Sunday, May 31, 2015

received old Newt

Received Mom's telescope. She's not using the old Edmund Scientific 6" Newtonian.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

received books from Al

Sis arrived Mom's house and handed me a plastic bag, stressed from the weight. Books from Al. Right, I forgot she had told me he had some items headed my way...

Holey moley. Some very cool works!

The Comet Book by Robert D Chapman and John C Brandt. A Guide For The Return Of Halley's Comet. From circa 1984. Softcover. Could it be the Robert Chapman I know?!

Gravity, Black Holes and the Universe by Iain Nicolson. 1981. Hardcover.

A Complete Manual of Amateur Astronomy by P. Clay Sherrod. Tools and Techniques for Astronomical Observations. Circa 1981. Softcover. Huh. Is this Dr Clay?

Build Your Own Telescope by Richard Berry. Circa 1985.

How to Make a Telescope by Jean Texereau. Second English Edition. May 1984. Hardcover. Wow.

Telescopes You Can Build from Edmund Scientific. Circa 1963. Softcover.

Astrophotography for the Amateur by Michael Covington. Circa 1985. Ha. Cool. Dated but I look forward to reading it.

Ha ha. Ha ha ha. So funny.

All About Telescopes by Sam Brown. From, again, Edmund Scientific. Softcover. A book I've been coveting for years. And, ironically, I needed to get the Newtonian up and running. And that I looked all over for and found at the Toronto Public Library many moons ago. And that Al had the whole time! Ironic. Very interesting.

Well, what a wonderful surprise.

another error found

Another error was spotted on the solar system walk signs! Crikey. I had contradictory information about the size of Mercury in relation to our Moon. We decided to keep the correct text on the Mercury sign but create a new fact for the Earth sign... I suggested text referring to our ocean tides... I felt terrible.

Friday, May 29, 2015

on the road (London)

Noted Venus near Pollux. Saw Jupiter. And a gibbous Moon behind prismatic clouds. While driving to Mom's.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

received screw adapters

w00t! Found some adapters in the mailbox! 1/4"-to-3/8" screw adapter for tripods and cameras and quick release plates.

All the way from Hong Kong. Had forgotten about them.

relayed scale error

I sent an apology to the CAO team, relaying the error spotted by Tom. The SCALE note on the first solar system walk sign was off.

I said the scale was 1:75000. That is wrong. By a lot. I read a value from my spreadsheet but I forgot to convert from km to mm. Oops. Don't put me on a science mission... Sheesh.

The scale value should be 1:75 billion. I lobbied for showing it with zeros as opposed to the word.

Asked about how we'd remove the incorrect vinyl pieces.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

solar system walk improved

I was very happy with how the solar system walk signs turned out.

There was some minor issues that arose, like the very small vinyl pieces, for tiny planets, or hyphens or periods, getting damaged. But we'll be able to fix those.

shot the switch

Photo documented the new switch box in the CAO water utility closet.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

observing with the neighbours (Blue Mountains)

Around 7:00 PM, Sat 23 May 2015, met some of our new (?), young neighbours to the east. We invited them over later.

7:26 PM. Collimated the CAO Celestron bins. Went to Moon. Spotted Venus in bins. Briefly spotted naked eye.

Explained how to collimate these instruments to other members.

7:48. Wondered if I could installed the Dark Sky Meter app to my Android device. Learned via the FAQ that there's not such a version and it sounded like there never would be. Boo.

9:57. Viewed Jupiter in C14. Still had a high power eyepiece in, 18mm.

10:00. Paulo and Alex left the GBO; Mr Horvatin arrived, eating cookies.

10:09. Viewed Cor Caroli. Good in both the big and small 'scopes.

10:30. Viewed Alula Australis. Saw B, touching A. Wheat colour, same brightness. GSC 02520-0471 to the west, GSC 02520-0192, J111723.6+313014, GSC 02520-0149, GSC 02520-0017, GSC 02520-0190. Could not see C.

10:43. Andrew and Ken dropped in! All right! Showed them Jupiter and Saturn. Their remarks were NSFW.

11:36. Windy. SW 17 gust 28 km/h but dropping.

The screen door on the GBO was awesome!

programmed new touchkeys

I programmed the key fob system for the new 25 touchkeys. Used my USB-serial directly to board. The board has a female 9 pin... We couldn't find a straight-thru serial cable on site...

helped at spring '15 work party

Assisted at the Carr Astronomical Observatory spring work party. We did a lot of stuff.
  • New dimmable lights in kitchen.
  • Water pump cut-off switch.
  • New glass for the kitchen windows.
  • New efficient toilet for the downstairs bathroom.
  • New planet walk signs.
  • GBO roof rails ground and painted.
  • Door installed to furnace/work room, at last!
  • Kitchen cupboard valances built.
  • Fixed damaged section of accessibility ramp.
And, finally, a screen door for the Geoff Brown Observatory warm room. Yeh!

Also, we did many of the seasonal tasks.

Good weather, for a change.

A great crew!


We also fixed some of the Adirondack chairs and askew picnic tables.


Photos available in the (private) Yahoo!Group album.

good skies (Blue Mountains)

Feeling a little bookended—the work party officially starting tomorrow morning—but the skies were pretty good. Observed in the Geoff Brown Observatory with members.

Fired up my SkyTools software.

11:27 PM, Fri 22 May 2015. Checked the weather conditions. 2.2 degrees, wind due north, 10 min avg 3.2 km/h, humidity 76%, barometer 1026.1.

How about a double star? One from the RASC Observer's Handbook?

