Tuesday, September 30, 2014

tried to find 7325 again

I asked Ian if he had the image from the weekend, the one he had taken quickly, as we tried to find NGC 7325, near NGC 7331 and Stephan's Quintet. At the time, he said 7325 did not appear in the image.

He sent me a bunch of astrophotographs he'd made. But not exactly the one I wanted.

NGC 7331 (aka Caldwell 30). Taken Aug 2010 with an AstroTech 8" RC with a single shot colour CCD camera (QHY8). He thought it interesting that Stephan's Quintet was just caught in the far bottom left. Yes, true, 7320 and 7318 A and B were just inside the corner. I like the little fuzzies above the big spiral, 7335 and 7340.

NGC 7331 again. This time with a RC 12.5" and SBIG from 2011. Ian shared he couldn't find the raw files. Too bad. It's a great galaxy image. Looks like more data. And better quality. This second image is rotated about 90° counterclockwise from the first. NGC 7335 is very obvious, to the left now.

Stephan's Quintet. Taken on the weekend at the CAO. Lovely. I like the wisps and tails off the individual galaxies. Ian said he quickly counted and found 25 galaxies within. I get over 30...

He went on to say that NGC 7325 in only in the first image. Sort of. 7326 is obvious, the little fuzzy, at about the 4 o'clock position, about 2/3rds of the way from the spiral nebula to the three bright stars. But 7325 is not all obvious. Curious. SkyTools 3 Pro has this to say:

object size magnitude (B)
7325 57" x 38" 14.90
7326 46" x 20" 15.80

I think this image shows that the galaxy is... challenging. Thank you. The first image validated our experience at the eyepiece. Not the image he had shot recently, but it would do. It showed 7325 is not easy. Perhaps the foreground star GSC 02743-2056 is mucking up the view? Or maybe it is a lot fainter and smaller than what we've been lead to believe...

All images copyright © Ian Wheelband. Used with permission.

CAO report

Genevieve posted on the Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group sharing particulars of their weekend at the Carr Astronomical Observatory, the daughters working on their certificates, and trials and tribulations with photography. She also shared a link to her new blog site.


Monday, September 29, 2014

December TSTM

Mr Markov asked if I could delivery the Dec 10 The Sky This Month. OK.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

pulled the motors

Tried to replace the capacitors on the motor boards of Ian's LX 'scope. Very close quarters. And without a firm grip, i.e. vice, on the PCB, I could not extract. And I realised cleaning would be hard too.

I had another look and realised I could, in fact, remove the assemblies. OK. Back to "the shop."

received parts

This weekend, received parts from Ian W, the ones he mentioned at the beginning of the month, so to build a barn door tracker, like his. Perhaps following the rough schematic he provided earlier. Cool! Gettin' real... Ooh. Hinges too.

even better Sun (Blue Mountains)

A bit more solar observing. I wanted the Wyrwicz family to have a look. After they completed the solar system walk, they had a look. Robert connected his camera (with my 2" nose piece) and shot some photos. They enjoyed that.

The Sun was even better. Lots of spots again. A huge tree-like flare.

third night (Blue Mountains)

Many started off the evening visually enjoying or imaging the Moon and Saturn. A mere 3 degrees apart. I said, "Saturn is in the arms of the Moon." Peter agreed.

7:39 PM, Saturday 27 September 2014. Reconfigured the telescopes for night use. Coralie helped me.

7:41 PM. I still had no sense of a plan...

Loaned Nicole a USB cable from my "kit."

Amazing weather.

9:08. Helped the Wyrwicz family view through the C14. 51 Pegasi, an exoplanet system.

Everyone looked at Saturn for a time. In the cradle of the Moon...

Nicole said "Everything's perfect." We all waited for the other shoe to drop...

10:02. Confirmed Neptune and Triton.

10:15. Tried to split HR 7075. A pale yellow system. 1.00", no joy. 55mm, 27mm, 10mm. Also tried the 3mm in TV101.

Uh huh. See?! Nicole forgot to recharge her battery. I suggested the N11 power supply. We discussed amps.

11:09. Helped daughter and grandmother. We viewed the Swan Nebula, aka Omega, aka Messier 17 (M17). I was surprised that it was visible at all, given the low cloud in the south-west.

11:11. Helped Genevieve with photos of the Ring Nebula (Messier 57 or M57). About 30 lights; 15 darks.

I ramped up to image after her. Ian MacGyvered a piggyback camera mount for me.

Ian was helping the girls knock off items from the Explore the Universe certificate.

1:28 AM, Sunday 28 September 2014. Tired, yawned.

1:48 AM. Split χ (chi) Ceti. Yellow and blue stars. Both a pale colour. Almost wondered if primary was green (when defocused). Very wide in the big OTA. Switched from the C14 to the TV101. Maybe 1 mag different? [ed: 2+.]

1:51. Spotted ζ (zeta) to the north-east. About the same sep. [ed: 184 vs. 188.] But primary was brighter. And the secondary was much fainter. Oh. Baten Kaitos. Hard to gauge colour. Orangey yellow to bright blue? [ed: Haas says Smythe says topaz yellow and white.]

The only consolation was that clouds were rolling in, slowly...

Crashed in the library.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

aurora in motion (Blue Mountains)

Made some movies of the aurora shot from the deck.

