Monday, January 30, 2012

webspotting 25 - outdoor action

As published in the Feb/Mar 2012 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. Republished here with permission.


Maybe you don't want to think about this in the cold, grey, dreary days of February, nor the long, dark, cold nights of January, despite the winter solstice behind us. But the skies, if the weather cooperates, offer so much! There's a treasure trove to view or image this time of year. And the long seasonal nights mean you can start early and still be in bed at a reasonable hour. 

Fascinating nebulae, clusters, and double stars are lurking within hard to access constellations like Lepus, Eridanus, Monoceros, Fornax, Cetus, and Canis Major. Did you know that the Geminid and Quadrantid meteor showers are generally better than the Perseids? Nobody knows that 'cause we're cooped up inside near something burning under a snuggie watching bad TV commercials. Did you know that the Andromeda Galaxy is straight overhead. It's the best time of year to look at it! Sheesh.

OK. Maybe you just don't like winter. But I think for many it is not so much winter, the season, the snow and ice, the shoveling, as it is the cold. Many don't like feeling cold. And certainly if you're not dressed right, it can be uncomfortable or dangerous. 

So, surf (er, ski?) into the Outdoor Action safety web site hosted by Princeton University.

While this is particularly useful information for those mountain climbing, working in the arctic, working outdoors in the winter, and so on, there's still much that can be gleaned here. Handy data for hardy astronomers. 

I'm sure you know that your blood vessels expand and contract to dissipate or conserve heat. But did you know that the blood flow rate in the skin, through this autonomic action, can change from 3000 milliliters per minute to 30?! Did you know that shivering can cause surface heat production to increase by 500%? Or that hypothermia is not limited to outdoor and cold weather but can occur any time you're exposed to temperatures below 37°C? Early indicators are "the umbles:" where you might stumble, mumble, fumble, and grumble? (Sounds like me every morning!) That "trench foot" can occur at temperatures as high as 15°C? That you should not rub potentially frostbitten areas of skin? And that vasoconstriction makes for a full bladder?!

Something I took away from this page, when I'm planning a winter observing session, is what to consider consuming to stay warm and alert. And what foods and beverages to avoid. Sadly, I must reduce caffeine and alcohol. Nibble at carbs. Keep hydrated. It's all about your core temperature.

More seriously, if somehow you are exposed to extreme cold conditions, it is good to be aware of the early signs of hypothermia. This piece offers important tips and tricks for those into extreme winter activity.

So? Suit up! Come on! We're Canadian! We can tough it out. They make jokes about us and cold weather. We embrace winter sports to make use of the conditions for crying out loud. Chop chop. Put on your good boots, a dozen layers, your electric mitts, muffler, balaclava, RASC toque, and get out there. Hurry. Hurry harder! And keep warm and dry.

thumb tacks for mask

I suddenly remembered that the Bahtinov mask didn't work if I had the dew shield on. There was no way to hang it. I stared at it for a few moments. Looked in the big fasteners parts bin. And got an idea. Tried some push pins with the Bahtinov mask. It worked! It's a quick fix, a little crude, but it does what it needs to do. I will need to be rather careful in the dark though...

sent QR and seal to Jason

For the new OSC signboards, I sent print-media, hi-rez versions of a QR and the seal to Jason.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kiron wants 0.11.1

Kiron, anxious about installing the latest version of Stellarium, asked me some questions. Like, would it affect he current configuration. It depends... Or, does it need an internet connection. It depends... I encouraged him to read whatever release notes were published.

caught Moon near Venus (Toronto)

Popped outside for a moment. Spotted Venus near the Moon. It was lovely. Clear. Sent a note to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group.

built new donation reports

With the changes to the database, some new queries and reports needed to be built. I tacked these things at the end of the current membership database change.

And discovered that the receipt reports were really old: still had the Star Line phone number!

worked on associates

At Phil's request, and while he was overseas, I redesigned the database to better manage RASC Toronto Centre associate members.

Marilyn needs help

Marilyn, from up north, emailed me, out of the blue. She had a few questions for me.
  • wanted a summary of my astroimaging lecture
  • had an 8 inch Dob, which needed columnation [sic]
  • needed to know what items were required to take images through the eyepiece
Ah. OK...

I reminded her that I had provided a double-side handout with lots of good information on it, equipment recommendations, exposure times, f-stops, etc. If she couldn't find it, I told her I could send her another copy...

