Wednesday, April 30, 2014

updated the ECR

Updated the Expense Cheque Requisition workbook for the RASC treasurer. He didn't like the blue font I had used in the unlocked data entry cells. I switched them to a light grey background and regular black text. Made a few other adjustments. He's happy (happier) now. He said he'd announce it at tonight's council meeting. I told him I'd upload it to the Yahoo!Groups I had access to; asked him to upload to Council's group.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

an extra chance

Purchasing an AstroCATS show ticket online in advance includes an additional chance in the prize draws...

an uphill battle

I read an article in the Toronto Metro mini-newspaper. With some irony as I rode the subway into work (after riding the MiWay bus from home). It was interesting and sad at the same time.

The article was titled "Slow commute, frantic life: Report." They referred to the first provincial quality-of-life report at the Canadian Index of Wellbeing from the University of Waterloo.

Lots of thought-provoking info and numbers. This remark struck me:

"Participation rates in social leisure activities in Ontario dropped 4.4 per cent from 1994 levels. For women, the dip was 7 per cent compared to 1 per cent for men."

I thought of the RASC Toronto Centre and all the things we've considered to try to drive increasing membership numbers. I made a note to share it on the Operations group.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

James popped the question

While chatting about another matter, James said he had been meaning to call me. He asked if I wanted to join the RASC national board of directors. Yikes. Told him I'd have to think about it...

we don't know what we don't know

It's taken a long time.

Lately it has occurred to me that I'm very comfortable with the SkyTools software. Finally. I don't leave him without it. I enjoy using it. It is important for me when planning. And I really like to have it at the telescope, for starhopping, if necessary, for confirming sights, identifying double stars. If I can drive the mount, all the better. More and more I'm using it for image capture planning. Fantastic.

But then I considered that there are maybe still features I don't yet know about. It's a big product. It felt a little overwhelming in 2010 and 2011. Now I feel settled. But maybe I am too settled. I don't use the ephemeris much; I think I understand the basic principles.

Recently I had been at the Skyhound web site and noted the software features page. I returned to it and worked through the list. The plan was that if I came across anything I hadn't used or heard of or learned well, I'd concentrate on these undiscovered features. In conjunction, I reviewed the documentation. I wanted to be sure I was fully using the product. Using it as well as possible.

I was surprised at all that I knew. Then again, it's been over 1300 days since I first installed the app!

Hold up! I saw a note about the star drift tool. What?! What's that? Ooh, for doing drift alignment. Cool! I had no idea! Can't wait to try that!

showed deep stuff

Drew and I chatted briefly at the DDO. He said in his recent image of NGC 4565 he could see a lot of little galaxies but he didn't know what they were. I said SkyTools was really good at that, went deep, had huge databases, went to magnitude 20 for stars. I sent him a screen snapshot of the views while using an 11-inch SCT.

He appreciated the follow-up. Really liked the different views from SkyTools. He thought it more detailed than The Sky X.

quasar hunting

At the DDO last night, Ian and I started chatting about the quasar (HS 1603+3820) I had spotted using his 'scope, his 20-inch custom Newtonian. And that, for both of us, it was one of the most (if not the most) distant object viewed. We wondered out loud how far away it was.

I said I thought it was something like 9 billion light years. But when I searched my blog, in the iTouch, I found two different numbers: 3.9 versus 9.4. Huh? I wasn't sure which was right! The 9.4 Gyr was in the event report, from July 2011; the 3.9 Gyr from my year-in-review summary. I'd need to check SkyTools to verify.

Drew overheard the conversation and was very intrigued. I made a note to loop him in.

I was still feeling wired when I got home Saturday night so started following up on various matters. In ST3P, I found the following:

HS 1603+3820
16h04m55.4s by +38°12'01 (J2000) in Corona Borealis
Magnitude: 15.90 V
Redshift (z): 2.51
Light Time: 9.4 Gyr

Very interesting. And I discovered I'd made a typo in the review article. Corrected it.

Then Ian suggested "next time, we need to find this one: APM 08279+5255." And he sent along some annotated charts. I found it in SkyTools.

APM 08279+5255
08h31m41.6s by +52°45'18" in Lynx
Magnitude: 17.10 V
Redshift (z): 3.91
Light Time: 10.0 Gyr

Best viewed in March. Still above the 2 air mass into June.

Ian said that other sites reported it at "apparent mag 15.2." And suggested if it could not be spotted visually, then he'd image it. Mag 19 galaxies appeared all the time in his images. I added Ian's quasar to my SkyTools lists.

Then Drew chimed in. "Excellent! I've never attempted to image a quasar before!"

Looks like there will be some quasar shots this summer!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

very enjoyable

Fun evening at the final Member's Night at the DDO. Nicole's and Charline's talks on meteors were great. I enjoyed the time lapse video Nicole showed at the start to set the mood. I liked the subtext to Nicole's presentation: meteor showers are 'a changin'. Charline's trip to Tataouine sounded very interesting. Many shared tips and tricks. And then some members shared their meteorite collections. Neat.

The socialising afterwards was fantastic. Almost all the 48 or so people hung around for a quite while. I chatted with Drew, Ian, Van, Joel, Steve, Gilles, and others. Said hi to Grace, Shawn, and Lourdes. Took Peter's email for the Yahoo!Group. I was able to pull Nicole aside for a moment to share my latest idea. Learned it was a very small crowd at the tailgate party with a no-show that was no-surprise. And she shared a fascinating story about a mutual acquaintance. Told Ralph I almost called him the last clear night. I shot some group photos.

Received the SCOPE backissues DVD from Paul G. Received the much-needed accessories for the CAO's NexStar 11" GPS from Stuart.

Phil called a quick, impromptu meeting of CAO committee peeps, given that a bunch of us were there: we settled some details for the upcoming raffle.

When the clouds opened up briefly we took a look at Mars in the 8" Dobsonian. Spotted the ice cap.

Stuart did a great job again!

gloves to DDO

Katrina delivered a set (with two sizes) of non-latex gloves to the DDO. We put them in with the first aid kit.

Dunlap walkabout

I finally arrived at the David Dunlap Observatory. Was happy to see Karen there. Dropped off some gear and started my walkabout just after 4:00 PM. Headed to the east side of the building. I had read somewhere that it was interesting and rarely viewed. Indeed. It is handsome. Symmetrical. Spartan.

I noticed each of the carvings at the top edge is different. Next stop was the radio hut and antenna. Very neat. It would be a good stop for the walking tour.

A little overgrown. I did not venture in. I turned to the north hoping to find the pump house. Perhaps the wuk-wuk-wuk bird call distracted me. Caught the Pileated Woodpecker working an old tree.

I was able to draw close to the male. Combined with the Series 1 lens zoomed to 200 (effective 380) mm. I liked how he'd lean backwards before striking. After traipsing through the northern woods and not finding the old building and well, I emerged north of the 61 foot dome. Another interesting vantage. Stuart arrived as I swung 'round to the west. I walked to the bend in the residence road wondering if I'd be able to find the old Observatory Lane. Pretty obvious. And all of a sudden, I noticed I was being watched.

Initially, I saw only two White-Tails. Again, with the Vivitar, I was able to zoom in. After a time they grew bored, or anxious, and headed into the thicket.

Nice treat. I knew there were interesting flora and fauna in the Dunlap parcel, and I had started researching what might be seen, but I had not expected to spot any on my outing. I too turned north and meandered back to the Admin building. More cars were in the lot. Noticed some printing on the south-west corner.

Jessie and David's son. It was 5:30 PM. Good timing. Learned a lot today. And got some good ideas.

supported the cadets

Never before have I given them money. Never appreciated nor understood the wartime element. But today, it hit me. I felt different. It was changed. Thanks to Cmdr Hadfield.

These kids, in the lobby of the Canadian Tire, could be our future astronauts.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

paperwork done

Heard from the MODL 6 lessee that the paperwork and cheques were handed off at the meeting. Correction made on the spot. Thanks.

made a list

Completed the first cut at the CAO documentation catalogue. As I suspected: over 100 documents. Stuffed it up on Google Drive and shared it with the co-chair.

requested accessories

Asked Stu to secure some eyepieces and a 2-inch mirror for the N11 at the CAO.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

pico prototyping

Prototyped the 9 to 11k white LED. Found the forward voltage more than 1 and less than 3. As I suspected. Probably 2.5. Rob "linear1" Arnold recommended a 330 ohm resistor if driving from a 9v source; I found a 470 on the parts bin. Nice and bright!

