Monday, April 30, 2012

box from Geoff arrived

Big box. Very light... Baader film! Woo hoo. A good size piece around 12 x 9 inches.

Now I could make the custom solar filter for the Oberwerk binoculars at the CAO. Thank you Geoff!

KMN group order

Chris offered to put together a group order for the Kick-Me-Not lights. RASC Toronto Centre members started jumping on the bandwagon. Good going!

murky Moon (Toronto)

Looked up, as per usual, exiting the plant. Skies were clear overhead. Saturn was near zenith. But I couldn't see Mars. Where was Mars?

Then I spotted the Moon. Down low, in the buildings and hydro wires. Orange. Skewed. Foreboding.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

NEAF ended

NEAF happened. And I didn't go... Couldn't. With this new work project. I wanted to go. And I finally had a compelling reason to go, this time.

updated SFM

Updated the CAO Site Facilities Manual. For guests and the supervisors. Put a fresh version on the supers Yahoo!Group. Let them know. Readied to email it to all the CAO annual pass holders...

helped IAD '12 at DDO (Richmond Hill)

I helped at International Astronomy Day party at David Dunlap Observatory.

Arrived about 7 PM. Some people were leaving. Like a shift change. Phil left. Earlier in the day, they had done solar observing.

The night shift was comprised of Tom, Bryon, Ed, Michelle, Sharmin, Shawn, Bill, Guy, Paul, Karen, Diane, Rajesh, Chris, Dave, Katrina, Ralph, Charles, Steve, Nicole, Gilles, Brenda, Eric, and others. They were either helping with logistics or flying 'scopes.

Took my 8". First time in a long time. As I was putting out the extension cord and power bar, it was then I realised I had forgotten the power supply. Damn. Or the lead acid power tank. Double damn. No way to drive the 'scope. Neither did I have the C battery pack. Or C batteries for that matter. Grrr. So if I wanted to track, I would have to do it. Old school. I wasn't completely surprised as it was a bit of a last-minute decision to go. And consequently a rapid pack. Still, felt frustrated.

Viewed the Moon to help align the finder scope.

Noted Ptolemaeus in the southern hemisphere. Large carter. Extremely smooth flat floor. Very interesting long shadows. Must have high walls with some breaks. Spotted rilles in Mare Vaporum. Some tiny craters. It was a surprising view. Very steady. Fantastic seeing. Incredible resolution. Best I had ever seen.

I hate the Moon.

For the longest time, I was polar aligned on a completely wrong part of the sky.

To members of the general public, I showed the Moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Algieba (not Porrima). Wasn't really feeling on my game. Did not have some of my "fast facts" ready.

We enjoyed two Iridium flares. And the International Space Station briefly...

Tried to figure out Saturn's moons. Titan was obvious. Steve showed me Gas Giants on the iPhone. Nice app. But not free.

At the pub after, Paul thanked us.


Laser pointer (1 of 2) was finicky all night. No surprise there.


Looked through Chris's LS 8" a couple of times. The idea of the Light Switch is intriguing, an automatic aligning 'scope. Just turn it on. But he said there are issues. It is very sensitive magnetically. Underground power lines will throw it off! Wow. And there's no one to override it. Oh, not good. And the single arm design is a problem. Not stable, he said. I saw that first hand when trying to focus. Incredible vibration.


Chris liked my red blinkies, the Kick Me Not tripod leg lights...

he wants me there

Bumped into Ralph at the DDO. He asked if I was going to the Open House and Awards Picnic... He wants me to be there! OK!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Venus and Moon (Toronto)

Spotted Venus early in the evening. Later the crescent Moon.

Forgot all about the occultation opportunity. Perhaps the easiest chance yet!

Lay down on the couch to read. And passed out...


The lads were very successful!

Congrats to all RASC members.

created solar observing address

Created a solar observing email address. Sheesh. Totally forgot. Tested with Shawn.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

no confirmation

Installed from NASA the meteor watch app on the iPod Touch. Then I thought I'd test it. Pretty quickly I saw that it doesn't ask for a confirmation! I just sent in fake data. That's goofy. They're gonna get a lot of crap. If I use it again, I'll have to be careful...

built new CAO spreadsheet

Deployed the new CAO tracking and income spreadsheet. This was driven by a request from Scott to improve the record-keeping at the observatory. I built and tested an Excel file so to track all the different types of people and purchases. I sent the first edition to Ian D. to check out.

Saturn at the meridian (Toronto)

Leaving work tonight, as I stepped outside, I saw the sidewalks were drying. I looked up...

Saturn. Straight up. Near Spica.

Mars. Off in the west. Setting.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

helped with evite

I assisted Tony, Charles, and Ralph with the back-office work for the RASC Toronto Centre volunteer appreciation barbecue. I set up an account at evite. I tested and documented the system and options they should use. I created a target email and made it forward to the three. Created a sample invite. Suggested some wording to use in the invite. And then bowed out. Over to you!

Monday, April 23, 2012

not a lot of choice

Doug and I commiserated on buying telescope equipment locally in Toronto. Or not. He's looking for bits and bobs and accessories for his new baby. Too bad Jerry's not still around...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

want weed eater back

Asked for the weed eater back. Kiron said he was not able to get it running. I don't think he actually worked on it very much. So, I'll have a go at it. I found some excellent videos on reconditioning the carb and tuning the motor. We desperately need this up and running for CAO lawn care.

CAO passports away!

I prepared a mailing for the CAO pass holders. This included the new double-sided colour CAO "passport" card and a cover letter.

The card is produced using the mail merge feature of Word with an Excel file. The data is exported from the Access database. I built the Word primary documents to use linked images to keep the file size small. I stuffed and stamped the envelopes. Thanks to Jason for the image work, Tony for letter content and proofing, and Phil for database support.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

more database upgrades

I made more improvements and changes to the RASC Toronto Centre membership Access database for Phil and Ralph.

missing dark matter

Spotted an interesting article over at Astronomy magazine. The title caught my eye: New study finds mysterious lack of dark matter in Sun’s neighborhood.

The prevailing theory was that dark matter is all around us. Our "neighborhood" was expected to be filled with the invisible stuff. But astronomers in Chile, measuring the motions of over 400 stars up to 13 000 light-years away, reported that observational evidence does not support this. The mass derived from the visible material matches. There's no "extra" mass.

Then the article said, "This may mean that attempts to directly detect dark matter particles on Earth are unlikely to be successful." And I thought of all the experiments at the SNO LAB. What if they don't detect anything?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

made a checklist for the Stellarvue

Made up an inventory sheet for the Stellarvue refractor and Orion SVD mount. Put it in the telescope case. Sheets like this will be useful to RASC members participating in the telescope loan program. It will show them what's available when they receive a 'scope; and it will remind them what to put back when they return the gear. Devil in the details. It will hopefully make sure that little bits, like a critical, special, unique bolt, is not left behind.


John liked the sheet!

one-to-many forwards

Learned that one-to-many email forwards with the RASC Toronto Centre web site cPanel is easy peasy. Wish I had known that a while ago. I implemented this for the VAB coordinators.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

new markers for CAO

In addition to supplies needed for the "passport" card holder mailing, I picked up some white board and highlighter markers for the CAO. The markers up north are getting tired...

