Tuesday, July 29, 2014

finished named star list

Lots of long transit trips lately. Gave me time to hammer away at the merged list of named stars. Just finished. 662 entries!

Monday, July 28, 2014

made PF run stand-alone

Hacked the Takahashi Polaris Finder version 1.2 tool, originally found the True Technology UK FTP area, to run locally or standalone on the John Repeat Dance computer. I thought it  was incorrect in its view, that is, not rotated, as it would normally be in a refractor. But upon review it seemed OK.

webspotting 35 - calculating the speed of the sky

As published in the August/September 2014 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. Republished here with permission.


One of the easiest forms of astrophotography to partake in is tripod-mounted wide-field. Image the Moon, conjunctions, alignments, and appulses of planets and stars, comets, aurora, rain or moon bows, or noctilucent clouds. Don't forget sunsets and sunrises--technically, photos with a star! But can you image stars and the Milky Way? Yes!

Minimal equipment is required. Just about any camera can be used. A digital single-lens reflex camera is certainly capable even with a stock kit lens. But a point-and-shoot will work fine too, or modern smart phones, particularly if you can control the exposure time. I use "fireworks" mode on my fujifilm J20. What if you don't have a tripod? Use the nearby picnic table, ladder, or big rock.

One quickly discovers that long exposures can produce funny stars. Zoomed-in stars are not round. They are elongated or stretched. A long exposure means that stars move or drift in the camera's field. Or, more correctly, the earth's rotation causes the camera to move under the stars. The stars are blurred or trailed.

This is why powerful telescopes have motorised mounts. It explains why the iOptron Skytracker, Vixen Polarie, and new Skywatcher Star Adventurer are all the rage. Tracking mounts come with some expense and require decent polar alignment.

What you need to consider, with your basic camera (and lens) is where you're aiming and your focal length.

The location of your target is quite important for the apparent speed of the stars varies. Stars in the south are "fast;" whereas, stars in the north are slow. Think of the spokes on a spinning bicycle wheel: the angular speed of the spoke near the hub is slow but out at the edge, near the tire, is fast. Polaris is near the hub of the wheel of the sky.

When things are moving fast and you're trying to freeze the action in a photo, or reduce blur, you need to use a shorter or faster exposure. And you need lots of light. If your subject is stationary or moving very slowly then you can expose for a long time. You don't need as much light. The challenge with night time shots is that the light level is always low. This in turns puts an upper limit on exposure time. Happily, we can bump the sensitivity or ISO.

At a recent meeting, our own Dietmar Kupke shared some images, tips and tricks, and recommendations in his time-lapse presentation. He referred to the "500-rule." This suggested rule uses the following formula:

t = 500 ÷ f

where f = focal length of the camera lens,
and t = time in seconds.

The rule says with a 50 mm lens, you can shoot for 10 seconds before the stars will start to trail. Use a wide angle lens, say an 18 mm, and you can expose for half a minute.

The 500-rule is easy to remember when you're in the field and you're quickly trying to calculate value in your head. But, as previously noted, it depends where you point. If you aim to the north, say to Cepheus or Camelopardalis, you can shoot between 15 and 40 seconds. Longer, if closer to the north celestial pole.

The 500-rule really applies to objects near the celestial equator.

If you want to calculate with greater precision your maximum exposure time, check out the Astrophotography Exposure Calculator.


It allows manual operation or automatic. It has a number of camera and lens profiles on board already. It uses the declination of your target to gauge the apparent speed of the area. It also takes into account your frame orientation, landscape or portrait.

Be sure to browser the web site for other handy photographer tools.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

looked for 14-2

Looked for wire at the CAO for Gilles. Not sure if we have what he needs.

Yahoo for all

I was also happy to see the article inviting all RASC Toronto Centre members not currently on the Yahoo!Group to join. I made the point that any member, primary, family, or affiliate, could participate. Done.

double help

I was pleased to see my letter in the latest SCOPE wherein I asked for volunteers to help me in the double star project. We'll see if we get any nibbles.

This piece I first submitted to the newsletter editor on May 20 for the June issue. But it got lost in the shuffle, I gather. So a couple of months late... But, hey, it's a year long project.