On 84 Vir. Immediately saw the companion. Primary pale yellow, small pale orange dot, to the west. In a lazy L, TYC 00311-0818 1 to the south east, TYC 00311-1065 1 further along, GSC 00311-1395 to the north west, TYC 00311-1026 1 to the west. Not in any list.

11:41 PM. Viewed the Black Eye Galaxy (aka Messier 64, M64). The dark C arc was easy. Wide and high views.

Whale (aka NGC 4631 and Caldwell 32) and the Hockey Stick (4656), nearby.

11:59. Messier 85 (M85) and NGC 4394.

12:05 AM, Sat 23 May 2015. Messier 84 (M84) and Messier 86 (M86). Nearby, NGC 4388, 4387, and 4402. All together.

12:13 AM. Leo Triplet (i.e. Messier 66, M66 and Messier 65, M65, plus NGC 3628). Fit nicely in 10mm in TV101. Dropped to 55mm in C14.

12:24. Whirlpool (Messier 51, M51 and NGC 5195).

Viewed with Mr Horvatin.

12:32. Messier 82 (M82) and Messier 81 (M81). Mr dos Santos was impressed.

12:47. Baby Eskimo at 391x. [ed: No notes captured! Will have to re-examine!]

1:02. [ed: Incomplete notes.] Could not split [a double star] with 3mm in TV101. Airy disk and one diffraction ring.

1:13. Tried for comet SWAN (aka C/2015 F3). No luck. Neither could Steve.

NGC 3756. [ed: Again, poor note-taking. Will need to view again.]

1:18. Lovejoy.

HR 285. [ed: Not sure why this was viewed. It's a K0 star. Perhaps for its colour?]

1:50. Saturn. Encedalus maybe for a second. Hyperion?! Maybe, when I panned the planet out.

HR 6246, aka Σ2103. B was blue-white. Orange. D, no prob [ed: magnitude 13.6]. GSC 00974-0809 [14.9!], GSC 00974-0583 [15.1!], GSC 00974-0719 [14.1], but no C. Weird. It was magnitude 14.4. [ed: The AB pair is noted in the RASC OH.]

Took SQM readings.

2:50. Tony dS helped with close up. Left roof open for Steve.

3:06. In bed.

Friday, May 22, 2015

received parts finally

Checked on status of Digi-Key order. Redirected by FedEx to Sun Polishing so to avoid my psycho housemate from freaking out. Signed by Diane. Whew.


Package included iButton touch keys (and key ring mounts) for the CAO, tall 15mm stand-offs and machine screws for the calibrated ESV, and other telescope repair parts.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

500 plus

Woo! Broke 500 double stars last weekend!

app issues

Discovered that the Android blogger app stripped all the paragraph breaks from an edited posted. A long post... Ugh.

updated TS6 QRC

Updated the quick reference card/guide for TheSky6, cleaning up the formatting (and the stupid Word bullets and numbering madness), adding a section for adding a comet, and adding a section on changing the tracking rate. Sent a copy to the dos Santos.


Scared myself. Could not find a copy of this on the Yahoo!Group. It must have lived on the old platter driver of the John Smallberries computer. Fortunately, I found an attachment (from 2009) in the Sent folder...

added more details

Updated the new RASC location page with more details. I added my custom U of T map, parking details, and John's classroom finder link. Meanwhile, John found a nice photo.

reviewed solar phenomena

Looked up details of parahelia. Found good information on Vincent Jacques's Halos web page.

So, yesterday, I saw:
  • Sun dogs: the usual bright, prismatic spots, left and right of the Sun, 22° from the Sun.
  • At times, I could see most if not all of the entire 22° halo around the Sun.
  • Emanating outward from the sun dogs, I saw the faint 120° parhelia.
  • Above the Sun, I could easily see, while faint, the "parry arc" or "upper suncave." That was a first.
  • High up in the sky, above the Sun, was the fantastic, bright, and colourful "circumzenith arc." Also a first.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

farewell meeting

Attended the last RASC Toronto Centre meeting at the Ontario Science Centre.

Ron did his first The Sky This Month. He spent a lot of time on past events. No handout. I did like his top-down solar system maps for conjunctions and oppositions. I made a couple of notes and checked things in SkySafari as he went along.

Sounds like 16 hours is the world record for youngest Moon sighting naked eye.

Really enjoy Sue's talk on Caroline Herschel. I'll have to point out crater C Herschel to Grace...

Good turn out.


Chatted with Jason M before the meeting. He tried to update his firmware but something went terribly wrong and he was getting a bootloader error. I gave him a bunch of things to try.

extraordinary parahelia (Don Mills)

Saw crazy intense, complex parahelia, as I walked through the south parking lot of the Ontario Science Centre. I first spotted the right-hand sun dog. And then I looked up!

I've never seen the bright arc up high before. Inverted rainbow.

The 22° circle was visible. Nearly full.

Wow. Can see the right sun dog in this last one. And hints of the outward arc. Bright. Made a note to look up all the aspects or features of this event.

Left sundog not as bright or defined.

A bit of goodness in a grim day.

All shot with the Android MemoPad.


I was pleased that others saw it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

sent location details

Sent the new RASC TC meeting location info to Mr Mortfield.

Earth Sciences
5 Bancroft Ave
room B142

Monday, May 18, 2015

more fun (Blue Mountains)

Maybe people were tired or put off by the early evening cloud. Or not ready for summer season back-to-back nights observing... Their loss.

I had another decent run. Viewed another dozen objects. I also spotted the small dark shadow of Europa on Jupiter.

I would have kept going except Marko told me his planned departure time. Ugh. That meant I'd have to get up super early Monday morning to get all my (unfinished) activities done...

short session (Blue Mountains)

9:00 PM, Sun 17 May 2014. Back in the THO. The peepers were loud.

