Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Denis sent his report after visiting the CAO.

Talked of arriving on Saturday. And that they had a "very reasonable observing window from about 10:00 p.m. until 12:30 a.m." And then Moon rose. The road was "passable" particularly if "you [took] your time." He said Kiron brought some guests by at about 11:00 p.m. but they left some time later. He reminded us that using the presentation room was a little challenging to use with the extra couch and bed frames. Right.

Hold on a second...

He cancelled the Probus tour!

What a sec.

And called a GO for the members...

replaced bolt

Replaced a 1/4-20 I removed from the Vixen base plate with a new, short, black bolt. Bolts procured from the St Thomas Canadian Tire. This reminds me that I should begin work on fabricating version 2 of the GoToStar motor bracket...

Monday, April 29, 2013

sorted codes

Tony began recoding the alarm system. He set up a code for Katrina. But found that the notes had not been updated. I had been assigned a reserved code but it was never documented. We straightened it out.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

RASC OH nearby

A little thing. I moved the previous edition of the RASC Observer's Handbook to my desk, in the office, so to be in arm's reach. It will help when I need to quickly check some fact or detail (when not specific to the current season).

Saturday, April 27, 2013

observed with family (Union)

Viewed Saturn.

Tried again for galaxies between Leo and Virgo. Spotted two fuzzy smudges in a triangle with a star.

Saw a shooting star, southbound.

Steve, Donna, and Mom joined me.

We looked at golden Algieba.

Then blue-white Mizar and Alcor.

Took in the Castor quad.

Mom helped me tear down.

Pretty good skies here...

tried for Virgo galaxies (Union)

Saw Corvus, Gemini, Ursa Major, Regulus, etc. while waiting for Mom.

Showed her Saturn. 26mm, 18mm, and 9mm. She really liked that. She wanted to share the view with the neighbours. Returned with Leslie.

11:33 PM, Friday 26 April 2013. Viewed Mizar A and B, Alcor, Sidus Ludoviciana...

I quickly sketched the moons...

Titan to the far left, then Rhea. Dione near the planet. The bright object at the bottom right, a mag 9.1 star.

Leslie and Mom left. I fired up the laptop. Unfortunately no wifi signal... And I felt a little lost without my SkyTools...

11:58 PM. I improved the polar alignment.

Looked at Saturn again. The view in the 9mm Tele Vue was very nice. Saw 3 moons and star.

The tracking was still funny. It did not seem to hold. I realised that I should re-read the documentation on using the clutch. I could not remember clearly what I was supposed to do. I had been fuzzy back in December too.

Or was it that the clutch was slipping? Do we need to refresh the friction pad?

Clouds were coming and going now.

The heater in the studio was very nice. Glad Mom had found the remote.

12:04 AM, Saturday 27 April 2013. I wanted to try for some galaxies, despite the bright Moon. I went to Denebola to begin the star hop. But after several tries and not seeing anything clearly, I decided to quit.

12:35 AM. Decided to throw in the towel. It was really too bright... The Moon was 97% illuminated. Frickin' Moon. And I had started to too. Maybe tomorrow, if I began earlier, in the extended gap before the Moon rise, I'd have better luck...

Friday, April 26, 2013

quickly viewed Jupiter (Union)

Finished setting up Mom's Newtonian telescope. Attached one of my eyepieces.

Took a quick look at Jupiter using the Celestron 26mm. Saw three moons. Cloud bands.

camera 1 acting up

Both Dietmar and I spotted something wrong with camera 1. A white screen. Strange. A different signature. I didn't know what it meant. Bounced to Tony for some input.


In the late afternoon, I set up Mom's Edmund Scientific telescope. So to cool.

Attached the Telrad. Turned on the red LED lighting. Laid out my eyepieces.

Skies looked like they might be fairly good... I wondered what the skies were like elsewhere: Toronto, for Manuel; and the Blue Mountains, for Denis.

I found her adjustable observing chair outside on the observing platform! Oops. I had put it out at Christmas!

The steel post was flopping around! Something is wrong with the base... Damn. Another road block.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Grace found wands

Grace noticed a product on sale at Canadian Tire: the Life Gear Glow Stick Light. A light and wand combo.

The red ones would be handy at the observatory. During public events, tours, open houses, etc. She charged Trevor to pick some up.

shared road status

Advised our RASC members that the road to the CAO was clear. Remind people that the road might be bumpy, with ruts.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Joel drove up

Joel reported in. He drove right up to the front door of the CAO. There were minor ruts in the road but it was still passable. The tree had been shifted off to the side and was no longer a concern.

checked prices

Out of curiosity, I compared prices for the Tele Vue 2-inch 2-times Powermate items. Woodland offered the unit proper for $260 and the t-ring adapter $40. I checked a couple of the Canadian vendors: $330 and $57 respectively. That's a $130 difference, all in, despite the slightly expensive US dollar. Felt better.

heard from the town

Tony reported hearing from the county. He said he explained our issues at the observatory. They said they would dispatch a crew to clear the tree and look at the ruts. Tony emphasised the upcoming Probus group event and that we would rather not cancel the event due to the road condition. He was left with the impression that they would address today or tomorrow. Good stuff.

tested PTR-to-EOS t-ring

Test-fit the Powermate t-ring to the EOS t-ring. Of course it worked.

I'm glad Dietmar and Phil clarified this for me.

upgraded form

Revised the CAO bookings form so to accommodate for open houses, work parties, etc.

Monday, April 22, 2013

made OHAP meeting

Phil and I traveled to the OHAP meeting at Grace and Tony's. We picked up some "supplies."

We found Sharmin was there. She and Grace and Bri were preparing dinner.

Skeena and Lora arrived. The puppies were happy. Ian arrived.

Steve was last to arrive; he had forgotten about the event.

We hammered out a few details. Encouraged Sharmin to share her activity ideas. The big deal was nixing the talks.

asked Joel to leave it

We asked Joel to stand down. Tony will call the county about clearing the tree on the Sixth Line. Hopefully they'll take a look at the road and see that it too needs some care.

suddenly home

Phil woke me moments before leaving the room. Started saying something about going to the car. I thought I missed breakfast. Leaped out of bed and immediately started packing.

Twisted my back. Damn it!

Found everyone in the restaurant. Had breakfast.

8:55 AM. We had been on the road for a few minutes. Sunny and clear. The women gave Phil and I the middle row.

10:30 AM. We had a pit stop. Bio break. I took some Aspirin from Katrina. Weird shapes, the down under variant.

Had lunch at Tim Horton's along the highway.

Free wifi! w00t! Lora had emailed me in the morning, asking me if I had packed everything. I finally replied. Said I wasn't sure, for rushing.

Took a nice group photo outside with Dietmar's DSLR.

I finished reading the Canon DSLR book from the library.

4:25 PM. We were through the border. Easy peasy. Fairly short lines.

Again, despite the time, we did not encounter any heavy traffic. I thought for sure we'd get hung up in Burlington.

When we arrived Millie and Dietmar's, we immediately transferred to Phil's truck.

And suddenly, the NEAF journey had ended.

observations by a NEAF newbie

I learned a few things pretty quickly on day 1 while at the North East Astronomy Forum as organised by Rockland Astronomy Club. I started recording thoughts and observations in my palmtop. I note the following for anyone going in the future... 


The RAC provided a programme and a small map of the facilities. Reviewing the Rockland Community College campus map in advance may be helpful.
  • parking - use the south student parking lot
  • event registration / tickets - level 2, inside building 5, the Fieldhouse
  • trade show - in the gymnasium, ground level, inside building 5, the Fieldhouse
  • food concession / snack bar - in the gymnasium, north east corner
  • cafeteria - in building 7, Cultural Arts Center
  • small theatre - in the gymnasium, south side
  • auditorium - in building 7, Cultural Arts Center, enter via mezzanine level
  • ATM - in building 7, Cultural Arts Center, on mezzanine level
  • solar observing - outdoors between building 5 and 7 and the amphitheatre
  • RAC booth - north-east corner of gym
  • kid's corner - north-west corner of gym
Of course, this was the 2013 layout and it may change in the future. 

register for main draw prize

At the end of NEAF, day 2, after the last keynote, the RAC conducts the "big" prize draw. There are some significant items up for grabs! But in order to be included in this draw, one must "register." Registration for main draw prize is now electronic. It does not occur, oddly, if you pre-purchase your ticket. It has to be done on-site.

During our 2013 trip, it was done at registration and ticket area. They had a bank of computers set up for this. Unfortunately, during our arrival on day 1, there was some confusion as to what to do. And one of the computers was not operating.

As it turned out, this event and prize registration process could be done any time. I returned to the area Sunday morning and there was no line up to speak of. And they had a volunteer assisting people. Complete this before the Sunday afternoon draw.

The prize draw does not require the recipient to be present. The prize will be shipped, if necessary. 

buy tickets for daily draws

From the RAC booth one may purchase single or multiple ticket stubs. They are inexpensive. Multiple tickets are cheaper per unit.

Tickets are drawn over the course of each day (e.g. gift certificate). The winner names are announced over the PA and posted on a bulletin board beside the RAC booth. These tickets are also used in the final draw on Sunday.

Buy the tickets first thing upon arrival to increase chances of winning something on Saturday. Purchase your tickets before the Sunday afternoon draw.

participate in vendor prize draws

Various vendors offer free daily prize draws. Some offer many prizes ranging from token (e.g. baseball cap) to major items (a telescope).

Typically they have a form you fill out and drop in a box.

Note the time of the draw and consider setting a reminder alarm! For the vendor draws, one must be present to collect a prize.

lots of walking

While NEAF is not large, not like an international car show, you will still walk a lot. The main event, the trade show, is set up in a gymnasium with a hard floor.

