Sunday, August 30, 2015

tracking software for N11

Popped into my head that maybe the NexStar 11 could be put into service for satellite tracking! I sent a query to John Eccles, developer of Satellite Tracker...

on meridian flips

I think I just figured out how I can avoid a meridian flip with an ISS flyover pass. I think it is simply math. It has to be in the north. More importantly, it cannot rise higher than one's latitude. For us, that's just under 45 degrees. I think when something is below the latitude value and in the north, then it makes the mount move mainly in Declination. My brain started to hurt as I tried to do that math.

I had wondered, briefly, at why I was encountering the meridian with the August 14 pass. On review, in various software apps, I saw the Station rose higher than 45. Actually, as soon as I looked at the chart from Heavens Above, I saw there was an issue. The path went through the Little Dipper, i.e. above Polaris. Stellarium was particularly useful.

Light bulb: I will need to pay more attention to the Highest point Altitude value in the flyover table! This one: 57°. That said, low in the north presents other problems: the roof gable; more air. Maybe I should use a fork mount...


Dark frames applied...

Better still.

made a large star trails version

Made a high-rez version of the star trails, after converting the RAW files to JPGs, straight, no size reduction! Unlike the small version... Way better. It's causing StarStaX to churn. S'OK. I got time.

View full screen. Enjoy.

Used StarStaX 0.07: lighten blending mode, comet mode off, cumulative image saving off. Oops. Forgot to remove the dark frames...

predicting flares

Found a cool tool: the SOTERIA flare predictor! This solar flare detection and prediction web page shows the Sun with a grid. Different frequencies can be viewed. You can roll backwards or forwards by 1, 7, or 27 days. It also shows Catania sunspot groups, active regions, and plages.

spotted a little galaxy

Just found a tiny edge-on galaxy MCG 11-18-17, aka PGC 53422, in my comet photo from mid-July. SkyTools says magnitude 15.30 B. Wow. It's the little smudge directly below RR UMi, about half the separation of the comet from the star. Zoom in!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

another uprising

Asked Nicole what was up with all the white light in one of her Starfest photos. She said a River Place resident protested Starfest. Oh. Is that so. So much for dark conditions...

Friday, August 28, 2015

tried comet mode

Upon Steve's suggestion, I tried comet mode in StarStaX. Using the images captured for the still shot. Neat! I like how the meteors persist.

Looking North Perseids Comet Mode from Lumpy Darkness on Vimeo.

Still using the small JPGs. For testing...

Thursday, August 27, 2015

gonna try PIPP

Wanted to have another go at the Saturn image stacking. Reviewed my notes from the Jupiter triple-shadow event. I had used Wesley's NINOX to pre-process. But the notes said it was for 64-bit Windows. Ah. That threw me. Re-read Ian W's message. Leclerc uses Garry's PIPP. I downloaded it.

tried dimmer

Reviewed the specifications of the dimmer units:
  • working temperature: -20 to 60°C
  • input supply voltage: 12 to 24 VDC
  • maximum load current: 8 amperes
Tested one of the four dimmer units. First with a super bright red LED and then with the 2-inch Kendrick dew heater wrap.

With the knob at OFF, it output 0 volts and 0 amps.

With the knob turned slightly, it output 12+ volts and low amps.

With the knob at maximum (over 270°), the amperage read as 0.27.

One will need to be careful with the polarity. Particularly the input...

Immediately I started to think of applications:
  • dedicated heater for finder scope
  • dedicated heater for camera lens
  • tripod lighting
Lots of ideas... And immediately I wondered what new parts I'll need. Do I have female RCA plugs for example?

made trails

Had a quick go with StarStaX 0.70. Original images all shot with a Canon 40D and Rokinon 8mm manual lens, f/5.6, 30 seconds each, ISO 1600, daylight, RAW, tripod-mounted, intervalometer. Converted images with Canon DPP. Used the JPGs made for the movie, which were all small, captured on evening of the 12th. Easy!

But, hey, I like it! My first successful long star trails shot.

Cool! Some of the meteors showed up too!


Later I made a large version of the still image. And then a movie using the "comet" mode.

meteor season

Ended up catching about 10 meteors in my long photo run on the evening of the 12th... All shot with a Canon 40D and Rokinon 8mm, f/5.6, 30 seconds each, ISO 1600, daylight, RAW, tripod-mounted, intervalometer. Slight processing in DPP. Taken on 13 Aug 2015. All times after midnight.

Image 5877. 12:28:57. Bottom right. Likely a Capricornid as it is going in to Perseus. In fact, this is a dual-photo event. See next...

Image 5878. 12:29:32. Bottom right. This is the end of the Capricornid meteor. And it is interesting to note there are dual trails!

Image 5952. 1:12:42. Top left. Perseid, faint, long.

Image 5984. 1:31:22. Centre. Perseid, bright.

Image 6069. 2:20:57. Bottom centre. Perseid, very faint.

Image 6081. 2:27:57. Bottom right. Another two-frame event. Perseid, bright, heading right, with a bright coma.

Image 6082. 2:28:32. Bottom right. The tail end of the two-frame event. Perseid.

Image 6106. 2:42:32. Left side. Perseid.

Image 6139. 3:01:46. Bottom left. Capricornid, super bright.

Image 6158.  3:12:51. Right of centre. Perseid, faint.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

council meeting after summer break

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting at the St Joan of Arc church. Wow. Very intense. Lots to do.

Received a package from Tony. One of two.

Handed off the 8" Dob. Karen happily agreed to take it back to the DDO.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

happy anniversary Gaia

Stumbled across the article at the European Space Agency site on the one year anniversary of the Gaia probe. It was interesting to learn that it is working well. It has recorded:
  • 272 billion positional or astrometric measurements 
  • 54.4 billion brightness or photometric data points
  • 5.4 billion spectra
On its way to improving our stellar epoch data.

Monday, August 24, 2015

examined Rubylith

Mr Markov showed me a piece of red film. He assured me it was Rubylith. Immediately I noticed it was two layers (as per wikipedia's entry). I also saw that it was translucent: if not mounted flush to a screen, the image was soft. I suggested he test it on his smartphone; the capacitive touchscreen responded. He purchased it a long time ago at an art supply store. Too small, unfortunately, for this home computer displays in the observatory. He wants some of the Lee Filter 026 transparent film that I have.

Fanutti's photos

Steven shared photos from last weekend at the CAO.

He and his group left early in the morning...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

dogs spotted (Wasaga)

As I drove west, I noted the clouds. Thickening clouds. Which meant no astronomy. But when I shifted my view, I spotted, as I expected, a sun dog. A very bright surprising tall prismatic pillar left of the Sun.

soft sky (Killarney Provincial Park)

I really wanted to get some wide-field constellation shots from Killarney. I had been too tired the night before so tonight was possibly the last chance.

When Tony and I looked at the sky from the rocky look-out, we agreed it was soft. The transparency, to me, looked poor.

I wondered if it was to be expected, after spotting the deep red Sun earlier...


No shooting tonight...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

reddened Sun (Killarney Provincial Park)

I spotted a deep red Sun through the trees. Oh oh. That didn't look good. I posited the colour was due to forest fires somewhere...

Thursday, August 20, 2015

to guide

Ian sent me some AutoGuider info... Exciting!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

receive NOVA request

Ian, the new EPO chair, reached out to the past NOVA presenters asking for help and gauging interest. He's getting ready to launch the fall course(s).

Monday, August 17, 2015

aurora at ARO

They got some great aurora at the Algonquin Radio Observatory. I enjoyed Steve's photo on Facebook.

Thoth in the news

A member posted a note on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group about Thoth receiving the patent for a space elevator. Shared a link for the article at CP24. Interesting. That would be interesting... Big ideas.

can one buy the plate

Blake Nancarrow: Hello, I was curious if a face plate or facia part could be purchased for a Meade LX200 along with the washer or gasket used at the power plug? regards...

Meade Customer Service Manager: Hello... Thanks for the inquiry and opportunity to assist. They cannot no as the optics are a matched set. We can however quote a price for optics replacement which varies with the size of scope obviously. The scope would need to come in for this service. Best Regards...

