Thursday, June 30, 2016

took SQM readings

Steve and I took readings with our hand-held Sky Quality Meter:


The temperature reading was 17 degrees.

imaged NGC 6338 and friends (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 6338 for me. It's a small galaxy in Draco. From the Astronomical League galaxy group list.

NGC 6338 and neighbouring galaxies

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

MCG 10-24-117 is just north of the large canted spiral.

To the south-east is IC 1252, another canted galaxy. Looks like it has a little companion!

There's a bright edge-on galaxy directly below 6338. SkyTools 3 Pro does not show a galaxy at this exact location; rather it notes LEDA 2563604 very slightly to the east. [ed: Correction. ST3P does in fact show NGC 6345 due south of 6338.]

Below this is NGC 6346, a small oval smudge.

MCG 10-24-112 is south-west of 6346. A small bright oval.

LEDA 95565 is to the west. A tiny oval.

LEDA 2562784 is further to the west. A very small round smudge.

Above or north of the NGC 6338 is the tiny fuzzy LEDA 2566799.

Further north is LEDA 2567181. Also tiny.

North-west is LEDA 2568088, a very faint oval.

LEDA 2566627 is near GSC 03895-1370, just east of the star.

There are still more... And when I zoom in, I can see many small galaxies beyond what ST3P is showing. Wow.


Imaged again on 1 Sep '17, without a satellite.


Not sure what happened but a few galaxies visible in the image didn't get processed... They are all to the south-south-east, near the bottom edge of the frame.

LEDA 2562439. East-south-east of NGC 6346. Very bright centre. Doesn't look like a spiral per se. Perhaps a canted lenticular.

LEDA 2561681. Beyond 2562439. Small, a bit amorphous, and dim.

LEDA 2561472. West of 2561681. Very small, round, quite dim.

LEDA 2560840. Beyond 2561681. Small, round, with a somewhat bright centre. Possibly surrounded by a ring or two?

LEDA 2560827. West of 2560840. Round. Very compact. Bright.

LEDA 2560421. South of 2560840. Very small, almond shaped, bright.

fireflies and planets (Blue Mountains)

Finally got some fireflies, properly exposed.

fireflies and planets at sunset

Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm, f/3.5, ISO 200, 15 seconds, manually focused, Neewer intervalometer.

quick SkyTools demo

Earlier in the day, Ian D had asked me about driving a mount with SkyTools. No problem. Said I successfully used it with Celestron, iOptron (GoToStar-Vixen hack), and the Paramount. ASCOM drivers worked well for the former two; with TheSky acting as an intermediary, I had no trouble pushing the MX around.

Later, I gave Ian D a brief demo of ST3P driving the Paramount via Software Bisque's TheSky6 from John Repeat Dance, the netbook still running XP.

fantastic night (Blue Mountains)

Incredible skies through the day. Blue. Blue everywhere. We were getting excited. At dinner, I noticed, there was still not a cloud in the sky.

Chas dropped by. Just in time for scotch o'clock.

I drove the Paramount with SkyTools 3 Pro.
Instruments: Celestron 14-inch SCT, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
Tried a sync in TheSky 6. Never tried it before. Wow, it worked. For the local area, I enjoyed spot-on pointing. (And very good pointing the rest of the evening.) [ed: And, I didn't notice it at first, but good feedback up into SkyTools with the blinking-X is the corrected location.]

So to avoid kicked mounts, I loaned Steve and Dietmar my Kick-Me-Not LED tripod leg lights.

10:08 PM, Wednesday 29 June 2016. A beautiful night.

Checked the local weather conditions via the Davis web page. As of 9:46 PM. Wind 10 min. avg., 3.2 km/h; from the north or NNNW; immediate wind speed, 3.2; high, 29; humidity, 65%; baro, 1015.8 hPa; outside temp, 15.4°C; dew point, 8.9. Fantastic. Lovely temperature, a light breeze, no humidity.