And if you leave the gymnasium for solar observing or to attend a lecture in the auditorium, you'll be putting on more miles. And, of course, to and from the parking lot. And maybe that more than once...

So, wear comfortable shoes. And consider the double-sock trick if in new shoes. You can cool your heals outside on a bench, near the concession area, in the cafeteria, or by attending a talk.

food and drink

Contrary to popular belief, there is good food at NEAF!

The concession booth inside the gymnasium has a very limited selection and is not of high quality. But, it's the closest muffin and coffee. Visit the full cafeteria for real food. They offer hot meals, sandwiches, a wide selection of drinks, some desserts, etc.

Of course, there's nothing stopping you from bringing your own.

Beside the concession along the north side of the gym are tables and chairs.

Remember to drink lots of water. Stay hydrated.

take in all the activities

NEAF is more than the trade show in the gym.

There are multimedia talks and lectures in both the auditorium and gym. One might preview the speakers and topics before arrival so to have a plan. You may have to make hard decisions as talks occur simultaneously. Talks are scheduled over the whole day. Set an alarm for talks or keynotes you don't want to miss. Also, keep tabs on the posted schedule near the RAC booth: presentations may be subject to change.

Solar observing, weather permitting, is conducted all day by RAC volunteers. 


Bring a knapsack or good shoulder bag. You will likely pick up a lot of paperwork, literature, magazines, etc. A back pack may ease your load. You can also keep water and snacks with you. And if you purchase small items, you'll have somewhere to stow them.

Bring your own marker or pen, if you want signatures.

Bring a notepad and pen or pencil to jot down prices. Or palmtop or smart phone. You might find several vendors carrying items you're interested in. You can note their best price and booth number.

There is an ATM near the auditorium. It works with Canadian banks. Vendors will accept cash and credit card payment.

Consider waiting to Sunday afternoon to haggle...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

NEAF day 2

7:50 AM. Phil was up and about. He, Joel, Millie and Dietmar were off to NYC today. For a B&H shopping extravaganza.

Katrina and I were staying behind, so to return to the NEAF show. Today was my pitch day. Somehow we had to make our was to the campus. I emailed Byron to see if they were going to the show today.

9:30. Had a leisurely breakfast with Katrina in the hotel.

We caught a ride with Janice and Bryon, in the SAAB, before they headed home. Very nice of them. Thank you!

11:00. Back at the show, with Katrina.

I immediately headed to the Opticsmart booth (413) and picked up a red LED light for Stu (a single). $13, the show special 35% off.

11:30. I also gathered info and photos of DiscMount (booth 325) for Stu. Both Phil and I feel that better tripods can be had elsewhere...

12:00 PM. Had a good chat with Tim DeBenedictis, at the Southern Stars booth (210, in the second aisle), about their CubeSat program. Very interesting what they're doing. Maybe RASC can do something?! They were very successful with their crowdfunding. For as little as $1, you can send a message from space! 

12:20. Coffee break. Prepared my notes.

Chatted with a Celestron representative. A brief but positive discussion. Exchanged cards.

Received a new demo of the Vixen Polarie. Saw the transparent model.

1:32. Randomly I headed outside, Katrina waved me over. Did some fun solar observing.

1:44. I caught Dietmar out of the corner of my eye. Looked like the crew was back... And my ride home!

2:03. Watched Uncle Al's talk in the Galaxy Theatre, at the end of the gymnasium. Phil joined me for a bit. I went mostly to see Al Nagler up close. He was entertaining, informative (without being too technical), funny, and brutally honest.

Vendors started marking down telescopes. For example, Woodlands cut $100 off a refractor.

3:45. My palmtop alarms started going off. Draw prize time! Phil and I won hats from Astro-Physics (booth 221)!

Phil and I took a quick look in the Kid's Corner. Quiet now... I like the 3-dimension models of the stars in the Big Dipper.

4:15. I helped Millie with screws for her telescope. We found some nylon 4mm pieces.

Larry wondered if she was my Mom!

4:45. I returned to AstroGizmos. It was less busy than yesterday. I took more time in the booth. And I found a very nice clip-on light, with 4 LEDs, that ran off AAA batteries. I bought it, thinking of Stu. $25.

Vendors were packing up.

5:00. The show officially closed. The advertised time of 6 was clearly incorrect.

5:16. There was the big draw in auditorium. I had tickets 230 to 236. No luck. In fact, no one in the posse won anything. Too bad. They had some great stuff though.

And suddenly, NEAF was done. I was tired but happy. It was a great run. Now, looking back, it felt like it flew by. The show surpassed by expectations. I was pleasantly surprised by all the vendors and products that were present. There was more to see and do that I had anticipated.

We had dinner with the tweeters. The Waterwheel Restaurant and Cafe. Between the Dunkin' Donuts and the Tallman Bible Church.

9:00. I did not join the gang in the courtyard after. Needed some quiet time. The television signal was better tonight...

I gave my AP cap to Phil. He won a toque. So he's covered for both seasons now.


One disappointment was not finding Vixen parts. I had hoped to spot clutches, motor brackets, bolts, etc...

grabbed camera documents for Manuel

While at NEAF, over both days, for Manuel, I obtained every piece of literature I could on cameras. QHYCCD (booth 521), Apogee (319), Finger Lakes (530), QSI (345), Atik (348), etc. I also grabbed a copy of the Canon EOS system booklet. And the issue Sky and Telescope magazine, featuring an article on planetary imaging derotation techniques.

told Lynn he won

Noticed that Lynn won a door prize. Let him know.

solar observing with Katrina (Suffern)

Katrina sent me several text messages to my mobile phone but unfortunately I didn't get them. At 12:50 PM, she messaged "Come out now! Solar area." By a weird coincidence, I just happened to walk by the courtyard and saw her. She energetically signaled me over!

1:32 PM. Some wispy clouds were making perihelic effects in the sky. There was a nearly complete prismatic circle around the Sun, 22° out. A nice fringe benefit for the solar observing crew.

She then lead me to various telescopes. The local astronomy club was quite active. There were about 20 stations set up.

Viewed the Sun in Hα in a little Coronado telescope, one of the old units, before the PST was invited. Nice view.

1:44. The arc was bright...

Katrina was most impressed with the small spectroscope. It was a Shelyak Instruments Lhires Lite visual device, a small little thing, that showed a portion of the spectrum of the Sun. And then she showed me how to adjust the part of the spectrum observed with the dial on the side. Fascinating.

All the way from deep red to dark violet. Wow. What a neat way to look at our star. I didn't know which dark line was which (other than hydrogen alpha in the red and calcium K in the dark blue) but it was obvious the various absorption lines.

1:55. Then we headed over to a long refractor to with a DayStar filter wheel attached. The guide let me adjust the filter position. There were familiar views, with the 0.3 ångström and 0.7 ångström filters, like Coronado hydrogen α filters. But the 0.7 was different. I loved the detail it revealed. Unprecedented detail, I could see magnetic loops right down to the sunspot regions. Incredible. There was also a Sodium Na- D line filter which provided a somewhat natural colour to the Sun but with detail on the surface. And finally a unique Calcium filter, not K line, but a light cyan colour. However, I forgot the details of the filter. That was a treat too, a very nice setup.

In fact, I was impressed with the way the astronomy club ran this event. In a lot of ways, like what RASC does. What really caught my eye was the sign boards. Almost every telescope had a sign board beside. I thought this a great idea and we could do this too, easily. It was a great way to tell people what they'd see, provide some scientific information, answer some common questions, etc., while in a queue for the eyepiece. Katrina liked them too.

I was pretty happy that I stumbled outside at this time!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

NEAF day 1

Slept well. Phil was very quiet in the morning, leaving and returning from the gym. It was NEAF day! w00t!

I put on double socks knowing there'd be a lot of walking today.

We made a last-minute switcharoo to have breakfast at the hotel instead of going out. It was not too busy. The buffet was a little pricey at $16, most of us made two trips. They had a very wide selection. Infinite coffee!

The robotic dome was no longer in the lobby...

Dietmar and Phil guided us to the Rockland Community College. Passed Spook Rock Rd, which made use all do a double-take. After parking in the south lot, we followed the signs for the forum, inside building 5. We asked some other visitors to snap photos of the posse. With Dietmar and Katrina's cameras.

Next stop: registration. There was still a queue! Argh. I had suggested we NOT arrive when the forum opened its doors. But it seemed my logic was faulty. We queued up.

But confusion ensued. From our spot at the end of the snaking line-up, we could see a small bank of computers. People seemed to be filling out some sort of electronic form. One of the computers did not seem to be working. Phil wasn't convinced this was the correct queue so he headed over to the far side of the open space to make some inquiries. A few minutes later he returned with show tickets! Huh? He said we were in a line-up for registering for prizes. And we could do that any time. We all left the long line, received a hand-stamp, and entered the forum proper.

9:04 AM. Phil shot his panorama and then Katrina photographed us. The white balloon reminder me of Rover!

On the floor, we received a plastic bag of goodies. Provided by Sky and Telescope. Included the glossy program with speaker agenda and floor map. And the magazine, of course. I suddenly realised I had forgotten my knapsack...

We casually discussed meeting up for lunch around 12 (assuming at some point we'd split up)... And we were off! Katrina, Phil, and I started in the far aisle.

I fired up my Psion and started making notes.

The first thing we noted the Kid's Corner. Great idea. Keep the junior astronomers happy (and away from clean eyepieces). Phil expressed an interest in returning, to get ideas.

I overhead someone say there was free wifi service. Whoa ho. I fired up the iPod and found a good signal, compliments of AstroGizmos! Thank you.

