Saturday, August 31, 2013

better shots

Sharmin found some better photos for the CAO Public Open House. Thanks.

Friday, August 30, 2013

looked into Yahoo!Groups

Yahoo! is upgrading their Groups product.

I had heard rumblings in other groups. Mostly moaning and complaints and outright rants (for their free services). Yahoo! flicked the switch on our groups. In short order, I changed the "home page" images for the main RASC, CAO supers, Strategy, and the Ops groups. And sent notices to all to warn of possible issues during the transition. And suggested trying different browsers, if possible.

Bryon reported problems with his Apple gear. "The new format for the Yahoo site looks great on the Mac, but does not work on an iPad. I just can see the left column and the top header." And later said, "Safari just crashes while loading." He's running OS X 10.3.9 with an old video card.

I concurred. It was wobbly for me on the iPod Touch. Fine however on my Windows XP SP3 32 bit with Firefox 23.0.1. Everything is as it should be.

Katrina checked in: "It's working OK for me on my Macbook on Safari and Firefox." Mac 10.6.3. Safari 4.0.4, Firefox 22.0. Whew.

Tim: "Working for me with IE 10.0.9200.16660 under Windows 7 Pro 64-bit under Parallels 8 (not in Coherence mode) on MacBook Pro OS X." Interesting.

Then when Rajesh uploaded a file that then council members wanted to tear down, I couldn't immediately find how to do it. The new interface messed me up. By the time I spotted where attachments were, Rajesh had already deleted it.

And then I made a stupid-user mistake. Invited myself to the group to test the invite tool. But sent to the wrong address! Doh! Wondered why, at first, it didn't work.

helped Eric with eSCOPE

Helped Eric with the eSCOPE notification. Of course, the old "portal" page didn't work.I gave him the behind-the-scenes address into the archived site.

no thanks

Out of the blue Kiron said he had decided to go to Algonquin and asked if I wanted to ride-share. Too late. Weird.

repaired Meade returned

Thierry picked up his repaired 'scope. Still no sign of the focuser yet. He gets to do that. Pointed out the new nylon bolts.

Helped him pack up and moved it to the car.

ride to Algonquin secured

The Horvatins invited me to travel with them to the Annual Algonquin Adventure. Thanks. That would actually be really helpful. They were planning to leave Thursday after work. The timing sounded perfect.

I'd have to pack light! Very light. Should I take the telescope, I wondered? That Trevor would be travelling separately from school, that the other kids were staying in the city, with puppy, meant there'd be a good amount of room. Still, I didn't relish the thought of transferring the C8. Just binos...

I was happy to hear the bike rack could handle three.

tested POH address

Tested the POH address forwarding with Lora.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

allayed Thierry's concerns

Thierry sent a note.

He wanted to know if the altitude clutch was supposed to be metal-on-metal as Clay was suggesting. I said that was correct, that was how Meade had designed it. It was like a car clutch. No lubrication should be used. And the cork was an after-market option.

He wanted to know what "lapping" of gears meant. I explained to him briefly that it was a normal way of cleaning and reconditioning gears. Like honing cylinders.

We set a pick up time.

He also drew attention to Clay's remark about "inadvertently" leaving the cork ring in the clutch when he lapped the worm gear.

More doubt.

worked on POH notice

After dinner at the Horvatins, Tony and I hammered out the CAO Public Open House article. All we needed to do was lock in speakers...

Grace found some good words regarding fees and donating.

have CLA cord...

Manuel said that KW had found the power cord for his CCD camera. All right! They were shipping it... Would it make it for the Dark Sky Observing Session next week? With the holiday...

We discussed drive times to Long Sault. He had been told it was 45 minutes. No. Over 1 hour, from west Toronto. More if the traffic's bad. Why is he resistant to new or conflicting information? He said he could not go on Monday. Now, it's a matter of weather. And my timing...

forwarded park complaint

Talked to Malcolm. Relayed my official River Place Park shower complaint. He apologised. I reiterated it wasn't his fault—it was the responsibility of the park. We agreed they should have known better.

helped Ed flip computers

Ed T, up at the CAO, on his own, reported that the dining room computer was bad. Not booting. Or rather, booting, but then looping. Sounded like a bad hard disk. Uh boy. I shared with him that a spare was on stand by. Just below the desk. On the left. He could try hooking it up. It should have a basic OS and therefore be internet ready. He could download a modern browser. He had wanted to get some work done, edit some business documents, so I suggested downloading Open Office or Libre Office. He took it on and configured the machine. Thanks! Pointed out the screen was weird, a strange aspect ratio.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Spotted a note on the Starfest page.

At least he got a laugh out of it.

developed SkyTools course material

Finished developing my SkyTools 3 level 1 intro course training hand out, essentially a quick reference guide. Actually, two.

It became apparent at the early stages that there was a lot of material that was... incongruous. I made a single page document for one-time things. Steps that one needs to do first, before doing regular work in the software. And that some users might never change again. Then I made the "usual" two-page quick reference guide for the day-to-day things, typical things done every session.

My normal method of operation when developing training materials and building courses is to consider the content in a double-sided quick reference document stuff that can be covered in about 3 hours. Or a half-day course. I don't know now, with 50% more material, how this might play out.

Foolish, I am. Should have learned my lesson. The Stellarium course I built I tried, the first time, to cram into 2 hours. It was not enough. The second run, at 3 hours, was a better fit. For this SkyTools, I'm going to have to step on it right from the get-go!

work up to it

Leslie asked me about SkyTools...Was thinking about jumping on the NYAA order so to obtain the Pro version. Really? I asked how she liked the software so far and what her goals were. She admitted that she had not even fired up the Starter Edition. I urged her to save her money.

everybody's doing it; except us

Nice. The Ontario Science Centre posted a helpful infographic on their Facebook page about Mars and the Moon. They must be getting a ton of queries too. Simple and clear. Breaking down myths; relaying good science.

I checked the article I wrote for the RASC Toronto Centre web site. It is still without the infographics that I produced.

Jason has still not put them online. Jason did not reply to my question about receiving them. Jason did not acknowledge my offer to help.

discussed power concerns

Manuel contacted me. He was keen to visit Long Sault. Cool! But he was concerned, rightly so, about power. He said, "the camera "takes a lot of juice." Asked him what he meant by that. He said that the camera killed the battery quickly. Why? How? How was it connected? When he explained he ran the CCD camera by its AC adapter, I explained that was the source of the problem. He didn't understand. I explained that the converting voltage from 12 VDC up to a high VAC itself was inefficient. Didn't make sense if the end device needed 12 or 9 volts. Most of the power was being lost in the up-conversion. I suggested he find CLA DC adapters for his imaging camera and his portable computer. There were likely many options. One could also look into an adapter from The Source. Sounded like he had reached his destination and was climbing out of his car. I also reminded him that he could use my power tank system with dual marine batteries.

no pin for you

Eric sent me a note. Copied Stu.
Belated congrats on your Messier Certificate.  I think I saw your observing logbook at an event this spring at the DDO, but it didn't register with me yet.  I hadn't been getting updates from you for Certificate Corner.  Have the national observing committee come through with your certificate and pin yet?  If not, please get someone to photograph you getting the treatment.  I guess we should take care of that for you actually.
A funny read.

Lots of thoughts, again... And then for each sentence:
  1. Thank you. Sort of. I accept the accolade for completing the list.
  2. I don't think so. I never gave a log book to anyone per se. And besides. It's all online! Maybe, when at the DDO, I showed someone a sketch. Even then, I only finished viewing all the Messiers in May. He must be thinking of someone else, I wondered.
  3. That's because I did not submit items to the SCOPE certificate section.
  4. No one at national provided a certificate or pin. That's because I didn't submit anything to them either.
  5. Don't hold your breath for a photograph of someone giving me a pin!
  6. Ha. I agree...
And suddenly I thought, "He's going to do something!" Quickly, I asked him to not publish anything. He acknowledged my request.

planning ahead

Manuel asked me if the Ring Nebula would be a more suitable target for his new C11.


another try (Etobicoke)

Manuel tried some more processing. Sent over his "final" version.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

got a galaxy (Etobicoke)

Manuel sent over a photo after some processing. The Andromeda Galaxy, M31, through his little refractor. From Saturday/Sunday. M110 and 32 too! Down to magnitude 15 or 16. Some dust lanes in the arms.

Not bad, given the elevation, heat from the houses, local light pollution, Moon light, etc.

I was pleased to see fairly round stars and relatively little trailing. The Orion Atlas polar alignment process I had helped him with worked out pretty good.

