Friday, February 28, 2014

freshened lead acid

Charged all the lead acid batteries over the course of a couple of weeks. Slow and easy. The four marine deep cycles and the old booster pak.

They all look to be in good shape.

triggered the survey monkey

Issued the survey Ralph built for the telescope clinic participants. I was able to email to all except one person, a walk-in, from whom we did not collect any contact info.

Stu shared aurora shots

Stuart shared some of his aurora photos. Nice. Stitched!

More online in his dropbox. Copyright Stuart McNair.

could have caught aurora

Kicking myself. Stu and Bill had a good night chasing aurora. Should have gone...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

help members back in

Helped Bill get back on the main Yahoo!Group after he closed his Rogers account.

Helped Donald join.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

received tips from Davis

Asked the Davis Weather Station people what to check for with our anemometer. It has not been showing wind speed for some time. In short order they gave some pointers. And offered to send a test cable for free to try to track down the problem. Cool.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

adhesive reply

It suddenly occurred to me to ask the JMI case people how to re-glue the foam inserts back inside the big NexStar 11" hard case.

Steven Sherry, Case/Focuser Production Manager replied in short order. "E6000 works well and can be found at Home Depot or Wal-mart."

I wonder if it is available in the Great White North...


Found it: Home Depot, Michaels, Wal-Mart, etc.

CSC support ended

Noticed our sponsorship of the Clear Sky Charts ended. Let the Ops people know.

heard from Michel

Michel replied regarding my findings with Struve 1327. Good. Hopefully we can hammer this out.

three planets (Mississauga)

Spotted bright Venus 5 degrees east of the crescent Moon. They both sported halos from thin cloud. Too harried to take a photo.

While at the bus stop, shivering in the cold, I scanned for Mars. Like a couple of days ago, I spotted a bright point to the right of Venus. But it just didn't seem as bright as I expected. Can't be Mars, I thought. Checked Astrolabe on the iTouch. Ah ha!

I had been looking at Saturn! Cool. Made sense: dimmer, beige colour, without bright star nearby.

I turned further west. Duh! There's Mars. A bright orange, low in the sky, setting, and nearly vertical with blue Spica.


Same "wall" of clouds over the lake, once again, seen from the 35 bus. Must be something do with the extreme cloud.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

felis maximus

Grumpy Cat just noticed something about astronomy.

We are not amused.

Tip of the beanie to the Queen of Grump.

stay tuned: weather explosions!

Caught this out of the corner of my eye.

Ah, Weather Network, please stick to weather reports on this planet. Thank you.

gettin' help

Gettin' the team to help. I asked Lora to tackle the new supervisor's responsibilities document. Tony asked Grace to work on the work party announcement for the SCOPE newsletter. Not strictly the CAO committee; but close enough.


It was June 2000 that I made my first trip to Watkins Glen. Another advanced high performance driving school, this time run by the good people at Trackmasters. It was pretty exciting to put wheels on the famed race track, even though I was putt-putting around in a rental Intrigue with no brakes. For the next few years, I'd return a couple of times each warm season.

Typically, we'd dive in from the top, that is, we'd travel along the Thruway until exit 42. It was south to quaint Geneva, along Seneca Lake and its many fragrant vineyards, finally to the storied town of Watkins Glen, New York. "We made it," I thought, crossing the checkered line painted on the pavement of North Franklin.

On a couple of occasions, we took a different route from Ontario, turning south a Rochester, so to connect, briefly, with one of the east-west Interstates, number 86. The first time on this path, before turning north at Horseheads, I saw a name that I immediately recognised, with some nostalgia, childhood memories of my grandparents flooding through my mind, baking, eating, laughing, fun.

The city of Corning, host to the former Corning Glass Works, is at the junction of several highways, nestled in shallow Appalachian mountains, near the meandering Chemung River. I assumed this was where all our baking kitchenware back home had come from. Hardy dishes with blue cornflowers, flanged on opposite sides to receive a temporary handle. Now, I had a modern, simple style of Corning oven casseroles. An ah-ha moment for me.

What I didn't realise at the time was this was where they made big glass. Really big glass. Really, really, big glass! For large telescopes. But fast cars were distracting me then from the stars and I didn't take the opportunity to explore. I recently stumbled across an image that brought back this peculiar memory.

The image was of workers putting the finishing touches on the shipping crate for the successfully moulded 200" Pyrex mirror blank. This huge piece of glass would find it's way to Caltech and eventually to the Hale Telescope. I read the brief article on the fascinating story of Dr McCauley's vision and persistence.

Of course, this is where the 74" mirror at the David Dunlap Observatory was poured. Corning is everywhere!

Maybe, if I'm down that way again, I'll take a tour. It'd be interesting to the see the first attempt at the 200" mirror in the Corning Museum of Glass. And all the other fascinating ways we use glass. I'm sure it would be enlightening. Incredible glass. Woven into our lives. And an essential part of astronomy.

remembered the N11

As I read Unk Rod's blog entry on his exploits with his NexStar 11" GPS behemoth in its heavy JMI case, it reminded me that there are still a few loose ends with our rig. Suddenly I remembered that our hard foam inserts are falling out. I messaged JMI support for suggestions on adhesives. I also hope, this spring, we'll enjoy a new mirror diagonal and a couple more eyepieces, thanks to Rod Ends.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

still windy (Mississauga)

Mostly clear. Second night in a row... But still windy, with gusts. Still, saw Orion easily, Sirius and Procyon, Jupiter almost straight up. Looked around for Mars...

had a go at M101

Not sure why but I never processed the Messier 101 (M101) video captured, with the centre MallinCam, back on 2 Aug 2011. I had a quick go...

North is top-right; east is bottom-right.

From a single frame, extracted (with IrfanView) as a BMP.

To a stack (with DeepSkyStacker) of 16 frames. Quick levels and curves in Photoshop.

And then a stack with 160 frames.

Thought I had taken some dark frames... Alas, the stacking was with lights only. That amplifier glow is sure annoying.

declined May TSTM

Paul asked me if I'd deliver the May edition of The Sky This Month. I had to decline. The CAO spring work party is the weekend following. I think I'll need to focus on that.

report Σ1327 strangeness

Reported the Struve 1327 issue to the RASC Observer's Handbook editor...

viewing E the whole time

Holy mackerel. Just looked up in the Washington Double Star database ξ (xi) Orionis. And found 5 entries at 06119+1413: J  2016AB, JRN  25AD, DAL  40AE, J  2016BC, and JRN  25BD.

How about that. An E star. I checked the position angles and distances.