Noted the astrophotography gallery. Was not expecting that. A nice idea, showcasing (presumably) some of the Rockland Astronomy Club member's work.

Saw a cute plushy of Earth. Learned later they were sold by Astronomy To Go (booth 62). Funny.

I spotted Oberwerk Corp big binoculars (at booth 235). But as we drew closer to the vendor, I could see more of their products. I didn't know they made "regular" bins, normal size. Good to know.

Katrina and Phil took turns at mirror grinding at the Amateur Astronomers Association booth (66).

Chatted with a gentleman at the Moonlite Telescope Accessories booth (245). Was happy to hear that it should be easy to adapt their Newtonian Focuser to Mom's Edmund Scientific OTA. In part because they have inexpensive "install kits" that come with curved base plate and spacers.

In the second aisle, we stumbled across the Questar crew (239). Cool! Another surprise. Saw a few 3.5" units, like ours. But I had never seen, up close, the bigger Questars. Absolutely beautiful.

Later we found the Sky-Watcher booth (224). I took a closer look at the collapsible Dobsonians. We'll need to get a replacement for the loaner program once we abscond one to live at the CAO. I grabbed a brochure on the 8", 10" and 12" (manual) products.

I also spotted a very small go-to 'scope/mount, the Virtuoso. Interesting, a way to have go-to with a very small 'scope; or to do tracked imaging with a camera. Neat. Grabbed a flyer.

Katrina and I chatted with the man at Astro Haven Enterprises. She was curious about the robotic dome. In particular, she wanted to know how you'd get inside. Jump?!

Spotted the Starry Night booth (225).

Hey, Willmann-Bell was here (booth 222)! And Cambridge University Press (229). Springer (217). I had not considered that the book publishers might be here. I revisited by wish list. Willmann-Bell had Scott Ireland's Photoshop Astronomy book! Drool. No show discounts, unfortunately.

Spotted the Meade (313) and Celestron (421) booths near the centre aisle. Good.

Katrina and I chatted with the pleasant man at the AstroTrac booth (326). He explained in detail how the system worked. I still think it brilliant. When a visitor came by the booth and asked me some questions, I found myself helping. Ha.

From the Adorama (445) booth, I chatted about wide angle Canon lenses. Grabbed some neat materials. The 90-page glossy Canon EOS System document. Fantastic stuff. And they also had a little, quick 8-page colour printed document, the Canon EOS DSLR Camera Settings for Astrophotography by Jerry Lodriguss. Cool! I grabbed a couple of each.

Gradually, I lost track of Katrina and Phil. At 12:18 PM, I found Millie waiting for others. But no one was in sight. Was lunch scrubbed? I cooled my heals for a bit.

Bought 7 raffle tickets from the RAC booth. And I filled out a ticket main draw. Then decided to go for walkies. I want to verify if I could access my bank account. Gulp.

I found the ATM, as per the facility map and signs, a little ways away, in the Cultural Arts Centre building. A fringe benefit of the walkabout was stumbling across the full cafeteria! And here Phil had given me the impression that there was no good food to be had. With some lunch money in hand, I bought a nice ham sandwich, juice drink, and a big muffin. It looked quite pleasant outside. I took to a bench overlooking the solar observing area. Beyond, the amphitheater.

Around 1:00 PM, Katrina found me. I directed her to the cafeteria and we had lunch together outside. A lovely day but a little cool. I had to leave her as I was—without a sweater or jacket—starting to get chilled.

Bumped into Dietmar at 1:27 PM. OK. I was ready for day 1, round 2. Took in the rest of the vendors, quickly, tackling the last couple of aisles. Spotted Astro Gizmos (52), Tele Vue (524).

Saw a familiar face. Said hello to Dave Lane, past RASC president. He was telescope shopping for the university. Perhaps the Software Bisque booth (330) or 10 Micron (318). Or PlaneWave (430) or Officina Stellare (212). Wow.

I hit the brakes at the top of aisle 1. The vendor MyCaseBuilder at a booth (545) at the corner and I immediately saw that they were offering custom inserts for cases. Absolutely brilliant. Grabbed a card and brochure. Where were they 2 years ago?! I chatted briefly with the woman rep about the process. Sounded very easy. They offered two types of foam. I wanted to know about out-gassing but didn't press the matter. I'd have to share this with Charles...

I chatted with the nice TV people to clarify what be needed if I wanted to image double stars at high magnification with my old Celestron 8". A 2-inch Powermate 2x should do. I was shown how to remove the flanged black end for photographic use. Also a PTR (a Powermate t-ring) would be needed. But they didn't have in stock to show me. They suggested I request that of a vendor, perhaps OPT (515) or Woodland (309). They also assured me I wouldn't need anything else; for some reason I started to think I'd need more adapters and rings. Whew.


While I could get signal, I compared retail prices for Tele Vue Powermate and PTR. The show vendor prices, all in, were much better than Canadian retail. I then revisited OPT and Woodlands and a few of the other bigger shops to get their best price. Woodland Hills won out, after brief haggling. I picked up a Powermate and PTR. It was a good feeling knowing that I could begin some serious double star research.

Over the course of the day, I had passed all the magazine booths, including Astronomy, Sky at Night, Astronomy Technology. Grabbed a copy of Astronomy Now.

Picked up lots of brochures and flyers.

Found a Kendrick controller for Phil at Hands On Optics (booth 417). Referred him to Telescope Support Systems (55).

Returned to a vendor booth for the draw prize. Realised I had missed some ones from earlier... 

It was near 4:45 PM. I wanted to hear Dr Grunsfeld talk. I headed to the Celestron theatre. Dr Brown was quickly wrapping. John proved a great speaker. He was funny and humble. It was neat hearing his words, from his side, regarding the Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, one that I had followed closely live.

The show was done for the day! Everyone reconvened. We piled into the van. I was in the shotgun seat and tried to help direct Joel back to the hotel. But I goofed up. Phil, using Google Maps, bailed us out.

We found the Appleby's restaurant. Dave joined us. Katrina caught up with a few of the tweet peeps. Had dinner with the posse. Huge portions again but not-so-great service. Despite the built-in 18% tip.

Back at the hotel, we had drinks in the courtyard again. But we didn't carry on too long. I think everyone, like me, was pretty tired.

Antares on its way

Just as Dr. Mike Brown was wrapping up his talk at NEAF, he switched over the projected image to a browser page... A rocket was heading skyward. We missed the launch proper unfortunately. But clearly, the Antares was on its way.

Congrats Orbital.

chatted with Stu

Spotted a small red LED light, from Opticsmart, and thought of Stuart. It would work well on a clipboard. I asked if he might want me to pick it up. If it used "common" batteries, sure. 2032.

He also asked if I could look at DiscMounts for him. He wanted to know what kind of adjustment was possible on tripod for the DM4. For his TV85. I said I'd collect data.

we arrived NEAF

I had arrived! My first North East Astronomy Forum.

Phil shot a pano with his iPhone from the mezzanine. Katrina is to my right.

Friday, April 19, 2013

off to Suffern

The NEAF adventure started early.

The drive to Suffern, New York was to take a few hours. The plan today was to be on the road early so to make our destination around dinner time. And then we could relax and charge up for Saturday.

It was my first trip to the North East Astronomy Forum. Also Joel had never been. But Katrina, Millie and Dietmar, Phil, they were all veterans. Katrina tweeted that we were "the NEAF posse."

I had multiple objectives. I was going to just experience it, obviously. Fully experience the trade show, take in some talks or lectures, see how the Rockland Astronomy Club ran things, do some observing, with guidance from the experienced NEAFers. Manuel had charged me to keeping an eye out for new cameras. And I had my new business matter to explore.

I got up early to finish packing. And make coffee, of course! At 7:45 AM, my mobile phone buzzed. It was Katrina—they were ahead of schedule. Already at the rendezvous point on Bloor. Oh! They wanted to know if I was ready (yes) and when I could be there (5 minutes). I suggested the fastest solution was for them to drive one block north and I'd meet them at the corner (2 minutes).

I filled the traveler mug, put on shoes, hustled to the foyer, just as Joel's mini van appeared. It was surprisingly warm outside. A lovely spring day albeit cloudy and misty.

By 7:55 AM, we arrived Millie and Dietmar's. I had peeked across the hydro allowance while still on Royal York and saw that Phil was already there. We briefly entered the house but everyone was ready to go. Millie and Dietmar loaded a single remarkably small bag into the trunk. And the humans piled into the spacious Honda. Phil and I took the third row; Millie and Katrina were in the middle. Dietmar rode shotgun and fired up his GPS. And without further ado we were on our way.

Joel almost missed his first turn! We teased him. Dietmar encouraged him to heed the GPS...

Lora had provided road trip cookies! Yeh.

I gave Katrina her CAO keys.

I realised, out by Winston Churchill, that we would be traveling right in the middle of the morning rush hour. But, fortunately, westbound traffic was light. And, of course, we were entitled to use the HOV lane. Sweet! We made good progress.

Later, on the 403 near Hamilton, around 8:30 AM, we witnessed a near-crash. Immediately ahead of us, a vehicle in the left passing lane began to return to the centre. Meanwhile, a vehicle in the right lane, overtaking everyone, claimed the middle lane. The left lane driver was in the process of changing when, at the last moment, they saw the centre lane was no longer clear—and yanked back. Whew. No collision. But it was close. Very close. I couldn't help, with all my HPD training, wonder what would have happened to us. I bet we would have been caught in it. And that would not have been good. Alas, Lady Luck favoured all concerned.

