Friday, October 31, 2014

somber week

This is very disturbing. Orbital's rocket for the International Space Station failed at launch. VSS Enterprise exploded in air. What's going on?

Orbital Science's is investigating. It's not clear yet what happened. Possibly an issue with the AJ26 engines. Early reports indicate the damage to the Wallops Island launch pad is not as bad as first expected.

Virgin's rocket plane was testing a new type of fuel in a slightly redesigned motor. Possibly there was an issue with that. The Federal Aviation Administration is involved.

I wonder what public perceptions will be with these back-to-back incidents. Will they claim the risks in commercial spaceflight are too great? The "space is hard" messages from Orbital and Virgin and others are a little hollow right now.

I thought of the Apollo 1 crew. The two crews of the shuttles. The Russian cosmonauts who gave their lives. And other pilots and engineers and support staff. Certainly there will be lessons learned and a new level of safety and caution.

It is hard to absorb this all at once.

Not a good day. Not a good week.

one killed, one injured

Bad week for spaceflight. This time, it was fatal. When I got home, I learned of the Virgin Galactic incident. SpaceShipTwo broke up and crashed shortly after its release and engine ignition. The beautiful space plane was destroyed. The pilot was killed; somehow the co-pilot survived. Damn. This was a whole new level...

not well

The Bobos invited me up to the farm. Been a while. Considered taking the 'scope. But then I pulled the plug. Definitely coming down with a cold. Boo!

still nothing

The next binary stars digest appeared. Still without my reply.

What's going on?

I don't remember when now but it reminded me of another time that my post disappeared...

Was I being blocked?

I wondered who the moderator was...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

sad for them

Kept peeking at for reports on Orbital.

I was sad for them. It must be devastating this failure. The company must be under extraordinary pressure to complete objectives and satisfy their contracts all while trying to be safe. There must be competitive pressures too. How will this affect the American commercial resupply programme? While there were no injuries in this incident, there was still great loss. The ISS supplies, first and foremost. But also science experiments. And projects by schools. I heard that students were at the launch site. Sad for the by scientists and the children.

Ironically, the day before, they demonstrated their safety procedures by waving off...

This is a tough business. As gravity remains a harsh mistress.

Early indications suggest a stage 1 engine failure. A possible fault in the old but rejuvenated Russian engines. It did seem to me that the rocket lost thrust. Things started coming off the bottom of the rocket. Before Range Safety hit the Destruct button.

only 45 each

Both Dietmar and Randy clarified numbers. The calendar boxes did not each contain 50. Yeah. My brain was hurting trying to figure out the weird math.

winter bearing down

Phil shared the weather forecast at CAO for this weekend. Heavy rains on Friday, rain/snow on Saturday, high winds both days and below freezing night time temperatures. Well, that settles it.

could I go?

Dietmar asked me if I would go to the CAO. He had offered to cover for Phil but he didn't feel like going (again). I was interested. Richard was keen. Wanted to image some more. I could help Richard... But when I woke Thursday to a very sore throat, I started to wonder how this all might play out.

Mercury again (Etobicoke)

Yeh! Another peek at Mercury. Once again, on leaving the house, spotted Gemini, The Sickle, Jupiter nearby. Good. I hadn't been sure earlier in the week; today I looked for and saw the Sickle in Leo. Later I spotted Ursa Major pivoting up, Ursa Minor down low.

Mercury appeared to me, at the bus stop, as the cloud band broke up. Sweet.

not approved?

The next binary stars (uncensored) digest arrived in my inbox. Without my reply to Letchford.

moving spots

Shared, with Mr dos Santos, the compiled image of the Sun, found on twitter, during solar eclipse, with traveling sunspots. We had just talked about that...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

enjoyed Reid's talk

Met the tall Dr Michael Reid before his talk. He remembered me from the U of T star party! Nice touch. He gave a fantastic talk at the RASC meeting. Mythbusting on the Big Bang! I thought he did a really good job at explaining tough concepts. I liked that he liked the Bare Naked Ladies reference to a "hot dense state." Funny. Very funny guy. Passionate. Another instance where I wish I had science teachers or professors like him. Probably would have turned things in a different direction.

sold calendars

Sold 2015 RASC calendars at the meeting.

Dietmar delivered them. As per our arrangement, he met us in the passenger drop-off loop in front of the Ontario Science Centre. Two full boxes plus loose ones (which I thought odd at the time). Peter had his hand-cart which eased the transfer. Although we didn't have to go far, now that we had been relocated to the Gemini room. The A/V tech had procured, upon my request, a good-sized table. I dug out my float of loonies and toonies. And Peter and I cracked open a box. Then we started flogging...