BN: ... Thanks for getting back to me. I think there's a bit of confusion. I'm not asking about optical parts. I'm asking about the cover plate. Again: I was curious if a face plate or facia part could be purchased for a Meade LX200 along with the washer or gasket used at the power plug?

MCSM: Perhaps you are referring to the aluminum front dust cover? If so yes just need to know the size scope and we can quote you a price. If not could you send a photo of what you need?

BN: Yes [the cover]. (I sent a link.)

MCSM: That is an LX200 power panel our item number 820000 and your cost would be $246. If you would like to place an order we just need your full mailing address and can do a phone call for the payment information.

BN: That's the price for the circuit board, right?

MCSM: Correct, the complete board and panel.

BN: Again, with respect, that's not what I asked for.

MCSM: The photo you sent is what we call an LX200 power panel. We do not sell the board without the panel. It is a completed unit in our inventory.

BN: That's what I needed to know. Thank you for your time.


Nicole reported a problem with her mount. Crikey. Apparently a common issue. Tracking stops suddenly but if you tap the mount it carries on! Gave a few suggestions.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

windy viewing (Blue Mountains)

Switched gears.

10:02 PM. Decided to view the crazy double star from the Sky & Telescope summer list, γ (gamma) CrA. This was about the best time to view Corona Australis.

10:10. Had another go. Two stars. 1.4". A fast-mover. 122 years. Similar magnitudes, 4.2 and 5.1. Interesting, according to the software. But I simply could not split them. Soupy. Swimming. Crazy. In SkyTools, I simulated the view in the C14. Tried eyepieces. 18mm. 10mm made them a peanut. 5mm. 3mm made a black line between them. Crazy.

On top of one another. Sadly, maybe I would never be able to split this pair from Ontario. Florida? Real time info: 6.7 airmasses. Ugh. Around 9° above the horizon.

[ed: The split is increasing. A bit of good news. 50 years from now it will be doable!]

Kicked in some strict filters to limit the target objects to good ones... The Obvious option dropped the candidates number to 22.

Windy. Gusting. Checked the local weather data: 10 minute average wind speed was 16.1 km/h, from the south-west, 16.1 immediate, high was 29. Humidity 81%. Barometer 1015.2. Temperature 23.3°C, dew point 19.8.

Oh. ρ (rho) Cap. Wait. That would be better in one hour.

Planned to remove the dew cap from the SCT.

What about Campbell's Hydrogen Star? Near Albireo. Up high. Slewed.

9 Cygni. And then a little bit up from that...

Reviewed the temp again: inside 25; outside 23.

10:27. I saw a double. Faint stars. AG 387.

AG 387 was to the south of the centre of the field. I noted a large Christmas tree shape. The bright star to the north was HD 184907. ST3P said it was a pair but I could not see the companion. I noted what appeared a double to the east but ST3P did not show them as related. I was still over a field away from Campbell's. Noticed Minkowski's Footprint nearby. I could view it later. Planned the star hop from my current spot. Up. Straight up from the bright star. OK.

10:33. Got lost. So restarted the star hop...

Finally landed on it.

Ian W dropped by. Had a look. Offered to get his Pentax 10.5mm ocular. And his UHC filter. The Context Viewer showed it was a decent size. Also a good size in the 40D FOV... Hmmm.

Ian was imaging. Or trying. He too was hoping the wind would die down.

10:43. I felt cool. Put my sweater on.

I thought the view better in the Pentax. Ian liked it. We could see fainter stars.

Wind 20.9, high 32, average 19.3. Had hoped it would die down. Humidity was 85%. Higher. Verified the dew heaters were on.

About to hit the meridian. Tricky to find so I checked the pointing spot in TheSky 6. Very near a bunch of UCAC 2.0 stars. Lame. Tried to find one with a "good" name.

I would have imaged it. The wind foiled that plan.

11:12. I was not enjoying the wind.

11:30. Decided to pack up. Too windy. Started thinking about tomorrow...

we all tried (Blue Mountains)

We readied for the ISS pass. Bev was on the back lawn facing north, with my 8mm lens. She was going to try a 5 or 6 minute exposure for me. Ian W was ready in his shed.

I heard them spot a good meteor...

I had my Canon DSLR connected to the Tele Vue 101 refractor this time. I knew it would be smaller. But I didn't care. I was very interested in simply getting it. Backyard EOS was ready to record.

9:42. Opened Track Satellite dialog. I waited for it to clear the building outline.

I started tracking. The mount responded.

Told the group it was over the horizon. Suggested to Bev as soon as she saw it should could start shooting. I could see it over the tree line. Just left of our big tree.

Asked Bev if she wanted to start shooting.

It was nearly in the centre of the field of the big 'scope! Dang. It was fantastic. I could see the solar panels and the centre structure. I could see the stars flying by in the background. Neat view. Just after Ian D looked it went out of the field! Weird.

And the mount stopped.

I headed out to the lawn. Bev had turned the camera to the south-east. Not sure why. I thought she said the first exposure completed but it didn't seem long enough to me.

Wheelband's shot was amazing, as it passed M13. Super bright. He used his Nikon.

Copyright © 2015. Ian Wheelband.

I got 81 frames (I forgot to hit Record early!). Reviewed the video. I didn't see anything... Bummer. Don't know what happened. Bad exposure maybe? Too bad.

Reviewed the camera settings. 1/60 of a second. ISO 1000. Daylight. 1000 frames. To AVI+JPG. Quality was set to small—didn't notice that before. Anyway.

Reset the mount.

10:03. The software was really slow. Closed BYE; started SkyTools.

Keep on tryin'!


Weird. Months later I reviewed the frames and found some of them contained the ISS! What!

caught a few frames! (Blue Mountains)

Captured a few frames of the ISS! 68 in total. These are frames 20, 21, and 22.

[ed: I am not sure what happened at the time but when I reviewed the video at the site, I did not see anything. But, clearly, I was on it, for a time.]

Tiny in the Tele Vue 101 'scope.

Canon 40D, ISO 1000, 1/60th second.

colourful aurora

On Facebook, Ian posted a very nice aurora shot from last night.

fun in the Sun (Blue Mountains)

After checking with Ian W, I configured the Geoff Brown Observatory for solar observing. Everyone enjoyed looking at the Sun in hydrogen-alpha. I helped the boys take photos as well.

Also, wrote down the names of the software tools for stacking images...

viewed Venus (Blue Mountains)

Tony tagged Venus in the day time! He was really happy. It was an excellent view in his refractor.

This was possible because of the steps (and care) he took the night before. After a good alignment, I encouraged him to hibernate the mount (it has a Park function) and keep it powered. Then it was just a simple go-to command.


Ian W tried, for a long time, to image it.

mostly coloured doubles (Blue Mountains)

Started and stopped the audio recorder this evening... To preserve space.

11:50 PM, Sat 15 Aug 2015. Wanted to look at some double stars.

Decided to try a new method, the "chart method" in SkyTools, working from the Interactive Atlas, as opposed to the list. I checked all my preferred targets in the list then displayed the IA with all the checked entries.

Chose ο (omicron) Ophiuchi (aka 39) from the RASC Coloured Doubles list. Really low, just above the horizon. Swimming. Just a simple double. Easy split. Orange and blue, I thought. About 1 or 2 magnitudes different. Bev had a look. The Observer's Handbook said it was orange and yellow. SkyTools 3 Pro said they were 1.6 magnitudes different. Viewed in both 'scopes. Splittable in the Tele Vue 101mm with a 10mm eyepiece, i.e. 54x. [ed: Haas says "tangerine orange and silvery white." I found it on View Again list, not sure why. Removed it.]

Bev asked about the orange star to the north-west, low. I guessed it was Arcturus. She thanked me for the star show.

I could hear people out on the Observing Pad.

Next target. A big hop. 41 Aquarii.

12:07 AM, Sun 16 Aug 2015. Warm yellow. Really hard to pick the colour of the secondary. Maybe pale blue or pale green. The A and B were obvious. RASC described the stars as yellow, blue, and very tight. [ed: Haas says yellowish peach and pale violet. Webb says reddish and blue.]

ST3P said it was a quad so I returned to the ocular to dig out the others. Checked the chart. Nailed 'em...

