Thursday, May 31, 2012

what a month

Crazy. Crazy busy. Broke the record. For the most entries per month; previously Sep 2011.

referred Gord to SCOPE

Told Gord that there was a little "tip of the beanie" to the Orillia astronomy club in the latest SCOPE newsletter. I wasn't sure if he received it though...

booked install

After confirming someone would be around to receive them, I booked the installation of the internet service for the CAO. We should have WISP back by Monday.

Dietmar's opening for ToV

Dietmar sent out a note on the RASC Toronto Centre listserv. He advised that the Carr Astronomical Observatory will be open from Sunday through to Wednesday, for the transit of Venus.

splash down for Dragon

The landing of the Dragon spacecraft marked the end of a successful mission. And a key historical moment. That commercial business entered the space flight arena.

That image sure brought back memories...

Soon, humans will be aboard...

debrief planning

Grace and I discussed debriefing at the OHAP. I want to strike while the iron is hot. I think she has a lot on her chest. We tried to figure out when and if it was possible to include others, at short notice.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

no webspotting for Jun-Jul

Eric did not publish my article in the Jun/Jul 2012 SCOPE featuring the Spaceweather web site, which I know would be a hub of activity during and after the Transit of Venus. Not sure why. I hoped he'd enter it for the next edition...

selected new WISP

Selected our new wireless internet service provider for the Carr Astronomical Observatory. We are looking forward to working with Bruce Street Technologies based in Thornbury.

eSCOPE note didn't go

Eric sent out his regular eSCOPE notice but it didn't go out. He asked me to look into it. After trying a couple more times.

checked date

Manuel phoned. He thought I had the date of the Transit of Venus wrong. Ah. No. June 5.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

blogger weirdness

Blogger (or Google, I guess) decided to change the back-end of the blog environment. In their infinite wisdom, they've made it more awkward and cumbersome. It now takes more effort—not less—for me to post. And I keep seeing weird spacing problems, layout issues, etc. Primarily due to, I believe, a new WYSIWIG editor. It does weird stuff at times. Way more BR codes than I'd like to see, behind the scenes. And then the editor wont let you delete them. Suddenly extra space where I don't want it. The handling of draft articles—mind-bogglingly frustrating. Image handling is very different. Closing without touching anything prompts to save changes; changing content and closing sometimes doesn't prompt or save!? Frames? Frames?! How 1990s!

Bear with me as I try to figure it out and adapt my workflow. One must not complain of their free blog service...

I'm not the only one. This person is struggling with the interface. This person intimated that if they have to learn a new interface, they might look at a different product. This person can't write in a fluid way anymore. And this person has been collecting other people's complaints.

If you see any really big problems, you'll let me know, right?

removed contact info sheets

Advised CAO supervisors of some minor changes at the observatory. Primarily, that I removed all the open displays of contact information around the telephones. For security reasons. Reminded them to ensure they have all the contact info on their person or in a mobile device or little black book. Does anyone have a little black book anymore? And finally reminded people to review the procedures in the event of an alarm trip.

Monday, May 28, 2012

macro, micro, stars, spiders

Two weekends ago, I viewed some globular clusters from the observatory on the Blue Mountains. For example, Messier 68 in Hydra at 39 000 light-years. I noted, at the time, that it was not very satisfying, the view. I must admit, globulars are probably my least favourite deep sky object to view visually telescopically. I'm not sure why. Maybe it is because, in general, they all look the same to me. Round fuzzy balls. Seen one; you've seen 'em all. OK. Maybe that's a little harsh.

Globular clusters are dense conglomerations of stars. They surround our galaxy, like bees around the Queen, slowly orbiting around the galactic core. They are generally old, filled with low-metal stars. Hundreds of thousands to several million. Each. Some suggest that they were the first objects to form in the galaxy. They are, for the most part, spherical. Very dense in the centre. Some globulars transfer from one galaxy to another.

Certainly when conditions permit, in a big 'scope, with a nice eyepiece, some of the closer, bigger globulars get interesting. When you can see individual stars, that's a little exciting. Seeing individual stars with slightly different colours and brightnesses makes it worth the look. When you start to think about what it would be like to fly through one, with a million suns all around your ship, light flooding in every port... that would be wild.

Many a time I've had a good view of Messier 13, the great cluster in Hercules. 26 000 light-years away. Seeing more stars than I can count, merging together toward a dense, intense, bright, crowded centre. The stars in the middle... they must be tripping over each other. Reacting to each other. Then following some of the stragglers outward, along invisible arms or tentacles.

I understand that Omega Centauri and 47 Tucanae are quite something. But I don't know if I'll ever get to see them.

The macro and the micro:

Last weekend, once again at the Carr Observatory, I came across a similar shape. It was Sunday morning. We were packing up and getting ready to leave, after the Open House and Awards Picnic. In fact, most people had already left. Grace and I were at the back deck. And I was on a chair, standing on the chair, so to string some more twine up the posts of the pergola. Trying to train the ivy plants skyward. And to spiral, if possible, up the verticals.

At the last post, along the west edge, just under the top lattice, I spotted a small sphere. At first I thought it a plant, a thistle, or a burr. But then I recognised it. A nest of spiders! Tiny yellow and brown baby spiders, possibly Argiope aurantia, huddled together, suspended in a fine web. I assumed they were keeping warm. I called to Grace and she had a quick look. I returned to the task at hand, measuring and cutting the twine.

A mama spider can lay 3 000 to 4 000 eggs. Like many animals, there's safety in numbers. For life to propagate, given that some won't make it, it is best to have a large litter. I didn't see mom around. Dad has probably been consumed.

When I looked back at the nest, I saw it now was very different in appearance. I didn't think I had touched the web directly but clearly I had caught the attention of the gaggle. Vibration through the wood, perhaps. The spiderlings were dispersing, the dense sphere now loosened, and the miniature spiders at the outer edge had moved away, along invisible threads. And that's when it struck me, these tiny creatures, with bodies about 1 mm across, in this current configuration, if I could freeze it, they looked just like M 13. Each little spider as a star. A spider cluster.

  • Messier 80, by NASA, via wikipedia
  • baby spiders, by xaliuqs, via deviantART

reported on CAO passes

Updated Phil on 4 new CAO passes issued.

OHAP photos shared

Scott was official photography and shot many photos with a nice DSLR. He's ripping DVDs and will be sending them in for publication in SCOPE and on the web site. Coming soon...

Our roving reporters Sharmin and Katrina also captured many moments. These are available now...

sent white light rules draft

Circulated the new "white light rules" document to the CAO committee and a couple of supervisors for feedback. Received some good input from Kiron. Upon approval, this will be posted at various locations about the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

I'm kinda amazed it's not been done before...

noted donations

Not having an official supervisor for the weekend, I took on the financial reporting for the weekend. We had received some donations. Filled out the (new) form. Sent it to Scott. It also gave me an opportunity to shake down the Excel fill-in workbook. Made some minor revisions.

told council about old WISP

Informed council of the issues with The scum-sucking useless tools took our money and ran. And that we were without internet at the Carr Observatory for the time being. Told them that purportedly they pissed off the town of Thornbury so much that no one is allowed to use the water tower for transmission. Way to go. Their last act of making money: they sold their client list.

