Thursday, March 31, 2016

now with blue

Had another go at the teenie planetary nebula NGC 2022 in Photoshop, now that I have the blue channel. My second attempt at LRGB processing. Toned down the colour saturation and dialled out a tiny bit of red.

LRGB photograph of planetary nebula NGC 2022

Not as crazy as my first try. But I'm still not happy with the bloated stars. And there's a spherical shell obvious in the luminance frame but I don't know how to draw it out.

asked for O-III

Sent a new request for BGO for one more image of NGC 2022. This time with the Oxygen O-III filter. Let's see what we can see.

chatted with a YLab member

Avery from YLab responded to my Facebook query. He was pleasant and helpful.

He referred me to some online pages and said "all that information should be posted there." He invited me to drop by an event and chat with staff. They would "be happy to answer questions you have and give some more info!"
When I told him the "membership zip" was not listed among the other files on the main site, he said, "it might only be visible to members so that could be my fault."

He offered some help.

blue image ready (Halifax)

The blue filter image for NGC 2022 was made available for download. This completes the work started back on March 12 when I captured the luminance, red, and green. North is up; east is left.

blue filter photograph of planetary nebula NGC 2022

120 seconds. Target altitude approx. 27°, 2.2 airmasses. Conditions: 4.7°C, humidity 52%, north-ish winds at 4.8 kph, gusting between 27 and 17 km/h, 1008.4hPa. SQM was 18.0 Mag/Square Arc Sec. The Clear Sky Chart showed cloud: 7, 30% covered; transparency: 1, poor; seeing: 2/5 poor. The Moon was below the horizon.

looked into maker groups

Had a thought. Perhaps joining a maker group might be helpful for me, for large 3D printing projects in particular.

Took a look at the YLab sites. My very first impression is that they seem elitist. They have an open house coming up. They say, "If we like you, you can get a trial membership." Asked for membership rates via Facebook. That's because their instructions for access the "full membership zip" seem incorrect. But they say, "If you have a problem doing that... well, you're probably not member material." Wow. Maybe I'm not the right person.

It seems you have to join the meetup online group to see the detailed membership information. Why?

I can appreciate a maker group wants to find new members who will contribute and volunteer. I can understand if there's a probationary period. YLab is not very welcoming though.

Wondered about something north of me. Found the SimCoLab group. They have a review process but they sounded reasonable about it. They want to make sure it's a good fit for all. Found rate information on their main site: $50/month for the full deal. I could not tell what that rates gives access to clearly so I'll have to dig deeper.


Oh. NewMakeIt is close...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

blue for 2022 (Halifax)

BGO shot NGC 2022 in blue for me! Woo hoo. I have all channels, at last.

It's like Christmas eve as a kid all over again.

dimmed diodes

Covered more stoopid bright green and retina-burning blue LEDs, on the internet gateway, the office UPS, the stove timer, and on the computer from Dietmar.

photograph of black fabric with red dots

The printer ethernet port is hard to do anything about but, hey, it's on the back.

thanked Dave

Thanked Dave L again for letting me use the BGO. Told him about spotting a mag 19 quasar. He shared some great news on the system. Might mean I can get more data faster.

helped with target selection

Helped Wayne with target selection. He didn't really know where to start. He wondered if he should get some books. He didn't have a sense of what was visible by season. He likes galaxies. I told him that was I used planning software. But I didn't want to throw him into the deep end with a new app.

screen shot from Stellarium for region around Ursa Major

I encouraged him to check things in Stellarium by carefully setting the date and time, turning on the "nebula" display, turning on the meridian line, and seeing what was up. He was pleased. I then ran a report in SkyTools and sent him the top ten for this time of year, the biggest above the 2 airmass. That blew him away.

Virgo super cluster season is coming!

reached new limits

I updated my magnitude limit life list tonight. Hadn't touched it for a while. Also switched it to reverse chronological order. Just makes more sense, the recent items at the top.

Added some notable entries...

Hit magnitude 16.0 with Ian's 20" Dobsonian on the Blue Mountains last July as we searched for quasar 3C 332. That's the faintest I have gone visually in a telescope.

