Sunday, December 27, 2015

meeting moved

The RASC Toronto Centre council meeting that was scheduled for the 6th has been rescheduled to Wednesday 20 January.

reviewed draft

Proofread my article for the February Journal. Suggested captions for the figures. Not real happy with the title... Noodled on some alternates.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

hint of colour (Union)

The Moon still had a halo. Ice up there.

Canon 40D, EF-S 18-55mm at 18, 2 seconds, f/4.0, ISO 1600, daylight white balance, manually focused, barn door tracker.

no luck (Union)

Tried to image the comet. C/2013 US10. Ugh. The nearly full Moon lit up the cirrus clouds... Arcturus is at the centre of the photograph while the comet should be at the edge of the trees.

Canon 40D, EF-S 18-55mm at 18, 30 seconds, f/4.0, ISO 1600, daylight white balance, manually focused, barn door tracker.

forgot fisheye

Oops. Forget the wide angle lens. Packed in a box somewhere for the move. And I had no idea where it was...


Not that it mattered.

Friday, December 25, 2015

peeked outside (Union)

As Donna and Steve departed, I peeked outside. Spotted a halo around Moon along with rays from high cirrus. Not great.

gifts received

Received some astro-themed and sci-fi-related gifts.

In a small gift bag with Sun and Moon graphics, a knit item from Donna.

The Starship Enterprise. With glow-in-the-dark wool highlights.

A cylindrical wrapped item revealed an old LIFE magazine (without the torn corner) from Mom.

June 1983 edition. Timely.

A funny gift card.

With the Jedi master.

Another knitted gift from Donna.

Wristers with Space Invaders.

Some stationary things. White board markers and a business card holder with space theme. And a Saturn stamp.

Also received a fleece-lined helmet face mask.

All right. I haven't been able to find my balaclava for a long time... Not that winter stargazing has been terribly cold.

And a hard cover book picture book from Mom.

Hubble Imaging Space and Time National Geographic book. Cool!

received Moon book

As we packed Mom's studio, she gave me her Moon book, the atlas by Legault and Brunier, she had received many years back. Don't tell anyone.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

noted the 2016 Moon phases

Updated my astronomy calendar for all the Moon phases in the year 2016 and noted, in particular, the new Moon dates.

Starting to consider trips to the observatory...

scanned flower pots

Scanned all our Hopewell photos, from our July 1971 family trip.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

observing with Damn (Union)

While hangin' with the band, as they laid down a couple of songs for the new Damn Pigeon album, took in the relatively clear skies. Orion rising, Gemini higher up, Auriga higher still. A bright star below-left of Orion... Procyon or Sirius?

Monday, December 21, 2015

watched SpaceX mission

Watched the SpaceX Orbcomm 2 launch. It was amazing to see them land the first stage! And then the satellite deployments, the primary mission, was pretty exciting.

Funny that the landing stole the show.

A big first for them: they stuck a landing.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

finished spacer design

Reworked the spacer for the new SCT focuser. Verified the size of the ring, the outer diameter, punched out the centre hole at the proper inner diameter. Set the thickness of the ring. Chamfered the inner and outer edges of the ring.

Reviewed the handouts and my notes from the Toronto Public Library. Ready to carry my 3D printer file into a TPL branch...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

none (Bradford)

No meteors. I did not see any meteors these last three mornings. No Geminids.

scanned for comet (Bradford)

Alarm went off. Ugh. Did not want to get out of bed. Reached over to snooze... nope. Don't be a lazy bum. Today you're not book-ended. Tomorrow's weather looked poor. This might be the last clear morning for a while... Suited up and headed to the backyard with the binoculars and the tablet Roy. Avoided lights to keep dark adapted and set SkySafari Plus into red light mode.

As I stepped out the front door, I saw that it was clear. But from the south-facing yard, I spotted hazy low clouds, thick enough to put a halo around Venus. Wispy tendrils slowly drifted through the region of Virgo above the bright planet while straight up was pretty clear. I took in Leo and as my eyesight improved, I could see more stars.

It was around a magnitude 4.5 sky. I could see ι (iota) Leonis (at mag 3.95) and σ (sigma) Leo (4.1) between Chertan and Jupiter.

While waiting for the thin cloud to clear, I took a look at Jupiter through the bins, steadied against a porch post. I could see 2 or 3 moons! A bright one to the left, a much fainter one between; then a faint moon far to the right. SS+ said they were, left to right, Ganymede, Europa and then Callisto way out.

I looked at Mars. Wow! Tiny but rich in colour, a hot ember against the black.

