Saturday, June 30, 2012

Yahoo removing lab apps

Yahoo is killing the Labs Apps inside the Groups. Pity. But not entirely surprising. The beta tools were likely chewing up too many of their resources.

We were using, occasionally, the Chat room. And I had built the ride-share that a couple of people used. And I had really hoped the members-location app would get some traction. I still like the idea of knowing how's in my neighbourhood to possibly observe together. So, overall, we weren't doing a lot with them. And therefore no great loss. I will miss the Chat though...

Is this another sign that Yahoo is on the down-slope?

more mower operators

Sharmin and Katrina were coached on the ride-on mower by Phil, top-to-bottom. More helpers! I reminded all that the job included cleaning as well.

repaired THO roof

Trevor and Tony arrived. Just for 1 day. Told Tony about the THO, the damaged top-hatch. He said it's happened before. Made me feel a little better. I bent the slide bolts back into shape. Glued the pin in the one. He suggested I climb atop the roof and persuade the hinges.

clamps and groceries

I had not brought any food with me. In the morning Kiron and I headed into town. I suggested Collingwood. We visited Home Depot, for Dietmar. We found his large wire clamps. Then we went to the slate store, just a bit further south. I was looking forward to get some supplies for the bat house project. Arrgh! Closed! So we returned to Metro. I bought my groceries while Kiron did some other errands.

built at new TPoint model

Around 10:00 PM, I started steps to build a new TPoint model for the Paramount ME. And quickly it blossomed into a huge undertaking. Which I don't think I was fully prepared for, despite Dietmar's guidance. He insisted that I use the SBIG camera. So we had to spend time hooking it up, testing it, focusing. Complicating matters was the cabling requirements. We needed to use short cables. In the end, we set me up on the observatory floor, at the base of the pier, under the C14 OTA. It was kinda cool on one hand, I felt like Ellie Arroway, under the big telescope; but it was uncomfortable seating, it was mentally demanding, and the mozzies considered me dinner. After a fragmented tutorial by Dietmar, I started collecting points, intending to capture more than the current model. That didn't look difficult on paper. But that neither of us knew who to use AutoMapper, I had to do it by hand. Slow. Slow. Slow and painful. I barely made it to 50.

Friday, June 29, 2012

didn't use THO in the end

6:51 PM. In the THO, I had the NexStar 11 up and running. I tried to do alignment but could not pick up satellite signal. I wasn't entirely surprised. I thought it likely due to the metal roof.

I prepared for a long weekend of observing... And drawing!

I wanted to do some sketching this time. Got my kit gear out. Opened it up on the little corner table. Good pencils from Sharmin. Nice sketch pad readied. Got the music stand out, assembled it.

Stumbled across the glow-in-the-dark shoelaces, from Charles. Put them in the rollie-pollie podium. Would try them out as it got darker.

Stole a little power bar from the GBO so to have multiple outlets at the table. Set up the netbook nearby. I plugged into the new networking hard line. I had not tried it. It worked!

Brought two chairs out from the house: one for me to sit at the corner table; one for the eyepieces case. Prepared the eyepiece case. Installed my Tele Vue SCT adapter and my Williams Optics mirror on the N11. This would be more convenient and better than using the dirty mirror.

All the while, I reviewed the N11 quick reference sheet I had written. Made some changes. A few things I had done wrong.

And watched over Kiron as he did a tire rotation, with my tools.

At one point, when I returned to the THO, I found the top roof flap closed. Weird. The wind must have flipped it shut. I reopened it.

6:58. I used the old Panasonic GPS to verify the coordinates. Specifically of the THO.

9:00. I let Sharmin use the N11 after a quick tutorial. Meanwhile, I headed to the GBO to build a new TPoint model. The bugs were bad.

Sharmin reported the NexStar was awkward to use. It often did not hit the target. And the manually slews did not work properly. Damn. Looks like it's not ready for prime time, yet.

Later, Millie and Sharmin reported a problem with the THO roof. The top flap was not closing. I inspected it: it looked like the latches and rings had been damaged by the wind. I did a quick repair to close it.

photo documented

I took many photos of the Celestron NexStar 11 GPS finally. For the supervisors. And for the property management. I also found the serial number. Then I set up in the THO.

Just before Skeena, Sharmin, Lora, and Phil arrived.

too much high cloud

I set up the C14 and the TV101, both atop the Paramount, so to monitor the ISS flyover. I wanted to try another daylight flyover. But there was a lot of high cloud. And it was still very windy.

settled in

Kiron and I arrived at the Carr Astronomical Observatory around 2:45 PM. I asked if he wanted to practice opening the house. A few minutes later Millie and Dietmar arrived, still in the Saturn...

I returned the Sky and Telescope magazine to the library. Hooked up the new Pyramid 12V power supply to the dew heaters. Found, in the Tony Horvatin Observatory, the grease Big T had talked about. Indeed there was only a little left like he recalled. I also noted it described as all-weather; nothing about low-temp. Tended to some emails.

Later, I needled Dietmar. I noticed the chief supervisor had ticked all the check boxes in the left column of the Geoff Brown Observatory log sheet, including the rodent check... Ha! Busted!

Then I moved into the THO. Dibs! I was looking forward to observing in it this weekend having missed a chance a couple of weeks back. Hopefully, I'd be able to hide from the moonlight. Bloody Moon. And the bugs would find me, as easily...

tarp discussion begins

Tony kicked off an email thread about the tarp for the CAO pergola so to offer sun and rain shelter. Phil offered to support the project. Tony did a bunch of research into suppliers. And shared some thoughts about suspending it. If the timing works out, we'll install it at the summer work party... He asked for comments.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

despite the Moon

Heading to the CAO for the long weekend. Canada Day. To spend some time with friends. Enjoy the fresh air. Malcolm generously accepted to check in on kitty. And do some repairs. Packing my electronics toolbox... But not taking my telescope. Will travel with Kiron; Lora and Phil are going and bring two princesses; Katrina is expected; Millie and Dietmar if there are no vehicle complications; Ian will return after a family matter. The Moon will be nearly full so I'm not expecting to do much observing. Hate the Moon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

gonna get a Pyramid

Charles, Phil, Tony, and I sourced Pyramid regulated power supplies. We need a 10 ampere unit, the PS-15K (or KX) model, for the CAO to run the Kendrick dew heater system, particularly now that I've put 2 more heaters on the controller, and that it is blowing fuses in the Koolatron transformer...
  • Kendrick. Over $100.
  • Radio World. Over $100.
  • Sayal. Their web site showed various units but not the 10 A model. $80.
  • AA Electronics. On Matheson. They don't carry it.
  • Forest City Surplus. London. $80.
  • A1 Electronics. On North Queen. $79.40. In stock.
The plan now is to get one from A1. With luck, I'll be able to find some short slow-burn 5 A fuses as well.

second bad disc

Chatted with Tony on various matters. Mostly work party party. I also asked if he had tried working with his DVD from Scott, with CAO photos. I shared that the second disc I had received from Scott was also crap. There was a huge scratch on it. This was worse than the first disc; it wouldn't read any data.

Monday, June 25, 2012

inspected deep red

The deep red light, my custom-built flashlight, headlamp has been acting up. When it was turned into certain orientations, it would go out! Seemed like a loose circuit or wire. And that didn't make any sense... Turned out to be the 9V battery connector. It is a bit wobbly. A simple fix then...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

enjoyed the VAB

The Volunteer Appreciation Barbecue was fun. I thanked Leslie and Costas for hosting and the RASC Toronto Centre executive for planning and coordinating. A big thanks to Elaine! I think the whole team of volunteers felt very satisfied to be recognised.

Good eats with special treats, by Lora, of course.

Sharmin, as usual, took tons of photos for a Facebook album. She also shot a photo (with her iPhone 4S) of the best looking attendees:

As did Charles (with his new X100 range finder):

I gave Stu his CAO annual pass "passport" card.

Received a replacement DVD with photos from Scott.

Showed Katrina and Sharmin my 43 year old newspaper...

The weather cooperated.

We had a good turnout: Brenda, Charles, Costas, Diane, Dietmar, Ed, Elaine, Eric, Grace, Jason, Joel, John, Katrina, Kiron, Leslie, Lora, Michelle, Millie, Paul, Phil, Rajesh, Ralph, Ron, Scott, Shawn, Stu, Tim, Tony, Trevor. Too bad everyone could not have been there. We'll just have to do it again!

And I won a shirt!

make clumps

Over on the SkyTools Yahoo!Group, a member said they were getting keen to make a NGC list for the software. He was making noises like he wanted to construct a single list. I suggested an alternate strategy, like what some had already done for the Burnham and NSOG lists, was to break them up by constellation.

doubles in Draco (Toronto)

All right! Another night!