Not great skies. A lot of high cloud. West, and north west, clouded out. Hints of high cloud overhead. Contrails.

Checked the Davis station. Data as of 8:32. Humidity already high at 79%. Pressure had dropped and was now 101.60. Alluding to rain tomorrow. Temperature 21.5°C. Dew point 17.7. Checked the graphs but they had not been updated yet.

Brought the mount out of hibernation. Unfortunately, it had lost the date and time. Decided to try slewing to Venus. Huh. The first slew worked well; object near the centre of the viewfinder. Impressive.

9:11. Viewed Venus. Slightly over First Quarter phase.

Checked the weather reports...

Weather Network for Thornbury. Temp 24, feels like 29. Wind south at 8 km. Humidity 64. Pressure 101.8 and dropping. Sunset 8:42. Sunday overnight cloudy with showers. POP 40. Less than 1 mm. Wind. Gusting at 36. Monday: thunderstorms.

Very clear next weekend!

Weather Underground. Clear in Beaver Valley. 22.6. Chance of rain. 0 mm! Cloud cover increasing through the evening, as high as 88%. 37% right now. Pressure continuing to drop to Monday afternoon. Looked like it was going to be raining when we would be trying to leave.

Activated Real Time mode in SkyTools. Could not initially connect, probably a different COM number as a result of using a different USB port. Confirmed. Now 6. Connected successfully but had ASCOM issues. Restarted the netbook. Noticed the Parked status; set to Tracking; saw the blinking X. Tried various slews without success. Rebooted. Synced. Zoomed out and found the X very far away. Tested with Procyon. OK, now but that was weird.

Went to Jupiter. Used the software slew buttons to fine tune. A good view, very nice. Cloud bands very clear. Spotted Europa, very close. Did not see the Great Red Spot. Oh! SkyTools showed a shadow occurring. Yeah... Wow, neat. The tiny black dot was there. How about that!

I headed outside to tell Mr dos Santos...

But I couldn't find him! Visited GBO. Discovered the outer warm room door open, the white lights on in the observatory, and no humans! Very strange. Like it was abandoned. I turned off the lights and closed the door to keep the bugs out. Went to the house and turned off the white lights in the kitchen. Mr Horvatin protested from the living room; pointed out I was observing. Asked if they knew the whereabouts of the dos Santos. Encountered Millie at the pergola. I think she was hoping someone would fly the C14.

I noticed the lights were off in the trailer. Did the dos Santos go to bed early?! Oh well. I headed back to my observatory.

9:35. Shadow was nearly at the meridian. Between the cloud bands, near the equator. Wondered if it might tolerate high power. Viewed with the 9mm eyepiece. Very interesting.

Tried texting Tony. Maybe they were at their MODL?

Put in the old 18mm ocular. Usually a good eyepiece for planets. It was crisp. A good view in the Meade. All four moons fit, neatly. Incredible seeing, amazing. The shadow was moving up.

I could tell the shadow had moved. Confirmed the moon nearest to the planet was Europa. Did a trial in ST3P, speeding time, and saw the moon pulling away, to the west, dragging the shadow.

Below, or to the east, was Ganymede, and further out was Callisto. Lovely.

Hard to see the shadow at low power.

Sky was still blue. But I turned on red light mode.

9:46. Returned to my planned observing list. Last night I had spent a lot of time in Coma Berenices and Canes Venatici. I ensured it was sorted in the optimal order. Reviewed targets. Puppis targets first. Monoceros, crazy. Perseus, slightly better. Auriga, poor.

Slewed to Procyon. Is it a super-tight double? Seemed to show two colours... Orangey on the left; bluey-blue-white on the right. Or was that atmospheric distortion? Little, faint stars all around it. Lots of doubles...

The wind made interesting sounds, faint howling like lost souls.

9:53. Checked the battery level of the recorder. The last segment and holding.

Checked SkyTools regarding Procyon. There were a star to the right or north-east, the double HD 61502, aka BRD 2. There was a brighter star, HR 2950, aka Σ1126 (Struve), further away, a bit clock-wise or more to the east, about 1/3rd or a 1/4 of the field of view away—also a triple. Added both to my observing list.

Oh, fudge. Discovered the 61502's B star is very close, super-tight, to the primary [ed: 0.8"; doable given my career split is 0.5"]. But it was a triple and the (faint) C star was well-separated.

Tried to identify some of the faint stars I was seeing. But I could not see 61502 C, four magnitudes fainter than A [ed: 9.2 vs. 13.4.]. Definitely would not be able to see it.

Procyon is noted as a quad. The first companion B is fairly close and 13 magnitudes different! Could not find the D star shown on the charts in SkyTools. Strange. Could not spot the C star.

Could see the high level clouds going by in the eyepiece, creating a weird, flickering effect.

A lot going on in this area, a bunch of stars. Might be good to sketch or diagram, when I have more energy. I was seeing stars that were not on the software chart... Marked to view again. [ed: And it would be better to view in late-winter.]

Viewed HD 63536, aka Σ1149. In my View Again list as well as the RASC Coloured Doubles. I had it logged... so viewed before. Nearby so I decided to go for it. First impression is yellow and red. Widely separated. Secondary was blinking madly in these conditions. SkyTools said 20 seconds of arc apart. Similar magnitudes, 7.7 vs. 9.5. The RASC notes says yellow and blue and faint. Why did I need to revisit? Were the colours off? Quiet field.

[ed: Looks like I goofed, identifying an unrelated star. TYC 00184-1768 1.]

Spotted bright HR 3050 to the east. Also a double but only 0.2" sep!

My right knee was sore.

Clouds went through.

