Tuesday, December 31, 2013

reviewed observing sessions

Early in December I began compiling observation data so to statistically review activity. Driven out of curiousity as I began to reflect on the year. 2013 will be always remembered as the year I finished the Messier list. And I recalled Gaherty's observation log entries where he keeps a serial count. It got me thinking: I wondered how many times I have observed at the telescope!

I shared the preliminary data with Charles on the 10th, emphasising that joining the RASC Toronto Centre was good, for me. It got me observing. A lot. A lot more! OK, here we go...

Here's a snapshot of the complete dashboard. Used Google Docs and Excel 2003 to produce and reduce the data. Google to aggregate; Excel for the PivotTables, graphs, and full-formatting control. Now let's dig deeper...

The graph above shows the number of observing sessions per year. Everything starts arbitrarily at 1990 as that is when I procured my first telescope and serious observing began. If you can call it that. Recorded observing sessions were 7 or less each year. Rather low. Partly because, in general, I would only take the telescope out when camping. Another factor was dew. I had a dew cap in 1997; it wasn't until 2000 that I had heaters and portable power. Then started to waver, wondering if I should stay in the hobby or not.

Mom received her 'scope in 2003 and in 2005 I finally took a lot of interest in it, wanting to sort it out and get it working. Joined some astronomy Yahoo!Groups. And, at last, joined RASC in January 2007. Sessions jumped from around 25 to about 80 to 90 per year. RASC city observing sessions and star parties initially and later going to the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

The next big jump, in 2010, I attribute to a couple of things. Being a CAO supervisor. And photography. It was in August that year I began to very actively use the MallinCam. I learned it thoroughly, found control software for it, acquired accessories, maintained it, improved our documentation, used it for solar and deep sky imaging.

Observing sessions have been holding fairly steady since then, around 146 per year.

The above graph shows the same data but is now broken down by type of astronomy session. I record observing details when viewing the whole sky without optical aid, when I use binoculars, when I use a telescope. I also note when I make sketches and when I've captured images or photographs.

It is intriguing to me that everything increased in 2007. I was doing everything, all types of observing and sketching and imaging, more. And I continued to do a little more each year. Again, in 2010, there was a big jump overall. It is clear now that about half of this increase was due to imaging. But my telescopic observing increased a lot too.

Looks like 2013 telescope time dropped while naked eye increased.

A slightly unsettling trend is seeing the sketching decreasing. It was at its highest in 2007 but has steadily decreased. Photography is stealing away from this, no doubt.

Now we depart from the year-by-year analyses; the graph above shows career (through 2013) observing sessions by month. And this should really not come as any surprise to the Canadian astronomer. November and December data points reveal the least amount of observing while July and August are the best. Winter sucks! Or, perhaps, it is that I don't like winter.

The chart above, again, shows the splits by type of observing. Again, not surprising, to see that telescope time and sketching is higher in July and August, when it is comfortable at the eyepiece (or screen).

The chart above shows aggregated, career observing sessions by type. My logs are mostly from sessions at the telescope ocular.

I am a little surprised by the amount consumed by naked eye observing. More than I expected. But I attribute this simply to looking up. When I step outside, I look up. It's usually the first thing I do.

Again, I'm a little disappointed to see sketching at the low point.

The chart above is showing the affect of the season, the month, once again. Clearly July and August are the big months, November and December the smallest. But then all the other months are roughly the same.

Considering this pie graph and the stacked column by month, it looks like there's a steady climb out of January, probably the result of some cabin fever, but then April showers grind us back down.


This was an interesting exercise. And something I feel strongly about, all things considered, is that I want to sketch more... And take great advantage of long winter nights, when possible.

launched web page, readied registration

Built the web page, with a few photos, for the 2014 new owners telescope clinic. It went fairly smoothly. Huh. Remarkably similar to the old CMS...


Reached out to Lora. To let her know that registrations might start showing up...

We reviewed the page. She caught a typo. We consider some different wording. I applied the changes as we spoke.

We discussed registration matters. And then I sent over the files from the previous run. The 2013 registrations for her review. The 2014 file I built with no-shows and wait-listed people.

As I applied more changes to the page, they disappeared. What the...? I discovered that Allard was editing the page. He made a dozen suggestions and some structural changes which overwrote my edits. He apologised. We clarified some issues with layout.

I asked him to deploy a form.

Monday, December 30, 2013

logged objects, again

After days of editing, I finished reconstructing the lost SkyTools data. Primarily the log entries I lost. It gave me a chance to reconcile my life lists too, in particular the NGCs and double stars.

It also gave me an idea. I created lists in SkyTools which mimic my life list pages. And I, once again, created a "to view again" list. Also lost in the hard disk failure... Kinda feel normal again.

reached out to past vendors

I followed up with the vendors who helped us at last year's clinic. Phoned and messaged Kendrick, Khan Scope, KW-Perceptor, Gifts From the Earth, and Radio World. Jim and Ray and Brian are positive. Have yet to hear from the others. Meanwhile, Chris is calling the "new" vendors...

Yahoo!Groups photo madness

At long last, I uploaded the new owners telescope clinic 2013 photos to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. Limited to 50 pix at a time. And I think Rogers throttles uploads. It took a while.

Then about 50% of the time, after I initiated the "post" action, an error would occur. Now, as I examine the folder, there are 336 photos. Funny. I uploaded less than 220 objects.

And now? I can't delete the duplicates.

And when I try to sort them... it doesn't work.

Yahoo! Smarten up! Now!

received the shoe

Before heading across the pond, Charles informed the crew that I'd be preparing the announcements slide deck and handout for the January 8 meeting.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

learned of OzSky 2014

Katrina relayed some information about an annual sky "safari" at an Australian motel. Mar 29 to Apr 5, near the Warrumbungles National Park.

