Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Saturn is coming

Risa reminded me that Saturn is opposing... very soon.

thanked people

Personally thanked everyone for helping at the CAO work party.

Monday, May 30, 2016

no awards event

I learned that the RASC Toronto Centre awards picnic is cancelled. Wow... First time in the history of centre operations.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

helped at spring '16 work party

I helped at 2016 spring work party at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. We got a good amount of work done. The weather was pretty good. Very good crew.

helped with training

Helped Phil train Peter, one of the new CAO supervisors.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

we renewed our support

Heard from the treasurer. The RASC Toronto Centre renewed its sponsorship of four Clear Sky Charts.
Thank you, and all Toronto Centre members very much for again sponsoring the clear sky charts for CAO, Dunlap Observatory, Toronto and Long Sault Conservation area.  Very much appreciated. 
Attilla was happy. I was happy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

spun Dark Jovian

One of my favourite music artists, Amon Tobin, released a new volume about a year ago. It's called Dark Jovian. Some tracks feature Io. Made me wonder if he has a telescope. I bought online the whole album. I've almost all of his work.

Reminds me of 2001 (the movie). Reminds me of Solaris (the book). Ocarina of Time (the cartridge). Love it. Enigmatic, troubling, trippy, dark. Only problem? Too damn short.

compared SQMs

Checked the readings from the rooftop of the Carr Astronomical Observatory with the Unihedron SQM-LE meter from last weekend...

23:00:00.104 - 19.35
23:30:00.103 - 19.21

Quite different than the readings captured with the handheld unit. By about 0.2 to 0.3 units.

followed the Moon

Stacked, with StarStax, the Moon trail images, from last weekend. Wow!

27 light frames and 2 darks.

two right one wrong

Received the battery order from British Columbia. Some rare rechargeable lithium-ion 2032 coin-style batteries (for the squeeze-handle flashlights). And a Varta dual-coin battery for the GoToStar hand controller! Wait a second... 3.6 volts?! That's not right. Right? Right. Sadly, the shop picked and sent the wrong unit. Ordered the 2/60DK-PC, which shows on the order form, but I received the 3/60DK-PC. Ugh.


The correct one arrived on Jun 1.

Monday, May 23, 2016

captured Mars (Blue Mountains)

2:34. Wanted to video record Mars.

Quickly switched over from EOS Utility to Backyard EOS.

Slewed to the planet. Performed the Star Search.

Huh. The exposure settings were working! While in Frame & Focus, while adjusting the settings at the bottom right, I saw the appearance of the Live View changing. It was doing exposure simulation. All right. Couldn't remember what exactly I had done before but it was OK now. Doing exactly what I wanted.

Holy fire truck! Mars was amazing.

It looked like the mirror had moved, after the big slew. Redid focusing on a nearby star. Centred.

Set exposure to 1/30. Amazing detail. 1/15 was too bright. ISO 100. Daylight. Image count: 1000. Loop: 1. Save to: AVI. 5X. I could see a really dark region on the planet. The capture occurred at 7.9 frames per second.

I started to tidy up things in the observatory.

2:54. Video grab done.

Queued box showed a flashing "1." Ah. With stills, it blinks briefly, then gone...

Disconnected from the focuser.

Started the next video run. I was ready to shut down.

800 frames...

And done. Closed the observatory. Remembered to do the roof first, then the wall sections. Parked the 'scope. Torn down the camera. Packed up camera gear. Packed up laptop.

3:11. Readied to leave the GBO.

period go

I wanted to make more traces of star light. Building on what I did last August.

I wanted to see more colour.

I made a mistake on the first shot, forgetting, for a few seconds, to turn off the tracking. I like what happened.

stars in an open cluster as points then traces of light

Messier 29 (M29).

from centre, stars in an open cluster as points then traces of light


stars around mu Cep as points then traces of light

mu Cephei. Garnet Star.

stars around UX Dra as points then traces of light

UX Draconis.

reconfigured for traces

12:21 AM. Reviewed my traces notes...

I had used the electric focuser. Right. Grabbed all the associated cables. The Optec cable, the 6-wire extension, and the USB-serial adapter. Gah. Would need the software only on the Dell laptop... Not in the Warm Room. Forgot to get it earlier. It would help offload tasks from the lowly netbook. It almost stopped me. Ahh. Went to the house... It was the right way to do it. I really wanted to do it.

Ian D popped in.

Set up the Dell and transferred telescope control. Slewed to M13 as a test. Went smoothly. Connected and tested the focuser. COM port issue; easily corrected. 7. Remembered to set to Manual at the hand paddle. Set to 3500.

Prepared the camera. I would need to power it continuously. Detached the battery grip. Hooked up the DC coupler. Removed the intervalometer. Removed the long lens and added the t-ring and 2" eyepiece shaft.

Grabbed the USB-ethernet extension bits, including power supply. Interconnected the Canon to the ASUS. Powered the camera. EOS Utility automatically launched. Closed it. Launched Backyard EOS. The new version was different--the camera type screen presented more technical information including the date range for the camera. It was not obvious but I chose the "215" line.

Turned on more lights in the Warm Room. Removed the red film from the monitors.

Risa returned to warmth.

Slewed to Vega. Did a spiral search.

Manually focused. Then fine-tuned with the Optec. While using the BYE software.

1:01. Noted the targets. Closed SkyTools.

Considered how to time the drift. I could use the stopwatch on the Android. Affixed the small red film piece to Ananke's screen.

Slewed to Messier 29.

I couldn't remember how I set things, like the exposure. I was expecting the Live View image to change... It didn't seem to be working. The simulated exposure... How the hell had I done this. Floundered. So I went back and carefully re-read my earlier notes. Spent a l-o-n-g time re-reading my notes... Frustrated that I did not have a quick reference somewhere.

1:37. Finally clued-in. I had used EOS Utility, not Backyard, to focus and then shoot. I realised it all by inference. Sheesh.

On Vega. I went back into BYE. It carried over the camera settings. But the quality showed as JPG S, the lowest. Why? Maybe that was a feature. Simply used by the Frame and Focus routine. Set the focuser to automatic.

Launched EU again. Set up a target folder. Activated Live View. Adjusted the camera settings. Went to M29. Programmed an image run. 2 minutes. No delay. Set the interval time to a very high value.

Ho ho. Wow.

Oops. When I forgot to deactivate tracking for a few seconds, it caused the stars to burn in, a bit. Then, when I finally switched off the sidereal tracking, the stars trailed away. I didn't mean to do that. That's not what I did before. But it created a very neat effect. It seemed like they were falling! Just wild. Happy accident.

Tried again.

While waiting for the next 2 minutes exposure, I reviewed the work flow:

Slew to target with TheSky.
Start EOS Utility.
Go into Live View.
Use simulation exposure to see the stars.
Start exposure.
Turn off tracking.

Dropped to ISO 800. It darkened the sky a bit. Blues, yellows, whites.

2:00. Could not figure out why I did not see Sadr. Found it. Figured out the centring/pointing bias: moved up and right a bit.

Imaged M29 again. Hopefully centred. It worked!

Went to Alderamin. Noted the bias was above. Slewed to The Garnet. I saw the star in the Live View (magnitude 4.3)! Awesome.

Started the timer. Stopped tracking at 15 seconds. Oops. Pointer not moving... Flubbed it. Reset.

Optec said the temperature was 7.7.

Holy Scheat. It was amazing.

But, 2 minutes was not long enough, in this case. Bumped up to 2.5 minutes. Started shot. Verified it was tracking.

Suddenly realised I was not using the tablet.

Started packing up, while waiting.

Wow. Frickin' crazy. Incredible colours.

Considered NGC 6939. Wait! What was the super-red star I had seen a short time ago... UX Draconis. Looked up an alias. SAO. Slewed. Increased the exposure time to 3m.

Continued packing up gear. Including the tripods outside.

Amazing colour!

Slewed to the open cluster.

2:33. Was waiting for the NGC image to finish.

Wow. Interesting. Very interesting.

Done. All I wanted to do. Closed out EOS Utility.

knocked down doubles (Blue Mountains)

10:24 PM, Sunday 22 May 2016. Viewed the double star φ (phi) Ursae Majoris. aka Otto Struve 208. Seeing was not good. Must have been a super-tight pair as I did not see anything (with the 27mm). In my View Again list. In my Fast Movers list. Looked like I had been trying for it over the last year. Checked the blog. Actually, my doubles life list. "Could not split" in 2014. Checked SkyTools 3 Pro. The separation was 0.4 seconds of arc. The aphelion was calculated, in the 105 year period, to go to 0.35. So, tightening up. Zoomed in a lot in the Context Viewer. Decided to bump up the power to the outrageous 391 (with the 10mm).

