Saturday, May 31, 2014

programmed a key

Dave completed the touchkey security system install. He walked me through the BASIC-like program. We activated a new key and compiled with my netbook. It worked! I sent him the updated Cubloc files.

fixed loose cable

Nicole messaged me on Facebook. She had followed my advice and opened the side panel of the CGEM, reseated the RA motor drive cable, buttoned it up, balanced the mount, and reported it working! As I suspected, the RA motor drive cable had come loose.

improved sync

Greg posted a note that he's looking for testers. He's found some bugs in the SkyTools sync process. I'd be happy to help.

couple of doubles (Blue Mountains)

Observing in the Geoff Brown Observatory and on the Observing Pad. Many members in attendance: Richard imaging inside the GBO; Ian D wandering about and planning to piggyback image; Michael on the Observing Pad; Wayne too. The dos Santos were expected later. They would be busy sorting out the new trailer, preparing their POD, and thinking about what it is like to supervise.

Earlier, Ian had mounted his camera, or rather, his big lens, on the Tele Vue Losmandy rail. We need a adapter like he has! Asked if I could borrow this for Saturday night for Steven...

Fri 30 May 2014, 10:06 PM. I helped Wayne with photos of the young Moon. We tried to coax out earthshine.

We watched Jupiter. Europa was falling into the planet, then touching the disc.

Warned Richard to watch his head as I tried some crazy low targets.

Richard complained about blue LEDs. We agreed that manufacturers have gone bananas with them. Not astronomy friendly.

Michael was impressed with how the moons of Jupiter were moving over time. I pointed out the Europa was passing in front of the planet and would, in fact, create a shadow. Unfortunately that shadow apparition would occur moments before the planet was to set. So we'd like not see it. I asked Michael if he could see the Great Red Spot. I could not. Told him where to look for it.

Richard and I talked about leaving the lens cap on. I shared with him my wish list item for modern DSLRs.

Ah ha! Wow. We finally agree.

10:18 PM. Viewed 6 Leo. Fantastic. Burnt orange and blue. No, wait. Orange and green? Could it be? Ha, we finally agree. Widely separated in the 27mm.

10:24. Ian was up, after napping. I asked if he was up to anything. Not yet.

I dropped to the 55mm in the C14.

Michael asked if there were any anti-gravity chairs around. Yep. In fact, we had pulled some out earlier in the day.

10:41. Spotted something very bright overhead. Like an Iridium flare. Fired up Heavens Above. I believe it was the USA 245 reconnaissance satellite. Left of Polaris.

Checked the end of astronomical twilight: 11:17.

Holy cow! I see it. Random star. Cancer. [ed: Ugh. Not sure now what I was viewing. Poor notes. Did close the Notepad without saving by accident in a moment of multi-tasking...]

Richard visited me in the Warm Room while his rig calibration and guiding. He was planning to image M106 and some of the nearby little galaxies. I turned off the stars in TheSky6. Tons of fuzzies remained. He shared that AstroTortilla wasn't working with the SBIG.

Ian wanted to focus. I suggested Cor Caroli. He wanted a planet. We went to Mars. Ian said he didn't think the sky was good enough...

Incoming vehicle! It was Elaine and Tony. As it was dark, they elected to just pull off to the side and shut down so to not disturb the observers on the Pad. And to defer the trailer set-up to daylight.

Oh. Done. Or it didn't work? We tore down Ian's set-up, dismounting the 400mm lens. Reattached the refractor. Ian and I slewed to Mars and aligned the two 'scopes.

The pointing was off. A lot. Odd. Viewed Saturn.

Nicole phoned. She was at the Glen Forest. The RA motor is not moving. What?! We discussed some checks. I reviewed the maintenance steps I had done. That was very disappointing. I wondered what had happened between my testing and her set-up. There's no way the motor assembly could have moved! Damn it!

Ian helped Tony with some coloured filters in the telescope. Elaine was curious about all Ian's bags.

Shared with Tony that I had made a matrix or table for all the eyepieces and telescopes. It showed the magnification and field of view.

Sat 31 May 2014, 12:45. I asked Tony if he wanted to look at NGC 5981 in Draco. We slewed to it. Faint. Magnitude 13.2. Was it there? Ian moved to M101 to gauge the sky. We could see it in both 'scopes. I think I saw 5981 as I was panning around... Again, the pointing was off so I wasn't sure.

Tony said he was heading to bed. He was gonna get edge-on! Funny.

Discussed the new wireless network configuration with Richard.

We also discussed plans for tomorrow night. Ian had said he wanted to image. Richard was interested in putting the SBIG on the C14. I said I was expecting the Sil family and we might do a bit of sky tour for them. Didn't know what was up with Kiron. And then Steven and Stephen also wanted to do piggyback. Perhaps if the target was of interest to all, we could image and guide on both 'scopes at the same time.

I was curious Richard's outcome with the SBIG. Desiccant was working. He was getting dialled into it. We checked if MaximDL was on the Dell GBO computer. We checked the USB cables.

I was getting frustrated with the pointing. Decided to drive the Paramount from SkyTools.

1:15 AM. Parked the Paramount. Delatched the serial cable.

Michael popped into the Warm Room. He was going to head out. He had waited for Andromeda to peek over the horizon. He had had fun. Saw cool stuff tonight. Likes the open sight lines. Wasn't sure if he'd make it back tomorrow despite the good-looking Clear Sky Chart.

Rebooted the mount. Homed in TheSky6. Something was wrong. SkyTools showed the telescope status as "slewing" when it was passive, or tracking. Oh boy. Still not working. Rebooted.


Slewed to target from SkyTools.

2:09. Arrakis. Also known as μ (mu) Draconis. A neat double in the C14 with the 27mm. Could barely make it out in TV101. Couldn't see C star... [ed: A binary system with a 700 year period.]

[ed: Haas only refers to the A and B stars.]

2:14. Sarin within Hercules. Off-white and orange. 2 or 3 mags different. Doable—fun—in the TV101. Very obvious in the C14. C and D stars spotted in both 'scopes. Formed a right angle triangle with Sarin at the corner. B is brighter than C and D. [ed: Haas describes only the A and B stars, yellow and blue.]

2:16. Nicole messaged me on Facebook but I missed her query.

Wayne asked for the wifi password. I reminded him that we now have 3 separate wireless access points. That'd he'd have to log in three times. He said he would be going to bed shortly. He had dismounted the 'scope and covered the tripod.

Slewed again.

2:28. The White Eyed Pea, aka IC 4593, in Hercules. Not very exciting. A round small fuzzy. No colour. Appears perfectly round. I think I've looked at it before. Put the 18mm in the C14. Still unsatisfying. OK.

2:30. 5mm in the SCT! Stupid high power. But it made it big. Bright centre. Comet like.

2:34. Slewed to a new target in Cepheus. IC 1396. But could not see it. Richard said it was very faint. [ed: Should use filters.]

Lots of other stuff going on in the area.

2:57. Noted the double and triple stars in the area of IC 1396.

Tried to reprogram the mount park position. It was screwed up.

Asked Richard to help me with the SQM readings. Numbers included 21.17 and 21.06. He was curious what the numbers meant. Magnitude to arc-sec squared. 

3:13. Humidity was 47%. Temperature was 12.0°C. Richard said it was 71% at the beginning of the evening. I checked the Davis weather station. Wind gusting to 19 km/h, average 12. Humidity 61.


3:41. Sent Lora a report of the attendees. No sign of Kiron. I guess he'll make an appearance tomorrow.

A good evening, overall. A little busy at times. It was neat seeing Ian's Losmandy dovetail camera adapter in action. Lots of good imaging. Fair skies. I viewed a few more doubles.

Friday, May 30, 2014

bug updates

Katrina decided to head north to the cabin. And then started sending down, via Facebook, images of mozzies. None at the CAO! But the black flies were annoying...


Heard them first. Then saw a couple walking northbound on the eastern field in the morning. Two happy labs with them. Said hello from the garage.

Ian D arrived. Long time no see. We caught up. Discussed the status of the GM 8 mount.

Derek and Blair came by. They tested the link from inside the house. I added another DNS to the router and rebooted it. As fast as 8 ms pings.

proofed cover

Did brief proofing of the SCOPE draft from Eric. Let him know that Kristin was not satellite spotting... He was also curious who was in the photo. Pointed out it was a selfie.