SkyShed POD ad up

Ostap's advertisement for his SkyShed POD on MODL 3 appeared in the centre newsletter. Once again, I find it odd tells the audience how much he invested; not how much he wants. Regardless, I hope he finds an interested party.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

fun open house

It was a good Open House and Star-B-Q at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. We had a good turnout. The weather cooperated. Well, we didn't get dumped on. The wind was good for flying kites and launching rockets.

Clouds meant a bonfire and sparklers. I don't think anyone minded. What was most impressive, was how little we needed to do in the morning. That speaks volumes. It is a testament to all the hard work done in advance.

Photo by Risa Horowitz.

Lots more photos on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group.

3D prom (Blue Mountains)

Enjoyed the views of the Sun. In the C14 in white light, one sunspot was visible, with tiny flecks nearby. But in hydrogen alpha, in the Tele Vue, there was a fantastic flare, at the edge of the disc, curving in-line with us. It gave a very strong sense of the third dimension.


Eric pulled the trigger on the Aug/Sep SCOPE newsletter. I sensed he was between a rock and a hard place, needed some info. But at the same time he wanted to release the latest edition, with the invitation to the Star-B-Q, before the Star-B-Q. I, for one, was grateful.

astronomy before allergies (Blue Mountains)

Did some observing before my allergies knocked me out.

Conditions were better than we had expected. Transparency poor, seeing good, as the CSC predicted.

Initially took in Saturn in good seeing conditions in the Celestron 14" SCT. Lots of details: C ring, Cassini Division, turbulence in the northern temperate zone, shadow on the rings, a hint of the south pole.

Then, near the Observing Pad with Risa and Ian, with Ian's big 20" Dobsonian, we looked at some double stars, faint galaxies, etc. I used his netbook and SkyTools to chase down some targets. We used my "star party showpieces" list.

Didn't take notes. I remember Ian suggesting the Fireworks galaxy aka NGC 6946. He showed me a photograph on his smartphone, one he had taken with his rig. Beautiful image. But I could barely make it out in the 'scope. Very low surface brightness. [ed: I didn't realise at the time but I have viewed this before, one year prior, with the NexStar 11, and it was a good view!]

I spotted a very bright, very fast westbound meteor at one point. A Perseid perhaps?


Photo by Risa Horowitz. She's at the ladder, Ian's to the left, and I'm light-writing in the background.

Friday, July 25, 2014

to the Open House

Rohini and Thomas graciously offered me a ride to the CAO. We picked up some dinner on the way. Thomas and I talked non-stop on telescopes and cameras and the art of negotiation. Poor Roh, she couldn't fall asleep with our bantering. We arrived the observatory just after sunset. It was the Open House weekend!

deep red Sun (Toronto)

Red Sun rising. Deep red. I happened to be sitting on the right side of the 35 bus as we travelling down the 427. I tried to see sunspots. Watch out nautical people!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

VR looks OK

Tested the 5V voltage regulator from Ian's LX 200. Unloaded. Seems OK... Research suggests the tantalum capacitors are pooched. There are 5 particular ones... The motherboard and controller are still at the CAO though.

Monday, July 21, 2014

invited the neighbours

Invite Luba and Batta to the CAO barbecue and night-time observing. He was very interested in the latter part. Hopefully they'd pop by. But of course the weather could scuttle their plans.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

greasing the baby

Ed noted he was working on the 'scope at the David Dunlap Observatory.

I imagine the 74" needs a lot of grease...

helped with lockers project

Helped with part 2 of the locker build. We installed the doors and lighting. I made a short in locker 2, crimping a wire, which Phil and Tony traced. I was really pleased to participate with some sweat labour as opposed to just doing paperwork.


We didn't quite finish everything but Lora and Phil offered to attach the lock sets.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

helped Chris on doubles

Reviewed Beckett's request. He's preparing an article for the 2015 RASC Observer's Handbook and wanted some feedback on double stars.

tested no-start on LX 200

Worked on Ian's old Meade LX 200. Power supply blew its fuse. Jumpered it. Power was reaching the mount. But it instantly blew the onboard fuse.