Monday, April 16, 2012

CAO pass holders notified

Sent "preliminary" email to the CAO passholders. To do a few things. Verify addresses. Give a heads up that we'll be sending them attachments soon. And to watch their mail box for a letter and wallet card.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

repaired counter weight bolt

Repaired the thumb screw for the counter weight. For the loan program Orion mount with the StellarVue refractor. Took me a while though. My plan was to glue the inside of the plastic handle but I wanted a strong support, a cross member. I had successfully drilled a small hole through the middle of the bolt which fit a small nail. I then used epoxy glue and filled the void of the handle. As planned, the glue level cover the nail-pin. It should work! Thanks to Phil and Tony for their support.

I also removed the drive motors. Stupid things didn't work. John said it was OK to hang onto them.

Friday, April 13, 2012

SN sent a comp issue

That was very nice of them, the SkyNews crew. The only problem is that I told them about the wrong issue. Damn it!

didn't see the ISS with Ken

As we stepped outside from the restaurant, Ken mentioned the International Space Station was due to flyover. Now how did he know that?! When? Now! We checked the time on his wrist watch. And I got him to look up Heavens Above on his Blackberry. But, we must have missed it. Even from the north side of the street, we didn't see anything...But it gave me a chance to point out Venus, Mars, Regulus, Saturn, etc. I promised to advise him of good future flyovers...

RASC settles into DDO

After the Richmond Hill city council voted in favour of the OMB's decision regarding the use of the lands surrounding the David Dunlap Observatory, they then asked the developers to provide the RASC Toronto Centre a long-term lease. Metrus accepted. How about that?!

May/Jun SN too

I found the May/June edition of SkyNews in my mailbox today. Back on track.

The big thing is the Transit of Venus in June, of course.

Also a reminder about the partial eclipse.

Lots of stuff coming up...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

SNO LAB tips

Having done it, I now know what happens. I finally have the answers to the remaining unknown questions. I resolved, on the trip back, to document them for future visitors. Just some handy logistics items.

Now that the SNO LAB is organising its Grand Opening, more people may be visiting. Hopefully people will find these notes helpful...

tour overview

This is a high-level outline of what happens during a tour of the SNO LAB.
  1. preamble
    1. arrive mine
    2. check in at SNO LAB admin building
  2. prepare to enter mine
    1. sign waivers
    2. receive mine clothing
    3. change into mine clothing
    4. receive ID tag
    5. provide emergency contact info
    6. safety briefing
  3. enter mine
    1. enter headframe
    2. receive chewing gum
    3. take cage to 6800 foot level
    4. walk to safe haven, pit stop
    5. review emergency evacuation procedures
    6. hike rest of way to lab
  4. tour lab
    1. go through clean procedure
    2. receive cleaned camera equipment
    3. coffee break
    4. lab tour part 1
    5. lunch
    6. lab tour part 2
    7. reconvene in lounge
  5. exit mine
    1. exit clean area
    2. change back into mining gear
    3. hike directly to shaft
    4. return to surface
    5. sign out from mine
  6. leaving the site
    1. return to admin building
    2. wash boots
    3. dress
    4. return mine clothing
    5. return ID tag
    6. sign out
    7. leave site
Hopefully that gives a good sense of what happens in the day. And shows why everything starts pretty early. It takes a couple of hours just to get to the clean lab.

what to bring / not bring

It was a little unclear, in advance, what items were OK to bring; and what was restricted.
  • Eye glasses. If you wear corrective lenses, switch from your contact lenses to your eyeglasses. Contact lenses are not permitted in the mine. This is due to rock dust. This is a safety issue. No contacts allowed. Make that switch the day before.
  • Socks. You'll be wearing heavy rubber boots in the mine and walking two km from the shaft to the lab. And walking back in those same boots. Do the double-sock trick to avoid blisters. So bring socks. The lab provides t-shirts to where under the Tyvek suit as they do not breathe.
  • Money. Optional. There is a "store" or "shop" at the SNO LAB where you can buy some touristy things. Of course, they are outrageously priced. But if you want a token, you'll need some money. So, bring cash. You don't need and can't use the money below surface. Plan to make the purchase during the exit process as the store will not be open when signing in.
  • Lock. Optional. Bring a lock, ideally a combination lock. When you switch to the mine clothing, you will leave your clothing and belongings in the surface-level locker room. If you have anything valuable at this stage, then you'll want to protect it. If you brought money for the shop or your car keys, you may want to secure these items.
  • Small knapsack. Optional. You might bring a small knapsack so to carry your lunch, fresh t-shirt, camera. But you'll need to leave this at the lower locker room before entering the clean lab.
  • Cameras. Optional. Point-and-shoot, video, SLR, and DSLR cameras are permissible in the lab but must be certified. They will be inspected on entrance to the lab. If permitted, they will be cleaned. It is possible they may not pass.
  • Camera cases. The case for a camera will also be inspected. It is less likely that fabric cases will pass inspection and be certified to enter the lab as they can trap and hold dust and debris. Consider not bringing cases or covers at all to avoid problems and speed the inspection process.
  • Leave everything else behind. Everything. Bring nothing valuable. Leave everything in your vehicle. Don't bring anything you don't need or can't take in the lab. If you're not driving directly to the lab but are taking a bus tour, leave all your personal items in your vehicle at your hotel. Or the hotel safe. If you're driving straight to the mine, leave everything in your vehicle at the site. That includes jewelery, watch, wallet, mobile phone, purse, earrings, etc. Remember, mobile phones are not allowed in the lab.
Hopefully these notes will emphasise what you truly need. Stuff you can't take into the lab? Why even bring it to Sudbury.

Again... Mobile phones are not allowed in the lab.

Let's be clear about this. In the SNO LAB proper, all that you're allowed is your own skin, underwears, possibly a camera, a lunch (which will stay in the lounge), and your eyeglasses. Got it? You can't bring anything else in.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

spotted dirt

Popped into the CAO security camera system. There was a big pile o' dirt where there wasn't before... Snapped the screen and forwarded to the crew.

dimensions visually

Made a site diagram (in Visio) of the CAO with the recently captured dimensions. Sent to Tony (as a GIF) for review. Probably easier to absorb than the list of numbers I share earlier.

DFK for sale

We heard from the Duras family that they have decided to sell the DFK telescope. They believe it to be too advanced for their needs. Curious how it is all playing out.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

3 or 6 screws

When chas and I were catching up and I mentioned the collimation issue with Millie's RC 'scope, he said he thought even the 8" had collimation screws for the primary. Really. Dietmar had told me the 10" did but not the 8.

According to the image I found on the OptCorp site, that is the case.

So, that's good news, in that aligning the 'scope is easy (er, easier).

But when I actually read the documentation, it shows that there are 3 more screws on the rear cell.

Ah ha. Chas was right!

Monday, April 09, 2012

solar filter designed

Sent out my big bins solar filter sketches to the CAO Comm and Ralph for some feedback. I want their blessing that the design is safe.

Hopefully they'll approve it. Certainly it is simple, cheap, easy to use, and effective.

