Wednesday, July 31, 2013

no need for Dob

Invited Sharmin to use the 8" Dob at the CAO. But she said she was interested in observing with the C14 or N11. Okie dokey.

a free focusing tool?

Stumbled across Astrojan Tools for EOS. Snooped around the web site but couldn't find a list of supported cameras. Downloaded the manual. Nothing there. Applied to join the Yahoo!Group; searching deferred until I'm authenticated. Downloaded the non-ASCOM version and installed it to John Charles. Jacked in the camera to the computer. EOS Utility launched, of course. OK. Good connection. Looked like there was not a formal installer. Just run it... Reviewed the manual for the installation instructions. Confirmed. Just run it from the preferred folder. OK! Gritted my teeth. It was then, on page 2, in the Preface, I caught it—out of the corner of my eye—the text "40D." Huh? What? The author said "I can test usually only with a 40D." Bingo! This should not blow up the Canon camera. Started the AJT app. Hit Connect EOS. Error dialog. Oh oh. Manual suggested a common cause was the camera being powered off. Ah. It had timed out. Powered on the camera. Hit the connect button again. Wow. I was in.

mask request

Genevieve asked if she could borrow and try the focusing mask I had made for the Canon camera lens. Sure! She wondered if we were close. I'm in the High Park area; I thought they were in Richmond Hill. So not exactly proximal.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

very full house

It looks like it will be a very busy weekend at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Millie and Dietmar and Grace and Tony arriving on Thursday, Lora and Phil, Sharmin, Elaine and Tony, and the Wang/Xia family arriving Friday (oh, and me too), then Lucy and Bernard clan on Saturday, possibly with the Manuels camping. Wow.

Enough people that we'd immediately need to put into service the new Orion room. And possibly overflow into the Great Room if more decided to venture up. I needed to make a Gantt chart to figure it out. Had to make the Lyra for grrrls and Aquila for da boyz.

tracing prox cards

I started an audit of the proximity card sets for the CAO. Tony's records had not been updated since 2009.

like driving an automobile

It occurred to me tonight that a telescope is like a car.

It doesn’t drive itself.

It comes with options and upgrades.

And you’ll need a map to figure out where you’re going.

offered to sort out the 70AZ

Offered to help Duncan with his Celestron AstroMaster 70AZ but we pushed to next week.

Millie to THO

Encouraged Millie to take the Tony Horvatin Observatory if she wanted...

made a new SQM log sheet

Made a new, more detailed, SQM log sheet.

Hopefully, we can capture better data in the future so to make a more precise and quantifiable assessment of our sky conditions at the CAO.

invited Brenda's crew

Invited Brenda and family to the CAO. So to take advantage of their "Christmas" gift...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

declined invite

Manuel called. He was pretty excited about the deconvolution feature of MaxIm DL. He's wondering if he can use it with past images that he's shot. Invited me over, said the weather was suddenly looking good. He wanted to try for the North American Nebula with the 80mm. And get some seat time with MaxIm. Good. But I had to decline. Working today. And would have an early start tomorrow.

forwarded note

Tony asked for the notes to the remote surveillance system. I forwarded the message from late-May.

terrible time lapse

First time lapse is terrible. The photos shot back on the Canada Day week end. Batch-converted Canon RAW files, to TIFF, to 1080 x 720, using Digital Photo Professional. Then imported the TIFF frames into Movie Maker. Looks like MM only allows a default minimum of a quarter second between the still images. Yuck. It's jumpy. Hot pixels are annoying. Dark orange sky. Just terrible.

Friday, July 26, 2013

helped Ostap remotely at the CAO

Helped Ostap with the CAO access issue.

Orion off limits

Reminded Denis to avoid the Orion room as much as possible. And that moving or dragging heavy items over the newly painted floor was verboten.

another focusing technique

From the SCT Yahoo!Group, I learned about GoldFocus.

Uses a more complex focusing mask with some proprietary software. Looks like good engineering and some solid math is behind the product.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

sought clarification on battery

Chatted with Manuel via Facebook. Told him about the CTC marine battery on sale this weekend. Hoped I wasn't bugging him about that. He intimated he wanted to get it on points but had less than he originally thought. I suggested it would be handy during camping. He said he was watching the weather. Wanted to image on Saturday but it was looking like rain. Said he wanted to work on NGC 7000 with the 80mm.

learned about IRIS

Learned about the IRIS solar telescope at the NASA web site... It's looking at a lower layer of the Sun with a new level of detail and precision.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

issued new cards

Did a CAO passport card run. With the new design. They look rather good.

Sent a sample to Steve.

new site up

The new RASC Toronto Centre web site launched. Looks good. Lots of typos though. And a good deal of old content is missing. Tried the CAO booking form. It worked fine. Will take a bit of time to find stuff...

End of an era.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Received my Starfest confirmation. Gettin' real!

chatted and guided

Manuel phoned.

Said he had talked to John about roofers. John said there was one he had started to deal with but found them very poor. Who? I asked. He didn't know. Thought it didn't matter. Au contraire. I said we should know who the bad choices in the Blue Mountains are as much as the good.

Then we talked about the weekend. He wanted to know if I was going to the CAO. Hadn't decided. But I was not leaning toward it. With a bright Moon. And being on duty the following weekend... Needed a break. He was getting hungry for photons. I thought he was making plans for the long weekend? To camp at the CAO... Did he mean to go both weekends now?

He talked about imaging Messier 51. I asked why. Why that particular deep sky object. It was partly that it is an attractive galaxy. He likes galaxies. I reminded him that it was low. And descending through the current evenings. Best captured at the end of May. Imagining M51 now would be challenging, require precision, and quick set-up, so to nail the polar alignment. I suggested the ideal situation would be to set up the telescope and mount on one night, get good polar alignment, configure and test. Ensure the guiding was working. And get settled with the focuser hardware and software. The following night would be the high quality imaging run. Not practical at his home or at the nearby parkette.

He wants high quality. I asked why he didn't consider targets that were higher in the sky. Particularly, if quality was important. What about M102 aka NGC 5866? A beautiful unique galaxy. Still a bit late for it. He mentioned Andromeda again. Ah yes. But a bit early in the season for that one... I said it is highest in November. Then he suggested the Veil Nebula. There ya go. Good choice.

Manuel proposed he'd shoot the Veil Nebula with his 8-inch SCT. Whoa, whoa. What? Which camera? The QHY9 he posited. He thought that would work well. I differed. I pointed out that'd he'd only get a fraction of one element. About half or a third of one of the remnants. This is a very large object. The best 'scope was the refractor. The QHY9 on the 80mm would work beautifully. He was wriggling, not comfortable with this.

Then he said, the electronic focuser would not work on this 'scope. Oh. I see. We wondered out loud about adapters. But I suggested that focusing with the refractor on the Veil might be easily done with manual control. 52 Cygni was there. A focusing mask could be used.

As we wound down, I wanted to emphasise a key point. That collimation was not something that would regularly need adjustment. He should avoid touching it. He thought there was collimation problem during his last session when in fact it was a focus and light path length issue. He changed the good collimation and made it worse. I assured him he had not damaged anything. But urged him to not change it without considering all the factors. If the image looked out of focus, he'd have to adjust the focal length.

Lots of balls in the air.

form down

Lucy reported the CAO bookings form was not working. I tried it. Didn't work for me either. Let Allard know. And suggested to Lucy that she, in the meantime, email the registrar directly.

Monday, July 22, 2013

designed new pass

Designed the new RASC Carr Astronomical Observatory passport cards. Using an astrophotograph from Steve McKinney. An active CAO user. A shot taken at the CAO. Apropos.

Limited software at my disposal. Had to do lots of jury-rigging.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

no, no thanks

Frickin' Moon.

do not do this

While snooping about the Celestron web site, gathering specs on the EdgeHD 11 SCT, I noted the image at the top of the page...

Now, I get the lifestyle thing, the whole family, it's a family hobby, kids, women too, having fun, everybody happy, more or less, enjoying the Universe together, blah, blah, blah. But, what's with the 'scope on the shoulder?! And precariously balanced in the right hand? Huh? What?!

And why does man have the biggest one?! Hrrm.

Please. Please. Transport your telescope with care. Transport with the covers on and secured. Transport in a case. Ideally a case with protection, such as padding, foam, shock protection.


completed partial collimation (Etobicoke)

8:30 PM, July 20, 2013. Manuel and I met up. It had been a while!

As he drove south on Jane and activated the right turn signal for Bloor, he mumbled something about the fast clicking. "I'll have to ask them to fix that." I was intrigued. A light-bulb change... Telling.

In the man cave, I took a look at the new 11-inch 'scope. A beast. Monster atop the CGEM DX. The beige tube Edge HD (like Iverson's). Hey, wait a minute, that's an aluminum tube, is it not? As opposed to carbon fiber. I had been under the impression that his new OTA was a CF design. I looked at the back: it appeared to have mirror locks. Necessary for the big glass... Oh, and vents, with a dense filter...

Refractor lying on the sofa... [ed: Didn't I attach it to the C8?]

I turned around and Manuel was lugging the portable plastic table and a chair from the garage. I offered to help as he delicately headed upstairs. We started moving stuff out to the parkette. Atlas mount was in the kitchen, OTA cooling on the back deck, computer and other bits and bobs on the dining room table. As he man-handled the Atlas mount and tripod together, Manuel dropped a counterweight at his front step! Ouch. Fortunately, he did not damage the screw. Nor did he crack a brick. Or break a toe.

Outside, we chatted with John and his daughter, while Manuel walked around with the uncovered OTA at his shoulder! He had not been successful in convincing John to join RASC, Manuel admitted. Nor had he convinced John to visit the Carr Astronomical Observatory while at his cottage in the Blue Mountains. To be fair, John said he didn't know there was a big observatory up there. I clarified. Yeah, not a "big" observatory building, domed—John pointed to my DDO t-shirt, "Not like that." Right! More like a garage. Owned by the Centre, like a private "club house." He was curious where we were but looked blank when I mention road numbers. The Scenic Caves? He said they were 5 minutes away. There ya go.

I set up the mount. Added the two counterweights. Took the OTA from Manuel and started to mount it in the dovetail. Before anything bad happened. Set up the table. Arranged items into logical groups. Found a focal reducer inside the focuser-SCT adapter. We removed it. Manuel set it on the table. I think he really needs a proper carrying case. Installed the finder scope with red guide camera. Asked for the SCT bayonet cap...