Unmounted the large capacitor. It sparked when shorted. Unmounted the big diode—it looked OK. Unmounted the big resistor—it tested OK. Not trivial. Next checks are the voltage regulator. I pulled the board to take it home.

helped with polar alignment

I briefly assisted Wayne with the polar aligned of his Sky-Watcher equatorial mount. Reviewed with him how to use the etched reticule, how to turn it to match the constellation positions, and then to put Polaris in the little circle.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

prepared letter for MPG

Drafted a letter for Dr Brown at Western. Circulated to Ralph and Tony.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

welcome back thanks

Nice words from Sara.

It was great having her back at her old workplace.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

discussed media back-ups

Touched base with Jason.

He said he was to leave for the US of A on Thursday but he was still awaiting work visa stuff. So now he didn't know when he was going exactly...

Acknowledged my inquiry about the RASC media files. I asked for the Illustrator, Photoshop, and font files. As well as any critical image-use emails.

Jason said there was about 10 to 20 GB worth of data. No surprise there. He said he told Ralph that it would be "simplest to upload them to an FTP." Agreed.

Said he did not have the "harddrive connected with those files" at the moment. We'll need to tend to that in short order.

Said he could "send files on an as needed basis" since he was still a member. But that doesn't support our back-up/resilience plan.

He said he had sent the EPS and logo formats several times over the past few years. Not sure exactly what he meant by that but I suspected he was referring to the JPGs and other low-rez files. Regardless, I didn't see them anywhere, not in a common shared area. Not in the Operations group. Charles didn't see anything in the Council group. So we still don't have back-up or resilience.

The least attractive option was physical media. "DVD would be the least practical for me as I have no blank media and would have to mail them." We'll buy you discs then. It'd be real good to have physical copies for additional coverage.

He offered, once settled in August, to upload to the server. Good plan.

He said, "I'm easy, and happy to turn them over any way you guys want." Good. The move is complicating things but we need to deal with this promptly and with diligence.

watch Orb 2 take off

Watched the Orbital Sciences Antares-Cygnus launch from the Wallops Flight Facility.

On it's way to the International Space Station.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

directed cars

Volunteered at the David Dunlap Observatory. Help Knox and Joe with parking lot duties. First "star talk" for the season. Two sold-out shows. It was a little crazy between 9:15 and 10:15 as people late for the 9-show arrived, parents dropping off kids exited, early people arrived for the 10-show. Risa joined us and helped. Four people in the parking areas made it go smoothly. But more reflective vests and flashlights would have helped. And radios. Turns out they have a small fleet of radios there. Next time.

a little TMT

Eric had a small collection of tokens. He presented some to Ralph and I at the entrance to the DDO parking lot. Ah ha! I picked mine. I recognised it: the Thirty Meter Telescope.



Later in the evening a bunch of us talked about 3D printing. Melanie and Emma were very interested. Tanya knew a bit. Risa and Eric chimed in. We talked briefly about the Toronto Tool Library. And later still I shared with Gilles that I had a real, useful application. He liked my idea.

met Seager

Met MIT professor Seager. What a treat. Charming, interesting, vibrant, and a fast-talker. She has great stories of the DDO.

made a comet movie

Made, with Photoshop, a short GIF movie of my comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) shots, from the data gathered on July 6. Cropped.

Learned some lessons too. Shoot more frames. Use the same exposures for all the frames. North is left; east is down. That was a lot of fun.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

delivered disjoint TSTM

Delivered The Sky This Month presentation to the RASC Toronto Centre at the Ontario Science Centre. For the balance of July and the first week of August. Used the Horvatin laptop, which worked—overall—very well. It would have worked even better when plugged into AC power.

The first failure I encountered was the result of plugging into a power bar which I assumed was in turn plugged into a receptacle. The second issue encountered was Windows 7 deciding to apply several updates. Crikey. So much for my considered preparation, transferring my speakers notes into the slide deck, and using Presenter View. I scrambled near the end of my presentation trying to remember the last few slides. Gah. I had to practice what I preach.

Provided approx. 60 handouts. I'm not sure it was enough.


Article page now live on the RASC TC web site. And it is backed up on my site, in the presentations section.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Astrometry identified

After finally creating an Astrometry.net account, I uploaded—for fun—my Vivitar Series 1 image from the weekend (5 Jul).

