Wednesday, October 31, 2012

pitched new owners workshop

Pitched council on the "new owners telescope" workshop idea. Which was ultimately Paul's idea; but I was prepared to organise and run it. Made a rough sketch of what might happen. Suggested a time frame. Asked a few questions. And, finally, asked who would be willing to help. Then, started reaching out to some of the active volunteers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

cancelled the Stellarium date

Sent a note to Jesse. Said that I would have to retract the OSC room request. Unfortunately, there was not enough time now to properly promote it.

why astronomy

Sometimes I wonder about astronomy. Who does it benefit? What is the point?

I found some intriguing words...

"Astronomy has been with us forever and we still have so much more to go," said [Jose Maza, a University of Chile astronomy professor.] "If we hadn't asked ourselves so many questions by looking at the stars we would still be ... hunting buffalos. At the end, all of man's development comes from the act of leaving the stones aside and looking upward at the twinkling stars and asking, 'Why?'"

found handbook in mailbox

Observer's Handbook 2013 arrived. It's huge! 352 pages long.

Lots to read this time 'round...

Update: the number of pages is not really different; it is bigger, or thicker, due to paper type.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

watched CRS-1 return

The Dragon backed away from the International Space Station. Beginning the end of the first official commercial mission, CRS-1.

I was a little surprised there wasn't coverage at NASA. I asked Katrina where she was tuning in. The same sources as me, it turned out. and

Saturday, October 27, 2012

helped with address change

Helped Frank, a RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group member, with his email address change.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

multiply by ten

The VISTA survey team over at ESO has created a new stellar catalog that has over 84 million stars. Just in the central part of the Milky Way galaxy. This represents an order of magnitude increase over previous studies.

If you're inclined, you can "go deep" by viewing the 9 gigapixel (yes, gigapixel) image...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

attended council meeting

Attended the Toronto Centre Council meeting tonight with Dietmar, Kiron, and Tony. Started off with a presentation by Star Spot. Not a peep about the early transgressions. I guess everyone considers that water under the bridge. Once again very long meeting. But the most dramatic I've seen ever. It was like watching a reality TV episode!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Albireo photo remarks

Received excellent feedback and criticism on the Albireo photo.

Manuel: Great Shot man. Love it! Very nice glow on the stars.

Phil: Nice first image. You did what I did on my recent M13 shot, which is to over-expose the subject. To be honest, I don't know how the experts do it, but I suspect they check the first image to evaluate the exposure setting before taking more light frames. I hope you had fun taking this image, because I was quite tickled with my first image. It can become addictive. Your image shows so clearly the differences in star colours. I don't think I've ever seen Albireo with such colour contrast before. Well done!

Steve, part 1: This is pretty good. Colours are there. It's very easy to lose colours on bright stars as there very easy to overexpose on all three channels and thus turn colours white. Can you pull back the exposure a bit or are the cores of the stars basically white. The mount tracked quite well but you can see it's not perfect.  The stars are a little bit bean shaped. Pretty impressive for 140" focal length, unguided! The noise is well controlled without making the sky artificially black. Not sure about focus but a big SCT isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to image quality. How did you focus?

Steve, part 2: A fun way to play with blue and yellow saturation is to convert your image to Lab colour. (With some steps noted.)

Dietmar: A good start. The colours are clearly visible. If you are going to do double stars and colour you may want to reduce the exposure time depending on the magnitude of the stars, that would solve the excessive flair and halos and get you rounder stars because the integration time is less. Never the less your experiment was successful.

Dietmar then analysed the image with his CCD Inspector software. It answered my question, wherein I noted the stars at the bottom-left of the field looked poor, deformed, while the top-left of the image was OK.

Diemtar: This could be due to a number of items, [such as] your camera sagging in the focuser or less than perfect alignment of the optics.

CAO report received

Received Bailey's first draft of the CAO work party report. It was great. A good write-up with fun photos. I started my review. And readied a copy to send to Tony.

proposed mobile solution

Sent a note to Council saying that if we could find a "cellular stick" then we could set up an internet-ready workstation at a table or booth at future RASC public events, say a star party, or at the DDO. We could sign up interested parties immediately. Easy to do.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

reviewed strategy list

Reviewed the membership of the strategy Yahoo!Group with the crew. I pointed out a bunch of people on it currently that did not seem to be involved or active. And there were a number of new people missing. Ralph said he'd make adjustments.

on asset tagging

Some serious discussion began after the CAO work party weekend to better management the RASC TC inventory, at all its various locations. Scott proposed getting a dedicated computer for it. Paul and Charles offered bar code scanners. We all agreed that an asset tag system would be appropriate.