The sky was better over Venus. I hopped up a field or so to Syrma, surrounded by three stars, then moved up and left a field to υ (upsilon) Virginis (magnitude 5.1), φ (phi), HR 5342 (at 6.1), and HD 125817 (6.8). The planetarium app said comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) was below and right of HR 5342, between it and Syrma. It said it was mag 4.8. At one point, with averted vision, I thought I saw something. I could not tag it again.

Perhaps the lingering cloud and low elevation was preventing me from having a definite sighting.


I don't know why but I did not take the tripod out. That might have helped. Not fully awake.


Hours later, I wondered why I did not take the barn door out!

Friday, December 11, 2015

backed up a group

Completed the download/backup of the CAO supervisors Yahoo!Group, all the messages, files, photos, general notes, members, and databases (lists).

double take

Spotted Mel and Emma. What are the odds of two doppelganger lookalikes? Waved and caught their eyes. Asked what they were doing at Bloor and Yonge. They were headed to the dark matter talk at the TPL. Enjoy!

heard from VMA developer

I heard from one of the Virtual Moon Atlas developers.
Thank you very much for this article.

We were very proud to know that you consider VMA as a real lunar encyclopedia.  In fact, it's a goal that became evident version after version.  And with the addition of DatLun, PhotLun and WebLun, it's also a "lunar suite".

You have well described how to use the software efficiently for amateur astronomers and it's a good support to our action.

We hope to [continue] development... to release the 7th version with new features.

Sincerely yours,
On this occasion, as the RASC Journal article was so big, I had to put it in the cloud for them to download.

tried again (Bradford)

Tried to find the comet, this time, with hand-held binoculars. No luck. I spent two or three minutes in the backyard with the old Bushnells scanning the area above and left of Venus on a line toward Arcturus. Could not spot anything. Really could have used the tripod but I had a train to catch...

Thursday, December 10, 2015

tried to spot comet (Bradford)

Observed Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Spica, and faint Corvus during the hike to the train station. Did not see the comet C/2013 US10 Catalina but I was staring in the wrong spot. I thought it between Venus and Spica; no, it's between Venus and Arcturus.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

enjoyed the evening with RASC

Attended the last RASC Toronto Centre meeting for the year. Bumped into Chris in the library's main floor. Found the new additional box of calendars at the front of the room. Chatted with Shawn about meeting attendance numbers. When Peter arrived, helped sell calendars, including some for myself. Sold some more red film to members—more than I expected, in fact. Enjoyed the presentations by Denis, Frank, and Charlene. Received Denis's The Sky This Month handout based on my template. Hitched a ride with Peter from the Northern District branch to the Granite. Good to be back. Chatted with Joel about mount cabling challenges.

heard from SC on SS

Nice words from Simulation Curriculum regarding my SkySafari article in the RASC Journal.
We appreciate your insightful and critical review of SkySafari.

Thank you again,

Kind regards,
You're welcome!

JAXA salvaged Venus mission

The Japanese space agency successful commanded their Akatsuki probe into an elliptical orbit around Venus after a failed attempt in 2010. It worked! This excellent news was shared in a SpaceFlightNow article. JAXA continues to refine parameters and software and will begin the full campaign in April.

The image above was captured with the ultraviolet camera took at a distance of 73,000 kilometers.

shared cross-stitch

Stumbled across the Mental Floss article featuring cross-stitched planets. Shared with Risa. Knew she'd like it.

missed the capture

Didn't see the moment of capture as John Charles was crashing and rebooting.

But it sounds like it all went well with Kjell Lindgren plucking the cargo vessel from its orbit with the Canadarm2. I heard, "And there was much rejoicing," as I reconnected to the NASA TV stream. Good stuff. The Cygnus craft will be docked to the nadir port of the ISS in about 1 hour.


Will watch the replays...

Monday, December 07, 2015

more of this

Katrina's post was right on.

Aim those rockets into outer space.

heard from FLO re CO

Heard from FLO regarding my Clear Outside article in the RASC Journal.
Thank you for getting in touch and sharing your review with us - it's very kind of you :-)

We noticed a spike in traffic from Canada earlier in the year and couldn't find why - this explains it!  Clear Outside has proven very popular over in Canada and we are pleased you enjoy using the site and the apps.

We are working on some updates to the site which we hope you will enjoy - these include being able to choose the unit of measure displayed, we've had many requests for this particularly from North American users.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your review - it's reviews and feedback that really make our day and make us want to improve the service even more :-)

Kindest Regards,
Wow. Interesting that they noted more visits in their web logs.

sent a template

One of my fellow The Sky This Month presenters asked me for a template for their next delivery.

Explained I didn't really have a template per se; I always seemed to start a new presentation file from scratch.

