Saturday, April 30, 2016

captured NGC 4605 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 4605 for me. A mottled, misshapen galaxy in Ursa Major. One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 4605 in luminance

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

There's a satellite trail through the image. Boo.

Near the top-left corner, there's a bright but small oval. That's MCG 10-18-76 aka PGC 42561.

I see two small faint fuzzies near the top-centre of the image, flanking the star J124010.2+614626, but they are not identified by SkyTools or Aladin/SIMBAD.


NGC 4605 was in my View Again list. Done. When I had first viewed in early July 2013, I had not thought it a great view.


Reshot on May 9. Without the streak.

added a dir

Remotely, made a simple mod to the FTP profile for the SQM software at the CAO. Added the remote directory. We'll see if that's all it is.

captured Arrakis in 1 sec

BGO shot the star SAO 30242 with the luminance filter (ID 1260). The fastest exposure yet. Also constrained by a higher minimum altitude: 60 degrees this time (all others were at 40).

μ Draconis at the top-right. Looks like a clean image: no trailing, no shaking. The C component is visible below the elongated AB pair! [ed: C appears to be in the magnitude 13 to 14 range.]

mu Draconis region with the luminance filter

1 second. North is up; east is left.

Better than the 2 second image from last night. Can I go faster than 1.0 seconds?


Yes. Did it in half the time.

Friday, April 29, 2016

processed 3877

Finally had a chance to assemble NGC 3877 in full colour. An edge-on spiral galaxy. From the data acquired back on the 20th. Not real happy. Too much blue.

edge-on galaxy NGC 3877 in LRGB

Photoshop. Luminance 60 seconds x 10 exposures, red 60x5, green 60x5, blue 60x5. North is up; east is left.

imaged 4568 again (Halifax)

BGO acquired data on galaxy (er, galaxies) NGC 4567/4568. aka The Siamese Twins. Two interacting spiral galaxies. Much better (than the first run)!

dual galaxies NGC 4568 in luminance

60 seconds, 10 subexposures. North is up; east is left. FITS Liberator.


Tried to ID the stuff in the neighbourhood... Used SkyTools 3 Professional and Aladin/SIMBAD.

Top edge of frame, middle, north, looks like an edge-on spiral galaxy. That's NGC 4564.

Near the top edge, 11 o'clock position, north-north east, very small round object: ST3P says it is LEDA 165260.

9 o'clock, just past 2 bright stars, very small round. ST3P: LEDA 169627.

8:30, near star J123706.1+111124, faint oval - unknown.

7 o'clock, south, S-shape, distorted spiral, edge-on - IC 3578.

5 o'clock, north-east of GSC 00878-0701, round small - unknown.

4:30 o'clock, just west of J123610.9+110842, faint small oval - unknown.

Further beyond, another oval - unknown.

3 o'clock, due west, very small oval, distant spiral, edge-on - LEDA 169598.

2:30 o'clock, west, 2 round fuzzies. ST3P only notes the inner one - LEDA 1391211. SIMBAD tagged both. Inner - SDSS J123557.64+111619.8; outer - [WLH2009] J188.98801+11.2744.

2 o'clock, due south of bright star, oval with bright centre - LEDA 169592.

I think there are many more smaller, fainter galaxies. The Aladin viewer strongly supports this; curiously SIMBAD does not identify many.


Assembled in colour...

requested new targets

Requested three targets of BGO. A galaxy. NGC 4605. One of the RASC Finest. More data from Arrakis. Faster. Higher. And, another run of the Siamese Twins, aka NGC 4567/4568. [ed: SkyTools shows 4567 in the Finest list.]

examined NGC 4568

Took a look at the luminance frame of NGC 4568. Cool. Interacting galaxies! [ed: The upper galaxy is in fact catalogued: 4567.] Oooh. Lots of little galaxies... Lots and lots. In Virgo.

interacting spiral galaxies NGC 4568 luminance

North is up. FITS Liberator.

There is a problem with the image. I will need to redo... Fun, nonetheless.


The second run yielded much better results.


Checked the most recent image from BGO for the region around Arrakis. Down from 10 to 2 seconds now...

mu Draconis region with luminance filter

North is up; east is left. Ugh. Weird artefacts! Almost like the mount was twisting or shaking. I wonder what the winds were like?

Can still see the dual diffraction spikes alluding to the two stars which is good. I'll try one second and hope for stable conditions.


Checked the conditions...

Weather. Nothing really unusual: temperature 0.9 °C, humidity 50 %, wind from the SW at 1.6 km/h, gusting to 11.3, pressure 1008 hPa. The wind did switch around to WNW. That's about a 90° change. Still, pretty minor.

Elevation details. At 2:39 AM local time: altitude: 75°; airmass: 1.0. Fantastic.

I wonder what happened...


Faster still, to 1 second.

bad dog!

Found a funny subject line in my inbox this morning...
Subject: BGO: #bgoreplies Your observations taken overnight are ready here: BAD_VARIABLE?observerid=62
It's a programming glitch in the output from the automated system. I've certainly made mistakes like this in my coding. But given the domain... astronomy, deep sky, galactic stuff, stars...

Bad variable star, bad!

acquired two more image sets (Halifax)

The robot at St Mary's University captured two more images for me. NGC 6543 again (but hopefully with some Oxygen-III data) and SAO 30242 (or rather, a star near mu Draconis). I'm falling behind at this pace!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

captured NGC 4568 (Halifax)

BGO: replied:
I have taken your special observation of NGC4568 (ID 1244)! I'll tell you when it's ready in the morning.
Thank you.

acquired three targets (Halifax)

Clear skies in Halifax. Starting a little after 10:00 PM local time, the BGO robotic 'scope starting collecting image data for me. Shot three targets: planetary nebulae NGC 6543 and NGC 2371 plus the Arrakis double star.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

imaged Gemini planetary (Halifax)

Neat. BGO imaged the planetary nebula NGC 2371. It has a bipolar structure! The given name, The Gemini Nebula, is appropriate. It looks like it is spinning.

There's also stuff going on surrounding the target. Wispy things, at the 2 o'clock position, and opposite, at 8 o'clock. Very interesting.

planetary nebula NGC 2371 imaged with green filter

Green filtered image. 60 seconds by 5 subexposures. FITS Liberator. Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

the CAO - Yours to Discover

Tony dos Santos delivered a presentation on the Carr Astronomical Observatory to members: The CAO - Yours to Discover! He did a great job.

delivered TSTM for May

Delivered my The Sky This Month presentation to the RASC Toronto Centre. This was held in the Burgundy Room of the North York Memorial Centre. We had some technical glitch at the beginning but the A/V guy on site rescued things with a backup projector. It was a decent crowd. I did not provide a paper handout this time (trying to go green) but did make my usual month-at-a-glance calendar.

The highlights for the next few weeks are:

  • 30 – astrophoto workshop at the DDO
  • 2 – dark sky observing window opens
  • 6 – new Moon
  • 9 – transit of Mercury, morning through mid-afternoon; events all around the GTA and on the Blue Mountains
  • 9-14 – Astronomy Week
  • 13 – Lunar X event
  • 16 – city observing window opens
  • 19 – fun in London, the RASC General Assembly +
  • 22 – opposition of Mars!
The notes are available on the RASC TC web site. They include some images, the calendar (as a PDF file), and two observing lists (in SkySafari and SkyTools formats)

acquired images (Halifax)

Not surprisingly, BGO bot shot some images for me. NGC 6543 and the mu Draconis region. Faster exposures this time.

Cat's Eye Nebula with green filter

The Cat's Eye, with the green filter, at 30 seconds. The planetary nebula is still blown out, I think.

luminance filter on the mu Draconis region

Weird. Arrakis looks trailed this 10 second image (ID 1194). Not as clean as I'd like. Arguably not much better than the 15 second image. S'OK. I am planning another one, even faster... North is up; east is left.


Shot Arrakis faster at 2 seconds.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

6543 again

And the Cat's Eye again. Half the exposure time...

Arrakis again

Submitted a new job for Arrakis. Faster!

reviewed Cat's Eye (Halifax)

BGO robot made the images shot of NGC 6543 available. The Cat's Eye Nebula in Draco. I was very curious the results, now including a new filter. And also to compare and my all-colour DSLR shot...