Sent her the web links I referred to.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

imported volunteer info

While I was working the RASC Toronto Centre database improvements, I decided to have a go at importing the "volunteering" data from the national system. And met with success. I admit I had ulterior motives... I was looking for people interested in helping out with IT stuff.

Friday, January 27, 2012

finish calendar updates

As the Moon peeked through the clouds, I finished the major updates to the RASC TC mini calendar. Thanked Eric and Stu.

welcome back

I never left.

RASC National Office sent an electronic communication, with attachment, confirming my membership renewal. Silly system.

Still I printed my new card on coloured cardstock in the new laser printer.

I should laminate it like Phil did!

corrected twitter reference

It occurred to me that the twitter reference in the meeting announcement slides and corresponding handout was incorrect. It showed as "follow @Xyz" and I pointed out that's a "mention." Encouraged Ralph to change the presentation and Charles to change the handout, and show the full URL.

spotted typo at SNO

Spotted typos on a science page of the SNO LAB site. In the Search for Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay topic. These sentences caught my eye...
"Their half lives (the time it takes for 1/2 of the parent material to decay) is typically on the order of 1018 to 1021 years. For comparison, the universe is 1010 of years old."
It looks like these numbers should be powers, no? Sent a note to the webmaster.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Drupal demo

Denis gave us, Jason, Allard, and I, a demo of Drupal 6.22, used to manage the RASC National web site. It was illuminating. The thing is damned complex.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

asteroid Tesla

Was talking with Denis and Eric about asteroids and occultations. Denis hadn't heard that I quit occultations. Well, now you know. We got onto the naming of asteroids. Eric wants to ensure that notable Canadians are covered. I don't remember why exactly but suddenly I thought of Tesla. I wondered if Nikola had an asteroid named after him.

Thank goodness, yes.

Asteroid 2244.

prepared stand

I made a little sign. An obvious "take one" eye-catching banner to hopefully draw the attention of guests. This was for the new acrylic stand I picked up a couple of days ago. To display at the OSC during our meetings. To hold RASC Toronto Centre membership applications. Then guests can (discreetly) pick up an application at their leisure. And that volunteers can point to when someone asks how to join.

I printed three applications as well.

All in an effort to fill the gaps. Complex strategic planning notwithstanding. Do one more of the little things we should be doing...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

proofed manual

Asked Greg if he needed help with the new manual for SkyTools Starter Edition. He acknowledged and thanked me for the offer. Didn't hear anything for a bit. But then he reached out. With a very tight deadline!

I had to hustle.

Interesting approach, he's taken. Part instruction manual, part astronomy primer...

offered to open CAO for ToV

There was sudden buzz about the transit of Venus. A number of members wanted to know if there were plans for an observing gathering or star party in the Toronto area. Some wondered if the Ontario Science Centre might be a good spot. Richmond Hill residents considered locations with good western horizon sight lines.

I had already been noodling on it but I formally released my plans. I offered to open up the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Pointed out that sight lines on the north deck would be very good. With the solar equipment and MallinCam in the Geoff Brown Observatory, we would be able to record and possibly run a Night Skies Network broadcast.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nicole got plumbum

Nicole updated her Facebook status, sharing that her honey gave her a power source for her telescope. What a nice gift! Good ole lead, Pb, number 82, with a bit of acid.

Friday, January 20, 2012

cross checked DSOs

Same deal... Synced up my life lists and SkyTools software for deep sky objects. Found a couple of discrepancies. Not much.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

cross checked doubles in ST3

As Jupiter slowly drifted past my window, cross checked my double star life list in SkyTools 3. Found a few omissions.

measured Heatech

Measured the resistance of the Heatech coffee cup warmer: 13.6 ohms. Remembered to measure the meter: 0.3. So, the warmer has a resistance of 13.3. And that means it's putting out 10 to 11 watts. That's equivalent to a 4" premier heater wrap from Kendrick.

So I'm pretty confident now. I'm gonna snip the end off...

Perceptor is gone

Stu relayed news about Perceptor. He said he phoned to see if they had actually closed down. Brady (from KW) answered. Apparently KW bought the stock but will not be opening another store.