Helping Hands hand-held a fiber. This might work.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday night learnin'

Jumped into the York radio program. Half-watched the OPV. Learned of the Giovanni Demisiani and Council of Giants. Mr Demisiani is person who named the instrument we now call the telescope. Thank goodness we still don't call it the perspicillum! A tidbit for my Fun Facts presentation perhaps? Marshall McCall talked about the formation of galaxies and how the galaxies close to us seem to be aligned in a remarkably flat sheet. He shared a short YouTube video link to illustrate these giant structures. Flat, like a planetary system.

renewed a MODL

Dealt with the CAO My Own Dome Lot 6 lease renewal. Slightly overdue. Rushed through the paperwork (making mistakes, again).

installed VMA 6

To the SSD drive, I just downloaded and installed the latest version of Virtual Moon Atlas. Version 6. And it is beautiful. Well. If you go for that sort of thing.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

found my book

Forgetful times. I spent days trying to find the 2" nose piece and EOS t-ring... I saw quite sure I had brought it back from the CAO, where I had last used it. Crikey. I hoped I had not left it there! I was certain I had brought it back. Certain that I had unpacked it. And kept feeling, somehow, that it was in the bedroom, on or near the shelves. But I couldn't see it. So I kept looking in the bags and cases and luggage from the last trip.

It didn't make sense but I started looking in other places. Maybe I had moved it. Maybe it had fallen into a different area or container. Unable to describe it, I just felt it was near the white dressers and shelves. I checked all the drawers again. Emptying each.

Then, in an attempt to be thorough, I started looking in all the astronomy cases. Astronomy case α is my main case, containing the most common things needed for a session at the telescope, like Haas's double stars book, my red flashlights, red goggles, compass, etc. It had travelled with me to the CAO. Nope. No nose piece. Case ε: the nominal home for the adapter and t-ring. Those remained the only empty slots. Case γ contained cleaning supplies, Velcro strips, funny pencils. It had stayed home. But it was atop the dresser. Maybe... somehow... No, not there. Looked, again, in the camera bag. Damn it. I also had not taken case β north. Didn't recall recently opening the case for second tier astronomy items. Still a popped the lid...

And found my copy of Photoshop Astronomy Second Edition!


Guess I can return Phil's copy now. Checked inside the back cover. Of course, there was the DVD!

two main objectives met

The SpaceX Dragon capsule, loaded with supplies and equipment, was attached to the International Space Station this morning.

This is the organisation's third mission to the ISS. After resolving the helium leak, things went swimmingly. A new and interesting aspect to this mission is that they are attempting to recover the booster stage rocket. That's pretty neat. If they do this successfully, it will dramatically drive down costs.

on moonlight

Woke to the radio and the amazing Billie Holiday singing, a-fluttering through, What A Little Moonlight Can Do.

It'll make you crazy, that's what.

checked at the end

Current Conditions. Mainly Clear. 5°C. Observed at: Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport. Date: 1:00 AM EDT Sunday 20 April 2014. Condition: Mainly Clear. Pressure: 103.1 kPa. Tendency: rising. Temperature: 4.7°C. Dewpoint: -2.9°C. Humidity: 58%. Wind: E 6 km/h.

doubles in a small 'scope (Mississauga)

21:18, Saturday 19 April 2014. I wanted to chase down the weird blobby fuzzy thing in Auriga, near IC 2149, that I had seen and imaged at the CAO at the beginning of the month. Skies were looking good.

Made a note to bring out the mouse and keyboard light. Was struggling a bit with the netbook.
Celestron 8-inch SCT on Vixen Super Polaris;
Questar 3½-inch Mak on equatorial legs;
both by star hopping
21:27. In the 8", I viewed the big triad near π (pi) Aurigae, HD 40064 nearest, HD 40143 to the south, and HD 39863 to the west. Noted fantastic orange colour of π aka 35. [ed: It's a LC variable, ranges from 4.2 to 4.3. Class M! Presumably using the 36mm to start.]

21:34. Plugged in the mouse and red LED for keyboard.

I thought the Super Polaris mount tracking was fair. Particularly good without any polar alignment!

21:38. Put the 26mm in the C8. Could see GSC 03361-1239 with averted vision. North-west of HD 39863. That was very near where I saw the weird fuzzy. Saw the twins TYC 03361-0643 1 and TYC 03361-0174 1. They were obvious. West of pi.

21:44. Corrected the polar alignment of the Vixen. It was maybe off in azimuth by 5 degrees. Oh oh. Noticed that while the finder scope was directly on the triad, the OTA was in the roof! Damn! Now that was funny. Well, if it's any consolation, I did not see anything "mysterious" in that brief period.

Seeing was really good.

Vixen mount was getting sticky. Like it was beginning to seize. Damn it! Decided to stop using it.

Grabbed the Questar 3½".

21:48. Wow. The ADDS radar image was amazing.

21:58. Had the Questar telescope up and running, roughly aligned.

21:59. Just tagged Jupiter in the small Mak. Viewed in the 40-80x eyepiece, originally 40x, then 80x. The seeing was excellent.

22:01. Saw three moons on the left [ed: Europa, Io, Callisto], one on the right. An equally bright star below [ed: HD 51295].

22:05. Tried putting one of my eyepieces in the Questar. Nope. Can't be done. Too bad.

22:27. Viewed HD 79552, a suggestion from the RASC Observer's Handbook. With the 40x, a tight pair; at 80x, all split. Could see the A, B, and C stars. I could see HD 79394 at the bottom-left or south-west of the target. I thought A and B almost actually the same brightness. Maybe B was a hair fainter. C was much fainter. C was maybe 2 mags fainter than B. A and B form a line with C almost at 90 degrees. I did not have a sense of colour in the little OTA. Blue-white maybe for A and B and orange or red for C? Really just guessing.

Oops. That star way off to the right was HD 79595! Oops. So, I was only seeing A and C of HD 79552. Let's regroup. A and C almost the same brightness, C a bit fainter. Both blue-white for A and B then? RASC said yellow and blue. Hmm. It was on my revisit list. Decided to leave it there...

22:53. Hopped from Cor Caroli. Saw 20 and HR 4997 off at the top-right. Then saw the obvious double in the finder! Must be wide.

22:56. OK. I noted bright 15 and 17 Canum Venaticorum were widely separated. They would probably be a good binocular double. 17 was to the east of 15. HD 114427 was to the north, about three times the distance of 17 from 15. [ed: ST3P says 17 (the primary) is a triple with a tight fainter companion of B. Added to the view-again list.]

23:06. I thought, it's time to buy BYEOS! High time.

I thought 17 looked white, maybe pale yellow. 15 BC looked blue-white. [ed: ST3P says 17 is an A-class star while 15 or B is a K!]

SkyTools showed a double to the west...

23:09. Looked at HD 114146 but could not split. B was too faint for the small aperture. [ed: 8.4 vs mag 10.4 at a sep of 6.3".]

23:11. Learned that mag of 17 C was perhaps mag 9.5.

23:42. I finally arrived γ (gamma) Sextantis. It looked like a single star. Ah no, SkyTools said it was a triple. But I could not see the other stars. Turned out B was 0.5" from the primary. A fast-mover. Ah no. Tough even in a bigger instrument. And C was mag 12. No, again. Crikey, these are bad suggestions.

23:49. Viewed Mars. The seeing was bad now. Could make out light and dark regions. At higher power, I thought I saw a white strip down the middle and a dark triangle on the right edge. The ice cap was not obvious.

00:01, Sunday 20 April 2014. Common sense told me up was up.

00:07. Viewed Mars again. North should have been at the 2 o'clock position in the Context Viewer chart.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

checked conditions


Current Conditions. Mainly Sunny. 9°C. Observed at: Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport. As of 6:00 PM EDT Saturday 19 April 2014. Condition: Mainly Sunny. Pressure: 103.1 kPa. Tendency: falling. Temperature: 8.7°C. Dewpoint: -1.4°C. Humidity: 49%. Wind: SSE 13 km/h

24 Hour Forecast. Sat 19 Apr. A few clouds. 1°C. Sun 20 Apr. Mainly sunny. 14°C.

Detailed forecast. Issued: 3:30 PM EDT Saturday 19 April 2014. Tonight, 19 April. A few clouds. Low plus 1. Sunday, 20 April. Mainly sunny. High 14 except 10 near Lake Ontario. UV index 6 or high. Sunday night, 20 April. A few clouds. Low plus 2.

The Clear Sky Chart looked very good.

just go

Manuel messaged the group on the tailgate thread. Was still hoping to make it. But he just got home. Sounded like he had put his C11 outside to acclimate but then said it would take 3 hours or more to cool. Strange priorities.

power starved

Manuel said he was interested in the tailgate gathering. But needed power. I guess he's still not sorted out his in-the-field power issues. Can't figure out how to use his portable battery. Of course there are AC outlets there.