I offered that I could easily build a custom database in Access for us. I wanted to know Tom's thoughts on all this, as he had begun to wade into these murky waters. I feel he's rather computer savvy but I'd like his support.

At the strategy conference, Charles gave me his scanner from the Online Store Who Shall Not Be Named. After staring blankly at the strange documentation, I got it working. Charles, Scott, and I discussed bar code types, size, and stickers.

staying horizontal

Manuel invited me over for some solar observing and imaging. I told him I was laid up. Having a lot of back pain.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

helped at the DDO

Helped at the DDO star party. We were clouded out, unfortunately. Initially, for the first talk, I hung out at the end of the hall, directed people into the lecture room. Later, I manned the orange SCT 'scope in the foyer of the dome. Answered questions for the two groups.

My back was killin' me at the end. Standing for a couple of hours, on a stone floor...

another strategic meeting

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre strategic conference. Rode up with Kiron. We were a smidge late. Jason led the charge, with some support from Allard. John did a thorough analyses of the membership numbers, which I thought very good. As we wound done, I was starting to feel a little anxious. Where were the action items? Sharmin said she'd help with a welcome deck. Yeh! I'd get behind that. Paul raised the "so you got a new telescope" idea again. Which, once again, struck a cord. And I made a note...

Chatted with Rajesh about the new mower.

My back protested at the end of the meeting. Uncomfortable chair.

Sissy shared links

Sissy shared (after a couple of attempts) some links with her double star team.

Bill made a site that shows the data reported so far on each pair.

Normand also built a site (rather, a wiki). But we never got the link from her... correctly... Found it on Bill's site.

Friday, October 19, 2012

SkyNews paper change

Received the SkyNews magazine, the Nov/Dec 2012 issue. Last one for the year...

Different. Not a high gloss cover. Different paper? Different ink? New process? All of the above? Regardless, I think it works.

(Although, the layout is still poor.)

In a plastic bag too. Probably for all the fall-outs (3 so far)...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

a NOVA query via FB

We received a query, via Facebook, for the NOVA course. Someone wanted to know if they could attend. Both Leslie and I responded to Katrina's note. Leslie pointed out that the course was already 50% complete. Still, there was room... Cool, that we're already getting some hits this way.

helped James with SkyTools

Encouraged James to try some things in SkyTools.

He was saying, on the SkyTools Yahoo!Group, that he wanted to software to show what was visible right now. And that he wanted the candidates sorted in order of magnitude.

I told him that this was my favourite part of the software. That once the date, time, and location were set, I used the Above Horizon Only or Above 2X (airmass) Only filter along with the Twilight/Moonlight filter to eliminate objects. And if I wanted using the Real Time, I used the start and end time filters in the Night Bar.

As an example, I pointed out that with the Messier list, instead of seeing all 110 listed, I saw 15. Perfect.

the solar light problem

From the CAO I brought home a few of the tops (with all the electronics) of the solar lights. The ones I hacked with red LEDs. They've been performing poorly of late. I occasionally recharged the batteries but it didn't seem to help. Tony remarked on them and suggested possible replacement. I wanted to investigate the problem.

There are two styles of tops. Probably a first then second generation. For sake of discussion, I call one the "plastic top;" the other the "glass top." This refers to the covering on the solar panel proper.

We've seen, the plastic top units fogging and pitting.

I took one of these apart today. I was curious to see if the solar panel could be separated or cleaved. That is, could the plastic be removed from the solar panel silicon chip layer proper. This does not appear to be possible. I was hoping I could split them, that the silicon and wiring would still work, and I could put a new top over the silicon. Perhaps glass.

While I was able to remove entire panel from the top, I did not see a way to split it. But, being able to remove the entire panel easily might offer a refurbishment path that's not too expensive. It would be easy to swap a new for an old (if the correct size).

The plastic top solar panel is marked sl54x54-125 on the back. The panel is 54mm square. Once removed, I could see the copper contacts on the back. Out of curiosity, I did some continuity and voltage checks. Under my halogen desk lamp at low power, the panel puts out good volts! I was surprised. With the light close, the panel kicks out more than 2 volts! That's still plenty to charge the AA cell.

The upshot of this brief analyses is that I wonder if we still have a season or two out of these lights...

I started a test charge.

The glass top type I did not open up.

I wonder if I just need to do a thorough clean. Take 'em apart. Remove debris. Clean battery contacts.

Siliconing the seams around the solar panel will be good to do, to reduce water entering the top and getting into the electronics and the battery compartment. I've seen some take a lot of water and the battery terminals rusting.

