Friday, August 31, 2012

full Moon rising (Blue Mountains)

Eyeballed the Moon as it cleared the trees. Big deal.

give it back

The person who took the Bob Anderson Dome (BAO), Francis Roberts, is showing his true character. He's selfish and capitalistic. And not very clever. He's insisting the RASC Toronto Centre deliver more parts at their expense, forgetting he received the product completely for free, and that RASC is a non-profit. He's also making noises that it is too difficult to assemble without detailed instructions. And he's intimating that he might sell it. That is low. Give it back if you're not going to use it! Let someone else take advantage of it. Leave the good people of RASC alone, you low-life. You don't deserve it.

second full

Happy blue Moon everybody! Assuming you like the Moon...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

sent note to ST3P users

Finally uploaded my SkyTools 3 Pro "shortcuts" document. Put it over in the companion site, in the new SkyTools section. The PDF download lists all the keyboard shortcuts and handy mouse techniques when working in the list views or the various charts. Sent a note to the ST Yahoo!Group.

co-ordinated travel to CAO

Locked in some ride-sharing to the CAO. Let others know my plans. As I wouldn't be driving, I'll have to pack light... That said, I added the Motomaster battery charger to the pile...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

software resources coming online

Over the years, I have made support documents, quick reference guides, and other resources for the various astronomy software products that I use. For example, observing lists for SkyTools, background landscape images for Stellarium, etc. Some of these were appearing in the blog pages. And that wasn't really the right place. Some items were not available anywhere. Now, there's a whole new section, "software resources," and specific pages for SkyTools, Stellarium, and TheSky. Enjoy.

battery charger questions

Phil asked about the battery charger at the CAO, if it had a desulphation mode. I didn't think so. Asked if I could bring my charger. I could...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

alerted Blair

Sent a note to Blair. Said I was heading to the CAO. One of things I'd be doing is double-checking all the settings for the security camera system. Informed him that we made need his assistance.

Monday, August 27, 2012

macro, micro, sunspots, islands

When I showed some sunspots to Malcolm on Saturday, I gave him some hints as to what to look for, including the umbra and penumbra. I went on: "They are usually in groups. A big one. Then a peppering of little ones nearby." He was very impressed by the view in the Celestron 8-inch with the baader planetarium solar film.

He asked how long they lasted and if they were catalogued. I explained that they were temporary. They'd come and go, expanding and contracting. But, in general, they'd persist for days. One could follow them as the sun rotated. Which takes many days. And as spots appear, they're be numbered. I alluded to the Spaceweather web site, which uses the "Boulder Sunspot Number" scheme.

Strong magnetic phenomena on the photosphere of the Sun reduces convection and therefore reduces the surface temperature. This in turn produces a region that appears darker in visible light, in contrast to the brighter surrounding region. Spots can be 80 000 kilometres in diameter; the Earth is under 13 000.

It is believed the sunspots form as a result of stressed magnetic flux tubes which break through surface. Under the sunspots are powerful rotating downdrafts. Not unlike hurricanes.

When I said that sometimes the sunspot groups reminded me of archipelagos, he chuckled. I could tell Malcolm thought it apt.

The macro and the micro:

An archipelago is a group of islands, perhaps arranged in a chain, or just clustered close together.

Archipelagos are often formed through volcanism in subduction zones or hotspots. Or they may be formed as continental fragments, breaking away from the main continental mass through tectonic activity. Volcano calderas will sometimes fill with water.

The main Cocos (Keeling) Islands, to the right of the image, form a ring approximately 20 kilometres in diameter.

Coral atolls form around the islands and then remain as the islands sink creating complete or partial rings around the islands. The ocean water near the islands and atolls is shallow. The central lagoon of the Cocos in contrast is very deep.

Reef-building corals thrive in warm tropical and subtropical waters. Heated by the star is the centre of our solar system.

  • sunspot group captured by the NASA SDO probe in May 2012
  • the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean from the NASA Earth Observatory

firmware numbers from Geoff

Geoff sent an update on the CPC 1100. The hand controller firmware is almost up-to-date, at 4.18; 4.21 being the current. The motor controller firmware appears to be 1.00. I believe the current is 4.06. He reluctantly did a factory reset, unfortunately clobbering his variable star custom list. Then he got motor control firmware 11.01. Briefly. Before the errors 16 and 17 no response reappeared. Huh...

opened discussion on storage

Initiated a discussion with the (larger) CAO committee on members storing things at the observatory, lockers in the garage, and vehicles left on the site. Expressed my concerns about the optics and setting precedents.

possibly he might go

Asked Manuel if he wanted to go to the CAO for the long weekend. He emailed and said he'd have to discuss it with Ida but her sister was visiting at the moment. Then he called and said he was off to New York to see some tennis. And that he'd have to work Saturday.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

fiscal year coming up

Eric's reminder to councillors about meetings, past and future, got me thinking about the fiscal year end. Time to start thinking about the annual report from IT. And to start thinking about the budget.

dinner with moving crew

Had dinner with the BAO moving crew. Millie, Dietmar, Trevor, Grace, and Tony. It was great company of course, the travel to and fro was fun in the "new" used vehicle, but bad restaurant service again.

van died

Phil reported the Jean's camper van died. Specifically, the battery was flat. Now she can't move it. It's stuck in the lot, parked parallel.

received images from CAO

Phil sent me the MallinCam photos (rather screen grabs) captured during the MallinCam tutorial. We found them under his account on the GBO laptop.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

a small leap (Toronto)

Spotted the Moon from Heather and Bruce's backyard, low, but bright.

It's as far as we've gone.

showed ma ra (Toronto)

Showed ma the Sun. He was a little nervous at first. Used the Celestron 8" SCT with a Kendrick filter with baader planetarium solar film. We enjoyed many sunspots. Initially at low power; then medium.

look at the Moon

I sent out a note to the RASC Toronto Centre listserv. If people were going to look at the Moon tonight, thinking of Neil, they could zoom in on Mare Tranquillitatis. Look for the craters Ritter and Sabine. His boot prints are very near there.

Armstrong dead

Neil Armstrong died. The first human to touch another world.

It won't be the same.

asked Eric about missing articles

Discussed with Eric a missing webspotting article or two. He wasn't sure after first but then apologised. He found the May piece. Asked if I still wanted it to go to print in SCOPE. I did. But I had written it specifically for the Transit of Venus. So the tense was all wrong. I revised it and resubmitted.


After a bit of digging, I determined that the other article I had in the hopper, we consumed, on another occasion. So, that's fine. I'm +1 as opposed to +2. I've already met the next SCOPE deadline. I can concentrate on other things then.

asked to deliver Oct TSTM

Mr Markov asked if I would present The Sky This Month talk at the October 17 RASC Toronto Centre meeting at the Ontario Science Centre. I think I'll be able to help.

tried DSS on photos

Tried DeepSkyStacker 3.3.0 on the porch wide fields. Was very curious. But didn't like the results. It will require some more playing 'round...

wide field sky from the city (Toronto)

8:19 PM, 24 Aug 2012. I uncovered the 'scope. Moved the battery outside, the GFCI power bar, the eyepieces.