Some of the neat data:

Center (RA, Dec): (308.780, 60.301)
Center (RA, hms): 20h 35m 07.274s
Center (Dec, dms): +60° 18' 04.710"
Size: 6.29 x 4.19 deg
Radius: 3.778 deg
Pixel scale: 11.1 arcsec/pixel
Orientation: Up is -90.3 degrees E of N

It is curious that it tagged NGC 6916. I can't see it in the image. But then, it's magnitude 15.

stacked Eye

Stacked the Cat's Eye images from Thursday night in Deep Sky Stacker.

Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) in colour

Canon 40D, Celestron 14" SCT, f/11, manually focused, Paramount ME unguided, twenty 20-second subs with 11 darks stacked. Minor processing in Photoshop.

Not real happy with this. Will have to process again but with pre-cropped images.


Hello, Risa! I see your Imaging Saturn blog post. Your blog about my blog. Hi.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

blasé backcap

Mr Markov sent me a report on the doubles he observed.
I observed all seven double stars on Friday night. I'll drop you an email soon with my comments for each, but overall none were impressive!

Risa did the marathon

Risa finished an amazing project last night. She did a marathon, imaging all the objects from the Turn Left at Orion book, the summer chapter. Incredible. Despite me killing the power to her mount. Read her post and enjoy all the photos. Well done!

doubles, NGCs, and a comet (Blue Mountains)

Skies were looking good. I checked the weather. 10 min 17.7 km/h, WSW, current 11.3, high 35.4. Humidity 64. Baro 1016.1. Temp 17.9, wind chill 16.2.

11:51 PM, Saturday 5 July 2014. Ian and I chatted about late arrivals. A tricky wicket. Invariably people are going to arrive late, for various reasons. Given the layout, there's no easy way to prevent the people on the Observing Pad from being affected. I keep thinking about my shrubbery idea...

12:00 AM, Sunday 6 July 2014. Helped Risa with a bright star east of meridian, as she began her photography marathon. Nunki!

Viewed Arrakis again. Still trying to split it...

12:19 AM. I put on more layers. Brrr.

I still could not see μ (mu) Dra C even though I could see GSC 03890-0615 at magnitude 14.5 (although SkyTools said that was poor data).

12:24. Was the wind picking up? 10 min avg was now 19.3.

12:38. I looked for HR 7099 in Aquila but landed at HD 174792. A tough double with a faint primary and fainter secondary. ST3P said they were magnitudes 8.1 and 9.5. Only 2.3" apart. Huh.

12:42. Found HR 7099 aka Σ2404 (Struve). Pretty. To the north. Panned from 174792. Initally thought them same colour. Reconsidered. A was a warm yellow; B was a pale blue. I estimated about 1 mag different. Yellow and orange in the 55mm. Interesting. A good one for my candidates list, I thought. [ed: Not sure why but this was on my "view again" list. Not any more.]

12:44. The Moon was going down! Finally. Sayonara! Getting dark...

12:53. Viewed HD 174080. Also known as Σ2396. A very wide quad. A was yellow; B, C, and D a dim blue. The companions I thought were all equal in appearance. Cool. [ed: Maybe one for the candidate list?]

1:01. I was so sore. I wondered if should quit.

Viewed NGC 6934 (aka Caldwell 47). It was nice, a small round globular cluster in Delphinus. There was a neat line of stars below.

Headed to the house for a quick break. Wayne was getting discouraged. Telescope troubles.

1:29. I returned to the Warm Room with cookies and hot chocolate. Mmm.

Decided to try to image the comet. And I wanted to see if I could track at comet speed. I thought it should be easy with the mount software.

2:14. Finished imaging.

2:34. Viewed NGC 185, in Cassiopeia, a large elliptical. Smooth appearance in the C14 with the 55mm. Yet another Finest NGC. Also known as Caldwell 18.

OK. Now I was really tired. Packed up.

2:48. In bed.

Fun tonight. A few more double stars. A few more NGCs. And I imaged, briefly, a fast-moving comet!

captured Catalina - steady (Blue Mountains)

Captured Catalina again. This time I tracked the comet. I.e. stars streaking, comet fixed. Now the cometary tails are visible. Initially shot 3 minutes; then 4.

This was my first ever tracked comet photo! Easy to do with TheSky 6 and the Paramount. Mount sounds funny, a different note, not surprisingly. I was very happy.

Canon 40D, Tele Vue 101, f/5.4, 4 minutes, ISO 1000, RAW, daylight white balance. North is left; east is down.