Quickly converted, with FITS Liberator, the H-alpha, red, green, and blue FITS images. All subs were 60 seconds. North is down and east is right for all.

H-alpha frame of Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543)

There's something strange going on in the hydrogen α. The fuzzy bits left and right are interesting but the whole image looks grainy. The planetary nebula itself appears blown out. But there are streaks or trails?! It almost looks like rain! What's going on? 10 subexposures.

red frame of Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543)

The red... Almond shape. 5 subexposures.

Hey, there's an object off to the right! A little streak. Bright core. A bit of structure? A barred spiral perhaps to two prominent arms? Perhaps an edge-on galaxy? [ed: That's NGC 6552.]

And there's a very small oval fuzzy due left (west) of the PN. [ed: LEDA 2689421.]

And the tiny round object, near the bottom-left, between stars J175657.6+664410 and GSC 04212-1313 is not star like. A distant galaxy? [ed: LEDA 2690715.]

green frame of Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543)

The green... There's something immediately left of the nebula. Also, I can see a faint diaphanous large ring around the central nebula. With a radius of about 2 to 3 arcminutes. I think! 5 subexposures.

blue frame of Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543)

The blue... There's still something left of the nebula. The ring is fainter. 5 subexposures.

They all look blown out. Considered a redo. To "fix" the Hα. I will try setting the exposures half the current.

reviewed mu Dra

The robot at SMU made the image of region around μ (mu) Draconis available (ID 1174).

Had a bit of a scare. Upon Mr Chapman's suggestion, I had not aimed directly at Arrakis, for fear that the automated routines would override the exposure settings, on detecting a bright target. So I had used the nearby star SAO 30242 (aka HD 234387). The queue notice had returned a good response. But the subject line and body in the image "ready" notice  showed SAO3024! Yikes. Might it have gone to a different star? Downloaded the JPEG.

luminance photo of region near double star mu Dra

15 seconds. North is down; east is right. No problem. μ Dra is at the bottom-left.

w00t! I can see the C star! And the primary looks elongated to the north-south. All right!

Holy mackerel. On deep diving, I can easily see GSC 03890-0238, down and left of mu, at magnitude 16.85 (poor quality data according to SkyTools), along with its companion J170510.7+542949 at mag 18.13. To the right of that pair, I can see J170516.8+543008 at mag 19.01 and its partner J170516.5+543019 at 18.76)! Wow. Mag 19 stars in a 15 second shot!

Curiously, I see 3 stars near mu, up and left, which are not shown in the software. Regardless...

I'm very happy to tag the C star. And if I drop the exposure, it should improve the view of A and B.

This is very neat. Using BGO to verify or check impressions from visual observing sessions... Gathering more data, to add to the pile, on Arrakis. I like it!


Shot later for 10 seconds.

Monday, April 25, 2016

two targets acquired (Halifax)

Back to back emails. The BGO robotic observatory shot planetary nebula NGC 6543 and double star Arrakis for me.

added the alt plate

Did some more work on the alt-az base for the barn door tracker. Received some excellent advice from Dr Plywood. He said he liked the simplicity of it. Me too!

3D diagram of azimuth and altitude plates

The angled upper plate will be the bottom plate of the existing tracker.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

checked out a propeller (Halifax)

Reviewed the image from BGO. Planetary nebula NGC 4361 in Corvus. Looks like a propeller screw! Super bright star in the centre. It's around 1.5 arcminutes in diameter.

planetary nebula NGC 4361 with blue filter

Image with blue filter. 60 seconds by 5 exposures. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

captured NGC 4361

And another! The bot imaged NGC 4361. Ooo. Big.

made a slide

The president pushed it back to me. So I made a slide for the CAO, added an image, dumped all the other slides, and punted it back.

captured Ghost of Jupiter (Halifax)

Captured the Ghost of Jupiter, NGC 3242, Caldwell 59, a planetary nebula in Hydra. Another of the Finest NGCs. Neat pattern in the middle of the spherical shape. Like an eye!

Looks slightly out of focus...

planetary nebula NGC 3242 with green filter

Image from green filter. 60 seconds by 5 exposures. FITS Liberator. North is up; east is left.


Captured more data, months later...

captured NGC 3242 (Halifax)

w00t! I was hoping for images from BGO bot. The Clear Sky Chart was looking good for tonight in Halifax (tomorrow too!). Just received a note that NGC 3242 was captured. Ghost of Jupiter. Caldwell 59. My first H-alpha run.

tested custom mirror cable again

Decided to try more trials. But with some different camera settings.

I had wondered if yesterday's tests with the automatic focusing and exposure options were introducing delays or simply preventing the camera from shooting.

electronic kit with breadboard wired with MOSFETS plus N3 and serial cables

Connected everything up again. That is, USB camera-PC interface cable plus the custom mirror control cable (via the breadboard). Ran through Frame and Focus in Backyard EOS so ensure I could take a longish exposure. Used the focus buttons at the computer then set the lens to manual. Started to ready an imaging run and wanted to use BULB mode... Noted a low battery condition so headed to the camera bag.

8:14 PM. Exhausted 3 batteries, in the end! Crikey. My hand was forced. I connected the DC coupler.

Seemed like I had mucked up the software, that F&F wasn't working, so I completely closed BYE and restarted it. At first I didn't think it working but finally noted the F&F responding... Took a Snap. Examined the test shot. It was OK. I had arrived at 30 seconds at f/32 with an ISO of 100. There was deep focus and good lighting. All right.

8:23. Ran a short trial of 3 exposures, in BULB mode, but no mirror control. 35s, f/32, 100. A 5 second pause between each shot. All went well! A very good sign. Programmed a new run, with the mirror lock enabled...

8:27. Juliet Charlie! It worked. I saw the delay timer count for 2 seconds. Then heard the camera flop. All right! The mirror was up. The Anti-Vibration heading showed on the computer screen and that timer counted down, -5, -4, etc. (This is where it failed yesterday...) I heard a faint tick from the camera body as the shutter opened. w00t! Then the exposure counter appeared. At 35 seconds, there was the normal note from the 40D as both the shutter and the mirror moved. All while the camera's Live View not on... It all worked!

Very happy. I reviewed settings...

connections, between camera and PC:
  • standard USB cable 
  • custom serial cable (plus USB-serial adapter)
camera settings:
  • manual mode
  • mirror lock off
BYE settings:
  • virtual mirror off
imaging run session configuration:
  • cable support COM4 (as per Device Manager)
  • delay 2 seconds
  • mirror lock 5
imaging run exposure settings:
  • BULB 
  • f/32
  • 35 seconds
  • ISO 100 
  • pause 5

Essentially, I didn't change anything but the camera settings. I think, in the end, it was the auto-focus mucking things up...


Next test: to try to opto-isolator!

sent CAO items

Submitted Carr Astronomical Observatory items for the RASC announcements slide deck.

reviewed CAO presi

Helped Uncle Tony with his CAO presentation. Sent the latest editable PowerPoint file, via DropBox. Discussed additions, edits, deletes. Created a QR Code and sent that over.

checked FTP logs

Checked for SQM-LE log files on the server. Messaged Peter. Let him know the UDM software transfer-by-FTP feature is not working (among other things).

shared GA info

Helped Grace find the General Assembly information on our web site. Deep in the Events list. But easily found by searching "general."

researched Arrakis

Did a deeper dive into μ (mu) Draconis (or Alrakis or Arrakis) in an attempt to figure out what's going on. A key issue for me is that I have not been able to, after a few attempts, to spot the C star.

Checked the info in the Washington Double Star database. The AB and AC data is very similar to the numbers I'm seeing in SkyTools 3 Professional. Both show the magnitude is around 13 to 14. Quite doable in many of the instruments that I have access to. The position angle and separation values, again, are very consistent. The dim C star should be south of the AB pair, opposite B, but well away, 4 or 5 times the distance of AB.

