Sunday, June 30, 2013

recommended accessories

Sharmin has a new camera. A real camera. A DSLR.

She got lots of advice, pointers, tips, etc. from Dietmar, Phil, and I.

Later in the evening as she shopped online, on Amazon, and eBay, she asked me for some help with accessories. Like a big memory card! Or two.

Again, I recommended a UV or skylight filter, so to protect the lens. From damage, scratches. And dust.

We discussed an intervalometer order. I suggested it didn't really matter where she got it from, that they were probably all made at the same Chinese factory, just branded differently.

We also discussed a t-ring. Later I showed her my t-ring, SCT t-adapter, and 2" nose piece. Maybe a 1¼" too.

She also wants a nice case. Slippery slope. 

moved in

Skies were looking... OK. Moved into the Tony Horvatin Observatory. The behemoth. The NexStar 11 in the heavy JMI case.

Photo by Sharmin. With her new toy!

IDed a double

Manuel jumped out during a break in the clouds. He really wanted to experience "first light" with his new telescope. And align the various finders. He pinged me on Facebook. Wanted to know which double star he had seen. Near Vega. Blue-white. Not the Double-Double. To the "south." I don't think he meant celestial directions; rather I think he meant below. About 5 degrees away. Well, that might be ζ Lyrae.

to return to

Brainwave. Just created a solution in SkyTools. I will make a list for objects viewed ... but that I want to view again! This will reduce confusion in the field! 70 objects added.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Thin cloud. Reflecting sodium glow. I wondered how Manuel was doing...

made red screen

With Visio, red film, and a bit of trial and error, made a small red shield or screen to fit inside the motion sensitive lights that Charles picked up for the CAO.

This felt like a lot of work but it proved easier than swapping the LEDs... Which wasn't working anyway. I guess I'll put the white LED back in.

had crew repair security system

Phil reported back to me from the CAO. He and Dietmar resolved the security system issue with MODL 6. Tony was right—the feed from the house was bad. Thank you so much! I let Ian (and Tony) know the good news. I documented things along the way...

Rainmeter to the rescue

So happy. I found Rainmeter! Stumbled across this in Lifehacker yesterday...

Since switching to the John Charles computer, I had not deployed the Yahoo!Widgets. A dead end...

Back in business! I have attractive applets on the desktop again. Moon phase, weather, my astronomy Google Calendar, the Sky & Tel RSS feed...

Briefly tried the illustro; then installed the Enigma skin suite. Isn't it beautiful?


Hacked some code and made my own APOD viewer!

Friday, June 28, 2013

adjusted the server from home

Reconfigured the CAO server. Remotely. Hopefully I won't brick it anymore.

portable long-run photography rig

Started to noodle on exactly what is required to operate the DSLR camera for an extended time—in the field—for time lapse or star trails. It felt rather complicated not owning an intervalometer...

But when I finished the sketch, I realised that almost all the stuff would still be needed! In fact, having a computer offered a number of advantages, including a large screen, and a large amount of storage! Huh.

A Canon 40D wants (as per these notes) between 7.5 and 8.2 volts with a peak capacity of 1400 amps. Sealed Lead Acid battery is up for the task. But I don't have a step-down buck transformer with enough power. So that's the missing link right now. I could rely on the grip with dual batteries; or get out the inverter and stock DC coupler.

And, of course, one will likely need to heat the lens. So a dew wrap and controller is needed.

In lieu of an intervalometer, the computer is needed, running EOS Utility. The ASUS netbook can be powered off 12 volts. So off a lead-acid battery. Directly. And I've already hacked that cable.

helped with dew gear

Answered a few questions for Risa regarding dew heating equipment. Sounded like, via SMS, she was doing a bit of shopping while visiting KW. I thought a 3 to 4 output unit would be best but she picked up a 2 output controller. That'll work.

no go tonight

While talking to Lora, I decided to not go to the CAO. Weather is looking very poor. Let Sharmin know. Then Phil said they too pulled the plug.

logged into server, sorta

Dietmar pinged me. They had arrived. I phoned the CAO and had him log into the server. Thanks!

OHAP up; work party edited

Posted the 2013 OHAP article with pictures and links.

Updated the spring work party article. Somehow I had not credited Katrina for the beautiful silhouette photo.


She did it! Holy cow. Katrina successfully enabled a RASC sticker to get on orbit. Quo Ducit Urania.

Charles shared the photo (of a photo) on Facebook of Cmdr Chris Hadfield in the cupola holding our logo. Amazing.

apple green

I've often joked about the colourful (pun intended) descriptions of double stars. Yellow and dull brown. Pale topaz and lilac tint. Rosey. Ashy white. Light grey. Straw yellow and silvery azure. What?! Typical terms in double stars for small telescopes. Smyth describes 95 Herculies as "light apple green; cherry red." What the hey?! I've often joked, "I wonder what they were smoking." Or ingesting. Or shooting. Or however they took drugs in the 1800s.

Green stars. Pshaw.

When one knows about the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram and the composition of stars and their life cycles, these kinds of colours are not possible.

I've read some of the articles on star colours at Southern Astronomical Delights web site. A long time ago I read Paul Baize's article on colour (written perhaps in 1956). There are many factors like difference in optics, magnitude, contrast, proximity, perception, etc.

But I had never considered the effect of the Doppler shift! For example, an intrinsically yellow star moving rapidly toward the observer would get blue shifted and the blue would additively combine with the yellow. The result? A green tint!

OK. I could be wrong about the whole colour thing...

explained z

Paul M posted some recent galaxy shots including M85. He got down to magnitude 19 and 20. And that let him tag a quasar in the background.

He shared this photo on all the usual favourite haunts, including the RASC astrophotographers group. But for the RASC Toronto Centre he didn't explain the technical value he noted, z. The red shift factor.

I sent an addendum to the group. For our new members. Or those not familiar with extremely deep objects...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Explain to me why it is condoned that the recorder of the RASC Toronto Centre not welcome the treasurer of the RASC Montreal Centre at the David Dunlap Observatory, a heritage site to be enjoyed by all Canadians.

