Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Risa's exhibiting

Risa's show is in town... At the MKG127 gallery, with her Saturn piece. February and March. An installation with charcoal sketches and some photographs.

I love the GIF animation of her sketches, moving through the ring plane.

Imaging Saturn is the latest project on her artist site.

Images used with permission. Copyright © Risa Horowitz.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

stacked Jupiter again

Another run with RegiStax 6. After reviewing more tutorials...

Played with align options in more detail, added some manual alignment points, set the region of interest (ROI), used the Best Frames option at 40%, used the default stacking parameters for the ROI, and used linked wavelets with adjustments to the first 2 layers only. No post processing.

I see more detail on the planet and less noise in general.

That said, there's wavelet artefacts in the black space. And I don't like how the right moons are all blurry.

meteor glossary

Let's review terms, shall we?
  • meteoroid: a solid body
  • meteor: in the air
  • meteorite: on the ground
  • fireball: ball of fire; a very large and very bright meteor
  • bolide: see fireball

uploaded benefits

Helped Leslie with RASC Toronto Centre benefits handout... Uploaded to the Operations Yahoo!Group my version from the NOVA course and the version used for the backside of the meeting handout.

Monday, February 25, 2013

ALMA on-track

Found a note in my astronomy-related calendar that the ALMA would be completed in March. Don't remember when I put it in but it was a nice trigger.

Headed over to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array web site and was immediately greeted with good news on the home page. They were showing an article noting a key milestone, the delivery to Chile of the final Front End. Woo hoo. The largest astronomical project is indeed on track.

Image from the ALMA web site.

submitted Starfest info

Submitted Starfest intro and bio to Malcolm. He replied: Perfect. That was easy.

comet dimming

Current predictions now are showing that comet C/2011 L4 Pan-STARRS will reach magnitude 3. Not -1.

Spotted this in the Sky and Telescope article... Verified it with Seiichi Yoshida's site, of course.

That's 2 magnitude values below when I've spotted Mercury... an equivalent distance from the Sun...

Not looking good for northern hemispherians.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

strange name

Why is the MaxIm DL company, Diffraction Limited, on a web server or domain name called When cyanogen, according to wikipedia, is a nasty chemical compound. It is a colorless, toxic gas with a pungent odor. Or is it named after Halley's Comet? Weird.

don't get it, yet

Manuel called. He was at a Canadian Tire store. Said he was looking at a Nautilus battery. $249 regularly. $50 off. "Is it the right battery?" Huh? "400W." He wondered if the Nautilus was the right battery. There were other ones like his old one...

I didn't know the marine boosters were on sale. I had sent him details of a "regular" booster pack, with the recommendation that he not get it, even though discounted. Starfest is a long ways away...

I jumped into the Canadian Tire web site while he quoted facts and figures. "33 amps." I asked him for the model number. He rummaged around, mumbling. "Charge before use." I suggested he look at the shelf tag. It was taking a while. Finally he found it: "oh, 11, 1592, 8." Yep. That's the one.

But I wondered if he might wait. I told him I've seen it on sale for $100 off... That will probably happen in a one or two months. He decided to wait.

worked on the library layout

In Visio, tried some different configurations for the furniture in the Fred Troyer library at the CAO. A bit tricky. It's not just the library. It's sleeping quarters. An entertainment space. And we want to make it the "white light café." I think I found one that will open up the room but still suit its current multi-usage.

stacked old Jupiter image

Snowy day activities. Had another go at processing my Jupiter image captured with the SKYnyx back on 7 October 2011. The video was recorded at 1:25 AM.

Stacked very quickly in RegiStax 6. Used the default settings all the way. At the sharpening stage, set all 6 wavelet slides about half-way. Stretched the histogram and applied slight denoise.

North is up and west is left. Io is on the left (again, west). Ganymede (above) and Europa are to the right. Io is magnitude 5.3, Ganymede 4.9, and Europa 5.6.

no fly zone

Chatted with Bailey. She and Niels went to the DDO member's night last night. She had fun. Learned lots about imaging and cameras and stacking and frames per second and sorting and air quality. But discovered flying planes is not allowed.

we scratched

Manuel called to cancel our rendezvous. Too cloudy. Too... partly cloudy. No chance to successfully capture solar images. And therefore no opportunity to resolve the focusing issues with MaxIm DL. A good call...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

cloudy tonight

Peaked outside. I noticed a light blue glow up high. And a twinkling star to the south-west. Huh. Maybe it would be clear tonight...

Stepped out to the porch. A bright Moon was up high. Very bright. When was the full Moon? It was surrounded by thin patchy cloud, slowly moving. Spotted low scattered clouds to the west, their bottoms lit by sodium lights.

updated power map

The power map chart has gone through a few revisions since version 1...

Now, it includes an adaptive optics unit, filter wheel, with the corresponding power supplies, a regulated power supply, and a uninterruptible power supply. Had to ditch one of the dew heaters to make room in the accessories band. Integrated a legend. Along with a colophon.

improved cart

Added an additional carrying / hoisting handle for the battery power tank cart. So to facilitate this, I first added a reinforcing plate as a base to the rollie pollie cart.

The sheet of plywood came from Tony. The green rope I pulled from my camping equipment. And the plastic "handle" is from a nice pen set holder. A dozen 1-inch screws.

This additional handle will allow me to lift the heavy pack over thresholds, up and down stairs, into and out of cars, with ease. It also avoids using the fabric handles on the soft-sided cooler bag itself. Those bag handles were not designed for such extremely heavy loads. And since the bag was not tightly secured to the cart itself, invariably the cart would want to stay behind...

The new rope handle runs under the board and through cart frame. So the cart supports the load. And must travel. The new robe handle nicely stows in the front outrigger compartment. Win!

As usual, I already see some opportunities to improve this. The rope—I believe it is decorative only—is probably not strong enough. I'll have to switch to something more robust. I think I have some nylon I can use. And the plastic tube is way too fragile. Metal, heavy plastic (PVC), or rubber will be much better. Rubber would be best actually.

Still, this mod makes it much better.

not going

Manuel phoned. Asked if I was going to the DDO night. Nope.

Antares test worked

I missed it. Orbital successfully sparked up their Antares rocket yesterday. Good stuff.

Kepler finds a tiny one

Another first. The Kepler space telescope has found the smallest planet yet. Smaller than Mercury. Caught this news over at Spaceflight Now.

What's really amazing to me is the size-distance ratio. It's 210 light years away. Regardless, we know it is less than 5000 kilometres wide.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

dated batteries

Date stamped all the (drained) AA batteries for the CAO solar lights. 20 in all. I should have dated the batteries when purchased.