10:11 PM. Viewed 11 Scorpii. Fire truck! Yeah! I cracked this tough double. Very different magnitudes. A blue-white (B class) star with an orange partner. Fairly tight [ed: ST3P said 3.3 seconds of arc]. They were low which made for poor seeing. ST3P said the true altitude almost 32. Similar orientation as HD 144638 and TYC 05620-0926 1. Where did this come from? I couldn't figure that out. Also on the ST3P View Again list... but not logged nor in the doubles life list.

10:21. Viewed Saturn. Titan, south, below. Tethys, below, faint, south. Dione and Rhea together to the south-east.

10:32. All right. I tagged Iapetus.

Retrieved the adjustable height chair from the Great Room. A little crowded in the observatory. In a good way.

10:44. Viewed ι (iota) Boo. Asellus Secundus. Yellow and yellow in the C14. There was a faint star opposite B, about 2.5 times the distance: C (it was not showing in the CV window). Still using the 27mm eyepiece. Very faint. I had not seen the C star before. My life list shows a single entry which is for A and B only. [ed: And Sissy Haas only refers to A and B.]

A and B looked yellow and orange in the TV101. 18mm ocular, so about 30x. Very pleasing.

This was already in my double star candidates list. I made a note to update that list. Another that works well at low power and rewards at high power.

Spotted HR 5360 to the east. Also yellow.

10:54. Noted a faint pair to the NE of iota, about the same separation as iota AB. It was HD 234127. ST3P said it was a triple.

11:03. Centred with the C14. C was around 1 or 2 o'clock. There was a diamond above. I thought A and B were 10 and 4. ST3P showed them nearly horizontal. Very faint. Very tight. I thought it best to look again...

11:09. Viewed θ (theta) Boo. Yellow bright primary. Well away was B. A very faint dull orange.

Not visible in TV101.

11:25. To the east, I could see GSC 03478-1033 and GSC 03478-1262 between TYC 03478-0979 and theta. ST3P said they are mag 16! But low quality. Ian W called bullshit.

I thought the transparency very good; Ian not so much.

11:33. In SkyTools Interactive Atlas window, I noted a bunch of blobs nearby, clustered together. New General Catalog objects. I didn't realise it at first but they were H-II regions inside Messier 101. Lots of small fuzzies...

11:40. Borrowed Ian's 31mm Nagler ocular with an 82 degree field. To test-drive a modern, wide field-of-view eyepiece in the big 'scope. He suggested a short time ago we consider a 41mm for the C14. This would give a similar view.

Viewed NGC 5471 to the north-east, below the 3 stars, including GSC 03852-0070.

Spotted NGC 5461 in a triangle with GSC 03852-1001.

Noted NGC 5462 north of 5461.

Decided to try the loaner glass on different objects.

Viewed the Turtle planetary nebula. Small. So small. The O-III filter made no difference.

11:53. Took in M13 in the 31mm. It was very good.

I enjoyed the view. Without my eyeglasses, I could see the edge of the field all the way around. I was a little surprised to see it was not crisp at the field stop. The ocular has very restrictive eye relief. It was tough, I felt, to use with eyeglasses. Couldn't seem to get close enough. Ian then shared the price: $600. I dunno... That's a lot of bananas.

12:02 AM, Thursday 30 June 2016. Viewed La Suberba. It was pale orange and bright.

Observed a satellite moving through the field, to the NE. It was a slow-mover. It was similar in brightness to TYC 03459-0622 1, which is around mag 11.

12:07 AM. Split Izar. Easily. Gold, shimmering stars.

12:10. Viewed NGC 6946. It was faint, not round.

12:40. Tried Ian's 16mm. It was a nice wide field, again. And, unfortunately, similar eye relief. Very limited. Not sure oculars like this would be well-received during star parties to the general public.

Tried to coax out Campbell's Hydrogen Star. Sheesh. Tough.

1:11. Outside, we looked at both parts of the Veil Nebula in Ian's big Dob. Fantastic with the narrow band filter. [ed: East: NGC 6992, Caldwell 33; West: NGC 6960, Caldwell 34.]

Later we moved to the Swan. I helped a member shift the large 'scope.

Wonderful skies.

Could not spot Sargas in Scorpius though...

[ed: I noted an issue with the Swan Nebula in ST3P. Does not come up in a search.]