Manuel said the EdgeHD was not compatible with the Fastar system. Huh? I wondered where he had heard that.

9:07 PM. I unwrapped the new camera from the plastic bag. An Imaging Source DFK 21AU618.AS. USB port. Another small blue cube. Like his 21AU04. I wondered about the differences...

[ed: Different Sony chip, an ICX618AQA vs. the ICX098BQ. The chips are the same size (¼"), resolution (640x480), pixel size (5.6 microns, square), with IR cut filters. Seems the only difference is sensitivity: 0.05 lx vs 0.10. Oh. And new software...]

9:11. Oh oh. Spotted clouds are rolling in... Clouds not predicted on the Clear Sky Chart (last updated around noon); but that I had seen on the NOAA radar. Manuel's not going to be happy about this...

9:15. He brought out more gear. But still not the 1¼" SCT visual back. Manuel returned a couple of minutes later. He took the guide scope off. OK. Not sure why we brought it out then. He removed one counter weight; not needed with the 8" and DFK camera. Got it. Then proceeded to balance. He's must have the most perfectly balanced 'scopes!

9:24. Off again, this time to get the foam mats, new USB light, repellent Off, etc. I put on my zip pant lower legs, hoodie, and got out the Lee Valley bug suit gloves. Manuel returned sans mats. But I was able to try the Astro Gizmos USB light. It was awesome—as expected. Bright, with the four LEDs. Excellent coverage, with the 2 separate heads. Entire keyboard lit. Space beside the computer. They'd be handy for notes, a book, etc. I didn't realise it but there are lenses over the LEDs which appear to disperse the light pattern. That it works with AAA batteries (or external USB power cord) is fantastic. The only disadvantage is bulk to the battery compartment and clip, it encroaches on the LCD.

9:38. Manuel headed north once more. His phone rang while away. He returned a couple of minutes later with the mats and second chair.

9:41. Manuel moved the telescope slightly west.

We grumbled about the clouds. I was pining to check the radar but was off the grid. Manuel pulled up a weather radar page on his Blackberry. "Looks good." I pointed out it was showing rainfall, not cloud. Excuse me, I meant satellite. Directed him to the NOAA Aviation page. Meanwhile, I sniffed at a number of curiously named unlocked WAPs but could not connect. Manuel said he had his wifi disconnected during the day, for home maintenance, so went to the house to plug in.

Suddenly I smelled a skunk! Had I seen it out of the corner of my eye a moment earlier? Oh oh. That would not be good...

9:56. We waited for the skies to improve. Manuel was able to connect to his router so we pulled up the NOAA page, on the big screen. S-L-O-W. I tried to gain network access but his router wanted some certificate validation. Told him I had never seen that requirement before. He said the router had been completely reconfigured. So, no internet for John Littlejohn.

10:15. Clouds everywhere.

Manuel shared his brief experience visiting the new Richmond Hill store. Sounded a little disappointed. Not a lot of product to look at. I said that I had heard they were trying to do more online orders...

I shared how I'm trying to learn the named stars. He quizzed me on about 10. The easy ones... Got another 400 to go.

10:46. Finally, we could see some clear sky to the north. Woo hoo! Let's get started!

Manuel began his polar alignment. But paused to assemble the foam squares, so to ease the strain on his knees. I was a little surprised when he put the entire assembly under the tripod on foam. I also noted that he did not level the tripod with the bubble.

He pointed out the poor connection with Atlas 12-volt CLA adapter. We tried bow-tying the cords but it didn't help. The male spring was very strong. I suggested that twist-ties would be a quick and easy solution. In the meantime, we gingerly set the connectors down and avoided touching them. That would be bad, losing the connection, in the middle of an imaging run!

Sounded frustrated, he raised the mount, extended each tripod leg about 6 inches. The mount tipped precariously, so I spotted.

10:58. While Manuel worked with the Atlas polar scope, I tried to improve my dark adaptation and read the sky brightness, using Ursa Minor, consulting with the SkyTools Interactive Atlas. Initially, I could only see Pherkad, at magnitude 3.1. After a moment, I dug out Thuban, to the left: mag 3.6. Ha ha. Then mag 4.3 ζ (zeta) UMi, with averted gaze.

I started building a new observing plan list in SkyTools. Added the constellations and bright stars I was seeing. And the damned Moon.

11:04. I looked at Mizar. After a second or two I spotted Alcor. I wondered the value of the fainter star. Checked ST3: 4.0.

Manuel said, "almost there." Four minutes later, he started the 3-star alignment process with the hand controller.

Meanwhile, I started considering the targets needed collimation: added Vega to the observing list. It will do very nicely as a mag 0 star, up high, for the "stage 1" optical checks.

Spotted a bright satellite heading north above Arcturus. It faded suddenly but I was still able to track it for a few seconds. An Iridium, I wondered. Or perhaps a tumbler.

11:14. Manuel finished aligning on his third star. And was perplexed when the hand controller responded "Align Failed." He guessed his polar alignment was off. I too wondered if that was the case.

11:16. I took a peek at the mount alignment. Looked off. When I looked through the polar scope, I did not see Polaris. He was on some random faint star. I was a little surprised at a rookie mistake. I thought he would be good and fast at this. Certainly he's done it before. Many times. On his own. Was he nervous around me? Surely not. Less experience with the Orion hardware?

There was some discussion about the port hole in the Dec axis. Another tell-tale, I think, that he was in "Celestron mode" which would not work for this mount. I said that for my Super duper Polaris, I had to turn the Dec so the OTA was horizontal; that was clearly not the case with the Atlas. Visible proof was had looking down the top of the mount and seeing the red LED illuminator.

11:19. I said, "You better hurry." There was another cloud bank coming in. Manuel, struggling, said "This is unreal." I was fascinated by the trouble he was having.

I took in stars at the zenith. It was a bit darker. Or clearer. With less extinction. I could see ζ Lyrae. That star is mag 4.4. Initially I could not see δ (delta) but with a bit of work, and averted vision, I was able to coax it out. Made sense: 4.3. The Double Double was easily spotted although as a single point source.

11:23. Manuel said, "I still don't see Polaris." We were running out of time...

SkyTools showed that ε (epsilon) Lyr was mag 4.7. I wondered what the effect was of a pair of stars and the magnitude. Would the pair increased the effective brightness, their light combining and adding? The brightest star in ε1 is mag 4.7 and ε2, 5.1. Or would the pair only be as bright as the brightest element? Given that I was seeing, what I estimated to be a mag 4.5 sky, it would seem there was an additive effect happening...

11:31. He was exasperated. Asked if I could help. Sure. I settled in behind the mount. Turned the Dec axis clockwise to better match UMa and Cas positions—he was off about 15° here. Eyeballed the polar axis. It was way off, too high. As I unwound the elevation bolt at the back and pulled down on the counter weight shaft, Manuel said, "But it's at 43 degrees." I explained that we could not rely on that. I dropped the altitude of the mount and drew Polaris toward the centre. "See it?" I asked. I reminded him that it was substantially brighter than any other star. I left him finish it off. Double-checked when he was done. OK. Now we had decent alignment to the NCP. And we're clouded out again! Gar!

We waited some more. Then as stars emerged, Manuel started the three star alignment process again. Arcturus was not an option so he looked for other targets. I pointed out Altair, Alkaid, Dubhe, Megrez, Phad, Mizar, Caph, Shedar, Deneb, Sadr, Albireo, etc. Algol, he asked? Nope, too low. Mirfak? Behind the townies. He found a star in the east. After that first star, he got dishevelled: the stars were not the ones he was used to seeing listed. Again, I reminded him that the Atlas choices would be different than NexStar. And that the choices would be non-trivial with the improved sky models in the hand controller.

11:45. He asked about Ruckbah. Ah. He had me on that one. I knew it was in Cassiopeia... Checked the software. Second from the left. But without a laser pointer, it took a minute to ensure we were talking about the same star.

11:50. Manuel reported "align success." 65 minutes. All right. We could start collimating now. I requested Vega. He slewed the 'scope and said it was centred. OK, good. Next, I requested he hookup the CCD camera. Reminded him: no mirror; 1¼" visual back, initially no magnification.

11:57. He started to remove the visual back. He then attached the camera. To the scope; to the computer. Sat down at the computer. Fired up his capture software. Adjusted the settings. And was perplexed...

11:59. "I don't see the star," he puzzled. "Look up..." I said. "What?" "Look. Up." He started laughing. Satire. The Universe having a chuckle at us. The clouds looked bad this time.

We had a little chit chat. Manuel shared an incredible story from work, about a 37 year old man, with a most ridiculous name change... The clouds broke, again.

Manuel noticed he did not have an internet connection. He didn't understand why it would work before and not now. You and me both. Wifi black magic.

He offered, again, that I could borrow any of his gear. Very generous.

12:29 AM, July 21, 2013. We finished the stage 1 collimation. I found one mirror screw too tight; loosened it and the collimation improved dramatically. I thought of his email, where he said he had tried a screw and it is seemed to resist. Seemed like he had reached the maximum depth for that particular fastener. Now we needed to boost the mag.

12:34 AM. A neighbour visited briefly. Fascinated by the hardware. Asked "how far can you see?" Reminded me of people that ask, "How fast can your car go?" Who cares. I explained it was not so much distance as how faint. I apologised that there was nothing to look at. Between clouds and being configured for imaging. He wandered off. I continued hunting for a second magnitude star, in the software, that was not a double, for the stage 2 collimation... Manuel brought out some sodas. Canada Dry. Thanks! Then went back inside. To get the magnifiers.

12:45. After inserting the 2x and recentering, we started to slowly draw to focus. The image jumped around at the high power. It was so severe in some cases, it would move out of the field. We had to pan while focusing. Quite tricky. Manuel lost the star so we started over.

The image shape changed. The nice pattern of concentric rings deformed, turning into a peanut. Manuel wondered what was going on. I continued to wind the focusing knob. The image, growing smaller and brighter, started to look like The Bat Signal. I explained that we must have been at the end of the focus travel. We were pinching the mirror. Fascinating.

I tried to move the camera and Barlow out, lengthening the light path. I gained a ½" but did not want to go further. Complained that there were not tether points on the camera. But he could mount a ¼-20 bolt... I sent Manuel inside for his extension tube, 2-to-1¼" adapter, and 2" visual back.