Viewed on 3 Aug 2009. That appears to be the first ever. But then, I was only going after the AB pair, from the Sky & Tel list. Probably did not even know there was a C then... (didn't have SkyTools that summer). Viewed on 31 May 2014, 6 Jul 2014, and on 17 Apr 2016. Never spotted the C.

The WDS has a very strange entry by Burnham for the BC pairing.

date:    1889    1958
theta (PA) °:    191    186
rho (sep.) ":    12.3    13.6

That makes no sense at all. I visually checked the numbers using Visio.

diagram showing angles between A, B, C stars

The dashed lines are the first observations (some of which are over 200 years old). The solid lines should be the current (or recent) positions and distances. The lower 2 lines are for the BC entry, that is, the PA and sep between B and C. Clearly the angle and separation are wrong/different. Finally, I loaded in the screen snapshot from SkyTools and pushed it to the background. The dots above the A and B labels along with the C near the top-left indicate how the ST3P software is plotting the star positions. Again, not too far off. I made no attempt to scale the snap to the diagram. Regardless, the PA for A and B looks spot-on.

[ed: Could it be that Burnham was looking at A and C?! The separation values are very consistent although the angles are different.]

I also the checked Aladin image and SIMBAD data. The AC pair angle looks very good. B looks like it is OK in terms of separation but the angle is different—B is more counter-clockwise than in the graphic above. Still, quite good correspondence. Sadly, the Aladin image is not useful visually as the A and B stars overwhelmed the sensor.

Wonder if I should image this area...




Tried again visually to spot C on the evening of 3 July with a big Dob... No joy.

verified two cables needed

Did some research...

Read the Serial Control section of the Canon Camera Control product page at Astronomiser. Noted the statement that their special serial "cable should be used in conjunction with a USB cable (supplied with the [camera]) to use with software..." OK. So, two wires.

Stumbled across a thread in the O'Telescope forums. Noted a user describing how they could hook this up:
  • use a serial cable to control the mirror lock function
  • set the lock parameter on the camera
  • and use the usb for camera communication and data transport
Although, in the end, the user's camera did not support mirror lock-up at all.

Verified the 40D was supported in the camera table matrix.

Perhaps I had wired up the simple circuit wrong. Perhaps I had the camera configured wrong. Hmph.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

tried to control mirror

A long journey, this. And I'm still not clear about what I can or cannot do.

Decided to have a go at prototyping the camera control mirror lock-up cable. I wanted, at a minimum, to build a cable to go from the recently acquired Canon N3 adapter cable, with it's male sub-mini stereo plug, to ultimately connect to a box with the switching (and isolating) electronics. First, I'd solder up a female jack to a cable and with the loose ends do some testing.

Assembled parts and tools: MOSFETs, 10K resistor, N3 adapter cable, stereo sub-mini female jack, four conductor wire, digital multi-meter, jumper cables, sewing pin, side cutters, soldering iron, solder, small vice, helping hands, close-up glasses.

Did a battery of continuity tests to verify pin-outs. Created visual notes. Checked the adapter cable pins from the N3 to the sub-mini plug. Compared this to Michael Covington's notes. Confirmed. Looked at the Canon 40D DSLR N3 connector: the triangle is upside-down, that is, it points down; the bump in the connector is toward the lens. This appears to be opposite some other models. Used Peter Jensen's notes where he truly hacked the pins. Corroborated notes. Attached the female in-line plug and checked the wiring connection points. OK, ready to go!

Fired up the Weller, wet the sponge, stripped the wires, clamped the jack and wires in place, and soldered everything up. Screwed on the jack cover. Tight fit... Tested the connections. What?! A short! Removed the cover. Very tight fit... And found all the wires had twisted around one another, with one wire tearing free, and the extreme tension tearing out one of the posts! Crikey. Good for nothing.

Found another female jack from the parts bin: the last in-line connector. Whew! Stripped the wires. Soldered. Carefully installed the cover. Tested the connections. What?! No signal on the Focus circuit. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?! I was not happy. Didn't even bother to open it up.

So upsetting.

Considered dropping the whole matter...

Grabbed a case-mount sub-mini female jack—to discover bad fitment. The plug did not seem to insert far enough (or it wasn't long enough) and would easily release. That would not be good in the field. Grabbed a panel-mount jack. Good positive fitment. Connected it with jumper cables. This would have to do for the balance of my prototyping.

Needed a female serial cable connector. Looked in the old computer cables box. Found a male. Looking in another old computer parts box. Ah. Old Psion stuff. And a gaggle of PC interface cables... with female ends. Grabbed one, cut it near the proprietary palmtop connector. Wow. Ten coloured, thin wires, not counting the ground strap. Checked the pin-outs noting the colours for pin 5 and 7.

Grabbed the Prolific USB-serial adapter and attached it to the netbook. Checked the assigned COM port: 4.

Grabbed the electronic experiment kit with breadboard and wired up the circuit, based on Covington's schematic.

Connected the DSLR to John Repeat Dance via the USB cable. EOS Utility woke. Did some quick tests. OK. Closed the EU app. Launched Backyard EOS. Dove into the settings, then Advanced Settings, and turned on the Virtual Mirror Lock. Tested Frame & Focus. Starting working on an image plan. Set the Mirror setting to 5 seconds. Set the Control Cable to COM4. Tried the Test Cable button... No error; but no positive message either. Started the imaging run... The Delay wound down... and nothing happened. Looked like the software froze. Tried again. No action. Huh. Wondered what was wrong.

Rebooted the 40D. Checked the camera settings. Found the Mirror Lock on... Is this causing a conflict? Now I was growing increasingly confused. Or unclear. And the awkward documentation with BYE wasn't helping. I felt the need to step back, review, gather my thoughts.

Reviewed my notes and thoughts from Aug 2015, as I tried to wrangle the camera. Where I was very confused for part of the evening. On that occasion I was shooting long exposures; earlier I had been shooting very fast.

Looks like I'm going to have to jump into the O'Telescope forums...

loaded Hα targets

Submitted three jobs to the BGO robotic telescope at St Mary's. With the Moon all bright and big and full, I decided to load the queue with planetary nebulae and to gather hydrogen alpha instead of luminance.

designed an az plate

Noodled on a design, in 123D, for the azimuth plate for the barn door tracker.

3D diagram of azimuth plate and adjuster

Sent to Ian "Dr Plywood" for some feedback.

looked for fuzzies (Halifax)

Examined the luminance frames from Wednesday night closely.

In the Silver Needle galaxy luminance shot, there's a very small fuzzy down and left from the main galaxy. In the quickly-put-together LRGB image, it is much more obvious (except it is now in the top left).

This is galaxy LEDA 139774, according to SkyTools 3 Pro. Actually, as I dive deep into the LRGB photograph, it looks like there's another object! Perhaps it is a face-on spiral with a small interacting companion...

Aladin refers to this as 2XMM J121651.9+375437, Seyfert 2 Galaxy. High-zoom images clearly show two spiral galaxies.

In the NGC 3877 luminance shot, I spotted two very small faint oval fuzzies at the left edge of the frame. These are LEDA galaxies 2300369 and 2300172. East of the big galaxy.

passed 700

Hit 700. Seven hundred double stars on my list with over 600 confirmed viewings. As part of my the visual observing last weekend. Wow.

in the grand scheme

It doesn't matter what you do, really, in the end. You'll be long gone in 100 to 200 years. Only the stars will remain.


Be nice.

Friday, April 22, 2016

quickly assembled the Needle

Had a real quick go at the Silver Needle, using the data from 2 nights back.

LRGB image of Silver Needle galaxy

Luminance 600 seconds; red 300; green 300; blue 300. Photoshop. North is up; east is right.

Also called NGC 4244 and Caldwell 26.

The bright orangey star at the bottom left is SAO 62931, a K2 class star.

installed latest UDM

Worked on the SQM-LE setup at the CAO. Remotely. Copied the new version of the UDM software to the server at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Captured all the current settings. Installed the new app. Ran it. Applied the new FTP settings. Started logging. We'll see how it works over the next couple of days. Let Peter know.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

next meeting set

The next planned RASC Toronto Centre council meeting is Thursday 14 July. Location: to be announced.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

shot NGC 3877 (Halifax)

BGO bot shot galaxy NGC 3877 for me. In Ursa Major.

luminance frame of the NGC 3877 galaxy

Luminance. 600 seconds. FITS Liberator. North is up; east is left.


