Sunday, September 30, 2012

a detached view

Ralph reviewed the Facebook page despite his aversion to social media. It's good to know the executive are reviewing what we're doing.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

learned a lot

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre Imaging Workshop at the David Dunlap Observatory. It was run by Dietmar and Steve. I really enjoyed the event. I learned a lot (when I kept my mouth shut and listened).

Hitched a ride with Dietmar to the seminar. Took the TTC to his 'hood and we jumped on the highway. Right away, traffic was slow! Crikey. The Gardiner crawled to downtown. Fortunately, the trip up the DVP and 404 was fine. Made him nervous.

There was a big turnout. Lots of enthusiastic participants. And a few surprises too. And, sadly, some no-shows. The lecture room was packed. We had enough power cords and power bars.

With their blessings, I recorded the audio of the speakers. It allowed me to reduce note-taking tasks and play in the software. They offered their presentation files. The hands-on portion of the workshop was great. Certainly, it helped me, actually trying things immediately in the software.

The piece on DeepSkyStacker was very good. To see the typical steps. What Steve did. And what one shouldn't do in the software!

The demonstration of Photoshop was good too. Seeing the workflow in action. I know the basics (and a couple of advanced features) of image software but often felt overwhelmed with astroimages, not knowing where to start. The advice was very helpful.

I was thankful for the support from the DDO crew as well. Karen, Paul, Diane, Rajesh, and Michelle all helped out.

Lora's treats were much appreciated too!


Should not have read my email...

points north

Found out Paul is the man to talk to about booking events at the DDO.


happy skylarking

Happy anniversary Alouette 1!


Friday, September 28, 2012

two oppositions?

As I was checking Geoff's post on Starry Night Sky Events for October, I spotted something odd. He showed Uranus at opposition at the end of the month... Looked like a copy/paste issue. I sent him a note. He thanked me for catching it.

enough amps

Geoff reported having a new 2.5 amp power supply for his CPC 1100. And it was "so far, so good!" My work is done.

checked others

I checked RASC pages on Facebook... I thought it rather interesting.
  • Victoria, open group, 70 members, mention benefits of membership, but no link to their web site!
  • Calgary, place, 177 likes, good descriptive info, map
  • Edmonton, open group, 60, no link to web site!
  • Saskatoon, page, 18 likes
  • Windsor, person page, 8, no activity for 2 years
  • Hamilton, page, 67 likes, mission, description, list of activities, etc.
  • Mississauga, page, 341, benefits of membership
  • Kingston, page, 31 likes
  • Ottawa, page, 4 likes, joined 18 months ago, no activity
  • Montreal, business, 112, quick simple about
  • New Brunswick, community, 95, good quick about, great info
RASC Okanagan didn't seem to have their own page. But I found an active page for the Okanagan Observatory, with 505 likes.

Part of the reason I looked was to see if there were any stated usage policies. None visible.

The following centres did not seem to have a FB presence: Sunshine Coast, Vancouver, Prince George, Regina, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Sarnia, London, Kitchener Waterloo, Niagara, Belleville, the French Montreal centre, Quebec, Charlottetown, Halifax, or St. John's.

I reviewed the national group has 579 followers. Denis, previously, had told me it was "not official." They had no events listed but some photos.

I like what I had seen some did with the About page, Info area, and Notes. Ideas we might employee. Like briefly describe all the cool stuff we do. And pitch the benefits of membership. And that it's inexpensive!

Uranus at opposition

Uranus is at opposition today, i.e. opposite the Sun. I.e. closest to Earth (for the year). It's a good time to try to spot it naked eye... It is in Pisces, not far from "the Circlet," very near 44 Piscium. The sixth planet will be about the same magnitude as the star.

I sent a note to the crew on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group and I put a note on the Facebook page.

he wants all of it

Well, well. Seems Francis wants the motor and controller for the BAO now. A light at the end of the tunnel?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

found USB-serial in my gear

Oops. Found the (new) CAO USB-serial cable in my USB kit! Ha. This time, it's my fault...

let's create a buzz

During our online meeting/chat and in discussions afterwards, Jason and Allard asked me to put together some material on Facebook and social media policies and guidelines. I asked Katrina and Sharmin for some feedback. I thanked everyone. And encouraged everyone to spread the word, in the meantime, to create a buzz.

blinkers needed

Stuart H sent out a note to the RASC Toronto Centre listserv informing us that Tim Puckett was looking for new volunteers for supernovae searches (by blinking). There's more info over at Comet Watch.

He said that Tim said Canada has made far more contributions to the project than the US. Interesting.

been gettin' them all along

Jason checked his spam folder. And guess what he found...?

he's gettin' it

Eric relayed the Jason's been on the SCOPE MailMan mailing list since at least March 2010. Or at least we're sending it. If a tree falls in the forest...? I think I now know why Jason's not getting his newsletter...

still time

While Allard sent a note to the RASC Toronto Centre listserv on Yahoo, I asked Eric if there was time to squeeze in a little piece into the current or next SCOPE. But the issue was going to print. In very short order!

He said there was...

Cool. We could let every member know.

not getting SCOPE?

Jason told me he's never received an issue of SCOPE. Really?!

I asked Phil to verify his database information...

Centre on Facebook

With Katrina at the helm, the official RASC Toronto Centre Facebook page was launched. A little suddenly. Still. I'm very happy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Donna's OK with it

Sent a note to Donna about the possible black hole discovered in the Orion Nebula. Which would, if verified, became the closest to Earth, at 1300 light years.

She didn't seem too nervous.

Unlike before...


readying for workshop

Made arrangements to ride with Dietmar to the DDO for the imaging conference. Packed some extra extension cords and power bars.

expanded IPs

Bruce Street Tech sent a note saying that a new block of IP addresses was implemented. It will change the address at the CAO... I didn't think it would impact the weather server. But it would affect things with the security system. Which was still an open ticket.

Hallowe'en moved

The Hallowe'en Star Party at the Ontario Science Centre has been rescheduled. Leslie sent out a note to say that it was moved to Friday (26) from Saturday (27).


Tip of the beanie to Eric for spotting my typo...

using social media

Immediately after I sent a note to the RASC Toronto Centre web team, including Ennio and Kevin as well, about embracing new media, social sites in particular, Allard sent a reply. He and Jason were planning to meet up with Katrina. Awesome! He went on to say that they would get "ideas out on the table and make a plan on how to approach." Fantastic. I was very happy to hear this.

recommended sources

Kevin asked Leslie and I some questions about the NOVA course. He didn't think he could make it but wanted to know if there would be materials available. I replied. Some instructors made their materials available, yes. That we based our program on the materials from the Prince George centre. And that both referred to the Beginner's Observing Guide.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Millie shared her Almach notes

Millie sent me an email.
I read your blog.  Glad you had good time in Algonquin and did some observing in spite of bad weather.  I noticed your observation of gamma [Andromedae or] Almach.  I was observing the same star at CAO using  my RC 203mm 'scope and Dietmar's SW ([or] Sky Watcher) 120mm refractor. 
She shared her observing results from the weekend, plus one from a few years back.
Observing #1
Date:  Aug. 30/2006   Place: backyard

Sky cond.clear, good seeing
Telescope:  102mm SW on EQ4 (no goto)
Star:  Gamma AND (Almach) A & B not able to split B & C (sep. 0.4").  At 71.4x stars were touching.  At 100x split by hair.
A=yellow, B=bluish green

Observing #2
Date:  Aug. 6/2012  Place: CAO (GBO)  

Sky cond.:  clear, seeing good
Telescope:  203mm RC on EQ5 goto
Star:  Gamma AND, A & B onlyAt 116x fairly close.
A= yellow, B=blue

Observing #3
Date:  Sep. 15/2012  Place: CAO (THO)  

Sky Cond.:  clear, seeing good
Telescope:  120mm SW on EQ5 goto
Star:  Gamma AND, A & B onlyAt 191x fairly close.
A= orange, B=blue
She went on to say:
I was able to split Izar in the SW, very clear split no spikes on main star.  Also viewed the "double double" in Lyra.  Very clear split in SW scope.  I decided to keep my RC for now.  [And] you were right, primary mirror needs collimation.  Thanks for your help.
I'm pleased she's sticking with it. I think she'll enjoy the large aperture. It is also satisfying that she's come to trust her eyesight, splitting tight doubles in small apertures.

In addition, it is neat to compare her observations to mine... From Mew Lake Saturday night, Friday night, Thursday night. And then to go back further, like she had, into my notes to Aug 2010 and Sep 2007.

Eric has an article

Followed up with Eric so to ensure he had a webspotting article from me for the next issue of SCOPE. He verified he had one. Good.