Over the winter, I'll recondition the Ni-Cd batteries as best as possible. They're probably developing memory effects. Probably some of these batteries are tired.

I never dated the batteries. Never considered that. I'll start doing that now. That will make it easier, in the future, to replace them.

Also, I found more solar light parts in my garage. Happily, some are compatible with the design we have.

The overall design we're using seems to have been discontinued. Can't get these at Canadian Tire anymore. I've looked on eBay. Someone's offering a box o' 10 for $100. Crazy price. I don't know if we might want to pursue, for spare parts. I don't know which generation of top this is.

I'll try, next spring, to look closely at the new models offered, to see if any parts are still the same. While the exteriors may be different, the guts might be the same.

The more immediate problem we have is that the plastic "lens", below the top, is fragile. We've broken and lost many. We only have a few left. While we have many shafts and other bits.

At some point we might have to switch to a different design.

did quick plan

The Sky This Month presentation was cancelled. Still, I thought members might want some information for upcoming events. I made a quick-and-dirty list and uploaded it to the RASC TC web site.

Covers mid-October to mid-November. 


Link killed. Look on the lumpy darkness companion site's presentations page.

splitting math

There was some discussion on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group listserv about double stars and being able to resolve them. Or not. I shared some math...

There's a formula often used to calculate telescope resolution:

resolution = 4.56 / aperture

resolution = seconds of arc
aperture = inches

According to SkyTools 3 Professional, with double star data as of August this year, the epsilon Lyrae pairs are at the following Position Angles and Separation. I've also including the preliminary orbit Period, which is kinda cool...

AB: PA 347°; Sep 2.50"; P=1165.6 yr
CD: PA 77°; Sep 2.38"; P=724.3 yr

So, now, let's we work it backwards:

aperture = 4.56 / resolution

If I'm doing my math right, you need this much minimum aperture, in inches, to split the pairs...

AB    1.8
CD    1.9

Or for you Metric heads, in mm.

AB    46
CD    49

[ed: I.e. a 2-inch or 50 mm telescope. That's also in the range of large binoculars...]

And now, the disclaimer. YMMV. Your mileage may vary.

I often view the Double Double aka Tim Horton "star" in my 8" SCT at around 110x. Easy to split, usually, with decent conditions. And, at times, with poor conditions, one of the pair cannot be cleanly split, despite the aperture and/or power.

But occasionally I look through other instruments. In particular, while at Mew Lake in 2011, through Adam's Tele Vue 85 apo refractor doublet (600mm focal length, f/7), we viewed epsilon Lyr at 100x or so. We were able to just split the tight pairs. Nice view.

Finally. One other "magic number" to consider. According to Sky and Telescope, "Doubles look their best at a magnification that is approximately 750 divided by the separation in arcseconds."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

planet 4.4ly away

Wow. The newly discovered planet, about the size of the Earth, around Alpha Centauri B is... extremely interesting!

It was discovered using the ESO HARPS instrument which measures radial velocity. Image from the ESO web site. See the annotated version to spot our Sun, in the distance.

Risa charges into imaging

Risa shared a link to her new astronomy blog, Imaging Saturn. She talked of her excitement learning how to operate a modern amateur telescope and its go-to mount as she boldly moves toward planetary astroimaging.

room request approved

Jesse sent a note saying that my comp booking in one of the Gemini rooms had been approved for November 7.

Monday, October 15, 2012

received stats file

When I learned that Ian was heading to the CAO, I asked if he would help me out. The internet usage stats I had collected on the weekend, and saved in a spreadsheet on the computer Kali, I had forgotten to copy. He sent down the file.

With this I'll be able to update the usage graph and do some further analyses.

Update: Found an unusual spike in the CAO internet traffic on September 21. The weird thing is that no one was there. And no one really knows what might have caused it...

hatched an idea

With the CAO committee, I shared my idea (and photos) to resolve our Stack-On lock challenge. Ian, like me, thought it should be easy. Chas thought it scathingly brilliant. Tony gave a big thumbs up!

attempt at Albireo (Blue Mountains)

Stacked and processed the data from the Albireo imaging run last weekend.

Made a special page on the companion site. With the full resolution image. The page also includes all the technical details.

While I really like the overall feel, and the colour captured, I don't like how bloated the main stars appear...


Wikipedia link: Albireo.

he's back in

Helped Dietmar with the CAO camera system access. Initially he reported it not working. But we found he had some port numbers flipped. He was very happy to be back in.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

shared materials

Sent an URL to Katrina for the CAO telescope materials and documentation. Also promised her my quick reference guide for TheSky6. Also had to relay the bad news: TS6 was not available for the Mac OS.