This is unfortunate news. One of the best vendors is gone, done. The shop on the way to the Carr Astronomical Observatory is no longer an option. Damn shame. Jerry is a nice guy. And I thought we needed more vendors to serve the GTA, not less.

two things posted

By the Queen's Post. I mailed a card with thank-you note to our CAO neighbours to the east. And I mailed my RASC renewal. Stuck with me for another year.

glad I didn't

Last night, when I saw the Clear Sky Chart showing two clear evenings in a row, I seriously thought about setting up the 'scope on the deck... But now it's snowing.

cancelled next meeting

Last night I reminded the IT crew that with the meeting with Denis locked down and that we were going to all be at it and given that there's a RASC speaker's night meeting the day before, I didn't want to also do an IT meeting on Tuesday. Three in the same week? No. That's too much. Starting to feel like work! Asked that it be cancelled. They agreed. Whew.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

bloody meetings

Another challenging meeting...

Allard, newest member to the RASC Toronto Centre IT team, said he wanted to meet early. But he showed up late. In fact, he arrived after Jason, who was also running late.

The wifi signal was crap. At least where I chose to sit in Betty's. And the place was loud. I heard about 50% of what was said.

One more try. And then I boycott these meetings...

The only fun part of the evening was when the wait staff said they found one more keg of Barking Squirrel. Yum.

home page tracking - again

Allard reported that the Google tracking of the home page was working again. Good. Looks like my changes are sticking this time. We're still not sure why it stopped working before.

Monday, January 16, 2012

synced double star lists

I synchronised my double star lists, in the blog companion and in Sissy Haas's book. Added a few missing ticks to the double stars for small telescopes book. I'll check in SkyTools 3 later.

found the planets

While migrating from Magic Bag 3.0 to 4.0, I found a gift! Sneaky Mom.

Gustav Holst's The Planets by André Previn and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

repaired button

The momentary (on) switch I installed in one of the CLA adapters didn't take. Probably the cheap part deformed under the heat of soldering. Popped in a new switch. Works good. Yeh. Both now show a reading on the analog voltmeter.

blown away

Stu sent out a report of the DDO session.
Paul and I were blown away by the response to the new Members Night format at the DDO last Saturday. Looks like we had about 38 members participate. A wonderful mix of new and long time members but even better, everyone really enjoyed themselves. Given the temperatures outside (and inside the dome) the enthusiasm was testimony to the passion we all have for astronomy.

Besides using the 74" scope, some members brought telescopes to setup in the parking lot and tracked down the targets on the evening's list. The DDO is an unbeatable venue for this type of event, where we can socialize, inform, and observe/image. Best of all, everyone pitched in so willingly to make every aspect of the evening enjoyable that it certainly realized our hope that it would be a highly interactive, participative (read "fun") evening for us all.

We'd like to thank several people who helped make the evening a success; Phil and Jim for giving excellent presentations on observing and imaging, Bill for driving out to get the pizza and coffee, Gilles for wiring up the audio/video system in the lecture hall, and Diane, Rajesh and Ed for running the dome. And of course Katrina for braving the cold with her scope, Blake for helping with star hopping, and [prof. Laframboise] who brought his scope along.
Looks like the new format is good. Certainly this is more in-line with the expectations I had when I joined the RASC.

almost lost cloak

Wind must have picked up a corner... It was draped over the railing right down to the ground. I hauled it up. Don't know how many clothes pegs I lost in the incident.

I have to figure out a way to secure it better.

more planetaries (Toronto)

It was promising to be clear and I was still riding high from last night. So I set up the SP-C8 on "The Overlook" (my porch). Made an observing list with showpiece objects, double stars, interesting deep sky, and interesting coloured stars, using the SkyTools 3's automatic generation feature. Made sure it included some planetary nebula.

6:38 PM, 15 Jan 2012. Aligned the Orion finder scope. Took a look at Venus. A little late now... The bright planet was down in the trees.

It was cold! I pulled the weather condition information from the Environment Canada web site for Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport.

Pressure: 101.9 kPa (rising)
Temperature: -11.4°C
Dewpoint: -16.9°C
Humidity: 64 %
Wind: NNW 18 km/h
Wind Chill: -19

I didn't notice it, at the time, that they reported the sky as "mostly cloudy." It was looking clear for me!

I did not have a marine battery hooked up yet.

7:21 PM. I finally opened the observer's chair...

Thanks to SkyTools (planned targets) and Stellarium 0.9 (horizon/trees simulation), I was in the target area. A big lazy backwards "J" with HR 1270 at the top-left. Seeing pretty low, mag 10 to 11, methinks. OK, let's find this variable star NSV 1484 in Cam, I thought... and rate the colour and brightness.