Got a rod! It was oriented left-right for me.

I saw a star at the 11 o'clock at the edge of the field. Perhaps GSC 03814-1315. Then spotted two faint stars at my 4 o'clock.

Tony popped by. The kids were enjoying the bonfire. Asked if he was trying photography. Nope. We talked about the GBO roof issues. He asked what the arc-second resolution was for our locale. Not sure. But SkyTools said the Dawes limit was 0.3!

Tony's impression was different; I thought the orientation 11 o'clock and 5. i.e. north-west to south-east. Which matched the software. Also, the two widely separated stars to the east (GSC 03814-1061 and GSC 03814-1473) were in the same orientation.

Wicked! Another pair at my career limit! I was happy about that.

[ed: Odd. I didn't notice it at the time but the life list did not have an asterisk for this item although clearly marked as did not split...]

10:32 PM. Next: HD 95658. aka HO 47. Of course, I could not spot it with the 10mm still in... Interesting. Came from the automatically generated list. It was also in my View Again. Tried to split the BC in June 2014.

Risa popped in. She shared her impressions of Jupiter. She too thought the air very still.

10:36. Wow. Freaky. An interesting alignment, straight line of stars. Saw the faint star GSC 02521-1268 equidistant from A. There were most stars, including TYC 02521-1484 1, inline again, further to the east. Way off to the east was TYC 02521-0508 1.

Zoomed in in SkyTools. Holy foxtrot. I was seeing the B and C split! In an 11 and 5 o'clock orientation. Or north-south. Very, very cool.

I wondered if there was an error in the software. Three stars? It was showing the star TYC 02521-1237 2 at magnitude 10.71 above B. Ah... no...

Getting some tricky things!

10:48. Break time. Squish!

Checked the Sony. Oh, oh, low battery indicator. Swapped in some fresh ones.

10:54. Dietmar popped in to warm up. He was waiting for the danged Moon to rise up higher. I briefly showed him my shots.

Viewed HR 4439. aka Otto Struve 235. It did not seem to be in my blog or life list. Although I had added it a few times. I saw the big line of stars and the short line at 90 degrees.

Had another look at the stars in Ursa Major. Rotated the mirror diagonal so the T-shape tilted up and to the right. Noted the faint star GSC 04153-0118, which ST3P said was 14.7.

Returned to the OTA with a higher power eyepiece. Considered that A and B were now vertical for me. C was up and right, at about a 30 degree angle (or due east). When I zoomed in on AB, it showed a similar view. B was directly above. Much fainter. A was yellow; B was orange. No colour, very faint, the C star. Wow.

Applied a dark theme to Chrome on John Repeat Dance.

11:09. Noted something in the 'hood. HD 100054. Wide pair. Easy split. 12. Yellow and pale blue. Possibly yellowy-orange. Very similar brightness, with B very slightly dimmer. Added to observing list.

Next up: 15 in Canes Venatici. Reviewed my past notes.

In the ocular, I noted a big L. 15 CVn was on the bottom left for me. 17 to the right (east). Above (north) and two times of the separation of 15-17 was the random star HD 114427.

Thought I saw something in a 10 and 4 o'clock line. That did not match the SkyTools presentation. Looked again. I thought the stars north-south but the app was showing them east-west. Inconclusive.

Changed the SkyTools Real Time frequency update.

11:23. Took SQM readings with our handheld unit from the observing floor of the Geoff Brown Observatory. First reading was 19.01 with a temperature of 15. The official readings were 19.01, 18.99, 18.95, 18.69, and 18.91.

Millie popped in. Asked if she could moved her stuff in at the end of the night. The garage was not an option now.

Slewed to 78 UMa. Took out the 10mm and unpacked the 18. On previous attempts had not split. In my View Again list. I thought it odd that it was not in my Fast Movers list. Did not separate again.

Chose 57 UMa. aka STF 1543. Neat system! I saw the A, B, D, E, and F. I was sure I had seen the C. And the G. It was in the View Again but not in my Multiple Stars list. Odd.

Quite lovely. A was beige. B was a deep orange. D was light orange. All the others were colourless. C is to the north. Dim. Near some faint stars. D is brighter than C. B is very faint! Tight to A. The D, E, F, and G stars form a short arc to the south-west, curving about the AB. B almost points to the C. G is opposite the C, further afield.

Took another break. Cookies!

11:46. Dietmar was processing images. Some were watching a movie. Many were on the Observing Pad, still. I was feeling a bit zoned out.

Noted Saturn this time. Clearly visible beside the Moon. The murk, low down, must have blocking it.

Slewed to 35 Com. aka STF 1687. I thought C at my 3 o'clock. And A and B were in a 11 and 5 orientation (north-south). The SkyTools software Context Viewer showed the same. All right! I have been trying for these for a long time. Foxtrot wild! B was below. Awesome. Much dimmer. Possibly 2 or 3 magnitudes. 4.9 vs. 7.2. A was yellow and B was orange possibly; C looked blue, at low power. Really happy about that. Cool. Just knockin' 'em down.

Next up was. Big slew into Ursa Minor. Crazy. Huh. B was brighter. Crazy faint pair. Where had it come from?! Interesting. I had viewed it a long time ago. SAO 16732. Could not split before. Well I had now!

Risa visited. To warm up. She was happy with her tracked images. Showed her 57. We talked about intervalometers, dew shields, and the NexStar 11.

Noticed the Davis weather station had stopped reporting at 2:15... Scheat. Tried to pull the local weather from Environment Canada for Collingwood. Humidity was 46%.

Crazy tight double! HD 151070, aka Σ 2094, in Hercules. Ho ho. Wow. A and B were identical. Aiming kinda east and west. Same brightnesses. Same colours? A was yellowy. B was maybe orange. C, much dimmer. Part of a little little scorpion, which includes TYC 02045-1195 1. Risa had a look but could not split the A and B.

12:20 AM, Monday 23 May 2016. Millie dropped in. Reported having packed up in the car. She had a look. She thought A not round. White (AB) and brown (C).

Sunday, May 22, 2016

planets at various mags (Blue Mountains)

Amazed to see Mars just above the hill...

Mars trailing up, above tree, from CAO grounds

Switched to subs, versus a single frame. 2 minute subs with a 2 second gap. Classic star trails.

9:49 PM. Spotted the Moon rising. It was a bit left of where I was expecting. Moved the camera.

Moon trailing up over the tree line from the CAO

I could see Mars in the initial shots. Didn't know if they would be together now, after moving the camera.

Stopped down to f/22.

Planned to let the rig go for an hour. I'd rescue around 10:45.

I noted a star below Mars: Dschubba or δ (delta) Scorpii. Directly.

Tried to see Saturn... Could not tag it. Probably washed out by the Moon...

Also noted Acrab (Graffias?) or β (beta) Sco to the left of Mars. [ed: Yes.] In a 90° angle with Mars to Dschubba.


Just remembered spotting a satellite, perhaps an Iridium, possibly around 9:20, in the south-east. [ed. Checked Heavens Above: no Iridiums at that time. Possibly the BREEZE-M DEB (TANK)...]


9:55. Slewed the Celestron 14-inch SCT atop the Paramount ME to Jupiter. I had been on Mars--to help eyeball it.

Huh! Only 3 moons... Scanned for shadows... No...

Io was going in... On the "one" side. I.e. same side as Callisto. Going in. According to SkyTools and the Context Viewer display.

Bumped the power with the 27mm Tele Vue eyepiece. Nice view. Seeing was fairly good.

I actually saw Io, as a white dot, in front of the disc, in front of the northern belt! It was not merging or touching the edge of the planet's disc as suggested by ST3P. When I zoomed into the software, it correctly portrayed it, over the planet. I had initially been thrown off by the course zoomed out display.


10:05. Spotted Saturn directly right of the Moon. Fantastically dim.


10:40. Grabbed the camera and tripod...

It kinda worked. I could see the Moon in the shots. It did not look completely burned out.

set up for Moon trail

Set up the Canon camera for a Moon trail shot. Gonna try it...

Used the Vivitar 70-210 lens. Put the polariser filter on. Used f/16. Set ISO to 100. Attached the intervalometer so I could take a really long exposure.

Used some suggestions from the Finnish photographer Janne. He used a 100-300 lens at 300 at f/8 on a Nikon D800 at ISO 100. He used a 10-stop neutral density filter. A single shot!