Monday, August 26, 2013

been there, got the neutrino

Neatorama posted an article on the most extreme laboratories on (or above) the Earth. Wow. I've been in one of them! With Katrina. Charles, recently. I shared with them.

added more

Checked with Tony. We prepared the list of work party volunteers for the VAB.

added to VAB list

Helped Charles with the VAB, sending over the telescope clinic volunteer list.

talked about the clinic

Phoned Mike at the Dunlap Institute to hear, in his words, what he wanted to do, in terms of helping telescope users, in the portion of the event called the clinic. I shared what we had done in January at the DDO. And it sounded like, what U of T wanted to do within the Toronto Science Festival, was pretty light, simple, easy to do.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

recorded without permission

I had set out my voice recorder on Saturday night. Carsten spotted it. Interested on one hand, in the technology. But very displeased that I had not asked permission first. He was absolutely right, of course.

I feel badly and want to apologise directly with him...

aligning with a camera

Carsten talked about polar aligning with a web cam. Some videos he had seen on the web. Interesting. I snooped around. Found something, in two parts:


helped at parkette (Etobicoke)

Helped Carsten and Manuel at the parkette. Set up and tear down.

Once again, Manuel seemed to struggle with polar aligning his Atlas. The mount was not level; he had misread the bubble level. He was way off initially from Polaris. I could tell by eyeballing it. And he didn't consider that a tightened tripod bolt would prevent the mount from rotating in azimuth. That was a light-bulb moment for him!

Carsten struggled with the colour MallinCam Xtreme on his Vixen VMC. When I had a go, in the latest Control software, I found the gain set way too low. Tagged the Ring Nebula. Beautiful. I also assured him the image on the external monitor was the same as the laptop, i.e. the hot pixels were the same. And urged him to use the TEC. Recommended a tether for the camera. Suggested strain relief on the cables. Checked out his little MallinCam USB video grabber. Discussed image file formats. Went to the Moon at one point to check settings and focus. I noted the small dark maria on the east limb: Grimaldi. Thought it was Copernicus, with the bright rays, to the south; nope, Tycho.

At one point, I wanted to "sync" the mount. Carsten couldn't remember exactly how to do it. We explored the menus but could not see anything obvious. He did not have the Orion manual on his computer unfortunately.

Learned about Nanuk Cases. Carsten had a couple. Tough, crush resistant resin, stackable. Like Pelican but a Canadian product. He also picked up an expensive pistol case from Base Pro. Cheap! Clever.

Noted Carsten's finder. A short straight tube; red dot visible within. 1x, I presume. Different. He shared that it is the baader planetarium SkySurfer. He really liked it.

I also noted his ruggedized Dell 630 XFR. Touch screen. Protective shell. SSD drive. Inexpensive on eBay.

Everybody was pretty happy by night's end. It was good meeting Carsten. Hopefully he'll make his way up to the Carr. I was encouraged by his learning style. He wants to know how things work, he wants to know the background, the theory. He wants to learn the sky.


I found notes about synching the SynScan.
  1. Press the ESC key.
  2. Hold the ESC again for 2 seconds.
  3. Press ENTER.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

a new low

The DDO Facebook page posted a link to a video for dogs jumping on a trampoline. The poster admitted "this has absolute nothing to do with the Observatory or astronomy." What the hell? Really, pathetic. Thanks for undermining our credibility and professionalism. I asked some of the executive if they thought this appropriate.

set the date and time

Manuel contacted me. The plan was to meet up at 8:45. Carsten was going to be there with his big SCT and MallinCam. Manuel wanted me to meet Carsten. Said he was interested in the CAO. They were both interested in imaging. Something about M31. I wondered if it was a little inappropriate, given the Moon light, elevation, timing, size, etc. Would have Glenfiddich at the ready. Good. Some grease.

The new Metaguide software he was hot about apparently crashed a lot. That's too bad. He removed it. Next! Didn't MaxIm do this? Manuel was not comfortable with it. Understandable—it's a big product. He said he had figured out Atlas mount. The "tek" was very loose. Couldn't use azimuth knobs. [ed: I mis-heard him. He meant the peg, the steel peg on the tripod that the azimuth knobs pushed against.] Sounded like something was still wobbly and that I should take a look.

ignoring national

Shut off the notifications from the national (unofficial, open) RASC Facebook page. A lot of spam lately. And getting worse. It is so badly managed that it is not worth listening in. They've lost control.

want me to do it?

Asked Jason if he had a change to upload the new graphics for the Mars article.

Suggested I could do it if he was too busy.

Friday, August 23, 2013

beers and rockets

Mmm. Tasty new beer. With rocket ships! Mad & Noisy Brewing Hops & Bolts India Pale Lager.

Made by the Creemore crew. It's not for the faint of hops...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

forgotten 'scope?

Mom told me she and Dad gave me a little telescope when I was a kid. Really? Why don't I remember that?

no time

Jason reported he hadn't had time to upload the graphics.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

the carrot

Clay responded. Interesting.
That knob was made for about two years and frankly was one of the best aftermarket products ever offered for the LX200;  the smoothest focuser ever to be put on the scope.  The large knob was ideal for precise focus and the unit exhibited absolutely no backlash whatsoever.  Very well made and under $100 back in 2005.

If you can get your hands on one, run to do it...  they are worth every penny.  Note that this was a complete unit, not just a substitute knob.  It contained its own internal bearings, threaded rod and connecting tab that was far superior to the Meade original.

As you realize, they are not available and probably less than 250 of them were produced.
Would have been helpful, even if they're long gone, to get a name. Some more info. Where? When? An individual? Alive, still? A company? Perhaps they are still around...

Chris likes it

Chris V. gave Jason and I a thumbs-up for the Mars article. And a suggestion...

Under the final recap, he’d stress... really close every 16 years, but NEVER close enough to be more than a tiny orange dot, even in a backyard telescope.

I agree.

If I could edit the article, I would.

needed more eyes

Put the word out. On Cloudy Nights, the RASC Toronto Centre web site, the LX200 GPS group. Asking if anyone recognised this after market focuser:

Some unique features: nylon end piece, thrust bearings, aluminium top-hat, brass shaft, brass nut, big aluminium 2¼" diameter knob.

opened the LX200

Affected repairs on the LX200 10-inch.

Opened the OTA.
  • verified no (additional) damage behind mirror (e.g. focusing lock threads)
  • damaged focus yoke pin removed
  • new focus yoke pin fabricated and installed
  • locking gear straightened
  • locking gear reinstalled
  • locking gear positioned for mirror install
  • inspected OTA for FOD
  • inside of OTA cleaned
  • mirror assembly reinstalled
  • slider C-clip reinstalled
  • corrector reinstalled
  • corrector secured
  • corrector cleaned
  • end cap on mirror lock straightened
  • end cap on mirror lock reinstalled
  • mirror lock assembly reinstalled
  • mirror lock tested: OK
  • installed new nylon bolts in finder scope bracket
So. All I need is a focuser assembly. And the 'scope is back in business.

checked in

No response from Jason. Asked if he received my updates. In particular the new graphic images redone according to his specifications.

strong enough

Tony assured me the rolled 1/8" steel rod would be strong enough. And if lubricated, it should not take on rust.

what about the graphics?

Jason "touched" the Mars article. Adding headings to improve readability.

I reported a few layout / text wrapping problems.

Asked if he received the new graphics.

the big door

Tony phoned. The Owen Sound garage door people had been by already. Said the springs were wrong. The ones they had installed. Huh. Tony was looking for some advice. I green-lit his choice.

on the grub

The pin on the focusing yoke of the LX200 GPS is bent. It needs to be replaced. I tried to remove the pin. Incredibly, I can actually reach the yoke and put the Allen key on the grub screw in the yoke!

But there's not enough room or clearance to turn the grub. I even put the Allen key inside the 'scope but, not surprisingly, I could not put any force to speak of on the key. I need to open the 'scope.

it's the job of RASC

Allard sent a curious note suggesting that we perhaps not publish an article about Mars. Because that will feed the trolls. What? So we do nothing?

Unpleasant thoughts flickered at the edges...

Will the RASC Toronto web site not warehouse any valuable, informative, corrective, helpful astronomy content? Will it be a pretty web site only encouraging people to come to star parties?

Did I just waste hours of time? My personal time trying to help RASC. Trying to help the astronomical community. Trying to help the general public?

Professor Delaney chimed in: Clarifying information and ensuring the community knows what is real and what is fictitious is always important. "Blake's article, and those like it, are essential and it is more than appropriate that the RASC engage in this type of Public Outreach." Then Ralph. We have to "get behind" this. OK.

Mars is super

Will Mars be as big as the Moon? No. No it won't. Never.

chopped it

Jason said some friends, curiously, asked about Mars. He referred them to my article. He said they thought the article too long. I précised it! From 840 words to 470. Resubmitted.

don't like it

Bill sent me a lovely photo of the super blue Moon. Too bad I don't like it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

oops, n/a

Me and my big mouth. When Genevieve asked about going to the CAO and immediately jumped up and encouraged her to go. Forgetting to check the schedule. TO check with Lora. There was a private event. Oops!

created new graphics

Jason asked me to redo the graphics for the article. I redid them. Submitted. Along with clarification as to where they are to go in the text.

a video software collimation tool

Manuel heard about MetaGuide. Sounded like a good solution for collimation. It used a video camera and some clever software algorithms. Shared, excitedly, the URL with me.