Checked the weather from EC. Toronto. Current Conditions. Mainly Sunny. 24°C. Observed at Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport on 8:00 PM EDT Friday 24 August 2012. Condition: Mainly Sunny. Pressure: 102.0 kPa. Tendency: rising. Visibility: 24 km. Temperature: 24.1°C. Dewpoint: 16.3°C. Humidity: 62 %. Wind: SE 13 km/h. Humidex: 29. The forecast section: Tonight, Clear, 18°C; Sat, Sunny, 31°C; Sun, Sunny, 29°C; Mon, Chance of showers, 29°C. Issued : 3:30 PM EDT Friday 24 August 2012. Once again, a smog advisory in effect. Tonight, Clear. Low 18. Saturday, Sunny. High 31. UV index 7 or high. Saturday night, Clear. Low 18. Sunday, Sunny. High 29.

Lots of dark blue on the CSC again.

8:30 PM. I connected the Canon camera to AC power, inserted the adapter directly in the camera body. As I did this, I realised it created a problem, in terms of power. Without a battery on board, the camera would not function if not plugged in. Was that a risk? One wouldn't want to lose power during a long imaging run... Trip over a cord halfway through an exposure? Using the Battery Grip with one battery and then the AC adapter would offer the best of both worlds. That said, it would make the camera heavier.

Despite the weather reports and predictions, I noted that the skies were cloudy. Thin but clumpy high cloud! Boo! I checked the ADDS satellite site. I saw lots of stuff moving down from the north... The CAO looked bad. I decided to wait it out. Let's see what will happen...

I fired up mosquito coil. But this time I put it on a glass base. Melted and burned the plastic lid last night.

8:36. I moved the netbook computer back into the office... I'd check the skies in 30 minutes or so.

9-ish. The skies were improving. I fetched the Allen key set from the garage and prepared to collimate the Celestron 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain.

9:37. Finished collimating. Holy cow. The process is way easier with a camera! Especially a camera with live view! I don't think I'll ever go back!

OK. Next up was to do some wide-field sky imaging. I looked overhead... And saw... Could it be? I phoned the Horvatins. Told them to get outside. I thought I was seeing aurora. Grabbed the big Manfrotto tripod and started shooting photos!

10:00. Phoned the Horvatins back. They disagreed. Probably just high cloud. They had also phoned the CAO. But they were clouded out.

Certainly interesting cloud. Barely moving. Thin band. Wispy.

Reconfigured for long exposures using the computer to control the DSLR. In a piggy-back configuration, I mounted the Canon 40D to the SCT with the RASC camera-eyepiece adapter, strapped to the 26mm 1¼" ocular. Connected the USB cable between the camera and the netbook. Fired up EOS Utility.

Spent a lot of time trying to focus. Had hoped to see some stars on the live view capture on the computer. Double-checked the custom function menu settings in the camera, increased the brightness of the computer LCD, nothing... Considered the Moon but it was still blocked. Ending up just taking test shots and manually focused. Also abandoned the use of the lens in AF and nudging the focus with the software. Was pretty happy with the focus. Although I was worried about time consumed and repeatability. Finally had it ready to go...

Viewed the test shots. Still some wisps of cloud... Head of Draco near the top-left; butt of the Swan at the bottom-centre. 30 seconds, aperture 4.0, ISO 800, focal length 21mm, tungsten white balance.

Decided to try setting the white balance from a pre-set to custom. Found it easy to do so in the software. I eye-dropped the sky. 30 secs, f/4.0, ISO 400, 21mm, custom white balance.

I dropped down one f-stop to reduce lens problems and then tried to increase exposure time. Learned that I needed to have the camera in bulb mode to then let the timer component of EOS Utility to long exposures. Too dark. 45 secs, f/5.0, ISO 200, 21mm, custom WB.

Tracking was holding up OK. Still too dark. 60 secs, f/5.0, ISO 200, 21mm, custom WB.

Increased sensitivity. Of course, all the hot pixels were showing now. 50 secs, f/5.0, ISO 400, 21mm, custom WB.

Gathered more light. A flight path started to emerge in many of the photos. 90 secs, f/5.0, ISO 200, 21mm, custom WB.

11:29. Finished piggyback photos, shooting 5 darks. I couldn't tell how well things were going while still trying to preserve my dark adaptation, red film on the small netbook screen. I was looked forward with interest to see what I got, in full colour.

I was pretty happy how things had gone. Very easy to operate the camera with the software, despite cables, the netbook screen size, the difficulty focusing. I was also very happy about the telescope and mount operation during the shoot. Tracking worked really well. And I seemed to have a damn fine polar alignment.

The night was still young. I decided to resume visual observing.

12:11 AM, 25 Aug 2012. Returned to HR 7843 aka Kui 97. Used all the eyepieces. 36mm, 26, 18, 9. No joy even with the better collimation. I saw concentric diffraction rings. But no star. Damn. Now I was feeling a little discouraged...

12:33 AM. Viewed the Ring Nebula at low power. Pretty well start overhead. Hrrph. Needed to step away.

12:53. Returned to the deck. Back from a break.

1:07. Found σ (sigma) Cassiopeiae quickly. I had selected this object from the Cambridge Double Star Atlas, from the "top" list near the beginning of the book. Still having the netbook outside, beside the telescope, I pulled up my double star life list. σ Cas was on it but as an item to review or revisit. OK! At 55x, it was not round; at 77x, I split the tight AB pair. The primary was blue-white while the companion was light orange. I also noted that the C star was visible. It lay at 90 degrees to the AB pair, quite far from primary. I thought it 1 or 2 mags dimmer than B.

1:12. Spotted star GSC 04005-0926. ST3P says it is mag 13.73 (but poor quality).

1:29. Viewed ψ (psi) Cas. Also a repeat. SkyTools made it clear that I was seeing the AC pair. The B component was not an option. Not here. Not tonight. Not with this aperture. Not visually. B is mag 14.5.

OK, I was done. Done battling. Did a rapid shutdown.

Friday, August 24, 2012

red light report

Lora sent a note. She said the red lights under the tarp looked great. Although they made her think of red hot chili peppers. Foodie!

raccoons not detered

Asked the guys at the CAO for a report on the raccoon situation. The weird coyote urine crystals did not work.

Jim won POW 482

Jim won the SkyNews Photo of the Week #482. This was for the ISS transit the Sun on Jul 2. This was the event I informed members of. Congrats Jim!

sig reminder

Reminded recipients of new and renewed CAO passports to sign them.

doubles for Haas (Toronto)

Tonight, I wanted to try for some double stars! For Sissy. For her new research project. Observing on the porch, I'd not be able to see a lot of the sky. But objects in Draco, Cygnus, Hercules might be possible.

After dinner, I started getting ready. At an easy pace. Re-marked the deck for the feet of the tripod. So to hit my polar alignment quickly.

Before mounting the Celestron 8" SCT OTA, on a whim, I tried attaching a camera directly on Vixen mount! It fit! ¼-20! How about that.

Went into red light mode. Put red film on Dell monitors. Held with elastic bands this time. Worked. No more fiddly electrical tape. Threw the large sheet of crinkly red film over the external monitor for the netbook. Just draped it. Hey. Not bad.

7:59 PM, 23 Aug 2012. Completed the telescope set up and left it to cool. Fetched the adjustable height chair from garage. Spotted the Moon from the street.

Decided to use the old yellow battery to drive the 'scope. The C battery pack, while the red LED on the hand controller lit up, did not move the mount.

Considered peeking at Luna but she was behind the big tree.

John Smallberries suddenly crashed. Once running, I fired up Stellarium, with the porch landscape.

8:12 PM. I checked the weather conditions.