Ran out of time. Wanted to do more proofing. Downloaded the draft to the netbook for later review...

now open

Announced the CAO was open early.

too bright

Tried to sleep in. To sleep-shift. Curtains not fully closed.

wound down

12:33 AM. While waiting for the photons to gather in the DSLR, I cleaned up the observing list in SkyTools. Removed targets not visible in Ontario. Ever. Like objects in Ara. And items not visible here this time of year, like stuff in Monoceros.

Went to the house. Found my eyeglasses on the kitchen table.

I wanted to view Saturn. A number of moons were visible. Not a great view though.

I was very tired.

Closed up shop.

12:52. Turned on the dehumidifier.

Looked at the OneWorld portable weather station. 81% humidity, 9.2°C, going to be sunny. I had adjusted the altitude when I set it out. If I remember correctly, it showed 904 mbar at the time. Now it shows 907. My affixed note said add 42. But that still didn't make sense.

Reviewed the galaxy photos quickly.

Took a Sky Quality Meter reading.

Tidied the computers. 

1:02. Packed up items for the house.

goofing with galaxies (Blue Mountains)

As a lark, I thought I'd try imaging some faint galaxies.

Grabbed the intervalometer. 2 minutes. Then 3 minutes. Just for fun.

North is to the top-right; east is top-left. NGC 3226 and 3227 aka Arp 94 in Leo.

Canon 40D, Celestron 14" SCT, f/11, 180 seconds, ISO 1600, RAW.

shot Porrima (Blue Mountains)

Looked for a star to focus. But then I thought, hey, there's γ (gamma) Virginis! Shoot a tight double star.

Soft and fuzzy.


Canon 40D on the Celestron 14" SCT (so f/11), ½ second, ISO 100, daylight white balance, RAW. North is left; east is down.


Wikipedia link: gamma Virginis.

planets and doubles, an easy quasar (Blue Mountains)

Installed the red filters and dropped the screen brightness for the two computers.

Already felt cool. Checked Firefox on John Phil. Reloaded the local weather page. No wind. Humidity was 81%. Oops. I had not activated the dew heaters nor installed the dew cap. Closed up the Warm Room. Outside temperature was 12.4°C. Predicted dew point was 9.3. Weather Underground, for Thornbury, also showed no wind speed. Temp 13.4. Predicted clear. Said it was a new Moon. Almost!

Checked the Nightly Events Planner in SkyTools. Sunset 9:02. Moon set 9:47 [ed: huh?]. New Moon phase. Added the Moon to the observing list.

High wispy clouds overhead. Conditions still not great.

Internet was still slow.  Despite being on the hard line.
Instruments: Celestron 14-inch SCT, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
Wondered if the mount was going to hit the western limit shortly...

I wondered what Ian used before... to view Mercury. From last weekend. The phase, to me, was clearly visible. Less than half. Viewed in the 27mm.

Tried to find Ian online. Sent him an email. Could not find the framed red film cover for the Dell GBO computer. Checked the drawers again. Found it. Atop the tower computer on the right side! Could it have fallen out of the drawer?

Thu 29 May 2014, 9:39 PM. Slewed to Jupiter. 27mm. Swimming, still. Could see all four moons.

Started marking observations to the SkyTools list. Moon, Mercury, Jupiter.

9:42 PM. Wasat. delta Gem. Primary was white with hints of blue. Companion very close. Very different magnitudes. Maybe 3 or 4 different. Orangey. Neat double star. Very close with the 27mm Panoptic. [Haas thinks the primary is amber-yellow. Webb and Smyth thought the companion purple; Hartung red. Wow.]

Felt chilled in my back. Headed to the house for more layers.

9:50. The Dell in the kitchen had settled down at last. Copied the file from the USB memory drive. Checked the settings in the old version of PowerPoint 2000. Tested the slide show mode. It worked.

Learned that I had viewed Wasat in the past, 30 Mar 2013. My current notes seemed to be in agreement. I think I had wanted to view again to double-check the colours: others say yellow and orange or yellow and red.

Put SkyTools in red light mode. Applied a variety of filters to the observing list. The list shortened to 55 objects. Changed the list columnar format. After moving my gear around, I hooked up the external monitor to John Phil. Sorted the screen rez. Grabbed the loose sheet of red film. Much better. Adjusted the monitor brightness and contrast.

Off to Talitha, aka ι (iota) Ursa Majoris. One of the front feet of the Bear. TheSky6 found it and I slewed.

9:56. I was on it. Bright star. But I could not split it. Bumped to the 18mm eyepiece. Then grabbed the 10mm out of the refractor...

9:58. Took the 3mm out to the Tele Vue. Still no joy. I wondered if it was a super-tight pair. Marked it to reobserve. Looked at the Object Information. A binary, indeterminate orbit.

10:01. Periastron was noted as 9". ST3P said the separation was at 2.8". Huh? Oh. Then I noticed the AB was 6 magnitudes different! Tough. The BC was noted as a fast-mover. But 0.7" sep. Yikes. None of these could be split!

[ed: The "a" value in the double star data in the Object Information dialog is not periastron. I don't know where I got that. The user manual says it is the semi-major axis of the apparent orbit.]

Checked the Interactive Atlas and Context Viewer. Yep. Super-tight, the B. It did not show the C star. No sign. Wondered what lists it was in... Huh. The RASC Observer's Handbook table of double and multiple stars. Interesting. Definitely a challenge object. That's like a Sissy Haas special!

Checked the time on the recorder. 13 hours.

10:15. Noticed HD 76522 to the west and PPM 50933 to the north. The three make an equilateral triangle.  The magnitudes seemed to match SkyTools. I thought the stars triangle might help me with the primary and secondary of Talitha. The software showed the alignment of AB parallel to the bright neighbouring stars. I.e. a PA of 201°.

10:19. No way. Could not split them. Maybe possible with real good sky conditions.

Leo was coming up. HD 82159, aka Σ1360, or SAO 98615... From the RASC coloured doubles list. Previously observed. My first viewing, using the N11, suggested I was not picking up the colours.

10:30. Slewed to the star. Viewed in C14 with the 18mm Radian.

10:35. Seeing was still bad. Felt cold again. Star on left seemed blue, maybe green. Star on right was orange. Checked SkyTools for the positions. B is the blue, for me, the outrigger, the west-most star. West-south-west. The primary is orange. I could spot C and D no problem. C faint, again, at mag 13.4. North north-east. D further out. Almost a straight line for all 4 stars. No colour detected on C and D. [Not in Haas's book. The RASC Observer's Handbook for 2014 refers to the stars as blue and green.]

A lot of sky glow coming from Toronto and Orangeville. Not at astronomical twilight yet.

Bit of a headache. Went to the house for a glass of water.

10:44. Exited the house from the Great Room. Looked down into Thornbury. A lot of bright lights. Thought I heard a car driving around, slowly. But there were no lights.

Looked for Wayne's "strange star" above Gemini. Hmmm.

10:46. March and April is the best time to view this double star. Decided to view targets in Virgo.

What a second! How about the quasar 3C 273? TheSky6 did not seem to offer quasars as targets so I chose Porrima to get in the 'hood. Took a look, while there...

10:52. Interesting. Kinda mushy. Still bad seeing. In the C14. Then I viewed in the Tele Vue 101 and it was easily split. Good airy discs, clear diffraction rings. Good black line between them. Funny.

Noticed Mars just below where I was aimed.

Found an SAO star in the area. 119431. In a little triangle to the north-east of the quasar. Slewed with Software Bisque's app. Dropped in the 55mm eyepiece.

10:56. No problemo. Easy quasar to see. Initially noticed the bright stars HD 108978 and HD 108929 to the east. Panned westward, south a bit. Spotted an L-shape of stars, a backwards L. PPM 158889 was at the top of the L. Nestled in the inside of the L, I saw two points, like a faint double star pair. The object on the right was the quasar. ST3P said the light time was 1.9 Gyr. Magnitude 12.8. The star to the left was GSC 00282-0337 at 13.1. Quasar slightly brighter. Neat!

Not visible in the 101mm. Need a big gun. Should be possible in a C8...

11:00. Mars was interesting. Bumped the power.

11:05. Viewed Mars with the 18mm in the C14. And also at low power in the TV101. Could see the ice cap. Just below it a dark region. In the other hemisphere, a dark region. Seemed to be something extending up between the dark areas. Added Mars to my observing list and marked it.

I wondered when Saturn would be best tonight. Big yawn. Nippy. Considered getting my winter coat.

Slewed to the next target. A double star in Lynx. I could not tell the colours of the double star...

