Sunday, November 30, 2014

to wander

Watched the Wanderers film. A beautiful short film with words by Carl Sagan. Amazing. Uplifting. And at the same time, I was a little sad. I will not be able to tour the solar system as in these imaginings.

Wanderers - a short film by Erik Wernquist from Erik Wernquist on Vimeo.

I shared the link on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group.

It was not lost on me, the double meaning of the title.

from downunder

Katrina shared a photo on her Facebook page.

Looks like I'll have to start up a new tag... Or change the current one to booze.

read Rod's round-up

I read Uncle Rod's astronomy software round-up on his blog with interest. Good timing. Given my new efforts with the RASC Journal...

quasars in a web

Read the article entitled Spooky alignment of quasars across billions of light-years at Science Daily.

There might be an alignment between the large structures of the Universe and quasars! And the rotation axes of these supermassive black holes of these quasars are parallel to each other. 93 quasars have been studied with the FORS instrument on the VLT by the Belgium university.

Very interesting indeed!

added to the Ops

Invited Catherine and Mike to the Operations group. One I do control.


Later clarified for Michael all the Yahoo!Groups associated with the RASC Toronto Centre.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dob to Peter

Stu phoned me regarding the telescope to repair. Asked if it was OK to give the loaner Dobsonian to Peter. Makes sense. We live near each other.

missed meeting

Had to miss the first Members Night at the DDO event. I really wanted to go. They were going to talk about imaging satellite flyovers. I was on duty.

afternoon dogs (Toronto)

Grace saw it first, as we drove west, a bright point in the cloudy sky to the right of the Sun. She thought it a rainbow. Tony quickly glanced at it. A sun dog. "Parhelia," I said. Produced by ice crystals. I had Grace check the distance. She had never heard of the measurement trick. It was more than thumb-to-pinkie. Yep. Twenty-two degrees. Then, when northbound of the 427, petting and calming Ben, I looked over my shoulder and spotted a bright one on the left. Dual dogs. Nice.

updated photos

Mr Fanutti shared some updated photos, shot at the CAO back in June. He processed them in colour. Lovely. See his gallery on 500 px.

Friday, November 28, 2014

expanding the team

So far, I've heard from a few people regarding the double star project. Ian W, Chris, and Frank here in the centre. Ted and Bill and crew out west. Awesome.

smooth sky (Etobicoke)

A beautiful sky greeted me. Made me happy. I saw bright Jupiter near blue-white Regulus. I saw clouds boiling over the lake. No chance for Mercury for it is very near the Sun.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

heard from Anthony

Via Facebook, I heard back from Mr Wesley. Complemented him on his incredible images of the storm on Uranus.

officially in

Upon receiving my invitation, I joined the Council Yahoo!Group. Kinda weird to be back...

soft Moon (Etobicoke)

Noted a fuzzy Moon on the endless journey home.

hell freezes over

ESA shared photos and an article, captured by the European Mars Express orbitor, on their web site. Entitled, Frost-covered Chaos on Mars, they described how their orbiting craft was able to snap images of carbon dioxide frost emerging in the Hellas Chaos.

It's gonna be a long cold winter...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

left stuff in minivan

Tony gave me a ride to the pub. I left my gear in his van. He left early. Oops. The RASC calendars I had set aside for special requests. And the Midland radio due for repair.

booked for next NOVA

Leslie reminded me of her previous ask. She'd like me to demo Stellarium in the NOVA class on March 3.

on council

It's official. With the acclamation of the slate for the RASC Toronto Centre, I am now a councilor. What have I done...

Photo by Sharmin.

received busted radio

Ian gave me the Midland weather alert radio from the CAO. All right. Now I can send it in for repair.

I can't know

Paul asked me apply changes to the Council Yahoo!Group. I explained to him that I was not an administrator. I had handed over the reins a long time ago. He asked who was an owner. I pointed out that since I was not an administrator, I couldn't know for sure. I suggested he try asking Ralph or Charles.

discuss alarm scenarios

Dave, Tony, and I discussed freeze-water-outage alarms, makes, models, and how to configure them. Both Tony and I are leaning to something like a Reliance unit at the CAO as it is very simple to setup and use.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

surprise on page 9

Sent a note to Sara. Told her I enjoyed her essay at the beginning of the 2015 Observer's Handbook. Pleasantly surprised.

impressed the editor

Received pointers and questions from the RASC Journal editor. Grammar and syntax tips. Information about images. And a request for a thumbnail photo for the bio. He closed with a very interesting remark.
Your review was pretty good and sent me to the site to download it.  I think I'll use it for my "What's Up?" too.
Sounds like I converted a Stellarium sceptic!