Update: sent over the quick reference "card" I made in Open Office.

post removed

The Facebook team had to take down a post from our site after a complaint from a member. Wow. That was fast. And wow. That was fast.

helped at the fall work party

Helped at the fall work party at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

Started by printing the job jar list, for Dietmar, during this pep talk.

Purchased the angle brackets and fasteners so to repair the trailer. Provided these to Dietmar.

Put the big boxes of baking soda, purchased by Lora, in the garage and the basement. For lead acid battery spill clean-up, heaven forbid.

Helped removed the old living room sofa with Phil, Dietmar, and Trevor. Moved the "new" one indoors.

With Steve, Bailey, and Ralph, installed the storm windows. After Bailey and Ralph cleaned the inside windows.

Winterised the generator. Showed Bailey, Phil, and Steve the process. Bailey connected the timer and the battery blanket to the mains. We energised the circuit. Phil checked it later and buttoned everything up. I oiled the exterior lock.

Moved the picnic tables, save one, to under the deck with Steve, Ralph, and Trevor.

Checked the propane tank level with Bailey and Steve.

Installed the glass window in the utility closet door of the GBO with Bailey and Steve's help. The silicone at the top edge didn't work so it will need a slight dab. The clear silicone in the GBO observatory floor door worked well, however. No more rattle.

Did more investigative work for the bathroom grab bars. Took detailed measurements for Tony.

Helped a little with garage activities. Helped with a couple of uprights. Was involved in the discussion of lockers placement and size. Checked and reseated the plug on the security camera. Helped move and haul a couple of the DFM telescope pieces.

Received the measurements for the gap under the stairs from Bailey and Steve. Added a sketch for clarification.

Cut the balance of the lawn after Trevor did a bunch. It started to lightly rain and hail as I worked on the back lawn. Cleaned the mower.

Helped take the pergola tarp down. Coiled the rope and put in house to dry.


Helped Tom with the inventory. Particularly the astronomical equipment. Promised to send data, when back home, from my various notes, files, and spreadsheets. As well as needed photos.


Received the tools, supplies, and fasteners inventory file from Kiron.


I had asked Bailey to be our intrepid reporter for the event. She shot photos and made notes. I offered to support her after the event in writing her first report for the SCOPE newsletter and web site. Promised to scan the completed "job jar" list (which someone had put hearts all over).


The team did an amazing job in the garage. Completely emptied it to itemise and discard things, build new shelves, properly store supplies and parts, and clean. Fantastic. It looked new, when they finished! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

she enjoyed her visit

Celine sent a nice note to Charles and Ralph on her Friday night CAO visit. She even offered to distribute material for us.

couple doubles (Blue Mountains)

Tried tackling a couple of Sissy's double stars.

11:16 PM, 12 October 2012. Could not split HR 7843.

11:36 PM. Could not split HR 7075. Even at 180x in the TV 101.

11:54. Viewed DO Cep. Light orange.

12:10 AM, 13 October 2012. Viewed Groombridge 34. Orange.

Ralph took some looks.

Viewed Jupiter in Steve's Dob.

Clouds rolled in.

Friday, October 12, 2012

a good quiet run (Blue Mountains)

Completed my imaging run. My first official DSLR prime focus imaging run. And it went pretty well, all things considered. No major gremlins. Despite not really having a plan...

The clear blue skies of the afternoon looked promising as I considered trying for my first double star image. I moved the Canon kit and my Dell laptop to the GBO warm room. Borrowed (again) Dietmar's Canon-bayonet 2"-eyepiece-shaft adapter. Later I bolted up the 40D to the 14" SCT.

I needed some help when my first attempts caused the on-board flash to fired. Steve set me straight. While there, I verified with Steve and Phil that the RAW + formats saved two images. I set to RAW only. And shot a bunch of test images.

Focused, initially, by hand, monitoring the image on the laptop. Then tuned with the TCF (which worked fine for me!). 

Looked like I wasn't getting drifting in 45 second exposures. Went to 60 seconds, so I could keep the ISO level down.

Used EOS Utility for the custom white balance and the imaging run. I programmed it to capture 30 light frames. And walked away...

Celine, a local teacher visiting, arrived part-way through my data acquisition run. I felt a little bad that I was hogging the big 'scope. Let her have a look through the refractor. Of course, she grabbed the eyepiece. But I wasn't really worried. I knew it might muck up a sub or two.

Later I captured the 30 darks.