He said, "the image will never go out of the field." Surmising we'd find it better than our current video techniques. I wondered how the software could manage that, if we were at high magnification with the C8.

Manuel said he had already downloaded the software but not installed it. Hoped to use it soon. OK then.

refreshed Mars article

Wrote updated copy and made new graphics for the Mars web article. For the RASC Toronto Centre web site. Submitted.

to follow the RASCTO calendar

Tried opening the RASC TC events calendar, errors and all, in the iTouch. Directly, inside the Calendar app. Didn't work. Hmm. Would I be further divorced from activities and future events?

Tried adding the calendar to my Google Calendar. No problem. Available on the desktop. And therefore Rainmeter.

Then I tried to add the calendar, in the iTouch, again. No reference in the Google calendar lists. Stymied.


Had another go. Went in via the Settings.

And finally figured it out. Subscribed calendars.

found focuser bits

Found a complete replacement for the focuser assembly.

what does 23½ have to do with it?

Something doesn't seem right in that info graphic. The RASC Toronto Centre Facebook referred directly to a graphic image on the gawker assets page without any explanation.

Is it our job to educate?

I understood immediately the intention of the graphic. The wobble is a reference to our "precession." The very slow (imperceptible) top-like spin of the planet in space. And how this prescribes a large circle in space. But where, at a given moment, or years, or decades, the Earth's axis is pointing. Which amateur astronomers worry about. That's the North Celestial Pole.

Feelings aside, that this is an odd thing to refer to without any explanation, that the circle takes 26000 years to complete, I stared at the info graphic. And something struck me, within the graphic, as odd. 23½ degrees. I wondered if that was right. I wondered if the graphic designer confused this angle with our current tilt of the Earth from the solar system ecliptic.

But, I could be wrong. I'll have to research this. Coincidence? Or are they one in the same thing? I wondered if the angle of the precession circle (from the pole) had nothing to do with 23½ degrees.


Wikipedia to the rescue. The article on the precession , with references to the Earth, shows that the 23½ is correct. And I stand corrected.

found azimuth bits

Found a Dec/Alt knob assembly.

tested LX200 outside

Tested Thierry's telescope at night. In so-so skies. And a nearly full Moon.

Put forceps on the focus bar (yoke) pin so that I could push and pull the mirror. Reattached the lock knob. I knew it would be the only way to freeze the mirror.

Viewed the Moon. Was able to get to focus by pushing and pulling on the forceps.. Yeh, it works!

Attached my old Meade t-adapter. Ha! Canon t-ring. Shot a photo. Tough, with the forceps, to get fine focus.

Tie-wrapped a small finder to the big OTA.

I then ran through the "Easy" align process. A couple of times. It suggested Vega for an alignment star. Very challenging, getting stars without a finder and focusing while the 'scope was nearly vertical. But I finally got it. Rejected a number of the second alignment stars; could see Shedir. Tested the go-to. Seemed fine.

I finished up slewing to Polaris and looking for the faint companion double star. Saw it, even though slightly out of focus. Yellow and blue.

I saw that the collimation was off a bit.

Surprised with the handbox. I found the buttons finicky at times. Very.

I'm satisfied that the optics are OK. The focusing and the lock seem to work. The electronics, again, seem to be fine.

Sent an update.

spotted a flare (Toronto)

Saw some thing flare up and disappear. Bright, briefly. Left of Cassiopeia. Heavens Above did not show an Iridium satellite at that time...

LX200 observations

Pros and cons, I suppose.

Seems to be solid construction over all. Handsome forks.

I like the battery compartments everywhere. Wonder how long they last.

I like a number of the Meade handbox or hand controller features. In particular, I like the "reverse" effect. The LCD display (while still a tiny stupid two line panel) shows with light characters on a dark background. It is surprising how satisfying that is. The keys, as well, are in the same style. Black, with only the code or number lit.

The GPS routine is maddening. Asterisks slowly build across the display giving the impression of progress. But no. It clears at the end... And repeats. Tick, tick, tick, reset, tick, tick... So now the user has no sense of how long this goofy thing is going to take. I hate that. Don't recycle it. Or show actual messages, like "Acquiring satellite 2... Acquiring satellite 3..."

The keys or buttons however are... awkward. The tactile response is not positive. The keys wobble a bit. But, more importantly, the contact is poor. Some keys require very high pressure; others a light touch. It is disconcerting. It does not respond at times. Other times one gets a double entry.

So. As usual, it looks great, but doesn't work well. Hate that. Form over function.

Took me a while to figure out that MODE is the key to back up. It is constantly intriguing why the telescope companies build interfaces in such strange ways, given the proliferation of computers and software. Why not mimic computer commands or keys so that people will instantly know what to do. Enter and Escape. Celestron has Enter and Undo.

And, like Celestron, this handbox has two sets of Up and Down arrows. The top ones are for slewing, that's pretty obvious; the lower ones are for "scrolling." Through menus. Why not say that then. Scrl Up and Scrl Dn. I suppose that gets into language issues. But in a broader sense, why don't they consistently use the slew buttons to navigate the menus, ditch the scroll buttons, and then there's easily space for two more useful keys?

The panning SPEED control is interesting. One choice is 2X. Two times what? Others are more technical: 3°/SEC. And then MAX. I think I favour the Celestron: 1 is slow; 9 is fast. A minor nit.

Oh my goodness! A long cord! Wow! Who'da thunk it? Putting a very long coiled cord on the handbox. What a joy...

The alignment routine is very interesting. The LX200 GPS does many things on its own to ensure a good setup. I like how it checks for level several times. Thierry said it averages the values after a few samples. I was very impressed to see it turn 90° and take the level, and then another 90°, and do it all again. Very good. Doing things on behalf of the user. It does however take time.

The stock eyepiece, no surprise here, is terrible. Really poor eye relief. Almost unusable with eyeglasses.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Salvatore caught the nova

Salvatore shared a wide field image, on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group, with the nova at the centre. Shot at the CAO. He used the Vixen Polarie. Neat!

Global article up

Global News article on the nova went up. Article by Nicole Mortillaro.

Photo by Bill Longo. Animation by E. Guido & N. Howes. Words by Randy Attwood. Software by Greg Crinklaw.

it happened

The message I've been waiting for—hoping for—arrived today. I had to read it a few times.

prepared graphics

Prepared the info graphics for Nicole's story.

confirmed operation of Dobsonian

Talked to Ian W. about the Dob at the DDO. He agreed with my analyses from Saturday night and the steps I took to fix it.

Ian also agreed that it needs a tune-up and some minor repair. We're going to try to do that in a couple of weeks.

a little stale

Checked the RASC TC web site. Nothing about Mars. Nothing about the nova. A pity.

week end photos

Katrina shared some nice photos from last week end, while she was at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Beautiful rich sunsets. Gear on the Observing Pad.

And people enjoying the 14" on the Paramount. Photo by Katrina. Used with permission.

he likes it!

Malcolm P. and I chatted briefly. He shared his regrets, not being able to visit me or Jim during our talks at Starfest. He was stomping out fires. I can well imagine. But when I suggested a redux of SkyTools, he was very happy.

Guy referred me to Kendrick

I had put the word out. I was looking for a dew shield for the NexStar 11 up at the CAO. Guy pointed out the Kendrick had some. Great price.

names wrong

While RASC TC compliments its members, it spells their names wrong.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

reviewed the damage

Thierry just left.

He arrived on time with his Meade LX200 GPS in a JMI case. We hauled it up to the kitchen table. He was keen to start. So we do the analyses together. He brought some Allen keys. I fetched my set from the garage along with my halogen work lights.

We disassembled the right fork and focusing controls, photo documenting along the way. We started by removing the facia on the right fork, so to look at the Dec/Alt Slow Motion control.

We found a cork ring, torn, behind the clutch plate, tangled up in the axis. This would normal sit on the track of the clutch and serve as an interface between the large motor gear and the clutch. We gentled removed the ring. It was covered in grease.

The thin smooth metal shaft to the Dec motor was clearly bent. But there did not appear to be damage elsewhere. The transmission looked fine. I did note that the suspension spring mount and seat did not appear to be in alignment, but it still functioned correctly.

We turned the mirror shift locking knob. There seemed to be no resistance or tension. It was spinning freely. Normally it would tighten snugly and then loosen and never run free. We removed the knob assembly. The end plate was clearly bent. Flanged out in two places, in fact.

Now we could see inside the rear cell. The large wheel with teeth, which operates the collet, was some distance way. Far enough that the lock gear was not engaged. That explained why we were not feeling any resistance. The mirror (and gear) had moved toward the corrector, far enough, so that the lock and gear were not touching. It looked like the mirror assembly had been violently moved forward making the gear "hop" over the end plate.