Interesting... Ha ha, didn't notice it at first: a wo-mur-rang.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

researched UPSs

Started researching uninterruptible power supplies. We need two more at the CAO.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

gifts 2013

As per usual, received some science fiction and astronomy themed gifts.

Sis gave me the first two graphic stories from the Firefly-Serenity series. Cool!


Just can't get enough...

Mom gave me snowshoes. Light-weight aluminium. Claws. Polyethylene decking. Not strictly astro-related but they'll help me get to distant observatories in the Great White North.


Teeny tiny alkaline batteries. LR44 and LR1130. Ten each! w00t! (It's the little things.) The LR44 are used in my red LED pens and the Celestron MicroGuide reticule eyepiece (among other things). The LR1130 are required in my blue and green LED pens. The Kick Me Not LED tripod leg illuminators require BOTH types. Yeh! Perfect timing...

Received a mini-calendar for The Big Bang Theory show. Appears to have quotes from the show.

A DVD. Yes! Season 5 from Third Rock From The Sun.

Some other items... Alpaca Insoles from Ziraldo Alpacas. Freaky creatures... To keep my hooves warm in the winter. A decorative metal star. A black Maxell Qubehub with 5 ports. Very compact. Will be handy when trying to drive lots of USB devices off John Kim Chi or John Phil. And hand-made infinity scarf, in Dr Who colours, from Mom.

The coolest gift was the book The End of Night by Paul Bogard. From sis. A very late addition to my Amazon wish list. Thanks!

no reindeer (Union)

Did I spot the Moon rising in the east, through hazy clouds, before heading off to bed? Meh.

Didn't hear any reindeer. They don't like the Moon either I guess.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

watched pump repair part 2

At Mom's, watched spacewalk to connect new pump module. Tuned in just as they were struggling with the jumper box. Glad it worked out.

Monday, December 23, 2013

remembered the old photos

Phil sent Katrina and me a note. Said Paul was looking for photos from the 2013 telescope clinic. Reminded me I still had not uploaded them...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

informed new vendors

Chris phoned some vendors regarding the telescope clinic. Durham Skies Astronomy & Birding, CAMTECH Photographic, New Eyes Old Skies, and Sunward Hobbies. Fantastic!

watched pump repair chapter 1

Watched the (first) spacewalk at the International Space Station. They made excellent progress removing the old coolant pump assembly and installing the jumper.

Will tune it for part 2 shortly...

that time of year

Happy shortest day everyone in the northern hemisphere!

opened backup dialogue

The president checked with the web team about site backups. They are happening. Sporadically.

Friday, December 20, 2013

made functional diagrams

Built a functional diagram for the Carr Astronomical Observatory's electrical systems. In Visio. With hyperlinks. Not trivial. In the process, I realised that I did not have detailed photo documentation of the GBO or the garage. Damn.

flyer design underway

Ralph asked Maggie, our enthusiastic youth member, to make a flyer for the telescope clinic.

uploaded big dox

With the increased individual file size limits, I was able to at last upload more documentation, large files, and notes for the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

SN acquires SS

Big news on the planetarium software front: Simulation Curriculum Corp. of Minneapolis (the owners of StarryNight) acquired SkySafari. Initially I read it the wrong way 'round.


Intriguing, the remarks in a business journal web site, on this matter. This will help Simulation get a better footing in the mobile device arena. But going into bio and other non-astronomy fields? That's a little strange, no?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

incoming gear

Gilles volunteered to coordinate the large donation of astronomical equipment to the centre. Telescopes, mounts, lots of eyepieces, etc. Excellent. The gear will be distributed to the DDO, CAO, and loan program.

We need some eyepieces and could really use a decent mirror for the NexStar 11 at the CAO.

fixed typo on Vimeo

Lora spotted a spelling mistake on the Facebook page. Alerted Allard. Allard pointed out that the copy was absorbed from Vimeo. He alerted me. I took a look. Saw the mistake. Fixed it. But it was not something I had entered. It was text entered by Dietmar as he uploaded his video. A little typographical error in the observatory name. Ha.

outage on the mountain

We learned the power went out atop of the Blue Mountains for about 7 hours yesterday when a garbage truck operator crashed into a hydro pole. Happily, Michael helped us with some on-site tasks. Saved me driving up. Must have been a very ungraceful outage: a good number of breakers were tripped.


Form response?
Thank you so much for your Christmas Card.  Very thoughtful of you.  We both sincerely appreciate it.  We also wish you all the best life has to offer.  May the true spirit of Christmas be present and guide us in the new year.  Look forward to see you in the new year.
I don't know.

Gaia away

The Gaia probe launched today! The esa Gaia probe will map stars with unprecedented accuracy.

Not a lot of people are talking about it in my immediate circles but I'm looking forward to better double star data.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

shared view

The past president asked me to share my perspective with the current president on matters IT in the centre.

dead Dell

Received a second hand Dell laptop. I was interested in turning it into a backup or spare unit in case the main telescope control machine goes down. But it has a dead battery. Tried cold soaking it, twice, to no avail. Not a deal breaker. Found the power cord flaky. So weird. Almost exactly the issue with my Dell... Again, not catastrophic; can always get a new cord.

But the Blue Screen of Death? That's not good. They persisted even after two factory restore attempts and three wipe-erasure attempts. Overheating?

Possibly. But even after de-linting the innards, it was still not working right. Looked deeper into the BSOD coding. Network equipment? Huh. Disabled the wireless circuitry and the machine stabilised! All right. We can live without wifi. But then I couldn't get the onboard ethernet board to function! Crikey. Doesn't look like I'm any further ahead...

Monday, December 16, 2013

get a bachelors from BU

After a lively discussion on lead acid batteries, kicked off by Dave, Matthew shared a useful link from Battery University.

asked an expert

Phoned Dr Chou regarding focusing masks.

