Tuesday, June 30, 2015

updated limits

Updated the life list magnitude limits page. Didn't realise I was in the mag 15 range with the Celestron 14-inch... Cool.

telescope mag limits

Created a quick (crude) lookup table for telescope apertures noting the limiting magnitude. It's over on the tips and tricks page in the lumpy companion...

another 90!?

Fired up John Repeat Dance and added the three new quasars to my list.

Then, on a whim, I used the Pro edition power search. Objects brighter than mag 15.

Holy smokes: over 90 quasars appeared!

That'll keep us busy...

three more quasars

Considered Ian's query again, about an unknown quasar.

Typed "visible quasars" into Google and it returned a bunch of hits. Dove into the article "Far, Far Away—Getting Started in Quasar Observing" by Christopher Sarnecki on the University Lowbrow Astronomers web site.

Three new candidates!
  • PHL 1811 at magnitude 13.8 in Capricornus
  • MSH 04-12, 14.9, Eridanus
  • Markarian 205, 14.5, Draco
Made a note to add them to my SkyTools list.

Monday, June 29, 2015

updated address

Updated my mailing address with the RASC national using the e-store. Oops. Forgot to do this a while ago...

another quasar

Ian W asked me about a quasar in Draco, if I had ever heard of it. PG 1634+706, at magnitude 14.7, near HD 150141. No... Simultaneously fired up SkyTools 3 Pro and wikipedia. The web page appeared first:
Q1634+706 is a quasar that holds the distinction of being the most distant object usually visible in an amateur telescope.  At magnitude 14.4, it appears star-like, though it is at a distance of 12.9 billion light-years.  The light of Q1634+706 has taken 8.6 billion years to reach Earth, a discrepancy attributable to the expansion of the universe.
Ian thought it "awfully bright for such a distant object." I said, not necessarily. Quasar 3C 273 is between mag 12 and 13.

In ST3P, I checked my visible quasars list. Nothing in Dra. I turned on the constellation borders, showed more star labels, and star hopped. Found it. The app too reported it a quasar. Mag 14.6. But! It was not on my list... Huh! Added.

picked up SN Jul/Aug

Picked up, at last, the July/August issue of SkyNews... Cool, Jim and Stu have photos within! Lynn too!

I look forward to reading the article on the Thirty Meter Telescope. I like how they showed the equivalent measurement in inches... 1200! My "big gun" 8-inch is a tiny spec compared to that... Wow.

Enjoyed the end article on the Perseids. Hopefully we'll get good weather...

This reminded me that I had forgotten to change my address. Will need to inform RASC national...

Just in time!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

sad day

Charlie looked distraught.

My heart went out to him and the teams.

made sequence charts

Uploaded camera-intervalometer notes and timing sequence charts to the lumpy companion tips and tricks page. In particular, one for locking up the DSLR mirror.


The Falcon 9 exploded!

watched the launch

A beautiful day for a launch.

I readied to watch the SpaceX rocket blast off from the Florida space coast, headed for the International Space Station. Among other things, it was carrying the new International Docking Adapter (IDA1).

A couple of minutes into the flight, I started to get very anxious.

And suddenly it went wrong. Some sort of explosion or disintegration. A white plume.

Then it broke apart.

Oh no.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

hacked the GB30

Rainy day stuff. Finally built the "adapter" cables for the NOCO GB30 battery. Can still boost a car; can now easily drive 12 volt direct current telescope accessories...

Used UCHEN goof-proof power connectors from Digi-Key and big gauge speaker wire from Active Surplus. Can't remember where the female CLA came from...

Friday, June 26, 2015

reviewed camera controls

Reviewed some Canon camera settings. Mirror lock up in particular. Tested controlling the lock up with the intervalometer—it worked! Just need to build that into the exposure (or LONG on the Neewer) time. For example, LONG equals required exposure time plus the camera self-timer value, be it 2 seconds or 10 seconds. The intervalometer triggers the camera, the self-timer starts, the mirror goes up, the self-timer period ends, then the shutter opens. I also reviewed the custom settings, C1, C2, etc. Reprogrammed C1, in fact, for bulb, as it was 0.4 seconds and kept resetting to that. Finally, I put an extra lanyard on it!


Made infographics to help me remember.


We were going to go to the observatory this week end. But, given the worsening forecast, Elaine and Tony decided to postpone.

This pushed repairs off—mower carb, Ian's mount, Elaine's laptop, Tony's mount—for a bit.