Monday, September 24, 2012

star quiz

Quizzed myself on the walk home from the Horvatins...Alkaid, end of the handle of the Big Dipper; Mizar (and Alcor), of course; third-in, on the handle, Alioth; Megrez, where the handle connects...

Couldn't see a lot of other stars, elsewhere.

And was thinking I should probably test myself on others. Been a while.

TSTM Oct cancelled

Markov told me he had to cancel my October 17 The Sky This Month presentation. This is to free up a time slot to accommodate Stuart Clark.

we need more power

According to the Celestron CPC 1100 user guide, the power supply requirements are as follows...

12 VDC nominal
15 VDC maximum
9 VDC minimum
centre tip positive
1.5 amperes

That's according to the April 2005 and August 2009 editions...

The official "standard" supply you can order from Celestron is rated at 2.5A. They also sell a "heavy duty" supply that puts out 5A.

There it is...

was 2.5; now 1.0

Geoff got back to me. Confirmed that the output from the small CLA adapter currently in the POD was 1 amp. He also dug out the old, dead, fried Celestron supply, which produced 2.5A.

in the hopper

Heard from Jesse. He said all comp bookings need to be approved. Said his request was in the queue.

Haas interested in SkyTools

Sissy acknowledged the message I sent back on the 16th. I told her that I had made an observing list in SkyTools and it was available for download. If any of the double star researchers wanted to use it. She said she was interested in using the tool as well. But that she was busy double-checking all her observing reports.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

more help to IT team

Sharmin sent out a sent to the RASC Toronto Centre "IT team," that is Jason, Allard, and myself. She introduced Ennio and Kevin. She said they were interested in helping out. Cool! With Rajesh, Gilles, Matthew, we're getting a good size team. Needed to support all that we want to do.

notified members of work party

While I wrote the article for the RASC Toronto Centre web site, Tony sent out a note on the Yahoo!Group listserv. We invited members to volunteer at the fall work party at the Carr Astronomical Observatory coming up in October.

dead heater - again

Tested the 2" dew wrap from Kendrick. The newest. The most recently purchased. Dead.

This is not good.

testing Skype

Asked Phil if he'd help me with a Skype experiment. I wanted to see if I could broadcast video and share my desktop. A potential option, in lieu of conducting a live seminar.

to Neptune

Wished Neptune a happy birthday!

Have a good one!

stars, water, clouds

Jason shared his latest time lapse, the Milky Way, from Mew Lake. Like some aurora photography I've seen, I really enjoy when there's "water clouds" in the image, clouds of the Earth, in the foreground, in front of the objects in the heavens. It gives a very three-dimensional look to the scene. The near and the far.

updated member data

A week or so back I had asked Phil to check into the status of a couple of members. He got back to me today. I continue to review inactive members in the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. Asked him to rattle cages of a few overdue peeps...

asked for amps confirmation

Asked Geoff to confirm the amperage rating of the CLA adapter.

Told him that a preliminary check showed that the CPC 1100 needed a 2.5A supply. Not 1A.

learned current rating

Geoff informed me that the power supply was 1 amp. From memory. He had never replaced the Celestron power supply, blown after "the incident." 1 amp. That sounded too low...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

asked for the rating

Wait a minute... I kept reflecting on the "it's always the wires" train of thought with Geoff's telescope. His report of the problem reappearing sure gave the impression of a bad wire. Faulty connector. Or a cold or bad solder.

I replayed my visit to his POD, working on the 'scope, hex keys here and there, the little table beside the tripod, the NexStar book on the table... The little power supply. A small little adapter (not exactly as shown) with a CLA receptacle. Into which we plugged the CPC 1100 cable.

I messaged Geoff. Asked him to check the power rating of the 12V CLA adapter in the power bar.

Could it be...?!

daylight saving set for Mew Lake

Found the time zone setting wrong in SkyTools for Mew Lake! I wondered if that was why I was experiencing slight strange problems with the app while up north. I set it to use the DST rules.

Weird. I could have sworn I fixed this before... 

Went back a few minutes later to check the sky brightness settings... Noticed the time zone setting was back at Standard. What the hell? Applied DST, closed the dialogs, and quit the application. Seems OK now.

happy snowstice

Malcolm sent me a happy solstice note. Then corrected himself: equinox. I replied that I thought it looked like it might snow. Shudder... Equisnow? Doesn't really flow...

Friday, September 21, 2012

AAA report up

The Annual Algonquin Adventure report went up to the RASC Toronto Centre web site. Along with the group photo. The photo, however, is small (and not zoomable) so one cannot make out a lot of details. But you can find me by locating the red maple leaf toque!

15 years they've been doing this...

They also announced the date for the 16th AAA Star Party: September 5 - 8, 2013. Early.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

predicting X

I started to build an Excel file to help in predict Lunar X.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

4 AAA so far

After the quick chat with Lillian regarding my number of visits to the Annual Algonquin Adventures, I did a bit of a review of my AAA trips... Also noted the conditions.

2008 - bailed, work commitment; they were rained out; many left early!
2009 - very cold; observed Thu, Fri, Sat; my 8" Celestron SCT; first time
2010 - misty; crappy; no observing Thu or Sat; observed Fri; my SCT
2011 - cool; some clear nights; didn't take 'scope; viewed with Bob, Adam, others
2012 - rainy; limited observing Wed, Fri; my SCT

Next time will be the 5th...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

November will be good

Vincent asked if this weekend would be a good time to see Lunar X.

Researched the best times to see Lunar X using the Circumstances of the Moon spreadsheet from Chow and reading Chapman's J-RASC article (PDF) from 2007. When the Sun's co-longitude is 358.0 +/- 1.2 and elevation at Werner is 1.4 +/- 0.7.

Phil said the next best chance is in November. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

more data from Geoff

Geoff sent a note, updating on the CPC 1100...
Curiouser and curiouser... this morning when I plugged it in, the motors were working just fine... untouched from Wednesday.  I suspect the temperature changes in the POD may be affecting it.  It gets very hot during the day because the original POD acts as a greenhouse.  I've left the Allen bolts out so I can pop the cover off in a second.  I'll keep you posted, though this looks like a crazy week.  Chaos manor!
A bit more data...

Electronics... in Canadian climates. Sounds like my old 528e.

Jim showed his mosaic

Jim shared a large mosaic of the Milky Way he worked on at Mew Lake.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

reseat please

Sent a note to Geoff. Told him it really sounded like a loose or bad wire. And I hoped it wasn't possibly a bad or cold solder...

Asked him to repeat what I did. Reseat all the jumpers.

Bill shared AAA stuff

Bill shared some notes from the AAA...
Seeing was great 'til the fog rolled in.  The SQM was reading 21.38, and it dropped down to 4 degrees.  There were probably 25 to 30 scopes on the beach.  There were lots of campers visiting too.

We saw one iridium flare, and I got a picture of it which I posted, but there appear to be 2 bright objects in the picture.  The flare is at the bottom, not sure what the one at the top is.
He put his photos on his web site.

On the day-lit photo, you can see my "station" pretty well dead-centre. Under the blue umbrella.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

limited observing (Mew Lake)

7:57 PM. On the beach. Motor and dew heaters on the one battery. Winter coat on tonight. Spare fuse from the car, just in case. Had all the hand warmers with me this time. Ready to fire up, if needed. Damp... Let the games begin.

The glow-in-the-dark stars are a big hit. Put a bunch under the tripod. Some near the metal wagon. Some under each corner of the picnic table.

View Albireo, Messier 57 (M57) aka the Ring Nebula, Messier 22 (M22), and Messier 11 (M11), aka the Wild Duck.

9:52. Viewed Almach, again.

11:00. Returned to the Ring. Stayed on it for a while. Used the 20mm.

11:14. View λ (lambda) Arietis. A nice double. Actually a quad (according to the computer). The C and D stars were very faint. C was not shown in SkyTools 3 (at the time, in the Context Viewer, with Moon switch on...)

11:23. Felt the small dew heater. Seemed cool. Was it working? The eyepiece was fogging. Seems to be dead...

Made a note to test it when home.

11:37. Checked the conditions on the portable weather station: 98% humidity; 3.0°C air temperature. Everything was soaked.

Done. So much for that. Short star party...

Sure didn't feel like it but I knew it'd be worse if I left it to the morning. Did a full tear down... Katrina and Fred did as well.