By the end of the meeting, we had sold more than one box. Immediately dispersed others, two for NOVA to Leslie, one for First Light, and one to Paul Delaney for the evening's speaker!

A great start.

Asked Peter if he wouldn't mind storing them.

provided written quotes

Forwarded roof quotes to the treasurer so to hand over to the auditors.

mark the tube

Helped Mr dos Santos understand why his day-to-day shots of the Sun showed the sunspots appearing at different angles. After checking which mount he was using—an equatorial—I suggested it was the camera position. He himself was causing the field rotation. He agreed. I proposed he make index marks on the camera or t-ring and then the telescope eyepiece shaft or focus tube.

recommended planning software

On the 28th, Mr Letchford posted a question on the binary stars Yahoo!Group. Three questions, actually. He asked what was the normal or standard way of choosing calibration pairs. He asked for a recommendation of free plate-solving software. Finally, he said he was still looking for software for calculating transit/culmination times for stars.

A few people helped him with his first two questions. But no one stepped up on the last query.

I posted a reply.

I referred to planning software apps like AstroPlanner and SkyTools. I shared that I was a big fan of the latter. In fact, I really liked it for double star work.

thumbs up from Jay

Heard back from Jay. "The article looks like a good start." Whew. He also clarified a technical item.

too scattered

Too cloudy for Mercury this morning. Scattered. Muck to the east, alas.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

added Ian

Finally had a chance to add Ian W back into the active Yahoo!Groups. With his new Yahoo account specifically.

made a diagram

Made a functional diagram for the septic tank hatches at the CAO.

Could make some crass references to black holes...

But I won't.

neat and tidy

Followed up with Ian W on Probus event, the paperwork wrangling, odd cheques, bank deposits, etc. All sorted. Good.

oh no

Got home. Remembered the Orbital launch. But it was late. I had missed it. Jumped into Had not been able to get in last night. OK, now. Noticed the web site was redesigned. Facelift for Web 2.0.

And then I noticed the image for Orbital. That didn't look right.

I learned that the rocket blew up 6 seconds after launch. Damn. Damn it.

received draft report

Lora shared the CAO work party report, first draft, from the Seabrooks. Good stuff! Then she asked Tony and I to review her edits. Only problem was she sent the second draft as a Mac Pages document. Which neither Tony nor I could view.


Gotta be a better way to do this co-editing...

Monday, October 27, 2014

calendars are in

Received word that 2015 RASC calendars are in! w00t! Dietmar's going to pick up, from the National Office, and bring to the meeting, at the OSC. Wednesday. Peter is still on board to help with sales. All right.


Sent a note to the membership via Yahoo!Groups.

boat in the box

Katrina reminded me of the Orbital launch. Supply mission. To Space Station. Right! I jumped in. SpaceFlightNow site was hung. Headed to NASA. Just in time to catch the scrub. Gah. All due to a "boat in the box." An unauthorised boat downrange. Violating a safety requirement.

Hell to pay.

Thought I caught, out of the corner of my eye, the staff dressed funny. They like to do that. Tried to grab the screen but I never saw the control room again...

downloaded G release

Oh. Look. An update. Downloaded the latest version of SkyTools, 3.2g.
  • Made compatible with the latest Celestron ASCOM drivers.
  • Now possible to add more than one "J" star (e.g. J152830.6-180217) to an observing list.
  • Using the +/- buttons on a simulation chart to alter the Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude no longer resets the seeing and daylight saving time selection.
  • Various other minor bugs were fixed.

list for down under

Offered to make a list of observing targets for Katrina. In SkyTools, of course.

From the OzSky location.

learned when people left

I asked for an updated report of who visited the CAO last weekend. When they arrived. And left. I'll reach out to these people. Lora sent me an updated list.

shared Mercury (Etobicoke)

Damp but clear. Jupiter was very bright in Leo. Beautiful Orion and Canis Major were well up.

Spotted Mercury! Yes! Initially tagged it, on the walk, between buildings. Verified with Astrolabe.

A woman, also waiting at the bus stop, seeing me looking up and checking my iPod, asked if I was using "the" astronomy app. A friend of hers had showed her something recently. I suspected she had seen SkySafari. Simply, I replied yes.

She asked if she was seeing the Belt of Orion. You bet. I pointed out Jupiter and Mercury. She enjoyed that.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

weekend report

Received Dietmar's report from the CAO. Some issues. Equipment. People. One can be fixed with money.