We arrived at the border at 9:11 AM (uh, weird). All lanes open. Each had about 10 or 15 cars. Surprisingly busy. But we went through pretty easy. After the Boston bombings, we weren't sure what to expect.

We viewed the new RASC cards, via Dietmar. He had procured some from the recent council meeting. He had two flavours: the general contact one; and the benefits of membership one. Very nice. We all pocked some.

At 10:21 AM, we stopped at the Pembroke thruway service centre. Many partook of the Tim Horton's. I declined many offers for more coffee.

I reviewed my wish list...

We finally stopped for lunch. We found a Friendly's Ice Cream Shop, just off Interstate 81, in Cortland. I had a quintessential burger, fries, and coke. By 1:50 PM, we were back on the road.

The highway seemed familiar to me. I wondered if it was where I received my last speeding ticket! Way back, when Willy and I took a motor to Long Island.

I had brought a couple of books to read: Camera Raw 101 by Canfield; and Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi/400D guide by Busch. I plowed through the Canon book...

We stopped for fuel and stretched our legs. I think that was in Roscoe. And then it was the final push.

At last, at 5:00 PM, we arrived hotel.

The monitor in the lobby show NEAF info. But the computer driving it crashed as I walked over... I didn't touch it!

There was a robotic dome in lobby. Wow.

Phil said the Crowne Plaza, just north of Interstate 87, had been redone, refreshed. The room seemed very newly appointed. I found however the decor a little cool and stark, white, black. Strange mirrored, chrome thing over the desk. Very contrasty. Later, it would become obvious that some of the linens were not black, in fact, but dark purple. Apropos of the RASC!

Our room was on the outside of the building. That offered us a window (which might sound strange) that I promptly opened. The trees were in bud here; the air smelled lovely. Suffern is around latitude 41.1. Three degrees south and the flora showed it.

Phil found that a low battery condition on the room safe prevented operation. We'd have to keep our personal effects on our person.

We found, happily, that we had free wifi in the room. w00t. Phil had wondered, after the hotel upgrade, if it would be a surcharged item. I found the signal good! Sent some work and RASC emails...

I had obtained everyone's room number after check-in. I called others in the posse to share. Joel had an inner room on the same floor (without windows). Phil was perplexed that he didn't have two doors. Katrina was just down the hall from us, same side, i.e. an outer room. Millie and Dietmar were down on the first floor.

We reconvened in the lobby around 6:30 and headed out to dinner. The Airmont Diner. Place was busy, hopping. The staff were fast and friendly. I had snapper. Huge portions. Found Sam Adams on the list. Yum. Joel was intrigued.

Around 10:00 PM, back at the hotel, we settled in courtyard lounge. Phil told me we were sitting where there used to be a pool. We had drinks all around. Katrina bought—thank you. It was clear there were lots of astronomy people around: the vendors were particularly obvious in their labelled shirts.

As we chatted, some familiar faces appeared. We were happy to receive Janice and Byron. They were very surprised to see us. They had spent the day shopping in NYC. Tomorrow Byron was headed to NEAF. Later they showed the hard cover book, made with iPhoto, of the Australia eclipse trip.

Retired for the evening. Took in some TV but it was poor quality. Some analog channels looked very bad on the widescreen LCD. On top of that, the signal was wobbly. It would drop and distort every few moments. We shut it off.

Big day ahead...

found the road blocked

Tim L reported a tree down along the road to the CAO. That might complicate upcoming activities at the observatory.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Antares launch halted

The Antares launch is scrubbed. At the -12 minute mark.

Sounds like there will be at least a 48 hour turnaround time...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

first time in a long time (Toronto)

4:05 PM. Stu called a GO for the city star party. The skies were looking good! But I was feeling a little lackadaisical.

4:37. Carolyn, a new RASC member, said she was going to visit the High Park group.

5:30. I contacted Dave to see if he was planning to go. Voice mail. He replied shortly after. He was able to come out and play.

Invited my long-time friend Ken out. He was available! Cool. He was able to finally make it.

6:00. Packed up. Put the main items in the foyer. Sent new member Carolyn a link to the High Park page. Told her where we'd be.

7:00. Moved the car from the garage near the front door. Packed up quickly. And headed to the park.

I arrived well before sunset. I was a little surprised to see a few sport games in progress. On the soccer pitch there was a casual game going on. The far baseball diamond was active (and its lights were on already). I was also surprised by the amount of cloud. Oh oh.

Set up my Celestron 8" SCT slowly. Two rambunctious pushy children raced across the field. The boy pushed the girl out of the way when I said I was ready to show them the Moon and grabbed the eyepiece so vigorously I thought he was going to topple the whole rig. I yelled at him. A woman near by stood up and started over. I wondered what she was thinking. I got the kids to settle down and take turns. I did wonder though if the boy was trying to push my buttons. He asked a litany of peculiar questions. I scooted them away. Encouraged them to come back later, when it was dark.

I enjoyed the view of the Moon at 55x. Noted how smooth Mare Tranquillitatis was. I was particularly intrigued by the complex shadows in the north hemisphere, along the terminator. I wonder if I was seeing the Montes Caucasus. Very interesting.

The girl and the brat returned. He got into an argument with us that anyone could take a trip to the Moon, if they had enough money. I assured him that only trips to low Earth orbit were possible, if you had a lot of money. I don't think he was convinced.

Later I showed the Moon and Jupiter to the kids and, it seemed, the entire two soccer teams. Lots of people noted the reversed field. Many wanted to know the distance to the Moon. 400k! I asked one man how many klicks he had on his car: 250k. I saw he was "on his way." Handed out one RASC brochure to an enthusiastic young man who will be returning to Calgary. Gave him the national web address and assured him there was a vibrant RASC presence there.

Ken showed up. We talked shop for a bit. We share a different expensive hobby but he's always been interested in astronomy.

Carolyn showed up shortly after with her Pentax binoculars. Introductions all around.

Member Dave (yet to join RASD) arrived with his celebrated Celestron 15x70 binoculars on a tripod. A short tripod...

Another person, arrived, name escapes me, a non member, with binoculars. He left early.

We took in the Moon, Earthshine, Jupiter, its four moons, Castor A, B, C, and D, Mizar A and B with Alcor and Sidus Ludoviciana, the pale (green?) Eskimo Nebula (remarkably good at 222x), colourful Algieba, brilliant 54 Leonis (after some crazy slews). I think Dave and I looked briefly at Izar too—but I forget the particulars.

We saw the International Space Station flyover at 9:09. Dave won. He picked it up first. It brightened once past north, despite the clouds. Everyone liked my use of the Sci-Fi alarm tone on the iPod.

I think we first tried for Saturn around 9:30? Maybe 9:45? I used the go-to on the C8 and it got me in the neighbourhood. I could see the planet in the finder. Centred and the planet looked rather good, even though very low. But a few minutes later it dimmed out and then faded completely behind clouds. Still, that was the highlight for Carolyn. Dave enjoyed the aperture and magnification.

We returned to Saturn, as the last target for the evening, and it was free from clouds, much brighter, but the seeing was very poor. It could only tolerate 77 power. That was maybe 10:30? We could also see Titan. But no other moons.

We fought the clouds for much of the evening. The baseball diamond lights switched off around 10 PM. Dave and I were the last to leave around 11 PM. Of course it was perfectly clear then.

Dave helped me pack up and lug! Thank you!

11:15. Arrived home. Quickly stowed the car.

Glad I went out.


The super-charged Vixen Super Polaris worked very well! The first use "in the field." Despite the rough polar alignment and only using the one-star align process, it was not bad.

And, another first, with the GoToStar, was powering it from the gel cell battery tank. It worked great is this respect as well. The provided cable (which is crazy long) worked well.


I realised later the CLA adapter cable for the GoToStar is the length that it is, so to reach one's car... should it be parked in the next field!


Eskimo: Also known as the Clown Nebula, NGC 2392, and Caldwell 39.

typographical mistake

Spotted a typo in a SkyTools report, in an Observing List column heading. Sent a note to Greg.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Shawn is wondering too

Looks like Shawn, like me, is wondering what is going on, on Saturday. He was under the impression that there was nothing planned at the Ontario Science Centre for International Astronomy Day. But then OSC staff, during his Solar Observing Session, were saying there was going to be activities on Saturday night. Huh? But there's nothing on the OSC web site. And it looks like we don't have anything noted on our site because, in fact, no event was planned. And, again, the DDO has but one line on there web site.


Sara, from the OSC, confirmed there's no IAD event at the Science Centre.

où sont les clés

Received from Tony Katrina's keys for the CAO.

SkyNews surprise

I stepped out the door to wait for Grace—she was due any minute. Checked the mailbox. It was jammed, as usual, with flyers and brochures and ads. There was a magazine: I assumed it was The Economist for the previous tenant. Hey, SkyNews! All right!

The May/Jun issue sported on the front cover an unreal photo of comet C/2011 L4 over the Atacama. And the headline, "best comet in 6 years." It was pretty good.

The lime green lettering and border though...

Inside, Drew has a photo. Congrats!

budgets rise and fall

Caught an article over at Bad Astronomy. The Russian space program is seeing approximately a 50% increase in its budget, with Putin hoping to increase progress in manned spaceflight; whereas, the USA program is being cut by about 15%. Difficult times...

week-long SOS starts

I'm not too busy this week. Or, more correctly, my work is flexible. Maybe I can help out at the Ontario Science Centre during the RASC Solar Observing Sessions (which are not noted on the RASC Toronto Centre web site). But not today...

Weather's good! Wow. And the Sun's not bad either. Six sunspot groups.

Happy International Astronomy Week!

nothing for this month

Nothing about The Sky This Month. François promised he would prepared handouts over the weekend for RASC members. If you, faithful reader, are curious about happenings in the sky, keep tabs on my online calendar.


