Friday, November 30, 2012

what's up for 2013

Doug sent out a note on the RASC listserv. He said he noticed that nothing appeared in the January calendar. Eric asked if he was talking about the Science Centre calendar. And remind people to check their SCOPE. I knew what Doug was talking about. That time of year... when some of our members are looking forward.

change the forwarder

Lora created a new email address for receiving the CAO bookings. I made a note to adjust the forwarder on the server...

media next steps planned

Allard said he was ready for the next steps with the new owners telescope clinic:

- change the redirect
- change the article on the RASC site
- add a post on Facebook
- set up a Google Adword campaign

Sounded good to me.

between the lines

Dr Percy sent a note to Stu. He offered to contribute to a workshop on outreach. Something the Centre does a lot. Where amateurs can make a difference. And that few receive specific motivation or training on. He offered to arrange for a series of short talks on what we're doing and what the DI is doing. He suggested running it at U of T.

I saw the conversation take a funny turn. People started talking about weaving it into a strategy conference meeting. Or offering as a member's night talk, perhaps which all members should be aware of.

No. I don't think that's what Percy meant. Not what he was offering. I hinted that this needs to be explored further and some clarification should be sought.

Stu agreed.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

received clinic posters

Met up with Jason tonight. Caught up over dinner. As usual, talked RASC, personalities, roles, strategy, tech, new media, astrophotography, image processing, etc.

For the new owners telescope clinic, he provided the large format colour posters and colour "postcards" on stock. They look fantastic!

On time. Under budget.

tested landing page

During my lunch break, I tested the RASC new telescope owners clinic landing page, form, and form response with Allard. Overall, it's lookin' pretty good.

SkyTools and Windows 8

A lively discussion started in the SkyTools group. Greg started by asking people their general thoughts on Windows 8.

He assured people that the current versions of SkyTools would work fine, without conversion, on a "full" tablet; whereas, the RT release would not run his software. There were warnings about ASCOM: apply the appropriate upgrades, in the right sequence.

Greg also said he wasn't entirely sure what the future might hold. For example, without a mouse, one wouldn't be able to hover over an object.

A few others jumped in, including Unk' Rod. I expressed concerns about a touch interface without a stylus not offering enough precision and that SkyTools really needed a lot of screen real estate.

set a date at OSC

Jesse from OSC, while setting the 2013 spring NOVA dates with Leslie, asked me if I might want to dovetail in, run a software course one of the same evenings, over on the other side of the Gemini room.

I had not thought that for down yet... But, OK.

pitched a new Dob

Talked to John about my telescope switcharoo idea. That we really do need an easy-to-use, basic telescope to live permanently at the CAO. And that the Centre's loan program could probably benefit from a new telescope... He liked the idea!

I asked that he start some window shopping...

Meanwhile Tony pitched some of the councillors.

update group after AGM

Couldn't sleep. Jumped online. Started changing the membership of the Council Yahoo!Group.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

attended the AGM

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre Annual General Meeting.

Sat beside Phil. Hey! Where's Lora?!

Overall, good. The treasurer's report was well done: not too long; to the point; good answers to questions raised. The secretary's report though... My goodness. While he said it was two pages shorter than the previous year, it was still... incredible. There's gotta be a way to improve on this. And the companion slides? I had very mixed feelings. Some supported what was discussed and allowed the oral portion to move along faster. Other slides were mind-bogglingly dense. Wow.

The inevitable fee increase discussion was poorly handling. Out of the gate, it was wrong. It went basically as, we're increasing the rates, 'cause, well, we have to plan for the future. OK, vote. There was no background. No discussion how this arose out of strategic meetings. No comparisons against other centres. No detailed supportive information by past increases. Here was where some clear, helpful slides were needed. In the end, the majority of members approved. But some were unhappy.

Manuel made it. Yeh. He piped up too during the fee discussion. Good stuff.

The big thing was the changing of the guard... Chuck for pres! A big day, with a new president coming on board. Thank you Ralph! And the passing of the CAO booking coordinator reins. Thank you Dietmar! I shot photos of the new crew (and I shot them at 11:38!). Sheesh. Long meeting.

picked up 2013 calendars

Picked up some RASC calendars. The usual season-ending gift shopping.

a warm feeling

Helped at the new RASC Toronto Centre welcome desk run by Sharmin. And it was fun. And effective.

We set up a table in the Proctor and Gamble Great Hall. Underneath Cloud. Nice.

It had never occurred to me. But it was a brilliant idea. The typical spot for the welcome (or hospitality) table in the past, in the first meeting I ever attended in fact, was inside the "foyer" of the Imperial Oil Auditorium, inside the curved concrete channels flowing around the lecture hall. In that space, it is easily missed. The new visitor walking to the end of the bridge has no idea where to go. If we're lucky, we have our signs up. The new signs designed by Jason. The new wonderful signs that require special stands. With the large movable direction arrows as recommended by Tony. If that visitor knows what to look for, we're OK. But the new person could get to the end of the hall, look left and right, and due to sight lines not see a human. Not hear anyone. Sharmin, setting up at the end of the bridge and having volunteers around the welcome table, created a visible target from the beginning of the bridge! People know, right away, they are going the right direction.