Then a fairly scathing report from Ian W. Not good.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hadfield during breakfast

Changing channels at Mom's. Just random. Breakfast before our trip. Caught Chris Hadfield on CTV. Fun. He talked about his new book, with imagery. Talked about the plans for the proceeds.

Later, like last year, we drove past his airport...

Friday, October 24, 2014

fantastic images

Elaine and Tony sent over some pix from yesterday. From the solar occultation! Wow!

I congratulated them. Well done!

Copyright © 2014 Elaine and Tony dos Santos.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

missed my chance

When I read Katrina's message, about her chance spotting, after work, of the partial solar eclipse... it hit me.

I should not have left work!

I would have had a spectacular view from the 28th floor of my work office building.

Damn it!

Just so much on my brain right now, to overloaded, I just didn't think of it. I could have taken my camera gear and heavy tripod. From Wellington and Simcoe, I could have set up in the floor's "Oasis" at the end of the day for an unobstructed view to the west. Damn it!

Where's the Undo button?

too late

As I arrived home, it was obvious that there was no chance I could see the eclipse. No good horizon. Didn't feel like jumping in the car, driving about madly, to find a spot. Oh well. At least I enjoyed (and imaged) the partial a few years ago...

received Allard's report

Asked Allard for a post-mortem. We had the website log-in issue. And then the website 500 errors. He clarified the log-in was due to the National Office switching back to their primary server. Broken links! Without mapping. Gah. The intermittent 500 series errors? He did not know why these occurred. I also asked if we could be a bit autonomous from National. And, as I suspected, not without a lot of coding.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

motor work

6:38 PM. Took the motors out of the NEQ6. The mounting bolts were 4mm hex heads! I had to get a bit sneaky as I did not have a 4mm hex head for my socket set.

The motor gears showed a medium amount of grease.

11:48. Cleaned the motors. Removed a piece of metal debris from axle of one.

All teeth inspected. Motor gear and transfer gear. No significant wear. No damage.

Greased and reinstalled the motors. Left loose for later.

knew it

A GO was called by Stu. I knew it would happen! No chance I could go. With work commitments. Damn.

help wanted

Karen and Laila sent out a note on the Operations group. They want us to consider where we need talent. Volunteers with appropriate skills they want to try to direct our way. Deadline: November 3. Oh boy. That's quick.

clear morning (Etobicoke)

Spotted Orion, Canis Major, Gemini as I left the house. Clear skies at last. Jupiter was bright. As I reached Edenbridge, I saw the very old Moon. 28.2 days old...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

helped at fall work party

Helped at the fall work party at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Was a little anxious going into the weekend but it turned out to be a very pleasant affair. We got a fair amount done despite the dismal weather on Saturday and the smaller crew size. I was very pleased to see garage door chain operator installed. And very happy to see the new clear plastic tote bins deployed in the work room. I was thrilled to find an easy fix for the dining room computer. And satisfied to get the new multi-function printer to work. The Swann security DVR continued to vex me.

Mélanie shot many photos. Uploaded to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group.


Also did some small motor work support.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

found NIL

Found the Nikon Image Library. Shared with Wayne. Looks like they have a codec for the Macintosh so to be able to easily work with NEF format images.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Luna and Jove (Etobicoke)

Ooh. Interesting. The Moon was very near Jupiter. Five degrees away. Wisps of clouds. Very picturesque.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Boeing's experience

I remarked recently before that I didn't think Boeing to be very active in spaceflight. Wrong. I somehow missed the fact that they built the X-37B space plane.

Stumbled across this while reading about the US military's secret mission and expected return to earth.


Lora sent an update for the work party. A few more cancelled. So it will be a pretty small crew. Don't know why exactly. I'm feeling very anxious.

crammed PCB

So freakin' annoying.

Extremely pressed for space. The tantalum capacitor is jammed between a transistor, two upright resistors, and the terminal block. Some suggested it was easier to snip out the old cap. Well, that assumes you can get sidecutters on the legs of the cap. Not an option.

Traces damaged. Desoldering from the bottom of the board, clamp on the tantalum, rocking it out. The top traces peeled up. Crikey! Made jumpers with the new capacitor legs, over to the transistor.

Hope this works...


FRU? Field Replaceable Unit? Learned about that many moons ago, IBM, work-term, Duncan Mills. FRUs. Too time consuming to fix. Throw it out.