[ed: Not sure why, again, but 41 Aqr was already on my View Again list. I decided to leave it on, so to have another good look.]

"How's it going in here?" Sue and Chris V wandered in, along with some from the Kuan party, interested in the Dumbbell. I slewed to Messier 27 (M27). Talked about how many planetary nebulae showed lobes. Chris looked up the distances. While waiting, we spotted some meteors. And we talked about rainbows and unicorns. Again. The president popped in, asked if he could go in. Please do. I slewed to the next object. And edge-on galaxy. NGC 7331 (Caldwell 30). It did not look great. Bad transparency?

Ian W said there were not a lot of people outside. Wondered about packing up gear at the Observing Pad. He offered to bring in the Oberwerk binoculars. We considered leaving the 8-inch Dob and eyepiece case out.

Chris and I considered the NGC 7640, 7814, the Splinter. The Spindle? He said it was also known as Messier 102 (M102). ST3P showed it above the two airmass...

12:31 AM. Slewed. Odd. Way too low...

Oops. The M101-102 confusion. Slewed again in TheSky 6.

Went for WZ Cassiopeiae. Another target from the OH.

12:57. WZ was an incredible pair. A was an orange star and the B star beside it was blue. Fantastic colours. The RASC table says they are red and blue. ST3P shows A is a C-class star.

SkyTools said WZ was a four-star system. The designations were unusual with P and b (yes, lowercase) partners. I thought the small letters was for spectroscopic pairs... The system formed a spire with the P star (aka HD 240474) starting it off. Great colours.

ST3P also showed many pairs in the area... There was a faint pair due north (but unrelated stars) with TYC 04014-1721 1. And then there was another pair, with TYC 04014-1227 1, almost the same separation and orientation, a bit further away, and slightly west of the first faint pair. And then there was another pair, with PPM 11841, directly north-west this time, beyond the P star, same separation as the other faint pairs, but a different angle [ed: Known double, aka STI 1248]. I noted the line of three faint stars to the west, with TYC 04014-0621 1. And some bright stars to the west-south-west, including HD 224655. Interestingly, all the stars were similar brightnesses. Pretty neat. Wonderful stars in a rich field.

[ed: Not in Haas's book!]

I offered to hold doors as gear was moved in.

1:04. Chose HD 1429, aka Σ24 (Struve) for my next target.

Tony returned the Manfrotto tripod with squeeze-grip. Had a peek in the eyepiece. Noted an orange star. Still on WZ. "Amazing colours," I said. Chris had a look. I shared the stellar class info.

Slewed, finally.

1:10. HD 1429: yellow and blue. Very pale colours. My colours agreed with RASC and Haas. Very tight. Very similar intensities. Just barely detectable in the Tele Vue. And fainter.

I noted the triangle of faint stars to the north-east. And the fairly bright star (TYC 01733-0959 1) to the south.

Noted I was close to Almach... Slewed. Then increased the magnification. Headed out to the Observing Pad to see if I could get a better view in Ian's big Dob. Could not see the other components.

1:39. Once again, I found myself confused about this system... I would need to re-view.

2:16. γ1 (gamma) was the orange star; γ2 was the blue. D was much fainter. C was not possible, being far too close. Had another look in the C14 (with the 18mm). Tried to excavate the D star. Hrmm.

I could see GSC 02837-1813 at mag 14.7 on the way to TYC 02837-1793 1 mag 11.2 star. Both to the west. Both on the same side as the D star. ST3 said D was mag 15.0. Kind of frustrating. In terms of the coloured doubles objective, I've seen this target. But I really wanted to coax out another star...

Headed to 12 Ceti.

2:26. Yellow and blue. Or yellow and orange. Comes and goes! RASC said yellow and blue. [ed: Smyth is similar.] Could not split in the TV101.

ST3P said it was a triple. I saw the C star, at the right angle to A and B. Well away.

Noted the hockey stick of stars below or to the south-west. Awesome.

Wayne popped in. He faired well this evening. Got some good astro images. Figured out Parallel and PHD issues. Took notes. Good. The locking knob issue was sorted. Also jumped on the bandwagon and shot some aurora photos. He said the mozzies were bad, although not biting him. He asked me to keep an eye out for red light bars. Headed home.

Slewed to my next prey.

2:38. Could see a pair in the Tele Vue and Celestron. Fairly empty field.

I was not sure I was in the right area. Confirmed! HD 5780, aka Σ80: yellow and blue, in the C14. This matched the OH description. Orange and blue, in the TV101—first impression. Gould said "deep yellow and ashy." Right. Widely separated.

There was a dim, greyish star to the west. That was C, according to ST3P. Nearly a right angle to AB. Very wide. Easy.

A and B pointed to the bright star HD 5804 to the right or south-east.

Spotted a double star off to the left or north: BAL 949. Very faint. Blue stars. Nearly the same alignment as 5780 AB.

Oh. Near Uranus! Zipped over...

2:44. Fantastic colour, of course, in the Tele Vue. Near the bright triple of whitish stars.

The pale blue planet was south-west of a number of bright stars including HD 7542 (mag 9.5) and PPM 144413 (10.0). Didn't notice any moons...

The disc was obvious in the C14.

2:47. I might have seen Oberon. A bit surprised at how far away it was... ST3P noted the magnitude as 14.2. Then again, Titania was mag 14.0. But closer to its host.

I felt tired.

Pressed. 42 Piscium.

2:50. 42 Psc. Yellow and blue. Widely separated. Faint again. Very different magnitudes.

The RASC Observer's Handbook notes this pair as topaz and emerald. Well then. [ed: RASC appears to have drunk the same Kool-Aid as Haas. I decided to leave in my View Again... to have another chance to be impressed by the colours.]

I also spotted the faint star, in-line with A and B, GSC 00602-0772 at mag 14.9!

Noted the pair below (west), SAO 91862. Very faint. Tight.

Decided to view star 55, aka Σ46. A very short hop to the left. Perhaps 2 magnitudes different?

2:54. Nice pair. Very tight at 54x. Yellow and blue. Just a pair. ST3P said 5.4 and 8.6 therefore a delta of 3 mags. RASC said orange and blue and faint. Haas said citrus-orange and blue. Webb said "very yellow and very blue." Hartung said "orange yellow and ashy."

Going on 3 o'clock. I chose to close up. I was pretty happy with the progress, more RASC coloured doubles knocked down.

Shut down the observatory. Grabbed my sunglasses (for the morning) and the netbook.

3:02. Signed off.

I was really happy to chip away at a few more doubles...

another quasar (Blue Mountains)

Ian W asked about quasar suggestions. I looked up another one from my candidate list. PHL 1811. In Capricorn.

We chased it down with the 20" Dobsonian and SkyTools.

Near the little arc of stars. Part of the small open L. Fairly easy.

The deets: Redshift (z): 0.19. Light Time: 2.2 Gyr. Magnitude: 13.9. Didn't smash any records but appropriate, for the conditions.

Nick was very happy. His first quasar.

aurora again (Blue Mountains)

The aurora popped up again.

Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm, manually focused, 30 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 1600, daylight WB, RAW, tripod mounted, slight processing in DPP.


I was intrigued to learn the Paul had never seen the northern lights north of the border...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

forgot to help

One of the boys asked me if he could try photographing with his point-and-shoot camera through the telescope. I said sure. I said we had a bracket. But then I got distracted. Felt bad that I forgot.

he captured Saturn

Helped Rohan shoot Saturn on the C14 with his Canon DSLR using my t-ring and 2" nose piece. He was very accomplished with his camera. I was impressed. I guided him through the steps to shoot some stills. And then a movie.

tried to fix camera connection

Tried to help Elaine and Tony with their SBIG camera. Very weird stuff. We could only get the camera recognised occasionally. I was unclear about which computer and cable had been successfully used in the past. I started to wonder if it was a fault inside the camera—I did not like the degree of movement at the USB plug.

set up the Dob

I set up the 8" Dobsonian on the Observing Pad for Sohel and family to use. Aligned the finder scope. Reviewed operations. And good use of the eyepieces and Barlow.


Later I helped him find Saturn.