Sorted by Optimum. Chose ε (epsilon) Hydra. In View Again, RASC Doubles, Cambridge showpieces, and my candidate list. Did not need to turn the roof, yeh. Yellowy-orangey. Very quiet field. I spotted a backwards question mark in the area. To the west, I saw the F faint star, mag 10.4, on the top edge of the question mark as it starts to curve. Spotted TYC 00224-0715 1 in the middle of the ¿. Down the ¿ I saw the E star, due north of ε. Easy pickings'. I decided to bump up the power.

Clear overhead. Leo. Windy was higher now. Distant fireworks.

10:19. Turned off the red lights. Target getting low... Viewed with the 26mm for a long time. I didn't spot B, C, or D. ST3P said D is quite faint at mag 12.5. C is mag 3.4 but very close. And the A and B are on top of one another...

After some work, I dug out the C star! Quite bright, orangey, compared to the primary. Very tight, 2.9". In the direction of the mid-point of the question mark. I drew a line in ST3 and the tool said the angle was 307°. ST3P says the PA is 309. OK.

Sometimes I saw a bump, a black line, at the 1 o'clock position. Possible B sighting?! No, no way. 1/4 of an arc-second?! No. [ed: Fast mover, by the way.]

I wondered if I saw the D, two or three times the distance, opposite way, 18.7" away.

Surprising what I was able to do given how low this was. And that the collimation was definitely off. I wondered why it was in the Cambridge "top" list. To view again...

Not good view with the 18mm. Frustrating. Decided to apply the 2 air mass filter.

Headed to Ursa Major and landed in a very plain field.

Wheel kept falling off rolly polly podium thing...

Left hand was itchy. The bright red dot was, I suspected, a black fly bite.

10:38. Struggled with finding φ (phi) Ursae Majoris. Close...

Something started scratching at the floor, the north-east corner, of the THO. A 'coon? Trying to get in? Weird.

10:46. Still lost. Continued star hopping—or manual plate solving... Realised I had used the wrong reference point. Too high?

Finally found φ UMa. The pointing was off. Synced. Turned the roof a bit.

So, why was I on this again? Ugh. A fast mover. But very tight [ed: 0.42"!]. Probably not resolvable. Cranked the power. Super-high power. No. No way.

10:55. Could not make out two stars. Could not see a black line. Seeing is not great. Collimation off. Conspiring against me. Too bad. Nice and high.

Decided to stay in the constellations. Oh. Lots of targets to choose from... Slewed to σ (sigma) UMa.

Interesting. Looked like a wide double, 1 and 2, in the head of the Great Bear. The number 1 star was at my top-right and orange. Aka 11 UMa. Number 2 was a light beige white. Aka 13. Lots of other stars.

Learned σ2 was a triple. A and B formed an oblong shape. Not in the same line as C. B was in the direction of the nearby stars... no. Yellow and orange. B was orange, in the northerly direction, much, much fainter. I could get a black line between them. Seeing quite good, at the moment. Slices a line between C and random star GSC 04141-1393 or about 346°. ST3P showed 348. Ha! Or is in the same direction at GSC 04141-0813. Not sure about colour. Blue? Grey? Dim? A was beige.

Heard Millie.

Off to the next target, an NGC this time, 2814. If there was an NGC in the field it must be really faint... Freaking faint.

Saw NGC 2820!

Saw what looked like a double, TYC 04138-0967 1 (to the north) and TYC 04138-1407 1 (to the south). Almost equally bright, around magnitude 12.

From there, to the north-west, I passed a couple of widely separated Tycho stars, and continued, curved slightly down, I landed on TYC 04138-0772 1, slightly brighter than all of these, at mag 11.4. Nearby, above, I could see just a hint of a needle, edge-on galaxy. I think. Pretty sure. Interestingly, ST3P showed a star, GSC 04138-0969. I did not see this! ST3P said it was poor quality data for the mag 9.7 star. No doubt. Could see the galaxy, 2820, no problem. Oddly, not the one I was going after. Marked as observed. Thin, wispy, oriented north-east to south-west.

Oh. It just popped. Slightly different angle, more a north-south orientation, below the 772 star. Half the length. Finally, spotted 2814. I had to look a little above 772 to get my averted vision to work. Extremely faint.

Must have been warmer tonight. Still in my Dickie. Had taken off my cap.

Could not see the face-on, NGC 2805, nearby.

This would be a neat area to photograph...

OK. Time for a comet, not far away...

11:15. Slewed to C/2015 F3 (SWAN). Nothing obvious. No fuzzy stars... Compared the view against the computer. After a time, I synced on a known star.

Mr Horvatin came by. Remarked that the wind was racing. A storm somewhere. Wasn't affecting me at all.

He was happy to see the THO was working well. Perfect size for personal use. I concurred. We conjectured the metal roof was affecting the GPS signal performance.

He still hadn't seen the dos Santos.

Asked if he had done another time lapse run. No. No stars visible near the horizon. Dietmar helped him with some of the imagery. Salvageable. Good to hear. Also shared that he almost lost his image files.

Asked if he saw any lightning around. Nope. Later, he saw some flashing light on the horizon. Oh, quite a lot. Toward Shelburne. Their fireworks?

We talked briefly about work party jobs.

Lockers and lots.

Departure time. Maybe 10. Oh. He offered to drive so I could sleep...

11:37. Super-faint satellite passed by the Owl Nebula, aka Messier 97 (M97). West to east, the satellite went.

11:45. Viewed NGC 2681. A spiral galaxy perhaps? Yes. ST3P said it was a face-on spiral. A tiny little thing. Not far from FT UMa.