Isn't that interesting! A magnitude 11.8 star... So it was not my imagination on 4 Apr 2013 or last weekend... Kinda cool.

It was also interesting to note that the B star looks like it is bookin'! The separation has decreased by almost 10 seconds of arc in the last 60 years.

Friday, February 21, 2014

checked xi in Aladin

Pulled up the interactive Aladin Sky Atlas and studied the area around xi Ori. The little Sagitta.

The B, C, and D stars huddle below. And the star above, to the north, I have seen on two occasions now, appears to be between B/C and D in brightness. It is also interesting to note that the GSC star to the east is as bright as D.

received routers

Put out the word that we needed a new wireless router at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. To replace the one recently blown up. And in short order we had 3 units. Nice.

I made arrangements to have Phil receive units, while at the DDO, from Ben and Kevin.

volunteers deal

Heard that AstroCATS is extending a sweet deal to local astronomy clubs and centres. Send a few committed volunteers and you can keep some of the ticket proceeds. Nice.

kudos on igloo

From Kevin:
Very cool!  Well done!  That turned out great.  Both the igloo and the time-lapse.  Loved watching the changing light and sky conditions throughout the construction.  Great shot too of Orion over the igloo in the TSTM post.  Thanks for sharing.
Thank you!

hung paddle

Just devised a way to hang the GoToStar hand controller on the telescope tripod. In fact, I decided to use the existing Velcro hook strap locations. So that meant simply adding two small self-adhesive loop pieces to the back of the controller. No drilling or cutting required. Yeh.

no optical parts for you

Heard from Celestron. While I can buy mechanical and electrical parts for replacement and repair, they do not provide optical parts. So, it's looking like I cannot get a new corrector plate for Chris Joly.

made time lapse

I made my first time lapse movie. With the hundreds of photos from the igloo build and MS Movie Maker. Set it to funny music.

Sent it to the crew. Fun.

posted the TSTM article

I put Feb/Mar The Sky This Month article up, with my handout, and sky charts by Chris, on the RASC Toronto Centre web site. Sent a note to the membership via the Yahoo!Groups.


It's also stored locally, on the lumpy companion site, in the presentations area, should anything untoward happen.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tony informed Ed

Tony answered Ed's questions about visiting the Carr Astronomical Observatory. What the conditions were like. There is no on-site toboggan. And he reminded Ed about the parking.

Still lots of snow.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

delivered Feb-Mar TSTM

Delivered another The Sky This Month presentation to RASC at the OSC. Made 70 copies of the handout. [ed: We had 66 show up!]

This one kind of snuck up on me, combined with the holiday Monday. So I felt the least prepared. For example, I did not prepare material for the reverse side of my month-at-a-glance calendar.

easy Venus (Mississauga)

Spotted Venus while waiting at the bus stop. Low. But super bright. Looking to the right, I saw another point in the brightening sky. I wondered if it was Mars. But, if it was, I could not see Spica.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

sent code

Sent Charles his Geoff Brown Observatory code.

Monday, February 17, 2014

rails moved

Tony spotted it from the back porch. He said the west roof rail was deformed. Must be frost heaving. That would explain the Geoff Brown Observatory roof opening problem.

We'll have to look at this closely in the spring...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

too exhausted

A beautiful night. As predicted by the Clear Sky Chart. The afternoon's deep blue skies did not disappoint. But I was so tired. So very tired. And aching. From the igloo build. No one else wanted to go out. Except Millie. We encouraged her. I reminded her the GBO was ready to go. They all settled in for a movie. I headed to the bedroom and got horizontal. Caught myself falling asleep.

igloo under the hunter (Blue Mountains)

Like we did last year, I wanted to get some photos of the finished igloo with stars overhead. All shots are with a Canon 40D and 18-55mm EFS lens, at 18. Tripod mounted. All ISO 1600, daylight white balance.

Too close! I don't have a lens like Bill! Could only see Canis Major and Lepus. I wanted to include Orion. 5 seconds, f/4, manually triggered. Back up.

Portrait helped. I could see part of Orion now. 5 seconds, f/4, manually triggered. Back up some more.

That helped again. I had most of Orion. 5 seconds, f/4, manually triggered. A little bit more.

Ah ha! Too bright. 10 seconds, f/4, manually triggered. The house lights were illuminating the west side. I asked Grace to aim the flashlight down.

Nice. 5 seconds, f/4, manually triggered. Suddenly realised I had not focused on stars.

Remembered to use the timer release. 5 seconds, f/4. Without the flashlight now the light of the Moon took over.

no aurora spotted

There had been reports of aurora sightings. But, for us, in the early part of the evening, it was too cloudy... Missed the CalSky alerts. Not that it would have mattered.

tackled some doubles (Blue Mountains)

I settled into the Geoff Brown Observatory. Had the ceramic heater going, in addition to the baseboard heater.

8:20 PM, Saturday 15 February. According to Taurus laptop computer.

Took a few runs to get the Sony voice recorder going, some of the AAA batteries are weak. I put the low ones in a pocket to warm them up.

Lit the hand warmer after adding 20mL of butane. Did not overflow. The syringe made it much easier to fill. No spills. Still had to be careful. Put the USB hand warmers in my pocket.

Popped out to see what the Moon was doing. No pillar. Did not see Jupiter through the clouds.

Noticed they were setting up for a movie indoors.

The XP updates finished downloading onto the laptop computer. Let them install. Applied a Java install as well.

Checked the weather. Clear Sky Chart, updated at 4:00, it showed the cloud cover improving at 9:00 PM and continuing to 1:00 AM. The transparency and seeing was showing at medium. Moon would be bright at that stage. It looks nearly full to me. The Collingwood page from Environment Canada, updated at 3:30 PM, showed clouds increasing to morning.

8:38 PM. Restarted the laptop and reconnected to the talk. LAN Messenger restarted and reconnected to the house computer (I had installed the software on that machine earlier today).

TheSky 6 showed Jupiter left, or east, of the meridian. Perhaps not a good target. That is, too close to the Moon. Chose Messier 42 as a starting point.

Opened the roof. Started up OK but it started making a lot of noise as it neared the half-way point. From the west wall? A loading problem? Sounded like there was extra pressure somewhere. I released the button after I heard the toothed belt slip. Hit the button again and it sounded like the motor was strained. Released. Hit it again and the contractor problem returned. Tried to close, sounded strained, but then continued OK. Made a note to inspect in the daylight... Hopefully I would not be stuck, without a motor, at the half-way position.

8:46. Looked at the skies. Still hazy, cloudy.

Put an eyepiece in the Celestron 14" Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope.