Found the focuser a bit sticky. Looks like I'll have to fix this one too.

connected with Nicole

Chatted with Nikki. She said Wednesday at Starfest was great for Perseids. Last night, they had a laser light show in the fog! I shared that I had passed out under the stars on Wednesday and that it had been very foggy here too.

made lists

Printed up target lists for the evening. Items appropriate for the aperture and go-to capabilities of the 'scope. Fainter objects, in general for Ian W's Dob; bright targets for Chris V's LightSwitch; and medium hard-to-find items for the C14, which I offered to fly.


Forgot the comets. Annotated those by hand.


Received my dew heater gear, from Nicole, via Paul. Together again!


I returned to the trailer. Ian was asleep.

viewed fog (Blue Mountains)

After removing my camera from the C14, we slewed to Messier 13 (M13).

Skies were not good. Pea-soup, some said.

10:04 PM. While trying to show M13, it kept fading out. Clouds.

Chris V started packing up. I held open doors.

Ian W did a brief sky tour for the Khan family. M13 has about 300 000 stars.

10:11 PM. Then we headed to the Ring Nebula (Messier 57, M57).

I gave a quick demo of TheSky 6 to Sohel. We talked about star hopping. I shared the importance of knowing the field of view. We talked about tuning telescope alignment and that the Paramount didn't need it... Gave him my sketches.

Socked in.

Went back to Saturn. Or at least where it should be. Hoping it would punch through.

A good view of the fog...

Checked the local weather conditions. 99% humidity, no appreciable wind, 1.6 km/h, 10 minute average 2, out of the east, pressure was medium high. The radar did not look good. The Starfesters were in the thick of it. Fogfest? The next day looked good.

Parked the mount. Ian covered the 'scopes and eyepieces. In fact, he pulled the eyepieces and mirror diagonals off and returned them to the cabinet.

10:30. I showed Sohel all my weather tools including Intellicast.

Closed the roof. Ian fired up the dehumidifier.

Kelly, Chris M, Sohel and I chatted for a long time in the Warm Room, on various matters, light gathering capabilities of telescopes, focal length, magnification, targets from the city, hacking gear, open source, citizen science, constellations and proper motion. Lots of questions.

11:07. Bev popped in and asked why it was so bright in the Warm Room. I shared that it was due to the red but intense fluorescent bulb. Orange-red.

Chris M said it was clear! Saturn was too low unfortunately.

11:20. I sensed Chris wanted to do some more observing... I dug out the eyepieces and mirror diagonal... I wondered where Ian W was. In the house? In bed? Chris asked if we should drop the walls; I said no. He turned off the dehumidifier as I opened the roof. The Khans returned.

I homed the mount.

Slewed to the Ring Nebula. I explained it was an exploded star, sending out shells of material, with a small star left behind. Which would slowly fade out. From Charles Messier's catalog, number 57. Difficult to see colour.

Cloud busting... Headed to the Double Cluster. Loose groupings of stars, unlike globular clusters. Messier did not add these to his list. These are found in the New General Catalog. NGC 869 and 884. Shared that these would look good in binoculars.

I talked about telescope types.

11:40. The Khans headed to bed. Chris wondered about M104. Or the galaxy about Ursa Major. I filtered my showpieces list in SkyTools. That gave 34 objects out of 138. Tried NGC 663 (Caldwell 10). A small OC.

Headed to the Draco-Ursa Minor region. ν (nu) Draconis. Kelly said "two little white specks." Yep.

Slewed to Messier 101 (M101), above the handle of the Big Dipper. We could not see it...

I offered to do one more. Messier 13 (M13), Chris suggested. OK.

11:55. We agreed we were losing more and more of the sky. I shared that, despite having a good GOTO mount, I found this frustrating. Binoculars were best in these conditions.

Closed up. Again. Chris helped with the dehumidifier. Kelly thanked me for the lesson.

Friday, August 14, 2015

meteor from Andromeda

Elaine posted a Perseid photo on Facebook. Awesome shot, from the evening of the 12th, with the Andromeda galaxy nearby.

tried recording ISS

Wanted to try a video-capture of the International Space Station later in the evening...The 9:55 flyover.

8:35 PM, Fri 14 Aug 2015. Tried some simulated ISS runs with the Paramount. Set the time manually in TheSky 6. Went to Zosma.

Elaine popped into the Warm Room.

I started gathering camera gear and cables.

8:42 PM. Stopped the test.

Sue popped into the Warm Room.

Opened the roof.

Just over one hour away from the event.

Connected the camera via the ethernet-USB extender. Headed to Arcturus to focus. Turned on the camera. Wasn't sure if I was on the star. Quit the EOS Utility; launched Backyard (Premium Edition 3.1.4). Used the Tele Vue to centre, as the pointing was off a bit. Used the Motion Control to draw it in. Fired up the Optec focusing software. Double-checked the COM port: 8. It protested. Some sort of connection issue.

Donaldson popped into the Warm Room.

Oops. Found the handbox in Auto mode; switched to Manual/PC. Set the step to 100. Watched the FWHM in BYE. Down to 6.1. Then 6.0. Switched to 50 steps. Continued to Out focus. 5.5. Switched to 10 units. Then In focus. Focuser was at 3925. Got 5.4. Good.

8:55. All set.

Wheelband popped into the Warm Room. Looking for the Assistant Site Supervisor (aka ASS). Updated him on my activities. He didn't know the Paramount could track the ISS. He wanted to show off Saturn. I said I could show it, no problem, with the Live View. We could view other stuff until a few minutes before the pass...

Acquired Saturn and shot some video.

9:49. Readied the 'scope. Pointed to the west.

9:51. Fine-tuned the position. It started rising over the horizon.

Chris M and Kelly popped into the Warm Room.

I advised the group on the Observing Pad that it was over the horizon. Explained how TLE data was necessary.

I spotted it in the Tele Vue (with the 10mm, so 54x). An H-shape. Gold panels, white central structure. A nice image. Offered others the view to Chris and Kelly.

9:56. Checked the Canon image. Nothing. I stopped the tracking run as the mount reached the meridian no-fly zone.

Tried a rapid meridian flip. Ian W popped in. He thought the ISS bright. I told him I had no luck capturing it. The view in the refractor Kelly thought was "awesome."

Started tracking again. We watched it fade out.

No joy. It was off-centred in the TV101 so I knew it would not be in the camera field. Oh well. I expected this. And that I will have to keep trying.

10:02. Dismounted the camera.


Checked the distance. The ISS was about a ¼ field away from centre. SkyTools said that was about 15 to 16 arc-minutes.

captured Saturn (Blue Mountains)

8:55 PM. When Wheelband popped into the Warm Room hoping to show off Saturn, I said I could do it, no problem. I was configured (and focused) for the ISS flyover at 9:55 but could display the planet with the Live View. For our Friday night guests.

Started the Star Search. Oh. Just saw it, out of the corner of my eye. But then lost it... Slewed and searched again. Hit the Stop button in time. Centred and adjusted the exposure. Not bad. Ian suggested I shoot a movie. I explained that the Planetary mode of BYE in fact would let me do that with the old DSLR. I got 5.8 FPS.

Showed him the camera and focuser control cables. Informed him that the optical cable was dead.

Chris V popped into the Warm Room.

9:20. Ian D noticed I was clipping the south wall so I dropped both.

Did another video run.

The first finished downloading while the capture proceeded.

It was humid. I checked the Bionaire and Oregon Scientific units: 63% and 68%. They both reported 24°C. The OS showed steady pressure. Sunshine tomorrow.

9:24. I noticed the BYE was not reporting the weather. Must have lost the setting in the upgrade.

Almost 1000 frames: stopped. 

Download completed.

Wow. Two runs of 1000 frames each. The Optec remote focusing worked great. The USB-ethernet cable worked. Although it impacted the frame rate. Made the whole thing super easy.

I wondered how much a USB 2.0 ethernet extender might be...


Did some quick processing.

Canon 40D, Celestron 14, f/11, ISO 400, Backyard EOS Planetary capture. Stacked with AutoStakkert!2. Wavelets and RGB tweaks with RegiStax 6.