Forwarded some random thoughts as well:
  • this is for the big binoculars at the CAO for the ToV event in June
  • a form core design with two sheets and solar film sandwiched is very inexpensive and easy to build with off-the-shelf supplies
  • foam core panel oversized to block sunlight for observer at oculars
  • clips to be taped to binoculars body to prevent accidental removal
  • solar film to be taped and glued between foam core sheets
  • warning labels on front and rear of foam core
  • finder scope will be removed to prevent accidents
  • Geoff Gaherty is sending me a spare piece of solar film 


They liked it!

tidied doubles

Tidied up double stars life list a little. Broke up some single elements into multiple line items. Double-checked the numbers. Over 250. Wow.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

sent security notes

I had found the security company's work order and notes document in the furnace room at the CAO. Asked Tony if he wanted it. I brought it home and scanned it. And then forward to Big T.

no more cheap stuff

Tim sent a note suggesting we avoid audio visual equipment from overseas; in the future we get things from near or in North America. I agreed. I suggested that as our needs at the CAO become more sophisticated that we need gear with enforceable warranties.

MODL 5 measurements

For Tony, I took some measurements for the MODL 5 excavation. Dimensions and depth. Measured the conduit run. Counted the conduit in the garage. We'd have enough. Shot a photo too.

time shifted

3:11. In bed.

I reflected on the weekend. Overall, pretty good. In addition to some great astronomy, I tackled some chores. Stuff done for Tony. Stuff done in prep for work party and OH. Learned the basics of TPoint. Took the picture for Mom. And I shifted my sleep cycle! Very important. (Fairly easy to do on an astronomy weekend.) I begin a project that is on the night shift.

more winter doubles (Blue Mountains)

8:20 PM, 7 Apr 2012. Viewed Venus in the Celestron 14-inch SCT at 391 power. It was very bright. I put in a polariser PL filter. Very nice shape. Half-lit. Wow.

On a whim, I bumped the power. Put in the 5mm. Yes. 782 power! Unbelievable. The view held up!

I wondered if we might see details or features on the cloud deck of the second planet. Aside from polarisers and solar filters, there was nothing in the RASC eyepiece cabinet. I asked Millie. She had a filter kit!

So we tried a variety of filters. The blue 80A, the deep red, the light red. No luck. Went back to the blue. Dropped power to 10mm. Hints of detail? Were the clouds uniform? Or was there some variance? It was very hard to tell.

It was about 35° up. We were looking through 1.8 air masses.

Went to Jupiter. Not a pleasing view. But then, it was lower. 15°. 4 air masses. I could not see the shadow of Io...

8:57 PM. Viewed Venus in Millie's RC. It showed a similar view.

I could see the glare from the vanes. See? That bugs me. The refractor people say central obstructions or suspended mirrors cause problems. I agree with them on spider vanes.

Went to γ (gamma) Leporis. Another target from the Sky and Telescope winter list.

Huh. The C14 was off target! I had to centre in the TV101.

Viewed the double star in the 27mm. Bright primary, yellow. Secondary 1 to 2 mags fainter, orange. Widely separated. (ST3 says the magnitude delta is 2.8.)

9:01. Went to 42 Orionis. Also on the S&T list, sort of. They list 45 as a companion to 42. But these stars are not related, per se. They'd be pleasing together at very low power, mind you. A target for binoculars perhaps. Meanwhile, Skytools 3 showed 42 itself was a double star. So, I thought I'd try splitting it.

42 is right in the middle of NGC 1977. Noticed some wisps of nebulosity in the area. 1977 is classed as both an open cluster and diffuse nebula. Noticed a double star to the north (in the centre of the diffuse nebula NGC 1975): Σ746A (Struve, STF). I could not split 42 Ori. I switched to the 10mm. Seeing was now worse.

Looked at 45 Ori. Again, not far from 42. They were similar in brightness. I guess I can now mark these are complete on the S&T list...

And, again, ST3 shows there's more to this. 45 is a triple. I could see the C star. But not B. Kept trying.

9:16. With averted vision I spotted B and C with 45 Ori. Wow. Those are 14.3 mag stars, according to the data in ST3, in the Object Information box.

Turned on the double star companion labels feature in ST3, at some point.

Still nothing with 42.

Returned to Σ746: spotted C with averted. Very faint. A and B seemed to be the same brightness...

Viewed M42, the great nebula. With Millie's 'scope and special filter, a UHC. Wow! Nebula was huge and bright! Stunning view.

9:25. Showed Millie the Winter Albireo. aka HR 2764. Lovely in the 27mm. C14 off target again!

9:28. Next up was 22 Ori. Also on the S&T list. Slewed. Saw a bright star to the north-east. Turned out that it was 22! Again, the mount was off a little. The bright star in the small perfect triangle with two faint start was HR 1764! OK. I had my bearings.

I had spotted the B and C companions to HR 1764 immediately. Thought the C star was a little brighter than B. ST3 supported this. B = 11.3 and C = 10.8. But B was easy to see averted. I had been using the 27mm. The B star I thought in-line with lower, distant bright star, 22.

Huh. I clued into the S&T listing. I wondered if Sky and Telescope was referring to 22 and HR 1764 as the "pair." Yes, these would be another good low-power target. If so, they're equal in brightness and colour. It was SkyTools that was making me go deeper. And it seemed the 22 proper was a (suspected) variable. No companions.

9:38. Wow. Viewed η (eta) Ori. A super tight pair. Equal colour. Star to the east was fainter. Maybe 1 to 2 mags. On the S&T winter doubles list, the AB pair. Spotted! (Yep. ST3 says the mag diff is 1.5.)

ST3 showed another star. I could easily see the C star to the north east. Other fainter stars in the field.

It was quiet. Heard Dietmar in his squeaky pants walking to his pod!

It had been wonderful with out the Moon, so far. Hopefully an indicator of the coming summer. I miss it here.

I hate the Moon.

I enjoyed seeing Venus above the Pleiades. Truly naked eye. That is, I didn't have my eyeglasses with me.

The "Moon" button... in the Context viewer. In SkyTools. The "simulate" button. Stumbled across or noticed it tonight. Turned it off! Yes! Why the hell didn't I notice it the last 2 nights?! It made the on-screen displays work as I expected.

9:46. Ha. Viewed η Pup aka Howe 19 and HR 2910. A cool double star. Car headlights. Wide split in the 27mm. Nearly exact same brightness. Same colour. Light yellow. Another one (from the S&T list) bites the dust.

9:52. 32 Ori. Super tight. Blue white stars. Companion was to the north east. I estimated about 1 mag different (ST3 says 1.6). Tried the 10mm but the view was too soft. And vibration during focusing was a problem. Went to the 18mm which was better. ST3 said the true binary system was showing a 1.3" separation (as of March).

9:56. The Moon cleared the hill.

I hate you.

10:01. Looked quickly at M78 with the 27mm. Still thinking about it, the reflection nebula, for the Orion talk at the DDO. Responded to averted. Why hadn't I looked earlier?! Duh.

10:06. 52 Ori. Equal stars, equal colour and brightness. Very tight. 1.0" in 2002.

10:11. Viewed Christmas Tree cluster, aka NGC 2264. In C14 'scope it was cut off. Viewed with 55mm in TV101. Nice. Put 18mm in TV, better still. Lovely.

10:26. I grabbed the conditions:

The Collingwood report from Environment Canada:

As of: 10:00 PM EDT Saturday 7 April 2012
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: falling
Temperature: 4.1°C
Dewpoint: -4.7°C
Humidity: 53 %
Wind: SSW 3 km/h


Issued : 3:30 PM EDT Saturday 7 April 2012
Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light this evening.
Low minus 2.