If these tiny boards are damaged, I don't know if Ian D will want to replace them.

any time

Only looked in the kit bag today, I guess. Ian spotted the silica packs I put in with his eyepieces and accessories. Everything neatly organised. He was impressed. Thumbs up! No worries. I've lots of silica. Closed saying I could borrow is 'scope anytime. Thanks.

copied and pasted

Spotted a little typo (and replicated) on Richard's astrophotography web site. He thanked me for catching it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

moved things along

Tony connected Eric and I on the calendars matter. He forwarded my message, in fact, wherein I had highlighted what we did last year. He said that Eric should be able to move it along, on the council side of things. I then sent the pricing information from last year. Eric thanked me for that. I asked, if possible, the calendars be sent to my home office, to save running around.


It occurred to me later that, now, I'm pretty close to the National Office.

Monday, October 13, 2014

started the ball rolling

Started preparations for The Sky This Month in December. Now. Yes, now. Increasingly upset with my lack of readiness the last few times. And I'm sure it will be a zany time, then. So, while I have a few cycles... Asked the Operations group for a handful of dates in the first bit of January. I'd really like to know when the next Recreational Astronomy Night meeting will be. That's what I usually use as the framework. Eric sent me a weird Excel attachment. It had some astronomical events noted, all of which I knew about. And no RASC Toronto Centre events. And in the body of the message, he referred me to the 2015 Observer's Handbook. Sent a clarifying email.

final schematic

Hopefully this is the final schematic for the barn door tracker. Ian seems to think it is OK. Voltage divider added. Squished, both vertically and horizontally. Text tuned. Traces, particularly around the motor simplified. A pure schematic; does not represent the physical structure with various jumpers.

From ExpressSCH. Inverted in Paint.

FYI: There is no C1.

divided the output

Made further modifications to the original circuit of the barn door tracker.

Put a voltage divider on the output side. 100 and 330 ohm resistors. Pulling output now from the 330 channel. Now I can vary the volts from 0.6 to 3.6. It looks like 1.35 volts is the around the sweet spot turning the motor at 4 RPM. And that's 2.5 turns (out of 10) on the pot. Before I was less than 1 turn from the end. I suppose there are different VRs that would work but I have lots of resistors kickin' around.

got it working

Rewired it from scratch. Measured output. Yeh. Saw volts as low as 1.2 and change. Connected the barn door tracker motor. 4 revs in 1 minute 6 seconds. In the ball park now, unlike the first attempt.

Still, I'm down at the very end of the pot. No more room...

Reviewed Ian's notes. "VOUT... with the pot turned down to 0 [should] be 1.25." My results agreed with this. But I wondered if I could get it lower. He showed the formula:
Output voltage = 1.25 x (1 - R2/R1) 
where R2 is the pot and R1 is the... resistor [on the output side].

I punched that into Excel and got crazy numbers. Rising exponentially?

He sent me a link. But it didn't work. Crikey!

Fortunately, the 404 page was smart and offered a search. Looked up the LM317. Ah ha! Formula was wrong too!
Output voltage = 1.25 x (1 + R2/R1)
Then I found the calculator!

And learned, quickly, why it doesn't matter that it's a 1k pot...


LED seems to be responding better too...

prototyped with components

Prototyped the barn door tracker circuit on the Maxitronix Electronic Lab. Used all the provided and cobbled electronic parts, except for the switches. Didn't seem to work initially. No red LED. Motor not turning. Started to debug. Something downstream? Grabbed the digital multimeter.

Something was not right. Input volts checked out OK: 9.0 volts. Volts at the north-south switch showed high initially, 8 volts. Then 1 or 2. Oh. The momentary switch on the lab was bad. Shorted it. Tested again. Smooth now. But never went really low, like to 1 or 2. Minimum was 3. Checked the output of the N-S switch. Saw the polarity flip. Connected the motor. It turned. Looked too fast.

Fired up the stopwatch. Was not surprised to see RPMs twice as fast.


I can see the 150 ohm resistor is used in this test.

probably too crowded

Took a look at the layout. Not happy. I was very worried about physical space. I think the barn door tracker project box might be too small. The main power switch, north-south switch, and big multi-turn pot would all protrude into the available space. Last night I had forgotten to include the motor connection, the RCA female. All competing with the 9 volt battery... I decided to put it aside and test the components.

started the layout

Downloaded the latest ExpressPCB. Fired it up. Weird. Was up to speed in no time. It all came back. Sweet. In the schematic tool, added all the barn door tracker control components and built the circuit. Then switched to board tool, and started the layout. I want to try and fit it in the Hammond red project box with the Sayal PCB. Ugh. Crowded. Woo! Getting late...

supplemented parts

Dove into my parts bin to supplement and better match.

Found 10μF and 100μF electrolytic capacitors. Substituted them for the 0.22 and 1 from Ian W.