8:51. Looked at M42. Sweeping grey clouds of gas. θ (theta) 2 off to the top-right. Seeing was not great. Transparency was low. Looked at the Trapezium. Seeing was coming and going.

Almost immediately I started to feel chilled at the telescope, particularly on my legs. Headed to the house to get more layers.

9:04. Returned to the GBO with a tape measure and the netbook computer and more layers. Rearranged the workspace in the warm room. Put the red film on the ASUS machine.

The USB hand warmers were done. I plugged them into available USB ports on the two portable computers. The butane was toasty hot.

Put John Phil on the ethernet hard line, as the wireless was not working.

Still saw hazy, scattered cloud. Very light wind, nothing to speak of.. Checked the local Davis page. As of 9:13. Wind direction WWWN, outside humidity 91%, barometric pressure 1017.3 mbar (and rising), outside temperature -15.9°C (ambient), inside temp. 23.1, inside humidity 51%. Humid! From my portal page, Collingwood showed as -13, going down to -18. Pulled up the Weather Network page for Thornbury, -16, feels like -23, with a 13 km/h wind, humidity 87%, pressure 101.8 and rising, cloudy periods, variable cloudiness overnight, flurries tomorrow. Viewed hourly. Cloudy in every time slot.

9:13. Started up SkyTools. Applied software updates. It automatically loaded the list from 24 January, an ambitious plan with 108 items, with lots of double stars.

Tried updating the "current" information. Huh. It said it was unable to update the novae and supernova data. I had never seen that error before.

Grabbed the 27mm eyepiece to probe deeper into the Trapezium.

9:20. Just barely made out the faint star, on the bottom, between the tighter pair, A and B. I couldn't remember the name [ed: E] of the dimmer star [ed: mag 11.2] but it was pretty easy to see. Found an image on the web. Confirmed. And it helped me confirm I was just barely seeing the F star. E is between A and B but "outboard." F is almost inline with A and C. The chart I found via Google said F was 10.2 and E was 10.3. Not good conditions...

9:25. Noted the SkyTools update was finished. Tried it again. Worked. It immediately reported success updating the exploding stars data. Good. Noted the official label for SN2014J. Mag 10.9. Activated red light mode.

Checked my old list. It had over a dozen objects in the constellation Orion. Created a new list. Added viewed objects including Jupiter. Transferred objects from the old list to the new. Removed the constellation item proper.

9:30. Noted a flashing low battery for the recorder. Checked NGC 1788, a diffuse nebula. Didn't think it a good thing to look at. Saw 42 Orionis on the list. A double star in many other observing lists. Including my recently-made "view again" observing list. Slewed. Ah, just above M42.

Applied the next batch of XP updates.

Headed to the telescope. But was not feeling optimistic, not seeing any Moon shadows...

Noted frost on the corrector! Verified with the flashlight. Weird, given the Kendrick was now running the SCT heater at 100%. I saw moisture on the inside of the OTA possibly! Grabbed the hair dryer.

9:39. Defrosted the corrector. It was very hazy cloudy.

Checked the satellite radar imagery from ADDS, both the colour IR and water vapour. It looked bad. A lot of lake effect stuff, coming down the peninsula. Big bands over Superior and Huron. Damn, clear over New York, the Finger Lakes.

Examined the software view of 42 Ori. Adjusted the Context Viewer to match. Bright, quite bright, 42 at the bottom (or west), a faint star, V359, in the middle of the flattened or squished triangle, with bright 45 at the top. Not unlike Mizar and Alcor with the faint star in the middle (Sidus Ludoviciana)... 42 is a tight double star with the A at mag 4.6. The V359 star is around mag 7.3. And 45 Ori is mag 5.2. I remembered something, the 42 and 45 are a popular binocular target. They are 4.25 arc-minutes apart. But I wondered why it was on my list to re-examine. 42 is double proper, and 45 is a triple.

I saw what appeared to be a faint double to the north-west of 42. That was Σ746 (Struve), the A (magnitude 9.7) and B (10.7) stars. I did not see the C star (11.0).

Rebooted the laptop again. Noticed LAN Messenger was not on the netbook.

Checked the Warm Room conditions: 11° and 37%. With a faded display. Needs a new AAA battery.

Did not see shadows. A soft glow. Sky was worse. No stars. Moon was dim. Looked at my Evernote task list for some things to do, to kill time. Turned off tracking on the mount.

Had serious doubts. Bad seeing. Bad transparency. Cold. Getting colder. Moon. Why bother?

9:56. Measured the outer diameter of the C14. 15-5/8". In case I want to build a Bahtinov.

After wrapping it in a plastic bag, I brought the DSLR camera in from outside. Left the aluminium tripod outside.

9:58. Measured the dimensions of the electrical panels, for future stickers. The MODL/BAO panel, just below the breakers, is 2" wide. 2.5" deep. On the main panel, could do a 3" wide label between the switch and screws. The height is 6", for 12 breakers on each side. And we'll need to cut around the heater indicator. So 3x6" for the label size, one on each side.

No Moon shadows.

Tagged 42 Ori to re-observe. Removed the Horsehead from the observing list—not possible in these conditions. Removed all the nebulae. Did not see NGC 1973. Wasn't going for it.

10:08. Still clouded out. No stars. No Jupiter. Added "inspect roof" to the task list.

10:19. Tested the planet walk reflectors with the little mini LED flashlight. Didn't work. But then they did not light up the domes... Limited throw.

Saw a shadow line.

10:23. Felt colder! Stars were back. Observed 42 and 45 again. Wanted to amp the power. Took the 18mm ocular out. Sometimes 42 seems blue-white to me, intense; other times it seems yellow. 45 on the other hand seems orange or orange-red. No sense of colour on V359.

10:27. Legs were cold. Turned up the ceramic heater a bit. Triggered the sodium hand warmers and put them in the gloves.

Noted some of the field stars. HD 294264 (mag 9.8) to the west of 42 and NSV 2313 (11.2) to the south. HD 37059 (9.0) is south-west of 45. Spotted KX Ori (7.3) laying to the north-west of 42 and HD 36938 (8.8) to the south-west of KX. Σ746 was outside the field of view now, with the 18mm.

Put the chemical hand warmers in my back pants pockets. Check the catalytic was upright.

There seemed to be a more distinct shadow outside.

10:39. Had a good look at Σ746. Stared for a long time. But could not spot C. But then I could not see NSV 2313 at the moment. So it was not completely surprising I could not view mag 12 stars... In good conditions, with the C14, it would not be a problem.

Moved the heat packs from the back to the front pockets.

Grabbed the 10mm eyepiece.