I have a plan

The RASC Finest NGC list... Was reminded of this when I stumbled across a thread, in the starrynights Yahoo!Group, entitled "what to do after the Messier list." Of course. The RASC lists! Seems apropos. Checked SkyTools. Found the list in the Default group. Sheesh. Been there the whole time... 55+ items I have not viewed!

Monday, June 24, 2013

reviewed OHAP draft

Proofread the second draft of the OHAP report by Phil. While Lora, Steve, and Phil uploaded photos.

sticks and stones

Ha. Suddenly occurred to me that accurately predicting the location and patterns of the Moon and planets, a few years back, would have garnered labels like soothsayer, oracle, mystic, wizard, and witch.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

helped with Vimeo

Helped Tony with Vimeo. He's trying to upload all his SNO LAB videos. I created a new album. Three of three, with our free account...

checked usage

Updated the usage stats for the CAO. During the work party and OHAP—still below the cap. Missing data when I was there in May. How strange...

posted time lapse materials

Made a folder in the RASC Yahoo!Group for the time lapse materials. Put both Steve and Dietmar's presentations (as PDF files) there. And some notes Dietmar had provided regarding intervalometers. Sent a note to the membership.

applied angle and scale

Test concluded. Having derived Delta and E numbers from another image, I supplied this to the 41 Dra image. And arrived at a decent result.

Loaded the sample 41 Draconis BMP file into Réduc. Tagged the A and B stars. Opened the Reduction dialog. Cleared the old values. Turned on the Measure mode. Entered -1.5 for the Delta angle value; entered 0.62 for the E pixel scale value.

The values returned:
  • θ: 213.4
  • ρ: 18.8
Not bad at all. The position angle is off. By about 20°... But I'm not at all surprised, given the short drift durations that I did. Trails across the entire frame should yield much more accurate results. Also I've only used a single frame. The 100+ images should be average. Seeing could have shifted the stars left or right. The separation though is impressively close.


Now. Need to update the workflow documents...

calculated theta and rho

Doing an experiment, as thunder rolled in the distance. So to simulate the typical experience, wherein I've imaged other stars in the neighbour of my candidate doubles.

Loaded up the ζ UMi shot. Cranked various settings to draw out other stars. Spotted TYC 04563-0528 1 and 04563-0793 1 dimly, in the noise. Mag 11.7 and 11.6 specimens off to the north.

Downloaded the tools from Argyle's book, as referred to by Michaud. Ran RecToPol to convert the RA and Dec values to PA and Sep. Used the apparent RA and Dec from SkyTools.
  • zeta to 528: 320.4°, 514.1"
  • zeta to 793: 325.8°, 573.3"
  • 528 to 793: 3.5°, 78.1"
Too bad it doesn't support copying to the clipboard. Or batch mode. Perhaps I should make a spreadsheet... Ugh. Spherical trig.

Decided to check the numbers in ST3P.
  • zeta to 528: 320.7°, 8' 34"
  • zeta to 793: 326.1°, 9' 33"
  • 528 to 793: 3.5°, 1' 18"


In Réduc, I clicked zeta and 528 respectively, and then entered the calibration numbers as per RecToPol. The returned values for Δ and E were: -37.9 and 0.62. And then with ζ and 793: -38.1 and 0.62.


Was a little put-off by the delta angle. Until I remembered the zeta shots were before turning the camera...

confirmed untested

Heard back from Justin. He confirmed he had crimped the male end of the MODL 6 ethernet drop but he never tested the entire wire. That's what I thought.

quick reduction

Still getting used to the Réduc software...

Wanted to do a quick trial of a double star measurement, the separation and position angle. Even though I had not imaged others stars for plate scale. Reviewed Michaud's notes on calibration. Double-checked at the Washington Double Star catalog for labelling (theta for separation and rho for separation).

In the interest of speed, took data from SkyTools:
  • A and B: 232°, 18.60" (as of 2003)
  • A and C: 128°, 223.40" (as of 1992)
Also checked the WDS:
  • 18002+8000STF2308AB
    • 236°, 20.7" (as of 2012)
    • 230°, 19.5" (as of 1782)
  • 18002+8000STF2308AC
    • 128°, 221.0" (as of 2004)
    • 129°, 224.8" (as of 1895)
Converted one of the better 41 Dra shots to BMP. Loaded into Réduc.

Clicked the 41 Dra A star and set as comp A. Clicked on SAO 9002 and set as comp B. Hit the AutoReduc button. Switched to Calibration mode and entered 128 for theta and 223.4 for rho.

Clicked on the A star again and set it as the first point. Then selected 41 Dra B and set it as the second point. Switched to Measure mode. And then changed to the Reduced tab.

Well, well. θ of 231.2 and ρ of 18.6. How about that.

What's unclear to me still is how, after determining the image scale from another set of stars, and the drift angle, how I would apply those numbers to an image of "unknown" quantities. It looks like I'd supply the drift angle in Δ and the scale in E, perhaps? 

drift simulations

Did some drift timing trials in Stellarium. So to get some real time approximations for measuring drift angle.

Set Stellarium to use a C14 with a 26mm, yielding a 0.42° field. This is close to the 19' field in the C8 with the 40D and the doubler.

For 41 Dra, which is very near NCP, I noted a drift time of 10 minutes. Wow!

Then I chose 21 Mon, very near the equator and meridian. It booked. 2 minutes.

caught up

Manuel called... Shared why he couldn't make it to the DDO.Work. Shared that he sold his 9¼ SCT. To someone in Toronto. Had ordered a C11 Edge. From KW. Wanted the collimation checked. They said they'd do it. He was planning to pick it up later this week. Asked if I wanted to tag along. Monday could work; not Wednesday.

checked ML again

Fired up after Dietmar's presentation, I looked again at Magic Lantern for Canon DSLRs. And quickly recalled... they don't have code for the 40D. Just newer stuff...

analysed drift

Needed to determine the drift angle, for the double star image. 41 Draconis. Intended to use the Réduc application by Losse.

I had captured 3 drift frames. The first had 41 Dra and SAO 9002 and was 30 seconds long. I had meant to produce longer ones but goofed on the setting of the EOS Utility timer. The 2 others were still 30 seconds and without bright stars. I chose the first image.

The Réduc software only accepts FITS and BMP files. So I converted, with IrfanView, the Canon RAW files to Windows BMPs.