And the local conditions according to the Davis weather station:

wind 0
hum 49
baro 1021.6
temp 5.0

10:48. Went to the Eskimo nebula (aka Clown, NGC 2392, Caldwell 39). For two reasons. To verify the 'scope, er mount, was OK under orders from the Dell now. And to show Millie. Viewed at low power first in the C14. Then bumped to the 18mm. Wow. Structure was visible in the planetary nebula. Concentric rings.

Viewed Pleiades in big (Oberwerk) binos. Lovely. 3D! No neb visible.

Started playing with TPoint. Released control of the Paramount from the netbook computer.

2:07 AM. 8 Apr 2012. Showed Millie Σ1417 in the C14. An easy split. aka HD 88829. The view was mushy in her equipment... More collimation issues? Dirty eyepiece?

2:09 AM. Viewed Saturn. Lovely. Seeing was fairly good. Used the 18mm. Many moons and stars visible. But could not see Enceladus.

2:22. Viewed Mars. Dark region centre and slightly to the north.

2:28. Could not see the moons of Mars.

I was done. But satisfied.

What an amazing three evenings. Beautiful clear skies (not great seeing but hey). Increasingly comfortable with the Paramount and driving it. Much accomplished. Many double stars. A couple of Messiers. The mystery star in Messier 93 found. 31 targets in total. Broke my double star split limit. Blew it out of the water... Happy.

only 22 data points

10:37 PM, 7 Apr 2012. Dietmar had told me during the afternoon that one could right click the Tpoint icon in TheSky6 to get more info about the model. Cool. That's easy.

I reviewed notes at Software Bisque's site on editing a TPoint model.Read the TPoint manual. Noted the following...
A preliminary assessment of a telescope's pointing capabilities can be made using perhaps 20-30 stars. More extensive pointing runs of 50-100 stars evenly distributed over the sky will provide TPoint with the necessary data to create a model that contains the geometrical terms and any additional terms relevant to the telescope system.

Just tried it, switched off the icon view, and noted it said that there were 22 data points. Hrrm. Not a lot.

Wanted to view the TPoint software and the sheet view of the model but it would not work. On the netbook. I suspected this was because the TPoint software wasn't installed...

Checked on the Dell. Was able to load up the sheet. 22 rows. Yeah...

10:48 PM. Went to Eskimo. For two reasons. To verify the 'scope er mount was OK under orders from the Dell now. And to show Millie.

10:51. I learned that one has to click on the icon in the display before going to the Edit menu, so to get the TPoint Model Object command...

10:58. Attached Dell to network by hard line.

11:18. Copied the manual to the netbook. Example shows a mount without TPoint. R is 2000 and inner circle is 473.9 arcsec. The lower diagram, after TPoint, shows R is 100 and the inner circle 36.8". Ours is...

[I forgot to record this...]

1:38 AM, 8 Apr 2012. One I made is R 200.0 inner 86.3".

It also seems that a polar alignment test or evaluation should be done first... 
Northern Hemisphere

************* AZIMUTH ************
MA: -98 seconds (-1.6 minutes).
Rotate axis East (clockwise).
For latitude 44.49°, the azimuth adjustment is 2.3 minutes.
Paramount ME: Loosen the East knob, and tighten the West knob 1.1 knob tics

************* ALTITUDE ************
ME: -86 seconds (-1.4 minutes).
The polar axis should be lowered -86 seconds (-1.4 minutes).
Paramount ME: Lower the polar axis 0.7 knob tics
Is that bad?

Crikey. How much is a "tic?!"

It was a little late to start this. And I was actually trying to do some observing. It would be better to undertake this without distractions. And hook up the MallinCam. Or use a reticule eyepiece. Still, it was good to start the learning process.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

sent concrete numbers

I also sent Tony the numbers from the sonotube. Number of bags needed given the diameter. I also sent him a count of the bags we had in the garage. Needed for future MODL work.

measured property

With The Sage's measuring wheel, I took a variety of measurements on the CAO property. Primarily distances between all the buildings. Wrote everything down on a site map print out. Emailed all the measurements to Tony.

Part of this is to prepare for the spring work party and the new conduit drop to the garage...

coming and going

11:45 AM. Ostap left. Asked me to hold his spare key again.

He was my ride up; I had made arrangements to return with Millie and Dietmar.

12:24 PM. Tim dropped by. In da hood. Gathering more data before his first run...

smashed split record (Blue Mountains)

8:00 PM, 6 Apr 2012. Ostap returned. Sans kids. He was going to concentrate on setting up his imaging gear. And I wouldn't have to play tour guide.

8:42 PM. While Dietmar helped Ostap test the alarm system... I watched the Moon rise over mountain.

I had the Celestron 14" Schmidt-Cassegrain and Tele Vue 101 to myself this evening. I was looking forward to exploring. Millie was set up in the Geoff Brown Observatory as well, so we'd be able to share stuff.

Took in Jupiter in the big telescope. Four moons on one side. Two very close to planet.

A funny feeling struck me. I thought there were "events" on Jupiter today. Checked my online calendar. Oh... they were at 4 PM... Too late!

8:47. Helped Millie with her 'scope. Her alignment seemed to be off. She was way off target. We manually moved the mount. She declutched and I got it on target.

8:51. I grabbed some weather data...

From Environment Canada, for Collingwood. As of 8:00 PM EDT Friday 6 April 2012.

Current conditions:
Pressure: 102.3 kPa
Tendency: falling
Temperature: 5.3°C
Dewpoint: -7.9°C
Humidity: 38 %
Wind: WNW 9 km/h

Prediction for the night:
Issued : 3:30 PM EDT Friday 6 April 2012
Clear. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light late this evening. Low minus 3.
From the local Davis weather station:

wind speed: 0.0
wind dir: NW
humidity: 43%
barometer: 1023.5 mB
outside temp: 2.9°

Looking good. But it also looked like it was gonna get chilly.

9:06. Viewed Messier 41 briefly in Millie's.

Viewed NV Pup in the 55mm eyepiece. Mistook HD 56854, in the middle of the big triangle of π (pi), NV, HR 2770 as the target star. SkyTools 3 Pro set me straight. The little triangle was the correct goal.

I saw the A star. Not as bright as π. But same as HR 2770.

Bumped to 27mm ocular, to 145x. Focusing on NV group. ST3P says C is a tight double with D. The Interactive Atlas angular measure said they are 3" apart... It was hard to see. But then I learned I was looking through 8 air masses. Yikes.

9:13. Not convinced I could split C and D. The stars were flickering madly...

A and C are the same brightness. Same colour.

Millie talked about red and blue... She must be talking about π...

February is the best time to view this low target...

9:25. Viewed Hind's Crimson Star. Didn't look super orange to me.

Ostap popped into the warm room. He asked bout PHD guiding. And why he was only getting one image. I told him I didn't have a lot of experience with this application but could offer some general advice. I suggested simplifying... And to start PHD first...

Showed Millie the missing star...

9:34. Tried again... I was mistaking HD 31848 as the Crimson star! Oops. Nope. Other direction.

Brighter than the HD star. Which is mag 7.4. Millie agrees. Slightly...

Ostap asked for an ethernet cable. I sent him to the house. There was a super long on in the library.

9:51. Viewed (Messier 93) M 93. I was trying to sort out the double star "issue" still.

