Sunday, February 28, 2016

chatted with BGO

Chatted with the observatory robot...

bla: What's your #status?

BGO: I am not operating at the moment - a human needs to restart me!

bla: Oh, it's day-time, right. What is the #sunstatus right now?

BGO: The Sun is presently up!

bla: What's the #weather like?

BGO: The sky is CLOUDY (temp=7C, humidity=64%, wind=11 km/h)

Helpful robot!

authorised to use the BGO

My authorisation request was accepted.

old black and white photo robot toy and boy

All right!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

locked out

Tried to get into my Astrometry.net account today. Kept getting "OpenID discovery error" messages. Weird. I could see my profile name and user number.

After some digging, notably in the Google group, I learned that Google (and Blogger of course) stopped supporting the OpenID authentication protocol. I had no way of accessing my images stored online.

screen grab of photos in old Astrometry.net profile

Not a great loss. There were only four files. Still, a little frustrating.

sent request to use the SMU BGO

Submitted my request to the human at St Mary's University who feeds and waters the Burke-Gaffney Observatory. My first project is to image all the targets in the RASC Finest NGC list.

check my numbers

Posted on the SkyTools Yahoo!Group, looking to confirm my numbers for the BGO telescope and camera setup.

I built a new telescope for the PlaneWave Instruments CDK24. Aperture 610mm, focal len. 3962mm, f/6.5. I assumed I should use the reflector telescope type. I didn't know what I should use for the Left/Right and Up/Down settings. But then, I wondered if it would even matters when I'm just planning to do imaging?

I built a new camera for the Apogee CG16M CCD. Pixel size 9 microns, chip size 4096 x 4096, gain 1.27, read noise 9, dark signal 3, bits 16.

§

Greg replied. He asked me if there might be a focal reducer used. I'll have to check. He also said the camera specs showed 9.5 e- for the read noise. The QE numbers are correct (whew). "Looks like you are all set to go."

proofed article

Reviewed my article proof for the Journal. Sent a minor edit along...

welcomed the rookies

I thanked our incoming new CAO supervisors.

verified double near ACO 779

Sorted the possible double star near ACO 779. It exists.

Back in early April 2014, while hunting for a supernova in the galaxy cluster ACO 779, I had noted a double star to the south-east. But this double was not shown in the SkyTools 3 Pro software. It shows TYC 02496-1118 1 as a single orange star.

photograph from Aladin of stars near ACO 779

I checked the Aladin atlas. Closely matches my photo. The double, in this image, is below and slightly left.

I checked the WDS. I found something, an entry for the designated location:

09198+3344HJ 2493 1831 2014 6 170 162 6.0 10.3 11.16 11.7 +011-007 +016-007 091951.68+334238.2

Parsed the data.

full WDS identifier:    09198+3344HJ 2493
number of observations:    6
magnitudes:    11.16    11.7

observations:    first;    last
date:    1831    2014
theta (PA) °:    170    162
rho (sep.) ":    6    10.3
proper motion RA ":    11    16
proper motion Dec ":    -7    -7

precise coord. J2000:    091951.68+334238.2
precise decimals RA:    09h19m51.68s
precise decimals Dec:    33°42'38.2"

So, nothing surprising here (again). I had seen a known double, HJ 2493, discovered by John Herschel. The issue is that it is not in ST3P.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

downtown meet-up

Caught up with Katrina over pints and dinner. Astro geek out!

pushed to the weekend?

SpaceX scrubbed again.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Richmond Hill takes ownership of DDO

A notice was issued by the RASC Toronto Centre president, Paul Mortfield, regarding the change in the ownership of the David Dunlap Observatory.

He outlined that Corsica Developments Inc., in 2012, offered the Town of Richmond Hill the observatory buildings. The Town refused them.

In April 2015, Corsica then made an agreement with RASC Toronto Centre. It allowed for continuing occupancy and eventual ownership of the David Dunlap Observatory administration building, main telescope and dome, and land immediately surrounding the buildings.

The Town’s position changed in recent months. Subsequently, Corsica offered the buildings to the Town. And on 22 February 2016, the Town Council of Richmond Hill voted to accept ownership of the David Dunlap Observatory buildings and lands offered to them by Corsica.

Town of Richmond Hill staff have been instructed to work with RASC Toronto Centre to create a long term lease agreement for us to continue to occupy the buildings, maintain the telescope, and provide outreach programs.

He closed indicating that the Centre will consider its options and will keep people updated.

§

See the full notice on the DDO home page.

The same words appear in a post on the DDO Facebook page.

§

Following are the motions as presented (copied from the verbal record with some omissions).

15.4 To consider matters related to a proposed or pending acquisition of land by the municipality (Section 239(2)(c) of the Municipal Act, 2001).

Chan/Cilevitz.

Various subsections concerning arrangements with DG Group

Carried, recorded vote 7-1.

15.5 To consider matters related to a proposed or pending acquisition of land by the municipality related to a lease agreement (Section 239(2)(c) of the Municipal Act, 2001).

Chan/Spatafora.

re: David Dunlap Observatory negotiations, to proceed with council's direction.

Recommendation is that the office of the CAO enter into negotiations with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Toronto Centre regarding the terms of a lease and/or other arrangements for the observatory dome and administrative building on the David Dunlap Observatory Lands and report back to Council.

Carried.

See the PDF copy of the 22 Feb minutes. Section 14 shows some of the particulars of the in-camera session.

SES-9 launch pushed

Tried to follow the SpaceX SES-9 launch tonight. Once again the SpaceFlightNow web site went down. But as I jumped to the Twitter feed and SpaceX mission page, it looked like it was a no-go, due to weather. Just verified that: scrubbed at 6:13 PM EST.

verified double near 59 Ser

Finally got 'round to investigating the neighbourhood around 59 Serpentis.

Closely re-examined the photo captured at 12:47 AM on Saturday 5 July 2014 during the varied session. 59 Ser had found its way onto my SkyTools 3 Pro observing list from the RASC Observer's Handbook, specifically from the Coloured Double Stars table.

I noticed something odd in the photo compared to the charts in the ST3P software. I was seeing what looked like an obvious double star to the south-west of 59 Ser but the software was only showing a single star, GSC 00433-0179, at magnitude 10.9. Due east of this star I was seeing a brighter element.

A year later, at 12:09 AM on Monday 20 July 2015, I had another look. A visual observation this time, to do two things: assess the colours; see if the other double was really there. My perceived colour disagreed with the RASC list but meshed with Haas. The other pair was definitely there.