Found three printed circuit boards. One specially designed. Probably wouldn't work. The other two were general prototyping boards.

Grabbed a round, with red toggle, single-pole switch. That would work nicely for power.

Decided to add a LED power indicator. Found a 2.5mm diffuse red LED. Snagged a 470 Ω resistor.

Stumbled across the transparent red project box! Ha. A little small but it might work...

How about that. I have all the electronic bits now for the barn door tracker...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

reviewed tracker parts

Inspected the parts from Ian W for the barn door tracker. That he handed to me at the CAO. Electrical and mechanical. I was very pleased to receive the gears and pre-formed threaded rod. And the ¼-20!

The capacitors are different than what I was expecting, different than Ian's schematic.

part expected received
C2 non-polarised 0.1 0.01
C3 polarised 10 0.22
C4 polarised 100 1.0

I didn't think C2 would matter too much. But I thought the C3 and C4 wildly off. How would it impact things? These are for smoothing. On the input side (even though on a battery) and output (for consistent tracking).

The multi-turn potentiometer was also different. The circuit said 500 ohms; the provided one was 1000.

The diodes were different. 1N4003 as opposed to 1N4004. I didn't think this would matter. The power rating of the 3 was still more than sufficient for the project.

The big surprise was the motor. When I removed it from it's bag, I noted the battery pack what was attached. Huh. To hold one D type battery. And that, in turn, meant the motor would operate on 1.5 volts. Half the rating as specified by Gary Seronik.

library of darks

Added a new page to the lumpy companion, a list of dark frame captures, for durations, ISOs, etc. For the Canon 40D.

Omni online

From Facebook, spotted a Wired post on Omni magazine.

Wired showcased, in a slideshow, a few "amazing" advertisements from the '80s. Atari, Apple, Commodore, Casio. Funny.

Then I learned that the magazine made much of its back catalog available on the Internet Archive.

Not new news. But wow.

Bought the first issue, October 1978. Bought many issues after that. I was a fan.

nearly done Watch

All but done the second book in the WWW series by Robert Sawyer, Watch.

Curious, these books. Very close to home. I went to University of Waterloo. I know of the Perimeter Institute, through my astronomy contacts. I'm involved in the computer industry. I'm fascinated by emergent behavior.

The connections and spinoffs are interesting. I paused to read the (real) paper The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era by Vernor Vinge. Referred to in Sawyer's book. Weird, intertwining. An real SF author talking about a read SF author in a fiction in which the SF author wrote a non-fiction piece. And I know this author, having read some of his fiction work.

A persistent image in these tomes: the view of the earth from the Moon by the Apollo 8 astronauts. An image burned into my consciousness. Must be in Sawyer's too.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

brief planning

We talked briefly about the CAO work party. Now a week away. But I was awfully tired...

SCOPE in the wild

Eric reported being able to access the latest SCOPE edition on the web. Oops. He wondered if a security setting was awry. Allard said he'd look into it. Our own data breaches to worry about...

morning, Moon (Etobicoke)

Spotted a gibbous Moon down the back lane as I departed for Tony's work party.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dec cleaning

7:39 PM. Started cleaning the NEQ6 Declination axis hardware. Used brake cleaner, dirty rag, clean rag, and cotton swabs to remove the grease.

7:57. Found metal lodged in teflon bottom ring. Cleared it out.

Inspected the main bearings. JESA W2 6008 RS. Found slight corrosion. Remove small little particulate in the end one.

Cleaned the worm gear hardware. Corrosion under main grub. JESA WS (or W5) 608Z.

8:37. Had another go but I could not remove the bottom race from the casing due to slight deformation in casing's edge, at the opening.

remotely rebooted

Helped Wayne with local area network issues at the CAO. He reported "no internet." But I suspected it was no local IP. Had him reboot the main house router to rejuvenate the DHCP server. He sent an email. Working again, clearly.

assembled calendar team

It doesn't look like anyone is taking charge of selling RASC calendars. Guy sent a note to the main listserv asking if anyone would be selling at the meeting—no one replied. I guess I'll have to step up. Figure out who will order and receive them. I was worried about my workload, given work-work, and my upcoming Council responsibilities. Perhaps I could employ a helper. Reached out to Peter. He offered to assist. Yeh!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

CCtCap work resumes

NASA authorised the commercial crew contractors to continue their work. Good. Too much risk was introduced. Space X and Boeing can resume work. I suspect they never stopped. The GAO will continue to investigate Sierra Nevada's protest.

Uranus from the backyard

Tony sent me some of his recent Uranus images, from September 25. Wow. He did great. I could Oberon, Titania, Umbriel easily. Ariel is just barely visible. And, of course, the star GSC 00018-0699.