We turned the locking gear by hand and found the damaged area. It was deformed, bent toward the front of the OTA.

Turned the after market focus knob. Looking through the lock port, we could see the mirror move a little bit. And it really only worked one way. So we removed the focuser assembly. Oh dear. Focus rod was badly bent. There's some minor damage to the plastic widget at the end.

There was also quite a lot of scaring on the (soft) brass focus knob shaft. Nothing that will affect operations. 

Then we looked into the focus port. We could see the focus yoke on the back of the mirror. And, sadly, the pin at the end of the yoke, also bent.

Clearly a lot of damage. A half-dozen or so parts to be replaced or repaired. We considered the next steps. I really wanted to see what was going on in the mirror cell but Thierry was a little reluctant to proceed. We decided to leave opening the OTA for another day.

We then tested the electronics. Everything seemed fine. We did a simulated alignment. Slewed to objects. It looked like it was performing fine.

Then, pushing on the mirror directly, we brought the OTA to focus, looking at a roof line down the street. The optics seemed OK.

I committed to sourcing or replacing parts, conducting research, and getting him up and running.

mine field

Stumbled across this advert in Astro Buy and Sell.
An army of stock to serve you better!  Cuz... 
...We mean "biz".  Friendly & Honest advice.
Yeah. Going to their store is like going to war. You might be maimed, shot at, tortured. If you still have all your limbs, you'll still have to deal with PTSD.

Malcolm shot the nova

Malcolm got a great shot of the nova, with NGC 6905 off to the side! Over on The Face Book.

shooed bees

Chatted with Tony. He and Tim shooed the bees out of the reader last night. Removed a hive with about 40 larvae. We talked about the new keypad. The roof drive. Observing last night. Their plans.

helped Krista back in

I saw the automatic confirmation note from Yahoo. Received last night. Krista had successfully joined the RASC Toronto Centre group. Finally. That only took a month and a half.

imaged the nova with Sharmin (Richmond Hill)

11:24 PM, Saturday, August 17, 2013. I redid the alignment with the GoToStar system. In preparation for chasing down the nova in Delphinus.

Nicole G asked if we'd could see the nova naked eye. I suggested it was not possible tonight, here.

Chris V helped me get to SAO 106357. And I finally found the nova. In the Orion finder scope. Huh. I hadn't noticed before. The nova and 29 Vulpecula were slightly different colours.

Sharmin C said hello. We caught up briefly. She herself was trying to find the nova, with her binoculars.

Bryon C took a look. He thought it was slightly brighter than 29 Vul.

11:45. Showed Nicole the nova, in my finder. She too thought it slightly brighter.

Paul M and Rajesh S were leaving. I returned the Do Not Touch card and the step stool.

Sharmin found the nova. Yeh.

Ralph C popped by. I had seen him, briefly, early but he had not seen me. He thought the nova brighter than last night. And currently marginally brighter than 29 Vul.

Sharmin was lying on the ground with her binos. Asked if she wanted a tarp to lie on. Too late.

Shared how I had helped people up at the CAO, last night, to find the nova.

Noticed the Vixen was getting near the meridian. Still had room. But without sensors, I had to check for a collision. I didn't look forward to reacquiring on the other side... Partly because I couldn't remember the SAO number. Hadn't written it down. And couldn't seem to find details in the hand controller for the current viewed object. Asked Sharmin if she would record the current RA and Dec numbers.

Readied for piggybacking! Tried to secure the mini tripod to the counter weight shaft but was worried about twisting. As I suspected, the ¼-20 mount wanted to spin. Ah. I could secure on the counter weight themselves. Between the clamp screws. It looked like it would work. Thank you Velcro! Attached the camera and gingerly released it. It worked. It was steady. Aligned the camera lens parallel to the OTA.

All photos: north is up; east is left.

Started adjusting the camera settings. Turned off AF. Set to 18mm. Focused past infinity, then back a bit. Saw some flaring. Put the hood on the lens. Took test shots. Dropped the exposure to 15. Saw that the focus was improving. Considered a light shield. Reached better focus. Checked settings. 1000 ISO, RAW, daylight. Dropped the ISO. Better. Spotted Altair in the LCD, woo hoo, and Delphinus near the middle. Adjusted the focus again. Still better. Saw Sagitta. Confirmed the nova! Dropped to 400 ISO, 20 seconds. Almost pinpoint stars.

Sharmin wanted to know how I knew what would be in the picture. Told her I had pre-checked the field of view sizes in SkyTools.

Sharmin liked my red LED pen. She was impressed with my deep red flashlight. Liked my tripod tray illuminator. And then was not surprised that I had built my own UV flashlight.

Zoomed about half-way. The focus changed, of course. Corrected. Put the dew heater one. Activated the 2 second timer. Check the shots. Clear. Easy to see. A lot of colour in Sagitta. Focused again. I was at 30 seconds. The max. Check clearances on the mount. Still OK.

12:34 AM, Sunday, August 18, 2013. I thought we were pretty good. 200 ISO was too low. Too dark. Decided on 400. Saw some trailing. Good focus. Pointy stars. Saw the faint double beside the nova. Wow.

Collab! We shot with the Moon blocked. Sharmin held the light shield in the way. Hey! We got the Coathanger. I let her release the shutter; while I held the shield. Don't forget to breathe! Good collaboration.

40D, 18-55mm lens at 33, lens hood, hand-held light shield, 25 seconds, f/4.5, ISO 400, RAW, daylight white balance, Adobe RGB, no noise reduction, 2 second timer, piggybacked on the Vixen Super Polaris, not precisely polar aligned, no post-processing.

Took darks with a black hat. Actually the Starfest cap. Sharmin spotted the holes. Right. We used her case instead. We discussed if we could do better. My objective was to get the nova with 29. We decided it was good enough.

Offered my camera for her own shots but she declined.

We talked about my lens strap. Removed during the imaging run to avoid vibration. She's lost her lens cap three times. She has the opposite problem.

Sharmin enjoyed this. She thought it something she'd like to try. I was happy overall with the telescope and mount. The piggyback was fun.

Tear down time. Sharmin helped me. She picked up the stars while I taped up the box.

12:57. Weather check. 81%. 14.0. Rain tomorrow. Pressure dropping. Damp. Sharmin said the N11 at the CAO needed a dew shield. Quite correct. I said we were already looking into it. Durham had one for $75.

Oh oh. Found a DDO part. A 2-to-1¼" adapter. Sharmin said she'd take care of it. She'd take it back and she'd return on Friday.

She spotted a bright star in the east. Wasn't sure what it was. What constellation would that be? We think of it as a winter constellation. Auriga. When she asked me what the lucida was, I drew a blank. [ed: Capella.] We lugged stuff to the car.

1:10. After spotting my home-made focusing mask, Sharmin packed up the finder scope. I packed the OTA in the soft case.

As we packed up all the little items, we chatted about Manuel. We had seen him briefly at the DDO tonight. I suspected he had worked late. I knew his plans to image with a friend had been thwarted. Talked about the issues at Starfest. She agreed: we're not baby sitters. Then we carried the last items to the car... Checked the grounds with a white flash light. Found two stars!

Packed the car in earnest. The big deal was finding a spot for the battery tank. I tried the trunk. Too tall. To the back seat then. Sharmin was impressed with the portable picnic table. I love it. And it's how I learned about kijiji.

1:45. We left the grounds.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

helped at the star talk night (Richmond Hill)

Earlier, I had decided to just leave the Sony voice recorder running. Capture the whole evening! A spin-off would be that I could capture people's reactions. I love what people say...

7:45 PM. Walking to and from the parking lot, I saw Shawn L arrive. Nicole and Gilles G were just ahead of me. Others were arriving. To volunteer, help, run the show, herd, speak, explain, demonstrate. And slowly people, guests, visitors started to arrive. Getting ready for The DDO Show.

Tom hadn't brought a 'scope. I suggested he could fly the other Dob. We could fetch it once someone unlocked the dome. I aimed the 12½ to the Moon. Which, unfortunately, was still behind the trees.

Asked Rajesh S where north was: follow the path. Oh! That's easy. The walking path from the ellipse to the dome is parallel to north.

Karen M said she liked my astronomy chair. I told her that it was a Getgood design. Long gone. Which is a pity. He did great work.

She also thought the glow-in-the-dark stars were a nice touch. Thanks.

Byron C wondered what the wheelbarrow was for. Ha ha! The handles for the big Dob. Maia wondered where the Dob was from. A DDO 'scope. Made by Ian Wheelband, I shared.

Gilles liked my posted directions to the nova. "It's just up there," he laughed. Yep. Find the Dolphin and go up! Then turn left.

Tom and I retrieved the other Dob from the dome. Found it needed collimating too. Reminded him of my film tube collimator.