11:14. HR 3686, aka HD 80024, SAO 61387 or Σ1333. Very tight double in Lynx. Nearly equal brightnesses. In a list called "most beautiful double stars." When I looked in the Tele Vue, with the 3mm, tough to split. Still, I felt the sky conditions were not good. High wispy clouds. Had a hard time picking colours. Seemed to change every time I looked. If there is colour, it is very subtle. Neat star. Challenging. 1.9" separation. Oh.

Top one maybe blue; bottom one maybe orange. Very pale tints. B is the upper star, according to ST3P. Very subtle. [Haas suggests both are "pure lemon yellow."]

OK, wanted to try HD 75353. Slewed to the next double, still in Lynx. Had to use. HIP 43426. Equal, similar colours.

11:24. Pleasing separation in the C14; tight in the TV101. Sep. 3.4. About 1 magnitude difference. From the most beautiful list. Huh? aka Σ1282. Faint. Both around mag 7. I had added it to my double star candidate list. Might be too tough. [Haas says "peach orange."]

Went to the house for the winter coat. Was feeling a little foggy. Needed to walk around. Wasn't sure how much longer I might be able to go on... Damn.

Had the munchies.

Left my eyeglasses in the house. I wondered if the sky was improving.

Slewed to Adhafera, aka ζ (zeta) Leonis. At the eyepiece I wondered what was going on. Then I found it was in binocular double star lists. Ooh.

Big zig-zag. I was viewing the target with north to the left.

11:49. ζ is very bright. It is part of a large zig-zag with SAO 81273 and 39 Leo. Adhafera is a neat double, super wide. It's on the EU. It's on the AL bino double list. [ed: Not in Haas book.]

Tried to split 39.

11:52. Couldn't do it with the 55mm. Almost 6 magnitudes different. Made a note to revisit it.

Allergies started acting up.

Deep sky time!

Fri 30 May 2014, 12:01 AM. Interesting. NGC 3227, aka Arp 94. Ha ha, it is two galaxies! I saw them. Impression of a large arrow of stars to the south. The galaxy to the north is 3226. Woo hoo! SkyTools said they were interacting galaxies.

Noticed the overhead clock was running. Looks like someone installed a battery during the work party. Good stuff. A few minutes after midnight. Turned off the baseboard heater—too hot now.

Crazy idea. Decided to try imaging them. Grabbed the light red film patch for the back of the DSLR.

Needed to focus, needed a bright object. Porrima was nearby...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

very young (Blue Mountains)

Imaged a very young Moon, after focusing on Jupiter. I could not see it naked eye given the cloud wisps.

Imaged through the Tele Vue 101 with the Canon 40D. 1/60, ISO 100, daylight white balance, RAW.

Thought some trees would be nice. But the lower it went the worse the view became.

How old is this Moon, I wondered. Weather Underground said New Moon. So did SkyTools. TheSky6 said the phase was 1.77% lit. Wow. SkyTools showed the phase as 0.01. Stellarium did not show age. Considered the Sky & Telescope web site but did not want to have to futz with the login gauntlet.

How old was this Moon, in detail, down to hours? SkyTools and other resources measured in days. 1.0. OK. If that's accurate, then I could infer 24 hours. Which would beat my life list entry of 27 hours (in Mar 2010).

Tried a web search on the age of the Moon. Oops. Context issue. 4.527 billion years old. Not what I meant.

Hold the phone. Tried Virtual Moon Atlas. Neat. Thin crescent. Lunation: 1.12 days. Illumination: 1.3%. But VMA does not compute in hours.


Learned that the new Moon was Wed. May  28, 2014 at 18:43 UT. So, for local time, I need to subtract 4 hours, therefore 14:43 on Wednesday. It was Thursday at 21:15-ish. Oh. So that's 24+7 or 31 hours. I did not smash my new Moon record...

viewed solar system objects (Blue Mountains)

Lora messaged me early this evening. Reported that Kiron booked for the CAO and was going to bring 4 family members. But he was ambiguous about when they'd arrive, Friday or Saturday. Which one, I wondered.

Opened the GBO. Overall, it was OK. Found the UPS plugged in. A little risky. On the other hand the power surge bar in the Warm Room was not connected. Opened the roof. Set up the Dell Paramount computer. Powered everything up. Watched the focuser move as it booted up. Found the missing mouse pad inside the laptop bag. The ME found home.

Justin had installed the replacement Linksys in the GBO observatory at the work party. It was working fine. Wondered if we should use clips to tidy up the cords with the new wifi, to prevent snags.

Tried to view the young Moon. But could not see it.

Before firing everything up, I opened the APC unit to inspect and photograph the battery. Familiar common type, 12 volts, 7 amp-hours.

Wanted to try deploying the "welcome station" computer for my "welcome to the CAO" presentation. Last edited by in April, April 16. Downloaded it. Checked it in Open Office Impress.

Thu 29 May 2014, 8:45 PM. Adjusted the Sony ICD voice recorder to save files into the astronomy folder.

Could not change the computer's date and time, given the guest account restrictions. Tried to transfer via stick from John Phil to the old Dell 2650. Slow! Hard disk churning. Put a chair near the cord trip hazard. The USB key did not come up right away. After several minutes it came up.

Noticed it was starting to get dark. Bit of a Sun pillar going on. Skies looked kind of off, the whole day. Wispy stuff.

Switched the house into red light mode. House. Pergola.

The peepers woke up!

Decided to stop staring at the slow computer in the kitchen. Covered it with a towel.

Remembered I had turned the Sony VOR off earlier, so to record the mocking bird call in the front yard. Made a mental note to turn it back on.

Hadn't prepared my bed yet. Decided to worry about it later.

Readied to go back to the GBO. Psion. iPod cable. Netbook case. Headed out. Mockingbird still mocking. It seems to like deciduous trees.

The software update on the Dell GBO computer had finished. It wanted to reboot. I cancelled it.

Slewed to the Moon. Still some high cloud. Hard to focus. Went to Mercury. Focused on the crescent. Oh. Nice view, in the C14, of the inner planet, while small. Then headed to Jupiter.

Changed the SX750 settings on the fly. VOR back on.

9:06 PM. Jupiter was swimming. Even at low power. The seeing was really bad. Slewed to the Moon. Oh, low, just above the horizon. Very low. Gotta hurry. Spotted it in the Tele Vue. Thin. Really thin! Barely detectable. Grabbed the camera. Returned to Jupiter to focus. Then back to our neighbour. Got it!

seemed slow

Spotted the new microwave antenna on the roof. Looks like they had been by. Also noted it aimed in a different direction. West now. Not down into town. Reported to BST that internet service seemed sluggish, though. Modem-like speeds, at times, loading images...

fly free

I checked in. I also shared that there were no flies. Amazing. No cluster flies buzzing about in the house. Or the GBO. As I opened up I found a couple of dead ones. Two. In fact. I think it speaks volumes to the extensive cleaning we did at the work party! Fantastic.

what do I do?

On duty, this weekend. Headed to the observatory early, hoping for clear skies.

Before leaving the GTA, I had to do some errands. Picked up a new power supply for the new CAO security system camera. Another 2 amp unit. Tested it before departure. And, in short order, I was headed up Dixie Road for Steeles, and the Tim Horton's, to rendezvous with Rob. Dropped Nicole's repaired CGEM. And then I was on the 410.

In Shelburne, I decided to press. I could try shopping for groceries in Thornbury. That would verify the Foodland was still around. No issues. Mmm, steak for the grill.

As I opened the observatory, I thought of Elaine and Tony. What does the supervisor need to worry about...

Monday, May 26, 2014

annotated the image

Original shot, from Friday night.


I think we have a winner.

By sheer luck, I caught a faint Camelopardalid meteor!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

found Joly's blog

Learned that Chris Joly has an astronomy-related blog. The young man, George Brown student, I had met at the telescope clinic. I read with interest his Back In Action post where he talked about his telescope troubles and solutions.

helped at work party

Organised, monitored, and assisted at the CAO spring work party...
  • helped weed and apply polymeric sand into the patio pavers
  • inspected the generator
  • repaired the Davis weather station Integrated Sensor Suite (somewhat precariously)
  • repaired a camera the security system
Undertook a special item: I delivered a brief MallinCam training session for a number of the supervisors.


Mélanie and Emma wrote up a wonderful report.

Photos were posted to the Yahoo!Group.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

a nice finish (Blue Mountains)

Caught the start of the International Space Station flyover! Look at the top-left...

And then it moving upward...

Need a wide lens!

Canon 40D, 18-55 EF-S lens at 24, manually focused, 30 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 800, tripod mounted, RAW, slight processing in Canon DPP, in particular, colour temp set to 3700.