It was cool. Satisfying. Hard to describe. I'm not finding the right words. But I was, perhaps, surprised, at my comfort level. That is, I did my set-up without muss or fuss, without forehead slapping, calmly, quietly. And yet was confident, without feeling cocky, that it was going to work out. I think, looking back, it was partly because I knew I was surrounded by good people. That if I had gotten really stuck, I would have been able to rely on then. The generous RASC members. So, no need to be anxious. Still, I was glad that, except for the flash mishap, I didn't have to pester them. And that meant I had reached, I guess, a milestone: I was comfortable and familiar enough with the process to not need hand-holding. I could fly away from the nest.

I was excited to see what I'd get.

I resolved to shoot the flats Saturday during the day. In the daylight.


Go-to targeting was way off! Probably due to the weird sequence in starting up.


Update: image processed and uploaded.


Edited for typos.

so long sofa

We retired the old couch from the CAO living room.

One last hurrah...

resolved camera system issue

Success. With help from Blair and Justin, I was able to get the CAO security camera system fully functional. That is a big relief.

Funny. The sound of an old dial-up modem...

first to arrive

Kiron and I travelled to the CAO. The plan was to get there early. Or, mid-day, anyways. So I could consult, if necessary, with Bruce Street Technologies during business hours. And otherwise get settled for the weekend.

We were the first to arrive. Gave me a chance to walk Kiron through the opening procedure.

Weather was looking promising...

Moon near Venus this morning

Nicholas shared a great pic of Venus near the Moon.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

pencilled in next meeting

Ralph sent out an invitation to the next strategic planning meeting. DDO on 20 October. I have to go.

we might receive two

Notified a bunch of the volunteers heading up to the CAO for the weekend to keep an eye out for visitors. Celine was due Friday night. And we might hear from Ludwig again, regarding MODL 5...

set up more PayPal products

I added the new PayPal products to the RASC Toronto Centre web site, in particular, the affiliate and associate memberships. Phil tested things and thought it all looked good.

some planning

Planned some logistics with Phil, Tony, and Ian. For the upcoming CAO work party. Discussed, with Dietmar, the volunteers we were expecting.

send your own

Urged Trevor to fill out a CAO booking. Particularly since he was, for the first time, I think, travelling on his own from a different locale.

let's comet hunt

Katrina sent me a quick reply in response to my query. She said she'd be interested in trying to track down comet 168P/Hergenrother while at the CAO. If conditions permitted.

Update: I learned later that she wouldn't arrive Friday night...

web team report received

Received Allard's report on web team activities. Past activities. And future plans.

show ticket offered

Dietmar had, somehow, wrangled a ticket for me for the photography show! He suggested that I join him for the show and then we could travel to the Carr. Darn.

By the time I learned of this, I was already locked in with Kiron. We were planning to arrive the CAO on Friday mid-day. That'd give me time to work on the security system. Sort out our network configuration issues. And call the WISP, during business hours, if I needed to.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ran CAO meeting

Ran Skype meeting with the CAO team. Contacted Ian, Phil, Dietmar, and Ralph. Tony did not answer.

We started off discussing member vehicles on the observatory grounds. Tony emailed at 8:02 and said he'd be on in a few moments, whenever Grace released the computer. By the time he jumped in, we had concluded the vehicle topic. We moved onto work party matters. Streamlined the list of jobs. We also bantered about, again, the name for the repurposed kitchette: Orion. The three belt stars would be the monikers for each dorm space. Overall, a productive meeting.

Tony's end kept generating feedback and echo. I asked him a couple of times to adjust his speakers or mute. But it just didn't work out. I sent Grace a note that he needs a headset!

expect a visitor

Charles forwarded a message. Someone is interested in visiting the CAO this weekend. Celine, who might have attended Tony's library talk, who initially contacted the national office. So, it looks like we'll need to put on the dog-and-pony show after all.

ride to CAO arranged

Kiron and I connected. We're going to travel together to the CAO for the work party. However, he advised that I'll need to find my own way home, if I want to stay on later on Sunday; he has to be back in the GTA by mid-day. No worries.

he already signed it

Ian concurred. He was sure that his MODL lease had been completed and signed.

Maybe Scott lost it?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

on deck for Dec

Mr Markov asked me to do the December The Sky This Month. That'll be December 12. The last meeting of the calendar year.

webspotting articles up

I mounted all the webspotting articles. 27 so far...

These are the articles I wrote and that were published in the RASC Toronto Centre newsletter SCOPE.

Going forward, I'll post future articles on this blog when each SCOPE newsletter is published and released.