Also captured by tracking the comet at sidereal speed. Made a short GIF movie with these shots...


Originally posting erroneously noted the telescope as a Celestron 14.


Wikipedia link: C/2013 UQ4.

captured Catalina - moving (Blue Mountains)

Captured Catalina, comet C/2013 UQ4. Tracked at sidereal speed. I.e. typical, stars tracked, comet moving. You can see the comet near the centre as a short streak.

Canon 40D, Tele Vue 101, f/5.4, 2 minutes, ISO 1000, RAW, daylight white balance. North is left; east is down.


Also captured by tracking on the comet. Made a short GIF movie with these shots...


Originally posting erroneously noted the telescope as a Celestron 14.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

reviewed polar alignment methods

Helped Wayne to polar align his equatorial telescope mount. I showed him the "pattern method," that is, using the etchings in the reticule. And reinforced that Polaris was to go into the little circle; not the centre.

I also wanted to show Wayne the method using the scales on the right ascension axis. I talked about how one scale corresponded to the year, with monthly divisions, and subdivisions for (2) days. Look, February or "2" is the smallest. [ed: Still makes me wonder why they don't use words... I guess it is a language, translation issue.]

I briefly mentioned the latitude declination offset scale.

Then I pointed out the other scale that ran from 0 to 23: that was the clock. A year scale for the date and a 24-hour scale for the time. The only problem was that I was not sure about the operation of his dials because one of his moved. So I promised to figure that out. [ed: Simply set to zero at the start.]

Drift aligned we'd leave to another day too.


When checking the cabling and power for Wayne's mount, I knocked something. I think, in the dark, I hit the GFCI reset! It took down Risa's mount. She was upset; I was embarrassed.

spotted Mars above Moon (Blue Mountains)

Spotted an orange dot over the bright Moon. Less than half a degree. A conjunction (truly)! Lovely.

Shot different exposures for possible combining. But this is a single shot. North is up; east is left.

Canon 40D, Tele Vue 101, 1/400 seconds, ISO 1600, manually focused, Paramount ME unguided, daylight white balance shot, self-timer. Doctored in DPP: brightness dropped, 4200 K, contrast dropped, colour tone bumped, saturation bumped, sharpness bumped.


Learning from Patrick recently that a conjunction is, technically, when the objects have the same right ascension. At 10:13 PM, the Moon and Mars would be at RA 13h 13m and 54s. If the objects are not at the same RA, then it is an appulse.

shot the roof

Tony d and I headed up to the roof. Tony was doing some homework. We inspected things carefully. Also, I was photo-documenting in advance of our shingle work. And documenting the new microwave link antenna and old Western all-sky meteor camera.

Also gave me a chance to update our MODL imagery.

conducted many experiments (Blue Mountains)

Ian W, supervisor, arrived in the early afternoon. Proceeded to set up his big custom Dobsonian.

9:25 PM, Friday 4 July 2014. It was warmer tonight. And the mosquitoes were out!
Instrument: Celestron 14-inch SCT
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
Looked at Jupiter. It was barely detectable.

9:43 PM. Viewed Saturn and Titan.

10:04. Tony and I chatted about the upcoming painting. He suggested a water-based acrylic.

10:14. Viewed ν (nu) Sco.

10:22. Ian thought he could see the AB split. Not me. I could not cleanly split them. But it was certainly not round. Damn, he's got good eyes. C and D were split by a hair. A and B were a pale yellow. C and D much dimmer, very pale blue, maybe. Neat field stars, HD 145554 and HD 145631, near by. Bright.

We thought the C14 collimation off a bit.

10:48. Ian and I tried to split ζ (zeta) Her. No luck in the C14 or his 20-inch. Interesting...

I wanted to do some imaging "experiments" tonight. First, some double stars.

Headed off to 59 Serpentis. It is listed in the RASC coloured doubles. They describe it as yellow and green! SkyTools 3 Professional notes it as a triple but the AP pair has a separation of 0.3 arc-seconds. Yikes. The AB sep on the other hand is reasonable: 3.9.

12:47 AM, Saturday 5 July 2014. Finished imaging the double star 59 Ser (the light frames). Started taking 10 darks. I wondered if I had discovered something interesting in these images... Something in the area. It didn't look like I split the A and B stars in the images. Overexposed perhaps.