There also seems to be little RASC information out there. There's nothing on the Toronto Centre web site upcoming events. The calendar is incomplete. There's Shawn's request to volunteers on Facebook. And a one-liner on the DDO site re. their upcoming Int'l Astro Day party.

too long

Assembled the CAO presentation with the audio track. Yikes! 40 minutes long! That's twice what I was after. I'm rambling...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Moon near Jupiter (Toronto)

Upon Dave's prompt and Bill's attractive photo, I popped out to the porch. I could barely see the crescent Moon from the corner. In a bit of cloud. But back in the house, both the Moon and Jupiter were easily spotted. Level. Jupiter, a pin point, to the right.

prepared award nomination

Prepared some words. A bit more formally.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

laid down audio

Recorded the audio track for the CAO presentation.

weather tracking

I don't know if I wanna know this... This might be one of those ignorance is bliss things. But I'm gonna track the 2013 CAO go and no-go calls. So far?

Apr 6-7: no
Apr 13-14: no

28 to go.

Now, admittedly, that's every weekend to early November. And some of those are full Moons. But that didn't stop us last year. The observatory was well-used. Those are good weekends to do repairs. I still want to improve the Paramount pointing.


I just remembered that I have other plans on Apr 20-21. So I won't be able to enjoy the CAO then.

glum weather

This weather is depressing. This weekend was the first one I had circled, for the season, as a potential one for going to the Carr Astronomical Observatory. The first new Moon weekend. Early in the season. Before the bugs. A chance to catch the Virgo cluster. In dark skies. But no. Mother Nature has other plans. Kickin' our asses with one more round of winter. Proving the ground rodent procrastinations wrong—again!

down one

Heard from Bailey. She won't be able to make the CAO spring work party. We'll miss her. And I have to find a new reporter and photographer.

messaged Company 7

Sent a message to Company 7. Asked if they might still have any old Vixen Super Polaris Dec motor adapter plates around...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Happy Yuri Day!

It's Yuri Gagarin day!

The Vostok 1 blasted off on this day in 1961. Making history. And changing the future of humanity.

Grey road cams

Ostap sent me a link and referred to the road cameras.


Cool. Some of those views will prove handy.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

mistakes continue

I found 3 typographical and grammatical mistakes on recent posts to the RASC Toronto Centre Facebook page. I grow increasingly concerned that our credibility is being further eroded. I'm very concerned about the appearance of the society. I'm embarrassed for the centre. The contributors seem to be posting rapidly, quickly but without proofing. And there is no formal editing process, no language specialist assisting.

Am I the only one who cares?

asked him to read that again

Manuel sent me an email. It was very strange. He said, "it seems that CAO will only open until June." What?! And he was disappointed that his CAO pass was going to expire in May.

I told him that he completely mis-read Stu's email about moving the Solar Observing Session date from the same weekend as the CAO Open House.

And I reminded him that the CAO supervisors are already back "on duty." That they have assigned shifts from April through November.

Regardless, the CAO is open year round. He can go any time he wants.

Mew off

Manuel decided not to go to Algonquin. I was disappointed to learn this.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

saw the new cards

I noted Jason arriving late in the meeting. With 4 long boxes. Ah. Business cards. Yeh.

They look pretty good. I took a close look at the Gastronomical meeting. Very colourful. Seemed like high quality reproduction.

I heard one councilor say they thought the printing too small under the logo. That was a little disheartening to hear. I had warned of scaling issues at the early stages but it was brushed off.

shotgun TSTM

François was a no-show. He was supposed to deliver The Sky This Month presentation tonight. No phone calls, no emails. We were hung out to dry. So Paul asked him if I'd step in. Yikes!

I borrowed Shawn's RASC Observer's Handbook and quickly scoured it. And I checked my online Google Calendar for interesting astro events.
  • Apr 12 - celebration of human space flight, Yuri in 1961, the shuttle Columbia in '81
  • Apr 16 - Lyrid meteor shower starts, continues to 25th, during the peak up to 18 per hour
  • Apr 17 - Lunar X opportunity at twilight (if you like the Moon); Orbital's Antares rocket launch test
  • Apr 19 - eta Aquarid meteors start, to May 28, up to 65 per hour
  • Apr 20 - International Astronomy Day
  • Apr 22 - Earth Day; also, the anniversary of the first Canadian astronaut space walk
  • Apr 28 - Saturn, at opposition, nearest to the Earth
  • May 8 - RASC recreational astronomy night meeting
  • generally, it's a good time to view all the galaxies in the Coma, Virgo, and Leo area!
I looked for events to next RASC RAN meeting. When the next TSTM was scheduled. I asked who was presenting that. Paul said, "You!" Gah! Me again!

Happy to help our members. But mildly stressful...


We heard from François. There was a significant security breach at his work so he was entangled.

encouraged members to visit

Delivered my presentation on visiting the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Encouraged RASC Toronto Centre members to visit the CAO. I think it was well received. I was pleased to see that a good portion of the audience, based on a show of hands, had not been. Hopefully, I generated some interest and we'll get a few new people.

Gave props to the photographers. And I was grateful to Charles for helping me with the photocopying of the handout. He made 80 copies; we didn't run out.


Update: The slide deck is online, along with the flyer, in PDF format over at the RASC TC web site.. 

Update: Materials can now be found in the archived site.

out of the blue

A spurious email arrived in the inbox. It's from a listserv tool. The name's DDO74. The tool is based on Google Groups. Message came from Paul. Without explanation.

take it!

Answered more questions for Manuel regarding camping at Algonquin. Tried to clarify things. When he asked if he could just drive and arrive, I told him that Mew Lake might have sites up for lottery but there was no guarantee he'd get a spot. When he said he no one was answering at Ontario Parks, I suggested that might be because of the seasonal staffing. But he could do it all online.

Later he reported reaching someone and being offered powered site 43. There were no more yurts left. I suggested that it was slim pickings so he should take it asap. But that it wasn't exactly "close" to the beach. Still it was in the section most of the RASC people would be in. Then he asked me exactly where everyone was staying. I said that I did not know this, he'd be better off asking Lil and Bob. They tried to keep track of that information. Told him that I'd be a short bicycle ride away!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

offered a lift up

Ostap asked if I wanted to head north with him this weekend. I entertained the idea of skipping town. Despite the weather predictions. But he wanted to leave Thursday night. No go. I was working.

helped Ostap log in

Helped Ostap log into the RASC Toronto Centre web site, so he could make his CAO reservation. He had the right words; but the wrong case.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Chris fixed his Stellarium

Chris, in an email, said his computer's time zone was correct.

He had another go at Stellarium. He renamed his SSYSTEM.INI and Stellarium created a new one, assigning the value of 315 for the Jupiter offset. With that value, his software showed the Apr 15th, 22:28 transit correctly.

So it's all sorted.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Alex clarified Stellarium's GRS use

Alexander responded to my Jupiter GRS Stellarium question(s).

He confirmed that rot_rotation_offset value has nothing to do with the "real" Jupiter GRS longitude. Stellarium uses it's own internal values for the longitude of planets.

He recommended determining a "good" value for offset manually, comparing against the visual appearance of the Jupiter. OK. That's how we're doing it now.

Alexander pointed out that since 0.11.4, the software has used a simple equation for calculating the shift of GRS. It is not ideal but better than before where the position was static.

Also, he confirmed my theory. The values are different between versions. It is related to texture file of Jupiter. And, the solar system initialisation file is updated on each release of the software.

And, finally, he also thought it very weird that Chris and I could not get the same results.


asked for GRS help

Via sourceforge, I submitted a message in the Feedback forum for Stellarium. I asked a few questions.
  • a confirmation that the Stellarium offset has nothing to do with the GRS longitude
  • a recommended offset value for version 0.12.x (is 310 OK?)
  • explanation why the numbers are different between versions
  • why two users using the same version would get different results
 Hopefully I can get some clarification on the GRS matter.

Stellarium is strange

Something strange is going on. Chris responded and said that a value of 170 in his Stellarium version 0.12.0 on Windows Vista worked for him (with light speed on) using the test time-date of 22:28 EDT on April 15th. Not for me.

I tried Stellarium (same version) on the Horvatin's Windows 7 laptop. It was fine "out of the box." I looked at the SSYSTEM.INI file (at the path c:\users\heythatsme\AppData\Roaming\Stellarium\data) and discovered the value 315. I used 5 test events in 2013, all local daylight saving time, 24 hours (8 Apr 21:50, 15 Apr 22:40, 30 Apr 0:19, 16 May 23:30, and 31 May 1:09). I corroborated these dates in the Sky and Telescope web site against their printable list for April and all dates with the interactive tool, against McNish's interactive calculator, and against SkyTools 3 Pro. Both Sky 'n Tell and SkyTools were using the GRS longitude of 190. Presumably McNish is as well.

Could it be that Chris is editing the wrong INI? That seems unlikely. Could it be some "residue" from a previous version? We briefly touched upon that at our quick discussion at the DDO. Maybe he needs to wipe his configuration. Could his computer or Stellarium date, time, zone settings be different than mine?

On top of the differences Chris and I are experiencing, I'm not seeing any consistency between the other versions of Stellarium that I have... When I did not think there was any fundamental change in the application.

9: 140
11: 80   
12: 315

And I don't understand why now I need to use 80 in Stellarium 11 versus the 105 I arrived at earlier today?!

Go figure. Could it be the texture files are different?

fixed GRS

Did some Jupiter Great Red Spot software simulation work.