And the more I thought about it, staying out of the foyer space, solved other problems: dense congestion from people milling, slightly awkward proximity to the washrooms, a small, possibly claustrophobic, cold space. Unable to avoid "too many people" for the possibly nervous new visitor.

Very smart.

With Tanya and Sharmin, we received people as they emerged from the bridge.

Immediately, however, I was uncomfortable! The thought of walking up to everyone and greeting them was not something I wanted to do. I don't know why exactly. Not my nature. I can do it. Yes. But it requires a lot of energy. The right kind of energy. Some psycho-emotional power. To be bubbly and friendly and receptive and, well, welcoming. Not the kind of energy I have in abundance at the best of times. Not a lot now.

But, what mitigated this, somewhat, was—remarkably—the handout. Charles's meeting handout. The thing that I have been harping about for months. Years. That I regularly make noise about. Which I reiterated at strategy planning meetings. That I talked about, way back when (Jan 2010, the start of the IYA) in my train-the-trainer Presentation on Presenting. That we must have, at every meeting, a takeaway. Something for people to take home. To look at. To remember us by.

The handout!

I love handouts. Sure, some may say it is wasteful. Not green. Consuming paper at every meeting. Wasting paper. In this modern era. In the internet era. Smartphones everywhere. QR codes. When all the information is already online. And people can just look it up for themselves. And, if they want, on their printer, with their ink or toner, print it, at their expense. It can be considered very wasteful when viewed from the perspective of the existing, active member. Who regularly attends the meetings. Do they need the handout? No, not really. They already know where to get the information. They're already dialled-in. And they may employ some efficiency too; they won't go after data they don't want. If they don't attend city or dark sky observing gatherings, they can ignore that.

But I've never worried about the existing members. I'll admit that some may receive the handout, take it home, perhaps even put it somewhere prominent, and never look at it again. So, yes, there's some waste. Into the recycling stream. Perhaps. Or the landfill. Some expense. Whatever the cost of photocopying, per sheet. Or laser printing, per sheet.

All that said, time and time again, I see members responding positively to the handout. When I've provided handouts for my presentations, people have always been very thankful. When I've provided the general meeting handout, everyone wants it. It is rare that one refuses it. And I often see people looking at it, reading it, at meetings. I've often raised this when people question the value of the handout. It really struck me recently when I looked closely at a photo taken of the audience in the auditorium, taken from the stage, wherein I noted several members looking at their handout. Proof. I'm not makin' it up!

But, again, it's not them, I'm thinking of. It's not the existing member I'm really considering. It's the new person. The first-time, or maybe second-time, visitor. Someone who's heard about RASC. Or is getting interested in astronomy. Or wants to buy a telescope. Or just got a telescope. The NOVA people we "bring across." Someone in the science or astronomy community, coming to see and hear the speaker. It is the non-member. The handout is essential for the non-member.

The incredible useful handout. Cheap. Chock full of information. Critical.

Having that handout made this new welcome role interesting, fun, doable for me. It gave me a reason to walk up to someone I didn't know and start talking to them. It was the ice breaker. It was common ground.

A hand, outreached.

Something I hadn't thought about a lot but recognised it as soon as I saw it, is that the handout also offered an out. An escape. A way for a minimal acknowledgement. The person receiving the handout had a lot of latitude and it made it their choice. Their decision. If they were comfortable with it, comfortable with the rendezvous, it opened the door. They could ask their immediate questions. Or chat. Start a dialog. But if they didn't want to talk, if they were not ready to engage, they didn't have to. Handout received. All they needed to do was say, "Thank you," and move on. They were free.

I really liked this context. I wasn't under any pressure. I did not have to engage them. I could read their body language. Watch if they lingered. Leave them alone. Not pressure them. Off you go. And they were grateful.

For those receptive, I could take another step. "First time?" And chip away at the ice some more. But then, at that point, I was on firm ground.

Funny, those first moments are the difficult ones.

It was good connecting with the visitors this way. It was working.

And then we ran out of handouts! And it all changed. I felt strange, standing there, empty-handed. Now, once again, I did not feel comfortable.

I don't know how it happened exactly but I suddenly realised where I could get more handouts. A moment of inspiration. I ran into the auditorium and sequestered sheets from people. Our long-time members. Those who I knew wouldn't mind. Couples with two. I drummed up 10 or dozen or so. Not enough, I knew. But better than nothing.

The numbers were askew admittedly. We were getting way more people tonight. It was our speaker! Despite estimates, we ran out. Again. With the last couple of sheets in hand, I experienced another dynamic. Unexpected. Disquieting. I wanted to ensure the handouts went to the new people, those I didn't recognise, versus known members. And that created a those-who-have and those-who-have-not situation. Possibly worse than nothing at all. OK. Now I was not feeling good. But, essentially, I was saved by the bell. It was close to 7:30. Time for the meeting to start. I asked Sharmin to be released. And I scampered away.