This just moved up my June 30 target switchover date...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

learned why our internet was down

CAO phone rang. Grace and I were in the library. I grabbed the nearby headset expecting it to be a member. It was Mark Morelli from Maximum ISP, based in Sauble Beach. Ohhh. You're the guys leaving the postcards in our door. OK.

He asked how we liked our internet or something to that effect. It became clear that he knew about the outage. He said he was making it a point of contacting all the customers as was no more. In fact, he just been to their office. At it was gutted. Nothing left. They were gone. Literally. Fascinating. My head was swimming...

I thanked him for calling and said I wanted to talk more but had to run.

MODL 4 powered

Tony and I did some MODL work. We set up AC power and data networking for Tony DS. Good to go.

found Steve's SLA

Oh oh. Found Steve's little lead acid battery in the GBO. And no Steve. Caught in the shuffle between me and Eric using the NexStar. Packed it in the Voyager to bring back to the city.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

fixed weather server

Investigated the weather server. Everything seemed to be OK locally. But it was clearly not uploading data. "Down to cold iron," then. I initiated a shut down. And it stalled, of course. Crikey. So I hard reset it. The weather station software would not connect to the internet server. Oh boy. Now I had some work to do. I built a new weather station profile, this on called "F." Preliminary tests looked OK. But I was getting bar graph errors. That was new... I left it alone for a while to see if it would upload...


Checking later, it still didn't work. On a whim, I tried an old profile, "C." And everything started working correctly! Huh?

I had the local service working again. But still no internet to test with...

so so observing (Blue Mountains)

After watching the 3 entertaining astro talks and hanging around for the quiz and price draws, I headed out to check the Geoff Brown Observatory. It was still set up for daytime use. I reconfigured the Celestron 14 and the Tele Vue 101 for night visual use.

I flew the Paramount for guests. Saturn was good; Mars—meh. Viewed Algieba and the Double-Double. Then M57, the Ring. Not great skies, unfortunately. Artash and Vikas really enjoyed the views.

Eric used the Nexstar 11 and reported it working OK.

I popped in on Ostap. He was still have Windows 7 problems. Sheesh.

Coached Sharmin on GBO shutdown. I think she enjoyed that.

heard the net was down

I was told the internet was down. People could connect to the CAO network OK. But do nothing beyond that.

A few of us tried rebooting stuff. No luck.

I ran some tests. It looked bad. Saturday. Ha. No one will be at the office...

At one point, out of frustration, I powered down the antennae. Incoming and outgoing. I thought that might get some phones ringing... Bastards.

Justin swapped batteries

Justin helped swap the 12 volt batteries around. I was done with the ATV. I had hijacked the brand new battery earmarked for the Stargrazer.

recovered some rockets

I helped with rocket recovery.

Stole the battery from Stargrazer to ensure the ATV would start. I didn't have to rescue too many. The kids enthusiastically chased most of them down.

received award

Received the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto Centre President's Award. The Bert Winearls Award is made at the discretion of the president for member(s) of the Toronto Centre to recognize exceptional service to the centre. 

Thank you!

helped with prep

Forced myself up at around 10:00 AM. I was tired. Coffee, breakfast, grunt.

Then I started into some OHAP prep. Helped Dietmar start Stargrazer. Coached Steve on set up of MallinCam on the LCD. Set up the GBO for solar observing. Helped Niels a little with cleaning the GBO observatory. Swept the GBO warm room floor and walls. Swept the GBO patio. Wow. I felt sorry for the crew weeding deck, walks, and Observing Pad. Hard work. Brought out the big bins, the Oberwerk, for the birders. Printed and posted The Evening Sky Map. Took over after Tony, finished cutting the lawn, and then I cleaned Stargrazer. Showered. Revised then printed the OHAP schedule sheets. Posted the schedules about the place with the help of others. Showed Geoff the custom solar filter for the Oberwerk. Fired up the ATV using new battery and, after yielding to the farmer, went to Pluto.

made a list

Worked on a list. Had people's names on it. Stuffed it in my pocket. Then went off to memorise it.

messaged from the CAO

Checked my email before going to bed. Found a note from Lora. Assured her we were all in trouble.

setting up

Steve made a time-lapse of activities on the Observing Pad on Friday night. Early on, briefly, at the left, you can see me setting up the NexStar 11. Watch for Steve's light-writing near the end of the movie.

And enjoy the Milky Way...

brief observing (Blue Mountains)

A bunch of us, including Katrina and Justin, set up on the Observing Pad. Moon set around 12:30 AM.

1:01 AM. I viewed M83 in the NexStar 11 GPS (alt-az Go To). Barely detectable. But then, Messier 83 is a face-on spiral. And low. Very low. According to SkyTools, about 15° above the horizon. Almost 4 air masses...

1:24 AM. Viewed Messier 101 (M101). It was very faint. But large. I could see some stars in the middle.

To power the N11, I borrowed Steve's small lead-acid battery pack, not wanting to take the power supply away from the C14.

Helped Justin with Skytools... In particular, the location settings. If I remember correctly, he had the east-west longitude option set wrong. An easy mistake to make in ST.


Steve made a time lapse of us setting up on the Observing Pad.

Friday, May 25, 2012

gigabit switch

Received a big Linksys gigabit switch from Justin. Surplus from his office. This will come in handy at the CAO. He also provided the power and console cables. Lots of room now.

Thank you!

voyaged in the Voyager

Traveled to the CAO with the Horvatins (Grace and Tony). In fact, I was the one who I drove up. We took the Voyager.

It was packed to the gills with stuff. Including some of my tools, including my electronic tool box. We were heading north of the 2012 Open House and Awards Picnic. Showed Tony my new preferred route via the Dunlop exit and through Minesing.

checked our PayPal account

Double checked our PayPal account information. Email OK but the phone number was old. Developed the theory that a member's May 11 purchased was sent to the treasurer's old address. A crack. Anyway, it looks like we're all on the same page now. And CAO pass purchases can be handled a bit smoother.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

reconfigured the volunteer

... email. Helped Sharmin with the volunteer email account. She wanted to view messages on her iPhone. Easy enough. But she wanted replies and new messages to be tagged coming from the volunteer account. Without a traditional client, I was not quite sure how to accomplish this. As well, she wanted to better manage the RASC TC volunteer group hosted at Yahoo. Without necessarily committing to administrative duties. Uh boy.

got cable?

Asked Eric if he had the PC computer cable for the NexStar 11. I'm thinking about trying to drive the thing from software. Perhaps from SkyTools...

He did but wasn't sure where it was. With their move and all.

I told him it wasn't urgent. I would not have time to play with the N11 during the OHAP weekend.

there be dragons

Tally ho!

