Saturday, December 31, 2016

closer now

I know it's just a day in a sequence of days in our time here on this planet in a galaxy in the middle of the vast cosmos. But it just got personal, all this death. What a send-off. A family member gone on the eve of the human calendar year. I will miss you very much PJ. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, stardust to stardust, where we will all end up, relatively soon, cosmologically.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

noted postage

Received a Christmas card from a client. The whole training team signed it. Very nice. I took another look at the envelope as I headed to the recycle bin. Hold the phone. That's an astronomy related stamp.

unique USA Global stamp

The unique design, round, caught my eye. I noted the text GLOBAL which I took to mean an international postage stamp. And then I noticed what was within the border. Well, well.

set the Moon dial

The former occupant of Mom's new house has yet to remove the grandfather clock. I thought that since it is here, might as well use it! So I would up the clock drive, raising the counterweight. It seemed to work fine. Then I set the Moon phase dial. Over the next couple of days, I watched the Moon disappear.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

caught up on Mars

Binged-watched a few PVRed episodes of National Geographic's Mars with some tips and updates from my sister. Bits were a little hokey but overall it was interesting.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

learned about Vera

On the Science Channel again, we watched a episode of Through the Wormhole narrated by Morgan Freeman. I believe this was episode 8 from the first season entitled Beyond the Darkness. The topic was dark matter and dark energy and featured a bit with Vera Rubin! Awesome! Great to learn a bit more about her. Curious timing, this show. I relayed the sad news about Ms Rubins to Mom.

A lot of people have been talking about her lately and saying she discovered dark matter. It's more appropriate to say that her research into the rotational patterns of spiral galaxies lead to the development of the dark matter theory. What she found make cosmologists throw out their old theories.

on exploring Mars

On Science Channel, Mom and I caught an episode from Mars: The Secret Science. I believe we saw episode 4 called Mars's Deepest Mysteries. There were appearances by Phil Plait, Mike Massimino, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. It's a hot topic.

gathered photo tips

Found the article in a general photography site entitled How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse by Nasim Mansurov. Typos aside, there is some good info.

Monday, December 26, 2016

capped the camera

Rhonda told me she put a plastic cap or cover over the top edge of the pinhole (solargraph) camera. We're trying to keep the winter out.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

received gifts

Enjoyed time with my sis and bro-in-law at my Mom's new house. A low key affair this year. I received a number of astronomy-themed items.

Mission to Mars booklet by TIME magazine

A TIME Magazine booklet called Mission to Mars from Mom. Can't wait to read this. I'm fascinated to read about humans leaving Earth.

crescent Moon tree ornament

My very nice neighbour gave me a gift bag before I departed. On the outside was a tree ornament.

Galaxy chocolate bar

Ha ha! She gave me a Galaxy chocolate bar. I know where she got it!

Meteor chocolate bars

Rhonda also gave me a Meteor chocolate bar. Don't know where she found that!

yum - hot chocolate with Baileys

She knows me. This will come in handy during cold backyard observing!

tiny red LEDs on a 3 metre string

Blinky lights! Blinky lights! Neat. Teenie tiny red LEDs on thin wires. Powered by a battery pack. Also will be handy during astronomy sessions. Great colour/hue.

gave a calendar

Heard from Rhonda. They had opened their Christmas gifts. She thanked me for the 2017 RASC Calendar. Knew she'd like it.


She told me later that she looked for photographs by me. Ha. Mine aren't good enough.

Friday, December 23, 2016

a good morning (Bradford)

Stepped outside to get my car. It was dark and clear! I saw many stars. The Big Dipper was overhead and upside down. To the north-west, I noted a pair of stars. Gemini, I wondered. To the south, I took in the crescent Moon near Jupiter. Lovely sky.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

got more NGC 1931 data (Halifax)

Oh! It was still running. OK.

The BGO robot reported successfully collecting my image data for NGC 1931. Something had gone terribly wrong during my last attempt on 11 Dec '16. I was trying to build on the run of 9 Nov '16. Also procured h-alpha data this time.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 1931 with diffuse nebula in luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.


I checked my email from Rhonda's living room, sipping my Egg of Nog. Something went wrong.

Subject: BGO: #bgoreplies  (ID 2666)!
It will be tried again another night.

Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2016 22:55:38 -0400
From: Burke-Gaffney Observatory

Clouds? Other issues? Not sure what happened.

That was my Palomar 2 request...

Verified it would be left in the queue for a future run...

up and running

The skies, before midnight, were looking good in Halifax. I hoped I might receive some image data.

I jumped into the live camera page. I could tell the telescope was running (based on the mount position).

Loaded up the twitter feed. Spotted this, at the top of the tweets log:

tweet: BGO says: A special observation of GSC0237400153 for Blake is starting...

Oh ho.

All right. Here we go!

darkest days

The only thing good about the long nights is more starlight.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

checked solargraphs

I would have liked to be at the RASC Toronto Centre astrophotography workshop—for solargraphy—at the Yorkville library but I had to work (a weird shift). Fun seeing the posted photos by Ian on Facebook.

They opened their cameras. Some had water damage (sadly). They scanned the photos (which often destroys the original print). And then they corrected them in imaging software.

CAO solargraph raw paper original with water damage

Image from CAO Garage, raw. Remember: it is laterally inverted.

CAO solargraph inverted flipped from garage

Image from CAO Garage, scanned, colours inverted, flipped horizontally. The horizon is clearly visible. This represents the "fall" season so the Sun lines start high and fall down as we head into winter. The CAO MODLs and THO are visible. Focus is good.