I chose Alphecca. Single star. Yes, a variable. But in the 2 to 3 range.

Manny returned with more hardware. He showed me his 2" visual back with a rotating clamping collar. Neat. Never seen that before.

The longer path helped. Without the Barlow, we were about the get to focus with the mirror undisturbed. I could see, briefly, in the bad seeing, a faint diffraction ring around the star's disc. But our efforts to work at higher power, with 2nd mag star, were thwarted.

1:14. The clouds were back. Worse than ever. I suggested we were scuppered.

Manuel surmised that M51 was now to low to be imaged. Indeed.

We talked about the light path. I explained out that the path now, with the 2" visual back, extension tube, the adapter, which added about a ¼", and camera, was about the same length as when a mirror and eyepiece was used, also considering that the human eye was a stage in the light path. I suggested that his difficulty the other night was not collimation but that the light path was too short (or long). This is something he needs to adjust for, in the future. I think he found that intriguing.

We talked briefly about the focuser. I think he's not comfortable with it. So not using it. Certainly it will be challenging but I hope he'll master it.

I thought the highway lighting from the Gardiner was still terrible. Did they actually install shields? If I lived here, I'd still be complaining. There's absolutely no reason why light from the tall standards should fall on buildings beside the road. Wasteful, harmful, annoying.

1:33. We started to tear down. I tried to not notice clearing in the north.

I also took the opportunity, while reviewing the collimation process, to emphasise that balance was important. Pluses and minuses. One must not continuously tighten screws. Rather, when something was tightened, something else had to be loosened.

Once again, he man-handled the mount and tripod over the steps and through the door. No incident this time. In short order, we had everything indoors.

Inside I asked for some twist-ties. After I explained what I was after, he returned with one short black tie. Not long enough. I explained that if he found another, he could secure the CLA connectors...

2:08. I was back home. A little frustrated that we hadn't finished a full collimation. I really wanted him to see the entire, full process. That it was more than rough, crude intra- and extra-focus checks. And that the 2nd and 3rd stage checks would require finer or more delicate precision. But, hopefully, he learned a few things, regardless of what we physically accomplished. If lucky, the changes we made will get him up and running again.

In bed, with a pleasant breeze entering the open north window, I amalgamated my notes. Considered, in the cool air, looking at the dark sky through the glass, through the branches, the burnt out bulb.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sunny now

Oop. Now Sunny Optics, Inc. is going to buy Meade... As per the Sky & Tel article. Or should that be Sky & Tell?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Manuel asked for help

Manuel sent an email. He sounded at his wits end.
I need your help.  I was trying last night to finish completing the collimation of my 8 sct.  Somehow things were getting okay until I attempt to focus Saturn using my 2x5 [2.5x Powermate] and could not do it.  Very, very frustrating.  I thought the heat might have some impact, but I let the sct outside for more than 5 hours.
I offered to help. We'll try to sort it out Saturday.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

NGC list separated

My "other deep sky objects" life list page was getting out of hand, as I near 250 NGCs viewed and logged. So, I broke it out. Moved the NGC objects to a new separate page. The other deep sky page still has variable stars, red stars, Index Catalogue (IC) and Arp objects, the Stock, Collinder, Melotte, Raab, and OCL lists of open clusters, asterisms, novae, globules, and quasars.

Monday, July 15, 2013

already noted

Observing and Measuring Visual Double Stars. Second edition. Found it was already on my wish list...

good we stayed (Blue Mountains)

Woo hoo! An extra night! And the skies were lookin' good! I had made a new observing list. Trimmed some items, things viewed earlier, and a few silly selections, things from the wrong season. Had over 50 targets.

I had packed up the N11 and closed the THO. The C14 and Tele Vue were busy. Ian W offered his gear, telescope and eyepieces. Thanks! He showed me how to use the Sky Commander push-to system.

10:16 PM, July 14, 2013. I was at Ian W's 'scope, his custom 12½" Dobsonian. With Risa. With the Pentax SMC LX 10.5mm eyepiece. We viewed Titan to the left, Dione above (south), Tethys below (north), Rhea to the right (east). Good detail. Probably the best view for the whole weekend.

We took in the crescent Moon.

We talked about zodiacal light.

10:25 PM. Did I see lightning?! The bugs were bad. Ugh. Ian already had a mosquito coil burning under the table. I had my bug jacket and gloves on. Applied DEET.

Ian D dropped by. He was trying to image Saturn. He thought the C14 collimation was off. I offered to tune it up. Noted that we didn't actually change it after cleaning the corrector last summer.

Ian W and I tried to split Antares. He thought he saw the companion. I was not 100%.

A firefly landed on my cap!

I helped Risa identify features on the Moon using Virtual Moon Atlas. The crescent Moon turned red as it set into the distant trees.

11:17. The sky to the north was glowing brightly. There was an intense horizontal band of light above the tree tops. We enjoyed some really good, albeit brief, aurora! Risa shot time lapse with her Nikon atop my Manfrotto tripod. We could easily see green and purple colour on the little LCD!

I moved randomly east from Antares. Landed on the Lagoon. We tried the UHC filter briefly. I had Risa blink it. The aurora flared up again.

12:03 AM, July 15, 2013. I confirmed, with the software, I was on the Lagoon Nebula, aka Messier 8 (M8).

Spotted a double star to the west. Went and had a gander. HD 164536. The A and C stars at the obvious ones... In the Panoptic 27mm it was lovely. It is actually a quad star system. [ed: Haas calls this Arg 31 and only refers to the A and C stars.] Before I could explore further, Ian asked about the supernova. Right!

I looked up the host galaxy, NGC 4414, and Ian came about. I was not convinced I could see it. Ian thought he saw could. He checked the position on his iPhone and grew more confident. He admitted it was very dim. But no joy for me. Part of the issue was that we were looking too late... Coma Berenices was setting. And it was a little soft in the north-west.

12:35 AM. Ian asked about the other faint galaxy I had viewed the previous night. Oh yes, the Silver Needle. We pushed to NGC 4244 (Caldwell 26). I didn't think the view much better. Again, it was mucky in that direction. And low in elevation. Damn. It's probably pretty spectacular.

12:45. We viewed something a little higher in the sky: Messier 51 (M51). It looked good. There was some detail in the arms.

12:56. While Ian W prepared for his imaging run, I viewed the Blue Racquetball. Went to very high power, using the Type 5 Nagler 16mm with a Tele Vue 2.5x Barlow. That was 240x. I enjoyed the blueish-green shape. It was not perfectly round.

Ian W headed off to bed, to his trailer, leaving me to play. Night! Ian D had closed the GBO early. Risa had gone to bed some time ago. Dietmar completely his run. I was kinda happy about that for his was flooding the main floor with white light. I had to tolerate some white light in his POD for a bit. Then it got dark and quiet!

I fetched the Thermacell.

1:19. I returned to the Pac-Man Nebula. I could see something going on in the region... Hints of grey. Perhaps a filter would draw it out... I'd deal with that later.

I was drawn to the stars in the centre of the barely detectable nebula.

SkyTools told me the stars were part of an open cluster, NGC 281, and a star at the centre, HD 5005, was a seven-star system. Oooh!

I could easily pick off the A, C, and D stars. The A star was bright, at mag 7.8. C was close to A, slightly fainter, mag 8.8, to the south-east. The D star was to the south, further away, fainter again, 9.7. There were still more stars to identify...

1:35. Popped in the 2" UHC filter. Now the nebula was apparent. Still dim, to be sure, but obvious. Large. There was a dark region in the south west. Is that the mouth? I wondered?

I looked north and saw the aurora was back. Intense band again, just over the trees. Faint pillars.

1:40. Removed the removed filter and resumed identifying stars.

1:42. Focused on STI1454A to the south-west of HD 5005. A completely separate double star. The A and B components, while faint, were easily spotted.

Returned to HD 5005. I could not see the E star. Strange. ST3P said it was mag 12. I could see TYC 03663-0977 1, a mag 10.7 star, much further to the north without difficulty.

I could see H to the south-east. It was mag 11.2! But I could not see the I component, a mag 13.1 point. Huh. Was the sky poor tonight?

So, A, C, D, and H, no prob. I could not separate A and B. No E or I. Very strange, given I could see STI1454B at mag 12. I guess I'll have to come back... if I want to claim seeing all the members...

[ed: I didn't realise I had already viewed 1454, in Oct 2011, with Millie, when we were touring around.]

1:53. A bright satellite went through, heading south-west.

SkyTools revealed another double in the area. I stared at HD 4868. Huh. The software showed an A and B star.

1:56. Ah ha! Wow. The companion was really faint. To the west. A good distance away. I needed to use averted vision to spot it. Interesting...

The low battery warning popped up on John Littlejohn. I had thought about it earlier, being at the table, near Ian's SkyShed, I wouldn't have ready access to AC power. Even he remarked about not having an outlet. Oh well. I wasn't too worried. The netbook would carry on for a while. On the other side of the coin, having infinite power could make for a long night. And I didn't think I should stay up too late...

Headed over to HD 5177, a double well beyond the boundaries of the Pac-Man, to the south-east. I saw a yellow and blue pair. It was a bright primary.

The software showed a faint wide double just a little to the east, STI1468. I could not see the primary nor its companion. Telling. Both mag 13 stars...

The mozzies continued to find a way! Rotten.

2:07. Viewed NGC 7027. Another planetary. It was cool, very interesting at high power. Was it peanut shaped? Like the infinity symbol? [ed: Photos show it to not be round!] It was a cyan blue colour.

[ed: Ah ha. 7027 is "The Magic Carpet." I had left it in SkyTools as not logged, so to return. It was good to see again, at high mag, so to discern some shape.]

The aurora continued. But was more diffuse.

And, suddenly, the ASUS shut down. OK. That's it. I had enjoyed viewing unseen objects from the RASC Finest. I turned off the cooling fans, buttoned up Ian's 'scope, moved sensitive items to the shed, returned the drummer stool, packed up my gear, swung by the GBO, grabbed the power brick, spotted the dark red USB keyboard light (doh!), and locked up. Birds starting to chirp. Quiet in the house.

2:50. I was in bed. That was awesome. An extra night. And it was a real good one!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

spotted tall aurora (Blue Mountains)

Risa captured the aurora with her DSLR. Just beautiful. Of the stills, she made a short time lapse.