Used MS Movie Maker. Could not get the image display as short as I wanted. So it's a little choppy.


Speed up the movie playback to smooth it. I have found that 2x to 3x looks good.

Rebel red

Genevieve wants some red film for her Canon Rebel camera. When it fires up, when preparing to shoot a photo, it shows a bright screen, black text on a white background. Nasty at night time. I loaned her a piece for the weekend. Reminds me, again, that I should buy another roll... In the meantime, I suggested Michaels. I also shared that if small things needed to be covered, LEDs, small panels, etc. that one could use the plastic wrapper from mini Babybels!

fantastic Sun (Blue Mountains)

Had the girls help me set up for solar observing. They installed the filters, opened the roof, fired up the computer, logged in, connected, and slewed.

The Sun was spectacular! Tons of sun spots. A couple of big flares. Many filaments.

I also set up the Calcium-K 'scope.

And the Oberwerk binoculars.

accessed photos

Oops. I forgot my camera cable. Funny. Sorta. I had noticed the USB cable near my desk earlier in the week. And thought, you better not leave it there...

Fortunately, I carry the old multi-card-reader around in the camera bag... Was able to read the Compact Flash card data into John Repeat Dance.


Didn't think, at the time, to try a generic USB cable from my USB cable kit.

oh dear

Wayne claimed the intervalometer on the counter. I had spotted it before. And immediately noticed it was in a bad way. The plug was damaged, ripped off the end of the cable, gold leads exposed. Wayne shared that he had some cable wrap battles. And lost.

I didn't think it could be fixed. But perhaps a new plug only could be found. I encouraged him to search about. eBay maybe? But, then, if we did find the connector, we'd also need the wiring diagram, the pin-outs. Shame, really, the rest of the unit was fine.

long slow aurora (Blue Mountains)

Spotted the thin Moon. Looked about 3 days old to me. Saturn and Mars. Mars near Antares.

7:58 PM, Friday 26 September 2014. Richard arrived. Set up in the GBO. Sported his new computer tent.

I put the front red lights on. For our late arrivals.

Thin Moon.

8:15 PM. Seabrooks. Saturn. Titan, Rhea, Saturn, Dione.

Sara and Nicole arrived.

8:39. Looked at 90 Her. I don't know. At 390 power. The diffraction rings were obvious.

8:49. 3mm in TV101. Maybe I can see it, I thought.

9:08. Peter showed me Caldwell 14 aka the Double Cluster in his Meade SCT. Never heard that classification. [ed: Sir Moore's catalogue.]

9:13. Offered my big Mamiya tripod to Genevieve. She wanted to do a time lapse of the Milky Way.

9:23. Landed at HR 7162 in Lyra. Looked like another tight double—in a busy field. ST3P said it was a sextuplet. But I was not really in the mood...

Helped Genevieve with shooting and focusing. With Vega. Her Canon Rebel does not have live view. So I didn't think the focusing mask would help. That I had brought especially for her. After all this time...

10:18. Nicole's flashlight was not working. From Sky-Watcher. Needed a tiny Phillips. Why would they do that?! Not quick to fix.

10:40. Spotted, briefly, the quasar HS 1626+6433. With Ian. Funny had an easier time seeing star J162639.3+642620 at mag 16.2.

Ian used his 21mm and 13mm in the C14. Good glass.

10:46. Viewed the Splinter in Draco. Thin. Edge on. That'd be a nice one, I thought, to image. Big (er, long) in the 55mm.

11:08. Talked about dew heaters on camera lenses. Complications, if one needed a decent 12 volt supply. Cheap solutions, like coffee cup warmers...

11:33. Set up an image run with Genevieve. Used my heater set up, the PC power supply unit (PSU), the 2" eyepiece dew heater.

Took SQM readings. In the 21s.

12:19 AM, Saturday 27 September 2014. Aurora? A glow to the north and north-east. Found an unused spare CAO camera tripod. Set up my camera in the parking lot. Captured frames. For a possible a time lapse.

12:30 AM. Humidity was 88%. Temp 14.1.

Viewed Hickson 93 in Pegasus. Did not keep good notes...

1:34. Aurora was getting brighter.

2:08. Wild. Dual satellites went through the Big Dipper. Very near the bottom-right star of the pot. Merak? [ed: Yes.] It would be in my photos... [ed: Eric helped me determine the objects, using CalSky. USA 238 and USA 238-B. US Navy Ocean Surveillance Satellites.]

2:10. Imaged from the deck. Brighter. Streaks. Nicole was very happy.

2:35. Finished aurora run.

2:41. Snapped Orion.

3:08. In bed. Downstairs now. Orion room. Very tired. Despite sleeping in. I was sore. All the walking. And stairs. Yard work.

fought the dew

Nicole loaned me some exothermic heat packs. A pair. Grabber iron powder type. Let me keep the extra. Thanks!

We did the Bill-Supergenius-Longo-Special dew heater for our camera lenses. I strapped one heat pack to the bottom of the lens with an elastic band from the kitchen.

Friday, September 26, 2014

colourful at the observatory

Leaves were turning. Shared a photo with Lora.

She liked the fall asters in the foreground.