CAO solargraph inverted flipped from Observing Pad

Image from CAO Observing Pad. Also succumbed to water damage. Optically corrected, again.

All photos of the photos by Ian Wheelband.

shifted south-east (Halifax)

I wanted to shoot NGC 2440 again. First shot on 15 Dec '16. I wanted to get the Puppis planetary nebula closer to the centre of the frame. And, if lucky, encompass the nearby multi-star systems. I centred on the star TYC 05984-1357 1.

It worked in the sense that I captured the multi-star system JRN 35. And I just squeezed in the doubles JRN 36 and ARA 385. But the whole image looks softer. Bad skies?

At least this time I received all the colour channels along with the H-alpha and O-III data.

NGC 5466 and some multi-star systems in luminance

Luminance only, 15 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

JRN 35 is the sextuplet south-west of NGC 2440, well away, very near the edge of the frame. A and B are rather close together, angled north-east to south-west, and equal in brightness. They seem closer to the group than what SkyTools shows. Perhaps they are moving north-east? C is the same brightness as A and B and is nearly due north of B. D is the faint star east of B. It is between D and E. E, curiously, seems the brightest of all! F is south of A, B, and C, slightly brighter than E.

JRN 36 is the tight pair south of JRN 35 running east-west. A, brighter, is to the east.

ARA 385 A and B are the equally bright stars south-south-east of HU 709 (the bright triangle). Just at the left edge of the frame.

multi-star Messier 47 (Halifax)

While the sky was full of Moon, I wanted to have a go at the multi-star systems in Messier 47. I sent the Burke-Gaffney telescope on a mission. It brought back some stars from Puppis.

multi-star systems in Messier 47 luminance

Luminance only, 3 seconds subexposures, 6 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

In the middle of loose open cluster M47 is HD 60997 or Σ1121. The A and B stars are the brightest, slightly left or east of centre, and touching in this image. They appear equally bright. A is eastward; B is westward. C is the rather faint star south-east of AB and perfectly in-line. D is the medium bright star due east of A. E is south-west of B showing a bit brighter than C but less than D. Where's F? G is the bright star due north of AB. SkyTools shows this star more eastward. Either its moved to the west or the AB stars have shifted east. H looks the same brightness as D, is opposite D, to the west of A. The I star might be the same magnitude as A or B and is north-east of G. Finally the J star is quite far north, slightly more than the AB-G separation, and slightly to the west, almost opposite C.

Huh. F is the faint star beyond B, slightly in-line with AB, just over half-way to the mid-bright star HD 60968. It seems to be slightly brighter than C.

I had viewed Messier 47 back in March 2013 but had rushed. I had not noted all the stars of the system nor their colours. I look forward to drawing out the hues in colour data.

To the right or west of Struve 1121 is the multi-star system V378 Pup or A3092 or ADS6208. The C, D, E, and F stars are easily spotted. The bright point is the A star (at magnitude 5.7) with the very faint (mag 12.2) B star close by, lost in the glare perhaps. C and D and E appear the same brightness. C is close to AB, to the north-east. D is well-away, to the north-east of C whereas E is to the north-west, about 2/3rds the AB-D separation. F is the faint star between D and E, almost in-line.


Tried coaxing V378 B out by dramatically stretching with the x^1/5 function. No joy.


Reshot faster on 12 Nov '17. Tried 1 second on 30 Nov '17.


Produced colour image with 3 second exposures on 13 Apr '18.


Wikipedia link: Messier 47.

did I need more 1907 data?

Wasn't expecting anything but the BGO robot fired up and grabbed some data. I guess it was somewhat clear in Halifax.

I had programmed a run for the open cluster NGC 1907. It was on my "view again" list. Oops. I didn't realise that I had already captured 1907, back in September. Guess I forgot to update my ST3P list on John Charles... And I forgot to update the "view again" lists...

I'll have to check closely to see if the data quality is any better. First impression is that it looks the same.

Bound to happen, I guess, this type of mistake. Shooting something again when I don't need to is wasteful for all concerned.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

let the Sun in

Set up the pinhole (solargraph) camera with Rhonda's help. Let her open the shutter. Here we go.


Our result after 6 months.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

like a hypersonic space brick

From a social media suggestion by Katrina, I tuned into the crowd-funded TMRO podcast. I also jumped into the chat room. Pretty neat show. Inspiring in a lot of ways. Enjoyed the spaceflight and astronomy content. Don't know if I learned anything new... curiously, I was familiar with every topic they touched on. And, a few times, I found it a bit... um... distracting?! The multiple panelists and presenters (and even others off-camera) would often interrupt and speak over each other. Occasionally it was just a mish-mash, just noise and people shouting. Full marks for enthusiasm. Interesting personalities. Lots of energy.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

returned to Jupiter's Ghost (Halifax)

Back in April, I tried to image this target. Neat to work on it again. It's coming around the corner, a target best viewed in the winter. NGC 3242 or Ghost of Jupiter is back. Also known as Caldwell 59.

This was early in my usage of the BGO robot and I did not have a lot of experience. I've since realised that planetary nebulae are rather bright and using 60 second subexposures, fine for galaxies, causes problems. On April 24, I thought the images were blown out. I also felt the blue data very poor. And for PNs, now, I'm trying to collect O-III data.

This time I halved the exposure times, I collected more blue data, requested oxygen, I skipped the luminance, and doubled-up on the hydrogen.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 3242 in green

Green only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. Looks OK.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 3242 in blue

Blue only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. Also looks OK.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 3242 in O-III

O-III only, 30 seconds subexposures, 5 stacked shots. Love that. No stars!