Tonight I created a multi-layer diagram in Paint.NET. Put my photo at the bottom. Placed a detailed chart from SkyTools on the second layer. Made a third layer for the direction indicator. And finally dropped an image from Aladin.

photograph of double star 59 Ser

My photo. 59 Ser A and B are merged in the overexposure. Mystery star double star, above image centre, is obvious.

screen snapshot from SkyTools of double star 59 Ser

SkyTools 3 Pro with designations (and hand-drawn direction indicator) shown. Mystery double not noted.

photograph from Aladin of double star 59 Ser

Image from Aladin clearly shows mystery double.

So, I dove into the Washington double star database. Verified 59 Ser showed the AB pair. It also lists Aa and Ab. Then I looked in the 'hood. At the coordinates 18269+0009 I found BAL1195. Ah ha!

number of observations:    4
magnitudes:    11.89    12.73

observations:    first;    last
date:    1909    2000
theta (PA) °:    299    296
rho (sep.) ":    8.8    8.8
proper motion RA ":    -2    -5
proper motion Dec ":    -9    -9

precise coord. J2000:    182658.10+000816.3
precise decimals RA:    18h26m58.10s
precise decimals Dec:    00°08'16.3"

That was definitely it. So, it turns out that I imaged and viewed a known double but this pair is not shown (and is not searchable) in SkyTools. A double discovered by R. Baillaud.

Updated my life list accordingly.

Mystery solved.

§

I also rejigged the doubles life list slightly, moving the 59 Sep entry higher in the list, to correspond to the first "observation" (er, image viewed) a year prior.

maybe I will tweet

Katrina has starting using a very neat service where you can send a tweet of an astronomical target and a telescope-camera system (one we saw Dave Lane shopping for at NEAF in 2013) at St Mary's University will grab the data. Next morning, poof, there's your astrophotograph.

She pinged me this morning via Facebook. Her two targets had arrived from the PlaneWave at Burke-Gaffney Observatory.

luminance photograph of comet Catalina

Catalina.

luminance photograph of galaxy M51 and companion

Messier 51.

Super fun!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

taught a NOVA

At the Fort York TPL branch, delivered the NOVA course on stars, constellations, coordinates, and finding your way 'round the night sky with a planisphere or software.

old constellation artwork of Ursa Major

Good crowd, good questions. Finished on time, for a change!

spotted spectra

All right. The prisms and glass bobbles and dodecahedrons in the kitchen window were throwing spectra up on the ceiling. Been a while since I've enjoyed that. It's the little things...

Monday, February 22, 2016

fixed eyepiece menu

Greg walked me through fixing the SkyTools telescope-eyepiece components in my configuration. I had added too many telescopes! Ha! We had to do some Sync trickery to get it to work again.

researched ToM events

Did some Transit of Mercury research today. ToM events are somewhat common or at least more common than Venus transits so they are not once-in-a-lifetime things.

§

First, some hyperlinks. See the Transit of Mercury article at the amazing wikipedia, with some nice photos. Tony sent out a link from the Mercury catalog page by NASA. Of course, it gets into some of the math.

screen snapshot from Stellarium showing Mercury entering disc of Sun

The next one... This event will occur Monday 9 May 2016. Moon will be up. Venus is (8°) ahead of the Sun. This event starts early! Using Stellarium, I determined the timeline with approx. times, adjusted for the Carr Astronomical Observatory location, atop the Blue Mountains:

6:50 - Sun rise
7:13 - first contact, planet first touches the disc of Sun
7:16 - second contact, planet entirely inside disc of Sun
9:38 - Moon rise
12:48 - Venus at meridian
1:16 - Sun (and Mercury) at meridian
2:38 - third contact, about to leave Sun's disc
2:41 - fourth contact, done

§

I checked the next few, based on an Ontario location, for visibility.

2019 Nov 11: Sunrise 8:00 AM, transit in progress. 1:00 PM done. Nearly in the middle of the Sun!

2032 Nov 13: Not visible.

2039 Nov 07: Not visible.

2049 May 07: Sunrise 7:00 AM. 1st & 2nd contact 7:08 AM. 1:45 PM done. About 1/3rd position.

2052 Nov 09: Not visible.

2062 May 10: 1st & 2nd contact 2:15 PM. In progress at sunset, 8:19 PM.

§

Double checked with SkyTools Special Events tool...

2016 May 9 07:13, First Contact, Sep= +00°15'57", Alt= 12°
2016 May 9 07:17, Second Contact, Sep= +00°15'44", Alt= 13°
2016 May 9 10:58, Mid-transit, Sep= +00°05'23", Alt= 51°
2016 May 9 14:38, Third Contact, Sep= +00°15'44", Alt= 59°
2016 May 9 14:41, Last Contact, Sep= +00°15'56", Alt= 58°

2019 Nov 11 07:36, First Contact, Sep= +00°16'14", Alt= 4°
2019 Nov 11 07:38, Second Contact, Sep= +00°16'04", Alt= 4°
2019 Nov 11 10:20, Mid-transit, Sep= +00°01'14", Alt= 24°
2019 Nov 11 13:03, Third Contact, Sep= +00°16'04", Alt= 27°
2019 Nov 11 13:04, Last Contact, Sep= +00°16'14", Alt= 27°

2049 May 7 07:03, First Contact, Sep= +00°15'57", Alt= 10°
2049 May 7 07:07, Second Contact, Sep= +00°15'45", Alt= 11°
2049 May 7 10:24, Mid-transit, Sep= +00°08'27", Alt= 45°
2049 May 7 13:41, Third Contact, Sep= +00°15'45", Alt= 63°
2049 May 7 13:45, Last Contact, Sep= +00°15'57", Alt= 63°

2062 May 10 14:16, First Contact, Sep= +00°15'56", Alt= 61°
2062 May 10 14:20, Second Contact, Sep= +00°15'44", Alt= 61°
2062 May 10 17:36, Mid-transit, Sep= +00°08'42", Alt= 31°

on deck for tomorrow

Prepared for my RASC Toronto Centre NOVA presentation tomorrow. Updated and shared the handout. Reviewed and rehearsed my old presentation. Tested Stellarium. Copied some Stellarium screen grabs, just in case. Asked about the sign-in sheet. Checked the weather. Did some route planning to the Fort York branch...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

ticket submitted

Allard said the STX upload error was peculiar. He investigated and then initiated a support ticket with our web host. He thinks it has to do with a newer version of Drupal we are using and/or the host making changes in the server configuration.

Friday, February 19, 2016

significantly lumpy

The Frontier Fields work continues to probe the deep field data obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope. In the future, the researchers will use the James Webb Space Telescope data as well. The focus is on the immense gravity wells of massive galaxy clusters.

black and white photograph of lensed galaxies

The article How Hubble "Sees" Gravity gives a good overview of what the analyses being done. And how the work creates a back-and-forth relationship: gravitational lenses help astronomers map the matter of clusters while the refined map of the matter helps astronomers predict locations of distant galaxies.