Last night, at the member's night at the David Dunlap Observatory, after the talks, Chris asked me about the GRS position as it related to Stellarium and Sky Safai. We discussed that the light speed option needs to be on in Stellarium. It is not, by default.

It sounded like Chris had been relying on Stellarium for the GRS transit times but then discovered these did not match other tools. I did some research. The image below, from Stellarium 0.11.0 under Windows, is with the Jupiter "rotation" value set to 250.

Sky and Telescope's interactive GRS tool showed that the spot would transit at 9:48 PM EDT on 8 April 2013. I used this as my benchmark. It also noted that the longitude value used for these calculations was 190. Check. For an experiment, I set the rotation value to 190 in Stellarium.

Stellarium. I already knew that number used by this software was hocus-pocus. It does not seem to correspond to the longitude value in any way. But I started to wonder if there was, perhaps, a relationship. But I don't think I have any historical data, at this point, that I can use. Maybe, with some better notes, I might see a pattern. In the meantime, I found—through trial and error—a good number in the SSYSTEM.INI text file is 105. That's 85 different that the longitude... Hmmm. Almost 90... Anyway.

[ed: Hold the phone... Chris disagrees. He says 140 works for him...]

SkyTools. I remembered a notice from the developer Greg back in December recommending we update the value to 188. Jumped into the software Preferences and found the value 192. Good enough.

TheSky 6. Fired up the application and zoomed into Jupiter. Found a tan-coloured oblate disc. Ah. No image. Couldn't remember if it supported realistic images and GRS positioning. Moving on...

StarryNight 6 Pro. Looked in the extensive settings of the software and didn't see anything for changing the GRS location. Sheesh, you can change everything else this commercial application! Why is the GRS setting not easily accessed through the graphical user interface?! After a Google search, I located the JUPITERGRS.TXT file, added a comment referring to the old value of 134.0, and entered the new value 190. It didn't work! Huh?

Edited the value to 190.0. Surely the decimal wasn't an issue. Still didn't work. Phoned Mr X, er, Phil. And as we chatted, I realised the problem. I removed the comment! It seems that the text file must not have any other number in it. Man! All the more reason to include this setting in the GUI, so "regular" users can't screw it up, like I did. Thanked Phil his help.

Sky Safari. Steve and Phil confirmed it looked correct. This suggests it automatically updates. Good to know. Image provided by Steve.

Sent Chris a quick summary.


Eric confirmed that he used 190 in his StarryNight.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

sketching night

Dave and I went to the Members Night at the DDO. The topic was sketching. Stu started off showing his log book sketches. He explained how he did them and the tools he used. Deep sky and the Moon. Then Les talked about drawing our Sun.

I was intrigued by Stu's approach of doing a quick sketch in the field. But then doing a new sketch, from the first one, and from notes, and a dash of memory, and maybe a quick afocal photo, the next day. Which afforded more time. And presumably, better lighting, comfortable environs. Oh, and let's not forget the glass of wine.  

There was a lot of interaction. Steve shared his techniques. Byron reminded us of notes in the RASC Observer's Handbook and occasional pieces in magazines. I showed people Astronomical Sketching: A Step-By-Step Introduction.

After the talks, I showed Stuart my custom deep red headlamp. It was a great evening. Inspiring.

filters in front

Advised Mr Soler of safe practices when viewing sunspots.

others care it seems

Received a message in my inbox. From TechWatch. About an upcoming SkillPath webinar. The title: Proofreading Skills and Strategies. They talk about making sure your work is of the "highest quality possible." They warn that trivial errors can "tarnish your career." Misspelled words and incorrect punctuation can have "severe consequences." They posit that "error-free writing is important for your credibility." I couldn't agree more. And it is somehow assuring to receive this message. It makes me think I'm not completely crazy. That other people out there do care about quality and accuracy and precision. Feel that the written word is important. And it should not matter if that's in printed form or on a computer screen.

Friday, April 05, 2013

revitalised old glass

Received the Fotodiox Canon EOS to M42 adapter (with focus confirmation chip). w00t! Immediately bolted up the old glass! Grabbed the Takumar and Vivitar lenses which have been sitting around and collecting dust.

The big beast, the Series 1 Vivitar 70-210 zoom works. Yeh! Given the APS-C sensor in the body, this should yield effectively 110-340mm. I love this lens. The Vivitar 100mm f/2.8 fixed lens worked great too. This might be very good for astronomical close-ups!

I was not expecting the old Takumar 55mm to offer anything I didn't already have. But then, it is an f/2. It might gather more light than the Canon zoom. I'll just need to repair the loose front element...

With high hopes, I attached the Takumar 28mm. But I was able to make the Canon zoom go wider—of course. They both are matched in terms of maximum aperture. So, this old lens I can retire, along with the old Pentax bodies. But that still leaves me wanting for a very wide angle lens. Bill uses a 6mm.

Exposures were off. Took some fiddling to get them right. I'll have to learn how to program the little onboard chip...

It is so satisfying knowing these old lens will not go into a garbage heap somewhere. That I can breathe a bit more life into them.

spotted 1711 (Toronto)

Viewed sunspot 1711 with the UofT ToV glasses and then my welders glass. Very satisfying in the latter. Just below the mid-point. Almost centred.

David had asked about it on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. When I checked Spaceweather and saw how large it was, I surmised it would be visible unmagnified.

Ernő replied!

This morning, I found 3 emails with with 5 attachments and 5 links from Ernő! Wow. Very helpful. I've got some reading to do...

Thursday, April 04, 2013

tested 3-star alignment (Toronto)

The weather predictions were not looking great so I thought it might be a good night to work with the GoToStar system. I got distracted last night; tonight I'd test it. Learn more.

In particular, I wanted to understand the 3-star alignment process. I wanted to see if I could "reduce" the numbers in the RA "error" report. And with low numbers I wanted to see how accurate the goto function was. All, without doing a proper visual polar alignment... I installed the baader 36mm eyepiece.

8:24 PM. After checking the location, time zone, date, time, I then performed my first 3-star alignment. I selected three stars from the menu and noted the RA axis report values.
  • stars: Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Regulus
  • altitude: 129.4' lower
  • azimuth: 94' east
I saw high thin cloud.

Based on remarks in messages in the Yahoo!Group, I decided to raise the mount and and turn it slightly west. I.e. correcting opposite to what the report showed.

I noticed, to get to each star in the finder scope, I had pressed the right and down keys. Interesting.

8:32. Round 2.
  • stars: Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Regulus
  • altitude: 49.6 lower
  • azimuth: 66.8 west
An objective for these trials was to be as consistent as possible. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see Regulus for tree branches, so I had to guess. Still, the numbers seemed to be improving.

8:39. Regulus was still in a thicket, so I opted for a new third star.
  • stars: Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Mizar
  • altitude: 52.3 lower
  • azimuth: 130.9 east
Hmm. Not better. But then, I had upset the applecart.

8:46. Noticed the position for the RA axis was off a bit, after returning to "home," so I reset it. Dec was on the button, on 90°.
  • stars: Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Mizar
  • altitude: 20.7 lower
  • azimuth: 150.1 east
Again, I had to guess a bit. I saw α (alpha) Orionis in the finder but not in the 'scope! And it looked like I was going the wrong way in azi.

8:55. Checked the weather conditions on the OneWorld pocket weather station, sitting atop the 'cue: 1006 millibars pressure, 20% humidity, and 7°C. It felt colder!

8:57. Another round...
  • stars: Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Mizar
  • altitude: 3.0 higher
  • azimuth: 91.6 east
Ah ha! I was nearly perfect on height; and going the right direction, again, for the azimuth.

9:04. Reset the RA axis to zero again. Turned more west again, and dropped the height this time.
  • stars: Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Mizar
  • altitude: 8.5 higher
  • azimuth: 32.2 east
Oops. Something went wrong with the elevation. Still improving on azi.

9:09. Again!
  • stars: Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Mizar
  • altitude: 7.0 lower
  • azimuth: 13.6 west
OK. Pretty good. I decided that was enough fiddling. I wanted to evaluate the goto performance.

9:12. From the computer, John Littlejohn, in the kitchen, I told SkyTools 3 Pro to connect to the mount. Didn't seem to work. I returned to the mount and saw the RA report. Oops. I had forgotten to clear the message. As soon as I did, the slew commenced. Back at the netbook, I discovered a time out error on ST3P.

9:14. I had slewed to Jupiter. I saw it at edge of eyepiece. I centred on the planet and did a sync command at the hand paddle. I thought I heard Audrey comment in Skytools...

9:20. Slewed to M42. It too was at the edge of field. I centred again, synced again. Listened carefully. Nothing on Skytools. It must have been my imagination.

Tried to slew to M36. I think it missed. There was nothing obvious in the field nor at the edge. Panning around I stumbled across a cluster. But then doubted it was 36.

9:23. Chose Castor. It was off. I wondered if the sync command had made it worse. It was in the finder. I checked ST3P. The X pointer (for where it thought the 'scope was pointing) was off in software. I decided to try corrected in the software as opposed to at the hand controller.

I right-clicked on Castor in Context Viewer chart. Chose "sync telescope to cursor." As expected, I saw the error dialog box, not responded correctly. I reconnected to the mount. Checked the chart. And it looked OK.

9:28. Went back to M36. It was at edge of field. Huh. It looked like ST3P had fixed it!

9:32. Slewed to ζ (zeta) Cnc. Nope. It was off again. I saw a bright star in the finder, about a degree or so away.

The skies were fair. I decided to try for something "real." 

9:39. Tried for 26 Aur. I saw a pair in the low power ocular but I didn't see any colours. White and maybe orange? Possibly? Widely separated. They were maybe 1 mag different in brightness. Haas describes as "lemon white and azure white."