Assembled over a week later.

shot the Silver Needle (Halifax)

BGO bot shot the Silver Needle galaxy, aka NGC 4244 and Caldwell 26, for me. In Canes Venatici.

luminance of Silver Needle galaxy

Luminance. 600 seconds. FITS Liberator. North is down; east is right.


Later, I quickly prepared the image in LRGB.

attended meeting

Attended a very productive RASC Toronto Centre council meeting at the DDO administrative building. I was able to table a few questions and remarks. We were done at a reasonable time too! And we looked at Jupiter after! Sweet!

more on 3521 (Halifax)

BGO bot gathered more data on NGC 3521 for me. I wanted a redo because of a bad gradient. We'll see how these turn out. Damn Moon was 32 degrees away...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Canada rocks!

We helped build the station. I read the article celebrating 15 years of Canadarm2. Pretty amazing.

Monday, April 18, 2016

captured the ISS part 1 (Blue Mountains)

And here's part 1 of 2. We started the video capture shortly after the ISS rose above the horizon. At first we didn't see anything but then it appeared at the edge of the full frame (extreme refraction?). I ditched a few hundred frames at the beginning. We had programmed the video capture for 5000 frames--which was clearly not enough. Ian quickly reset to grab more frames. Processed in PIPP.

Flyover of International Space Station on Sat 16 Apr 2016 around 8:40 PM EDT. Telescope: Celestron 14" SCT (f/11) atop Paramount ME driven by TheSky 6. Camera: Nikon D7100 DSLR with Backyard Nikon. Manually focused initially and automatically adjusted with Optec TCF-S. Video 1 of 2.

View part 2.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

captured the ISS part 2 (Blue Mountains)

Ian Wheelband and I captured video of the International Space Station pass over the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Video 2 of 2. Minimal processing, cropped and centred with PIPP.

Flyover of International Space Station on Sat 16 Apr 2016 around 8:40 PM EDT. Telescope: Celestron 14" SCT (f/11) atop Paramount ME driven by TheSky 6. Camera: Nikon D7100 DSLR with Backyard Nikon. Manually focused initially and automatically adjusted with Optec TCF-S. Video 2 of 2. Ends at the equatorial mount reaches meridian.

View part 1.

edit ISS 2 vid in PIPP

Did some quick PIPP processing on the ISS video 2 of 2. Found version 2.5.3 installed. Should be uploaded in about an hour.

worked at CAO

Did more chores and tasks at the Carr Astronomical Observatory this weekend. Delivered the Poulan chain saw (donated by my Mom). I tuned the governor on the Briggs and Straton motor of the ride-on mower—easy fix—then buttoned everything up. Inspected the Tele Vue eyepiece set with the crew and decided that no major action needs to be taken. Reviewed the Transit of Mercury event. Took down my old custom Thornbury map. Helped Ian with networking in his shed. And oversaw the reprogramming of the baseboard heaters.

less wind; more Moon (Blue Mountains)

Sat 16 Apr 2016. 9:00 PM. I put the 32mm Tele Vue eyepiece reassembled by Ian back in the 'scope. It was working fine. We were on Jupiter.

Was using the regular Dell computer to drive the Paramount.

The netbook was acting strange. Tried to perform a normal Standby process. Took a long time to react. Then a long time for the screen to shut off. No response after many minutes. Hard booted it. Wait! Kicked it in the ass! Crikey. Turned off the radio; connected by hard line. Had to change the horizon line colour slightly as the green was cancelled by the red filter.

Left the Geoff Brown Observatory to view Mercury. Easy to see. Slightly less than 10° above the horizon. Betelgeuse and Aldebaran and Mercury were almost in a straight line. Launched SkySafari on the Android: it said Mercury was 8 degrees up.

The peepers were incredibly loud. The owl was flying around again.

Decided to not do anything about an imaging campaign at SMU. Earlier I had considered cancelling jobs to grab galaxies, given the Moon light, to collect H-alpha instead. Meh.

9:06 PM. Tried Tonight's Best in SkySafari. I noted it suggested a lot of deep sky objects with no regard for the Moon light. Starfish Cluster? Huh? Oh... Messier 38. Pinwheel Cluster: M36. Mekbuda? I cross-checked it in my double star life list for ζ (zeta) Geminorum. Not here. OK, sure, let's try it. Slewed.

Noticed Ian's laptop was reporting a low battery, then very low, even though it had it plugged in. I realised what the issue was—I reset the breaker on the common wall. Tripped again...

What?! That's cool. I saw what looked like a triangle. There was a fairly bright star at my 2 or 3 o'clock position. SkyTools 3 Professional said this was the C star, to the north. Awesome. And there was a star at a 90° angle or to the east from the primary and that was the B star. Much fainter; C was brighter. And with averted vision, I could see a star between the C and A stars; ST3P referred to two stars here, with P and R labels, with magnitudes 12 and 13! Wow! Now, I did not see two stars there but there was clearly something. In a neat field.

9:23. Also, SkyTools did not show something I was seeing. There was a star opposite C, two times the distance. A fairly bright star. ST3P shows GSC 01353-1010 at mag 13.7 (poor quality)—I don't think that's right.

Reviewed the observing lists for Mekbuda. It is on the RASC Explore The Universe and the AL Binocular Doubles. It is a variable ranging from 3.5 to 4.2 over 10 days. It is listed as a naked eye variable. It was nice in the refractor. Light yellow primary. The C was grey in the big 'scope and dim blue in the small one. With averted in the 101mm I could see the B star. Nice. Very neat. Might be fun to photo.

I was getting chilled. Headed to the house for the winter coat. Helped Tony a bit with his Canon DPP.

9:27. Viewed Mekbuda naked eye. Left edge of the Twins. Funny how it came from SS+.

Considered Procyon. Reviewed my old notes. Changed the eyepieces. Checked the software. Had another look. No problem with the C star. ST3P was not showing the D star. Neither in the CV or IA charts. Nor B. Weird. ST3P said the B star was 4 seconds of arc away. That would be easy. Huh. Tried changing the date in the SkyTools software to a new Moon period...

Noted SAO 115746 to the north-west. Used it and the smattering of nearby faint stars to confirm my orientation.

Spotted the multi-star system Σ1126 to the east! aka HR 2950. Not in my life list. Cool. I thought I could see the A and B stars, touching. Very, very tight. ST3P said they were 0.9" apart. They seemed to be oriented north-south. Pale yellow. C was at a right angle, off to the west. C was pretty faint. With the Angular Measure tool in ST3P, I simulated the orientation I was seeing, up-down, and got a position angle of 160 between A and B and around 255 to C. The Object Information box said the PA values were 171 and 249. And they were equally bright stars, magnitude 6.6 and 6.7. Woo hoo. In mediocre seeing.

The A-B pair are part of a larger triangle. Unrelated stars. GSC 00187-1457 and GSC 00187-0984.

[ed: I believe there's an issue in the software in that it is not showing the A and B stars separately. By comparison, BRD 2 stars A and B are clearly shown and they are even closer at 0.8".]

I could see a star to the east, or left, GSC 00187-1335. The software said it was 15.6! Although it also noted that was poor quality data.

Ian popped by to check his laptop. Asked if I was ready for the second ISS video file. I checked that the first file had made it to the Taurus computer on the network. Yep. 1.9 GB. In the meantime, his computer went a little funny on the network.

Told him about the power issue. He wondered if we had a ground fault issue.

Asked Ian his impression of Struve 1126. Greenish-blue and orange. Touching. He thought the tight pair in-line with the C. He thought the view was wobbling. Wondered if there was a drive issue. Or really bad seeing.

Also noticed that I had viewed the BRD 2, aka HD 61502, to the north-east of Procyon before but had not spotted the C. More weird stuff.

10:12. I could not see BRD 2 C. ST3P said it was mag 13.4. So, doable. Could see lots of other stars in the area. I could see field stars in the area that the software said were magnitude 13 and 14. Tricky area. A little frustrating.