Found it! I visually found the companion to HD 62679. It is there. It popped just now with the 18mm in the C14. But only with averted vision. Very faint. Fainter than TYC 06540-3076 1 which is a 11.14 mag star... I saw the star. I think it is fainter than mag 11.

I considered hooking up the MallinCam so to have a record. Considered sketching it... But I was satisfied.

Break time... Fetched warm clothes and a soda.

10:20. Had some fun with the Dog Star. Could see Sirius D (which is mag 14). But could not split A and B.
Seeing quite bad.

10:34. Viewed Tegmen, ζ Cancri, again. Definitely saw the A and B stars.

11:50. Helped Millie with Algieba, γ Leo. She said she couldn't split in her 'scope. Asked if I could show it in C14. No problem in the C14. The view in hers was not so good.

11:54. Got it! I split HR 4443. From the Sky and Telescope list. Referred to N Hyd. Equal brightness, equal colour. Yellow stars. Despite going through 3 to 4 airmasses, I split it. Yes. Noted TYC 06663-0575 1 in the field.

I was having an issue with ST3. It was not showing me stars that I was actually seeing, given the location and the moon light. If I changed the location to the Texas Star Party, it would show the stars, particularly in the Context Viewer. So, I've either estimated the sky brightness wrong; or Greg's calculations are pessimistic.

12:46 AM, 7 Apr 2012. Back from hot chocolate break!

1:31 AM. Helped Millie collimate the RC 8. It was similar to doing a Celestron SCT. I understand that with the larger RC OTAs, you have to adjust the primary as well... Initially I had her do the visual assessment but we weren't getting anywhere. When we switched places, it went much better.

1:45. Viewed ν (nu) Sco. In the 55mm with the TV101, I saw 2 stars, yellow and orange. In the 27mm with the C14, I saw 2 stars, plus field stars. Again, the primary was yellow, the secondary pale blue. Went to the 10mm, in the SCT, to 391x. I saw two pairs. The AB pair was closer together but the seeing was preventing a clean split. The CD pair, while fainter, was wider apart. The left star of the CD pair is fainter. That's D.

[ed: Already viewed and logged.]

2:02. Reviewed my S&T doubles spreadsheet. Found ν listed twice: the AB pair and the CD pair.

2:09. Saturn time! Saturn was at the meridian. I saw Titan to the west. There was a field star, PPM 705916, at mag 10.4 near by. Rhea was south-west of rings. Dione north-east of rings, very faint. It needed averted vision. Tethys was to the east; Iapethus to the south. ST3 said Dione was 10.4 while Tethys is 10.2. But it seemed fainter.

Decided to tick off some fast movers...

2:42. ζ (zeta) Boo. I saw 2 stars! They were oriented east-west. White, pure white, in colour; the same brightness. There was another star further left, coaxed out with the 10mm. And then I saw a star above. Forming an L. There was also a very faint star near top of L. Not on the chart.

No... with more viewing... the orientation of the two stars is nw to se. And I thought the left star, nw, slightly fainter.

I had just smashed my career split! 0.48 arc-seconds. wow!

I had a lot of stars around the 1.0 level. But this sighting has cut that in half. I was very happy.

3:09. Viewed Kruger 60 again. Saw AB, C, I. Pretty low.

Saw STI2780A to the west, a pair plus a bright star.

3:31. Checked the local conditions.

wind: 1.6
dir: NW
hum: 58
bar: 1024.3
temp: 1.6

3:48. Ostap left.

Friday, April 06, 2012

started SQM log

Started a spreadsheet with Sky Quality Meter readings. I was not able to find a lot of GBO log sheets, unfortunately. So, not a lot of data at this point.

helped others

Earlier in day... Took vibration pads from Millie's tripod. Too high? Not needed? Broken? Helped Ostap move his dome slightly. To improve clearances. Tested the GBO alarm with Dietmar. After his trip. It was fine.

huge filament (Blue Mountains)

I let Olexa, one of Ostap's boys, help setup. SolarMax filters to the Tele Vue 101 telescope.

We viewed the Sun in hydrogen alpha. We used the 25mm and 18mm eyepieces.

I saw a huge filament on the surface. The biggest I've ever seen.

SkyNews missing

I looked for my SkyNews magazine shortly after arriving at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. In the dim hope that I had brought it up with me... I looked in the living room. In the piles of magazines and books. I looked in the dining room, on the table, with all the RASC materials. I looked in the library. Even under the couch. Checked all the bedrooms. No sign of it. Now I really don't know where my Jan/Feb SkyNews issue went...

sent award photo to Mom

Had Dietmar shoot a portrait photo of me with the Ostrander-Ramsay award (with my camera). Which I promptly sent to Mom.

Millie noted omissions

Millie pointed out that I missed some entries in my blog... from our earlier observing sessions. Indeed. I explained it was because of poor note-taking on my part.

some solar system objects, some doubles (Blue Mountains)

10:45 PM, 5 Apr 2012. Dietmar was working in his SkyShed POD; Millie was set up in the Geoff Brown Observatory with her 8" RC. I connected the ASUS netbook to 14" Celestron SCT (with my USB-serial adapter). Fired up TheSky 6. Verified the port. And slewed into Orion.

Viewed M42 with the 55mm. The nebula was obvious.

Could not get E or F stars. Seeing was not great.

Viewed Mars with the 18mm. Could see the ice cap and some surface detail.

Gave Ostap a quick demo of SkyTools 3 Professional with emphasis on the imaging features. He returned to his POD to sort out hardware and software issues.

Started working through an observing list with 70 targets.

11:04 PM. Viewed Saturn in C14 with 18mm. Spotted 4 moons. No, wait. 5! Tethys and Dione were very close on west. There was a neat triangle with Titan, Rhea, and Iapetus.

11:35. The seeing improved dramatically. Soaked in Saturnian details. North region grey. Wide northern belt brown. Equator beige. A ring lighter than B. Cassini division visible. Thin C ring visible. Shadow of the planet on the rings. Could just barely see Enceladus.

Reviewed the Kendrick dew heater control panel. Looked OK. Wondered if it was putting out enough heat...

11:51. Viewed Garradd. Between TYC 03806-0969 1 and TYC 03806-1015 1. The bright star 18 UMa was nearby.

Millie put her 'scope on the comet after I gave her the coordinates.

I put the 27mm and 18mm in the TV 101 - hard to see in the small aperture.

Dietmar came 'round. Hot chocolate time! I put on more layers.

12:42 AM, 6 Apr 2012. Dietmar spotted frost on his car then jogged off to his dome. Temp: -0.6°C.

I looked at the comet again... Moved a bit to the s-w.

1:06 AM. Viewed Tegmen or ζ1 (zeta) Cnc. In the 10mm, the D star was at the east edge of field. C was wide from AB. AB did not look round... A little late to look perhaps. All stars seem same colour. D is much fainter than C, 2 to 3 mags. AB is a half or full mag brighter than C.

Checked the corrector of the big 'scope. Oops. Frosted. Used the 120VAC hair dryer to get rid of it. Installed plastic dew shield. Stars brightened. Yeh.

1:10. Could split the tight pair for a fraction of a second. AB is oriented 90 degrees to C and D.

1:27. Viewed HD 59848 in Gem. Split A and B easily with the 18mm. A looked yellow. At times B looked blue or dark orange. Very different mags. I estimated 4. ST3P says it is only 3.