North is top-right; east is top-left.

he took the THO

Greeted Mike shortly after his arrival. He was surprised when I pointed out the Tony Horvatin Observatory was empty. He was thrilled when I said he could use it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

made movie in house

After a lot of fiddling with network settings, I finally successfully transferred the star trail JPGs to the house computer. And then successfully ran MS Movie Maker. Again, I was perturbed that I could not control the interval and gap settings to my liking. But at least it gave me a sense of what I would get. And then I transferred the completed movie back to the netbook.


Put the low-rez movie on Vimeo.

Looking North during Perseids 2015 from Lumpy Darkness on Vimeo.


rained out star party

I helped with the library talk star party at the CAO.

I was to receive people and talk a bit about the observatory. That quickly evaporated when people arrived, exited their cars, and boogied to the GBO or Observing Pad. Most vehicles were ahead of Ian!

We briefly showed Saturn.

Ed T and Chris V did a virtual sky tour in the living room with Stellarium.

We watched a most unusual wall of cloud, filled with lightning, move slowly toward us. Later, when it started raining, I escorted some visitors to their cars under our big golf umbrella.

MSMM crashed

I dropped all the star trail JPGs into MS Movie Maker. But it kept hanging. I wondered about using the house computer... It would have more grunt than the little computer using an Atom processor...

found fasteners

Found the screws for GoToStar cover. And one stand-off!

In the bag with the Kick-Me-Nots!

I think I took off the cover during an observing session, due to rubbing, or a collision, and thought—at the time—I better put these somewhere where they would get lost.


showed carb kit

Showed Ian W the carburetor repair kit for the Stargrazer. We agreed it was not to be tackled this weekend. I sealed the envelope and stored in my super shelf.

processed 400 photos

I wanted to make a quick movie of the star trails from last night...

12:17 PM. I downloaded 404 photos from the camera. Wow. With some irony, I had to practice my own file management.

I made a recipe in Digital Photo Professional to apply to all of the images.

1:02. I converted the RAW images to small JPGs.

While waiting, I put fresh batteries in the Sony.

Kept trying to remember the application Steve talked about...

revealed a Perseid

Applied slight Curves to brighten the dark bits... of a possible meteor photo by X. She who shall not be named. Yep. There was a Perseid!

a little bit of everything (Blue Mountains)

9:05 PM, Wed 12 Aug 2015. In the Geoff Brown Observatory. Checked the Sony ICD recorder: almost 9 hours of recording time available.

Chatted with Wayne outside the GBO as the crickets slowly chirped. He was having trouble getting Backyard Nikon to connect.

Chris V popped into the Warm Room looking for a 2" O-III filter. I apologised for not replying to his earlier email. Told him the CAO had one and I had one.

With (lonely) astronomy case δ and it's 12 volt supply, the low-pressure pump, I inflated my pool chair, in anticipation of meteors! Pumped the main volume and then the arms. Moved it outside.

Heard from Katrina via email. Sounded like she, Sophia, and Bill were going meteor hunting...

Elaine popped in. Couldn't find the Double Cluster in her Sky Walk app. Reminded her it was not a formal name. I gave her the NGC numbers, 869 and 884. Confirmed in the computer.

9:35 PM. Used the Nightly Observing List Generator in SkyTools 3 Pro, the Showpieces mode with the filter exclude logged items applied, and it gave me two items! Two! That's it? Ha. Ran it again with the Interesting Deep Sky. OK. 194 items added. Lots of galaxies. Then I chose Obvious and it gave me 9. Ha.

Alarms from Ananke started firing: Perseids now! I know!

9:40. I looked at Tonight's Best in SkySafari.

Back in ST3P, I added comets. Ha, one was 67P. Copied some supernovae. And quasars.

Visited Ian. He was still setting up.

Vehicle arrived: Ed T. Lora received him.

9:49. Slewed into "the area" using SAO 85498. Right at the meridian... Slew to a nearby random star to wait. Put the 10mm eyepiece in the Tele Vue 101 refractor. Slewed directly. It worked.

Dimmed all the red lights.

Oops. Went to the wrong object.

Ian popped in. Wanted to know if I was on the comet. Getting close. When he say my chair, he said he had brought the hammock frame. All right! Headed out to peek at the comet.

Using a star, I slewed to the area near comet 22P/Kopff. Didn't notice, at the time, that the comet was in fact listed or shown in TheSky 6 (as per my earlier download/update). Ugh. Crazy low in Virgo. Saw the bright stars HD 120088 and HD 120235. The comet would be down and right (south-east) of those... Looked again. I wondered if I was not fully dark adapted.

10:04. Had yet another look trying to find a little triangle. Turned on the dew heaters.

The International Space Station flew over. Chris directed me. I didn't know there was a north pass...

Saw a meteor over the Bay, way off to the north and low. And then another through the Great Square, faint though. And then a bright one above the Great Square. Sweet! Many saw that one.

10:12. Checked the airmasses for the comet (in the apparent data): 5.7. Silly. Decided to abandon.

I heard another "whoa" from outside. Ha.

Considered a planetary in Serpens... PN G013.3+32.7 aka PK 013+32.1 or Sn 1.

Took a bio break and grabbed some water.

Considered imaging Perseids. Idea 1: fixed tripod, aimed north, get some aurora maybe, meteors, and then could do star trails. Idea 2: tracked or piggybacked, using Ian W's beefy Losmandy clamp, fixed stars, subs, and then stack.

Checked the tablet widget. Aurora alert. Minor storm. Bz: south. Huh.

Slewed to SAO 121529 aka HD 147370.

Checked the weather. As of 10:01 PM. 10 minute average wind speed 3.2 km/h, from the north-west, 3.2 immediate, high was 37 (I had felt it shaking the car). Humidity 84%. Air pressure was 1016.1 hPa. Temperature was 13.7°C, dew point 11.0. Applied the temp and humidity into the SkyTools location.

Had a visitor. Chris was looking at Lovejoy. Very faint. Was going for Neptune and Uranus later.

Saw some stars. Made me think of a beak. GSC 05034-0539 was at the point.

I noted the nice sky outside.

Jeez. Felt lost. Went to σ (sigma) Serpentis to check the Paramount pointing...

10:35. OK. Confirmed. Spotted a double nearby. Star hopped along the Serpens Caput and Ophiuchus border... Found the beak again... Headed toward the big diamond or kite.

10:46. Saw the little tiny arc of three stars, which included mag 11.5 star GSC 05034-0041. I wondered if Ian would like to try. Noted the coords 16 21 35 by 00 4 36 [ed: odd, a bit to the north].

Returned to the Warm Room. And then back out.

Nice one! A good meteor.

Returned to the Warm Room again.

11:02. Did some test shots, aimed north, with the DSLR.

11:10. I was getting confused by the field of view in Ian's Dob.

Took my netbook outside so to conduct the search. Again.

11:40. Headed to the front yard to do some more wide-field imaging.

Considered some lessons learned. Readied to swap lenses. Needed my red flashlight. Affixed the headband. Also wanted to get out my eyeglasses strap, once and for all. Battery pack. Power bits. Intervalometer.

12:06, Thu 13 Aug 2015. Started shooting subs, from the front porch, for the star trails.

Grabbed some more gear.

Put some Kick-Me-Nots on the camera tripod and cords.

12:12 AM. Felt humid. Wondered if my lens would get gooped up. Reconnected John Repeat Dance.

Weather check. Humidity was what I was most interested in. 85%. 10 min avg 4.8, still NW. Barometer 1016.3. Temp 13.4, dew 11.0.

There was one mosquito in the Warm Room. Boo!

The planetary was small. 6 arc seconds. Nutty. [ed: Noted to revisit.]

Considered my next target. Many were very low. Ah. The quasar PG 1634+706 in Draco (near the UMi border) near SAO 8552. Magnitude 14.7. Noticed the stick asterism...

12:18. Noticed some doubles and quads in the neighbourhood.

Moved the bright stars down a bit...

Mozzie flew by the recorder!

Saw a kite or diamond shape of mag 13 stars with GSC 04423-2040. South-west of the quasar. One star, GSC 04423-1588, was mag 14.4. In the software, I pulled out the fourth star, J163350.9+702941, at mag 15.2! Nothing about bad data... That was promising.