Picked up some APC uninterruptible power supplies for the Carr Astronomical Observatory, one for security system beta, and one for the main house router. Decent price. This should help us now keep all the network equipment running in an outage until the generator kicks in.

locked in

They called a GO for a tailgate party tonight at the DDO. Hrrm. I had seen the clear patch comin' and had already started the wheels in motion for some backyard observing.

got lithium

Got some 2032 batteries on warranty plan. The Oregon Scientific weather station is reporting low, again.

super bright white

Picked up a 9000 to 11000 MCD white water-clear LED for the pico light project...

Finally snagged a punch-down tool. So I don't have to borrow Tony's all the time. Yeh, Sayal!

Friday, April 18, 2014

a bit of coaching

Coached some CAO supervisor candidates.

worked on Mars

Helped capture Mars frames.

Always get turned around at their place. For some reason I think south is over the backyard; in fact the backyard is aimed north.

closing the chapter

Tried to find out if Dave Cotterell was around. Couldn't figure out why he had not replied to any of my recent emails or messages on Facebook. Looks like I'll never get his help on double stars. Makes me sad.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kepler-186f discovered

The first confirmed Earth-sized planet (1.1 times larger) in the habitable zone has been discovered. Kepler-186f orbiting a fairly stable M dwarf star 500 light-years away.

This from the Ames Research Center podcast. ARC also released an article. Very exciting.

sent a note about Σ1327

Reported to Greg the weirdness spotted in ST3P with Σ1327. The D star does not show a name properly in the Context Viewer. When one hovers, the Status Bar shows the wrong magnitude. And it is not listed in the Object Information elements menu.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

responded to Michel

Michel had asked Dave and I for feedback on the Σ1327 star, back in February. I finally got 'round to replying!

Michel shared that this target in the constellation Cancer was from "an issue of Star and Telescope [sic] as a yellow and blue double with magnitudes of 8 and 9 and a separation of 7." He intimated that it was copied as-is to the RASC list. Later they moved the entry to the supplemental list [ed: it was included in the Observer's Handbook proper in 2011] because it was suspected that its colours may be difficult to observe with small instruments at low magnifications. Then he relayed details from Sky catalog 2000. Actually a triple. Magnitudes 8.2, 9.4, and 9.3. The separations for AB: 8" in 1958 and 16.1" in 1831; AC: 26.3".

He asked me if I thought the yellow and blue colours should be applied to the wide AC pair. I agreed.

He asked Dave to change the separation value in the supplemental list. To lower the magnitude of the A star. And to list the blue star in the magnitude 9 range, if I didn't disagree.

Finally Michel asked for details of my observing equipment, which I shared.


As I was investigating this, I believe I stumbled across more SkyTools database issues...

our job

Saw a great post by Richard Garrard on Facebook regarding the "Blood Moon."
People also got/get excited about solar eclipses, comets, "falling stars"...  they're reactions of ignorance.  It shows that we need to do more to educate them.  The good news is that celestial events can be dramatic and thought-provoking;  we just need to lead them in the direction of knowledge and away from the merchants of the stupid.
We need to help people under the Universe around them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Made tethers for the telescope. Used 1/16" wire rope with double-barrel aluminum sleeves. On the free ends of the tether I used a small carabiner.

One cable, short, for the finder scope. Drilled a small hole in the finder scope mount to receive a key ring.

One cable, long, for the camera.

The risk of dropping something now is reduced.

Monday, April 14, 2014

oh my

All the way from Vulcan. Made by Federation of Beer, in Alberta.

Or Pluto's Moon.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

received SJA training

Took the St. John Ambulance Emergency First Aid + AED training. Whew! Feel much better now. And I feel that I'm a little better equipped for when I'll be up at the Carr Astronomical Observatory where, even in the summer, we're a bit remote. Hope I never need to use it...

Friday, April 11, 2014

verified supernova location

Did some digging into supernova SN 2014a in ACO 779, which I imaged a short time ago. Double-checked the position noted in SkyTools.

The ST3P Context Viewer chart is centred on the exploding star.

My photo from 5 April clearly shows a bright point in this location. To the right of the galaxy core. Forming a right-angle triangle with J091946.4+334529 and J091947.8+334605. Between J091946.4+334529 and J091939.9+334632.

And I checked the area with the Aladin previewer. No star in the Aladin image.

I think SN 2014ai is about the same brightness as J091946.4+334529 and brighter than J091947.8+334605 and J091939.9+334632.

Nicole used my clouds photo

Nicole did a story on increasing noctilucent clouds, as reported by NASA. She asked the Facebook crew if anyone had a "local" photograph. Bill remembered mine. I sent Nicole the link to my blog post of Jul 2011. She liked what she saw.

The Global News article—Rare, shimmering nighttime clouds on the rise, NASA says—is up now. Ha! My photo is front n' centre.

I thanked Nicole. And Bill!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

copied, not installed

Thought I didn't have it installed. Well, that was true, technically. But I did find the EOS movie recorder app by Aleksey Chernov sitting in the Downloads folder of John Phil. Damn. I could have tried it last week. Oh well. So, I officially set it up. For the next time... 15 single frames is just not enough, I think, for good planetary imaging, with wobbly seeing.

lost at Sky & Tel

Sky and Telescope changed their web site. As usual, it's gonna take a while to find stuff. They assure us it is still all there. That may be so but I'm struggling to find things.


The links I have to the double star lists still work. But they are mapping stuff...

a bit more detail

And again.

Much more aggressive wavelets. Touched the gamma a little. And I did some RGB shifting.

Too much?

North is up; east is left.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

stacked Mars from last week

Tried stacking Mars again. Registax 6.

Manually selected the best frames.

North is up; east is left.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

checked the numbers

Ian asked Eric and I for a peer review of some coordinates. An artist friend needs to aim an outdoor piece properly for sunrise and sunset locations as well as maximum altitude on both solstices. I sent over some numbers. He apologised. He meant for the equinoxes. I sent another batch of numbers. They agreed with his.

received late-spring SkyNews

SkyNews showed up. The May/June issue of the Canadian astronomy magazine.

Big headline on Saturn. Indeed, looking forward to the return. Suggestions for viewing aurora. Sounds interesting. And an article about exoplanets which I will devour.

Sad to see that the RASC Toronto Centre AAA was not listed.


Happy Mars Day everyone!

Monday, April 07, 2014

whole sky planet viewing (Mississauga)

Mars was very low, orange, like an ember, over the houses to the west. Saturn was higher up. Moments later I lost it in the brightening sky. Venus was bright, rising over the roof tops to the south-east. Less than 20° up.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

received feedback on tour

There was generally a positive response to my tour idea for the awards picnic.

This could be fun.

a great finish (Blue Mountains)

11:11 PM, Sat 5 Apr 2014. The icd-sx750 voice recorder shutdown. Headed to the house. Put some alkaline AAA batteries from the kitchen in the Sony; my 8 Duracell rechargeables were bad.
Instruments: Celestron 14-inch SCT, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
Seeing looked good! Hopefully, with the early collimation adjustment to the Celestron 14-inch, I'd get some better Mars data.

Shutdown the EOS Utility. Disconnected the long USB cable. Dismounted the camera.

Decided to go to Mars now. The Paramount flipped over the meridian. Viewed Mars. Tried high power, up to 391. The windy seemed to be shaking the 'scope. Could see some detail even though my right eye did not seem to be working. But the seeing was not good enough for that high magnification.

Reviewed the Nightly Planner in ST3P. Applied filters. First up was ε (epsilon) Persei. I was a little anxious about moving the roof further north. Switched to a Puppis target. Dropped the south wall flaps.

Thornbury weather from Weather Network. 0 feels like -3. Wind SW 10 km. Humidity 61. Pressure 102.1 and rising. Saturday overnight -4 feels like -10, POP 0, wind 20 gusting to 32, humidity 63. Sunday morning still cold. -1 feels like -7. Winds picking up. Humidity a titch higher. Collingwood .

Slewed to HR 3315. aka SAO 175378. Back across the meridian. The 'scope was nearly horizontal!

11:38 PM. From the RASC Observer's Handbook coloured doubles—supplemental list. They call it S 568 Pup. A pair. Colours are great. Widely separated. Very different magnitudes. The primary is a bright orange star. Secondary. Dull. Sparkling, shimmering badly. 2.8 airmasses, at the moment. Mag 5 and 9 stars (normally). Very colourful. Neat pair. Saw a gaggle of stars nearby. Found HD 71142 at the 5 o'clock position. Spotted another pair, off to the side, between S 568 and HD 71142 . Equally bright. Almost the same orientation as 568. HD 71175 and PPM 728610 around magnitude 9. Very nice. 568 is a great double star. Glad I saw that, even though it was so low.