Returned to the GBO. Viewed Campbell's Hydrogen Star again. At 391x. There's something there but it is very tough (I wondered if I should try photographing it!)

1:44. Ian and I went for quasar Markarian 205. Beside the faint, small oval NGC 4319. Pretty easy to spot in the 20" light bucket. A pinpoint of light to the south-west of the galaxy. I think Ian was not impressed... [ed: SkyTools has "Markarian 205" listed as a galaxy and "MKN 205" as a quasar...]

Ian asked about the galaxy group I had recently imaged. We viewed NGC 5982 and gang. Ha. Rotated, from my image, of course.

It was chilly on the Observing Pad.

2:30. Back in Warm Room. Toasty, in fact.

2:37. Tried to see the planetary He 2-459. Couldn't see anything. Confirmed the field: it is tiny.

2:53. Viewed NGC 6885. aka Caldwell 37. Loose open cluster in Vulpecula. There was a bright triangle near the bottom-left, i.e. to the west. Most of the stars were blue-white. Was there dust or a reflection nebula around the bright star?

HD 339781, to the east, was orange.

Could not split HD 339672. A double star shown to the south by SkyTools.

3:12. Viewed the open cluster IC 4996 in Cygnus. It harbours a multi-star target, HD 193007. The primary was light yellow. C was to the NE. To the east was the U then V stars. B was west of A. R was in the upper-left of the cup, T-a was south of B, E was beyond U and V. I could not see P.

3:21. Yes. I did it: I spotted P. But it was much fainter than the software said. D and F were easy, both south of V.

3:24. It appeared as a lovely delicate triple in the TV101!

We decided to wrap it up.

3:27. Steve did one more frame for his imaging run.

3:28. Wind 3.2, humidity 64, baro 1015.7, temp 12.8, dew 6.1.

Viewed U Cyg. It was not very colourful. A was dimmer than B but brighter slightly than PPM 59697 and TYC 03576-1785 1. A was pale orange (in the C14); B pale yellow. Noted a circlet off to the west.

Helped Steve close up. We had a night-cap in the kitchen. I left a note for the early-risers... Quiet, please!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

fixed video cable

Steve and I fixed the MallinCam blue subterranean S-video cable that runs between the pier and observatory floor monitor. I affixed a new connector to the camera/pier end. Steve found bent pins at the monitor/TV connector. Happily, he corrected the problem. As I updated the supervisors, I suggested we leave the S-video connector attached to the monitor for the season.

suggested HDMI cable

The workshop revealed that we have old tech in the Great Room, a standard VGA cable from the lectern to the ceiling projector mount. Looks like we need HDMI for the modern laptop. Tony suggested a 50 foot cable. I found one on Amazon. And forwarded the deets to Tony.

maintained Stargrazer

Yesterday my maintenance and repair work on the Stargrazer ride-on mower was halted when I could not find a correct new spark plug in the parts bin. Weird. Thought, for sure, we had all the stuff needed.

Phoned Steve. He was on his way back from the city. Texted him the model number.

Installed the new plug. Fired her up. Worked great.


Today I hacked the lift lever, again, so to engage the no-start switch.


Shortly after Tony arrived on Friday, he produced a RC12YC from his gear. He had found it mixed in with other stuff. OK. Now we have lots.

asked for help

Tended to some housecleaning matters at the CAO. Asked for help from the volunteers.

Monday, June 27, 2016

captured three big galaxies (Halifax)

The BGO 'bot imaged one of my galaxy group requests. All right!

Initially, I had searched SkyTools 3 Pro for edge-on galaxies and found NGC 5981 in Draco. But when I saw the other big galaxies nearby, I centred on the elliptical NGC 5982. The big spiral on the left is NGC 5985. Nice round stars. A gradient but I will be able to dial that out.

galaxies NGC 5985, 5982, and 5981 in luminance

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

There are a number of other galaxies I spotted in this image including the small oval LEDA 2590275 north of 5985 and the small oval LEDA 2588841 east of 5985. There are others but I'll have to look them up elsewhere; they are not shown in SkyTools.