9:47. Nope. Incorrect. I was on the wrong double star. That's what you get for "trusting" a goto mount. I was on HR 1945. Gah. I had to go north-west.

Arrived 26 Aur, finally. Viewed at low power. Yes. It was colourful. The primary was a yellow gold or orange star with a fainter blue companion. This was a suggestion from the RASC Coloured Doubles list: yellow, blue, and faint. Yep. Haas describes the pair as straw-yellow and Atlantic blue.

Noted that SkyTools showed I was viewing the AC pair. The AB is very tight, not possible visually. There was also a D star but I wasn't interested...

OK. While there was not any major clouds happening, it just didn't seem very good. I decided to wrap up.

10:00. Shut down the mount and started packing up... Earlier in the evening, I had already torn down the light blinds.

Oh, Fizzbin. I did it again! I shut down 'scope first. SkyTools does not like that. The ASCOM driver goes into an infinite loop and then ST3P self-destructs.

It was 1005 mb, 20%, and now 5.7°.

10:02. Done.

So, overall, not entirely impressed with the 3-star alignment feature. It did not seem to produce highly accurate goto results. To be fair, I do have significant concerns about the mount itself. I think there's slop in the bearings, slop in the gears. The deck could be moving underfoot. So, perhaps, I should not be too harsh. Now, that said, it was a lot of back-n-forth to improve the axis error; when the 1-star alignment seems to hit targets fairly well, with a lot less effort. Makes one wonder.

maybe not

Oh. I thought I'd get a second night... But the desktop app from weather.com just changed to show snowy goopy rain tonight... From the porch, I discovered high, thin cloudy everywhere. So, maybe I'm not gonna get a chance to play.

hit the targets, mostly (Toronto)

An objective this evening was to better learn the GoToStar system. To try some different approaches. Deepen my understanding.

1:04 PM, April 3, 2013. Checked the time remaining. 6, er, 7 hours of time on the Sony voice recorder.

7:17 PM. Prepared the netbook. I was in red light mode. Shut the screen saver off. Started Notepad, as backup.

7:19. Had the observing list in SkyTools built. Checked the weather...

From Environment Canada, for Toronto. The current "quick" conditions were mainly sunny and 0°C as observed at Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport at 7:00 PM EDT Wednesday 3 April 2013. The detailed condition report was mainly sunny, 102.8 kPa and rising, visibility was 24 km, 0.4°C, dewpoint predicted at -9.0°C, humidity 49 %, with brisk wind, WNW, at 26, gusting to 41 km/h. The "quick" forecast for tonight was clear and -4°C as 3:30 PM. The detailed prediction was clear, wind northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50, becoming light this evening, low minus 4. And Thursday was to be sunny, windy, with a high of 10!

I checked the Clear Sky Chart. It showed no cloud cover from 4 PM through tomorrow night or value 10! The transparency prediction from 6 PM to 5 AM was 3, average. The seeing from 7 PM to 9 was 2, poor; from 10 PM to 1 AM was 4, good; and from 1 AM on 3, average.

7:31. Mounted the OTA. Put the red film on the John Smallberries monitors. Moved the USB kit with extensions to the kitchen.

8:21. Moved into the kitchen with John Littlejohn and the mouse. And the voice recorder. Noted a couple of things with the GoToStar.

I had forgotten to reprogram the hand controller for "home." It was still in the weird test location for Australia. I was getting unusual alignment star suggestions. I reset it. Checked the time as well and noticed the date was off. And reset the time zone. I was still light out when I tried to align.

When I tried doing the "easy" alignment, the first choice in the submenu. It's unusual, different from the other alignment processes. First, it does not say to start from the park position. It simple says "Jupiter." And, if I remember correctly, when hitting ENTER, it says to centre Jupiter. I am assuming one is to slew to suggested target. But then it gives that strange message again: "Telescope now horizong below." On a hunch, I panned away from Jupiter and choose the SLEW menu and Jupiter. But it started going off in a weird direction. Clearly not right. It was also not tracking. And I could seem to turn it on; the STOP button did not respond. With the "horizong" message reappearing. I'm doing something wrong; it is not working right.

So, I reverted to the "classic" one-star method. It was dark enough. Set Dec to 90. Eyeballed the RA shaft to vertical. Aligned on Aldebaran, which was far afield at first, centred on it. No error or RA report. Slewed to Jupiter. Boom. In the centre of the eyepiece!

Enjoyed the view of Jupiter. Low and high power. Seeing was fair to good. Noted one moon was missing. Also noted the precise positioning. One moon to the west, then Jupiter, and the other two moons to the east, all equally spaced. Cue Also sprach Zarathustra.

8:35. Checked my Google astro calendar. GLOBE at NIGHT running. Third quarter Moon. Io shadow on Jupiter—ooh! Checked the pre-made SkyTools list. Spent a moment reconfiguring. But in the Interactive Atlas and the Context Viewer and saw Io was in front of the planet now and the shadow event was coming up soon, around 9:06.

8:39. Viewed Jupiter again. Returned to the 9mm. A little soft. Looked like the planet was tangled in the tree branch and would remain that way for the balance. Could see a good amount of detail on the surface.

Bonked my head on the finder scope! Ouch. See, you can get hurt doin' astronomy.

The hand controller movement buttons seemed to be in a good orientation. In the sense, that the left arrow moved left and the right arrow moved right. The up and down were reversed. But still, I had a strong sense of left and right buttons moving west and east in the view; and up and down moving north and south (or south and north). Helps when you're looking at a planet, I guess. 

West to east: Europa, Jupiter, Ganymede, Callisto.

8:41. Opened Night Planner: sunset was at 7:50, twilight due at 9:27.

8:47. From the kit, got out the long USB extension cable and the female-to-female adapter. I wanted to extend the computer control line running from the computer in the kitchen to the hand controller on the deck, knowing a passive USB cable might not work. Put the extension between the USB port and the serial-USB adapter. Heard the beep-boop confirmation. A good sign. Threaded it past the window screen.

8:49. Made a loop outside. Velcroed the data and controller cables together.

8:52. Seeing was sketchy. Fluctuating rapidly. But when it went clear, it was stunning. So I just waited. Really good. 9mm still in. Good detail in the north and south equatorial belts. Noted the north tropical zone, very white, before the north tropical belt. The NTB seems thicker than normal.

SkyTools 3 Pro showed the Io was in front of the SEB. I wondered if it might be possible to see the moon in the foreground against the brown belt.

Unpacked the red flashlight. Put my leather gloves on. 

8:57. Lovely view. Gets nice from time to time.

Moved the recorder, out of the way of the mouse.

Checked the Night Planner again. Oh! I didn't realise it but the Great Red Spot was also going to be visible tonight. A double whammy. Noted the ingress times for the shadow, 9:03, and the GRS, 9:05. Transits, shadow, 10:09, GRS, 10:36. The shadow will be faster.

[ed: Missed that note in my online astro calendar... I did show Io's shadow and the GRS. I think it was even an event I noted in my presentation!]

8:59. Headed to the telescope. Wanted to see it happen! Took the recorder out. Considered where the shadow would appear: it should be on the east edge, I figured.

9:01. The air clarity was very steady. I was seeing vibration (or shock) in the eyepiece as vehicles drove through the intersection! Strange. And occasional oscillation from wind gusts.

Very strong sense of the limb darkening on the east side. Seemed to be a bluish colour.

9:03. Spotted the shadow. Just a nibble. Right on time! In-line with the SEB. A little tiny bite. Cool. It looked really good at 222 power.

The mount tracking was quite good! Which was particularly interesting—given that I did not do an official polar alignment. And had used the "basic" alignment...

9:04. The shadow seemed elongated. I thought of the "tear drop effect" during the Transit of Venus. I wondered if the same optical effect happens with shadows...

9:05. The shadow was fully inside the limb. Nicely formed black circle. I wondered if I was seeing the Great Red Spot! The South Equatorial Belt seemed to stop short of the shadow, there was a gap, lighter, then the shadow.

I was sensitive to the traffic going over the bumps or seams in the pavement... Like a frickin' highway in front the porch.

9:08. The light region ahead of the shadow did not seem to be there anymore. Wondered if the GRS was in the other belt. A moment later, noted some chroma. Red on the west edge; blue on the east. Particularly pronounced on the moons.

9:12. Switched to my right eye. Such a different impression. Brighter. More yellow. After a moment, I could see the shadow. Same focus. Still was not certain about the GRS. After a couple of moments, went back to the left eye. It just feels better.

9:15. Took a break. Got some water.

9:16. Still breezy. Tracking was still good. Waited for a clean view.

9:17. To the right of the moon shadow, there seemed to be a light region. It was like the SEB just stopped. It was obvious when compared to the NEB. The NEB went all the way to the limb edge. It was almost like the shadow punctuated the end of the south belt.

9:19. The seeing was good. Offered good detail of Jupiter's surface.

I shifted the observing chair slightly to get more comfortable.

9:22. Someone walked by with a blunt... Or it was the neighbours who were chatting nearby. It was a neat visual effect with the belt, the shadow, and the limb. I really enjoyed that. Decided to move on. Popped in the low power 2 inch. Took one more peek. Could not see the shadow. I was feeling a little chilled.

9:29. Returned to the telescope after adding another layer above and below.

9:34. Tried to connect SkyTools but then realised, when it failed, I probably had a port number problem. In fact, it was off. Set the ASCOM SkySensor 2000 PC V6 driver from COM 2 to 5. It connected. Yeh. Reloaded the Interactive Atlas and saw the blinking X mark for the current pointing location (over the + cross-hair for the current software target). The long cable was OK!