At some point I'll build an index...

invitation to dark skies

Mauricio and I chatted over lunch about astronomy, light pollution, etc. I asked if he might want to visit us at the Carr Observatory. He sounded keen.

dual flyover op

While the SpaceX Dragon capsule nears the International Space Station, for a docking on Wednesday, the ISS will fly over Ontario in the early evenings. Representing a chance to see both!

Monday, October 08, 2012

oh, now I get it

Received an aurora alert from CalSky. "Severe storm activity..."

aurora visible tonight

Caroline reported northern lights being visible from just west of the Long Sault Conservation Area.

Nicole got some photos from Richmond Hill.


squeezed in baking soda

I made a request of the food shopping team. Asked if they could pick up baking soda for the CAO. Lots. Large boxes (or containers). I want to have supply for each location where we store (and work on) lead acid batteries, like the garage and the work room...

a not perfect flight

There's been some chatter about a "problem" on the SpaceX rocket while going uphill.

It seems that one of the 9 Merlin engines lost power or pressure. The onboard computer(s) immediately shut it down. The telemetry continued which meant the motor was still functional, to a degree. The other motors adjusted automatically and were able to boost the craft into low Earth orbit.

Around the time of the engine shutdown, something happened with the cowling at the base of the rocket. It is visible in slo-mo replays. Clearly something is ripped from the shell and quickly carried away in the supersonic flow. That creeped me out a little. It is not clear if this caused the engine problem or was a result of the engine shutdown.

The net effect of the engine trouble was that a secondary payload, a satellite, was released in an improper orbit. That is disappointing. For all concerned. It was a test satellite. But still...

The impact is not however so severe, happily, that the Dragon cannot make the International Space Station. That mission is not in jeopardy. Good.

Still, I would think this is making some of SpaceX's customers nervous.

Sure, a multi-engine rocket speaks to redundancy and fault-tolerance. But cowling bits flying around at supersonic speeds could end up in places they're not supposed to be.

That the computer avionics compensated for the loss of one motor again reveals some design and contingency forethought. But why could not have achieved the secondary mission? It's a pity they weren't carrying slightly more fuel or that the burn could not have still boosted the payload to an appropriate level.

But then, clearly, it is rocket science.

I do hope however in all the analyses and downstream tests and additional forethought, with NASA's certification, that they will achieve their next big target, carrying humans aloft.

work party ramp up

Tony sent out a notice to the (new, expanded) CAO committee requesting a meeting (or rather e-meeting). He also asked the crew to review the CAO work party "pick list." Tony asked me to initiate the meeting in Skype. OK.

SkyTools for next NOVA

Chatted with Leslie about giving away more SkyTools Starter Edition software packages at the end of the current NOVA course.

She reminded that the last session would be November 21.

spot splitting?

I put out a note on the RASC Toronto Centre Facebook page. I wondered, out loud, what was going on, on Jupiter.

Jason said, sardonically, the huge storm that's bigger than the Earth... Har.

Someone said, quite correctly, there's "always [something] going on." True.

But I wondered if anyone else was thinking the same as me... that it looked like the Great Red Spot was splitting... That was the hullabaloo over in the room.

I referred to Chris Go's photos on October 7.

It was Katrina who set me straight: it was Oval BA (the "little red spot") moving past the GRS.

Ah. OK. Call off your dogs...

Sunday, October 07, 2012

commercial mission away

I watched Space X launch. Pretty cool, seeing the first commercial venture. Touched base with Katrina. See was watchin' too.

NASA's pretty happy too. Soon they'll have an American resource for getting humans to the International Space Station. Closer to home. Cheaper.

Launch appeared to go pretty smoothly...

on omicron Cyg

I had run into this before but forgotten to make notes. When it happened this time, I immediately sent Greg a quick note.

In SkyTools 3, one cannot search for ο (omicron) Cygni. Nothing comes up. And if one looks at the Object Information for 31 Cyg, it does not show omicron as one of the designations.

found grab bar info

Did some research into code for Ontario, and for Canada, for placement, angles, sizes, loads, etc. for grab bars in bathrooms. Sent the info to Tony to review. I'd like to install bars in the CAO bathroom, once and for all.

nudged life members

Phil sent out a note to the RASC life members asking if they were planning to renew their CAO passes.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

update from CAO

Phil updated the CAO supervisors on his visit to the observatory. This included transfer of new furniture, fueling Stargrazer, and making new signs for the GBO panels, laminated no less.

done deal

Phil reported the Francis had come and gone. Rails plus motor control system gone. Hopefully, we'll not have to deal with this joker again.

Friday, October 05, 2012

found everything

Phil did inventory. He found all the motor control bits for the BAO dome. Shot a movie with audio, the walking tour. And sent a still.