I wondered how low (er high) I could with the Tele Vue refractor. Checked the telescope report in SkyTools. With the 3mm, I could get to 180 power. Higher, of course, with doublers. Crazy high with the 4x Powermate... Cancelled the telescope profile (did I just notice that the software did not refresh the observing list?!).

Viewed 42 again, trying to coax out the B star. Saw a star to the right of 42, in the direction HD 294264. The context viewer showed MW Ori. Wild, a 13.3 mag star. And I might have seen 45 B! It was not inline with 45 and V359 Ori. A hockey stick again. SkyTools called this HLD 173B, a strange designation. A good distance away from 45 A. Mag 12.5. That was with the 10mm. Not a clean image.

10:49. Recorder went down. Swapped the batteries in the recorder.

Suited up for another look.

Grabbed the 3mm for the TV. Nice view. Wide. But no light grasp. I could barely see the NSV. How would I be able to see mag 12 stars? Could see the airy disc and one diffraction ring about 42.

11:03. Noticed the new set of batteries in the recorder were reporting low!

Conditions were not going to allow me to split 42. And they were falling below the 2 airmass.

Did not see the C star of 45.

[ed: 42-45, a suggestion from Sky & Telescope magazine, are on my double stars life list as observed. While viewing in Apr 2012, I learned 42 itself was a double, thanks to SkyTools. But could not split the tight pair. That's why it appears on my view-again list. 45, on the other hand, I have split before. Also viewed Σ746 A, B, and C before.]

The USB hand warmers were blinking green.

Decided to try for ξ (xi) Ori. Up in the arm...

Extended the TV dew shield; installed the C14 foam padded dew shield.

11:10. Viewed bright ξ with the 27mm. Very bright. Blue-white or pale yellow? Spotted some super faint stars around it! Like a little Sagitta. Noted the nearly straight line of stars to the north, including, from west to east, TYC 00742-1679 1, TYC 00742-1623 1, TYC 00742-1649 1, and GSC 00742-0987, all between magnitude 10 and 12. The brightest field star was TYC 00742-0807 1, further to the north, at mag 9.1.

Back to xi, I saw two faint stars below and one faint star above. Huh. SkyTools did not show a star above! Instead SkyTools showed an B, C, and D star below, in the Context Viewer. Checked the Interactive Atlas at a high zoom level. No star to the north. I made a note to view a sky survey image.

I suspected I was seeing the B and D stars and not the C star. D is mag 12.0. Both B and C are 12.3 but close together. The software said B and D were about 1/3rd the distance of B and D. So I was probably merging the two dim stars...

Grabbed the 18mm ocular and zero-length adapter. From the 27mm. And had another look.

The star to the north, is about the same distance away, and exactly opposite, the gaggle below.

11:16. I also spotted a star inline with B (or C) and D. SkyTools said this was GSC 00742-1743 at mag 14.2 (poor quality). Crazy.

The north star was inline with TYC 00742-1649 1.

xi was in my view-again list. Well viewed I think... Went for another peek.

11:23. Coaxed out C! Used the panning trick, moving bright A off the field. Averted. No colour to any of these stars.

Thought about the angles too. B and C stars are pointing almost directly to TYC 00742-1679 1. The A star I changed my mind... It was more in a north-east bearing, toward GSC 00742-1429. A is equal brightness to B, C, and D, so around mag 12.1 or 12.2.

Interesting... very interesting multi-star system. [ed: the digital sky survey image corroborates all this. A, same brightness as B, C, D. About the same distance as the stars opposite. Inline with the GSC star.]

Why was ξ on my view-again list? [ed: It was partly to verify the star opposite B, C, and D. And partly, if viewing again, to see at a better time in the year, as I felt April was too late.]

[ed. See note on the ξ E star.]

Decided to take a break. I wondered if they were done their movie. Put the 'scope horizontal with tracking off. Red glasses on! Movie was over, lights were off, chas was snoozing, said hello, I grabbed a water, and some hard candy.

11:39. Little hexagons. The snow sparkled and twinkled in the Moon light.

Considered some new targets, perhaps from a RASC list! Coloured Doubles. Turned on tracking. Slewed to HR 3174 aka STF1183A in Monoceros.

11:54. Viewed the double star. Pale yellow and pale blue. Viewed in the Tele Vue first with the 3mm then with the 10mm. I thought them faint then very faint, at the lower power. The RASC book agrees, faint. But the book says yellow and green. What?! I did not think that. I noted SkyTools says it is a quad, with 13 mag stars near the B.

[ed: RASC is referring to the A and B stars only. Haas says lemon-white and green-white. Huh.]

12:01 AM, Sunday 16 February. It is not a stark green colour. No way. Could it be at the close C and D stars are yellow and are blending with the blue B? Checked the Year Bar. This was close to the best time.

I find it interested no one—no one—came out tonight. Tony, Charles. Millie? She's usually the keener.

Selected ρ (rho) Orionis.

12:08 AM. Wicked colours for ρ Ori. Orangey gold or orangey yellow and a deep or royal blue. Quite tight. Even with the 27mm. Very different magnitudes, 3 or 4 different maybe? Beautiful colours, really nice. RASC said orange and blue. In the Object Information dialog, SkyTools reported a C star, far away, very different mag, A and B are 4.4 vs 8.5, so 4.1 different. Best viewed in January. Amazing, the primary, fiery orange. [ed: Haas says primary is tangerine.]

12:12. Spotted the C star. I guessed 90° to A and B. And about 20 times. ST3P said the PA for AB and AC is 64 and 156. So 92° according to the software. Distances are 7 vs 183 arc-seconds. So, more than 20x the difference.

Yawned... Thought about quitting.

Check if there was anything interesting going on with Jupiter. A shadow transit! Oh. An hour away.

Decided on HD 79552. Way up there, in Cancer. Ew! Close to the Moon... Slewed.

12:20. I saw A, B, and C, stars of Struve 1327. I did not see D. Were A and B separated by 3 or 4 arc-seconds? Very faint. Equal magnitudes. A and B seemed yellow and orange or red. And I thought the C was blue.

The RASC table said they were yellow and blue. Are they talking about the A and C stars? I'd have to check the book and the quoted separations. ST3P says A and B are 5.5 apart (tighter than the previous star). A and C are widely separated at 28.6. Almost equal magnitudes.

Checked the Context Viewer of SkyTools. A is mag 8.6, B is 10.3, C is 10.2. The software also showed D as 10.2. That didn't seem right, particularly given that D was drawn as a fainter star. In the Interactive Atlas, I found a random 11.2 star. TYC 01957-1573 2 mingling with the C and D. And if the mag is correct, it would be visible before the true D companion? I thought these stars are fainter than ρ Ori.