The Horvatins vigorously enjoyed some campfire songs.

Made a SkyTools chart with checked entries. Plus symbols showed. Considered VZ Cancri from Turn Left At Orion. Looked up alternate names for TheSky 6: SAO 98035 or HIP 42594. Oh. Near the Moon. Slewed.

Saw the elongated diamond of stars to the north and the string of stars to the south-east.

It barely changes 7.2 and 7.9. But it is fast: 4.3 hours! There were no equivalent stars in the C14. Went to look in the Tele Vue 101 with the 10mm.

10:24. Saw a grouping of 5 stars. VZ Cnc is an F-class star. I wondered what the point was. Is it that it is a fast-changing star? Should check the book.

[ed: Guy says it is arguably the most dynamic variable star. Recommends using binoculars and comparing it to 36 and 37 Cnc. 37 in particular is 7.4. So, in the course of 2 hours, one would see it appear bright than 37 and then dimmer... OK. That's what I'll do...]

SAO 98037 to the north was fainter (9.2). SAO 98016 to the west was fainter (9.4).

Considered 17 Hyd. aka HR 3553, HD 76370, or SAO 136408. Not from any particular list; automatically added. Well below the head of water snake.

10:29. 17 Hydrae. Equally bright stars. Pale blue. The other was hard to tag. Orange or blue? [ed: Haas says both are "gloss-white."]

A somewhat empty field. Close, tight. But easy. ST3P said 4" apart and mags 6 and 7.

I saw a cup of stars (below or south-east) and a triangle (east).

There was another pair to the north-west or at my 2 or 3 o'clock. Headed back to the 'scope. HD 76274 was at the edge of the field. Seeing was bad but it would snap in. 7.6 vs 10.9. I thought about half the separation of 17 Hyd. Tricky. Should be re-observed.

10:37. Slewed to SAO 134929. Noted a big question-mark shape of stars.

10:41. The software made it look like there was a double or triple in the middle of it. J  2844. Faint. In the telescope I could not make out any detail. Just a blob. Not fun, per se. The cluster was interesting.

10:42. Jujubes!

Was getting a little frustrated. This last suggestion was also an automatic entry from SkyTools. Crazy faint. I decided on a different approach. Started reviewing other SkyTools lists for possible candidates good for this time of year. Applied some filters. Rejected DSOs. Oh. Found one in the Cambridge list...

Tony visited briefly. He grabbed the Star Adventurer tripod, returning it to the house.

10:53. θ (theta) Aurigae was cool. White and pale, dark orange. Wow. An interesting double. Finally! Very close. Maybe 10". The software said 3.5" and not currently splittable. Oh, yes it is. A quad system. The C and D are well away, forming a triangle. That was great.

[ed: Haas does not refer to C star. She says A and B are white and green and D is silvery. Smyth says lilac and pale violet!]

10:57. That was a fun system, aka OΣ545. B is almost perfectly inline with C. B and C are in a north-west direction. D is to the north. I could see D in the Tele Vue! I think this will be a good candidate for the double star project: it works at low power and rewards at high power. [ed: It's already on that list.]

Faint pair off to the north-west. Forming an equilateral triangle with theta. Freaky. At the limit of vision. ALI 555. About the same distance as θ D from θ A. Wide pair of low mag 12 stars.

Neat field. A lot of faint field stars. A gaggle of stars to the north looking like a faint open cluster.

From the RASC Coloured: jumped to 35 Com. Field didn't look right. Must have pointed wrong. Ooh. Indeed. Big shift. 

11:05. Bumped into Messier 64. Very soft galaxy, in these conditions. Almost completely featureless.

The Coma Berenices double was warm yellow and blue. Checked the notes in the application. Three stars. The A and C stars are the ones noted in the RASC tome. In terms of observing list—done. It was in my life list in ST3P. But I should consider this logged. Mags 5 and 7. A challenge object in a small 'scope. C is dark, dark blue in the 101.

My impression was that the primary yellow star was two, oriented left-right or south-west to north-east. That matched what the software was showing. Just splittable. Tight. Very tight. 1.03" according to the computer. Closer than their maximum separation. This is a good example of a double that looks like a rod.

Saw the J125328.4+211731 star to the north-east. Mag 13.8. Way off to the right.

11:12. Decided to keep it in the View Again list. But I want to log it to close out the entry in the Coloured Doubles list.

Pulled up the Fast Movers list. Considered HR 4758 or SAO 157326. 151 years. A quad. North of the crow. Slewed.

Verified. Very neat! Triad. Saw all four, the A, B, C, and D stars. The A and B are tight, very close together. Dull orange. The C (to the north-west) and D (south-east) kind of flank the AB. The AB pair seemed to be oriented left and right but the software showed a different arrangement. I could not confidently split. Marked as observed but I'd like to have another go at it.

There's a faint star to the north-east, J123012.3-132237, forming a larger triangle.

Noted a pair off to the side, to the south of the target. Not marked as a double... PPM 225922 and TYC 05533-0549 1.

I also noted PPM 225935, south of HR 4758. ST3P says this is a pair of low mag 11 stars. I could not clearly resolve. It just looked like an elongated faint star. Not great.

Considered a red dwarf. AD Leo or SAO 81292. Right beside the Moon. Pass!

Chose Ross 128 or HIP 57548. Stop! It was forcing a meridian flip.

It looked like I had exhausted my "shared" lists.

From my double stars list... Chose HD 132909 or SAO 29372. Slewed. Huh, close to where I had halted.

Checked the battery on the Sony voice recorder: good.

11:31. Interesting. Wide pair. Pale yellow or possible green; the other was a sky blue. Similar magnitudes. Easy split in the TV101. In the refractor, I noted a box of stars, a very neat pattern. Kitty corner (to the north), a pair of stars, including HD 238415; the corner to the west, a pair of stars, including TYC 03861-0486 1; and then the corner to the north-east, a single star, TYC 03861-0527 1. Almost a perfect square.

Faint galaxy nearby but I did not see it.

Faint field stars in the area.

Cleared the Mars alert from ISS Detector.

I looked in the Red Star list. Huh. The Blaze Star, aka T CrB. There's been talk about that lately... TS6 did not like either designation; used SAO 84129. Slewed.

ST3P said it was mag 6.4. I didn't agree. Looked again. Meh. Very unimpressive.

11:42. Not exciting. Returned to the ocular to double-check. Very faint. I had expected it to be much brighter. It did not seem very orange. Not colourful.

Saw the nearby triangle.

[ed: A long period variable.]

Didn't know what to do next. Break time!

Tony was heading to bed. Got water. 

Boötes rising. Spotted Mars over Ian's shed.

Noted the dark part of the sky—away from the Moon. Draco. Selected μ (mu) Draconis, aka Arrakis. Up by the head. Selected. Why was it on my list? To see all 3 stars? The seeing was not great. A and B were oriented straight up and down.

Spotted a bright star, at about my 11 o'clock: HD 234387.

Spotted the flattened triangle at the bottom of the field, including TDT 206A. That sounds like a double...

Noted many faint mag 13 and 14 stars to the north, between mu and the triangle. So why would I not be able to see the C? After more viewing, I confirmed seeing GSC 03890-0642 at mag 14.7. Still could not spot μ C. Oh. Just noticed that the Object Information box said the AC data was from 1958. Oh. Weird. I discovered this not in my multiple star life list in ST3P... Even though it is in my View Again. Strange. It should be. Perhaps I should look at WDS and Aladin... Maybe the C star is dimmer. Maybe it is not there.

Considered the next target. HD 158868. Slewed.

Sun 17 Apr 2016. 12:10 AM. Σ2180. Possible orange and blue. Very subtle colours. Almost exactly the same. Equal brightness. Perhaps B is a hair fainter. Oriented left-right for me. Left star slightly brighter, the software says. Moth eyes. Came from the automatic suggestions (it has many times in fact).

[ed: Haas's team says bluish-white and ivory.]

Moon wouldn't set until 4:30. Sucks.


Nearly empty field. Gaggle of stars at the bottom-field.

Almost forgot. Initiated the file copy. From Taurus to John Repeat Dance.