Winging it, I loaded the drift image BMP into Réduc. Stared at the interface for a moment. Clicked the Drift Analysis button but, not surprisingly, got a calculation error. Noted the comp A and B buttons. Used them and again clicked the Drift Analysis button. Was prompted to set the view orientation. Recalled the drift was right to left during the session. So west was left. But I drew a blank with north. I chose north as up. The Reduction dialog appeared. I stared at it for a mo. Um. The θ value was 270. That wasn't what I was after... Sketched a Cartesian coordinate graph. 270 to the left... What was I looking for? What should I pay attention to?

Popped into the tutorial. Learned I was doing the basic steps OK. But could refine. Observe the Δ value. I decided to redo. Opened the file. Reduced the size of the (green) detection box, to 29 pixels. Set the start and end points. Hit the Drift button. In SkyTools, double-checked the view orientation. It helped being able to detect star TYC 04577-0964 1 in the field. Confirmed. North was down. OK. Everything working.

The Reduction dialog showed the Δ as -1.5.

Close enough. From an airplane.


Just out of curiousity, I measured the angle in Visio using a screen capture... -1.5°. How about that!

image app hedge maze

Imaging conversion is maddening.

More and more I'm shooting in Canon RAW, producing CR2 (12-bit) files. And learning how to apply non-permanent changes in Canon Digital Photo Pro (DPP). Only using JPEG (8-bit) when I know quality is not an issue, for casual stuff, when aimed for the web.

Everyday I'm learning more about DPP. Like that it supports bulk / batch editing for converting, cropping, and scaling images.

As I was reading Camera Raw 101, I started to take a look at Adobe's Digital Negative (DNG) format and play with the Camera Raw plug-in. Still undecided as to what to use, in the end, for the long term. But the workflow with DPP seems fast and convenient. No trouble reading CR2s obviously.

To do high end imaging processing in Photoshop CS2, I need to convert to TIFF. Fortunately DPP can take care of that, producing TIFF (16-bit) files in the background.

But now that I'm heading into the deep end of double star measurement with a DSLR, wanting to use Réduc, I need files in FITS or BMP. DPP can't convert to either. I want to do this work on the new(er) computer John Charles, which has 4 cores. This should be the preferred machine for Ps work too... The multiple cores will help. And the biggest monitor(s). Although they are yet to be calibrated...

I had downloaded and installed IrfanView onto John Charles some time ago. It was so to do fast bulk image editing or conversion. I believe for the bundle of very large CAO work party images from Ralph. The bulk or batch feature can do conversion or renaming or both. The conversion is robust. It can output to different formats, with format option settings applied, resize images in a myriad of ways. The renaming controls are also very rich. As an image editor, I'm finding it awkward: it shows the histogram, thank you; but you can't touch it. After installing a plug-in, I got the app to support reading CR2 files. Good. Handy. But attempts to get it to output FITS have been unsuccessful. In part, lacklustre documentation. Even then, I learned that it can only produce 8-bit files. Not a deal-breaker for double star analyses.

Briefly looked at FITS Liberator but could not determine if it supported the files I wanted to needed.

Learned about IRIS. That it would open CR2 files and output FITS. But I found, like others, everything went green. Hrm. Next!

Had another look at Coffin's dcraw. I like the purity of it. The power. But that it doesn't convert to anything per se meant another tool was required. Grabbed NetPbm for Windows. And after fiddling at the command line for a while, I converted a RAW to FITS. Joy.

dcraw -c img_2607.cr2 | c:\Progra~1\GnuWin32\bin\pnmtofits > img_2607.fits

But when I opened it (in IrfanView) it looked a dog's breakfast. Not completely surprising. There are likely some settings I could adjust or apply at the CLI to get what I wanted. But I just didn't have the energy. Perhaps, down the road, when I've got my legs, and I want the highest quality...

All the while reflecting on Fireworks that I got to know well over the years. And Paint.NET sitting on John Littlejohn. I know it's gonna get crazier if I get hardcore into Ps... And I'm still interested in mapping over procedures and workflows to GIMP, for our non-Photoshop members.

And then I thought: this is getting ridiculous. I recalled Berkó saying he used BMP. I knew IrfanView could output that. Let's move on!

the right thing

Sent a note to current and past president. Asked for an apology publicly in the same space, the Yahoo!Group, of recorder.

coffee makes right

Dietmar sent me a note.
I like to thank you again for helping me last night.  I put the whole thing together this morning after a cup of coffee and all was well again.
No trouble.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Stu wanted some feedback

Stu asked me what I thought about the Members Only nights for the year... It was the final one. He wondered about the frequency. Getting more help. Particularly if they were going to do two a month.

sat time lapse part 2

Attended the Members Only event at the DDO. Parked on the far side of the lot. Dietmar was already here. Steve too. A few others. Left my lights on until Stu mentioned it.

A gaggle of people were on the steps. I didn't feel chatty. Nothing in common.

Found Dietmar in the lecture room setting up. I helped him with the projector and laptop configuration. As he began to assemble the Konova slider, he discovered he had put it together wrong, after cleaning. We needed Metric Allan keys. Unfortunately, I had to ask Rajesh for help. He returned with Imperial sizes. Gah. Dietmar was very upset. There was no way to remount the endpieces on the rail. I got an idea. I hacked the mount on the belt. It wasn't perfect but it worked. He thanked me profusely.

I really enjoyed Dietmar's talk. He backed up everything Steve had talked about. And showed us how to take it to the next level. While still humble about the whole thing. Very inspiring. He talked about HDR too.

Dietmar handed me a USB key. I promised to put the presentation online.

Afterwards, chatted briefly with Alan about his solar filter project. The rings he's making are very sturdy. I asked if he might do a presentation. Not sure if he liked that idea or not.

Headed out with friends for a pleasant finish to the evening.

Eric emphasised reciprocity

Eric also pointed out that Toronto Centre members would expect to be welcomed if visiting the new Ste-Anne de Bellevue Observatory. What a stupid stupid mess. Rajesh made the Toronto Centre and the David Dunlap Observatory look exclusive and closed.

Stu said this is an exception

Stu jumped into the fray. He thought that this merited special consideration. This was a visiting RASC member and the Toronto Centre should be hospitable. He thought Paul G should be allowed to this, this time.

applied master dark

One more go. Used a master dark this time. And of course slightly different settings everywhere else! North is up; east is left.