Chatted with Ostap. Complained, lightly, about the lights from his camp, the night before. He was very defensive... Caught him off guard, I guess.

let's use Facebook

Chatted with Fred a wee bit about Facebook. We're all on the same page. Now if we could only find someone to run with it...

received speed results

Justin sent me the results of his on-site speed testing. "Not bad at all." Good!

demo'ed the power tank

The Sage walked past our camp site. I said hello and he swung 'round for a visit. Hadn't seen him for a while.

We chatted for a while about misc. things.

I showed him my battery tank. He approved.

group gathering

Wore the RASC DDO shirt and my Maple Leaf toque for the group photo.

Took a look at the "history" of the Annual Algonquin Adventure, a simple binder, pages with some details (number of members, number of visitors served, sky conditions, etc.), and photos. That was kinda neat.

A bunch of the crew received awards. Lil asked, afterwards, how many AAAs I had attended. Four, I thought...

tricked (Mew Lake)

11:50 PM, Fri 14 Sep 2012. Damn it! Once at the beach, it was obvious the skies were not good at all. There must have been a large sucker hole over the Yurt after the movie. Very little of the sky was clear. It was discouraging. But I thought I'd wait it out. Perhaps, after midnight, it would clear up...

11:55 PM. I finished my set up, finally, after a bit of back and forth. Viewed M13. Not many customers on the beach...

Tonight I remembered to get out my weather station.

12:14 AM, Sat 15 Sep 2012. The clouds broke. I showed Albireo overhead.

12:15 AM. Ostap said hello.

12:22. I showed Almach. Asked Ostap his impressions of the colours. He thought them yellow and blue.

Checked the Oregon Scientific weather station. It showed the humidity was 86% and the temperature was 9.8°C. Humid. The dew was back...

Clouds came and went.

12:34. The humidity had risen to 89%. The air temp looked like it was stabilising at 9.7°. The OTA, table, boxes, etc. were wet. There was even moisture on the netbook keyboard. Leaking around the umbrella...

I checked the optics for water. Everything seemed clear. But the view through the Orion finder scope seemed poor. Pulled out the portable 12V hair dryer.

2:02. I blew the fuse on the battery 1 an instant after I started the hair dryer. Oh oh. I hadn't considered that. It would need a lot of amps and I probably had a low-rated fuse.

Then I realised I had not prepared for this scenario. I had spare glass tube fuses for the Kendrick controller and other CLA accessories. But my custom battery pack used the "standard" car blade fuses. I did not have spares. Never entered my mind. Duh! And even if I did, it would be a big deal to swap 'em. The fuse holder was inside the project box, requiring disassembly. Oh boy. A big job.

I could raid the car fuse panel...

I moved the motor control power over to battery 2. At least I had a second battery! With two outlets!

Not that it really mattered...

2:15. We were socked in. The OS showed 98% humidity. OK. Done.


Whenever I touched the 2" dew wrap, it never seemed warm. Is it broken? Again? Or rather, this one too? This is the newest!

Friday, September 14, 2012

clear after the movie

Movie night at the Horvatin Yurt-plex. Grace, Trevor, and Tony invited us over for a flick. Katrina, Fred, Lora, Phil, and I crammed into the bunk beds and floor space. It was warm. And we were out of the rain.

And then, just like last year, as we emerged from the structure, two hours later, blinking in the dark, we saw stars!

rained all day

Rained all day. Grim.

Even if it cleared in the evening, we'd be fighting the moisture...

observing between clouds (Mew Lake)

10:37 PM, Thu 13 Sep 2012. Clouds were rolling in again. But, overall, it looked like it was slowly improving.

Saw a short meteor in Cassiopeia.

With the C8, I started on M13, the great globular cluster. Not a bad view. Tony took a look.

11:24 PM. Viewed υ (upsilon) Andromedae. It is a wide double. By itself, perhaps, not terribly exciting, as pairs go. But it has known exoplanets. I could not see the B star; the C star was easy. Again, I thought, not a great one in a telescope. But υ is bright enough to see naked eye in dark skies...

Bumped into Bob. Such a distinct voice. He was doing his usual demo of the sky. We exchanged greetings. He was well. He took a good look at my 'scope.

Bob shared that he learned the basics of astronomy on a 'scope like mine. Cool.

11:26. In Adam's Dob, with the 31mm and OIII filter, we took in the Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888, Caldwell 27). It was very cool. Big. Extended. I thought it more like a number 3.

11:40. I viewed Almach. In the C8 with the 36mm eyepiece. Beautiful.

Weird, I thought that I must have looked at this pair before... Checked my life list local copy. Learned that I had viewed γ (gamma) And. But, I realised, the reason I did not have it logged in SkyTools was because I wanted to try splitting B and C...

Linda came by. We exchanged greetings.

11:45. I put the 26mm ocular, increasing the power from 55x to 77. Wow. The primary was yellow or gold. The companion? Was it green? Or light blue? Very interesting colours. It is in the RASC handbook in the "Coloured Double Stars" it is noted as orange and blue.

The park ranger and a guest dropped by. I gave them a view of the colourful double. They were impressed. Asked their impressions of the colours. They too thought the primary was yellow or gold. And they also wondered at the colour of the secondary.

We got clouded out. Horizon to horizon. It looked terminal this time. I did a rapid shutdown of the 'scope.

12:20 AM, Fri 14 Sep 2012. Walked back to the camp sites with Katrina. Wished her a good night. It was very quiet and dark at my site. I covered the bicycle and crawled into the Pingo.

12:51 AM. I heard the wind. It had picked up. I wondered if I should take down the tarp. Then a light rain returned again, sprinkling, on and off. Gnawing at my brain.

I covered wagon and bicycle together! And ironically the rain stopped... I retrieved a box or matches from the car...

1:06. Finally lit my candle lantern.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

missed the arrival

Must have been engrossed in my book—read by LED lantern—for I missed the arrival of the Horvatins, both party 1 and party 2.

more rain

I had rejuggled things so everything fit in the wagon, including the batteries, to simplify transport.

I went to beach after sunset. Ominous clouds cluttered the sky.

Then it started to lightly rain. I covered everything up. And headed back to the site. Dove back into my book.

light rain stopped

Stopped raining around dinner time...

Maybe we'd get lucky with some observing tonight...


Good thing I remembered my extension cords. Long orange and long blue. And my power bar. Charged batteries through the day. The netbook. The marine lead acids. Read my library book.

extra night observing (Mew Lake)

7:16 PM, Wed 12 Sep 2012. Had dinner. Open fire steak. So good. Cleaned up camp with the Chows, put the dishes and the food away. No bear adventures wanted this time. Sealed up the tent and closed up the car.

Adam wanted to set up on the beach. Me too. Phil was being wishy-washy. Again. We talked him into it.

This year I had brought my "portable" wagon, the collapsible garden cart. With nice pneumatic tires. To help haul gear to and from the beach. It'd save me driving the loud car, with the loud exhaust, leaky exhaust, in the middle of the night, to and fro. While it consumed a lot of volume in the car, I was anticipating that it'd be very useful given we were a few more spots to the south, compared to last year. After a bit of creative packing, I had everything needed in the astro wagon and was ready to go. I lugged it, along with the the beer cooler battery tank cart, together to the beach. And it proved easier than I thought it would be. It sure helped having the wagon tires pumped up properly.

9:16 PM. I was set up on beach. The table with umbrella were up and ready. I powered the Vixen mount. I powered the Kendrick dew heaters. I fired up the 'scope. I polar aligned roughly, quickly. Polaris was fogged with clouds.

The sky was soft. Clouds lingered in different parts of the sky. Not great conditions. And tonight was supposed to be the "good" night. Still, we were optimistic.

Warm! Took off a layer. How odd... 

Pointed out the location of the Coathanger cluster fellow amateur Randy. He was happy to spot it.

We viewed the Swan Nebula, aka M17 or Omega, in Adam's big Obsession Dobsonian with his 20mm eyepiece. First without (which was still impressive) and then with OIII filter (which was wow). With the oxygen filter in place, the diffuse nebula extended beyond the tail. It was huge. Complex. Fascinating.

I wanted to know the particulars of Adam's telescope. He said it had an 18" mirror and has an f-ratio of 4.5. He couldn't remember the focal length. Phil and I calculated it to be 81". Adam said that sounded right. That meant the view of the Swan was 103x.

Phil forbade me from viewing double stars. He wanted me to take advantage of the dark skies. Point taken. I planned to filter them out of my observing lists. So, I thought, while the viewing was decent, I'd tackle some Messiers.

10:15. I found, using my Celestron 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrain, with some effort, Messier 75. A very small globular. Not surprising, the size, its brightness, at 95 000 light years. The faint blob had been a little difficult to reach.