The star was not visible! Must be at mag 12 right now... I saw TYC 03730-0145 1 at mag 10.8 below or to the north. I saw TYC 03730-0741 1 at mag 11.6 to the west. And TYC 03730-0070 1 at mag 11.7 to the south-east...

7:35. Clouds! WTF? Big fluffy clouds. Surprisingly bright. Reflecting light from the snow...

7:47. Had another look. I could see TYC 03730-0734 1 at mag 11.9 to the north-west. And I was pretty sure I was seeing a faint star to the south of TYC 03730-0145 1, close. ST3 said it is a mag 12.9 star, but that the data is poor quality... If accurate, that'd be a new record!

ST3 says NSV 1484 has a magnitude 6.00 or 12.00 "p" or photographic. In the list, it said it should be "obvious." Ah, no.

8:03. I continued to get used to the ST3 accelerated way of hopping. Went from γ (gamma) Eri and the T-shape of stars, using 39 Eri as the marker for the top of the field.

Learned a little trick! If one must turn the finder scope (knowing that it will go out of alignment), fix it right then and there, before hopping to the new target. I.e. centre on a star with tracking on, turn the finder, then realign the finder. Done! Have to remember that.

Scanned the field in the finder. Couldn't see anything. Looked in the 36mm Baader. And I saw something with dimension, but fuzzy, even though the stars were nicely focused. There it was, a planetary nebula. It was quite apparent when I remembered to take my glasses off... Doh! Cleopatra's Eye or NGC 1535.

OK. I decided to bump up the power.

8:24. Went to 222x with the Tele Vue 9mm. Quite large. Not quite circular.

I could easily see 11.2 and 11.0 mag stars to the east.

8:26. Messaged the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. Said I was doing more planetaries. Thanked Stu. Curiously, he sent a note 20 minutes before. He too was observing!

8:30. Tracking was holding up nicely—even though I had only done a crude polar alignment.

I could see TYC 05318-0153 1 at mag 12.0 to the south-east, below the two stars. And forming a loose square is GSC 05318-0785 at mag 12.8 (poor quality).

Nice target. Decent even in the city.

9:08. Wow. Hind's Crimson Star (aka R Lep). Fantastic. Faint but remarkable. Took me a little while to get to it, battling clouds, and not having great marker stars. Still, easily done with ST3. It's like a brake light! Striking colour. M-class star. Variable. I thought, "I should estimate of brightness."

9:13. I found it brighter than HD 31901 which is 9.1 but less than HD 31848 at 7.4. So, maybe 8.5 or 8.0. Not a lot of other stars nearby... ST3 says it varies between 5.50 and 11.70 over 427 days.

9:37. Used the 9mm on Spirograph nebula. IC 418. It's smaller than Cleopatra's. No nearby field stars. Weird. Empty part of space! I could not pick up any details. Seemed greenish at low power; grey at high power?

The thought flickered through my mind, using the 2x, with the Ultima Barlow.

I felt that I'd like to look at these objects again. Perhaps when at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Or at Mom's. Of course, they're winter targets. Still, I wondered what they'd look like in dark skies. I decided to not mark them as logged in ST3...

OK. Let's go for Ole Faithful, M42, and the Trapezium.

9:51. Did try the 2x. Certainly made it bigger... Parked on the Trap, aka θ1 (theta) Ori.

Felt colder now. Put on another layer on top.

10:04. Tried 222x on the Trap but the view was soft. Probably a tree branch.

Tried to detect nebula around 42 and 45 Ori. Couldn't see anything as pronounced as the Great Nebula. But it seemed a little misty in the area. Maybe I should get a UHC filter...

10:36. IC 2149 (PN G166.1+10.4) in Aur is tiny! Even with the 9mm, even while straight up, it was difficult to see any detail. Again, not a lot of field stars. Hint of colour at low power.

[ed: Already viewed once, at the CAO.]

11:09. Not very exciting, IC 2165 (aka PN G221.3-12.3) in CMa. I think I'll save it for another time...

11:23. Winter Albireo (aka HR2764) in CMa. Lovely. Used δ (delta) and ο2 (omicron) in the finder to nab it. Very pleasing in the 36mm. The bright star is orange; if I remember correctly, Albireo is more of a yellow colour.

Checked conditions:

Pressure: 103.3 kPa (rising)
Temperature: -8.5°C
Dewpoint: -15.1°C
Humidity: 59 %
Wind: E 5 km/h
Wind Chill: -12

They noted it was "clear" now. Indeed.