These batteries came in waves, through multiple acquisitions. But the last batch of solar lights was picked up around March 2011. So the Ni-Cds are at least that old.

on nodes

Eric sent out a remark on my Mercury post:
Just a quick semantic node or correction...  Mercury is also above the plane of its descending node, as well as its ascending node.  The two nodes, connected to the Sun and the Earth represent four points on the plane of the Ecliptic.  When Mercury passes through that plane in a northerly direction, it's passing through the ascending node.  Southerly, descending.  As long as the planet is above either of those nodes, and it is elongated to the east of the Sun, it is a nominally favourable evening object.  Some days after the ascending node is passed, or some days before the descending node is passed, same difference.
I'm not sure what he means exactly. Are there two ascending node points in an orbit? Is he getting at that there are two planes? Ours vs. the plane of Mercury's canted orbit?

encouraged people to look

Sent out a note to the RASC Toronto group. Seeing clear skies, I reminded everyone that it was a good opportunity to see Mercury.

I said that Mercury was in an ascending node (without actually checking). I made that assumption based on it being above the ecliptic.

Canon then and now

Flashback: I suddenly, out of the blue, remembered the first SLR camera I ever used... a Canon! A Canon TLb. Funny.

I volunteered for the yearbook staff in high school. The call went out for help for the 1981 edition. I signed on. I was directed to the main office to receive a camera. I don't remember who it was but they asked me if I knew how to use it. I lied, nodding. And promptly took home the camera, removed the lens, opened the back, and pressed all the buttons until I figured it out.

The TLb was an early through-the-lens TTL metering camera. Aside from that, pure manual.

Then proceeded to shoot thousands of black and white and colour photos. Carried it everywhere! Cut my teeth on it. What a hoot. Forgot it was a Canon that I learned on...

Image from eBay.

going to Mars

Man is going to Mars!

Headlines started popping up everywhere. In 2018. 501 day mission. Two humans. A fly-by. To be funded, in part, by Dennis Tito. With support from medical and space development organisations.

It's more and more like Contact every day... Crazy, eccentric billionaire throwing their money at these wild projects. Amazing.

Then Randy, for SpaceRef, reported on it. It must be true.


[ed: See the Inspiration Mars site for more info...]

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

thought provoking evening

Attended the RASC meeting tonight.

Enjoyed the talk by Matt Johnson. Challenging ideas. Brain stretching. Gotta think in 4D. Or more. Space-time always messes people up...

I was surprised no one was asking, so I popped the question: "Do you like 'the show?'" He said he did not enjoy The Big Bang Theory at first, actually; but now he's a fan.

A couple of people talked about my SCT cleaning article: David and Denis. That was amusing.

Received some requests for new members joining the Yahoo!Group. For my to-do list...

We looked at the licence plate cover samples at the pub. I raised a few concerns.

found Mosquito

Stumbled across a stale note in my Psion agenda: "Find new Mosquito power supply." I rolled it forward...

I had, on a whim, bought a new AC adapter from Active Surplus. So to replace the dead unit. It was the exact same make and model as the old one. SPC57-122000. 12 VDC out. Centre-pin positive. 2 amperes! A class 2 transformer (whatever that means).

I hadn't seen it for a while. And suddenly I remembered where I had stowed it. The carry bag for the old booster battery pack! I had put it in this case for transport, upon packing up and leaving the OSC, after my "power" presentation at the August 2012 RASC meeting.

There it was. In the case. All right!

Now, this time, I'm going to rig it up differently...
  • Rather than directly (permanently) affix a female CLA socket, I'll use an intermediate connector. That is, a female CLA socket to a jack. And then the Mosquito will plug into the jack. That way, I'll be able to use the Mosquito for other stuff, as needed.
  • I'll make sure the CLA is fused this time. If I put more than 2 amps through the circuit, I'll let the fuse sacrifice itself. Hopefully, I'll get more life out of the power supply.
OK. This will come in handy. It is overkill to drive the Vixen mount off the PC power supply.

mapping power

Inspired by "accessory map" diagrams made by Canon, showing lenses, batteries, grips, etc., I made a map for telescope equipment and accessories.

I've been thinking about this for a long time. And it really came to the surface when I delivered my powering your gear presentation back in August 2012. How does one power all their "consumers" of electricity? It requires a degree of planning. More so, if one is going to do some work in the field, where power can only be provided by batteries.

This may also prove useful to the new amateur, just getting started. For it shows what one must consider. And maybe what additional accessories will be required. Scary.

Started this diagram months ago. Initially sketched on paper. Without a grand vision. Finally implemented in Visio. Unfortunately, there are no "direct" shapes in Visio for astronomy's specialised equipment so I elected to use basic flowchart symbols. Then, in a moment of clarity, redeployed the diagram in a swimlane chart.

This is a first draft. Regarding terms:
  • adapter - refers to a power supply, transformer, wall-wart, which steps down from the mains AC voltage (120 or 220), as well as converts to DC, where applicable
  • PC PSU - a personal computer power supply unit; a cheap DIY way to get 5VDC and 12VDC
  • CLA - cigarette lighter adapter
Note: some devices may support different power inputs which may not be shown here. For example, an electronic focuser may work on USB power from a computer, or take power from a wall adapter, or work with a CLA adapter.

Also note that "data" connections are not shown in this diagram. The focus is power. Including data lines may unnecessarily complicate this illustration. That said, it is worth bearing in mind. A typical visual or imaging setup may require even more wires! But then, some devices may be powered by USB data lines, eliminating the need for an external power source.

confirmed SNO LAB contact

Charles heard back from his nephew. Confirmed Samantha is still the contact at SNO LAB for tours. He talked about preparing a communication to her. Asked if I'd be interested in going again. I could act as an adviser.


Manuel and I emailed and chatted by phone.

He said the license plate holder sample was in Dietmar's hands. It looked real good. Dietmar was impressed purportedly. And wanted to know why I didn't tell him I talked to Tony about it. Huh? I reminded him that Tony was the informal promotional materials person in RASC, since David had moved out of town. Reminded him that many would be involved in the process, finance, promotion, marketing, etc.

We also talked about the upcoming Members Night at the DDO. I shared with him the theme: planetary imaging. And sent him the link to the schedule and time line. He asked me when it started. I said it was all on the web page. He said his Blackberry truncated the link. I urged him to go directly to the web site. He said he'd do so. Good.

staying dark adapted at the computer

Sent some suggestions (privately) to Kent. He had asked (on the SkyTools group) of illumination at the keyboard.

I told him about my hacked LED keyboard lights, the "big one" from Logiix, separate illuminated keyboards, like the ones from Xoxide, and computers that came with red backlit keyboards, like Alienware.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Y-masks 3 and 4 no better

The first focusing Y-mask I designed and made for the camera, the one with the medium thick wire, is still the best.