Dragon spotted!

sent an apology

After hearing from him, I personally apologised to Manuel G for my behaviour on the weekend.

asked for feedback

Sent follow-up note to Manuel G in the interest of gauging satisfaction and encouraging feedback.

received busted Telrad

John dropped off the loaner program Telrad in need of repair.

the final question

My late suggestion for a quiz question was accepted: what's the best private observatory in Ontario?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

work party report up

Posted the work party report (finally) on the RASC Toronto Centre web site. Tony wrote the copy, we fine-tuned it together, and then I collated some images from volunteers.

touched base with Kevin

I followed up with Kevin, one of our newest CAO users. He said he had a good time at the CAO and in the future he hopes that he won't have to leave so early. He also said he appreciated the welcoming atmosphere.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

new design approved

Allard and Jason, after some poking and prodding, finally got council to approve their new site design.

CAO follow up

Followed up with CAO and Finance teams. There seemed to be confusion about passes, new members, joining, etc. Things slipping through the cracks. Hopefully the new passes will help. But the supers need to ask for them. And the members need to bring them. Sent the conduit measurement to Tony. Told helpers of the successful construction and test of the Oberwerk solar filter. And updated the involved parties of the successful test of the NexStar 11" GPS. Asked Tom if he needed particulars for the property database. Updated the supervisors on various items. The fuel for the mowers. The recently emptied barbecue tank. The time-out issue on the Dell laptop. Reminded them to note the dining room computer and wifi passwords particularly because I was planning to remove the signage. And some info about the vacuums.

some more questions

Hammered out details with a new, prospective wireless internet service provider.

happy new CAO user

Manuel G sent a note saying that Manuel S had a great time. Good.

Blackberry port

Denis asked about Stellarium. Specifically the port to the Blackberry Playbook. He said he was happy to pay for it. But he wanted to know if I had inside info. I told him that it was probably not an official product.

Dragon away

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon successfully launched.

This will change everything.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Phil checked weather

Asked Phil to test the weather page populated with data from our Davis weather station at the CAO. It was not updating properly. Still.

how about a quiz?

Grace suggested we do something a little special for the next OHAP, given it will be the 15th anniversary. She proposed a quiz with some questions involving the history of the CAO, its features, etc. Great idea! The winner would receive a prize.


The teacher.

time to leave

I needed to get away from the CAO. For a few reasons. Mostly work. Head space problems. I had to go in for the 6:00 PM shift. I was tired but at 10:30 AM I started started packing. Having assembled the solar lights the night before, I completed the set-up. With Dietmar, I measured the new MODL 6 conduit path, including the up-down. Loaded up some recycling at 1:30 PM and left the site.


Damn it! I did it again. I didn't bring the small gerry can home. This time it was complicated by the fact that Dietmar had already locked the garage and I was anxious to go.

Tim wants to fix stuff

Tim has offered to fix equipment at the CAO. To remove the debris from inside the TV 101. Fix the motorised focuser on the C14. Improve the mount pointing accuracy and help with internal cable routing. And double-check the finderscope alignment.

Grace leads the charge

Grace sent out a cheerleading note to trigger some activities for the OHAP.

MODL 5 tidied

Phil sent a note. He and crew filled the corner holes in the MODL 5 area. They covered the central pier hole.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

suggested reflashing

Manuel S ran into some trouble. Somehow the NexStar hand controller of his brand new CGEM went into programming mode! It showed "Transmit Data" as soon as it was turned on. They asked for my help but I didn't know what to do, off the top of my head. I suggested they review the documentation.

I wondered how that happened... Had they stumbled into the firmware update menu?

When I saw Manuel S just standing there later, not doing anything, not able to do anything, I offered to conduct some web searches. He accepted. I quickly found a note on the Celestron support site that recommended reflashing the hand controller. Manuel S felt inspired and said he would try. Turned out he in fact had the hand controller programming cable in his car. (Is that so?!) He set about fixing it.

verified 9.25" collimation

Another thing Manuel G wanted my help with was the collimation of his Celestron 9.25" SCT. He asked me if I had already done it. No... Oh. Then it clicked, for me. The reason he had asked me to take the SCT up on Friday was that he wanted me to immediately align it. I explained I couldn't do the collimation on a star until it was mounted. So we retrieved it from the GBO, rigged it up, and checked it on a star overhead. I thought the collimation very good. No change required. And then, to be safe, perhaps, I thought I'd get another opinion. We asked Phil. He thought it very good. No action required. OK. He was good to go.

verified polar scope alignment

One of the things Manuel G wanted to check this weekend was the alignment of his polar scope. This had been on his checklist for a while. He thought it might be off. And having tuned the polar scope for his Atlas last year, he wanted me to do the one for the Celestron CGEM DX.

We checked it, viewing a distant object on the south horizon. And, it was fine. I knew it would be.

packed the N11

Tore down the NexStar 11. Packed up. I just wasn't in the mood to observe.


I asked Manuel G if he could adjust his working configuration on the Observing Pad. His laptop screen, without attenuation or a red screen, was flooding the area with white light. Millie and Kevin were in the line of fire. I asked that he turn the laptop LCD to the east. From the east end of the Pad then he would not affect other users. He got upset and said there was nothing he could do. He did not seem to care about the other members.

that was fun

Happy campers! Everyone was pretty happy to view (and capture) the eclipse. It was very cool watching it sink into the horizon. And being able to see it naked eye during the final moments. I think new member Kevin was real happy.

Hey, there's I'm-not-an-astronomer Lora! Phil shot this photo.

I think Manuel G missed most of the event. Poor guy. Spent most of the time running around looking for his equipment and gear instead of just enjoying the show.

Lovely colour from the pretty sunset. The Sun and Moon below the horizon now.

This event reminded me of the ISS-Moon transit. There was joy in the air. A very strong sense of camaraderie. Having shared something together. I was happy to be a part of it.


Lora put the set on flickr.

setting eclipse (Blue Mountains)

Lora let me shoot a photo with her PnS. A Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS. I 'podded it on the railing. I was able to trick it!

The last moments...

The EXIF data:

speed: 0.003 sec (1/400)
aperture: f/4.9
focal length: 18.6 mm
ISO: 400
exposure bias: 0 EV
white balance: Auto
quality: Superfine
record mode: JPEG
digital zoom: None

recorded partial eclipse (Blue Mountains)

Recorded video of the partial solar eclipse. Captured with the MallinCam Hyper Color via a AVerMedia PCMCIA card. Imaged through a Tele Vue 101 refractor with Coronado SolarMax hydrogen-alpha filter system. Recorded for 25 minutes and 48 seconds. Stopped Started recording at 8:17:27 PM EDT.

Full video file is yet to be processed or edited. Individual frame still image snapshots are shown below.

Someone called out that we were moments away from first contact. I started recording...

8:17 PM. The image above shows the start of video. I goofed on the video camera orientation flip settings. So the image is rotated 180 degrees. I.e. the "top" of the Sun is down. A tell-tale is that the solar disk is brighter at the bottom, less atmosphere. Some sun spots are visible. Some flares are just barely visible on the disc, particularly around the 10 o'clock position.