9:37 PM, June 23, 2012. Saw the Moon.

Looked for Mercury. 27° away from the Moon. But behind the trees again! Grrr.

9:58 PM. I put rubber bands on the big monitors, along the short edge, to hold the red cel film in place. Ah ha. It worked. In fact, it worked much better than the electrical tape I've used in the past. No more falling off and blinding myself.

10:18. Moved the John Little John computer into the kitchen.

10:19. Time to check the weather.

Current conditions:
Observed at: Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport
Date: 10:00 PM EDT Saturday 23 June 2012
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 22.1°C
Dewpoint: 13.8°C
Humidity: 59 %
Wind: NE 5 km/h
Humidex: 25

Forecast for tonight:
Chance of showers, 30%; 16°C. Partly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers late this evening. Low 16.

Tomorrow was looking grim.... Nooo. I didn't want it to rain on our parade...

10:21. I looked at the ADDS satellite imagery. It was definitely not looking good for tonight...

Grabbed the Cambridge atlas. I thought I'd use it tonight to send me to targets.

11:35. I viewed Σ3125 (Struve), aka SAO 16732. It was just barely visible. I thought the main pair was angled about 15 or 20 off the line of the other 3 bright stars. The star to the west is slightly fainter. They were crazy faint. Made it very difficult... I estimated a 1" or 2" separation. SkyTools 3 Pro said 2.1 (as of 1998). The Object Info box said A and B were magnitudes 10.3 and 10.3; the chart showed A was 9.8 and B 10.3.

11:44. I popped in the 18mm, the old Meade orthoscopic. Huh. It was easier to see! Now I thought they looked equal in brightness and they were the same colour. If you can call it that. Dull grey!

12:00 AM, June 24, 2012. I viewed η (eta) Draconis. But I didn't see anything in particular... I used the 18mm eyepiece and the Nagler 9mm.

I noticed the collimation was off a smidge.

12:08 AM. The seeing was turning bad. I couldn't see the companion of η Dra even though it was 4.8" away. An easy splitting distance. Was it an issue with brightness? I wondered. Maybe it was lost in the glare of the yellow primary.

I used the Bahtinov mask to focus with eta and then returned to HR6130 aka Σ2054. It did not look round to me. I thought, maybe, it was elongated up-down or in-line with η. The software said they were 1.00" apart.

I spotted a typo on the separation on Σ2368 AC... Should let Greg know.

12:25. I viewed 19 and 20 Dra by themselves, each. They'd be a nice binocular pair, I thought.

In the 36mm ocular, I spotted another medium tight double to the east.

I learned in ST3 that 20 is a triple star: there's a tight companion and then 19.

12:37. The seeing was getting very bad. I couldn't see anything... Ugh. Headed indoors.

1:02. After some digging, I found the NiteView program. I thought it might be good to put on my web site, to make it easier for me, and others, to locate. I installed it on John Smallberries. It's a great little app.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

tuned old binos

Collimated the old Bushnell binoculars. Used the Moon. Perhaps I need to do this more often with these old glasses! The view was great again! Not headachy!

tossed the disc

Tried to copy the OHAP photos from the DVD that Scott mailed me. But it was not working. Tons of read errors and then it finally stopped. I looked at the disc. Holy Hanna! Play disc golf with it before popping it in The Queen's Post? Tony was hounding me. Told him to back off. Then messaged Scott. Asked for another one. Sheesh.

they had clouds too

I asked Phil if they avoided clouds at the Long Sault. He said it started out clear but by astronomical twilight they were chasing openings in the scattered clouds. By 1:00 AM, they were annoyed.

waited for nothin' (Toronto)

Tried some solar observing today with the C8 and the baader full aperture filter. And then a cloud decided to park over my house. Fifteen minutes later, it finally decided to move on. All that... There was nothing to see. No sunspots at all. Boo.

stayed home (Toronto)

I had turned down Phil's invite to join the gang at the Long Sault. Also, I was not convinced the skies would be great... I still had, for the multi-night clear-run, the telescope set up on the deck. Ready to go. I'd be able to do a very rapid start up. And I was really looking forward to that!

9:25 PM, June 22, 2012. Spotted the crescent Moon from the office window. But I could not see it from the deck, unfortunately. I wondered about earthshine but then it seemed too bright right now...

Used Stellarium to check the position of Mercury. It was almost level with the Moon! But that meant quite far to the north. And behind trees... sadly. Frickin' trees!

10:10 PM. Moved the netbook in the kitchen...

Checked the weather conditions. Mainly clear, 21°C. Observed at Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport. As of 10:00 PM. Pressure: 101.3 kPa and rising. Visibility: 24 km. Temperature: 20.6°C. Dewpoint: 9.2°C. Humidity: 48 %. Wind: NW 18 km/h. The forecast: Clearing early this evening. Wind northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 becoming light this evening. Low 16.

Tonight's experiment was to review my drift alignment instructions.

Step one: find a star near the meridian. And the ecliptic. Here we go...

10:39. I was trying to find a candidate star though the tree branches and leaves. At first I thought was at Yed Prior in Ophiuchus; no, after carefully reviewing the charts in SkyTools 3, I confirmed I was centered on μ (mu) Serpentis. OK. Considered θ (theta) Librae, further down, closer to the ecliptic. Finally, I settled on 47 Lib, nearly on the path of the planets.

It occurred to me that it takes some time to find these stars, in the city, with trees in full foliage. So it's probably a good idea to consider a target a little east of the meridian so that by the time you figure things out (with a push-to 'scope) it will be at the meridian...

With the eyepiece pointing up, and me looking down, I knew the field orientation. West was to the left; east was right. And, of course, north was up; south down.

I observed the star drifting north... So that meant the polar axis is too far west. I dialed out a bit. Ready for the next step, a target star in the east.

11:50. I could not get my bearings in the eastern sky—trees, leaves, branches in the foreground, few bright stars to choose from—so just randomly chose a star. I had the reticule aligned. I watched for north-south drift. Initially it looked OK.

11:54. Now I noticed slight northward movement. So I dropped the altitude a bit. And I thought "that's good enough." Touched up my notes. And now I was ready to do some observing.

11:57. I saw Saturn was in the clouds...

12:33 AM, June 23, 2012. I caught myself chasing stars in unknown, unfamiliar parts of the sky. And realised it was stupid. Just wasting time.

12:56 AM. Just heard a mozzie. Shoo.

I went chasing HD 172712 aka Σ2368 (Struve). I found it on my life list but with a note to revisit.

Interesting. I think I observed that LT Dra was not visible. Was this variable star in a dim phase? Did I check it when not visible!? Could it be below mag 12? Perhaps I should report it...

1:05. Initially looked at HR 7028. I decided to bump the power. But I think the seeing degraded.

1:09. I split Σ2368 with the 26mm in moments of good seeing. The stars seemed equal in colour. Their brightnesses were similar. Perhaps the south-east star was a little fainter?

1:16. It was easily split with the 9mm. I could also see the C star. It was almost inline with GSC 03539-2451 (mag 12) to the north and GSC 03539-0977 to the south. I thought the stars white, no colour per se. I estimated the PA to be 145°. Sweet. I can change the status of this item on my double star life list.

I noted TYC 03539-1736 1, a 12.1 mag star, in the field. That impressed me.

1:36. I returned to LT. Viewed it with the 9mm. It was bright actually. Brighter than TYC 03539-1694 1, at mag 10.1, and TYC 03539-1479 1, at mag 10.1. Huh. Where did those mag numbers come from? In fact, it was slightly brighter, by a hair, than HD 172268. Ooh, that's a variable as well...

1:47. I saw more high, thin cloud.

2:23. Went for R Cygni, from TLAO book. It is right beside θ Cyg. I noticed a small asterism not unlike Sagitta with HR 7465 and SAO 31823. R was a light orangey colour. theta is a bright yellow star.

In SkyTools, I noted that θ Cyg is a multi-star system. I saw the C and D stars with the 26mm and later the C star, at magnitude 10.6. ST3 says D is 12.4. That would be quite good if that magnitude rating was correct (although I've gone deeper on other nights). HR 7465 is the same colour as theta, perhaps lighter, closer to white.

R Cygni was slightly fainter than HR 7465 which is mag 6.5. Wow. I learned that R Cyg drops to 14 over a 1.3 year cycle. So I've caught it while very bright! Indeed: Turn Left at Orion says "A good part of the time it is too dim to be seen in anything less than a 10-inch telescope." I guess I'm lucky.

I also found it interesting to note that SAO 31823 is a double companion to R Cyg. It is dull, pale star, perhaps with a hint of slate blue.

Well, that was neat. One more off the list. A list or two. And lots of interesting stuff going on. 10 items to go on the TLAO summer list.

