Mars is growing
  • comet Garradd is turning left in Hercules
  • space exploration attempts continue
  • there are some rather curious conferences and workshops
  • deep sky targets abound in Ursa Minor, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Pisces, Cetus, and Sculptor

Al wants a post workshop

Al buttonholed me after the presentations. He asked when I was going to do a workshop on astrophotographic image processing. Ah... Not for a long time.

I didn't do image processing training. I explained that Dietmar, Richard, Paul, and others are the best to talk to about these matters. And if he pitched it right, they might offer to coordinate a workshop. An adjunct, perhaps, to the Imaging Workshop, which has broad objectives. (Deep inside, though, I knew that this would require an enthusiastic photographer willing to put in some development time.)

These potential sessions are not to be confused with my Stellarium level 1 (i.e. basic, raw beginner) workshop or the impending Stellarium level 2 (telescope control, software customisation) workshop.

Al was still feeling a little perturbed that Richard, with a tiny refractor, was cracking off great images, and he couldn't get his 'scope tracking...

He was alluding to telescope control issues now. I told him that I helped a proximal member with a number of foundational issues (polar alignment for example). You gotta sort those before you worry about image processing...

horrific traffic

It is a good thing we left early!

Tony picked me up at 6:30 (even though I offered to drive in my car). We took Windermere south and then did the little diversion along Southport St around to the South Kingway so to make the Gardiner eastbound. The left turn onto the S. Kingway was bad (must not go this way again!). Everything was looking good until a string of brake lights after Jarvis appeared. Oh no.

Flicking on the radio to 680 News confirmed the worst. Every freakin' Toronto driver was panicking because it was—ah, ah, ah, make it stop, the horror—it was raining! Useless. Every single one of them. Useless. Take the train. Stop driving. Stop wasting your life. And the gas. And the money. And the oxygen... Stop clogging our highways. And get out of my way! OK. Sorry for the rant.

It was looking sketchy so I asked Tony to phone Mr Markov, to put the meme in his brain, that The Sky This Month might not be the first presentation this go-around.

We elected to stay on the highway, the freeway, the slow-way since it was starting to pick up. But once onto Don Mills Rd, it was clear that the city routes were a mess too. It was a long slog up the road to the Ontario Science Centre.

We were probably parked and walking in at 7:30 PM, exactly when the meeting was to start. The last place (or time rather) I wanted to be. Fortunately, Paul—surveying the thin crowd—had decided to start a bit later. That gave me about 3.76 minutes to set up.

On with the show...

[ed: The president arrived around 8:15 PM. Surely, nasty, coming from Waterloo...]


It is ironic now, that I launched the "inclement weather meeting policy" article on our web site a couple of weeks ago, and that I was asking Tony about it, on the drive up, if he had reviewed it...

Phobos-Grunt stuck

I am very sad to hear that the Roscosmos Mars probe has encountered a glitch. The scheduled Fregat rocket burns to raise the Earth orbit and then escape Earth's gravity well did not occur and for a time the agency lost track of the craft. It is unknown yet the root cause but if it's a software problem they might be able to fix it.

Where's a space shuttle when you need one?!

visited Kendrick

On the way home from work, I diverted so to go down Cawthra Street just north of the Junction. It was weird, half the posts were missing their signs. Still, in short order, I found Kendrick in their new home. Picked up Stu's solar filter.

Told them I'd be back soon to get heaters for our TV 101 and eyepieces...

just the facts

It occurred to me that we don't have it documented anywhere what the "configuration" of the Ontario Science Centre is. If a member or speaker wishes to present at an RASC meeting, they don't know what they're walking into. So I asked Doug some technical questions about their audio, visual, hardware, and software. I'll make this info available so our future presenters can better prepare.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

any word?

I asked Marc today (via Facebook) if he had heard back from Celestron.

Moon and Jupiter (Toronto)

Spotted Jupiter, a bright point, left the Moon tonight.

But it was still hazy cloudy...

clear in WV

I'm not comfortable travelling West Virginia. So, go there remotely, I say!

Dave put on a good show, on the NSN network, desperately trying to keep up with the near-Earth asteroid 2005 YU55. He got a number of good shots with his MallinCam.

He was using a C14 atop a CGEM Pro. He had the MCX camera. This image was near RA 22 02 20 and Dec 14 45 42 (for 930).

It was fun meeting Katrina, fellow RASCal, there.

lumpy super-blackness

NASA has produced a new material with carbon nanotubes. The tubes are grown on a surface vertically (like shag carpet) and trap light.