8:19 PM. First contact. It is barely detectable in this image, partly because of the poor framing. The Moon is beginning to enter the Sun's disc at approximately the 11 o'clock position. There's also a bit of cloud here. When I saw the Moon at the top-left, I realised I had the camera flipping set wrong.

8:20 PM. First contact clearly visible at the bottom right. I've since rotated the image into the correct orientation, up is up, left is left. More clouds visible...

8:21 PM. Clouds thickening. We started to get anxious that we might lose sight of the event.

8:32 PM. Clouds gone. Yeh! Lovely views afforded of the Sun and Moon. And detail on the surface of the Sun, to boot. By the way, the Sun is drifting in the camera due to another mistake on my part, that I forgot to implement the solar tracking rate versus normal stellar sidereal tracking in the Paramount.

8:35 PM. Sol is getting low. We're starting to see the tops of the trees in the telescope. It is somewhat eerie in the video, with motion, since the Sun's disc is effectively motionless, and these branches, like tendrils, are creeping upward, as if to grasp and absorb.

8:41 PM. It's the end of the line for the Tele Vue. The tree is obscuring much of the scene. Again, the video is interesting, seeing the leaves moving in the tree. Hot pixels also visible in the MallinCam image.

Very pleased with the results. It was good to capture the event in live video. As well as watch it through various telescopes. And again this bodes well for the transit of Venus.

I shut off tracking. We headed to the deck to enjoy the last few moments...

[ed: Original post had incorrect times. Recording started at 8:17:27 PM EDT; it didn't finish then. The eclipse was due at 8:20 and it occurred on time.]


Wikipedia link: solar eclipse.

hey, Mikey!

Kiron liked my welders glass solar viewer.

A lot.

enjoying the eclipse (Blue Mountains)

8:19 PM. The eclipse started. Dietmar saw it first! Winner!

We took in the partial solar eclipse in, in a variety of ways. Lora snapped a shot.

Phil was viewing through his Coronado Polar Solar Telescope, Dietmar was trying out the (new, custom) solar filter on the Oberwerk 100mm binoculars, Kiron was projecting images onto paper with a weird small refractor and his binoculars, and Kevin was also viewing in a PST. Rolling up the sleeves... In the GBO behind, I had the MallinCam capturing video with the SolarMax on the Tele Vue, recording onto the computer, and displaying on the LCD. Millie's behind me squinting at the Sun.

We were also trying the complimentary Dunlap Institute eclipse glasses. And Phil and I were comparing our  welders glass viewers. We thought my two pieces combined slightly darker than his single. This made sense. I shared that Ralph thought the two-piece solution would have some light loss due to internal reflections.

Lora did not capture the Manuels in the photo. I don't know where S was at the moment but he did show up later and enjoyed the views. I think G was rushing about trying to find all his CCD camera gear... 

Skeena knows it is not safe to look directly at the Sun.

simulating the eclipse

I had the netbook running beside the laptop. Laptop was controlling the Paramount of course. And capturing and recording the video feed from the MallinCam. The netbook was running SkyTools. With a display showing the Sun. And a black circular void. Slowly moving toward the Sun. It was neat to see it this way.

And a little eerie.

with minutes to go

Manuel G burst into the GBO and asked me if he could use his CCD camera instead of the MallinCam to record the eclipse. Huh? It was moments before the event. He argued it would be better quality. Agreed. But I said only if he could guarantee that he have it up and running perfectly within 3 minutes. A little last-minute, dude. I wasn't entirely surprised when he ran away to retrieve his equipment...

made solar filter

Made the custom solar filter for the Oberwerk binoculars. Kiron helped.

First gathered all the necessary tools and supplies. Serendipitously, in the work room, I found a small brass sheet. Small strips would work much better than the hair pin idea I first envisioned.

Taped the film to the front piece.
  1. Cut the black foam core in half. For the front (outer) and back (inner) pieces of the sandwich.
  2. Prepared the outer sheet. Marked centre, on the white side. Measure the height and width dimensions of the bins body. Marked the top line. Traced the outer shape. Draw an oval inside the tracing, 1/2" within. Cut out this inner shape.
  3. Traced shape onto other foam core sheet, the inner.
  4. Spray painted the outer sheet (from the white side) with some flat black paint in an effort to hide the white foam. Set aside to dry.
  5. Cut out the oval shape from the inner sheet.
  6. Cut 3/4" strips from the brass, initially 4, then 5 pieces. Bent the strips to form locking tabs.
  7. Cut slots for the strips in the inner foam core. Inserted brass strips. Test fit on the binos housing. Had to fine-tune the position of the bottom one. Taped down the strip tabs.
  8. Prepared the baader solar film. Checked for perforations. Cut solar film for opening. Taped solar film to outer foam core.
  9. Glued foam core pieces together, white sides, sandwiching the film and tabs, and weighed them down. Done!
Looking forward to trying them later...

It occurred to me we'll need a big container to safely store these.

a quick tour

Spotted people wandering through the field to the east near the pond. Turned out they were locals. Sally and her two kids, Bridget and Ben, from the 4th Line (I think). They had heard about the observatory. I gave them a quick tour. And then they continued south along the planet walk. I invited them back for the solar eclipse. They sounded keen. But I forgot to get them to sign the guest book...

reprogrammed vehicle

I was in the GBO when I thought I heard a car running. Ah. Noticed Manuel S in his SUV. Returned to my stuff. Later I noticed the vehicle still running. I wondered what he was doing for such a long time. Trying to get some air conditioning? Making some private phone calls? I wondered about the modern sport luxury vehicle, some of which do not require oil service, and how hard idling is. Pollution? And then I realised what he was doing: he was reading the manual! Cool! He was learning how to reprogram the lights and proximity key. Thank you! Very thoughtful.


Someone must have talked to Manuel G. I noticed that he moved his vehicle from the parking lot proper to over by the garage, beside Ian's trailer. He aimed east-west as well. Thanks.

did not take it serious

On the Observing Pad, I drew Manuel G aside. I said that there had been a problem the night before with all the light infractions. I tried to explain that all the visual observers did not like the car lights going on repeatedly. It also might have affected some of the astrophotographers. He laughed. He tried to playfully joust with me. He tried to hug me. That upset me. He was making light of it (no pun intended). His reaction did not seem respectful. I was trying to make a serious complaint and explain a rule of the CAO but he was dismissive. That left a very bad taste in my mouth.

slow progress with N11 (Blue Mountains)

The Observing Pad was getting crowded tonight. Ian had his big Dob at the far east end. Then, moving west, Manuel G has his big SCT on the CGEM DX. Millie was beside with her lightly bruised RC. Then me, with the blanketed NexStar 11 GPS (alt-az Go To). Manuel S's spanky new SCT.

As evening descended, I noticed there was no wind. Yeh. My eyes would get a break, hopefully.

8:29 PM, 19 May 2012. The Clear Sky Chart will looking amazing. It was going to be good! For tonight, tomorrow, and Monday! Good news for the eclipse... Great conditions for a long weekend.