That the hidden dark matter is not uniform or evenly distributed causes the elongated arcs and streaks, the repeated images, and the brightening of remote galaxies. The dark matter is "significantly lumpy."

Abell 2218 galaxy cluster image from the Hubble Site.

location info provided

Alan prepared very handy instructions for people travelling to York U for the next RASC meeting.
The Feb 24 Recreational Astronomy Night is being held at York University, Petrie Science and Engineering Building, Room 317, 4700 Keele St, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3.

My search using TTC trip planner suggest travel time from Sheppard Station to York University at 34 minutes.

TTC bus 196B Express YORK UNIVERSITY ROCKET bus connects York University with Sheppard Subway Station (also stops at Downsview Subway Station).

Other TTC buses run from Downsview Station to York University.
He consulted following web sites:
And I've used:
Thank you!

Unity unveiled

Virgin Galactic unveiled their second space ship today. Dr Hawkins christened it "Unity."

photograph of Space Ship Unity in hangar

Godspeed.

See the CNN article for more information.

updated DS list

Updated my doubles and multi-star candidates list...

renewed

Renewed my membership to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Toronto Centre! Received friendly reminders from our membership team members. OK, OK! Guess I can't wriggle out of my duties that easily...

could not pull stats

Looked into pulling the usage statistics for internet at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Ugh. Can't seem to do this online directly (without gyrations) or remotely any more (perhaps due to ancient software). Will need to defer...

Thursday, February 18, 2016

asked about solar systems

Jumped into, via Facebook, the Ask Me Anything session with Dr Seager. Intense, the chat window was non-stop! I tried to ask a question about exoplanet systems but it was lost in the noise.

screen grab from Facebook during Dr Seager's Q-and-A

She was kind enough to take it later, privately. Perks!

§

SS: I couldn't answer all of the questions on line as they scrolled by rapidly.

BN: Thanks. Yeah, crazy fast! It seems that a lot of exoplanet discoveries have highlighted extreme differences structurally when compared to our solar system. Does the alleged Planet 9 mean that our system is maybe more like these exoplanet systems?

SS: Great question. The answer is "possibly." We have seen planets very far from the star, even as far as we think planet 9 is. However, the planets far from the star are more like Jupiters than like Neptunes. And, we can't see the inner solar system for those cases. It's like the blind people and the elephant.

BN: Right, there's probably lots of little planets out there...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

how low can you go?

Researched long length eyepieces for Tony...

Found a handy calculation for determining the lowest power eyepiece. For the lowest power or longest focal length eyepiece, you use the factor of 7. I.e. multiply the f/ ratio of the 'scope by 7. The C14 is f/11 so that means 77mm.

Tele Vue stops at 55mm.

Found Russell Optics and their special 2-inch ocular offerings including 65mm, 72mm, and 85mm XL Super-Plössls. Wow. Huh. Not that expensive.

And they note rule of thumb I briefly mentioned to Tony. It is suggested that you do not go below 35x in any scope that has a central obstruction. If your obstruction is larger than 25% of the primary, you could also get a "ghost" image of that secondary mirror.

sent some planning dox

Sent Tony an object target list and comet finder chart for his upcoming CAO Scout group event. Generated from SkyTools.

ground vs. roof

I took some SQM readings at the CAO with the hand-held meter at the end of my Sunday night observing session. The time was approximately 11:15 PM.

First reading was 19.62. If I remember correctly, I noted as high as 19.80. Last was 19.70.

I examined the data from the roof-top sensor.

2016-02-15T03:30:00.112;2016-02-14T22:30:00.112;0.1;287800;1;19.32
2016-02-15T04:00:00.130;2016-02-14T23:00:00.130;0.1;355153;1;19.55
2016-02-15T04:30:00.108;2016-02-14T23:30:00.108;0.1;428257;1;19.75

The 11:00 PM reading was 19.55 and the 11:30 PM reading 19.75. Very similar!

plotted January SQM data

Did some work with the Unihedron Sky Quality Meter (SQM-LE) data gathered from the permanent station at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

Downloaded the current data. Part of the new monthly backup process. Until we fully automate a transfer.

Analysed, manually, the February data, to current. Spotted a very high value: 21.94! Awesome.

In Visual Basic for Applications for Excel, automated the importing of the SQM DAT text files for inclusion in the statistics and graph.

line graph of SQM readings for each day of January 2016

Generated a full month graph for January!

Interesting to note the effect of the full Moon waning from the 23rd...

warmer data

Amazingly, found the two tiny screws for the repaired USB hand warmer. Fully reassembled now, yeh. Could not, however, find the instructions. But upon a quick web search, I think I located the missing piece of information: when the LED blinks in green, the warmer is fully charged.

Stumbled across solid fuel hand warmers. Never heard of those before. Amazon shows a product by Bushcraft. A somewhat large felt-covered case. Comes with 12 rods. Stansport makes solid fuel refills that get good reviews. They say they generate heat for "several hours." And that a stick "ignites easily with a match." A reviewer said to treat them like charcoal on the barbie: light them, blow on them, use. Wow.

Monday, February 15, 2016

funny timing

Greg sent out a note suggesting we all update the Great Red Spot value in SkyTools to 241.

map-projected view of Jupiter surface featuring Great Red Spot

He also alluded to automated processes in the future. Nice.

wrong filter?

While cleaning my filter and lens, Dietmar asked why I had an 1A and not an ultraviolet or UV... Oops. Not paying attention I guess. It was just what they offered me at the photo shop when I asked for a protective 58mm filter. He pointed out that a Skylight 1A filter has a slight red cast. Dang. I tend to leave it on during imaging runs...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

doubles in a cold sky (Blue Mountains)

Early dinner.

Phil said, "I''ll be with you, in spirit." Sounded like he wasn't going to brave the cold.

Orion dominated the southern sky. Sirius was bright and flickering. Quarter Moon to my right. It was quiet.

6:57 PM. I opened the roof of the Geoff Brown Observatory. No issues. Everything was OK in the Warm Room. The temperature was OK too. The Bionaire said 38% humidity and 7°C. I checked the Davis weather station page. As of 6:30 PM: 10 minute average wind speed was 8.0 km/h; direction SWS; immediate wind speed 6.4; the high was 24.1; outside humidity 89%; barometer 1031.9 mbar; outside temp was -15.7°C; with the wind chill -21.1; the dew point was -17.1. Not happy about the humidity. But a ways away from the minimum temp for the Paramount. Wind: low. Good.