Spica would be in the area. Mars would rise ahead of the Moon. In daylight. 21:27. Moon rise was predicted for 22:26. Oh. Saturn was in the mix. And Antares! Might be quite interesting. Stellarium helped with the timing.

Eyeballed the alignment area.

spotted a big spot (Blue Mountains)

Viewed the Sun briefly, through Millie's little refractor, with white filter, atop her All Sky View mount. A huge sunspot (2546) and large penumbra. Huge!

I could see a tiny spot beside the big one. Does not appear in the SDO image.

Sun in HMI filter from SDO - single large sunspot

She was on the Observing Pad. I asked if others wanted to see the Sun in hydrogen alpha. I put my cards on the table. I was not chompin' at the bit. No one else was terribly interested.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

bad bad bat

Helped Risa with a bunch of electronic and power related things.

She built power adapter cables for her compact no-name Chinese lithium-ion batteries. We tested the stock 12 volt cables. Happily, they are compatible with the Kendrick dew heater as well as the iOption SkyTracker. That makes for very portable solutions. The soldering of the male barrel connector for the custom CLA cable was very fiddly.

I tore down the 17Ah Celestron power tank. We found a common SLA battery inside. After an overnight charge, the display flicked between "BAD" and "BAT." Indeed.

imaged NGC 6940 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged the open cluster NGC 6940 for me. In Vulpecula. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. This is a big cluster so, consequently, cropped by the camera. Looks like there's some trailing in this image.

RASC Finest NGC 6940 a large open cluster in luminance

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


Reshot on 19 June.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

reached end of roll

Wow. Cut the last "full" pieces of red film today. 12x24" and 12x18" pieces for First Light participants. I found a 7" strip left on the end of the roll. That's it. The Lee Filter #026 order from last July. Sizes for tablets or smartphones only.

Monday, May 16, 2016

resized plates

I resized the bottom plates, the altitude-azimuth plates. Initially, I had made them 15 cm square. Dunno why, just seemed like it was enough. But now I've made them match the size of the existing barn door plates, 16.5 cm wide.

3D diagram of barn door tracker with larger bottom plates

As I suspected, this allows for clearance of the altitude screw in the current position. This will mean I have to move the motor. But then I had to do that with the 15 cm plates.

also checked SCJ 17

I also checked SCJ 17 in the WDS. Only one pair is noted. That just seems weird to me when there are all those other similar stars at similar distances. Why is it not catalogued as a multi-star system?

checked GCB 31

Had a quick look at GCB 31 in the Washington Double Star database.

The full WDS identifier is 18266+0627GCB  31.

It seems there have only been 8 observations... The first was in 1900. The PA was 60 and the separation was 4.5. As of 2009, 76 and 4.4. Interesting! This matches my visual impression of the stars in the photograph from a couple of nights back. And it shows SkyTools is using some really old data.

Also, the WDS shows the magnitudes of A and B both as 9.5. Which also supports what I saw. Looks like the mag data in ST3P is wrong.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

processed the Splinter

Holy moley. I can't believe it. I made this... The Splinter galaxy (NGC 5907). Using the data collected on 11 May '16. Using the layers method for colour channel processing.

RASC Finest NGC 5907 Splinter Galaxy in full colour

FITS Liberator. Photoshop. North is up; left is east.

This is starting to get really fun!

processed 6633

Processed NGC 6633 using the data captured last night. This is my first time working with an open cluster while doing LRGB management. Used a different approach this time and I am rather pleased with the result. This feels like my best effort to date with respect to star colours.

RASC Finest NGC, open cluster 6633 in colour

FITS Liberator. Photoshop. North is up; left is east.

captured the Blue Racquetball

The BGO robot also imaged NGC 6572 for me. A planetary nebula in Ophiuchus. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. There might be a slight focus issue...

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 6572 green filtered image only

Green filtered image only, 10 seconds subexposures, 5 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

captured NGC 6633 (Halifax)

Wasn't expecting anything tonight but the BGO robot imaged the open cluster NGC 6633 for me. In Ophiuchus, right at the edge of the Serpens Cauda border. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Looks like there's some trailing in this image.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 6633 luminance

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


There's trailing in the other frames! Particularly bad in the green. Damn.


There are a number of double stars in this open cluster but most are too tight to resolve, like HD 170114 at 1.0 seconds of arc. The focus and tracking issues aren't helping.

GCB 31 is interesting, just at the right edge of the frame, 2/3rds of the way down. SkyTools reports this pair as magnitudes 12 and 10 (i.e. the primary being dimmer) with a separation of 4.50" (in 1946). ST3P says the position angle is (or was) 60°. In the image, it looks more like 75. I wonder if this is a binary.

Finally, there's a wide double in the middle of the Cassiopeia-like W shape on the right centre. SAO 123480, aka SCJ 17. The bright light orange star is the primary. North (up) and slightly right is a fairly bright white star. That's the companion.


Processed in full colour.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

ran into interference

Oops. Bit of an interference issue...

3D diagram of full barn door tracker with interference of elevation bolt

Last weekend, I started to noodle more on the barn door tracker alt-az base mod. Sorting angles, considering clearances.

Looks like I'll have to move the motor. That's actually moot now that I have the big bottom plate!

But I still have to figure out the elevation screw...


Happy Astronomy Day!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Binary Universe: GoISSWatch

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

My software review column Binary Universe featured GoISSWatch (for iOS)—a follow-up on ISS Detector (for Android).

I demonstrated the iPad/iPhone application for planning for and observing flyovers of the International Space Station. Version reviewed: 3.2.0. Free.

Note, there's a complete rewrite of the app available, GoSatWatch, for a nominal fee.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

tidied up

Did a bunch of clean-up. Added the "RASC Finest NGC" notation to my NGC life list, as well as to various entries in the deep sky lists. Also, I ensured the Caldwell designations are in place for the logged NGCs. Fixed a couple of sorting issues. Added a missing item in the Arp list. Collected and documented more SkyTools database issues. I directly modified the R.A.S.C. Finest NGC observing list in SkyTools to include NGC 4568 (of the Siamese Twins) and NGC 884 (of the Double Cluster). Added a bunch of cross-referencing links associated with the Jupiter triple shadow transit. As I responded to passive aggressive council emails and invited members, via the Yahoo!Group listserv, to help at the CAO work party.

rejected low targets

Tried to request some low RASC Finest NGCs of the BGO robotic 'scope. The bot rejected items at 16, 21, and 24 degrees. I'll have to check the documentation. That's a little disappointing, from the perspective of my project...


Re-read the docs. Default altitude value is 25 degrees. The smallest value allowed is 20 degrees. yonge

captured NGC 6503 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 6503 for me. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. A misshapen galaxy in Draco. In fact, I get the feeling of a comet: the right side of the galaxy seems to be stretched out, extended, as if it is rapidly moving to the left. Neat.

Fairly good stars... in the centre and right. But there's a lot of distortion in the left. Out of focus. Not flat. I think I'll redo.

RASC Finest canted galaxy NGC 6503 luminance

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

Once again, I think I'm seeing a lot of distant galaxies in the background. The one that caught my eye is the small round fuzzy south of the big canted galaxy. SkyTools IDs that as LEDA 2733888.


Reshot on 19 June.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

imaged the Splinter (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 5907 for me. The Splinter Galaxy in Draco, near the Boötes border. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Wow. Beautiful, just beautiful. Look at that needle shape. Good round stars in this image...

RASC Finest edge-on Splinter Galaxy luminance

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

I see a bright but small, mottled oval near the top-right of the image (north-west of the big galaxy). SkyTools 3 Pro says that's PGC 54419.

I'm getting the impression there are dozens of distant galaxies in the background... I'm not going to catalog them. ST3P alone shows 8 LEDA galaxies! Wow.


Processed in full colour.

imaged NGC 5466 (Halifax)

BGO captured NGC 5466 for me. A globular cluster in Boötes near the Canes Venatici border. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. It's big! It has the initial appearance of an open cluster! A loose globular? But that glow from within... It must be close (52 000 ly). The nearly straight line of stars at the bottom-right is interesting.

RASC Finest globular cluster NGC 5466 luminance

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

There's an oval fuzzy near the right edge of the image, west of the glob. A distant canted spiral? SkyTools 3 Professional says that's MCG 5-33-43 aka PGC 50187. An SBb spiral with a light time of 0.5 Gyr.