2:39. So just when I was thinking all was smooth sailing, the tracking went wobbly. Still, it was amazing to me that the little C battery pack worked 2 nights in a row!

2:43. Checked the EC weather report at PIA again. Observed at 2:00. Partly cloudy, 101.4 kPa and rising, visibility 24 km, 16.8°C, dewpoint 10.4°C, 66 %, wind NW 15 km/h. I thought, on the porch, it cool with no dew. A nice night. Except for those clouds!

I hope that lads fared well at LSCA. But I was glad I stayed home in these mediocre conditions. Not driving to and fro. And enjoyed some quality time with kitty. I think he found it very interesting to explore the deck at night. And I was pleased with the experimentation tonight. The polar alignment was good. The portable battery pack impressed.

Friday, June 22, 2012

impromptu at Long Sault

When Stu posted his follow-up report to Wednesday night deep sky observing session—sorry! dark sky observing session—no wait! dark sky star party, that's it!—at the Long Sault Conservation Area, I think it made a few people jealous. Stu's remarks were already enticing when Jason jumped in, saying he didn't want to leave. And was very late for work. I wished I had gone.

Katrina bemoaned the fact that her work does not allow her much time in the week. So the "regular" sessions she cannot make. She then asked if people went on Friday nights. Jason, Steve, and Chris said they'd be game. Steve mentioned they had, in fact, done impromptu sessions before. A great thing about using a listserv.

And then, subtly, suddenly, the discussion had shifted to this Friday. Phil said he'd go. He and Jason were already making carpooling arrangements. Stu said he'd return. Steve changed his destination from the CAO. Suddenly, it was on. Friday night impromptu DSSP at LSCA.

Phil asked if I wanted to go. Damn. I had all my gear set up on the porch! There was no way I was gonna tear down... So, I passed. The other issue was, oh, look, the weather! It was lookin' a little iffy. Steve had noted that too, clouds forming over Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, but decided LSCA was going to be a bit better than the CAO. Not this time...

Ironically, Katrina chimed in. She couldn't go tonight!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

edited Solar Max doc

Revised the Solar Max documentation, as per Steve's suggestion. Uploaded to the CAO supervisors group. Emphasised the use of a zero-length adapter.

learnin' R6

Spent some time working with Registax 6. Trying to learn it. Used some test images of Saturn, recently captured. Found lots of tutorials. But unfortunately many were old. And many don't really get into the why and wherefore. Which I suppose could change the focus or direction. Still, many are just scripts. "Do this, then this..." And if something doesn't work, you've got nowhere to turn. Many authors admit, "I don't know what this means... but it works for me." The documentation is thin and unclear. Or incomplete. For an app with a non-traditional interface with a million settings. A little frustrating.

experiments night (Toronto)

The set-up of the mount and telescope and accessories on the porch was complete. Weather lookin' good. In red light mode. Black tarp up. Ready to go.

I tried to use my alignment marks on the wood deck. They were hard to see. They had faded!

Tonight I was looking forward to conducting a few experiments... One of which was to operate the Vixen mount with the small battery pack. Another was to try some planetary imaging.


Presently, it struck me as funny that for the first time ever in a long time I was going to hook up the C battery pack to the Vixen RA motor. I guess I had just assumed, back in 2007, that the six C batteries would get burned up fast. Wouldn't last one night. And of course, using alkalines all the time, would not be very green. But all this was back in my brain now, after the recent DDO night, when I had forgotten to bring any form of power! Wherein I served as the telescope drive for the evening... Grrr.

If the C battery supply would hold up for one evening, it would become a game-changer! It would mean dramatically less gear had to be haul around, to public star party nights, or quick observing sessions. I still detest the one-night set-up tear-down. With the C battery pack, I could avoid bringing the:
  • heavy marine battery
  • CLA adapter(s)
  • extension cord(s)
  • GFCI power bar
  • computer power (or other form of 12 volt) supply
If these C batteries work even for a couple of hours, it will be very compelling for star parties!

10:13 PM, June 20, 2012. I found a bunch of C batteries. I hooked up the power pack. Fired up the motor. The experiment had begun. OK. Let's see how long it goes! I briefly viewed Saturn.

10:19 PM. I switched from Evernote to Notepad for the logging notes. It was a little hard to see the cursor.

10:26. OK. I decided to reduce the running back and forth tonight. Another little experiment. I moved the netbook computer to the kitchen. This is a first as well. Sorta. I thought. I had used a computer in the kitchen before, I recalled. But I felt this was the first time I actually sat at the kitchen table. While I didn't have a full keyboard or large monitor at my disposal, it would be very convenient to have SkyTools 3 Pro near the telescope...

10:29. I grabbed the current weather conditions from Env Can, for Toronto. Observed at Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport. As of 10:00 PM EDT Wednesday 20 June 2012. Condition: clear. Pressure was 101.4 kPa and falling. Visibility was 24 km. The temperature was 28.3°C with a calculated dewpoint of 17.6°C. The humidity was 52 %. There was a south-west wind of 15 km/h. The humidex was 34. My kitchen was definitely the warm room...

I did the polar alignment using the built in 'scope. Dialed in the 10°W mag dec. Hold on. I caught myself. That's not what's that's for! That dial was for the meridian offset. 75 was the centre; Toronto is almost 80. So the difference is less than 5. 5°W. Close enough. I left it at 10. Then I set the date to Jun 20 and the time to 2200. And roughly put Polaris just inside the mini circle. Off a little in the low power eyepiece. Probably due to my 5° error...

10:34. Thirsty.

I checked the tracking and alignment. It was holding up...

10:45. Viewed Mars with the 36mm eyepiece. It was small! I checked ST3P. It was 1.3 AU away. I noticed I was looking through 2.3 airmasses. Ugh.

11:00. I noticed the tracking was a little strange. When I returned to the 'scope, Mars was way off, like the tracking had shut off. I fiddled with it. And Mars stayed centred. Huh. Seemed OK again.

I increased power on Mars, first switching to the 26mm, and then the 9m. Not bad! I saw a star above. The ice cap was at the 5 o'clock position; other pole at the 11 o'clock position. It showed a gibbous phase.

11:06. The tracking just let go! For no apparent reason. I had not touched anything. Were the batteries dead already?! The hand controller LED was still good. I slewed to the east then back to the west. That seemed to fix it...

I split Porrima. Blue white stars. Close at 222x. The current separation was 1.86", as of 2012.5, according to ST3P.

12:20 AM, June 21, 2012. So. The second main experiment was underway. Next, I wanted to try photographing planets with a Point-and-Shoot camera. Afocal, using the RASC camera-eyepiece clamp.

I was using the 9mm Tele Vue type 6 Nagler eyepiece on Saturn. First without the Barlow (so, 222x) and then with 2x Celestron doubler (444x). I did a lot of bracketing with the FujiFilm finepix J20 in manual mode. Manually adjusted the ISO to 200 and 400 mostly. I initally focused with Bahtinov mask on a star with the camera zoomed. I changed the white balance. Initially it was on incandescent (i.e. tungsten) but I set it to full sun. Then I zoomed out and used the timer (at 10 seconds) on most shots. The camera had to be very close to the eyepiece. I remembered to shoot some darks in the middle... What a riot. That was kinda fun. It will be interesting to see if they turn out.

12:30 AM. Heh. I discovered a little gotcha with afocal imaging. Surprise! You need very clean eyepieces!

Afterwards, I visually observing Saturn at 444. It was lovely. The seeing was pretty good.

12:38. I removed the 2x. I tried to spot 2 more moons, inner. But they were too faint, the planet too low. 2.0 airmasses. And I was tired. I had been at it for 2 hours...

1:15. Backtracking now... from ζ (zeta) Draconis, aka Aldhibah. Visited 19 and 20 Dra, a very wide double.

1:26. OK. Finally. I confirmed that I had landed at VW Dra, which I assumed was part of a wide separated double, HD 156890. And, which I noticed right away had a faint tight companion. Indeed HD 156890 is a known double. The companion is magnitude 10.3 compared to the 6.9 of the main star. VW varies between mag 6 and 7. I thought it slightly brighter than HD 156890 which is, again, 6.9. So maybe VW was 6 or 6.1? It was a slightly yellow colour or light orange compared to HD 156890. I spotted GSC 04198-1239 nearby. ST3P says it is mag 12.3 (but poor quality).

Very tired.

2:00. I covered the 'scope and crawled into bed. That was cool. The mount run on the small battery pack the whole night. About 4 hours. That's impressive.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

a clear run, maybe?

Ooh. The Clear Sky Chart... look at that. A couple of clear nights in a row. Could it be?

sent out more SFMs

Sent the CAO Site Facilities Manual to a number of users including Kevin, Bobby, Alex, Gord, and Stu.