The really great outcome of all this, was connecting with people in need. Sharmin had anticipated some of the issues. Had her notepad and pen ready. And it all worked. I met very new member and NOVA participant Helen. She wanted to explore benefits of her new centre. Get more involved. She wanted to get connected on the Yahoo!Group. "You're talking to the right person." We walked over to the table, took up the notepad and pen, and Helen gave me her info. Mission accomplished. Another mission accomplished. This time, one I could directly see through to completion.

I felt good helping bring to life one of the key ideas from the strategic conference.

Funny. Helping at the new welcome table... Floodgates opening. All these thoughts. And a prevailing one: we're on our way to being a better centre.

Three cheers for Sharmin.

asked Lora to upload shots

Now that we finally had Lora in the CAO super group (sheesh), I asked if she wouldn't mind uploading all her CAO photos. People photos. Of people. Occasional puppy OK. But mostly people.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

shared next Moon-ISS event

Forwarded the ISS-Moon crossing alert to the RASC listserv.

Kiron asked if I was interested in catching it. I was not feelin' real enthusiastic about it. Although, I must admit, I'd like to capture better video than my first attempt.

Terry asked me what I used learn of these events. I sent him the link to CalSky.

shops promoting clinic

Started contacting the stores and shops in the GTA (and beyond) that sell telescopes and accessories to ask if they'd help promote the RASC new owners workshop in January. They all think its a great idea!

Gifts From the Earth
Khan Scope
KW Telescopes
Radio World

Thank you!

webspotting 28 - atlas of Andromeda

As published in the Dec 2012/Jan 2013 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. Republished here with permission.


The Thursday night before the 2012 Annual Algonquin Adventure many Toronto and North Bay astronomers were able to enjoy the very good dark skies. I had my trusty 8-inch Celestron and, as I had been forbade by Phil Chow to view double stars, was tracking down faint fuzzies. Not far away was Adam Clayson and his Dobsonian telescope (the small one, I think). This beautiful reflecting 'scope has an 18" mirror and a focal-ratio of 4.5. Stunning views, easy to use. Adam employs excellent eyepieces to compliment the tremendous light gathering power. And, as he is want to do, he likes viewing deep sky objects. Very deep sky. In fact, he likes looking at deep sky objects INSIDE other deep sky objects.

While I was tracking down a few more targets from the Messier catalog, Adam took in some objects "close" to home, nebulae and clusters in the Milky Way. I wondered, out loud, how to find M33 naked eye. Adam quickly aimed the truss tube at it.

The 33rd object in Messier's famous list is often referred to as the Pinwheel Galaxy. But then M99 and M101 are also tagged with that moniker. The Triangulum Galaxy might suggest it has a peculiar shape; it does help us remember where the faint fuzzy is located. The prosaic label is NGC 598, in reference to the New General Catalog, with thousands of entries.

But, it was not the galaxy, per se, that Adam was interested in, that night. He was looking at, and sharing, objects within M33. In particular, he showed us NGC 604, a star forming region, at 66 power. I could see it! A brightening within a graceful arm of the canted spiral. A nebula within the galaxy. And then I started to really think about it. We were seeing a diffuse emission nebula, probably not unlike our Great Orion Nebula, in another galaxy, some 2.9 million light years away.

Adam was in his element. He briefly showed me a detailed paper chart with multiple targets identified (I forgot to ask him the source). When I returned to my computer and checked SkyTools, I found that I could make it show small objects within the oval outline of the spiral. M33 harboured at least 6 IC and 4 NGCs.

This all came flooding back when I caught the delicious APOD image on 24 October 2012. The host galaxy, this time, our sister, Andromeda, M31. About the same distance away. The object in question this time: the stellar association of young blue stars making up NGC 206. Wow. I promptly downloaded a copy for my screen saver.

Then I got to thinking, as the neighbour galaxy soars directly overhead every evening this time of year, what about going after some of these? If and when I have the privilege of using a "big gun," a 'scope with lots of aperture, when going deep, what shall I use? Even when I heavily tweak and coerce SkyTools, I can still only get it to show one NGC within M31.

By chance, I stumbled across a links page at another astronomy club. A compilation of favourite web sites. The one that caught my eye? The "Atlas of the Andromeda Galaxy." Ah ha! An atlas.

I surfed into the framed site by Paul Hodge and started looking for a map. My wish was quickly answered. Not one; there are 40 of them. Detailed annotated charts. And then I spotted the tables. Table A. Globular clusters within M31. There are over 300 items on the list! Those Mr Hodge catalogued in 1981.

This is all part of the LEVEL 5 site, a "Knowledgebase for Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology."

So, next time you're under dark transparent skies (if you can somehow avoid constant churning clouds) with some aperture at your disposal, why not go hunting inside a galaxy. And not the Milky Way.