Dietmar was happy to see all the parts found and intact. He will communicate now with Francis and let him know the incredible deal he's getting.

work party on Facebook?

Tony expressed concerns about the CAO work party notice on the Facebook page. Ralph also shared some reservations.

undid his post

Pointed out to Phil that he tipped his hand on the RASC Facebook page. He was upset. Went about undoing it. Thanked me for catching it.

submitted guidelines

Submitted the draft document for the social media usage guidelines.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

ST3 counts

Charles is doing inventory. He asked how many SkyTools packages we had.

I sent him the numbers, for the remaining Standard as well as the Starter Editions.

lease missing?

Scott asked for Ian's MODL lease. Weird. I thought that was all done with...

relayed member's concerns

I shared with RASC Toronto Center council that I was approached by a member at the end of the meeting the night previous that they were very concerned about images and photos of herself appearing on the centre's new Facebook page without their permission.

Here we go.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

webspotting 27 - Spaceweather

As published in the Oct/Nov 2012 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. The article was revised before publishing to take care of the very stale context. Republished here with permission.


With all the talk of the Sun and things on the Sun  and things in front of the Sun, I thought I'd make sure that you knew about the awesome web site. I consider this web site one-stop shopping. 

First and foremost, there is lots of information about, you guessed it, the Sun. In the left banner, they show the current conditions for our home star, including updates on solar flares. There's a little thumbnail image of the Sun with the current sunspots labelled. A bit further down they show the auroral oval for the northern hemisphere, specifically over North America. And below that is the Planetary K-index, a good quick indicator of potential aurora borealis activity.

The main panel of the home page invariably features a photograph by an amateur astronomer. You might see interesting solar flares, dramatic sunspots, colourful aurora, the International Space Station silhouetted against the Sun, etc. Links in the copy will take you to large versions of these wonderful images, to the photographer's web site, where you can find more of their work, or of the particular event. 

I also like the area below the headline article: the Near Earth Asteroids section. What did Phil Plait call his book? 'Death from the Skies.' Here you'll find a table noting Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (or PHAs). The table notes the object name, when it is due, what the "miss" distance will be (typically measured in Lunar Distances or LD), and finally the size of the object. Uh huh. The 12 metre objects within 0.5 LD or 200 000 kilometres might not make you nervous, but 5.7 km objects might. They use colour codes (red is bad) so you can quickly ascertain if you should start packing or not.

The archive menu is useful too, to identify sunspots you sketched in your log book last week but forgot to identify. They also have a satellite flyby tool, although I still prefer Heavens Above for that. 

Normally, humans, before heading out for work in the morning, worry about if they should pack an umbrella or not. watches what's up there, in the solar system, near our planet, and keeps you up-to-date on incoming phenomena. If you haven't visited lately, be sure to check out their Transit of Venus information, with impressive photos and video.

discussed new products

Chatted with Charles about setting up new PayPal products for our web site. He asked I send it in an email. Okie dokey.

a new approach for X

David and I have been chatting about Lunar X via Facebook. One message gave me pause.
The X is very regular, but it is the civic calendar that is not.  There will be months with two events, most with one event, and the occasional February with no event.  Rather than going through the calendar month by month looking for events, just work out the Julian date of the events and see what month and day they fall in.  Use a more precise value for the advance of the colongitude.
Maybe I was going about this the wrong way...

received paper award

Received the 2010 citation. For the Ostrander-Ramsay award, as presented May 2011.

At last. Thank you, Guy!

tried to help Al

Al and I chatted about using the RASC Yahoo!Group. He says he's still having trouble. I noted that he's successfully sent messages. But I think he's getting tripped up by working online, live, in a browser, as opposed to using a client.

space is soupy

Roberto talked about his latest project and showed some of the test images. It was astonishing to see so much "material" between the stars. Certainly his subject, the Pleiades, is known for being surrounded by dust. It reminded me of recent photos of Iris Nebula and dust in Corona Australis and wisps around the Horsehead that emphasise what is going on between. And as he talked further, I suddenly imagined space as water. Water in the ocean or a lake. And then a pond. Teaming with suspended material. Thick. Goopy.

handed off BAO software

Gave Phil the Bob Anderson Dome software DVD. It's going north-bound...

one more deal

Francis contacted Dietmar again. Now he's making noises about wanting the BAO motor and electronics. And, surprise, surprise, he's bellyaching and protesting and sulking and trying to low-ball us. And upsetting Dietmar. I offered to take over communications. He said he was OK.

Dietmar gave me a DVD with the control software. I'll need to hand this off...