[ed: Haas says "bright apricot-orange" and "small ruddy."]

11:48. Chose Hubble's Variable Nebula—aka NGC 2261 and Caldwell 46. In Monoceros. Just as it was dropping below the 2x airmass. Very interesting. At low power in the C14, it had something of a V-shape. SkyTools also showed a bright star, R Mon, at the tip of the V. Like the nebula was trailing away. Like a comet. Lots of stuff in the area... Nice. Pleasing with the 27mm eyepiece. Cool shape. Noted other stars, one to the south-east, GSC 00746-0913 at mag 13.6, south star GSC 00746-1835 at 13.5, a little gaggle above, the double below, to the east. Neat object. Diffuse cone shape or fan shape. Close to the Moon which is probably decreasing the contrast. Glad I viewed it. It was suggested from the RASC Finest list. Also TAC. At some point I had added it to my Showpieces list, which will be good, in dark skies. Not far from the Cone Nebula and the Rosette (NGC 2244).

Considered HR 3674 or SAO 220978. In Vela! I've not viewed doubles in this constellation. It'd be fun to add one, I thought. TheSky protested, said it was below the horizon. Indeed. Scratch that, I thought. Not visible in the Tele Vue either, despite being mounted higher. The Year Bar suggested the time is nigh. Maybe an hour ago it might have worked.

Considered the another target from SkyTools's observing list. Noted a big comet—C/2014 E2 (Jacques)—in Pyxis, near θ (theta) Pyx. Took out the 55mm ocular.

Verified I was on θ in the Tele Vue. With the 5mm. About a field away from the comet. Tried to pan manually straight up (mostly east) in the field. No... Floundered. Took out the 10mm ocular for the refractor. No.

12:05 AM, Sun 6 Apr 2014. Did not see anything. Double checked the location. Checked again. Manually slewed to where the comet should be and took the 10mm TV eyepiece out for the refractor.

12:12 AM. Still no luck. In-line with a pair of stars, HR 3770. Went down (or west). A mag 10 comet. Huge. But extincted to mag 12. 4.3 airmasses. Yikes. With a Moon-lit sky. Well, the Year Bar showed it would be much better later in the year... Aug/Sep. I wondered what the extended magnitude was.

I was on the west side of the sky. Considered Ursa Major. But it was just crossing the meridian. What about the Lynx area? Noted a supernova—SN 2014ai—from SkyTools albeit 15.6 mag. Oh. Way up there, in the limit of the big 'scope, but would I be able to see it? In a galaxy cluster ACO 779. Headed to α (alpha) Lyncis. Then randomly moved to the area near the group. Looked for a right-angle triangle.

12:28. Figured out where I was. Off target. Identified the super bright star HR 3707 in Cancer. And realised I wanted to go the opposite direction of it. I headed north, into Lynx.

Spotted galaxy NGC 2832. But not the supernova within. A big-L pattern. A T-shape. Confirmed I was in the right area.

Decided to hook up the camera. Returned to α Lyn for focusing. Centred with the 27mm eyepiece. Returned to the galaxy area. Connected to the camera (after wiggling the cable and waking up the camera). Focused manually. Bit of a connection issue again... Tried a 1 minute exposure.

Was lost. Star hopped but couldn't get my bearings. Slight pointing issues with TheSky again. Was trying to find a medium-sized triangle in SkyTools that was taking up about 1/5th of the field of view. Gah. Took a couple of 300 second exposures.

C14, unmodded Canon 40D, 300 seconds, f/11, ISO 1600, daylight white balance, no noise reduction, no processing,converted from RAW to JPG with DPP. North is top-right; east is top-left.

1:17. Ha! Activated the ALL button in the Context Viewer. The image showed many faint galaxies! I had actually been in the right spot. Focus was poor, sadly. Still, I could see lots of fuzzies! I figured out the field. Damn! Right on it. The photo is pretty well centred on the ACO 779 group marking in SkyTools.

[ed. NGC 2832 was the bright fuzzy galaxy in the centre; NGC 2831 is just below; NGC 2830 is the edge-on below again; NGC 2834 is to the left of the pair of stars TYC 02496-1181 1 and GSC 02496-1354, yellow and blue. LEDA 139185 is visible to the left of the star GSC 02496-1254. NGC 2825 is near the bottom centre. Possibly LEDA 2037597 is visible; if not the galaxy then the star J091945.6+334312. LEDA 2036350 is down and left of TYC 02496-1118 1. NGC 2828 is at the right edge. It looks like TYC 02496-1118 1 might be a double star... Fascinating. Amazingly, I caught the supernova SN 2014ai.]

1:54. After another round of imaging of the Auriga area, I returned to Lynx. Tried to image the supernova with 5 min exposures. Now I had better focus.

[ed: The host galaxy is about 310 million light-years away from the Earth. So this supernova makes my life list as the most distant!]

1:55. The sky was looking very dark now. And Mars had crossed the meridian.

1:56. I would need to empty the Sony recorder soon. I continued waiting... waiting for the images...

1:59. The first image downloaded. Ha. I nailed the area! I blinked it but didn't see the supernova.

2:25. Focused on Spica again for Mars. Use AJT again.

2:31. The seeing looked crappy. I tried 1/250 of a second every 5 seconds. Took 50 shots. It was frustrating. The conditions seemed worse now.

2:40. I shot darks. Removed the dew shield which seemed to be picking up wind...

2:42. Viewed HD 79210, aka Σ1321, from the spring RASC Coloured Doubles list. I initially saw two equally bright, equally coloured stars. Both orange. Widely separated in the 27mm in the Celestron 14" SCT. These are the A and B stars.

RASC says yellow and blue. Wha? Are they talking about the A and D stars? [ed: The RASC list says the separation is 18", the mags are 8 and 8, and that's the AB pair.]

3:03. I took SQM readings: 21.19 first, then 10, 16, 11, 06, and 10 again.

3:08. I tore down the camera and USB cable.

Viewed the double again. Definitely orange. They were faint in the Tele Vue 101 refractor at 50x. It's a nice quad. D is blue. C, wow, is very faint! Didn't notice it... Averted vision is needed for C. [ed: Haas says "interesting object." Indeed. "Cool M" stars, "widely apart," and "identical." She thinks they are "peach white" whereas Webb says "yellow." At 17.7" separation, it seems she is commenting on the AB pair. No mention of other stars. M stars would be orange or red. She says they are identical. Both she and Webb use descriptions in the yellowy-orangey end of the spectrum. So, in summary, Haas and I are in agreement in terms of appearance, separation, colour, brightness. But the yellow-blue colours from RASC seem wrong. The RASC list also makes no mention of the other two companions. I'll report to Duval.]

The stars B and C and D are all about the same distance apart and form a nearly perfect equilateral triangle. Wow: the AC separation, in the ST3P Object Information dialog box, is totally wrong. The chart view however agreed with what I was seeing.

[ed: Some more details from SkyTools... From the OI box, the magnitudes, rounded: A 8, B 8, C 15, D 11. The separation and position angles, rounded: AB 17" 98° (as of March 2014), AC 28" 283°, AD 133" 140°. In the Context Viewer, with the Angle tool, AB 17" 97°, AC 152" 64°, AD 150" 126°. Again, the AC pair is way off. The AD is different too but in the ballpark. Wow. I'll report to Crinklaw.]

3:21. Viewed the IC 3568 aka Lemon Slice Planetary. It was tiny, bluish, not round. There was either a bright star in the centre or the region was bright. I noted a faint double below. I felt that the planetary nebula IC 3568 deserved higher power. I should look again. [ed: Added to the View Again list.]

It was getting windy. I was feeling tired. But I wanted to finish with something... wow!

3:27. Found comet K1 in Corona Borealis. C/2012 K1 (Pan-STARRS). Yes! It sported a bright centre and an oval coma. The fan tail was diffuse off to the south-west. It was within an arc of bright stars lead by HD 140847. Very pleasing. It was obvious in the TV101 at 50x. Nice.

3:57. I was in bed.

What a week!


Verified the location of the supernova a few days later.

in search of weird fuzzies (Blue Mountains)

8:45 PM, Sat 5 Apr 2014. Used AstroJan Tools again for focusing.

Wanted to control the camera in the Warm Room. I wondered if the powered, amplified USB cable would work.