I couldn't make the star hop from the initial starting point below. I had spotted the little triangle, between Capricornus and Sagittarius, which was made of the stars 60, 59, and 58 Sagittarii. The star to the north-west, 58, is also known as ω (omega) Sgr or Terebellum. What a great name. When I pointed out my starting area, Randy spotted an additional star, 62 Sgr. He thought the grouping looked like a little kite.

A little irked, I switched, instead, to stars above, in Capricornus. Went from α (alpha) (oops, double star), down to β (beta) (oops, double star), to ρ (rho) and π (pi) (oops, both double stars), then σ (sigma) (oops, double star) to land at the small compact fuzzy.

Noted the bright star nearby, NSV 24979. I could make out some granularity in the glob, a peppering of stars.

10:44. Viewed NGC 129. A small cluster in Cassiopeia. Relatively small... It blended into field stars and they filled the field in the lower power eyepiece. The central area seemed to be dominated by a U-shape of stars. I saw the bright star HR 113 nearby. It was nice, the star cluster, with lots of faint blue stars in the area.

I viewed NGC 7789 in Adam's 'scope with the 31mm Tele Vue Nagler ocular (at 66x). An attractive open cluster in Cas.

11:26. Viewed Uranus. At 55x and 222x in the C8. Showed the gang. Randy and Adam hurried back to their 'scopes to find it. I went moon chasing. SkyTools said Titania would be the brightest at magnitude 13.9...

11:50. I thought I saw something to the left of Uranus. Possibly Titania. But the position did not seem to match the software...

11:52. Viewed NGC 604, a star forming region within M33, with Adam's 'scope with the 31mm. That was kinda wild. Seeing nebula in another galaxy, some 2.9 million light years away. Impressive. Adam really liked doing this. He had a detailed chart some multiple targets within the galaxy.

Checking SkyTools more closely, I saw that its Interactive Atlas chart showed at least a half-dozen objects within the canted disk.

Remembering that some said the Triangulum Galaxy was visible to the naked eye in good skies, I tried to spot it. The lads directed me to the correct region. Initially, I was looking too far north-east; they said it was over the α star. I stared. And stared. Others said they could see it but I couldn't. Nope. I just couldn't pick off the Pinwheel. Maybe not fully dark adapted. Vision blurred? Eyes watering from allergies. No, no luck, for me.

What I kept noticing was the blob over β Trianguli. It turned out it was NGC 752 (aka Caldwell 28). Ah. Cool. A naked eye open cluster.

Lora and Phil left the beach.

Noting the time, that it was around midnight, I started half-listening for vehicles along the Highway 60. And then I heard a big V8, eastbound, slow down near the park entrance... Could it be?

12:18 AM, Thu 13 Sep 2012. Adam was packing up. Randy too. Wyngko was imaging.

12:19 AM. My back was sore. I was tired. The allergies were bad. My right eye was watering constantly.

I had forgotten to get my portable weather station out. I felt the wind picking up. The temperature was dropping. It had been surprisingly warm! The amazing part was the lack of moisture. The humidity was very low. While I had run my dew heaters, others had not bothered. Weird.

I thought about other things I had forgotten. My lip balm. The hand warmers. Although, tonight, I had never felt the need. Batteries. The AA and AAA batteries were back at camp. Never used my own laser pointer. Did not start the voice recorder. Forget the tarp and bungees for covering the 'scope...

Katrina arrived the beach. Hello! Welcome! She had made it. We chatted briefly. She answered my questions about the bus. Not having wifi. She wanted to know if I was going to observe more. Yes. I was tired but willing to stay, particularly if she was going to set up. She headed to her site. And was gone a long time...

I tried to locate Neptune. Was pretty sure I landed at it after a long star hop with faint stars. But when I removed the dew shield, so to reduce vibration from the wind, I lost the planet. And my motivation.

1:10. Katrina returned to the beach. Empty handed...She had changed her mind. Was too tired to do a full setup. Instead of coming down to the beach, she was going to observe at her site. No worries. It meant I was off the hook.

Still, I wanted to view a couple more Messiers...

1:15. Viewed Messier 74. Finally. I found it! I hopped via Aries and η (eta) Piscium. I found a very faint, elongated object. I could just make out a sprinkling of stars within.

(This galaxy was on my life list but I had marked it to view again.)

1:24. Viewed M77! A small compact object. 70 million light years... At first I thought it looked like a glob. When I learned the DSO near the head of the sea monster was a galaxy, I looked for structure. Then I wondered if I was maybe seeing tight spiral arms in the small fuzzy. Near an arcing band of stars leading into it. Triples. SAO 130081 and SAO 130073.

(This object was on my life list but I had marked it to view again.)

I noticed a faint fuzzy patch at the edge of the field. When I centred on it, I could just barely see NGC 1055. That was kinda near. Nearby M77, an oval shape, another DSO, a fringe benefit object.

Jupiter was rising above the silhouette of black coniferous.

OK. I was the only one left standing... Interesting. I packed up, quickly.


Saw two meteors, a fraction of a second apart, boom boom, earlier in the evening. That was neat.


Tonight was like a "free" night. Originally, I had not planned to be at the park. So this was like an extra night. But it also had a feeling of fortune, luck, advantage, whatever you want to call it. The weather predictions were looking gloomy for the weekend. That it was to get worse. So, getting some clear skies tonight was a bonus.


Briefly discussed SkyTools with Adam and Randy. Randy was impressed with the 3-panel telescope "fast" star hopping view.


I struggled a bit with SkyTools in the evening. I was not really satisfied with the telescope view. In particularly, the naked eye panel did not seem to show nearly enough stars. Played with a couple of settings. Tried the + key to add more stars or change the sky brightness but that key didn't seem to do anything. Did not change the observer pupil size or the chart star size. The later would have helped...


Katrina had her SynScan Dob running at her camp site. She was viewing objects overhead. And waiting for bright sparkling Jupiter to clear the trees.

found missing signs

We learned that the RASC signboards at the OSC went for a sojourn through the building ending up at Jesse's desk. And as he was out of the office for a few days, they never made it back to the storage area.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

DECam online in Chile

The Dark Energy Camera, with multiple CCD plates, with 570 megapixels, and an unusual sensitivity to red, achieved first light today, as reported by Astronomy magazine.

The telescope perched atop a Chilean mountain will, for the next five years, survey one-eighth of the sky, or 5,000 square degrees, in colour, to discover and measure 300 million galaxies, 100,000 galaxy clusters, and 4,000 supernovae. Trying to find clues for the acceleration...

space for a small telescope

Started unloading the car. Then I remembered, suddenly, I needed to snap a photo.

Here's the passenger seating area...

not listed

Noticed we were not on the list of programmes for the week.

problem returned

Meanwhile, back at the observatory...

Geoff messaged me shortly after my visit.
You're not going to believe this.  I put the base cover back in place, tightened the 5 bolts, and turned it on.

No response

I took the base cover off, jiggled all the connectors.  Still "No response."

But I would not receive the message for days...

reseated jumpers

8:45 AM. A sinking feeling emerged when I looked at the clock in the car. And as I thought about the road signs. And replayed the memory of the SNO trip to Sudbury. It just didn't look right. The exit numbers. Or rather lack thereof. Then I saw the sign for Severn Bridge and realised the scope of my mistake.

I pulled off, fired up the map software. Yep. I totally goofed. I should have continued on Highway 400; in taking Highway 11, I was now on the other side. Too far east now. I planned my route, backtracking now, to Geoff's.

Curiously, I realised, I could use the route I had originally planned for *leaving* his place, via New Brailey Line. It'd put me into his driveway 30 minutes later than I had planned.

It was a nice day. I really didn't have a strict itinerary. So it wouldn't affect my timing. I had to force myself not to stress about it.

And I'd be able to see his property while approaching from the other direction, at least. He greeted me at the door. I apologised for arriving late. He said, "It happens."

After I dug my digital multimeter out from the centre of the car (poor planning there), we walked through the basement to the telescope room. Geoff remarked about "the book," and that he couldn't see it. He had, for the moment forgotten where'd he'd put it. I was still not fully awake—what book?

We exited the house, opposite side, to the deck. The SkyShed POD was open. There stood the CPC 1100 with the centre fascia removed. Flipped (and tensioning the wires). Ready. Ready for inspection.

Geoff had brought his most complete Allen key set out. They lay on the small table with a couple of other items. I grabbed the keys to begin the removal of the plastic from the left arm. With the OTA in place, it was awkward to remove the upper bolts. We discussed leaving them out on reassembly. Geoff already had the small key out for the grub screw for the azimuth knob.

