Friday, October 30, 2015

new digs

My new backyard is dark.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

book the 2015 AGM

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

next council meeting

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

confirmed shift

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

thanked the team

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

updated SkyTools page

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

updated IP plan

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

Monday, October 26, 2015

attended council meeting

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting at the DDO.

wondered about calendar plan

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

Sunday, October 25, 2015

swarm of galaxies

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

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

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

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

tried illumination layer

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

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

Stellarium 0.14.x shortcuts

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

controlling the surroundings

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

controlling sky appearance

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

controlling grid-lines

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

changing image presentation

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

controlling time flow

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

controlling "regular" time

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

controlling sidereal time

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


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

Fn Up Arrow
zoom out
PgDn or
Ctrl Dn Arrow

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


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

working with objects

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

working with satellites

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

controlling the application

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

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

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

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

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

Please report errors in the comments below...

reviewed latest version of Stellarium

Yesterday morning I learned there was a new version of Stellarium out. I downloaded version 0.14.0 for Windows to try it out.

The first thing I noticed was that I could not see the mouse pointer! The software was working, that is I could click on an object (blind) and get the info. Or move to the bottom-left corner of the screen to see the menus pop up. Happily, when I switched out of full screen mode, the Windows 10 arrow appeared and everything worked normally. That's a little irksome but it probably a video driver issue and nothing with the app proper.

The next thing I noticed was meteor shower radiants! Very neat. Easily toggled on or off with the button in the bottom toolbar or the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Shift-m. The labels can be toggled independently with Shift-m. Very good information is noted upon clicking or selecting a radiant. Most impressive: they move over time, as per drift! Someone really did their homework. A great improvement.

There are some pretty dramatic changes with respect to deep sky objects or DSO targets. In the View window/dialog, there's a new tab called DSO. It allows objects to be displayed from a variety of additional catalogs, which speaks volumes. In addition to Messier, NGC, and IC, we now can view objects from the PGC, UGC, Collinder, Caldwell, Melotte, Sharpless, and Van den Bergh lists, to name a few. Also on the dialog is the ability to filter by type. Correspondingly, the Search tool is enhanced to recognise (internally) the short codes, like Cr or Mel. A very welcome change.

Perhaps it was deployed in the preceding version but I don't remember seeing the different types of DSOs shown with indicators in different colours. Regardless, we have dotted yellow circles for open clusters, green squares for nebulae and molecular clouds, grey squares for dark nebulae, galaxies in red ovals, and so on. Handy.

There appear to be better (on-board) catalogs for stars too! In addition to given name, Bayer, Flamsteed, and HIP number, we see HD and SAO. All listed together. It also seems there is a slightly better notation for double stars.

These two improvements, better DSO handling and more DSO and stellar catalogs, signals a significant notch up in the maturity of Stellarium.

I noted a small change in the satellite plug-in. Satellites are now shown, by default, as moving points. The orbit lines can be turned on, still, but now the appearance is surprising realistic. Which has always been Stellarium's forte.

There are still a number of features I have yet to test, like 3D sceneries, where you can move about your landscape, so to check or predict alignments or occultations with structures.

Stellarium still has some gotchas and minor annoyances. For example, I don't know if something has changed but took me a heck of a time to set a custom location. The direct entry of latitude and longitude didn't seem to work; I had to use the spinners. Also, when the Search dialog appears, often the application focus is still on the sky in the background. So characters typed will not go into the Search field and will quite likely change your screen settings.

In the course of testing the software, I found that a few keyboard shortcuts had changed. And I learned some new ones for new features. Made a note to update my list... A few window/dialogs had changed, a few features or controls were now in different places, like the Flip Scene buttons.