Lost my mojo. Started thinking about things I'd have to do for departure: packing up the NexStar 11, packing my personal observing gear, my gear in the house, etc. I considering simply packing the N11 but leaving it in the THO overnight; I could move it out in the light of day.

12:06 AM, Mon 18 May 2014. Almost everything was packed. Box α primus was ready.

Couldn't find the cover for the visual back. Anywhere! Weird. Packed the N11 OTA and tripod.

12:15 AM. Box ε, netbook, misc. bag. Night, night.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

strange comm error

Rebooted the weather station computer after it showed a communication error. The security system was working fine. Curious.

amazing Sun shot by Tony

On Facebook, Tony H thanked the dos Santos and I for helping him with his solar imaging. He got a great shot with his DSLR.

super fun with photons (Blue Mountains)

Viewed over 30 objects last night. Including planets, double stars, galaxies. A few favourites and a bunch of new things. Thrilled.

In the morning, it sure didn't look like we were going to get clear skies. But when the Sun made an appearance in the afternoon, I set up the NexStar 11 in the THO.

Very fun night.

lucky viewing (Blue Mountains)

6-ish PM, Sat 16 May 2015. Skies were looking very good. I decided to set up a 'scope in the THO in the event that it did fully clear. If it didn't, oh well, I'd move stuff out on Monday morning...

Peter helped me transport the tippy Celestron NexStar 11 atop the wagon from the house to Tony Horvatin Observatory. Once inside, he also helped me set it up. I gave him the 10¢ tour.

The N11 booted up OK. Yeh. But I didn't think it got a GPS fix. I had to enter the time. Later, when I rebooted, I had to enter the date as well. Looks like the GPS unit and/or battery is pooched. I ran through the alignment process quickly. All went well. I hibernated it.

Installed the Darrow Donation 38mm 2" eyepiece into the donation 2" SCT mirror. I'm planning to use, shake down, this equipment this weekend. I am expecting the 38 to offer some good views.

8:27 PM. Popped into the THO to begin the evening setup. Had the ASUS netbook computer, astronomy case α primus and ε. Readied the Sony ICD voice recorder. Battery level looked good. But I remembered the extra batteries in the house.

9:30. I returned to the THO to finalise my setup.

Tried to connect to the network via the hard line but it was not working!?

9:34. Fired up the Sony voice recorder. Good battery indication.

Tried aligning the NexStar 11. Reviewed the quick notes in my reference guide. Went to Venus.

Went to Jupiter.

Recorded a big yawn. Made a list for my house trip with coffee and serial cable.

10:00. Returned from house visit, and bio break, with two TVO folding chairs, cable, and coffee.

Considered re-aligning. Checked my quick notes. It didn't say anything about "east." I thought you were supposed to choose a new star in the east. I verified that in the full manual. Any star, or planet, in the east, would work. OK.

10:08. Re-aligned the 11-inch and then issued a slew for the Beehive, aka Messier 44 (M44). Testing, testing. It plunked me in the middle of the open cluster. Nice. Thank you. Viewed in wide field 38mm eyepiece. Open cluster. Meh. Not a big fan of... Long pause... Huh. Some double stars are in there perhaps.

Configured SkyTools. Told it I would be using my baader planetarium wide field eyepiece on the N11. I assumed there would not be much of a difference in the field of view.

In the middle of the Praesepe cluster, I saw the Arrow Head thingee and The Line. The line was made up of 39 Cancri and HD 73666 and HD 73617, pointing almost straight down, or north-west. The arrow head was pointing south-west and was also made up of some bright stars including HR 3428. I thought I saw a double star in the telescope so I looked to SkyTools to check. I turned on the Companion labelling. Oh! Interesting.

Looked at the bottom edge of the arrow head. Verified HR 3428. I saw a bright yellowy star, the primary. Spotted B, close. It was much, much fainter. First impression was orange. Nearby stars formed a loose triangle with 3428. The C and D stars. C is yellow or greenish. D is much fainter again, blue or grey in colour. HR 3428, aka Σ1254 (Struve), is a quadruple star system! Neat. Wasn't expecting that. Added it to my observing list. Huh. No logged flag. All right, some new stuff off piste.

10:14. Decided to reconfigure the space with the computer on the mobile cart, like last year, so I could have SkyTools right beside me at the ocular. Attached the red LED keyboard light. Switched on wifi mode in John Repeat Dance. Moved the recorder closer. Used one of the metal folding chairs as my observing seat.

Mmm. Coffee.

Examined the point of the arrow head more closely. Something going on. Three bright stars form a squished triangle. Part of a 5-star system with HD 73618 as the leader. Turned out that the most north-eastern star was the primary. The B and E stars were very close to the primary, and faint, according to (the old data in) ST3P. Probably not easy to see, I guessed. I didn't feel like swapping eyepieces to check. C, above or south, pure white, and D, to the west-south-west or right, an intense yellow, were obvious. There was also a star due west of 73618, a field star. Added to my observing list. Looked again: no telltales of B or E. Huh. D is much brighter than A. ST3P confirmed (while hovering over the stars in the Interactive Atlas): D is magnitude 6.6 while A is 7.3. Cool.

East from the tip of the arrow were a couple of bright stars. Oh. The primary, the most eastward, was ε (epsilon) Cancri, aka 41. Off-yellow, beige colour; companion was maybe a light blue. Added to observing list.

10:32. Check the battery level on the recorder. OK. The alkalines were working fine.

Tried to check the weather conditions but I did not have an active wifi connection... Dang.

Looked at the very squished triangle to the south-west. Saw the primary HD 73449. A triple according to ST3P. The A star is faint, much dimmer than a lot of the other stars in the cluster. A pale yellow; B is a good amount dimmer, pale or soft orange; C is about the same brightness as B, bluish. Or orange? Unrelated field star off to the right, to the west, much fainter, mag 11. SkyTools says the primary is mag 7.4. Huh. B and C are mag 9.3 or 9.4. Added to the list.