Next time, I'll collimate the 'scope...


Loaded the 10 darks (captured on Thursday night) into Registax. Used the No Align option. Stacked 'em. Saved a BMP single image frame.

Loaded the 15 lights. Did a quick stack with the auto align. During limiting, via the graph, reduced to 9 frames.

Added the dark frame.

Applied wavelets.

Increased brightness and contrast. Reduced red and increased blue. Desaturated.

Saturn again

After viewing a Registax 6 planetary image processing video from Rankin Studio, I had another go.

This time I:
  • did even more cropping into DPP
  • manually selected the best (reference) frame before stacking
  • used the stacking graph to ditch the 30% of the bad frames
  • used the wavelets from the "bottom up," with very minor adjustments
And then in IrfanView:
  • increased contrast (10)
  • increased brightness (10)
  • dropped red (-5)
  • dropped blue (-5)
  • dropped saturation (-20)

now that's not right

Rajesh replied to Paul G. Said he's not allowed to bring anyone not a member of the Toronto Centre. Holy cow. Come on. Going from bad to worse. What right does Rajesh have in this matter? Why is his doing this in a public forum? Does he not understand the optics on this? For the DDO? For the Toronto Centre? For RASC? This is a special case. What the hell's wrong with him?

too many computers?

Couldn't find the REDUC software. I want to reduce the double star data from two nights back.

Florent sent me the email to download it on 30 Mar 2012. It was clearly time-sensitive. Surely I downloaded it in short order. Checked my Sent folder. Yep. I replied later the same day: "Got it."

Where, damn it?

Looked at the AstroSurf web site. The pages themselves looked familiar. The screen snapshots of the software. "I've used it!" was the impression I had.

John Charles: Looked in the astronomy items folder: nothing.

John Smallberries: Fired it up. Looked in the C drive, Program Files, the Downloads in My Docs... Nothing.

John Kim Chi: Nothing.

John Littlejohn: The double stars folder: nothing. The download area folder on the D drive: nothing. The Downloads in My Docs: nothing. Program Files on D again: nothing. Program Files on the C disk: ah ha! Sheesh.

Checked the install date... 1 Apr 2012. At 3:23 PM.

Found the zip file in the Recycle Bin on the netbook. Recovered it.

MITC in the ring?

Stumbled across this in Sky and Telescope...

MIT Capital Inc. Proposes To Acquire Meade Instruments Corp. For $3.65 Per Share In Cash; $3.65 Per Share Cash Consideration is Superior to the Proposed JOC North America LLC Agreement of $3.45 per share. June 18, 2013. From PRNewswire.

Friday, June 21, 2013

manners and listservs

Paul G announced on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group that he was going to bring a "special" guest with him to the Members Only event at the David Dunlap Observatory tomorrow night. His guest was the treasurer from the Montreal Centre. I thought it a little... odd. Technically, to be formal, one should ask first. Instead of telling? Of course we'd allow it. And this really didn't need to go to the whole group, to all members... More misuse of listserv group communication technology. He should have privately emailed Stu. Or the Ops group. 

Saturn stacked

Had another go at Registax... Had to install version 6, and the update (version, to the new quad core computer, John Charles.

Learned that version 6 cannot read Canon CR2 raw files. Returned to Digital Photo Pro (version to do batch conversion tasks.

Trial 1. Converted the 3888 by 2592 pixel camera files to TIF 16 bit. Fifteen of them. Each ballooned to 55 MB. Converted the 10 darks as well. Loaded the lights. Decided to skip the dark subtraction. Reviewed Maxson's version 6 tutorial. Set the following Align settings:
  • min dis btn: 10
  • intensity: 3x3
  • prefilter: normalize
I then manually set and removed some alignment points. Ended up with approximate 17. Told it to Align, saw it start, saw an hourglass, and I headed into some other software.

Twenty minutes later I checked the Windows Task Manager. Registax was using three quarters of a gigabyte but the processor activity was zero. Hung. I killed it.

Trial 2. Returned to DPP. Ran the Trimming/Angle Adjustment tool. After finding a cool tip online for applying the crop to the batch, I had a set of smaller TIFs, 11MB each.

Again, loaded the lights only. Same settings. Had about 12 alignment points. The Align and Stack went fine. In wavelets, I used the following settings:
  • linked
  • 1, 0.20, 0.080, 100
  • 2, 0.20, 0.070, 100
  • 3, 0.55, 0.090, 100
  • 4, 0.15, 0.100, 1
  • 5, 0.15, 0.100, 1
  • 6, 0.15, 0.100, 1
Still don't have Photoshop on the new box (it's only on John Kim Chi). So did some quick adjustments to the TIF in IrfanView (version 4.35) using the Color Correction tool.
  • increased brightness slightly
  • increased contrast slightly
  • dropped saturation a few points
Saved to JPG.

I like it. For a first serious attempt. Hints of the equatorial belt, the Cassini Division (on the right), planet shadow on the rings (to the left).

discussed wifi range and speed

Ostap reported he was at the CAO. Then he said there were problems with the wifi. I asked for more detail. In the end it sounded like it was an issue with his laptop. I encouraged him to use the hard line inside his POD, so to avoid signal issues, and the increase the speed 10x.

work party report up

Posted the 2013 spring CAO work party report, at last, on the RASC Toronto Centre web site.

shot 41 Dra and Saturn (Toronto)

Last night's imaging run highlights.

    Um. Didn't see anything at first. Was off target...
  Thar she blows! Wiggly!
  That's better. 41 Draconis (A and B). Headlights in the night. That's SAO 9002 (the C component) off to the right. North is bottom-left; east is bottom-right.
  Focusing with the Bahtinov mask.
  Single star, focused. ζ (zeta) Ursa Minoris, I believe.
  Back to 41 Dra.
  Long exposure to check drift angle.
  Drift angle made parallel to long axis of camera frame.North is down; east is right.
  Imaging run of 41 Dra begins.
  Over 130 images captured. 0.5 or 1.0 second exposures.
  Spotted Saturn through the trees. And moons! Left to right: Titan, Tethys, Saturn, Enceladus, Rhea, Dione. And I think Hyperion! North is up; east is left.
  Saturn, focused, at 1/20th, 1/30th, and 1/60th. Captured about 20 frames.
  Darks, for stacking and noise reduction.