Need to aim better.

Scorpius (Blue Mountains)

Programmed the intervalometer and let it rip for a while. About 30 frames. Didn't find any meteors... Maybe I'll try a brief time lapse of the core of the Milky Way.

I love this part of the sky. Clearly visible are Messier 7 (M7), the Butterfly Cluster (Messier 6 or M6), the Lagoon (Messier 8 or M8), even the Eagle (Messier 16 or M16).

Canon 40D, 18-55 EF-S lens at 24, manually focused, 20 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 1600, tripod mounted, intervalometer, RAW, slight processing in Canon DPP, in particular, colour temp set to 3700.

very clear skies! (Blue Mountains)

Turned to the southern sky. Noticed a star in the tail of the scorpion. With just my eyes!

Sargas of Scorpius. It's the yellowy star in the centre of the picture, just above the distance mound of trees. And that star was, at the time, about 1 degree above the horizon!

I've never seen air that clear before!

Naked eye, I saw θ (theta) Scorpii, a magnitude 1.9 star, very close to the horizon. SkyTools said I was looking through over 13 air masses!

I wanted to coax out ζ (zeta) and η (eta) to the right but I could not visually see them. Obvious in the photo.

Canon 40D, 18-55 EF-S lens at 24, manually focused, 30 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 1600, tripod mounted, RAW, slight processing in Canon DPP, in particular, colour temp set to 3700.


Wikipedia link: Milky Way.

clear skies (Blue Mountains)

Shot Cassiopeia. Tried to keep the exposures shot.

Hints of the Milky Way.

Canon 40D, 18-55 EF-S lens at 24, manually focused, 15 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 1600, tripod mounted, intervalometer, RAW, slight processing in Canon DPP, in particular, colour temp set to 3700.

other meteors (Blue Mountains)

1:22 AM. Spotted a northbound meteor. From Cygnus into Cepheus.

1:23. Another northbound. Short, from Lyra into Cepheus.

1:33. Saw a westbound shooting star. Ursa Major. Started at the neck and went into the back feet. Left a persistent train. A slow mover.

verified a star in M51 (Blue Mountains)

11:45 PM, Friday 23 May 2014. Viewed Messier 51 (M51) in Justin's 16" LightBridge with the 25mm and 2x . Very nice. I noticed a bright star at the 5 o'clock position. Struck me as odd. We did some checks to see if was normal or a supernova.

12:02 AM, Saturday 24 May 2014. I wondered if the object was around mag 13?

1:04 AM. Loaded images of M51 on my computer.

1:12. Confirmed it was a "normal" star. I was seeing it in other images. Bummer. Not a supernova.

Friday, May 23, 2014

went deep (Blue Mountains)

Steve and I pushed. Tried to go deep. Around 10:30, we spotted a magnitude 6.2 in Ursa Minor. All right.

10:47. Steve took readings with the Sky Quality Meter. 21.19, 21.14, 21,13, 21.17. The temperature reading was 11°C.

10:53. Deeper still! Mag 6.4. Sweet!

Checked my lift list. Broke the previous best of 6.0 in March 2010. Yes!

I thought it curious that Tom could not see the stars Steve and I were seeing. I postulated that our eyeglass prescriptions were different.

caught a meteor (Blue Mountains)

Holy cow. I got one!

Very near the centre. Short and faint!

Canon 40D, 18-55 EF-S lens at 24, manually focused, 57 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 1600, tripod mounted, self-timer release, RAW, slight processing in Canon DPP, in particular, colour temp set to 3700.


Is there aurora here too?!


Update: Annotated over here.


Wikipedia links: meteoroid, meteor shower, and Camelopardalis.

backwards fun (Blue Mountains)

I invited Trevor to try some light-writing. He headed over to his dad's observatory. On the way back, he tried writing his initials.

Forgot to mirror-reverse. Noob!

Canon 40D, 18-55 EF-S lens at 24, manually focused, 57 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 1600, tripod mounted, RAW, slight processing in Canon DPP, in particular, colour temp set to 3700.

aiming north (Blue Mountains)

After focusing, tried some test shots to the north. Still cloudy.

Cassiopeia is partly obscured.

Canon 40D, 18-55 EF-S lens at 24, manually focused, 25 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 1600, tripod mounted, self-timer release, RAW, slight processing in Canon DPP, in particular, colour temp set to 3700, also brightness bumped.

Mercury and Jupiter (Blue Mountains)

9:46 PM. Viewed Mercury. I had spotted it in SkyTools 3 Pro. Ian moved the Celestron 14" over to it. Someone spotted in naked eye. Then I did. Nice. We viewed in the big gun. The phase was obvious, less than 40% illuminated. I reminded people that it was at maximum elongation on Sunday.

10:04. Programmed alarms for the International Space Station flyovers. 2:06 and 3:39 AM.

10:11. Viewed Jupiter in Tom's 6" Dobsonian at 240x. A good view.

peculiar clouds (Blue Mountains)

Peculiar clouds slid over the Carr Astronomical Observatory as we set up on the Observing Pad.

I pulled the radar imagery from ADDS. It looked like we were in a funnel: clouds pushing down from the north-east while clouds pushed down from the north-west. But, we were hopeful...

At one point I noticed spectral colours, like in a rainbow, on the lower edge of the linear clouds. Clearly water, caught in the golden sunlight, refracting the photons.

Canon 40D, 18-55 EF-S lens at 18, 1/640 seconds, f/4.0, ISO 1600, tripod mounted, RAW, slight processing in Canon DPP.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

tripots for sale

Surfing through the Sky-Watcher web site...


repaired Nicole's CGEM mount

Fixed Nicole's CGEM. I'm convinced now that the issue was the motor assembly was not in the correct position. Or had moved since assembly. It's working fine now after my reassembly and check of the transfer gear meshing.

I began the inspection and disassembly last night. The first thing I noticed, while setting up, was that the tripod azimuth peg was loose. It must be tightened. Easy (low priority) fix.

I noted that the body and casing of the CGEM is such that you can NOT remove things and have a look-see. I wanted to visually inspect the worms and ring gears. There's no way to quickly do that. And I wondered where the motors were. On the Super Polaris and Great Polaris and the AVX, they are clearly outriggers near the worm gears. The CGEM does not have bumps there. Where are the motors? Joined the CGEM Yahoo!Group to get some ideas. Partly out of curiousity, I removed the control-port panel. There they are!

RA motor is on the left; DEC on the right. Wasn't sure what the red-sheathed harness was for. With a flashlight I could just make out brass (transfer) gears on the far side. Pleased to see metal brass gears on the motor assembly and beyond. In fact they reminded me of the brass gears on the SPC8. Now I understood the mechanics. Noticed the slotted holes in the mounting plate for adjusting the assembly's position...

The panel is secured with 4 Philips screws. All are quite short. The one at the bottom left was slightly longer.

While removing the panel, the first thing I spotted actually was the coin battery. A lithium CR 2025. That must preserve data... somewhere. Huh. Why the mount? Surely there's a battery in the hand controller, where the brains are. No matter. Just a data point in the tear-down. And a future heads-up, I guess, that this battery might need to be replaced.

I also noticed the white stuff! Ironically, Bill and I had been talking about that the night before. He had spotted this white residue inside his Celestron mount. I suspected it was residue from water, as in dew. Damn dew everywhere! Didn't think it would cause a problem. But I'll ask the electrical experts...

[ed. Update. Peter H thinks is it residue from solder flux. I didn't notice it until he mentioned it that the goo is near the through-the-hole soldering points and not around the surface mount parts...]

OK. Now I wanted to pull the motor out. I could inspect the gear carefully. First I marked the position of the bolts on the motor assembly plate. Then I popped open the car tool box! 5/32" hex on a long extension with the socket wrench driver. The flat washers were deformed slightly...

The brass gear is big. Larger than the ones on the SPC8. It looks scored and scratched on the face but that was just the grease. I immediately looked for broken or missing teeth. All there. I looked for flattened or rounded off or damaged teeth. They all looked perfectly fine to me. Hold the phone! I spotted a metal shard. About ¼" long! White metal... Aluminium? What the hell is that doing there? Where did that come from? From another gear?! From the housing? Sheesh. That's not good.

Looked at the motor system from the other direction.

Hey. What's that?! I spotted little pieces of copper filaments! A dozen or so. Like from a stranded copper wire. Perhaps that had been shredded or cut. Where'd that come from? Had a wire been too close to a gear and been cut into? Very strange.