I'm under the impression that the diffraction pattern is produced "inside" the telescope. Or is an absolute. So, then, wearing or not wearing corrective lens will not affect the image. And therefore the operator should not remove their eyewear... I shall report this to the RASC group.


We hit -30 degrees with the wind chill at the observatory on the Blue Mountains this weekend...

first 2014 SkyNews arrived

I received my copy of the newest SkyNews, the Jan/Feb issue.

Delivered to the correct address. And there was much rejoicing.

Phil received his last week and offered it on the weekend. So I have already skimmed it.

In fact, I have already noted the "big things" for 2014 in my personal astronomy calendar...

delivered calendars

Despite the poor road conditions, a frozen power steering pump, frozen windshield fluid, I was able to make like Santa and hand-deliver items to Katrina's home. I had meant to hand them over on Saturday but forget them!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

would if I could

Some typos on the Facebook page were pointed out to me. Except there's nothing I can do about it...

helped sort family members

Helped Phil audit family memberships, comparing the data from RASC national office, to our database.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

DDO MN cancelled

Due to the poor weather and road conditions, the Members Night at the DDO was cancelled. Come on. It's just snow! Are you Canadian or what? Drag! I wanted to see Steve's talk on using Photoshop with deep sky images...

concluded sales

No new sales of RASC 2014 calendars at the DDO event. And Jason did not show again. So, that's it. Finally. Well. except I want to keep some set aside for the clinic...

attended web editing lecture

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre web site training seminar. With Lora, Katrina, Leslie, and Stu. Allard was late. He showed a guidelines page with lots of suggestions and "requirements." Huh. Not unlike what I wrote in 2007 for my team of authors and editors. Lots of cookies!

He sorted some account issues for Leslie. Showed us the Drupal editing interface. Answered our various questions. Showed links to a couple of videos (that appear to have no audio at all). And then Allard wrapped. Done!

Little or no editing by us to speak of. Despite being told to bring our laptops and that "The course will be hands-on. At the end of it, we will have some new articles on the site written by you." I knew I'd be OK; I was wondering how the others felt. We departed the DDO.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

rounded up mentors

Chatted with the past mentors to see if they wanted to participate at the next telescope clinic.

Lost a couple but most were keen. Added a few new people to the team. The numbers looked good.

tried to beat the Devil

Stuart called a Go for the city observing session. But he was clouded out. Only one member showed... For 4 years now, at least, no session happened in December. Bloody Canadian weather.


I messaged Manuel about the RASC calendars. Explained how I had made arrangements for him to receive them in a timely fashion. His reply:
It was no reason for your email.

I prefer you don't contact me again.
I was disappointed.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

telescope clinic on Sat 8 Feb

Chris sent out a note to the team. The new owners telescope clinic date and time had been booked with the DDO crew... Lora caught the mistake. The date he noted was a Tuesday!

Chris did a virtual face palm and clarified he meant the 8th.

Saturday 8 February from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

delivered talk on focus masks

Delivered my presentation on focusing masks. Provided a handout.

Took questions at the end. Some of which I will have to research.

Accolade from Lourdes and Mike after. Some interest in my false star too! Ha.


Presentation materials now online at the lumpy companion.

a few more

Delivered and sold more RASC calendars ahead of the evening's meeting. The last instance will be the DDO event... Good. I'm done with this. Glad to help. But...

Made a note to send a quick update to the treasurer and the president.

no backups?

Chatted with Nicole, Gilles, and Charles before the meeting on RASC, the DDO, telescopes, web sites, projectors, software, family, vacations, etc. But I was distracted. I perked up when the topic of data backups was raised.

beck and call

Kiron called me out of the blue. Of course, he wanted me to help him with his new computer and Stellarium software. Haven't heard from him for months. Sheesh.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

met with organisation team

Had a meeting with Lora, Ralph, and Chris, via Skype, for the new owners telescope clinic. They all sounded keen and willing to help. We divided up the tasks. Katrina said she'll have more time in the new year. It's really good having a team helping out with this...

asked to deliver 2014 TSTM

Markov asked if I'd conduct The Sky This Month for January. I was not comfortable with this. I suspected I'd be busy with the clinic. He immediately asked about February. OK, OK. So I'm on duty for the 19 February 2013 meeting.

like it

Asked the CAO supervisors on Facebook to like Dietmar's video.

shared dashboard

Shared my observing session dashboard with the prez. RASC has "been berra berra good... to me."

Monday, December 09, 2013

observatories in entropy

Matthew sent a link to io9, specifically an article on abandoned derelict observatories. Cool and sad at the same time.

The Innisfil Observatory was included...

will demo focusing masks

I'm presenting this week on focusing masks which can be used with a telescope or a camera lens. Will demonstrate focusing with a mask with a Canon DSLR, stock lens, a false star, the Canon remote control camera software, and diffraction pattern detection software. Wednesday at the Ontario Science Centre.

updated X calculator

Built version 6.00a of the Lunar X calculator.

It is much more robust than the previous versions. And easier, in the end, for the end-user.
  • re-did all date/time calculations to use complete serial date/time value
  • accommodated for early morning pre-dawn sky conditions
  • added a look-up table for the Moon's elevation
  • added a look-up table for the month/event cycle
  • automated the "fudge" factor adjustment
  • added an assessment flag considering darkness at peak and Moon elevation
I need to send it off to Phil for review...


This means the best X for 2014 is February. And in December there's a poor-quality event.

heard Consolmagno

Tuned in a little early to Astronomy.fm radio and caught the tail-end of Bob McDonald's Quirks and Quarks. He replayed an interview with Guy Consolmagno. I recognised the name right away. Author of Turn Left At Orion. One of my favourite astronomy books. Very interesting person!

learned about ST3P Sync

Read about the user data Sync feature in SkyTools 3 Pro. I think I'll use this in the future to reduce the chance of data loss.