All shot with:
  • Celestron 8" SCT
  • Vixen Super Polaris mount
  • IDEA GoToStar tracking
  • Tele Vue 2x Powermate and PTR
  • Canon t-ring
  • Canon 40D
  • EOS Utility
  • Dell laptop
All shot using:
  • RAW CR2
  • high ISO (3200)
  • long exp. noise reduction off
  • high ISO noise reduction on
  • daylight white balance
  • Adobe colour space
  • slightly off collimation...
The double star data will be reduced with REDUC (and other tools). The Saturn images will be stacked.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

good thing I readied early

I had everything set up. 'Scope. Enhanced mount. Computer. Camera.

I was not going to worry about collimation.


Captured the CSC chart, last updated at 4:54 PM.

Checked the weather details at Environment Canada...

Current Conditions

Partly Cloudy, 23°C
Observed at: Toronto Pearson Int'l AirportDate: 6:00 PM EDT Thursday 20 June 2013

Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.3 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km

Temperature: 22.5°C
Dewpoint: 8.0°C
Humidity: 39%
Wind: SE 18 km/h

Issued: 3:30 PM EDT Thursday 20 June 2013

Tonight, 20 June, Clear. Low 14.
Friday, 21 June, Sunny. High 27. UV index 9 or very high.


Spent about 45 minutes looking for the data cable for the GoToStar hand controller. Didn't see it in the mount bag (when in fact it was there, tangled in the Vixen cables). Looked on my desk. Looked on the file cabinet. Looked in the GoToStar box. Looked where the mount had been lying. Looked in astronomy box alpha;. Looked on my desk again. ... Grey. Not.

look for the inner two

I reminded people that Mercury was close to Venus tonight.

shot with a new camera

Manuel and I chatted briefly on the phone. He asked what I thought of his latest email message. What message? He said he had sent over a shot of Saturn. I had seen a new Saturn image on Facebook. He emailed again. Taken with the new DFK camera. Said the collimation was off. I thought the image was good. I thought the detail and colour was decent. The noise was not too bad. The C ring was detectable, polar region visible, and some of the temperate belt visible. Looked like a great start.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

dropped keys

Popped into Charles's office before heading home from work. Gave him the new CAO key. Gave another for Steve (forgetting I had already done this). Ralph arrived shortly afterwards. I gave him a key. We chitchatted briefly. But they had to head to the DDO for the council meeting...

Andy needs power

Andy vaguely recalled me delivering a talk on portable power supplies. He is planning to upgrade and was hoping my presentation was available.

I sent him the link.

summer SkyNews

SkyNews showed up in the mailbox. The Jul/Aug issue.

I knew it was due as Paul M had referred to a member's photo, on the 17th, via the Yahoo!Group.

There's an article on campsite stargazing. Looking forward to that.

Also a piece on the Goldilocks zone around exoplanets.


I forgot to immediately apply the observing highlights to my online calendar.

hung out at the dome (Richmond Hill)

Met Risa, Bill, and Paul at the DDO. Risa was set up in the parking lot near her car. Aimed at Saturn. It was a decent sky.

I didn't feel like firing up the Questar. Lounged on my adjustable height chair.

I helped her a bit with her imaging and video run. Encouraged her to bump the mag with eyepiece projection and then the 2x Powermate. She asked if I was bored. Nope.

Saw the ISS flyover around 11:30. Risa actually spotted it first.

We enjoyed the Iridium flare at 12:07. Unfortunately, too far from Saturn to be captured. Bill and Paul shot photos from the north lawn with the dome in the background.

Bill shared that he was a little lost. Looking at the eastern sky, he didn't know the constellations. Risa and I helped him with a few.

Nobody wanted to go for a drink. Suddenly over.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

switcher and projector upgraded

Doug shared that the OSC upgraded the switcher. It supports up to 1280 x 960 (4 x 3). He's hoping the contrast is up with the new projector. That would work better for our night shots...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

storm witnessed

Was back home, after photographing the old house, after an uneventful drive, on the computer, logged into Facebook. Bill, in Sudbury, getting primed for the next SNO LAB tour. He noted that it would be good to go underground. Tangentially referred to the severe weather advisories. That's when Risa asked Phil and I if she should be worried at the CAO. I loaded up some weather pages and proceeded to watch a violent storm track toward her (along with another headed straight toward London). I warned her about the emergency radio. We had her close the windows. She ran about the house and property taking photos and video. The Facebook photo album contains some wild shots. She also captured lightning. No tornadoes. Power didn't go out. Still, I was so jealous.


No twisters for my sister, bro, or mother. Whew.

to enjoy the quiet

Left Risa. She wanted to stay on. Dietmar did most of the review. I answered a few questions about how to close up the CAO. "Nice hug." And I was on my way.

I was envious. Last year I didn't go up to the CAO solo. Not once. I miss that. The peace and quiet. Not talking. The solitude. Must recapture that this year...

loose ends

Got a few other chores done at the CAO this weekend.

Reinstalled the security cabinet tumbler. Allowing us to return to the nominal plan for the Paramount computer. Provided Ian W the new key.

I was very pleased with how all this worked out, not having to replace the tumbler. Faster, simpler, cheaper.

Discussed and finalised the MODL lease arrange with Ian. I'm not sure if he was entirely happy with the arrangement but I truly believe it is the simplest (and fastest) path. We signed his lease. Finally I can provide the final paperwork to treasury.

I also discussed the linens and laundry situation with Ian. Millie was right. He did not know the policy. I explained to him that the supervisor was responsible for taking the kitchen dish towels and bathroom towels home to laundry them. He thought, when I started the discussion, that we were also talking about the bedding, sheets, pillow cases, etc. No. Just kitchen and bathroom.

It was a little surprising to me that he did not know of this after all these years. Anyway, it is straightened out now. But it just emphasises we need better communication and documentation to the supervisors.

Had a discussion with Millie and Dietmar about other cleaning chores. She caught me off guard (again) and I don't think I was about to give a very reasoned reply. But I assured her, in the end, that the CAO committee will look into things in more detail.