Discovered what the red harness was for: the encoder sensor.

So, I was happy with the condition of the big brass gear. But I realised there was more to the motor assembly. I could see the output shaft into the gear was off-centre. The bit between the mounting plate and the motor (in the foreground of the above photo), the less shiny round cylinder with the seam (to the right of my thumb) must be the gear box, the transmission. I could see that when the plate was removed, I'd be able to access some small screws. I wondered if the plate and transmission were glued together.

Two grub screws with small hex heads hold the brass gear on the keyed output shaft. The encoder wheel, black plastic, rides on the gear, with slots for the grub screws.

Two small Philips screws (like the plate ones) hold the sensor to the plate. Three flat-head Philips screws hold the plate to the transmission. Two long small Philips hold the tranny to the motor. Gently opened the gear box.

All good! No broken teeth. No rounded teeth. No debris! Lightly oiled. Bearings looked OK. So, more good news. I was not happy to see plastic here but it looked to be in working order.

I checked the web for a replacement, if necessary. Didn't specifically find a motor assembly for the CGEM but the Celestron "motor assembly - RA - Advanced GT CG-5 series" with the product number "C-CG5-F00-2" looked to be an exact match. USD $132. I buttoned up the transmission. Now I was interested in powering the motor and taking it for a spin! It was at this point I noticed something else funny.

It hadn't fully registered as I was setting up the mount. I had looked at the metal screw-on connector attached to the mount panel when I unpacked the heavy mount and set it up. But it just didn't click at the time. That it shouldn't be there.

It finally dawned on my when I grabbed the DC car CLA adapter power cord and tried to plug it in. Oops. It looked like the plastic housing had been ripped off, pulled violently off, the metal connector. Instead of unscrewed. Oh oh. Where's my soldering iron.

That was last night, into the wee hours, and I was getting very tired.


Coffee brewing, I began phase two. First task: power the mount.

Retrieved a suitable female plug from one of my electronic parts bins. Grabbed the 3 amp CLA adapter from the TV in the basement (that's another story for a different blog).

Verified it is centre-pin positive. Triple confirmed. Checked with the digital multimeter.

Connected everything. Powered up. Yeh! Red LED. Hand controller showed "Verifying packages" and then went to a ready state. Huh? No message about missing the RA motor. Whatever. Powered off. Connected the motor and rested it inside the casing. Powered up. Tapped the Up and Down buttons and the DEC motor spun up. Played with the hand controller slew rate (which I noticed they've reworded as MOTOR SPEED). Set to a low rate and tapped the Left and Right buttons. The RA gear turned. Good. All working as it should. Huh? No message about the missing encoder. Whatever.

Rebuilt the motor assembly and remounted it in the casing. Removed the straight flat-head screw opposite the motor so to inspect the transfer gear mesh. Looked good. Tightened the motor assembly bolts. Now look at that...

The motor assembly was sitting lower now, according to my Sharpie pen marks, than when I received it! Maybe by 1 or 2 mm on the right side. Very telling. This makes sense. If the motor assembly was too high, the transfer gears might have hopped.

Was ready for a full test. Powered up. Slewed in RA at higher and higher speeds, working good, and then the other w—

It stopped! Gar. What happened? Oh. No power. OK. My adapter was not quite fitting correctly in the mount socket. Ha. Michael Swanson had warned of this on his NexStar Resource Site power page:
[The] plug for the scope end has an inside diameter of 2.1mm... Note that the more common connector is 2.5mm inside diameter. This will not provide a positive connection and leads to many problems with operation of the scope as momentary power interruptions cause misbehavior of the electronics of the scope.
Power it up again. Continued slewing in the same direction for a ways. Yes. Then started slewing in the other dir—

It stopped. What?! Power was OK. I backed up and tried again. Stopped. About 30° from horizontal. Oh no. A flat spot in the gears? Binding? Stiction? None of that made sense. What's this mean?! And then it hit me. Michael's note might say...
This will not provide a positive connection and leads to many problems with operation of the scope as momentary power interruptions cause misbehavior of the electronics AND MECHANICS of the scope.
I had reached a programmed stop point in the mount. The mount was trying to protect itself. To prevent physical collisions. The CGEM mount won't swing past a certain point to help reduce the chance of the OTA colliding with the tripod. When I had powered it up after the interruption, it messed up the home position.

Grabbed the "networking" tool box from the garage. Found an old phone extension cord. Plugged it into the AUX port. Wire-tied the power plug to the phone cord. OK. Now it was secure and I could try again without interruptions. Homed the mount. Powered up. Slewed fully to the east. The mount stopped on its own just past horizontal. I was expecting this now. The slew limit reached. Slewed fully to the west, 180° (or more) of movement. No hopping. No weird noises. Smooth movement. No binding. Stopped at the west limit.

I concluded the RA motor assembly was too high for Nicole. It had either been installed that way at the factory and she had just been lucky in terms of weight and balance and other conditions. Or the right hand bolt of the RA motor assembly was not tight enough and the motor had been gradually shifting upwards. Between shocks and vibration in assembly, disassembly, and transport, operating loads, maybe balance issues, it had worked it's way higher and higher until the transfer gears stopped meshing well. When she noticed the "jumpy" behaviour during her last observing session, the gears were starting to miss each other. When she tested it, as recorded in her video, without counterweights, in a very unbalanced state, the gears couldn't hold the weight.

And suddenly I realised where the aluminium ¼" shard came from! It's like a murder mystery. The motor assembly was rising too high in the casing. This made the motor transfer gear started hitting the inside of the casing! Must be very shallow clearances. It shaved off a piece!

Still no idea where the copper filaments are from...

Grabbed the camera tripod. And shot a couple of movies for Nicole. The main one showing successful slewing from home to east, east to west, and back to home. Both in AVI.
  • repaired CGEM - part 1 - ready to test (83 MB)
  • repaired CGEM - part 2 - the sequel! (131 MB)
Nicole is gonna be very happy, I thought.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

roof, camera, keys, and a broken mount

Another day with lots of RASC content.

Asked Phil for a report on Stargrazer. It worked OK on the weekend. Good. But there's some sort of cover missing.

Asked Tony if Ian should be looped into the discussion with Zbig and the people invited Friday night to the CAO. He thought so. Said he'd do it.

Asked Lora and Phil about help in the kitchen during the work party. They were glad I brought it up.

Asked Allard to set up Phil as a web site editor. He did it quickly. Thanks.

Further refined the job jar list.

Tony asked if I could sell 50-50 tickets for the CAO roof fund raising at the RASC RAN meeting as he was double-booked. Wondered where the tickets were. Told him I had them. He had called me on the road but had to run. Immediately, I had questions. Do the members know the context? How much as the tickets? Should I make a preamble slide? I phoned Charles in the meantime to review the status. He reminded me that in his President's Message in the last SCOPE he had briefly discussed the roof's age, the estimated expense to repair, etc. But that was the only "notice" so far. Nothing from the CAO committee in SCOPE, nothing on the web, nothing to the Yahoo!Group. Tony called back a short while later. When he wondered when the next meeting was, I saw an opportunity. I suggested, now that Markov had bumped me up to June for my "visit the CAO" presentation, that he could dovetail a note about the roof. It would be good timing. He agreed that we could push to June.

But then I said, the time was nigh to get something into the next newsletter! He agreed. I offered to write an article from the CAO committee briefly reviewing the CAO donation, our 40 year obligation, how most of the work and materials and furniture were donated, and that the roof had served us well, but it was due to be replaced. I drafted that quickly and sent it to the committee for review. Let Eric know it was coming.

Some packing. I was after my inflatable lounger chair. Yes! For meteor observing. I also wanted a regular lawn chair. It occurred to me to take one up to the CAO and leave it there. I have 3 at home... Stumbled across my tent and sleeping bag. Ah ha! I'd need those soon enough. Couldn't find my air mattress. Or at least the "primary." I found the extra. More importantly I could not find the inflator... Hmmm. Tomorrow's to-do list.

Then I headed to AA Electronics. I was after a 960 H high TVL camera with good IR throw and long focal length. The exact one I wanted they didn't have. But a similar choice was the 23-3557-10. Then sales guy said, "Oops, I told you the wrong price, it's $20 more." OK. It was still around what Tony and I had agreed on. He pointed out there was no power supply included so we grabbed one of those. At the register, he apologised about the pricing mix-up and said he'd knock the price down. Sweet!