We inspected the new motor control board. Everything looked fine. No chips missing their tops. No scoring. No burn marks. The jumper cables looked fine. Perhaps one (second from the right, top row) was raised a half-millimetre higher than the others. But, in general, all the connections looked good. Still, I wanted to reseat them.

Sequentially, I quickly disconnected and reconnected every jumper on the motor board. Then the connectors on the centre panel.

We connected the power and turned on the main switch.The hand controller showed... normal response. I hit Enter and it prompted for the local time. Yeh! No error codes.

That was easy!

We bolted the panels back on and tried again. All good. I was happy. Geoff was relieved.

"Oh, there's the book!" Underneath the Allen key set lay the NexStar User's Guide by Swanson. I had noted the book as I started working on the mount. I grabbed it and my unused DMM. We chatted a bit and then I was climbing back into the car. On my way. It was around 10. And suddenly, one hour ahead of schedule!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

fall CAO plans settled

Tony said—after hearing remarks from Dietmar, Charles, Steve, Ralph, Phil, Sharmin, and Grace—he felt we had arrived at a plan for the fall work party and public open house. That is to say, that we'd not do a formal open house, this year. It was good to close the loop on this matter. And I think, for many, it was a relief. It seems the volunteers are stretched and need a break.


Where would she have fit?!

When I finished the main packing for the Algonquin trip, I suddenly realised that there was only space in the vehicle for one human. The operator. Me.

Where would I put Katrina?

It was a good thing I had changed my plans to go up early and that she had alternate arrangements for getting there.

Once again, the car was packed. To the gills. To the roof. Hunkered.


A certain someone (astro-spouse) reported that a certain partner (purported astronomer) had wasted a third night under clear skies. Requested I whip them into shape. Will-do!

Katrina bumped up too

I followed up with Katrina. Feeling mildly guilty. Wanted to make sure she had a plan to get to the park. Turned out that she had bumped up her plans too. The weather predictions were showing that Thursday night looked to be best of all the subsequent nights and she wanted to get some quality observing in. So she went back to a plan to catch the Northlander bus, Wednesday, after work.

discussed TPoint with supers

Discussed TPoint with the CAO supervisors after Ralph made some suggestions. I said that I was not convinced my model with 50 points was any better than Dietmar's old one with 22, possibly because it was made before Tim adjusted the slop in the balance knobs. I pointed out that there's talk of routing wires inside the mount which will require tilting the mount thereby causing it to lose polar alignment. I reminded the team how to verify their TheSky6 profile had a TPoint model loaded. And I shared that plans are afoot to make a new TPoint model, ideally with AutoMapper, so to capture hundreds of data points, something recommended by Software Bisque for permanent setups.

requested Gemini

Asked Jesse if I could use the OSC Gemini room again.

things to check

Had more discussion with Blair. Looks like our security camera issue has to do with uPNP and addressing. Something for my next trip up...

Monday, September 10, 2012

got good numbers

Justin did some testing of the CAO internet connection. Down to our router, at the site. So, through the wireless link...

RTT times were "pretty good." Packet loss was very low. Padded packet tests were "pretty solid." And the latency looked fine.

learned how the antenna moved

I asked the CAO supervisors who moved the high gain antenna for the wireless access point in the GBO. Tony said he did it. His argument was good in that it could not simply stand on the north-east table since it is often dropped when there are large groups present. We'll have to find somewhere else for it. I'd still like to see it slightly to the north, to clear up signal problems on the back deck.

as best as we can get

Heard back from Blair about internet service options for the top of the Blue Mountains. He reminded me it is rural. Very rural.

DSL: Not available. Never will be.

Fiber: Not available. Likely never will be. Would be very expensive, if it was. (Curiously, Bell is trenching in fiber up Grey Rd 2.)

T1: Not available at present. Possible option from Bell. A fair bit slower than microwave. Even in a bonded paired configuration. Expensive. Tariffs apply.

Satellite: Available. But slower than microwave. Less capacity.

"Cellular:" Available. Slow and variable. Moderate costs. Rogers system tested.

heard from Jesse

Heard from Jesse. He confirmed he's the right person to talk to for booking space and equipment at the OSC.

joined the AG group

I was admitted to the RASC AG Yahoo!Group.

moving up a day

I was feeling stressed. On many levels. I kept thinking about the weekend in Algonquin. Said to Phil that I wished I could travel up sooner. Of course, he said, why not?

I thought about why not.

Phoned Katrina. Asked her if she still had options for getting to the park. Guy still had a seat, one-way, north-bound, and he was still planning to leave Thursday morning. There was still the train or bus. She told me not to worry about it.

I contacted Geoff. Asked if I could still visit Wednesday morning. It would work for him.

Suddenly, I had moved everything up one day.

made it private

Found the CAO supervisors Yahoo!Group listed publicly. I could have sworn I made it private...

shaping listserv traffic

Asked Dietmar, again, to remind people to reply privately to the Imaging Workshop request...

already in the slot

Sent a note to Kiron to see if he was OK. Hadn't heard anything for a while. He shared that he was busy with a course.

Then he asked if I wanted to ride up to Algonquin with him, on Thursday. A little late, dude. My plans are locked in. Going Thursday morning with Katrina.

submitted usage graph

Sent the finished version of the internet usage chart to the CAO team for their review. I had added various annotations, particularly when something noteworthy was going on at the observatory, during spikes or lulls, a horizontal line showing the "daily" cap, small dark circles showing the new Moon dates.

no splits in the 89 (Toronto)

Did some quick observing on the porch. Did not set up the light barriers... Used a small, fast, 'scope. The A/V table. And a chair from the kitchen.

With the 3½" Questar, I tried for 90 Her and 41 Oph. Without success.

I dropped the netbook on the deck. Fortunately, no damage. Continued to use it for hopping.

12:14 AM. Viewed the double star 15 Aql. Yellow and blue. Widely separated at 40x.

Went for 23 Aql. It was a long hop. But I made it. I had to wait for it to clear the trees... And then I couldn't split it with certainty. The diffraction rings were visible.

12:56. I packed up.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

follow the territory

Denis reported someone tore apart their transmission in a Honda CRV travelling to the CAO... They followed their GPS down the 18th Side Road. Ignoring the posted signs. Ignoring the road condition. Ignoring our directives in the Site Facilities Manual (assuming they even read it).

Denis thinks the local community could do more. Maybe. But unless there's an imposing gate with a lock along a long fence, I suspect you'd still get humans bumbling along somewhere they shouldn't be going.

"The map is not the territory."

eyes and ears

I asked Justin if he might be able to help out with IT matters at the CAO for the coming weekend. I wanted someone on hand who could answer technical questions about our local network and our internet service. And also ask appropriate questions. He said he was planning to go up anyway.

looking away

I'm getting tired. Tired of having to doing this. Tired of being put in this position. I keep having this feeling that I'm being viewed as The Bad Guy. The disturber. The sober one. The grumpy one. I should not be the one to point out that key people are missing from the invitation list. I should not be the one trying to wrangle the signboards for every meeting. Wondering why there's not a brochure. I'm not the one who should be pointing out gross spelling mistakes in public documents. Mistakes in the newsletter. Why are there not handouts at meetings? I shouldn't have to keep following-up with items that are timely and need to be dealt with now even though they are uncomfortable. Are exit letters being sent out? I don't think I should feel that I have to step up 'cause no one else will. I have to look away. Not help. Not correct. Not comment. And it's against, somehow, my nature.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

imaging workshop announced

The invitation to the RASC Toronto Centre Imaging Workshop (to be held at the DDO again) was sent out. I replied immediately.

I was a little disappointed to see that GIMP was dropped from the program; instead they are promoting Photoshop. I wonder if the participants know how much Adobe products cost.


Nicole pointed out the software suggested did not favour Macintosh users...

another cull

Started the fall clean-up of the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. Sent out notices to about a dozen people. Please renew. Or you're outta the pool...

There are a bunch of bouncing accounts I need to deal with as well.

viewing the closest stars

I've been thinking about, for a couple of days now, making a red dwarf list for SkyTools. But it is proving to be somewhat challenging. That's because SkyTools, despite the advanced Database Power Search utility, does not expose the stellar class. You can search by colour, indirectly, using B-V values.

A couple of ST observing lists were assembled by others, lists of "red stars." But these are a mixture of K, M, and carbon stars and not necessarily dwarfs.

As I was researching the B-V index, the current classifications for stars, the HR diagram, I came upon a good list, over at the amazing wikipedia, of course, the List of Nearest Stars. Ah ha! Nicely assembled, colour coded, with good detail.

And I was happy to see that a number of these are within reach. Easily spotted with a medium-aperture telescope...