With the Burke-Gaffney Observatory in Halifax, using the Planewave CDK24 and Apogee Aspen CG16M CCD camera, in a 180 second image, I spotted quasar F861:066 at magnitude 19.2. That utterly smashes all my past photographic limits.

And I'm very happy that my new backyard is one full magnitude darker than what I was ever able to see, naked eye, in the city...

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

1.3 seconds

Read about just how close ULA came to messing up the Cygnus mission. Whew.

prepared next article

Added a bit more content, after a brief chat with the developer. Proofed my RASC Journal article one more time. Ready to go.

Made a new personal dropbox folder. Shared that with the editor... Hopefully this will make things a bit easier in the future. Possibly a bit more internet bandwidth friendly too.

Monday, March 28, 2016

first telescopic viewing (Bradford)

OK. On the edge in terms of interest. Still, let's experiment, I thought. Let's see what's actually involved with using the grab-n-go Meade Maksutov. Clear Sky Chart looked good. The Aviation Weather Center showed the clouds pushing off to the south-east.

Clear Sky Chart for Newmarket from 28 Mar 2016

It took 5 or 10 minutes maybe to get outside? With the little 'scope. Not bad.

Long johns. Winter coat. Toque. Fingerless mittens.

I brought out the Meade ETX 90, already on the tripod, the adjustable height chair, the TV table, the netbook, with red film, the eyepieces case, and red flashlight.
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Mak
Mount: tripod
Method: star hopping
Did not bring power. To keep it simple, I did not worry about powering the telescope. Yes, it was now modified for external power but I really didn't want to screw around with adapters and extension cords. Yes, it could run on three AA batteries but I didn't even want to fiddle with that either.

Forgot a couple of things. Computer mouse. Then again, the touchpad on John Repeat Dance was working again. I could have used the red LED keyboard light though.

Ugh. It was windy! Slipped my mind. I had noticed/heard the breeze earlier in the day...

Came outside with my red goggles on but, oddly, I didn't need them. House side light did not come on... Weird.

10:17 PM. Viewed Jupiter. Initially I only saw 3 moons. When the wind subsided, the equatorial bands were visible. I was using the old Celestron 26mm Plössl eyepiece. [ed: Is that around 40 power? No, 48x.] Focus was already fair. Went to change it. Yikes. Super sensitive. And, it shakes the 'scope. Gah. Gently adjusted it. Hard to tell if it improved. Had another look at the planet. Ha! Got 'em. All 4 moons. Two were very close together, the inner ones...

Readied to chase down some targets in Leo.

10:22. Someone's security light suddenly came on, across the way, other street, to the south-west. Damn. Right in my face! Popped on my goggles. Sat there for a while. I didn't hear anyone. Must have been a sensor and trigger by the wind...

Turned away from the light. Ah. OK. Ursa Major. Filtered on candidates there.

It was hard to work the little MCT at about 60 to 65 degrees altitude. The tiny 8x21 finder scope is inaccessible. A right-angle design would work better. Wondered if my Orion could be adapted. Or maybe a red-dot finder is the way to go.

Hard to reach the focus knob. Silly design.

Someone behind me, nearby. Up high? A building neighbour? Upper floor? Dunno. I didn't look; they didn't say anything.

10:49. From HR 4569, I starhopped to HR 4439. Could not split. At least, not the A and B. The SkyTools app said there was a faint C well away. I did not look per se for it.

Tried the Tele Vue 9mm. Crikey, the eyepiece thumb screw fell out. Fortunately, I did not drop it into the grass. Sheesh.

Knew there'd be a problem with the high power eyepiece [ed: 139x]. Confirmed. Way too windy. Very shaky view. Could not cleanly split in the now darker field.

Checked SkyTools 3 Pro. It said the separation was 0.91". Whiskey tango foxtrot?! Why bother in this teenie objective? No way. A challenge in a better 'scope, it would be... Why was it even showing in this filtered list?!

Turned back to Leo. Decided to try for ω (omega) Leonis.

Took me a long time to get started. Again, partly because of the extreme altitude factor of the ETX. Finally, I located Regulus and started the long journey west.