Monday, June 22, 2015

alert from Phil

Phil must have programmed alerts... He shared with Tony and me that B&H was selling the Rokinon fisheye for USD $70 off of their regular price of 259. That's a very good price! Particularly when Ken Rockwell, in his good review, said it was a "steal at 290."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

she enjoyed her visit

Risa posted her blog entry on her first visit to the CAO this season. She did another, inspiring, mini-marathon, this time using the spring list from Turn Left at Orion.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

cut new bottom board

Cut a new board from the Baltic birch. Simple rectangle. Same width (6½") but longer (12"). This will be the new bottom plate for the barn door tracker (version 2) with protection for the motor and extra space to mount the finder scope.

planets and doubles (Blue Mountains)

9:00 PM, Friday 19 June 2015. Venus, Jupiter, Moon. Lovely.

10:35 PM. Venus. Put in the zero length adapter.

10:50. Elaine asked about a flyover. Was it the ISS? No... Was travelling north to south. Bright and low. The light sail?!

10:53. Spotted some meteors.

10:56. I was getting good slews, good pointing.

12:27 AM, Saturday 20 June 2015. Viewed 84 Vir. I thought B was obvious in the 27mm with the C14. Very tight, very close. Big mag difference. B in SW direction. Could not see J134304.6+033124.

[ed: I had viewed back on May 22 and logged it in SkyTools. But I had not added it to the ST3P life list nor removed it from the View Again.]

12:50 AM. Viewed Saturn. Could not see Enceladus or Mimas in the C14 or the Dob20.

12:52. M13 was straight up.

1:10. Helped Risa find Saturn.

1:24. Tried for Nova Sgr 2 with the Celestron binos - nothing. Fainter than mag 9.1.

1:35. Conditions: 10 min avg 19.3 km/h; south, due; gusts 29; humidity 66; barometer 1018.1; temp 11.7; current 8.8.

1:47. Viewed a cool triple: orange, red, and blue. In a straight line. Equidistant. PPM 20621. Oriented NW to SE. Faint but colourful. Not far from the Cat's Eye. Inline with GSC 04212-0753; almost perpendicular to TYC 04212-0891 1.

[ed: Might this be a candidate for my double star programme?]

Discussed the imaging issue with Risa and Tony.

A long chat in the Warm Room.

Stayed up to dawn.

Enjoyed a night cap with Tony and Steve.

Friday, June 19, 2015

received Ps book

Received a Photoshop book from Steve, shortly after he arrived the CAO. Adobe Photoshop CS2 for Photographers by Martin Evening. Awesome!

Some rainy day homework...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

heater repaired

Fixed the busted electronic hand warmer. Bad solder joint on one of the heater element junctions. Just in time for dew season...

Monday, June 15, 2015

magnitude vs. aperture

While updating some double star information, I wondered what aperture is required to see a particular magnitude. I recalled the table from All About Telescopes that showed an infographic with magnitudes and the required aperture.

But I wanted something to show this the other way around... I wondered if such a thing exists. Did a quick search.

Found a limiting magnitude table on The Wilderness Center Astronomy Club's web site. It'll do, for now.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

considered relocating finder

I don't recall exactly my train of thought but increasingly I was worried about space and weight issues with the barn door tracker. With the camera, camera grib for extra power, and a long lens, would the payload weight become to great for the drive motor. My design has the finder scope on the top plate. Did it need to be there? As well, if it could be on the bottom plate, it would be out of the way. This might afford greater freedom of movement and avoid collisions when aiming the camera. I saw a number of designs where the finder was very near the hinge. But then I spotted Eli Perelman's design with a large bottom plate with the finder scope outboard. Ah ha!

wrong stand-offs

Attached the 15mm hex stand-offs (received back in May) to the Expanded Scale Voltmeter circuit board and then considered how to mount the board in the red translucent project box. And then suddenly decided I didn't like the arrangement.

I'd rather mount the PCB to the bottom plate, that is the thin part. With these new long stand-offs, the PCB would have to be mounted into the box or on the plate nose first. And that would make calibration adjustments difficult. The PCB would have to be unmounted from the stand-offs to do any changes. Well. Unless I want to drill small pilot holes in the box. Ugh. No. Also, I want to keep water or dew out of the unit, if I'm going to use it in the field.

If I mount the board to the bottom plate, with thin 2mm spacers, facing up, then it will be much easier to calibrate, if need be. OK. Spacers then for the next Digi-Key order...

Regardless, the system works. With the styling yellow jumper and alligator clips from the Digi-Key order back on 17 April, I can easily use the ESV for testing batteries.

it's alive!

Amazing. Philae's alive! The European Space Agency comet lander just sent data to Earth!

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Had another look for the 2-inch dew heater and Kendrick Type IV controller. No luck. Lost or stolen. Or somehow thrown out with the recycling!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

quickly cropped (Blue Mountains)

Finally converted (from raw to JPG) the best tracking shot from last weekend. Slightly cropped but otherwise unprocessed.