Found my next target: an N star! UX Dra. Whoa! What a colour. Fantastic colour, an intense orange. Incredibly intense in the C14. But few field stars. Very pleasing in the Tele Vue. Still not an extraordinary collection of stars in the area. There is a neat grouping of stars to the west, a loose cluster, mostly blue-white. Wow.

Took another break. This time checked email.

Slewed to the next target: 75 Dra. Found this essentially by browsing. Super wide pair. In the TV 101.

12:28 AM. aka BUP 211. Very bright stars (the A and C). Extremely wide. A cool triple. For me, west is down. B is at a 90° angle to AC. About half the separation of AC. B is much fainter; not visible in the refractor. ST3P shows the magnitudes 5.4, 11.1, and 6.9; separations 109 and 197. Noted it was in the AL Binoculars list, perhaps with 74?

Part of a big "electric" S with TYC 04597-0837 1 at one end, to the south. It is almost at a 90° angle to the AC line. Further from C than the AC distance.

A very neat field. Lots of stuff.

[ed: Haas only notes the A and C stars; describes them as "coppery white and pearly white."]

Did some more panning in Draco and surrounding areas.

12:35. I had thought of it before... Remember again now. Checked my View Again list. I found 253 objects in the list! Wowzers. Filtered and reviewed. Slewed to HR 6267 aka KU 1...

12:45. I was not convinced I could split the bright stars. ST3P says 2.6" (1991 data) but 4 magnitudes different (in the OI box). Early I had an impression of seeing two pairs but the orientation did not match what the chart was showing. I could spot the C no problem. Could see faint stuff.

Felt tired. Big yawns. Considered going out with a bang...

Mars was climbing. Red.

Suddenly realised I had not checked the weather conditions! Seemed cool. The Davis weather station showed, as of 12:16, the following: 10 minute average wind speed 9.7 km/h, SSE, with a current speed of 9.7, with a high of 16.1, the humidity was 37% (that was frickin' awesome), barometer 1029.1 hPa (still pretty high), temperature was 12.3°C, with a wind chill of 11.4, and a dewpoint of -2.0. Good.

Chose the next target.

Slewed to κ (kappa) Cephei. aka Struve 2675. Viewed in C14. White and orange. Many magnitudes different, 4 or 5. Very close together. ST3P said 7". The C star is dimmer and to the north-west. It looked bluish. C looks dimmer than B. When hovering in the Context Viewer, B shows as 8.6 and C as 10.3 (the Object Information box says C is 8.4). A neat system!

SkyTools screen snapshot of kappa Cephei

This triple is part of a nearly perfect straight line of stars with C pointing the way. Random bright star, HD 192763, is next; then 2 faint stars. Very cool. Then there was another line of stars, with C at the end, and heading to the east. Nearly equidistant. Amazing.

Checked in the TV101. Impressive. I could see the B in the Tele Vue! Wickedly cool.

[ed: Haas only refers to the A and B stars: "brilliant peach white and a small powder blue." Uh huh.]

I think I'd like to add this to my double star project. Wow!

Tried to view Mars with the 'scope. But it was still very low. And I didn't feel like dropping the walls... Checked it outside the observatory with the Mark I eyeballs.

Closed the roof. Decided to do as much packing up/closing down as I could so to minimise steps Sunday mid-day.

1:13. Ian popped in. He reported his automated Tpoint model build was working well. We discussed the last ISS file. Not copied yet. We postponed that to the morning. We also chatted about where we'd post them. I pondered Vimeo...

1:18. Wrapped up.


Broke 700 multiple stars with this session, with over 600 confirmed splits...

Saturday, April 16, 2016

viewed big spot (Blue Mountains)

Viewed the Sun in the Oberwerk binoculars with the baader film filter. Amazing, the big spot—AR2529. I could see two little spots above and left. Huge penumbra.

Forgot my welders glass again!

April doubles (Blue Mountains)

Fri 15 Apr 2016. 10:47 PM. Started my audio capture with the Sony ICD recorder. Battery low. Verified the time was right. Tested the Divide feature.

Just viewed HR 4428, aka JC 16, with the Nagler 20mm and then the 27mm in the 14" SCT. I could see a tight pair. Easy split with the 27mm. Yellow and orange. Maybe 3 magnitudes different. [ed: Indeed, 5.8 vs 9.2.]

Checked in the software. Ah ha! A triple. As I thought. SkyTools Pro said B and C were about the same brightness. Cool. A neat triple. It came from the RASC Coloured Doubles. In Crater, technically; between the Crater stick figure and Corvus. Woo hoo. Never observed before. All right. It was low. I had to drop the south walls in the Geoff Brown Observatory to get it. Current altitude was about 17 or 18 degrees.

[ed: Haas only refers to the A and B stars. "Straw yellow and silvery azure." The Observer's Handbook uses yellow and blue.]

I noticed an issue. The ST3P chart was not updating correctly. Noticed the Interactive Atlas was wrong. Oooh. I had it set for Halifax. Oops.

Went for another look. The peepers were loud! Upon review, I thought C brighter than B. That said, the whole view was getting soft...

[ed: First double stars in Crater!]

[ed: It was a little odd to me to find this in the View Again list without entries in the blog or life list. Oh well...]

Noticed the voice recorder battery indicator was now flashing. Gah. Suddenly I was anxious about corrupted data. Went to the house...

11:00 PM. Put AAA new batteries in the digital recorder.

The blinking cross-hair in the Interactive Atlas was still on Jupiter. I tried the Sync command but received a "Permission denied" error. Huh? Whatever.

Considered Alula Australis, one of the fast movers. Cheated: looked at the software first to gauge if I'd be able to split it. Around 1 second of arc. So, maybe. Slewed OK. Wow, almost straight up.

11:07. ξ (xi) Ursa Majoris aka Struve 1523. Light gold. Separated! Very, very close; black line between them. ST3P says 1.87". For me, visually, straight up and down—which corresponds to north-south. The companion seemed a touch fainter. The brighter one was definitely above. The bottom star was maybe a bit more yellow, duller.

There are differences in the software: the Context Viewer, on hovering, showed magnitudes for 4.4 and 3.8 for A and B respectively, which seemed odd; the Object Information box showed 4.4 and 4.9—that seemed right.

I also saw a pair of very faint stars off to the east, fairly close together, GSC 02520-0190 and GSC 02520-0017, both in the mag 13 range.

11:12. Tried for the mag 15 companion C... Nope. Too faint. The 'scope was moving a lot. And I may have been looking in the wrong spot... Anyway, A and B observed.

Saw GSC 02520-0192 in the middle of the triangle on the left. While poor quality data, ST3P said it was 13.9.

Noodled on the future custom mirror lock cable...

Wanted HR 4028, a random double star. Close, in Leo...

Slew failed... Oh oh. Looked like when I did the sync before it broke the connection. I had to re-establish the connection. 'Scope seemed to go to the right area...

11:19. Wow. A true binary system perhaps?! Two completely identical stars. Very pale yellow (initially I thought pale blue). Super-tight, tighter than Alula. Yeah, ST3P said 1.5". Dim. Equal brightness. The CV hover technique shows 6.6 and 6.7 (the OI shows 6.6 and 7.6, a full magnitude! no!). A completely empty field. Just a few very faint stars. Pretty-well straight up and down for me again; north-to-south.

[ed: aka Otto Struve 215.]

[ed: Haas says bluish-white.]


I had a lot of doubles on the observing list but I was feeling a little... off.

Restarted SkyTools. Connected. Slewed. All's well. Blinky X in the right spot. Ah, current time line in the Read Time tab. From now on, I'm not gonna call it rebooting a computer or restarting software; rather, it will be referred to as kickin' it in the ass!

11:26. Hmmm. Interesting. Went to HD 75353. Two equally bright stars. Pale. Light orange in colour. Quite close. From the most beautiful list. In my candidate list. Not in my View Again list. Looks like I have viewed it before. And even logged it. ST3P says these stars are, to the east, TYC 02491-0983 3 at mag 7.5, and HIP 43426, to the west, at 7.0.

Faint pair over top.

Spotted faint stars flanking the double, to the north and south. The north star is GSC 02491-1086 at mag 14.0; the southern point J085045.0+350223 at 14.1.