I think I see a faint small fuzzy near the bottom-left (south-east of the globular), near a pair of faint stars, J140545.3+282514 and J140544.3+282506. ST3P identifies this as LEDA 1835025.

Ha. I wasn't sure as I examined the image closely but in fact there's a LEDA galaxy at the bottom-centre (south of 5466), in an L-shape with the stars GSC 02012-0595 and GSC 02012-0176. That's LEDA 1833246.

I didn't see it at first but it is pretty obvious. Above (north) of PGC 50187 is LEDA 1840778. A smaller oval patch. Very faint.

the next one

Heard from David Garner that my post will go in the next RASC Bulletin... Which should be June 1, I think.

no weather for you

Verified the Yahoo! feed for local weather conditions into the Backyard software is... dead. When Yahoo! recently changed their API, they blew everything up.

shimmed cap

Shimmed the old Celestron corrector plate cover! Finally! After I dunno how many years. Of it blowing off, falling off, shimming it with thin paper strips and it still falling off, getting gently touched and popping off, falling in the lake. I used some of the fake cork from the Apothic Dark wine! Somehow, apropos.

updated BYE

Installed the latest version of Backyard EOS, 3.1.6, after a long struggle trying to figure out how to do it, resetting my password on O'Telescope, and having to reboot the little computer John Repeat Dance. Done.

reviewed what he might need

Peter called. As I wasn't planning to go out this evening. Had questions about astro gear and software. I clarified that SkyTools did not have camera control. Pointed out that he might be able to drive his 'scope with Stellarium (and the appropriate drivers). We chatted for about 30 minutes before he headed out for the RASC meeting at the OSC.

rebooted again

Connection lost again. The last report from the Davis weather station software was 9:16 PM last night. When I logged in, I found it in error, again. Remotely rebooted the server again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

trails over pond (Blue Mountains)

Stacked the over-the-pond images. The full-size versions. From the data gathered Sunday night. Wow.

star trails over the CAO, reflected in pond, some aurora

Very neat. Right-click and open in a separate window to view the large format image.

painted trees (Blue Mountains)

Or do you like this one better?

star trails and trees with subtle lighting in the foreground

With very slight painting. Right-click and open in a separate window to view the large format image.

made a large version (Blue Mountains)

Neat. Redid with the full size images, i.e. over 3800 pixels wide.

star trails behind trees of forest large

Dark! Right-click and open in a separate window to view the large format image.

tested with a small version (Blue Mountains)

Did quick processing of the forest star trails in StarStax 0.70 using Gap Filling (not Comet Mode) with darks subtracted, with a very low Threshold and medium high Amount. Used a small image for testing.

forest star trails small test


IDed stuff near 4656

Deep diving into the NGC 4656 image, I see a few small fuzzies...

Right or west main galaxy, there's a small spot, with a dim centre. It is not a well-formed oval. SkyTools 3 Professional calls this LEDA 1983264.

Left or east of the big galaxy is a tiny, bright spot, with fuzzy edges. Somewhat ovalish, ST3P says this is LEDA 1981071.

North or above the hook of the main galaxy, there's a very tiny oval shape. Aladin and SIMBAD refer to this galaxy as 2MASX J12440773+3215100.

Top-right corner of the frame, there's a small soft shape. Perhaps a distant canted spiral. Not identified.

Near the right edge of the shot, north-west of the bright double stars, a see a small oblong fuzzy patch. SIMBAD says: the NGP9 F268-2024645 galaxy.

Just below, due west of the main galaxy, I think there's a lot going on... I think there are many small faint galaxies centred around star J124304.2+321027. A galaxy group?!

Finally, at the tip of the hook there appears to be a small canted spiral galaxy. This is referred to NGC 4657 in SIMBAD (but not SkyTools).

shot an Arrakis stack (Halifax)

Shot mu Draconis again. This time, I took many luminance frames, which the BGO robot stacked. I dunno... [ed: Definitely a peanut.]

double star mu Draconis in luminance

Luminance, 0.2 seconds by 10 exposures. FITS Liberator. Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

Monday, May 09, 2016

shot NGC 4605 again (Halifax)

The 'bot captured NGC 4605. This was a redo as the first showed an airplane or satellite.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 4605 in luminance

Luminance, 60x10. FITS Liberator. Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

shot NGC 4656 (Halifax)

After a long run of clouds, the St Mary's University robotic telescope captured NGC 4656 for me. This is the luminance frame. Pretty significant gradient...

The Hockey Stick. In Canes Venatici. Sometimes it is called the Crowbar galaxy. A disturbed interacting galaxy. Lots of H II regions, it looks like.

RASC Finest NGC 4656 in luminance

Luminance, 60x10. FITS Liberator. Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.


Lots going on in this image...

had a fantastic time

A pretty amazing weekend... Rode with Katrina up to the CAO (reducing our carbon footprint) for an early start Friday.

Very good conditions meant a long observing session Friday night. Got to try star trails with interesting composition. Saturday, I was able to catch my breath. Sunday night allowed for more experimenting--photographically. And more visual astronomy. Saw some cool galaxies! Though it looked grim early Monday morning, I was able to see (visually) first and second contact of the Sun-Mercury transit.

Over the course of the weekend, I successfully test the (self-propelled) mower on the lawn. Took inventory of motor parts and supplies. Fixed some gear. Helped with 'casting and EPO set-up. Made some minor improvements. Measured a battery. Helped sort the Star Adventurer. Helped fellow members. Caught up with a past president. Met some cool Montréal RASCals. Approved MODL changes. Participated in my first Periscope session. Saw the transit of Mercury.

All with great friends, of course.

'cast the ToM event

Katrina used Periscope, associated with her Twitter account, to periodically webcast our observations and imaging of the transit of Mercury from the Carr Astronomical Observatory on the Blue Mountains. We put out five broadcasts in total.

We started from just before first contact, approximately 7:00 AM, and ran for about 30 minutes. We used hydrogen-alpha filters, specifically the Solar Max by Coronado. For the third video, we switched our configuration to "white light" or full spectrum. Tony jumped in at various points with some commentary and explanation. Ian W helped with some fact checking. I did some technical support.

Mercury transiting the Sun, white light, screen capture from iPad


We used a Tele Vue 101mm refractor telescope that was piggybacked on a Celestron 14" SCT. The TV101 is a classic telescope, a long thin white tube. Both of these 'scopes ride on a Paramount ME robotic mount. The mount in turn is controlled using TheSky6 software. It features different tracking rates. When we remembered, we implemented solar tracking.

The image capture was accomplished with an old MallinCam colour astronomy camera. This was configured and controlled with the MallinCam Camera Control software. Image input was handled with an AverMedia PCMCIA card and associated AverMedia TV software via the composite feed. Image output was made to an external LCD monitor.

discussed power tank problem

Elaine said that her Celestron power tank seemed to be acting up. I suggested that perhaps the battery was dead. Would last many years with a good charging regime. But, worst case, the sealed lead acid battery within could be easily replaced, and at a cheaper rate than a whole new unit. Cautioned that the charger and charging circuitry was not smart so one had to be careful. A recommended operating a dew heater as a load test.

through the big binos (Blue Mountains)

Held the Android tablet up to one of the Oberwerk eyepieces. Wow. I can see the big sunspot and the little planet.

Sun, and Mercury, through the big binoculars

ASUS K013, f/2.4, 1/303 second, ISO 100, 4mm, spot metering, Oberwerk 100mm, tripod, baader planetarium solar film.

blue skies during the ToM

The Observing Pad during the transit of Mercury.

gang on the Observing Pad at the CAO

Canon 40D, dual battery grip, Rokinon 8mm, 1/4000, ISO 500, f-stop unknown.


Tony captured a nice pix of the crew. Shared on his Facebook page.

it all worked

It was all working—amazingly. The skies cleared. The haze burned off. It had looked grim for a while.

lost messages

Used my blinkie LED red badge for the CAO transit of Mercury event. And I was not happy. When I applied the magnetic clip from the inside of my jacket to the back of the badge, they snapped together. That was not surprising given the strength of the magnets; what I was not excepting is that the memory locations would get wiped! Damn! The thing is a pain to program... Oddly, the "Welcome to the" message was still working. But all the others were gone. I quickly [sic] added "CAO" and gently attached it. Crikey.

found camera off

Returned to the THO after rescuing the camera. And another round of trench foot.

The camera was not running. It was covered in dew! Intervalometer was running. The lens was dry. Battery still working. So the dew heater set-up worked great.

Not sure how many shots I got.