Tonight, I made a new mask with very thin copper wire. I thought thinner wire would prove better than thicker. The image is bright, the diffraction pattern is visible, but the pattern is less precise. This may be due to bends in the wire. I found it very difficult to keep the thin wire perfectly straight.

Perhaps if I made the Y slightly differently so to keep tension on the wires... That is, make a sharp V. Then solder a wire to the apex or point in the V. And finally tighten the new line. That might keep them very straight...

Made another mask with plastic transparency film laser-printed with very thin black lines (Visio line weight 1 or 0.24pt) for the Y-pattern. The image quality was poor. Obviously the plastic was messing with the light. I almost missed it—the "classic" diffraction pattern is still produced but it is very difficult to see, lost in the glare and scatter.

Would glass be better? Silly idea.

Both tested, Y3 and Y4, with a false star.

I'll test all in the field. But it looks like Y1 is the winner.

I think what I really need to do now is try Y1 again, outdoors, combined with all the other tricks I've learned. That is:
  • Y-mask with medium wire
  • camera in simulated exposure mode
  • EOS Utility Zoom View window maximised
  • EOS Utility Zoom View image at 200%
  • Magnifying Glass Free software running
  • and, if diffraction pattern visible on bright star, Bahtinov Grabber software running
I do think all these things together will work...

shared cleaning post

New RASC member Pete asked about cleaning his SCT. I sent the link to my blog post, from Sep 2010.

updated locker plans

Revised the CAO garage drawing, with the updated measurements. Confirmed that we could fit a total of 5 lockers into the space along the west wall.

reviewed directions

Revised our map. Changed the winter parking map, to hopefully prevent humans from driving along the 5th Line.

Checked Google Maps. Sent them a note to say the route along 5th Line is not passable in the winter.

happy Copernicus day

Google celebrated Copernicus's 540th birthday today.

It's quite fun visiting the actual page as the image is animated. With the planets slowly orbiting the Sun.

[ed: Link changed to a permanent one.]

Monday, February 18, 2013

between relaxing

Did a bunch of things at the observatory. I did some directly and helped with other tasks.
  • returned laundered items, from another member
  • tested the hide-a-bed in the library; found the thin mattress and frame rail positioning uncomfortable
  • considered library reorganisation for improved layout
  • made up, printed, and posted new emergency phone lists
  • checked the mount, telescopes, and computer in the GBO; used the dew heaters, although I wondered if they were running high (hot) enough; wondered at improving the pointing model
  • discussed confusion with winter parking map, in reference to 5th Line
  • righted the BBQ, inspected it for damage, carefully detached the cover from the ground
  • took measurements in the garage for the locker project
  • discussed using the spare solid wood doors for the lockers
  • warmed the top lock on the garage door and added some lock de-icer; it should be refastened
  • inspected the MODLs 
  • inspected the satellite and radio dishes on site; found a LNB receiver
  • removed power from the faulty camera
  • adjusted camera security system software slightly so to reduce annoyances
  • discussed next steps for the dorm room, library, and white light cafe organisation
  • moved a camera tripod from the GBO to the house for members to use
  • received the "blankets-in-a-bag" for member use; discussed items needed to complete kits
  • used the new slow cooker, noting the "clips" on each side of the lid are for transport only
  • did some quick on-site tests of the well water
  • took a detailed inventory of supplies, general foodstuffs, spices, work party items, etc.
  • delivered a thank-you item to our neighbour for clearing parking spaces
Overheard a discussion to replace the GBO roof motor. Good idea.

tried for final Messiers (Blue Mountains)

1:22 AM, Monday, February 18, 2013. Said goodnight to Trevor as he nestled into the igloo. The Moon was setting. I expected it would be gone in 30 minutes. I noted bright Jupiter above. There were very few clouds. I had the Paramount up and running.

1:28 AM. Viewed Saturn with Tony. It was lovely to see again. I noted 4 moons, to the "right," perhaps? Maybe more, below, and above. It was still rather low in the sky... Had a bit of colour, Was shimmering. It would be good to view later, when higher.

Tony helped me put on the large dew cap. He prepared the Tele Vue 'scope.

1:34. I grabbed the weather data from the Davis station: humidity, 90%; pressure 1024.5 mbar; temperature, -15.2 degrees C; there was no wind.

1:43. Asked Tony what he wanted to look at. He usually has a suggestion to offer, quickly. But he was a little unfamiliar with the sky, this time of year. We reviewed the software's presentation of the evening sky. We considered objects on the same side of the meridian. Settled on Messier 5. It was pleasing in the big 'scope, with individual stars resolved. While he had forgotten his glasses by the house, Tony could see streamers of stars with averted vision.

1:48. Aiming toward the cluster of Messier clusters between Virgo and Leo, I made a pit stop at Porrima. I saw a very tight touching pair of stars, with the 55mm eyepiece. I think Tony could not split the light gold stars.

I put the 10mm in the TV101 to begin some wide field viewing.

2:15. I could not identify the galaxy we were viewing. It was a thin edge-on galaxy, quite large in the 55mm eyepiece, with a bright core, and then a bright mid-section. Tony enjoyed the view.

I didn't think it was M90. It didn't seem to be the correct orientation. And the field stars didn't seem to match. It also looked a bit like M88. But it's tilted the other way...

The pointing accuracy of the Paramount is still off. And in this part of the sky, with galaxies everywhere, it was very difficult to know where one was. I kept stumbling across other faint fuzzies as I panned around.

There was something round, above (or north) of it, about 1.5 fields away (again, still using the 55mm). It looked to be a small face-on galaxy. There was some mottling in the disc. Not uniform. Fairly faint.

Clouds were moving in...

Tony called it quits.

2:40. I was unsuccessful at tagging the galaxies. I could not seem to create a matching view in TheSky 6 software. The clouds now were covering much of the sky. The transparency was dropping off. As the Clear Sky Chart had predicted. I was done.

2:59. Finally closed the roof of the observatory. That was after messing with it. The motor did not want to start up, once again. Made a mental note to advise the supervisors...


Did a sketch of the edge-on galaxy during breakfast.


Did some sleuthing in SkyTools.

We had viewed NGC 4216 in Virgo. A spiral galaxy, nearly edge-on, at magnitude 11.0. It is about 8 arcminutes by 2. It is near an L-shape of stars. It matches the sketch I made (from memory).

Above, about one field away, was NGC 4212 in Coma Berenices. 45' away.

Another spiral galaxy. Face-on at mag 11.8.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

igloo under Orion and Moon

Trevor decided he wanted to sleep in the igloo. During the intermission in Ice Station Zebra (apropos, eh?), he and Tony prepared the house of snow for sleeping. Then they shot some photos. I reminded Tony there was a tripod on the GBO.