Coyotes going again.

9:30. Viewed Nicole's video. Correlated it to the chart in TheSky. I was in the area. Her blob a bit further east of where I was pointing. Did 90 second exposures with results similar to the other night. Then 120. She had done 600 second exposures—10 minutes. Her blob was very near 5 57 38.83 +46 00 1.68 (2000), near the star 2MASS ID 1291544811, mag 13. My camera frame included her candidate area. I thought I might also be able to see the galaxy LEDA / PGC 2271984 and perhaps PGC 2276793. Nope. Kept trying longer and longer exposures. 

9:37. Put the dew shield on. Felt like the wind had died down. Hopefully it will help with the Moon light. And hopefully it wouldn't catch the wind.

In the zone. My object was in the bottom of the frame. Didn't see the planetary, IC 2149. Probably just off the frame. Added 1 minute to the exposure time.

Was definitely colder. Frost already on the observatory tables.

Adjusted the field rotation in TS6 to match her blinked video. Nicole's blob was near the mag 15.2 star 1291544865. There's a little triangle of faint stars in her image.

Checked the distance travelled in her video. Almost one arc-minute, 53 seconds. Speed? Unknown. I didn't know the dates and times between them. The position angle was 326°.

Oh boy. Might be late night...

Got out the USB extension cable. Checked the ends. Initially thought I'd test it on the observatory floor, just in the camera-computer loop, just to see if it would work. Not as long as I thought. Checked the length... Ugh. Not really long enough to lie on the floor. Just barely. Brought the netbook in from outside. The ASUS detected the active cable as a hub. Shuffled the desk, moving the laptop to the right side, affording space near the door. Hey! Looked it it was not working. The EOS Utility launched immediately but did not activate the control menu. Checked the camera status. Ah. It was off. Tried again, saw the EOS Utility lag, as per usual—it worked!

9:50. Put the camera to Bulb, programmed a 5 minute sub! With a 15 second pause for downloading. Look at that. Fire trucking eh! Back in the Warm Room!

Left the red film off, to watch for colours. Connected John Phil to the network.

Learned about a feature in Canon Digital Photo Professional. I wanted to view photos at a large size and move sequentially through them. Found a suggestion on the web, to use the "Edit Image Window" or Ctrl+Right Arrow (weird). So, select the images to view in the Main window, then go into the Edit window. It has its own toolbar including Next and Previous buttons. It has an optional navigation bar on the left, with thumbnails. Seems like the Home and End keys work. Up and Down arrows work. Left and Right don't work (as per the documentation). Anyhoo. Nice, way faster for browsing!

Also learned that it is the Main window of DPP that wants 768 pixels; it's not the preview itself.

Continued waiting for the 10 minute sub. Examined the 3 minute sub for Nicole's fuzzy. Nothing... Dimmed the red lighting. Reinstalled the red film. Cranked the LCD brightness.

10:06. Reviewed a 10 minute sub. A lot of motion in the photo. Periodic error, wind, etc. Such a weird object. I did not see anything in the area like Nicole's images.

(The trailed stars made me wonder if RASC shouldn't get a guider camera for the C14 for when member's would want to do long exposures. I couldn't remember if the SBIG had an off-axis guider. Damn. I still don't know how to use that camera...)

Still I did not see Nicole's object. I wanted to invert it. DPP didn't seem to offer that ability. Made a copy, exported it. Fired up Paint! Inverted it. Ha! Nothing. Nothing in the area.

Was very happy to remain in the Warm Room. Very enjoyable!

Decided to change position a little bit. Now that the Dell was driving the Paramount I could nudge it!

Was curious about the field of view choices in TheSky. Did not have anything for the Canon. Checked the MallinCam FOV option in the software but it was not right. Rotating. Zooming.

10:16. The next 10 minute downloaded. Blurry again. A lot of motion. Drifting. I decided to go back to 5.

Boring! Nothing to do when you shoot long subs! Ha. Got find something else to do while waiting... Considered new CAO supervisor candidates.

In my 10 minute image, I could just make out the pair of faint galaxies LEDA (aka PGC) 2276793 and LEDA 2276774 [ed: correction] galaxies near the top-right of the frame. And PGC 2273637 just at the bottom edge of the frame. ST3P showed LEDA 2276674 just east of the pair but I could not see anything obvious. Crazy faint, all of these.

Did a tiny slew to offset a bit. Chose star GSC 3361:989... Moved east a bit. Started a photo run.

Considered my object, what started this whole chase. Such a strange shape. Most unusual pattern. Very bright. Not in Aladin! Possibly a cometary globule? A galaxy lensed?! Meanwhile, Nicole spotted something that appeared to be moving, but did not see my object. Possibly a comet? Two things going on. Or two flaws?

10:31. The first 5 minute image finished. Made my SkyTools match her photo/video by manually setting the zoom. Blinked it. I spotted something near GSC 03361-0989. A point or an extended point below the star, quite bright, about magnitude 15.0 to 15.5. Brighter than mag 16.0. A comet? No. Probably just a star to the west not in the chart. [ed: the companion star shows in the Aladin previewer...]

10:50. Slewed back to my original area. Wanted to re-shoot at 5 minutes.

11:11. Set an alarm 1 hour away to return to the Auriga area.

Nicole forwarded an email from Pete. He thought that her "moving thing" is an artefact in the T20. He talked the collimation mark on the mirror, taking flats, etc.

12:12 AM. Psion reminder alarm went off to return to the Auriga area.

Felt I was losing time, while trying to spot the supernova in Lynx, with Auriga setting in the north west. Opened the roof all the way, for a better view. The roof worked! Minor protesting from the contactor but no apparent strain to the motor. Whew.

1:15, Sun 6 Apr 2014. I returned to Aurgia. Back in the zone. Did a 2 minute sub again. Little bit too high. Pretty well where I was supposed to be.

The focus was off. Refocused with the Optec TCF from approx. 3625 to 3525. Shot another 2 minute exposure. Wondered, out loud, if I could do focus control in the Warm Room. Then I'd be able to do everything. [ed: Yes. Optec offers software control. There are ASCOM drivers.]

Felt colder in the observatory. Spotted my mystery object. Focus looked a bit better. 

1:32 AM. Went 50 less on the focuser, 3475. Changed the sky position a bit.

While waiting for image acquisition, I looked at the browser. Noticed a special weather statement from Environment Canada. Great. Wet snow! 10 centimetres in some areas. Crazy. Current conditions for Collingwood as of 1:00 AM. Temperature was 0. Actually -0.4. Dew point -0.6. Wind is 9 km, chill -4. Humidity 65%. Temp dropping to -8. Pressure was 102.1, rising. Reviewed the forecast from 3:30 PM. Tonight, clearing in the evening. Wind west 40, gusting to 60, 20 after midnight. Light after midnight. Low -8. Sunday is clear and sunny.

Focus looked better again. Could have shifted the field more. Decided to take the focus down another 50. And the frame was still a little high. Went back to a 5 minute exposure.

Tried to hit Divide on the Sony. The memory filled up on the recorder. Nooo. 1 minute left... Oh oh. Switched to hand-typed notes. Damn.

1:41. Continuing the imaging run. 5 min subs. The Optec was at 3422.

I checked the current apparent data from the Auriga area. Going through 2.9 airmasses. It would further deteriorate the image.

The first 5 minute image came in. I didn't see anything moving from earlier this evening.

1:47. Checked the Davis weather station. Our local conditions at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Wind from the west. Humidity was 85%. The outside temp was -3.4. Dew point -5.6. The barometer was at 1021.2.

OK. Done. Done chasing these weird objects.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

tried tuning the C14

Tried to improve the collimation of the Celestron 14" telescope.

7:15 PM. I made a Duncan collimation mask for the C14 out of corrugated cardboard. Made it hodge-podge with minimal tools. Scissors and carpenter's square. Without a protractor. No idea if it would work.

Briefly considering using Stellarium on the Dell laptop, so to monitor the whole sky. But then TheSky 6 can do the job, when in Zenith mode. No point adding more software.

Realised I would need to use the standard configuration for controlling the Paramount, i.e. use Taurus, to control the 'scope. To then use John Phil for camera control, the monitoring, beside the OTA, during the collimation process. Hooked up the serial data cable to the Dell. Homed the Paramount with Software Bisque's app.

Chose Capella for the collimation star. Up high.

Tilted the 'scope back some more, for clearance. Tried to open the roof. Experienced the roof contactor problem. Huh. No issues the night before. Hit the motor shell (with the small counterweight) and it worked. Decided to stop at the 50% mark. Thinking it would put more weight middle pier. Stopped about one foot away. Had to coaxed the motor before moving again. Grrr. After a few more seconds, I stopped again. Bingo.