Headed to bed.

viewed DSOs and doubles while imaged (Blue Mountains)

10:40 PM, Sunday 8 May. Started the "pond" star trails imaging run. Dew heater on the lens. It was very humid out there.

Got a soaker on the way back while crossing the creek! Damn it. Was trying to be careful. Left foot felt a little cold.

Also did a face plate after tripping over an unseen mound near the garage! Glad I wasn't carrying a camera.

Returned to the THO.

10:54. Woke up the Celestron telescope. Had to reset the time and date.

Turned the lights down.

Prepared the netbook. Connected SkyTools. Verified the connection. Saw it: the flashing X, pointing toward Sextans. Yep. Looked right. Slewed to Jupiter. Not in the eyepiece but close. Manually moved and synced (Sync to Cursor). Bingo. I still find that a little bit amazing.

Slewed to comet. P/2010 V1. Shown in the SkyTools Interactive Atlas. Out of curiosity, had a look. Didn't see it. Now surprised. SkyTools said it was mag 12.

Decided to continue my plan, working in a constellation. I was aimed at Leo.

Ooh. A quasar. 3C 232. But challenging, at mag 15.8. I elected to leave it for later.

Chose NGC 2903, near the head of the Lion. It was at the bottom edge of the field—centred it. Nice big oval. A galaxy, I thought. Seemed speckled. Not smooth. Not a bright centre. Very soft centre. Looked like an edge-on galaxy. Certainly canted. Pretty large oval. Pretty big, taking up 1/5th or 1/6th of the field in the baader planetarium 36mm eyepiece. Didn't think I could see any features, like arms.

Interesting stars in field. Pleasing. Noted a bright star at my 12 o'clock, slightly left. The bright star was HD 82394. I noted an L-shape of stars including TYC 01409-0617 1 between the galaxy and the HD star.

As I checked SkyTools, ran into a weird problem: the galaxy was not showing in the Context Viewer even when I used the All button.

Oh. Learned that HD 82394 was a double. aka Burnham 909. Centred on it, just for fun. Hmm. Not obvious. ST3P said the separation was 6.10", so doable. [ed: Oh. In 1914...] Perhaps it was the difference in magnitude: 7.5 vs 12.3. Cheated. Zoomed in to see the orientation: east to west. Stared for a while. Couldn't see anything. Weird. I could see J093233.2+214155, to the SSE, at mag 13.3, in a pattern of stars below.

Heard noises and talking out on the Observing Pad.

Slewed to next item. Just a random item spotted in the software. A couple of fields south of the galaxy... Got it! A neat triple. HD 82372, aka Σ1364. Would need big aperture for this system. Super faint. ST3P said the C companion was magnitude 11. Very faint. B was slightly dimmer than A, maybe 1 or 2 magnitudes. SkyTools shows A as mag 8.6 and B as 10.1. A and B were oriented nearly north and south. Slightly to the west (ST3P said 155°). 10 o'clock for C (301°) and 5:30 for B. A looked white or blue-white. B looked orange. I thought C was not quite two times the separation. ST3P said AB was 16.5" and CA was 39.5". Nice.

Headed to the GBO to get the ceramic heater. Partly to warm up my left foot.

Aimed for a target in Coma Berenices. NGC 4494. Near Collinder 256 (it was just to the west). Straight up. Turned the roof. Moved the chair. Small. Round, perfectly round, face on spiral galaxy. Medium bright centre. Very diffuse and smooth.

Bright star beside the galaxy. HD 109030. Nestled in some dim stars north-east of the galaxy. Among them a faint star. GSC 01989-2185 at mag 13.2.

A bright wide double star, out of field, was to the west. 17 Com. Primary was very bright. Same colour? Yellow. Maybe, green? Seeing was shite. Was there a glow or haze around these stars? Not logged. ST3P showed there was a C element but that it was very close (1.8") to bright B (mag 7.0) but much dimmer (14.7). Ugh.

[ed. A little strange it was not in the logged list. 17 Com I viewed a year ago but for the AB pair only. Really made no effort to suss out C. Created a new separate entry on the companion life list for BC. Will mark as logged in ST3P but include in the View Again observing list.]

Lots of doubles in the open cluster. The quad, 12 Com, I had already viewed...

[ed. Gonna put 12 Com in the View Again list. Another wide double for binos but a quad for future telescopic examination...]

Moved to NGC 4725. Bang, centre of the field. Something big... But diffuse. A galaxy. Slightly canted. North-east to south-west orientation. Light and dark regions. Some dark lanes. Dark on the left edge, or west. Interesting star field. Quiet big. Not a really bright centre. Faint. Neat.

Took in the nearby double. North-east of the galaxy. HD 111842, aka Struve 1684. Whoa. Faint. Primary was yellow. ST3P said the pair was 7.6 and 10.7. And 31.1" apart.

Curiously, I spotted a pair of stars nearby, to the south, including TYC 01993-0216 1 (which, in turn, is due east of the galaxy). Not marked as a double in SkyTools. Even though they have the same separation and similar brightness! Why not?

11:52. Decided on targets in Virgo. Slewed to NGC 4762. Whew! Lots in the field. A sliver. Wow. Another edge-on spiral. Medium bright centre. A bit brighter on the southern edge.

Three stars nestled in the foreground, including PPM 129415, in a gentle angle. Made for an very interesting view.

Another galaxy off to the side, west. Round-ish. Faint. NGC 4754. Perfectly inline and equidistant from the two stars TYC 00885-0892 1 and TYC 00885-0912 1. The galaxy was about half or a third the size of its neighbour.

Neat-o. Two for one! Two galaxies. Fun.

My feet were warming up.

Did not feel excited about Juno. Stick to galaxies (in these skies) when there's no frickin' Moon...

Slewed to a nearby multi-star system to the north-west. HD 111398. Gentle arc, curving up (north-south). Wow. Wow! There were more stars in a larger arc of 6 stars! A is the second star in, starting from the south. Two faint stars at the northern end, tailing slightly to the west. B and C looked slightly closer than A and B. ST3P said AB were 174.3 while BC were 135.6. B and C looked like the exact same colour. ST3P said the C star was slightly brighter.

[ed. Perhaps a candidate for the DS programme?]

Considered Boötes. A big jump... Shuffled about inside the little observatory. Was looking nearly straight up.

Viewed to NGC 5466. Crazy freakin' faint. What was it?! A globular?! Big. Quiet large. Loose. I wondered if it was really far away. ST3P said the distance was 52 000 light years. Examined it for a long time. Interesting. [ed: Didn't realise it at the time but it is a RASC Finest NGC.]

Bright star off to the side, at my 5 o'clock. Or east. HD 123409.

Whoa! Something bright zipped through the field. Very fast. Way faster than a satellite. North-west to south-east. A meteor?

Chose IC 983. On my View Again list. Saw a triangle. A fuzzy. Just above a star. Only with averted vision. Holy cow. To the north-west of HD 123409. Very faint. I could see IC 983. Tough. ST3P said it was mag 12.7!

I could not see IC 982. Right beside, it was supposed to be! ST3P said mag 14.5.

I saw NGC 5490 too. Already logged. But in my View Again list. Faint fuzzy. Very small. Near the faint star TYC 01468-0033 1. Almost inline with this star and HD 123409.

Headed to Markarian 841.

Tony popped by. Wondered if I would move the small heater to the GBO to help get rid of the frost on the uncapped SolarMax. I misheard him. I wanted it now. He asked when I was done. OK. They were concerned that the Coronado would not be ready first thing tomorrow. They had the GBO Warm Room heater on. I suggested the hair dryer, now, for a bit. We both forgot the dehumidifier...

12:24 AM, Monday 9 May. Still couldn't see anything. Checked SkyTools. It was on many lists. I gathered from the automatic addition, from the app's Nightly Observing List Generator. Why? Tiny, faint, distant.

I noted PPM 131114, south of where Markarian 841 should have been. It looked like a classic double star.

[ed: I should remove it from my edge-on galaxies observing list...]

All right. Mars time! Wow. Super bright, of course!

Noted a boat of stars. Tried to get my orientation.

Increased the power. Collimation was off. The seeing was bad... Gah.

12:40 AM. A white area, up for me. Dark regions to my left. Dark area at the 7 o'clock. Fantastic colour.

Noted a star, HD 146014 at mag 9.8, opposite a triangle.

Deimos should have been way off to the left for me. I panned to put Mars out of the field. Stared for a long time...

Clouds? The stars seemed to be dimming. I looked up. I could not see stars overhead. Damn. So much for that... I was disappointed. That meant my photos would be done too.