Part way I landed on HD 86419, a triple. I could see the C star (212" away) but not B (at 40"). C is magnitude 10.8 according to the planning app. B was supposed to be a bit brighter.

Continued through ο (omicron) aka Subra.

At last I made ω. Huh? No obvious pair. Checked ST3P. Man! Not splittable! The software said 0.84. So after a very long star hop, I landed at a star that would normally be a great challenge. I thought I had selected some better targets...

Stoopid. I quit! I decided that was enough. I was cold. Hands were cold. I was frustrated. Not really in the mood. Not sure exactly why. Anyway, enough. Certainly the wind gusts were not making anything easy.

Quickly packed up. At least that was fast...

During my last run to the big back yard, I thought I'd have a wide-field look... Would I get lucky? Now that I was, in theory, very dark adapted. I turned to the head of the lion.

And in short order I spotted 22 Leo between μ (mu) and ε (epsilon). All right! I saw it with averted vision. Paused, scanned. Again. Yes. Flattened triangle turned sideways. Definitely there.

A nice conclusion to a mildly challenging session. Tagged a magnitude 5.3 star without magnification. That was good.

11:39. I was back inside. Fast.


Conditions at 10:40 PM: 4°C, wind chill -1°, wind 26 km/h SE, 75% humidity, pressure 101.3 kPa and steady, dew point 0.


I didn't realise until after the session that the ST3P Difficulty index is not an indicator of splittability. Oops.

10 hours!

Oh oh. Loaded my newly design GoToStar motor cover into MakerBot and ran the preview. With 0.2 mm and default infill, 5+ hours!

rendered motor cover from Makerbot with time estimate

When I checked for 0.1 mm with 5% infill, 10 hours... Oh boy. Won't be able to do this (as is) at the Toronto Public Library.

asked some 3D questions

Asked Steve N some 3D printing questions. He gave some great tips and clarified some things for me. He also cautioned me that my Dec cover project might take a very long time... Oh.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

requested GB for 3521

Submitted two new jobs to bot BGO for NGC 3521, with the green and blue filters.

retrieved data on 3521 (Halifax)

Downloaded my red exposure of NGC 3521 (in Leo). For the RASC Finest. This will complement the luminance from the 24th.

red filter photograph of galaxy NGC 3521

300 seconds. Minimum altitude 40° applied. Shot at 26 Mar 2016 23:33 local time (ADT). According to SkyTools the true altitude was almost 45 and so the airmass was 1.4. The distance from the silly Moon was 59°.

Grabbed the weather data from WU between 11:31 and 11:36 PM. Temperature was 2.5°C, the dew point 0.2, the humidity 85%, and the air pressure 994.1 hPa. The wind shifted. South at 3.2 km/h gusting to 4.8; south-west at 4.8 gusting to 11.3.

The SQM was showing 19.0 Mag/Square Arc Sec. Wow.

Checked the Clear Sky Chart. Cloud: 10, clear; transparency: 3, average; seeing ranged from 2 to 3 out of 5, poor to average. The Moon altitude ranged from -1 to 6.

accessed SA 104 field in I (Halifax)

Acquired the image data for the SA 104 test field centred on SAO 138930, this time with the infrared filter.

got down to mag 4.5 (Bradford)

Spent some time in the backyard so to get dark adapted and better gauge the skies.

Just could not compel myself to take out more gear—binoculars or the ETX. Still, I put on long johns, the winter coat, and grabbed the adjustable height chair.

Not sure why but my right eye was acting up. Watering, irritated. My eyeglasses kept fogging. Strange, I had had no issues earlier in the evening.

Busy place! People moving cars about, doing stuff in their kitchen. Stray cats performing death defying stunts. At least the neighbours to the south had gone to bed.

The Moon was up during this exercise but I was able to avoid direct exposure by staying behind the straight-again coniferous trees. Either there were cloud streamers from the south-east to west or I was seeing Moon beams!

Created an observing list in SkySafari so I could record what I saw.

In Leo...