Moon rising. Saturn in Scorpius. Phil's neat lens. Steve's histogram help.

Canon 40D, 180 seconds (intervalometer), f/9 or f/11, 8mm Rokinon fisheye, daylight white balance, custom barn door tracker, manually focused.

uploaded picnic photos

I uploaded the group shot and award pics to the (private) RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group for the 2015 Awards Picnic (and Open House) at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Then I, as I corrected and converted, uploaded all the others. Rockets, hikers, astronomers, kids, families, meat, ice crystals, etc.




award picnic photos up

I noticed a bunch of award picnic photos on the (public) RASC Toronto Centre Facebook page this morning...




Wednesday, June 10, 2015

attended council meeting

Participated (via Skype) in the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting at the DDO.

transferred list from ST3P to SS+

Holy moley.

I wanted to try importing an observing list into SkySafari Plus, in particular, from SkyTools 3 Pro. As I read the Southern Stars web site FAQ and on-board help notes, I started to think this would not be easy: the SS+ format, while in a text file, is not trivial. And then I spotted a particular line in their sample, "ObjectID=4,0,701." What did that mean? Where would I get the peculiar object number from? Huh.

So, I surfed into the Southern Stars Yahoo!Group (recently joined) and typed "skytools" (with slight guilt) in the Search Conversations field. Ah ha! Found the topic "Exporting Skytools List to Sky Safari 4 on IPAD." Tom D asked if it could be done. Bill T said no. Then pjgivan said, yes it can, using the Export Observing List in SkyTools. Damn! Checked ST3P. Look at that!

No doubt, I read about this feature before but it had no relevance at the time...

Did a test with my edge-on galaxies observing list in ST3P. Transferred the .skylist file to the Android via the John Charles share. [ed: The file needs to be placed in the "Observing Lists" folder on the internal memory drive of the tablet.] Very impressive! Not everything went across but, hey, I'm rather pleased I didn't have to manually transcribe.

Now I'm a happy camper.


And I went the other way. Sorta. I had an edge-on galaxy in a SkySafari list, NGC 4388, that wasn't in my SkyTools list. Added.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

tried pano in SS+

First attempt at a panoramic background in SkySafari+. Dietmar's image, again.

Not bad...

Sunday, June 07, 2015

barn door memo

I should document some lessons learned with the barn door tracker...

Need to watch the weight balance point or centre of gravity shift when the top plate has risen quite high. When out at the end of the curved rod, there's a chance the top plate could flop open.

To speed set-up, do a very long exposure at the beginning. 3 or 4 minutes. And use this to dial out the drift.

Perform daytime polar scope alignment. Don't forget to do this.

tried tracking

Bloody Moon. Still I tried out the barn door tracker.

Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye, 120 seconds (intervalometer), ISO 1000, daylight white balance, RAW, manually focused, custom tracker. f-stop unknown.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

tried SS with ISS

Tested SkySafari during the flyover of the International Space Station. Neat.

Sun stuff (Blue Mountains)

Saw a sun dog earlier in the day. Now I spotted a sun pillar.

shot the OHAP 2015

I was asked to shoot photos for the Open House and Awards Picnic.

Risa dialed in to accept her award. That was fun.

applied correct vinyl

I applied the corrected vinyl lettering to the solar system walk signs. Proper scale for the system. Our ocean tides caused by the Moon. Missing periods and hyphens. Done. At last.

My little personal mission...

Friday, June 05, 2015

what to do

Asked Lance his thoughts on the old Edmund. Should I change it? Turn it into a Dobsonian? Then I'd have a grab-and-go. I could do that in a non-invasive way... Should I change the focuser? It's not great. I have a 2" Crayford-style focuser. But I'd have to alter the tube, cut a hole. His take was: it's a classic telescope! Hmmm.

shared ride with Lance

Met Lance at the Davisville subway. Bound for the CAO. It was the Awards Picnic weekend.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

joined SS group

Joined the SkySafari Yahoo!Group so to sort the field rotation issue.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

guided people to room

Helped people find the RASC Toronto Centre meeting room. Our first use of the Earth Sciences Building at the University of Toronto.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

heading to Saturn (Etobicoke)

Noted the full Moon and a very bright Arcturus overhead. Saturn lead me home.

two Newts

Al contacted me.

He has a 6" Newtonian on a Dobsonian mount that needs some assembly and a better secondary mirror support. It was a kit, wherein you built the housing and mount. Also a friend just gave him a 4" Newtonian with tripod, eyepieces, etc.

Wanted to know if I wanted them. Or if not, if the Society might use them.