PHP errors

Something broke on the server for the ticketing system. Paul asked if I had any ideas. I did not know of any changes. Gilles started diving into the PHP.

beautiful skies (Blue Mountains)

Arrived the Carr Astronomical Observatory around 8:55 PM, Thursday 25 September 2014. I was on duty this weekend. Came up early to celebrate. Repair Ian D's 'scope. Deliver gear. And to try to take advantage for the clear skies...


Rolled up the dark driveway with the running lights only. Spotted Ian's trailer on the left; Wayne's 5-door on the right. But they were not to be found. Outside, in the cool air, I noticed light from Wayne's POD. Ian's big Dob was on the east end of the Observing Pad.

I unpacked clothing to the house and astronomy gear to the Geoff Brown Observatory. Left the two servers, reel of CAT cable, track lighting, etc. in the car, to be moved in daylight. Claimed the big room for the night. I put on some long clothes and opened up the GBO.

Heard some voices. Hello! There they are.

While chatting with the lads on the Pad, facing south, I spotted a fast but bright meteor. Left of Capricornus, right of Fomalhaut. Headed straight down. Varied in intensity as it fell then brightened at the end. And turned green. Nice. All I could get out was a "whoa" and it was gone by the time they turned around.

When asked what I was planning to do, I shared I had no plan. Yet. I had been so busy in the week that I had not had a chance to consider what I was going to do. Visual? Photographic? Doubles? Deep sky? Comets? So much to choose from. The skies looked really good. It was going to be a great night... But, I was worried about how long I could go...

Fired up SkyTools 3 Professional. Checked my observing list from the Algonquin Radio Observatory. Many interesting targets for dark skies, along with some old favourites. I made a new list for the weekend, copying these entries. Then I saved a new chart profile, so to show nebulae with an outline only, no solid fill. I find the fill pattern too bright. Connected ST3P to the Paramount.

9:58 PM. I tried the Toronto Centre's Oxygen-III filter on the Pelican Nebula, in Cygnus. No joy. But I wondered if the Celestron 14" SCT was too much.

10:01. Switched the 55mm 2" Plössl ocular from the C14 to the Tele Vue 101 refractor (taking the filter with it). The North Amercian nebula was obvious. Deneb was off to the right. Everything was green.

10:05. Woo hoo. Tried my new/used O-III Lumicon filter, from Starfest. It worked! The view presented by the CAO's filter and mine was the same. I was very happy. What a deal. This will prove really useful for some fuzzies.

10:24. Viewed NGC 7640 in Andromeda. It looked like an edge-on galaxy. I found averted vision really helped. Was there a dark edge, like the Sombrero? Every time I looked off to the side, I thought I saw a dark mottled line through the thin oval.

10:33. Tried the 18mm eyepiece. It was too much.

10:43. Headed to the pad. Ian was not around. Probably in his observatory. Explored around Deneb in Ian's 'scope. I found an inky black spot. Two actually. I wondered what they were. Very three-dimensional.

11:16. Viewed NGC 7250 in Lacerta. 18mm in the C14. Tiny. It had a a little notch out of it. Noticed two "doubles" near the galaxy, to the north-west. ST3P did not state they were official double stars.

11:38. Made some hot chocolate.

Took in whole sky. Aquila, Delphinus, the Water Jar, the Circlet below the Great Square. Fomalhaut. And Capricornus. And the double star of alpha.

Viewed the Helix planetary nebula in Ian's Dob with the 31mm. And then the 21mm. With and without his UHC filter. It was a bit better. Big! [ed: Caldwell 63; NGC 7293.]

11:48. We tried my O-III filter. Very different. Impressive. Lots of stuff in the area. Swirly bits.

12:00 AM, Friday 26 September 2014. Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009, Caldwell 55). Small. Used the 16mm with the UHC. It was very neat with averted. Clearly saw lobes. There was a strong sense of when Saturn is tilted. It was a bright aquamarine.

12:20 AM. Viewed the North American (Caldwell 20) and Pelican in Ian's.

Viewed Stephan's Quintet with Ian. I could see 4 or 5 members. A couple of overlapping oval galaxies. Small! Small grouping. Wow. [ed: The group is made up of NGC 7320, 7319, 7317, and 7318 A and B.]

Ian suggested the nearby gaggle of galaxies, with NGC 7331 (also called Caldwell 30) as the main attraction. There was a peppering of small faint galaxies to the east. I could easily see 7335, 7337, and 7340. Not 100% sure about 7336.

Could not see NGC 7325 to the north-west; could see 7326. Weird. ST3P showed the later was smaller and fainter. Ian said 7325 did not show in a photo. Huh.

Ian didn't think the sky was that dark...

12:55. Pooped. In bed. I so wanted to take advantage of the nice skies but the week took its toll.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

footprints in the dust

Received permission to use images by Scott C. I found the homage to Sagan about 10 days back. I also like the astronauts on the Moon.

Copyright © Scott Campbell. Used with permission.

Visit www.pyramidcar.com for more beautiful artwork.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

more the merrier

The Seabrooks asked about visiting the CAO on the weekend. Yes! I assured them that we'd be able to accommodate them. Strongly suggested buying a Family Pass.