Photo by Risa Horowitz. Nikon D7000. 18mm lens. f/5.6, 25s, ISO 6400. Used with permission.

made up room signs

I made inserts for the new bedroom signs. With some feedback from Risa and Ian W.

Centre alignment. Ha!

heard wifi was better

Lora sent a note.
I had no problem getting a wifi signal in the T@B last night something that hasn't happened since Skeena was a puppy!!!  Phil also noticed an improvement in the signal while sitting under the pergola today.
Maybe it worked... It's all black magic.

improved CAO Sunday

We did a bit more work at the CAO. Finished the Magic Sand on the Observing Pad. Steam-cleaned the carpet in the GBO. Finished the electrical for the pergola outlet (which I tested). Tony and I installed the closer on the door between the GBO warm room and observatory floor. Greased the Stargrazer. Got one coat of mud on the Orion room south bulkhead. After cleaning the white board, attached the vinyl lettering. Beautiful.

We bailed on the screen door installation at the GBO. Both Tony and I did not like the design of the door obtained. We'll get a custom one from Rona...

galaxies, doubles, planets, and a dash of aurora (Blue Mountains)

As the sun set, I helped Risa with Kendrick dew fighting system. I had her take some DMM readings of the eyepiece strap: 60 ohms. Looked like it was working fine. Flexed the ends. No shorts. No breaks. We tried connecting both straps again. Almost immediately, the controller stopped working.

The mosquitoes were already bad. Put on layers. And started to sweat. Grace and Tony offered their butane-powered Thermacell thing for me to try. I started it inside the THO and left for a bit to let it work.

Returned Ian's camera and cable and Dietmar's 2" adapter. I was not going to image. I was looking forward to a good viewing session.

10:01 PM, July 13, 2013. Took in Saturn. Saw Titan to the right, a moon below, Rhea, a moon left, Dione, both about the same distance from the planet.

10:13 PM. I thought I'd try the (anti) cord-wrap feature of the NexStar hand controller. But then realised that if I was going to use the lectern as a mobile workstation, cord-wrap would probably not be an issue. Fired up SkyTools and ASCOM. Checked I was already on COM2.

10:19. Slewed to a nearby double star, HD 121444, in Virgo. I thought I saw the two stars. It was tight. And very different mags (SkyTools said magnitudes 7.8 and 11.0). Kept staring...

I saw it! A north-south orientation. The secondary was on the south side of A, almost in-line to bright star HD 121496 which was a quarter of a field away. A looked blue-white; B looked dark orange. Neat, the double was one corner of a large rhombus. Actually, considering the star in the middle, a bow tie.

10:28. Viewed 35 Comae Berenices. I wondered if I had viewed this before. [ed: I had.] I saw a wide pair, orange and blue. Perhaps green? SkyTools 3 Pro made it clear I was seeing the AC pair, at 28.7 seconds of arc. The AB pair, at 1.0", was likely not possible. I strained to see the slightly brighter B star to no avail.

10:44. I returned from the GBO. I asked to borrow the Tele Vue 10mm eyepiece (and 1¼" adapter). I hoped it would help me dig out 35 Com B.

I spotted J125328.4+211731 to the north-east. A 13.77 mag star. So, no problem going faint...

10:47. I noticed good diffraction rings around stars, signalling decent collimation. But still no B. ST3P said it was PA 199° and sep. 1.03" as of 2013.5. Maybe too tight for me? I've seen things in the 1 range... Poor conditions? Maybe too tight for the 'scope? Meh.

[ed: Plotted the orbit in ST3P. Oh oh. A and B are only getting tighter...]

10:53. Landed at the orange and blue 2 Canum Venaticorum. The RASC Observer's Handbook says gold and blue. It was pleasingly close at 78x. Lovely.

10:58. Popped over to Messier 106 (M106). Big. A canted spiral with a bright centre. Saw a bit of mottling.

11:01. A satellite went through the field, to the north.

11:05. I panned over to big bright arrow of stars. I saw the fuzzy cloud near the mag 9 star SAO 44095. It made me think of reflection nebula around stars. NGC 4217. It did not look oval shaped. [ed: Photos reveal an edge-on galaxy with a very dark lane at a slight angle.] I noted the orange star on north side of arrow, HD 106556, a K star. The others were blue-white.

11:12. Wow. Took in the very faint, long and thin, NGC 4244. It is also known as The Silver Needle and Caldwell 26. I thought it extremely large.

11:16. A double star, spotted nearby, to the east of the Needle. HD 107341. Gold and blue, fairly tight. aka Σ1632.

Took a break. Yummy tarts from the kitchen.

Looked at the Lagoon (Messier 8 or M8) in Steve's little refractor 'scope. Impressive view despite the small aperture. A Takahashi FS-60B, f/5.9, 60mm of course. The eyepiece was a Tele Vue Ethos 13mm.

I found an empty GBO with the C14 trained on M51 and companion. Nice. Good detail.

11:57. I finished my break. Viewed NGC 4088. It was very faint. Smaller than 4244. It was not symmetrical. [ed: Photos show a very distorted galaxy, with a gentle S-curve shape.] It was angled north-east to south-west.

12:01 AM, July 14, 2013. Eyeballed NGC 4085. Wow. It was very small. Nestled in the notch of a triangle of stars. South of 4088. It looked good with averted vision. Wow. Very neat these two contrasting galaxies in the same field.

12:18 AM. Did a big slew, over to Aquila. Tony, in the 'hood, helped me turn the roof. I was trying to track down Σ2424C. I saw yellow and blue, equally bright stars.

12:31. I thought I had arrived my target initially. Nope. Turned out I was at HD 176486 (or Σ2426). Yellow and blue. Equally bright. There was a wide double to the north and a faint tighter double to the west.

12:35. Wow. I spotted the C star of HD 176486 to the south. A mag 13.3, super faint star. It was at a 90° angle to A and B. A dark orange colour perhaps? That was crazy. Another indicator of good collimation! Yes. And the seeing was good too.

Tried the 10mm but it was bad.

12:39. The "wide double" I had seen to the north-east of 176486 was not considered a double star system. HD 176544 was to the east and HD 230357 to the west. But, SkyTools showed the latter, itself, was a tight double! OK.

12:43. Briefly, when the atmosphere went steady, I could split HD 230357. A very tight double. Two equal pale white stars. Very very close. Good seeing showed a thin black line. They were oriented north-east to south-west. ST3 said they were 1.60" apart! And mag 10.4 and 10.1.

12:46. The equally bright (but faint, mag 10, 11) stars to the west were not a pair.

That jump from north to south was the only bad or poor slew I had all night...

12:51. At last, I arrived 11 Aquilae. It was pale yellow and blue, the A and B stars. Again, I wanted to track down the C star...

1:07. I was pretty sure I had seen it, the C star, of 11. It was dim, very faint. It was on the opposite side from 176483 and 484. OK. Log it!

1:09. Risa drifted by. Said good night. See you...

1:12. I headed back to HD 180994, near NGC 6781. But, despite trying hard, I was not convinced I could split the very tight pair. Tried low and high power.

1:27. A lark... Tried to split γ (gamma) Coronae Australis. It was just a shimmering blob. Crazy low. Crazy tight. It's best in late August, according to the planning software. Next!

1:37. Viewed Neptune. Lovely colour. But could not see Triton (mag 13.5). Boo!

1:40. I felt tired. Felt myself falling asleep again. Considered wrapping. But sat there...

1:42. Out of the corner of my eye, through the vertical slot, I spotted a bright meteor. East bound. Fast mover. And then it suddenly popped out. Strange direction?

1:47. Remembered to take a reading with the Sky Quality Meter. Stepped outside the THO. Got 21.07 twice then 20.98. It reported 17°.

I partially shutdown. Did some of the THO closing. Roof in the final orientation. Considered that I'd be leaving tomorrow. And that I didn't want to hog the THO any more. Returned the RASC stuff to GBO. Lugged a bunch of my equipment back to house. Would box up the N11 in the daylight.

2:10. As I exited the THO Steve and Justin told me there was aurora. Cool! I thought they were talking about the meteor. I went to porch. Grace, Tony, and Risa were there. The aurora was fairly faint but occasionally brightened up. A nice way to end a great night!


Risa put one of her aurora shots on Facebook.

welcome to the RAS

Tony tried his hand at light writing. 3 out of 4 ain't bad.

Photo by Risa Horowitz. Nikon D7000. 18mm lens. f/3.5, 20s, ISO 1600. Used with permission.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

all Linksys

Deployed the new Linksys Cisco router at the CAO.

This was the unit David had donated and that I had received Thursday afternoon. Black curved thing, like something out of the Bat Cave, with blue LEDs and a discreet button in the middle.

I reset it, connected it to the dining room computer, and programmed it. To a passive switch and wireless access point. Took the older Linksys unit from the dining room and put it in the garage, replacing the goofy d-Link. Good riddance.

improved CAO Saturday

We got a lot done, despite the heat, for the summer work party.

Held the briefing meeting outside. That was neat. Grace and Tony arrived part-way through and they slid into the discussion. I tried to focus on the big outdoor tasks.

A new flowerbed around the well head. This will protect the new cap. Weeded the GBO patio, Observing Pad, and north walk-out, again! And started putting in the Magic Sand. This will be great! The decks looked fantastic. More to do tomorrow... We continued work on the Orion room and its storage pen. The Great Room bulk head was painted. The outdoor outlet for the pergola was installed. Top soil and sod was distributed about the yard in an effort to smooth out divets. New clear totes were installed in the garage so to tidy the shelves. The new south screen door was adjusted. Pruned the trees along the driveway. Delivered the vent screen for the furnace room, motor for the GBO roof drive, blinds for the Great Room and Orion Room, tools and supplies. Misc. prep. work for future jobs... The CAO is getting better and better.

Ian D fed and watered us.

NGCs in the tuned N11 (Blue Mountains)

It was a little luxurious having the NexStar already in the Tony Horvatin Observatory, ready to go. Just needed to jack in the computer. And attached my mirror and eyepiece.

Earlier, I had made an observing list. 80+ entries. With previously unviewed objects plus some of the RASC Finest NGC objects.