After I posted a note to the RASC listserv, Eric uploaded to the Files area an Excel document that lists the 250 closest stars.

Friday, September 07, 2012

cross-hairs by any other name

Asked the RASC Toronto Centre which is the correct spelling, reticle or reticule, inviting some lively discussion.

Had people running for their paper dictionaries and testing spelling in their computer software.

But they confirmed what I already suspected. And I shall not use the Americanized [sic] slang.


blogger thinks that reticle is wrong, by the way...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

red dwarves

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre meeting. It was a "speaker's night" with Dr DeRobertis talking about the most common star type in the galaxy... low K and all the M class stars. The deep reds. Of which none are visible naked eye.

I asked a question at the end of the presentation. But not the one I really wanted to ask...

"Do you like vindaloo?"

asked Jesse if he's the one

Asked Jesse if I could book a room at the OSC for the next Stellarium course.

submitted report to Haas

Sent my first report to Ms Haas for review.

room request

Sent a note to Jesse at the OSC. Asked to book a room.

don't touch the knobs

Dietmar said something strange. "I wish there was an easy way to stop people from playing with these [balance knobs on the Paramount]."
  1. Members are not playing with them.
  2. Few of the supervisors are playing with them.
  3. It is likely they loosen or tighten over long periods of time.
  4. It is likely they loosen or tighten with extreme temperature changes.
  5. Improper setting affects pointing. 
  6. There's no way to stop people from touching them.
  7. Therefore, they need to be adjusted on a regular basis.
I suggested he teach the supervisors how to set them. Instead of saying, "Don't ever touch them."

experiment 2

Now, let's try some web page, Javascript, code-diving, trickery. Hover your mouse over the Sun image. The hydrogen-alpha image should appear.

Again, these are both—now—the same scale. Sunspots and other features match up. That said, this gives you a good sense of how we see a different "layer" of the Sun's surface, in the hydrogen emission.

experiment 1

Conducted a wee experiment. Tightly cropped the Hα image and dramatically reduced the scale of the white light image. Now there's the exact same scale. Kinda neat...

Hα, once again.

Full spectrum, again.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

quick corrections made

Processed the weekend solar images, a tad.

Hα again. Cropped.

And white light again. With less blue!

Monday, September 03, 2012

noted the pattern

It is interesting the pattern that is emerging on Haas's double star grid.

 Maybe I'll add a few of my own to corroborate these observations...

TPoint actually OK!

The lads reassembled the C14 with cleaned corrector plate on Sunday afternoon. Tim used the C14 that evening for imaging. In fact, he imaged with the SCT proper, and used the piggybacked refractor for guiding. He had a good session. Everything worked quite well. And he got some good imaging data.

Steve told me, during the drive home, that they noticed the pointing was working great. They hit their targets and they were near the centre of the eyepiece field. And they attributed this to the proper setting of the Paramount balance knobs, which had been found loose. What?!

I was very pleased to hear this. It takes some of the pressure off building an improved TPoint model now. It explains why we were getting good performance on one side of the meridian while poor on the other. It showed that we need to periodically make sure the knobs are adjusted correctly.

charged Jean's van battery

Worked on Jean's van over the weekend. Tried to start it on Saturday. The V8 turned over but would not start. Put my Motomaster intelligent charger on it, switched to engine start mode, and fired her up. Moved the camper van to the preferred parking spot. Checked the fuel level. Then put the charger on a medium charge mode and let it work on the battery for a few hours. Phil and I monitored through the evening and into Sunday. I rebooted the charger and put it into Auto mode. It reported as "FUL" on Monday morning.

Offered to send her a report. And relay the good news that the battery was still OK. She'll be able to drive it away.

shook down the N11 (Blue Mountains)

Staying on another night... The weather was looking decent. Steve wanted to do some more imaging.

Tim took control of the C14 and TV101 for his imaging.

Staying Sunday night meant I could test the NexStar 11 GPS telescope. Fully test it.

I set up on the Observing Pad. Grabbed the tripod from the GBO observatory floor. Moved the large OTA from the shade of the GBO to the Pad. Retrieved more accessories from the JMI case. Couldn't find one of the tripod bolts. Must have wandered within the case. Fetched a large cardboard box for a light shield. Set up the netbook with red film. Fired up SkyTools.

My eyes started watering...

8:16 PM, 2 Sep 2012. Phil said he could see Vega. I booted up the N11. After a pause, the blank LCD display on the hand controller showed the message "No Response" on line one and "16" on line two. WTF?! What happened? It had started up fine (with Steve's lead acid marine battery) after the reassembly. Was a wire loose?

I fiddled with it, remembered (this time) to aim the OTA down, connected the HC to an AUX port, and started it up. Whew. No error code. Reconnected to the standard HC port. Rebooted. No error.

Noticed that it felt damp. There seemed to be some dew forming already. A bit on the carbon fiber tube. I wondered how far I'd get without dew heaters... I grabbed the huge extra dew shield from the GBO. It would work in a pinch.

8:33 PM. Did the alignment process (although I forgot to use the preferred approach). But then I noticed the time was wrong. Huh?! Was the GPS suddenly not working? Tried again. Same issue. Weird. I manually entered the date and time. Finished alignment. Then did compass calibration. Went to Saturn. In the eyepiece! That's what I'm talking about!

It was good to the ringed planet but the seeing was bad. I couldn't see Titan in the Celestron 40mm ocular.

I put the big dew shield on. It kinda of flopped around. But it would help...

Checked the weather information from Environment Canada for Collingwood. Current Conditions... 20°C. Data from 8:00 PM EDT Sunday 2 September 2012. Condition: Not observed. Pressure: 101.7 kPa and falling. Temperature: 19.5°C. Dewpoint: 14.1°C. Humidity: 71%. Wind: WSW 3 km/h. Forecast. Tonight: Clear, 15°C. Mon: Sunny, 30°C. Tue: Chance of showers. Issued : 3:30 PM EDT Sunday 2 September 2012. Tonight: Clear. Low 15. Monday: Sunny. High 30. UV index 7 or high. Monday night: Clear. Increasing cloudiness before morning. Low 18. Tuesday: Cloudy with 40 percent chance of showers. High 26.

I checked our local conditions as gathered by the Davis weather station. Wind 0. Direction NE. 10 minute average wind speed 0. High wind speed 25.7. Outside humidity 81. Barometer 1016.5. Temp 16.2. Dew point 13.0.

8:39. Checked Saturn again. Now I could see Titan.

Went to η (eta) Lyr. It was centred in the 40mm eyepiece! Impressive, the GO-TO function.

And, happily, no issues with slewing.

9:25. I thought I saw jumping in eyepiece. Was there something wrong with the big fork mount?

Tried the Tele Vue 10mm, borrowed from the GBO collection. Nobody was using them tonight...

Noted that I was seeing more stars than what ST3P presented. The model it was using to represent the sky was not correct. I could see more than than when I turned on the "Simulate view from current condition" switch, with the Moon-on-a-blue-sky button. But when I turned it off, then I saw too many stars. I checked the setting for the Carr location. Adjusted the temperature and humidity settings. I tried, in the Advanced tab, changing the sky brightness value from 23.83 but it wouldn't let me. I returned to the Basic tab and changed the magnitude setting from 7.8 to 9. I also changing the seeing option to Good from Average. Very artificial. And still it didn't seem right. I tried changing the location to the Texas Star Party.

9:31. In fact, I thought the seeing conditions to be.. so-so. I would not have said good.

9:51. Tried for 41 Oph again. No joy.

The jumping in the field of view was distracting. In part due to the regular frequency. I turned the tracking off via the hand controller so to concentrate on the target... That helped a little.

10:09. I could see nothing obvious with 90 Her.

Tim and Steve came by. Gave them the quick history of the N11.

I showed Steve M13. It looked pretty good, all things considered.

10:16. Viewed 23 Aql. It was already done but still... I split it in the N11. Saw yellow and orange stars.

10:25. Tim visited me again. He left a USB cable at home. Asked if we had any at the CAO. No... However, I had brought my USB kit with different adapters... Saved his bacon.

10:31. Millie came out for a visit as I was chasing Σ2403 aka HR 7075. With a 1" separation, I was not expecting Millie to see anything.

10:47. I borrowed the 5mm Tele Vue eyepiece. I took me down into the diffraction rings. But no obvious star. Went back to the 18mm. Still no joy.

I heard the azimuth motor making a soft "dup dup dup" sound. Which corresponded to the jump in the eyepiece. There seemed to be too much sticktion in the horizontal axis. I had tightened up the base too much.