Copyright © 2014 Tony dos Santos. Used with permission. Made by eyepiece projection. Canon 60 Da on bulb. Eyepiece 8.7 mm in CGEM 1100. Eyepiece adapter CNC Parts Supply. 42 seconds, unguided. Minimal processing. Cropped by moi.

He thanked me for showing him our distant planets at Starfest.

no go Nov 1

I'm very sad I won't be able to see Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood introduce 2001 by TIFF Cinematheque. Sold out. Stop. It would be so amazing...

Interesting. Dullea looks now, like he was portrayed at the end of 2001...

operators needed

Sent a message to the CAO supervisors group on Ian's behalf. He needs a couple of telescope operators for the next EPO event at the observatory.

blue data

Shared some observation notes with Mr Crinklaw. That both Ian and I had not been able to see (or image) NGC 7325. Asked where he obtained his galaxy dimension data. Greg replied:
This galaxy is indeed small.  If you download a blue next generation DSS image you can see that it is tiny, although it does have a roundish halo around it.  The dimensions of the galaxy are for the halo.  This galaxy has a very bright core (it was even picked up as a GSC star).  The magnitude reflects this bright core, which is very small.
So, the dimensions come from a slice of the spectrum. Perhaps not representative of full spectrum visual observing. Or one-shot colour. Once again, it means, while viewing charts in SkyTools, one must take the display with a grain of salt.

coming soon

Caroline asked about the status of the 2015 RASC Observer's Handbook. Denis replied:
The OH is usually distributed to members by the end of October. There are no production issues or delays that I am aware of.
Looking forward to it.

second clear morning (Etobicoke)

Another clear morning. Sirius blazing to the south. Brilliant Jupiter up high. Wonderful blue-to-orange gradient to the east. Today I spotted the Moon, over the house, as I looked over my shoulder.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

roof funded

Tony and Phil ran a 50-50 draw at the meeting this evening. Michelle drew the winning ticket. One lucky party took home a tidy sum of beer money. The balance went to the Carr Astronomical Observatory roof fund.

ready for your posts

Leslie asked, yesterday, by email if the web site editing processes were different, had been changed. We chatted during the OSC meeting. Nope. She could go ahead and add her articles. She conveyed that she was disappointed the session back in Dec 2013 did not have more hands-on time. I agreed. Told her about my plans to run a webinar.

members signed the banner

Learned of World Space Week and the Canadian Space Society tonight from Michelle Mandes. They brought a "I'm on board!" banner for all to sign. It will make its way to Florida for the NASA Orion test-flight launch.

World Space Week is an international celebration of science and technology, and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition. The United Nations General Assembly declared in 1999 that World Space Week will be held each year from October 4-10.

The Canadian Space Society (CSS) is a national non-profit organisation made up of professionals and enthusiasts pursuing the human exploration and development of the Solar System and beyond. Its principal objective is to stimulate the Canadian space industry through its technical and outreach projects and promote the involvement of Canadians in the development of space.


Later, Sharmin gave out stickers.

delivered TSTM

Delivered my The Sky This Month presentation at the Ontario Science Centre for the RASC Toronto Centre. For Oct 8 - Nov 12. Not my best work.

Typos in my handout. Challenges with Stellarium. The netbook seemed very slow even though I had no other apps running, Super Performance Mode on. Always challenging on an extended desktop. Open Office Impress was finicky too. Showed a white panel when I started my presentation. Had to kill Stellarium to recovery. Crikey. Forgot my keyboard light. Didn't see a light on the lectern. It was a struggle to see the keys on the keyboard. Looked like I had enough handouts (60). Overall, I felt out of sorts. I had not rehearsed.

Photo by Sharmin.

I'm betwixt and between. I like using Stellarium on one hand to simulate events in a realistic way. But it cumbersome. It's probably too clunky and distracting to the audience member. Maybe I should stick with screen snapshots... I dunno.


Highlights include:
  • partial solar eclipse on October 23 (caution!)
  • Mercury visible in mornings
  • Mars moves eastward rapidly
  • Uranus close, try to see its moons
  • Neptune, similarly, close, try to see Triton
  • three bright comets to view or image
  • C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will pass close to Mars
  • ESA probe at 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
  • view targets in Perseus, Cepheus, Andromeda, Lacerta, and Pegasus
  • help assess light pollution

Presentation notes and calendar are online at the RASC Toronto Centre web site as well as the lumpy companion.

go direct

Helped, hopefully, a member with Stellarium and his Celestron. He said he tried driving his Celestron from the computer but when he finished the hand controller no longer worked. In fact, he had to reflash it! Yikes. That didn't sound normal. I learned that he was using the StellariumScope client-server program. I said that wasn't necessary. He could use the built-in driver. Quickly showed him where it was. He said he'd try.

updated Mike

Let Mike know that I have not yet been able to purchase Celestron parts.