Nov-Dec missing

Told SkyNews that I did not receive the Nov/Dec issue.

Don't know what happened. Sent everyone the new address. But, somehow, data didn't transfer.

Into the ether. Again.

Shame. I need this issue for planning... I'll have to see if I can borrow someone's copy.


Both Phil and Peter loaned me theirs! Thanks!

checked in with Tony

Sent Mr dos Santos a note. I assumed he had seen the article at Sky & Telescope about the amateur imaging a storm on Uranus. Reminded me of his recent efforts from his backyard...

he captured the storm!

Read, with great interest, the article at Sky & Telescope about the storm on Uranus and how an amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley, in Australia had successfully captured it in imagery. With a telescope a bit larger than the C14 we have at the CAO... Amazing.

Copyright © 2014 Anthony Wesley. Image used with permission.


Article at EarthSky.

Article at UC Berkeley.

Monday, November 24, 2014

posted Chris's TSTM

Posted Chris's The Sky This Month PDF on the Toronto Centre web site. The November one. Ugh. I was late. Apologised.

eHandbook available

Received a note from the National Office. The RASC Observer's Handbook, for the first time, is available in electronic format. It is offered in a secure PDF format (with some sort of digital rights management control). It cannot be printed or copied. It is supported on fixed or portable computers and tablets (but not iPhones). They are charging $10. Hmmm... I like the idea of having it in the netbook and not having to carry around the physical copy.


The file size is 16.5 MB. It is searchable. There is a navigable table of contents or outline.

used focusers

Stu shared a note from Chris. He had seen focusers on Cloudy Night's classifieds going to $25 to $45. He said they went fast though. No doubt, at that price.

Friday, November 21, 2014

focuser trouble

Stu asked if I could have a look at the loaner 8" Dobsonian. He said, "the focuser is FUBAR." He asked for an estimate on a focuser replacement.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

T for F?

I was reviewing the updates to the Coloured Doubles in the latest Observer's Handbook and I think I spotted a little mistake. Sent Michel a note about the T (tight) designation for (Struve) Σ2991 Peg. The tight rating did not seem right appropriate the separation of 33. Judging by the other entries, it seems he's applying the tight qualification to pairs in the 6 to 10 range. I wondered if he meant faint (F)...

Mercury still up

Oh ho. I didn't realise Mercury was still visible! Learned, from the Procyon X app, that Mercury would have been a couple of degrees up! And still a negative magnitude. Huh. Perhaps, if I had looked harder, I might have spotted it...

thinning Moon (Etobicoke)

Flip dark winter chill. Spotted the thin Moon, as I left the house, about 10° up. Earthshine, again.

By the time I reached the bus stop, it was harder to see, in the brightening orange sky.

I wondered if anyone has modeled earthshine, how to predict it, the intertwined factors of sky darkness, the phase of our celestial neighbour, and our variant albedo.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ordered more

Ordered another box of RASC calendars. The office has very limited hours though...

clear and cold (Etobicoke)

Wow. Beautiful clear sky this morning. But chilly. Didn't feel like -1.

Looked for the Moon. Expected it to be further east. Yep. Lower. Thinner. Now about 2.5 days from new. Ooh, earthshine! Nice, treat.

Took a moment to seek out Jupiter. Higher than I expected but I found it.

Tried to spot Sirius. Got it. High but shimmering. Expected it to be brighter...

And then Castor and Pollux. Very high too.

And finally looked for Regulus. Finally tagged it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

old Moon (Etobicoke)

Damned cold. Some low clouds off in the east. Moon and Jupiter. Moon was pretty old. I guessed about 3 to 4 days from new...

Monday, November 17, 2014

landing photos analysed

Incredible images from ESA. Follow the bouncing probe.

They still don't know the final stop. I imagine this sequence will gave some clues.

happy joy

Oh I want one of these. Rod shared this t-shirt on his Facebook page.

Limited edition from TeeSpring. Hurry hard!