So amazing. Orion, Jupiter, and the Moon.

Canon PowerShot SX260 HS, 15 seconds, f/3.5, 4mm, ISO 100.

spotted a pillar (Blue Mountains)

While Charles, Tony, Trevor, and Grace built an igloo, I shot photos.

At one point, seeing long shadows, I looked to the west.

Ah ha! A Sun pillar. Unfortunately, the camera's autofocus feature went a little nuts.

Photos made with Charles's Olympus E-M5 camera with wide-angle zoom lens.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

not clear

Woke suddenly. Lie there for a while. Wondered if it might be clear. The Clear Sky Chart had said the cloud cover would be reduced after midnight. Finally mustered the energy to look outside. Cloudy.

Friday, February 15, 2013

no chance for asteroid

Had hoped to see asteroid 2012 DA14 tonight. Had hoped for clear skies. In the early evening. Knew that a big 'scope would help. That we were going to the Carr Astronomical Observatory already was fortuitous. Maybe we'd get lucky. Maybe, in clear dark skies, with a large aperture, we'd be able to view (and video record) the near-Earth object. Alas, factors conspired against us.

Arrived late after a long road trip. Dinner became our first priority. And then it was cloudy.


Time for snow beer...

science literacy in this day and age

Alarm clock started up. The FM radio started playing. The strange jazz station (which I should really tune away from) was in their on-the-hour news segment.

The news person was talking about a meteor exploding over Russia causing damage and injuries. What?! Weird. Strange timing. Very strange that a random large meteor on the same day at the headline-grabbing near-Earth object. The Universe likes to surprise us.

Then she talked about the asteroid due to pass by the Earth. The closest approach would be around 2:30 PM.

The host of the morning show said, "I wonder if we can see it..." Huh?

The news reader said the report had a note about being visible to people on the other side of the planet.

"Oh. Maybe we'll hear it. That'd be neat."

Wow. I was... stunned. My mind was reeling.

Are science fiction movies to blame, with sound effects associated with objects in outer space? Or had the report's terminology formed an auditory association? "Whizzing by..." Would it make a whizzing sound? Or was it simply that the radio host would not pick science as their strong suit? Or are we just getting dumber?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

drained batteries

Discharged the final set of AA batteries from the solar lights.This is the first round of rejuvenating the customised red LED solar lights for the CAO observatory.


This reminded me that I should date them...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

tested magnifier software

Tried Magnifying Glass Free 1.1 tonight, the freeware app, in conjunction with the Canon EOS Utility. It works a treat. Refined the image capture work flow as well.

As per usual, learned a few things. Like, don't forget to maximise the EOS Zoom View window. Hello! It offers a window that nearly fills the computer display. Then at 200% it makes a difference. I think I've been running it in a "medium" sized window, overlapping with the Remote Live View and so to see the camera control panel. Not necessary when focusing. Go big.

Then, with MGF running at the bottom right of the screen, I was able to watch the simulated star, expanded another 8 times, in the "glass" window. Very cool.

Remembered, suddenly, that the lens could be focused with keyboard shortcuts. But had to go look them up.

up amount down
i gross o
k medium l
, (comma) fine . (period)

And then, it was all good. Pointed to the "star," watched it in the "glass," and focused the camera by remote keyboard commands. Sweet.

Y-mask 2 worse

Tried the Y-mask with 14 gauge copper wire soldered in the middle. Below:

The diffraction pattern was worse than the thin 20 or 22 gauge wire. Below:

Does this mean finer still? Maybe I'll try one more version: with extremely thin wire.

clear, but for how long

Stuart made a no-go call for the City Observing Session. Too bad. The skies were decent. At least in the early part of the evening. For us, down in the High Park area. I'm not sure the rest of the week will be better. That said, I watched clouds creep in from the north...

computer shutdown

Orbital Sciences aborted the hot fire test of the Antares rocket in the final stages of the countdown. Bloody computers.

nailed Mercury (Toronto)

Moon was lovely in the bright blue sky as I walked to Bloor. Stopped at the parkette to try to spot Mercury. Tried to use the crescent of the young Moon as a pointer. Suspected it would be high. But no joy. Neither could I spot Jupiter.

Emerging from grocery store, some 30 or 40 minutes later, I was treated to a darker sky. I could see Earthshine in the cradle of light. Jupiter was almost straight up. Aldebaran glowed beside it, to the east. And as I walked west now through the parkette, I saw two faint glistening points. One was moving. The other stayed put. Ah ha!

Less than ten degrees up, just over the trees, but easily spotted, I saw Mercury naked eye.

Stellarium says it is magnitude -0.56. It is just under 18° from the Sun.

That made my day.

SCOPE revised

An updated version of RASC Toronto Centre SCOPE newsletter was released. Finally. The first release included an incorrect version of the annual meeting minutes. Painting the Carr Astronomical Observatory in a bad light.

asteroid path from software

Did plots of asteroid 2012 DA14 in desktop software applications, for the night of Friday, February 15, 2013. The path shows where the asteroid should travel over the course of the evening.

The charts are relevant for locations in south-western Ontario. But your mileage may vary... There will be slightly differences based on your observing spot, given how close the asteroid will be. Parallax!

Don't worry. It's not going to hit the Earth.

First, from Stellarium 0.12.0.

From sunset to sunrise. It will travel from right to left along this path. The "marked" position is at midnight.

SkyTools 3 "current" databases were updated yesterday.

ST3 shows helpful time stamps. Good, because this will be a fast-mover.

In general, there's good correspondence between the two applications.

Greg Crinklaw of Skyhound offered some helpful advice. Lie in wait. Pick an area of the sky ahead of the asteroid, a good amount of time in advance, and then watch closely for something moving into the field...

Remember, as well, this asteroid is very small. And while close, it will still be faint. Early in the evening, it will be around magnitude 12. That means you'll need a 12-inch telescope within city limits or a 4-inch in dark skies. It'll hit mag 13 around 10 PM: 20-inch aperture in city skies; a 6-inch in the country. And so on.

There's a good article entitled "What can I see through my scope?" with some nice tables for your consideration.

A 74-inch telescope in city limits? Pah. No problem!

Imagers may do well in this situation. It is often considered that a camera "adds" 2 magnitudes to an optical system. And with long exposures, one should be able to produce streaks or trails.

What do I know? Not much about asteroids...

CS2 yes; CS5...