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 3242 in H-alpha

H-α only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. Looks OK.

All processed with FITS Liberator and Paint.NET. All: north is up; east is left.

received NGC 2539 data (Halifax)

I asked BGO to image NGC 2539, aka Collinder 176, for me. A loose open cluster in Puppis. One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 2539 in luminance

Luminance only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

This image isn't quite centred the way I had hoped.

There's a neat multi-star system to the south-east of the cluster. But it's cut-off on the left edge of the frame. Maybe I'll reshoot, using a specific star, to force the star system to be included...


Reframed on 9 Jan.

tried for NGC 2440 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robotic telescope tried to image NGC 2440 for me but something happened. Clouds, perhaps? I only received luminance data so I'll have to reshoot. Looks like a very interesting target!

NGC 2440 is a curiously-shaped planetary nebula in Puppis. It is not round or smooth. It is barely symmetrical. It has bright core that looks like an hourglass, running north-west to south-east, then an almost rectangular shell, then bright points or nodes outside the shell, and wispy wings heading north-east and south-west, i.e. opposed 90° to the core. This looks like one of these cool bipolar PNs. It is one of the RASC Finest NGCs.

Not far from the multi-star system HU 709.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 2440 in luminance

Luminance only, 15 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

Can't wait to get more data!


HU (W. J. Hussey) 709, aka HD 62240, is an eight star system. The bright elements, forming the little right-angled triangle, are the A, B, C, D, and E stars. A and B are a tight pair, merged in the photo, at the south-east; C and D are a very tight pair at the north-east, and E is the west companion. CD is due north of AB. F is west of E, dimmer than E. G is west-south-west of AB and dimmer still. H is the very dim star south of AB.

The AB blob in the image does like, I think, slightly extended, compared to the CD and E patterns. That suggests there is a star in there. But they are too close to split with this imaging system. SkyTools 3 Professional says A and B are 1.8 arc-seconds apart.

C and D, by the way, would be tough for me visually, at 0.4".


Shifted south-east slightly.


Wikipedia link: NGC 2440.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

fake or real?

Spotted an article by Bob King while reading in bed. Entitled, Colored Double Stars, Real and Imagined, the article has a seasonally appropriate photo attached: a tree decorated with colourful lights. It addresses the issue of interpretation when stars of different hues are close together. The author cautions that we may experience "spurious color!" It includes a table of colourful stars. I wonder how many of those I have viewed.


Indeed, I have viewed all.


Spotted some typos in the table and reported them. Bob fixed up the list.

terrible manuals

Read the SkyNews editor's online report. It was an attack on telescope and mount manuals. On how poorly written and confusing they are. Hear, hear!

I think the situation is terrible for many reasons. Poorly organised, poor translations (in some cases), overly technical for the novice, etc. I wish I could fix it.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


Weird. Funny little things. Looks like the SMU BGO robotic focuser didn't kick in? I think I'm seeing the central obstruction in the star images. Was trying for NGC 1931. Again. A redo.

funny lookin' BGO image

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET.

Received more data on 21 Dec '16.

considered growth

Read with interest Uncle Rod's latest blog entry.

He was speaking to the greying of the amateur astronomy hobby. And in the end he made a strong argument for continuing decline. He attributed some of the effects to modern distractions, the lack of attractive astronomical events (like a big comet), lack of time, lack of funds. And then he wondered about something else: the space race (or lack thereof). Wow. I hadn't really thought about that. On Facebook, a lively discussion started up. Another person suggested the light pollution factor. Indeed.

This made me think about our efforts, for the RASC Toronto Centre, within council, around strategic planning, about membership retention and acquisition. Something I've felt but this helped put a point on. If our membership numbers are staying roughly the same, we seem to have flat numbers from the last few years, then isn't that amazing? Growth may be very difficult at this time. Also, maybe it is not the measure we should be using, headcount. Perhaps we should be paying more attention to duration.

I did wonder about photography. Would this not be very attractive now? Of course, there are challenges here. Even though Rod Mollise dealt with costs, and how now when can get into the hobby at a fairly advanced level, without spending the equivalent funds for a car. That said, many rookies are attracted to deep sky imagery and high-quality results which can not be achieved without some expense.

Mike W in the Ottawa RASC said he was buoyed by the youth at their events. Ah. So what are they doing differently?

I forwarded the article link to the RASC council group on Basecamp. I hope it might generate some discussion. And I will suggest we be careful about the metrics we use.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

not so lumpy

Data from the European Space Agency's Very Large Telescope, the most precise made of an effect known as cosmic shear, suggests dark matter may be significantly less dense and less lumpy. The shear effect is caused by super-large structures in the Universe. These findings are in disagreement with earlier results from the Planck probe. Future missions such as the Euclid satellite and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope may provide an even better understanding of this data. I read this in the article entitled Dark matter may be smoother than expected at Astronomy Now.

Not so lumpy darkness?

Friday, December 09, 2016

he fixed the subject

Helped Mr Lane with a BGO email issue. Shared with him that recent messages were devoid of a subject line. Forwarded an example. He found the programming bug.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

identified (Bradford)

We talked about the planets as we walked to downtown.

I admitted I wasn't clear, at the moment, who was where. Yep. Believe it or not.

Shared my kitchen window observation from a couple of days back. I relayed how some were talking about trying to spot Mercury now. Tricky. Close to the Sun. Very low at the horizon. Against a bright sky.