Skylights invited

Chris offered to promote the new owners telescope clinic to his Skylights followers. Turns out he issues a semi-regular text-based news bulletin to many friends, family, teachers, and students. About 80 to 90 people. All about astronomy, upcoming events, what's in the sky, etc. He archives the newsletter on tumblr and then embellishes, adds photos and diagrams.

Happy to receive some free advertising.

we need cards

Jason said he didn't want to do the takeaway cards for the telescope clinic. Huh. I thought that was water under the bridge. I reminded him that cards were, in fact, more important than the poster. I reminded him how many would likely be distributed to or received by participants. OK. Let's go.

keeners consulted

Stu is looking for topics and themes for the upcoming season of members-only nights at the David Dunlap Observatory. He reached out to a select group. Active members. Past presenters. His "keeners."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Richard caught M33 at CAO

While he did not make the CAO when Kiron and I went up, he did return. Richard sent out a link to his photo gallery, specifically to his M33 image made with a DSLR, captured a week ago.

kickin' and screamin'

Like herding cats. Finally received the OK to add Lora to a couple of RASC Yahoo!Groups.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

nose piece on sale

Phil sent me a note. Pointed out the clearance page on the Kendrick web site. And that he had some T-adapters for sale. Particularly ones with a 2" nose piece. Like the one I've borrowed in the past from Dietmar.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

captured X (Toronto)

Viewed and imaged Lunar X.

Was minding my own business when Phil, Lunar Freak, phoned and said, "Get off the phone and go outside!" Oh. Look. It's clear all of a sudden. I guess it would have been worth it to set up the big telescope and a camera. Alas.

I headed to the porch. It was cloud-free overhead. Damn.

Dragged out the baby Celestron. OK. Didn't drag. Picked it up from the kitchen table. Put it on the deck box. Grabbed a kitchen chair. Not too cold. Threw on a sweater. Picked up the Moon in the lower power eyepiece. Tree branch in the way. Brought the A/V table out. A better height. And waited for the Earth to turn a little.

When I saw Luna clear the tree, I grabbed the FujiFilm J20. Played with settings. Fireworks mode wasn't needed. Dropped the ISO from 1600 to 200, so to reduce noise. Zoomed in. And simply held (or tried) the lens to the eyepiece, flat, flush.

early attempt at Moon through telescope

Too small. Overexposed. Zoomed in. White balance set.

Moon afocal craters visible

Huh! Can see craters! Still fiddling with settings.

better exposure of Moon

Ooh. Better exposure. Not centred.

zoomed into Moon afocal

Wow. Handsome image scale.

captured Lunar X on Moon afocal

There it is! There it is! The X! Damn it. Shakey hands.

good afocal shot of Moon during Lunar X

Got it!

Now, can I go back inside?


Final shot details: FujiFilm finepix J20 point-n-shot camera, hand held. 1/40 second. f/3.8. ISO 200. Zoomed. 9mm focal length. Daylight white balance. Celestron First Scope.


Wikipedia link: Lunar X.

Monday, November 19, 2012

will we see the X?

Asked Phil if we might get lucky viewing Lunar X tonight. He thought the weather looked sketchy. "50/50," he posited.

Then he asked if I was going to post a reminder nudge notice on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. No way!

CAO report in the can

I forwarded Bailey's CAO work party report to Eric for publication in SCOPE. Done! Bailey wrote an excellent report and found some great photos. Tony liked it. I touched it up. And Bailey is very keen to do more. w00t!

need to bump a page

Phil asked the web team to look into the membership pages. To try, somehow, to emphasise that associate memberships can be purchased from the Centre. The content is very far down in a search. And not interlinked on any of the main membership pages.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

viewing Europa (Etobicoke)

Pulled the camera out of the telescope. Dropped in an eyepiece. Viewed Jupiter. It was a good view. I didn't notice it at first—Manuel cleared saw it—the little black dot of the moon shadow. I looked again. Nice.

Watched Europa touch and merge with the planet.

But then, I noticed a very bright point, in the shadow. Holy cow! It was the moon in the foreground. The seeing was very good. And I could see the moon in front of Jupiter's clouds. Sweet!

A career first!

some successes

While we didn't get everything done that we wanted, it was a good evening at Manuel's.

Headed over in the earlier evening. Caught him in the middle of a Skype call. I watched a bit of NASA TV. Had dinner together.

I rigged up the new ADM hardware. D Series adjustable rings with plate adapters. Long dovetail bar with RCX end pieces. After first, when I unpacked everything, I thought we were short some screws. But it was OK. For some reason, only 3 screws are used to secure the dovetail brackets to the Celestron OTA. And, though I had forgotten to bring my Allen key sets, Manuel had all the tools necessary for the install, including Metric and Imperial sets, and regular screwdriver.

Needed to move the Telrad base slightly around the Celestron 8" SCT.

We set up in the driveway, or rather lane way, behind his place. I wasn't sure it would be a good idea but it proved OK. Easier to lug clear to and fro. And the sight lines were not as bad as I thought they'd be. I think he wanted to use this space for privacy reasons. Certainly we did not have to deal with any other humans.