Used the Environment Canada site. Toronto's current conditions were mainly sunny and 26 °C as observed at Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport at 8:00 PM EDT Thursday 23 August 2012. Condition: Mainly Sunny. Pressure: 101.9 kPa. Tendency: falling. Visibility: 24 km. Temperature: 25.9°C. Dewpoint: 14.2°C. Humidity: 48 %. Wind: S 8 km/h. Humidex: 29. The forecast was: Tonight, Clear, 17°C; Fri, Sunny, 29°C; Sat, Sunny, 31°C; Sun, Sunny, 28°C. The forecast was issued at  3:30 PM EDT Thursday 23 August 2012. There was a smog advisory in effect. Tonight, Clear. Wind west 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 17. Friday, Sunny. High 29. UV index 7 or high. Friday night, Clear. Low 18. Lookin' good.

I checked the portable OneWorld weather station. It showed a pressure of 975mb. I've calculated that it reads 42mb low. So, adjusted, was 1018. Humidity: 30%. Temp: 27.3.

Very low humidity! Won't need dew heaters. While I had set up for power, I left the Noma power bar off.

9:06. Damn. I saw and heard mozzies! Where the hell are they coming from?! Ugh. I put on long clothes. And that made me sweat...

9:30. The cork under the plastic film lid detached. It stayed behind in the CLA socket. Attempts to fish it out with my finger just pushed it in further. Needed a tool. Finally I hooked up yellow battery to the mount. I heard the motor start up. Threw the cork and lid in the carrying case to deal with later.

9:33. I stumbled across HR 5386 aka Σ1835 (Struve) in Draco. Noted the colours: blue-white for the main; orange for the companion. It was pretty, at low power, 55x, with the baader planetarium 36mm ocular.

9:56. I was getting very frustrated. The 'scope seem to be loosing its tracking. I wondered if I had screwed up the polar alignment. Rebooted the hand controller.

10:20. Confirmed I was viewing δ (delta) Serpentis. I "fell" on it while targeting in the finder scope. Nailed it. It was easily split with the 36mm. No issue with Celestron 26mm. Widely split with 18mm. It seemed more colourful at low power, 55x. I thought it white and orange, possibly? At 111x, the two stars seem the same colour. Or, on second thought, perhaps the primary was yellow-white and the secondary light blue. It was getting low in the sky though. I wondered if that was screwing with the colour. Regardless, it was easily split with 8" telescope. Under medium seeing conditions.

10:24. I marked 39 Draconis as observed in SkyTools 3 Pro, so to not do it... Sissy had said that she didn't mean for it to be included in her list.

10:44. I found HR 7843 aka Kui 97 (Gerard P. Kuiper) from Sissy's list. It was not an obvious split at 55x.

Spotted HR 7827 nearby, to the north-west. It was, by contrast, an easy split. ST3P said this pair had a 25" separation. Returned to the original target.

10:58. I put in the Tele Vue eyepiece, 9mm, 222x. I did not get a split! Scanned the field. I saw star GSC 03954-0736, a magnitude 13.14 object, although ST3P qualified it having poor quality data. Checked the separation value in the software. Oh! No wonder. Kui 97 has a 0.80" sep! And the stars are 3 values different in brightness or magnitude. In theory, this is down at the "difficult" end of the scale. Or should I say, matrix. Tight and very different in brightness... Returned to the 'scope.

11:06. I was not meeting with success.  I had put in the old Meade 4mm orthoscopic to try to coax out the faint companion. I could see the diffraction rings. And the high power emphasised the slight collimation problem. And the so-so seeing. But no star. Sadly. I'd have to try again. With a different instrument, in dark skies... In the meantime, I chose a new target.

11:33. I could not split 90 Herculis. Not as tight as Kui 97 but in the high-delta with respect to brightness. A trend emerging perhaps?

11:55. Stared at the sky, naked eye, briefly. I estimated it to be approximately a mag 4 sky in the west. It was darker to the north.

12:12 AM, 24 Aug 2012. I could not split 41 Ophiuchi. Not with the 36 or 26 eyepieces. I considered bumping the power.

12:23 AM. I lost 41 Oph behind a tree before I could try harder. Curious. Also in the tight, high delta category...

I packed up. Or quickly pack leaving the 'scope and accessories outside. Then I'd be ready for tomorrow night. Theme? Imaging!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

drilled on stars

Did some more alignment star memory drills. I continue to try to memorise all the stars (visible in the northern hemisphere) used by the NexStar alignment process.

reviewed the alarm

Answered some questions for Tim. Reviewed how the alarm system worked. How other buildings and structures were treated. The zones, etc.

explained transparency and seeing

Lena asked for some help with the Clear Sky Charts.

I told her the quick interpretation: dark blue is good. If dark blue shows for cloud cloud, transparency, and seeing, then it would be good night to observe.

She asked what transparency meant. Curiously, that was the easy one to relate, or so I thought. I explained both transparency and seeing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

thanked Dr Fenton

Thanked bat expert Dr Fenton for the use of the ultrasonic detector and the various tips and suggestions. I appreciate his offer to loan the bat detector but I think my "observations" confirmed what I already suspected. Nailed the coffin shut. We don't have a lot of bats at the CAO.

incoming message

Liam texted me about the Moon. Astronomy Man to the rescue!

properties in dark skies

I sent a note to the RASC Toronto Centre listserv noting that many properties have come up for sale near the Beaver Valley, near Clarksburg. And I reminded people that the horse stables near the CAO was still up for grabs.

dark blue forecast

Oooh. Dark blue for a few nights!

Maybe I'll set up for a multi-night run...

revised Sissy's list

Updated Sissy's double star research list in SkyTools 3. Added the 10 new targets. Sent it to Greg for inclusion on his web site.

Asked Sissy to double-check the location of θ (theta) CrB...

found a 40D focusing tip

At last, I found a handy tip over at the New Forest Observatory blog for focusing with the Canon 40D. Hook the camera up to a computer, use Live View, and zoom in 10 times. Much easier than using the small on-board LCD on the back of the camera, which—invariably—you can't easily see in part due to crazy back-breaking angles. This makes for a strong case for using the computer instead of an intervalometer.

M13 images up

Manuel posted his M13 images shot at the CAO on the weekend. He's making good progress. The tracking, guiding, and polar alignment looks very good. The focus is not bad. But I don't think he took darks so there's quite a bit of noise lingering.

Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to figure out how to authorise my account. So comments cannot be left online on his site.

wondering if they recorded it

Sent a question to Peter at UWO. A few of us are curious if they caught the green fireball last weekend... Perhaps it showed up on the CAO camera.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

my copy arrived

Received the latest Skynews at home. The Sep/Oct issue.

I had seen (and skimmed) this issue up at the observatory last weekend.

And heard about it in advance.

Bill's photo of the ISS flying in front of the Moon had won him a refractor!

RASC Toronto peeps FTW!

welcomed new team members

Thanked Ian and Phil for joining the CAO committee. It'll be great having the guys on board. It's also smart, I think, as we continue to expand services, wanting to do more public outreach, and offer new things to our members.

Monday, August 20, 2012

received Sissy's updates

Sissy emailed out a revised chart with 10 additions.

old t-adapter back in service

Not that I thought there'd be a problem but I was happy to see the old Meade SCT t-adapter bolt up to the Canon EOS t-ring.

can't go north

Guy asked if I could help him with a big public outreach event for North Frontenac. In addition to picking up my citation, I could also hang at his cottage.