Huh. They said it was warmer...

11:59. It took a while but I split HD 52270 (aka AG 328A) in Mon. I was confused at first because I was misreading ST3's interactive atlas. I didn't noticed that I still had the high power eyepiece active. Explained why the field didn't match and why I wasn't seeing the double.

A faint, tight pair. Equal brightness and colour (if you can call it that).

Clouds were back. Looked more permanent this time.

Good timing... looks like the battery just died... The tracking stopped working.

I decided to do a rapid shutdown and just brought in the OTA and electronics. Maybe I'd get lucky with tomorrow's skies...

12:26 AM, 16 Jan 2012. Apple pie and ice cream. Perfect ending.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Nicole posted a entry in the RASC national's new blog area. She talked about her "top" astronomical experience. Which was not a single event but her overall enjoyment in joining the RASC and finding friends with similar interests. Very moving.

Day needs help

Paul Markov asked if I could help Richard Day at Skylight Telescopes from the UK with a local matter in Toronto... I requested more info.

no perfect battery

Nicole and I discussed portable batteries for astronomy use. I said there was no perfect battery. And pointed out that even a Celestron unit is a compromise.

The perfect astronomer's battery would be a deep discharge marine style with lots of amp-hours but without white lights, radio, and air pump.

But not that big...

I am a hand controller

Katrina sent a note out.
Was a fun night - big thanks to Stu and Paul for arranging it, for Blake for being a human computer hand controller and helping me find the Eskimo, and thank you to everyone at the pub afterwards...... you know who you are ;-)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

now that's more like it

What a great evening! This is why I joined the RASC. To observe with peers and friends.

Stu and Paul have remade the member's night observing session at the David Dunlap Observatory into a truly fun event. The socialising, a component sorely missing from regular meetings. Breaking bread (er, pizza?!). The brief talks got us in the mood. And then some good ole' observing under the stars. Helping each other.


nebulae hunting (Richmond Hill)

Went to the (new format) Members Night at the David Dunlap Observatory. Social, quick dinner, short talks, and then observing. I was looking forward to it.

Met Guy N. at the York Mills station. A good number of members showed up, despite the chilly weather. Initially I mistook Venus and Jupiter. Viewed the shadow of Europa on Jupiter.

Pizza and pop was good. Many seemed to enjoy the coffee as well. Thanks, Bill.

Phil delivered a great talk on filters. A good sales pitch. There were two other presentations. Chatted briefly with Jason and Ed.

Sparked up the butane handwarmer.

And then we were back outside in the parking lot. When I saw her struggling with her Skywatcher 10" SynScan in manual mode, I helped Katrina find Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392) by starhopping using her Pocket Sky Atlas. Later I helped Stu starhop as well (he was aimed at Auriga) with his Obsession 12½" Dob. We also looked at Jupiter. Took in the Great Orion Nebula. Helped Guy S. and family with the Orion constellation.

I popped into the big dome hoping to look through the eyepiece. But there was a huge queue. Good thing/bad thing. Late in the evening, I took a peek through the refractor professor Laframboise had set up.

We had surprisingly good skies.

oven gift

Brenda and Eric offered me a toaster oven. Thanks! I encouraged them to provide it to another. Explained I have lots of nichrome wire. And another toaster oven that I've yet to rip apart. Gilles, perhaps?

don't touch it

I was ordered by Paul and Rajesh, when Jim was having trouble with the projector, when we could not get it to respond to a better resolution setting, to not touch it. Fine. Display presentations at a crappy low resolution, delay the start of the presentation, put the presenter in an uncomfortable situation. Fine. Fortunately Jim was thinking on his feet. But it could have ended badly. In the end, I just wanted to be a passenger anyway.

shoulda brought it

Ran into Al at the DDO event. I asked if he had collimated his 'scope. Nope. Not yet. Oh, I offered, we can do it now! And then he revealed that he had not brought it. Huh.

Reminded him, when collimating his SCT to use a star near the zenith and to remove the mirror diagonal. He thought I meant the primary mirror. Sorry for the confusion.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

John stepping down

John sent a note to the Yahoo!Group saying that after 8 years administering the RASC Toronto Centre's telescope loan program, he's planning to step down.