The engineers were a little surprised at the response of the material and how it absorbs light across multiple wavelengths. It's the blackest black material developed to date. It might be used in place of black paints.

Zenit away

The Russian Zenit rocket lifted off without incident. The Phobos-Grunt sample-return mission to Mars is underway.

I tried to catch a good snapshot of the rocket lifting off. But I was a little surprised by the suddenness of it. They didn't seem to do a count down. And the little rocket leapt off the pad! So I didn't get a shot of the wild green flame as the motors started up.

Monday, November 07, 2011

PHA 2005 YU55 chart

I made a chart for the Potentially Hazardous Asteroid 2005 YU55 using updated data from SkyTools 3 Pro. Viewed it in the Interactive Atlas. Turned on the Motion Trails. Then adjusted the time to 10 PM EST so to make the trail start around sunset...

Made a snapshot with the Copy command, after adjusting the dimensions to 1280x1024, which allowed me to save a colour image. Tweaked it a little in Fireworks. Download the colour JPEG image (45 KB).

Then I sent it to the virtual PDF printer, and Bullzip took over. Download the black & white Adobe PDF file (202 KB).

Skies aren't looking great though...

Stellarium satellites question

Yesterday, Sharmin asked about the ISS and/or Iridium tracking in Stellarium. I explained it was possible to pick and choose which satellites one wanted to see. And then it would be possible to save these settings. I confirmed it in 0.11.0 a few moments ago.

stand-in for TSTM

The presenter for The Sky This Month had to back out. Paul reached out to the regulars for help. Eric declined. I said I could do it. Confirmed.

So I'm on deck for the Wednesday 9 November 2011 RASC Toronto Centre meeting...

pick up for Stu

Stu asked if I could pick up a solar filter from Kendrick, and bring it to the Wednesday meeting. Said he'd pay me back. Sure. But do they have it in stock? He hadn't checked.

He confirmed a few moments ago that it will be ready for pick up Tuesday or Wednesday. Okey dokey.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Stellarium update out

A new subversion of Stellarium is out: version 0.11.1. Purportedly lots of bug fixes were made. But, some early remarks say the frame rate is poor...

I think I'll wait a bit.

didn't tell me

Denis declined to tell me (at the time) that Dave dropped into the CAO (like I had predicted) in an attempt to their network downstream problem.

lovely walk home (Toronto)

After an evening at Scott's, Ken and I departed at the same time. He asked if I wanted a lift home. "No," I replied, "s'OK. It's a nice night." Indeed.

The Moon was bright in the west (with a halo tinged in red) and Jupiter was high up (intense white).

I turned south and took in all of Orion: orange Betelgeuse top-left, blue Rigel bottom-right, white Bellatrix top-right, and Saiph. I also viewed Alnitak, left-most in the belt. Forgot the names of the other two belt stars (Alnilam and Mintaka, of course). Could see ν (nu) and above, the "fuzzy" star of M42 and M43. I was able to just make out λ (lambda) above.

Sirius in Canis Major was flickering wildly and showing various colours. Procyon was a bit more stable. I spotted β (beta) to the right of Sirius.

The twins caught my eye was well, off in the east, fairly high, Castor above Pollux.

I zig-zagged on the little streets and tried to avoid the sides with street lights.

The frost on the cars glittered in the darkness. It won't be long now.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

plotting multiple targets

I never noticed this capability in SkyTools3 before. You may check multiple items. I knew that. But I didn't know that you could put all the checked items on the Interactive Chart! Sweet. I could have used that a month ago, when I was exploring Cepheus and Cassiopeia!

This is a good example of how text on charts is designed to not collide or overlap.

Learned about this watching Greg's highlight reel...

Friday, November 04, 2011

sent dew heater proposal

I submitted a formal proposal to the RASC Toronto Centre council for the purchase of a dew heating equipment for the Geoff Brown Observatory. We need a dew heater for the Tele Vue 101 refractor objective. And we need two eyepiece heaters. Hope the proposal is accepted.

gave Grace gift

I presented Grace, in front of Trevor and Tony, with the Night Sky edition of the Monopoly game. I told her I could not take the credit; it was Phil who had been very insightful.

asked Marc

Called Efston. Got Marc. Explained the situation. Asked if he could get the part. He said, "I'll call tech support." No, no! I argued they'd turf him / me / us. I suggested he just ask if he can order some parts along with their next telescope order. He liked my idea.