Another thing I wanted to check in the evening was that the Orion mount was working OK. That the set-up was good, that using a multi-star alignment would work as required, and that we'd be able to track well. But we had a devil of a time with it. We received many ALIGN FAIL reports from the hand controller. I tried it. He tried it. We looked up stupid stars in Stellarium.

It was very frustrating. Every once in a while it would work. So, I knew it was something we were doing. He wanted to swap the mount but I insisted it was a user error. I didn't know what we were doing wrong exactly. But it had to be the stars we were selecting.

Wondered if the big huge dish heater was chewing too many amps. We shut it off.

Manuel wanted to image. And try out the new gear. The plan was, after we sorted all the other issues, he'd bolt up the CCD camera. Actually, I think he wanted me to do the bulk of the steps, i.e. he wanted me to capture the image or be responsible for that. Nice gesture. But when we tried to connect the camera to the OTA, it seemed that there was something missing, some adapter. He looked through all his gear and couldn't find it. He wondered if he had loaned it to Mr Soler. We had to abandon imaging for the night.

received Orion data

I wanted to capture the versions of Manuel's Orion mount firmware. He offered to email them to me as I read them from the controller display...
  • hand controller firmware 3.27
  • motor controller 2.04
  • hand controller hardware 3.06
  • database 3.27
Oh. Neat. It also shows some status info...
  • Power voltage is 11.09
  • Temp is 11.50

settled date and format

Chatted with Stu about the new owners telescope clinic. He cleared the January 19 date, no conflicts with member events. We also talked about format. Day-time clinic first; and then observing in an evening, on a later date. He wondered if we might dovetail into a city observing session. Not a bad idea but I think it wouldn't work, for a few reasons. Primarily, that we need to have a definite GO context...

improved the ECR

Dealt with some ECR "issues."

It started with Paul saying he could not attach a scanned image of his signature. He correctly assumed this was due to cell protection. I shared that the cell protection could be easily disabled as there was no password. Then he asked me how. I didn't know the version of Excel he was using so I sent the instructions for version 2003 and 2007.

Meanwhile Scott told him not to send it electronically. Paul did anyway.

Then Scott asked me to fix the spreadsheet. At first I didn't know what he was talking about, partly given how the thread started. Turned out that when Paul scanned his completed, printed form, the blue font colour did not reproduce well. Scott request black. I switched from blue to grey.

During the revision, I thought I'd touch base with Phil to gauge his thoughts on the usability of the form. And got an ear-full. Not with my spreadsheet design work; with how he was treated the last time he submitted cheque requisition.

He also sent over the "instructions" document. I had never seen this. And it was jaw-dropping.

I can understand if treasury gets frustrated with missing or incomplete information, but there are tactful and encouraging ways to resolve these matters. I'm getting discouraged because I'm doing what I can and I still get yelled at.

his collimation is OK

Jim shared details of his imaging run. Remarked that after collimating his Newtonian and running the fans for several hours, he found everything iced up. Had to run the hair dryer for 20 minutes. Then clouds rolled in. However, he experienced 10 minutes of clear sky, noting very good seeing. Captured Jupiter. Good detail. Jim appears to be very good at collimating a reflector. I think the image is a bit heavy on the processing though.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

missing pre-game

Wanted to go to the pre-season opener for the members-only nights at the DDO. But I couldn't round up any victims in the High Park area.

no power to camera

Dietmar and Richard took a look at camera 4 at the CAO.

The removed the large bird's nest. They reported the nest was wet and might have allowed moisture to enter the housing. Not finding a small Allan Key, they were unable to open the housing. They tried covering the sensor to check power but reported it did not work. They said they switched the channels on the computer and verified that channel was working OK. They said they could not locate the power supply and wondered if it was in the attic. And it was Charles, we thought, who last crawled up there.

At night they checked for power by looking at the infra red LED emitters. Nothing. Whereas the other cameras showed the faint red ring.

got wood

Received ½" plywood sheet from Tony via Grace. 12 x 14". This will form the new base under the cooler bag of the battery tank. All part of an effort to ease transport and prevent further damage to the case. Thanks!

looking for a presenter

Grace sent a note. A grade 6 teacher found out that she belonged to the RASC. She asked her to talk to the class about astronomy! Grace deferred. Asked how do I proceed. And pointed out that the astronomy unit was to start in a week or two. OK. We'll need more info.

listed on editing team

Freaky. My name's in the 2013 RASC Observer's Handbook. In the editorial team section. For corrections or suggestions to improve the Handbook. For the double star proofing I did, I guess...

Dietmar called

Dietmar called from the CAO. We chatted about the security system. Suggested some things for him to check.

Friday, November 16, 2012

3 percent


According to the Astronomy magazine article entitled Great observatories find candidate for most distant galaxy, a newly discovered galaxy, detected with the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes, has set the record for distance. It is 13.3 billion light-years away.