12:24. Oh. Easy. An easy quasar! I noted the orientation of position angle of the quasar with the nearby star GSC 04423-1470 was almost the same as the left (south-west) side of the diamond. The 15.2 star I had trouble with, this time. Had to use averted. Came and went. The quasar was clearly brighter than the 15.2 star... I also noted the star GSC 04423-1146 at mag 14.1 further afield, to the east. Cool.

SkyTools had this to say: Redshift (z): 1.34; Light Time: 7.6 Gyr.

Wondered when my star trails imaging run would finish. Fired up a spreadsheet. 24 frames per second. 1 minute of video. That would equal 1440 shots. 30 second subs with a 5 second gap. That means I would need 50 000 seconds. I knew there was 86 400 seconds per day... Therefore, I would need 14 hours! Oops. Memory card considerations aside, I rethought the total video length. 30 seconds? Or 15? 15 would mean a 3 or 4 hour run. OK. Should finish around 3:45... Oh my.

Adjusted ST3P for my next object.

Had one more look at the quasar...

12:49. Low battery indicator appeared on the recorder. I was nervous. I stopped the audio capture.

Reviewed my View Again list in ST3P.

Lora offered to make hot chocolate, spiked. Mmm. Thanks!

12:58. Tried for Arp 330 in Dra. Near HD 234352.

1:02. I saw two very faint objects with averted while panning to the south-west. Very challenging. It might be more easily viewed a couple of hours earlier. ST3P showed 4 little babies nearby. I could not see these. It might be a good target for photography...

1:05. Felt really tired... It seemed I was having a hard time concentrating.

Viewed NGC 7006, in Delphinus. It was pleasing in the TV101 and C14. A glob. It was rather large in the SCT. [ed: Whew. Distant. ST3P reports it is 160 000 light-years away. Also referred to as Caldwell 42.]

Headed to the Observing Pad to do some whole sky viewing.

2:00. Viewed many Perseids while supine in my inflatable chair. I was sleepy. Heard myself snoring at one point. Then I heard Lora telling me to go to bed!

2:31. Checked the conditions. 10 min avg 8.0, SSW direction (hence warmer), current wind 9.7, high 11.3. Humidity 87. Barometer 1015.8. Temp 11.8, dew point 9.7.

3:00. Needed to kill some time. Backed up the audio files.

3:50. Tore down camera. Verified the lens was at f/5.6.

4:00. Was in bed. Time for sleep...

grabbed dark frames

Shot a few darks. Surprised myself. That I remembered to do this. While so sleepy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

daytime viewing (Blue Mountains)

Chris V and I set up to view Venus. It was nearing inferior conjunction, only about 8 or 9 degrees from the Sun. We were very careful of the amount of light coming into the OTA.

Also viewed Jupiter. Very pale.

5:56 PM. We viewed Venus again, with Uncle Tony. He really liked it.

5:58. We viewed the Sun Hα in the TV101. We used Chris's Williams Optics binoviewer with WO 20mm eyepieces. Very neat.


Chris shared with me his iPhone shots. I liked the one with the blue sky. He posted the other on his Twitter page.

Copyright © 2015 Chris Vaughan. Used with permission.

cars passing in the day

Passed a car on the road into the CAO. Didn't know, at the time, it was Malcolm P. And he didn't recognise me (in a different car). Ha! As a guest of Elaine, in the neighbourhood, he had visited the observatory. I understand he liked it. If I had been 5 minutes earlier...

found Ideal

Popped into Ideal Supply on the Pretty River Parkway. A great selection of items, home electrical, automotive, safety equipment, and so on. We might need them, in the future. Good to have finally found them. They support Generac generators too! Grabbed a business card.

to the CAO

Travelled to the Carr Astronomical Observatory. To, hopefully, see some Perseid meteors. And to help Ian W with education and public outreach during the Thornbury Library talk. And to do some photography. Had some course prep to do but, happily, I could do that using the online tools...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

issued codes

Shared the new codes with the CAO committee.

helped them in

Took a call. Helped a member gain access to the house at the CAO. The new way.

did daily audio file management

Copied then deleted audio files. Back to 9 hours.

Monday, August 10, 2015


Nicole found my dew heater! Controller and wrap. In her stuff, while packing for Starfest! Woo hoo!

This changes things... They were not lost or stolen. So happy! I thanked Nicole very much. We made arrangements to transfer.

The cheap-cheap pulse width modulation LED dimmer I ordered, and that are somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, will then be extras. Experimental, then... Hmmm.

small case for small battery

Popped into Sayal on the way back from Mr and Mrs Sauga. They had a nice Vivitar case on sale. Small, extruded aluminum edges, pluck foam, strap. A good size for the NOCO lithium-ion booster battery, bulky clamps, and other accessories.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

he's closer now

Learned that Charles has never been to NEAF. He'd be like a kid in a candy store...

Saturday, August 08, 2015

dual dogs (Epping)

I spotted one sun dog as we drove to the New England Dragway & Motorsports Park. We were very happy to see both later.

Charles got a good shot with his smartphone. Alex was curious. I explained how ice made the little rainbows. And showed him who to measure the angular distance with his hand.

received cool bookmark

Charles gave me a cool bookmark.

It is from NASA celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope.

It was produced via lenticular printing.

It shows the Pillars of Creation, in the Eagle Nebula, rendered visible and near-infrared light, depending on the way your hold it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

dark sky (Concord)

Spotted stars over the park as Charles and I walked back from the Colonial Inn. Seemed a very good sky, clear conditions. Especially with the town's minimal lighting. It took us a bit to get our bearings but soon we tagged constellations and stars, like Ursa Major and Arcturus. Spotted Saturn right of Scorpius. Lovely night.

visited the dish

Sara showed me the radio astronomy dish atop her building, the Green Building, the home of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS).

Reminded me of when we crawled around the ARO. Heavy iron, big rivets, large dish. Eerie organic colour on the inside.

on the MIT campus

Sitting in Dr Seager's office, I felt like I was on a Big Bang episode. Formulae on the boards, space hardware on the floor, PhD candidate papers awaiting approval, exoplanet posters out on the hall. Geek heaven.

Monday, August 03, 2015

astro overlay idea

Suddenly occurred to me where the Canon camera image overlay function could be used, in an astronomy application or context! Framing an astrophotograph so that it is the same position and angle as an earlier shot.

took in the Sun (Blue Mountains)

Viewed the Sun. I noted spots 2394 as "big [with] little babies" and 2393 "near centre." And then, an ambiguous note, "new one big." OK.

I made a sketch. Mostly for discussion purposes...

Didn't keep good records but I'm pretty sure it was mid-day on Monday that we viewed stuff.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

refined capture plan steps

For the flyovers of the International Space Station, I had developed a capture plan. I refined the steps a bit...
  1. reboot capture computer
  2. close all unnecessary apps
  3. get ephemeris data update
  4. focus
  5. still image a similar magnitude star to get exposure
    (that said, if the ISS will be -3.5, choose brightest star or planet)
  6. turn on 5x
  7. get near the starting position
  8. do a Find command for SAT ISS ZARYA (under non-stellar)
  9. access Telescope tab
  10. hit Track Satellite button
Will be handy in the future.


This needs an update for the focusing process...


Updated. And now it lives on an evergreen page, ISS Capture Plan on the lumpy companion.

played with TheSky 6

Some bad weather was coming through. A good time for some learnin'.

1:10 PM. I made a Field Of View shape in TheSky 6 for the Canon 40D. Checked against SkyTools. OK.

1:46. Just figured out how to rotate the camera chip in TS6. Not as fast as SkyTools. I edited the FOV and applied a Position Angle value.

1:48. Changed the time. Ha ha. Saw the comet. Good.

2:00. TS6 has an interesting advantage in the FOV feature: you can show one or more shapes, eyepieces or cameras, at the same time. That's helpful if you want to know which eyepiece is similar to a camera view...

objective observing

While winding down in bed, I considered something I had stumbled upon this evening, while visual observing, double stars in particular.

What an interesting way to observe...

Near the end of tonight's session, I had checked items to view in the SkyTools observing list and then used the option, View Interactive Atlas for all checked entries, to highlight these specific targets on the chart.