Next, it was into the city. And immediately after entering the highway, it came to a stop! Crikey! I phoned Charles and suggested he avoid the 401. Seemed like there was a crash on the 409 but it was clogging the collectors. Finally made the 427 and it was fine. Gardiner was fine too. Until the Humber where it was reduced to two lanes. Construction. Didn't open up until Spadina and I was destined for the next exit. Arrived my favourite locksmith, forgot to feed the meter, handed him a previously cut key, which helped him immediately find the blank, and then he quickly made two new copies for me. Awesome. I really want to get a key to Katrina on the weekend.

Realised I was very close to the embassy. But quickly discovered I had never entered Sharmin's new number into the Psion. Duh! Oh well, press on. My mood was topsy-turvy anyway.

After plodding along in my traffic, I made it to Don Mills Road. Picked up some toiletries for the weekend. And realised that I might rendezvous with Charles. Rang him up. He was stuck in traffic on the 407! A crash ahead of him. So strange. Perfectly fine weather and sky conditions. Just more bad driving... No worries. Gave me some time to collect my thoughts. Verified I had all the contact info for all the CAO supervisors in my 20 year old palmtop.

We finished our appetisers and headed to the Ontario Science Centre. Some big shindig going on. I helped Charles set up a sign board and banner. Retrieved Sharmin's correct phone numbers. I even had her work number wrong! Asked Tom if he had any experience with double stars: nope.

Thought I might read my book. No way. Chatted with Craig about PixInsight and my post-processing mental block. Discussed Friday briefly with Dietmar. Met Christine—later Phil punked me. Said hello to Sue and Erich. Chatted with Jacek. Gave Peter my Powermate and t-ring. Showed him how it worked. Spotted Nikki as she arrived—sans Celestron; we agreed to meet in the parking lot after the meeting. Took a photo of Bill looking at a photo of Bill looking at the screen. Gave Ralph his CAO passport. Asked Phil if he liked looking at double stars. He said no. Spotted Guy but didn't get a chance to talk to him.

Chris did a quick bit on the meteor shower prediction and the site above Pickering where some RASCals might meet-up. Jason gave a lively presentation and showed his progress in astroimaging. Paul reminded us of good techniques and methods at public outreach events. No TLAs or FLAs! A new member asked him what DDO meant! Jim showed us his latest hack, a DSLR converted to sensitive black and white for less than $300. And lately Charles updated us on upcoming events. No TSTM this time... boo!

Nicole gave me her mount in its robust Pelican case. Included the cables and controller. Wow. It made sense that I'd take the tripod too.

Home... Another intense day. Wired. So I might have a look at Nicole's mount...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

the shuffle

The program for tomorrow night's RASC meeting was shuffled. François bailed out. Again. He put Markov in the lurch again! I feel bad for Paul. I phoned him to go over everything quickly. Paul asked if I wanted to move up my CAO presentation to June, particularly if Chris could do The Sky This Month. Sure. And I'd then do the TSTM in July. OK. It's like a shell game.

horrible sound

Nicole messaged me. Shared a video clip of her CGEM mount. As she slewed it started making a horrible sound. Gear hop! I told her to stop moving it. We made arrangements to meet up. I'll receive the mount from her at tomorrow's meeting. Then I'll begin some diagnostics. Hopefully it's quick. Maybe the worm gear is loose. Or too tight. I hope no teeth are broken. I heard that Celestron uses plastic gears in the drive motors...


Update: Found some DIY and repair items on the interwebs...

A good description, with photos, for adjusting the worm gears, over on Cloudy Nights.

An EQ 6 rebuild with photos on Astro Baby. Purportedly this mount is very similar to the CGEM.

Learned about the Hypertune service (and kits) from Deep Space Products.

Found Josh Knutson's blog. He shared his experience rebuilding a CGEM with the Hypertune kit. He also offered a time lapse. Cool!

sent the letter

Ed T asked if anyone might go to Forks of the Credit to take in the (possible) meteor storm. He shared that long ago, he had a letter confirming RASC could use the site. Stu said, while it was before his time, we did not have an arrangement.

I sent Stu the letter.

still stands

Risa sent me a new graphic of Saturn and Iapetus last night. Now she thought Sky Safari wrong. Oh boy. Nope. Sky Safari is fine. Just fine. But the image scale was radically different than the first image (with Iapetus mislabeled) on her blog.


Update: Risa reported the image in her blog entry has been updated. Good stuff.

no reason whatsoever

Received a message from Alan. In short order, he said, "I see no reason whatsoever to arbitrarily make the list 110 objects long just because that is the length of [others lists]." Wow. I don't know this guy and he's barking orders at me. I was upset. I didn't know what to say.

DS workshop article

Downloaded an article from the April 2014 issue of the Journal of Double Star Observations web site about the Apple Valley Double Star Workshop. Very interesting. I'm curious how they go about things, what they talk about. I'm still noodling on a double star session/seminar/workshop for my RASC centre. Perhaps like the variable star workshops. But I don't know where to start...

Monday, May 19, 2014

work party 2 cancelled

I learned that the CAO summer work party has been cancelled. That leaves only the spring and fall. Aah.

finished candidates list

Finished the candidate double star list. Over 150 entries! Splits from 0.5" to 424.5"! Magnitudes (of the primary) from 0.0 to 8.7. 46 constellations represented, from Andromeda to Vulpecula. About 3 targets per constellation. I think it's a good cross section of difficulties. I hope. From this, I'll try to whittle down to 110...

Checked what the limitations might be, in terms of technology, referring to the venerable book All About Telescopes. The limit of a 3" telescope is around magnitude 11. For a 6" telescope, mag 13.

I tried to have a bit of fun here. Doubles that are not just that. Triples and quads. Targets near interesting objects. Some stars where one might react, "I didn't know what was a double!" And so on. That'll be neat if I can nurture this.

SkyTools was so helpful in this! With detailed data. And the simulated views. Amazingly helpful.

updated the fast movers

Beefed up my "fast movers" double star observing list in SkyTools with some entries from the Orbital elements of selected visual binaries. Also took out a couple (e.g. Castor and μ Cygni), setting an arbitrary limit to around 150 years. That dropped it to around 15. Now, thanks to Ian Ridpath, the ST3P list has over 40 entries.


Why does that name look so familiar...

on finding doubles

Downloaded a couple of articles from the Journal of Double Star Observations web site.
  • A New Visual Double Star in Gemini by Ahad
  • A New Double Star in Perseus by Bryant
Both from the April 2014 issue.

I want to learn about the "discovery" of double stars. If I were to "find" one, what would I do?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

a dark place

I still feel the scars from December. Which is always a challenge time of year. So much going. A lot of stress. Pressure. But then, on top of all that? Rage, anger. A closing. An ending. I still feel hurt. I still am processing it. It's still gnawing away. Which is deeply troubling. I have to move on. Have to let go. It is toxic. Still, it makes me sad. There was much I was looking forward to. Much that we might have done. Tremendous potential. But I cannot keep hate in my heart. To the future.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

just where are quasars?

Ian said he wasn't sure the distances of quasars quoted by SkyTools was correct...

I thought of HS1603+3820, which we viewed at the CAO. The Skyhound app actually does not quote a distance per se. It says the redshift (or z) is 2.51. And it says the "light time" is 9.4 Gyr.

z represents redshift, a measure of recessional velocity and inferred distance due to cosmological expansion.

The highest redshift quasar known is ULAS J1120+0641, with a redshift of 7.085, which corresponds to a comoving distance of approximately 29 billion light-years from Earth! It is thought to appear to us as it was only 770 million years after the Big Bang.

You might think that very odd when you consider the best measurement of the age of the universe is 13.8 billion years. Again, the 29 is the "comoving" distance; not the proper distance. It took 12.9 billion years for ULAS J1120+0641's light to reach us.

Comoving distance factors out the expansion of the universe, giving a distance that does not change in time due to the expansion of space (though this may change due to other, local factors such as the motion of a galaxy within a cluster).

Hubble's Law is the primary means we have for estimating the distances of quasars and distant galaxies in which individual distance indicators cannot be seen.

Some say that the conjecture on quasars doesn't add up. Objects with a z more than 3 need to be moving near the speed of light. Also a number of quasars have been found with proper motion. A high amount of proper motion! It used to be said that quasars were the most distant objects detected in the Universe; now it seems that it not the case. Their energy output, given the estimated distances and corresponding brightnesses, climbs into the fantastic. And yet the incredible off-the-chart energies do not rip apart nearby or hosting galaxies.