Clear Sky Chart for CAO on 14 Feb 2016

7:12. Viewed 66 Ceti. From the RASC Coloured Doubles list... aka Struve 231.

In the Celestron 14-inch SCT with the Tele Vue 55mm eyepiece, it was soft at first. Looked yellow and blue at first; on second thought, the secondary was not blue. Orange?! In the Tele Vue 101mm refractor with the TV 10mm ocular, it looked yellow and orange. A delicate pairing. Back in the C14: yellow and white?

And a bright star (HD 13598) to the north (unrelated).

There was a faint pair below. I could not see the faint pair in small 'scope.

The RASC Observer's Handbook refers to the A and B stars only and says they are orange and blue. Huh. [ed: Haas says yellowish white and grey.]

Millie joined me in the GBO. "Everyone else is chicken." Scared off by the chilly conditions.

Ha ha! One of the pair to the north-east was an official companion of 66 Cet. All right! SkyTools 3 Pro said C was mag 13 and other star (GSC 04690-0919) mag 12. I agreed that C was visually dimmer than other star. The one more to the north was the C star. The star more to the east was not related...

Bright HD 13598 was very orange.

7:32. Millie shared that she had viewed few doubles in Cetus. She couldn't remember which Messier target was in the constellation. I looked it up: M77. We took a look. Not at all obvious in the refractor. Dim even in the big 'scope. But then, with the face-on galaxy, we were close to the Moon, which seemed awfully bright. The Messier object had a fuzzy but bright core. I Googled it. The Wikipedia image in particular was comparable to our view in the C14.

Noted, in the software charts, we were very close to ο (omicron) Ceti. I slewed to Mira. Mira the Wonderful. SkyTools said it ranged between magnitudes 2 and 10! Millie thought it was fast; ST3P said it was over 330 days. And a multi-star system. It seemed very bright, for us, this evening.

Spotted a dim star below...

7:34. Jon and Tony appeared. Hello.

Noted HD 14473, south of Mira. At the edge of the field. Magnitude 8.1. Mira was brighter.

Bri visited too. All right. Some of the clan had suited up.

7:49. Used 70 Ceti as another comparison star. It is mag 5.4. Mira was brighter.

7:55. Asked if people wanted to view the comet. Headed to C/2013 US10 (Catalina). Once I got in the area, it was obvious is the C14. Near HD 27378 aka SAO 13127. A round fuzz. No obvious tails.

8:14. We enjoyed M42. It was spectacular with the O-III filter in the C14 with the 55mm. Saw the 4 main stars in Trapezium. Also viewed it in the TV101 with the 27mm.

Tony and I wondered about a lower power eyepiece for the big 'scope. I posited that an ocular much lower might show the secondary. Made a note to crunch the numbers.

Tried for the Running Man. Millie could see a hint of nebulosity.

8:18. Tony wanted M81 and 82. Yes, sir. Landed on 81. Then I manually slewed to the Cigar.

8:23. Tony spotted something very bright rising. Must be a planet. We checked it in TheSky 6: Jupiter.

Our visitors headed in. It was movie time.

8:34. I picked Rigel, β (beta) Orionis, from my notes, my impromptu weekend to-do list. ST3P showed 4 stars in the Rigel group. Previously, I had seen A and B. But I had not seen C or D.

Put the 10mm back in TV101; the 55mm was still in the C14. I could see B star at 8 o'clock position, i.e. south. Millie wasn't sure.

8:37. Bumped up with the 27mm in C14. It made it much easier to see.

The eyepiece dew heaters seemed cool to me. I wanted more heat to them...

8:40. I had hoped to see more. Ugh, D was mag 15. And C was too tight: the BC separation was 0.10"! So I did not have high hopes for that star. But conditions were not letting me get into the mag 14 or 15 range... [ed: I've gone to almost mag 16 with the C14.]

8:51. Moved to 32 Eridani. Also on my to-do list. Previously, I had seen the AB pair. But I did not have notes on C.

C was easy: the dim star beyond B. 32 was very nice in the TV. I thought AB tight and yellow and blue; C was colourless. RASC said topaz and blue. Millie liked that description.

Break time. In the kitchen, I had the last piece of cake; Lora had saved it for me. Made some hot chocolate. Grabbed my new balaclava and wristers from Donna. Put on another sweater. As they finished their movie, I returned to the observatory.

9:24. Slewed to the Pleiades. I wondered why I had V455 Tauri in my list. Looked like a randomly selected item, from the SkyTools generator.

I noted that the ceramic heater was running continuously; someone had turned it up. The Warm Room was now warm. 10°C! I turned it down a bit.

9:35. Tried to spot V455 Tau. No sign of it at all... I saw a T-shape of stars centred on HD 23913. The T was south-east of M45. South-west of the T was HD 23743. EQ Tau and TYC 01260-0575 1 were to the SW. I could see both easily. Mag 10-ish. And HD 23764 at mag 9.5. But no target star.

ST3P said: Mag U14.00 to U20.50, Mag V5.80 to V12.30, and V magnitudes estimated from GSC. I wasn't sure what all this meant exactly. I thought the V numbers meant visual mag. And those numbers were within my evening limits. Still, I was not seeing anything. Oh well.

9:48. Reviewed σ (sigma) Orionis. In the past, I had seen the A, C, D, and E stars. But I did not seem to have notes on B.

A, C, D, and E were easy. ST3P showed B as super-close to A... Quarter of an arc-second. I tried the 10mm is the C14: it was too mushy. The 18mm offered a fair view. But still no B. I could barely see C in the TV101; D and E are easy in the small aperture. It is possible I'll never be able to split A and B...

Viewed HD 294271 aka Struve 761. ST3P showed it a quad. Previously, I had seen A, B, and C. But D? I had a close look.

Spotted D with averted vision in the 55mm. It was easy at higher powers in the C14. To the west of A. Happy about that!

9:57. I felt the wind. It must be picking up, I thought. Checked the on-site weather station. Yep. 11.3 km/h now, according to the 10 min. avg. The temp was -16.5 and the wind chill -23.4.

10:00. Wow. When I paused, relaxed, I could see lots of other faint stars around 761! Lots.

10:15. Examined HD 25184 aka Σ476. In Perseus. Another RASC Coloured Double (from the Supplement). It was very faint in the TV; still faint in the C14. Orange and blue, the AB stars. RASC says yellow and blue. [ed: Haas says "grapefruit orange... and dim arctic blue."]

There was a C star, SkyTools said...

The 'scope was vibrating.

10:19. Put in the 27mm ocular. Got it! At a 90 degree angle to AB: spotted C. Easy.

10:21. Confirmed! TYC 02877-0858 1 (mag 11) was further to the south-west, beyond C. GSC 02877-1135 (mag 13) was opposite.