The current predicted age of the Universe is 13.7 billion.

That puts this galaxy's age at around 420 million years after the Big Bang.

And that's 3% of the age of our Universe.

And that's, just... wow.

And, and! It's small. 600 light-years wide. The Large Magellanic Cloud near our Milky Way is 2000.

This could mean it is one of the first galaxies. Or building blocks for another galaxies. That it may have merged and remerged with other nearby objects.

This is very interesting on many levels. But perhaps the most interesting is just what we're able to coax out of these telescopes. Makes one wonder what we'll be able to do with bigger mirrors!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

the right direction

Received some good words from Paul. A vote of confidence. Helped me settle on the style and approach for the new telescope owners clinic. Crystallising.

no motors for you

And now he's just confused. Francis says he talked to Bob and Bob said they were motors for the shutters and we didn't provide the motors for the shutters and he wants these 4 motors. Huh? No. There were no actuators or motors for the shutters. You are mistaken. As is, dude. As is.

reminded Manuel

Reminded Manuel that the RASC TC AGM was coming up.

discussed workshop

Discussed the new telescope owners workshop with Council. In part triggered by Eric's query, regarding a notice in SCOPE. We bantered around ideas on format, notification, etc. How to deliver. Who would deliver. Some very different ideas... And I still had a lot of unanswered questions.

thin Moon over Bloor West (Toronto)

Spotted the Moon, walking home from the subway. Hazy thin crescent. Did the math. about 2.5 days old...

missing Frank's talk on weather

I did not attend the RASC meeting. Even though I really wanted to see Frank's presentation on weather. I asked if he'd share his presentation.

Starry Night tools

While discussing Fran├žois's The Sky This Month presentation, Eric shared a link to the online Starry Night planetarium tool. Neat.

I backed up a level. And spotted their apps for the web, Google, Macs, and iOS devices. Ha!

IT report sent

Submitted the Information Technology report to the RASC Toronto Centre secretary. Missed the deadline by about 2 seconds!


Eric acknowledged receipt!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

any new stores?

Asked members about stores in the GTA that sell 'scopes. I was pretty sure that I knew of all of them but I just wanted to check. David, Ed, Ron, and Gilles replied. Lot fewer options now...

calendars coming soon

Tim responded to Shawn's query. The RASC calendars will be on sale at the November 28 meeting.

Oh. Nice design.

checking direction

Asked Paul for his thoughts on workshop. He said he'd get back to me on the weekend. I hope I'm going the right direction.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

would have missed it

If I had gone to Australia with the main group (Katrina, Ralph, et al.), I would have missed it...

watched solar eclipse

I've been enjoying the reports and updates from our intrepid RASC Toronto Centre travelers from down under. Ralph's been emailing the Yahoo!Group on a regular basis. Monitoring Katrina's blog with photos. Charles and Elaine, of course, were in a different spot, on the ocean. Hopefully, between the two groups, they'd meet with some success.

At 2:33 PM, Katrina sent a message. She was going to try to upload live video with Ustream TV. Cool! Unfortunately, it was looking cloudy for them. I couldn't access the feed immediately. But watched it afterwards.

I watched a NASA feed. They had patchy cloud too. But it broke at 2nd contact. Wow! People cheering and clapping.

Monday, November 12, 2012

a blue screen

Noticed one of the CAO cameras was down. Dietmar did too. Bad wire? Bad power? Shared the news with the committee.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

birthday fun

During my belated birthday dinner, I received a fun three-dimensional astro-themed card from my sister. The "swing" card is made by Santoro London. It even features Pluto!

I also received an astro-themed bookmark.

Perfect, as I read my SF or science books.

shelter needs repairs

Was very discouraged to see the telescope shelter at Mom's essentially falling apart. Much of the siding is falling off. The PL adhesive is not holding up. I had not wanted to have things piercing the exterior cladding, as much as possible. But, clearly, I'm going to have to rethink this...

comment away

Manuel phoned. Found my blog. Was surprised by the amount of material. Said he wanted to comment but could not. Not much more info. I wondered if it was a mobile device issue. Or just not understanding the identification options. Or was he thinking of my challenges posting to his webs service? I sent a screen snapshot from a Windows browser. And pointed out he could submit stuff anonymously. No login required.

bars and rings

Manuel messaged me. He bought some ADM accessories. A dove tail bar and OTA rings. So to mount his refractor to one of his SCTs, piggyback style. Asked if I'd help him rig it up. "I got a brand new pair of roller skates..."

astronomy in ads

Weird. I usually don't pay much attention to television commercials, in general, and computer commercials less so. But two, in the same weekend, caught my eye. For tangential reasons...

An ASUS commercial showed a close-up at one point and it was running astronomy software. Cool.

A Canon commercial showed a user, outside, at night, aiming up into the sky. Doing astrophotography. They were prompting this as a feature. Sweet.


Found the Canon Canada piece.

no opportunities

Readied the observatory. Set up Mom's 'scope. Had my eyepiece case nearby. And astronomy box ╬▒. But, sadly, the skies did not cooperate.