Spotted Galaxy chocolate bars as we passed through The Flower Merchant.

Over poppers and curd and craft brews, we checked out SkySafari on Ananke. Turned on the ecliptic line. To the west, at sunset? Probably Venus. Super bright and fairly high. Hey. Mars was up and left. And to the east? Bright and somewhat orange. That would have to be the star Capella.

The streets were muffled on the way home. The Moon faded out behind thickening clouds. More snow on the way.

into the ether

Another hero gone. John Glenn left the Earth for the heavens.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

observing moon eclipses

Enjoyed today's Google Doodle.

Google Doodle of astronomer Ole Rømer

It features Danish astronomer Ole Rømer determining that the speed of light could be measured as he observed Jupiter and its Moons.

spin needed

A report at Science Alert says that cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) issues may be responsible for astronaut vision problems. The lack of gravity is changing the pressure in the skull and on the eyes. This might be a big problem for long missions, like a 1.5 to 2.0 year trip, in zero-G, to Mars. We will need to fire up rotary elements...

caught a variable nebula (Halifax)

Looks like a comet.

The Burke-Gaffney robotic telescope imaged Hubble's Variable Nebula (or NGC 2261 or Caldwell 46) for me. It is a small nebula in Monoceros. Another of the RASC Finest NGCs. It is actually referred to as a variable reflection nebula as its brightness changes. It is believed to be due to changes in the brightness of the nearby star (or stars).

The somewhat bright point at the south edge of the nebula is interesting. Some refer to its as a variable star, R Monocerotis; others say it is just highly concentrated gas within the nebula.

RASC Finest variable reflection nebula NGC 2261 luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

There are problems in the bottom-left corner of the frame.

That's too bad. There's a double star there, south-west of the nebula. It's SLE 557. Two somewhat tight and equally bright stars. Very blurry in the image.


Wikipedia link: NGC 2261.

aimed at Thor's Helmet (Halifax)


The BGO robot imaged Thor's Helmet aka NGC 2359 for me. An emission nebula in Canis Major. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. The south wing is bright; the north wing is very faint. SkyTools shows another wing flying off to the east. I can barely see this.

RASC Finest emission nebula NGC 2359 luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

I wonder if I need to go back and do longer exposures... I also found it included in an O-III filter list in SkyTools. Yeah. I should get more data.

There are problems in the top-right corner of the frame.

Again, this is unfortunate. There's a triple star system, BRT 2664, north-west of the nebula. Tight stars. But with the blurry collimation issue, the three stars merge together.


Tried again on 29 Jan '17. And took O-III data!


Wikipedia link: NGC 2359.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

shifted to NGC 1975 (Halifax)

As expected the skies cleared over Halifax. I had 4 items in the queue.

The BGO robot imaged NGC 1975 for me. aka Ced 55c. Previously, I had aimed directly at 1973 and 1977, all in the area of the Running Man Nebula, north of the Great Orion Nebula. 1975 is above (north) 1977; 1973 is below and to the right (south-west). It seems that 1975 is the faintest of the reflection nebulae, centred on the multi-star system STF 746.

This whole area is considered one of the RASC Finest NGCs. The RASC Observer's Handbook has the entry notation NGC 1973+ meaning 3, 5, and 7.

RASC Finest reflection nebula NGC 1975 luminance

Luminance only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

There are problems in the bottom-left corner of the frame.


Image centred on NGC 1973.

Image centred on NGC 1977.


Wikipedia link: Sharpless 279.

gave a suggestion

Chatted with Mr Chapman online. Gave a seed idea for the national newsletter in SkyNews. Sounded as if he liked it.

first clear sky in days (Bradford)

Peeked out the window before starting the coffee. Whoa. Clear. A beautiful sky. And even without my specs on, I could see a bright planet to the south-south-east. What was it? Not bright enough for Venus. It was beige in colour.


Morning, Jupiter.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

done 60

The RASC Finest NGC list, from the Observer's Handbook, is said to have 110 targets.

Really, it has more than that, with compound, complex, or hybrid objects. The Veil Nebula for example is listed twice, as item 99A and 99B. That makes the table include 111 rows. And still some of the items are "double" objects, like the Siamese Galaxy, and the Hockey Stick.

With NGC 2392 yesterday, I've imaged 60 objects.

45 to go...

Unfortunately, so far, I have found 6 targets are too low for the BGO robot.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Unity glides

Virgin Galactic is getting back on the horse.

Virgin's VSS Unity glides free

VSS Unity went for its first glide today.

received NGC 2392 data (Halifax)

I got it too!

Ian had imaged this target recently from the CAO with his RC. See his RGB colour image at SmugMug.

It must have cleared briefly at Halifax.

The BGO robot captured NGC 2392. A mid-sized planetary nebula in Gemini. aka The Clown Face or Caldwell 39. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Alas, slightly flawed data.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 2392 luminance

Luminance only, 15 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

I collected red, green, blue, Oxygen-III, and hydrogen-alpha data as well.


Wikipedia link: NGC 2392.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

on lumpiness

Saw a post on Facebook shared by Malcolm Park. It referred to an article at Quanta Magazine entitled The Case Against Dark Matter, which documents how Erik Verlinde, a theoretical physicist at the University of Amsterdam, is proposing that gravity is a byproduct of quantum interactions. He says that extra gravity, that many attribute to dark matter, may be be an effect of dark energy.

Perhaps dark matter doesn't exist at all. Certainly we have not directly observed or detected it.

Very interesting.