[ed: Image shown in a different post.]

1:02 AM. Finished the darks gathering.

Headed to the Observing Pad. Now I wanted to try out Risa's iOptron tracking device.

1:23 AM. Downloaded the SkyTracker manual. Started working through the steps. I wanted to do it all completely on my own. A little challenging but I figured it out. I'd rewrite the documentation...

Did some wide-field Milky Way stuff. Was trying to capture comet Catalina.

Just as my run finished I swung to the north-west and imaged the Iridium flare! Neat.

Headed back to the observatory. Using Ian's hefty dovetail camera bracket, I attached the Canon DSLR to the C14 tube for some piggyback imaging. Another experiment.

3:59. Tried to image NGC 6946, the Fireworks Galaxy, with my old, big, heavy, Vivitar Series 1 lens. First time ever doing astrophotography, made possible by the Fotodiox M42 adapter. The sky was brightening...

4:02. Checked the weather conditions. Wind 4.8, high 14.5, 10 min 4.8, from the west, temp 13.7, hum 66, baro 1023.1.

4:23. Did darks. Closed the roof. Put the dehumidifier on.

4:32. As I walked to the house, I saw Venus rising. I also spotted a star to the right. Ah. Aldebaran.

4:36. In bed.

Unwound. The night had been a bit scattered but I had a good amount of fun trying things.

For a long time I have wanted to test and evaluate my old camera lenses. I loved using the 70-210mm Series 1 zoom lens with the old Pentax film bodies. I'm really curious if it can render good images at night. I also have the fixed 100mm portrait lens by Vivitar. It might be good. And I have one fast wide field. Tonight, I finally put the zoom on. But it was a half-baked test.

I think the better thing to do is a dedicated evening, that is, try each lens, one after the other, shoot many images of different subjects. That'd mean less fiddling with dismounting the refractor, etc. Do it all in one evening. "Old lens test night!"

I'm also betwixt with these tracking devices. The SkyTracker, the Polarie, the new Star Adventurer. All are tantalising. I don't know why but it is so tempting to get one. Yes, they are expensive. And I suspected they would be non-trivial to set up. And I was also really curious how good one's polar alignment would need to be.

It was really interesting working with Risa's iOptron, very educational. It was not trivial to set up. I was cognisant of the time. It's not a couple of minutes. It's maybe a good 30 minutes, once you have it down, to do it right. Which, intriguingly, is about the time it takes to set up the old Vixen Super Polaris. Yep. I keep coming back to that.

It'd be silly, I think, to get a tracking device, when I already have a "lightweight" equatorial mount. The Vixen SP should be able to do an excellent job of tracking underneath the DSLR. It can even run on batteries (or could)! So that's the crux of the matter. That's what I should be testing. I'm getting distracted by gadgets!

A good evening.

One more dark. Yeh.

tried Series 1 (Blue Mountains)

Shot NGC 6946 (a galaxy) piggyback with the old zoom lens for fun! Also caught NGC 6939 (an open cluster). East is up; north is right. Used Ian W's Losmandy bracket on the Tele Vue 101 dovetail.

Canon 40D, Vivitar Series 1 at 200mm, ISO 1000, 60 seconds, f/4.0, RAW. Stacked in DSS. Minor processing in Photoshop.

Coma at the edges. Vignetting in the corners. Intense colours. The processing result is a little blue for my liking.


Had a go at plate solving on 7 Jul.


Wikipedia link: NGC 6946.

caught a flare (Blue Mountains)

Caught the Iridium flare over the CAO while trying Risa's little camera tracking mount.

Canon 40D, IS 18-55 lens, 120 seconds, f/4, ISO 1000, daylight white balance, manually focused, iOptron SkyTracker, RAW, no processing.


Wikipedia link: Iridium satellite constellation.

could not spot the comet (Blue Mountains)

Tried to capture the comet wide-field with Risa's SkyTracker. No luck.

Canon 40D, IS 18-55 lens, 120 seconds, f/4, ISO 1000, manually focused, RAW, minor processing in DPP. North is up; east is left.

I like the lumpy bits on the top edge, the Milky Way.