Drew imaged the same area with his C11 and SBIG. His fantastic image was featured SkyNews Photo of the Week.

he said he'd help

Rajesh replied. Said he'd be at the DDO on Wednesday. He could take the measurements. Asked us about one or two push mowers as well. Told him we already had two.

could he help?

Asked Rajesh if he could get the measurements of the ride-on mower so we could plan the transport from the DDO to the CAO.

quick answer

Mike replied. Said Rajesh was the probably the best person.

asked who could help

Asked Mike who could help us get the dimensions of the ride-on mower at the DDO.

workshop feedback

Sounds like we hit the mark with the astrophotography workshop at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.


Had a SUPER time... We all came away with loads of new ideas and knowledge.
- Frank.

Thanks to all the organizers, mentors, and supervisors for an incredible imaging workshop this weekend... The level of knowledge, passion, and energy from all involved were inspiring. [I tried] out some of the many great ideas and techniques presented...
- Kevin

What an amazing weekend! I learnt so much and accomplished more than expected. All of this would not have been possible without the knowledgeable, friendly and very patient mentors and supervisors. The astro-imaging workshops were very well presented. I would definitively recommend this... next time it's offered. Thank you to the organizers for all the efforts you put in.
- Genevieve

We would like to offer a BIG sincere THANK YOU to our mentors, as well as to the extremely hard working supervisors, and also to those members who visited the CAO and dedicated some of their own time to speak with participants. It was obvious that everyone worked extremely hard to ensure that all activities were well planned, and every participant left the workshop knowing more about the areas that interested them the most. It was very well executed, and your time and willingness to share your knowledge this weekend was very much appreciated.
- Diana

I learned far more than I anticipated and came away with a passion for time laps and star trails... I can't say enough about how helpful everyone was. The mentors shared so much of their knowledge, energy and patience with all of us. The effort that had been put into organizing and facilitating the workshop was evident and appreciated. It was truly a gift to be given this amazing opportunity.
- Susan

I’d like to thank you very much for organizing this Astrophotography weekend at CAO along with the help of the other mentors. I said at the beginning that if I leave having learned 1 thing, then it was worth it. I surpassed that by AUs.
- name withheld

Sunday, June 26, 2016

ran outdoor meeting

As we had a good portion of the CAO committee people present, and that Ian W needed some direction from us, I organised an impromptu meeting. Out of doors. All meetings should be like this! We green-lit the recent request of the Thornbury Library.

installed solargraph

I helped Risa install a pinhole solargraph camera on the CAO garage. She had already installed one at the Observing Pad power post.


Cameras opened on 20 Dec.


Took one of the spare beer can cameras home...

mostly doubles (Blue Mountains)

9:53 PM, Saturday 25 June 2016. Jupiter was nice. Good seeing. Callisto was very close. Could not see the Great Red Spot (yet).
Instruments: Celeston 14-inch SCT, Tele Vue 101mm refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: go-to
10:17 PM. Couldn't see Europa is the foreground.

I helped Genevieve again.

10:22. Viewed Diadem, aka α (alpha) Comae Berenices or Σ1728, in the Celestron 14-inch telescope. A bright whiteish star. Well away, an orange dim star. At about a 90 degree angle, a very faint grey star. The star to the right (west) was not related, HD 114300, a K2 star. The nearby dim star below (north) was the C of alpha Com... GSC 01451-0209 was above (south) forming a perfect triangle with alpha and HD... I noted a star to the north, TYC 01454-0690 1, also making a triangle, elongated this time.

10:29. Had another look. Thought I saw the bright star. Split into two points in moments of clarity. A and B were almost inline with C, "over the shoulder." C is very slightly to the west of north. A and B seemed directly north-south.

10:33. Increased power, from the 27mm to the 18mm. It was obvious but super tight... Equally bright, same colour. Whiskey tango foxtrot. SkyTools 3 Pro said the separation was 0.38 (as of 2016.5)! And could be as much as 0.67". A super-fast binary at 26 years! That's nuts, if the separation value is correct in the app!

10:41. I was a little surprised the view was not much better with 10mm even though the seeing was good.