Jamie Flinn commented on Malcolm's post. He said, "Y'all thinking about it wrong way - you don't need dark matter or anything exotic... my theory is that lumpiness or large scale shape out side of our universe warp our spacetime time [like] a bedsheet covering a body, producing climes and slides on which our spacetime flows..."

I tend to agree. We're stuck in a rut.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

next NOVA announced

The announcement went out for the next NOVA course. January 16 to February 27, 2017, skipping the Family Day holiday. This time at the Fairview branch of the Toronto Public Library.

checked scheduling feature

Greg shared a link to his blog. He had written a post (first time in a long time). It was on the new scheduling feature in SkyTools 4. It included a screen snapshot too! All right!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

understanding dark beasts

Read article at Science News. Researchers, including RASC Toronto Centre's honorary president Roberto Abraham, are finding galaxies devoid of stars. In 2014, they were surprised to find dozens of large but dark galaxies in the Coma galaxy cluster, a well-studied region. Over a thousand have been since found. They may be an old type of galaxy not yet classified and they seem to harbour a lot of dark matter.

Roberto Abraham with Dragonfly

The compound Dragonfly telescope system built by Abraham, designed to reduce ghosting and artefacts, was used to effectively find these ultradiffuse galaxies. Big questions remain. How did they form? How old are they? Are they not conducive environments for making stars? Did their star-making gas get ripped away? Did they have stars which got throw out by high spin rates? Or have all the stars yet to ignite?

Monday, November 28, 2016

that which we call a rose

Read the article at Astronomy Now on star names. The International Astronomy Union formally approved the names for 227 stars. Up until now, there were only 14 approved names. The Working Group on Star Names web page includes a link to a document for the official stellar monikers.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

now, now, Mr Night

That Mr Night. He's such a prankster.

MR NIGHT HAS A DAY OFF - short film from Ignas Meilunas on Vimeo.

a light revolution

Watched the video entitled Light Pollution - The disappearing darkness at Deutsche Welle (DW). The 43 minute documentary is a good treatment of the infiltration of light at night. It features speakers and researchers in China, Germany, and France.

world light pollution map

Let's bring back the stars.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

garage supported

Heard from Tony while he and Grace were at the CAO. He told me he moved the garage circuit over to the generator. Fantastic news. I thanked him.

can we streamline things?

Started the discussion on simplifying and improving the weekend paperwork for CAO supervisors.

on certificates

Briefly but lively discussion, sparked by Alan again, on the National Observing Committee about the ETU, required corrections, new programme ideas, who could help, etc. Added my 2 cents. A good team, we have.

Friday, November 25, 2016

good advice

Enjoyed Uncle Rod's blog article about getting started with astrophotography. Very nice to see. I like how he deliberately addressed the adage often heard, issued the old timers to the rookies. There's no reason why people cannot jump directly into imaging. Keep it simple and have fun.

in the can

Completed my new Journal article. With help from Ian W and Phil.

future prediction fail!

From xkcd today.

xkcd comic: I want my flying car.

Hrfph. OK. Then I want a personal transporter!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

new quasar target

From a Sky & Telescope article, I learned that normally faint quasar CTA 102 in Pegasus is currently bright enough to see in an 8-inch telescope. I'll have to add that to the SkyTools 3 list!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

missed the election

I could not attend, due to weird shift work, the Toronto Centre annual general meeting. I understand it went well with the first election in a long time (or ever?) and that Professor Delaney's talk was fascinating (as always). I learned that national executive director Randy Attwood was present.

2016 AGM for RASC TC at the Ontario Science Centre

Seems I was elected to council again!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

sent proxy form

Submitted my proxy form to one of the appointed voluntary proxies. First time I've voted at a RASC Toronto Centre AGM.

Monday, November 21, 2016

pinhole workshop set

Ian W is assisting Risa with the astroimaging workshop follow-up session, where they plan to open the pinhole cameras and record the solargraph images. Session is planned for Dec 20. I think I'll be working. Dang.

Location: Yorkville library.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

winter is coming

Ian and I arrived the Carr Astronomical Observatory. A mini work party, we wanted to take care of critical things before the arrival of the cold weather.

First order of business, after our Friday lunch, was to take inventory of parts and supplies needed for our weekend work. Happily, we had everything we needed, from the existing items, and the handful of things Ian had purchased. I made a note to update the small motor inventory in advance of the spring work party.

We performed the generator maintenance. We found the battery heater circuit already energised. Huh. Had I turned it on at the October work party? I couldn't remember. The generator conducted its self-test on time.

Happily we found the generator SLA battery in very good condition. We cleaned and lubricated (with my new tube of MG Chemicals carbon conductive grease) the battery terminals. We wondered if the status warning was due to poor connections.

We lubricated all the outer door locks with Liquid Wrench.

We inspected, adjusted, and tested all the security system switches.

On Saturday, despite the rainy conditions, we worked on all the mowers (except for "Red Dwarf," the old red push mower). Oil and oil filter changes for all. Stabiliser into all fuel. Fuel drained from Green Flash. Petcocks closed on Stargrazer and the Yard-Man and motors run until starved. Batteries removed, transferred to the house, and given a top-up recharge.

To the GBO south-east panel, we replaced the remaining bottom hinge screws.

I replaced the batteries in various critical systems, including smoke and CO alarms, the Davis weather station, and the furnace thermostat. Tested the hard wired smoke alarms. Verified the upper hall bedroom area CO alarm (with 10 year lithium non-removable battery) was functional. Checked the flashlight batteries at the fire-safety stations.