9:28 PM. We started viewing Saturn. It was astonishing in Ian's hand-made 20" Newtonian. I was certain that I could see darkening at the outer edge of the A ring. It was quite dark. I asked if anyone knew about this. Ian suggested the "crepe ring."

[ed: I reviewed this later and found no such feature. But is it possible that I was seeing the effect of the Encke Division, a thin narrow gap at the outer edge?]

While Manuel S learned his new telescope, I reviewed the NexStar documentation for the 11" at the picnic table.

10:59 PM. I viewed Mars in the N11. I tried bumping up to the 10mm eyepiece.

11:15. Between helping Manuel G, I returned to the picnic table to do some more reading on the N11.

11:20. I checked the collimation of the N11 and thought it was pretty good. I certainly didn't feel like changing it.

11:46. I viewed M99 in the N11. aka St. Katherine's Wheel in SkyTools. I wanted to change the magnification slightly. Ian let me try his 20mm eyepiece. Nice.

11:53. Helped Manuel S with constellations, the Milky Way (low), a few key stars...

Weird air conditions. Got really warm at one point. Felt like I had stepped in an oven! Then the air was very cool suddenly. Fast. It was stark! And then the seeing tanked!

11:54 PM. Viewed Saturn in the C14. I was hoping to see Mimas. No joy. Too windy. Saw other moons, to be sure.

Both Manuels went to their vehicles on several occasions to fetch missing parts. I suggested he not lock his vehicle. I encouraged him to clearly warn us before future instances.

Heard the owl again. Kiron heard it too. Circling around us as we sat at the picnic table.

Tried changing the backlash adjustments in the N11. I might have gone too far...

Tried the "calibrate compass" feature.

3:11 AM, 20 May 2012. That was a frustrating evening. White light transgressions. Spent a lot of time helping others. Often without success. I got very little done. I wanted to make much more progress with the N11.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

on the pad

Lora shot some pictures of the Observing Pad. Pretty busy... Left to right: Kevin's refractor, Manuel G's new SCT, the NexStar 11 under my car blanket, Millie's RC, Manuel's SCT, and Ian's big Dob.

The second shot is aimed lately to the right. Note all the vehicles parked facing south...

I don't know who's flailing their arms around...

solar video testing successful (Blue Mountains)

I wanted to do a trial run, a dress rehearsal, with the TV101, the Hα filters, the MallinCam, video recording, capturing, the whole nine yards, with the Paramount of course, in advance of the eclipse.

This was to test a couple of things. Obviously, that all the equipment was working nominally. To see what the sight lines would be like, particularly down to the horizon. And to also see what the impact of recording video would be. I.e. how much space would we need to record minutes of video. I had brought my WD 1TB external hard, just in case.

So, in the afternoon, I rigged everything up. And started recording. It was hot...

As the video recording progressed, I made note of the numbers...

1.0 GB in 3:45 minutes
1.5 GB in 5:00 minutes

I extrapolated the numbers and estimated 6 GB in 20.

I stopped recording after 20 minutes. Yep, it was around 5.5 GB for 20 minutes.

Happily, there was something like 75 to 100 GB free on the Dell laptop. We wouldn't need my terabyte drive. Well. To record. It'd be handy to transfer... [ed: It was. After I changed the formatting method.]

So, the first part of the test was complete. I knew the kinds of numbers we'd be looking at for recording eclipse (and transit) videos.


The second major component of the test was to check sight lines. I let the Paramount track the Sun.

At 8:33 PM, I had to double the MallinCam exposure for the air mass.

And I watched how low it would go. And, in fact, it was pretty good. We could see almost to the horizon. This was aided by the fact that the Tele Vue rides above the SCT when looking west. I was very pleased that this result. In theory this means we should be able to record almost all the event, that we can see from this location.

All this in direct preparation for the imminent solar eclipse. And that would be practice for The Big Event, the transit of Venus in June!

first light for a new CGEM

Manuel and Kiron arrived a short time ago.

Manuel had brought his brother-in-law. Introductions ensued. His name: Manuel. I immediately thought of the Monty Python "Bruce" sketch. "Well, that's gonna cause a lot of confusion..." We employed last name initials to keep track.

Manuel S had just bought a new 'scope. A nice sparkling Celestron CGEM. As I helped Ed T with lawn cutting, Manuel G helped Manuel S unbox the new SCT.

I was nearby on the Observing Pad when they bolted up the eyepiece had trained it on Venus.

First light!

deciphered version numbers

Took me a little while to decipher the code... The Celestron NexStar versions.

The display on the hand controller, last night, when I checked the version information showed 2 rows of numbers, 3 on the top, 2 on the bottom:

2.2, 4.6, 4.6
1.0, 1.0


hand controller: 2.2
motor control - altitude: 4.6
motor control - azimuth: 4.6
GPS: 1.0
serial bus control: 1.0.

And then that means, sadly, the HC is dead-ended. The 2.2 version is not upgradeable. It has been superseded by different units, the HC 4.x, and then the HC NexStar+.

The latest HC is US $150 from OptCorp... Uh huh.

Asked Eric if it was worth updating...

made pier

Helped out Ian with setting his new concrete pier for his telescope. We had a good little crew: Ed T, Dietmar, Tim L, Phil C. Millie and Lora monitoring. Millie and Lora helping with concrete mixing and refreshments. Skeena supervising.

Having selected the site of MODL 6, we excavated a large hole.

And then quickly poured the cement.


message from Tony to Tony

I talked to Tony DS briefly about his MODL and SkyShed POD. He told me that he wanted a pier now. He had scuttled his plans to use a tripod. So, that meant he would need the pier tube, of course, and top and bottom plates. He told me has a CGEM 11". I said I'd relay the info to Tony H. He said he would like it by June 5. Ah. The Transit. I told him that I didn't know what the timing issues might be.

Was going to message Tony when my garage camera at home sent me more email messages...

Ed H needs parts

Ed H sent me a note. Wanted to know the tricks, back flips, hoops to jump through, to fix a busted Celestron in Canada. Good luck.

approved the MODL 6 site

It suddenly occurred to me, dawned on me, that I was the "most senior" person on site. In terms of chain of command. Phil is a CAO supervisor, we ask him to regularly consult on CAO administration, is the database wrangler for the Centre now. Ian is a CAO supervisor, helps with education and outreach, a long-time member. Dietmar is a CAO supervisor, the CAO registrar, on the Centre finance committee. He's deeply involved in Centre and CAO operations. But I'm on the CAO committee. Dietmar is too, sorta, I guess. We're one notch down from Tony and Charles, the Carr Astronomical Observatory co-chairs. And it was clear to me now that the final decision about relocating Ian's MODL lot from the existing site 5 to new spot between MODL 1 and 2 rested on my shoulders. That it was to the north was non-trivial. Damn. Was broadsided by this. And had to put the serious hat on. Ian's reasoning I understood. I gathered Dietmar's and Phil's thoughts. Talked to Tony. And approved the new site.

forgot to watch SpaceX

I missed the SpaceX launch. Although they scrubbed. I totally forgot to set an alarm for 4:55 AM...