In the past, I treated the ST3P on the netbook as "the master" which I think I'll continue to do. The desktop computer I'd use just to quickly check things, do tests, etc. But I think if I make a point of periodically syncing them, I'll gain the best of many worlds.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

he went back

Stu reprocessed an ISON shot from November.

Grace fixed the wind

Huh? The wind data was back! The Davis weather station was reporting, once again, the wind speed and direction.

Grace fixed it! Looks like the disconnecting and reconnecting of the console from the server somehow fixed our no-wind condition. Whew! Saves us climbing on the roof of the garage again...

Saturday, December 07, 2013


Hitched a ride with Elaine and Tony from Mississauga to the restaurant in Newmarket. Millie, Dietmar, Lora, and Phil joined us. Took care of a MODL lease matter; ready for the final stage. Food was good but the general noise level in the small restaurant was astounding! They need baffles in the ceiling. Why the owners were blasting the television volume was beyond me. Stupid. Could barely hear the person sitting beside me. When I really wanted to enjoy some pleasant conversation with these wonderful people. And then the service... Ugh. Just can't seem to get good value for my money.

invited to Baden

Manuel had invited me out tonight to an observatory near Baden, west of K-W. But never called back. Not surprisingly. I was interested in seeing this new location for myself. But I suspected that was not going to happen ever.

we worked on the Swann

Did some work on the Swann security system. Had Tony, at the observatory, apply a new password. And I had him enable the password authentication. He continued to build an automated heating system for the DVR. Meanwhile, I tried out a new and/or different software application.

out in the open

Rajesh took a pot shot at the web team. On the RASC TC main Yahoo!Group. "Does no one update the TC web site anymore with the decision for the events?" Good ole' passive-aggressive snipe. Forgetting for a moment that we're all volunteers. I'm not defending anyone but he would not take to kindly to a similar remark hurled at him. And somehow I suspect he'd get really quiet if I said I'd be happy to train him on the editing of the new web site. Allard updated things within 2 hours. Rajesh could have said thanks.

Friday, December 06, 2013

sandy taupe

Manuel had made noises that the Baden observing pad was darker than the CAO.

We're getting creeping light pollution from Collingwood, to be sure.

I dunno. Same or worse, I would argue. Curious if there are SQM readings... Would I see it for myself?

At least his drive time (1:10) is reasonable!

new high

Broke last year's numbers. 1199. And still rising.

sent a nudge

Nothing yet... Asked Cathy if NYAA needed my mailing address...

they're gonna try

A bunch of members planned some early morning comet observing... To spot ISON in particular. Some were heading to the Glen Major Forest; others to Long Sault. Ugh. Just couldn't see that happening...


Stu got some great shots of Lovejoy.

Bill got it the next day.

grab the shovel

Reminded supervisors that if they now want to use the CAO north entrance as an emergency exit they will need to clear the snow...

four next year?

Phil sent me a note. He had not put the December Lunar X event in his calendar. So thanked me for my recent note. He also shared his Lunar table pointing out there appeared to be four events for 2014.
  • Feb 7
  • Aug 3
  • Oct 1
  • Nov 29
I'll have to check...


Upon review, I found the Feb 7 (actually starts on Feb 6) is the best. For all the others, the Moon is below the horizon.

I "found" two other events. He was missing the late October event, the second first-quarter Moon in the same month. But it was moot with the Moon below, again. The other was a brief event on Dec 28. Peaking at 3:24 PM, Moon 33° up, Sun setting at 4:48 PM. So a twilight op.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

X op soon

Shared, on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group, that there was an upcoming Lunar X opportunity on Monday...

Good luck with the clouds.

listened to Dr Seager

Listened to CBC Ontario Today online as they interviewed Dr Sara Seager and took calls from across the province. They asked the question: would you go on a one-way trip to another world? They focused on Mars. Seager specialises in exoplanet research. A little strange. Did I feel her discomfort?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

last word?

One final email. Looking for an admission. Humility. Shared my feeling on transparency, conflict, being a better person. But that I felt it was for naught.


Manuel sent me an email. Even included my detailed message from the 2nd. Said that the phone numbers he had listed on his cell were the ones I had shared. Verified he didn't have my old phone number. He was certain he had called my cell number. Pointed out he was very competent. Reminded me that he had a law degree. Thought I was mocking him about how to enter phone numbers in his database. Said he never showed disrespect to others. Said I was upset about something trivial and without importance. Thought I showed a lack of respect when I phoned him.

so much for that

I telephoned Manuel. He was in a store. I asked if he had a minute or two. I explained I was upset. Challenges with phone numbers. Communicating clearly. I wanted to be transparent and air differences. I didn't like how he intimated that there was something wrong with my phone numbers. It seemed to me that he had mixed them up, probably entered them in the wrong fields on his new phone. But. It quickly spiraled out of control. Then he hung up.

number mix up

Manuel emailed me.
Forgot to mention.  When I called you on your cell earlier, I got a voice mail from [the house].  I checked my phone and confirmed I dialed correctly.  Just to let you know.
I was confused. I don't forward. He had reached me on other occasions at the mobile number. I think he either dialed the land-line by accident or has the land-line number in the cell phone field.