At last, I spotted the Moon in "my" Dob.

I found the Rigel finder was not working. Asked Paul Mortfield about spare batteries. He returned with a 3-pack of CR 2032 coins.

Spotted Lucy. Gave her the Starfest t-shirt. She put it on right away. Nice. I had my Starfest cap on.

I aligned the finder scope against the Celestron OTA using a distant tree.

Nicole and Gilles gave me a personal tour of the R.K. Dome. Amazing work. It looked beautiful. Impressive that he built the 110 VDC supply. Serious stuff. He also gave me a peek at the top dome. An even more challenging project...

Grabbed a couple bottles of water. Thanks!

Received glow-in-the-dark ties from Gilles. One wouldn't fit around my wrist. Karin chained two and suggested my neck. Nope. Big neck. I hooked into a belt loop. Thanks!

I found that the Sony recorder had died... Swapped out the weak battery.

8:29. I checked the little weather station. Humidity: 50%. Temperature: 17.7°C.

Chatted with Lucy about Starfest. She asked if it rained. Not much actually. Shared that, overall, it was great. Elaine and Tony were awesome. Lucy said she's gone once, 12 years ago, and it was hot and stormy.

We viewed the Moon. I offered the Dob to Nicole. Later I noted a neat crater, with two little baby craters inside it, equally sized. I wondered if it was Casatus. Tom spotted the weird elongated crater near the top (south) edge. I saw it later. That was Crater Schiller. It's 179 by 71 km. Weird. He pointed out Tycho near the top (in the field) and Copernicus (to the centre right). Told Tom I had noted Iridium last night. The far wall was lit while the floor was black. Very stark.

Shawn L found Saturn. With his SkyScout and binoculars. I kept scanning naked eye but could not spot it.

The mozzies were bad. My little Off! fan seemed to have little effect. And there was only one bat flying around!

8:43. Tom asked Paul again for the laser collimator. Paul kept getting distracted.

8:54. Looked at Saturn through Lucy's little Dob. Then found it naked eye, while standing behind her OTA. Walked to my 'scope, following it in the sky. Manually moved the Vixen mount, declutched, to the area. Then slewed with the GoToStar to the ringed planet. Put the finder on it but it was not in the eyepiece. Briefly grabbed my low power eyepiece from the Dob. Panned. Finally found it. Focused. Spotted Titan.

Fixed the C8 finder scope alignment.

Paul drifted through. Reminded us to sign-in. I asked where the sheet was but he had drifted away. I suspected it was in the admin building.

Tom took a look in the C8. Titan to the bottom-right (4:00 o'clock position). Rhea, with the planet, and Titan, would form an equilateral triangle.

9:02. The seeing looked fair. I bumped the power to 222x with the Tele Vue 9mm Nagler. It was surprisingly good. Not too soft.

I remembered I was still not polar aligned. It was getting busy and I kept forgetting to do it. Warned viewers they might experience drifting.

Shawn and Tom looked at the Double Double in binoculars.

Saw some people at the Dob. I centred on the Moon for them. Super bright. "Oh, wow!"

Showed people Saturn in the SCT. We chatted about field orientation. Rotated in the Newtonian; flipped in the Schmidt.

A woman in the group talked Mizar and Alcor as an eye test. I moved the SCT to the area to show Mizar A and B. Dropped the power. "Oh my goodness. Ah!" The older woman gasped. "That's very cool. Very interesting."

Shawn helped people at the Dob. But he said, "Beware. You don't want to look at it too long."

Tom said he wasn't enjoying using the other Dobsonian. He couldn't use the Rigel finder. He's used to a Telrad I guess.

9:21. I started to do my official polar alignment. I found I was already on Polaris. Ha. How about that. I made a very slightly adjustment.

A woman dropped by. She had just viewed Saturn. She was "in awe."

Started the two star alignment with the GoToStar. Choose Albireo for the first star. I got a little confused with the sky orientation.

Shawn talked about the Moon in the Dob again. "It'll blind you if you stare at it too long."

Well. That was a little strong. It's very bright. Could use a density filter...

9:32. Continued the alignment. Figured out the sky. Closed in on Albireo.

Nudged the Dob again. Put it on the Moon for people. Assured viewers it was safe to view the Moon. A woman drew her son away, "It will hurt your eye." It's OK. Won't hurt you. Just very bright against the black sky.

Continued the alignment. Alphecca was the next suggested alignment star. Altair was too close. I choose Arcturus. Centred on Arcturus. Done. At last.

Shawn tried to charge my stars with his green laser. Ugh.

Slewed to Saturn. Bull's eye! Synced on the planet. Bumped the power on Saturn again. It was looking good.

I heard Sharmin C. But, a moment later, couldn't find her.

Helped people nudge the Dob to centre on the Moon. Helped a woman take a picture of the Moon with her smartphone. Helped a young couple. "Oh wow. Oh my God. This is by far the coolest."

Lucy popped by. They were looking at the nova. She was pleased that her 10mm eyepiece was working OK.

9:44. The Psion alarmed. Five minute warning for the International Space Station flyover.

9:48. A young man said, "That is so cool. That's Titan!" One minute warning to the ISS.

9:50. Space station rose over the trees to the north west. Six humans up there! It grew brighter near Cassiopeia. Suddenly had an idea. I run to the Dob and tracked the ISS. It was fast, stars zipping by! I could see panels and the main body. I watched it go into sunset. That was fun!

It was great having the SCT on Saturn, tracking. I could leave it alone. While I was helping with the Dob.

Talked for a while to a clever young boy. He knew a good amount of astronomy.

A man asked about Mars. Explained it was a morning planet right now. He thought he had seen it. I suggested, if it was bright white or beige, it was Jupiter. Mars would be left, lower, fainter, and orangey. He said he worked nights. So he'd look for it in the morning. He was excited.

I headed to the Ring Nebula. Was off a little bit.

A little girl asked me, "What are you looking at?" I told her about the Ring. An old star that blew up. She said, "Is it cool?" I agree! She took a look. "A green or grey thing." I asked her if it was a perfect circle. She didn't think so. She liked the name Messier 57 (M57).

A few of us talked about the colours. "Beautiful." And, "Whoa." Love that.

Explained how the ocular changes the magnification. Recommended different magnifications for different objects. Showed my case. And talked about the benefits of a doubler.

Lucy asked me to help a family with a small refractor. She thought it a low-quality department store 'scope. Nope. Nice. A SkyWatcher. She tuned up the finder scope. We looked at the Moon. And then I suggested Mizar. The little boy tried, was certain he had it, but he ended up on Alkaid. I helped them get to the double star. They enjoyed that. We talked about eyepieces. I suggested that that be the first thing to change. Lucy had a great idea. Keep the old eyepieces around. You don't have to worry about dropping them, etc.

Maia started flying the Dob. She showed the Andromeda galaxy to visitors. Then the Double Cluster. Loaned her my green laser.

10:51. A man was very impressed with the tracking feature of my setup. I checked the conditions. 71% and 15.5°C. Lucy headed out; had an early start.

I considered going to double γ (gamma) Delphini. I tried to find it by the hand controller. I wondered by the SAO number was. Felt a little lost without some software. And I had forgotten to pull out one of my atlases. Couldn't remember where gamma was... Didn't have an internet connection... Borrowed Brian's PSA. [ed: Need to make sure that the list printed from SkyTools has the J2000 coordinates.]

11:15. Slewed and the 'scope went in a weird direction. Aiming down! Started to wonder if I had mounted the OTA wrong. I had installed the tube on the mount with the motor on the east side and suddenly I thought that wrong. [ed: Forgetting that I've checked the axis scale at 90 on the west side before.] With considerable effort, remounted the OTA. And it was clearly wrong.

11:20. While Chris V watched, I tried a slew. Oh oh. That didn't work... I had it in the right orientation the first time. Doh! [eh: Some high contrast stickers, maybe?]

Five minute warning went off. I shared the details of the next station pass. WNW. A shortie. Low. Paul took people near the admin building. They saw it. It never rose over the trees for me.

11:24. While Maia was showing people Almach, Paul came by. Grounds were closing. Maia returned my laser. I pocketed it. She left shortly afterwards.

Paul packed up the 12.5" Dob. I pointed out the sock. Installed the lid. Retrieved my eyepiece. Apprised him of the collimation challenges. They hauled it to the dome.

Asked if anyone knew the SAO of γ Del. Or α (alpha). Saulocin? Chris provided the number: 106357. I forgot to sync. Finally got into the 'hood. The Dolphin. As Byron packed up, I readied for the next event.

It was good to help out. I like being under the David Dunlap Observatory dome, hearing it turn, rumbling along, the echo of voices within. It didn't seem as busy overall as other times. Did they have a sold out crowd this time? It was fun fixing and using the Dobsonian. It's a good 'scope (when configured correctly).

readied the Dob

I had offered to operate one of the DDO Dobsonians. Randomly, I had selected Ian Wheelband's 12½" unit, with foam-covered truss-tubes and laminated wood.