ρ - 3.8
ι - 4.0
93 - 4.5
σ - 4.1
72 - 4.6
Subra or ο - 3.5
κ - 4.5
λ - 4.0

In Virgo:

ν - 4.0
Zavijava or β - 3.6

Tried to spot 22 Leo in the head. That would have been a 5.0 mag star. No joy, unfortunately.

So, I was able to push deeper than last night, well past mag 3.9. I suspect I'll be able to get to mag 5 or fainter in better conditions and without the damnable Moon. Not bad.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

mimicked cover

Replicated the plastic cover for the GoToStar Declination axis motor in 123D. The current cover is too small or tight on the gear side of the motor assembly and causes some rubbing. While I couldn't find my Vernier calipers, I carefully measured the cover, blew out the cobwebs (from my noggin), and built a facsimile.

rendering from 123D of motor cover

I modified the case design slightly as I went along—although I've yet to push out the side causing the interference.

It was a little frustrating at times, relearning the tool; yet I am very happy with the result.

another image shot (Halifax)

Again! BGO surprised me again. It shot an image of SAO 138930 with the I filter. All right. That'll make a complete set for the SA 104 star field test. Grabbed the weather data.

surprised by bot (Halifax)

Nice surprise. Robot BGO shot NGC 3521 with the red filter for me. Wasn't expecting that. I grabbed the weather data.

quick magnitude check (Bradford)

Had a good look for the back garden...

60 Leo right of Zosma - 4.4
31 Leo below Regulus - 4.35
lambda Leo right of Algenubi - 4.3
iota Leo below Chertan - 3.95

Not very dark adapted. I had just come from moving the car. The side security light was on. The neighbours behind had their back deck lights on. The people on the 2nd floor had their lights on...

Still. Got past 3.9.

helped Ian with remote test

Tested TeamViewer 11 with Ian W. Worked fine. I was able to slew his mount.

image of person reaching through computer screens

We talked about various Windows 10 and TeamViewer configuration settings to optimise remote operations.

too late

Checked the NASA Space Apps Challenge site for Toronto. Full.

watched Husband docking

Caught the docking of the Cygnus cargo ship SS Rick Husband to the International Space Station, to the earth-facing port on the Unity module. The Orbital ATK OA-6 freighter had been grappled earlier in the day.

photograph of the orbiting Cygnus ship before grapple

A bit delayed while they waited for good ku signal. Alignment achieved provided a good RTL configuration. No exercising! Stage 1 done. Stage 2 done. 7700 pounds of cargo and science experiments delivered.

Hatch opening Sunday early.

Next week, a craft is due from Roscosmos.

Then SpaceX in two weeks.

That will mark a first: two US cargo vessels docked to the ISS at the same time.

download Aladin, again

Downloaded the standalone Aladin product, version 9. Thought I had done that before. Maybe a different computer...

screen grab of Aladin software splash panel

Memories flooded back as I opened it. Yes. I have used this before. And it is what I'm after. That is, I can view a part of the sky, and then apply the Simbad data overlay to identify stuff.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Moon through the trees (Bradford)

Moon's up. Shining in the window. Into my eye. Blech.

got data about gathering data

Chatted with Ian W about LRGB data gathering. Lots of great tips and advice. And more online tools...

quick look from the backyard (Bradford)

Had a quick look up from the backyard, outside. Clouds. Boo. But overhead I could see the Twins. To the south-east, bright Jupiter underneath Leo. I could see all the stars in the Sickle, including Algenubi (ε), Rasalas (μ), Adhafera (ζ), Algieba (γ), Al'dzhabkhakh (η), and Regulus (α), of course. And in the rump, Zosma (δ), Chertan (θ), and Denebola (β). Rasalas is the faintest at magnitude 3.85. That was after a couple of minutes so not truly dark adapted.