Mr Soler got back to me today. He said he read about the free download of CS2 in a magazine. He went on to say the authors suggested CS5 might be available in the future. I thanked him for the clarification.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

gauging visibility

Curious about something... Curious about my success rate in seeing Mercury. And some of the particulars of these events. Let's look at some of the data.

date time locale seen mag sep. alt.
Aug 12, 00 0600 rural no -1.3 10 5
May 14, 02 sunset urban ? 1.7 16 11
Jun 25, 05 sunset rural no 0.0 22 14
Nov 19, 05 sunset rural no 1.6 11 4
Jun 24, 06 sunset rural no 1.0 24 15
Aug 05, 06 0415 rural no 0.5 19 16
Feb 06, 07 1800 urban yes -0.4 18 11
Feb 10, 07 1811 urban yes 0.1 18 10
Feb 12, 07 1800 urban yes 0.5 17 12
May 18, 07 2121 urban no -0.5 18 8
May 23, 07 2000 urban no -0.1 21 25
May 27, 07 2132 urban no 0.3 23 10
May 28, 07 2121 urban yes 0.4 23 13
Jun 09, 07 2135 rural no 1.3 21 11
May 17, 08 2124 urban yes 1.0 21 10
May 24, 08 2045 urban no 1.7 17 13
Sep 02, 08 n/a urban yes 0.2 25 8
Dec 31, 08 1645 urban no -0.5 19 13
Jan 05, 09 1710 urban yes -0.2 19 11
Apr 25, 09 n/a rural yes 0.4 21 10
Jun 22, 09 0430 rural no 0.0 21 0
Oct 11, 09 0636 rural yes -0.7 16 6
Aug 08, 10 2045 rural no 0.7 27 7
Aug 11, 10 2015 rural no 0.8 27 10
Jan 10, 11 0800 urban no -0.1 23 11
Mar 16, 11 1946 urban yes -0.9 17 10
Jul 09, 11 2145 rural yes 0.3 25 6
Jul 01, 12 2116 rural yes 0.7 26 10
Feb 09, 13 n/a urban yes -0.8 16 14

Assuming naked eye or binoculars.

If I remember correctly, my first viewing of Mercury was in the mid-90s, through the telescope.

So, the statistics now. This shows I've seen Mercury as faint as magnitude 1.0, as low as 6 degrees above the horizon, and as close to the Sun as 16 degrees--but not at the same time! When it was mag 1.0, it was 10 up and 21 away. When it was 6 up, and close at 16, it was bright at mag -0.7. I've considered that as I get older, I get better at observing. So I may have simply missed it on other occasions. For example, on my first attempt, it was much brighter. But, at the same time, low and close; arguable.

I don't think these magnitude values take in account extinction...

Now, the point of this exercise to get a sense of what we might expect to see with comet C/2011 L4 Pan-STARRS in early to mid-March. I'd like to know how close an object can be to the Sun to be visible.

Mercury's a point-source, essentially. To the naked eye, star-like. A comet however should have some dimension. This is analogous to stars versus nebulae. Galaxies and diffuse nebulae and the like are "large" objects. And the magnitude value for them is for the "entire" object. If it is a very large object like the Andromeda Galaxy... The magnitude or brightness, another way to think about it, is "spread out."

Some facts on the comet.

On Mar 5, at perihelion, it will appear approximately 19 degrees from the Sun. At a predicted magnitude of 0.8. And, it will be left of the Sun. I.e. when the Sun sets, so too will the comet. So, no good for viewing then. Now, on the 16th, the comet will be above the Sun. And slightly further away, at 21 degrees. But, then, mag 1.1 is expected. Another important fact: comet C/2011 L4 Pan-STARRS originates from the Oort cloud and this will be its first trip so close to the Sun.

This magnitude numbers are from Stellarium. As of Feb 12. And the software pulled these numbers from MPC.

I dunno about you but I don't like where this is going... It is very close to the magnitude numbers for Mercury (at the time of writing). Similar angular separations and altitudes or elevations in the sky. But one's a point source and the other is not. I believe we'll be lucky to see the comet naked eye. And if the comet dims between now and then, I think we might need the telescope...

any info an asteroid?

Mr Mortfield asked if there was going be an article put on the RASC web site about the asteroid 2012 DA14. Good question.

Allard, on the web team, said he's swamped. He said he'd happily post content if someone would do up an article. Reminds me of when I was webmaster. It was like herding cats.

Here's another opportunity that the Toronto Centre is missing out on. To be ahead of the game, dispel rumours, do some mythbusting, be proactive, and in the end, become Toronto's trusted resource for astronomical information.

We have the talent.

Oh. And how about the "big" comet too?


Took the big ring off the Celestron OTA for the first time. Ever... Uh huh. There's a bolt with hex Allen head accessible on the idea. I wonder what this is for mainly. A bar? For counterweights? For another 'scope? I wonder if I might use this as a mounting point for piggy backing a camera...

checked the X

Had a note for Lunar X in my calendar for Feb. With a question mark, mind you. Thought I'd double-check it. Looked at Phil's email from 3 Nov 2012. Ruminated on that for a bit. Then I fired up my Excel spreadsheet, the latest version (5.00) of the initial design. It showed a number of "possibles" through the year with a good opportunity in December 2013. And, at the same time, did not predict the January 19 event. I dug into it a bit. Added the Moon elevation figures, using Stellarium, while I was at it. And found a wee bug in the January row, an issue with peaks happening on or 2 hours after midnight.

I hand-corrected it. And sent Phil a snapshot for his consideration. Bloody Moon.


Phil concurs. Looks like our 2nd best opportunity this year is in December. And we might get a shot in April...

Antares to be fired

Orbital Sciences Corp. is planning a 29-second hot fire of its Antares rocket Tuesday, testing the privately-developed booster's dual-engine first stage and ground systems on a launch pad at Wallops Island, Va.

Monday, February 11, 2013

fixed RSS feeds

Shortly after I added the Unisys jet stream elements to my portal weather pages, the Tabbed RSS Feed parts stopped working. At first I thought I clobbered something monkeying with the HTM hell code. But, in fact, it seems that Google did something to the module on their server that I was calling.

Over in the Google Gadgets area, everything seems status quo. You can browse, choose, review gadgets. And then you can "add" them. To what? You iGoogle page. Oh. But that's defunct. Can't add it anywhere else, it seems. Weird.

I switched to the simple, thin RSS 2 HTML by Brenton Fletcher. And redid a few things on my pages. Not as compact as before. But I also don't feel like code diving in CSS to make tabbed interfaces. It works.

RASC in space

Katrina confirmed the RASC sticker is on the International Space Station.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is in low-Earth orbit. Is that cool or what?!

It'd be awesome if they stick it up somewhere, in one of the modules. They already have hundreds of stickers from all the missions...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

found missing sketch

Found the missing sketch of η Persei for my October 10, 2011 entry...