Mr Mortfield said it might be off. Possibly something wrong with the aluminium tubes. I said I'd look into it. I would use my film tube collimator.

6:48 PM. I was done the SCT set-up. Headed to the big Dob.

Noted the primary was rather dirty.

First impression of the collimation was that it was way off.

I reseated all the aluminium tubes. Top and bottom. A couple were poorly set. It improved the alignment. But the collimation was still off quite a ways.

Aligned the secondary. Better, again.

But I could not seem to move the primary. The adjustment screws did not want to travel any more. And when they did, seemed to have little effect.

Should not the bases to outward? The triangle plates seemed to be the wrong way. I rotated them 180 degrees.

And there was a plastic ring flopping around. But when I adjusted the triangles, I noticed some double-sided tape at the points. Ah ha. I would discuss this with Ian...

Shot some photos.

Tom L arrived. Asked if he'd help: he watched the eyepiece collimator while I tried to change the primary screws.

We considered loosening pins holding the mirror. Grabbed my spanners and wrench from the car bootlid. But the pins wouldn't move. Then it dawned on us that the primary mirror screws were simply too far in.

We turned the OTA upright. And I turned the primary screws way off and coaxed the mirror back. It worked! Still in the sling. I tapped the rocker box to get the mirror settled.

The mirror was now not jammed up against the pins. Yah.

Tom said we were good. I looked. Awesome!

Tom agreed the mirror needed cleaning.

Second 'scope ready!

I moved my car to the parking lot.

headed up early

I wanted to be at the DDO early. For a few reasons.

I had decided that I wanted to try to image the nova. Wide field, piggy back. With my 'scope. Or at least my Vixen Super Polaris. So that meant taking my gear. The mount, the power tank. All the accessories. The camera. The OTA was only one more bag!

Now I had offered to fly one of the Dobsonian telescopes at the Dunlap. But I felt I could still do that. Once the SP-C8 was up and running, I could tent to the Dob. The Vixen (with the GoToStar) would track; I'd nudge the Newtonian.

Plus all the general stuff. Picnic table, bug suit, warm clothes, etc.

And when I remembered half the gear was already in the car—rather, still in the car, from Starfest—it was suddenly very attractive.

Charged the SLA batteries the day and night before. Charged AA and AAA batteries. Packed in the afternoon. Had an early dinner. Study the traffic patterns on Google. And hit the road at about 5:00 PM.

It was a little slow on the Gardiner. Humans going in for the baseball? The DVP was good at the bottom, sluggy around Eg, and then fine after that.

Gate was down when I arrived. Fished for the code in my palmtop. Noticed a man walking over just as I entered the code and the gate swung up. We chatted briefly and I then headed to the admin building.

Found a car in the oval. I backed in. Noticed the dome's upper door open.

Mr Mortfield said hello from the dome. "Oh. You brought your own." I told him I was still OK flying the Dob. I'd run two 'scopes. "Great." Before he left, he helped me move the 12½" Dobsonian outside.

I couldn't remember where north was. Slightly to the right of the dome? From the west side of the walk? Tried to find magnetic north. Had noticed this new problem before with my old compass—it has a bubble. Interfered with the needle. Could not figure it out...

I had the power tank ready. Decided I didn't need the AC extension cords.

At 6:46 PM, I finished the final main steps for the Celestron 8-inch. Ready to go. But not aligned.

Pulled out the portable weather stations. Not 12! The OneWorld weather station display was blank. Booted when I squished it. Loose battery contact? Shoot. Back to the case. Put the Oregon Scientific on the tripod triangle.

Put up the portable picnic table. Huh. Set up my binoculars on the big camera tripod. Put the glow-in-the-dark stars out. Realised I had forgotten my UV flashlight though. Darn.

Had the Off! bug thing fan ready to go. Still the original batteries! Fresh ones in my pocket. Bug suit ready. If needed.

OK. Next 'scope!

Paramount not on UPS

Katrina made an interesting discovery at the CAO. Nothing was plugged into the battery supported section of the UPS in the observatory. Tim asked if this was right. Sounds like someone didn't put things back. I asked that he test the battery. I believe the mount should go to the battery backup outlets. And I agreed with Tim that the dew heater system should not.

found the power specs

Dietmar, trying to debug on of the security cameras, asked me again for power specifications. And, once again, there was nothing I could do. At home, anyway. I did not have a camera nor a power supply. But, suddenly, I realised I could get someone at the CAO to check for me. Tim helped by unplugging one of the current supplies. 12 VDC, 1 A, centre positive.

glad to help

Ha ha. Funny exchange on Facebook...

Nicole said, at around 1:30 AM, Problem solved! "Thanks to Blake (my remote handyman) and Tony!"

Then Phil said: "Blake Nancarrow - Telescope Repairman."

More happy citizens!

morning debrief

Phoned the observatory.

Ian W. picked up! Morning! Chatted briefly. Talked about fun everyone had last night. But, as he was leaving, there was no time to sort the MODL lease issues.

Handed off to Tim L. We talked about lots of things: keys, slipping telescopes, pointing models, wires, diffraction rings, stupid hand controllers.

Thierry asked if I could take a look

Thierry messaged me. Found my name on the Yahoo!Group. Had remember me from the binoculars talk at the David Dunlap Observatory. He relayed some very bad news. Fedex dropped his 'scope. Unfortunately on the return journey, after being "super charged," by Clay.

There appeared to be a lot of damage to his LX200 GPS. He's asked for help. He was not comfortable going to the city astronomy store. Indeed. Asked if I could fix it.

Sounds like a job for... (wait for it)...

Telescope Repair Man!

We set up a meeting for Sunday.

my chart helped

Katrina posted on Facebook.
AAVSO map didn't work for me;  Blake's SkyTools one was much better.

how to find a nova

Do not immediately view the nova at high power. You won't know what you're looking at. You might just assume it is a regular star. The point here is view at low power and compare the brightness to nearby stars.

On the evening of 16 August 2013, the nova was around the same brightness as 29 Vulpecula, which is magnitude 4.8. Maybe a hair brighter.

It is unclear, at this stage if the nova is brightening or dimming.

If you want your go-to telescope to position very near the nova, slew to HR 7811 aka HD 194577 or SAO 88664 or HIP 100754. That's a suspected variable star around magnitude 5.7. It is 48 arc-minutes approximately from the nova.

It is easily viewed with binoculars in city limits. The nova should be visible to the naked eye in dark skies.

If star hopping with binoculars, may I suggest the following:
  • start at the head of the Dolphin
  • locate the stars at top of the head (alpha) and the bottom (delta)
  • form an imaginary line from delta to alpha (which is north-west)
  • continue this line from delta through alpha (which should be essentially up in binoculars or naked eye)
  • continue about one binocular field
  • continue until the edge of the binocular field just shows alpha
  • you should notice 29 Vul to the left (east) with a faint star above it (north)
  • you should notice a bright star on the right (west) with a faint star above it
  • curiously, 29 Vul and it's faint star and the nova and it's faint star are nearly parallel and similar distances from one another
  • note the little mini "Orion" or "H" shape of stars below (south) of 29 and the nova
  • the bright star on the right is not on a chart (at this current brightness); that's the nova!
  • say "woo hoo!"
Happy hunting.

Friday, August 16, 2013

helped them get the nova

Tony phoned from the CAO. He and Katrina couldn't find the nova.

At least they weren't certain. Didn't know if they were on the object. Had used the planetary nebula to get in the 'hood. Said they could easily see the nebula. Huh? Which telescope? They were using the Celestron 14 inch. Nope. Wrong 'scope. I encouraged them to use the Tele Vue with the lowest power eyepiece. Then I walked them through how I found it. And then I made a map in SkyTools and sent it over...

Then I tuned up the map, made an upright and laterally inverted version, and put them in the RASC's Yahoo!Group, for all.

For people with binoculars or viewing naked eye. Will work for people with a reflector telescope except the chart will need to be turned upside down.

For people using a telescope with an odd number of reflections. That's often the case with a refractor and an SCT or MCT with a mirror diagonal or prism diagonal attached. Up is up; but left is right.