I heard Millie coughing continuously from the GBO perhaps? Hope she's OK.

I heard a car coming in. The group was back from the fireworks, I gathered.

Explored the long thread, the big, long, and loopy L. The software showed companions with Q and S labels. Wow. Identified 39 Cnc in the middle of the craggy line, a pale yellow. To the south-east was the B star, a titch whiter. Very slightly fainter. [ed: ST3P says A is 6.4 and B is 6.6.] I could see the R star, also known as BUP 120R, at mag 12. Q was to the east of the A and B stars, blue or green, much fainter, about the same brightness as P which is to the north. [ed: ST3P says Q is 8.8 and P is 9.0.] S was fainter than P. [ed: S is 10.1.] Beyond S was HD 73574, unrelated, it seems. Fascinating pattern. Neat. Nutty.

[ed: Upon reviewing double stars for small telescopes by Sissy Haas, I learned that I had viewed the double she calls 39-40 Cnc. Star 40 is what SkyTools labels as 39 B or HD 73666! I.e. a low-power pair on the edge of the Beehive.]

10:43. Set up for telescope control. Connected the USB-serial cable. Checked the assigned port. The Prolific landed at COM 5. Switched to Real Time mode in ST3P. Verified the communication port in ASCOM. Tried connecting. Oops. Forget to plug the USB-serial cable to the hand controller cable. Made a successful connection. Switched to my weekend observing list. The hand controller mini window popped up and I tried a direction button but a bunch of error dialogs popped up. Tried slewing. It failed. Discovered that ST3P thought the 'scope was parked. Switched it to tracking mode. Slewed with success. Synced on the object. Wow.

Turned on the netbook radio. Surfed to the weather portal for the Blue Mountains. Noticed a very patchy Clear Sky Chart. Checked the local CAO page. Ugh. The data was old... 7:16. Crikey. Has the server failed again?! Wind direction NNNE. Humidity 53%. Barometer 1026.1. Temperature 9.6°C. Dew point 0.4.

11:01. Nikki texted me to my phone! Once I remembered my password, I logged into Facebook so to chat. Told her about the good seeing and the handful of member cancellations. She sounded forlorn.

Tried to slew. Didn't work. The software said it started and then immediately said it ended. Weird. After a couple more attempts, I rebooted the mount. Still didn't work.

11:11. Heard Peter on the Observing Pad. He had just spotted Saturn. He popped over to say hello. Wondered if I was alive. We looked at Saturn over Scorpius. Chatted about the fireworks.

The pointing problem was clearly an issue with the computer hardware and/or software; when I used the NexStar hand controller, it worked fine. Tried restarting SkyTools. No luck. So I rebooted the computer.

11:25. While rebooting, I looked at Saturn. Lovely. Four moons. Had a hard time determining the ring orientation. Which side was in the foreground? The cloud bands were very clear. Cassini Division was easy. Pretty good view.

Promising. Saw the flashing X in the right area in the Interactive Atlas. That fixed it, the soft boot. Finally!

Re-examined the ringed beauty. Tethys above, to the east. Dione was about the same distance away, so to the west. Rhea was a bit beyond. Dione and Rhea pretty close together, to the west. Iapetus was about 2 to 3 times further away than Titan. Or Titan was one third of the way.

Almost midnight. One third of the way through the night... Checked the battery level on the recorder: about half. Dimmed the THO lights some more.

Chose the Whirlpool, aka Messier 51 (M51). The galaxy was at the edge of the field. Good go-to performance. A good view. Quite cool. The companion was to my left. Arms swirling with averted vision. Quite big. Beautifully framed in the 38mm. Wispy stuff going off to the right, off the primary. Bright star, HD 117815, at my 11 o'clock position, mag 7.1. Between the star and the galaxies was a flattened triangle with stars TYC 03463-0058 1, TYC 03463-0348 1, and TYC 03463-0587 1, all around mag 11.

I wondered if the field of view presented by my 36mm was slightly wider than the 38mm eyepiece. Very similar...

Decided to stick with targets in the 'hood, in the constellation, or area, so to avoid turning the roof (a lot). I had 5 targets in Canes Venatici.

Headed to the Sunflower or Messier 63 (M63). Near the centre, a good slew. Why is this called the Sunflower, I wondered? Diffused, soft, oval. Uniform, it seemed to me. Canted. Spotted two bright stars below (west of) the galaxy, HD 115270 at mag 9.3 and TYC 03024-1166 1 at 10.9.

Noted the double star at the 2 o'clock position, HJ 1230. Wow. SkyTools says the primary is 10.5 and its companion proper is 13.1. I didn't think the B star that much fainter than the A and field stars. They seemed the same brightness. There's a field star, almost inline with A and B, GSC 03024-0621 at mag 12.7. All blue? Neat.

Heard people chatting outside, including Marko.

Felt like it was getting cooler. Glad I had my winter coat on. Legs were fine, with long johns. Put my toque on.

Slewed to HD 114146 in CVn. Oh. Super-tight pair. aka Struve 1723. Primary was green or blue or aquamarine; companion was orange. About 1 magnitude difference, I thought. Nice double! ST3P says: mag 8.4 and 10.4 and 6" apart. Also spotted the nearby faint stars, GSC 03022-1595 at mag 14.1 and J130822.2+384421 at 13.6. Also noted J130826.3+383900 to the south, mag 13.6 again. CVn 15 and 17 were the bright stars at my 2 o'clock position.

Saw a triple of super-faint stars to the north-east.