Stellarium 0.12.x shortcuts

I had not looked at Stellarium for a while. Recently tried version 0.11.4 whereupon I discovered a number of new features and corresponding shortcuts. Funny timing. Shortly after, I heard rumblings about a new version. Once I downloaded the version 0.12.0, it was clearly time to update my keyboard and mouse shortcuts listing. This reference is for Windows and Macintosh computers (although not all shortcuts have been tested on a Mac).

controlling the surroundings

show Location window
Fn F6
toggle cardinal compass points qq
toggle compass marks †
toggle ground and buildings
toggle ground fog
toggle atmosphere or air
return to "home" (start-up) view *
Ctrl h

controlling sky appearance

toggle stars
toggle star labels *
Alt s
Option s
toggle constellation lines
toggle constellation boundaries
toggle constellation labels
toggle constellation artwork
toggle planet labels and circles
toggle planet orbits
toggle planet trails
Shift t
Shift t
toggle exoplanet labels and circles *
Ctrl Alt e
⌘ Option e
toggle nebula labels and circles
toggle nebula background images *
show Sky and Viewing Options
Fn F4

controlling grid-lines

toggle altitude/azimuth grid
toggle equatorial grid
toggle ecliptic line
, (comma)
toggle celestial equator
. (period)
toggle meridian line

changing image presentation

toggle horizontal flipping
Ctrl Shift h
⌘ Shift h
toggle vertical flipping
Ctrl Shift v
⌘ Shift v

controlling time flow

set date/time to now
set time rate to zero
increase time flow
l (lower case L)
decrease time flow
run time at normal rate
increase time flow a little
Shift l (that's L)
Shift l
decrease time flow a little
Shift j
Shift j

controlling "regular" time

show date/time window
Fn F5
forward 1 hour solar
Ctrl = (equal)
⌘ =
backward 1 hour
Ctrl - (hyphen)
⌘ -
forward 1 day solar
= (equal)
backward 1 day
- (hyphen)
forward 1 week solar
backward 1 week

controlling sidereal time

forward 1 day sidereal
Alt = (equal)
Option =
backward 1 day
Alt - (hyphen)
Option -
forward 1 week sidereal
Alt ]
Option ]
backward 1 week
Alt [
Option [
forward 1 month sidereal *
Alt Shift ]
Option Shift ]
backward 1 month *
Alt Shift [
Option Shift [
forward 1 year sidereal *
Ctrl Alt Shift ]
⌘ Option Shift ]
backward 1 year *
Ctrl Alt Shift [
⌘ Option Shift [


quickly zoom in/out
mouse wheel
mouse wheel
zoom in
PgUp or
Ctrl Up Arrow

Fn Up Arrow
zoom out
PgDn or
Ctrl Dn Arrow

Fn Down Arrow
zoom in or out slowly
Shift with keys
zoom close to selected object
/ (slash)
zoom out fully
\ (backslash)
zoom very close to planet
/ twice
/ twice


quickly pan celestial sphere
pan right
Right Arrow
Right Arrow
pan left
Left Arrow
Left Arrow
pan up
Up Arrow
Up Arrow
pan down
Down Arrow
Down Arrow
pan a small amount
Shift Arrow-key
Shift Arrow-key
toggle EQ or alt/az mount
Ctrl m
⌘ m

working with objects

select an object visually
centre on selected object
toggle tracking of object
deselect object
display search dialog box
Ctrl f or F3
⌘ f or Fn F3
go, i.e. travel, to a planet
Ctrl g
⌘ g
toggle angular measurement †
Ctrl a
⌘ a
copy object info to clipboard *
Ctrl c
⌘ c

working with satellites

configure artificial satellites
Alt z
Option z
toggle satellite display
Ctrl z
⌘ z
toggle satellite labels
Shift z
Shift z

controlling the application

toggle night (red light) mode *
show configuration window
Fn F2
show help/about window
Fn F1
show script console window
toggle full-screen/window
toggle toolbars/menus, i.e. GUI
Ctrl t
⌘ t
save screenshot to disk
Ctrl s
⌘ s
show keyboard shortcuts window *
Fn F7
close a window
quit from Stellarium
Ctrl q
⌘ q

* Recently new or changed shortcuts are marked with an asterisk.

† Keyboard shortcuts noted with a dagger are associated with a plug-in. They may not function if the plug-in is not active.

Some shortcuts were omitted. Notably those for the oculars plug-in. And those to do with scripting.

Most quick reference listings are improperly designed. They show the key first then the action, forcing you to think about a key combination, even if you're not interested in it. You'll see I've done the opposite. Initially, even the list inside Stellarium's help was structured this way but now, like mine, it is procedurally oriented.

Finally, when using Stellarium on the Apple Macintosh computer, the keyboard shortcuts shown in the help window and toolbar tip pop-ups are incorrect. For example, there are references to using the Ctrl key. That's a reference to Windows. In general, on a Mac, substitute the Command or ⌘ key for the Ctrl...

Please report errors in the comments below...


A number of errors were found and corrected. Compass marks: the keyboard shortcut Ctrl or ⌘ c is not correct; more to the point, it is already assigned to the Copy Info command. Return to "home" (start-up) view: ⌘ h is used on the Mac to hide an application. Toggle night (red light) mode: Ctrl or ⌘ n is not correct.

It should also be noted that while the shortcuts for changing sidereal time by month or year work, the display is adjusted incorrectly.

explored Stellarium 0.12

Stellarium 0.12.0 is out! Ha. I had only downloaded a fairly new version (to me) a week or two ago. Started looking for differences. Did not see a lot, from 0.11.4 to this... At first.

Took a closer look at the Observability feature. It shows, for the selected object:

for today:
  • rise time
  • set time
  • culmination time
and for the year:
  • largest Sun separation
  • nights above the horizon
  • and a few other remarks.
I don't think I've seen this ability before: keyboard shortcuts may now be edited. That'll be interesting...

I think I found a few more new "standard" shortcuts:
  • forward 1 sidereal month: Alt Shift ]
  • backward  1 sidereal month: Alt Shift [
  • increase time speed a little: Shift l (L) **
  • toggle nebula background images: i
  • copy selected object information to clipboard: Ctrl c
  • show Keyboard Shortcuts window: F7
** I had this noted as Shift k in my older notes. Is that a typo on my part; or did they change it?

Holy cow. Shadows, from moons, may now be displayed on planets!

Shadows are possible now due to a new rendering engine. However, the frame rate tanks, if you zoom in really close! And some artefacts may appear on the screen. Still, this is a welcome change. The feature is turned on via the Configuration window, Tools tab: Render Solar Shadows. Yeh!

I noticed a small change in the Search tool with the Lists tab.

And I think there's no splash screen anymore, as the application starts. I don't why but I kinda miss that.