Unfortunately, I was scheduled to work on Friday to 4:30. I'd never make it in time. And I had other commitments over the weekend so I wouldn't be able to visit for any length of time... Bummer.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

asked for help

Asked Tim L if he'd help me with some forgotten items at the CAO.

will make card for Martin

Martin apologised for leaving without saying good bye. And he brought me up to speed on his membership and CAO status. I'll send him a CAO passport card.

venting van

Remembered seeing the roof vent open on Jean's van. Sent her a note.

some quiet time

Stayed on at the CAO for a couple of hours after everyone had left. Gave me some quiet time to focus on a few activities and chores. I put up an additional string of red LED lights, this time under the centre post under the new tarp. Tended to drill batteries in the basement. Took down a broken wand from one of the blinds. I kept watching the skies but finally decided to roll the dice: I cut the lawn around the house, Observing Pad, the GBO, the (former) BAO deck, the garage, and the parking lot. I started down the driveway but the skies opened up.

That said, I forgot many things. To move the wheelbarrow to the garage. To make a post to support the new canopy. And, once again, the iPod. Doh!


Not my imagination. Others had observed his behaviour. Manuel G tone and demeanor changed. Was he hitting on Olena?! That raised a few eyebrows. It made me feel a little uncomfortable. I think it upset others. Do I have to make another sign?

found a knapsack

Told Ostap about the knapsack found at the CAO.

bats in the house!

Retrieved bats! Unfortunately, not real ones. Just glow-in-the-dark ones...

Too bad I didn't get to enjoy them last night...

globulars and doubles (Blue Mountains)

8:49 PM, Sat 18 Aug 2012. While I was recording ultrasounds near the Observing Pad, Manuel G asked for the latitude and longitude for the Carr Astronomical Observatory. I told him it is noted in the Guest Book. When he shared that he had not signed in, I suggested he could accomplish two things.

8:51 PM. Saw first magnitude stars appearing overhead.

10:15. In the Geoff Brown Observatory, I viewed Izar. Steve shared, from one of his astronomy apps, that it is believed that ε (epsilon) Boötis, has moved through 3% of its orbit, since humans began recorded observations. That's a long orbit. We viewed it in the Celestron 14" SCT. Enjoyed the lovely colours.
Instruments: Celestron 14-inch SCT, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
I chose this object to examine just because it caught my eye. It was near where the big telescope was aimed. But it also reminded me that I could take in some of the suggested targets from Sissy Haas's new double star project...

10:35. Helped Nicole operate her mobile phone beneath a sheet of red film.

10:45. Viewed the Double Cluster in the Tele Vue 101mm refractor. Lovely.

Watched the second International Space Station flyover for the evening.

Distant lightning continued to flicker on the horizons.

I tried to see comet C/2011 F1 (LINEAR). No joy.

10:54. Viewed NGC 6723, a globular cluster. It is officially in Sagittarius but right beside Corona Australis. It was on my draft "showpieces for the CAO" observing list in SkyTools 3 Pro. But I didn't like the appearance of the deep sky object. It was very poor. Part of the reason is that it is so low. Too low really for Canadians. ST3 said I was looking through over 6 air masses.

Viewed Messier 70 (aka NGC 6681). It was also poor. Another pale lint ball.

That was interesting. I just viewed this Messier object and it was not on my life list. It really is the best time of the year to view this target, being so low in the southern sky. Punching through 4 air masses. But M70 is still a boring globular. Damn.

Viewed NGC 6569. It was not good. The only interesting thing about this globular cluster is its distance, almost 100 000 light years away.

Olena dropped into the GBO. I asked if there was anything she wanted to look at.

10:58. Viewed the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8 or M8).

11:00. Viewed M54. This globular cluster was better than the others. Messier 54 is large and bright.

11:01. I found the globular NGC 6624 small, faint, and compact. While it had a bright centre, I didn't think it a good candidate to leave on the "showpieces" list.

These dim, faint GCs I need to remove from the ST3 observing list for public outreach. Too small, too faint, too dull.

I decided to shift gears... It was time to collect some data from Sissy. And as everyone else had equipment they were playing with, I had the C14 and TV101 at my disposal. Having the two 'scopes would be handy for this double star project too. Different types, different focal lengths, different magnifications.

11:15. Observed the double star 23 Aquilae (aka Σ2492 - Struve) with the C14 and the Panoptic 27mm eyepiece (at 145 power). I was able to easily split. I saw yellow and orange stars. Then I viewed it in the refractor with the Tele Vue Radian 5mm ocular (at 108x). I could still split them.

Showed some galaxies to Olena. We discussed galaxy types. I showed some spirals face-on (the Whirlpool) and some edge-on (NGC 4256, a needle galaxy). Showed her M31, M32, and M110 in the Oberwerk binoculars.

11:55. Split the white and orange companions of ψ (psi) Cygni. It was easy in the C14 with 27mm as well as the TV101 with the Tele Vue Radian 10mm (at 54x).

12:16 AM, Sun 19 Aug 2012. Viewed HR 7075 (aka Σ2403) in Draco. I could not split it in the TV101; I was able to split it in the C14, during moments of good seeing. They were very tight. Nearly equal brightness. The fainter star to the west. They were the same colour, white or light yellow.

12:22 AM. I had no problem with HR 7781 (aka Σ2671) in Cygnus. In the TV101 with the 10mm, it was easily split. The primary was blue-white; the secondary light-orange. I estimated 2.5 to 3 magnitude different. Then, in the C14, I thought the secondary seemed white or very pale orange. Hard to tell.

12:28. I checked the current weather conditions from our Davis weather station. The 10 minute average wind was 6.4. Direction SSW. The current wind speed was 8. It had gone as high as 14.5. The humidity was 78. The barometer was 1013.1. The temperature was cool at 14.1. The predicted dew point was 10.3.

12:36. I could not cleanly split HR 6130 (aka Σ2054) of Draco in the C14. It was a very tight double. The primary was bright, very bright. The main star was light yellow. Was the companion lost in the glare? I kept looking and checking. I wondered if I was seeing a figure-8 shape, angled north-south.

1:04. Spotted a meteor in Scutum. About the 3rd one for the evening.

1:10. Viewed M75, down in the goop, with the C14 and 27mm. Messier 75 was large. Had a bright centre. It seemed to have a speckled appearance. w00t. While already on my life list, I changed the status from "view again" to "done."

1:16. Tried to see M70 again. No joy. Too low. Very murky.

1:34. I wanted to see Neptune, or rather, Triton. But it was too cloudy. With the C14 and 27mm, I could not see moons.

1:43. Wispy clouds covered the sky. I folded camp.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

took a light reading

Steve took a SQM reading. A few in fact. At different angles or alignments. To see if the Milky Way might affect it. But no readings were recorded in the GBO log. He thinks the best was 20.88.

more polar alignment checks

Helped Mr Soler verify his polar alignment.

I too turned a grub screw all the way in! Damn it. And then the reticule fell out. Crikey! Bolted everything up in the proper position and did a quick alignment with a nearby tree. Back in business.

Another Celestron mount that is difficult to position parallel to the horizon...

I also helped him identify some bright stars.

Olena visited

Olena arrived. A bit later than expected. Motorcycle trouble; she had to switch to her car for the trip. We had her back her vehicle in, so that when she left later, she'd not blind everyone.

I gave her a tour of the grounds, house, observatory, etc. Had her sign the guest book. Just as the International Space Station flew over in the north.

Steve set her up with some binoculars. We encouraged her to look through everyone's telescope.

She had tons of questions including how to interpret Clear Sky Charts...


I tried to record some bats. Fired up the detector. This time, I had my Sony digital audio recorder.


Not one bat.