Spotted TYC 02491-1489 1 and GSC 02491-1055, mag 11.7 and 11.8 to the north-west. Not designated as a double. Why not? That kind of thing always makes me wonder what constitutes a double star...

Noted a Y-shape of stars with HD 75280 in the centre, GSC 02488-0063 and GSC 02491-1290 at the tips of the Y, and TYC 02491-1442 1 on the single leg.

There seems to be an error in ST3P. It shows a bright star to the south-west of the pair. It calls this star HD 75353. But there's no star there.

11:31. Still windy.

Paramount was working OK. Sounded good. A SkyTools window went wonky—horizontal and vertical lines everywhere! Very weird.

Considered 35 Com, aka Σ1687. Big slew.

11:37. Yummy. Yellow and blue. Really colourful. Wide pair, the A and C. A triple according to the software. The B is about 1 arc-seconds from A... On my View Again list, probably to dig out the B star. SkyTools says A is mag 4.9 and B 7.2. Probably too windy...

Essentially an empty field. Noted non-related star TYC 01455-1058 1 at mag 11.2 at the top of my field.

11:41. Viewed 35 Com in the 101 refractor with the 18mm. The A and C separation is no problem. But it makes you appreciate how much dimmer the C. It's mag 9.4. Dramatically different.

In the C14, I think I saw the B. Went out with the 20mm to look again.

Seemed to me that the wind was stronger... Seemed to be shaking a lot. The 10 minute average was now higher than an hour ago, over 20. The current, which I forgot to record before, was 19.3. Getting a little frustrated.

Headed to 54 Vir.

Gave up. Shame. Good skies.

Closed the roof.

11:50. Parked the 'scope. Closed down the software apps (in the proper reverse order).

Tossed the cold coffee.

Spotted Mars over the hill just before entering in the house.

Sat 16 Apr 2016. 12:10 AM. In bed.

Friday, April 15, 2016

we enjoyed Jupiter (Blue Mountains)

I prepared the Geoff Brown Observatory. Connected my ASUS Eee PC netbook to drive the Paramount ME with Celestron 14 and Tele Vue 101.

Ian made some coffee.

I viewed Jupiter. The seeing was rather good! After a moment... I thought something unusual. I noted a dark spot. How about that! A shadow transit. I spotted it near the edge! I confirmed it in SkyTools 3 Professional.

Intercommed the house. Grace, Tony, Ian had looks in the C14 and TV101. Grace spotted the "fifth" moon. The impostor star was HD 95848.

9:51 PM. They were curious if the shadow was coming or going. I simulated it in the software: the shadow was inbound!

Ian, aka Hawkeye, called out: "I see a moon in front!" I checked the software again. Europa itself was transitting, slightly left of the middle; Europa's shadow was to our right. Funny. Early I had seen something on the surface but just thought it festoons.

9:56. We wondered if the seeing would hold up. Bumped up the power a bit. From the Tele Vue 27mm to the old 20mm. It worked.

10:18. It was a fantastic view. We enjoyed the moon and shadow drifting left. The Great Red Spot was very colourful. The equatorial cloud bands were rich and textured.

10:25. It was a bit windy. I was not happy about that... I checked the on-site Davis weather station. It showed, as of 10:16, the following: 10 minute average wind speed 19.3 km/h from the SES; the high had been 46.7; the humidity was 50%; the barometer showed 1029.3 hPa; the temperature was 9.8°C with a wind chill of 6.6 (glad I brought my winter coat); and a predicted dew point of -0.2. Well away.

Everyone went into the house; Ian headed to his MODL.

10:33. Got more coffee.

10:39. I watched the moon as it detached from the planet. Teardrop.

Wow. What a great view.

watched the ISS+ (Blue Mountains)

I was alerted by the ISS Detector app. Ooh. A big, bright pass. Told the peeps in the house. Good one.

Stellarium screen snapshot showing ISS skirting Procyon

It flew right by a star!

Six people, two commercial cargo ships, the Bigelow module!

gloves and wire

Received from the Horvatins. My leather gloves, left a long time ago in their car. Thank you! Will come in handy tonight. And the Neewer adapter cable, from Amazon, with the sub-mini stereo plug on one end and custom N3 Canon plug on the other. This is for the mirror lock cable project... Thank you! Nice surprise.

an easy Mercury (Blue Mountains)

We spotted Mercury. It was pretty easy. Ian tagged it first shortly after stepping from the truck. It was very high up. The only bright point in the orange western sky. He verified it in his smartphone app too.



ice and Sun (Honeywood)

We enjoyed a lovely sunset as we drove north from Shelburne. Later we spotted a faint but tall pillar. Malcolm Park shared his image on Facebook.

checked GIMP's bits

Checked the bit depth of GIMP. Currently 8 bit in version 2.8. But the Frequently Asked Questions says the app will support 16, 32, and 64 bit work in version 2.10. So, soon...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

in 4 years

I keep watching the SpaceX Falcon 9 Development Supercut video by Kinematic. It's a great video with compelling music.

Wow. It is also an excellent reminder of what the private little aerospace shop accomplished in less than 4 years development time.

no go for AAA 2016

Returning RASC member Tai asked, on the Yahoo!Group, about the Annual Algonquin Adventure at Mew Lake. I relayed the sad news that after the last one by the Chapmans in 2013, we've not been able to find anyone to carry the torch. There is no longer an official, formal event, although a handful sometimes head to the camp on the new Moon weekend.

shared SIDC

Answered a question on the RASC Facebook page about sunspot number.

screen snapshot of Facebook chat

I referred to the official source...

sent 3 requests

After checking my queue status and verifying communications with robot BGO, I submitted three new jobs. For galaxy NGC 3877. For 4414, again. And for the Silver Needle aka NGC 4244.

checked images (Halifax)

Downloaded the four images for NGC 4414. A canted galaxy in Coma Berenices. Oh oh. Focus is off.

galaxy NGC 4414 by SMU BGO out of focus

Luminance frame, 60 seconds by 10 subs. FITS Liberator. North is down; east is right.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

heard from bot (Halifax)

Heard from robot BGO. Luminance, red, green, and blue data was captured for NGC 4414.

pointed out a planet (Bradford)

Nice sky! Spotted the Moon as we stepped outside. Pointed out Jupiter to Dan as we headed to the parking. "Wow," he said. Heh.

sorting parsing

Dave and I have noticed a parsing problem with email requests to BGO. Might be tied to the margins and wrapping. He's trying to sort it. In the meantime, I might need to use tweets to load a long entry.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

old dog

Learned how to rotate the image in the Aladin client. Yeh! Choose the Pan tool then Ctrl-Drag.

plotted March SQM

Backed up the March SQM-LE data from the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

line graph of SQM-LE readings for Jan through Mar

Holy moley! The highest reading ever! 22.70.

Monday, April 11, 2016

did a bunch

Did a bunch of things at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

Delivered spare magnetic reed switches and hooks to hang bicycles. I found a couple of spare button touchkeys for the new supervisor key sets. I attempted debugging of the printer server but resolved that it was very dead; I then connected the Lexmark laser printer directly to computer. I verified hp multi-function model for the new toner kit.

Ian let me unbox, integrate, and test the Star Adventurer. That was fun. Lots of bits and bobs though. We agreed to arrange for a toolbox to keep everything organised. I photographed it in its two typical configurations. We discussed some additional parts needed. Also unboxed the Rigel finder but was disappointed that there were no batteries available. To be tested.... I reset many of the baseboard heaters upon Tony's request; he's still trying to debug the TOU issue. Changed the batteries in Davis weather station; set the time to DST. Photographed and documented the Kendrick SLA battery for Tony. Also grabbed the internet usage stats for Tony. Hauled some heavy gear with Ian.

After charging the mower battery in the house, Ian and I went to work in the garage. Happily we did not have too much trouble reinstalled the carburetor he had rebuilt. It's alive! Stargrazer lives! Although, it is running too fast. We still have to adjust the governor.