Picked up the voice mail from Manuel. He sounded irked. Frustrated that he can't reach me by phone. And frustrated that I'm not confirming.
Man, you don't answer your phone, you don't answer your cell.  I wonder what kind of plan you have.  Is it that expensive?  That you have a phone plan that probably is not working for you. 
Anyways, I responded to your email about Saturday.  So, you have the free will to arrange your own agenda.  But again if the weather is going to be good, I would like you to confirm with me that you are coming [to Baden].  If you're not coming, that's fine, that's OK, even though the weather is good.  OK?  But let me know.  Now we are twisting the functions here.
I kept a copy of it.

put aside two

Manuel asked me to hold two RASC calendars. I set two aside for him. Maybe I'd drop them off on Saturday?

locked in

Manuel replied to my email.
If weather is not good for Saturday, as it probably will be, you can go ahead with your agenda.  However, if weather is good we are on.
So, I was locked in. I could not commit to other plans until he made his official decision. I felt uncomfortable. Boxed in.
Perhaps we can get together after the new year when things turn back to normal.  I will use the spare time to work on my presentation for January 22. 
So, at last, now I knew that it was complete. Bad weather, we'd not get together at all.

I strongly suspected the weather would be poor. It didn't occur to me at the time to urge him to completely scratch the Baden plans for when the weather prediction was much more favourable.

triple booked

Tried to clarify my position, via email, with Manuel. I explained that I had been invited to two other functions on Saturday night. It is always busy this time of year. I was interested in seeing Baden. I was interested in meeting up. But if the weather was bad and he was going to cancel everything then it might leave me in the lurch. And I truly thought the weather looked iffy. No guarantee of clear skies. I asked if he still wanted to get together, regardless of the weather. I hoped he could let me know sooner versus later.

decision deferred

Received an email from Manuel. He wanted to defer the weather call decision until Friday. He said, "I checked it yesterday night again for Baden and it does showed scattered clouds but no rain or flurries." Optimistic again. Encouraged me to bring a camera if we were a go. He hadn't answered my other question though.


I think I'm beginning to understand... I think what he says will happen with future weather is his wish, not a factual presentation of the prediction. Wishful thinking. Which I can certainly understand. But in this case, I want a reasonable viewpoint.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

confirmed MODL renewal

Confirmed the lessees of MODL 4 wanted to carry on. Finally getting on top of this task... Prepared the paperwork.

chance of flurries

I sent a electronic mail to Manuel. Told him that I seeing poor predictions. Cloudy with a chance of flurries! I asked if he still want to get together? It'd be nice to catch up, look at photos. But I suspected he'd not want to do anything. I asked if he might make other plans.

only if clear

Manuel sent an email reply. Suggested I drive to his house on Saturday. Then we'd depart from there. He thought the weather was going to be okay. But if "cloudy then we abort mission." OK. I was not sure what weather resource he was checking...

rain or shine?

I sent an email to Manuel. Said it would be fun to go to Baden. I asked if it would go rain or shine. And I suspected he'd cancel if the weather was poor. Wasn't much point in going if we couldn't enjoy the dark skies. My impression was that the weather was lookin' sketchy...

he called

Manuel phoned my mobile. I couldn't take the call at the time.

SpaceX serves another customer

Watched the SpaceX launch. A Falcon 9 hoisted an SES 8 comm sat.


shoot high speed

Ordered some Lexar Pro high-speed large-capacity Compact Flash memory cards for the Canon 40D. I don't know if it was a special sale for Cyber Monday or not but I discovered the price at Henry's for the 16 GB was the near that of the 8 GB. And cheaper than the SanDisk 16 GB I had been eyeballing.

Eligible for free shipping too! They just sent an e-confirmation that they are on their way. Woo hoo. The 800x will help reduce lag when trying time lapse...

updated CAO LAN dox

Updated and uploaded the local area network documentation for the Carr Astronomical Observatory. For the new DVR... Rather stale. I had updated it for a while. Noted the hard line to the Tony Horvatin Observatory and MODL 6 too.

Baden again

Manuel emailed me. Said he had not wanted to phone me after getting home so late. Asked, again, if I wanted to go to Baden.

Monday, December 02, 2013

in memoriam

The ISON campaign web site showed a memorial for the comet, Bryon shared.

An ex-comet.


Manuel emailed a reply to my detailed message. Acknowledged calling Tony. Said he had lost his phone. Copied my email address from his iPad.
When I accidentally deleted your phone numbers was when I got confused by the 905 number it was registered when you phoned me so I deleted the whole thing by accident.  Had a new phone then.  I have now registered your phones correctly.
OK. Good.

have ID will travel

Eric reminded members, on the Yahoo!Group, to print their RASC membership card.

resent contact info

During the class's afternoon break, I sent Manuel a detailed email. Told him I had learned he phoned Tony looking for my telephone numbers. I re-sent my current mobile and land-line numbers. Reminded him to delete my old land-line. Explained that if he called the current land-line, he'd hear the roomie answering. But he could still leave a voice mail message and it would be forwarded to me. If he wanted to leave a private voice mail, it would be better to use my mobile phone. Also gave him my Text+ free text messages number. Facebook? Skype? Lots of ways to reach me.

looking for my number

Manuel phoned Tony and asked for my phone number. Tony checked with me by email as to what he should do. I wondered why Manuel had not asked me directly... Odd.

dinner scratched

Manuel cancelled dinner. Because of the weather! What? Drag. I was looking forward to catching up... Was very interested in his trip of the Atacama desert. And the photos!

He must have had other plans (although he hadn't shared any of that with me). To image after dinner, perhaps. If we were just meeting to chat and view photos, what would the weather have to do with it? Or perhaps, as is often the case, something came up at work. Alas, I would be dining at home now. Maybe family issues. I dunno. Could be anything.

It's binary for him and I don't know if he understands that, for me, it's different. Let's hang out regardless of the weather. For him, if the weather's bad, there's no point in getting together.