Received a message from the RASC National Office. Urging me to renew. With an attachment PDF renewal form. Looked for my expiry date. Didn't see it.

changes to the 2015 list

What's different? I compared the 2014 and 2015 coloured double star lists in the RASC Observer's Handbook.


Σ 163 Cas


η Cas - very tight removed and nice rating added
66 Cet - nice rating added
ρ Ori - faint added
54 Leo - nice rating added
88 Leo - faint added and nice rating added
α Her - nice rating added
γ Del - nice rating added
β Cep - tight added
Σ 2978 Peg - nice rating added
Σ 2991 Peg. 0  - tight added (!) and nice rating added
ψ 1 Aqr - nice rating added

Oh. Michel noted me in the supplemental material. Huh.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Tony and I had been chatting about getting together in his back yard to do some observing and imaging together. We penciled in this weekend. But then we I got free tickets to a special meet-the-actors event downtown, I was worried about the timing. While a relatively early event, I wouldn't be able to make it to Mississauga until later in the evening. Well past sunset. Also too late for dinner. It didn't look like the stars were aligning... But then we were clouded out.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

updated coloured list

Made an updated Coloured Doubles list in SkyTools for the 2015 list in the RASC Observer's Handbook. Will go online shortly...

Friday, November 14, 2014

I'd like to say that I really--

Philae ran out of juice. Batteries suck.

national notice

Finally, my notice to all RASC members, went out. The Journal for December was made available. In it, my notice about my double star project. It is shown as a "letter to the editor." Now I can expand the team.

Moon near The King (Etobicoke)

Spotted the Moon near Jupiter during the morning walk.

rebuilt the NEQ6

Rebuilt the NEQ6.

12:08 AM. Reassembled the Dec. Rebuilt the Dec worm gear.

Realised I missed a step while working on the RA worm, greasing the brass gear... Removed the motor and did it inside the motor cage.

1:18. Completed the RA assembly.

Reinstalled the altitude screws. The back one was very challenging to install without cross-threading! A lame design.

All motions felt smooth and solid. No play.

Need to reinstall the motor and do a run-up...


Lubricated with a calcium based, low temperature, water insoluable, water resistant, NLGI grade 2 grease.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tom deciphered

Oooh. Tom figured it out. Charline's strange, public, and presumptuous ride-request message of "Tim" was meant for "Tom." He then explained how to send a private message. Thank you.


Yesterday I tried to monitor the Philae lander. But, at work, there are a lot of restrictions on the internet access. While talking with Katrina, I got an idea. It worked! I was able to add RSS feeds into my work Outlook for ESA, Sky and Telescope, etc. Easier now to keep tabs on things.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

more calendars

Sold more calendars. In the hall. Peter was happy we were down to one box. Didn't need the cart. Also provided a batch to Karen and Sharmin to sell at the DDO during various events. And to provide as comps.

big impact to TLP

Stuart and I chatted about the appraiser situation. He confirmed what I suspected. He is not happy. The impact to the telescope loan programme is significant.

another delay

Gary cancelled his Thursday meeting with me. Said the weather was going to turn bad. OK. Further delays.

still in the group

Leslie reported she must have been deleted from the Operations Yahoo!Group. She was trying to follow a link to the AED materials. I told her she had not been deleted. Sent her the direct link.

Google does lander

Katrina directed me to today's Google Doodle.


Philae landing


Touch down!

Incredible. They did it.

Humans have put a probe onto a comet.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

preparing for landing

Watched the latest ESA animated video. Philae to depart from Rosetta and land on the comet...

Always pack a sandwich!

sent report

Submitted a brief IT report to the secretary. Tried to not refer to an webteam or social media stuff.

it's good

Risa and I talked about her ecliptic/zodiac piece. I really like it. But she felt that some people were not getting it. She asked me to check that it was accurate. I did. It was.

rebooted probe

Brief power anomaly on Philae. But the cycled it and it came up fine. Reboot!

context would help

Asked Armand to provide some context to the links he shares. He said he'd be happy to. Then he shared he didn't often read them. Oh.

Monday, November 10, 2014

received handbook

Woo hoo! Observer's Handbook 2015 arrived! Huh. Exactly the same number of pages as last year.

Oh. Neat! An article by Dr Seager!

send it in

I heard from Midland Radio service. They encouraged me to send them the radio, even though off warranty, and they'd have a look... Interesting. Only problem was: it was at the observatory.