Each chart features:
  • a 17 x 12 degree field
  • a circle about 6 degrees; the circle represents the field of view of 7 to 10 power which is typical of binoculars or a low power telescope
  • nearby stars are identified
  • numbers in parenthesis are the magnitude of the stars (without the decimal, i.e. 52 means magnitude 5.2)
  • two planetary nebulae are shown
  • dashed lines are shown to help "point" to the nova
  • there's a near little asterism of stars, perhaps a mini Orion, or "H" shape, near the nova
  • all the stars in the little asterism are around magnitude 6.5
Good luck!

helped Nicole get power

While at the CAO, Nicole ran out of juice with her SLA battery pack. Via Facebook chat, I said, why not use the mount's AC adapter? Perhaps with an extension cord. Forgot her AC adapter. Oh. I said she could recharge the battery at the Observing Pad. Maybe even use the battery as it charged! Forgot the charger for her battery. Oh. I told her to use the CLA adapter for the N11, assuming no one was using it. Bingo!

found the nova (Toronto)

10:18 PM. I found the nova in Delphinus. It is brighter than HR 7811 (magnitude 5.68). Way brighter than HD 194841 (mag 6.44).

10:23. I thought it about the same brightness as 29 Vulpecula (4.82). Perhaps slightly brighter. Spotted V399 Vul (7.09) above HR 7811.

10:29. Spotted HD 195340 and HD 195053 (both 6.88).

10:39. I was seeing mid-6 magnitude stars. SkyTools 3 Pro, when I set it to mag limit 7.0, matched what I was seeing.

closing in on nova (Toronto)

Binos on the big tripod. Clouds gone.

Just spotted the head of the Dolphin! And ζ (zeta) Del to the bottom right. Gettin... close.

cloudy to the south-east (Toronto)

Clouds. Boo! Looked at the Moon with the binos. A large crater, along the terminator, in the north hemisphere, was eye-catching. Sinis Iridium? Dark Plato to the right. Orangey hue.

Looked straight up. Double-Double, Vega. ζ (zeta), δ (delta), Sulafat, and Sheliak.

Could not see Altair. That would make it difficult to see the nova...

installed ST3P again

Installed SkyTools 3 Pro. This time on John Charles, so to help hunt for the nova.

asked Dave about presentation

Messaged Dave Cotterell on Facebook. Asked if he was going to put his double star presentation materials online somewhere.


No reply as of 8 Sep.

prepared apology

Charles and I chatted briefly. He wanted to close the matter of the "poor" treatment of the WISP. I asked if Scott had apologised to the Blair at Bruce Street Tech. Charles said Scott hadn't and he wasn't going to. Why? Charles didn't have an answer. But Charles agreed with me that we didn't want to burn bridges. Asked if I would craft something and Charles would submit it to our provider. OK.

I also shared that Scott did not acknowledge any of my communications. He completely ignored me.

caught up

Manuel phoned. Thanked me for sending over the photos. Said he enjoyed reading my blogger profile. Hoped I wasn't a bad hacker.

Was curious the details of the photos I had shot. But I didn't have them in front of me. He noted the trailing in the Pleiades image from Starfest. I concurred. Pointed out they were only test shots to determine the presence of aurora.

Asked if was busy on Saturday. Said Christian, a new RASC member, would be joining him. Told him I was planning to go to the DDO for the public night.

He shared that he's thinking about replacing the 8" SCT with a 5" (127mm) refractor. The Explore Scientific. Carbon Fiber. He liked the images it produces. And he wants to avoid collimation issues. And he wouldn't have to worry about dew.

Said he sorted out the issues with the Atlas mount. Put some grease on the azimuth screws. He said the three star alignment always fails so he's not going to use it anymore.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Spotted the Moon. More than one quarter.

problem purple cable

Tim checked in after the Library talk. All went well. They did OK, supporting the group, just the two of them.

The "purple" S-video cable they had trouble with. Seems the connector or wiring at the connector is bad. They had to MacGyver it to get it to work, strapping it to the MallinCam. I wondered how to repair a video cable like that...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

another old battery

Ian reported the Dell computer posting a notice about the battery end of life.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Moon over Don Mills

Moon schmoon. We spotted a slightly-less-than first quarter upon entering the restaurant. After the farewell dinner, it was just over the building. I asked Phil if he knew when Lunar X was happening, in UT. He didn't. Then the Moon made for a enigmatic scene over the cityscape as Tony drove down the DVP.

running out of time

I offered to Risa to take her faulty Kendrick controller into Jim's shop. To get the replacement / upgraded unit. She'd give the item, tonight, to the Chows.

Monday, August 12, 2013

helped Tim with MallinCam

Tim and Ian were ramping up for the Thornbury Library talk. Tim asked about the MallinCam. He asked for the documentation for the system. All in the CAO Supers Yahoo!Group. Still, I made an info graphic, after reviewing the text notes.

I was curious if they wanted to control the camera by software...

sent reprimand

Sent letter from the CAO chairs to Denis. Explaining the problems and stating we hoped for better performance. Supervisors need to lead by example.

researched keypads

Did some keypad lock research for the CAO. Rona, Home Depot, Canadian Tire. Focused on 10-button units with levers. Frickin' blue LEDs.

London calling

A London RASC member asked to book the CAO for himself and some friends. A little grey.

some sort of problem

Phil told me that there had been some trouble with the network or internet at the CAO. And that Ralph would follow-up.

Ralph said, "We lost internet service at the CAO. Various tablets and computers could see the network but not log on. This morning, Dietmar reset the routers, and everything seemed back to normal. Dietmar can give you more details."

I asked if anyone did PING tests.

Dietmar did not comment at all.

Phil then said that, "Even after the router reset by Dietmar, I could not connect."

I checked the weather page. It was current. I monitored the security system. All was nominal. Then, via remote, I did PING tests. They came back normal. Everything looked fine to me. I suspect it was an upstream problem. So then resetting our local network would not have done anything...

It made me consider a fault analyses document. So that people can at least provide me with more helpful data points.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

til next year

Manuel said Starfest was "a great experience." He added, "I hope to make it next year. I will certainly be better prepared and not book a motel." Now that he has a tent and mattress, he's certainly able to consider this. That said, Mr Soler really should use a camping cot. And they need to sort the food and power issues.

"Yeah. We had lights covered." No you didn't!

Starfest impressions

Considered my weekend as I drove home, through green and yellow farm lands, under graceful gliders, in front of tailgaters. My first Starfest behind me.

Overall the rookie Starfest experience was very good. My expectations were met, with respect to the camping proper. Open field, few trees, lots of people. I didn't realise though the grounds were so rolling. It's not flat.

I knew there'd be a lot of people. They get 600 sometimes! So, there are concessions one must make, to be sure. But I didn't expect some people to be up at the crack of dawn, speaking and laughing loudly. That was a little odd.

Starfest is agnostic. Of course I knew there'd be all the NYAA peeps and a good number of RASCals. I know some come up from the US. Didn't matter where people were from. But I wasn't, for some reason, expecting some of the other "big names" in astronomy. It was a real pleasure meeting Attilla Danko. [ed: Missed meeting Brian Gibson.] I knew there was vendor support. Seeing Jim Kendrick there, as a participant, was somehow satisfying. Nice people from all over with a common interest. Very pleasing.

I had assumed my camping dining tent would prove useful. And it did. I took it in the event of a deluge—and happily we didn't experience that. But it proved a good storage space. And on Saturday night, Tony and I were impressed how much heat it held. It was the warm-up hut!

Hadn't used a lot of my camping gear for a long time. Especially the meal prep stuff. Was expecting more issues and problems. That the stove stopped working, after I topped up the fuel, I wasn't surprised by. Probably 3 or 4 year old the white fuel.

The showers at River Place are infamous. I was assuming there'd be long lines. I had been warned by absolutely everyone. And I found a trick to beat the crowds. But I did not expect them to be in such a poor state of repair! And I certainly didn't expect to not have hot water. That was astonishing. Is this status quo at private parks?

The portapots were good. New units. I understand there have been issues in the past. Not for me. Very clean. Maintained well. Met my expectations. [ed: Correction. Exceeded.]

Was frustrated with my mount issues. To be expected on one hand with all the changes. And the hacked approach. It would have been extremely bad if the mount had failed on the second big night. The one "lost" night was an impact nevertheless. And by the time the excellent skies arrived, I was too tired to take full advantage. Oh well. Stars aren't going anywhere.

The skies were good. When they were good. Pretty dark. Weather cooperated, for the most part. The seeing was good to excellent. Transparency was average on all nights.

I was a little surprised at the white light issues. On Thursday, perhaps it was not a concern for the organisers, because we were clouded out. But there were a number of cars driving about. Every evening. The big white light problem on Friday, with Guerrero and Soler, I was surprised how it was dealt with. I had the impression that the organisers would be much more stringent.

Utterly disappointed with the behaviour of Guerrero and Soler. I thought, by now, after their visits to the CAO, they'd know the drill, understand the issues, think of others. No. But then, I had had a sinking feeling leading up to the event. And now I regret not finding a way to prepare them. I could have maybe prevented their transgressions.

I'm no angel. I made a few white light mistakes. Left an iOS device charging in the car the first night: face up! Oops. Accidentally turned on the iTouch on another occasion. But I did remember to turn off my cabin lights. And deactivate the reverse tail lights on the car. Then, simply, did not go to the car. Used the red film on the netbook and camera. Deep Red flashlight, of course. I was cognisant, especially on the good nights, of the boundaries. How to play.