10:27. Viewed 14 Aur. From the RASC regular multiple stars list. It was challenging in the TV with 18mm. White and ... orange? blue? Tight. With the C14 and 27mm, I thought white and blue. No, wait, yellow and blue. Easily split at the higher power. [ed: Haas says "bright straw yellow and royal blue."]

10:37. I manually changed the Kendrick dew heater controller to configuration 1. It showed a longer duty cycle. I removed the dew shield to reduce wind effects.

Spotted a faint star opposite B. Correction! I initially saw C. The bright "second" star was C.

10:42. Confirmed B. Weird, B was much dimmer than C. [ed: Haas lists the AB pair without colours.]

Spotted D to the north-west. Noted a tight pair of faint stars to the south-west, including GSC 02394-0742.

Saw GSC 02394-0464 and GSC 02394-1187 on the north-east side, in an arc to D. Both are around mag 13. D was brighter.

The sodium hand warmers were cold to the touch. They had not lasted very long. The electronic warmers had done well. But not were cooling; showed no lights. I tried to light the butane warmer with the flame lighter. No joy. Bad fuel? Bad catalyst? Both?

10:51. Decided to leave 14 Aur b for another day, with less wind, and no freakin' Moon.

11:02. Got it! The D star in β (beta) Monocerotis. Yet another on my homework list. I had no notes of the D star. It was four or five times the sep. of A and B, to the NE, essentially a right angle to ABC. It was very faint, popped in and out of view.

The wind had increased. The Davis, as of 10:30 PM, confirmed my feelings. 27.4 km/h in the 10 minute average. Had shifted slightly, now from the SES. Wow. The high was now 35.4. Curiously, the ambient temp was steady, at -16.2, but the wind chill had dropped to -27.1.

After some soul searching, I thought, "Nope. Done." No more doubles. No photography. Tired, a bit cold, but mostly getting upset with the wind.

I had no trouble closing up.

Took SQM readings before returning to the house. Around 19.62 and 19.70. Made a mental note to compare to the roof unit...

11:43. I was in bed reviewing, winding down.

A little disappointed that I had not undertaken any photography... That said, wide field was out of the question. And I was having fun doing visual.

Pretty good session. Initially, I had not thought it a long run—I had not even gone past midnight! But upon review, it was almost 5 hours! Easy to forget that in winter...

Winter observing is frustrating, bone chilling, maddening, challenging, fraught with peril, awkward, and demanding. It messes with your internal clock. Invariably, the conditions are not ideal, particularly the seeing. It pushes limits and demands cautions. It takes things to the extremes. It can be very difficult to face. And I love it.

One more look at the location conditions. The Davis unit said, as of 11:30 PM, wind 29.0 on average, still from the SES, the high now 40.2, temp still -16.1 with a wind chill -27.2. Good thing I wrapped when I did.

sanded glass

Sanded the rough edge of the violet filter. It came out pretty good. I have some super-fine paper at home. I'll finish it there...

researched iOS apps

Phil let me use his iPad to investigate ISS flyover apps, so to research software for my next RASC Journal article. Hopefully I didn't muck things up too much...

reset thermostats

Tony double-checked the basement programmable thermostats. Found a couple set funny... We agreed that they probably were accounting for the TUO transgressions.

infographic with time-of-use pie charts

Hopefully, his adjustments will get us almost entirely out of the red.

checked minimum rating

Looked up the minimum operating temperature of the Paramount ME. The Bisque brothers recommended -30 degrees Celsius. Someone asked, on the SB forum, at -50. It was suggested to heat the RA motor in that case.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

no go on STX

Darn. I tried uploading an STX file. Didn't work. I forwarded the error message to Allard.

hoped it would clear

Hoping for a break in the clouds and snow, I made up a plan. Reviewed my to-do list and checked the Sky & Tel Orion doubles list. Specifically, I wanted to address some items with missing data. For example:

beta Orionis: I had not logged information on the C and D stars. That said, it looked like the AC pair would be too tight...

The Trapezium: SkyTools 3 Pro showed 10 members in the group. I have seen A through F. But not G, H, a, or b.

sigma Orionis: A quintuple. But I had not logged B.

Struve 761: A quad. No entry for D.

32 Eridani: No notes for C.

beta Monocerotis: D not reported.

Sirius, alpha Canis Majoris: I had noted AB to view again and nothing for C.

Castor, alpha Geminorum: I have seen all the stars but I've not noted colours for C or D.

In CMa I had noted a faint double, at 55x, within M41. East of HD 49024. At a 45° angle to 49024. About the same separation. Wanted to confirm...

HD 79552: A quad. Various issues.

And, finally STF 1327, in Cancer. Needed to look again and capture good data. Or image.

And then I used some of the automated tools in the software...

allowed STX files

Allard adjusted the web site so I could upload SkyTools STX observing list files.

tested radio

Tested the Midland weather radio—by accident. With the weather alert working, I grew confident in the unit.

old black and white photograph of radio console

The FM station was not set so was grabbing dead air. Scanned for a local station and it came in fine. I think it is operating nominally.

Friday, February 12, 2016

wishful thinking

Charged up the electronic hand warmers...

Moon behind clouds (Collingwood)

Noted the crescent Moon through cold clouds over the lit Blue Mountains. It would not be clear tonight. And even if it was, the wind was ferocious.

spotted prisms (Bradford)

Spotted a bright prismatic sun dog to the left of the Sun as we headed south toward Holland. And then I saw a very large bright prismatic pattern nearly directly above the Sun, slightly to the right, about half the distance of the dog. So that'd be about 10 degrees. Lots of ice up there. Pointed it out to Lora and Phil. Then we noted the brooding low clouds to the north-west...

next council meeting

We finally settled on an agreeable time for the next RASC Toronto Centre council meeting: Wed 16 Mar at 7:30 PM at the DDO.

cross hairs part 1

Had a look through the old Celestron finder scope. And, once again, I was not convinced the cross hairs were centred. Very gently I nudged one. It still didn't look right. Meh.

I wanted to test it. So I made a jig. Simply a small box to cradle or hold the finder tube. I cut appropriate sized holes on opposite sides to fit the tube snugly. Strapped it to a camera tripod. I was then able to gently twist the tube. Confirmed! I could see the cross hairs clearly rotating around a centre point.

I get it that in doesn't matter, in a telescope-finder scope application, particularly if the finder scope is fixed, i.e. does not rotate. One aligns for the cross. And you're done. But with a rotating finder, like my bigger Orion, and for this repurposed unit, now on the barn door tracker, for polar alignment, it's rather important! As much as possible, I want these wires centred.