11:00. Tried HR 7764 or HJ 5188 again. In the 18mm, I saw A (with B merged in it somewhere), C, and D and E separately. D and E were tight and faint. Once again, I noted HD 193244 to the west and its B component. I also saw J202013.1-290904 to the south of B.

11:08. I marvelled again how this was a great example of brightness challenge with double stars. I could easily split the D and E stars (in iffy seeing and a nearly full Moon) but I could not split A and B.

The wind was picking up. I had to remove the dew shield for it was shaking the 'scope.

11:20. Tried Kui 97 again. No joy. Nothing visible in the 40mm or the 10mm. And it was straight up! Damn.

Did a realign, swapping in a new star. Didn't seem to help.

It was a little off-putting, how my evening was going. No progress per se with Sissy's project. Some frustrations with conditions, seeing, Moon pollution. And troubles with the NexStar. Some my fault. Allergies suddenly acting up. Severely. I needed a change of pace. I switched to the Sky & Telescope summer doubles list... Ah ha. A few left.

11:54. Viewed ρ (rho) Cap. Spotted the A, D, and E stars. No luck with C or B. ST3P said that C was faint and that B was very tight to A.

11:57. Millie dropped by again. I asked her her impression of the seeing. "It's bad tonight," she replied. Indeed.

The humidity had eased off.

12:04 AM, 3 Sep 2012. Viewed 12 Aqr. Saw a yellow and orange, tight pair.

Elaine, Tony, Phil, and Steve visited. I offered to show Uranus but then decided against it. It was too close to the Moon and the sky was completely washed out.

12:24 AM. Instead, we viewed Neptune. The telescope GO TO was off a bit so I had to manually hop to it. Everyone enjoyed seeing the pale blue disc. I tried to spot Triton but there was no joy. Curiously, I could see star GSC 05806-0799 nearby. SkyTools said it was a mag 13.01 star (but that was based on poor data).

12:50. Jupiter was well up.

Millie asked if I was going to leave the N11 outside. She said I could use her telescope blanket since she wouldn't need it. I accepted. It would make my shutdown at the end of the session quicker...

I switched to the RASC colourful doubles list. Needed some excitement! And wide doubles...

1:04. Viewed 94 Aqr. The primary was yellow. The secondary... I stared for a long time. Was it blue? Or green? Perhaps a dark green? It was weird! It was very hard to peg the colour. I knew there could not be such a thing as a green star but still, that was the impression. The pair was easy split at low power. So it wasn't an easy of the primary's colour blending... Very interesting.

1:12. Assigned a new alignment star, again. But the GO TO targets were still out of the field.

Visited ψ1 (psi) Aqr. Yellow and blue, I thought. Another wide pair.

1:24. Next up: 57 Peg. Orange and green? The secondary was very faint.

That was fun... A good way to end the evening.

Checked the local conditions again. Wind 10 min avg 12.9. SE. Current speed 14.5. Hum 74. Baro 1016.4. Temp 17.4. Wind chill 16.9. Dew 12.8.

I was a little tired. Could have continued. But tomorrow was departure day. And I recalled that Steve wanted to get away early. That said, I was frustrated with my allergic reaction to something in the air. Which the wind was picking up. I was feeling conflicted about the NexStar. It was working well overall and I had not broken it. But it cleared still needed some lovin'. A big problem though was gone. I tried almost all the slew rates and did not see any stalling. All right. That meant the clutches were not slipping. I'd just have to easy back the centre bearing fasteners a bit...


Looked a few times but did not see any aurora borealis tonight, despite alerts from CalSky.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

beeping again

Heard the camera security system beeping again. Dietmar asked what it was. I said it was the "loss of signal" warning. Which is strange. There's nothing actually wrong...

light pollution to the east (Blue Mountains)

Moon rise.


he liked the power talk

Tony said he enjoyed my talk on powering astro-gear. Thanks!

hammered roof drive

The GBO roof drive acted up again. It didn't resume normally operation until I hit it with a hammer.

ready for testing

Finished the reassembly of the NexStar 11, thanks to help from Tim and Steve and Phil. Completed except for some fascia pieces.

Steve offered up his marine battery which I fetched the JMI case (with power cable and hand controller) from basement. Hooked everything up. Turned it on. The HC lit up! It wanted to aligned. WHEW! I had not screwed up the mount! Ran it through the GPS step. It acquired the date, time, and location. WHEW! I had not broken the GPS parts. Went through the alignment process. The 'scope moved left, right, up, and down. WHEW! I had not goofed up on the motors. They did not sound strained... I was very relieved.

Lora sent a shot entitled "Lego for big boys." Indeed. And all that Meccano experience...

Ready for her test drive... Cooling off in the shade of the Geoff Brown Observatory.

viewed Sun again (Blue Mountains)

Did some more solar observing. Once again, incredible prominences, in Hα, were enjoyed. Absolutely huge structures...

telescope repair day

Tim, and his team, worked on the C14. He wanted to inspect the HyperStar, and adjust, if necessary. That would require removing the corrector. Which was pretty dirty. And then the collimation could be corrected. As much as I wanted to help, I needed to stay on my game: the NexStar repair...

mug war ends

Lora defused the impending feud.


we gave up

10:55 PM, 1 Sep 2012. We kept checking the skies. Rippling cloud bands persisted.

11:59 PM. Checked again. Still clouded out. Weird. It was not showing on the satellite imagery...

1:05 AM, 2 Sep 2012. We gave up. We closed the GBO. Turned on the dehumidifier and turned off the lights.

OITH covers double stars

Phil let me have a gander at his Objects in the Heavens book. I really like the format of this atlas, with targets on one side, and a small chart opposite. But I did not recall if double stars were well covered by the author. Looked closely at the OITH book over a couple of nights.

And found that in fact that it covers all the deep sky objects well, including multi-star systems.

This, and other samples, are available from the author's web site...

Saturday, September 01, 2012

installed astro imaging apps

Downloaded and installed a few of the popular apps for astrophotography handling onto the living room computer. GIMP for general image processing. DeepSkyStacker for... well, the obvious thing. And Registax for stacking planetary images. Steve took a copy of GIMP so to ramp up. This, for the next imaging workshop.

tested camera system

Tested the security system. Verified the cameras were working. Capturing data. And that I could access it through the LAN. And that the port numbers were correct. It looks like everything is working well.

accolade from Dietmar

Dietmar viewed my solar images shortly after I posted them, using his iPad. He liked them. Thanks!

shared solar photos

Ralph sent out a note on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group about the incredible prominences on the Sun today. He had shot some photos and uploaded one to the Photos area of the group.

I remarked that we, at the CAO, had really enjoyed the show by our star. And that I had shot some photos too.

Manuel jumped in, right away. "Post them." Okie dokey!

Saturn and some doubles (Blue Mountains)

8:28 PM. Started observing early.

Viewed Saturn and Titan in the C14 and TV101. Very nice views. Good detail at the beginning before it got too contrasty. The equatorial belt was very bright. Hints of the Cassini division. Elaine and Tony liked the view.

Was willing to give up the big 'scope to Tim. But he hung with the imagers to see what they were doing. And spent some time helping Elaine and Tony with their setup and learnin'.

This meant I could try for some of the "early" targets suggested by SkyTools...

8:49 PM. Viewed Σ1881 (Struve) aka HD 130256. It was easily split in the C14 with the 27mm at 145x. I felt the stars were white and orange.

9:06. It was already dewy... Oh oh.

9:14. Millie and I were discussing the ability to see tight doubles. She remarked, again, she could not split pairs tighter than the Double Double in Lyra. That meant 2 seconds of arc was about her personal limit. I decided to view η (eta) Lyrae so to compare or check.

The seeing seemed very bad. And I wondered if the big black Celestron tube was still hot from the daytime use.

9:27. Tried to dump out some heat. I removed the mirror diagonal and tried the 'scope nose down. Tim suggested removing the HyperStar. Huh? We have a HyperStar?! I didn't know that. It would obviously be fast at dumping the warm air. But I was a little nervous about that. Rather do it in the daytime...

Looked at the Double Double at 391x (with the 10mm) and then 217x (in the 18mm).

Millie still did not want to adjust the collimation of her Ritchey-Cretien.

I remember the bees nest on the generator shed. I fetched a flashlight, some work gloves, and a thin stick. Pried the nest from the louver and punted it into the yard. Returned to the GBO.

9:48. Slewed to 65 UMa. Haas was suggesting we rate the A and C stars. I saw the very faint C companion. It was at a 90° angle to the nearby bright star. Turned out that was the D star. Ooh, neat, a quad system.

An interesting system, despite the mushy view.