Kept fighting. Wanted to take advantage of the conditions; but I was feeling lazy and tired. Nearly frickin' full Moon would be rising soon...

one week follow-up

Nudged Randy on the SkyTools matter for RASC.

the exchange

I could stare at the animated Deep Space Network Now web page all day.

screen grab showing radio dishes and connected space probes

It's so cool seeing the Voyagers relaying data...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

recording more little fuzzies

It occurred to me, while imaging with the BGO bot, that I'll be seeing many DSOs. Many distant galaxies, I've already tagged some faint fuzzies in the background of the existing shots (NGC 2022, the SA 104 field, and NGC 3521). And a quasar. So, into the logs these go!

I updated my SkyTools database on John Repeat Dance and the life list pages (NGC and other deep sky objects). 

About a dozen objects in these 3 images alone.

sorted a fuzzy

Noticed it before, but today, on deep-diving into the SA 104 image, I looked closely again at the area around the star J124345.2-002116. To me it looked like there was a fuzzy.

Tried plate-solving the image on (link).

photograph plated-solved at

It did not go very deep. Ah. What's that green line? The constellation line?!

Tried Aladin Lite, the online (limited) tool. When I switched to SDSS9 mode, it popped (link).

photograph from Aladin of target fuzzy

My immediate impression was that there were old elliptical galaxies here...

Went into Simbad and punched up the location (link). Interesting: two objects noted within a 2 arcmin area.

screen grab from Aladin showing 2 objects in area

The first was a G class star at mag 15.6. But the second one... Very interesting. Much further away, curious name, curious type... When I clicked the link, I landed at a page describing a Seyfert 1 Galaxy. Ah ha.

Took a quick look at the Astrometrica web site but couldn't tell if it might work. Didn't feel like downloading more software... Wanted more info so I turned to Greg.

He did some digging and shared a screen snapshot. He said it was LEDA 3111069, Hubble type E, nearly face on.

I looked it up in HyperLeda. Confirmed.

acquired NGC 3521 luminance (Halifax)

BGO shot NGC 3521 for me this morning. One of the finest NGCs. A spiral in Leo. Big! Some interesting structure in the foreground arms. Bright compact core.

luminance photograph of galaxy NGC 3521

300 seconds. North is up; east is left.

Little smudges LEDA 135772, PGC 33536, and LEDA 1148913 are visible as well, below the big canted galaxy.

Altitude (°): 35-36; air mass: 1.7; -2.1 °C; dew point -6.4 °C; humidity 72 %; wind ENE at 3.2 kph gusting to 8 kph; pressure 1009.7 hPa; SQM: 18.0; distance from Moon (°): 25; transparency: 3, average; seeing 2/5, poor; Moon alt. 41-36.


Tried again on 3 Jan '18.


Wikipedia link: NGC 3521.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

reviewed assignments

Reviewed my supervisory duties this year at the CAO. Two weekends assigned, both of which will have training components. And there are the two work parties, of course. Looks like the loads are a bit lighter with the expanded team.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

to see light from a black hole

Read the article at Business Insider on seeing a black hole in visible light. Well. Not seeing the black hole directly but the accretion disc surrounding a black hole. Exciting! Now, the video clip they showed I thought was a little weak; perhaps including a time-scaled plot would be helpful.

It described that in some cases, it may be possible to see rapid and pronounced changes in magnitude in a 20 centimetre telescope. All right. That puts it squarely in the grasp of amateur gear.

The piece quoted Bill Goff of the American Association of Variable Star Observers group. "Seeing changes greater than one magnitude in less than an hour... was a wonder to see. [Imagine the] eruptive changes." Indeed.


See the published results at the Nature site. More than 2 magnitudes in red and blue, about 4 magnitudes in visual/green.

closed the review

Submitted my report to the national observing committee. The chair and others agreed with my findings and we closed the matter.

considered diffraction

Finally read the Fraunhofer diffraction primer forum document that I had received from Kevin back in January 2014. Shortly after my focusing mask presentation. The diffraction PDF document is available from the Braye Brook Observatory web site.

Chris Lord, from the UK, advocated Y masks... partly for energy transmission. The avid double star observer also showed that a diffraction mask can be off axis from the telescope's entrance pupil.

graphic of circle and 3 straight lines emanating from the edge

Lots of ideas! It might be easier to build a Y-mask off centre. It definitely would be easier to build a Y-mask with 3 full wires crossing the aperture. A three-wire solution would be scalable...