More updates are noted over at Launchpad.

booked for May TSTM

Paul just asked about the May 8th The Sky This Month. François is on deck for his observatory presentation. Oh boy. Here we go. I understand Paul's predicament. And he's lost two of the regulars. I'm hoping he can bolster the ranks...

tune up time

Opened the battery holder for the red LED tripod light. Leak! Had to look up the trick to clean alkaline battery leaks: vinegar. Right!

Put 3 shims on the C8 dust cover cap. Thin card stock held down with Magic tape. We'll see if this helps. Inside, warm, it is quite snug.

tore down

Looked at the weather forecast for the afternoon and evening. Did not look very good. And I had been too busy in the morning to do any solar observing. Then I looked at the NOAA satellite imagery over the Great Lakes. Yikes! Immediately brought all the gear in...


With the snow and ice gone, I could see the wood planks of the deck. And noted that I had not missed the tripod leg polar alignment markings made in the summer by much.

still cloudy (Toronto)

Woke, suddenly. Visited the library and returned to bed. Then lay there, thinking. Staring at the ceiling.

What if it's clear? I should observe? It could be perfectly clear! If I observe now, I should charge up the netbook. Where are my glasses? What if this is the only clear night for the rest of the month? I could look at Saturn! That'd be cool. I haven't seen Saturn for a while. Should I go? Should I take a quick peek? Or Should I observe until sunrise? Wide awake. Argh!

Got up. Stumbled into the office. Found the netbook power brick. Wandered to the kitchen. Plugged in the netbook power brick. Found the glasses. Put on the boots. Went out on the deck. Looked straight up. Ah ha. Saturn! Pale yellow Saturn. Looked north. Clouds. No. No no no. No. Crawled under the warm covers. Passed out.

two objects viewed (Toronto)

Enjoyed some solo observing tonight. Quiet time under the stars.

5:30 PM, Saturday, February 9, 2013. Shoveled the porch. And put the Celestron 8" SCT out to cool. Started slowly setting up, with the intention of bringing the mount out as late as possible.

6:25 PM. Spotted Jupiter and Aldebaran and a few other stars.

6:28. OK. 'Scope outside, OTA on mount, roughly polar aligned, finder scope attached (but unchecked), light blind and towels up, astro chair out, dew shield out (but not installed). Left the OTA and mount bags outside to chill, beside the snow beer. Extension cord out window, GFCI outside and connected. Power astro box outside and ready. Couldn't see the tripod feet marks on the deck in the dark...

Kitchen tidied. Eyepiece case ready, on the stove top. Moved the netbook to kitchen. Red screen filter attached. Woke netbook up. Found Skytools 3 Pro already running. Switched to Nightly Planner from Real Time mode. Turned on night vision mode in software.

Turned the blue Moon light on.

Still need to change. To dry and warm clothes. Current clothes a little damp from the walking and shoveling this afternoon. Wanted the red coat for lots of warmth. And long johns. Lots of layers, obviously. It felt quite brisk out.

6:33 PM. Installed the (dark) red LED keyboard light. Grabbed other one, just in case.

6:38. Considered targets for the evening. But then remembered I'd already thrown together a list. It had some 58 items in it. A tad optimistic.

6:40. I noted the time. The very bright International Space Station flyover was due in 10 to 15 minutes. The alarm Grace had set would be going off soon. I'd better get suited up then...

6:49. Plugged light leaks. Opened a snow beer. Sat on the adjustable height chair and waited for the show to start.

7:01. The ISS faded out a moment ago. The fly-by was done. It was a good one. The station grew brighter than Jupiter (magnitude -2.5) after passing Orion. It turned a slight yellow colouring as it entered Gemini. And then a deep orange at its sunset. I whispered "Hello, Chris," at one point. Very nice pass. Grace texted me a few moments later. She enjoyed it too.

7:05. I checked the Environment Canada weather office page for Toronto. It showed the current conditions as clear and -6°C as observed at Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport on 7:00 PM EST. The forecast was clear with a low of minus 9. I captured the details.

Condition: Clear
Pressure: 103.0 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Air Quality Health Index: 3
Temperature: -5.9°C
Dewpoint: -11.6°C
Humidity: 64 %
Wind: calm

Well away from the dew point...

7:26. I aligned finder on Jupiter. Took a little while for some reason. But when I spotted a wide double (turned out to be δ (delta) Tauri 1 and 2) I knew I was in the ballpark and quickly found the planet. Noticed Jupiter sitting in a sprinkling of faint stars.

Jupiter looked good in the eyepiece! The seeing looked really good. I had started, as per usual, with the baader planetarium Hyperion 36mm wide field ocular. I noticed all moons on one side, at 55 power.

7:33. Bumped to 77x with the old Celestron 26mm Plössl. It offered up a good view. But I think the gas giant went behind a tree branch. It had softened. Was a little streaky.

I immediately noticed the drifting problem again. Er, not drifting. Tracking. The object was not staying centred in the field. And when I operated the hand controller, nothing seemed to work. I knew it was not a power issue as I didn't have any dew heaters plugged in. I wondered if it was a mount problem. Something with the clutch? Bad balance? Too much payload? The cold? Old grease?

7:42. Considered a double star target. Looked at the western sky for Andromeda. But it was hard to see any stars there. Seemed to be a lot of light pollution. Probably the uplight, for all the snow, was making it worse tonight. Reconsidered targets straight overhead. Perseus, perhaps...

8:01. Arrived Miram, aka η (eta) Persei. Wow. A lovely double. The main A and B stars were widely separated at 77x. Ugh. The seeing had gone bad. Or it was heat pouring off the roof.

I thought the stars yellow and deep blue. I found the blue colour leapt with averted vision. This double star is from the RASC Observer's Handbook, from the coloured doubles list. The author describes the pair as orange, blue, and faint.

The main star is not faint. But there was a big difference in magnitudes. I guessed 2 or 3. Skytools said it was more like 4.

I noted, in my mirror reversed field, that Miram was part of a big backwards L. HD 17420 was at the top (or west), HD 17465 was at the corner, and the double at the bottom.

I could see GSC 03704-0119 below and right (or north). This was a mag 10.8 star (poor data, according to ST3).

8:14. Looked again. The seeing was better. I went hunting for the C and D stars but couldn't see them. I spotted GSC 03704-0346, a mag 10.9 (poor data) star, to the left (or south east). C and D were bright, according to the software. In the direction of HD 17420. No joy.

Curiously, I noticed, now, I was not having any tracking issues. Something to do with loads? I was on the other side (east now) of the mount... The only change in the field was due to drifting from rough polar alignment. That said, the polar alignment was rather good!

That was a very nice double star.