Over the weekend, Ian and I chatted about various things. The quasar project. FITS Liberator pre-processing. Showed him my NGC 3521 first cut. His astronomy tent.

downloaded 3607 data

Downloaded the FITS for images for NGC 3607, captured by the robot in Halifax. Took a quick look at the luminance... A big elliptical galaxy in Leo.

luminance frame by BGO of galaxy NGC 3607 and its neighbours

60 seconds by 10 subexposures. FITS Liberator. North is down; east is right.

Huh. It has a few neighbours! 3607 is dead centre, of course; NGC 3605 is the small oval above and left; NGC 3608 is the bright, large galaxy below; the very faint, edge-on galaxy down and left is MCG+03-29-018. Looks like all them, except for the last, are ellipticals.


On closer examination, I can also see LEDA 1544918. It is faint and small, near the top-right of the image near a pair of stars, almost perfectly inline.

I saw it before and SkyTools confirmed it. Near the bottom-right, there are two non-stellar objects. ST3P says the brighter, larger one is LEDA 1552800.

I think I see two quasars...

And to the west of MCG+03-29-018, it sure looks like there are a couple dozen very small faint galaxies! None of which are listed in SkyTools or Aladin.

grabbed more data

Downloaded another set of images for the SA 104 region, captured by the BGO robot.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

received update from BGO (Halifax)

w00t! Wasn't expecting that. Heard from the BGO 'bot. My additional images of the SA 104 region were captured. And my latest request, L, R, G, and B for NGC 3607, was completed. Sweet!

Thanks to Wayne, working in Stellarium, for helping me record weather and position data during the captures.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

an astronomy afternoon (Mono Mills)

Helped Ian W at the talk and star party.

He did a general presentation on astronomy. After a break he talked about the exercise book and challenges the participants could undertake. After dinner, I did a brief demonstration of Stellarium. Meanwhile, Ian set up his 12" Dobsonian in the field. We joined him as the skies darkened.

The crescent Moon was lovely. Earthshine clearly visible. We reviewed many constellations and stars as the first and second magnitude stars bloomed. In the 'scope, we viewed Jupiter, σ (sigma) Orionis, Messier 42 (M42) aka the Great Orion Nebula (with the O-III filter), galaxy Messier 51 (M51) briefly (it was super faint for me), the Cigar galaxy aka Messier 82 (M82), and the globular Messier 3 (M3). Many satellites were spotted. It was a good session.

It was very cold and we wrapped before the ISS flyover. After a quick warm-up hot chocolate break, we hit the road for points north.

spotted a ring (Mono Mills)

Look up! I spotted a bright, colourful, nearly full solar halo or ring. Pointed it out to the Ajax troop and their two leaders. Showed them the measuring technique. About 20 degrees.

for later

Something for the observatory. Dark and red.

photograph of Dark wine bottle

Apothic Dark. From California. By E. & J. Gallo Winery.

Friday, April 08, 2016

helped the ESV group

Peter started up an email discussion with the builders of his Expanded Scale Voltmeter. He tipped his beanie in my direction as an early adopter. He shared my observation that the photograph from his article does not match the table. And then my typographical correction in the calibration section. Hopefully this will help with everyone's troubleshooting.

they did it!

4:07 PM. Dialed into CRS-8 launch. Just ahead of the T-35 mark.

The CRS-8 mission from Florida to the International Space Station is to deliver supplies and experiments. There are mice on board! In addition, it is taking uphill the Bigelow inflatable module.

The SpaceFlightNow web site appeared to be working. I also opened the SpaceX web page. This time I decided to monitor the technical feed from SpaceX.

I looked at the mission patch. Eight stars show but the 7th is dimmed.

Falcon 9 on the launch pad

Looks like a good day to fly. The good conditions also bode well for a barge landing attempt. [Image A.]

On Facebook, Catherine asked who was watching. Started up a chat. Katrina arrived home just in time. I looped her in.

close-up of Falcon 9 on the launch pad

Nice view of the Falcon 9 rocket from the SpaceX technical feed. [Image B.]

Falcon 9 in hold-down clamps

Just before ignition of the nine Merlin engines. [Image C2.] Missed the shot a few seconds later... Couldn't grab screen snapshots fast enough.

lift-off of the Falcon 9

Lift off! On time. The official launch time was 4:43:00.000. Nice. The rocket cleared the towers. [Image C1.]

left: Falcon 9 high above barge; right: second stage motor

Watch the left screen. Watch the left! Speed good, alignment good... It was tilting into the wind, a 50 mph wind. On the right, the Merlin vacuum engine was running nominally. [Image D1.]

Falcon 9 about 50 metres above the barge

Looks good! Slowing. [Image L3.]

left: rocket about 25 metres above barge; right: second stage motor

Slowing! GPS on the barge. GPS on the rocket. [Image L2.]

left: rocket metres above barge; right: second stage motor

Crikey, it's gonna land! [Image K.]

left: rocket on barge; right: second stage motor

Wow. Wow. They did it... The Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on the autonomous spaceport drone ship called Of Course I Still Love You. And it was actually... graceful. [Image E1.]

left: rocket on barge, white caps; right: second stage motor, glare

They actually did it. And those seas are not exactly smooth... The pitch and roll was about 2 to 3 degrees. [Image F2.]

left: rocket on barge; right: second stage separating from Dragon

Second stage separation. What an amazing launch! Musk says that there's no reason that recovered rockets can't be relaunched dozens of times. Or one hundred. [Image F1.]

left: rocket on barge; right: second stage falling away

SpaceX has made history. The landing is detracting from the main mission, getting the Dragon to the ISS. Two major milestones. [Image G1.]

first Dragon solar array deploying

First solar array deployed. [Image H1.]

second Dragon solar array deploying

Second array extending. [Image H2.]

second Dragon solar array deployed

Fully deployed. Dragon is on its way to the LEO outpost, to be grappled Sunday morning. And to join Cygnus... [Image J1.]

Falcon 9 safely landed on barge drone ship

Just look at that. [Image J2.]

SpaceX brought a first stage rocket back to the ground in December; now they've touched-down at sea. No one has done this. No one. On this planet.

left: aerial view of barge; right: view from onboard barge

What an amazing sight. [Image J3.]

Today is gonna be one of those days... "Where were you when...?"


BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) will be installed mid-April, pretty quickly. Inflation is scheduled around May 25 or 26.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

bon voyage

Wished Chris V a good trip: he's off to his first NEAF tomorrow.

noted alerts

Tested ISS Detector Pro tonight. It did work as expected. Audio tones 5 minutes before, notification pop-ups, beeps in the last 5 seconds (if the app is open).

sent first draft

Drafted the CAO quarterly report for council. My first go at it, being Grand Poobah. Sent it around for feedback. Getting some good comments. Catching my silly typos.

enabled pop-up text

A little out of touch with my HTML coding. And my old Dreamweaver product does not generate this. I added the TITLE tag to the images in my photo gallery to produce, once again, a pop-up.

Also added ALT and TITLE text to all images in the blog proper, via the blogger editor image properties option, since January 2016.

made a list for Saturday

Upon Ian's suggestion, I built an observing list for the Saturday event. Did the usual SkyTools things on the John Repeat Dance computer... Updated the "current" list for the latest comet info. Made a new list under the star parties group. Looked at my big star party favourites list and, based on fairly strict criteria, copied things over. Added some red stars. Added some stars with exoplanets. Added Bode's and the Cigar galaxies, the Whirlpool, Messier 94 (M94), just in case.

Remembered that we were in an evening flyover phase for the International Space Station. Ooh. Might we get a dual pass?! And, as I reviewed my general astronomy what's up calendar, I noted that we're in another window to see zodiacal light from the solar system.

Of course, SkyTools 3 Pro does not directly support these types of events. At first I added the constellation Aries to the list. I've done the same thing before, put a constellation into the list to serve as a reminder to look in that area. But what about the ISS? Then I had an idea. Light bulb!

I recalled that a custom skymark could be arbitrarily named and included in an observing list. Between Triangulum and Andromeda, I added a skymark and called it "ISS flyover start 160409-2152." Then added it to the list. Ha! Now there would be no guesswork, with such a clearly labelled item. I promptly made another: "zodiacal light 160409-2045." What a great trick!