Asked Ian if he could help.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

heading home

Watched the Soyuz undocking.


quiet little work party

We did a bunch of tasks at the CAO. Installed a new (purple) hard disk for security system beta. Insulated its box. Configured the light bulb heating system. Installed a remote temperature probe to monitor the box. Reconfigured system alpha, slightly, in an effort to debug the very dark image. Installed snow depth gauges. Filled holes and cracks and spaces in the garage to reduce snow. Improved the seals on the big garage door. Adjusted the lock. Tried to put the multi-function laser on the print server. Well, the printing worked but not the scanning. Put it back, direct on the house computer. Tested the furnace with portable temperature sensor and new small clamp meter. Did more tidying of the work room, particularly the fasteners. Secured the horse water tap. Verified the pergola tarp was put away. Brought in the LCD flat-screen from the observatory. Set all the clocks to standard time. Fixed a toilet! Pretty good.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

picking up the pieces

Stumbled across Brian Orlotti's spaceflight blog on Commercial space flight. Ah. A Canuck!

Read his article called Orbital Sciences and Virgin Galactic Sift Through Their Wreckage. A good summary of the difficult week for spaceflight.

Friday, November 07, 2014

intrahalo light discovered

Spotted a reference to an article about rogue starts. I think initially I saw it on the SETI Facebook wall. Looks like the article proper is on

Very interesting. It suggests that half the stars in the Universe lie outside galaxies! Wow. That's a lot. Possibly  pulled from their host galaxies by collisions and mergers and tidal interactions.

This is the result of a NASA near-infrared experiment called CIBER where an area of the sky was studied, the light from the galaxies was removed, and what remained was studied. Very high levels of blue light was found.

The newly discovered stars might account for some missing photons as well as some missing baryonic matter.

every where I turned (Etobicoke)

Nearly full Moon to the east. Down Bloor Street. Then over the subway station. Then down North Drive. Couldn't avoid it.

maybe he does

Charline sent a note on the Yahoo!Group. But directed her words to Tim! Asking for a ride to the CAO! What?! That was a little awkward. Odd timing. Tim's CAO weekend open notice was issued back on Oct 23. And it seemed a personal message sent in accident. And just the way it is worded: Would you mind giving me a ride? Ugh. Some unlicensed, non-car owners need to be a little more gracious, a little more conciliatory. If rude or demanding, you wont get where you wanna go.

seemed OK

Helped Scott with an email issue. He said he wasn't receiving messages to the treasurer ID. I verified things at my end. Checked the forward on the server. Sent test messages. They got through. Glitch?

Thursday, November 06, 2014

baby system

Been waiting a long time for this...

As we look out into Universe, we see history. And the further you look, the older that it is. So, in theory, if we look further back, we should see young objects. Young galaxies, primordial galaxies, young stars, young stars within galaxies, stars at every stage of their evolution or life span. Including new stars swaddled in their warm blankets in their stellar nurseries.

I've wondered... Why don't we see... all our history.


I'm very excited (and pleased) with this image. We've spotted (in infrared) a newborn system...

non work party work

Phoned Tony to propose a visit to the observatory. Essentially so he and I could complete some chores not suitable during work parties. Like testing the furnace. Or swapping the roof motor. He liked the idea. We stared at our calendars. Circled a weekend later in the month... Then, suddenly, we decided to go this weekend! OK.

it is a good day to imbibe

Lora sent me a note yesterday. Link to a Toronto Star newspaper article. Finally opened it up.

From Garrison Brewing in Halifax.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

pilot overlooked

I noticed the stair lights were on. Oops. But then, that's why we installed a pilot light... Went to a lot of trouble. Almost electrocuted myself.

albedo compared

Mr Sherwood sent an interesting message regarding the brightness or albedo of solar system objects. As illustrated on Rhapsodies of the Wise Old Bird blog. Very interesting.

Best viewed full screen with a black background with the lights down low!

I've always known that the Moon was as dark as asphalt. I didn't even notice or see the comet, at first. Wow. Nicely done.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

merged stars

Two stars merged! Near the centre of the galaxy.

My first though was... wow. What would possibly happen when huge gravitational sources with large amounts of hydrogen came together? When a nearby black hole flings them together. Wow. I don't think anyone has considered the possibility. Until now...