I'd do it. If I had a basement...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

hosted IT meeting

Allard and Jason came by my place. Registered them on my LAN. I had the whiteboard ready but we didn't use it. We very quickly reviewed the survey results. A tad too fast for my liking. I also thought a formal report will be needed, to send to council. The lads, once again, raised the issue of having meeting videos online. I said there were issues.

Monday, January 09, 2012

welcome letter edits

Sent some edits to Phil. The RASC Toronto Centre welcome letter was a little out of date. Actually, the whole thing is very clinical. Not warm and fuzzy. But that will take some energy to craft.

old forms and data

Denis asked Leslie and I if we needed anything in the Elbowspace account. It was being shutdown soon. I said I'd look into it. The RASC NOVA course may still use some forms here...

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Geoff is happy

He replied, "TERRIFIC!!!!"

installed board

And guess what... It works! Geoff's CPC 1100 mount is working again.

Emailed the lads.

package delivered

Doorbell rang Sunday morning. I was in the loo. Assumed it was someone soliciting.

But when I left for Lex and Ger's birthday party, I found a USPS cube box addressed to me. Huh? Sunday delivery?! Not complaining... The package was from Terry! Ho ho! Look at that...

Saturday, January 07, 2012

finished database changes

I was sleepy but I wanted to help Phil get up and running with the revised Access database.

Entered all the current fees into the new transaction tables. Adjusted the form. Did a bit more clean up. Asked Phil, via instant messaging, if he wanted me to "move over" the associate members to the new table. He said he'd do it. OK...

And in short order I was done. Whew! Now I just had to wait for Phil to finish his "Honey Do" chores.

revised database

Phil asked that I accelerate some changes to the RASC Toronto Centre membership database. Roger. Fired up Access 2003 and got to work.

Refined the Member Entry form. Cleaner layout, more consistent, good tab key order, improved labels, etc. Added search drop-down menus on the Main and Membership tabs. Made the name box at the top of the form also show the current ID (UTP).

Added a field to the main table called "RASColdID" for helping track when a member gets a new number ID from Nat Off.

Populated the new "TCstatus" field. But had to make some decisions based on expiry dates, companies, deceased members. Looked up a few of the hostiles that I knew of and set them to Unfriendly.

Touched up some of the corporate entries, moving the company name info into our new field.

Imported Yahoo List and ID information from multiple sources.

Created the new transaction tables, one for type, and one for category. Linked to transactions table. And appropriate adjustments made in form.

Still more to do...

Friday, January 06, 2012

SNO logistics

Phil and I did some logistics planning for the Sudbury trip to SNO LAB. Sharmin and Katrina will join us and we four will travel together in Phil's vehicle. The general plan formed was that we'd rendezvous Tuesday night at chez Chow. Then up "medium early" to begin the long drive. Possible visit to Science North. Geeky pictures with the big coin. Crash at hotel...

2011 in review

Looking back, it was a pretty good year, astronomically speaking.

close and near

In terms of solar system objects, I viewed a lot. Of course I looked at the Moon on a few occasions, naked eye, with binoculars, and through telescopes. Enjoyed seeing the shadow of the Straight Wall on a couple of occasions. Didn't get Lunar X though.

I viewed every planet in the system, Mercury through Neptune. Enjoyed seeing Mars again near the end of the year. I was particularly pleased to see an ice cap. Jupiter and Saturn were the big draws. Had some stunning views of Jupiter, in fact. Saw Jovian, Saturnian, and Uranian moons. Saw a number of moon shadows on Jupiter. A highlight was finding Uranus naked eye while at Mew Lake. I also took in small worlds, including Pluto (a career first), Vesta, Pallas, and Ceres. Various meteors, of course. Seeing Jupiter in the day time was pretty cool too.

Comet Garradd C/2009 P1 was spectacular in the summer. What a treat. It was particularly neat watching in move in the course of an evening.

Mustn't forget the Sun (viewed in full spectrum, Hydrogen-alpha, Calcium-K line). Saw sunspots, sundogs, and parahelic circles.

The most frustrating aspect of the hobby was asteroid occultations. After another 5 or 6 attempts, even with video recording equipment, I threw in the towel. Just not having fun. I stopped following and monitoring occultations. Returned Denis's occultation gear in the summer. Good riddance.

Saw a great number of man-made objects. Countless satellites. Deliberately looked for a few Iridiums. Watched many flyovers of the International Space Station, sometimes when a shuttle was approaching or departing.

Caught an early morning ISS flyover telescopically and was astounded by the wonderful sunrise colours washing quickly over the complex. Successfully tracking and viewing the ISS in day light was another coup. A crowd pleaser!