A quick search on Google turned up an article on Ice In Space by RG. He showed how to disassemble the finder, procure new thin wires, tension them, and glue in place. This is what I decided to do.

photograph finder scope disassembled beside thin copper wire

Tore down my finder. Yikes. Almost dropped the air-spaced eye lenses (the ocular)! Set them aside in the correct orientation. Put aside the long spacer and closely examined the cross hair ring. I believe the thin copper wires have stretched over the 25+ years and/or the glue has relaxed.

The key step would be to find some very small gauge wire. Happily, in the rolly-polly parts bin, I stumbled across an old busted mobile phone ear bud/mic. Cut open the lead wires to find loose, fine copper. The gauge looks exactly the same! All right.

§

Next steps are to remove the old wires, remove the old glue, determine the correct weight to tension the wires, find a pedestal, install, glue, and let cure.

§

Remembered when Gilles repaired his finder after I almost set it on fire.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

lots of CAO stuff

Lots of Carr Astronomical Observatory matters today. Private group arrangements, group rates, administrative paperwork, photography workshops, hard water, the new supervisor schedule, new supervisor candidates, UDM software updates, winter parking options, web site content, etc. Busy busy.

just great

Looks like two clean nights in a row are coming up. Without a Moon.

Why does it have to be -22?!

unstuck BOINC

I discovered BOINC was not working on the Linux box. Stuck on the downloading step. Turned on the computing preferences:
  • While computer is in use
  • Use GPU while computer is in use
And things started happening...

screen grab from SETI showing 3 active computers

Hmmm. No appreciable sluggishness. Maybe I'll let it use more cores...

gift of nature

Watched the webcast from the National Science Foundation regarding the detecting of gravity waves from the USA-based LIGO detectors.

On 14 Sept 2015, even before the official science run had begun, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatories detected a strong signal. And it was exactly what Einstein had predicted.

The event was from a binary black hole merger 1.3 billion years ago. The black holes were about 30 solar masses each. Like a stone dropped in a smooth lake, ripples went out.

The 4 kilometer long interferometer at LIGO can accurately detect very tiny shifts in gravity, on the order of 1/1000th the diameter of subatomic particles.

David Teitze, the LIGO lab executive director started the press conference. He acknowledged the funding from NSF. He noted that in the future the detectors may be able to detect 100 or 500 stellar mass black holes as the sensitivity is increased.

Gabriela González, research scientist at Louisiana State University and spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, described the two detectors, called Hanford and Livingston. She talked about the brief signal, less than a 1/10th of a second, being first observed in Livingston. The space-time "strain" or deformation was very minute, on a scale of of 10-21. Then, 7 milliseconds later, the signal appeared in Hanford detector! A "gift of nature."

They have been able to infer extraordinary detail from the signal detections:
  • the black holes were 29 and 36 solar masses
  • the resulting single black hole had 62 solar masses
  • there 3 solar masses were emitted in energy
  • the distance was 1.3 billion light-years
  • the frequency of the event is in the range of human hearing (slowed down it sounds like a chirp)
  • they localised the signal to the southern sky in the direction of the Magellanic clouds
Gabby spoke of more instruments. The GEO600 was a pathfinder system. The VIRGO in Europe will be online later this year. The KAGRA in Japan is due in 2018 or 2019. And still more are planned.

Rainer "Ray" Weiss, a LIGO co-founder, discussed some history and the detector design. He was key in considering how to eliminate noise from detection. He is thrilled to see Einstein's field equations validated.

He spoke briefly of the LISA Pathfinder in space now and that he hopes to see increased collaboration between ESA and NASA.

Kip Thorne, another LIGO co-founder, spoke as well. He made the analog to watching a glass-smooth ocean and that they happened to be present to see a storm. The merger-collision took 20 ms and produced 50 times the power of all stars in the Universe.

He emphasised the LIGO system is still at only 1/3rd of its rated capacity and they are anticipating more detections this year. Regardless, this event gives us a much deeper understanding of highly warped space-time. This also places limits on the theoretical graviton mass.

Ronald Drever, the Scottish experimental physicist and third co-founder was ill and could not attend.

Dr France Córdova of the NSF recognised contributions by the UK, Germany, and Australia. The results were made possible by a world-wide village.

Caught a question by our own Ivan Semeniuk. He noted that these were fairly large black holes. He was curious what this meant for the future. Gabby emphasised these were stellar mass black holes, relatively small, compared to others, compared to super-massive systems in the cores of galaxies. A fascinating aspect is that these objects could not be seen in electromagnetic range; now they are "visible." That's it right there. LIGO opened a window.

where is the GRS?

I've been wondering about the longitude of the GRS. Been a while since I changed it. [ed: About one year ago.] According to JUPOS, the Great Red Spot is around 239. Will need to check SkyTools.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

the next phase

A couple of days ago, as I was thinking about the custom barn door tracker, and mounting it to a tripod, and then trying to accurately polar align it, that, somehow, putting it atop a small but finely-crafted, adjustable, machined, somewhat expensive, mount—made out of metal—was just not right. Not right...

Tonight I entertained the notion of building some sort of wedge or adjustable base that I would attach the barn door tracker too. I looked for homemade DIY wedges and found lots. Then I searched for homemade alt-az mounts. Started collecting some images, noting some ideas. Altitude would be easy to adjust. Azimuth? That'd be tricky. Actually grabbed a sheet of paper and sketched a few things still pondering how to rotate the second axis, now right ascension, considering the interface between the wedge and the bottom plate of the barn door.

photograph of barn door tracker with adjustable wooden wedge

When, I noticed something in a photo... Another piano hinge... low down. Two horizontal pieces of wood sandwiched. A long threaded rod, horizontal. Went down the rabbit hole and landed, at last to ZZJ's Barn Door Tracker (NSFW) post. And it's brilliant. Exactly what I was looking for!

So, this means, there's a new phase to be undertaken! A new enhancement! A barn door tracker with an integrated mount for fine-tuning polar alignment. A single complete tracker. The missing component! To elegantly solve a problem. I really like this. I really like the idea that the tracker will be much easier to set up and use. And that the new bits will be mostly wood and some hardware from the hardware store. Very happy.

3rd box searching

Added a third machine to my BOINC profile to analyse SETI data: a new Ubuntu install.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

updated capture plan, again

Revised the ISS capture plan. Expanded greatly on it, after reviewing steps with the Canon and Backyard EOS. As I suspected, it was in Planetary mode that the exposure settings would be configured. Other things occurred to me too. Like: don't forget to click Record...

sorted BYE

Went to check something in Backyard EOS and I found it was in a simulated mode. Huh? Better correct that before I head into the field...