Of course, that presented the chart with multiple cross-hairs. And if I focused on this—and I could use it to slew in Real Time mode—and avoided the observing list proper, I could tackle some double stars without bias.

Working from the observing list, one can't help but seem details of the target. Magnitudes, separations, splittability rating, colours (from my custom lists), the number of stars, etc.

Working from the chart, it was simply an object of interest to look at. I didn't know anything about the star and its companion(s).

I really liked this. Not knowing what I would see. Impartial. It surprised me how much I enjoyed this.

I'll have to use this technique more...

switched to visual (Blue Mountains)

Midnight. Started some visual observing. Brought in cables.

Interested in tagging a few more coloured doubles from the RASC handbook. Discounted a bunch of objects for being too low. Selected 1 Peg.

12:05. In the Tele Vue refractor at 54 power, 1 Peg was obvious. Yellow and blue. In the Celestron SCT the primary was warmer. RASC describes this pair as orange and violet. It is an interesting blue colour, for sure. Webb says orange and blue. Maybe about 2 magnitudes different? Wow. SkyTools 3 Pro said 4! Well, in the Object Information box... While pointing in the chart, it is not as much: 4.1 vs 7.5. I spotted a faint star, at a right angle to A and B. Much fainter. Hey, hey, that faint star was C. All right. Saw it right away. Pretty, nice colours.

[ed: I was pleased to view these well as I had not noted the colours previously. Removed from my View Again.]

Slewed to NV Peg aka SAO 89737 or 2 Peg. A short hop. Sounded familiar...

Kiron popped in and had a look. A double? Yep. Albireo. Nope.

A little triangle. Warm yellow? Orange? Blue? Green? RASC said orange and blue. Noted the C star.

[ed: Two more I had not noted the colours of previously. Removed from my View Again.]

12:14. Chose V343. Slewed to HIP 114187 aka Σ2978 (Struve).

Rick asked if he could store his 'scope inside; he didn't want to load it back in his car. I offered the observatory floor. I held the doors as he brought in the fork.

The refractor seemed to be out of alignment with the SCT suddenly. Odd.

Looked blue and orange in the refractor. Faint. Tighter. Very pleasing, actually. In the SCT, immediately, it looked yellow and blue. This agrees with RASC.

[ed: Once again, I had not noted the colours previously. Removed from my View Again.]

Spotted a pair off to the side, to the north-west, a faint pair. PPM 88531. No colour.

Rick forgot his battery charger for his Canon. But my 40D batteries were different. In size and contact points. We chatted about software. Backyard for camera control although I'm still pretty new to that. I have a lot of seat time with EOS Utility. Gave a quick demo of SkyTools. Discussed TheSky, for use with the Paramount. He headed off to bed.

12:29. Thought I had the 55 in the C14 but in fact it was loaded with the 27.

Slewed to HR 8833 aka SAO 108463 or Σ2991. Low.

12:32. Nice. Orange and blue. The blue star was really faint. Very different brightnesses.

RASC says yellow and blue and tight. Tight? No. Easily separated. [ed: I had the T circled in my RASC 2015 Observer's Handbook...]

Noted a long string or arc of stars with brighter SAO 108471 off to the east.

I must not have gotten around to the Pegasus constellation...

Chose HD 224083 aka SAO 91574 or OΣ252. Up near Almach.

12:38. Two stars, very wide apart, similar intensities. In the TV101, blue and orange. In the C14, the primary changed colour! Sometimes white, sometimes yellow. The secondary looked orange. RASC says yellow and red. The pair formed a long, nearly straight line with TYC 02258-0759 1 and HD 224016, the latter of which was almost the same brightness as B.

[ed: Yet another pair not well documented by me. Removed from my View Again.]

Neat. I was very happy to be knocking off some stars from the RASC OH.

Oh, oh. Noted clouds. The sky was almost gone.

Aimed for ε (epsilon) Persei aka 45 or Σ471. Hmm. Low in the constellation. Low in the sky. Yellow, orange, and very tight. RASC says yellow and green and very tight. Ha. Haas says lemon and cobalt. B was really dim. To my 4 o'clock, or north. Saw some stars heading off to the south-east, in-line. ST3P said C was in-line with B but very faint, mag 13 or 14. And that should be doable in good conditions... Should be viewed when higher...

12:48. Considered new targets, like Mirfak. The upper part of Perseus. HIP 1488. No. Almach.

12:52. Orange and green. Fantastic colours. RASC says orange and blue.

Checked the unobserved entries and plotted them into a chart. ε Per was too low; 59 And looked like a good option.

12:54. Wide pair. Yellow and blue. RASC agreed. Haas says pearl and peach. Wow. aka Σ222. A faint star nearly in-line TYC 02830-0257 1.

Spotted an interesting group of stars to the north-west...

12:56. Viewed PPM 67034. The A and B stars have a separation almost the same as 59 And. The angle formed by PPM and 59 was about 30 degrees. Saw the C star to PPM. It was not at a 90° so somewhat evocative of a hockey stick.

Clouds almost completely covered the southern sky. A bit of the north was available.

Seemed to be a lot of glow in the north. Installed a fresh battery in the DSLR.

1:00. Took a quick 15-second shot with the wide angle. Nothing.

Started closing up.

1:06. Checked the time.

1:08. Headed to the house.


Now only 17 stars left to view (or view again) in the RASC Coloured Doubles list.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

one frame in second pass! (Blue Mountains)

Found this at the 4:26 mark in one of the frames... The International Space Station zipping through.

[ed: I didn't notice this at the time. I discovered it months later!]

From Backyard EOS movie:


Slightly out of focus... Exposure was not bad! 1/60 of a second, ISO 1000. But compared to the first run, a bit dimmer.

Confirmed in the individual image files: 001332. Colour seems better in the JPEG.

Images data acquired with a Canon 40D and Celestron 14" SCT, f/11.

one frame

Found this at the 4:26 mark in one of the frames... The International Space Station zipping through.

[ed: I didn't notice this at the time. I discovered it months later!]

From Backyard EOS movie:


Exposure is not bad! 1/60 of a second, ISO 1000. Slightly out of focus...

Confirmed in the individual image files: 001332. Colour seems better in the JPEG.

imaged HD 164492 again (Blue Mountains)

As the camera was still attached and it was early, I decided to try to image HD 164492 again.

Lora, incredibly captivated, left.

Backyard EOS was running so I decided to use it for the focusing and the image capture. Everything went well. It did take me a little while back on target...

All images shot as follows: Canon 40D, Celestron 14" SCT, f/11, ISO 1600, daylight white balance, RAW. No processing in DPP.

Took a quick shot at 10 seconds, mostly to verify I was properly framed.

To another shot at 15 seconds. I was surprised how the stars were not round.

Tried a 5 second shot and was pleased with the look. Dimmer to be sure.

In fact, I programmed a capture plan to a dozen images. They were all not great. The one above is the best.

I didn't understand where the trailing or elongation was coming from.

prepped for pass

Did some International Space Station flyover preparation.

About an hour away from the flyover...

Decided to try simulating it in TheSky 6. Set the time. Saw the path displayed... Neat.

The flyover times were 22:08 and 22:17, 9 minutes! It would start in the south-west (235°); ends in the north-east (70°). Would go almost overhead, Virgo, up through Libra, Hercules, through the middle of Lyra, passing near Sadr, and off to Andromeda. Closely matched Heavens Above. I didn't think it would be an ideal configuration; ones in the north were better, right?

Pulled up the clock hands. Set to 10:10.

I was very impressed that TheSky fully simulated the flyover, i.e. it showed the satellite moving along the path. Holy moley.

Considered not tracking the first part of the path but the second. So I'd have to start with the telescope aimed straight up. I moved the mount where I would try to pick the ISS, near the meridian. Creeped into the meridian warning zone.

Of course it was moving fast overhead. Tried picking it up. A real catch-up game. Tried again. Could not catch-up. And then I was falling behind.

That was interesting. That was cool.

Reset back a couple of minutes to try again.

Syrma. Waiting for the path to redraw.

Warned people I was testing.

Second attempt was not bad. Looked like I was able to catch up to it. But I had to hustle.