8:24. Went back to have another look. Popped in the Meade 18mm orthoscopic hoping to draw out the faint C and D companions but saw immediately the view was poor. Worse, in fact. I was having a hard time seeing GSC 03704-0119, and I could not see GSC 03704-0346 at all. The field was soft. Weird.

I looked up (for the first time): crap! Streamers across the sky. There was a lot of them in the north and east. WTH? That was irksome. But I also chuckled. I had walked from the kitchen straight to the telescope eyepiece without looking up. I had no idea what had happened to the sky.

Oh dear. I had an unpleasant thought. They'll be pissed at the David Dunlap Observatory. Reminded me of one of the Members Nights last year: clear during the presentations; cloud afterwards.

Alas, it looked like I'd have to take a break for a bit. Wait for it to clear. Anyhoo, Miram was cool!

Back inside, I checked the NOAA satellite imaging page, the black and white display. It looked like there was some high level stuff passing through... Time for cookies!

8:53. Headed to the office and caught up on emails.

8:59. Peeked outside. I was still clouded out. It was worse actually. The whole sky was covered now. I'm pretty sure it was not the beer.

9:40. Checked again. Still cloudy. Uh huh. This was the "10% cloud" I saw predicted in the Clear Sky Chart earlier.

10:01. The skies looked a bit better.

10:14. There were still clouds off in the distance. And I think the transparency tanked. But the seeing was unaffected. Choose planets then!

I had a stunning view of Jupiter at 222x, using the Tele Vue Nagler 9mm. It was very steady. The Great Red Spot was very obvious. The white zone leading into GRS seems to split around it. Or was that the trailing edge, I wondered?

10:18. The clouds (on Earth) were back. It was bad again. It was affecting the view of Jupiter.

10:22. Part of the reason I set up tonight was that it looked like there was a small chance of being clear Sunday night too. And that would be awesome, to get 2 back-to-back nights. But if that doesn't look like is going pan out, maybe I'll do some solar tomorrow, during the day.

10:38. Clouds covered the whole sky. Weird. The NOAA graphic made it seem clear...

10:50. Still clouds. I checked Jupiter. I was pleased on one hand: it was still in the eyepiece of the 9mm. But it was a bit soft.

11:04. I was getting discouraged. I seriously considered packing up. But then, thought, hey, it's the weekend. I can stay up late. Don't sweat it. And, in general, light levels usually decrease after midnight. Still. There were clouds everywhere.

11:18. I looked at Jupiter again. The view was fair. I put the 9mm in again. And could not see the GRS clearly. Maybe to my left now? I confirmed that in software. But it certainly was not obvious, like before.

11:47. It was still cloudy. Most of the sky. I initiated a partial shutdown: brought all the eyepieces indoors (to warm); turned off the tracking; turned off the GFCI; and I capped the 'scope.

12:24 AM, Sunday, February 10, 2013. The skies were no good. I wrapped up the telescope and crawled into bed.

So, not a terribly productive evening. But easy-going. Quiet. No big hardware issues. And a nice double star. And some good (albeit) brief views of Jupiter's cloud deck.


Didn't realise I had viewed Miram back in Oct 2011. Noted the colour then as orange and blue. So that better matches the Observer's Handbook data. But I also had trouble seeing, clearly, the C and D companions. According to the written notes. And probably left it as "unlogged" in SkyTools, to have another go.

Oddly, I discovered that notes referred to a sketch. But there was no sketch in the blog entry. Weird. So, dug out the sketch book and scanned it. Finally. And curiously, very strangely, I think the sketch clearly shows the C and D stars... I must have been drinking that night, too!


There were a few things I thought required some follow-up...

There were several times I thought I dropped things on the deck. Like something from the tripod? But I didn't see anything. So I'll have to check for items missing. And check again equipment lists.

I need to put some shims on Celestron SCT lens cap so that it stops falling off! It is particularly bad when very cold. Seems the cap shrinks a bit.

When I installed the red LED ring light for the tripod, I noticed it did not illuminate. Batteries must be dead. If I remember correctly, I had left them on overnight the last time...

And, the big one: to resolve this mount tracking problem. It's probably old grease in the mount. That the mount needs a general tune up. So I will plan a full mount tear down this summer at CAO.

The last couple of years, I've considered doing it in January and February as there's usually not a lot going on. But if I do it at the CAO, I've access to low-temp grease. And, if I break something, I will still have other 'scopes I can use...

Saturday, February 09, 2013

ISS over the DDO

Bill made some beautiful shots of the International Space Station flying over the David Dunlap Observatory grounds (at 6:55 PM).

Apparently Cmdr Hadfield, on board, of course, saw the images on twitter and commented on flying over the DDO. Very cool.

they saw Mercury

During a break in observing, I checked my email. Saw that lots of people spotted Mercury tonight. Tim imaged it! They thanked me for the earlier reminder on the Yahoo!Groups. Good stuff.


Tim's Mercury image is accessible to RASC Toronto Centre members with Yahoo accounts...

Justin asked about winter visits

Justin asked about going to the CAO soon. I explained that there were now many telescopes available that members could use. I confirmed that a key set would have to be obtained. Told him where a couple of the pick-up stations were. Reminded him to book online.

Friday, February 08, 2013

recommended SkyTools

Fernando, on the NexStar GPS group about planning software. I gave a big thumbs up for SkyTools.

He contacted me directly... Asked if it would work with his mounts. No idea. But some quick Googling showed promise.

And, I pointed out, if there were ASCOM drivers for his mounts, then it should be easy-peasy.

chatted with Manuel

Manuel called while I was shoveling. Phoned him back.

He provided the dimensions of his CGEM DX tripod, collapsed. Thanks. Good data for the CAO locker project.

Asked if I had any ideas about the FocusMax app. He was having some trouble. Ugh. Not having the software, not having used the software before, I had no idea. I suggested he try it again. Suddenly, he figured it out. Good stuff.

Snow days are good days to sort out astronomy software. I was very happy to hear him running through scenarios, trying things, connecting everything up.

We agreed that it was probably not easy to simulate guiding indoors...

He also said that he heard one could download Adobe CS5 for free. Really?! Where?

more than once

Watched the Rho Ophiuchi walkthrough from the DSLR group. Some 80 or 90% of the process was the same but I caught some things that I missed before. And it gave a better sense of "going back in." Doing levels and curves adjustments continuously. Not just once.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

SkyNews in snow

SkyNews arrived. Mar/Apr 2013. Found it in the open mail box getting snowed on. Not enclosed in a plastic envelope, it was getting all crinkly.

There's a lot of talk about comet C/2011 L4 Pan-STARRS. Hopefully they provide appropriate cautions.

Ooh. Looking forward to Dyer's photography...