Closed up the THO. Packed up the heater for Katrina. But the GBO was locked. In the house, Tony sloughed it off. Brought it back to the THO. Observing Pad was quiet.

12:55. I readied to recover my camera.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

aurora appeared (Blue Mountains)

I'm trying a time lapse star trails from south of the south pond. Quick processing.

aurora over the south pond at the CAO

Canon 40D, dual battery grip, Rokinon 8mm, 30 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 1600, intervalometer, tripod. Kendrick dew strap, hacked controller, hacked NOCO lithium ion battery. Minimal processing in DPP.

Camera battery (batteries, 2, in the Grip) died. Only got 121 shots. And no darks...


Trails assembled.

checked conditions

Back in the THO. With the computer and mouse.

A few moments ago, I put the camera out at the south edge of the south pond. The view looked good with the house and the Observing Pad. It looked like I'd get red lights bobbing around. And reflections in the water. No wind. Yeh!

Totally forgot to charge the NOCO lithium ion battery earlier in the weekend. So I plugged it in. I suspected I would need it, with a dew strap... Grabbed the cheapo LED dimmer controller. My hacked NOCO adapter.

Checked the weather. Oh. Alerts everywhere! Rain?! Sunday night? Really? Checked the Collingwood weather from Environment Canada. As of 7 PM, Sunday night. Pressure was 101.2 kPa and rising; temperature was 6.8°C; dew point 2.7; humidity 75%; wind 15 km/h from NNW. Tonight: mainly cloudy with a 40% chance of showers early; clearing this evening; wind NW at 20 km/h, gusting to 40, becoming light. Low 0 with patchy frost! Tomorrow: sunny; wind becoming NW, 20 in the morning; high of 13. Risk of frost. The warnings were for a frost advisory...

Tried to pull the local weather... Ugh. The Davis page had not updated. Damn, what now?! As of 6:01 PM. Ten minute average wind speed 8.0 km/h; from the NNNW (that explained why it was so cloud); current wind speed 8; high 27; humidity was already high at 78%; barometer 1011.2 hPa; outside temperature was 8.3°C; wind chill was 7.1; dew point 4.7.

Huh. Got a reading on the storm rain from today! 1mm. Looked like the bucket was working again...

double take

Charles made a surprise visit. It was awesome. Just in time for scotch o'clock! How does he do that?!

fixed power cord

Fixed power cable for Uncle Tony's Moonlight Focuser. The wires had ripped out of the CLA. Took a while to confirm the polarity. I had him assist in the work room. Explained everything I was doing. We squeezed the task in before dinner.


He reported it worked good.

set up for the transit

Finished a bunch of testing with the MallinCam and Tele Vue. We're all set up. Katrina did not want us to touch it!

I found the quick reference for the N11! It was stuck on the cork board in the GBO! Grabbed it. It's in the accessory case now...

it was aurora!

Malcolm posted at 3:58, via Facebook, that the OVATION aurora tool was predicting a kp of 7. But he was clouded out—again.

OVATION aurora forecast image north pole

I shared that I had seen aurora just after midnight.

amazing suddenly (Blue Mountains)

Suddenly clear. Steve starting shooting from the Observing Pad. Richard headed to the Geoff Brown Observatory. Everyone else was asleep. I was feeling tired and sore and could not muster myself. The sky, high up, looked pretty amazing. Mars was incredible.


As I walked from the house to the trailer, teeth tingling, I saw a low arc of green aurora to the north.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

remotely rebooted

Helped Richard with a networking issue. He had found a routing issue with the house LAN and the GBO WAP. I rebooted the router (remotely, for the first time). Back in business.

tested mower

Tested the recently-donated Yard-Man self-propelled mower. Overall, it worked great. A little hard to start with the automatic retracting choke. It will make easy work of the hard-to-get-to areas on the grounds of the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Wish I had one of these when I was a kid...

star trails, mu Dra, a comet, galaxies (Blue Mountains)

8:20 PM, Friday 6 May 2016. Started recording with the Sony IC voice recorder.

Wanted to capture star trails from within the forest. Reviewed how I did my star trails from 27 Aug 2015. Found the data: f/5.6, 30 seconds, ISO 1600, daylight, RAW. Didn't know the interval. Looked on the John Repeat Dance computer for the images but they weren't there ('cause I had offloaded them a few months back).

Left the THO.

Ian W set up his big Dob on the east end of the Observing Pad for all to use. I was hoping to have a go at mu Dra and 78 UMa.

Made a check list of things to take up the hill. And do. Camera body and lens and big tripod, of course. Battery grip with two batteries. Spare batteries. Elected to not take a dew heater--didn't look like I'd need it. Grabbed an incandescent bulb flashlight from the house, so to paint the trees later. Intervalometer. Fresh AA batteries for the intervalometer. Programmed camera and trigger. Bug suit...

9:00 PM. Returned to the THO. Prepared photographic gear.

9:11. Did a trial imaging run to ensure that a 3 second gap would allow time for the RAW image to be saved. No problem.

9:29. I had finished the alignment of the NexStar 11 with the hand controller. Used Capella and Arcturus. Aligned the finder scope (after the fact). Readied the netbook connection to the 'mount via the USB-serial adapter. Double checked the port: COM 4. Yawned--oh, not good. Activated Real Time mode. Changed to the Celestron driver, changed the port. Connected. Hand controller buttons popped up. Checked the Interactive Atlas. Decreased the number of stars. Spotted the flashing X on Arcturus--all right! Rotated the 'scope with the computer controls. Slewed to Jupiter.

Ian popped by, curious about the Jupiter events timings I had remarked on earlier. Confirmed in SkyTools. I said the Great Red Spot would be at the meridian around 11:30 PM. Io would be ingressing with the planet disc around that time. And the shadow of Callisto should be visible then too! Io's shadow as due at 12:45 AM... Fun. He had collimated the 20" and it was making a better viewing.

Finished my panning. Then slewed. Couldn't find the N11 Quick Reference Guide I had made! Not in the box of N11 accessories. Who the hell moved it? And where? I wanted it for the "trick" for improving alignment. I used Right and Down buttons. Was off target a bit, not too bad. {ed: Nope. Up and Right keys should be used.}

Turned out the red light bulb over the desk. Too bright. Particularly with the cracks in the paint.

Used the computer controls to nudge into alignment. Sped up the movement. A bit fiddly with the computer in the corner... Centred on Jupiter.

9:43. Bumped up the magnification. The view was fair. I wondered if the 11" needed to be collimated again. With the 2-to-1¼" adapter. Tried the Pentax 20mm and then the Meade 18mm.

Decided to using the rolling cart, so to have the computer near me. Moved the computer to the bottom shelf. Wondered about something thin, like a book, to elevate the computer--nothing nearby.

9:49. Prepared a Notepad file, just in case. Saved it with a typical filename.

9:51. Hit the Divide on the recorder. Checked the space remaining: 18 hours. Put the recorder beside the computer.

Looked up. Sky was getting dark. Lots of stars visible. Oh. I could see all of Leo. Jupiter below. Near the rump. I recalled it was more to the right earlier in the year.

Marked Jupiter as observed even through there was lots more to do.

I also wondered about how many shots I had captured before. Read old notes. Ah. I had used a 5 second gap. Looked like I had started around 11 PM and finished just before 4 AM. Wow. Five hours of data... The arcs were a pretty good length. Maybe a little long. And suddenly it hit me. It was simple math. A 1 hour imaging run would produce a 1 hour long arc (on a 24 hour clock face, i.e. half the arc as on a normal clock). Decided to aim for 2 hours. Checked when astronomical twilight would end: 10:30. About half an hour.

Headed to the Pad to have another look in Ian's rig.

10:06. Mr Wheelband was busy. Probably preparing his imaging run. With Ian's 'scope, I decided to go to μ (mu) Draconis, by star hopping. Checked the position in SkyTools. Set the Interactive Atlas to Horizon mode. μ was above the head of the dragon, somewhat inline with β (beta) and γ (gamma), a bit to the left. A slightly stretched triangle with β and ν (nu).

At the big Dobsonian, I got really disoriented. I didn't know it at the time but I was aimed at Cassiopeia. Stumbled across a colourful wide pair, deep orange and deep blue. Possibly WZ Cas. It looked familiar...

Let Katrina know I was leaving the grounds...

10:20. Returned to the THO to grab all the camera gear. As I walked down the driveway, a number of interesting thoughts and realisations emerged.