Spotted GSC 02457-2215 to the n-e, below. A bright star. Almost equal to B. But ST3 says it is a 12.4 mag star. Ah no.

1:36. Put in the 27mm. De-fogged the eyepiece.

Messier 96 (M96), the galaxy, was barely detectable.

1:48. Viewed Saturn again. 18mm. Couldn't see Enceladus. ST3P showed it closer to the rings now.

Dietmar and Millie went to bed.

1:57. Viewed 38 Lyn. Close pair with the 18mm. Intense blue-white primary. Deep orange secondary. Much fainter. A very faint field star in-line. Then another at a 90° angle. Lovely. Another one from the Sky and Telescope list.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

rode with Ostap

Ostap wants to visit the CAO more often, to work in his POD. But, at the same time, with family, and kids, and busy summer weekends, he's pressed for time. He's cut a deal, it seems, with the home crew. He'd like to head up to the observatory on Thursday nights; and return on Saturday. The crazy shift work project I'm on right now, that timing meshes.

7:45 PM. Ostap finally arrived! Heh. He told me to be ready to leave before 7.

Oh. He had a son in tow. Another in the mini-van. Had to curb some discussion... I don't know why but I had assumed it would just be us. And he probably assumed I would know he'd be bringing small humans.

Dinner at Super Burger. Yuk. They obviously like it. Forgot how much I don't. Two mistakes with my order. Screwed up other ones, the people in front and behind. Sheesh. How can you mess up a burger order?! FUMTU?!

We discussed returning plans. He's got to leave mid-day Saturday. I'll have to ask Dietmar when he's planning to return. I'd like to stay to Sunday...

He's an... interesting driver. Made me nervous. And it takes a lot. I started watching the road for him. If a deer had leaped out, he'd never have a chance.

10:30 PM. We arrived the CAO (without incident).

It was cool on the mountain...

Millie and Dietmar were already there. They arrived at 4:00 PM.

reported missing holders

Reported to Jesse at OSC that we did not see the large (thicker) sign board holders last night. So we had to prop our new sign boards on tables and chairs.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

SNO LAB photos galore

Lots of photos were shot at the SNO LAB (and the road trip to and fro). Gord's daughter is working on a documentary as well.

an ETX to try

Charles loaned me his ETX. It will be interesting to try out this small Meade 'scope, the knock-off to the Questar. I continue to search for a telescope that has very fast set-up and tear-down times.

quick look at Venus and Pleiades (Toronto)

Had a quick peek through Terry's telescope from the OSC parking lot after the meeting. Venus near the Pleiades.

just followed the directions

Received a note from Nicole:
Blake, you are a GENIUS!

Dropped my binos a couple of weeks ago and they were useless. Felt like I was seeing double. Just tried your collimation and it worked! Woo-hoo!
I just followed the instructions. Or is that not allowed?

Sue's online

I heard back from Sue. She happily reported that she was a now member of the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. All right. She said I could add that to the list of stuff I'm good at.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

researched double in M93

Viewed the double star HD 62679 in Messier 93 (M93), checking an image from Aladin. 07h44m18.4s -23°53'24".

I blinked it with an image from the Interactive Atlas of SkyTools 3 Pro. Aladin shows HIP 37729 as a white-blue star beside the orange primary. But, I'm pretty certain, I did not see that star last week...

prepared lease draft for Ian

Ian W, the fifth CAO My Own Dome Lot participant, had not yet completed his lease agreement. I emailed a draft copy to him for review. Before he headed to Europe.

thanked Gord

Sent a note to Gord thanking him for organising the SNO LAB tour. Went without a hitch.

will talk on power

Mr Markov asked RASC members if they could speak on specific topics at future Recreational Astronomy Night meetings. I offered to talk about "power." Powering one's 'scope and accessories safely and inexpensively at home and in the field. I'll demo power packs and AC power solutions...


It will be in August.

thanked Samantha

I sent a thank-you note to Samantha at SNO LAB on behalf of the RASC Toronto Centre.

I'm looking forward to her acknowledgement. I'd like to open a dialog about if future tours will be possible. And if so, will she be the primary contact. I know a lot of RASC members are interested...

corrected 1 hour problem

Checked time settings in SkyTools 3, particularly in the Interactive Atlas. I had noticed last week if I hit the Real Time button, I was off by an hour. I suspected a time zone problem. Sure enough, I found the settings off. Curiously, for my home location, the Ontario Science Centre, and the Carr Astronomical Observatory. I could have sworn I changed these before. Changed 'em again, hitting OK to the Time Zone dialog, and the Location dialog, just to make sure. Seems OK now.

Monday, April 02, 2012

highway observing (Gwillimbury)

After dinner in Barrie, as we walked to the truck, I noted the planets... Venus and Jupiter. The Moon opposite Regulus from Mars. Later, for both Katrina and myself, being on the right side of the vehicle, while south-bound on Highway 404, we took in some stars and constellations in the west, before the light dome from the Greater Toronto Area interfered. Orion and Canis Major. I could see iota and sigma Orionis. Katrina picked off Messier 42. Sharmin and Phil on the left side couldn't see.

back to surface

Exiting the lab was easier, of course. We reconvened near the lounge. Entered the locker room but skipped the showers. Some of us elected to keep our Tyvek suits. Out of the comfy shoes. Donned the coveralls. Now my rubber boots were definitely too small--several hot spots were forming... Fetched the rest of our mining gear. I forget my belt until someone reminded me. Made sure I still had my metal tag. Photo ops under the SNO LAB signs while we waited for everyone to emerge from the clean side. Then it was a rapid trek back to the shaft.

At one point, we passed a branch, beyond which we could see some heavy equipment working. I was overwhelmed with images from Aliens, the second movie in the series. We joked about it. It was easy to get creeped out.

At the staging area by the lift, we heard the various call signs. The cage was coming. We tried to guess the patterns. Soon the cage appeared and we started loading. I had not realised it until this point that it was a double-decker. Some miners and our crew were packed into the upper compartment. Those remaining, we loaded into the second section, after the lift was shifted up. And then it was all regular stops. And this time it was dark and very quiet. No one was chatting. Everyone was tired. No one had their helmet lights on. Fascinating. The life of a miner.

We had to queue up in the office before leaving the headframe. This was the head count check to ensure no one was missing. A long wait but we got through it. There was a general feeling of ebullition. We had done it. Not only visited the SNO LAB and seen some of its exciting experiments and talked to some interesting scientists. But we had run the gauntlet into a level 9 clean environment. And we had experienced a working mine.

The mine paper trail was closed. Sam gathered us up and said it was time to return to the admin building. And we stepped outside. Into daylight. A beautiful day. With a bright blue sky. It was good to be back. It
was good to be back on "surface." What a feeling. A rejuvenating feeling.

Photo by Katrina.

In the side of the admin building we entered, rather than the front, washed our boots once again, and navigated the path to the first locker room. Retrieved our personal clothes and effects. Returned the mine clothing. Back in the lobby, we returned our ID tags and signed out. Thanked Sam profusely.

Reconnected with out Meaford participant. Fortunately, they took care of her above ground, giving her a tour of the offices and other labs.

Michelle jumped in her car and was off. We boarded our bus. I nabbed a seat at the front this time. During the different route back, Phil and I chatted. What an experience.