Nicole asked about visiting too! Yes! With Sara! All right! She signed up on the spot!

helped with raffle

Helped with raffle ticket sales at the RASC meeting. Ran the mini presentation file. Actually sold tickets with Phil and Tony. We sold many tickets for the two donated copies of Sara Seager's book, Is There Life Out There?

looking for exoplanets

Dr Seager's talk on exoplanets was very good. I don't think I learned a lot in the talk, already being a fan. But it was cool learning about NASA's Eyes on Exoplanets immediately before the presentation and seeing the app in action during. I particularly liked the scaling feature.

She talks fast. I came to appreciate, to a greater degree, her transparency, that she is often speaking exactly what she is thinking, as it happens. It was intriguing to me to see her consciously pause, to let her brain work out something. Giving her self time to analyse. It was fascinating.

And her humour. That was really interesting. Hearing her laugh. Heh. She's not a 'bot.

A beautiful mind.

start time confusion

Another member complained to me about the meeting start time. He arrived at 7:00 PM (or earlier) expecting the meeting to start then. Nope, still 7:30 PM, I shared. I made a note to relay the complaint to operations...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

MOM in orbit

They did it. ISRO successfully made orbit around Mars. Very impressive. Congratulations!

webspotting 36 - the panoramic Milky Way

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


I've noticed the Milky Way galaxy arcing overhead at some point in the evening during my last few observing sessions. This time of year it is usually high in the sky around midnight. If you're fortunate to escape city limits, it is a wondrous site. Our home. Our galaxy.

In the late spring and early summer, I enjoy looking toward the centre of the Milky Way, in Sagittarius and Scorpius, taking in the myriad of objects huddled around the bright galactic hub. During the long, dark nights in winter, we are turned the other way. As we take in Orion and Gemini, Taurus and Auriga, we are looking into the outer spiral arms of our island universe.

You have perhaps photographed the Milky Way. Or caught the light star-filled regions or dark dusty spots in images. It is a popular target for amateur astronomers in time-lapse photography.

Axel Mellinger has been photographing the skies for many years. He started imaging when he was 14 years old.

In 1996, Axel undertook a project that required three years of imaging at different sites. He ended up with 51 wide-angle all-sky images captured with a film SLR camera using a 28mm f/4 lens which rode on a Super Polaris equatorial mount. He then began digital image processing, correcting for lens effects, and ultimately stitching together 16 of the separate photos for a single high resolution mosaic. That took another 3 years.

This impressive image file can be viewed in different ways including the Aitoff projection or equidistant azimuthal or polar projection. But it's 300 megabytes. Axel's composite is the only amateur contribution to the NASA Multiwavelength poster.

With the advent of quality digital cameras, Mr Mellinger decided to redo the panorama. For 2 years he gathered images from 3000 CCD frames using an SBIG camera. He used complex techniques for gathering the data and developed a specific processing pipeline for processing. The end result, completed in late 2009, was a panorama with 3 times the resolution of his first effort. At full resolution, it is a 7.7 gigabyte FITS cube.

You can view his result at his web site, Milky Way Panorama 2.0. It is best viewed with a "full" computer as he uses the Flash plug-in. This supports smooth zooming and panning. Messier and NGC objects are identified. Large-scale star and dust clouds are well defined. When you start panning about, looking around, there is a strong feeling of floating in space, in your little spaceship, touring the massive spiral structure.

Turn the lights off. View on a large monitor at high resolution. Dive into the Milky Way!


He also offers a JavaScript version.

If you can't get to a dark sky site, if clouds thwart your attempts, enjoy Axel's faithful depiction of galactic dust and glow of millions of distant stars in our home galaxy the Milky Way.

on the slate

It's official. The 2014-2015 nominations slate for the RASC Toronto Centre council is out. I'll be serving as a councilor for 2 years. I'll be joined by other new councilors including Mr Crabtree, Mr Wheelband, and Ms Carr. Nominations remain open until November 12. The Annual General Meeting is November 26.

to write for the Journal

Wow. Asked by the associate editor-in-chief of the RASC Journal if I would write a column. Honoured! Actually Jay asked for a contributor and Nicole recommended me. Thanks!

Monday, September 22, 2014

checked with MOM

I've been curious about the ISRO Mars spacecraft MOM. Nothing noted on Spaceflight Now...

Surfed into the Indian Space Research Organisation web site. Learned that they test-fired the main engine at 1430 IST. They burned for 4 seconds, made a course correction, and changed their velocity.

Learned, from TimeAndDate.com, that EDT and IST is 9.5 hours apart.

The orbit insertion is now scheduled for 24 Sep at 0717 IST. So, 23 Sep 2147 EDT.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

watched MAVEN make orbit

Watched the MAVEN Mars orbit insertion after a 10 year trip. A 33 minute burn.

The data rate from the craft, without the high-gain antenna, was 40 bits per second. Painfully slow. A lot of people were watching the Doppler shift so to gauge the speed differential.

Ha ha. The chair, Mat Kaplan, at the Planetary Society was wearing a Marvin the Martian tie! Emily Lakdawalla, senior editor, was present, monitoring Twitter. Rich Zurich was on hand. Bruce Betts, planetary scientist and Director of Projects, was on the panel. Bill Nye, the Science Guy, also the CEO of the Planetary Society, chimed in from NYC. Ha ha. Bill showed a Canadian $5 note with the CanadArm.

I also watched the NASA feed via Spaceflight Now.