Ian and I helped Denis with his MODL install. In particular, after drilling the appropriate deck boards, we pulled the outer wall conduit up. Ready for electrical and networking ports.

Tested the new reflective tape on one of the snow sticks. Worked well!

Just as an intense winter blast arrived. Good timing.

Friday, November 18, 2016

super bright dog (Blue Mountains)

Noted a bright sun dog as we worked in the garage. It brightened to the point where it was difficult to look at! Amazing.

helped at star party (Collingwood)

Helped Ian W with a private school star party gig. While he delivered his astronomy presentation I set up the solar observing equipment. Roadie.

Atop an equatorial mount, I added an ED100 Sky-watcher 900 mm OTA with Nagler Type 5 eyepiece and Kendrick solar full-spectrum filter. Piggybacked a Coronado PST with Pentax 10.5mm.

In white light, sun spot group 2610 was visible (I had looked it up yesterday). I noticed another group. The big spot was at the 5 o'clock position; the small group was at 11. I tried to flip things in my brain given the mirror diagonal.

In the office, I checked the Spaceweather web site. The new group was not yet numbered.

SDO image of Sun in hydrogen alpha

The view in the PST was surprisingly dim. Partly due to the wispy clouds. Still, I could see filaments and proms! Nice.

Later, I spotted a ring! All right: parhelia! It was coloured too. Sweet.

A faint sun dog on the left briefly appeared.

Beautiful weather. Almost shirt-sleeve. 17°!

The students (and teachers) enjoyed the show.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

watched Peggy again

I caught the Soyuz launch to the International Space Station. Hey! I didn't know Peggy Whitson was heading up again. All right.

Peggy Whitson

A good nominal launch. Did I hear she'll assume command? Fantastic.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

jumped on national list

Joined the national RASC listserv.

Turned on the daily digest immediately.

received reminder

Received a renewal notice: "Time to Renew your RASC Membership!"

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Binary Universe: StarStaX

cover of the RASC Journal 2016 December
The December RASC Journal was released to members. Knew it was coming this time. I look forward to reading about Québec City's clocks and sundials! The Imager's Corner article on Resolution looks very interesting.

My software review column Binary Universe featured the StarStaX software.

I wanted members to know about the free and easy to use application for making star trail images or the data files for star trail movies. A nice app for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux users. Evaluation version reviewed: 0.70. Version 0.71 is available.

done the budget

Finished the CAO budget for the new fiscal year. Finalised my executive summary. They are in the can. A big thanks to Tony and Phil. Smart people.

Monday, November 14, 2016

gave some suggestions

Ben asked for some help on his C8 SCT telescope on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group.

He had tried to observe the Moon. Well. That was his first problem.

He said he could see a bright white disc but no detail. He tried different eyepieces. He tried turning the focus knob each way but it didn’t make a difference. He shared that he had used the telescope several times before without difficult.

Some others jumped in but it didn't feel like the conversation was going in a good direction.

I asked about his setup. I wanted to know if he was using a mirror diagonal. I wanted to know if anything had changed. Had he added or removed any equipment. Was he using extension tubes? Or a Barlow? I discouraged testing with the 8mm. I pointed out that SCTs have a LONG range of focus.

He responded that nothing had changed. And that it had worked fine before. Huh. I was running out of ideas.

Moon is an egg


small thumbnail image of Moon with bad aspect ratio

A super egg.

viewed excellent Moon talk

Professor Paul Delany's talk on CTV about the purported super Moon was amazing.

Our veep! An amazing speaker.

shot HD 57102 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged HD 57102 aka 19 Lyn for me. Struve labelled it 1062. A multi-star system.

multi-star system HD 57102 in luminance

Luminance only, 3 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

On my View Again list to chase down the C companion. Easily spotted in this image although it is extremely faint. It is to the west-north-west of the bright and tight AB pair, almost inline.

SkyTools says the C star is magnitude 10 to 11 but it seems dimmer. The star beyond is GSC 03785-0554 which the software notes as 14 (but is poor quality). The bright pair north of D, with GSC 03785-0041 and GSC 03785-0653, are in the mag 13 range and the C star is similar to those.

I don't remember the telescope I was using on first viewing 19 Lyncis but perhaps C was below the light grasp.


According to the Washington Double Star catalogue, C is magnitude 12.8.


Discovered that in my SkyTools software, I had never recorded this in the Multiple Stars life list. And it never made it to the View Again. Up to date now!


LRGB data combined on 11 May '18.


Wikipedia: 19 Lyncis.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

shot HD 41943 (Halifax)

With the stupor Moon about, I asked the BGO robot to image some stars for me.

First up was HD 41943 in Orion. It is the multi-star system also known as (or in) the 37 Cluster. Struve labelled the star systems 848 and 844. Double star observers BAZ and JRN had a go too.

There is a slight tracking problem in the image unfortunately. That's making all the stars not round.

multi-star system 37 Cluster in luminance

Luminance only, 4 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

On my View Again list. I had noted I thought I might sketch it. This was so to identify all the members. This image should help.

A and B are the brightest members. They are touching. On top of one another. Merged, in part, due to the low image quality. They appear to be equal brightnesses. They mark the top-right corner of the 3 digit.

C, north-west of AB, and inline with AB, has moved a bit. Drawn closer to A and B. It is dim.

D is opposite C, about twice the distance. It is brighter than C.

E is due south of AB. About the same brightness as D.

F is, once again, inline with AB, well beyond D, two and a half times the AD separation. Slightly dimmer than D.

G is nearly due south of D, and east-south-east of E. It is fairly dim.