Wanted to try one more time. Considered a star to start from. Vega was too far away. How about SAO 85397?

Considering zooming out, acquiring, then zooming in. Would be ready to trigger the tracking.

Tried tracking just as it crossed the meridian proper. Nope. Too soon. Started slewing the wrong way. OK. What about when it just comes out of the warning zone? Yes. Yes, it worked! The mount was able to catch up. Noted I was near SAO 85750 or omicron Herculis. I would use that to start from. Headed to Vega to focus.

Lora visited. We wondered where our guests were. Cautioned about wires running across the floor. Showed her how the software worked at plotting the satellite path and movement.

Connected stuff. Used the software's motion controls.

Bad seeing. Wow. Focused. Close all unnecessary apps to keep the recording computer fast.

A vehicle arrived. Oh hey. They turned their headlights off.

Forgot to reboot. I hoped it would be OK.

Set the speed to 1/30. ISO 1000. Vega is 0 magnitude star. Considered a star of the same brightness, -3 or -4. Hmm. None. Venus was gone. So α Lyrae would be fine.

Set the target name. 9 minutes would be about 7000 frames. Set the image count to 4000. OK. The profile was ready.

9:39 PM. Checked the weather. Weather Centre reported 18.9°C; 64% humidity, low, nice; dew point 11.9, well away. As of 9:01 PM; 10 minute average, 1.6 km/h; out of the north-west, just a titch to the north; 74%; 100.92 mbars; 17.6; 12.9°. The air pressure was steady over the last while.

Mistook a different satellite on the same path.

9:42 PM. 20 minutes to go. A mozzie buzzed the recorder...

I considered trying some Frame and Focus with the electronic focuser with software control. I started at 3977. I was able to punch low. Easy to use. 6.9 was the lowest value I saw in the FWHM. I thought I had improved it a bit. It was hovering around 7.0, 7.1. Then it went to 6.8. Real-time focusing from the Warm Room!

Had a visitor.

Reviewed. Used Frame and Focus on Backyard to improve the focus a bit. Put it back in Automatic mode. It was slowly climbing. I was at 4222 (3500 is centre). Programmed the Capture Plan for 1/30, ISO 1000, daylight white balance. I called it ISSpass1CAO only remembering the BYE would automatically add time stamps. Wondered if the ISO was too high.

9:52. Dropped the ISO to 800.

Spotted the ISS line draw in the software. Nope. FLOCK 1D2.

Slewed to SAO 85750 for the rendezvous. Reviewed my previously written preparation notes.

Wow. Saw lots of satellites... Like a highway.

Scared myself for a moment when I didn't see anything in the Backyard live view. But it was because I was on a mag 3.8 star now...

Used the Find command in TheSky, so there was no guesswork. The ISS was the selected object.

My allergies were acting up.

The weather data updated. An image corrected. The high was 30.6. Wow. The Bionaire was showing 41% and 22°C. The Oregon Scientific was showing 45%; 21.9°; barometer was flat; 12-24 hour indicator was partly sunny; 9:58 PM; full Moon...

The software updated the sky view. The ISS path arced upwards. The focuser was still climbing. 4231 now.

Considered that I would start recording when it entered Hercules. Then I could relaxed about that.

Switched to the Telescope tab.

Phil popped in to check the start time. 5 minutes to go. To the start of the pass. Reviewed where the ISS would appear: left of Spica.

The Android alarm fired. Ah. Finally.

Saw lines coming up for the Soyuz and Progress. Realised the line for the ISS wouldn't update until the dot reached the end... Reviewed everything was ready to go.

2 minutes to go.

10:08. Shared with the crew that it was above the horizon. Asked Phil if he had his camera running. Yep.

The projected line had advanced. I would start recording soon.

I realised something was different this time. I was connected to the camera by USB-ethernet and it was USB 1.1, so slower. I wondered what effect that would have. Noticed the image quality in the camera was set to "small." Waiting... Started recording. Good. Sampling. Opened the Track Satellite box. Picking up speed. Started to capture frames. Sampling rate was slow: 6.2. Uh huh. Crossed the meridian. Exiting the zone. Slew. Ready to slew again. Tracking. Catching up! Looked at the camera view... And I didn't see anything.

Went outside. Oh. Nice one.

Looked at it through the Tele Vue at 55 power. It was pretty good. Could see the solar panels easily. Well off centre.

Stopped tracking. I hit the Abort in Backyard. It said it captured 1081 frames. The frame rate was about half...

Lora popped in. Gave her a quick report but I would have to wait a bit for the images to finish transferring. Couldn't tell just by looking at the screen... The computer was slow though...

Reviewed the next pass. Not nearly as bright. It would be in the north... Ooh. That might work better. Would start in the west and conclude in the north. Mag -1.2. Lower and shorter but should still be good.

Checked the mount. It was fine.

OK. 90 minutes till the next one...

Checked if everyone was settled in.

10:21 PM. Oh. I could image the Trifid. Slewed.

Just as Backyard EOS finished downloading the images... 1000 frames. I quickly scanned them. Examined the last one. Gah. A whole lot of nothing. Blacky blackness. Lora and I had a good laugh over that.

one frame in first pass! (Blue Mountains)

Found the ISS on one frame! 27 seconds into the 3 minute movie clip made with Backyard EOS. Holy moley!


[ed: I didn't notice this at the time. Both Lora and I quickly scanned them. Guess I skimmed too fast. I discovered it months later!]

This image is one of the individual JPEG files produced by BYE. Image number 000166.

Image data acquired with a Canon 40D and Celestron 14" SCT, f/11.

Damn! Decent colour. Focus is fairly good! Exposure is pretty good too! Fantastic size on the frame! You can clearly see the solar panels and the main structure of the International Space Station!

I must have been close!

tested large movie

Did testing with image/video capture from the Canon DSLR with Backyard EOS.

Took just 30 frames. Full frames.


Then 30 more. But used the 5x.


OK. How long can it go?

Holy crikey. It worked! It took a while but BYE wrote out the 6000 JPGs (1.5 GB) and the AVI (11.5 GB). And 8 minute movie with 6000 frames. To the lowly netbook!

Reviewed the log in BYE.

17:42:44  Canon EOS 40D CONNECTED!
17:45:50  Planetary imaging started.
17:45:56  Capturing 12.5 frames per second.
17:56:32  6000 planetary frames captured.
18:02:54  Camera SHUTDOWN!
18:17:20  test-150801-1745_Tv1-15s_f3-5_800iso_1024x680_20150801-17h45m56s.avi downloaded

Nice. Nice to know that I can capture some big movies with Backyard.

gently ticking

I found the key! Wound up the sidereal clock.

Like finding lost things.

HD 164492 - behind the scenes

As I had the camera attached, I rolled into a double star image capture. Dropped the south wall flaps.

Didn't see anything on the camera Live View. Realised I might be a bit blind.

1:47. Going after HD 164492. Did a 30 second test shot. Checked it. Stars did not seem to be in focus. Went to a bright star. Sheesh. Seeing was very poor. Adjusted the focuser manually. Horrific seeing. Went to Sabik, a bit higher in the sky. Still challenging. Headed back to the target.

Really low. So I expected some issues... Adjusted the focus. Was at 4953, added 50, and landed at 5003.

Checked the SkyTools best time. Oops. I should have down this at 11 PM; not 2 AM. I considered folding up the tent. But since I had gone to all the trouble...

1:58. 30 seconds at ISO 1000.

2:00. 30s at 800.

2:03. Tried shorter exposures. 15 seconds at ISO 800. 8 seconds. 4s. 2s. I could not see any stars.

For kicks I decided to try a really long shot.

Started to close down. Prepared to close the roof. Wow. All the clouds were gone! Nutty. Maybe I could view a couple of coloured doubles...

2:08. 300 seconds at ISO 400. Awful. Washed out, blued, by the Moon. Lots of streaking and vibration.

Closed the roof. Closed the south wall.

2:20. Turned on the dehumidifier. Tried to turn off the focuser at the pier. Doesn't work when the software is linked. Have to formally back out. Put the software into manual mode, disconnected, received the peculiar "out of serial mode" message. Parked the mount. Sleeped the computer. Undocked my computer.

2:23. Done.