Weird stuff in the SkyTools databases. The Object Info box says

A: 8.6
B: 10.6
C: 9.3
D: 14.3

Took another look.

12:28. Very strange. The seeing went steady. Rock solid. I wondered if I was seeing C and D and they were aiming directly toward the B. But software says D is mag 14. And I should be seeing that star. If I'm seeing the random star, mag 11... Is the position different? Or an error in ST3P?

[ed: More confused after reviewing the RASC Observer's Handbook. Σ1327 comes from the Coloured Doubles supplemental list. The magnitudes are noted as 8.0 and 9.0 while the separation is 7. This seems to suggest the A and B stars, in terms of distance, but not colour or magnitude...]

12:30. Suddenly realised I didn't have to go to work tomorrow. Nice.

Realised Canis Minor would be a good area. HD 63536 aka Σ1149. Slew.

12:34. Nice colours for HD 63536. Yellow and blue. Widely separated. About a magnitude different. Sort of faint. RASC said yellow and blue and faint. OK. SkyTools said 7.7 vs 9.5 mags. 21.8".

[ed: Haas says grapefruit-orange and silvery-yellow.]

Put the USB heaters back in the gloves. Butane still pumping out heat. Shooed clumsy flies.

Selected κ (kappa) Geminorum. Not far away.

12:40. RASC said orange and blue. No... Yellow. Intense yellow, yes. Curiously, this companion made me think green, or aquamarine. About 4 or 5 magnitudes difference. Very close. 5 arc-seconds maybe? ST3P said 7". 4.5 mags different. RASC said they were faint. Certainly the secondary is. I suppose both would be in a small 'scope.

[ed: Unsuccessful at splitting before. Yes!]

How about Taurus? Decided on HR 1741 aka HD 34579.

12:46. Took in Struve 680. About four magnitudes different. Companion is very faint. The software agreed. First impression was yellow and orange or red. But I saw the blue later. RASC says yellow and blue. I thought they were about 7 seconds of arc apart; the software said 9. So pretty close.

Closed the roof (from the half-way point). No issues. No unusual noises.

12:50. Started a quick shutdown. Considered the Notepad document I started on the laptop; deferred it 'til I was inside the house.

12:52. Shut down the laptop. Turned off the portable heater. Packed the netbook, power cord, recorder, camera, expired warmers, USB heaters and cables.

Very clear when I stepped outside the Warm Room. Ursa Major up high. Didn't look at the supernova... Hello! Mars almost exactly horizontal to the left of Spica. No aurora... Bright Moon like a spotlight over the silvery white landscape.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

evening pillar (Blue Mountains)

Earlier in the day we had seen a Sun pillar. Charles photographed it. But I noticed a pillar under the Moon later. That was a first! By the time I had the camera ready, it was starting to fade. Made me wonder if it is a function of elevation.

Canon 40D, 18-55 EFS at 35, tripod mounted. 0.4 seconds, f/4.5, ISO 1600, daylight white balance, RAW, minor adjustments in DPP.

misc jobs

Disconnected Davis console in an effort to rejuvenate the wind speed. No joy. It must be the spending unit...

Helped Charles reorient to the GBO.

Checked for more camera tripods in the GBO. Where's that one with the squeeze handle thing? Noted a telescope tripod and mount and rings and mini hand controller. Where is this from?!

Earlier I had reprogrammed the Kendrick Premium controller. Created a new profile, for "winter," running the corrector wrap at 100%.

gathered more data

Gathered more data about the Carr Astronomical Observatory electric furnace. Shot more photos, noted more part numbers, and with Phil's help refined the functional and electrical diagrams.

While I was at it, I snagged another photo of the current network config.


Tony brought his clamp meter. But we never used it. Ran out of time.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

tested 10 mL

Tested the butane hard warmer with 10 millilitres of fuel, dispensed with the new syringe. It ran for just over 2.5 hours. That's a short time. I seem to recall it working for many hours. Some research had suggested between 12mL and 20mL. So, I made a note next time to double the amount...

reduced weight

Tried to pack light for the Carr Astronomical Observatory. No Baffin boots this time. No bags inside bags! No laptop. But, with the camera system, the netbook, and clothing, the hiking pack still felt very heavy.


I forgot the tow rope...

computer conflict

When Phil offered to bring his media drive with movies but not his computer, Tony said "I guess the GBO laptop should do." Hey! What if some want to observe? Bring your own computer. Sheesh.


Later, Trevor chimed in. He'd be bringing his laptop, so to do some homework. Problem solved.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

arranged for parking

Asked Batta to clear some space for us. Learned that his snow blower was broken; he only had the front end loader. Thanked him profusely.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

a future without the AAA

I sent a note to the current and a past president about the Annual Algonquin Adventure. I shared my sense of despair and that I feared this regular event was on the verge of collapsing. I had not heard of anyone wanting to step up and take the reins after the Chapman's outstanding commitment.

Recent remarks made me consider the AAA in a different light, a viewpoint I had not thought of. Like Starfest is to the North York Astronomical Association, the Annual Algonquin Adventure is our big out-of-the-city event. Well, it pales to Starfest; but still, it is our "big" star party.

I will be sad if we stop running a RASC Toronto Centre gathering and star party at Mew Lake. But I completely understand if it won't happen. Another activity requiring good volunteer support. And my sense, of late, is that the current volunteers are maxed-out and I don't see a lot of new volunteers coming in. Given that it was a wife and husband team in the past, this suggests the future organisation should be tackled by a duo.

I've heard some say that there's not much involved so what's the big deal. But then they are not stepping forward to actually do anything. And I've repeatedly argued this is likely more complex than it seems. Likely with lots of devil-in-the-details things. Some have said we don't have to do things exactly as we have in the past. True. But if we did want a facsimile of the previous years, I believe it should have a couple of committed people and they will be busy at times through the year.

And I keep saying that we should be consulting the Chapmans. Asking for their input, to-do lists, documentation, notes, etc. Of course they know what's involved and can guide us. But I don't think anyone from the RASC TC council has talked to them.