Overall, version 0.14.0 represents a very nice upgrade to the Stellarium planetarium software.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

reset alarm

With Wayne's help, reconfigured the Reliance freeze-water-outage alarm at the CAO.

checked the sheet

Did a spot check in the double stars Sheets file in Google Drive. Cool! An update by Frank. Awesome.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

uploaded hi-rez file

At last, after reviewing our account credentials, I uploaded the high resolution version of the CAO video by Dietmar (with the new aerial shots by Michael) to YouTube. Let Tony know.

found a big yard

Oh to have a big, dark backyard outside the Toronto light dome...

chatted about NOVA

Caught up with Ian. Back from the astroimaging conference. Talked about what happened at the last RAN meeting. Chatted about NOVA. Asked for a deferral.

Monday, October 19, 2015

received SN Nov/Dec

Received the SkyNews magazine a week or so back. November/December 2015 issue. Article and images of Pluto. What an incredible mission.

Hey! Neat! An article on the new astronomer-friendly Nikon DSLR by Malcolm Park.

And a piece about the dark skies near Kingston. Close to Guy's heart.

In short order, I transcribed upcoming events to my online calendar...

Sunday, October 18, 2015

helped at work party

Helped at the CAO fall work party. We got a lot done despite the crazy snowy weather.

I worked on the GBO roof rails and the mower teardown, did the oil change on the generator, repaired a bed in the Lyra room, winterised security system beta, tidied the work room, made more emergency contact lists, made wifi credential notices, and otherwise helped volunteers. Great food and great people.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

one comet, one planet

Tom was anxious to knock down some more deep sky objects. And to tag the comet, C/2014 S2 (PANSTARRS), near Polaris. Before the snow.

I joined him briefly on the Observing Pad. The comet was obvious even though a small, faint smudge.

He also showed Uranus. Nice. Couldn't spot any moons though.

I asked Tony if I could open the GBO but he wasn't comfortable with them, with the new roof rail supports not yet in place.

Friday, October 16, 2015

the Andromeda way (Blue Mountains)

It was partly clear when we stepped out into the parking lot of the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Took in the whole sky. Nice. I noted a couple of constellations, the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31, M31), the Double Cluster, our Milky Way arcing overhead.

Thomas said he always had trouble with our neighbour galaxy. I grabbed my "work" laser pointer, the Logitech remote, to see if the red beam would be visible. It was faint but when we looked from behind the emitter, it was obvious. I pointed out the Great Square, the widening V, then α, β, μ, and ν. He saw it, I think.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

missed special council meeting

A special meeting of RASC Toronto Centre council was called but I could not attend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

thanked Guylain

Chatted with Guylain at the pub. Asked a couple of questions about his power centre. Offered a suggestion to avoid the wrong connector in the wrong port, in the dark, if not paying attention.

I also thanked him, again, for assisting with my Backyard article for the RASC Journal. Said I'd send him a copy of the article for his reference.

double star orientation

Coaxed Andy out to the pub after the meeting. He had some questions for me about the double star project.

He wanted an update. Said he had not received email messages recently. I thought that a little odd but suspected it was because I was using blind copy. Fired up the Android. Jumped into the Gmail app, and searched for the messages. Found a recent bulletin. Checked the recipient list. He was on it. Maybe I went into his spam folder. Made a mental note to resend a recent message directly.

Verified which address he wanted to use.

Then I thought, since we're here, together, with access to the internet, I could demo, quickly, the spreadsheet file in Google Drive. Huh. Didn't remember ever doing anything quick like this before on the table. Regardless, in a few seconds, I was in the spreadsheet. We reviewed the tabs. Showed how to select items and then how to log them. I explained how he could use the Sheets document.

Checked which email address was associated with the spreadsheet.

And then I thought, hey, let's have a look at the web site. Since we're here. Did a quick tour in a browser. Another place for bulletins, links, how-tos, etc. Done. He was happy. I was happy. Launched Evernote and made some quick reminders to myself.


Sipped my Peculiar and then it hit me. I'm comfortable with the Android. I just did some "work." It was fast and relatively easy. Was able to do everything I needed to do. Transparent. Wow. Something of a break-thru moment, I realised. Letting go of Psion...

enjoyed Guylain's talk

Headed to the recreational astronomy night meeting. I had promised to make more red film deliveries. I was also interested in seeing Guylain Rochon's talk on power and cable management. It was great. I particularly liked that he put a small computer on the telescope... Very interesting ideas.