I was disappointed.

confirmed dinner

Manuel emailed me. We confirmed our restaurant meeting this week. He was curious about my Carr trip, particularly because the weather had not be conducive for observing. And asked if I wanted to visit the Baden observatory on Saturday. He'd need to register us in.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

made dinner plans

Manuel by email asked if I wanted to go to dinner on Wednesday at 8:00 PM. OK!

built box

Tony and I finished building the environment box around the Swann DVR. I did most of the labour; Gimpy directed and pointed.

flicked the switch

Inspected Dietmar's IP camera. Nothing wrong with it. Power bar was off...

righted two tables

Righted the blown-over picnic tables at the Carr. Did the "small" one on my own. Needed Tony's help for the "big" one. And still had to shovel off a lot of snow. Both Tony and I weren't surprised that they had fallen down in a big wind. We moved them back under the deck. Wouldn't happen again.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

happy 145

Wished the RASC Toronto Centre a happy birthday!

TS6 on netbook v2

Installed TheSky 6 onto the netbook John Phil. Now able to control the Toronto Centre Paramount again (from SkyTools)...

Too lazy though to go out to the GBO to test-drive it.

doubled security coverage

Configured the Swann DVR, via local monitor and mouse. Jacked into our LAN. Tested it via the iPad. Everything worked. Updated our IP plan, after finding a back-up copy (yeh!) of the document.

It's doubleplusgood.

finished camera wire drops

Finished the wiring of the new Swann cameras. Took a quick break. Grace and Tony were on their way back from the Collingwood marine hospital.

the install

Began the Swann security system install.

I think we have everything...

tried debugging the wind

Still no wind data. The Davis Instruments console was not reporting speed or direction despite the anemometer spinning. I tried resetting the console. Finally, I gracefully shut it down then disconnected it from the USB cable. If I had time after the security install, if it wasn't too windy, I'd climb up and check the cables...

Friday, November 29, 2013

windy observing (Blue Mountains)

Around 11:00 PM. In the Geoff Brown Observatory. The Paramount was up and running.

Opened the roof. Jammed half-way! Huh? Probably I let go of the button... Damn. Looked for some tools. Found a small counterweight. That shocked the motor. Noticed it was very windy.

11:14. Realised I had not set the Sony voice recorder back to Standard time.

Turned the dew heaters on!

Headed to Jupiter. Pointing was off. Dramatically off. Nowhere near. Incredible. Why?

11:20. Used the UO finder scope to manually slew to the gas giant. At least it was well-aligned.

Moons equally spaced. The seeing looked really good. Thought I saw a shadow...

Really windy. And gusting. It made my eyes water. Not enjoyable.

Went to the house to check SkyTools. Also coaxed Grace and Tony out for a quick look at Jupiter.

Slewed to the Great Orion Nebula (Messier 42 or M42). It was fantastic.

Grace came into the Warm Room. She was really cold.

We wanted to close the roof a bit to block some wind. Ha! Roof drive didn't work. Finally, Tony was nearby. We did some diagnostics. In the dark we checked for sparks: none. We confirmed the contractor was working and supplying power to the motor. Tony used a flashlight and viewed through the vents at the bottom of the motor casing and located the switch. He was able to spot the switch. He let me have a look. I too saw the switch.

11:50. We completely closed the roof. Done. Grace headed to the house. Parked the Paramount.

11:53. Took some SQM readings. I operated the sensor and Tony recorded the numbers. Around 20.30. Not great. Temp was -3.

We talked about cold movies, like The Thing, and Apollo 13. Grace checked the temperature in Thornbury: -14.

It was time for snow beer!

Finally plugged in the USB hard warmers... A little late!

packing light?

Loaded up the van for the northbound trip. Logistically challenge: stuff from the work week not needed; extra calendars; tools and warm clothes required. Snow beer. Gah. Lots of stuff. But I had arranged for a large hiking back pack. We hit the road...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

managed some more calendars

Sold and reserved some RASC calendars privately.

Was stood-up again but agreed to leave them behind for pick-up with the assurance that payment would be sent in advance.

shared old collimation article

Phil sent a note to the membership relaying the Canadian Tire 66% off sale of the Celestron 15x70 binoculars. 50 bucks! Wow! He also reminded people how I had taught many how to correct the collimation problems. Chris M., in turn, scoured the Yahoo!Group and found a reference to my article on the web site. The old web site... And of course that didn't go anywhere. I provided the correct link, into the super-secret archived site.

Old, dead: http://toronto.rasc.ca/content/collimating_bins.shtml

Working: http://archive.rascto.ca/content/collimating_bins.shtml

Chris was happy. I wished there was a more graceful solution for our members...

tested iPad client

Put a VNC client on Grace's iPad. It worked really well. That was easy.

ISON is gone

ISON is gone, ripped apart as it grazed the Sun. C/2012 S1 is an ex-comet. Quiet all of a sudden. Nobody know's what to do... it seems.

I keep thinking about all the "comet of the century" headlines. I hope those posters learned something. But probably not.

When have magazines and newspapers not sensationalised things? To sell a few more copies.

The only good news out of all this is that we (the serious scientists and astronomers) learned a little bit more about these fickle harbingers.

to protect the new gear

Picked up from The Source a good surge protector for the new Swann DVR system. Tony'd like it: it had jacks for ethernet cords.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

what about the plate covers?

I was a little disappointed that the AGM discussion did not mention the new RASC vehicle licence plate covers. A lot of work went into this project. It was made possible by Mr Guerrero. It was making some money for the centre. And creating a new way of getting our name out there. Something that should make all the strategic planning fanatics happy.

RASC misc

Tied up a bunch of other loose ends at the RASC meeting...

Collected some overdue CAO overnight fees. Finally. Ha! I know where you live...

Swapped CAO keys with Tim H.

Distributed the projector remote 2025 batteries to the DDO and Education teams.

Chatted briefly with Chris V about the new owners telescope clinic.

Talked briefly with Denis about the address handling with SkyNews.