Went for a walkabout Saturday afternoon. Inspected the outer planet walk posts. We need a new flag on Pluto! Then I turned to the east for a bit. And finally north. In search of iron bars. I only found one. It had been pranged at some point. Forgot my GPS... At least I know exactly where it is now.

Ensured we have keys for all the buildings on the site.

Installed, finally, the new carbon monoxide detector. Put it in the Orion room. After it acclimated, I tested it.

I wanted to apply the Magic Sand to the front walk but I was put off by the weather...


Loaned Risa my small Manfrotto tripod.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

adjusted for the new directory

While people watched a movie, I worked on the CAO weather station server (remotely, from the kitchen, using the big external monitor). Turned out to be fairly simple in the end. I just had to make a minor adjustment to the upload profile to use the new directory. Allard had changed to all lower case. The hardest part was finding my note with the FTP password.

Sent out the new link to Tony, Ian, Dietmar, and Ostap. I could remember who else has access to it...

thinking of the LAB

Offered to answer any outstanding questions for the SNO LAB crew.

inspected cable ends

Tried to resolve Ian's networking problem. Removed the cover from his jack receptacle. Ugh. The wiring job was terrible. Untwisted wires, jacket cut way back. Ian admitted to this. I redid it (568A). Neat and tidy. Still no response. Was the wire bad?

Opened the comm box. Looked at the male end. The crimping was not done right. The jacket was deep in male jack and it looked like it was preventing the teeth from biting the metal. Ian thought Justin had done this. I didn't have any tools on hand to repair this end. So it would have to wait for another day.

filter didn't fit

I brought my Celeston 8" Kendrick (baader) solar filter to the CAO to see if Risa wanted to try it on her telescope. Unfortunately the Celeston 8" Edge has a large rounded ring at the objective end, large enough that the ring of the Kendrick filter would not fit completely over. And then the rivets (I thought they were screws at first) for the bayonet lid stuck out making the whole thing wobbly. Maybe with a bunch of tape everywhere it would stay put, just as a hack. A little disappointing.

loaded the ISS data

Upset that I forgot last night, I prepared the Paramount for the next International Space Station flyover.

viewed some TLAO targets (Blue Mountains)

10:49 PM, 14 June 2013. Had been helping Risa with the C14 and imaging Saturn. Pointed out some constellations. Helped her move her CGEM. For a better sight line of Polaris. Etc.

Pointed out the LAN messenger tool, on the Paramount computer, if she needed me.

10:44 PM. Finished my hot chocolate. Tasty.

Now I was the THO with the N11. Using SkyTools on John Littlejohn. With my custom Celestron data cable to the hand controller. Not sure what to look at. Found some unfinished items from the Turn Left at Orion summer list...

10:59. Risa reported the cover of her OTA was wet with dew. Already?

I tried to check the local conditions but got a 404. Damn it. The old URL has tanked... Headed to the GBO.

I had brought my dew heating kit for Risa to try. We had to fire it up. Put it on max. And returned to the THO.

11:57. I viewed Saturn in binoviewer. Neat. It looked quite good. Invited Risa to take a look. Afterwards, I didn't like the view. Couldn't seem to get it settled. Had something gone off? My eyes? Or the seeing? Went back to the single, the 36mm.

The Moon was almost down.

12:26 AM, 15 June 2013. Spotted the PN He 2-126 near SAO 183407. It was very small. Not star like. But not very satisfying either. Was there green colour?! It would be higher in a month... But never rises about the 2 airmass threshold.

12:28 AM. Risa pinged me. With my tripod, she wanted to shoot some Milky Way pix with her Nikon DSLR.

12:30. It was pie o'clock! Mmm. Lemon.

1:28. Back.

1:34. Viewed NGC 6052. Either a star over the centre, or the centre was very bright. It was small in the 36mm. Very small. Near the pinched diamond of stars.

1:39. Viewed BM Sco from summer list TLAO. It was orange! In the middle of the Butterfly Cluster.

I thought V862 was not as bright as BM.

2:03. Tried to spot Hickson 76. Couldn't see anything.

2:13. Ian popped by. He was off to bed. For a bit. Still imaging. I said I'd hold the fort. Millie and Risa were still going!

2:18. Risa shut down her 'scope. Was gonna do some DSLR shots.

Viewed RR Sco. About same brightness as TYC 07359-2179 1 at 10.2 and TYC 07359-1863 1 at 10.9. So, near the low end of its brightness level.

2:20. The coyotes fired up.

2:30. Hey! SkyTools crashed. Sheesh.

2:35. Viewed NGC 6891. It was a small fuzzy in the 36mm.

For some reason I was not terrible interested in bumping the power...

2:57. The women were done. I closed the GBO for them. Checked the conditions. The OneWorld station was outside the THO: 77% and 4.1°. I felt cold.

Risa visited me for a bit.

3:25. Viewed NGC 2300 (aka Arp 114). Barely detectable. Not very exciting.

Risa left for the house. Sleep well.

I couldn't think straight. Staring into space. Not through the eyepiece. Tired, I guess. 3:30. Had I woken at 7:00 AM?! Closed up the THO and wandered across the parking lot.

Ho ho. Someone here... Dietmar! He was still imaging. What a trooper. Last man standing.

4:03. I was in bed.

The NexStar with SkyTools worked better good tonight. No major problems.

I'm still feeling lost. In the wake of viewing all the Messiers, I'm not sure what to do now. Tonight I just looked for some targets for "old" lists, the Turn Left at Orion, and so on. Gave me something to do, for a while. The other suggestions from SkyTools were produced by the Nightly Planner. But some of those were surprisingly difficult. I want some interesting objects. Not necessarily super small or super faint. Dunno. Dunno what to do.

Friday, June 14, 2013

fixed focuser

Millie's focuser wasn't working. Dietmar asked me to have a look. Sounds like a job for...

Telescope Repair Man!

My first impression was that it was cheaply made. It seemed to slide on a rail; no roller bearings equally distributed.

Removed the knob assembly. Ah ha! There's the problem.

Tightened the rail assembly, via the four small Philips screws, with Risa's lovely screwdriver set. Good as new.