Not that I don't want them to fly—on the contrary—but with this misstep, I'll have another chance to watch.

observed with the N11 (Blue Mountains)

While Ian imaged inside the GBO, I spent the windy evening (learning and) working with Nexstar 11 GPS (alt-az Go To, SCT) on the Observing Pad, near Millie. Viewed some Messiers and planets. Overall a fairly good evening. No one injured. No telescopes damaged...


9:49 PM, 18 May 2012. There was no dew. We could see some high cirrus clouds. Viewed Mars in various telescopes.

I spotted Phil trying Sky Safari for iOS. It was not smoothed, constellations jumping all over the place. That would be infuriating.

I made a quick profile in SkyTools 3 Professional for the N11. I tossed a random Celestron eyepiece into the profile, a 42mm ocular, to things up and running quickly.

Grabbed a couple of eyepieces from the GBO. The Tele Vue Radian 18 and 10 millimetres.

9:53 PM. I set about trying the alignment process on the 11-inch. Did not get great results.

Reviewed the Instruction Manual documentation, again. Ah. It may be because I was started the mount in a random position. I learned that the OTA must be pointed down as the hand controller is powered on. Ah.

10:50. It was windy. Very windy. Refined my alignment process. Made some notes for a future quick reference guide, for members. I found some interesting notes suggesting that during each alignment slew step, it was good to finish with up and right arrow buttons. This was a pre-loading trick. To reduce backlash effects of the mount.

11:00. Finished my best alignment yet! When I slewed, I found the telescope was very close to the target. This at 155x, with the 18mm! Yeh.

11:14. Viewed Saturn. Then Mars. The alignment was definitely better. Both planets were just outside the field of the 18mm. You'd spot them if viewing through the eyepiece at the end of the slew.

I noticed ghosting or streaking of image at times. The crap on the mirror diagonal, no doubt.

When I was inside the GBO I heard a thud out on the Pad. Some talking...

11:53. Viewed Mars and Saturn in the C14 in the GBO. I thought I try to see the moons of Mars... No luck.

12:02 AM, 19 May 2012. Viewed Messier 96, a faint galaxy. It was large. Oval shape. Initially, I did not see M96 however.

I had been aiming for it but landed on M95. I mistook this object for my target. It was partly that I was in uncharted territory. And it was partly that the 'scope was off a bit. (And they are similarly sized. And they're angled the same way.)

I spotted a faint fuzzy on the left (west) edge of the field after the slew. I dropped the magnification power from the 18mm to the 40mm. After a time, comparing in SkyTools, by reviewing the star patterns, I verified I was looking at M95. I panned to the right and found M96. 96 has a bright centre. 95 is more homogeneous.

Then I found M105 by panning up.

Above M105 is NGC 3384 - equally bright.

To the right of 105 and 3384, I saw a much fainter and smaller object. That's NGC 3389. Millie couldn't see it.

The mount was being a little finicky. It didn't want to pan one way... And seems to be losing the tracking from time to time... A clutch problem? Is this what Eric had warned me about?

12:39 AM. Millie noted Corvus. Ah yes. She said M104 should be visible, the Sombrero Galaxy. So off I went with the NexStar. It was very nice in 18mm.

My eyes were watering like crazy. Running nose. Stupid allergic reaction. The high wind from the south was exacerbating the watering.

12:56. Made some hot chocolate. To wake up and warm up.

12:59. I had looked at the weather station while in the kitchen. The X was showing, flashing. That was good. The temperature showed as 16°C. It said the wind chill, with the 8 km wind, was 16, but it seemed colder to me. Tomorrow we were hearing it was supposed to go to 27°. And on Sunday, 28! All right! Humidity had been low tonight.

Scorpius was up high! Nice.

I turned around at the picnic table. Facing north so to put my back to the wind.

1:22. I found Messier 68, a very faint globular cluster. ST3 said it was around 40 kilo-light-years. I ended up finding it by scanning the area as the HC took me somewhere a bit different. It was pretty unsatisfying... But then, I'm not a big fan.

I remember to check HC version numbers. I noted them for future interpretation and reference.

1:37. Saw M98. An edge-on spiral. It was large in 18mm! But faint.

2:00. I packed up. The weather looked OK for tomorrow so I covered the whole 'scope in a blanket and removed the power. Done. Quick.


That was kinda cool. My main goal for the evening was to work and get comfortable with this "new" telescope. But seeing another four Messiers, and two NGC galaxies, not on my life list, and a few other celestial objects... icing.


I learned, earlier in the evening, that Ian's imaging rig takes about 1.5 hours to set up. Wow. Guess I shouldn't complain about my 30 minutes with my C8.

Friday, May 18, 2012

uncrated the N11

Uncrated the CAO Celestron NexStar 11-inch GPS telescope from the JMI case. I wanted to inspect, set up, and assess the N11.

The big Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope on a fork mount had been sitting inside a large black case unused in the GBO for as long as I could remember. No one seemed to be terribly clear if it was functional or not. If it was working, I thought it would be good to make this known to supervisors. If it worked well, it would be a great 'scope for members to use.

After I found the tripod in the GBO observatory, I started to set up the N11 on the Observing Pad, beside Millie. With Phil and Millie's help, I mounted the heavy OTA and fork mount atop the tripod. Very heavy. I learned later that this element alone weighs 65 pounds!

I didn't see the stock anti-vibration pads in the crate.

Oooh. Fastar ready...

Found the mirror diagonal to be filthy. It looked like, to me, something had lived in it! Tim said that stuff could grow on the surface. I didn't have my eyepiece cleaning kit with me. Alas, I cleaned it with rubbing alcohol and cotton balls from the bathroom.

Found a silver-clad 40mm Celestron eyepiece. I wondered what the power would be. I couldn't remember the focal length off the top of my head (2.8m).

Attached the finder scope to the OTA. The adapter plate did not look to be stock. Aligned the finder.

Checked the JMI case for hand controllers. There was only one. Noted the hand controller had a sticker on the back. A hand-written note from Eric. I was hopeful that this one would work.

Didn't notice it at first but while I had a power cord for the mount, it terminated in a male CLA plug. Oh oh. Where would I get power? I asked Ian if I could hijack the power supply for the Kendrick dew heater inside the GBO.

I turned on the power. The hand controller came to life. Woo hoo! It worked. The altitude and azimuth motors responded. The Global Positioning System was clearly functional detecting our date, time, latitude, and longitude.

This telescope works! And its been sitting in the case for 5 years...

Onward and upward. I would fly it tonight. First order of business: aligning it.

new mower parts

Tony sent a note. He bought a new battery and spark plug for the Stargrazer today. He will bring them up for the OHAP.

settled in

Finally back at the CAO. And I started thinking about the evening plans...