I viewed a great number of deep sky targets: 31 Messiers catalog objects, 25 NGCs, and 3 IC objects. Saw the Muscle Man Cluster, Kemble's Cascade, the Veil Nebula (on a few occasions), the Basel 1 open cluster, and the Little Queen. Took in 67 double-star or multi-star systems including the incredible Burnham 1 system with 9 stars! Few measurements were taken this year although I did try video recording Car Caroli and κ Her to analyse with Ed's BinStar program. Enjoyed a number of very colourful stars: Hind's Crimson Star, La Superba, V Aquilae, R Cygni, Garnet Star, and Yed Prior.

very far

It was pretty cool to have not one but two supernovae spark up for us in the northern half during the summer. Viewed SN 2011dh and, as it wound down, SN 2011fe. 23 and 28 million light years away, respectively. Individual stars, super bright mind you, but individual stars nonetheless.

The furthest object viewed? Way far. The mag 15.90 quasar HS 1603+3829 at 3.9 giga light years! [ed: Correction!] 9.4 giga light years! That was pretty exciting! Thanks, Ian.

I also pushed myself in terms of seeing deeper. At Mew lake, I did a detailed naked eye chart and saw down to mag 6.9. Very happy with that. I was surprised inside city limits to get down to 12.4 with the 8".


Was fortunate to play with a lot of imaging and video gear over the year. Learned and used Denis's black and white StellaCam. Used and repaired the centre's colour MallinCam. In fact, I implemented remote control for the MallinCam and prepared to deliver NSN broadcasts. Started learning the centre's black and white SKYnyx. Helped Manuel with his planetary cameras. I tried out SLOOH on cloudy nights in Canada.

Imaged or recorded the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, comet Garradd C/2009 P1, the Sun (with sunspots), Castor, M42, M43, M81, M82, M3, the Running Man, M51, SN 2011dh, the International Space Station. Was very lucky to capture noctilucent clouds.

Viewed a NSN broadcast of asteroid 2005 YU55 during its close approach.

I made a Bahtinov mask for the 8".

Launched my photo gallery.

Catching the ISS cross in front of the Moon, near the end of the year... still boggles my mind. It was so much fun. And a big part of that was sharing the experience with other RASC members. Way up there... Wow!


Observed from a variety of locations again. But not as wide ranging as 2010. All in Ontario, in fact.

Hurontario and Eglinton, Mississauga; six different sites in Toronto; countless times at the CAO in the Blue Mountains; the Long Sault Conservation Area; King; along Grey Rd 2 near Ravenna; at the Farmer's Pantry orchard in Beaver Valley (near Clarksburg); at Mew Lake camp ground in Algonquin Park; and from the David Dunlap Observatory, of course.

good times

There were a few other notable events in the year...

I had fun during winter observing from new porch. While not as roomy as the previous back yard, I had much more control over stray light. I particularly enjoyed leaving gear outside and ready for back-to-back clear nights. The 5-night run in March was fantastic (and exhausting)! The 6-night run in October, despite the leaves on the trees, was amazing!

Finished my custom deep red LED headlight. A little heavy and bulky but it works great and the colour is perfect.

I made and ran a custom Stellarium introductory course with handout for RASC members. And everyone liked it too!

Connecting SkyTools 3 Professional to the Paramount ME and driving it was very exciting. It will change how I observe.

Watching my blog go over 1,000 entries was kind of weird! That meant an increase of over 150% from 2010. Wow.

One of the most precious moments in 2011 though was observing with Bob Chapman, someone we all look up to. We had a lot of fun at Mew Lake. It was an honour being able to use his 'scope and help him find a supernova. Humbling, when the Master expresses his thanks.

I can only say, thank you.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

57 back

Jason reported to Allard and I that we received 57 survey responses.

Did a quick calculation in my head. That's around 9% of the membership. Not a lot. Lower than I was expecting.

And when I started to think about it, about 10 of those were from the paper mailings!

Al's trying to collimate

Al sent me an email. Said he was having trouble collimating his C8 despite installing Bob's Knobs. He described the view of Jupiter, its moons, the stars and it sounded terrible. He also said he followed the procedure but "any time I try to focus the star leaps all over the place." That seemed very odd. He went on to say the "rings look concentric and nothing happens." Boy, I'm having a really hard time following...