Dietmar said he'd repeat the process at home, adding some thread locker.

walked the Loree

The gang waited for me to arrive. I quickly transferred the ice cream to the freezer, the flowers to the kitchen table, and the groceries to the fridge. Then packed a quick snack and the camera. I suggested driving up the 18th. Ian was game in the 4x4. Millie, Risa, Ian and I hiked the Loree Trail. Saw lots of little purple flowers. Remnants of trilliums. Avoided poison ivy. Spotted a Tiger Swallowtail. Enjoyed the vistas and a light snack at the large wood deck. And then took the long way home. It was a pleasant outing.

Nice blue skies... Looking good for tonight (although both Ian and I saw a lot of water in the air).

Thursday, June 13, 2013

hoping for THO and N11

Was hoping I could set up in the Tony Horvatin Observatory this weekend. Sounded like it might be available. Risa and Millie were in the Geoff Brown Observatory (GBO). And then perhaps I could use the NexStar 11". Asked Ian if that was OK.

planned to close the matter

Tony and I discussed strategies for tiding up some loose ends on MODL leases. He came up with a great idea with would simplify everything. I agreed to pitch it on the weekend...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

have Arduino, will program

Risa told me she was taking her new Arduino up to the CAO. Cool! Geeky electronics and programming fun. But now I will get NO sleep!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

downloaded Steve's notes

Steve made a light-weight version of his presentation available. I grabbed it. Great info.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

clouds over the dome

Stu shared the time lapse he made the night of the presentation. Nicely done.

Time Lapse Test from Stuart McNair on Vimeo.

I updated the RASC Toronto Centre Vimeo account. And reminded our members, via the Yahoo!Group, of many videos there.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

sat time lapse part 1

Attended the members only presentation at the DDO. Tonight the topic was time lapse. Part 1 of 2. The first part by Steve. He focused on the basics. Exposure settings, space requirements, interesting subjects. It was great. Good visuals. Humble beginnings. Very encouraging. I took notes. And he offered to make the presentation materials available after.

captured the dome

Snapped some photos while waiting for the presentation to begin. While babysitting. All shot with the Canon 40D and Vivitar Series 1 70-210.

Dome doors, manually zoomed and focused, 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 1000, daylight, handheld, raw.

Dome gantry, manually zoomed and focused, 1/50, f/22, ISO 1000, daylight, handheld, raw; post cropped and desaturated.

Shot a bunch of people pix. Sharmin asked me to shoot her against the dome. That was fun. She matched the doors with her busy blue top. Perfect light for portraits.

Getting used to the M42 adapter...

smoothed the waters

I was astonished when Manuel started tearing into Steve in the auditorium with other members present. Outside later I pulled Manuel aside. I was forceful. Pointed out that it was very disrespectful to have such a conversation in a public space. That he was being selfish. He had not considered lifestyle issues. I thought it owed Steve an apology. Most surprising to me was that he actually listened to me. I half-expected him to take a swing at me... Wow. Finally got through. Wow. Good. Let's all move on.

handed out keys

Distributed some engraved keys to CAO supers.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

good grounds?

Asked Ian W to test all the circuits in the CAO garage.

unboxing sped up

Risa shared her time lapse. Unboxing the Celestron! Fun.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

interesting evening

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre meeting. This was the special one, with Dr David Levy talking.

A few of us decided to meet up earlier than usual. We expected it to be popular. I was the first to arrive, via the TTC, to the restaurant. Shortly after Millie and Dietmar arrived, they seated us. Then Phil and finally Joel arrived. It was like NEAF all over! We enjoyed drinks and a light meal.

We made the OSC in good time. Phil and I were all surprised that the parking lot was not full. A few of us high-tailed it to the auditorium to get good seats. David was at the lectern getting set up.

I turned in some paperwork. And received a RASC calendar (finally) for the CAO.

David's talk was quite good. While scattered at times, he told a tale of growing up, family, early interests, camping, good teachers, passion. Heart wrenching at times. Not what I expected.

The PowerPoint presentation file looked good! Finally.

As per usual, we retired to the Granite after. The place was busy and we had to sit in a different spot. When Paul M arrived later, he refused to sit with us. More segregation. Or maybe he doesn't like Levy. It was just one more thing that set me off for the evening. Not really comfortable.

I saw licence plate samples handed around. I asked if they had accommodated for tags. Yep.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

and then firefly trails

And then he combined all the frames from a Milky Way time lapse. Where the fireflies were busy!


fixed import spec

Our import process broke with the new national CSV file, now that they've started implementing the new member type. I quickly reviewed my VBA code and wondered if the import specification profile needed freshening. If we were lucky, that'd be all that was required.

After building a new specification, I saw that the importing started to work again.

But then I found new entries in the membership type column. These would not match up with our existing ones. So I cautioned Phil about not letting these types of records in, during the review process.

we refused her help?

Heard Millie was upset during the OHAP about us refusing her help. Well, that's not exactly how it went down... She approached me at one point while I was outside. Mentioned that some things weren't being done in the kitchen. I thanked her for letting me know. But then I said that we'd take care of it. I didn't want her to feel she had to do work. The day was meant to be fun and relaxing for the members. It was the committee people that had to work, for this event. I also encouraged her to tell a committee person, if she saw something that was very wrong, and we'd tend to it.

I'll take some of the blame. I was probably rushing, distracted, thinking about other things, mildly stressed, and perhaps didn't take the time to sit down and calmly explain things.

helped Zbig

Helped Zbig at the CAO.

He couldn't find the garage keys. In the end, he found a way around the problem.

Also helped him with the living room computer and the visitor logon.


Gilles confirmed he had used the keys. And had put them back.


It occurred to me the keys were still in the mower.

no gumption

Briefly considered setting up the 'scope to do a full double star imaging run...

he made star trails

Steve realised that his time lapse shots, of the recent aurora from the CAO, would also make for raw data in star trails photos.
They could stand to be a fair bit longer (as could the time lapse videos) but I'm pretty happy with these.  

Can you spot the meteor in one of the images?

Monday, June 03, 2013

fix PPT mess

Fixed the meeting presentation. The incorrect bullets were driving me nuts. Fixed other layout issues. Pared down the words. I wanted it to look really good for Wednesday...

night launch

Found some unique photos of a Soyuz launch.

Neat angle, from above. I like the shadows cast over the pad.