On reviewing my audio recording, I heard something at 8:52 PM. Not something I recognised though. More like a chirp sound...

SRO on the pad

It was packed on the Observing Pad!

It looked like we were in for clear skies...

more members arrived

Around 6-ish, the Manuels arrived the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Greetings!

Manuel G asked when I had left on Friday. He had tried calling me (at home) because his schedule had suddenly freed up. We could have travelled together. Bummer. I left 30 minutes before he called...

After negotiating space with the others, moving the picnic tables about, they started to set up on the Observing Pad.

Manuel G asked me if I brought my USB adapter. He forgot his. Oh boy. I loaned him mine. He asked if I had any extra red film. Nope. I asked if he had purchased a laptop tent or shield. Nope. I showed him all the large cardboard boxes we now had on site. He said he'd grab one.

aligned Nicole's polar scope

Steve and I helped Nicole with her polar scope. Steve said the 3 screws shouldn't be loose. That's what was allowing the reticule element to move and flop about. We tightened them up.

When I set about trying to align the 'scope, I discovered something very interesting about the Celestron CG-5 mount. One cannot adjust the altitude to zero. The big bulky plastic housing around the body right ascension axis prevents one from tipping the mount all the way down. In fact, it limits the usable range of the telescope to about 30 degrees. People living near the equator would not be able to use this telescope! Goofy.

Clearly an afterthought by Celestron. No consideration for all possible scenarios. And they've made a mount that cannot be used in a large area of the planet.

I removed the front elevation bolt from Nicole's mount to improve the range of motion. Even then, trying to target a distant object on the horizon required adjusting the tripod leg heights, leaning the mount nose-down, propping it against a chair, and getting a human to stand guard to ensure it didn't fall. Ugly. Daytime polar scope alignment with this mount is not for the meek.

In short order, I had the reticule aligned fairly well. More black magic. Nicole exclaimed, "How do you do that?" Steve and I tried to explain it. Difficult, when it's a by-the-seat-of-your-pants thing. I offered to "un" align it to let her try. Nope. She was happy to let it lie.

surprise visitors

Nicole and Gilles visited the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Good to see them again. We chatted about astronomy, the CAO network, the DDO, etc. Later they took some looks at the Sun in the Tele Vue.

stunning Sun (Blue Mountains)

Steve set up the TV101 for solar.

Incredible. It was an incredible view of the Sun. In hydrogen-alpha, we could see prominences all along the entire disc of the star. And a large of large, long, dark filament on the surface. There were two small sunspots too. Lots to look at.

gone again

Jean just left again. Without a word. Before I could ask her if she meant to leave the roof vent of her van open.

down 4+1

The Horvatins and the Chows departed. Quiet, all of a sudden...

Martin left

Martin departed the observatory. Lora and Phil heard him pack up and go. I was still asleep. It was also before I could chat with him about his RASC membership and CAO fees.

JYC demo

Steve showed me his inexpensive intervalometer by JYC from Amazon (and the little hack he'd done to allow it to work with different Canon bodies). Apparently much cheaper than the unit from Canon...

Then he hooked it up to the 40D and demo'ed a short run. Cool.

He confirmed my suspicions: a much easier, more portable, solution than lugging around a computer with EOS Utility...

Steve also said that it was exhibiting excellent battery life. He was still on his first set of AAA batteries.

experimental images (Blue Mountains)

During and after the MallinCam (with the Tele Vue 101 'scope) tutorial, Friday night, into early Saturday morning, I captured a bunch of screen snapshots using the AVerMedia software (under Phil's account). No processing was performed.
Instrument: Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
North is down, east is left, for the following.

10:59 PM. Globular cluster Messier 5 (M5). The bright star on the left is 5 Serpentis. The glow at the top-right is from the amplifier in the camera.

11:23 PM. Hints of the face-on spiral galaxy Messier 101 (M101) in Ursa Major.

12:17 AM. Eagle Nebula, just barely visible, and the Star Queen cluster, aka Messier 16 (M16), in Serpens Cauda.

12:19 AM. Lagoon Nebula or Messier 8 (M8) with star cluster NGC 6530. The bright star on the right is 7 Sagittarii. Wow.

12:23 AM. Trifid Nebula / open cluster aka Messier 20 (M20) in Sagittarius. The bright star at the bottom right is actually the multiple star HR 6716 or Burnham 283.

North is down, east is right, for the following. Amp glow switches to the top-left.

12:50 AM. Pluto in Sagittarius. Believe it or not. Celestron Ultima 2x Barlow.

1:05 AM. Neptune in Aquarius. Could not see Triton. With Celestron Ultima 2x Barlow.

1:14 AM. The northern element of the East Veil Nebula (aka NGC 6992 and Caldwell 33). Supernova remnant. Just barely visible. Turn the lights waaaaay down...

1:22 AM. The southern end of the East Veil Nebula. The bright star at the centre, top edge, is HD 335333.

1:32AM. West Veil (aka NGC 6960 and Caldwell 34). Of course, the bright star is 52 Cygni.

1:36 AM. Jupiter. The moons, left to right: Callisto, Ganymede, Europa, and Io. Could not reduce the glare from the planet unfortunately...


At one point we tried to get the Messier 81 (M81) and Messier 82 (M82) galaxies in the same field, by rotating the camera, but it was taking too much time and Tony said to forget it.


Wikipedia links: Messier 5, Pinwheel Galaxy, Eagle Nebula (and cluster), Lagoon Nebula, Trifid Nebula, Pluto, Neptune, and Veil Nebula.

Friday, August 17, 2012

MallinCam tutoring

Tony asked if I'd remind him how to use the MallinCam. Seemed it was on his mind—he had not used it during his talk for the Thornbury library. I asked Phil if he was interested—he was. Steve, setting up his new CCD imaging rig in the observatory, eavesdropped.

As we unpacked the case, I reviewed all the equipment, peripherals, and cabling. Initially, so to keep it simple, we were going to use the LCD monitor on the floor. But when we realised Steve was shooting, we switched to plan B, and hooked up the video feed to the computer. A few more steps but good, I think, for them to see.

I emphasised the startup and shutdown procedures with respect to cooling. I showed them how the MallinCam Control Software made operation so easy.

Gave me a opportunity to review my notes...

big battery spotted

Spotted David's spanking brand new blue marine battery booster from Canadian Tire. The thing's huge! He was very happy to take advantage of the recent sale.

a perfect triangle (Blue Mountains)

Phil pointed out the neat triangle in the south-west: Saturn (at the top), Mars (to the left), and Spica. Very pretty. I grabbed the Manfrotto tripod from the GBO.

Wide field worked, with some coaxing. Canon 40D unmodded, 13 seconds, f/5.6, zoom at 18mm, ISO 1600, timer. Love the colours.

I couldn't gather enough light without trailing, particularly when zoomed in. Canon 40D unmodded, 30 seconds, f/5.6, zoom at 55mm, ISO 1600, timer. Moving fast near the ecliptic.

rattling polar scope

Helped Nicole with finding Polaris. But something was wrong with her polar scope. The reticule with the constellation images was going in and out of focus. Weird. I offered to fix it in the daylight. In the meantime, I got her close to the North Celestial Pole. Close enough for visual.

hand-delivered David's pass

Gave David his new CAO passport card and welcome letter.

impressed by tent

Steve was set up in the Geoff Brown Observatory to do imaging with his new CCD camera. I noticed a neat canopy tent thing around this laptop. Small, lightweight. A little loop for an overhead light. He explained it folded up very elegantly. "Like a photo reflector?" I asked. Zactly. Very clever. He picked up his from Henry's, downtown, for $80.