H is below E, forming a triangle with E and G. It is brighter than G. This is the centre of the 3 digit.

I is well away, south-south-west of A. It is the bottom of the 3 digit, at the end of the arc. The same magnitude as D or E.

J is above or north of I. About the brightness of H.

West of J is the dim K star. This must be the faintest member.

One third the JK separation, further west, is L. L is equal in intensity to J.

M is far away. It is west the E star. E is in the top of the 3 digit; M is the bottom of the 7 digit. It is similar in brightness to H.

N is due west of AB and to the north-east of M. It is bright, perhaps slightly brighter than D. It is the kink in the middle of the 7 digit.

O is inline with M and N at twice the angular distance. O is north-west of AB and curiously inline with F, D, B, A, and C. It is somewhat faint, about the same as H. Maybe less. Closer to G? This is the top-left of the 7 digit.

Above or north of N are three stars almost in a straight line. P is the southern star. P is slightly brighter than O.

Back to the line of 3: Q is in the middle, the brightest. Q looks to be as bright as D.

R is north of Q. It too is inline with O and AB and all the rest. Slightly dimmer than Q. The top-right of the 7 digit. R is slightly closer to Q than P.

O, P, Q, and R are evocative of the pincer stars in Scorpius.

Wow. 18 stars! So the A and B stars were not split in this image but all the other members are obvious and easy.

SkyTools says that the distance between A and B is 2.3 seconds of arc. That's well below the 5 limit I generally consider for the BGO equipment.

So I still need to go back and look, visually, at A and B. I also need to note the colours.


The 37 Cluster is also known as NGC 2169 or aka Cr 83 or OCL 481.


Processed in colour.

super light pollution

What do you do when there's a super bright Moon up and about and everybody's going bananas?!

the full Meh

Shoot double stars, of course!

2017 CAO planning

Took a look at the draft 2017 RASC Toronto Centre events calendar. Asked the Carr Astronomical Observatory team to consider the work party dates as well as the Open House and Awards Picnic.

finished 2014

Uploaded more RASC Toronto Centre council minutes to the members section of the web site. The 2014 year this time.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

they updated the mount

Heard about the latest mount from Celestron, the CGEM II. USB port in the hand controller. Index marks on the tripod. Saddle that will accept different dovetails. Ability to track past the meridian. Sounds like it will have a higher payload capacity too.

the new CGEM II mount

Wow. That sounds rather good.

for 9 degrees north

Fired up SkyTools for Risa. She'll be staying in Kochi, India in early December. Oh! 9° above the equator. She might be able to see the Magellanic Clouds and 47 Tucanae. Canopus should be easy.

simulated sky over India in early Dec

The question is: What will the light pollution be like?

finished 2015

Uploaded more RASC Toronto Centre council minutes to the members section of the web site. 2015, done.

Friday, November 11, 2016

started budget planning

Last night, Tony and I started working on the CAO budget for next year. I woke up this morning thinking about it. Redid the Excel workbook, made it more granular.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

no new nominations

Tom, the RASC Toronto Centre secretary, reported that we did not receive any additional nominations for upcoming election. That's too bad. I was hoping that some of our vocal members might join the team to help run the centre.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

imaged NGC 2194 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 2194 for me. A large open cluster in Orion. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Once again there are some problems with the data particularly at the top-right.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 2194 luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

captured NGC 1931 poorly (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 1931 for me. An open cluster with some nebulosity in Auriga. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Some say it is a miniature version of the Great Orion Nebula. Unfortunately, there are a number of problems with the data. I'll have to reshoot.

RASC Finest open cluster with nebula NGC 1931 luminance

Luminance only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

The bright stars in the centre of the open cluster are a multi-star system, HJ 367. A is the bright member to the bottom-left or south-east. South-west is B which is slightly dimmer. To the north-west is C, dimmer still. D is not split cleanly in this poor image; it is merged with B, oriented to the north-west. North-east of the whole group is the dimmest of the five, the E star.

Due south of the cluster and nebula are some bright stars including NSV 2053.

To the south-west is some very faint nebulosity. This is Parsamian 28.


Tried to get more data on 11 Dec '16. Received more data on 21 Dec '16.


Wikipedia link: NGC 1931.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Orion rising

Tony Horvatin shared his very nice short little time lapse centred on Orion.

Made at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Star Adventurer (at half sidereal), Canon T5i, Rokinon 8mm lens at f/3.5, intervalometer, 500 images, 20 second subs, ISO 3200.

Dietmar Kupke helped with processing. Lightroom, DaVinci Resolve.


delivered NOVA course

At the Yorkville branch of the Toronto Public Library, for the RASC Toronto Centre, I delivered the NOVA session on stars, constellations, and finding your way (with a quick Stellarium demo).

old star chart

Glad to have Tanya there to help.

kill switch

Heard from Mr dos Santos. He thanked me for letting him know about the kill switch on the Nautilus power tank. He hadn't noticed it. Once on, he was able to draw power from the external terminals.

caught the Flame (Halifax)

Been a while. Hello. BGO centred on TYC 04767-1372 1 for me in an attempt to image the Flame Nebula aka NGC 2024. A strange diffuse nebula in Orion. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Wow.

RASC Finest diffuse nebula NGC 2024 aka The Flame in luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

It was challenging getting the robot to acquire this object for it protested about the bright nearby star, Alnitak. At magnitude 1.8, the system refused to take the image even with the star just outside the frame. I had to pan well away. Alnitak aka ζ (zeta) Orionis is about 24 arc-minutes away to the bottom-right or south-west. The image scale is 24. So, a half-frame.