I had never done this! I had never ventured down the driveway at night. It was a very neat view as the northern sight line opened up, bay off in the distance. Perhaps just having a camera down here would be interesting.

The stars ahead I suddenly realised were those of Cassiopeia. Oops. I looked to the north-east. Oh ho. There was Draco. I had been completely off with Ian's reflector. Damn. No wonder I wasn't seeing what I was expecting. Oh well. I'd try again later and the target would be higher so it would all be good.

As I started up the hill, I noted the hydro line. Ideally, I didn't want it in the photo. I considered finding and setting up on the trail proper. In complete darkness, I wondered how I would see the Margaret Paull side trail. I didn't want to use the flashlight. Happily, the trees to the east started to close in and formed a nice V-shape. Neat.

Set up the camera and did some test shots. Set the lens to f/5.6, near infinity. Could see stars in the photos.

Suddenly heard an animal. It was fairly close. And seemed to be getting closer. Did two little half barks/snuffles. Then one full bark. A dog?! Surely not a dog. A coyote, I wondered. It sounded bigger. A wolf? When I mimicked the sound, it did not seem to react well. Was it getting more aggressive or bold? So I started making bigger noises and stomping my feet. It continued snuffling. When I shone the light on it, spotting it's two eyes, it began its retreat.

Tried some painting with the flashlight. It didn't seem very bright. Resolved to bring a bigger, brighter flashlight. Initiated the intervalometer and headed back down the hill.

Saw Mars rising. Incredible colour.

Let Katrina know I was back.

10:48. Met up with Ian on the Observing Pad. Explained where μ was. We chatted about possible animals in the woods.

11:04. In SkyTools, I simulated the view in Ian's telescope with his 21mm eyepiece.

11:09. Left for Ian's rig again.

Finally got to mu. Ian thought them in a 9-to-3 orientation. I saw two bright stars off to the side. Reoriented the image in the software.

11:20. Headed out again.

We tried again for the C star. Neither of us were certain. We had seen, to the south or left, GSC 03890-0424 at magnitude 12.8 and GSC 03890-0488 at 13.3. I also saw, at a right angle to the aforementioned stars, the faint star J170527.5+542253. Magnitude 15.5! We considered that it has moved. Or dimmed significantly. I wondered how to go about letting people know...

11:51. Checked the stars in ST3P.

Had another look at Jupiter. Nudged the N11. One moon was gone. Saw the shadow, top edge. Saw the Red Spot dead centre. Orange. Increased power. Put in the Meade orthoscopic. Looked for more shadows. Nope. None.

11:58. Seeing went steady. Very nice in the 18mm.

Checked the recorder. 17 hours. Good battery.

Southern belt thicker than the northern. Not quite twice.

Rejected VZ Cancri. Could not remember why I had Polaris on the list.

Jelly beans!

Just remembered the technique of staying in the same general area while in the THO so to minimise turning the roof. Sorted by constellation. Checked all the targets and viewed the IA chart with the checked items. Noted that comet 9P/Tempel was nearby. Slewed. Analysed the field. After panning a bunch, I reslewed to the comet.

12:14 AM, Saturday 7 May 2016. I saw it! A faint fuzzy to the south-east of star HD 101241.

No... It was a galaxy that I was seeing. NGC 3801. The galaxy, for me, was almost due left of the star HD 101485. 3801 is almost inline with this star and 241... slightly down. Canted. North-west through south-east. Pretty small in the 36mm.

Checked the time. 12:16 AM. I planned to fetch the camera in a few minutes. I had one of the Rayovac super-bright LED flashlights this time.

I wanted to sync the N11 to ST3P--couldn't remember the procedure. Considered copying my QRC telescope guides to my blog, after converting them to HTML. Then I could view them in white-on-black. Searched for the guide on the old ASUS netbook. With one eye. Couldn't find it. {ed: Copied.}

12:21. Left to get the camera.

Camera was working fine when I reached it. Did some painting with the LED flashlight in the last four frames. Left the camera on and the intervalometer running as I put the lens cap on. The petals seemed to dislodged. Secured the cap. Then beat it out of there! No drama this time.

12:58. Back. Had looked for 9P/Tempel in Ian's 'scope. No problem. We spotted NGC 3802 as well. Cool.

As Ian walked by, heading to the trailer, he apologised in advance for the 4:15 alarm he was going to set.

Searched the blog for "skytools nexstar sync." Found a few entries. May 3rd, 3 years ago. Weird. Exact same situation: NexStar 11, in the THO, my eyepieces, computer, SkyTools. Found remarks about syncing but no specifics, unfortunately.

Katrina popped 'round. Packing up the C14. OK.

1:20. Did a sync process. Used the SYNC TELESCOPE TO CURSOR after right-clicking in the correct spot in the chart. Tested it with a random star. Slewed back to 3801. It worked! All right. {ed: Documented it in the companion SkyTools tips page.}

Slewed to NGC 4437 in Virgo. Turned the roof. Whoa! A crazy thin needle!

1:24. Super thin. Neat. Big. Seemed brighter to the west side (or up, 11 o'clock). Bright star in the foreground, right over top the galaxy, TYC 00289-1220 1 at mag 10.9. Saw the star to the south. GSC 00289-0774. Faint mag 13 stars in the area.

Yawn. Tired. Cold. Needed another layer. Had forgotten to put my long johns on.

Katrina debriefed me before hitting the hay. Richard was still imaging in the GBO.

Checked the weather conditions, from the Davis Instruments unit, as of 1:16. Ten minute average wind speed, 8.0 km/h; direction, SSE; current wind speed 8.0; high was 17.1; humidity, 54%; barometer 1007.9 hPa; outside temperature 12.0°C; wind chill, 11.3; dewpoint 3.0. Great conditions.

Considered walkies but I was tired.

Considered getting a heater.

An entry from my observing list showed nearby: PGC 41121. Slewed. Didn't see anything... Strange. Oh. It was just a marker for a quasar. Right! I had done that for my observing list sharing for The Sky This Month talk. For SkySafari.

1:37. The quasar 3C 273.0 was easy. Noted star PPM 158889 to the south-east, and GSC 00282-0238 in between. Spotted GSC 00282-0337 very near the quasar.

Headed to another NGC. NGC 4699. Another fuzzy. Kinda round. Face on. Bright centre. Kind of in a diamond with 3 stars.

1:40. Late. I considered wrapping up.

Panned a bit. Confirmed the field. Pretty small, the galaxy. I thought I could see swirling patterns.

Commenced the shutdown. Hibernated the mount. Slept the computer.

stars and trees (Blue Mountains)

I am trying to assemble shots of star trails in the trees of the nearby forest. At the end, I painted the last few frames in light.

stars and trees

Canon 40D, dual battery grip, Rokinon 8mm, 30 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 1600, intervalometer, tripod. Minimal processing in DPP.


Trails with foreground lighting.

stars in the trees (Blue Mountains)

I am trying to assemble shots of star trails in the trees of the nearby forest. I collected 200 frames in darkness--I've yet to process them. I think I can see the Milky Way rising from this single frame!

stars and Milky Way behind dark trees of forest

Canon 40D, dual battery grip, Rokinon 8mm, 30 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 1600, intervalometer, tripod. Minimal processing in DPP.


Trails without foreground lighting.

Friday, May 06, 2016

took readings from ground

With Ian's handheld Sky Quality Meter, we took some readings from the Observing Pad.

The initial reading was: 21.64.

The other readings were: 21.50; 21.50; 21.48; 21.28; 21.48.

The unit said the temperature was: 13°C.

Discounting the initial reading and the second last, which appears to be a blip, the average is 21.49.


After downloading the log file from the 6th, I compared the numbers of the SQM-LE meter on the roof of the CAO...

23:00: 21.36
23:30: 21.43

00:00: 21.54

The average between 11:30 PM and midnight is 21.49.


to the CAO for ToM

Rode with Katrina to the Carr Astronomical Observatory. We tried my route, as suggested by Ian W: 400 to Dunlop, to Angus, up regional road 10, as the crow flies, past Hwy 26 so to bypass Stayner, Poplar Sideroad to avoid Collingwood, the switch-back, through Banks, and finally to the grounds.

A few pit-stops on the way. Supplies, in fact, right away, in Bradford. Lunch in Angus. Rejoined 10 on the other side the Peacekeepers Park.

Gah. Construction between Barrie and Angus. Made for a very slow go. Katrina wasn't happy. I wasn't happy. But we weren't on the clock.