Oops. Bad address for Alex...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

uploaded LAN dox

Uploaded the updated CAO LAN documents to the Yahoo!Group. New IP plan spreadsheet, Visio network diagram, GIF copy of the diagram, the PDF user manual for the Linksys BEFSR81 router, and the PDF user manual for the Pico WAP.

wifi problem?

Ian W reported that the wifi at the CAO was "down." He wasn't getting a signal in his trailer, suddenly. He wondered if the thunderstorms overnight had anything to do with it. Internet access was fine. Everything inside the house was working. I gave him some tips. Strange. He was right beside the new 1W antenna. And it was plugged into a small surge protector...

Monday, June 18, 2012

sunk anchors

I redid the solar lights at the CAO this weekend.

It occurred to me a short while ago that removing and reinserting the custom red LED lights was difficult and problematic. Well, removing—a step required before mowing the lawn—is easy. But putting back was not so. And in some cases caused damage to the top light assembly. Given that I was, to date, trying to reinsert the light, shaft, and bottom plastic spear.

An idea started to percolate back on the Victoria Day weekend when I had dug out the lights from storage. Instead of removing the entire assembly from the ground, it would be better to leave the spear portion behind. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that it was probably designed that way. It just had never clicked for me before. If the black anchor was put deep in the ground, submerged, so that the top was level with the grass, it would support rapid removal when cutting, and easy reinstallation. Benefits would be that high force would not be needed to put on the spear. Hopefully the spin-off benefit would be fewer broken lenses.

I used an iron bar to make short holes. Embedded the spears. Installed the lights. Easy peasy.

I'd need to send a note (and diagram) to the supers...

white light rules posted

Posted the new "etiquette" document at the CAO. About the house and in the GBO. It lists a number of "rules" for members and guests to observe regarding the use of white light at night.


uploaded N11 QRC

Posted my NexStar 11" GPS quick reference quide to the CAO supervisors Yahoo!Group. Oops. In ODT. That will probably confuse matters...

listserv misused

Eric used the eSCOPE listserv to send a message from the RASC National Office. Why the hell did he do that?! Then he forwarded it to the main RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group list. Fine. And then he sent it to the Council list! Crikey. And ultimately, at its core, a message about the auto and home insurance... Um. Where's the astronomy content?

helped Ian

Over the weekend, I helped Ian W a little on the construction of his SkyShed as he levelled and adjusted the yaw angle of the base/floor.

Hot days. MODL 6 is underway!

removed ignitor

The on-board barbecue lighter at the CAO had not worked for a time. And it was seemingly throwing off some of our members. I guess some have only used units with electric starters. And the more I thought about it, people trying to start a BBQ with flame, with little or no experience, might run into some trouble...

It was a nice afternoon. Not busy. While Ian toiled on his shed, I started to diagnose our 'cue. In the end, I could not get the ignitor module to work. So I removed it. Noted the part number.

During the removal, I checked the grills (fine), the "tents" (fine), the burners (tired), and the interconnecting "carryover" tubes (pooched). I also observed a lot of debris in the bottom... Needs a good cleaning. That should probably become a spring or fall work party regular item.

captured meteor

They got it! The Western meteor group captured the particularly bright event that passed very close to Collingwood on June 15. They still had the raw video data in the buffer. Even though our LAN was down at the time. Sweet.

saw a halo (Blue Mountains)

Spotted a ring around the Sun in the hazy high cloud. [ed: Found photo!]

Shot from under the pergola. FujiFilm finepix J20 at 1/1400 of a second, f/7.8, ISO 100.

tested new CAO camera

Did testing of the new camera at the Carr observatory. Well, not new. From last fall. The crap one Charles bought from China. With broken wireless. And the inability to record...

Scared Ian traipsing around, up and down the driveway, near his trailer, in the middle of the night.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

poppin' fuses

After a battery (sorry) of tests, we found that the Koolatron power supply in the GBO was no longer up to snuff. With the 2 additional dew heaters installed, the system wanted over 5 amperes. And that was the maximum rating of the output fuse in the cooler/heater supply. No wonder we were popping them. Fortunately, I discovered 2 spares taped inside the case. Dietmar and I agreed that a new supply was needed. I made a note to get a 10 A Pyramid. And this will become the new power unit for the NexStar!

I sent a note to the supervisors updating them. And advise that they use an alternate power source in the meantime. I was using my marine deep cycle battery at the moment.

CAO LAN improved thanks to team

Sent a note to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. Two-fold. To let members know of the improvements to the internet and wireless service at the CAO. It is about twice the size as last year! And to thank the team of people who helped me, including Kiron, Gilles, Charles, Justin, Matthew, and Tony.


I pulled a 50 feet ethernet patch cord from the garage to the Tony Horvatin Observatory. 'Been wantin' this for years! Woo hoo! Now I can surf while in the THO!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

too windy

It cleared. But it was extremely windy. Up to 65 km/h.

Dyn not free?

Started working on a dynamic IP address solution for the CAO. Looks like Dyn doesn't provide a free service anymore... I created a No-IP account...

got Pico up

Justin and I reset the Pico Station 2 wireless access point in the garage and then spent some time the web UI learnin'. Messaged Matthew for some suggestions and tips. We were getting a signal on inSSIDer. But we figured it out, changing it from Station to Access Point, just as Matthew sent a note. It's all good now. Three WAPs serving hungry RASC members.

Justin thought we should use the same channel. I told him that I thought it otherwise. Neither of us had a lot of experience with this. But as we did more web searches, we came to the conclusion that different, and well separated, channels was better.

Fred fixed a head

Fred fixed the weird quick-release Manfrotto head. All right. It was just an Allan key screw that needed adjustment.

delivered USB-serial adapter

A short while ago, I had picked up a NexxTech USB-serial adapter exactly like mine. I delivered it to the CAO. Specifically for use in the GBO.

I tested it on the Dell laptop, the main control. It immediately worked! I did not need install any driver on laptop. All right. It was the same as mine. So it used the existing Prolific driver.

I tested with the Kendrick controller software and the MallinCam control software. Sweet. We're back in business. And there won't be a panic if I forget my gear.

And lastly, I put identifying labels on the unit. Hopefully it will hang about this time.

all-sky camera computer OK

Jason G at the Meteor Physics Group reported everything was working again with our all-sky camera post at the CAO. I shared that Justin had helped verify my work. And all we did, in the end, was renew the IP.

I hoped the buffer caught the recent fireball...

diagnosed Katrina's rebooting HC

Katrina reported some trouble with her Skywatcher SynScan telescope. It seemed that the hand controller was randomly rebooting on her last night.

In the GBO, we checked the Registered Jack connections at the mount and the hand controller. They seemed OK. But immediately—it was obvious—that there was a problem with the power connector. If you brushed the cord or touched the L-shaped plug, the mount (and hand controller) briefly lost power. I wondered if it was a broken connection, cracked solder, or a cold solder. Let's open her up!

We removed the plastic cowling, disconnected the two jumpers, and removed the printed circuit board from the inside of the cover. Damn. Didn't have my repair kit with me. And, in particular, didn't have my close-up specs! Took us a while to track down a magnifying glass. While it was firmly in place, I didn't like the look of the solder joints on the PCB. So I reflowed them.

Reinstalled the board and hooked everything up. The problem remained. Damn. It was a bad plug. Visibly loose. Note a good design. I complained that manufacturers didn't seem to consider that a telescope might be used in different places, set up and torn down frequently, cables connected and disconnected often. I showed her the robust screw-in power kick-proof connector on the Paramount. Skywatcher used the cheapest connector; Bisque used the good one.

I recommended the next step was to change out the connector. Something completely different that would tolerate vibration and movement and kicking (in the dark). I had an automotive 2-conductor quick-disconnect plug in mind... I was sure I had a spare at home.

In the meantime, I showed her a trick, coiling the power cord around the nearby handle.


Repaired her power problem by changing to a different type of plug.

extraordinary detail

Katrina posted a note on Faceook:
Katrina wrote: "ISS zooming over the CAO just after midnight last night (little streak at the top) Blake Nancarrow was tracking it in the C14 and boy did it look cool - I felt like I was flying alongside it, and could see extraordinary detail with the modules, solar panels, etc...
You'll have to turn off all the lights to see it in the photo...

Another happy customer!

loaned SW radio

Gave Katrina my Grundig shortwave radio to try. Went through the whole kit, the radio itself, built-in and long-wire antennae, etc. Did a quick demo. Maybe she can use it for timing astronomical events. I'm sure not using it.

one new; one renewal

I hand-delivered Justin's CAO welcome letter and passport card—for his first season at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. And I hand-delivered Katrina's passport card—as she'd renewed.