Unpacked the new solder supplies and put them in the work room. White board markers and highlighters unpacked. Put some new markers on the whiteboard ledge. I wanted to repair, er, install, the north pilot light but got sidetracked. Put the eclipse glasses pack in the supervisors closet. For the transit of Venus.

Put the GBO closet glass in the warm room. Set about locating the framing pieces but could not find the long ones; only the short. It'd have to wait.

We helped Tony DS with his SkyShed POD. I put one of the clamshells in place. w00t! A major milestone.

It was a lovely day. I was starting to relax...

Except for the black flies. They were bad. Started up in the mid-afternoon. One bit my thumb! Little monster.

My garage camera at home sent me an email message. Hmm.

It was dinner time. I barbecued a steak. And it was yummy.

stop 7 A, B, C, D, E

Errands in Thornbury. Visited the Home Hardware, on a whim. They didn't have slate tile. But they pointed me to a shop across the way. I'd get them on the way back.

Popped downtown for supplies. 180°.

Pulled in front of a little building. Turned out the local floor finishing shop was only a sales centre, a design centre. Any extras, blems, fragments, broken ones? No. Darn. No supplies. Recommended a place in Collingwood. In addition to Home Depot. Thanks, anyway! Pass. I had no desire to run into the city. Maybe I could hook up with someone else later in the weekend. The bat house project will have to wait.

Visited Foodland. Groceries for the weekend. Supplies and some nice flowers. Miniature yellow roses. 180.

Bought fuel in Thornbury. More regular. For the Stargrazer ride-on mower. 180. Done!

stop 6

Arrived the CAO. Immediately removed the bicycle. Signed in. Said hello to Ian W. Unloaded a bunch of items. In particular, transferred the regular gasoline purchased. Filled the Stargrazer mower. Then filled a small on-site tank. Installed new caps from kit to super-large gerry can. Then packed the empty gerry in my car.

Ian and I caught up, in his trailer, while I checked my grocery shopping list. He offered me a stove-up coffee. Glorious, joyous coffee. Ian sent a note to the listserv, a follow-up to Katrina's question, saying that lots of supervisors would be at the CAO through to Monday. We reviewed the new Excel log income tracking sheet. It seemed to work fairly well. There are a couple of things that could be reworded...

the T-signal lit

Meanwhile, back in the city, John B asked if I would fix a busted Telrad in the loaner fleet... This sounds like a job for Telescope Repair Man.

referred to ESA

Malcolm referred me to his son's science teacher at the Etobicoke School of the Arts. To go in and talk to the class. Neat.

too late now

Charles phoned my mobile. But I didn't feel it vibrate. In the car. Driving about.

He wanted to know if I was going to pick up the Celestron hand controller from his shop. Oops.

I didn't know we had locked in that plan. I had deleted that stop.

stop 5...

Fuel. Fuel stop in Shelburne. For me (er, the car). And for the CAO. Topped up the car - high test. And filled my large gerry can - regular. The plan: I'd take the gerry can directly to the CAO to fill the ride-on mower.

stop 3

Breakfast. Hit the Tim's on Parkside. Mmm. Coffee. Glorious coffee. I departed downtown. The pace was quick, lots of people tailgating and then flying by. In a big hurry to get to work. There was, at this time of day, "rush" in the rush hour.

stop 2

Arrived Manuel's. Right on time. Which was a bit of a surprise. I took the long way. When I left the Horvatins I guess I zoned out. Or fell asleep. Missed the exit for the Lakeshore. That meant I'd overshot Parklawn. Doubled back via Islington. Manuel opened the front door. Ha! He looked sleepy! A little groggy. He must have just got up. (Did I look similar?) I guess he doesn't have to go to his office 'til a bit. Received his 9.25" SCT. For space reasons, I gathered... Since he was bringing Kiron and his brother-in-law. Put it up-right on the seat. Everyone got their seat belts on?

stop 1

Let the milk run to CAO begin. Popped by the Horvatins. Picked up supplies, bits, some tools. Mostly for the MODL project. A long fish tape so to pull electrical and data wires for Mr Wheelband's lot 5 lot. Electrical receptacles, adapters, connectors for wiring up Mr Dos Santos's lot 4. Headed to the Gardiner.

researched getting north

Started researching options for car-less RASC members to get to the CAO. Sharmin helped me with some information gathering. Looked into bus, training, and taxi options. Bounced ideas off Tony.

Yikes. A one-way cab fare from Collingwood to the CAO would be $50!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

not critical

Charles and I chatted on the phone. I was hoping to borrow his nice ethernet cable tester again. But it was at home. And he was not feeling great. And wasn't sure he would return to the shop. No worries. I'd still be able to test, of course, with a mobile computer.

And I also wanted to borrow the NexStar hand controller he had. Which was at the shop. Again, it wasn't that big a deal. I was confident the HC up there would work. And there might already be more than one. No worries.

will take his SCT up

Manuel and I chatted by email and phone. Fine tuned details. He asked if I could take his Celestron 9¼" SCT 'scope to the CAO. It seemed he would be pressed for space in his vehicle. Particularly because he wanted to bring his other SCT. And both mounts? OK. I'll pick up Friday at 9.

hounding Kiron

I think Manuel was still looking for someone to share a ride. He sent a public message directed to Kiron. I gather he saw Kiron's partial eclipse question to the RASC Toronto Centre listserv but that he said not received a reply to a private message. Ouch.

he wants the C14

So do we all.

While discussing travel arrangements in an email sent last night, Manuel also said that he wanted to image Saturn at the CAO his Imaging Source camera—with the C14. He asked me if it could be done. Then on Sunday he wanted to tackle M27.

I explained to him that I was not the supervisor for the weekend so it really wasn't my place to say and that he'd have to ask the supervisor (Ian) when he got there. He would know the plans or commitments on the big 'scope, if any. I reminded him that others might be using it.

empty highways

Briefly considered driving to the CAO "Friday morning." That is, immediately after work. The shift would finish at 2:00 AM. I could leave straight from work. No, that wouldn't work. I'd have to return home. And then pack the car. But when I did the math, I realised it was crazy. I'd get there by 5:00 AM or 5:30 AM at best. When Phil reminded that deer could be a factor, I stood down.

My alternative, or rather normal option, would be to leave on Friday day. And if I wanted to get out of Dodge early, that would mean gettin' up early. Damned early. I set the alarm for 7:00 AM Friday... Ugh. And made plans with Tony and Manuel accordingly.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

eclipse beer

Lora sent me info about a beer. Mmm. Never heard of that one. Strong!

Of course. It's from the supernatural province, BC.


I see they also have a seasonal called Super Jupiter!

looking for passengers

Hold on. Manuel sent a note to the RASC TC listserv. Offered a seat in his van. Noted that he would depart Toronto on Saturday at 3:00 PM and return on Monday. Offered to pick up from a subway station. Good stuff. That's the way we do that.

he's flying solo

Manuel sent me a note. Said he would go to the CAO on Saturday. He was planning to arrive around 6:00 PM. Good.

He said he "could not find anyone." I wonder whom he tried contacting... I didn't see anything on the listserv.