Enjoyed the article at the Science Daily web site. Not a short title:

Astronomers solve puzzle about bizarre object at center of our galaxy: Enormous black hole drove two binary stars to merge.

More and more, I think that our "perspective" on black holes is wrong; they are good.

Maybe, they are engines.

late, again

I learned, suddenly, that Doug Trumbull would be in town! Nov 8. To introduce a 2001 showing. And talk about special effect. Sold out. Again. Damnit!

There's nothing that I can partake of this in the Kubrick exhibit.

Well. Maybe I can get someone to take a pix of me near the twins...

Too many freakin' humans.


I raised the issue of winter parking. I really wanted to put a card on the table. I'm uncomfortable. Me. Personally. As well. We mustn't abuse our neighbour's generous overtures.

Monday, November 03, 2014


Followed-up on volunteer hours. One of our members want to know, for their kids in scouts and guides.


I was told that I had made a "major faux pas" on the work party report thank-you to the Yahoo!Group (yesterday). As I didn't acknowledge a member who did work some time after the work party.

Yes, we need to recognise the people who contribute, in a significant way, to the CAO outside of work parties.

I was reporting on what was done during the work party. No more. No less.

I can't report on what I don't know.


Or was it... that a major faux pas was committed during the work party?


Tony and I discussed some... plumbing issues... at the observatory.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

sometimes lucky

Eric shared a link on his Facebook page to Wayne Hale's blog. A former NASA employee.

Specifically on an article called STS-93: We don’t need any more of those.

In fascinating detail, it revealed how a small fault in rocket motor cone could have ended catastrophically. The post is a bit chilling. Of what could have been. And what the current crop of rocket builders are, clearly, facing. Spaceflight is very hard. And you don't want too much luck in your formulae.

found bubbles

A little disconcerting to find flaws in the metal casting.

This, fortunately, is not on a critical surface. But what if there are issues elsewhere, hidden...

finalised report

Helped with the CAO work party report. Reviewed the final version from Mél, Cor, and Gène. Thanked them. Also followed up on a couple of work party items. Like volunteer hours...

another server

Out of the corner of my eye spotted a reference to Allard's server as the RASC Toronto Centre web page loaded. Oops. He found a reference to an image in the CSS. Corrected.

there it is

It did go up. Ha. At last my message to Rod appeared on the binary stars Yahoo!Group. I received the digest at 2:33 AM. Looks like it was released Nov 1 at 6 in the morning (PDT).

Saturday, November 01, 2014

RA teardown

Did the Right Ascension axis teardown on the NEQ6.

8:46 PM. Found that the RA main nut has 4 (not 3) grubs. Hello.

A very slight amount of rust at the top of the shaft...

Found the RA taper bearing had more lube. It was clean. No corrosion, none.

The taper race was easily removed. A couple of small metal flakes in the Teflon spacers again.

Slight wear on the main gear. Two white paint marks. Strange.

9:29. Found thread locker on worm brass gear grubs. Also thread locker on worm gear slotted bolt.

Found corrosion on the outside of the outer bearing.

9:58. It looked like there had been contact between surfaces, rubbing on the RA motor casing. Odd?

distant comets

Stumbled across the article entitled Two Exocomet Populations Around Beta Pictoris over at Sky & Telescope. Another astonishing body of research, to me. Not only are we detecting planets around distant stars but we're tagging comets too. With enough precision to create subgroups. Wow.

The other part of this I find fascinating it that it all further supports that solar systems, with various types of orbiting bodies, are common. Yes.

a reply, suddenly

Odd. Received a message from Mr Jones via the binary-stars-uncensored group. To me directly. But with my reply embedded. So maybe my message about SkyTools to Rod did go up...

By the way, he referred to an older but good tool called SkyCalc. Huh.

I can do that today

Lora asked me to take the reins on the CAO work party report. No problemo.

we are stubborn

Viewed the breath-taking short film called Ambition. A beautiful, rich piece, for the European Space Agency, focusing on the Rosetta mission.

Our search for water. Our search for life. For knowledge.

"We fall, we pick ourselves up again, and we adapt."

simple lines

Stumbled across an article on old matchbox covers. Jane McDevitt has been collecting vintage matchboxes for a number of years and shares the cover label artwork on her Flickr page. Simple yet powerful designs. I particularly liked the Eastern European ones featuring rockets and space stations. Sputnik! A reflection of our never-ending love affair with outer space...