I checked the WDS for doubles in the area. None noted.


Wikipedia link: NGC 2024.

Monday, November 07, 2016

drafted 4th report

Drafted the CAO committee report for the RASC Toronto Centre council. To the end of the fiscal year. Ready for review, I think...

clear skies at last

Received an email alert from CSAC for my BGO - SMU profile. "Favorable observing conditions at Halifax" at hour 19 for 1 hour. Clouds: 0%. Transparency: Average. Seeing: Good. The Clear Sky Chart graph looked very good the whole night.

Halifax Clear Sky Chart for evening of Nov 8

All right. It's been almost a month since I received any data.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

next meeting set

The next RASC Toronto Centre council meeting is scheduled for the evening of November 15. I believe it may be held at the David Dunlap Observatory.

surprise at my door

Look what I found at my door?! w00t!

cover of the new RASC 2017 Observer's Handbook

That was quick!


Learned that this issue was dedicated to Geoff Gaherty.

prepped for NOVA

Prepared for my NOVA teach next week. No word on using the library's computer so I readied my old netbook.

Friday, November 04, 2016

keeping an eye out

Seeing a lot of chatter on Facebook that the RASC Observer's Handbook for 2017 is landing in mailboxes. Looking forward to it.

tested DVR

Tried to resurrect the CAO's first Swann appliance. Dead-ski.


Proof-read my Journal article. Submitted a couple of changes.

I didn't know that

Wow. I didn't know Johnny Carson was into astronomy. Eric shared an item from the RASC national Facebook feed.

snapshot from Facebook, Carson at the telescope

Hey! Look at that. A Questar! Nice.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

axions everywhere

Read an article about a German-Hungarian team of researchers, led by Fodor and Jülich, who used a supercomputer to create a large-scale model of the distribution of dark matter based on gravitational lensing observations. This may help scientists to look in areas where dark matter may be concentrated.

dark matter 3D map

Considering various physical considerations, scientists are leaning to extremely light particles, dubbed axions, being the most promising candidates that make up dark matter. Axions are predicted by an extension to quantum chromodynamics (QCD) and they should be about ten billion times lighter than electrons. And that would require, on average, every cubic centimetre of the universe to contain ten million axions. But dark matter is not spread out evenly; rather it forms clumps and branches of a web-like structure.

Within the next few years, scientists should be possible to confirm or rule out the existence of axions experimentally.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

learned about weather

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre meeting at the Ontario Science Centre. I was particularly interested in the topic.

Geoff Coulson from Environment Canada gave an interesting talk on our favourite subject—well, after astronomy. I made some quick notes. I was most interested in checking out the NCAR weather web site. Looks like it will be another good resource for analysing future conditions. Also made a note about CarWarn. Maybe I'll sign up in the spring.

Sat with Chris. We chatted about various things.

Confirmed the star field in the desktop image on Ed's laptop.

Chatted briefly with Geneviève. She's most curious how processing my image in Photoshop will compare to the results achieved with GIMP.

Spoke briefly with Ian W about NOVA. Screen size, room brightness, etc. I think I'm all set. Assuming I can borrow their computer.

Returned Jeff's tool wrench.

Chatted with a fellow member from Bradford!

Caught up with Tony.

Received an incredible book from Peter H.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

we spotted fragmentation

I read the article at Sky & Telescope's web site entitled ALMA Images Spiral Disk Around Baby Stars. This is amazing. I having been hoping and wondering about this for a long time.

One of the popular targets for amateurs with their telescopes is planetary nebulae. These spherical shells or bipolar structures show the end of a star. A star exploding and bursting, sometimes many times, and throwing of jackets of material and debris. We see these are colourful and beautiful objects in the eyepiece or on the camera chip. They remind us of the cycle of life. Stars igniting and heating orbiting worlds then, millions or billions of years later, burning their last atoms of hydrogen, and throwing chemical elements into the void.

We spot novae and supernovae events with increasing frequency as we improve our scanning and detection techniques. These violent events also contribute to the fabrication of heavier elements in the Universe.

The end of things.

multi-star system disc with spiral arms

Surely we're in the middle of the motion picture.

It seems to me that we have not, in general, seen the start of many things. We've not seen a solar system form, with rocky and gaseous planets emerging from primordial discs of dust and gas. We conjecture about the birth or start of the Universe. How did the first galaxies form? What made the first stars light up after the cosmological Dark Age? We've not seen a multi-star system form before. Until now.

John Tobin used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array to peer into the disc of the protostar system L1448 IRS3B in Perseus. Using carbon monoxide emissions, they found the bright star orbiting two baby stars. This is the first direct evidence of disc fragmentation. It looks curiously like a spiral galaxy. Tobin went on to show that the system is unstable at the region of the third star and that the outer star will continue to grow as it absorbs material from the system.

he found the part

Charles reported in. He found, after a lengthy search, the exact replacement part online, from Phoenix Enterprises. Now he can fix his Star Adventurer. I reminded him about Mouser and Digi-Key.

sharing minutes

The web team set up the members area for RASC Toronto Centre documentation such as council minutes and financial reports. In the interest of transparency to our members, we will put future minutes here. And we'll begin loading the past years as well. I started cataloging events for the current year, 2015, and 2014.

Monday, October 31, 2016

old globe

Mom found this little desktop item in my old toys. A tin globe with a pencil sharpener in the base! The red arrows showing the Apollo 11 and 12 landings have faded.

My aversion began at a very young age.