Tim reported in

Tim reported on his visit (with astronomer friends) to the CAO. Tony and I answered some of his questions. We discussed arming and disarming steps. And the south wall flaps of the GBO. I'm pleased to see that Tim is still interested in working on a supervisor's guide. Tony is real happy that the two of us want to work on CAO documentation...

out of sync

Manuel phoned. We talked about the CAO. He wanted to go. Yes! We started talking about times and travel arrangements for the coming weekend.

I was putting a bit of pressure on him to get out of his usual Saturday work commitments. Then he could go up for Friday. Get another night in. Another night of dark skies! He liked the idea but was not able to do so. Normally he runs the office on Saturday to early afternoon. While he had some new staff and their training was going well he still didn't think he could make it happen for Friday. Ida needed him too. Therefore, he'd have to work Saturday during the day. He wouldn't be able to depart the city until Saturday afternoon. My work, on the other hand, completed Friday (early, in fact, at 2:00 AM). So I was interested in going to the observatory in that same day, so to take advantage for Friday night.

He offered me a ride. He was very keen for me to join him. I think he likes road trips with friends. And he promised good music. "Some good rock and roll." It sounded fun. But it looked like we were out of sync, again. I really wanted to be there Friday. Gotta be there. Especially with crazy Canadian weather. I declined his ride invite. Encouraged him to put the word out on the RASC Toronto Centre listserv. Ask other frequent users.

Manuel then intimated that he'd not go if I wouldn't join him. Oh, man. Don't lay that trip on me. He laughed it off but I was uncomfortable. I think he likes visiting the CAO when there's going to be people there whom he knows. But now it was extended or expanded to the journey. No. Can't do that. And don't ask me to give up a potential good night to hold back, to stay in the city, to sync up. No. That's not fair. Sheesh. I felt backed into a corner.

We both need to smarten up.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

policy posted

At long last I posted the usage policy document for the CAO on the RASC Toronto Centre web site.

This will hopefully clarify things for those wishing to use the observatory. Members and non-members.

Tony said, "Very nice indeed." Dietmar said, "Excellent document, long overdue." Good.

get to the CAO!

I started "working" Manuel. I was encouraging him to visit the CAO this weekend. So to enjoy the long weekend and the dark skies. He was keen to do some imaging, I knew.

Monday, May 14, 2012

paid thru June

Reviewed with Scott the payment cycle with our Blue Mountains wireless internet service provider. Learned that we're paid up through June. Good timing... A good deadline.

a family visit

Manuel called. Said he had some family coming in from Montreal to visit for 1 week. Wanted to know if it was OK to take to the CAO. Sure. Fees apply, of course. Asked if could go on regular day. Yes, sure. But he'd need to book online as per usual. Carefully set the arrival date and time. And in the note area perhaps emphasise the unusual time. And then, from Dietmar; get key set. I think that unnerved him a little. He asked if someone would be there. Not necessarily. I reminded him that I was not the registrar. Finally he asked if I wanted to join them. I said to keep me in the loop but I might already be up there.

CAO follow-up with Steve

Steve sent a very good report, lots of detail, of his CAO supervisor weekend. Dietmar, Tony, and I chimed in to answer some of his questions, clarify issues, discuss next steps, and review new procedures.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

reviewed work party draft

Helped Tony with the CAO work party report. He wrote the bulk of the report and sent out the first draft. I reviewed and sent some suggestions. In particular, corrected a volunteer name or two, noted the name of the Saturday dinner, and listed a few things missed. It was nearing completion. Ready to be submitted to Eric for SCOPE. I had offered to post it online on the RASC Toronto Centre web site. Tony was real happy about that.

still won't run

Had another go at the Weed Eater. It just wouldn't run. Not for any length of time. Tore down and rebuilt the carb. Everything looked fine. So, then, logic says it is not the carburetor. It's bad gas, drawing air, or something else. So, my next step is to get very good gas.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Steve spotted old data

Steve noticed that the Davis weather station page on our web site was not updating. I told him I knew. And I also knew it would probably require a lot of fiddling with the server at the CAO to resurrect it... Did it stop working when the DNS problem happened? Dollars to donuts...

OHAP planning in work

We had asked Grace to oversee the planning for the 2012 OHAP. She was on it. And I saw things were moving into high gear. Included taking inventory of supplies and consumables, arrangements for a greeter, and photographer. Tony was spearheading arrangements for speakers. Charles was working on prizes.

saw black dot (Toronto)

Looked at the Sun with my super duper welder's glass. Briefly. From the porch.

Saw the big sun spot!


This is evocative of the Transit of Venus. It should look something like this...

Friday, May 11, 2012

brilliant because

Sharmin replied to message, which was in response to her excellent ideas for potential speakers for the CAO Open House.
LOL!!!!   I know very well why you think this is a brill target list, your name is not on it!
She knows me well.

quick pick up

Popped into Tony's shop to pick up items for the CAO. Closet window glass. The light neon pilot light, repaired. And Ian's pier. The two pieces for the pier: the steel tube itself and the base plate.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

learnin' the N11

Started researching the Celestron NexStar 11-inch telescope.

We have one at the Carr Astronomical Observatory that seems to be collecting dust... Well. Not exactly. The big JMI case that it's in—it's collecting dust. And no one seems to know its status...

If it's busted, it needs to be fixed. Or ditched. If it's working, it needs to be made available to members. Sheesh.

It's not unlike the one Charles and I tested recently...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


My CAO annual pass (family edition) was renewed.

Tony fetching glasses

Asked Tony to grab a bundle of eclipse glasses. Leslie said there was a big collection (comps the Dunlap Institute) stored at the OSC. I want a set to take to the CAO for the Transit of Venus. I couldn't get them myself. Once again, work. Working the weird shift. Missing more RASC meetings.


I also asked him to delivered something to Leslie. One copy of SkyTools 3 Starter Edition. For a draw at the conclusion of the NOVA course.

reviewed timings

Sent out a note to RASC Toronto Centre members via the Yahoo!Group about observing the Transit of Venus at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

Reviewed timings. At about 6:05 PM, first contact should begin. Venus would be over 28 degrees in elevation. Second contact would begin around 6:23 PM. The Sun would still be 25 degrees up. The Sun would set around 9:10 PM. We'd see about half of the event.

Explained where Venus should appear. Very near "top dead centre" of the Sun. For a "regular" non-telescopic, inverted, flipped view. Reminded people to consider the view for their equipment.

Shared our plans with the MallinCam, Tele Vue 101, and Coronado Hydrogen-alpha filters. Connected to a wide screen monitor meant that all would be able to see the first and second contact events. Said we'd try to video record the entire event.

Reminded everyone that we'd have lots of other 'scope and equipment available. Including the Celestron 14" SCT with the white light filter. Coronado Personal Solar Telescopes in H-alpha and eerie Calcium-K. The big Oberwerk 100mm binoculars with baader filter. And one of our 3.5" Questars with orange light solar filter.

Pretty good pitch, I think.