Monday, March 21, 2016

brilliant Mars (Bradford)

Noted the dark sky as I stepped onto the porch. A few clouds. Spotted Cygnus in the east, Lyra above. Altair and Tarazed. Faint Cassiopeia. Turned south. Wow! Mars was incredibly bright and richly hued. Fantastic. On fire! Fairly close to Acrab or β (beta) Scorpii.

Everything was dim from train platform. More clouds.


Didn't notice Saturn...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

carb work begins

The carb rebuild, for the observatory ride-on mower, begins...

old black and white photograph of a farm tractor

Ian started the disassembly, photo logging, and cleaning.

CSAC alert for BGO

Finally received a CSAC Alarm for my BGO / SMU / Halifax profile.
Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
03-20 @ Hour 21 for 2 hours (0%/Average/Average)
Fingers crossed.

bot cancelled

The SMU Burke-Gaffney Observatory bot cancelled my job.

Subject: BGO: #bgoreplies Error: It became cloudy or dawn arrived during observing SAO138930 (ID 801)! It will be tried again another night.

OK. Thanks for trying.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

spotted the LighTrack

Learned of the Fornax Mounts LighTrack II. It is another entry in the portable tracking mount for cameras. Reminds me a mini-version of the AstroTrac, one of the first.

photograph of the Fornax tracker with polar scope

Uses a friction drive. It supports up to 10 pounds. They claim an impressive peak-to-peak unguided tracking error of around 2 arcseconds in exposures of up to 6 minutes.

This whole field is getting very interesting...


Did my bit. Read a book. Had a bath. Disconnected. Sent my electricity consumption almost to zero.

RunaR approves

Heard back from the developer of ISS Detector, after sending him the article PDF.
Hi Blake,

That is a very nice and complete review of the app.  Thank you very much.

Kind regards,

You're welcome!


Later, I noticed he's applied some updates to the app, including the ability to show a sky map. Nice!

Friday, March 18, 2016

sent ISS article

Forwarded ISS Detector article from the RASC Journal to Derk.

telephoned TV support

Phoned Tele Vue. Got some quotes on replacement parts, cleaning, factory repairs. Got the low down on payment and processes and turn around times. I said that I'd review our inventory at the Carr Astronomical Observatory to see what else we might need, in addition to the bent tube...

still trying

Chatted with Randy. I'm still trying to move the SkyTools group-buy forward.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

quick and easy

The SkyShed POD on MODL 1 was sold quickly and smoothly. Pleased for both parties.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

the next meeting

The next RASC Toronto Centre council meeting is Wednesday 20 April 2016. It may be held near Bloor and Keele. Members of the RASC centre may attend council meetings.


Confirmed location: St Joan of Arc church.

at the council gathering

I participated in the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

road passable

A member was able to drive up to the Carr Astronomical Observatory! That's a record. The earliest time in the season. Presumably, we've not seen the last of winter... Still, this is some good news.

Monday, March 14, 2016

ExoMars on its way

Read about the ESA-Roscosmos mission to Mars (article). The first of two, actually. The Proton-M rocket lifted off today from Baikonur. With an orbiter and descent craft, they will test equipment, measure rare gases and electric fields.

graphic showing ExoMars lander and orbiter near Mars

In mid-October, the two vessels will separate and begin their distinct missions.

The orbiter uses Canadian hardware: the communication antenna subsystem built by MDA.

Jan and Feb

Added the February data to the SQM-LE log at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Neat seeing the Moon cycle...

line graph showing SQM data from CAO for Jan-Feb 2016

Highest reading to date: 22.37 on Feb 4!


Developed a new process this time. Used the Data Query in Excel on a folder to rapidly import and parse the multiple DAT files. Way easier; no macros.

grabbing the weather

During the star test shots with the BGO, I have been refining work flow things. For example, I'm trying to get the weather conditions at the time. It's easy to pull logs for the temperature, humidity, wind, and air pressure from Wunderground. For the SQM-LE data, there's a historical graph that constantly rolls backward. So I am trying to grab that image as soon as possible. There's some wiggle room there. And the Clear Sky Chart... it may not have updated. Also trying to download that image for record keeping. That one could change. It could be a challenge getting that one.

shot 2 more

BGO shot two more images for me of the star test field, B and R. One more to go...