They did it. In orbit. Congrats.

picked up stuff

At long last, I picked up donated gear from Matti. Two big computers. And a box of CAT. Thank you!

not missing

There was some messages by email exchanged; I arranged a Skype call. Ian W was surprised to not find a projector in the CAO Great Room. I insisted this is the norm. Would normally be booked, with the Ed committee, for an event and brought up ahead. I also clarified that the ceiling mount and screen were configured for the BenQ. A different projector might not work well.

worked on LX 200

Did some Meade LX 200 repair work. Ian D's rig.

Installed a new capacitor on the power board, C1 position, replacing the old tantalum with a 10μF 63V electrolytic. Worried about clearances so I laid the cap down. Reattached the voltage regulator. Reconnected the big cap on the bottom.

Swapped the C2 cap on the hand controller circuit board. Laid this one down too. Lots of room here.  Buttoned up the hand controller casing. Hope I got the ALT LED polarity right...

Swapped the C8 cap on the main board. Crowded here.

Installed a new in-line fuse holder inside the power supply. This will make it easier to swap a blown fuse in the future. Loaded in a 5A 250V fast-blow. Similarly, loaded the same fuse type in the power cord extension. Buttoned up the power supply. Tested it directly—and with the extension: 22 to 23 VDC unloaded.

Ready for phase 2, up at the CAO: swapping the C1 capacitor on each motor board.

tested mount

Conducted a powered test of Scott's mount now that I had the controller.

I had hoped that mount would (somehow) work on my tripod. It was promising at first when I sat it atop. But, unfortunately, the NEQ6 uses a bigger bolt. The old Vixen uses 5/8...

Still I was able to operate the mount...

No appreciable binding sounds. At least in the unladen configuration.

watched CRS-4 launch

Watched the launch of the ISS-bound Dragon atop a Falcon 9. Weather was green tonight. Nice launch.

It's a cargo mission. But I can't help but wonder about human transport. Now that they, and Boeing, have been tapped, I guess it won't be long that we'll be watching the Dragon transport people...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

doubles by lucky imaging

Listened to Cotterell's talk from this year's Starfest, video image capturing and processing of double stars. Katrina, attending the session, used my audio recorder.

Not a lot of people doing this. Can do it anywhere. He often observes in his backyard in the city where the visual magnitude is 3.0. Small 'scopes can be used. His next talk will be on scientific measurement.

Talked about seeing conditions. Like planetary imagers, he captures video and then stacks the images. He does minimal processing.

Pointed out that high precision is not required. Does not require an equatorial mount; an alt-az works. Because the exposures are short. Double star imagery does not require darks, flats, bias frames. He uses a Bahtinov mask.

Most of the video he shoots is 90 seconds or shorter.

You need long focal length. But not too long. It's a balance. "Nyquist Theorem." It suggests getting the airy disk to cross two pixels. He shared some numbers and formulae. He uses a Barlow to get f/15 or more for his DSLR camera.

Shared some single shots. Then his new video stacked images. Most done with a Canon 60Da and an 8" SCT.

Pointed out the atmospheric dispersion, the red and blue edging. Some participants suggested correcting this in software. He had not tried this.

He mentioned some processing software. RegiStax for the PC would work although it expects AVI files. AutoStakkert is another PC option. For Mac OS, he uses Lynkeos. He did a demo in the software. Selected a reference frame, cropped the frame, etc. And then changed the gamma.

He said he will share the presentation.


The Nyquist Theorem, regarding resolution and pixel size, is noted at the Starizona web site.

Lynkeos is an open source Mac OS app designed for planetary image processing.

back to sleep

Woke up just in time to hear SpaceX scrub the launch. Pushed 24 hours plus or minus.

Friday, September 19, 2014

is it too late?

I've become discouraged of late. That it is all for naught. That we are at the end of our rope. We've gone too far and we cannot recover. We've destroyed earth.

For a long time I thought, while it was dire, we could fix things. But now, I'm not convinced.

dark overhead


At times, when under a tree, near a burnt out street light, it was dark...

A couple of bright stars overhead.

I spotted Cassiopeia at one point, with effort.

I've been monitoring the CSAC emails.

The walk home, extended, having missing my stop, somehow, partly because of the giggling high school dicks punking us all on the sardine bus, gave me a chance to take in the skies. No clouds now. But still hard to see anything. Light-pollution-unaware people all along Allanhurst Drive. Silly, all these lights, to illuminate their lowly ranch houses. Dick-waving. Competition. Oh, mine is better than yours. Just stop it. You're as bad as the teenagers.

I very briefly considering driving up to the park. But then, the weather reports came to mind. Why would I go such a long way to set up a tent in the rain? Yeah. That'd be a little crazy. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a random thought, an idea, something I had not considered at all: the CAO! What about jumping in the car and heading to the Blue Mountains. Far closer. Would  not have to tent. Why not? Why not?!

Too late... It was already after 8:30. A good portion of Friday night, the best night weather-wise, would be gone. The more-important issue: I likely would not be able to stay awake.

Tired, after a intense, stressful week. Good stress, overall. Busy. Regardless, it was draining. Long days. Lots of brain energy. And I've felt it the last few days. Going to bed earlier each night. Trouble focusing. Last night, 10:30, and I could barely move. Hopefully, I will recoil a little, acclimate.