Found these Roscosmos shots at Spaceflight Now.

helped Stu post

Helped Stu with some issues updating the RASC web site. Combination of a new browser version, not working at home, quirks of the CMS.

Sunday, June 02, 2013


Got two thumbs-up from Sharmin on the OHAP.

over 200 NGCs!

After cross-referencing the Messier objects into the NGC life list, I grew curious about how many NGC objects I've seen: 223. Wow.

in-line PDF viewer issue

Helped Brenda with the CAO flyer PDF. She said it was looked garbled. Yes. I noted that too if I used the new built-in PDF viewer in Firefox. Was it because it was produced in Publisher?! I encouraged her to download the file and open it in a "real" PDF application. That worked for her.

thanked the committee

Sent a quick thank-you note to all the OHAP committee.

took Green Line

After searching for a Dairy Queen in Orangeville in vain, with Lora's assistance, I showed Risa the Green Line route. She liked it.

helped at the OHAP

Helped at the RASC Toronto Centre 2013 Open House and Awards Picnic.

Took up the new carbon monoxide detector. But forgot to install it.

Delivered the custom-made jumper and battery cables for the new small 6V batteries for the ATV.

Finished a couple of loose ends from the work party. Had Steve install the 4x4 cap on the far end of the new clothesline. Moved the living room and bedroom furniture back, now that the cleaned carpets were dry.

Tidied the Great Room (on Friday night). So we'd have space for the kids crafts area.

Reviewed the OHAP event checklist. Actually, an old list. Had forgotten to transfer the current list to the portable computer. And could not connect to the home office with VNC. Garrr!

Printed up and posted the day schedule (again, working from an old list; redoing the work!). Distracted!

Delivered prizes for the door prizes and raffle. Reviewed the master prize list. Directed volunteers to where the various ticket rolls were stored.

Provided the volunteer stickers, to go with the name tags.

Checked that the grounds were presentable. Did a bit of weeding in front of the GBO.

Set up the Oberwerk binoculars, with the solar filter, in the hopes of doing some day-time observing. No luck. Did not ready the GBO.

Provided FRS radios to the guided hike crew so to keep in touch with Base. Tony lead the group. Risa relayed messages.

Offered my gloves to Sharmin as she flew one of Doug's big kites.

Stood by during the rocket launched. Unsuccessfully tried to start the ATV. Made sure we had a fire extinguisher nearby. Charged the new pair of SLA 6V batteries for Tony, in particular, so to start the large rocket.

Encouraged Millie to relax and enjoy herself—today is for you! Consoled Steve after he was put off by another member being grumbly about photos taken.

Fired up the big charcoal BBQ. That was during the award ceremonies. Was very pleased to see Tony recognised for all the hard work with the MODL project...

Put out my meat lover's potato salad. Encouraged Phil to try it.

Enjoyed scotch o'clock early Saturday evening.

Helped tidy up on Sunday. Checked that the house was secure after the supervisor left.

Took the red LED light for Stu up; but he didn't show.

Overall a good event. A small affair. The weather had clearly scared off a lot of people. But everyone there seemed to have a good time. I was especially pleased with the kids crafts portion. It looked like that was a big hit.

still going?

Woke in the middle of the night. Needed to visit the house. Outside the tent, I saw it was scattered cloud still. But the Moon was rising in the east. It was about 20° up. And there seemed to be, again, a peculiar glow in the north-north-east. Was it the beginning of twilight? Or more aurora?

Saturday, June 01, 2013

a new vendor opened

New Eyes Old Skies opened in Richmond Hill. NEOS. Many people are very happy!

Steve shared aurora movie

Steve shared his video of the aurora. From the north deck of the CAO. A time lapse made from the many stills he shot with his DSLR and intervalometer. Three different angles.

CAO Aurora from Smack Astro on Vimeo.

Quick. But beautiful.

You can see my tent glowing orange in the last few frames...

lucky at the observatory (Blue Mountains)

We got lucky at the Carr observatory. The intense storm blew through in the afternoon. On cue, light refracted through the air borne water.

Sucker holes appeared after dark. And then a strange glow emerged to the north.

Wow. The best I've seen in a long time.


This was a quick post made at the time... Posted to Facebook as well.


Wikipedia links: rainbow and aurora.

captured the oval map

Snapped the map. Auroral oval from NOAA.

Ooo. We're in the light purple to white zone!

set camera properly (Blue Mountains)

I struggled with the DSLR camera. I couldn't seem to access some settings. Frustrating and intimidating and off-putting, not feeling comfortable.

Steve was on the north porch, with others, viewing and imaging the aurora. I asked if he could help me. He found I had put the Canon in C1 mode. Ooops! Custom Settings 1 mode still showed M on the display. So I assumed I had been in the correct configuration. Not noticing, at the same time, that the white balance was customised (K), the image format was JPG large (L). Duh.

Thank you Steve!

Moving north of the parking lot, I reframed the shots, avoiding the edge of the house (and the infrared camera).

    30 seconds. ISO 1600. Long exposure noise reduction: auto. Sharpness: 4. Red aurora visible. Stars trailing. A little noisy. Good focus.
  30 seconds. ISO 1000. Long exposure noise reduction: off. Sharpness: 3. Red barely visible. More noise! Well, more hot pixels! Soft focus.
  30 seconds. ISO 1000. Long exposure noise reduction: off. Sharpness: 3. Poor focus.
  30 seconds. ISO 1000. Long exposure noise reduction: off. Sharpness: 3. Soft focus.
  30 seconds. ISO 1000. Long exposure noise reduction: off. Sharpness: 3. Better focus.
  20 seconds. ISO 1000. Long exposure noise reduction: off. Sharpness: 3. Focus still off.

All these photos (now with proper camera control) used the following settings:
  • shot in RAW
  • manually focused
  • daylight white balance
  • 18-55 lens at 18mm
  • aperture f/3.5
  • Adobe RGB colour space
  • tripod mounted
All converted to JPG with DPP.


The next morning I played a bit with the Mode Dial. Made a point of noting that the full Manual (M) is between the Aperture Priority (Av) and the Depth of Field (A-DEP) modes. Important to know, when setting the camera in the dark...


That's very interesting: the in-camera noise reduction...