I had also prepared a new card for Stuart, hoping to catch him before he left. Alas, he was gone when I arrived.


Forgot to remind them to sign it...

one of each (Blue Mountains)

OK. Two planets. And three or four moons. Two passes of the ISS. But one of everything else!

10:24 PM, June 15, 2012. Viewed Mars. Could see the ice cap. Some darkening in the centre.

Earlier, looked at Saturn. Saw 4 to 5 moons. Titan to the far right, one to the right a half ring-width away. Another one to the right closer, above. Then one to the left, same distance, opposite. That was about a hour ago.

10:47 PM. Viewed the pass flyover of the International Space Station! It was cloudy though. Justin very impressed with the tech. Cool.

11:47. I spotted HD 124407 (in Virgo) in the Celestron 14 with the 27mm eyepiece. It was a tight double star. Identical brightnesses. Nearly equal colour. Well... maybe the top one was yellow-orange and the bottom one blue... And, on looking some more, I wondered if maybe the bottom one was slightly fainter. There was a neat z-shaped lightning bolt pattern of stars to the east...

I don't know where I heard about this. I had it on another SkyTools 3 list, the OSC May 2011. But I don't know why. It is a hard to find pair. Requires handsome power.

Windy tonight. The average now was around 24. The peak tonight has been 48.

12:17 AM, June 16, 2012. I had the C14, TV101, and finder scope ready for ISS pass at 12:20... I didn't remember viewing one so late before.

12:24 AM. What a great flyover! We saw great detail on that pass. Good colour. Katrina and Justin enjoyed it. I was pleased with the tracking and accuracy.

12:52. Stumbled across, in Ophiuchus, NGC 6287 (a small globular cluster), 1¼° away, while trying to find IC 4634.

1:09. I didn't know if I was seeing a planetary nebula. Certainly the object was fuzzy, with a bright centre. It just looked like a slightly out of focus star to me. What's everyone so excited about? I should probably go back and try filters, different powers in each 'scope.

1:17. Viewed NGC 4256, an edge-on galaxy in Draco. It was a suggested target from ST3. Thin, needle-like, it reminded me a bit of M82. Was it mottled or dark in the middle? Was there a dark edge, like the Sombrero? It was faint but a good size in the 18mm.


2:32. In bed. I was tired. Weird. I would normally be getting home from work... Probably the early start. And then go, go, go all day.


Image from Aladin.


On reviewing my notes and the SkyTools 3 Pro observing list I made up for the weekend, I saw that I had "checked off" a few other items as "observed." Namely, variable star RR Sco and double star Nu Sco aka Jabbah. But there are no notes. Not in the log file. So, as much as I'd like to cross a few things off of some lists, these will have to wait for another session...

Friday, June 15, 2012

tried to get into Pico

Weather was sketchy so I worked on the LAN at the CAO.

I implemented my new plan, under the new subnet scheme, renumbering all the devices. Very neat and tidy. Logical groups.

But I still couldn't get into the Pico Station 2 wireless access point...

Re-read Matthew's notes. Finally messaged him, explained why we had to get in, and told him the creds he gave me weren't working. (I didn't tell him all others didn't work either; that his notes leave a lot to be desired). If possible, I didn't want to reset it. But he was no help. And couldn't be at the site for another week...

battery borrower be

Steve messaged me. Where's my damn battery?! Crikey, we had not returned his SLA battery, since I borrowed it at the CAO. I said it was still at Tony's...

installed north pilot light

Installed the repair neon pilot light in the north porch light switch. At one point, I felt my arm pulsing. 60 Hertz. Oops. Minor shock. Good thing Ian was on the CAO property...

doing the happy dance

Big work project ended, some clear weather ahead, cat-care arranged, Phil approving my request for a I-don't-wanna-do-anything weekend, I was looking forward to a relaxing "power weekend" at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Although it wouldn't be the same without Lora and Phil there. And the Sneaky Princess...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

backed up again

Backed up my blog. With WinHTTrack, once again.

Takes a while to do it now...

stepped away from calendar team

With regret, I bowed out of the RASC calendar project. I informed the national team that my spare time had been suddenly consumed with a large and long work project, with strange hours. And now I was concerned there wasn't enough time left for someone inexperienced, like me, to help. I was very disappointed. Alister was gracious about the whole thing and grabbed the reins.

meteor group updated

Back on the 8th, I let the Western University people know that we had internet service back up and running at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

Today I heard from Jason G from the Meteor group. They couldn't connect to the computer. I shared that it was probably due to that IP address change and the "new" router. They agreed.

They were happy to hear I was going up on the weekend. I asked for detailed instructions as to changing their system.

received SN Jul/Aug

Found SkyNews in the mailbox when I arrived home from work.

Some intriguing articles...

But, increasingly, I think it is ridiculous what they're doing to the front cover. Text copy completely covering the image.

And breaking classic font rules. Too many sizes. Too many colours.

acronym redux

I've never really liked the phrase used for the stellar classification acronym OBAFGKM. Everyone knows it, it seems. And then people would adjust it for sexual preference. A little messy.

So I noodled on some different words. And did some internet searching too. Others have been thinking about it.

Finally, I came up with: Over By A Fence Grey Kittens Meowed.

Meh. It'll do, for now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

sent SFM to JT

Sent the CAO Site Facilities book (in PDF) to Jason. He had not received it.

Checked with Justin. He did have a copy, already.

done book

Finished an astrophotography book from the TPL. I wonder how many of our members have checked the Toronto Public Library catalog.

Astrophotography by Harry John Philip Arnold was enjoyable. Not too heavy. Covered a wide range of subjects, targets, equipment, techniques, etc. Lots of good tips and tricks. It is a little dated. But that cannot be helped in such a dynamic field. I made many notes when he recommended exposures, speeds, ISOs, etc.

I particularly enjoyed his discussion on extended objects and how one must consider focal length or lens diameter when choosing a target. And his suggestions for photographing the Moon, given its size. I liked his home-grown DIY dew heater! When he talked about imaging faint Earthshine, he pointed out that the Earth's albedo increases approximately 10% in winter. I had never thought about that.

delivered corrected CAO passes

I hand-delivered CAO cards to Manuel G for himself and Manuel S. I apologised for screwing up the expiry dates.

crystal snake oil

Dietmar reported the 'coons were not deterred by the smell of coyotes, or foxes, or whatever...

I hope Tony didn't pay too much...

asked for a box

I put out the word with all the people heading up to the CAO for the weekend. Submitted my strange request: I was still looking for a large cardboard box to protect the custom solar filter for the Oberwerk binoculars. With inner dimensions of 20 x 15 x 4 inches. Phil replied. He had a large flat box at work. Cool! That was easy.

x-ray 'scope away

The NuSTAR launched. It was lifted from the ground by aircraft...

The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array will scan the Universe in x-rays. Later this month it should start capturing images at resolutions higher than ever before.

message not sent

Checked the binary stars Yahoo!Group again. My message was not posted. Must be in the queue for inspection...

CAO supply run

Bought some supplies for the CAO. Silver Sharpie pen to mark objects, particularly things in the garage. Velcro One-Wrap ties for cord management in the GBO. And more envelopes, for the supervisors, for mailing stuff to the treasurer.

to clean posts

From Canadian Tire, I picked up a battery terminal brush for the lead acid battery maintenance at the CAO.

nip the bud

The CAO committee, and a handful of supervisors, discussed a variety of ideas and options to curtail certain activities at the Carr observatory. We continue to see people sleeping directly on the beds without using their own sheets, blankets, or sleeping bags. On a number of occasions, I've noted visitors using other members towels or linens at the site. Not to mention white-light transgressions. It seems that new users are not reading the Site Facilities Manual, not reviewing the notes provided on the web site, not reading the notes in the form feedback. The whole thing is creating uncomfortable situations for the supervisors and other guests.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

to share with members

Manuel phoned in a bit of a panic. He was very excited to have discovered a software application to help with polar alignment. He was astonished that "no one knew about it." He thought it very important that all the members know about it and he wanted to find some way of getting the software to everyone. It was fantastic because you would be able to do a good polar alignment without seeing the NCP (or SCP) and you didn't need to use a camera! OK. Breathe. Now, tell me what you know...

He proceeded to tell me about 2 applications! I was a little unclear about which one he had. I checked the web and found the sites for both. Shareware Alignmaster by Matthias Garzarolli. And freeware EQAlign by Antonio Fraga. Further questioning revealed it was the EQAlign that he was hot about. And as I read project page, it talked about supported cameras... Um...

Manuel continued to praise the software for its easy of use, accuracy, and speed. But then he shared that he had not yet tried the software. I see. I recommended he test it first before championing it with RASC members.

I knew a tool like this that it wouldn't apply to all members. Some did not use equatorial mounts. Like all the Dobsonian fans. I also considered those not interested in imaging—they did not need high-precision alignment.