Celestron says no again

Spent 25 minutes on hold to be told by some Celestron meat puppet that I am not allowed to buy parts for my broken telescope because I'm Canadian.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

comin' 'round the bend

Ooooh. Look at those sunspots! Lots happening. The large complex on the left is 1339. Maybe it will produce some aurora for us...

That thing is huge. It should be a good show on Saturday!

eternal darkness

Have the shadow creatures from the twilight realm found a way to block out the Sun?

I hope for Princess Zelda's sake, no...


Whew. Checked the SOHO web site. The source images are a little wobbly...

booked in Orillia

Gord of the Orillia Astronomy Club confirmed my presentation date. Thursday 24 November at Lakehead University.


I just don't understand why the technical support people when experiencing a technical problem would not contact the technical support contact at the RASC Toronto Centre. I don't know how many times I've contacted by email and by phone about technical matters. They know I'm the Information Technology chair. But whenever they have problems they telephone everyone but me.

And they want to reboot our equipment at the observatory. When I can see current weather data and I can access our security system.


It speaks volumes of the level of incompetence.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

also booked for Feb TSTM

Paul also asked me if I'd deliver The Sky This Month presentation at the February RASC Toronto Centre meeting.

SkyTools3 presentation

Mr Markov booked me to deliver a presentation on SkyTools3 at the RASC Toronto Centre meeting night on Wednesday 7 December 2011. I will demonstrate the software and talk about how it aids in observing session planning.

no Lunar X

I saw the Moon early this evening. 5-ish is was very clear. 7:00 PM it was misty. But I was clouded out at 9:00 PM. No chance for viewing Lunar X tonight...

Stargrazer order

Caught a parts guy just before Kooy Bros closed. Ordered the four parts of the CAO riding mower. Should have the bits in stock next week. Then I'll be ready for the next repair session...

97 percent

Trevor received a good mark on his astronomy essay...

note from National

Received an email message from the National RASC electronic store. As part of their new website rollout it seems that everything is being unified under one profile or account. No more separate and different credentials to access your account, the Journal, and other secured stuff. Should simplify stuff...

Celestron says no

Received the following note from Celestron.
[#BDN-124037]: board purchase

Dear Blake,

Thank you for contacting Celestron Technical Services with your inquiry. Unfortunately we do not directly sell this board. Please contact a local dealer/distributor to see if they can order this board for you.

Thank you,
Celestron Technical Services
That's lame. Others have bought it. Why would they tell me it can't be done? That's myopic. Come on. Be reasonable. Be modern.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

OH12 in mailbox

The RASC Observer's Handbook 2012 arrived today. Looks a little thicker again than last year.

I'm very pleased to see a sketch on the cover versus a photograph. Hopefully, it will inspire a few amateurs to draw what they can see.

It is interesting to note that some software is made available with the book. A copy of Earth Centred Universe is available for download.

drove through park

On the way home from Markham, I thought I'd cut through the park, on the off chance that some members would still be observing. But when I noted the time, around 10:30, I realised it was probably too late. Particularly, given the cool temperatures. And, in fact, no one was around. Too bad. I missed Mark and John B. Hope they had fun!

Monopoly gift

From Phil. He presented me to the special edition of the classic Monopoly game: the Night Sky edition. This is the same game that I handed off to Caroline and family, when they won it (in absentia) at the Open House and Awards Picnic.

I especially like the pieces: a telescope, a dome, a Martian rover, and so on.

Grace got one too!

helped Phil slew

Demonstrated to Phil SkyTools3 driving TheSky6. He was hoping to run the Paramount at the CAO like I had. Helped him install a missing driver. He was very happy. Kid in a candy store.

reviewed CAO list with Phil

Phil and I were chatting recently about having a good list of targets for showing people while conducting star parties at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Designed for the season.

I suggested using SkyTools3 Pro and that we wouldn't need to have separate lists for each season. We'd just build one, a single master list, and let SkyTools do its thing, filtering out objects, given the date, being above the horizon, and other constraints. Phil agreed.

At the time, I threw something together quickly, adding some known good objects, and some that we regularly show at the CAO. I included all the planets. Ended up with around 55 entries.

Tonight, with my netbook on hand, I showed the list, so far. He liked it. But we both agreed it needed more entries, maybe twice as many. We transferred to his computer for a closer review.

Phil also pointed out that he's installed on his computer a tremendous number of the other shared observing lists and that some of them seem to be designed along these lines. It reminded me to look at them for ideas.


I had seen them before but not really taken note... There are observing lists for the Night Sky Observer's Guide, specifically the deep sky objects. Could have used that at the beginning of October!