CAO work party notice sent

Lora sent out the CAO work party notice. On the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group. Thanks!

heard from Gary

Heard from Gary in Hamilton. Down with pneumonia. Get better. Then we can talk about the CAO work party weekend.

very clear (Etobicoke)

Wow. Clear. Assumed it would cloudy and rainy. Looked like people might be able to take in the lunar eclipse this morning. Happy for them. I was probably too late to see anything. Even with a clear western sight  line. I kept looking over my shoulder as I headed toward the Scarlett Road bus stop. No luck. Nice colourful sky to the east. Spotted a very bright point up high to the south-south-east. Jupiter? [ed: Confirmed in Astrolabe.] The distant cloud bank looked like a mountain range.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

ode to 12477

I wrote a poem for my The Sky This Month presentation.

asteroid haiku
please don't crash into the earth
we like it here thanks

TMT ground broken

The Thirty Meter Telescope dedication took place atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea or "White Mountain." Ground was broken for the $1.4 billion project. Due to be completed in 2022, it will gather eight times the light of any other optical telescope.

Monday, October 06, 2014

next First Light

Sharmin asked if I was preparing the handout for the upcoming meeting. And if I was if I could include notes about First Light. November 6, 13, and 20. For new members, as per usual. I told her I wasn't. Referred her to Charles for the meeting handout. But offered to put the dates in my calendar.

pause please

Oh boy. NASA has ordered Space X and Boeing to halt work on their crew-rated spacecraft develop in response to a complaint by Sierra Nevada. Great. Just great. The USA is trying desperately to get back into the space taxi business while one company stirs the pot. An article appeared Jalopnik which might sum up what many are thinking: Sore Loser Puts SpaceX And Boeing Spaceship Development On Hold. Now, that said, SNC may have a legitimate complaint. If the competition wasn't fair and balanced, they have a right to challenge the decision. It is difficult for the public to know what's truly happening with all the secrecy and cloaking. But SNC's early Dream Chaser failure did not inspire confidence. Then again, I don't recall Boeing demonstrating a lot of progress, compared to Space X. Yet, it has station reboost capabilities. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has 100 days to respond.


Check that. Boeing is active.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Dec teardown

Started formal teardown of NEQ6 mount.

4:31 PM. Gently hammered out the Declination shaft. It was a bit sticky at first. Then it hung up on the lock. Completely removed the lock and the brass button. Ah ha. Shaft came out easily.

Was a little thumb screw missing from the Dec scale?

4:40. Removed the conical taper bearing. Some rust! Very evident now. Did I not already record this? Rust on the inner race. I hoped to remove some of the rust in cleaning. No paint was on the bearing, which was a good sign. The roller bearings themselves were in really good shape. No obvious signs of wear, no damage. Dry though... very little grease.

Inspected the main brass Declination gear. Really good shape.

Very little wear in the worm teeth. But, again, it showed little grease.

5:53. Borrowed Will's small Allen keys. Removed the worm gear grub screws. They were Metric, 2mm. The screws were long, over 1 cm! Removed the worm gear assembly.

6:17. Inspected the top of mount at Dec worm interface. All OK. There was no overspray paint on bearing or the bearing edges. The bearing faces at the taper bearing were OK. No overspray.

All the main sealed bearings were in excellent shape. Rubber seals intact. Smooth motion. No binding. No play.

7:10. Removed the slotted bolt for the worm gear. I found hardened glue behind it which blocked the removal of the bearing. Scraped clean.

The two small sealed bearings were in excellent shape. No damage to the metal seals. Smooth motion. No binding. No play.

flew over to 51 Peg

That's freaky. I just fired up Eyes on Exoplanets (beta) and zoomed in on 51 Pegasi.

Solar eclipse (occultation) from orbit. Wow.