I also pointed out that many with equatorial mounts likely were already using tools like this, or using the built-in software in their mounts, or knew the drift alignment process. And the serious imagers had permanent setups. I noted that Dietmar, in fact, used a tool like this. Maybe even one of them.

After the call, I kept thinking about it. His unbridled passion. I sent him an email. Reminded him that RASC member nights (er, "recreational astronomy meeting nights") were a perfect forum for this! Their raison d'être. Members sharing discoveries, tips, tricks, product reviews. Or he could write up a review article for SCOPE. I gave him Paul's and Eric's contact info.

He could also put a note out on the Yahoo!Group. And be receptive. Ask if anyone knew about it and had used it...

sought double star advice

Sent a long note to the binary stars (uncensored) Yahoo!Group. I'm looking for direction. I want to measure double stars, do a bit of science, but I'm betwixt and between. I needed some advice.

I asked a couple of big questions: is double star measurement still a going concern; what's the best way to do it. I shared the types of telescopes I had access to, the cameras, other equipment, including the CMG, software, etc.

station reporting

The Davis weather station software uploads via FTP had been working fine for a week, for the "current" images. But now the weekly graphs updated. So all is well. Finally!

Mr Walker to the rescue

Again. The YourSky dynamic image. Thank you. I was looking for a tool that would produce an image of the night sky overhead. For now. Right now. To answer the question: What's up? So to have a nice, current, up-to-date snapshot on my portal pages. I considered something like Astronomy's tool, but it needs Java. The S&T almanac is not visual. I searched for a couple of hours. At one point, a web search result led me to Fourmilab. And when I re-examined the YourSky tool, there it was. Right in front of my face. Brill.

Monday, June 11, 2012

vouched for SkyTools hopping

Peter, on the SkyTools Yahoo!Group asked for feedback on the 3-panel means of star hopping in SkyTools versus the traditional way.

I told him I was a convert but that I was skeptical at first. It is faster. I'm getting better at it. While it is good to know the traditional means, I prefer using Greg's way.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

helped Ostap

Tried to help Ostap with his computer stuff, in particular, his latest computer (running trusty WinXP) with his imaging rig. He was interested in solutions to rapidly reinstate a machine. I only had limited experience, and that was with Norton Ghost. I had never heard of Clonezilla.

shared treasury address

Tim asked for Scott's address. I didn't put it inside the spreadsheet. And Scott didn't put it inside his deposit slip. Forwarded the address to Tim.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

learning ETX 90

Unboxed the ETX. Well, that's not really accurate. This is not new. It is the ETX 90 that Charles owns. He gave it to me at a RASC gastronomical meeting to try out. Had some time, finally, to explore.

I found a finger print on corrector glass. Worse. The secondary mirror is moving! It looks like Meade glued the secondary to the back of the corrector lens. But over the years, the secondary has drifted... I shot a photo.

Wild. It is so crude. To install the batteries, you must remove the bottom metal plate. All the electronics are exposed. They built this quick and fast. The bottom plate is thick metal . Clearly to serve as ballast.


Tried to observe outside but it was clouded over... Flashes off to the north-east...


Oops. Loaded the AA batteries the wrong way. Unlike most devices, they do not alternate polarity... Be careful what you assume.

This is kinda cool though. Unlike the Questar, this 'scope is completely portable. You just need AA batteries.

Still, immediately, I thought: how about an external power source?! My universal adapters would work. I have the CLA input units (two, actually; one already with the Vixen). And I have the general AC adapters (a couple; one for the Psion in the office; one for the Psion in the bedroom).

Now, should the RA clutch be fully engaged or not? It's making a noise... a soft clunk. But, with the clutch tightened, I think it is working.

I'm looking forward to a full, proper test. And, at some point, doing a tête-à-tête, with the Questar...


Image copyright by Thomas Gade of Berlin.


party time

Charles gave me a set of the "LEDs party" shoelaces... He got these (from his favourite online store) before the Kick-Me-Not bonanza. There are very cool! Fast and slow blink. A good colour.

I don't think I'll stick 'em in my shoes but these will be very handy for illuminating cases, shelves, etc. Thanks, dude!


Each "lace" requires 3 alkaline L1154 button cell batteries. Also known as A76, LR44, AG13, PX76A, GPA76. Each is 1.5 volts.

spot quiz for Manuel

Manuel said, "I know the constellations." So I phoned him. And grilled him!

He said, at one point, "I did pretty good. Got about 70%."

I'll be the judge of that.

Tim checked TCF

Tim L, before leaving the CAO, took a closer look at the Optec TCF-S focuser on the C14. Lately, it hasn't been working properly.

The first thing he noted was that the power switch was not off. This is not a critical thing but when the hand controller is powered off, the focuser system goes through a formal shutdown process, recording the focuser position and the temperature. Many, myself included, have just been shutting off the power bar that it's plugged into.

He put the temperature controlled focuser through several power-up cycles and saw that it worked correctly: the focuser drew in, fully, and then moved out to the last focus position. However, he noticed ratcheting and clicking noises from the unit. It made him wonder if there was a problem with the stepper motor.

He's put in a query to Optec.

collimation follow-up

Followed up with Manuel. Asked if he had checked the collimation of the 9¼ SCT. He said he hadn't.

I told him that, in general, SCT telescopes held collimation well. Implying that his was probably OK. Both Phil and I had checked it recently. So it should not have suddenly lost it. Unlikely Newtonian users who generally check it every time.

He asked if I could help on Sunday night. I reminded him that I was working. I suggested he check it himself. It was something that he really should get comfortable with.

I'm still curious why Jim said what he did... Perhaps I should chat with Jim.

rear doublet confirmed

Phil, Tim L, and I confirmed the design of the Tele Vue 101. There is a back element, a doublet, referred to as the telecompressor/field flattener.

Phil said this was a feature of the Petzval. Tim was relieved that he didn't clean something that didn't exist. So was I. Still, Tim thought only the NP-101 had this.

Tim tuned Stargrazer

Tim L tuned the Stargrazer ride-on mower at the CAO.

Something was different about the mower lately. It was running much faster! At first, I thought the motor had opened up, perhaps with all the tuning we had done. But it was a transmission issue. Normally, we'd cut at speed 3 or 4 but it was far too fast now. Even dialled all the way back to 1 was quick.

Tim and I chatted Friday night. I told him where the mower manual, with exploded diagrams, was. And I studied the e-copy to find the relevant pages.

In the end, he found that the Speed Control Rod ferrule was not positioned properly. He backed it off 10 turns. Which got things back to normal. But he's at the end of the threaded rod. He's concerned that something else is out of adjustment... He thinks we need to look at this some more.

Incidentally, in order to do that work, he removed the cutting deck. This gave an excellent opportunity to clean it thoroughly. He found some rust. He recommended we get some rust proofing stuff. And better cleaning tools.

updated calculator; uploaded slip

Rolled out version 2.00 of the CAO fees calculator spreadsheet. It featured updated instructions with tips on printing, more room for visiting members, more room for visitors, more room for donations, and rewording of the prompt regarding where the more would stay. I changed it to "staying in house." Simpler.

I also (finally) dealt with Scott's bank deposit "slip" document.

Uploaded both to the CAO supervisors Yahoo!Group. And advised the supers.

helped Daniel

Tried to help Daniel (whom I had met at the CAO during the ToV event) with RASC web site matters. I think he too is confused about the national verses local logins. I also encouraged him to return to the CAO.

sent SFM to MS

Sent the CAO Site Facilities book (in PDF) to Manuel S. He had not received it.

posted quiz results

Published the CAO quiz results on the RASC Toronto Centre web site. I felt that members might be curious. Certainly new members might be interested in the history of the Carr Astronomical Observatory. And those who participated in the quiz during the OHAP might want to know the correct answers.

I embellished, a bit. In addition to providing the short answer to each question, I wrote a paragraph with some background info. Turning the article into a bit of a historical piece.

In the course of researching things, I discovered an error. At the time, we noted the correct year for when the tornado passed through the area was 2010. In fact, it was 2009. Regardless, this did not affect the results for the top finishers.

sent ToV report to treasury

Sent the CAO income report to Scott. Noted the Dietmar designated the Transit of Venus a free event. Still, we received $80 in donations. And the cash I handed to Phil to deposit or hand off.

Friday, June 08, 2012

TV repaired

Tim L repaired the Tele Vue 101 at the CAO.

The weird D-shape we noticed when the telescope was defocused was, in fact, caused by a wasp nest (or egg case)! How it got in the optical tube assembly, we can only guess. Someone must have left a cap off one weekend... Tim removed the tail piece from the refractor and extracted the mud. Incredible.