12:07 AM, Sun 17 May 2015. Identified KZA 42. ST3P said all the stars were magnitude 12, in the Object Information box. I thought they were fainter than that. When I did the hover in the atlas, the magnitudes showed as: A, 12.7; B, 14.6; and C, 14.1. Took averted vision to get the B star. I found the C star easier to spot. Made sense. Nutty. Crazy faint.

The no-name eyepiece degraded badly off-centre; it was very crisp in the centre region.

Noted star 15 nearby. On my View Again list. I considered that 15 and 17 must be a binocular target. It shows as a triple. Actually 17 is the primary with 15 as the B star. The C is very close to B. Tried increasing the power with the 12mm (and the 1¼" adapter). [ed: ST3P shows the B-C separation as 1.2".]

12:16 AM. I thought the view soft. Grabbed my Nagler 9mm. Collimation off a little. I was not getting good diffraction rings... Wondered if the mirror diagonal was not square. Gah. Turned the roof a bit. Could not see the companion. ST3P says they are more than 3 mags different. Adding to the difficulty. Zoomed in tightly in the software to learn the angle. Still no joy.

12:27. Headed to NGC 4656. Aah. Fantastic. Can't believe I've never looked at this "needle" galaxy before. For me, up and down. Tried to corroborate my position with bright stars... Wasn't finding them... Where was TYC 02531-1915 1? It was supposed to be above the galaxy...

Hold the phone. I was on the Whale! Oops.

12:29. Heh. Confirmed. The slew dropped me near the Whale galaxy (or NGC 4631 or Caldwell 32) and I kept seeing a blob nearby, particularly with averted vision, to the left. That was NGC 4627, of course. Saw the bright star to the left (north): HD 110464.

Satellite went through, to the left, or north. Brighter than the HD star.

Considered that 4656 was just outside the field. Synced on the Whale. Slewed to the cursor. There it is. Is that the Hockey Stick? Immediately I saw a hook at the end! The hook in the galaxy was on the north-east end. Neato. Can't believe I've never looked at this one before!

[ed: Curiously, SkyTools does not show that the "hook" is another galaxy, NGC 4657. It is however noted, and shown, in SkySafari Plus.]

Saw the star PPM 76706 to the east or above and TYC 02531-1915 1 to the north-east.

Saw the lights of Peter's truck. He was packing up, it looked like.

Slewed into Coma Berenices to NGC 4414. Oh. A little tiny thing. Small spiral with a bright centre. Hints of arms.

12:42. Tiny little spiral. Neat. NGC 4414 is "finest" list. Huh.

Bright star down at the 5 o'clock position HD 108078. At the top, I saw some doubles.

Spotted the LDS star, to the east of the galaxy, LDS 1310. I wondered if the A star was merging with the GSC 02528-0431 very nearby to the south. The one in the middle was a titch brighter. LDS 1310B I had no trouble with. And then there was a field star below, GSC 02528-0521, at mag 13.2. No problem there.

Saw LDS4211A to the north of 1310. It was pretty bright. I saw the B star, which was east of A, about a magnitude or so fainter. [ed: ST3P says A is 11.1 and B is 12.9.]

Considered 17 Comae Berenices. Uh huh. Perfect for binoculars. Primary is super-bright, beige. The companion looked blue or green. Noted the very bright stars in the field: HR 4750 to the north, HD 108805 to the north-east, HD 108486 to the west. That would be interesting in binoculars, 5 stars; of course, the A and B would draw close. Checked the details. Yikes.

[ed: 17 Com was on my View Again list but I'm not sure exactly why. 17 was not on my life list. There was no checkmark in Haas's book...]

B has a companion that is very close but 7 magnitudes different. Wow. I did not see the C star, no way!

12:54. Slewed to the Black Eye aka Messier 64 (M64). Ooh. A ring, or a C-shape, arcing around the centre of the galaxy.

Peter dropped by. He was done, dewed out. I invited him in to have a look through the 11" SCT. Asked if he could see "the shiner."

I looked outside. Wondered if there was some aurora. Or cloud to the north-west.

We talked about the pros and cons of the THO. He got a little disoriented when I turned the roof. He liked the size.

Asked what he looked at: Mercury, of course; Saturn, of course; moons around Saturn. He did his "sky tour" as per the hand controller.

I wondered if we should have some complimentary dew wraps up at the CAO... Soft foam. With Velcro to accommodate different dimensions.

Slewed to NGC 4710 in Com. Tiny, edge-on galaxy. [ed: ST3P says it is a lenticular.]

We discussed the donation equipment. They had some trouble with the mirror diagonals.

We discussed issues in making observatories at the CAO remotely operable.

Gave a SkyTools demo. Used 35 Com for the next target object.

We discussed multi-star systems, types, and classifications. Descriptions like "peanut" or "figure-8."

Peter viewed the double. Asked his impression. He thought the bright one yellowish. Companion is greenish. 2 o'clock position. "An 1/8th of an inch away." He wondered about other star, if it was really far away. I reminded him that the B star was "on top" of the A, one arc-second away. He had another look. He felt the primary was not round.

I noticed the peepers going through their late-night on-off cycles.

1:30. I heard a screeching cat—er, the GBO roof being closed.

Slewed to NGC 6535. Turned the roof. Oh. Super-tiny, according to SkyTools. Synced on nearby star then slewed again. Faint. Not a galaxy; a globular cluster. 46 000 light-years away.

1:55. Interesting. I didn't trust my first impression, that it didn't look like a galaxy. I thought I saw stars in it. Initially, my first impression was that it was an open cluster.