I asked Dietmar (and crew) to review all the pieces and parts and bits and bobs of the Bob Anderson Dome. Primarily, so that we would avoid overlooking anything.

Phil offered, upon arriving the CAO for the Thanksgiving weekend, to seek out all the remaining parts. Hopefully we'll be able to track down everything. Hopefully nothing's gone astray. Francis is planning to come by on Saturday...

We'll give him the shutter door rails (from the original deal). And, if we can arrive at a fair new deal, sell him the motor control system.

sent a hint

Hinted to Guy that I was going to the RASC meeting.

let's work together

Ralph sent a note to Allard, Jason, and myself. He was pretty adamant that council had not approved any new roles or departments. And he remarked on our first social media steps. Interesting.

Hopefully, we can get back to work. We really need to focus on our many tasks here. And improve member experience.

emotional description

I replied to Allard and Jason regarding the message received on the weekend. Opened, in the first paragraph, with how it made me feel. And asked, in conclusion, just what their expectations were.


The president called. We talked about the web site, information technology, social media, roles, and personalities.


On the fence. Phil, who will be at the CAO over the weekend, is twisting my arm. But I'm also overdue for my Mom and sister. Good eats, each destination... ;-)

On checking the weather, I learned the following:

Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon
rain rain rain rain rain snow

What the hell? Doesn't look like the long weekend will be good for anything but cocooning.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

it works but

Phil replied to my latest version of the lunar X spreadsheet calculator...
Very easy to use.  Yeah, there is still the issue of the fudge factor that needs to be fixed.  I wish I could tell you how to fix it but I don't know how without spending a lot of time looking at the equations etc.  Regardless, the instructions are clear and anyone picking this up would be able to use it.
I walked him through how to enter the month and "fudge" numbers.

roles forced

Tony's not happy. Not happy at all.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Bayer setting automatic

I found an option in Deep Sky Stacker that allows the adjustment of the bayer filter settings. I was doing some testing with images from the astrophotography workshop. It was obvious that some cameras are very different.

I asked Steve if he knew about this setting. He shot his Veil images with a Canon 450D (aka Rebel XSi). Curiously, this is not listed in DSS. But there were dozens of other Canons. So I chose a 350D instead, assuming the microfilter layout was the same.

Steve said that he found the software smart enough to figure the Bayer order on it's own. He shared that Nebulosity and PixInsight have these settings but typically do not require modification. 

found BAO page

Stumbled across the PayPal donation page on the RASC web site for the BAO project. Let the CAO committee know. And they instructed me to tear it down. Done.

what can a member buy online

Phil asked about how RASC Toronto Centre members could buy a CAO passport or affiliate membership via our web site. I checked and verified that, in addition to donations, members could buy single and family CAO passports online via PayPal.

It highlighted that associate memberships and affiliates could not be purchased online.

I offered to add them. It'd be easy for me to do (but I'd need access to the PayPal account).

ADU research

Was curious about some of the more technical aspects of the chip in the Canon 40D. Found an informative page...

Some very good comparisons. Charts and graphs.
  • effective sensor size: 22.8 mm x 14.8 mm
  • pixel dimensions: 3888 x 2592
  • pixel size: 5.7 microns
  • data coding: 14 bits
  • inverse electronic gain at ISO 400: 0.84 e-/ADU
  • readout noise at ISO
    • 100: 5.66 ADU (19.0 e-)
    • 200: 6.31 ADU (10.6 e-)
    • 400: 8.15 ADU (6.8 e-)
    • 800: 12.59 ADU (5.3 e-)
    • 1600: 21.37 ADU (4.5 e-)
  • bias level: 1024 ADU
  • thermal signal at 22°C: 0.13 e-/sec
  • full capacity: 12,900 electrons
  • dynamic range at ISO 400 (full capacity / readout noise): 1900
Dietmar reminded me that software (e.g. MaximDL) would still be required to determine the ADU of an image.

parking question

Eric put a question to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group, asking what the winter parking arrangements would be, for the CAO. Kinda out of left field.

Don't worry. We're on it...

Katrina coming onboard

Phil asked me to add Katrina to the CAO supervisor Yahoo!Group. He shared, with the CAO committee, that they were planning to do some training over the Thanksgiving weekend, while Phil is on duty.

star trails tips

Dietmar sent out a URL to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group:
I came across this article on how to take star trails.  It covers most aspects of getting good trails.  I recommend that you practice this at home and then go to a dark site and get the real thing. 
Handy. Just need some good weather.


If that's too hard to read... I've provided another link to the article at DIY Photography.