RASC stuff

Wow. Today became a pretty intense RASC day. I wanted to do a bunch of prep for the TSTM presentation I have to deliver. Still working on that... Did a bunch CAO work party planning, setting up a meeting with Tony, responding to Lora's preamble message, reaching out to the Hamilton crew, reviewing Tony's initial job list. Also sent a note out about the listserv, encouraging people to include their real names, responding to Joe's security privacy concerns. Responded to Ian's idea for a telescope locker. Followed up with Ralph on sound playback at the CAO. And relayed the meeting start time complaint to the operations group. Asked about the solar observing entry on the 18th.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

made an imaging list

Just made a list in SkyTools for objects to image. Don't know why I never thought of this before. Of course, SkyTools will filter out things that are no good. This will be handy when I'm viewing something and I think, for whatever reason, I should photograph this. It should also prove helpful when I feel like imaging but I can't remember what I considered before.

lumpy dunes

SETI, on Facebook, linked to Lori Fenton's Blog, a planetary research scientist. She explained why some sand dunes on Mars are lumpy and bumpy. Included an image from HiRISE, thanks to NASA, JPL, University of Arizona.

Enjoy the lumpy darkness in the sand.

went relative

Corrected a bunch of link issues in the NGC and other deep sky pages. Absolute to relative.

checked 7325

Checked NGC 7325 in Aladin with the Simbad overlay. It is definitely smaller than 7326. And fainter. Simbad suggests it is magnitude 16.

I submit that the presentation in SkyTools is a little off.

Sent a note to Greg.


Found my hand warmers! In storage. Forgot I put them there. In a box labelled "cold weather." Ah, yeah.

Now I can easily do the Bill-Supergenius-Longo-Special. He's so genius.

removed hot pixels

Worked on the first aurora movie again. I was not happy with the hot pixels. Spent way too many hours on Friday night trying to apply a filter inside VirtualDub. After struggling with HotSpot Remover and LogoAway, I gave up. In the morning, I fired up Photoshop, tweaked a master dark, and then ran a script to apply it to all the individual frames. Redid the movie. Much better. But I'm in the week cycle before I can upload another HD movie to Vimeo...

Friday, October 03, 2014

1 out of 30+

Fired up Aladin and added the Simbad layer. Could only identify one additional galaxy in Ian's Quintet image. Amazing.

increase light pollution awareness

Peter encouraged RASC Toronto Centre members, along with other RASCals across Canada, to speak with their city councillor on the matter of light pollution. He sent us a template letter.

almost threw in the towel

Gah. Tons of crashes tonight with SkyTools. As I grabbed the rotation handle in the Context Viewer. While I was trying to blink a photo. Sent Greg a note. Then I tried to replicate it. Ha. And now it's not happening...

far away

Heard from Risa. She's sounding a little forlorn.

on transferring

Helped Wayne out with a photography-telescope matter. He was stymied getting image files from his Nikon DSLR to his computer. The memory card sneaker-network option was not practical. I suggested all he needed was a data cable. Explained that the wire for the Canon DSLR was a standard USB. And that afforded other possibilities too, in addition to downloading: exposure control, live view monitoring, remote focus control, shooting, etc. I didn't know however if the cable for the D5200 was proprietary. It was hard to tell from the product web page. To be determined. As I bumbled about I also noted that the camera support wireless communications. One less cable. Wayne was pretty happy.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

aurora from driveway

Here's the first aurora video. That is, the first series of stills made into a time-lapse. Shot from the driveway of the CAO.

CAO aurora set 1 from Lumpy Darkness on Vimeo. To watch in HD, go to vimeo.

Assembled in VirtualDub. Uploaded to Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

aurora redo

Re-did the aurora video using VirtualDub. Easy. Fast. Except blogger has a 100 MB limit...

Applied the 2:1 filter along with brightness and contrast adjustments. The 46 frames go pretty quick now. It's over in 4 seconds...

quick visit

Mr Horvatin dropped by. Picked up the telescope-pier plate I had brought down from the CAO for the dos Santos. We caught up on various matters. He reminded me the work party is only three weeks away. Oh boy.

wants my favourites

Mr dos Santos asked me for a list of my favourite, my top 10, binary stars, colourful ones, with tight separations. I'll need a bit more info so to recommend tight ones. Referred to the 2014 Observer's Handbook, page 296, for a bunch of colourful ones.

hungry space geeks

As I had a quick vindaloo lunch before heading over to 315 Front West, in the food court below the CBC, I started to notice a bunch of people arriving, chatting, looking about, some looking lost. And then I noticed the badge many were wearing, the logo.

Damn. I suspected some of my friends were nearby. Perhaps Bill and Sharmin. Other RASC members. Attending the International Astronautical Congress. Damn. I was across the street the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and I couldn't come out and play!

beautiful five

Wow. Ian shared his Stephan's Quintet image from the weekend, after colour processing. Wow.

Beautiful. I love how the different galaxies in the group are different colours.

Image copyright © Ian Wheelband. Used with permission.