They clarified. They were not interested in my presentation file; they wanted the spreadsheet calendar. Oh! Yes. In that case, I could help.

Sent over an Excel file. Added notes about all the weird symbolic fonts.

shared Journal article materials

It seems the editor misplaced my email of Dec 2 for my next Journal article. Asked if I could resend. Instead, I put the files in the cloud and shared the folder link. Ready for review.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

new portable software

Read Unk Rod's blog article on new astro software particularly aimed at portables. He touches on the steady progress of computing devices. I submitted a comment: told him about DSLR Controller.

watched the CRS-4 launch

I watched the Orbital ATK CRS-4 (OA-4) launch from Florida on A perfect launch by United Launch Alliance. While the 103rd launch for ULA, it was their first to the International Space Station. The weather finally cooperated.

OK to go.

Lift off.

Clearing the towers.

First stage done.

Centaur boosting.

Cygnus away. Orbital is back, delivering experiments, food, and supplies to the ISS.


18:05 PM. Solar arrays opened.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

we didn't go out

Was hoping to help a member sort their Allview mount issues. But no one was interested in going outside despite being able to see stars. I was a little disappointed. I really wanted to help.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

hoping to launch

Looks like Orbital ATK and United Launch Alliance are gonna scrub. The CRS-4 launch window will close around 6:25 PM EST. They can try again tomorrow.

That's rain on the camera...

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

SkyNews under my door

Holy moley. I wasn't expecting that. In fact, I was worried that they might be disappearing into the ether... The latest SkyNews magazine appeared—thanks to my new neighbour. Yesterday, actually.

The SN January/February 2016 issue is featuring what's up for the new year, of course. This includes comet Catalina. And charts and tips for winter observing. Chilled thinking about it. But looking forward to some long nights...

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

helped MPG

Helped the Western Meteor Physics Group do some remote computer maintenance at the CAO.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

new council acclaimed

The new council slate was acclaimed at the RASC Toronto Centre meeting. I'm on-board for another year. Er, more than that.

It was very challenging at times, more difficult than I expected it to be. Part of that is just operations. Running a large volunteer organisation is getting more difficult. Another part is the people involved. Some are strong willed, which is a good thing overall. Some of us are stubborn.

Still, I have committed to another 3 years—for the members. I believe it important that I represent and serve the membership and ensure they are being treated fairly.

no go

A couple of clear back-to-back nights this week... Of course, the Moon was out. And I had a mountain of work to do. So, no, no time to play.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

hairy dark matter

Read an interesting article found on Astronomy magazine's web site. Recent astronomer simulations suggest that dark matter, as it passes through a planet or star, might form into fine, very dense filaments or hairs. Gary Prézeau of JPL describes these hairs having roots and tips with the roots starting relatively close to the surface of a planet. Looks like a spiky urchin.

And here I thought dark matter was lumpy.

stuck the landing

Blue Origin made history yesterday. They successfully landed their New Shepard rocket, after reaching the planned altitude of 100 kilometres, back on Earth. They touched it down at 4.4 miles per hour.

That is not a CGI image! See the promotional video on YouTube. While a very different system compared to the SpaceX, it clearly shows that booster rockets can be reused.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I have a shadow

The Moon followed me home again. Wished it wouldn't do that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

next meeting set

Next RASC Toronto Centre council meeting is set for January 6.



attended council meeting

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting. It was held at St Joan of Arc church. I connected from home by Skype.

Binary Universe: Virtual Moon Atlas

cover of the RASC Journal 2015 December
The December issue of the RASC Journal was made available today.

My sixth installment in the Binary Universe column was included.

Wow. It's been one year!

This edition features a review of Virtual Moon Atlas version 6.1, specifically the AtLun component.

Monday, November 16, 2015

13 hours later (Bradford)

Half a day later. Dark sky again, walking home. Crescent Moon starting to yellow. Cygnus up high in the west. Albireo. To the right, bright blue-white Vega. Aquila, flying west. Behind me, where the Big Dipper was in the morning, now stood Cassiopeia. Perseus, well up. The Pleiades.

Venus, Mars, Jupiter (Bradford)

I finally saw them!

Beautiful dark blue sky as I left home for the train station. Venus, Mars, Jupiter in a straight line. Venus was over 30 degrees up!

Could see a star beside brilliant Venus: Porrima. And a faint one between red Mars and bright Jupiter: Zavijava. Then beyond Jupiter a bright star: Regulus. All in a perfect line.

Below, a bright star: Spica. Flickering.

Big Dipper up high. Ruddy Arcturus down and right. Also flickering.