Friday, November 09, 2012

learned more about Orion

Read Unk's article on the Orion mount... Share some words with Manuel.

"Apparently the problem was me, not the SynScan. Choosing alignment stars for this hand control is a different proposition compared to what it is with the NexStar. With the Celestron firmware, 'good stars' are usually stars as far apart in azimuth as possible. The mount chooses the stars for you, anyway, so unless they are blocked by an obstacle and you have to pick alternates, it’s a no-brainer.

"SynScan is different. The azimuth separation between the two initial stars matters somewhat, but what really makes a difference is R.A. For a good go-to alignment, the first two stars should be separated by at least several hours of Right Ascension. Third star? Not as critical, but it should be on the other side of the Meridian and between 30 and 70 degrees declination north or south.

"The real kicker? The SynScan presents you with a list of alignment stars. B-U-T these are not given in order of how good they are. It is just a list of possible stars, and the first two in the list may be the WORST alignment choices for your time and date. You have to scroll through this list and pick three stars that meet the above requirements."

As I suspected.

picked up Phil's heater

Picked up a RDF (red dot finder) heater for Phil. While I was at Kendrick Astro. While chatting with Jim.

I'm heading to Phil's place to fix a computer, talk about membership maintenance, fix windows, and fix windows. Will save him a trip.

received replacement

Jim helped me out. Swapped my bad 2" eyepiece dew heater for new. I think he agreed that it was a lemon.

Made a note to share the positive experience on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group...

good lookin' Jupiter (Etobicoke)

Manuel sent over an image from last night. Pretty good despite soft focus. Collimation just fine.

He noted in the email that it was "your Jupiter image."

I'm just the repair guy.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

telescope repair night (Etobicoke)

Finally, I could stay out late and play. I think Manuel goes into work, in general, late morning. Maybe noon. This schedule let's him stay up late and sleep in. Tomorrow, I didn't have to be at a client site so I didn't feel constrained. We planned to meet for dinner and then head to his place. The big job for the night would be to check, and fix, the collimation in the Celestron 9¼" SCT.

A little after 8:30 PM, we met up. He was still very upset about the night before. In addition to the collimation issue, he talked of difficulty with the star alignment process, with the Orion mount. I suggested it was a modelling issue, that possibly certain stars needed to be used, and others avoided. I told him that I knew this to be the case with some Meade mounts and that people had written software apps to help select the best alignment stars.

Once at his place, we started the set-up. OTA to the deck to begin cooling.

I started working on the Orion mount outside. I noticed something strange right away when the hand controller fired up. At the location prompt, I spotted a question mark on the display, in the longitude value, after the 79. Didn't look good. And immediately I realised what happened. The longitude had been entered as a two digit number, not three. I re-entered the longitude number with a leading zero and everything went swimmingly.

As I began a multi-star alignment, I found the Telrad way off. Oh boy. What happened here? I tuned it. All fixed. And then slewed to objects with reasonable accuracy.

When Manuel emerged from the house, I explained that I had resolved his mount alignment issues. He was happy to hear that.

We commenced the big job. The collimation of the 9¼. With DFK camera, it proved very easy, in the end. I did however have to remove the camera for the initial adjustments, the telescope was so far off. I had never seen collimation so bad.

I also found the adjustment screws very tight to turn in. I believe, looking back, they had been turned to their maximum depth. What a mess. But, we fixed it. And Manuel was very happy.

I helped with focus. We captured some frames of Jupiter.

At 11:47 I headed inside to warm up. And I suddenly realised how tired I felt. I was done. I think Manuel was tired too, in addition to feeling the effects of a cold. I headed home.

go away Moon (Mississauga)

Spotted the moon this morning on the way to work. Past third quarter. Shouldn't interfere with viewing, or imaging, of Jupiter.

felt bad

I declined another invite. In the middle of my two-day teach. Ignored more CSAC alerts.

This time, Manuel did, in fact, setup and try imaging. But then he sent me a message, a little after midnight...
What a frustrating night.  My 9.25 OTA is way, way off collimation.  I don't know what Jim did back in July.  It is horrendous.  I tried to do it my self, but it is difficult to do it alone.  I guess I have to use my planetary camera and look at the computer screen while I adjust the screws.  What a [appropriate alliterative expletive removed] frustrating night.  Seeing was very good for the city standards.
Felt very bad for Manuel. Looks like optical train work is in order...

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

building the team

Rounded up telescope "experts" for the upcoming workshop. Everyone I'm asking is keen, likes the idea, and happily appears to be available. This is gonna be great. I'm collecting details of their background and experience. As well as when they first got a telescope. So to calculate "total humans years" experience.

Monday, November 05, 2012

had to pass on imaging

Manuel wanted to image Jupiter. I reminded him that while clear skies were predicted, the Moon would be less than 45° away and more than 50% lit. He still was keen. After he got home from work he'd setup. But he said he'd be home late.