As a participant, I saw some of what they did. And can surmise at some of the behind-the-scenes tasks.
  • Notice in OH: Late in the calendar year, as the editor(s) begin the assembly of the next Observer's Handbook, the AAA planners have to share the planned date in the next year. That means they have to have stared at a calendar and picked a good weekend, near to the new Moon phase.
  • Notices in RASC TC media: Again, once the date is selected, that needs to be shared with others, notably the web team and the SCOPE newsletter editor(s), so that an entry can be made in the activities calendars. Then, early in the year, as camping season starts up, notices need to be crafted to remind participants to book in advance, through the Ontario Parks registration system. And then, as the event date draws near, reminders need to sent out. These latter notices need to also go to the Yahoo!Group.
  • Booking at park: I believe the Chapmans attended every year. For obvious reasons, they wanted to be there. So that meant, of course, they would book their own stay. Once they had chosen a site, the organisers would share they site number in future communiqués.
  • Coordination with park: I don't actually know to what degree this was done in the past but I thought that, for the first couple of years I attended, the park staff (or perhaps the park Friends association) included notices of our event in their park schedule and calendar.
  • Awards preparation: The Chapmans went the extra mile with an awards program recognising members who frequently attended the AAA. They celebrated members visiting 5 and 10 times. They provided a certificate document, in colour. And they provided a memento, a wood-cut figure. The Moose Award and a Star Award. This obviously entailed some management in the off-season, tracking attendance, and preparation leading up to the event, making the awards and certificates. And, of course, during the weekend, they would make the presentations.
  • Park liaison: Once the organisers were on site, they would receive RASC members. They would greet the first-timers and help them get settled. I would expect they would also be the go-to people, referred by the park staff, for regular park visitors, interested in the star party portion of the event.
  • Star party: Of course, the organisers themselves would participate in the star party activities, on the Friday and Saturday evening, flying their own telescopes. Bob Chapman in particular is an incredible guide, very accommodating, encouraging, fun, and helpful at the telescope.
  • Group photo: The organisers, after advising all visiting members of the date and time of the presentations and photo, would capture imagery of all the participants. Later, they'd make this available to the media people in the centre.
  • Event reporting: The organisers, after the event, would prepare a report, for the web site and newsletter. The Chapmans also maintained a binder, a log book, noting various details of each event, such as the weather conditions, number of members visiting, special guests. They would include the group photo. This binder they would bring to each event for people to review and reminisce.
That's just off the top of my head. I strongly suspect there are other things they needed to do to make the event run smoothly.

Again, I agree that, if we want to keep offering an AAA, we don't need to do the same things the Chapmans did. But, that said, there's not a lot that can be dropped, to make the core event still happen.

And then, there are new things that I think we should do, that many would agree we should do for strategic and branding reasons. For example, there might be a "RASC booth" on the star party nights, for the park visitors to learn more about RASC, pick up a brochure, complete a membership form, receive a free Star Finder planisphere or two, etc. We should flog the organisation. That booth could in fact run all weekend, receiving interested park visitors day or night. But then, it would have to be manned.

We could have a "red light café" with hot beverages on those cold evenings...

We could have seminars or talks. If covered or protected, we could do astronomy presentations regardless of the weather. I don't recall seeing a covered community space at Mew Lake but we could make a space with large or many tarps. General astronomy talks, buying a telescope, intro to astrophotography, etc.

There's a lot of potential!

But, Annual Algonquin Adventure needs a champion.

As I expressed my concerns, I urged the president to keep the Chapmans advised of the state of affairs. Out of courtesy. My heart goes out to them. I think they will be sad to see this fun and interesting event end.

I will miss the moose.

found red box

Ooh. Stumbled across a transparent project box at Sayal made by Hammond (in Guelph, Canada no less). Model 1591A. 3.9 x 2.0 x 1.0 inches. Hardware included—why thank you. Yikes: 8 clams. Looks like it might possibly be a little smaller than the one I used to make Deep Red 1. But would it take a 9 volt "transistor" battery?

I'm still looking for a smaller box. Like the dimensions of the Rigel Starlite torch, which is 3.5" long, by 1.3". Or the Celestron Night Vision model. Or the Orion RedBeam II (who copied whom).


It easily fits a 9v! Sweet. But it's a tad longer (while narrower) than the box from the first flashlight build. Same thickness. So, probably, the volume is about the same. Lovely red though!

Monday, February 10, 2014

tested intervalometer

Tested the Neewer EZA-C3 intervalometer. Not unlike the JYC unit Steve showed me back in Aug 2012. It works!

I was a little concerned that the special Canon 3-pin N3 connector might not fit correctly, in particular, be loose and prone to disconnecting. It was fine, a positive, solid feel. I had chosen a make that used AAA batteries. Confirmed this first upon unboxing. Yeah, no coin batteries! Reviewed the little manual again and did a short test run. w00t!

The only issue I found was the green backlight. It is very dim. Actually, that might be a good thing, when, on a dark night, I'm trying to keep my dark adaptation.

saw Hadfield close-up

Saw Cmdr Hadfield in person at Roy Thompson Hall thanks to my friend Malcolm. Front row seats!

An inspiring talk.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

ran 2014 telescope clinic

Conducted the telescope clinic at the David Dunlap Observatory. We had a good turn out, better than last year. And I think fewer hiccups. All 'round, a very good event.

Madigan shot the photos.


Looked at Chris Joly's damaged NexStar 8. The corrector was completely shattered, cracks everywhere. And, as I feared, small glass particles were inside the OTA. I immediately urged him to keep the tube horizontally and to avoid sudden movement.

removed Dob for repair

Thanks to Chris, Ian and I took a look at the 12½" Dobsonian telescope he had made and donated to the DDO.

I pointed out the issues I had encountered with it as well as some bits that had been damaged. Ian thought it best to take home to his workshop. I agreed. At last, this is being properly dealt with.

We wheeled it from the big dome to the parking lot. And stuffed it in Sue's vehicle. Hopefully she won't notice...


Subtext to this is sad. I pointed out the issues with the telescope back in August after partly fixing then using the 'scope at a public night. I had been stonewalled. They had done nothing. Six months. What a stupid waste.

received early DDO supporters

Received Vicki and Bill Sherwood at the David Dunlap Observatory. They studied and volunteered at the DDO in the 60s! Fascinating. I introduced them to the Horvatins and the Mortfields along with Dr Chou.

saw an arc and dog (Richmond Hill)

We spotted some parahelia effects while walked to the big dome: a tangent arc over the Sun along with a single dog.

I think that's a first for me, for the upper arc.

Friday, February 07, 2014

watched Ottawa meeting

Watched the RASC Ottawa meeting. 98 people in person. Impressive. And another 50 online. They're doing a great job.

watched the Cosmos trailers

Watched two trailers for the new Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

The first version, includes an introduction by Sagan. Powerful music. Lots of neat time lapse shots.

The second includes words by Dr Tyson.