I so want to put the telescope up in the back yard. Somehow, I sense this new neighbourhood is rather dark. And I think I'll be able to see more sky than Evelyn, Colbeck, or Byford. Darker. Better angles. That would be good. And, I'm anxious to test the Vixen. Maybe next week?

upgraded the compass

My old compass has been giving me trouble. It's developed a large-ish bubble. I tried to bake it out but it persists. The last time I tried to use it, to find north, it was frustating.

Visited MEC today. Finally used an old gift certificate from the family, a birthday gift from a ways back. Fortunately they don't expire.

Picked up a balanced Suunto MC-2 compass with jewel bearing. With Imperial and Metric rules, a small loupe, magnetic declination adjustment, folding mirror with sight, glow-in-the-dark markings. Lanyard, quick-release clip, and wristlock. Oh, and an clinometer.

aurora from Algonquin

They got aurora at Mew Lake! Malcolm posted a new picture on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

NASA selected transports

Heard the news. NASA selected not one but two companies to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

Congrats to Boeing and Space X!

reviewed report

Proof-read the CAO report by Tony before leaving downtown. Suggested noting that we're safer there now, with around 8 people trained on first aid. Off to the council before their next meeting.

he's back in

Mark reported to me in the morning that he saw emails coming through. Good. That verified Yahoo was seeing and correctly using his "main" email address. Then, in the afternoon, he shared, "I'm good now!" Sounds like it was a configuration issue when he was trying to bind his Yahoo account to his main address. Or it might have been trouble with his "foxfire" on his old iMac. Yep. Might have been. Bad cookies? Anyhoo, I was relieved. No further testing tonight. Although I still need to update the notes...

Monday, September 15, 2014

sent Tony data

Virtual meeting with Tony on the CAO report for council. Reviewed my "checklist" of things done since April, along with Lora's additions. Grace and I sent him a bunch of emails so that he could cull.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

RASC glass

Katrina brought back some glassware from the 2013 General Assembly in Thunder Bay. Lovely. Couldn't wait to try them out, at the time. But then they got packed back in the box...

Found them during the recent move. OK. Not going to forget this time. Thanked her again.

hundreds of nanometers

Found an interesting note in Chamberlain's article on polar alignment.
To achieve that, the teeth on the perimeter of a gear with diameter of 8 cm must be machined with accuracy of hundreds of nanometers.
Hence the continued need for guiding, PEC, flexure and refraction modelling, etc.

polar alignment apps

Did a quick search for polar aligning apps for the iOS. Found a couple... Both cost about $2.
The app by Varros looks very good. Can detect one's current location or allow manual entry. Supports an inverted (rotated) view for a polar scope. Works in the northern and southern hemispheres. Display can be zoomed. Entire display in red and orange colours. Updated for years from 2010 to 2020. The most interesting feature is the augment reality with a camera.


Found Polar Finder for Android by TechHead.

prepped bio

Wrote up my bio for council for the 2015 RASC TC slate. Crazy long list. They sure have their hooks in me...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

the cosmos by Scott C

Stumbling through the web of the world, possibly from neatorama.com, directly from popperfont.net, I found Scott C's beautiful artwork. I particular like the illustration The Cosmos.

Copyright © Scott Campbell. Used with permission.

Visit www.pyramidcar.com for more stunning pieces.

found newer Polaris Finder

Stumbled across version 1.5 of Takahashi's polar finder tool. Back in July I had found version 1.2.

This newer version accommodates for use in the southern hemisphere, using sigma Octanis, in addition to Polaris. The outer circle of dashed lines (and outer tick marks) is for the southern celestial pole alignment; the inner solid circles is for NCP. I see it sports more detailed notes. Seems to check out with SkyTools 3 Pro.

The dates are set the same in each app. 25 Dec 2014 at 11:00 PM in ST3P; 26 Dec 2014 at 4:00 UT. The SkyTools Interactive Atlas chart is set to Horizon mode with the vertical and horizontal flip controls both on, generating a rotated view, i.e. a view rotated 180° as produced by a refractor telescope. I tried different dates and times. Different decades. Perfect correspondence.

The NJP documentation refers to the precession circles and scales. Points out that precession is covered from 1985 to 2015. I always like it when I see that they adjust for movement of the celestial pole.

I've noticed that the new "simple" reticules with drawn constellations, common in Synta 'scopes, do not.

viewed Malcolm's video

Malcolm posted a YouTube video shot with his Nikon DSLR from 7:00 to 11:00 last night. Wonderful.

I like how the aurora becomes apparent as the sun sets and the clouds fade away. Best viewed in HD.

received HC and power cable

Received the controller and hacked custom power cord from Scott. Showed him the bottom RA bearing. Little grease. No damage. Full steam ahead!

posted TSTM Sep 2014

Posted Chris's notes for The Sky This Month for September, and a bit of October.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Gaia spots a supernova

Gaia discovered a supernova! SN Gaia14aaa occurred in a galaxy 500 million ly away. Of course the primary mission of the European Space Agency probe is to measure one billion stars in our galaxy but researchers stumbled across an "anomaly" to later learn it was not a fault. After analysing the spectra, they thought it a Type Ia, offset slightly from the centre of the galaxy. From an article at the ESA site.

aurora out there somewhere

Big aurora are predicted for tonight. Kp index is at 7! But a good portion of Ontario is under cloud. Unfortunately. Katrina cancelled her CAO trip—a good call I think. Nicole and Bill headed out in search clear skies. Malcolm is sticking close to home in Prince Edward county.