8:20. Reacquired Capella. Centred with medium power eyepiece. The wind was gusting a bit as I attached the camera. Hmm.

8:23. Noted the pattern from the focusing mask. Shot a photo. Canon 40D, f/11, ½ second, ISO 1600.

8:28. Felt cold. Realised that being on the observing floor would require more layers. Headed to the house. Returned with three more layers, including the red coat.

Took the netbook out to the telescope. Removed the red film and dropped the screen brightest. Put the small computer on a chair while I stood on the ladder so to reach the Bob's Knobs. Camera was powered with the DC coupler. The Canon USB cable between camera body and computer.

8:35. All set up. Ready to collimate. Saw the outward lines in the collimation mask but found it really hard to nail it. When the lines switch from the curved to the outward is very close to the perfect focus. Tried a few times and gave up. Reverted to the traditional means, with the mask, diffraction rings, inward and outward focus. Later used to Optec to avoid mirror shift.

Astonishing sensitive the collimation screws.

I think it is a tiny bit better. But the seeing was not good at all... I should probably have another go at it.


Forgot about the recommendation of being at 400x with the Duncan mask. That's for visual use, the recommendation, of course.

ST3P says the field is 19'29" x 12'58" with the 40D. The software says the field is 18'20" x 12'12" with the 13mm. That's like 300x. Didn't think to put the doubler in...

spotted Jupiter (Blue Mountains)

Moved into the Geoff Brown Observatory. From the house, brought out the Canon DSLR camera. And the ASUS netbook, of course. Other items for the evening.

Made a point of looking for Jupiter from the south porch. About 10 degrees, left of the Moon, still in a fairly bright blue sky. The Moon helped me focus. Neat.

skies looked good

The plan tonight was rich and multifaceted.

Get more data in the area of β (beta) Aurigae. Collect more information on Nicole's potential moving object and my weird stationary shape. In the area of IC 2149. See (rather image, with the DSLR) if anything was moving or different or there or not there. Her short blinking movie showed something comet-like moving in the area; but, curiously, still no sign of my object. Two objects?!

Wanted to try collimating the big SCT. With a mask.

And after that, try imaging Mars again!

I also wanted to have some fun, do some general deep sky observing. My initial list was mostly double stars. Earlier in the day I had added many DSOs to the SkyTools list. Some from the Finest NGC, the RASC 40 Brightest, etc. Over 100 objects now.

Although the Moon would be setting later, around 2:00 AM, I still wanted to view some fuzzies. The Moon, according to SkyTools 3 Pro, would be magnitude -9, at 37% phase, 6.2 days old. Unfortunately that would add more light for some of the evening. The Moon would be about 37° from β Aur.

Not a lot of clouds. Yeh! Lucky. Another clear night. At the beginning of this trip, I had expected maybe 1 or 2 clear nights. 3? Awesome!


Just going around in circles...

Katrina reminds us regularly that she cannot attend Wednesday night RASC meetings. And intimates regularly we could get higher attendance if we moved meetings to Friday night. And suggests that the Toronto Centre meetings be recorded, streamed, broadcast, and otherwise made available to more members and the general public.

She raised the matter again a couple of days ago without referencing issues we have highlighted before, like the technology requirements, if the Ontario Science Centre would support this, the staffing requirements for live broadcasting, speaker permission issues, etc. We had a hard time finding one videographer!

Ralph remarked, again, that there are a number of issues and intimated that Council is aware. And made it clear these is no policy yet.

Mr Mortfield jumped into the fray and fanned the flames.

Allard said he didn't see what the problem was. The speakers are speaking at a public meeting. He's talking about using a public video web site (e.g. Vimeo) and not bothering with access controls. He's really speaking out of turn. He mentions an agreement would need to be prepared but it should not be difficult.

There's no regard any more for copyright, ownership, information embargoes, etc. No one seems to appreciate this from the speaker's perspective. We should be starting there.

Why doesn't someone ask Ottawa that's involved?!

And, once again, this really needs a champion. Someone to do that work. Tackle the issues. Someone to grab the bull by the horns, do the proper research, rally some troops, sort out the logistics, get the costs, talk with legal departments, identify the resources required, and then present what's possible. No one is stepping forward. I don't see that happening any time soon...

So we just keep going around and around.

learned about Ontario Telescope

Learned about Ontario Telescope and Accessories from Stu. Cool. A new astrogear shop for Canucks.

Looks like they'll be at AstroCATS...

we have it

Paul emailed the Yahoo!Group looking for a Windows XP disc. I wonder why he didn't ask me directly. I replied. Said I could bring a disc and key from the CAO.

sent note to CBAT

Sent a note to the IAU Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams at Harvard.

SJA date set

Sent out a note to the parties interested in the St Johns Ambulance first aid training. We had locked in the date and location.

Friday, April 04, 2014

correct parts received

I heard from Genevieve. She had the correct parts now for her camera. Good. What a hassle. I wish I could have advised her in time to avoid the vendor on Dufferin.

no anonymous stars for you

Tried to associate a log note with the custom skymarks I had made in SkyTools. And then to some of the very faint stars I had seen and added to my observing list, like J055713.3+460117. Log entries cannot be created for these types of list elements. It is worded in a funny way for the latter, for "anonymous" stars. Huh.

planned for more DSOs

Added more deep sky objects to the SkyTools observing list. For Saturday. Was thinking the other night I was not taking advantage of the location and conditions... Use these dark skies! OK. Now close to 120 objects.

Looking good tomorrow night...

blah day

Grey day. Windy and rainy at the observatory. Good day to blog. And fix stuff.

she spotted 2271984

Nicole sent an image from the T11 for review. She had highlighted a fuzzy.

I studied it. She had circled LEDA or PGC 2271984. Not my fuzzy.

more troubles

Poor Chris J is having troubles with his new 'scope. Sounds like, based on his note to the Yahoo!Group, a bad hand controller... Or a bad wire?

received T11 image

Nicole shared a 300 second image from the T11.

North is left; east is up. The bright star is HD 39863. My target area is just below. Nothing...

Thursday, April 03, 2014

found a RA/Dec converter

I was trying to convert location formats between TheSky and SkyTools and Aladin. Everyone wanted it different ways. I needed a handy converter. At home, I had a spreadsheet I had made... But, unfortunately, something happened to the remote machine. Long story. So I looked on the web and found the "RA DEC flexible converter" by Jan Skowron. It's in his Science section.

It allows one to enter right ascension and declination coordinates, ad hoc, in a particular format. Then spits out in many other formats. Very easy to use. For example, enter 16h04m55.4s +38d12m01s and it returns:

16:04:55.40    38:12:01.00
16 04 55.40    38 12 01.00
16:04:55.40,    38:12:01.00
16.0820556    38.2002778
16h 04m 55.40s    38d 12m 01.00s
16h04m55.40s    38d12m01.00s
16h04m55.40s    38°12'01.00"

Also spotted his "Stars and Astronomical Objects Name Resolver" which looks kinda neat!


House shook with the wind. No observing tonight.

Jay rated red lights

Stumbled across Jay's article on red light during sketching... He reviewed several red LED flashlights: Black Diamond Spot, Rigel Starlite, and the Photon Freedom II. In the end he chose the tiny Photon Freedom II. He clips it to his drawing clipboard or wears it on a finger. He preferred it for its even light at its dimmest setting.

checked for plaques

Lora sent out a note about the plaques for the awards picnic. I was able to report that there were none at the CAO...

imaged Mars with doubler (Blue Mountains)

Slewed to Porrima, so to get closer to Mars. Always fantastic. Two equally bright intense shimmer golden stars.

1:33. Made some adjustments to SkyTools for the Mars imaging. Added 2x and 4x magnifiers to the C14 profile. Found the Canon was not available for the Tele Vue 'scope. Added it.

1:56 AM. Slewed to θ (theta) Virginis. Very close to Mars. Then some other nearby stars. Sneaking up. Creeping to, then across the Meridian. Finally to red planet. The mount did not do a meridian flip, yeh! Ready to track continuously.

2:00. Put in the 18mm. Then the 10mm. Beautiful. Very cool. Seeing was not bad.

2:04. Viewed at 391x in the C14. Pretty good. Noted the 8.5 mag star to the north, HD 116013. Sure I was seeing the ice cap and a dark ring about it. Elysium was straight toward us.

Slewed to Spica to focus. Headed out to the observatory floor. Connected the Tele Vue 2 times PowerMate to the special adapter, then to the t-ring, to the Canon body. Focused on the bright star, with the SCT control, then the Optec hand paddle. Pretty good.