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Binary Universe: ISS Detector

cover of the RASC Journal 2016 April
The April issue of the RASC Journal was made available today.

My software review column Binary Universe featured ISS Detector.

I demonstrated the Android application for planning for and observing flyovers of the International Space Station and Iridium flares. Version reviewed: 2.01.62.

first LRGB job

Completed my first ever LRGB job. NGC 2022. North is down; east is left.

simulated LRGB photograph of planetary nebula NGC 2022

Luminance 25 seconds, red 39s, green 60, blue 120.

Pre-processing and conversion in FITS Liberator 3.0.1. LRGB assembly, manual alignment, levels, curves, saturation, and Gaussian blur in Photoshop CS2. And, once again, I used a synthetic blue layer.

Too red. Too much colour, in general. And a big gradient to smooth out...

found FL3

Visited the Space Telescope web site for the ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator app. Looks like this free tool will work well for pre-processing and conversion to TIFF. Version 3.0.

received test image (Halifax)

Received my first two (of five) SA 104 test field images. An area in Virgo near Porrima. Just showing the LUM filter image here. First attempt with the full size option. Worked fine. Good correspondence in the software.

luminance photograph of SA 104 star field

180 seconds. North is down; east is right.

NGC 4653 is the large spiral galaxy on the right. NGC 4642 is the canted spiral at the 1 o'clock position. The oval fuzzy below centre is the lenticular galaxy PGC 42767. The little short streak at the 8 o'clock position is the edge-on spiral LEDA 91222. A number of other faint LEDA galaxies are visible. Neat.


See the follow-up.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

made another camera

Made (copied) another camera in SkyTools for the BGO system running in "small" mode (1536 times 2) versus the full size (binned). Greg's suggestion. Perfect correspondence now.

checked a log

Helped out the National Observing committee. Reviewed a Messier certification application in detail. Validated that all the targets were viable at the logged times. Contacted the applicant for some additional information.

sent the next three requests

Submitted 3 more jobs to BGO today. A blue filter image for NGC 2022; two shots surrounding SAO 138930 (aka HD 110572) for the SA 104 test field. Trying the minimum altitude and full size options on the latter two. Had to query the database for the target star: it did not recognise the HD but there was no problem with the SAO.

tried working with channels

Oh boy. I've never done LRGB channel work before. Finally grabbed my Photoshop Astronomy book to walk through the procedures.

photograph of red, clear, blue, and green filters

Could not bring the FITS files directly into my old Ps app so I used the JPEGs for my trial.

Did not have the blue image so I duplicated the green for a synthetic blue.

Lots more learning to do...

downloaded images

Downloaded my first three images from the robot observatory. NGC 2022, a planetary nebula in Orion from the Finest NGC list. Images shot last night. These are the JPEG versions. North is up; east is left.

luminance photograph of planetary nebula NGC 2022


red filter photograph of planetary nebula NGC 2022


green filter photograph of planetary nebula NGC 2022


I also downloaded the FITs.


Wikipedia link: NGC 2022.

images readied

The BGO robot emailed me. Images ready for retrieval! Yes!

Friday, March 11, 2016

images shot (Halifax)

w00t! The BGO robot shot my first three images! The luminance, red, and green images of planetary nebula NGC 2022 will be available tomorrow morning....

Approximate readings at the time: SQM 18; humidity 86%; wind speed 10 km/h.

Will have to wait a bit until I can download them...



Thursday, March 10, 2016

is AAA on?