Bill said the whole sky lit up. Before the clouds rolled in. Shared a picture of a picture on a Facebook chat.

Malcolm got some! Shared on Facebook.

Nicole started a chat on Facebook. We invited Phil, Ian W, Malcolm, Drew, Chris.

must wait some more

My double star helpers request did not appear in the Journal. Two more months...

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Read a piece entitled Interactive dark matter could explain Milky Way’s missing satellite galaxies over at the Royal Astronomical Society. The brief article talks about the discrepancy between computer simulations and observations. We see far fewer small galaxies around our spiral home than what the predictions say. One suggestion is that dark matter was scattered in the early Universe due to interactions with photons and neutrinos and gravity. Microscopic particles affecting large structures. When the scientists tune the simulations to allow dark matter to interact they see fewer neighbouring satellite galaxies. Smoother. Less lumpy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

enjoyed the evening

Enjoy tonight's recreational astronomy night meeting. And that's not just because some of my photos were featured.

Learned from Tom about the recently relocated mirrors—in fact, they're blanks. Helped set up RASC signs once security let us in the OSC. Gave Knox his toque, the one he won at the Star-B-Q. Shared Porco's Starfest fumble with Canadian winter hats. Said hello to Jacek. Chatted briefly with Bill and Phil. Chris's The Sky This Month was very informative, as usual. I made a few notes. Mr Mortfield talked about radio astronomy and "listening" to the Sun (indirectly). Guy talked about a new light pollution problem in Frontenac county. Put out the petition for people to sign. Steve shared anecdotes and photos from the Algonquin Radio Observatory trip. He showed the Optimism motivational (spoof) poster I made. Ha ha. Acknowledged Ms Carr's efforts at setting up the ARO event. Then Paul returned to the lectern, in Charles's absence, to relay the usual announcements.

I noticed Tony distributing St Johns Ambulance certificates. I don't know where mine's gone. Gave some suggested exposure settings to Al for capturing the Milky Way with a kit lens on a DSLR. Chatted with Mike about his damaged Celestron power board. Chatted with Chris about his "damaged" 8SE. Which he know says slews fine but doesn't track. I was left confused.

Tony and I headed to the pub. Caught up with Guy. Showed CAO roof photos. Chatted with Eric about telescope repair. He introduced me to Norah. Learned that Paul has been a member for a long time.

Rainy night, for a change.

X flare went off

The Sun popped today, producing a X-class flare, aimed directly to the Earth.

Might produce strong aurora in a day or two.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

partly moony

Waiting at the shop... A nearly full Moon hovered in a dark sky. Over clouds.

Nothing else to do.

fuji film J20, 3/4 of a second, f/5.6, ISO 100, tripod-mounted. Gamma bumped slightly.

Monday, September 08, 2014

a fast read

Finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir. I guess I was interested in the book given how quickly from start to finish I got through it. I plowed through it! One night, when I couldn't sleep, I think I read for a marathon 4 or 5 hours. And I'll take that to mean I was drawn in and it was enjoyable to read.

Now, being a spaceflight junkie, I kept wondering about technical accuracies. And yet nothing jumped out at me in the hard SF book. The biggest stretch I found though was the solar power regeneration.

I was left, however, at the end kind of hanging.

Spoiler alert! Stop here if you've not finished. You've been warned.

The big thing I wanted to see happen was a frank chat, when earthbound, between Watney and Captain Lewis. It would have been interesting to see her perhaps break, finally. A reconciliation. Bringing it full circle.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

checked the motors

Spotted some damage on one of the motor mounting bolts. Somebody had torqued it so much that the head deformed. That's an extraordinary of force!

Would I be able to ge the bolt out?, I wondered...

opened NEQ6

Started tearing down the NEQ6 mount. Looks like there's not a lot of grease in the bearings.

Declination axis.

Or RA.

I was to receive the controller and power supply today but we waved off...

Saturday, September 06, 2014


Clear. Beautifully clear. And. Of course. A full Moon. Or nearly full. The rising before sunset. I didn't really feel like "fighting" tonight. Struggling with the light. Hadn't I done that, the last time I was up? Besides, the CSC said the seeing would be poor. So double star observing, normally Moon-resistant, would be thwarted.

No one else felt like going out. Phil was already asleep on the big couch. Lora surfing, madly. Grace gaming. Tony trying to figure out his Android. Pretty low key. Pretty quiet. This time, I needed a nudge. And no one nudged. Then I thought, to hell with it. What am I doing? Go to bed. I was tired. Physically. And just didn't have the mental energy to operate an observatory.

Others can Observe the Moon.

finished roof work

Finished reinstalling the internet antenna and meteor camera. It went well. No major issues.

Both Tony and I spilled blood.

works on AC

Mike reported receiving the AC adapter from Meade. And that his Star Navigator 102 telescope worked perfectly with it. Both on a house circuit and on the AC outlet of his lead acid battery.

I knew it would work with this DS-2000 mount. And it proved the custom cable made by his friend is faulty in some way.
Thank you very much for your time, effort...
Sounds like he's a happy customer.