2:16. Slewed back to Mars.

Repeated viewings. I kept thinking "triad." The ice cap at one point. But there were other bright white-ish points at the edge of the disc.

For all images: north is up; east is left.

2:37. After adjusting the exposure and touching up the focus, I started the imaging run. Still, it looked soft.

I think I spotted vibration from the camera mirror. RTFM. I enabled the mirror lock-up function. First time using it. It was clearly working correctly. I also used it with the Live View. But I was worried about the heat from the display. If I understand correctly (after reading the camera manual), a double shutter activation works, that is, fully pressing the shutter release once (either on the camera body or with the intervalometer remote) flips the mirror up, then the second full press opens the shutter. After the shutter closes then the mirror comes down. All that made me wonder how to program the remote timer...

1/125 of a second.

1/200. A bit better I think. Shot a ton of these.

Tried 1/320 and 1/400 but didn't like these as much.

2:56. Somewhat unsatisfying. Focus or appearance does not seem very good. Seeing was coming and going.

In the back of my mind, the whole, time I wondered about video recording. Couldn't remember if I had the Canon movie recorder app with me. On the netbook... It might be best to use lucky imaging on a night like this...

Also I kept thinking about the collimation of the SCT. I should hook up the camera and try to fix it. Oh, and check the mirror locks...

Viewed in the Tele Vue. Very nice. Stark, crisp, large disc. Very pleasing.

Very cold now. Brrr. Started shooting darks.

2:59. Recapped. Considered more targets. Over 60 items on my list. Nothing really grabbed me. Not in the mode. Caught myself yawning repetitively. Decided to wrap up. LIFO on the netbook software control

3:10. Shut down. Frost everywhere. Corrector was clean. Brought the hair dryer in from the observatory floor. Packed up gear for the house.

Shut the roof motor off. Roof worked OK tonight! Second night working well. Howled a bit at the mid-point with the deformed west rail. But the motor did not sound laboured.

Caught a bit of Scorpius rising. Nicole had told me to watch out for it!

3:18. Current conditions from the Davis console. Temp outside -5°C. Humidity 89%. Barometer 1024.1 and steady. Wind from north-west. Temp inside 20.

So, overall, happy with the evening's proceedings. Learned more about the blob in Auriga, viewed a few more RASC double stars, saw a few DSOs, and captured Mars near opposition. Thankful for the good conditions tonight.

some visual observing (Blue Mountains)

Ran TheSky on the laptop in zenith mode so I had a dynamic display of the whole sky.

Considered targets in Sextans. Had to remind myself where it was. Above Crater, below Leo. Beside Hydra. Huh. Noticed that TheSky 6 was not showing the constellation lines for Sextans.

10:50 PM, Wed 2 Apr 2014. Slewed to Ghost of Jupiter, aka NGC 3242 (aka Caldwell 59), in Hydra, even though I have viewed it before. 3 years ago. Did not have to drop the south wall panels. Quite large in the 27mm. Thought I some swirling structure within. Took out the 18 and 10mm.

11:11 PM. Woo hoo. Neat object. Was able to crank the power. 391x with the 10mm. Nice view. I think I can see bright rings inside. Bright point in the centre. Diffuse at the outer edges. Nearly round. Not a lot of field stars. Noted TYC 06065-0765 1 nearby. Large in the eyepiece!

Postponed my Friday night training / dinner with the dos Santos... Dang.

Went to house for the iPod Touch. Made a hot chocolate from my supply (unopened box, yeah). Spotted the Double Cluster over the house naked eye. The Beehive up high. Looked at the southern sky on the way back with Hydra, Alphard, Corvus. I love that pair of δ (delta) and η (eta) Corvi. Sextans is just above Alphard, right? A large diamond of faint stars? Tried to spot Crater.

Nicole and I were instant messaging. I told her it was a beautiful night. And I had hot chocolate. She replied, "You're killin' me."

Softer viewer now. Probably because it was so low.

11:36. Stopped the dark run. Shut down the Canon. Had another look at the blob. A little softer now. Probably because it was so low.

Headed to the Spindle, thinking of Mr dos Santos. Not far from λ (lambda) Hydrae. Also previously viewed.

11:43. Looked at the Spindle galaxy, NGC 3115 (aka Caldwell 53), in Sextans. Lovely. Canted spiral. Very bright pin-point centre. Progressive smooth gradient from the centre. Large in the 27mm. Mag 10.0. A straight line of faint stars parallel to the plane of the galaxy to the south-east, with TYC 05477-1015 1, and the brightest member being PPM 193074, at mag 10.5. Very faint stars nearby. ST3P showed a couple of other galaxies nearby...

Hot chocolate cooling...

Could not see the neighbouring galaxies. Where I thought PGC 29299 was, was a faint star, GSC 05477-1060 at mag 14.7. The small galaxy would be between the faint star and the line of stars. Nope. Not seeing it. Could not see the mid-sized galaxy, MCG-1-26-21, further away. Weird void to the south east of the Spindle.

Noted a hook of stars near the south-west end of the galaxy. The brightest star was GSC 05477-1016 at mag 12.9. But I saw the faint star within the disc of the galaxy. This star did not show in the Context Viewer. In the Interactive Atlas it showed as J100513.0-074425 at mag 16.3. Wha?!

12:00 AM, Thu 3 Apr 2014. Since I was in the area, I slewed to 35 Sextantis. I had not viewed this before. On the RASC coloured list. Got the 5 and 10mm eyepieces out, for the TV 101.

12:04 AM. In the C14 with the 27mm, viewed the double star, aka (Struve) Σ1466. Pale yellow and pale blue. Fairly tight, fairly close. Put the 5mm in the TV101 and my first impression here was that the primary was more orange with a light blue companion. The Observer's Handbook describes these are orange and blue. Finally! We concur! Very colourful.

SkyTools showed that it was a quad. Clearly the RASC OH is referring to the AB pair. The main pair are 6.8 seconds of arc from one another; A and C are very widely separated at 5 arc minutes; C and D on the other hand are extremely tight at half an arc-second. A and B are mags 5.77 and 7.34. The C star is part of a nearby L-pattern, the brightest star at the top of the L. So, I've already spotted the C companion. The position angle of AB is nearly toward the apex of the L, star SAO 118444, nearly, slightly to the east. Maybe around 245°.

[ed: Haas describes the showcase target but only refers to the A and B stars. She says 241°, 6.7", mags 6.2 and 7.1. She says they are "citrus-orange and blended blue-green." Smyth however says, "topaz yellow; smalt blue."]

12:17. Now, the C and D were nearly equal brightnesses, both around mag 9. I wondered if I could split them! An interesting experiment. That's below my career split limit. Tried some high power eyepieces. But even at 391x I was not positive. Seeing was off now. Jumping around. I guessed that the position angle might be similar to AB. SkyTools showed that AB were 239°; while CD were are 210°. Counter to what I was thinking. Hmm. So maybe I did not see the split. Would need better conditions... It would be higher in late April. I'll put this on my re-observe list. [ed: Done.]

12:25. Viewed with the 27mm the Gemini Nebula in... you guessed it... Gemini! Never viewed before. Not far from Castor and Pollux. Also known as NGC 2371. Reminded me of the Helix planetary nebula. Not round, as SkyTools made it look. This seemed to have two lobes. Did some googling to find some photos. Bumped to higher power with the 18mm.

Image from Aladin. NGC2371. POSSII/N/DSS2. Size and definition: 12.9' x 12.9'. 768 x 768 pixels. Survey: Palomar Observatory Sky Survey (POSSII). Color: InfraRed (N). Origine: Space Telescope Science Institute. Rotated.

12:32. Very neat object. Very pleasing at this power. Not regular. It gives the impression of spinning, swooping, things trailing off. Like a kids toy windmill. Double vanes. And I noted now the bright point or fuzziness in the middle. There's a tight double below (to the north) with the brightest star being GSC 01922-0557 at mag 12.5. There's a wide double above, with mag 12 and 13 stars, the brightest being GSC 01922-1629. This pair is perhaps better for the alignment of the lobes, parallel to the direction of the poles. Meaning the lobes are oriented north-east through south-west.

12:45. Slewed to 5 Lyncis. Another selection from the RASC coloured double stars.