A great accessory. Every astroimager should have one!

only one bat?

Tried to pick up bats with the loaner detector. I wondered if I started too late, well past dusk. I did not hear too many. There was one really good one: the putt putt of a big brown bat (aka Eptesicus), I believe.

on duty

It was a slog from the city.

Nicole sent an email at 3:55 PM saying the 400 sucked. And that Highway 10 sucked. I had already decided on the Scarlett Rd-Dixon Rd-Airport Rd route as my escape route. When I told Tony I was considering turning onto Derry for the 410, he dissuaded me. Then Nicole's report sealed the deal; I'd stay on Airport to Stayner...

At 5:06, I removed car from garage and completed the final packing and loading. Counted whiskers and tails and was on my way.

I was pleased with the progress into the airport area. And glad I followed Tony's advice for there was a very long queue of people turning left for Derry. But then it turned bad. Bad in Brampton. Four lanes barely moving. Lots of 18 wheelers. I kept watched the water temperature rise. It didn't really clear out until Mayfield.

Then, finally, it was a good flow.

The skies seemed to clear and the wind seemed to die down the further I went. I arrived the Carr Astronomical Observatory around 8:00 PM. One hour late.

Lora, Skeena, Cassie, and Jean greeted me in the parking lot. Martin, Nicole, Rob, and David were already setting up on the Observing Pad. I saw Manuela and little David playing in the yard. Spotted Steve and Phil in Geoff Brown Observatory. Grace and Tony were in house. Grace had dinner ready and waiting for me. Buttered chicken and rice. So good. And rhubarb pie. Joy.

I took the reins for the weekend...

Bill won

Bill won a SkyNews astrophotography contest for his Moon-ISS pic! He did a shout out, thanking me for coordinating the event, and to Sharmin, for rousing him.

squeezed in a supply run

Bought some supplies for the CAO. Kerosene, to clean the NexStar gears; screw-eyes for the new string of red LEDs; carriage bolts and washers for the picnic tables. Squeezed it during the work lunch break.

it will be busy

Manuel asked if I could help him with PEC training for his telescope mount at the CAO. As the weekend supervisor I wondered if I'd have the time.

gonna be dewy

Reminded Manuel to bring his dew heaters. Told him to pass it on!

mailed more passports

Dropped more CAO passports in the mailbox. Some new; some renewals.

more EOS testing

Did another test of EOS Utility. Simulated conditions like the other tonight, trying to capture meteors. 30 second exposure, f/4, no flash, manual mode, single shot. Then, in the utility app, I created a scenario to shoot every 40 seconds (allowing some time to download the image), starting after a 10 second delay (to dampen vibration). For the test, I did not set the self-timer, like I did before. Clearly, it wasn't necessary now. For the test I shot 3 photos.

It worked!

This is exciting.

secret routes leaked

At his request, I sent Justin my "getting outta Dodge" map. I myself hadn't looked at it for a while. Reviewed my planned escape route...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

she's likes it!

Sharmin liked my "the CAO will be open" message...
That's more like it!  Very encouraging and exciting invitation with all the necessary and relevant info!  Excellent!
Aim to please.

ready to detect

Picked up a Pettersson Ultrasound Detector D 100 from Dr Fenton this afternoon. Will attempt to scan for bats at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. He gave me some hand-written notes to ascertain the type of bat based on frequency, sound, and repetition.

It runs off a 9V "transistor" battery. Features an LED under the frequency dial for night-time use. Outputs for earphones and "tape." Ha ha. Tape?!

Curiously, as I stopped at the library to drop off a book (Nightfall), leaning my bike against the wall, I noticed one of the wall elements was broken. Too bad. Marred the whole side. And then I noticed the dark grey plate was slate! Things that make you go hmmm.

wifi report received

Phil emailed me from the CAO. Said the wifi was working great at the CAO. Excellent signal strength at the pergola, at the Observing Pad, and at his POD. "Not a single dropped connection." Implied Lora was happy too.

I had to read it again. There's no complaint in that message! w00t!

another great dark sky session

Stu sent his report of the observing session at Long Sault last night. Sounds like the Toronto Centre RASC members had a great time! And got very lucky with the weather. Jealous.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

tested EOS Utility

After installing the Canon apps to a portable computer, I tested EOS Utility. Very interesting. Interesting to remotely control the camera, get instant feedback, and instantly transferred photos to the hard disk. I particularly liked being able to set up an imaging run with intervals. Wow.

didn't collimate

Had to bail. I was going to go to Manuel's to help with collimating one of his SCTs but I had car trouble. And I still can't find my bicycle lights...

I phoned him and suggested I could walk him through it. He squawked a bit. "No, let's try it. You need to know how to do it." He agreed.

And admitted he had checked it already as the OTA lay on the table outside cooling. Oh! I asked him to elaborate. And after a few moments, I realised he was using the method where you stand in front of the corrector. OK. That's one check. And to change it, you need a "card" with a pinhole held in a consistent location.

I urged him to put the telescope on the mount, aim at a star, and do a proper star test. That was the most recognised way of collimating.

He said he'd do that. Never phoned back... I felt bad.

uploaded CAO photos

Uploaded some of Scott's OHAP photos to the CAO supervisors group, particularly the ones featuring the property and our equipment. Accomplished after two attempts with discs directly from Scott and finally a working one from Tony...

tricky weather call

Tough reading this weather. Stu, our closet meteorologist, should know. But he made a GO call for the RASC dark sky observing event at the Long Sault. Earlier, Manuel had phoned me asking what the evening was going to be like. I shared my confusion. Environment Canada says there's going to be a thunderstorm in the early evening. Then it will get foggy. The ADDS satellite image shows, as sunlight pours in my office window, relatively clear skies. Who knows. Manuel called back again. He said he wants to focus only on collimation. Good plan. We set our rendezvous time.

uploaded OHAP photos

Uploaded, at last, Scott's photos from the 2012 Open House and Awards Picnic at the CAO. Actually, started last night. Did some more to finish it. Used the DVD Tony made for me, after the first two from Scott didn't work. Converted the single PSD file, with ole' Fireworks, to a JPG. Reviewed the wide-field night sky shoots to select good samples only. Omitted the video of the preparing for the group shot...

Sent a note to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group to let everyone know.

new membership form available

Updated the RASC Toronto Centre web site after Ralph forwarded a note from the national office. They had applied the associate fee rate change. I made the newest paper form available.

no meteors (Toronto)

Tried to catch some meteors tonight. No luck. But I learned some camera settings. Complete manual control of aperture, shutter, ISO, manual focus, live view, back LCD brightness, timer, playback, playback zooming, top LCD illumination, AC power, etc. Decent focus. I was a little surprised.

Canon 40D, 18-55mm zoom (at 18), 30 seconds, f/4, ISO 160, sky filter, Manfrotto tripod.

Didn't change the white balance...

It was hazy. Humid. I saw dew in the air and on the cars on the street. A little foggy. I noted the conditions at Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport at 2:00 AM. Clear, 101.3 kPa and falling. Visibility was 16 km. The temperature was 17.0°C and the dewpoint was 16.0°C. Ah ha. The humidity was 94 %. Wind was light at 5 km/h from the west.

Cassiopeia at the top right; Cepheus centre-top down to the middle. Magnitude 5.5 stars are just visible. Shot to JPG, large format. Didn't touch the white balance. Couple of hot (red) pixels. Did not capture dark frames.