9:36. Chose FU Orion (what a name). Variable star. Slewed.

Wasn't sure I was on the correct target. Thought I was seeing a very dim red star... Double checked the field of view in the software and returned to the ocular. It still didn't look right...

9:45. Oops. Suddenly realised I had the software set wrong. It was on the 9mm view while I was using the 36 in the 'scope. Verified! Ha. I had landing on it, looked at it. Right in the centre. The goto slew had been perfect.

9:47. Orangey. Quite dim. ST3P did not seem to note the period. Distance unknown. Learned that FU varies between (V) magnitude 2.55 to 9.45! Wow. Pretty extreme. I guess I was seeing it at the low point... Compared to the nearby stars. Brighter than the stars to the north, TYC 00715-0002 1, which is mag 10.6, and a little brighter than the one just to the east of the aforementioned star, TYC 00715-0013 3, at mag 11.6.

Noted the stars to the south that looked like doubles. ST3P said they were all singles...

9:51. FU Orionis seemed to be about the same brightness as HD 247301, a magnitude 9.9 star, a non-variable star. Thought I could see a little triangle of stars to the south-west. TYC 00715-0123 1, at mag 11.3. And NSV 2608, a suspected variable. ST3P only showed the photographic magnitude, 10.9 to 11.8, in the Object Information box. But 10.7 was shown in the IA chart. Saw TYC 00714-0203 1, mag 10.6.

I took a look at nearby, bright HR 1987. Sounded familiar... ST3P notes it as a multi-star. I did not split it, in the low power eyepiece. Not obvious. Or different magnitudes? Yes, ST3P said they were different by 5 magnitudes.

Next up was HD 36073. A multi-star I tried split the another night... I wanted to split C and D. And A and B, if lucky!

9:58. The "spinning top." But the stars seemed much dimmer tonight! Could barely see the stem stars (mag 10.9 and 10.2). Weird. Extinction? Cloud? Saw the A star, south of C. 56". Right. But I had not seen B or D...

[ed: At the time I did not realise I was viewing 45 minutes later than the other night.]

Too late in the season...

10:04. Was the sky off? I could not split C and D. Merged. Soft. Hard to focus. Refocused the view using HD 35985. Could not see the B star, no way. Too low. Too dim.

Skipped the next few variables...

10:08. Slew worked well. In the centre of the high power eyepiece. Very good goto accuracy by the GoToStar. Viewed ξ (xi) Orionis, up in the Hunter's right arm. Bluish-white star. Reminded me of Sirius.

Noted the collimation was still off.

With the 9mm, noted TYC 00742-1423 1 to the west, mag 9.2. Opposite ξ (mag 4.5) I saw a star, about a 1/3 or a 1/4 the distance. ST3P says this is GSC 742 1743 at mag 14.2. Not possible... (albeit poor quality data). To the north, I noted three stars, in a east-west alignment: TYC 00742-1679 1, 1623, and 1649, between 10.6 and 11.1. According to SkyTools, none of these belonged to xi. The B, C, and D, companions to ξ are to the south. All around magnitude 12. A very tiny triangle. I went to look again.

10:15. With averted vision I could just barely see B, C, and D stars. But it was borderline.

I saw a star to the north-east of xi. About the same distance as the B, C, and D. Not shown in the software. I'd have to check Aladin...

10:23. Decided ξ Ori requires another look. It should be viewed earlier in the year, when constellation is higher. [ed: Viewed again Feb 2014.]

[ed. See note on the ξ E star.]

Chose 15 Monocerotis. Near the Cone Nebula. In the middle of the star cluster NGC 2264. aka the Christmas Tree Cluster. Wow! Now that's a multi-star system. ST3P showed stars up to the letter U! Huh. Almost out of letters in the alphabet.

10:27. Very, very interesting. Lots going on in the 9mm! Saw C (mag 9) to the north, J and H, to the south, which were about the same separation as G and F, to the south-west, from each other. Saw L and M to the east, equally bright. Saw K to the north-east. Did not initially see the B star.

Holy cow. A 21-star multiple star system. That's a first.

Saw the triangle of stars well below 15 Mon, to the east. That is a different multi-star system, centred on HD 262066. The A, C, and D stars were obvious.

10:36. On second look, I could not see 15 Mon B. 2.9 seconds of arc apart, so should be possible. Three magnitudes different. Spotted I, near H, with averted vision. Didn't see E.

Viewed V684 to the south-west of 15 Mon, yet another multi-star system. I saw B to the north-west; opposite, and further away, D.

10:41. Between 15 Mon G and F and V684, viewed variable star V642. Huh. Varies over 18 hours. Fast. Saw a star to the north of G and F, forming a pointy triangle. Didn't know if it was 15 Mon E (mag 11.5) or V343 (ranges 9.7 to 11.2).

10:45. Found the U component! Holy. It is mag 12.6. Beyond C, to the north. Weird. Didn't see D, at mag 12.5. Still couldn't see E. I found note that said E is a suspected variable. Ah. So maybe it's there... but hiding! Still couldn't split A and B.

The vibration induced into the telescope during focusing was bothering me.

10:49. Spotted the star 15 Mon O. Did not see N. Wondered if I saw E, for a moment...

Re-examined the star between V642 and the V684 components. I had misread it before. It was in-line with the V684 D; not A. So, in fact, this was V590 aka E! Noted dim C, aka V780, to the west of V684 A. Yes! All elements observed!

I was very inclined to sketch it. Sketching would challenging but very interesting. Maybe even faster, in the long run. But I didn't like the temperature.

10:58. Checked the OneWorld portable weather station. 1021 mbars, 20%, -1.2°C. Cold.

Panned the area near the Cone. Or quite far... Did not see any nebula...

11:20. Back from break and some hard candy. Relaxed the filters in ST3P, which offered up some galaxies.

11:24. Viewed HR 2485. The A and B stars looked equally bright, same colour, white, in the 36mm. Very close. Just split. Cool. Moth-eyes effect. Spotted the faint C star, well away, slightly to the north, almost in-line.

My neck and back were tense. I was scrunching. Due to the cold. Had to force myself to keep my shoulders down.

11:28. Slewed to NGC 4656, a super thin galaxy. This would cause a meridian flip. I wondered how the GoToStar would do.

11:31. Couldn't see anything... But then, I wasn't sure I was in the right area... Started checking. Moved the observing chair to the west side of the deck.

11:46. Went to Collinder 256, with 17 Com, to get my bearings. But continued to struggle.

11:54. Finally figured the orientation after centering on the multi-star 17 Comae Berenices and spotting 16 (surrounded by a triangle of stars) nearby. West was up. And that meant NGC 4494 was in the field of view, below.

And it was also apparent the pointing issue: the software showed the mount was aiming in a different part of the sky. I wondered how to sync things... But first, I wanted to see if I could see the small, magnitude 10.7, face-on galaxy.

12:08 AM, April 4, 2013. I saw it. I saw the galaxy. But it sucked. It's just not a good target to choose in the city. And the transparency prediction, at average, was a warning...

Wondered if the goto issue was due in part to flexure, "weak" alignment. I wondered if I should sync. But should I do that on the hand paddle or use the software. I decided to try it in the software. Clicked the Sync button in the Real Time and received the error, like before: "the ASCOM Vixen SkySensor 2000 PC driver failed to complete for some reason." When I reconnected and regenerated the chart, the X was still in the wrong spot. So I tried Sync telescope to cursor in the IA chart. Reconnected. And it looked fine this time.

12:16 AM. Slewed to 4656 in CVn... Verified the Context Viewer was in the right orientation, west up.

12:20. The OneWorld reported 1021 mb, 24%, -1.9°.

I was seeing the T-pattern of stars, near the target galaxy, and the nearby Whale. And that meant the slew, after the sync, worked. Interesting. That suggests a flexure or slop issue in the mount. A hardware issue.

Put on the big red coat for warmth. Put on the red goggles before opening the fridge. Grabbed an apple for a snack.

12:29. Added the "missing Messiers" to the observing list.

12:37. Nope. No joy. Could not see 4656. Could not see the Whale nor its companion. Put in the 9mm and just got lost.

Considered M49. Low. Mmm, no. M87. OK. Slewed.

12:44. Sort of saw Messier 87. Big pale faint light grey blotch. I didn't think this was good idea, chasing faint fuzzies, now, tonight.

12:47. For one last slew (test), I went to Arcturus. It was in the finder. It would be in the low power eyepiece. So, not bad.


12:53. Slewed to Izar, last target for the night. Couldn't split it before it went behind a tree branch. Sent the mount to the park position.

Hold the phone... Saturn would be up! Slewed from the parking spot.

12:56. Nice. Great angle. A few moons. It's gonna be fun, this spring... Back to park.

Goofed again, turning off the hand controller first. The ASCOM driver started looping. And then SkyTools imploded. LIFO!

12:59. Weather station in. 1020 mb, 27%, -2.5°. Shutdown and tarped the 'scope.

So, the evening did not go as I had (loosely) planned it. I had considered trying some different alignment techniques with the GoToStar. But the one-star method was working so well (um, well until the meridian flip), that I was just rolling with it. Again, without a polar alignment! I had fun. Io's shadow as entertaining; 15 Mon was incredible.

Next time, I'll do the opposite, a 3-star. And the correction cycle.


I kept putting the hand controller in the slot of the north leg, just on the triangle tray support. It fit nicely. I didn't bonk any keys. Still, it was a little awkward. It needs a hook or a holder. Or hook'n'loop. Now that I've taken it apart I have a sense of what I can do. Perhaps a simple hook. Or eye.


Noted both the 9 and 36mm eyepieces had smudges. Need to be cleaned!


Recorder is filled again...