Gave Phil my tools to affect a tire repair; he forgot to give me his software disc...

Tony and I continued our discussion of tools and bits needed for the coming weekend. 

sold more calendars

While not nearly as many as the previous gathering, 16 this time, I sold more RASC calendars. Before and after the meeting(s), that is, around the talk on quasars and around the annual general meeting.

Also reserved calendars for future speakers, First Light, and NOVA.


Neat: Leslie had some of the new $5 bills.

learned about quasars

Dr. Paola Rodriguez Hidalgo was great. Really enjoyed her talk on quasars.

Learned a lot.

received ball

Grace gave me a Christmas tree decoration, a small gold-coloured ball.

It would serve as my false star for my focusing mask presentation...

dropped Swann

No, I didn't drop the DVR (someone else did). Packed up the Swann gear and dropped it off at Tony's. For transfer to the CAO on the weekend.

visited Electronics Alley

Found some cheap dial light timers at Sayal. The digital ones currently at the CAO seem to be confounding people.

Snagged an extra LS-18 for the Panasonic at the CAO.

Checked out long focal length CCTV cameras at AA Electronics. Perhaps for a future install.

Picked up some BNC female-to-female connectors. And some coin batteries. For the Centre projector remotes. And the Canon 40D.

Also picked up some weekend supplies... lubrication... as it were.

thanks anyway

He had found it "in a box from the move." Mr Mortfield offered his Photoshop Astronomy DVD. I'm good.

calendar herding

I had dropped the calendars to Charles's shop. When I started to get nervous the impending weather. Reminded him what I needed at the Wednesday meeting.


Thought about it later. Flawed logic on my part. I had not reduced risk or solved anything; I had moved all the eggs from one basket to another basket. Should have kept one box back... Oh well.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

look where the Sun shines

Humans probably can't seen C/2012 S1 (ISON) any more. But the various solar telescopes can! Be sure to check out the JAXA and NASA web sites associated with the noted telescopes over the next few days...
  • Nov 21-28: STEREO-A
  • Nov 26-29: STEREO-B; the only craft positioned to watch ISON transit the face of the Sun
  • Nov 27-30: SOHO
  • Nov 28-29: STEREO-A
  • Nov 28: SDO; for about 3 hours around perihelion
  • Nov 28: Japan's Hinode; for about 1 hour around perihelion
Now, that said, the data from these satellites has to be sent "down" and then processed. So we might still not see things immediately.

stale data at CIOC

The world is waiting with baited breath and the Comet ISON Observing Campaign web site is over a day old. Come on!

The light curve is stale too. Sheesh.

tripled the budget

Asked for more budget for the next clinic. Triple!

Monday, November 25, 2013

considered clinic

Sent a message on the Operations group. Asked if we want to do the new owners telescopic clinic again. Provided links to my formal report. I didn't say it in this message but I wanted to see what kind of support I'd get. And if they read the report, they'd see that I didn't want to do it all by myself again...


Chris thought it a great idea and offered to help again.

Allard thought it a great event. He "ran the numbers" and found that 12 people of the 33 were members. He said it was a "pretty good conversion." Not exactly. 11 of those were already members. As far as I know, we only converted one. Then he suggested a different type of clinic only for members, with higher level items.

Leslie said it would be good to do after Christmas.

Phil said he was willing to help.

Ralph offered to help.

Katrina said she was willing to volunteer.

Eric said that it should be noted in SCOPE, if we proceed.

Ed said, "I'm in again."

Jason thought it a great idea and something that we do every year.

I started to reach out to those first respondents so to build an organisational team...

running out of ideas

Tried to help Karsten with Stellarium issues with Windows 8.x on a laptop. He was getting the error: "Stellarium has stopped working, a problem caused the program to stop working correctly. Windows will close the program and notify you if a solution is available." I had him download again (with the correct bitness), reinstall again (after deleting all the old files).

sent IT report

Submitted the (brief) information technology report to the RASC Toronto Centre secretary.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

again, a better price

Allard surfed into the RASC eStore and noted the price of the calendar. He asked if the Toronto Centre was "price matching." No. Bettering! Guess he missed my message on the general Yahoo!Group on November 1 wherein I pointing the $8 savings a member would realise. Not to mention my response to Eric's similar question in the Ops group of late October.


Reminded some of the exec to be ready with the inclement weather policy...


Lots of snow at the observatory. 9 inches? Maybe 12? Wow.

Damn. Looks like we'll need the Snow Cat!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

reviewed the Moon

Entered, from the new Observer's Handbook, all the 2014 new Moon dates into the Psion. Four of them are on weekends and five of them are near weekends.

Also, using the RASC Handbook, I calculated the Lunar X opportunities. I only see one: February 6. And it's a good one, started at 9:32 PM, 3 hours after sunset, peaking at 11:52 PM when the Moon is 41° up, and finishing at 2:12 AM.

updated Rainmeter

Updated Rainmeter on John Charles. Finally, I have dynamic Clear Sky Charts.

The code came from Kevdog on Cloudy Nights

Friday, November 22, 2013

some private sales

Sold a few RASC calendars privately.

Tried to set-up another meeting with my no-show.

Some strange missives. An early message said that a pick-up in Mississauga would be far better than in Don Mills. A later message said that 905-land was too far. Huh?

pulled the cover

Did more DVR testing. Pulled the cover. Shot more photos. Sent a message via the Facebook page... Looks like it's been pranged!

relayed double star date info

Sent out a clarifying note to Malcolm Park (and David Cotterell) of NYAA to explain the date (year and sometimes month) shown in SkyTools. When asked, during my presentation, what it meant, I had conjectured it was the update date; no, it was simply the reference date for the PA and Sep based on the binary orbital elements calculations.