It showed a 450D was connected. Ah. OK. But how do I get rid of that? How did I set this? How do I connect to a real camera? Also noted I had version 3.0.3 running. Huh. There's a newer version...

Found Guylain's notes in an old email. Checked the CONFIG files on John Repeat Dance. Weird. I didn't see the simulator setting... Sorted the search results by type. Ho ho. Spotted three versions!

That explains it. I had launched the wrong version! Deleted the reference in the old XP Start menu. I had installed 3.1.4 previously... Looked deeper in the Start menu. There it is!

updated CAO timeline

Updated the timeline for the Carr Astronomical Observatory in Visio 2016 with recent events, a few missing things, and activities I had learned about reading the early log books. Also gave up trying to fit everything on a legal sheet of paper; went tabloid!

infographic detail from CAO timeline Visio diagram

Sent to Tony (in PDF) for review.

Monday, February 08, 2016

hidden

Check your passport in ultra-violet...

photography of passport page in ultraviolet light

Starry night. Oh, yes. And the Moon. Over Niagara Falls.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

a bit of space

Installed the spacer from Phil. A simple piece of acrylic.

photograph showing thin spacer between 'scope and focuser

It works! Thank you!

Saturday, February 06, 2016

cleaning priority

Attended the members night at the DDO.

Reviewed the Questar with Tom. Reminded Paul we were still waiting to set the next council meeting date. Met David G over the Beginner's Observing Guide. Met David H, after our long Jupiter light angles email exchange, at last. Plotted with Peter H on recruiting our own minions! Followed-up with Peter R on RASC calendars. Caught up with Lucy.

Enjoyed the talks by Chris, Jim, and Phil.

The big take-away from Jim's talk on cleaning optics was to work on the ones closest to the eye.

The main take-away from Phil's talk is that a barlowed laser collimator is an excellent tool for a Newtonian (albeit expensive).

made a naked list

Hey!

Made a list in SkyTools for 20 interesting naked eye doubles stars. It was prepared by Jerry Lodriguss, originally for Sky and Telescope. The article on his site includes some background and photos, of course.

Friday, February 05, 2016

fixed Pit flashlight

The LED flashlight from Scott (when we raced at Exhibition Grounds), which I had put into astronomy service with red film, had been acting up lately. Had another look. Ugh. All three AAA batteries had since leaked! Wow. Pried them out of the carrier and tossed them into the growing dead battery pile (sorry). Cleaned the carrier with vinegar. Cleaned the inside of the flashlight body too. Bad leak—paint came off. Did not see any activity at first but then the diodes flickered. Fiddled for a bit to determine the switch is wobbly. Corrosion on the contacts maybe? When I turned if off and on again (sorry) several times, it settled down. Back into astronomy box α (after removing the batteries).

watched Ottawa cast

Dialled into the Ottawa RASC meeting. Great presentations on unusual features and volcanism on Mars, Planet X, and cooking. But I really dislike the ads from Ustream... And, over time, I think it meant I was out of sync.

found Stellarium archives

As I continue to cleanup the computer drives, mostly of my photographs and videos, I stumbled across a bunch of Stellarium executables.

I've usually kept them around thinking that if a new version didn't work I'd be able to roll back. And if it worked well, I could copy the EXE to other computers through the SOHO network. Today though it become clear that these were taking up a lot of space. My first thought was to drop them into a ZIP. But then I wondered if they were stored online... If old downloads are easy to get to, if they went back a few versions, then I wouldn't need to store them.

A quick search revealed that, in fact, every version of Stellarium is available at Source Forge, in the project files area. Great. I'm not a warehouse.

found SQM data

Found some missing SQM data from the CAO—the summer of 2015. Happy about that. But there's still more data missing... Did I photograph the late-2014 sheet? Did I bring it home?

Thursday, February 04, 2016

my own wallpaper

Suddenly occurred to me to show my own astro-image as the wallpaper on Ananke, the Android tablet.

screen snapshot showing my noctilucent cloud photo as wallpaper

For this one, I used the photograph of the noctilucent clouds from 4 July 2011. I scaled it for the screen in landscape.

primary mirror done!

The James Webb Space Telescope primary mirror assembly is complete! A robot placed the final compound mirror segment.

photograph of JWST with all mirrors installed

The completion of the primary mirror is a significant milestone. It will be launched in 2018.

the same!

I just looked up the drive time to Long Sault from the new place. One hour fifteen. Ha!

Bet it will be faster. More sane...

found indices

I was trying to find an article in the RASC Journal quickly. I wondered if there was an index.

I spotted one on the Journal information page on the national web site but it is for volumes 61 through 90, i.e. 1967 to 1996.

As I started checking the issues I had on the John Charles computer, I noticed, in a December issue, an index for the year. OK!

And suddenly I found the article I wanted. So, didn't use the index after all. But now I know.

updated a list

Updated my portable database, in the Android tablet. My personal contact list was missing a couple of CAO supervisors. I added some tags too so all the committee team members would show. Updated old email addresses. Fixed the odd typo here and there. Miss the shared clipboard of my Psion...

took stock

Did a batteries-for-astronomy audit, including the "new" Telrad, and considering accessories retired or broken.

type need in stock
AA 12 0
AAA 8 9
LR44 8 2
LiR 2032 2 0
389/AG10/LR1130 0 5

I want to rejuvenate the rechargeables too... I think the ones I have are very tired.

there it is

Updated my astro calendar with information from Mitsky's February report.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

cleaned source folder

Tidied the local source folder on the E drive for the blog. One location now... Images that were only here: moved to F drive. Duplicates: deleted. No surprises. I.e. didn't find anything that had not been used or referenced or posted. Save one overlooked post with a photo of the C8, for the cat page!

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

more ISS data found

I've encountered another weird situation with my International Space Station flyover video recording attempts.

I shot some frames on the evening of August 16. On this occasion I attached the Canon DSLR to the Tele Vue 101 refractor in hopes of seeing the ISS in the wider field of view. Overall, the session went well although I forgot to hit the Record button early on. Consequently, the pass was already in progress and I didn't get that much data.

At the same time, I was watching the station in the Celestron 14. It was nearly centred (grrr!). The view was spectacular. So I knew the Paramount was working well. Ian D popped into the observatory to have a look, enjoyed the view for a few seconds, and then, for some reason, the ISS went out of the field. I stopped recording.

When Backyard EOS downloaded the video file, I had a quick look. And, at the time, I did not see anything. I might have immediately deleted the video file, perhaps thinking I'd save space. Which would explain why I can't seem to find the AVI file anywhere.

But tonight, in the continuing reorganisation of video and photo files, I had a look at the 80+ frames captured that evening. And immediately noticed a white spot in the first few frames. Whiskey tango foxtrot?! I zoomed it. That's no star! That's a space station!