I was very happy to learn that Global TV will be carrying it.

it looked bad

Chris J signed up for the telescope clinic. But then he contacted Lora to ask what he should do. He had damaged his SCT. And he was wondering if we might be able to fix it at the clinic. I contacted him and asked that he send over a photo. It was bad. And I said we wouldn't be able to fix it there.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Gaia is being calibrated

The European Space Agency probe Gaia sent down a 2.9 second test image of a open cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

The calibration process has begun.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

tried some processing

Had a go at the supernova image in Photoshop. I wanted to coax out the host galaxy (Messier 82 or M82) harbouring SN 2014J. Manually stacked three focused frames. Levels with custom black and white points. Slight RGB and red curves adjustment.

Ugh. Too much red! Will need to tone that down.

I've been noticing the vignetting as well. I'll have to mask that out.

And, next time, I'll apply a dark frame to each light frame to get rid of the little hot pixel trails.

helped get the word out

The RASC meeting was cancelled. It happened, officially, at 2:40 PM. Shortly after checking my email and then the long bus ride home.

When I arrived home at 4:09 PM, I quickly checked my Inbox. I did not note any cancellation messages (they were in the astronomy folder). I checked the web site and didn't see anything in the slider. Operating under the assumption the meeting was still a go, I phoned Charles. I was going to apologise for being late. He relayed the news. Ah.

In fact, he had posted a notice on the Ops group and the main Yahoo!Group. He had asked the web team to adjust the Facebook page and the web site. He thought Katrina had already tweeted the news. But he hadn't heard back from Jason or Allard. I offered to help.

Pinged Jason on Skype. No answer. Pinged Allard on Facebook. No answer. Phoned Allard—he picked up. Asked if the web site had been updated. He said it had. It was then I noticed the article itself had been adjusted. But it was below the fold, out of sight. I offered to change the slider. He said to go ahead.

Sun ice prism (Mississauga)

Through the bus window, as we travelled north, I noticed the Sun had some colour in the snow-laden clouds. Fleeting. Every time I grabbed the camera, the effect disappeared. Red tinged on the left; subtle blue on the right. Must have been ice crystals in the right formation.

don't you want me?

It is still a flawed process, I believe.

I received two renewal notices; not three. From RASC national. One in November. One in January. Been that way for years.

Not a peep from my local chapter. On the day of my expiry, nothing. Not a word from anyone. The day after, not a "did you forget?"

If RASC national office is worried about losing members, if the Toronto Centre is worried about losing members, I don't think they do much to encourage people to remain.

I'm still kind of amazed that nothing comes from the chapter.

And I see that none of my suggestions were deployed.

The funny thing is, I know what my suggestions would entail. And I know who it would affect. And I know that it would create extra work for some volunteers. But it strikes me as ironic that the Toronto Centre has spent a lot of time talking about strategic planning and membership retention and there's not a single word from my home chapter during my expiry process that says "please stay."

renewed online

Renewed my RASC membership.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


Lora sent out a note to Tony and I about the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Lots of questions. Which supervisors were stepping down, bringing new supers into the fold, the rental linens, the fall work party date, and the duties and responsibilities of the supervisor. Wow. Wild horses. I suggested we do a conference call to discuss.

Venus in the haze (Mississauga)

Spotted a hazy Venus between the houses as I started out for the bus stop. Pretty low. About 15° up. iOS Astrolab said it was mag -4.8.

Monday, February 03, 2014

spotted M82 SN

I was very surprised. I didn't know what I'd be able to capture from the back yard in Mississauga under the sodium street lights, LED street lights, neighbours outdoor lights, neighbours indoor lights, sky  conditions, telescope temperature, and so on.

This test shot clearly shows the galaxy Messier 82 (M82) and its supernova, despite poor focus, and wobbly collimation. C8, 40D, 15 seconds, ISO 1600, daylight white balance. Slight mods in DPP. North is left; east is down.


Fun to compare to my image captured back on 28 Mar 2011.

finally got the times right

In an effort to clarify times for the announcements presentation, I reported to professor Delaney the different times I had found for the York University's in person and online observing. From their information web site, the title area inside the Online Public Viewing (OPV) chat room, inside the chat window, their observatory tour site (blog area), and inside the blog area.

He was impressed. And he set Charles and I straight. For this time of the year:
  • Monday nights, online, 8:30 PM - 10 PM
  • Wednesday, in person, 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
He also noted that the radio show runs at 9 PM local Toronto time all year around...  with NO adjustment for daylight saving, season or whatever.

set up in backyard (Mississauga)

Crescent Moon setting. Earthshine?

Pulled stuff from the garage. Tripod, mount bits, the OTA, the small table. Moved OTA to back porch for more 'scope cooling. Applied red film to John Charles and John Phil. Plugged in the red Xmas lights in kitchen. Closed the bedroom blinds. Grabbed stuff from the bedroom, the netbook, the oculars, the camera. Readied the battery tank cooler cart. Funny timing: I finished topping them up yesterday! Couldn't find Deep Red, my custom flashlight.

Found list I had made in Psion, originally made 27 Jan...

6:57 PM. Checked the humidity. It seemed quite low at 58%. Wind: 16km/h. Made for a wind chill of -13 with the ambient -7.

7:05. Took the wool blanket downstairs to throw over mount. Decided to power the camera off house AC and the mount off the SLA battery. Didn't think I'd need the dew heaters. Hoped.

7:11. Bill asked if I was coming out to Bayview. Nope.

7:40. Spotted Jupiter over the back fence. Moved the tripod and mount outside and set them up. Attached the data and power cords. Turned the mount after remembering that north is not toward the house! Threw the wool blanket over top. Yeah. Neighbour John turned off the back light! I was ready for polar alignment...

7:45. Checked SkyTools 3 Pro. Messier 82 would be at its highest around 1AM to 2AM. So we had a ways to go. And I hadn't figured out dinner yet.

7:47. Lora bemoaned clinic registrations. Oh oh. Was getting dupes. Marilyn is hounding me about a SkyTools course. Won't be any time soon. In the meantime, read the tome.

8:01. Did a quick polar alignment. Had forgotten to check the relative position of NCP. It was also then that I realised I had forgotten the adjustable height chair.

8:23. Neighbours let dog out. Bagel freaked out, at my rustling and movement, barking and howling.

I did a better alignment after retrieving chair. Brought the table out too. Mounted the OTA.

8:27. I was ready to put the big tube on the galaxies and get tracking happening.

8:53. I had the 'scope tracking. Viewed with the 36mm eyepiece. Did a 2 star alignment. Checked Stellarium to confirm I was on target. Wow. I think I saw the supernova! Camera time!