No reply as of 15 May 2014.

found old mistakes

Installed the SkyTools update. Then reviewed the list of past typographical errors I have found in planning software. Noted that Greg had corrected a misspelling in the Observing List printout but not other typos in dialogs...

OLT canceled

Funny from xkcd today...

The End.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

learned Swann product

Did more testing of the Swann system. After a chat-remote access session with a tech support rep, I sorted a few issues. Dropped the bit rate on each channel. This should reduce flashing and quality issues. Stopped streaming the channels with no camera attached. Which dramatically sped up performance. Learned that the custom camera locations in the 4x or 9x grid cannot be saved. But the tech offered to make a note. Good. Learned where the new versions are uploaded. Handy! And, finally, was given the senior tech contact info in Aussieland for getting the humidity and temp specs.

ride the comet

Encouraged RASC members to jump into Stellarium, go to comet C/2012 S1 (ISON), turn around and look at the Sun, as the comet snapped through perihelion.

Hell of a ride...

screwy dates

Peter pointed out the reversal of the format in the original dates Allard had proposed.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

mesmerising comets

Love this image of comets Encke and ISON being shoved around by the Sun.

It clearly shows that the solar wind and coronal mass ejections dramatically affect the tails of comets.

final date set

Allard said, "looks like December 14 is the most convenient date for everyone, starting at 1 pm at the DDO so that is the day we are going to get together." I blocked off the day.

up to two

This year's blog posts pushed past year 2011, with new posts added today, moving into the number 2 spot.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

tested with white LED

Quickly made a false star. Focusing presentation in December...

Canon 40D, 18-55 lens at 55, f/5.6, ISO 800, 2 seconds.

southern shots shared

Manuel shared some photos from the southern hemisphere. Fantastic!


I watched the CubeSat launch on the computer. Katrina thinks she saw the rocket from her house! A glow low in the sky. Cool. I wish I had known about the visibility map before hand... Never thought about that: rockets from Wallops might be spotted up here in the Great White North.

helped George

Helped George get onto the RASC Yahoo!Group. On reviewing the notes on the old web site, I found that they needed a slight revamp for the recent Yahoo changes...

Ken says it's lumpy

Ken Hewitt-White spoke of a lumpy sky, in the Nov/Dec SkyNews, when searching for subtle dim galaxies in Abell 347. Exactly!

Monday, November 18, 2013

what about others?

I asked Allard if others, not on the Ops group, had been invited. More should be on the web site writing team. Lots more!

watched MAVEN launch

Watched the launch of the NASA MAVEN orbiter. On to Mars!


Sunday, November 17, 2013


Hit 1000 entries today. Firmly established in third place, for the number of blog entries per year. Only 31 to go to make second place...

CAO movie up

Helped Dietmar get the CAO promotional video onto Vimeo. It is fantastic!

The new text overlays look great. Ralph's narration is really good. Dietmar's filming and production is wonderful. Well done all.

procured calendars

I put aside a couple of RASC calendars for the CAO.

mini course proposed

Allard sent out a note on the Ops Yahoo!Group. The webteam was ready to deliver a hands-on course at the DDO for authors and editors of the web site. At last! They proposed two dates: "Saturday 7/12 1-4pm and Saturday 12/14 at 10am-1pm."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

books are back

U of T sent their books back to the DDO. Library looks normally again.


sold calendars at DDO

Found the sealed box and cart that Charles had left for me at the DDO. Sold a few RASC calendars. Kevin wanted a couple. The first sale of the evening. Steve wanted one but didn't have any cash. I could not convince Al, the budding imager, to buy despite pointing out that the photos might be very inspirational... Chris was very happy to learn, after the talks, that I had some left—he took one.

not a great talk

Delivered my talk on comet hunting at the David Dunlap Observatory during the first Members Night evening for the winter season. I was not really happy with the presentation. Gosh, darn it. Provided a very detailed handout with emphasis on using planetarium or planning software.

Maybe I used too many acronyms...


Handout available in the presentations section of the lumpy companion.

noted Karen's nudge

Karen said it would be "great" to do new owners telescope clinic again. Ugh. We're already behind the eight ball...

could proceed with learning

After putting out an appeal on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group, and then a few gyrations, I received the Photoshop Astronomy sample files. Thanks to Mr Markov and Mr McNair. Woo hoo! Now I can proceed with my lessons, from chapter 5 (of Phil's book).

all OK

Ostap sent down a report. All's well at the Carr.

stood up

Was asked if I could sell some RASC calendars privately to a member. Booked a morning meet-up as they headed out of town.

A no-show without a follow-up phone call. Mucked up my plans.

Lovejoy fainter (Mississauga)

Viewed comet C/2013 R1 (Lovejoy) in the Questar 3½ at 40x atop the large camera tripod.
Instrument: Questar 3½-inch Mak
Mount: tripod
Method: star hopping
As expected I knew it would take me a little while to find the comet.

First focused the telescope using Jupiter. Three moons visible. North and south belts visible.

Tried Alula Borealis and Australis as my star hop launching point. I think. At one point I realised I was looking at 46 Leo Minor and its little grouping of 3 bright and 1 faint star. Headed up and left! Spotted 27, 28, and 30. From there moved down a bit and to the right. Got it!

Faint! Seemed much fainter than the view yesterday in binoculars. I wondered if the sky was brighter with the clouds and damn full Moon and impending Sun. Could not detect the tail.

Stray light was bothersome. Should have worn a hoodie. Or brought out the Cloak of Doom.

Wondered about ISON. Grabbed the binoculars and tried to find Spica. From the deck, it was low, behind the trees.

Viewed ruddy orange Mars beside a white-blue star, σ (sigma) Leo, at 7x.

Noted Cor Caroli. Briefly considered some double star viewing. Nope. My bed was calling.