11:15 PM, July 12, 2013. The N11 was collimated, at last. I enjoyed looking at Saturn. Spotted Titan, Rhea, Dione. Hints of Tethys. No luck with Enceladus or Mimas.

11:21 PM. Viewed NGC 5746. It was neat, very thin, possibly mottled. [ed: photos show it to have a dark foreground dust arm or ring, not unlike the Sombrero.] It looked like an extreme edge-on galaxy. It was beside a very bright star, 109 Virginis, which I found a little distracting. I panned to get the magnitude 3.7 star out of the field. I thought the galaxy big in the baader 36mm eyepiece (at 78x).

I spotted another smaller galaxy to the south: NGC 5740. Cool.

I considered checking faint stars. To gauge the collimation. And the sky conditions. I noted a 13.3 star to the north-east of the 5746 galaxy: GSC 00326-0315.

11:44. Pushed deeper. Spotted the mag 14.1 star, GSC 00326-0715, closer to 5740. Ah ha. Good stuff. [ed: Huh. That's the deepest recording I've made a note of, at the CAO, in a Centre 'scope...]

11:53. Slewed to NGC 4157. It was at the edge of the field. Large and bright, elongated, not a perfect oval. Wait a minute. It didn't look right. The star field did not match. I scanned in the area in the SkyTools 3 Pro software...

12:53 AM, July 13, 2013. I returned from break. Had had some coffee. Had enjoyed Risa's DSO photog review. Her first through-the-telescope deep sky shots. Along with test shots of the aurora.

12:58 AM. I figured out what was wrong. Thought I had reached 4157; in fact, I had landed on NGC 4605. Ooh.

So. Where was I. NGC 4605 was large and bright... elongated... a less than perfect oval. [ed: Photos show it to be asymmetrical.]

1:10. Went a-hunting NGC 3877. Found it near bright star (χ or chi Ursae Majoris). It was a faint oval. It was near a large square C or U of stars. Neat but challenging. Fairly large.

1:16. Viewed NGC 4026. It too was faint. A bit smaller then 3877. Had a bright centre. It was not an oval shape. ST3P said it was a lenticular.

1:38. Headed to the Bubble Gum Nebula. [ed: Huh? Bubble Gum?] Took me a while to find it. Something was going on here... but there was nothing obvious. It must be very faint...

Fell asleep and bonked into the eyepiece! Twice. OK. That's a sign, I realised. Done. Very tired. No surprise, given yesterday's abuses. And it would be a big day ahead...

The Observing Pad was empty, the GBO roof closed. I bumped into Risa on my way to the house.


The mozzies had been annoying this evening. But the layers, while warm, had kept them at bay. There had been some clouds from the south but nothing serious. Conditions were fairly good (although I forgot to take a SQM reading). It was a short session for me but it was fun using the N11 in its newly tuned state.

compared skies

Chatted, via Facebook, with Manuel. He shared, at 12:30 AM, that he had been imaging Saturn with his new 11" OTA. Good stuff.

He asked if I was going to CAO. Yep. Already here. For the work party. "Oh. I thought it was at the end of the month," he said.

He was curious about our skies atop the mountains. I said, "Pretty good." His skies were "not that good." He was a little concerned the ringed planet was too far west from his deck in Etobicoke.

I relayed that many members were here and there was lots of imaging going on. "You [are] trying to make me feel bad, [aren't] you." I apologised. Just wanted to share that people were enjoying the skies.

At 1:03, he reported finishing the processing of one of the AVI files. "Not good at all. Just bad." I was disappointed to hear that. Probably due in part to manual focusing challenges.

Then he said "Probably the time to image Saturn is gone. Have to wait until next year." Certainly from his home base. I don't think he's procured a good portable (marine) battery yet. Which prevents him from venturing far afield.

Friday, July 12, 2013

helped on Observing Pad (Blue Mountains)

9:03 PM. Ian W and I helped Risa with her new Kendrick dew heaters and controller. Discussed where to mount the main strap, given the dovetail plate, and interference from the dew shield. Suggested hooking-n-looping the controller to the mount opposite the connection board.

The FireLite Controller is small, has two RCA outs, the power in, one little button, and one 3.5mm RGB LED. We read the instructions a couple of times to figure it out the programming. Got the eyepiece and corrector heaters running at 50% to 60%.

9:47. As I returned to the Observing Pad from the house, I heard Steve, in the Geoff Brown Observatory, exclaim, "Wow! Woooow!" There was a pause. Then: "Look north!" And caught the remnants of an extremely bright fireball, under Cygnus, heading north. Incredibly bright—blue white.

He apologised for being tongue-tied. It was fantastic by his account, colourful, and broke into fragments. Ian W saw it too. Our own little Chelyabinsk. We hoped the UWO cameras caught it.

Perhaps event 1442 as reported at AMS?

11:38. I helped Justin a little with his new big 16" f/4.5 LightBridge Dobsonian. Earlier Phil had helped him with collimation. Now he wasn't sure the 4.7mm ocular could come to focus. No problem. I dialled in Saturn. A very nice view! Pointed out that at that power it would be challenging to get, and keep, Saturn in the FOV! The eyepiece was an Explore Scientific 4.7mm 82° (1¼"). We roughly calculated the power to be 350x.

I found it interesting when he said he got it to help him learn the sky. Ha! He's going backwards; despite having a telescope for some time, being a go-to, he's lost. Good for him.

11:53. Risa hollered. Something was wrong with the new gear. The controller was not flashing red. When "rebooted" it would briefly flash then stop. We found the problem went away when we removed the small wrap. I wondered if the two heaters were overloading the controller. Didn't make sense. Thing's brand new.

I left the gang at the pad. Tom was observing with his Dob, Thomas with his refractor, Elaine and Tony flanking Risa with their new refractor.

Ostap's POD light was still on...


Risa got a nice shot, saved up on Facebook, of the Milky Way over the south lawn.

better than ever

10:13 PM. Borrowed some gear to collimate the Celestron NexStar 11 GPS. I was very worried I had mucked it up after removing and reinstalling the corrector plate.

I turned down further offers for assistance; with a camera-monitor set-up, I could do the fine-tuning myself. Borrowed Dietmar's special one-piece EOS t-ring 2" nose-piece; hijacked the USB-serial Prolific adapter from the GBO; procured Ian D's Canon 7D body and camera USB data cable. Connected to John Littlejohn and fired up EOS Utility. And, after a time, arrived at the best view ever! Sharp stars; excellent detail on Saturn. I was very happy.

11:13. Showed Steve Saturn after collimation. He liked the view. Justin popped by as well. He had never seen the inside of the THO.

Tightened up the corrector ring. No need to rotate the corrector!


Bummed a ride to the CAO with Risa. For the Carr Astronomical Observatory summer work party. I packed very light.

It was all I could do to make the Finch rendezvous.

We meandered. Henry's on Steeles: memory lane, expensive CF cards, capture software shopping, Canon vs. Nikon. Then northbound, to find a Shoppers. The slog of 7. And finally a superhighway. 400 was surprisingly good. Still, we bailed at 89. Destination: The Champ. She agreed it was not the quickest.

Scrabble quizzes, Tim Horton's pit stops, grab bars, and Saturn pix.

It was hot. Even on the mountain. Allergies increasing.

received good weather report

Finally. Decent looking weather. While we would be at the CAO!
Favorable observing conditions at Carr Astronomical Observatory
Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
07-12 @ Hr 16 for 8 hrs (0%/Above Ave./No Forecast)
07-13 @ Hr 03 for 2 hrs (0%/Transparent/Good)
07-13 @ Hr 06 for 11 hrs (0%/Above Ave./Good)
'Course, we couldn't party too hard... Even though it was a "work party."

Thursday, July 11, 2013

ceiling done

Heard from Dietmar. He had just arrived the CAO. Ian W was cutting the lawn. Nicole and Gilles were gone; but not before completing the hanging ceiling in the Orion room. He said it looked great!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Phil volunteered!

Extra, extra!

When we learned that Ralph could not attend the CAO summer work party, Lora rounded up a photographer and reporter: Phil!

CF shopping

Looked for Compact Flash sales. Fast cards to improve image transfer. If I'm gonna seriously try DSLR time lapse. Checked the local The-Store-Formally-Known-As-Radio-Shack. Nothing in stock...

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

checked in on the Orion room

Spotted Nicole and Gilles's car at the CAO... before the power went out.

Later I asked for a measurement in the Orion room.

set to HIGH

Changed Sony voice recorder REC LEVEL from S-HIGH to HIGH. As per page 33. Hopefully this will work better with the VOR during quiet astro sessions. Maybe I'm thinking about it the wrong way...

Monday, July 08, 2013

checked CAO

I monitored the CAO after the big storm. Looked like there wasn't much water there. Good.

arranged access

Ensured Nicole and Gilles had access to the CAO. So they could work on the Orion room.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

repaired the corrector

12:33 PM. Tried to tighten the Fastar in the secondary of the N11. I was worried this would happen. I simply could not torque the outside element without turning the inside piece. As per a web article, it would require removing the corrector plate.

Once out, I saw that it could use a cleaning... Found our kit in the work room. Cleaned it in the kitchen.

1:39. Put the corrector back in. Uh oh. I was not 100% sure about the orientation of the corrector glass. I put the etched serial number opposite focuser. That seemed right. I was fairly sure that's where it was when it came out.

2:01. Tried Dietmar's cheshire thing, to do some daytime alignment. But it was no good. The thing flopped around in the mount. I will have to do a star test... And the weather was not looking good...

Friday, July 05, 2013

short session(s) (Blue Mountains)

8:12 PM. Wanted to capture Saturn's moons tonight... Planned to save photos to the C drive of John Littlejohn, where there was a lot of free space.

Decided to entertain the idea of using the moving cart, or, lectern, for the computer "workstation" near the eyepiece. Cleared some floor space. Put the laptop on the low shelf, mouse beside it, red LED in the left USB, LAN cable. Moved the eyepieces. One of the feet fell off. Oops.

Woke up the NexStar. Date and time were wrong. Suggests the RTC is bad. Or rather the battery. Tried to attach to the 'scope. Didn't work. Tried a bunch of things. Then realised I had read it wrong. Duh. COM5. Worked fine.

Sky did not look good. High clouds.

Slewed to Saturn. Didn't see anything. Went to Vega to confirm focus. Yep, off a bit. Noted the blue-white colour against the pale blue sky. Still, it seemed dim. Due to the clouds.