I block later I spotted a faint satellite moving eastbound. Dimmer than Zavijava.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

delivered NOVA talk

Delivered a NOVA presentation at York University. Stars, constellations, coordinate systems, etc. Small-ish crowd. Waited to 5 minutes after to begin. Lots of good questions, there seemed to be good general interest. But I ran late, unfortunately, and that meant I had to skip the Stellarium demo. More seriously, we had to cancel the observatory tour. I felt bad. Just not on my game today...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

ring ring

Caught the new cute video from the European Space Agency. Once Upon a Time... Living with a Comet.

It recapped the Philae touch-down on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the analyses of the gases and particles. Tugged at the heartstrings too: poor Philae.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

found widget name

Sorted the aurora app matter with Android... That is, determined which app/widget it is that's on my ASUS Android's main screen. The widget with the little dynamic Sun and Earth icons, which shows the Kp and Bz. It is called Solaris. Figured this out, at last, when responding to Mike on Facebook. I've been using it for a while but I couldn't remember the official name. Download it from the Google Play store.


Part of the confusion was due to that I had never published the blog post, from April, immediately after trying the app...

Monday, November 09, 2015

updated CSAC profile

Recently reprogrammed my Clear Sky Alarm Clock profile for the new digs. Today, I received my first clear sky alert for Bradford.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

watched exoplanet video

Watched The Search for Another Earth, a very neat exoplanet video at JPL. Features Butler, Fischer, Tarter, Gaudi, Queloz, Mayor, Boss, Batalha, Seager, Borucki, Fanson, Siegler, Kalirai, and Barclay. Neat graphics. I like the transition pieces that look like chalk on a blackboard. Exciting times. It was cool to see Sara's star mask too.

Friday, November 06, 2015

for the reading list

While travelling TTC Line 2 from Yorkdale, I saw a guy reading The Science of Interstellar. Big hard cover. One time, as I glanced over, I noted an illustration of a singularity.

Interesting. Forgot about that book. Kip Thorne? I wonder if I should read it. I enjoyed the movie. One of the best presentations of time, excuse me, space-time, I think I've encountered.


w00t! Available at TPL, physical, virtual.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

multi-star system

Lots of suns on the wall! Ha ha!

The tiny holes in the Venetian blinds made a super-duper pinhole camera.

Monday, November 02, 2015


Happy birthday, Space Station!

Friday, October 30, 2015

new digs

My new backyard is dark.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

book the 2015 AGM

The RASC Toronto Centre annual general meeting is scheduled for Wed 25 Nov. This is, as always, an opportunity for members to learn how the centre works, understand all the volunteer effort that goes in behind the scenes, and an opportunity to have a say in its operations.

next council meeting

The next RASC Toronto Centre council meeting is Wed 18 Nov. Location is to be confirmed...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

confirmed shift

Ian confirmed they were able to postpone my NOVA deliveries. I'll deliver the Learning the night sky session at York University on Thursday 12 November and at the David Dunlap Observatory on Thursday 19 November.

thanked the team

A little late! I finally got 'round to thanking all the CAO work party volunteers.

updated SkyTools page

Updated my SkyTools page over on the companion site, adding a couple of new observing list STX files. Enjoy.

updated IP plan

After finding the latest version with the MODL changes, I updated the CAO local area network IP plan document, given the work party changes with Peter's SQM-LE. Uploaded it. Copied it to appropriate devices.

Monday, October 26, 2015

attended council meeting

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting at the DDO.

wondered about calendar plan

During tonight's meeting, there was no discussion of RASC calendar sales. I wonder if there's a plan to get these to members. Last year I tried to help organise it and in the end there were lots of hands in the pot. It was confusing at the end. Peter graciously helped. Maybe someone else should do it this time 'round.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

swarm of galaxies

I think I first saw this image on Facebook, shared by Malcolm. He said, "Wow." Indeed. It is an incredible deep photograph.

This is the galaxy cluster MACSJ0717.5+3745, one of six being studied by the Hubble Frontier Fields programme. It shows significant gravitational lensing as revealed by the stretched and distorted background galaxies throughout.

Still, my first impression was: dense! Look at all them! What a fantastic universe.

Credit: NASA, ESA and the HST Frontier Fields team (STScI). Image and words from the Hubble Space Telescope site.

tried illumination layer

Ha ha. Just used the "illumination layer" in latest version of Stellarium. Neat!

Using layers in Paint.NET, I created red glowing rectangles for the windows of the CAO.