While he had the tail piece off, he cleaned the outer surface of rear lens/window. He was a little surprised to find this element in the OTA. He was expecting, since it is not a NP 'scope, that the tube would be open.

He also cleaned the objective. It was filthy, he said. I can't wait to use it now.

Another interesting discovery was that it seems Mr Nagler decided to use emery cloth as the flocking material inside the 'scope. Fascinating that he'd choose a somewhat abrasive material...

resent pic

Resent the photo of me with the Ostrander-Ramsay award to Mom. She lost the message I sent in April. She sucks at email.

sent new CAO LAN diagram

Updated the network diagram for the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Sent it to the CAO committee and a couple of CAO supervisors for review. It included the MODLs, up to 6. I showed the new wifi access points in garage and GBO. I showed the future wire to THO and the current driveway camera. I showed the updated wifi access point in house. I removed library computer. I emphasised the new "flattened" infrastructure since BST install. And I put things into groups by room, or building. Done in Visio, again.

at the end of the weekend

We continue to have raccoon problems at the CAO. They like to hang out on the deck. We find their "presents" when we arrive. Occasionally the next morning. We've taken to pressure-washing the deck with equipment brought by members.

Tony D.S. brought some weird crystal stuff with coyote urine content. Someone spread it around during the day of the Transit of Venus! That won't do any good...

I recommended it not be used at the beginning of a weekend, or during; rather it should be part of the exit procedure. This will avoid it being tracked into the house. It will be pet-friendly. And it will minimise contact on human feet.

got pass?

Followed up with the Manuels to ensure they had their new CAO passports. Encouraged them to sign them and get them in their wallets. Manuel G reported he couldn't find his. He had the letter but he could find the card... Manuel S reported not having his. No letter. Nothing. He asked where I sent it. I told him the address (his work, I gather). Looks like I might need to reissue both!

on supervisor candidates

Sent a note to the CAO supervisors about new... supervisors. Reminded them that we're always on the lookout. So if they know of anyone.

And suggested that if they get requests from a member to direct them to the CAO committee.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Tim to the CAO

Despite poor weather prospects, Tim L was heading (down) to the CAO. He's offered to do a bunch of maintenance and repairs. In particular, he's going to try to remove the obstruction from the Tele Vue 101 refractor tube.

why no computer control?

Ask Manuel if he's considered computer-control for his mount. In fact, I'm surprised he hasn't already done this. He has guiding, camera control, video capture, and focusing connected to his computer. I know, for me, it makes many things easier. Like centering! Just need a cable (if you don't already have it) and some software...

rejuvenated New Moon in June

Touched the New Moon in June (Algonquin) article in the RASC Toronto Centre web site to make it bubble up to the top. Let Lil, Bob, Jason, and Allard know.

Gord renewed

Phil reported that Gord renewed his RASC Toronto Centre membership. As well, he bought a CAO annual pass. Interesting. Guess I don't have to send him the SCOPE newsletter...

did astro talk at ESA

Delivered my astronomy talk to Liam's science class at the Etobicoke School of the Arts. It went pretty well, I thought. The kids were pretty attentive. And the teacher, Mr Payne, seemed very pleased.

My theme was about how as my interest in astronomy has grown, there's been a corresponding effect in my observations, that I've seen further or deeper into the Universe.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

loaned big tripod

Loaned my big Manfrotto tripod (with quick release) to Tony to use at the University of Toronto Transit of Venus event at Varsity Stadium. Asked him if it worked OK.

caravanned to Champ

Tended to some miscellaneous tasks and chores before leaving.

I woke around 9:30 or 10. Someone was cleaning the downstairs bathroom. Millie? I was groggy. Katrina was already gone.

I checked with Millie that we had enough coffee filters and coffee.

Revised the spreadsheet for the donations, with new money dropped in by Manuel G. Thanks!

Show Manuel S the web site. Urged him to use it. The free star charts would help him learn some of his alignment stars. Alternatively, I suggested he do a bit of research. Perhaps there were web sites or books with the alignment stars documented.

I tried to reprogram the garage router and antenna but I could not get into the router. Despite Matthew's notes. I de-energised it. For the first time, I had a close look at his ethernet wiring work in the garage. I wasn't too happy. I hope we'll get 1 gigabit performance given the amount of exposed, untwisted wire.

While packing up stuff in the GBO, I spotted Manny G's SCT telescope on the picnic table, near the end, perched on its dovetail plate. Holy smokes. I thought he learned his lesson! I called him out of the observatory. Reprimanded him. What a nut! Likes to live dangerously, I guess.

I returned some items: cleaned towels and linens; the extra blank OHAP quiz forms.

I urged Manuel G to go to RASC meeting tonight. Jim C was to talk on collimation. That'd be good.

At 12:45 PM, I departed the CAO with Millie and Dietmar and Lora and Phil. We left behind the Manuels. And headed for Champ Burger! Yes. I'd finally get a tasty burger.

Dietmar pulled over at Ravenna. Manuel G had called—couldn't find his car keys! Oh boy. He suspected he left them in the house. He didn't look too happy but Dietmar turned around to help. I was surprised when he caught up to me in Shelburne. Manuel G had found his keys in his vehicle. The good news was that Millie and Dietmar were able to join us for lunch. We had some liquid sunshine as we finished up.

I made a note to offer Katrina my shortwave radio. She seemed interested in higher precision for timing astronomical events. And I made a note to bring my 8" solar filter to the CAO for Millie to try. Without a filter, she did not fly her RC 'scope.

Ralph reported success

Ralph reported in. They had successful observing of the beginning of the transit from the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii.

reconfigured network

Spent the balance of the evening working on the CAO network. It was quiet. After the ToV, many left.


Around sunset, actually, while I walked around the north deck, I noticed the new antenna on the roof... Meshy! Small. LEDs on the bottom.

Around 11:00 PM, I reconfigured the wifi points. I put the kitchen WAP on channel 3 and the GBO on channel 8. About an hour later, I re-activated the network for the GBO and MODLs. Installed the reprogrammed D-Link WAP to the GBO.

Around 1:00 AM, I reconfigured the printer server. Then around 2:00 AM, I reconfigured the weather/security server.

1:51. Send a note to the RASC Toronto listserv. Internet service restored!

Done. For now. Still had the garage to work on...

gave up on Saturn (Blue Mountains)

It cooled off!

I showed Dietmar the Stellarium landscape with his photos.

After 11:00 PM, we viewed Saturn, briefly. Tried to view the ringed planet with the MallinCam on the LCD monitor. It was very challenging to operate without the MCC software... it was just too slow and cumbersome, searching for the right settings to enhance the view. We really need a serial-USB with the old one having grown legs and walked away.

A short while later I parked the C14.

I closed the roof. Manuel G asked if I was locking the GBO; no. He asked if he could put stuff inside, overnight; yes. Katrina asked if she could put stuff inside, overnight; yes.

After midnight, I invited Manuel S to the Toronto Centre's Yahoo Group.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

ToV imagery

Many RASC members captured excellent imagery of the transit of Venus...

(The Yahoo!Group photos are private, accessible to RASC Toronto Centre members.)

viewed the black dot (Blue Mountains)

At 6:04 PM, we observed first contact for the transit of Venus! Some tried to time it with varying degrees of success.

I spotted it at the top-right of the Sun disc in the MallinCam. Once again, I goofed on the image orientation.

Al and Malcolm arrived a little after first contact. They set up on the front lawn.

We watched for the black drop. Some reported seeing Venus's atmosphere. I don't think I saw it.

I looked at the imagers, Jim and Manuel G. Jim was using his custom 'scope. High mag. Great quality. Wow! It was pretty amazing. Hey! I noticed he has a laptop "tent." He liked it a lot.

Manuel was getting some good imagery with his camera and his in-law's telescope. I was pleased to see that he was getting some decent data.

I almost forgot! I set up the Questar 3½" on the picnic table. It offered nice views at 40x and 80x.

I also got out my "thingee," the solar viewer with welder's glass. Had to clean it, it was very dusty and dirty.

It was interesting view the Sun at 1x power, without magnification. One had to pay attention, be still and steady. One could only just make out dot of Venus.

I looked through a variety of devices:
  • Dunlap Institute eclipse glasses - mushy!
  • Katrina's solar glasses - much better, clear, orangey
  • my welder's glass - clear, green, of course
  • Katrina's PST
  • Phil's PST with good eyepiece - very nice
  • the RASC Calcium PST - eerie purple, hard to see Venus
  • the big binos - lovely 25x and 40x
  • Sharmin's Galileoscope / white light - very nice, impressive
  • Phil's refractor - nice
  • Stu's refractor and Tele Vue eyepiece / white light - fantastic
  • Questar / orange filter - nice at 80x and 40x
  • the Centre's TV101, with SolarMax, on the MallinCam - live
  • Manuel's computer - live, a great image
  • Jim's computer - live, incredible
Some clouds rolled through around 8 PM. We did our group photos then.