8:31. Lora and Skeena visited me. Lora spotted the black speakers. Tony's old musical setup. Showed her where the wires were cut.

8:36. Slewed back to Saturn. Spotted it.

Realised I needed to worry about cord wrap, in a broader sense. Now a power cord and ethernet cable to the computer. Moved the cart around.

8:38. Took another look at Saturn.

Decided to move the computer to the top level of the lectern while keeping the mouse at the low level. That seemed a bit better. Secured the telescope data and ethernet cables with a Velcro strap. Used the Hand Controller buttons on the computer while looking through the ocular. Super convenient!

8:44 PM. From the Oregon: humidity 63%, temperature 23.1°C, fairly dark Moon, pressure dropping, partly cloudy tomorrow.

Heard the GBO roof opening. Millie was on the Observing Pad with her two 'scopes. Phil and Dietmar's PODs were open.

Steve visited me. He showed me the radar. Not looking great. I showed him Saturn. He spotted my music stand.

Started to rig up the camera stuff. Connected the 40D to the NexStar 11" SCT telescope via the EOS t-ring, 2" nose piece, into the TV adapter, to the visual back.

Realised I need an extra "back" dust cap for the EOS lenses. When the camera is attached to the telescope and the stock lens if off, I don't have a proper cover.

All images: north is up; east is left. 

8:54. EOS Utility launched correctly. Activated full screen mode on the netbook. Activated the Live View. Could not see Saturn. Returned to Vega to focus. Centred with the finder and the nearby HC Controls in the computer. Used Live View at 200%. Once again, slewed to Saturn.

9:07. Started shooting. Played with the exposure settings. Then played with focus. Screwed it up.

9:13. Still intrigued why the camera shows a "correct" view. In removing the mirror diagonal, it is not laterally inverted. It's just rotated.

Spotted Dietmar walked to his POD. Asked him to take a photo of me. He was busy. Asked Lora to take a photo of me in the THO.

9:24. Sky was getting darker. Contrast was getting better (or increasing). Was still trying to see Titan. But couldn't. Yet.

9:27. Dim. Due to clouds. Clouds seemed to be getting worse.

Closed some unneeded apps on the computer. Heard a mozzie. Decided to put some repellent on.

Verified Titan was on the same side as the shadow. For some reason I thought it was on the other. Bumped the ISO, from 100 to 400.

9:34. Tried a 1 second exposure. It was very soft.

Turned off the Folder display in DPP.

9:37. Good contrast.

Considered the inability to lock the mirror with Live View. But then it is holding the mirror up to allow the Live View. So it is essential locked. Hmm. Why was I upset about this? The benefit is the same...

I could see Titan now.

9:42. ISO 800. 1 second. There were a few points now, a few moons. The planet was blown out. Tried to corroborate positions in SkyTools. Turned the roof a bit. Moved the cart.

Mosquitoes were annoying.

9:50. Mozzies flew by the mic! Sheesh.

9:57. Saturn was not visible in the last two photos. Looked at the skies out the side port.

Kicked the 'scope power supply again. Worried that it will disconnected.

Saturn reappeared. Bright. I could see moons. On the left. Titan, Rhea, Dione, Tethys. Mimas was too close to the rings. Enceladus, not visible. Too close as well? Hyperion I could not see. But there was also a substantial glow...

10:03. Continued to play with the exposures. Tried 1 second and then a half. To improve the appearance of the planet proper. Then back to 8 seconds.

I wondered if I was getting trailing at 8 sec.

13 seconds. Got round moons.

Closed the roof. Bonk. Oops. Forgot the OneWorld was out there. Could not read the display. Definitely needs a fresh battery now.

While outside, spotted a very bright object, in the north-west, near the house roof line. A planet? [ed: Venus.]

10:18. Inside: 67%, 20.2°, pressure steady, rain tomorrow.

Shot some darks. For the various settings. Upon review the Info panel in DPP.

10:24. Turned off the tracking. Headed to the house. Joined the crew in the living room and commiserated.

11:24. Back in the THO. The sky seemed very soft. Gah. Turned the tracking back on.

Told Phil about the red film sheet in the GBO. Yelled across the yard. He needed some for his new laptop computer. Earlier, he had asked me about getting more...

11:27. Readied for visual observing. Red light mode. Applied filters. Went to the double star 2 CVn. Couldn't see anything.

Moved the rolly-polly. Disconnected the computer power, running on battery, to offer more flexibility.

11:33. Had a another firefly visitor. He was close enough that I could hear him.

Went to Mizar to verify alignment. Forgot the focus was off, still set for photography. Slewed by to 2 CVn.

11:38. The computer mouse was pulsing red. What does that mean? Batteries weakening?

Was off target again but I panned and found it. Dim. Because of all the clouds. Main star was yellow to dark yellow. The secondary was hard to make out. Very different magnitudes, 4 to 5?

Closed up again. The sky was really soft.

11:46. Put the 'scope into hibernate mode. Packed up the computer and headed to the house.

11:52. Millie called out to me as I headed to the house, something about the seeing conditions with Saturn. I said I thought the general conditions were poor.


The plan is to try to make a composite image, with the planet proper at a quick exposure, and the moons from the long exposure...

stop the Viaduct illumination

There was some discussion, on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group, about the planned Bloor-Danforth Viaduct bridge lighting installation, over the Don Valley. I had heard about it on 680 News a couple of days back. Since talked to Tony about it. Wondered if Peter knew and might act.

Chris forwarded the Toronto Star article link. Allard said the project was going ahead unfortunately but suggested, next time, we complete an online petition. Rajesh's response was strange. Not sure what he meant, other than "Huh?" Jason said, it might be "pretty." What?! Then said, the "city is already so light polluted, does it matter?" Holy crap. He totally doesn't get it. The folly of youth. But he'll inherit the burnt out husk of a planet. Eric wondered about the expense and animal issues. Finally Peter entered the fray.
The reduction of light pollution in the City is a game of inches:  every little bit makes a difference.  So I'm not happy to see the Viaduct lit up.  One of the few dark(ish) areas in this neighbourhood is the Riverdale park, on the east side of the Don Valley, just south of the Viaduct.  How much this project impacts that site remains to be seen, but it can only be more or less negative.
Well put.

It's a terrible idea. Expensive. To build. And to power. Money that could be used elsewhere. Distracting, for people driving on the highways. When we need eyes on the road! An eyesore for citizens living in the area. And trying to sleep well. And polluting. More light pollution. Bad for birds and humans. 

revealed electronic welcome

Demoed the "welcome to the CAO" PowerPoint presentation to Lora, Phil, and Dietmar.

Overall, well received. Got some pointers.

sum the multiples

Talked to Blair at Bruce Street Technologies. We discussed signal strength, antenna locations, roofers, and multiple entries in the usage logs. Turns out the multiple entries are important. They may be due to different ports. In the end, it requires that I total them. And that means I have to adjust my collection and aggregation techniques.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

got base?

Manuel emailed me. Asked if I had a Telrad base. I shared that I had an extra that I wasn't using at the moment. He wondered if I might want to let it go.


Returned to the CAO. But we were clouded out. We watched a movie... And looked at mosquito repellent recipes on

picked up Dob for CAO

Met up with John B. Received a Centre Dobsonian. Took it to the CAO. Which will be, I hope, its new home.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

took in the meeting

Attended the RASC recreational astronomy night meeting.

Grace and Tony wanted to go. We headed up together. Traffic was bad on the Gardiner. But we made it on time.

Risa attended. I think she was surprised to see me. "You had it made." She was looking for a good spot to sit. I invited her to hang close. Bill joined us.

Chris V. did a great job on the The Sky This Month. I liked the historical angle. No hand out. But he said he'd put stuff online. Sharmin shot a bunch of photos and put them on Facebook.

Jim's folded refractor was interesting... The thing was big. And bulky. Yes, still easier to manage than a 9 foot tube. The 8" objective was huge!

Frank's talk about reading weather was...  very interesting. It was intense. High clouds. Low clouds. Dissipating. Sheer. Isobars. UNISYS upper level analyses. Lots to absorb.

Helped Risa find the pub and sort out parking.

watched RASC social media roundtable

Watched the RASC social media round table...

Took place at the General Assembly.

Katrina and Julie in Thunder Bay, Paul Cox, David Dickinson, Fraser Cain, and Oana Sandu.

The takeaway, for me: be amazing!

to make a door

Measured the GBO door. Made a sketch. Scanned the note. And sent to Tony. w00t!

Soon, we'll have a screen door for the warm room. Yes! That will make the GBO more pleasant to use. And it will improve appearances and receptiveness for members (old and new) arriving late.

surprisingly good night (Blue Mountains)

9:45 PM, July 2, 2013. Returned to the THO after visiting Phil. After grabbing the computer from the house. LED light. Power supply. And a lighter...

Took a queue from Phil. Closed the flaps of the THO. Ignited a mosquito coil (fragment), so to fill up the hut with smoke.

Checked the time on the audio recorder. 20 hours left.

Oregon. 44%. 20.5°C. Warm. Third quarter Moon. Air pressure steady. Cloudy prediction. I saw high cloud.

I wondered what the fireflies would be like tonight. But. Didn't feel like doing photography. Dietmar had set up his time lapse slider rig. Aimed south, near the rake, at the Milky Way.

Computer was up and running. But needed to do a few more configuration things. Didn't know where my red light film was... But activated the red mode in SkyTools 3 Pro. In the meantime. Dropped the LCD brightness low. Earlier in the day I had been wondering about the sky conditions so added a bunch of double stars... From the RASC list. Targets, if the sky was not great. That gave me over 50 objects to chase.

Asked Dietmar to contact Ostap. There was a light on in his POD...

Reviewed the wifi signals. Channel 1 from the house was low, to be expected. Channel 11 from the garage was very low. Why? Channel 6 from the weird d-Link in the GBO: non-existent. Argh. Switched to hard line.

Told the N11 to do an align—while the roof was closed. Wondered how it would do with the metal lining everywhere. The date and time were wrong. No surprise there, really. Remembered, again, that I had not collimated the N11...

Opened the roof. Clouds. Clouds everywhere. Sheesh.

10:10 PM. Despite burning a coil, at the south-west corner, I still seemed to be entertaining a lot of mozzies. Lit another coil and put it at my feet, at the "desk," at the south-east corner.