I said that I've collimated many 'scopes. Outdoors and in. Reminded him that he needed good conditions when using a real star. I specifically told him that I had not installed and used the knobs. I wondered if he might come out to an observing session and we could fix him up there.

I also suggested he put the message to the Yahoo!Group. Intimated it really couldn't be done by email or over the phone. Should be able to find someone experienced with this in his neighbourhood. He said he'd have to review the instructions on how to post. Huh.

I sent him a web link to a good set of collimation instructions but he said he had already seen it. "When I touch the focus the whole image jumps around." What?! It sounded to me like the mount was shaking. Maybe the collimation fine but there are problems with the mount. Or possibly the knobs were not installed correctly.

He said he was going to ask Dietmar...

He asked if there was still going to be a meeting on the 11th. Um. Yes.

Poor guy's getting really frustrated. And hammered with many things at the same time... All with the end goal of imaging, possibly the most complicated task to do with a telescope.

not eligible

Jason stumbled across a government grant program called the Canadian Interactive Fund. But the deadline was Jan 9. Crikey. We'd have to drop everything to meet the submission date.

Jason phoned me for some guidance. I thought the first thing to do was thoroughly review the requirements, found out how we can submit, when precisely the deadline was. I suggested we get other people involved, perhaps Denis and Tony, who had good experience with these things. Suggested Allard be looped in. Expressed my concern about the time frame and everyone's current load. But he was hot to trot. He booked a Skype meeting with me, Ralph, Dietmar, Charles, and Scott.

It was Allard who spotted it: this was a grant for cultural use.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

cameras OK

Gord answered a couple of my SNO LAB questions. Cameras are OK. Just not camera phones. Geez. What's Sharmin going to do?!

gots to pays

Gord sent a note about the SNO LAB tour. 20 spots. 24 have expressed interest. Only 13 have paid.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

ALMA landscape completed

I made a landscape profile for the Stellarium software for the Atacama Large Millimetre Array telescope. This was after I saw the wonderful panorama photo by Stéphane Guisard on APOD.

Did the bulk of the editing on John Smallberries in Fireworks producing a 4 panel display with each image being 512 x 256 pixels. It works pretty good. On the netbook, no less! Aspect ratio is nearly perfect. I'm not convinced the rotation angle is correct but who cares. And I need to fine-tune the fog angle...

Ooh. The SMC and LMC!

This was my second cut at it. I had tried in Union, at Mom's, over the holidays, with John Littlejohn (the same netbook), using Paint.NET but just had not been able to get it to work. The images wouldn't display. I didn't investigate why, whether the files were too large, or the wrong dimensions, or there was some PNG setting I had set wrong.

Fine now. Feels like I'm there which is pretty cool. And a little eerie.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Jupiter and Moon from haze (Toronto)

First time I've seen a planet for a little while... Bloody weather! All weekend at the CAO in a great dark sky location... Oh well.

From my office window, looking west, I noticed a bright point. And then the Moon peek past the edge of the roof. Jupiter, I wondered?

I verified in the iPod Touch app Planets 3.1 that Jupiter was just below the Moon.

The half-lit Moon sported a halo for a while.

updated lot info

With the data gathered and photos taken from our New Years Eve walkabout, I updated the lot diagram for the Carr Astronomical Observatory. In turn this allowed me to produce improved acreage calculations for the CAO. I saw better correspondence along the north edge of the property.

It doesn't seem right in the south. We'll have to wait until we get back there with a GPS...

I didn't bring mine (rather, the old Panasonic Charles gave me) as I was trying to keep my carry-in weight down. The Horvatins didn't bring theirs either... Oh well.

We're in the ball park. And it is nice to know that we'll be making some money soon.

leaving the CAO

I seem to have just as much stuff on my sled as when I came in. What's up with that?!

A little sad to go. A little sad we didn't get to do any observing!

It was a tough slog up the hill... Fortunately, it was not storming. And not too cold.

IT survey closed

The RASC IT and web survey deadline had passed. Jason began collating the results...

Sunday, January 01, 2012

warm room pilots installed

Helped Tony, briefly, with the installation of the pilot lights for the Geoff Brown Observatory warm room block heater and corresponding switch at the panel. He let me flick the switch.

The little neon bulbs glowed to life as I energised the circuit. Nice!

played game

We took the astronomy-themed Monopoly game to the CAO to try it out. When it started raining outside, we decided it was a good day for board games. I was was the first one out--flat broke and without any planets! Boo!