9:29. Yes. Imaging worked! Wow. The mount was working, the go-to was working, the computer is working, the camera is working. Forgot the focus mask but I wasn't too concerned. Looked like the collimation was off. Again, not too worried.

9:31. While taking a quick break, on the York U pod cast, I saw Paul D. talking about the new version of Cosmos. He recommended checking the trailer.

9:45. I refocused on Dubhe, used the Bahtinov mask. Did another run. The target was 52° up. It was cold!

9:50. I started thinking about tomorrow. It would be a busy day. I started to pack up. Meanwhile, I shot darks.

10:13. I was done. I had completed a fairly quick shutdown. I remembered to bag the camera and computer before bringing them in.

Discovered that the rubber cap that is for the telescope visual back fits perfectly over the Canon t-adapter.  Hmmm.

Discovered the low temp grease from the CAO in the mount bag.  Now how did that get there?!

10:23. Checked the weather conditions. Current, from Env Can: mainly clear, -14°C, observed at Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport, as of 10:00 PM EST Monday 3 February 2014. Conditions were mainly clear, 102.9 kPa and rising. The temperature was -13.7°C. The dewpoint was computed at -16.3°C. The humidity was 81%. The wind was from the west at 10 km/h. The wind chill was -20.

received the spring SkyNews

SkyNews arrived in the super mail box today. Mar/Apr 2014 edition. Lots of cool aurora photos...

Ooh. An article on aurora!

I look forward to reading Levy's article on comet hunting in this modern age.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

webspotting 32 - aurora ovation

As published (with minor corrections) in the Jan 2014 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. Republished here with permission.


Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Finagle's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment.

Ralf's Laws of Observational Astronomy: There are never clouds in the sky unless the setup is complete.

Have you ever noticed that it is often clear during our meeting nights at the Ontario Science Centre? The Universe is having a laugh.

At the last meeting (on January 8) at the Ontario Science Centre, I sat beside Bill. You know, SuperGenius. He was trying to twist my arm to ride shotgun and watch for 'coons while he chased the elusive aurora borealis. Eh? While I had heard about a big Earthbound coronal mass ejection from an X-class solar flare and the anticipated category G3 geomagnetic storm, I was not really prepared to leap.

Didn't have my long johns on! So Bill started pitching Stu. He was keen. Stu in turn recommended a spot in Port Perry. I promised to keep in touch and let them know my plans. But I would go home first. We kept an eye on Bill's iPhone, monitoring the KP index estimates (around 3) and Clear Sky Charts (partly clear).

KP index, from 0 to 9, is a planetary value based on a weighted average of K-indices from a network of observatories. The K-index is a quasi-logarithmic measurement in the disturbance in the Earth's magnetic field. The KP index is often estimated since there is a delay receiving data from some observatories. The higher the value, the more the mag field is being rattled by the Sun. Three and below is considered quiet; above 4 is considered intense. And a strong KP usually means aurora is visible.

By the way, the Jan 8 category G3 storm prediction would have meant a KP index of 7!

The next question then becomes: where? That is, from what latitude will the aurora be visible? Everyone knows that, generally, the further north you go, the better the chances you'll see the "northern lights."

Light pollution issues aside, generally the auroral oval does not appear at middle or low latitudes.

Once home, I hopped on the interwebs and tried to accumulate some good data. What was the sky going to be like, in terms of cloud cover? How intense was the auroral activity, what was the past and predicted KP index? And how low did it go, that is, was the aurora in mid- or lower-Ontario?

In short order, I had about a dozen or so web sites open. Some old favourites like and the Aurora Sky Station. I was particularly interested in the tools provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, some of which I had consulted before.

Got myself into the Space Weather Prediction Center resources, reviewed the Auroral Map, the Solar X-ray Flux chart, and the familiar Estimated Planetary K index histogram. But then I found something new...

I was looking at a realistic top-down representation of the planet, as if I were floating over the north pole. Countries and regions outlined, it showed the lit sun-ward side of the planet and shadow opposite, reminding me of sun-clocks.

 It was clearly adjusted for the season, with most of Nunavut and Greenland in darkness. A mystical fuzzy green ring floated around the north pole. The legend at the bottom left of the display showed colour chips to help one gauge the probability of visibility. There was also a thin red arc called the View Line slicing through the Canadian provinces. It updated automatically two times a minute. Wow.

Updated link:

The OVATION Aurora tool appears to be new. It is clearly marked as a "Test Product." The description notes the "Auroral Forecast product is based on the OVATION Prime model which provides a 30-40 minute forecast on the location and probability of auroral displays for both the northern and southern polar regions." So, with this new tool at hand, I made the call. There was a 50% chance of seeing aurora on this evening. But it was not extending very far south. The View Line hovered around Hudson's Bay. I was not going to drive there tonight.

Sadly, Stu's early morning report echoed the prediction.

I hope you have better luck aurora spotting!

parts source

Via the LX200 Yahoo!Group, I heard about someone running a "telescope scrapyard" business. Interesting! Sounds like they are based in Rochester.

Maybe a nearby source for parts?


Got me thinkin' about Willy. And maybe taking Chris J's damaged 'scope...

Saturday, February 01, 2014

blobs in the lumpy darkness

I read the article called Lighting Up the Cosmic Web over at Sky & Tel.

It was interesting to learn that some researchers have possibly spotted, directly, more filaments of the cosmos. These filaments are often obvious in computer simulations of the Universe's superstructure, web-like strands, connecting and tying together at the macroscopic level galaxy clusters.

A chance alignment of the powerful ultraviolet beam emitted from a distant quasar illuminated hydrogen gas.

It is not the first time observers have seen the tell-tales of filaments. But this time it is cold hydrogen emitting light. And the hydrogen cloud is huge, twice the size seen previously. It is thought that the hydrogen is not part of the host galaxy.

The energy from the quasar caused the electrically excited hydrogen to emit Lyman-alpha radiation. Large concentrations of gas emitting Lyman-alpha radiation are called blobs. Yep. Lyman-alpha blobs. And you can look that up!

  • Top image from Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, S. Cantalupo.
  • Bottom image from European Southern Observatory, M. Hayes.

reported found key

Let Ostap know I found his lost MODL key. I spotted it behind the security computer last weekend, under the rat nest of cables. Others had purportedly looked for this key and reported it lost. How hard did they look?

learned furnace

As I reproduced the functional and electrical diagrams for the furnace at the observatory, and learned of sequencers and limit switches, I grew more confident that we could easily test the system to a deeper level. Tony was pleased, himself unfamiliar with electric furnaces, and not comfortable going in. Set a reminder to get a clamp meter.