OK. For a start.


Spotted Jupiter in the east.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nightfall rose and fell

Finished Nightfall by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg to mixed feelings.

The ending was very disappointing. I had high hopes. But it was very lame. And left a very bad taste in my mouth. Felt like a terrible disaster recovery Irwin Allen movie. Thin on plot; thin on characters. Boring. And I was perturbed with number of significant loose ends. For example, I wanted to know what happened to other central characters at the end. On reading reviews by others, I learned I was not alone.

I was also a little surprised to learn it started out as a short story. Some said it should have been left that way and not turned into a full length novel. Either that or further developed.

It began fairly good. I was very intrigued by the idea of a world in a multi-star system. An idea that, probably when the book was written, was very "out there." But now, we know, planets in multi-star systems are not fiction.

The plot point that they lived on a world in a 6 star system was very interesting for it flooded them with constant daylight. I wondered at sleep cycles and plant life. These aspects were not really explored. That could have added some depth.

When, through a series of coincidences, the planet experiences a sun-less period, as it has every 2000 years, we see that people are more than just afraid of the dark. They had never seen stars. My disbelief faltered. The descriptions of the dusk-like periods when the bright suns were not overhead made me think of Earth twilight. When we see the, appropriately named, first magnitude stars. Not to mention the bright planets. How could fairly sophisticated scientists and astronomers not know of these things? But then, do we not see still, in this day and age, on Earth, support for astrology above astronomy? Very interesting, the interplay of religion and science in the story...

The fear factor explored in the book struck a cord. It reminded me of my former neighbours and how they told me, during an Earth Hour event, that their young son did not like when they turned all the lights off. Their boy was afraid of the dark. True fear. Not scary monster afraid; simply unaccustomed to complete darkness. Is this healthy for humans? I'm very concerned what we doing to ourselves and our children being constantly awash in light. Are we creating an environment like in the story, with false light?

The other curious aspect of this book was when I was reading it. Yes, it was in response Bradbury's death in June and me logging into the the Toronto Public Library (TPL) to read some "classic" SF. But it was eerie, having effectively randomly chosen this book in the year of planetary transit of the Sun and a solar eclipse. Oh, and the heretical predictions, loosely based on an ancient Mayan concept, of the end of the world in December! The statements on my world are not dissimilar to those of planet Kalgash. Madness? People running amuck?

So, the book had its moments. But I probably would have enjoyed more the shorter original rendition.

back to plan A

He retracted. Manuel phoned me about the Long Sault location. "What about power?" I offered my marine batteries. He resisted. He said the QHY9 needs "a lot of juice." I asked the power requirements but he didn't know. I could tell he just didn't want to go. Too bad. Dark skies, away from the light dome, camaraderie, imaging with his peers.


The QHY9 wants 12 volts DC and 4 amps. No prob.

Google calendar awkward suddenly

Google did something to the calendar tool. Again. I can't put my finger on it exactly this time but suddenly it is more difficult getting new entries into another "layer." Glitch or a permanent change? Crikey. That's why I use it! I'll persist. I continue to use it for my list of upcoming astronomical events.


Temp. glitch.

pitched LSCA

I pitched Long Sault to Manuel, as a location for checking collimation, and then having some fun. Imaging, of course, in a dark site would be much more successful. It'd be cool with other members. "Sure," he agreed. All right! It'd be fun with him and the gang.

I could try some wide field... Maybe get some meteors...

AAA pages settled

Last night, Allard said he built a redirect on the RASC Toronto Centre web site to handle future Algonquin events. I tested it this morning but it kicked back a 404. I reported the error. I got confused by the new article and the old one. The new one, for 2013, was above the 2012, is all. Allard set me straight.

Monday, August 13, 2012

red night light

Hacked my old 120 VAC night light with light sensor, replacing the dead white LED with a red one.

It works! Now, to find the other parts of the light...

HC not responding

Geoff reported that his CPC 1100 hand controller is now showing error codes.  "No Response" with the numbers 16 and 17. Which usually means there's a communication problem with motors... Now what?!

roof blocked Moon blocking Venus

Missed the occultation of Venus by the Moon. Sky conditions might have permitted it. But I was driving in a car...

Moon and Venus (Union)

During a trip to the loo, I noted a cloudy Moon near a bright blob. Right! The Moon would occult Venus soon...

meteor chasing (Union)

11:21 PM. Spotted two Perseids. One through Cygnus. Then a beaute, from Cepheus to Lyra, with a persistent train.

1:24 AM. Saw three meteors. The last was very low, below Pegasus, and it disappeared behind a cloud. More clouds rolled in.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

noise maker

Lora found an old clock radio. Clock, no good; radio, still worked. I'll take it!

Hopefully it will have this effect on 'coons!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

no app for you

Donna showed me her little computer tablet. She had already loaded the Coby with a ton of books. Of course, I immediately hit the blog with the browser. Worked. Looked OK on the 7" screen. And then it occurred to me that it'd be fun to try putting an astronomy app on Android device! I was very curious if it had accelerometers. But, in the end, everything I tried didn't work. Maybe it's crippled in some way.


I was a little downtrodden to see Mom's telescope shelter succumbing to water damage. I don't even have it up and running yet! Sheesh. I don't need anything taking the wind out of my sails right now...

Friday, August 10, 2012

distant lightning (Union)

After finishing the laundry, I popped outside, on a whim. Hey. It was clear.

I took in the whole sky, after a grabbed my eyeglasses. Sagittarius with Kaus Australis and Nunki. Cygnus with Deneb, Sadr, and Alberio. Delphinus. Corona Borealis with Alphecca.

Considered firing up Mom's telescope. But it was very damp and cool. Seeing did not look great. And in short order, clouds were moving in. Clouds carried distant lightning.

burning didn't work

Heard that the weeds are back, between the patio plates, in front of the GBO. Despite the burning technique used, back on July 22. Less than a month. Considerably less. So. It looks like we're back to plan A. Elbow grease.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

need national to update their info

There was a brief conversation surrounding membership fees. Eric pointed out that the associate fee had increased. I applied a change to the RASC Toronto Centre web site but pointed out that the National site had incorrect information.

provided power presentation

There were a number of requests from members who missed the meeting about the content of my "powering your gear" presentation delivered on 1 Aug 2012. It took me a while to assemble and prepare all the materials but I finally had everything ready. I created an article on the RASC Toronto Centre web site with some content and photos. I also provided a PDF version of the presentation and a PDF copy of the handout.


Can't find content from the RASC web site? Visit the lumpy companion presentations page!

Shift in SkyTools

A SkyTools user asked, via the Yahoo!Group, how to move the panes around in the three-pane window. He had done it before but drawn a blank. Keyboard shortcut lover, I jumped in. Shift!

Reminded me, again, that I need to publish my big keyboard shortcut list...

we made a list

Referred members to our new CAO packing list.

member management inaccessible

Sent a note to Yahoo!Customer Care. With details about the problem accessing the RASC Toronto Centre main group. I provided the URL, the steps leading up to the matter, the error message, and what I was trying to do. Now, I have to wait. A few more days. In the meantime, I cannot manage the members.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

super list simplified

Dietmar lobbied that in the future we not posted the week by week (er, weekend by weekend) listing of supervisors. It was making for a lot of work when there were changes. Instead, we'll just have a simple list: "these are your 2013 supervisors for the season." Neat and tidy.