Back at the hotel we thanked Gord and then hung in the parking lot for a bit. Lora had tucked away some lovely treats which Phil pulled out. We enjoyed a beverage in the sunlight. Bill offered Gord's daughter a lift back to Toronto. We climbed into the truck and started the long journey south.

stage 2 complete

Geoff blogged our brief visit and the subsequent steps at getting his CPC 1100 back up and running.

SNO LAB tour

In the SNO LAB locker room, we ditched the coveralls. And everything else. Shelves stood in front of the showers so that we could put down our lunch, corrective lenses, and camera gear.

There were about 10 shower stalls. Each was open on opposite sides. You entered one side, showered, and exited the other, cleaner. I quickly scrubbed my scalp and arms and hands. Towels and t-shirts were provided. And nice, new Tyvek suits. We grabbed our unmentionables and socks, jumped into the white plasticised suits, put on hair nets, and slipped into some comfortable rubber-soled, suede-topped shoes. Oh, and retrieved our lunches. Finally, we left the locker room. People's cameras meanwhile had been whisked away to be inspected and cleaned.

No, we did not have a towel fight.

Everyone and everything, rejoined outside the locker rooms, in a lounge with kitchen. There staff gave us a much needed rest and snacks. I had to keep reminding myself that I was 2000 metres below the surface of the Earth! This space, while amorphously shaped, was so bright and clean, it felt like a tidy warehouse basement. There were no windows obviously.

Finally, we were ready to receive the laboratory tour. Sam started with the familiar floor plan diagram, talked about some of the history, and showed where we were going to travel. Lots more walking. She had said earlier about splitting into two groups but that didn't happen. Good and a bad thing. We visited various experiments and areas of the large facility. Many tour members took lots photos and video. Gord's daughter gathered video for your documentary movie after sorting some technical issues. I enjoyed everything immensely. Looking back now, it all went pretty quickly and pretty smoothly.

We had lunch back in the lounge. At that point I realised how tired I was. Many got a kick out of using the deepest toilet on (or rather in) the Earth.

Photo by Katrina.

Then we did tour part 2. We saw a lot of the new large experiments being assembled. And then it was over.

We saw many experiments, working and under construction, including:
  • COUPP: uses bubble chambers to search for dark matter in the form of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles
  • HALO: the Helium and Lead Observatory supernova neutrino detector
  • DEAP: the support structure for the DEAP-3600 and MiniClean experiments in the CubeHall
  • PICASSO: in its new location in "the ladder," detecting dark matter by sound
  • SNO+: the famous 12m diameter acrylic sphere, being refitted, which will use 800 tonnes of liquid scintillator and be monitored by about 10,000 photomultiplier tubes
Sam was watching the clock. Of course, she had to ensure we would make the lift in time.

drifting to SNO

Done the pep talk we left the SNO admin building crossing the various driveways. Big mining trucks were already moving about. They have the right of way, we learned.

Inside the building at the top of the mine shaft, we waited, with the miners, near the ramp for the big elevator to arrive. Packs of gum were handed around. I declined. We were coming up to the first big designated time in the day. In the morning, the shaft is used to take humans in; the end of the end, everybody out. In between, equipment, supplies, and the good stuff, the mined rock. Ah. It was a bit of ole, familiar "hurry up and wait." And suddenly, it was time to go down.

They herded us into "the cage." In order to maximise transfers, people are packed tightly in. Everyone is to stand the same direction, or orientation rather, shoulders along the length of the cage. You either staring into the face or the back of the head of the person in front of you. I think the normal capacity is five people per row. It's rather intimate. Fortunately, it's dark, there are no lights in the cage, so you don't have to gaze into your neighbour's eyeballs. It was pretty quiet among the people, not a lot of chatting.

The cage operator sent the signals and we began our decent. It was loud. The cage shifts and moves and bangs and crashes and changes direction laterally. It's unnerving at first. You wonder if it is tearing itself apart. Nothing like a regular elevator, which is clearly "smoothed." Ordinarily, a person might fall if not sure-footed, if on your own, if not leaning or hanging onto something. But we were packed in so tight we were propped up. You couldn't fall.

The one end of the cage is open. And through it you can see the shaft wall, and the occasional drift. We were able to see the shaft because one or two of the miners had left their helmet lights on. I wondered if they did that for the civies, to help us feel more comfortable. I enjoyed it. Not that I was uncomfortable with the dark. I liked seeing how fast we were moving. The open design of the cage also made for good airflow. The air was cool and fresh and moving rapidly.

And then we came to a key moment... The dive. Something that I had been wondering about and that I had not seen or heard clear information about, at least at the early stages, but it was apparent already, the change in air pressure. As we moved rapidly down in the shaft, the pressure increased. And it was exactly like the effect of descending in an airplane. And fortunately, that general experience, along with my one or two "bad" trips, equipped me. I did my usual nose-squeeze-pushing-pressure trick to get my ears to equalise. I did it a few of times. Swallowing alone has never worked for me. And the couple of times I tried chewing gum before I never found that it worked. Now I just do it myself. It was tight enough that I couldn't easily move my arm in the up position. So I wriggled it up once and kept it that way.

One in our party did not fair so well...

One of the Meaford participants reported feeling uncomfortable, her ears hurting, and it was getting worse. The nearby co-op relayed the message. The cage operator halted our descent. We waited a few seconds but the pain was not subsiding. Quickly the call was made: we're going back up. I was flooded with feelings. I saw it from the miners side. We were delaying their progress. The civilians were mucking up the works. I also felt badly for our tour member. If she had perhaps had another moment to regroup, she might have been OK. The most frustrating aspect was that we were almost there... almost at the 6800 level. So close! But the up-side to the situation was being in the cage as it ascended at high speed uninterrupted. And it was incredible. We otherwise would not have experienced that.

We emptied out, assistance was given to our member, she was escorted away, and the rest of us, miners and non, piled back in. We, however, were no longer rookies. None of us.

At the 6800 level, at last, we had a quick pow-wow with Sam, and then we began our long trek through the drift. Watch for large vehicles. Back to the wall if one passes. Stay together. Lights on! It grew very dark as we left the shaft area. The air was warm. It was a little musty. You had to watch your step from time to time around puddles, old rails, loose gravel. The walls were lined with netting.

Photo by Bill.

Our first waypoint was a safe haven room along the drift. Sam explained that this was a traditional safety feature of mines, a place were the miners would congregate if there was a problem. She explained the ventilation, how the doors would be sealed, the protocols, and how people would have to stay awake in emergencies. This was getting real now. It was also clearly a point to let us rest. We had already walked a fair distance.

In the next leg, Sam gave us a special personal side trip. While not exciting by itself, she liked to emphasise how the SNO LAB was fairly self-sufficient with its own waste processing facility. The treatment process was very efficient. They had to feed it dog food to maintain balance in the system.

At last we reached the end of a drift tunnel, a brighter open space. I recognised it from Serge's photos. This was the first barrier for cleaning, as we began our entrance to the lab proper. The next order of business was to clean off our boots. We helped each other with the hoses and the difficult to reach areas of our rubber boots.

Lights off. We went through a door to a narrow passage way. Immediately, the space was different, more like a warehouse or factory space. Bright FL lights, beige paint, concrete block, people, offices. We took off our belt, hung up our helmet, and put our boots away. Our protected bagged lunch was removed from the outer bag, which was discarded. Then we headed up the stairs to the next stage. Once again the sexes went their separate ways.