I was reeling! How had I missed this? I finally got it! It worked! It all worked! Where was the video file? How could I have forgotten to start recording? More found data. Wow.

Perhaps I did not see the ISS in the video or the frames at the time for a couple of reasons: it is very small, given the Tele Vue's short focal length; if I ran the video in a small window, it would have further diminished the size; and I was likely operating in low light mode, with a red theme, red film, and reduced brightness.

It's been an interesting couple of days, wading through all these old image files. Overall, I'm pretty happy. But it is making for some hard learned lessons:
  • Don't forget to hit Record.
  • Don't get distracted.
  • Record the full pass or flyover. Don't think to start part way through or stop early. Record the entire duration. You can crop the video file later.
  • Don't stop recording if the target drifts out of the field; it may come back.
  • Don't immediately delete files.
  • Review (the next day) at high screen brightness, at full resolution, in white light mode.
  • Breathe.
The exciting thing about all this, is that I'm close. Very close. I have a good working system. I just need a little dash of luck, the ISS in the centre of the camera's field of view on the long focal length 'scope, and I'll have a very interesting video...

more darks

Updated the darks table for runs in 2015.

found the capture plan

Found a Notepad doc on the netbook from the first August 2015 weekend. More stuff never applied into the blog. Created a time-based entry.

astronaut reviewing checklist

But knew an updated capture plan checklist should be evergreened.

HGD!

Happy Groundhog Day!

the mirror moved!

Why would the International Space Station appear in only one frame in my two movies? In the middle of the movie? Not at the very end, when, perhaps, the mount slows or aborts its motion.

These showed that I was very close to the satellite...

An inkling of an idea came to me after I considered the image in the second video. But then it really hit home, crystallised, after viewing the first video. Because in the first video, I was aimed almost straight up.

Mirror shift!

Classic SCT mirror flop.

The huge mirror in the Celestron 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope was moving. I have never locked the mirror with the three knobs. For a brief moment, as the mirror moved, it would align with the ISS.

That must be it.

I made a mental note to add this to the checklist of capture plan steps (if I could find it)...

Monday, February 01, 2016

found the ISS!

After the big picture and video reshuffle, I had a closer look at the Backyard EOS movies from August 1. And notice something odd. That there were no notes of the video capture run to speak of. Had I forgotten to update the blog?

Then I watched the movie recorded for the second International Space Station flyover. If there was nothing on it, why would I keep it. Whoa, whoa. Back up! I spotted something. Late in the movie the ISS zipped through the frame! Checked the blog again. Nothing. Strange.

Looked in the voice recordings and found about two dozen files captured on said evening. And three of them were not marked as complete! I had reviewed all the except the ISS ones. What!

Checked the draft messages in blogger and found one half done! Gah.

So, consequently, I have updated the missing entries from the evening of 1 August 2015 at the CAO trying to capture the ISS.

It is super-fun finding something in the data that I didn't know was there!
Enjoy.

couldn't find capture plan steps

On re-reading the August 1st weekend ISS flyover notes, I noted a reference to a checklist. Particulars for the video capture plan. But where was this? It wasn't in the blog. No notes on the John Charles computer. Must be on John Repeat Dance...

grey for the next few days

Took a look at the weekend weather. Grim...

rogue planet and star linked

Saw a blurb on Facebook from Wired about a huge solar system discovery. I was intrigued.

That link landed me at the science article at the mic.com web site. Their title: Scientists Just Discovered a Solar System Larger Than Our Own — Much Larger. They talked about a potentially huge solar system discovered by Dr Deacon. However, I found the article strange in a couple of ways. And the more I thought about it, the more it bugged me.

It seemed to me they emphasised the Earth-Sun distance. Sure, OK, to help make it a bit more relatable. But the proper way to compare the size of other star systems to our solar system is not with Earth! If nothing else, use Neptune. Or Pluto. If you're going to compare apples, you don't compare an apple to the seed of the other. Heck. Maybe they could make a comparison to solar system sizes in light of the rumoured Planet 9, which might be the new dimension-setting parameter for our system!

Let's do the math.

The article says that planet 2MASS J2126 is 1 trillion kilometres away from its possible home star TYC 9486-927-1. And they say this is 7000 times the Earth-Sun distance.

I am assuming 2MASS J2126 is one exoplanet of possibly others orbiting TYC 9486-927-1. And I am assuming 2MASS J2126 is the outer-most exoplanet in that system.

The Earth-Sun distance is around 150 million km. Let's use 149 600 000 km for our calculations. 1 trillion divided by our distance from the Sun is: 6684. Around 6700. Not 7000. But close enough. My concern however is that others looking at this will not appreciate the subtlety. If it is the outer-most exoplanet then the 2MASS J2126's system is not 7000 times bigger than our solar system.

Let's take Neptune as the defined outer limit to our solar system. It is 4 497 000 000 km from the Sun. I.e. 4.5 billion. Compared to 1 trillion. That means the 2MASS J2126 system is 222 times larger. That's a far cry from 7000.

What about Planet 9? If it truly exists and is where they think it is, let's consider it the outer edge of our solar system. Planet 9 is thought to be somewhere around 20 times the distance of Neptune from the Sun. I.e. 90 billion km, roughly. And that then makes the 2MASS J2126 system merely 11 times larger than ours. Merely! That's still huge.

I came away from the mic.com web site feeling that they were distorting things. Not really presenting the facts in as clear a way as possible. I hate when people mess up the numbers.

Hello. Use an infographic!

graphic showing comparative sizes of planet orbits

Viewed this way, you can see that an Earth-orbit to 2MASS J2126-orbit is a bit ridiculous. You can't even see Jupiter and Saturn at this scale!

Consequently, I missed something when I moved on to the RAS article. Guess I was in a tiff at that point. But upon review, the tone, the thrust of that piece is very different. It's title: 1 trillion kilometres apart: a lonely planet and its distant star. It shows that Deacon is studying a number of "wide" systems and rogue planets. A key point of the paper is the measurement of the planet and star vectors and showing how they match. And the reference here, to 7000, is to simply allude to the Astronomical Unit. Simply put: 2MASS J2126 is 7000 AU from its star.

There's an easy-to-relate-to option!

bodydistance from star in AU
Earth1
Neptune30
Pluto between 30 and 49
Planet 9600
2MASS J21267000

Take the mic.com article with a grain of salt. I think they are trying to sex-up the content. Make it sensational. Mic.com is a news site for millennials. The RAS article, not surprisingly, is about the science. And it's fascinating.

§

Nicole made an interesting statement to me. What if 2MASS J2126 is the inner-most exoplanet in this system, analogous to Mercury. Wow... Now that's huge.