So, after a brief amount of research, I think I'm going to stand down. It sounds like there's a bit of hocus-pocus mixed in with extreme distance measures.

green stars

Just considered something very interesting. As I was reading the amazing wikipedia article about redshift, I noted the little visual demonstration of colour shifts. They show a yellow ball changing colour. When moving toward the observer (at a speed of 5200 km/s), it changes to a green colour; when it recedes, of course, it turns orange. I thought of double stars and some of the crazy colour descriptions. Could this be another explanation for green stars? Perhaps some of the green stars noted are ones moving toward the Earth...

Beer on the Moon?!

I didn't know there was a crater on the Moon called Beer!

Oh... oh, this could change everything!

updated PayPal button

Edited the PayPal "products" for the CAO passes. Updated the prices in the existing button. Transferred the new code to the web site... As easy as I had hoped.

reject 14

Another reject.

rejected constellation - the very short line

Wouldn't want to do this...

webspotting index up

Index to all my webspotting articles is finally online. Evergreened!


I'm not sure why but I find it interesting that most of this still relevant... I still regularly use many of these sites!

TLAO lists available at last

Just slightly overdue... I finally loaded the SkyTools observing lists (STX files) for the Turn Left at Orion book. I made these a few years ago, and pushed through a second version. They are available now for download from the lumpy companion site, in the SkyTools software page.

Friday, May 16, 2014

reviewed balance knob settings

Asked Phil to check the Paramount ME balance knobs. I wondered if they were too loose, shifting after the very cold winter. We reviewed the adjustment process. He recalled instructions from a year ago from Dietmar. In particular, the controls are reverse thread.

However, I found the notes in the manual (page 41) that said, once fully engaged, to turn one "tick" (i.e. 1/10th) to loosen. That is less than what Phil would have tried.

figured out password

Missed a text message from Grace. She was up at the CAO trying to connect to the wifi network. She told me what she had entered but the case was wrong. I was about to send a note that it was in the Site Facilities Manual when she sent me another SMS. She had figured it out. Good stuff.

added oculars

Added the new Rod End Optical eyepieces to the NexStar 11 profile in the SkyTools on John Phil, the 26mm, the 15mm, and the 10mm. Guessed at the AFOV... Took the value from the Meade super wide angle oculars.

CDSA list available for download

The Cambridge Double Star Atlas showpieces observing list for SkyTools 3 is available for download (as an STX file) from my SkyTools software page over on the lumpy companion. It has been submitted to Skyhound: it should show up as an option inside the software shortly.

The list contains all 133 entries from the book with notes. The notes highlight the alternate designations, the changes in separation for fast moving binary stars, and errors found in the original list.

found errors in CDSA

As I built the showpiece observing list for SkyTools, I found a number of errors in the Cambridge Double Star Atlas, along with a number confusing or unclear entries. The table is found on pages 12 through 21. You might annotate your atlas.

The following list shows gross errors, with corrections.

β CEP - The alternate designation column shows Σ 2805; it should be 2806. Confirmed in Washington Double Star database, WDS: 21287+7034STF2806AB.

μ DRA - A similar error. The alternate designation column shows Σ 2120; it should be 2130. Confirmed in the WDS: 17053+5428STF2130AB.

β MON - The separations of the first and second pairs are shown as 3 and 7; they should be 7 and 10. From the WDS: 06288-0702STF 919AB sep 6.9; 06288-0702STF 919AC sep 9.6.

β ORI - The table shows the magnitude of the B star as 6.8; other sources show it to be around 10.

γ VEL - The separation of the second pair is shown as 2.6; it should be 62. From the WDS: 08095-4720DUN  65AC.

There is a repeating problem with some special (unusual) designations where the number was not included at the placeholder:

α CEN - Richaud (no #): RHD 1
θ ERI - Piazzi (no #): PZ 2
ν SCO - Mitchel (no #): MTL 2
α SCO - Grant (no #): GNT 1

The table contains a number of alternate designations that are atypical. It is important to refer to the table of designations on page 3 in the atlas.

There are other "issues" too, minor ones. For example, the listing does not show all the "common" star names, such as Tegmen or Alfirk. I note them here for your convenience.

κ BOO - Asellus Tertius
μ BOO - Alkalurops
ζ CNC - Tegmen
η CAS - Achird
β CEN - Agena (Hadar)
α CEN - Rigel Kentaurus
β CEP - Alfirk
ξ CEP - Alkurhah
γ CET - Kaffaljidhma
CMA h 3945 - the "Winter Albireo"
ψ DRA - Dsiban
ν DRA - Kuma
ο ERI - Keid
α FOR- Fornacis
δ GEM - Wasat
δ HER - Sarin
κ HER - Marfik
β LYR - Sheliak
λ ORI - Meissa
ι ORI - Nair al Saif
η PER - Miram
ν SCO - Jabbah
ξ UMA - Alula Australis
γ VEL - Suhail al Muhlif

The list includes a number of "fast movers," that is, binary stars with rapidly moving companions. The quoted separations, from when the atlas was published in 2009, do not match the current or apparent angular distances. The list below shows the printed separation followed by the current, as of April 2014. All measures are in arc-seconds.

α CMA - 7; 10
α CEN - 13; 4
α LYR, second pair - 118; 96
γ VIR - 1; 2

The CDSA showpieces table does not indicate which components are referred to. Most are simple pairs, an A and B star. In some cases, the listing is for widely separated stars and not the true companions to the primary. For clarity, I note the specific stars referred to, if not the A and B components.

γ AND - A, B, and C
ζ CNC - A, B, and C
α-1/2 CAP - very wide pair of alpha 1 and alpha 2; not companion of alpha 1
ι CAS - A, B, and C
δ CEP - A and C
CEP Σ 2816 -  A, C, and D
ο CYG - A, C, and D
17/16 DRA - A, B, and C
ο ERI - A, B, and C
α GEM - A, B, and C
ε HYA - A and C
8 LAC - A, B, C, and D
12 LYN - A, B, and C
ε LYR - AB and CD
α LYR - A, B, and (probably) E
ζ LYR - A and D
δ LYR - wide pair of delta 1 and delta 2; not companion of delta 1
β LYR - A, B, E, and F
β MON - A, B, and C (see error note above)
36 OPH - A, B, and C
δ ORI - A and C
σ ORI - A, C, D, and E
θ-1 ORI - A, B, C, and D; third separation is between the CD stars
ε PEG - A and C
ξ SCO - A and C
ν SCO - AB and CD; to be clear, the second separation is between CD
β SCO - A and C
β TUC - A and C
ζ UMA - A, C, and D
γ VEL - A, B, and C (see error note above)

And, finally, there are some strange things...

p ERI - is that a p or meant to be rho?
k PUP - kappa or k?


Still no reply from the publisher...

specter of Saturn

Noticed a curious mirage.

Like Saturn!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

reviewed incident report forms

Made some remarks on the incident reports prepared by Scott. The first to reply, I believe. He liked my ideas.

some work party planning

Met with Tony to hammer out some of the details for the spring work party at the CAO. We worked from my master list, tagging things that we worthy, that needed so more research. Tried to prioritise a little. We also discussed the budget and the need for a summer work party. It was a good session.

We also tested shared stuff in Evernote. Yes!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Iapetus shoot out

I spotted something funny on Risa's long exposure of Saturn and its neighbours. Iapetus just seemed too far away. Of course, I fired up SkyTools 3 Pro and took a look on May 9, in the evening. While I did not adjust for her local time and location, I was able to produce a good likeness.

The bright point she had tagged as a moon, to the top-left, or to the far north of Saturn, was the star PPM 229907. Risa agreed. Then Ian W piped up. "Seems charts are not agreeing. Using Cartes du Ciel, the labelled Iapetus looks right. [TheSkyX] says Iapetus is over 5 arc min WEST of Saturn and out of the picture... So I give up, cuz Blake's likely right."

I begged to differ. Iapetus was not to the extreme north as Risa had initially thought; it was much closer to the planet; and it was not to the west. I also pointed out the Iapetus would be dimmer than Dione. Then Risa reexamined her hi-rez image and spotted Iapetus under the E of her label Enceladus, just as I suspected.

Ian PMed me. He was troubled by the different views. After I coached him through the process, he shared a snapshot from TheSkyX.

Crazy. Iapetus was in a completely different spot. The other moons around the ringed world looked fine. We double-checked the J2000 and current RA and Dec numbers, star fields, etc. Ian shared that TSX did not use the HD catalog. What? Still? Nutty.

Suggested to Ian he perform an update on TSX. It had no effect.