Friday, September 05, 2014

to finish the roof

Heading up to the observatory to reinstall equipment on the roof. Tony and I need to reinstall Western's all-sky camera and the internet microwave dish. The roofers say they'll be done today. Hopefully the south side shingles will be installed and the science platform will be flashed. Tony just texted me. They want to have dinner on the way now. So that means an earlier getaway.

parts run

Visited electronics alley in Mississauga.

Picked up 10 electrolytic capacitors for Ian D's LX 200 mount. 10μF 63V 85°C. Higher volts than the current tantalums. They are 5x11mm in size.

Chose a 6x35mm in-line fuse holder to replace the blown assembly in Ian's power supply. This will facilitate easy changes in the future. And some 5A 250V fuses, of course.

Picked up 2-wire and 4-wire female connectors for George's ETX-125 EC mount. Will replace the missing ones. Raw elements. I'll have to crimp each wire myself. I had hoped to find a pre-wired kit.

Picked up a large outdoor thermometer for the CAO. For the back step. Glass; not bimetallic.

Stumbled across a small tether kit, ready-to-go. With carabiner. How about that. I'll donate that to the CAO for the C14 or TV101, for people rigging up cameras. Handy!

Picked up some more (clone) red Velcro one-wraps.

Priced 20aH sealed lead acid batteries for Nicole. Sayal wanted $80! AA Electronics: $50.

Overall a good run. But I could not find the LED light bars I had seen in the past. Looked in every aisle. Asked three staff. Unfortunately, for Wayne, we'll have to try a different route...

Thursday, September 04, 2014

15 photos added

Lots of updates to the photo gallery today. Added the Cat's Eye, 59 Serpentis, an Iridium, random Milky Way shots, the Mars-Moon conjunction, two comets, HR 6983 and omicron Draconis, aurora, and the very cool Algonquin Radio Observatory dish. Been busy shooting. Which, I guess, is neat. I'm enjoying it. For the most part. I don't think any of it is very good, quality-wise, but it's good practice!

roof progressing

Roof work continued at the CAO. One guy in the morning; two in the afternoon. North sections done.

A bit more to do tomorrow: south roof and science box.

gear available

Nudged Tyler at Celestron. And he responded shortly after! Holy cow. They're going to let me buy the spur gear for the 8SE! I can get Chris's mount up and running. I shared the fantastic news with Chris.

arranged to receive SynScan bits

Scott pinged me. Wanted to drop off the Sky-Watcher hand controller and power supply in the afternoon. But he didn't want to leave it unattended at my home. I didn't think to suggest the office reception desk. Doh! He said he'd do it on the way back, Sunday night. OK. Timing's better for me anyways...

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

ARO talk planned

Steve volunteered to do a quick talk at the next meeting on the ARO. Yes! That'll be Wednesday 10 September.

received schematic

Cool. Ian W sent over a custom schematic for the barn door tracker power unit. More diodes and caps than the design by Gary Seronik. And a DPDT switch for hemispheric control!

Looks like I'll need to fire up ExpressSCH soon...

roof work started

Heard from Lora. Roofers arrived around 4:30 PM. Removed all shingles from the west side. Installed ice shield and new shingles there. Will returned tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

interesting JDSO articles

Downloaded a couple of articles from the Journal of Double Star Observations web site.
  • DSLR Double Star Astrometry Using an Alt-Az Telescope by Frey and Haworth
  • A New Double Star in Andromeda by Bryant
Both from the July 2014 issue. Interesting... I look forward to reading this articles.

If double star imaging with a DSLR can be done accurately on an alt-az mount, then it means I could get some good work done when at the CAO using the NexStar 11. It's my preferred 'scope when the C14 is not available.

And I'm very curious about the "discovery" of double stars. I want to understand the processes and how one analyses observations and then goes about reporting them. I think I've found a couple myself but I don't know what the next steps are.

ARO article away

Katrina wrote up an article on the ARO trip for the upcoming SCOPE issue. Yeah!

parts for a tracker available

Ian W shared lots of info on his barn door tracker. Based on Gary Seronik's design from 2009 with slight modifications to the power circuit. Motors and gears from Stock. Ian said he'd share his updated schematic with protective diodes. Best of all: he had spare parts to build another, purchased for another party who never paid up... I'd also need a ball head.

shingles arrived

Heard from Lora. The supplies were dropped.

Guard dog on duty!

sent column piece

Submitted my webspotting article for the October SCOPE.

Monday, September 01, 2014

analysed Cepheus region

Logged in and submitted an image to Astrometry.net.

My wide field of Cepheus and friends...

lots of photos of ARO

Many shared photos and video of the Algonquin Radio Observatory tour.

See Bill site, specifically the ARO web page. He also put a lot of pics on his Facebook timeline.

See Katrina's ARO album over on flickr. She also put a bunch of stuff in her Facebook photos.

Phil posted a bunch of Facebook photos.

Charles posted a bunch of photos on Facebook.

See Steve's Facebook photos.

Ian too. Photos on Facebook.

roof prepped

Tony headed up to the CAO for the day. He torn down the antenna and all-sky cam. With Ian's assistance, they built a special box. Cut into the roof and then added the new "science platform" box. Sealed it temporarily. Wished I could have helped.

set up ARO share

Create a dropbox folder for our Algonquin Radio Observatory expedition images. Invited Steve, Katrina, Phil, Bill, Sara, Charles, Ian, and Catherine.