Allard said a web visitor enquired about the Annual Algonquin Adventure. It shows on our site running from Sep 23 to 25. Eric relayed there is no volunteer currently since Lil and Bob let go of the reins.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

gave some CGEM tips

Al M reached out to me (after a tip from Bill). Having trouble with his CGEM. Two problems. Something about the GPS not providing the correct local time and not letting him change it. And the Declination axis feeling very stiff. I gave a few pointers and asked if he was on the CGEM Yahoo!Group. He wasn't.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

ESA improves filtering

Science alerts from the Gaia probe are up and running again. According to the article at the European Space Agency web site, when the science team started issuing alerts in the fall of 2014 they were quickly overwhelmed by the number of potential transient sources which numbered up to a million per day! They developed new filtering algorithms so to better identify actual events, now on the order of about four a day.

graphic showing Gaia probe in space

So, Gaia continues to measure the position and velocity of stars for new stellar catalogues as well providing information about potential supernova candidates and binary cataclysmic variables.

caught eclipse feed

Caught the solar eclipse feed by SLOOH.

screen grab of SLOOH webcast during the eclipse

Looks like good weather in Indonesia.

I hope Ralph had a good view.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

kp 8

Received an aurora alert from Space Weather. 8. 8! Current 6. Since I set up automatic alerts, I've never seen one that high...

screen grab showing aurora alert message

Of course, I have a mountain of work. And a very early train to catch tomorrow. Gar!

added a meter

Added a new Rainmeter to the desktop of John Charles, a Clear Sky Chart for Halifax...

Saturday, March 05, 2016

spotted Richard's Pleiades

Spotted Richard's wide field photo of the Pleiades on the SkyNews web site. Beautiful. Love the blue tinted clouds.

Friday, March 04, 2016

they got away

Katrina reminded us, via Facebook, that SpaceX was going to try again... I fired up the browser on the Ubuntu box and surfed to the company's webcast page.


Caught the SES-9 launch by SpaceX. They finally got away. Looked like there were no issues at all this time.

graphic simulating satellite orbit

Unfortunately, the live video from the landing barge cut out just at the last moment. We'll have to wait and see.

added another CSAC alert

Programmed a new Clear Sky Alarm Clock alert. This time for Halifax...


Probably too restrictive.

sent 3 jobs

Submitted, last night, three jobs to BGO, luminance, red, and blue. Looks like we ran out of time. So I'm in the hopper for the next clear night.

Thursday, March 03, 2016


Hubble just raised the bar. Or rather went deeper than ever before. The furthest back in time.

As noted in the article at Hubble Space Telescope ESA/NASA web site, a team of astronomers studied a galaxy called GN-z11 with the Wide Field Camera 3. Their spectroscopic observations showed that distance has a redshift of 11.1 which corresponds to 400 million years after the Big Bang. Or when the Universe was 3% of its current age.

photograph with inset image of very distant galaxy blob


It is thought that with similar techniques, we'll soon be able to see the first galaxies.

An interesting aspect of this, is that people thought only the James Webb telescope would be able to do this. That's exciting. Once the JWST is dialled-in, just what will it find?!


Image from ESA/Hubble (

tried Novas

Shared with Katrina on Facebook my latest astro-themed beverage. Well. Shared the discovery... Novas Gran Reserva from Chile. By Emiliana. A cab-sav with organically grown grapes.

photograph of Novas wine bottle

A rather lovely wine, velvety deep flavours (intense, how I like it), pleasant colour.

clear for a change (Bradford)

Stars! I saw stars, between the bright, glaring LED street lights. Orion to the south. Bright Capella overhead. Aries to the west!

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

DDO belongs to Town

Saw a Facebook post referring to an article in the York Region web site. Entitled, Disputed Richmond Hill observatory buildings now belong to town, it highlights the history of the disputed and buildings lands from the sale of the David Dunlap Observatory by the University of Toronto in 2008 to present. It makes for an interesting read.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

workshop at CAO announced

Diana posted to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group an exciting note.

"The Astrophotography Group and CAO Management Committee are pleased to announce the Beginner’s Astro Imaging Workshop Weekend at CAO this summer for all participants looking to try astrophotography for the first time at a kick ass dark site, or looking to put into practice some of the techniques we’ve learnt in the NOVA program and astrophotography sessions. This members only event is scheduled for June."

Based on the interest and success of the first workshop, she shared there are tentative plans to run a second session to cover more advanced techniques using a telescope, tracking equipment, and software.