I'm glad I was able to help a few people out. Some with SkyTools. Craig, to get up and running. Plate covers to members. Dave with Neptune and Triton. Answered most of Elaine and Tony's astronomy questions, I think.

My presentation went fine. No technical issues. Would have liked more participants but I was up against a good speaker in the main tent. Seemed to be very well received by those who did sit it. Would have liked Malcolm to drop in. [ed: Not surprised to learn he was stomping out fires.]

The welcome bag was a nice little surprise. I didn't get around to perusing the printed materials until later. But I enjoyed all the contents.

Malcolm and the rest of the NYAA team made me feel welcome. I really appreciated their support and guidance. An honour to be asked to present in the future.

I was also very thankful for Parker's internet service. That was surprisingly helpful. I would have felt more disconnected.

Friends... This is what an event like this is all about. Hanging with Katrina was a lot of fun. Very comforting. Seeing some of the other RASC crew was good. But the highlight was being neighbours with Elaine and Tony. New friends. But it's like we've known each other for years. They welcomed me, helped me get settled, fed and watered me, laughed at my jokes, pointed me to the bathroom, showers, main tent, Rec Hall, vendor area, etc. All my anxieties, with being in a new place, went away. So much fun.

So, overall, quite good. Good weather, good skies, fun times, fun meeting some new people. Extremely fun being with the dos Santos.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. If... if River Place fixes the damn showers!

What would I do differently? Better time management. Try to sleep in. Or nap in the day. Go to Neustadt. Bring pepper. [ed: And wear ear plugs in the morning!]

received Spyder

Elaine and Tony loaned me their Spyder! The datacolor Spyder4PRO Advanced Monitor Calibration system.

Cool! I can now adjust my LCD monitors! Very nice of them.

the Chris H Pick of Space!

Elaine called me over. "Here, for you." A guitar pick? Yes! From Chris Hadfield.

Thank you very much!

provided extra materials

Converted my presentation slide deck to a PDF file. Yesterday evening, gave it to Malcolm to put on the NYAA web site. Gave the extra paper handouts to Elaine. For a future meet-up.


Mr Soler and I chatted briefly. I asked how his observing had gone. He was a little frustrated. He was particularly upset with dew. Even though he had just purchased one of the most versatile dew controllers from Kendrick, he had not been able to figure out the unit, and consequently, could not combat the heavy dew on his SCT. I commiserated. Reminded him that he had the most complex controller. And that I myself preferred to program it by the computer. Still, I'd wager he didn't carefully read the instructions in advance of setting up.

shared breakfast

Manuel G. swaggered over to our site just as I sat down to my breakfast. Ultimately, he was after a hammer, so to "unhammer" things... But when he eyeballed my breakfast sandwiches, he said, "Oh, I'm starving..." Ah... OK. You bought a tent, beds, but not a stove. Uh huh. I offered one of my sandwiches. I asked him if Mr. Soler had had breakfast. I told Guerrero he should cut it in half and give the rest to his partner. Guess they didn't read about the on-site café. Tony was wide-eyed.

a good night (River Place Park)

Skies were looking great. No clouds!

Caught the Moon and Venus over the Rec Hall building after the keynote talk.

Katrina, Elaine, Tony, and I did a bunch of observing together. That was a lot of fun.

Performed the mount alignment. The Dec. motor on the seemed to be working fine. Woo hoo! Back in business!

Viewed Saturn as it set.

Could not see comet S1 LINEAR. Again!

Comet Lemmon was easy to see. We enjoyed that.

The seeing was very good. Probably the relatively cool day time temp. and very low night temp. We went single digit, down to 9.

Katrina did another walkabout.

I tried to spot NGC 7027. But was falling asleep. Damn. Just tired from the succession of days, the awkward early starts, the late-late nights, the various stresses and anxieties. When the battery died on the netbook, I threw in the towel.

At least the old Vixen mount with crazy GoToStar system worked properly tonight.


Detailed notes, and planning list, for the evening lost.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

blurry dinner

Had a nice dinner with Katrina, Elaine, and Tony during the banquet. Both Katrina and Tony were trying to liquor me up. The food was good. Nice dessert.

Helped a little with the main tent "reset," setting up chairs after the tables were removed.

covered the green LED

Covered the stupid LED in the GoToStar RA motor assembly. Red on standby; green when operational. Crikey. For all the smarts in the system... I cut a small piece of red film to fit over it. Taped in down with painter's tape.

I should swap out this LED. Maybe orange and red or yellow and red. And red should be the running condition. Wait. How about nothing at all?! You can hear the motors and examine the hand controller to know that it is on. The green LED is useless.

hey, what are you doing here?

Bumped into Knox as I cued up in the banquet dinner line with Katrina. Met his lovely wife, Anne (Ann?). Anne! Very pleasant. Would have been nice to have a sit-down. They were heading to the CAO. Enjoy!

busy busy

They were busy at the CAO this weekend. Dog and pony show for a friend of Jon's. Dietmar and Phil did a bunch of "work." They put up the new room sign holders, with the labels I had prepared. They tried to sort the prox. card system. They installed a shelf over the sink in the downstairs bathroom. New blinds. Checked the blades on the Stargrazer. Tried to resolve internet issues. They even taught Ralph how to use the ride-on mower. Sending photos of their handiwork. I thanked them.

helped CPC owner

Helped Craig out. Tony introduced me to Craig and explained he was having a problem with his eyepiece or mirror or something. Didn't quite grasp the problem. We headed to his "site" and I took a look. He had a CPC 8" GPS telescope with a Williams Optics 2" diagonal. The mirror diagonal would not tighten. Specifically the ring to the visual back would not tighten. It was, in fact, very stiff. There was also interference from the focusing knob. Really could have used an oil filter wrench. Found some pliers from the New Eyes gang. And got it sorted after about an hour. Applied a little bit of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. Sweet. He was very pleased. Back in business. He offered me a brew for the support. Happy to help.

Then he asked me how to align. Still daylight. I walked him through the basic steps. The SkyAlign was new to me though... Sounds pretty easy.

wonders never cease

Ha ha. Lora sent pix of the past-prez cutting the lawn at the CAO. Finally!

their set up

I walked over to where Guerrero and Soler were going to set up. Same spot at the last night. The source of the white light. South-east edge of the grounds. They had realised (or been convinced) that at Starfest it was better to stay over night. They had purchased a tent and inflatable beds. Good. Were keeping their hotel motel room for showering. Maybe not a bad idea either.

Then Guerrero showed me the back of the truck. Stating, "See?! We had all the lights covered."

Oh. Now you're fabricating a lie. Just went down a notch. If you're an honourable man, you'd admit the fault. Exhibit humility. Think outwardly. And apologise. Don't lie.

someone believes

Caroline sent her husband 'round. He liked the RASC plate cover too!

We chatted about work, telescopes, dark skies, and Quality.

found a 4"

Phil said he'd prefer a 3" heater, Premiere type, not Firefly.

Told him I found a 4" Premiere heater for $70 cash. From Solar Advance... One left.

asked to present at NYAA

Cathy, after my SkyTools talk, asked me if I'd like to deliver a presentation to NYAA. Sure! But too busy in August and September...

suspicions confirmed

Greeted Manuel Guerrero and Soler. It was obvious they had been to the vendor area.

Pointed out my gear, two tents, 'scope, near Elaine and Tony.

G. asked when my talk was going to be. Oh, man. Clearly, he had not read the Starfest program or schedule. Told him I had already done it. He kind of grunted. Did not sound deeply disappointed. What a goof.

I was very curious then... Formed some tangential questions. Did you just arrive? Oh, you got here yesterday? Where are you camped? Oh, my mistake, your hotelling, right? Did you observe or image last night? Oh, yeah? From where? South-east of here, uh huh. How long? Late, yeah, around 4:00 AM. Oh, they wouldn't let you leave? Well, that's the rules, eh? Yeah, you're not supposed to do that...

And confirmed my suspicions. It was Guerrero and Soler who had tried to leave at 4:00 AM or so, with uncovered white lights on their rental SUV.

Soler was defensive. He said they had followed the "rules" but argued there were some interpretation issues. I wondered about that. Everyone else, just about every other person, in the park was able to comply. Why not them?

Guerrero was still upset. Said that when someone came up to their vehicle to discuss the matter, he stepped out of the truck. So to make a stand. What? You confronted the host? That was not cool. He was starting to physically threaten them. So inappropriate.

They're right and we're all wrong. Sheesh.

They just don't get it. They are guests. The NYAA is hosting the event. To ensure a positive experience for all they form rules and guidelines. To be followed, respected; not sloughed off or flat-out ignored. You don't physically threaten the organisers. You don't get into heated arguments with the organisers.

I am embarrassed for the Toronto Centre.