This time the meeting was at the Northern District Library. My old stomping ground. Unfortunately, it was not noted, upon booking, that the library branch normally closes at 8:30. That meant we had to cut the meeting in half! Guylain, and Jim, on another telescope project, were forced to blaze through their presentations. Allard, with The Sky This Month, had to step down. Sadly.

followed up on YouTube account

Chatted with Mike. Asked if he knew about the YouTube situation for the RASC TC. I think he was a little disappointed that there had been no response back to me. I asked him I could proceed. He urged me to go ahead.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

made decals

Made bird decals in Adobe Illustrator for our signage guy. He'll make ones in vinyl which we'll adhere to the CAO deck glass plates. Much cheaper than proprietary solutions. I really want to stop killing song birds.

Monday, October 12, 2015

recognised by Mason

Wow. Brian Mason mentioned me three times in RASC Observer's Handbook 2016! I just stumbled across this. Exciting and nerve-wracking.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

discussed SQM install

Helped Peter H with SQM-LE installation planning at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Via Skype we chatted and exchanged files.

I suggested it would work well on our Science Platform. Peter was a little concerned about viewing angles but I don't anticipate issues.

have a plan

Just read Greg's article on iTelescope. Neat. His closing remarks are that time is precious, in astrophotography, especially when renting a 'scope. Indeed. I thought of the limited dark time in summer evenings. So it is important to have a good plan. And SkyTools, of course, can help tremendously in this respect.

Friday, October 09, 2015

updated the coloured list

Made an updated SkyTools observing list for the Coloured Double Stars list, from the RASC Observer's Handbook 2016 .

received OH 2016

Found the RASC Observer's Handbook 2016 in the mailbox. Joy. I like the First Nations artwork on the back cover by Mi'kmaw artist Gloade.

352 pages again.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

sent DS update

Sent out a double star project update notice to the team.

Friday, October 02, 2015

green blobs in space

I read with some interest the article entitled Supermassive Black Holes Make Merging Galaxies Green over at Scientific American.

While we see lots of green on planet Earth, it is not seen in outer space. In fact, I am often irked when green is used to describe deep sky objects, particularly double stars. There are no green stars. There can't be.

The article however focuses on Hanny van Arkel’s citizen-science observations of little green dots in Galaxy Zoo images she was reviewing as she classified galaxies. Turned out these points were caused by ionised oxygen. Not unlike the effect close to home, with aurora. Initially, it was thought these were small galaxies and the internal stars were energising the oxygen.

It turns out that "Hanny's Voorwerpjes" are being affected by something external or far away and somewhat exotic: the interactions of supermassive black holes of colliding galaxies. The black holes produced intense beams of ultraviolet energy that lit up oxygen, like lighthouses, in the outlying regions of the galaxies.

Image of SDSS 2201+11 from Hubble Site.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

helped Peter (Etobicoke)

I helped Peter with a small star party for Cubs and Scouts at the St James United Church. Not an ideal spot in the parking lot unfortunately. Someone had set up some incredibly bright LED lights on a nearby tree.

Flew both Phil's and Peter's Meade telescopes.

I found Saturn with my compass and SkySafari out of a blue sky! Wow. Was ready to go when everyone arrived from their meeting.

We viewed the ringed planet, some double stars, the Ring Nebula, open clusters, etc. I had a list made from SkyTools. Good weather, yeh. But a little challenging with the bright sky and local light pollution.

The kids had some looks. Peter helped them with some constellations so they could obtain their observing badge. Short attention spans. They then went about playing in the parking lot.

With the adults and parents, talked about star colours and temperatures, cost of equipment, learning the sky, etc.

Later, Peter coaxed some of the older kids, from the choir. They seemed more aware, more interested. But they were under-dressed and bailed.

Peter and I handed out RASC Starfinders, ones I had picked up from National Office earlier.