That orangey point in the south? Was is Saturn? Slewed. Had the 36mm installed (78 power). Spotted some moons... Titan, top-right, north-east. Dione in between. Rhea, south-west. For a second, I saw Tethys, very near Rhea.

Phil visited me. He said there were "no stars to speak of." Offered a look. He initially saw 3 moons. 2 o'clock, 4, 8:30-ish, close, very close in. The whole view was shimmering.

He shared he had he some operator errors. Cables in the incorrect ports. He went back at it.

I looked, from the THO, at the red LED solar lights. In the runway. I had replaced the batteries in the north-west and the centre-east posts. They were working. Equal brightness. Good. Noticed the GBO roof was open. Millie was there.

Noticed some stars near Lyra. And the Swan.

Tried to go to 26 Cyg. The go-to slew action was not working. Realised, after a time, I had the settings wrong. Wrong ASCOM driver. Duh.

Frickin' clouds.

Finally arrived the double star from the RASC Coloured Doubles list. Huh. 26 Cyg is a five star system, according to SkyTools 3 Pro! Gold and blue? It was hard to tell. Colours, yellow and blue, according to the RASC. Saw it for a second before it dimmed out. Clouds. Crap. [ed: Sissy Haas describes the stars as "pretty... citrus-orange and whitish lilac." Does not refer to stars the other than A and B. Webb says yellow or gold and blue.]

There was a bright star to the east... In-line. Ah. Z.

Took another look in the eyepiece. And did not see stars anywhere. I decided to check the weather. The NOAA infrared. Ah. Looked like it might push off. OK. So I decided to hang in. Not give up.

Checked the computer. AB were 41" apart. Widely split. BC were a fraction of the distance. A fifth. At a right angle. Learned that D, at mag 15.8, in the opposite direction, would not be visible. Meh. Clouded out!

Turned the roof. Slewed south. Antares. A double—but tough. Switched eyepieces, too much power. Shimmering too much. Too soft. Even at mid-power I could not see the companion... They are close but different mags. According to ST3. Low. Extincted.

Skies were improving. All of Scorpius. Scutum. All of Aquila. All right! The Teapot was murky, over Toronto. Not a lot of fireflies though. Boo.

Saw a meteor going from the north to the south. Heading toward the pincers of the scorpion. From Ophiuchus. In Serpens. The right-hand one. Cauda or Caput? [ed: Caput.] Fairly long train. A very late June Lyrid? Surely not a Ophiuchid.

The sky continued to clear! The south was good... Bad in the west. Could see Lyra, again. And still, I could not split the A and B stars of Antares... It was a good time to look at it though—mid July.

Wanted to make sure the telescope and computer were working well. Exited ST3. When it came back up, I checked it was synced. It worked. But that didn't seem right. I don't think I did that before... Something funny about that process. Checked for the cross-hair in ST3 for the Celestron pointing. Yep. There. Close. Still had not done the cable wrap option. Connected.

There was something going on in the GBO...

I could see the Milky Way. Above Aquila. Heading into the spout. Huh. Definitely getting better. South-east was looking quite dark.

I went to Aquila. Or a target in Aquila. Changed the eyepiece. Turned the roof, of course. Viewed 11 Aquilae with the 36mm. Colourful. Noted a very bright star to the north: 10. Saw the A and B stars, of 11. Saw a double off to the right-hand side. Used the "companions" keyboard shortcut to display the double star labels. Not really a double HD 176484 (southward) and HD 176483 (northward). Not at the same angle as 11 AB. Yellow and blue? Very different magnitudes. SkyTools said 5.2 and 8.9. C star. I could not see it. It was not shown in the Context Viewer. ST3 said it was mag 12 point something. Should have been visible... Separation was 78.3". Not outrageous. But simply not shown in the field of view chart... I added STF2424C to the observing list. As a reminder. To look into. View later. Figure out. OK. Maybe its blue, 11 Aql B.

[ed: This is another example of the funny issue with SkyTools and multiple stars. In fact, the A, B, and C stars show in the Interactive Atlas, when one plays with the Fainter setting. For example, zoomed to 36mm field in the IA, with ML set at 16.0, the C star shows up. To the west of B. However it never appears in the Context Viewer. When one clicks the AC button in the Object Information dialog, it says the C star is mag 12.4. Giving the impression that it is accessible. However, when one chooses the star directly, the data on Σ2424C (Struve), apparently from the source USNO-A2.0, shows the magnitude as 15.59. Not visible. And in turn the data used for the display in the charts. Is this an error? I don't know. Greg and I have talked this before, how the double star buttons in the OI window draw data from a different source that what's used for display purposes. It threw me at the time. And at the time I didn't think to play with the IA. This suggests that C is out of range.]

The sky was getting better. Took a break. It was a chance to get the red film filter, wherever I put it. When I returned from break, I found the mosquito coil was still going. OK.

11 Aquilae was higher now. Blue star. Pretty. Nice. Nice field.

Changed ST3 to only show objects above the 2x air mass. The sky was still not great.

Stay in Aquila, I thought. Went to NGC 6781. A large object. A planetary nebula. Looked like a flame! Large. Shown in ST3 as a circular object. Although the text description said "irregular" object. But I thought there was something going up. A non-circular shape. There was a pattern of stars nearby that looked like the digit 7. Bumped up the power, with the 26mm (107x). Had a good look. Very interesting. I guesstimated the size of the object. Measured the diameter in ST3: 2 arcminutes.

[ed: The image at NOAO echoes what I felt. Round on one side; open on the other. If the open end is up, it gives a strong impression of a flame in a fire.]

At the higher power, I saw Burnham 1256A, aka HD 180994, at the edge of the field. A very tight pair. But I did not make any comments on it...

Felt I was losing my dark adaptation at the computer. Left to get the red film. And elastics. Talked to Phil. And Dietmar. Unfortunately, he had torn down his rig. Returned and immediately installed the red screen. Turned off the backlight and key illumination on the NexStar hand controller. Lowered the observatory lighting.

Went to R Scuti. Spotted the cluster Basel 1 (seen before, 2 years ago). Brighter than PPM 707310 (mag 9.8). Not as bright as HD 173744 (mag 7.1). I estimated the magnitude to be around 8. ST3 said it was 6.4—I would disagree with that. The software says it ranges from 4.2 to 8.6 over 147 days. Orangey colour. On second viewing, I was confident in my brightest assessment.

Spotted double star below, to the south east, HD 174005. (Which I had observed before, 2 years ago, also. [ed: From TLAO.]) Centred on it. White primary. Widely separated, 38". Quite different, the stars. C is very faint.

The update frequency in the Real Time view was a little irksome.

It was time to return to Cygnus. I had a ton of targets there. Went back to 26 Cygni. Lots of interesting stuff going on. There was a very orange star, in-line with 26 Cyg A and B. To the south of 26. About 6 times the AB separation. Almost red. Ah. That star is the variable Z Cygni. Hence the colour. Gauged brightness. It was brighter than the B star (mag 8.8) aka SAO 49100. Looked again. Confirmed. SkyTools says it is an M-class star. Cool! Brightness ranges from 7.1 to 14.7. Wow. That's a big difference. It changes over 264 days. Over a Terran year... Neat. I pegged it around mag 7 to 8. So, near the peak!

26 is a five star system. Primary is yellow. B was faint. RASC said it was blue... Spotted the E star of 26 Cyg. Off to the north. About 5 times the distance of the AB pair; opposite direction. Almost in-line again. Mag 11.0. No problem. Could not see the C star. [ed: Correction. Yes, I could; it was D component I could not see.] It was mag 12.9. Bumped the power from the 36mm (78x). It enhanced the colours: A, yellow; B, blue. But could still not eyeball the C [ed: Er, D!]. Looked along a right-angle to AB and AE and 26-Z. No luck. D is mag 16. D is opposite C.

[ed: So to be clear, I viewed all the possible components of 26: A, B, C, and E. Later in the audio sequence, I heard "C, no problem." D would require big aperture.]

[ed: My audio notes were very confusing at this stage. Between hoping around to 26 and Z and the VOX dropping out and forgetting to use the time stamp and the lack of clarity... Possibly I referred to the double star HD 189702 far to the north from 26, well beyond E. The A and B stars are mag 7.1 and 12.0 respectively. They are separated by 13.4 arcseconds. A number which I think I misread as the brightness of B... Awfully far afield though.]

Was getting frustrated with the very frequent updating in the Real Time view. I wondered if there was a way to change it. Applied the constellation filter in hopes of speeding the updates.

Oops. West was up; not north.

Milky Way was visible. To the Mark I Eyeball. Without my eyeglasses. It was a better sky than Sunday night. Really glad I stayed...

Decided to visit 17 Cygni (aka Σ2580). A quad system. Went back to the 36mm. Pretty. The A and B stars are 5.0 and 9.2. Yellow and blue stars. RASC says red and blue! Huh? That's not red. [ed: Haas only reports on the A and B stars. Says grapefruit-orange and misty. Uh huh. Webb: very yellow and blue. Smyth: golden yellow and pale blue. Where the Hyades did RASC get red?] Oh wait. There was a reddish star below... C is mag 9 as well. D formed an equilateral triangle with A and C. Interesting.

Considered the view of field orientation... On a equatorial mount, if you don't move or rotate the eyepiece, and slew to a new target, you still know where north and west are. But with an alt-az (or fork), it is always changing. Field rotation. That's what was messing me up before. And again tonight. I just have to remember: the orientation will change from target to target... West was now around the 10 o'clock position for me. Not up. Coyotes!

Lots going on. Lots of stars. Saw a little triangle near to 17. [ed: Location not documented.] Just assumed they were field stars. Spotted (to the south) a little slightly bent line of stars nearby: TYC 02660-0366 1, -0004, and -0403. Caught my eye. Dim, between magnitude 9.5 and 10.5. But unrelated.

Noted the reddish star off to the side, to the left, or south-west. HD 186858 (aka Σ2576). A K3 class star. Orangey. Also a double! Er. A quad. SkyTools said the AB pair were 2.98" apart. Tight. But equally bright. Almost the same. I did it. Yeh. Saw that they were perpendicular to the A-B-D of 17. Almost in-line with the bent line. Both orangey. No problem with A and B; C and D were in the mag 14-15 zone. A fast moving pair, 232 years. A 7.7 and B is 8.6, mag. Cool stuff.