12:50. Triple! 5 Lyn A and C are crazy far apart. A and B close together. B is faint. C is brighter, eye-catching. SkyTools Object Information says the magnitudes are: A 5.2, B 10.0, C 8.1. A and C are 1.5 minutes apart; A and B 32". The RASC OH quotes these are yellow and blue but again does not refer to which pair. C, to me, is aqua? Maybe green-ish? B is fainter, definitely blue. A lot of bright stars in the field. [ed: The Observer's Handbook is referring to the AB pair. It colours them yellow and blue, and notes them as faint. OK.]

12:55. Second looks. In the C14, the B star is definitely blue, a deep blue. C is hard to qualify, off on its own. In the TV101 at 108x, B is almost impossible to see. I wonder if a novice would miss that in a low power 'scope; whereas C is obvious and definitely blue. [ed: In daylight, SkyTools shows the star colours as: A orange, B white-ish, C pink-ish. Huh.]

I wondered what the magnitude limit of the Tele Vue refractor was and if I was close to it. [ed: No. It's computed as 14.2. And, while we're at it, the C14: 16.1.]

A and C are almost in-line to the bright star HD 44473, off to the west. B is almost at a right angle, opposite direction from HD 44536, which is to the north. Neat.

[ed: Haas notes both the AB and AC pairs. She describes AC as orange and pink, widely apart. And, that she did not see the B star (at 50x)! Huh. Smyth though, she reports, spotted all: A orange, B blue, and C "pale garnet."]

12:57. Been at it for 5 and a ½ hours so far! Yawn! Glanced at Mars out the window... Getting close! Chose a target in Corvus. Again, a RASC coloured system.

1:04. Viewed HD 105590 with a medium powered eyepiece. Super cool. Wow. A very tight triple star. Almost a perfect equilateral triangle. The primary is magnitude 6.8, according to the Context Viewer. Faint B was to the right (east), mag 9.1. Quiet faint. C, aka SAO 157112, to the north is brighter at 6.7. Separations are: AB 9.2; AC 10.4.

Fantastic colours in the 18mm! A yellowy, C blue, B red or orange. [ed: Haas has "grapefruit orange, sky blue, and silvery" (without stating the order). She also says C is brighter than B, that is B is 9.4 and C is 8.1. There appears to be a typo though. A shows in the first row is 6.6 and the second row as 6.9.]

[ed: This is from the RASC supplemental list. Σ1604. Mags 6.6 and 9.4. 9" apart. Orange and blue. Confusing. The separation and brightness values suggests the author is talking about the AB stars; the colour of the secondary however suggests the C star! And why no mention at all of the triple nature, perhaps the most interesting quality?! I will have to report this again...]

Oh! An optical grouping. ST3P says the distances in light-years are: A 89, B 45, C 110. C in the background. I wondered if B was a red dwarf. In the foreground. Neat.

Found another database issue in Greg's software. The Object Information says that C is magnitude 9.3. But that's clearly not right. It is significantly brighter than B, which is noted as 9.4.

Needed more hot chocolate.

Noticed some stars below Crater in the south-west-south. Maybe Libra stars. Serpens rising. Oh, Saturn.

Noticed, in TheSky, that Mars was about to enter the no-fly-zone for the Paramount.

1:35. Cleared space around the telescope. Headed to 6 Leo. Never viewed before. A simple pair. RASC notes it as orange and green. No. In the C14 intense yellow; a bit orangey, warmer, in the TV. The companion is a deep, deep blue. [ed: Haas thinks the primary is "brick-red" and intimates the secondary is colourless. She also quotes Smyth and Webb. Respectively, "pale rose tint, purple" and "deep orange, green." Wow. Very different impressions, all of us.]

Very different brightnesses. I found the B star surprisingly challenging to see in the small 'scope. ST3P says they are 5.1 and 9.2. Nice pair.

Another optical double. Chance alignment. Very far apart in space...

88 Leo. Medium tight in the 101mm refractor. Primary looked colourless, perhaps. Maybe off-white or beige. It seems yellow, but very pale, in the big SCT. Companion seemed blue at first glance in the 14". Maybe a light blue. Hard to tell. Faint. Widely separated at 200 power. Noticed another pair off in the distance, to the east, wider separation, almost the same alignment, much fainter.

[ed: Haas thought the primary white in a small 'scope. Smyth thought yellow and lilac.]

Noticed I did not have a lot of deep sky targets in the list...

Headed to Porrima...

OK. It's Mars time!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

imaged weird thing (Blue Mountains)

Decided to start viewing the mystery object starting now. SkyTools showed the Auriga area was already dropping from the peak elevation (at 7 PM) according to a neighbouring star. The various skymarks for the my weird blob and Nicole's moving thing did not have viewing times listed. The target area would still be above the 2x at midnight. And the Moon will be down at 11. Slewed to GSC 03361-1239, between HD 39863 and IC 2149, the site from 2 nights ago. Bumped the power up with the 27mm.

Fire trucking wild. Messaged Nicole that I had just seen the fuzzy in the same spot as the Friday night! I saw the flattened triangle of bright stars at the bottom of the field of view (or west) with the brightest element, a mag 9.2 star, being TYC 03361-0643 1. Curiously, I could see a faint star (a companion?) beside it although ST3P said it was mag 14.2.

The fuzzy was pretty close the the position I had marked (from memory) from Friday. The thing was actually a bit further to the east. But the distances were good. The fuzzy was the same distance from star GSC 03361-1453 as it was from GSC 03361-1239. But more like a right-angle triangle with GSC 03361-1453 at the apex. Wow.

Not moving... Or it's moving very slowly?

9:13. Nicole suggested I should image it myself. Duh. Why not?! To make my own record. I started noodling on what I'd need. Suited up quickly and headed out the air lock.  Chose Menkalinan for focusing. Crude focus by hand.

9:18. Then headed back to the region.

9:23. Did a 30 second exposure. Got it! Frickin' nuts! Very exciting. Really interesting. Have I found something not charted?!

Pointing was off a smidge. In TS6 I would have nudged it. In ST3P I rotated the camera field to match. Then in ST3P did a slight off-setting slew, further to the west. All right, centred! Crude focus. By hand.

Programmed the intervalometer for 45 second subs at 1 minute intervals, i.e. a 15 second gap. Let it go for a while.

9:40. Considered this was the exact area as Friday. So what did I see in Nicole image from yesterday. Is this a generally unexplored area of the sky? No, surely that can't be.

Considered some other targets from my observing list, while waiting. Puppis targets did not seem like a good idea with the murky horizon. Too low. Andromeda and Perseus were setting; really the wrong time of year for them. I was not comfortable retracting the roof more.

Stopped the intervalometer.

10:05. Really interesting. Fine-tuned the focusing a bit with the TCF. Pretty good. Increased the exposure time to 90 seconds. Refined the intervalometer settings, with a 1:45 interval, and a 10 second delay. And I saw even more stuff! A batch to the west. Fainter. But connecting stuff between! That makes it a very large thing! Freaky. Curves to the west. It is about 2 arc-minutes in length! Wow!

Wondered what I should do? What are the next steps? Considered returning to the area Nicole imaged. It was more to the east.

10:10. Crunched the numbers for the imaging run. 10 images, less than 2 min each, so less than 20 minutes total. So around 10:30 it would be done. Then I could do darks. For post-processing.

Very nice sky. Very low wind.

10:18. Chatted with Nicole. She had an iTelescope imaging run lined up.

Moon was getting low. Low the 2 airmass level.

Wondered about friends down at the RASC meeting at the Ontario Science Centre. Chris had said he was going to take his telescope so to view Jupiter and Mars. Initially, when he said that, I thought Jupiter would be too low. Au contraire. Jupiter was still way up; Mars was lying close to the ground. And from the OSC parking lot, I wondered if the Don Mills apartment buildings would thwart their efforts.

Checked emails. Meeting recordings. Supervisor stuff. Awards Picnic matters. ARO tour. Annoying messages from Network Solutions. BS. Mr dos Santos said he enjoyed my site CAO photos and asked about Friday dinner. Oops...

Beautiful sky. Just beautiful. Realised I should be going for DSOs.

10:32. Was not hearing anything... The battery had died in the camera. Oops. Attached the AC adapter and DC coupler. Only got 6 good photos at 90 seconds. Initiated a new run.

10:37. Got 6 frames at 90 seconds. Needed 4 more. So less than 8 minutes. So 10:46 when done. Then I could get the darks. Did some visual planning...

10:49. Switched to dark frame gathering. Laid the camera on the floor with the body cap installed. Re-initiated the intervalometer again. Darks would be done at 11:21.

Put an eyepiece in. Reconfigured the SkyTools software for visual work.


All shots... Canon 40D. ISO 1600, daylight white balance, no noise reduction. RAW. On the Celestron 14 so f/11. Little or no processing in DPP.