Stellarium 0.14.x shortcuts

Stellarium 0.14.0 is out! It has a number of improvements. This is an update of my keyboard and mouse shortcuts listing. This reference is for Windows and Macintosh computers (although not all shortcuts have been tested on a Mac).

controlling the surroundings

show Location window
Fn F6
toggle cardinal compass points qq
toggle compass marks †
toggle ground and buildings
toggle ground fog
toggle atmosphere or air
toggle sky glow/building lights *
Shift g
Shift g
toggle ground (e.g. mountain) labels *
Ctrl Shift g
⌘ Shift g
return to "home" (start-up) view
Ctrl h

controlling sky appearance

toggle stars
toggle star labels
Alt s
Option s
toggle constellation lines
toggle constellation boundaries
toggle constellation labels
toggle constellation artwork
toggle planets and Moon *
toggle planet and Moon labels *
Alt p
Option p
toggle planet orbits
toggle planet trails
Shift t
Shift t
toggle exoplanet labels and indicators
Ctrl Alt e
⌘ Option e
toggle DSO/nebula labels and indicators *n or d
n or d
toggle nebula background images
toggle quasars *
Ctrl Alt q
⌘ Option q
toggle zodiacal light *
Ctrl Alt z
⌘ Option z
toggle meteor radiants *
Ctrl Alt m
⌘ Option m
show Sky and Viewing Options
Fn F4

controlling grid-lines

toggle altitude/azimuth grid
toggle equatorial grid
toggle ecliptic line
, (comma)
toggle celestial equator
. (period)
toggle meridian line
toggle horizon line *

changing image presentation

flip horizontally
Ctrl Shift h
⌘ Shift h
flip vertically
Ctrl Shift v
⌘ Shift v

controlling time flow

set date/time to now
set time rate to zero
increase time flow
l (lower case L)
decrease time flow
run time at normal rate
increase time flow a little
Shift l (that's L)
Shift l
decrease time flow a little
Shift j
Shift j

controlling "regular" time

show date/time window
Fn F5
forward 1 hour solar
Ctrl = (equal)
⌘ =
backward 1 hour
Ctrl - (hyphen)
⌘ -
forward 1 day solar
= (equal)
backward 1 day
- (hyphen)
forward 1 week solar
backward 1 week

controlling sidereal time

forward 1 day sidereal
Alt = (equal)
Option =
backward 1 day
Alt - (hyphen)
Option -
forward 1 year sidereal
Ctrl Alt Shift ]
⌘ Option Shift ]
backward 1 year
Ctrl Alt Shift [
⌘ Option Shift [


quickly zoom in/out
mouse wheel
mouse wheel
zoom in
PgUp or
Ctrl Up Arrow

Fn Up Arrow
zoom out
PgDn or
Ctrl Dn Arrow

Fn Down Arrow
zoom in or out slowly
Shift with keys
zoom close to selected object
/ (slash)
zoom out fully
\ (backslash)
zoom very close to planet
/ twice
/ twice
set field of view (FOV) to 5° *
Ctrl Alt 7
⌘ Option 7
set field of view (FOV) to 1° *
Ctrl Alt 9
⌘ Option 9
set field of view (FOV) to ½° *
Ctrl Alt 0
⌘ Option 0


quickly pan celestial sphere
pan right
Right Arrow
Right Arrow
pan left
Left Arrow
Left Arrow
pan up
Up Arrow
Up Arrow
pan down
Down Arrow
Down Arrow
pan a small amount
Shift Arrow-key
Shift Arrow-key
toggle EQ or alt/az mount
Ctrl m
⌘ m

working with objects

select an object
centre on selected object
toggle tracking of object
deselect object
display search dialog box
Ctrl f or F3
⌘ f or Fn F3
go, i.e. travel, to a planet
Ctrl g
⌘ g
toggle angular measurement †
Ctrl a
⌘ a
copy object info to clipboard
Ctrl c
⌘ c

working with satellites

configure artificial satellites
Alt z
Option z
toggle satellite display
Ctrl z
⌘ z
toggle satellite labels
Shift z
Shift z

controlling the application

toggle night (red light) mode
show configuration window
Fn F2
show help/about window
Fn F1
show script console window
toggle full-screen/window
toggle toolbars/menus, i.e. GUI
Ctrl t
⌘ t
save screenshot to disk
Ctrl s
⌘ s
show keyboard shortcuts window
Fn F7
close a window
quit from Stellarium
Ctrl q
⌘ q

* Recently added or changed shortcuts are marked with an asterisk.

† Keyboard shortcuts noted with a dagger are associated with a plug-in. They may not function if the plug-in is not active.

Some shortcuts were omitted. Notably those for the oculars plug-in. And those to do with scripting.

Most quick reference listings are improperly designed. They show the key first then the action, forcing you to think about a key combination, even if you're not interested in it.

Please report errors in the comments below...