Shot also contains a few other Messiers... M39, M52, the Cooling Tower (M29), M33, the Little Dumbbell (M76), M103, and technically M32 and M110. Yes, they are all extremely tiny and not, in general, discernible.

The Double Cluster is easily tagged...

imaged 59 Ser (Blue Mountains)

Captured 59 Serpentis. A and B are merged in this image, the bright object on the left.

Something weird going on... Star GSC 00433-0179 looks like a tight double here but is only shown in SkyTools 3 Pro as a single.

Canon 40D, C14, f/11, 1000 ISO, 25 second subs stacked with a dozen darks, minor processing in Photoshop. North is top-left; east is bottom-left.


Wikipedia link: 59 Serpentis.

Friday, July 04, 2014

the Sun is wow (Blue Mountains)

Did some more solar observing. Wow. Just wow. I don't remember when I've seen so many sunspots at once. Certainly not so many of this size.

restart weather app

I found the Davis weather station software was not running! Everything seemed OK once I launched it. Wondered what caused that...

gave Paul some double candidates

Mr Markov asked for some suggestions for double star observing, to chip away at the candidate list. I sent him over a few...

SAO 85564
HR 7083
mu Aql
HR 7140
HD 186224
HD 183014

Hee hee!

helped Tom get the Sun (Blue Mountains)

10:52 AM. The Sun was fantastic today. Lots of spots. A couple of big flares. Risa and I showed Tom the Sun in hydrogen-alpha. He really enjoyed that.

Big flare on eastern edge.

12:00 PM. I grabbed the eyepiece bracket camera adapter from the house to steady Tom's point-and-shoot camera. I helped him with the alignment.

Image by Tom. Canon PowerShot S95, 1/100 of a second, f/4, ISO 80. We used the camera bracket.

tons of spots (Blue Mountains)

The Sun was incredible active! In addition to the flares, it was covered in sunspots.

Most of the sunspots were large and complex. I identified all of them.

Spot 2109 was huge complex near eastern edge. 2108 was west of 2109 and very complex. 2104 was near centre, also complex. 2107 to the southeast was large. 2110 was a tiny one southeast of 2108. Saw 2102 in the centre. And 2106 to the northeast of centre. I could not see the 2100 complex.

Good seeing!

Amazing view today. Everyone enjoyed it. Photo by Tom.


Tom wanted to know who officially numbered the spots. I wasn't sure. But later I stumbled across the answer: the Solar Influences Data Center in Belgium.

two galaxies and a planetary (Blue Mountains)

1:10 AM. Viewed a very nice edge-on galaxy, NGC 4157. It's on the RASC Finest NGC list. In a L-shape of stars. Right on the CVn and UMa border (technically in Ursa Major). Bright centre. Very elongated. Spotted some faint stars nearby: GSC 03457-0153 to the west at mag 13.7 (poor quality) and GSC 03457-0203 to the northwest at mag 13.6 (poor). Nice find. [ed: Added it to my SkyTools "edge-on" list for Mr dos Santos.]

1:22. Viewed NGC 5005 (aka Caldwell 29). Also on the Finest. In Canes Venatici. Big. Not as canted as the previous. Bright centre. Could I see dust lanes? There were not a lot of stars nearby. Another nice one. Quite bright.

1:52. Imaged the Cat's Eye Nebula (aka Caldwell 6) with the Canon DSLR.

2:14. Noticed that the weather data had not updated since 7:13 PM. Damn it.

2:19. Good timing. Clouds appeared. Just as I started the darks run.

2:47. Checked the weather data from house. Wind 0, 10 min 0, from the north, temp 9, hum 97, baro 1019.9.

2:55. In bed but I couldn't resist. I checked the nebula photos. Neat! Very neat. Looking forward to stacking and processing to try to coax out a bit more...

3:00. Lights out.

captured the Eye (Blue Mountains)

For fun, tried to image the Cat's Eye planetary nebula.

With the intervalometer, shot 20 second subframes with a 1 minute gap between. Used a 10 second delay at the start. Manually focused. Shot 20 light frames.

It was bright blue! Wow. Could see some structure within. Like overlapping opposed ovals.

Canon 40D, Celestron 14", f/11, unguided, 20 seconds, 1000 ISO, daylight white balance, raw format. No processing (yet). North is bottom-right; east is top-right.


Tried stacking.