Suggested Saturn. Had to relax the filters to see it on the planning list. Oh, in Libra, technically! Slewed. Nice. Shifted slightly. Lots of moons. Better than it was before. Colourful! Six moons. Iapetus was way out. Three times further out than Titan. Peter spotted something between Titan and the planet: that was either Dione or Rhea. Tethys was bottom-left, easy. ST3P showed Enceladus and Mimas almost touching. Peter, with averted, was certain he saw something at the 2 o'clock position. Planet darker. Ring on the left is in the foreground. Polar cap looked quite dark.

Peter spotted Dietmar heading to the house. Done, perhaps.

Peter offered to bring his WO mirror and Tele Vue eyepiece; I said we could use mine. I fetched my Williams Optics dielectric and Nagler Type 6. The seeing was good. Should give a decent view of the planet... Holy fire truck. 200+ times was good. Seeing was quite good! A little softer but a very nice view. Could not see those other moons. I couldn't.

2:29. Peter, tired, departed.

Checked the whole sky for my next target area. Slewed.

2:33. Chased the double φ (phi) Virginis.

Spotted a triangle to the east. Almost an equilateral.

Stumbled across an interesting tight double, blue and orange. Very faint, mags 9 and 10. NNE of φ. SAO 139964.

Back to phi, aka Σ1846. Super-bright. Wow. Yellow or beige primary. And the orange companion was straight down, much fainter, very close, maybe 3" away. SkyTools said 5" and very different magnitudes, 4.8 vs 9.1. Very challenging at the low power. Had to wait for good seeing. Below, toward the triangle, or the east. Pretty cool. What a great target.

A and C were widely separated, oriented N-to-S. ST3P said 15.8! I could not see it.

Felt tired. Parked the 'scope. Prepared to leave the THO.

2:48. Shut down the recording.


What a great evening! We were not expecting decent conditions for really any evening. So this was a wonderful treat. It was real good to be back at the CAO and in the THO and using the powerful N11. Everything worked very well. I was really happy to see so many interesting objects. Mercury was cool; Saturn amazing. I was glad to have a bit of solo time to do my thing. Got my photon fix.


Asked Greg of Skyhound about NGC 4657: he's not convinced it is a separate galaxy so he doesn't show it. He did assure me, however, that a search will yield 4656.}


I don't know what happened exactly with my notes, the life lists, etc. but I have, indeed, viewed the strange galaxy NGC 4656. In fact, I imaged the Hockey Stick back in June 2014!


Stellarium and others refer to the Hockey Stick as the Crowbar.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

a big Mercury (Blue Mountains)

We enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the deck of the Carr Astronomical Observatory. A stunning reward for waiting out the fog and the rain.

I reminded people that Mercury should be visible. Thomas pointed out Venus and then Jupiter. With Sky Safari on the Android tablet I tried to find the inner most planet. 17° away from the Sun. No joy. I checked the magnitudes. Oh. Mercury was 2-ish.

I went to the Geoff Brown Observatory to fetch the Celestron 10x50 binos. Told Elaine and crew that it should be visible. Best apparition of 2015. Ian D poo-pooed it but I suggested it would be higher than the distant clouds. Back on the deck, I found the binoculars way out of collimation. Perhaps a contributing factor. I simply could not spot the planet.

When I returned to the GBO, they had it in the Celestron 14" SCT. A big crescent, still less than ¼ phase. Lovely. Colour-fringed through the thick air. Old dog Ian was remarking it was the best he had ever seen. It was a good view.

I stood behind the 'scopes in an effort to eyeball it. Still couldn't find it. Damn. Oh well.


I helped Marko find the video record control on this T5i.

Elaine didn't know the hand measurement trick. Phil helped her.

Friday, May 15, 2015

round 1

Delivery by FedEx attempted.

imaging doubles

Also found Gregory Pruden's web page, Splitting Double Stars with your Digital Camera. For a couple of his photos, he shows the effect of zooming on his camera.

found photos of doubles

Stumbled across Jack Schmidling's web page on double stars. Some nice photos, some in colour! Shot on film!

I noted his remarks on the "art" of imaging doubles:
Long exposures and tedious guiding are not required but perfect tracking over short periods and the best seeing conditions are mandatory.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

order submitted

Tony submitted the order to the sign shop.

Looking forward to our attractive signs for the solar system walk at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

chose 26

Checked the online Lee Filter colour information page.

26 it is.

Binary Universe: Clear Outside

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

The third installment of my Binary Universe column was included, this time on the Clear Outside tablet app.

The very informative weather app is made by First Light Optics in the UK.

finalised order

Tony updated us on the solar system walk sign quotation.

The version 5 text was revised slightly. Letter page sizing applied.

We would go with Silver Metal colour for the Alupanel plate with white vinyl. Rounded corners with a 1.5-inch radius. Delivery is one week.

He was hoping to place the order tomorrow morning.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

more sign changes

Rolled out version 5 of the signs. Improved wording after review by the expanded team. In particular, we simplified the wording around light-time. Added colour.

Tony suggested rounded corners.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

edited the signs

Sent out a revision for the solar system walk signs. More text. Repositioned planets near top-right.

We decided on the Alupanel for durability reasons, the silver-metal finish.

Friday, May 08, 2015

considered new signs

Tony sent out a note about the solar system walk sign panels. He included my infographic samples with the scaled planet and text.

He included a quote from his local sign guy which showed two options: one using Alupanel with professional grade vinyl and the other with clear acrylic with reverse vinyl place on back side of panel. The pricing was very acceptable. We could add some colour without an extra charge.

Tony also proposed mounting the signs on a backer panel of door plywood to support the signs and provide a measure of protection.

He asked for feedback and commentary. In particular, he wanted to firm up the text of each panel.