Change 2 of 2.

suiting up for SNO

At long-last, we were on our way to Creighton mine and the SNO LAB within...

It was a very early start to the day. I was very tired when my palmtop 4:30 alarm went off. Phil and I started getting our ducks in a row. Gave Bill a wake up call, which he didn't need. Then it was back to the hospitality suite for some breakfast. Outta my way! Where's the coffee?! It was a decent spread. The lunches were made available. I grabbed one for Phil and myself. I passed Denis in the hall.

One last check of email. In short order Phil and I were packed up and vacating the room. In the lobby, the tour group gathered. The "bus" was waiting. Stinky diesel. Gord wondered if he had everybody; but he did not do role call. It was 5:45 AM and we were off. I sat in the back row with Gord. It was bouncy. We got there faster than we had been told. Gord had wondered about that. He knew the time was pessimistic given his previous experience working in Sudbury. I tried to see stars or planets outside the window but was unsuccessful. As we arrived the Creighton mine, Gord pointed out a few landmarks, such as the top of the elevator or the "headframe," and the bus stopped at last in front of the SNO LAB administration building. It was still dark out.

In the lobby we met Samantha. Reminded me, in many ways, of my old roomie Sarah. She had us all sign in as her helpers showed up. Michelle had already arrived, traveling directly from Toronto. We milled about and took in some of the display cases. Then it was off to the storage room for change 1 of 2. First we had to get into the mining clothes. We picked up coveralls, boots, helmet, helmet light, and belt (with big ring). This gear is to obviously accommodate for the dirty and dusty environment of the mine. The reflective strips and belt ring are for rescue purposes.

It was at this point that I realised I had goofed up on my socks. I was going to wear heavy socks for the mining boots but I had left them in my luggage and my luggage was in the bed of Phil's truck and the truck was back at the hotel. Even then, I wondered if I might have still have problems. (It was later I learned a trick from Charles for reducing blisters: two pairs of socks.) We headed to the lockers. The civilian clothes and personal items were stored. Then it was into the mining gear. I had chosen the wrong size of coveralls (undersized) so I had to upgrade. The belt size was important too; you were not supposed to be on the first or the last hole; somewhere between. Didn't work for me (oversized) but no one complained.

Photo by Katrina.

We reassembled in the lobby. Photos began in earnest, us in our funny outfits. Our bagged lunches had to be "isolated" so we were given two plastic bags, different colours, an inner, and an outer bag. We'd shed them later, at stages, to avoid bringing contaminants into the lab. Then we officially logged into the mine. This is classic safety system in mining. At the end of the day, if all people are not accounted for, they'll shutdown the mine and begin searching for missing persons. We received a metal tag that would have to be returned at the end of the tour. Workers put the tag on a peg board when they go in; they remove the tag when they exit. Mine tag was 007. Sweet.

The Sun was rising. This was the last we'd see of the local star for a while.

We were herded into the conference room for a briefing. More photos. Sam discussed safety stuff, logistics, next steps, where we could and could not take photos, etc. A reminder again about the check-in and check-out system. We were excited. And a little anxious.

I was thinking my boots were too small.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Bill ran a slide show

I wandered back to the room and flopped down on the bed. Thinking about the very early start tomorrow... Turned on the tube and switched channels. Arrived at TVO and a show about Mount Everest. Killer mountain. The phone rang. It was my roomie Phil. He, and the crew, were over in Bill's room. Invited me over. I padded over in my bare feet and gave the password. Bill was in the process of hooking up his HDMI laptop to the TV. He showed us slides of the behind-the-scenes shoot of a television show XIII episode. Something fishy about it... Then he showed us slides of the realuminising of the 74" primary. Amazing stuff. They did a great job.

debriefed on SNO

Or is that briefed? Gord invited us to the hospitality suite to tell us about the morning process and answer questions about SNO LAB tour. The hotel put on a nice spread: snacks, beverages, a "care package" with Sudbury info.

I thanked Gord, on behalf of the Toronto RASC, for organising the event.

DDO shirts in Sudbury

After Phil asked the Sudbury cops for directions, we somehow made it to the summit. We braved the cool temps and wind and did the touristy Big Nickle shots. But we were all sporting our David Dunlap Observatory t-shirts. Very brave... Grey and bloody cold.

See Sharmin's photos on Facebook.

See Katrina's photos on flickr.

joined Bill

Spotted Bill (another familiar face) in the Holiday Inn bar as we headed to our rooms. Drinkin' alone. Well, we can't have that.

asked to do May TSTM

Markov asked me to delivered the The Sky This Month talk in May. I accepted...

[Update: Subsequently, due to work commitments, I had to decline.]

bumped into Gord

As we were checking into the Holiday Inn, Gord wandered into the lobby. I said hello. Nice to see a familiar face in Sudbury. He was watching for SNO LAB tour people as they arrived. I introduced him to Sharmin, Katrina, and Phil.

installed REDUC

Installed the REDUC software from Florent Losse onto John Littlejohn. This will help in double star research.

visited Louise and Geoff

At last, I finally made it to Geoff's place outside of Coldwater. I can see how it offers dark skies. Interesting house. I really enjoyed the main room with the huge windows.

We had a lovely visit on the way to the SNO. It was for fun and a bit of "business." They provided a tasty lunch. We had brought dessert (made by Lora). For me, it was the longest time spent with Louise. Pleasure getting to know her better. Charming. And a talented artisan. Geoff gave us a sneak peek of his upcoming astronomy-related e-book.

I returned Geoff's repaired CPC 1100. He was very happy.

Geoff gave us some RASC archival materials.

I got to hold some of Mars! Now that was cool. And some solar system asteroids. Wicked.

Sharmin took lots of photos, of course. Added them to the "hi ho hi ho" gallery on Facebook.

Then we carried on to Sudbury, for the SNO LAB trip...

the SNO adventure begins

Probably Katrina didn't want this much "adventure."

The plan was to rendezvous at Lora and Phil's, pile everything into the truck, and start north. First stop Louise and Geoff's for brunch. Next stop: Sudbury. We'd check into the hotel, stand in front of The Big Nickel (with our DDO t-shirts), find some dinner, and then meet up with Gord at the hotel for a SNO LAB briefing.

While Sharmin, Phil, and I were enjoying breakfast cake (made by Lora), and pots of coffee, Katrina took to the highway from mid-town. Then Phil received a bad-news BBM: Katrina's van had a flat tire! Oh no. She had already rung up CAA to crawl under the van to release the spare and swap it on a rainy, drizzly day. Half-an-hour before they'd get to her location on the DVP. We read the paper, criticised Torontonians for wasting electricity, and watched NASA TV. Sharmin, of course, started photo documenting everything.

Another message arrived Phil's Blackberry around 9:30AM: the spare tire was "fracked." Oh oh. Now the tow truck guy had to switch to plan B. He hooked up the wheel-lift under the rear axle and hauled the van to Lora and Phil's. Meanwhile, she put Fred on call. He showed up in short order with rain coat and tools.

We said our goodbyes to Lora and Fred, scratched Skeena, and jumped in the truck. On the road, at last.

saved 6.8

The Toronto Star reported that we reduced energy consumption by 6.8% last night during Earth Hour.

Better than last year.

But not good enough.