And then we caught the transiting Venus again, for about 30 minutes, through sunset.

What a great event!


I'm so satisfied to have seen this event. A rare thing, this astronomical alignment. I don't know where I was or what I was doing for the first of the pair. It was wonderful, nonetheless, to see it this time.

We had an excellent turnout at the CAO too.

Computer and telescope photos by Bryon Czarnik. Pano photos by Lora Chow.


And then we had ToV cake!

afternoon astronomy (Blue Mountains)

Between chores, I did a little bit of solar observing. And helped out people with their equipment.

Assisted Dietmar with hydrogen-alpha set-up on Tele Vue 101 refractor. He couldn't seem to find the 1¼" mirror diagonal. I pointed to my old Celestron on the shelf. I gather he had been visually expecting something else, an older or different unit. He popped it in. It was a very good view!

Photo by Lora Chow.

I moved the Oberwerk battleship binoculars and big wooden tripod outside. I set up my custom baader film solar filter over the 100mm objectives. And took in the Sun. A great view! I was pleased to see some sunspots. That meant we'd get a more interesting view when Venus would show up...

The filter wasn't quite done. I had prepared some warning and information labels. And I wanted to add a Sun-finder. But there didn't seem to be enough time.

Tried to use the tripod with the Manfrotto quick-release. But it didn't seem to work right... Even when I had the tensioner at maximum, it would not hold steady, under the weight of a PST or binoculars. I put it aside.

Dietmar's account on the Paramount control laptop kept logging out! I changed his Windows Control Panel settings (or thought I did) to go into "never off" mode.

I tried to help Manuel with centering his SCT on the Sun, and then focusing. It is curious. Something about this, some aspect of this, seems to escape him. Is it because he is not a visual learner? Maybe things like pointing, alignment, collimation, etc. are difficult for him. There are elements of math. To me, I can "see" paths, light rays, so it is straight-forward or easy for me to grasp.

He was also surprised at how little of the Sun he could see. Despite a focal reducer. I said it was due in part to using a long focal length SCT. Very long. And the design of the camera and chip.

On top of this, the Sun was drifting. Amplified with his long focal length and narrow field camera. I explained that it was to be expected. He'd be off a bit in the daytime because he couldn't do a polar alignment. While the GBO pointed north, he'd be lucky to get it. I asked if the mount supported a daytime alignment. I knew the RASC's NexStar 11 GPS supported a "Quick Align" mode that could even be refined. Manuel didn't know. So, I showed him how to dial out the drift, in azimuth, and left him to it. (I realised later, I had assumed he had checked the altitude latitude angle.) Later, he gave up in frustration.

Around 4:30 PM, Manuel G offered his camera for imaging the Sun instead of the MallinCam. Particularly since he wasn't going to image with his 'scope. He said his camera would produce a better image. But I was a little anxious about a late-in-the-game change. Logistically, of course, it would be more than just a camera swap. In addition, we'd have to worry about cabling and software. It'd be easiest to use and record on his computer. And then there'd be file formats, file size, transfer issues... When I was pulled away by another member.

I heard later that Jim said Manuel G's 'scope was out of collimation. Really? Again?! Manny was upset. He gave up using his 'scope. Asked to use Manuel S' SCT for imaging. They switched...

Later I saw his camera rigged up to Manuel S's new(ish) Celestron 'scope. Out on the Observing Pad. Which, curiously, was not far from Jim. I wondered if this was serendipitous. Manny would be probably better off beside an accomplished imager.

Still, he snagged me. I briefly helped Manuel G with centring and focusing on the Pad.

We loaned the 55mm Plössl to Manual S for viewing. It let him see the whole solar disc.

I asked Phil to get out the Coronado Calcium-K 'scope for Sharmin. He grumbled about it but then dug out the two PSTs and the motorised mount while I fetched The Black Cloak of Doom. When he protested again, I took a look. The angle of the main support plate was all wrong. While polar aligned, we couldn't adjust the slow-motion controls enough. This clearly illustrated just how awkward the mount is. We need something other than this slow-motion adjusters with greater ranges of movement. Ball-heads perhaps? We finally moved the K-line to a regular tripod.

Manuel G reported finding a setting in the user guide about tracking at the solar rate. Celestron disabled the option to go to the Sun, wisely so, and by extension, did not allow tracking at the matching rate. He was very happy with this discovery. Holy cow: he read the book!

At some point, I showed Manuel S the ADDS web site. Encouraged him to use it to predict weather.

While preparing dinner, I set up the MallinCam. Unfortunately, it was too last-minute, we were all too busy, so I had to forgo tutoring Phil. I put the monitor on composite feed; sent the S-video to the computer. And suddenly I realised, in packing fast and light, I had forgotten my USB kit! We did not have a serial-USB adapter... Oh oh. That meant manual camera control. Yikes. Fortunately, we'd be staying on one subject... Millie helped me focus.

More people had arrived: Stu, Doug, Kiron (and 2 guests), Daniel (who knew me) and guest, Tom and Sharmin, Jim C (as noted earlier). We were ready for the once (or maybe twice) in a lifetime event...

squeezed in some chores

Tended to a variety of errands and tasks over the course of the afternoon.

Gave some CAO cash to Phil, to give to Scott. (But then I heard later that Scott was in Hawaii.)

Everyone was bellyaching about no internet, no email, no Facebook, no instant messaging, no web, no Google+, no Yahoo, no flickr or smugmug or photobucket. The diehards were tiring of running down to the work room to connect via hard line directly to the router. And Sharmin would arrive soon—didn't want to have to answer to her! No news-as-it-happens! People saying they wanted their money back. There was nothing to do! But sit around and talk to each other... So I started working on the LAN.

I found the Bruce Street installer's notes and verified the configuration of the "main" router. This Linksys DSL/cable unit, from the old provider, was being repurposed now, reprogrammed. The old d-Link router was reported "dead." Odd. Anyway, since the Linksys router was running a new subnet, and it was not wireless device, no one was having any luck connecting.

I checked the upstairs wifi router. This Linksys was still acting as a switch, which was good, but it was conflicting with "new" downstairs router, which was bad. I reprogrammed a unique IP address. And with that I restored the local wifi service. Pretty quickly. Everyone was happy.

Even I was rather pleased. The internet service seemed quick. Web sites "snapped."

Then I started working on the d-Link, Dietmar's old unit, to serve as the wireless access point in the Geoff Brown Observatory. But as it started getting busy on the site, I put it down to finish later.

Phil, Dietmar, and I discussed where Jean had left her camper van. Parked parallel to the lot, it was taking up a lot of space. We agreed to move it between the house and the propane tank. We couldn't find her key at first but it was, in the end, where expected. Neither Dietmar or Phil could start it so I jumped it and fired up the old beast.

At one point, I remembered that I needed the mixed fuel gerry can, so to repair the 2-stroke trimmer, back in the city. Moved the small jug to beside my car. Ready for tomorrow's return trip.

At 5:15 PM, I realised I was running out of time. Prepared dinner on the BBQ, a nice steak.

drove into good skies

By noon, the car was packed for an overnight stay at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. I was not unhappy at leaving the SCT behind. Counted whiskers and locked up. Jumped in the car noting a lot of clouds...

The first stop was No Frills in The Junction for supplies. I looked for some large cardboard boxes. One measuring 20x15x4" in particular, for the Oberwerk custom solar filter. Also, one or two big boxes for pin hole cameras. There were no big ones! Sheesh. And the banana boxes were a hair too small for filter cover. So, I picked up some food for dinner and hit the road.

Visions of a Champ burger danced thru my head. But I realised, once on the 26, I had overshot it, having taken the 400-Dunlop-Minesing route. Dang! I decided to press directly to the CAO.

For a while I followed a red SAAB with a mathematics themed licence plate. I did not know, at the time, it was Bryon. They went to Collingwood at Stayner; I continued west through Dundalk.

The skies improved the further north I went. Joy. No clear-sky-chasing would be required!

Around 2:30, I arrived. Was greeted by Lora, Phil, Skeena, Millie, Dietmar, Manuel G, Manuel S, Katrina, and Elaine and Tony. Excellent. A great crowd.

I unpacked my clothes and food from the car. Hey, where were my sandals?!

up early

I got up early. 8:00 AM. Early, given I was still working the midnight shift... But there was lots to do today. And I kept thinking about the solar system. In particular, Venus whipping around the Sun, in a tighter orbit, moving faster than us, and drawing ever closer to the alignment. Second and the third planets.

Sketch by Captain James Cook.

Just a few hours now...