10:02. Tried to split Σ2303 aka HD 168459 in Ser. Could not do it. I wondered if the pair was very tight but ST3P said they were 1.6" apart...

10:11. Tried θ (theta) CrB again.Could not split it in the TV101 or C14. Even at 391x. No joy.

10:20. Tried to break apart 41 Oph. No joy at 145x or 217x. The seeing was going away. We saw clouds rolling in.

10:23. We checked the ADDS web site. The clouds looked temporary. We retreated to the house.

hey, it is kinda blue

Allard sent me a link to the Astronomy Photo of the Day. Funny guy...

cleaned parts

Spent much of the afternoon cleaning the old sticky thick grease from the NexStar 11" GPS telescope parts. Used kerosene, some rags, elbow grease, and old toothbrushes.

The clean azimuth clutch is on the left; altitude, dirty, on the right. Doesn't look like the same metal...

sketched the Sun (Blue Mountains)

Sketched, quickly, the Sun through the big Oberwerk binoculars.

That centre sunspot was huge!

Saturday solar imaging (Blue Mountains)

Steve set up the Tele Vue refractor and Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain for solar observing. The Sun was spectacular.

I also set up the Oberwerk binoculars with the custom filter I had made for the eclipse and ToV. Offered a wonderful view.

Huge prominences circled the Sun in hydrogen-alpha. Everywhere you looked! Large ones; flat ones. Filaments in the foreground. Small and large sunspots were everywhere on the surface in full spectrum, white light. Huge one in the centre was 1560; big one near the bottom-right was 1553. Many plages visible. Busy Sun today!

Phil loaned me his clear 2" nose piece with special EOS ring. I bolted up the Canon 40D and started snapping away. Steve gave lots of tips. Manually focused. Both of the unprocessed shots below were at  ISO 100 with daylight white balance.

Hα image, Tele Vue 101mm, Coronado Solar Max filters, 1/20 second.

White light image, Celestron 14", throttled lens cap with baader planetarium film, 1/25 second.

Once again I found focusing a challenge... Amazed that I got close in this images...

made a graph

Captured the internet usage numbers for the CAO. Made a chart with Open Office Calc. Reviewed briefly with Dietmar and crew.

We wondered about a couple of the mid-week spikes. I need to do a little research...

change billing address

Asked Bruce St Tech if they'd send the CAO WISP invoices to the treasurer and copy me. Speed up the process. And make for some redundancy.

sweet victory

Just not the same in another mug...


secured a coffee mug

Nice morning. Enjoying my coffee. Yummy yummy coffee.

In a lovely mug. Mine!

doubles for Sissy; a Messier for me (Blue Mountains)

It was interesting. The Dell laptop computer, normally used to control the telescopes, was not in the warm room despite members being at the CAO for a couple of nights already. Everyone had their own gear. Or was imaging. That meant I could use the GBO telescopes!

I settled into the Geoff Brown Observatory. Put on the "light" shields on the telescopes. In short order, I had the Tele Vue 101mm and the Celestron 14", atop the Paramount, ready to go. I had the ASUS netbook connected to the Paramount. SkyTools 3 Professional ready to drive the mount.  Steve was still setting up.

I was planning to do some more double star research for Sissy Haas's project.

9:26 PM, 31 August 2012. I went to Izar to kick things off. Steve had a look. Millie could split it in the big telescope, the C14. I did not think the 2.9 arc second separation easy with the Tele Vue 55mm plössl eyepiece, at 71 power. However, it was obvious with the 27mm, the TV Panoptic, at 145x. Millie slewed to it with her 8" RC, a T4 by GSO.

There were a lot of crickets chirping.

9:38 PM. I viewed Izar, aka ε (epsilon) Boötis, in Millie's 1625mm focal length 'scope, with her Meade 14mm ocular, at 116x. Then I examined it in the TV101 with the Tele Vue Radian 5mm. An easy split. Of course.

9:46. Took at look with Steve's Tele Vue Ethos 13mm in the RC 8. Good. But it only emphasised that the RC collimation was off a little...

10:02. Prepared to start hammering away at the double star list by Sissy. I sorted the list in ST3P by the optimum viewing time. But, quickly, we realised that we already too late for some targets. Gave up on Σ1881 (Struve) in Virgo. And the double stars in Canes Venatici. Bypassed δ (delta) Serpentis and decided to skip 65 Ursae Majoris. Too low, too murky. Tomorrow night, if I started early, I could maybe get them...

10:03. Viewed θ (theta) Coronae Borealis in the TV101 with the 5mm and the C14 with the 27mm. Found a bright blue-white star. But could not split... Checked the lists. Oooh. That's why... The separation is 0.8". Yikes. Way below Millie's limit (2-ish) and near my career limit (0.48). We tried different eyepieces. The Ethos in the C14 and Millie's 4.7mm Meade in the TV101. No luck.

10:31. Considered 36 And but found it mushy. Needed to be higher. Decided to wait an hour for it. Headed over to DL Draconis aka Σ1878.

10:33. Cool! In the C14 at 145x, I saw yellow and orange stars, widely split, but very different magnitudes. Millie thought the secondary is red! OK, maybe deep orange. Steve thought we were crazy. He could not see any colour. Whatever. It is a very nice double star.

I suggested to Millie that we could collimate her telescope. Steve agreed it was off.

10:57. Split Σ2054 or HR 6130 in Draco with the C14 and 27mm. Identical colours, a light gold. Similar magnitudes. ST3 said they were about 1 mag different. It was an easier split with Tele Vue Radian 18mm.

Dietmar, imaging run in progress, popped into the GBO to see what was going on. I asked what was involved in collimating an RC 'scope. He briefly explained the process and said he had the tools to make it easy. Asked if we could help Millie with it and received his blessing. But Millie was luke warm...

11:24. Viewed Σ2403 aka HR 7075. Also in Dra. I was not sure. I was not confident I was splitting the tight double...

11:32. Wow. Viewed Σ2958 aka HR 8724 in Peg. Steve said it was easy in the 5mm in the TV101. I thought the wide pair quite nice in the C14 with the 55mm! Orange or red was the secondary. Bumped to the 27mm. Lovely.

I checked the local weather conditions via our Davis Vantage console. There was no wind. The humidity was at 81% but, happily, no water was forming in the observatory. The air temperature was 16.7°C with a dewpoint of 13.4. The barometer was 1015.2 bars.

12:00 AM, 1 September 2012. I could not see the B star with the C14 of HJ 5188 or HR 7764. The target in Sagittarius was nevertheless interesting with multiple stars. I could see the C star along with D and E. It was fascinating. D and E were the same separation as A and B. Also D and E were the same brightness as B. And yet I could not see B, near the bright A star. Another hint or clue was that B was in direction of D and E. Didn't help. I still could not see B.

We took a break retiring to the kitchen for snacks and beverages... And jujubes.

12:44 AM. Returned to the GBO.

12:46. I split Σ389 in Camelopardalis. Aka HR 1043. The primary was white; the secondary, orangey. It was a tight pair even at 145x in the C14.

12:54. In the TV101 with the 5mm, i.e. at 108x, I was able to split the pair. But when I switched to the 10mm, dropping to 54x, I could not.

1:02. Got it! Looked again. Confirmed! I could see the white and orange stars, tight, in the C14 with the 27mm, of HU 544 in in Perseus. Also known as V572. A nice challenge. The position angle of the pair was in-line with the bright star HR 969.

1:22. I could not split γ (gamma) Equulei. Another tight pair with very different magnitudes. As I updated the matrix provided by Sissy, I saw a pattern emerging. I was not meeting with much success at targets at the top-right of the table. Interesting...

It was time to switch gears...

1:32. I viewed Messier 34. For some reason it was not completed on my life list. Used 10mm ocular in TV101 to frame it nicely... The centre portion of the open cluster reminded me of a flower, a tulip on the stem.

Hey! Guess who's at opposition?!

1:43. Viewed Neptune. Really wanted to see a moon or two. Alas, I could not see Triton. The C14 should ordinarily be able to spot 14.5 mag objects. But not with such a nasty bright overbearing Luna...

1:52 (approximate time). Saw, while walking to the house, a very bright satellite. Initially it was the same brightness as Jupiter. Moving slowing north, just below Mirfak. Called out to Steve. He saw it too. He looked it up but could not find any data on it...

2:03. Finally landed on Uranus. It was way off target in the big 'scopes. I think that I spotted Oberon, about 10 planet-widths away.

2:16. Viewed Jupiter. Could see cloud bands and colour.

The seeing was better in the east.


I thought we tried for "Met 60" as well. But I did not keep good notes...