AAA will get a permanent link

Allard argued that we use a permanent and consistent path for future Annual Algonquin Adventure pages. It made sense but I expressed a few concerns. Apologised for jumping on it without first consulting with them.

need big boxes

Put out the word for more big boxes. Hopefully, we'll wrangle a few large ones so to make laptop light shields for the CAO.

We'll keep them on hand for guests with big, bright laptops.

updated supervisor info

After nudging Tony, Phil, and Ian, I updated the web site calendar for the CAO supervisor changes. And let the SCOPE editor know.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

who cleared it up?

Nobody did... Eric's remark that the Star Spot "misunderstanding was cleared up," in reaction to Allard posting an article on our site, made me hot under the collar. I wanted someone to confront them and ask that they not do this again, to relay that some of our members might be upset. Eric made it seem that it had been resolved but I didn't believe it had. It should be clear that we'd be happy to refer to their events, cross-post as it were, attend where possible, but through "normal" marketing channels and contacts. I asked Charles to look into it. I was very concerned about setting a precedent.

notes to the editor

Sent some notes to the SCOPE editor. I was not the photographer of a particular photo. Pointed out the misspelling of a prominent member's surname. And asked that some additional items be included in the CAO "don't forget to bring" suggestions.

Jupiter up (Mississauga)

Saw Jupiter! Up high in the east as I drove home from work.

Monday, August 06, 2012

made a forwarder

Created a new forwarder address for Dietmar for the CAO bookings. Looks like Rogers has deep-sixed the other one. Tuned the form to use the new email. Initial tests looked positive. And we can get back to normal.

watched MSL land

Watched NASA's car-sized rover (Curiosity) touch down on Mars. It was fun watching the team at JPL lose it as everything came together, including nearly instantaneous imagery!

I also enjoyed the simulation feed the new Eyes site.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

nudged Tony for cert

Reminded Tony that I had not received the paper certificate for the 2010 Ostrander-Ramsay award.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

webspotting missing again

The Aug/Sep 2012 issue of SCOPE did not include a webspotting piece. Now my Spaceweather piece emphasising transit of Venus photos will be getting pretty stale...

delivered new USB cable

Went over to Manuel's. We talked DSLRs, telescopes, RASC, etc. Delivered the Nexxtech USB-serial adapter I had bought him. He was happy. I wanted to test it to make sure it worked fine. Mr Soler came by. It was good to see him again. I tested cables while we continued to chat. After Manuel found the control control cables, I verified Stellarium worked with both telescopes (or rather, the mounts). I tried NexRemote as well but couldn't seem to get the virtual port working, that is, I could not get Stellarium and NexRemote to work together. That was a little frustrating. We argued briefly as to when the NASA Curiosity rover was going to touch down. I assured Manuel is was early Monday morning EDT. As I was getting ready to leave Manuel said he wanted help with one more thing: mosaic stitching. Said he had reread his notes and they didn't make any sense. So we ran through it again.

picked up Sissy's article

Picked up the September issue of Sky and Telescope.

So to have a copy of Sissy's double star article.

tried to reach Richard

Richard phoned my home number. Then my mobile. Then sent a long SMS, which broke into 2 pieces. He asked if I was going to Starfest. Then he said, in the text, "I have a question I must ask you concerning Starfest." Sounded serious. I sent him an email asking what was up. And said that I wouldn't be able to make Starfest due to other commitments.

Friday, August 03, 2012

transferred dome

Tony and I moved the Bob Anderson Dome (BAO) from the CAO to its new owner near Tottenham. We travelled up in the big air-brake truck and arrived the Carr a little later than planned. Millie and Dietmar helped load and in short order we were done! Dietmar helped Tony with the new tarp, replacing the wire with nylon rope. I have my doubts. While they create drainage channels, I installed a new security inside the bathroom! Then we took a break; Tony caught some Zs. Then we were on our way to the drop-off.

Stupid GPS... lead on on this winding, tedious route. And kept disconnecting from the power.

Unloading the pieces, during a pretty sunset, was quick with a few extra hands.

Arrived in the city too late to go to the DDO...

It was great to reclaim our garage.


Picked up the red film for the netbook screen I had left in the living room...

added lock in bathroom

Installed a locking door handle knob in the bathroom of the CAO. To the door of the east closet. Millie and I transferred the bedding and towels into this closet. Now we can curtail unauthorised use. Another step...

Will need to send a note to the supervisors. Let them know where the key is.

MODL 6 belongs

MODL 6 blends in! Ian had applied siding. The light grey blended in nicely with the other CAO buildings. The white roofing looked very good. Nicely done.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

I was scraped

Received an invite from Star Spot. At first blush, it seemed like they had spent some time looking at my blog. But when Manuel asked me what was up, I realised it was a bit spammy what they were doing. It looked like they were scraping the RASC Toronto Centre web site for contacts. That's a little uncool.

thank you

Charles and I chatted on the phone. Our "daily planning conference." Various RASC matters. His remark about the presentations on Wednesday night was illuminating. He said he learned a lot seeing the different presentation styles back-to-back. Indeed. I thanked him for his compliment.

sent Sissy a note

Tom showed me an article in a recent magazine last night. The September issue of Sky & Telescope. It was by Sissy Haas. She's looking for help assessing uneven double stars. Perhaps to develop a formal formula. I sent her a note to indicating I'd like to help in her double star research project.

and be happy

Sent a note to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group about the great sale on at Canadian Tire... Hopefully some will take advantage of it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

talked about power

Delivered my presentation on powering telescopes and equipment. It was casually entitled, "Powering Your Telescopes and Accessories Safely and Inexpensively." This was for the RASC Toronto Centre members. We met in Studio 2 at the Ontario Science Centre.

I had lots of "samples" on hand for demonstration purposes. Guy, happily, brought in his big marine battery pack.

We had a good turn out. I made 60 handouts and there were some extras.

I shared the good news about the Canadian Tire sale this weekend!


Later made the presentation content available, online.

brand help

Manuel phoned while I was out. At the OSC delivering my presentation on power. He was at The Source. He asked what the brand was of the USB-serial adapter I had purchased from the same store chain...

different voltages

As I was putting finishing touches on the presentation for tonight's talk on powering astro-gear, I noted some specific voltages. Ones that were not 12 volts. Which further complicates things... For example, the old Vixen Super Polaris wants 9 volts. I had totally forgotten about that. I checked the Canon 40D AC adapter rating: 8 volts. Kooky.

Nautilus sales alert

What incredible timing! I received a sales alert from Canadian Tire. A recently configured event popped up. The MotoMaster Nautilus 800 A Battery Pack (product 0111592) was going on sale this weekend, reduced 40% from the regular price to $250, to an attractive $150. Sweet. I read this email after work. Just as I started switching gears toward my "power" presentation tonight... I captured the screen to show to members.

chatted with Nicole

Chatted with Nicole via Facebook.

I wondered when she was going to visit the CAO this season. She said she was already teed-up to visit on the August weekend when I was on duty.

She also said she wanted some help with polar alignment. She was very frustrated. Happy to help.

Thunderstorms were brewing as we talked. I asked her for recommendations on web sites for local lightning strike information. She recommended Wunderground and then turning on the lightning feature. She also suggested I tried both. And really liked the dynamic map on the latter. She was trying to photograph hits on the CN tower...

Finally, I asked her if I could pick her brain. As a successful author, I wanted to get some advice on publishing my own books.

next AAA URL

James at National is working on the next edition of the RASC Observer's Handbook. He reached out to Lillian and Robert for the URL for the future Annual Algonquin Adventure. A bit of back and forth. I said I'd look into it.