Ian D and Ian W were on-site already. Ed T too. ID working on his SkyShed POD. IW let me crash in the trailer. That would free up one spot in the house. We were expecting a lot of people on Sunday night. So to take in the transit of Mercury early Monday morning.

After transporting the NexStar 11 from the Geoff Brown Observatory, I moved into the Tony Horvatin Observatory. Realised Phil's Tele Vue adapter wouldn't work with the current mirror diagonal. Found a stupid fly inside the OTA. Sheesh! Couldn't find the Quick Reference Guide.

We decided, in the end, to cut the lawn. Stargrazer worked great. Katrina pulled a couple of shifts. Then I did some, before dinner on the barbie!

the first transit in 1631

Recently heard about Pierre Gassendi, a French philosopher, priest, scientist, astronomer, and mathematician, who published the first data on the transit of Mercury in 1631. He was the first to observe it, using Kepler's calculations.

I tried to figure out how he did that exactly... Telescopes would have been fairly new then. And accurate clocks were not around. I considered filtering too. Surely, he did not directly, visually, through the telescope, with his eyes, observe the event. Hopefully, he did not blind himself. He must have used projection. I did a bit of research and learned that is, in fact, what he did.

He also explained parhelia in 1629 as due to ice crystals. Among other astronomical phenomena. Interesting guy.

they did it again

SpaceX did it again! After launching a Falcon 9, and deploying JCSAT-14, they landed the rocket on their barge at sea. At night this time!

Interestingly, they were not confident, given the higher launch requirements for this client. Nevertheless, the Falcon, firing 3 engines, gently touched down. Two in a row! Well done.

screen grab from Facebook; rocket arcing away; landed on barge

I missed the launch but RASCals were chattering on Facebook this morning.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

said he liked it

James sent another note. He had downloaded the iOS software I had written about. He liked the app! Cool! A perk of being an editor—you get to read things early.

planned AP

Participated in a planning session for the June astrophotography imaging workshop at the CAO. Phil rallied the mentors, Dietmar, Risa, and Ian. He invited me and Diana as well. Full steam ahead!

issued no changes

James, for Nikki, sent over the June proof. No changes!

updated team

Sent out an update to the double star team. Shared a personal milestone. Suggested some new candidates. Asked people to drop me a note.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

planets found around cool dwarf

Read the article at The Atlantic on a recent exoplanet discovery. A number of planets in the habitable zone of this nearby star represent some of the most promising candidates for further investigation. Three planets may have liquid water.

TRAPPIST observatory in Chile

The dwarf star is being monitored by the small TRAPPIST robotic telescope from Chile.

never stop

Saw this on Facebook today.

screen snap from Facebook; simulated skyline with Jupiter rising

I don't need Jupiter...

did SQM stuff

Did a bunch of Sky Quality Meter stuff. Uploaded the Jan, Feb, Mar CAO data (in ZIP files) to the RASC server. Created a new sub dir. Applied the sub dir in UDM app at CAO (by remote). Uploaded the latest UDM software (v1.0.0.67) to CAO supers Yahoo!Group. Uploaded the config/setup notes as well. And verified XLSX was already there.

shared Star Adventurer info

Uploaded the photos I shot of the Star Adventurer rig, in light-weight mode, and with the counter-weight bar, to the CAO Supervisors Yahoo!Group. Found the official user manual along with a quick reference guide. Uploaded those too. Made a copy of the user guide on the netbook... just in case.

helped with double star display

Helped Chris on the SkyTools Yahoo!Group. He was wondering about ways to make double stars more visible in the on-screen charts. He tried various display settings, including the stroke through the double, like traditional atlases. Greg replied with some tips for the display appearance. He also mentioned the double star labels. I added that the "c" key could be used to toggle the "companion" labels on and off. He liked the suggestions.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

tested Android as remote

Holy. It worked. Tested helicon Remote for ASUS Android tablet with the new OTG cable connected to the Canon 40D camera. It worked! Live preview, focus control, test shots, actual shooting. Very neat.

Looks like the free version does not support RAW image capture.

Can't see that I will want to use this a lot but who knows. The immediate attractions are: a larger screen than the built-in; a screen at a comfortable viewing angle; hands-off focusing; all in a compact package.

got nervous

Was ready to test the photocoupler in the custom mirror control cable circuit. A departure from tested simple MOSFET design.

Before installing the 4-pin DIP in the breadboard, I realised I need the pinouts. Searched Digi-Key and downloaded the spec sheet. I also searched with Google for example circuits. OK. Need to worry about polarity. On both sides. Feeling a little rusty. Suddenly realised all my electronic notes and cheat sheets were in old Psion files. Never converted. Ugh. Fired up the emulator to review. 'Round this time it finally dawned on me. This would need current limiting protection. There's an LED inside. Of course! But what numbers should I use...

Again, for the spec sheet, I found the forward voltage and the recommended amps. Fired up a LED calculator. And hit the amazing wikipedia for the serial port spec. Oh my. Plus or minus up to 15 volts. Nominally varying between +6 and -6 voltages. Stared at the electronic kit for a moment. Then checked Covington's circuit again. My "bottom rail" was negative (or the source for the MOSFETs). Decided I needed to see it.

Connected everything. Fired up Backyard. Loaded the last good imaging profile. Disconnected wires on the input side of the breadboard. In lieu of an oscilloscope, I put the DMM on the serial wires, hoping I'd see the signal. Oh. +6.46 volts. Then I hit the Test Cable button. Briefly, the meter flopped: -6.20 volts. There ya go.

And all of a sudden, I didn't want to go further. Didn't want to blow up my first photocoupler (even though I ordered a spare). Didn't want to press at this late hour. I really wanted to back up a bit. Carefully consider a proper circuit. I tore down the lab.

Happily, after a bit of searching, I found what I was hoping for. On Paul Beskeen's Astrophotography site, in his Projects section, he documented DSLR Serial Control, and showed a schematic with a opto-isolator. Bingo.

found SQM files

Checked the data uploaded to the RASC TO server by the UDM software at the DDO and CAO sites. Multiple files! One for each day. It is clear to me now that a single file is updated for each reading, a data line appended, and then the file is uploaded. Over and over until the end of the day. After midnight, a new file is initiated. Reported to Paul, Allard, and Peter. Clink!

I re-enabled the Threshold value at the CAO location.

tested with Ian

Did some remote testing with Ian while he was at the observatory.

Monday, May 02, 2016

about 1 hour

Subaru is sponsoring RASC. And supporting dark skies.

I'm impressed. There's hope.

picked up parts of alt-az

Between client meetings, popped into Canadian Tire (and Telescope). Picked up bits and bobs for the alt-az base of the Barn Door Tracker.
  • corner braces, brass, 3"
  • hinges, brass, both leaves half-swagged, 2½"
  • mending plates, brass, 2"
  • eye bolt, zinc, 4", 1/4-20 
  • eye bolt, zinc, 3", 1/4-20
  • nuts, steel, 1/4-20
  • washers, zinc, flat
  • t-nuts, zinc, 1/4-20
Just need wood.

Oh. And Formica.


Happy Binary Star Day!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Dr Seager to NAS

Dr Sara Seager was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences today. Charles Darrow shared some photos on Facebook, including her signing the member registry. Congratulations.

shared ISS-Sun transit info

Shared the International Space Station-Sun transit information on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group, along with a map. North-west of Orangeville. Weather's not lookin' good, at 8:00 AM tomorrow, though...

tried immediate tests

Checked the RASC TO server. Still nothing. Did a quick test. Set the UDM software to take a reading every minute (as opposed to every half hour) and then transfer every record (as opposed to at the end of the day). What? Looks like it worked! That means the login creds and directory information are correct! Reset the time trigger but left it to transfer every record...

captured Arrakis in half a sec (Halifax)

The bot at SMU captured the region around double star Arrakis. For the first time, I had used a sub-second time, having learned I can go down to 0.1 (second? or seconds?). I also constrained by a high minimum altitude: 60 degrees.

mu Draconis region with luminance filter

Luminance, 0.5 seconds. North is up; east is left.

Twice as fast as the last.

worked on NGC 4567 and 8

After some FITS Liberator homework and practice, I prepared the new NGC 4567 & 8 galaxy FITS images and assembled with Photoshop in LRGB. From the RASC Finest list, The Siamese Twins.

galaxies NGC 4567 and 4568 in LRGB

Data from the second imaging run on 29 Apr with a higher minimum altitude setting (50). Luminance 60 seconds by 10 exposures, red 60x5, green 60x5, and blue 60x5.

Used the good data from last night.