I had a lot on my plate. Another battle in the never-ending war with computers. And I had to teach a course tomorrow. The first of a two-day course. Couldn't really stay out late...

The CSAC email alerts were flying. Damn it.

He messaged at 9:20. He had just made it home. Wow.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

left winter behind

And drove out of winter.

So weird.

The CAA tow out of the CAO yard was the most dramatic part of the trip.

Washed and returned the van.

Haas responded to Lord

Sissy sent an update. She informed us that Bill should have updated reports on his web site and Normand will be providing maps. She asked for observing reports on h5188. Finally, she noted that she's responding to Chris Lord's letter wherein he intimated that her project is redundant, given his research some 10 years past.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

no good Xs

Phil sent my his Lunar X table for coming year. He, correctly, observed that 2013 looks to be a horrible year, for us in Ontario.

He asked me to check his numbers. I already knew he was right: I had discovered this as I built my custom spreadsheet calculator...

Best chance appears to be January 19...

did a survey

Kiron and I surveyed the grounds. We had one additional centimetre of snow overnight. Truck still stuck.

Shot lots of photos. In particular, took photos of the outside and inside of the MODLs. Put the photos in Dropbox. Sent reports to the crew. Moved a wicker basket for the Dos Santos. Found a lot of water in Ostap's. Maybe due to the door orientation. Turned off all his power bars. Phil and Dietmar's PODs were fine—a little bit of water. Couldn't get in Ian's.

Overall, pretty good. No damage from the hurricane. Thank goodness.

Settled into some other chores. We finished moving the furniture in. The new couches looked great together. Tony requested a dresser to be brought down (which somehow added some value to the trip). I set about changing everything with a clock (and there were a lot!). Wanted to change the batteries in the Davis weather station console. Wanted to test the smoke and CO alarms. While Kiron wanted to do more work on the parts inventory.

Richard bailed

Richard was watching the weather pretty closely. While desperate for some photons, he pulled the plug on a Friday night visit. But then, Saturday morning, he decided scratch the entire weekend.

Friday, November 02, 2012

sent down photos

Rather than attempt a description of the space in the CAO freezer, I shot and email a photo for Grace. I swear: feels like we're on the International Space Station...

Katrina to blog from Oz

Katrina created a blog to document and show photos from her eclipse trip. Cool!

the van started

Informed Jean that the van started on the second try. So the battery's good. Ready to roll.

No stars we visible as I made the trips to and from the house...


Stupid move for the weekend occurred when I decided the drive on the lawn, in an effort to get closer to the north doors of the house. The scope of my error did not settle on me until I put the van into reverse and it suddenly refused to move.

Snow covered lawn. A decent amount of snow. A lawn not frozen. In a van with a light back end (despite the furniture). With a very torquey motor. On turns made several decades ago.

Damn. Hello, CAA?

noted the top up

Advised the CAO committee of the "delivery ticket" for propane. They added 228 litres. I guess we weren't full...

drove into winter

I was the assigned supervisor for the Carr Astronomical Observatory for the first weekend of November. I had not expected, earlier in the season, that this would be a good (i.e. clear) weekend. In the wake of the east coast hurricane, the skies were looking particularly poor. Still, I wanted to go. Partly to get out of town; and there were some errands to complete at the CAO.

Sent a note to the Yahoo!Group letting members we'd be open. In fact, Richard booked. I also offered to bring library books down.

As more heard of the expedition, tasks got piled on... Arranged for a large-capacity vehicle. We were able to take up two sofas and a single bed which Tony and I had loaded the night before. I'd check on the MODLs, inside and out. Check for missing shingles. Set the clocks back. Start Jean's van, if possible. Fine-tune the NexStar 11.

Kiron and I travelled north mid-day Friday. Left early to avoid traffic, as usual. Kiron had a few errands to do along the way, including yummy snacks. I picked up spare blade fuses for the generator and bathroom cleaning supplies as per Lora's request. I picked up groceries en route.

The drive was uneventful. Drove through a couple of brief snow squalls. Then, we noticed something strange, north of Shelburne. First it was a light dusting of snow on the ground. The amount of snow seemed to increase gradually the further we went. Then I noticed that the snow was accumulating on the north-west side of mounds and bumps, trees and poles. It looked like there had been driving snow very recently. And then it got deeper and deeper.

That was so weird. A first for me. Over the course of a 2.5 hour drive, it went from nothing, brown and green in the city, to snowy and cold. But we didn't experience the storm. It was like we had been suddenly transported. Somewhere much further. But without the air flight. Very strange.

When we arrived the observatory grounds, it was a winter wonderland!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

he likes it! hey Blakey!

Charles shared a link. The customer action photo he shot some time ago (May), at the CAO, and submitted to Thinkgeek was approved! I almost snorted coffee out my nose.

Charles to blog from Fiji

Charles sent out a note on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. Said that he was going to spark up his astronomy blog. He was going to make posts, and upload photos, of the solar eclipse hopefully, using the ship's internet service, as them steamed through the waters near Fiji.