I considered the Sky and Telescope web site Saturn Moon JavaScript tool. They made me reset my password as a result of their web site revamp, protested it was very weak (like I'm keeping military secrets!), forced me to log in over and over and over again. Annoying! Annoying your web site gymnastics! Stupid. Delays. Holding me up. Finally, I was able to launch the tool.

Of course, it only shows the bright moons! No Iapetus. Waste of my Gorram time. But at least I saw perfect correspondence to the "main" satellites.

Fired up Stellarium.

Another iron for the fire. Software Bisque's TheSkyX was wrong. Ian wondered what TheSky6 would show. OK. I had not found it terribly reliable in the past. But challenge accepted.

Ha. Now that's 4 against one.

Ian moved forward and backward in time. Noticed Iapetus not moving! Well, well, isn't that interesting. He sent an email to Daniel reporting the problem. We wondered how he'd react. I conjectured it was a gremlin in the ephemeris data. They probably screwed up a digit somewhere.

I found the Sky View Café web site. It protested that my Java was out of date. Just freaking run, dumbass! Set the location to Regina. Exact date and time. It showed moon locations matching ST3P, CDC, Stellarium, and TS6.

That's 5 to 1. I wanted to check StarryNight but I did not have it installed...

So I was satisfied on one hand but it reminded me to not get too cocky. SkyTools is very accurate. But mistakes can happen. Ian, irked, typed, "Interesting exercise in not always believing a computer."


Ha! Launched Procyon X on the Psion! 1994 software (last updated in 2003) on a 20 year old palmtop!

8 to 1!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

power and firmware

Nicole and I chatted, via Facebook, and then by phone, on a few telescope matters.

She reported an issue with her current 2-year-old battery pack. The Eliminator doesn't seem to charge. Charge lasts only an hour or two. I said it was probably cooked. Guessed that the wall wart or the charging circuitry was not smart. Suggested a charging regime to try to bring it back. If it didn't rejuvenate, Dave or I could have a go at it.

She said she was thinking about the Nautilus from Canadian Tire. I recommended it highly. Marine technology, so better for our purposes. Heavy though. Expensive. But it went up for sale often, usually with 40 points, or $100, off. On sale this week, in fact!

I clarified that a SLA battery would be able to handle the amps, no trouble. Mount, dew heaters, and more.

She also asked about firmware updates for her Celestron hand controller, so to resolve the codes she was getting. I didn't think that was the issue. I wondered if the faults were due to low power. Urged her to try with the AC adapter. She didn't have one. OK, try running off the car. Or borrow a battery.

reset THO

Light bulb!

As I was packing up the N11 in the GBO, I suddenly realised why the power was out in the Tony Horvatin Observatory. Told Phil my theory. A few minutes later he returned from the THO.

As I had suspected, there are GFCI switches on the outlets...

Power restored.


Renewed my CAO pass for the year. Oh. I hadn't planned on that but the new fee becomes effective at the end of the month.

taking temp

Phil asked me how to come by the temperature value for the SQM log sheet. I showed him how to take the temp with the Sky Quality Meter. After the sky reading, one press.

observed with crowd (Blue Mountains)

Set up the NexStar 11 GPS in the south-east corner of the GBO. So to hang with the gang.

The wind had died down. All the clouds were gone!

I had an ambitious plan for the evening. One of the things I wanted to do was test drive the new accessories for the NexStar. We had a 2" mirror diagonal, a 26mm 2" eyepiece, and a 15mm and 10mm 1.25" eyepiece.

As I set up, I quickly realised that the N11 needs one more thing. A SCT adapter, like the Tele Vue that I inherited. I have to check if there is equipment like that in the donation.

It occurred to me that this evening would also give me a chance to reconfigure the netbook (now running off the SSD) with SkyTools to drive the Celestron via ASCOM.

The spring peepers serenaded us to the east; the coyotes cajoled to the west.

Kevin and Wayne were due. I met Wayne in the Geoff Brown Observatory as Phil was giving him the tour. Spotted Kevin a little while later as he looped around in the parking lot and pointed his car north. Nice of him.

Phil and Millie helped Wayne get up and running with his Vixen mount and refractor.

8:12 PM, 10 May 2014. I tried aligning the N11. Just to test it (still too bright). But noticed, late in the proceedings, a "17 no response" error. Huh? I powered down, then up, to redo the alignment.

8:16 PM. Went OK this time.

8:22. Synced on the Moon. Noted, like on my C8, the Moon just fit in the field of view, with the 26mm.

The 26mm eyepiece was good. Clear. No major optical flaws. Very wide field.

8:32. We viewed Jupiter in the Celeston 14-inch. Are higher power we were able to coax out the moons. I checked the locations in SkyTools. I thought, before it went completely dark, that the surface of the planet was very colourful, tans, dull reds, beige, browns. Pretty neat.

They reported that Mars was unsatisfying in the C14. I viewed Mars in the N11. I spotted the ice cap. And hints of a dark region around the ice cap. Phil's iPad showed an otherwise blank face was earth-facing.

9:13. Finally spotted Capella naked eye. I could proceed with a proper alignment.

9:15. Hey! Error code 176. Gar! Re-seated the cable and tried again. Finally.

Phil had never heard of a 40mm 1.25" ocular. Ya learn somethin' every minute.

9:30. Everything was working well with the N11. I put in the 15mm eyepiece.

9:48. With the supervisor's blessing, I tried to find the mystery object from March. I slewed the C14 to π (pi) Aurigae, then to the nearby triad. I couldn't see the artefact. Nothing. I scanned and panned. I thought the sky was washed out. Damn Moon. I elected to not put the camera on. I sensed Kevin wanted to do some viewing.

10:15. I helped Kevin star hop to Messier 82 (M82). Later I helped him manually slew to Messier 81 (M81).

I quickly built an observing list in SkyTools. Drew from the march list, current comets, and a couple of other sources. It was intriguing that the Nightly Observing List Generator could not add anything with the logged filter active...

10:41. I felt the wind was picking up. I checked my portable weather stations. The Oregon Scientific reported: 69% humidity, 6.9°C, and the pressure was steady. The OneWorld reported 49% and 8.2°. Wow. Very different.

10:44. I viewed the double star HD 82159 aka Σ1360. I thought the pair equal in brightness, while faint. It was hard to detect colour at first glance.

Corrected the crew. The bright object to the ENE was not a planet; it was Vega. 

10:59. I finally figured out image orientation. In the SkyTools chart, I needed the mirror diagonal option. Weird. It was then I confirmed seeing the C star, at magnitude 13, and the easy D star, at mag 11. The primary and companions were part of a large L shape of stars. All four stars almost in a perfectly straight line, to the north-east. A and B, upon further study, I thought orange and blue. The RASC OH said A and B are blue and green (and does not refer to C and D). I dunno...

Viewed comet C/2012 K1 (Pan-STARRS) in Canes Venatici. Pretty faint. Despite the big OTA pointing straight up.

Tried to split Spica. Assumed the companion was close... Oops. Should sketch or image it...

Viewed Saturn in Wayne's 'scope. Spotted some moons nearby. Hint of colour fringing.

Headed indoors with Wayne and Phil. The hot "coohoc" chocolate was good! Did the paperwork with Wayne. He's our latest CAO passholder.

Chatted with Kevin on the Pad on my way back to the GBO. He was doing some wide field imaging with his Nikon and tripod.

11:40. Returned from a kitchen break  And I returned to 17 Virginis. Yellow and orange, it seemed. A bright primary. The pair was widely spaced in the new 26mm 2". Had a few more looks. Yep. Yellow and orangey red. Huh. The colours reported in the RASC coloured doubles list is blue and orange. Wha? [ed: Haas says primary is white and does not give a colour for the companion.]

11:56. Enjoyed θ (theta) Vir. Wow. A very nice triple. Yellow bright primary, orange star very tight, and far away a faint blue star. Nice. [ed: Haas only reports the AB pair. Notes them brilliant yellow and vivid bluish turquoise. Huh.]

Actually SkyTools reports it is a quad but the D star is 0.4" away from A. Ah... I don't think so...

12:01 AM, 11 May 2014. Kevin left.

I lost my mojo. Caught myself staring at the screen not doing anything. I folded up shop and crawled into bed.

Was a little disappointed. I wanted to do much more. Wanted to image the region near IC 2149. Wanted to try BYEOS in the field. Wanted to try the EOS movie recorder with planet imaging. Wanted to view "37 Lyncis" with Millie. The sky seemed pretty good albeit bright. No dew. No bugs! Everything worked good. Oh well. Simply too tired after Friday's physical labour.