Wikipedia link: Cat's Eye Nebula.

some showpieces for Tom (Blue Mountains)

10:13 PM, Thursday 3 July 2014. Viewed Saturn with the Celestron 14-inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope. Spotted three moons beside the ringed planet.

In the Oberwerk 100mm binoculars, I noted a bright star beside Moon. [ed: That was upsilon Leonis which the Moon had occulted earlier in the evening.]

10:17 PM. Conditions were looking good. I grabbed my α and ε astronomy cases from the car.

10:25. Gar. Another software crash. SkyTools 3 Professional imploded. I was, again, trying to run it with the external LCD monitor. I was not driving the C14 with ST3P. It was in red mode. I had been viewing Saturn in the Context Viewer. I was trying to simulate the view in the eyepiece at the correct angle. But as I dragged the rotation handle, the program crashed.

Back at the telescope, I spotted another point to the south-east. Just a single point. But the computer said that this was Enceladus and Tethys. Together! [ed: They were 4 seconds of arc apart.]

10:32. The seeing was fantastic at times. The equatorial belt was bright. The adjacent belt dark. The A ring was darker than the B. I noted the shadow of the planet on the rings.

10:33. What's going on! SkyTools crashed again. This time after I switched from Notepad. Very frustrating.

Same error as before. It occurred to me that the crashes might be to do with the external monitor... I thought I had done this before though, without any trouble. I was certain I had successfully used the external CRT mode on the netbook. Oh... What a sec. Maybe that was John Little John... And I was on the new drive now, the SSD.

10:41. Clouds. Crikey.

11:25. Showed Mizar. Answered a bunch of questions for Tom on multi-star systems. Then we headed off to Albireo. He enjoyed the colours.

11:28. I checked the weather conditions from the Davis weather station. 10 minute average wind speed was 3.2 km/h from the from north-west. The current wind was 4.8. The high had been 8.0. The humidity was 54%. The barometric pressure was 1013.9 mbar. The air temperature was 13.9°C.

11:34. Hey! We were clouded out again.

11:41. Risa and Tom saw a north-bound meteor. They said it was a big one. Dang.

11:58. We viewed the galaxies Messier 81 (M81) and Messier 82 (M82).

12:04 AM, Friday 4 July 2014. Viewed the Ring Nebula aka Messier 57 (M57). Tom liked it a lot.

12:15 AM. Saw a west-bound meteor. Fast and long and faint.

12:18. Took in the Coathanger asterism in the big binoculars.

12:32. View comet Catalina. C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina). In the Andromeda constellation. It was faint.

12:33. Risa said the counters were wet. Oh oh. Humidity must have climbed. I checked the Davis page again. Weird. Different numbers. 10 min avg 11.8 from N, current 11.3, high 37. Humidity 94! Pressure 1016.6. Temp 12.0. Wow. Very different numbers. Maybe I had been looking at old data. I didn't remember refreshing.

I wondered if I should try making an even darker background for the weather page... To better stay dark adapted.

12:37. The comet was moving fast! Already in a different spot in relation to the background stars.

I viewed the Andromeda galaxy in the big binos. Also view naked eye.

12:57. Risa and Tom headed off to the house. She said she was tired. Tom said he was fading. Night!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

fixed alpha

I repaired the security camera system alpha, swapping the daughter board with a spare from Tony. It worked!

to CAO via Durham

Hitched a ride with Risa northbound. She wanted to visit a friend in Durham for the afternoon. After a tour of the artists studio (whoa, flashbacks), I continued to the CAO. Did a grocery run in Thornbury. They would travel to the CAO after dinner. Reminded Risa to watch for the 119.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

electrical geek out

Met up with Peter on the Danforth. We geeked out with electronics. I showed him the large resistor and mounting hardware Phil had recently obtained from Digi-Key. He thought it would be very good for my battery load bench testing.

Peter then gave me bits and bobs to build an expanded scale voltage (ESV) meter. That'll be fun. Together I'll have a very good set of tools for testing lead acid batteries.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

helped Zain with directions

Helped out Zain on Facebook. He had shot a photo of the night sky (on Sun, Jun 22 at 12:56 AM from Maple) but was having trouble identifying what he was looking at.

Initially I explained things. But realised, quickly, annotations would be best.