[ed: The WDS is interesting with respect to this multi-star system. It is actually considered part of 17 Cyg! That is, pair WNO AF bridges the 13 arc-minute gap between Σ2580A to Σ2576A! Yep. It's so confusing, I think a table will help...

ST3P name WDS name
17 Cyg A and STF 2580 A STF 2580 A
17 Cyg B and STF 2580 B STF 2580 B
17 Cyg C and STF 2580 C STF 2580 C
17 Cyg D and KPR 4 D * KPR 4 D
J194634.0+334357 ** KPR 4 E
HD 186858 A and STF 2576 A WNO 56 F and STF 2576 F
HD 186858 B and STF 2576 B STF 2580 G and STF 2576 G
HD 186858 C and STF 2576 C STF 2576 H
HD 186858 D and STF 2576 D STF 2576 I

* 17 Cyg D: SkyTools shows mag 13 D star in different location.

** J194634.0+334357: SkyTools shows mag 12 star in different location.]

Checked the mosquito coil. A little smokey at times. Was it bothering my throat?

Green blinking, above! An airplane? No. A firefly visited the THO! He flew inside the roof. Ha ha. He stopped blinking when I shone my red LED on him. Lots out in the field.

Slewed to HD 189751. From the RASC Coloured Doubles list. Very close pair. Closer than some of the others. They are 11" apart. Mag 7.0 and 10.4.

Spotted a narrow wedge triangle pointer to the north, with a very bright star at the tip. It was HD 189864. ST3 said it was a quintuple system. Saw the B, C, D stars, no problem. Four stars. E was not possible to split, at 0.25", beside the luminous A! D was very faint. A little surprised it would not be included in the RASC list. Very interesting.

Another firefly! But he turned his butt off when I got close. Can he see me in the dark? [ed: They have compound eyes!]

It was around midnight. The sky looked good. Milky Way was good. Straight up was clear. Great Square was rising.

Something flashed through the eyepiece. Thin straight line. Like a satellite but fast. Really fast. A meteor?

Viewed NGC 6946, aka Arp 29. Big! Huge! In the 36mm. Oval shape, oblong. Mottled? An irregular? I nudged it to centre. Flanked by some stars. A equilateral triangle on the left (south, Tycho stars, mag 10 to 13) and a double (or pair) on the right (north, Tycho). ST3 said it was a spiral, nearly face-on. Huh. As an Arp, I thought there might be something strange about it. It wasn't smooth, amorphous. 11' by 10' in size. In the RASC 40 Brightest galaxies, Finest NGC, Herschel 400, TAC lists... I had added it to my "showpieces." Is this a good idea? Right on the Cepheus and Cygnus border. Bright stars nearby. North-west was HD 196085; west, HD 196053. [ed: It is also known as the Fireworks galaxy and Caldwell 12.]

Uncomfortable. Put the mozzie coil out.

When I panned right, or north-west, I spotted something. According to ST3, NGC 6939. A large, loose open cluster. Over in Cepheus. About the same size as the galaxy. Maybe slightly larger. Similar to what Sharmin and I were looking at a couple of nights back.

12:35 AM, July 3, 2013. Bullfrogs were going. Break time. Bio-break. Took some antacid. Grabbed a bottled water. Bumped into Dietmar. He had torn down his time lapse Konova slider rig. Now a little irked. Millie was in the GBO. She wanted to know if I was gonna be up for a while. Nervous about closing the roof. Phil, in his bedroom, was frustrated. Conflicts. Cable issues. Asked about getting out the Obsession. Too tired.

12:47 AM. Back from break. Realised I had forgotten to hit the Divide button earlier. Oops.

Went to 52 Cygni. Sounded very familiar... Oh yeah. In the Veil Nebula (west element). Didn't realise it was a double star. It was on my observing list from the RASC coloured doubles. Curious to view it as a double system. And not in green! Long slew. THO roof jammed up half-way 'round. Very hard to turn. Argh. Very bright star. Oh my. Super tight. 4 or 5 magnitudes different. ST3 concurred: 4.2 and 9.5. At a separation of 6.4". Wow. Colour: I thought orange and dark orange. Hard to tell... Not yellow and blue. Tough split. Used the 18mm. [ed: Haas says "whitish pumpkin orange and grayish sapphire." Wow.] Could not see any nebulosity...

12:57. Decided to go to 61 Cyg. Even though I had already logged it. On my "view again." In a lot of observing lists! Slewed. Put in the wide field ocular. Near a backwards 7. Widely separated, A and B, I guessed 40; software said 31. Secondary slightly fainter than the primary. Oh. ST3 showed it as a 5, er, 6, star system. 11 light years away. A pretty system.

1:04. Saw all the elements. Cool. Including the C. I think that is why I had the C star noted separately, SAO 70912.

1:12. Heard a mosquito. [ed: And then they buzzed the recorder!] Flipped the hoodie up.

Went to NGC 7129 in the middle of Cepheus. From the RASC Finest. Spotted a small, tight pattern of stars. Bright stars. Interesting curved shape. Very compact. The stars to the south-west are brighter, slightly. Immediately I noticed a smudge or glow within the stars. Definitely there. A nebula. The fuzzy was centred within the stars. SkyTools showed the blob and labelled it Small Cluster Nebula. Uh huh. Imaginative name, yes? A diffuse nebula. Oh. Hold on. ST3 says it is a supernova remnant! Reminded me of some photos you see of the Pleiades, with the nebula weaving within the stars.

[ed: Found a great image at APOD.]

ST3 showed something off to the left (south-east). A large open cluster. Very faint stars. NGC 7142.

Synced. Wondered about putting the computer on a mobile platform. So to have it near the eyepiece. That'd be nice. But I'd have to worry about wires...

1:23. Tried to see NGC 40. In a bunch of observing lists. Got lucky finding it. Not initially in the field. Hit the Right button and stumbled across it. Put in a high power eyepiece. Looked good in the 9mm. Almost perfectly round. A cool object. Darker region around the star, then brighter, further away. ST3 says the central star is mag 11. Nice. Nice field too. Lots going on.

1:35. Perseus was rising. Not a lot of fireflies now. I wondered if it was a time thing or temperature. Could see the Andromeda galaxy naked eye.

1:42. Tried to spot the Bubble Nebula but could not detect it. Big object, according to the software! Mag 11. Near M52... Software said it was "difficult." Yes.

1:47. Went for comet C/2012 F6 (Lemmon). Saw it! Easy. Panned down a bit to NGC 7789 (which sounded familiar) to confirm my location. Interesting shape; not round. Fan shaped. Near a little triangle of stars. Bright coma. Big. Very nice! That made me very happy, for some reason.

1:53. Decided to take in Draco objects.

2:02. Found the goto off. Had to pan to the right—a lot. Disconnected the software then reconnected. Tried to get the sync working.

Found the lovely double HR 6983. Stark colours. Yellow and blue, RASC says. I thought they were about 1 mag different. Nope, 3.

2:06. Confirmed I was in the right spot. I could see the A and C stars. B is not an option. C, obvious. D was far away but much fainter (ST3 says 14.7!?). Dull. Could not detect a colour to D.

Spotted a faint tight double to the left (north). BEM 34A. Equally bright (mag 11) stars. Kinda cool.

Next up: ο (omicron) Draconis. Neat. Wide. Yellow and blue. RASC says they are lilac and green! Crazy. A three star system. C was much fainter, mag 11. But in-line. Maybe A is orange. Very attractive. Would also work at very low power.

2:14. Slewed to NGC 6503. Ooh. Nice. Sliver. Very thin, this galaxy. Quite large. Oblong. Edge on spiral. Near bright star HD 163465, mag 8.6. Very bright. Surprisingly bright galaxy. Angled NW to SE.

Noticed new objects showing up on the list, due to the time. Bonked my knee on the tripod. Would have thrown off my SP-C8. Fortunately the 'scope is very heavy. Good thing and a bad thing.

2:24. Headed to NGC 4605 in UMa. Off a little bit. Figured out where I was. Panned and found the galaxy. About the same size as 6503. It's north west edge seemed dark. Dust, in front? A little low. It might be better to view in the winter...

[ed: Looked at Tenho Tuomi's images. Wow. Very mottled. In the close-up, it seems a tiny bit darker on the top-right, which is north-west.]

After syncing, went to a Camelopardalis target. NGC 2655. A spiral. Oriented straight up and down. North-south. Neat. A bit smaller than the previous. It seemed to me a little odd that it was on the Finest list.

2:34. Remembered (at last) a faster, better way to sync. As opposed to completely quitting the application; I simply disconnected and reconnected the 'scope, in the software, after syncing. Quicker.

2:41. Spotted NGC 2715. Initially I had noted it near 2655 in the Interactive Atlas. It was extremely faint. Strange oblong little smudge. Near the 11.6 mag star TYC 04544-1844 1.

Roof jammed again. Very difficult to move. Grrr.

2:52. Viewed 1 Pegasi. A double from the RASC list. Orange and violet? Near a large flying V.

2:54. Viewed NV Peg. A variable. Wider separation, a tick more, the A-B. A, B, and C formed a little triangle. Much fainter companions. Saw a double that was not a double. Opposite orientation to 1 Peg.

Checked weather stations. Outdoor: covered in dew. Indoor: 67%, 15.7°C, pressure was dropping. Heard a low sound. Millie was closing the GBO roof. Good stuff.

3:02. Super wide. Crazy wide. HD 224083. From RASC OH. It says yellow and red. Haas says lemon and cherry! No commentary on colours from yours truly.

Oh. Interesting. Very tight. Close. V343 Peg. RASC OH said yellow and blue.

[ed: The SkyTools observing list showed HR 8833 as seen. But I did not hear any remarks on the recording...]

Decided to call it quits. Remembered to disconnect the computer software first. Hibernated the 'scope. Packed up the computer for the house.

3:10. Outside the observatory, I saw the Moon rising... Good timing!

What a great night! Initially, not looking good. But I persisted. Started out aiming in large sucker holes. Stayed in a particular constellation. Which has the fringe benefit of reducing roof rotation. It was a kick seeing the comet!


A problem emerged on playback of the audio notes. There were times where the Sony cut out. Volume too low. Not speaking loud enough. Too far away. It made for some sporadic remarks. Will need to do something about this...