Spotted GSC 01454-0370 at 14.7 beyond C. And J130947.7+173241 at 14.5 to the west.

Steve had a look. Obvious to him. Wow. Very cool getting this.

[ed: The data from Stella Doppie shows the separation in 2016 at 0.288 and then in 2017 at 0.443. So that is amazing. That means this career split is good.]

Ooh, a triple nearby...

11:07. Viewed HD 111845, a neat triple. A and B were tight in the 27mm. C was to the north-west, a fair distance away. No pronounced colour. Also worked in the Tele Vue 101mm 'scope. I made a note to add it to the DS candidates list...

Spotted HD 111718 nearby. Twice the distance of C. To the west and not related.

11:21. Went to 15 Canum Venaticorum. Blue-white. Bright 17 was nearby, to the east (17 is considered the A of a triple).

11:29. Noted an X of stars with GSC 03022-1376, GSC 03022-0975, and GSC 03022-1535.

11:32. Nope. Could not see the BC split. Different magnitudes.... more than 3. Damn.

11:34. Viewed Jupiter. Not surprised. A terrible view. Too late; too low.

11:50. Viewed kappa Boo, aka Asellus Tertius, with Genevieve and Ben. My first impression was white and green; on subsequent looks pale yellow and very pale blue.

11:54. Very tight but doable. [ed: I think this means, in the refractor.]

We were clouded out! But we had a ton of fun gathering in the Warm Room. We might have been a little loud though...

2:57 AM, Sunday 26 June 2016. It was clear! I viewed 44 Boo. It was oriented roughly E-W, aiming toward the faint pair nearby. Tight: rod shape.

3:13 AM. Viewed HR 7294. In Cygnus. Two gold stars, equally coloured, equally bright. Easily split in the 27mm. ST3P showed a third bright star. No... I thought it must be an error in the chart/catalogue. C was 90° to AB, about 3 to 4 times the sep. Very dim. It disappeared in bad seeing. D was beyond C and brighter... [ed: All right! On my View Again list as I had not been able to tag the C star before. Done!]

Viewed SAO 48207, nearby. Orange and blue. Widely separated. [ed: Had also viewed previously. But this time I got the colours.]

3:29. I was in bed winding down.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

working hard

It was awesome seeing everyone processing their images from the night before. Applying lessons learned during the astrophotography workshop.

participants busy processing astro-images in the CAO dining room

We've never had so many computers here.

set up for solar (Blue Mountains)

Did more solar observing. Ben took some images in hydrogen-alpha.

mostly planets (Blue Mountains)

We set up various tracking mounts on the Observing Pad. Polar-aligned them as it got dark. For the participants of the astro-imaging workshop. It looked like the tripod section of a camera store.

10:10 PM, Friday 24 June 2016. Viewed Jupiter. One moon just touching. The other three were on the other side in a triangle.

11:18 PM. Checked the weather from the Davis weather station. 10 minute average wind speed, 0 km/h; wind direction, NNE; immediate wind speed, 0; high wind, 24.1; outside humidity, 69%; barometer, 1018.6 hPa; outside temp, 16.1 degrees C.

11:45. We spotted the shadow on Jupiter!

12:09 AM, Saturday 25 June 2016. Viewed Mars. Good conditions. Identified Syrtis Major. At one point Hellas popped!

12:43 AM. Viewed Saturn. Spotted Dione and Tethys below, Titan above. Also noted a bunch of stars above.

1:33. Viewed 32 Com. Orange, blue, and dim grey or yellow. 32 Com A, B, and C with the 27mm ocular in the C14. A and B were very wide. A and C edge to edge—super wide. Not really sure where this came from. It was in my View Again in SkyTools but there was no log entry. Also it was not in life list... Looks like it is a target in the ETU.

[ed: Haas refers to this target as 32-33 Com. She's describing the A and B stars only. She thinks the "vivid" colours are "bright grapefruit orange" but a "fainter pearly white." SkyTools calls the B star HD 111892; and the system STFA 23 (Appendix 1).]

2:15. Helped Genevieve with imaging M13.


I realised that 32 Com came from Lucian, one of the people on my double star project team. Good suggestion!

tried to program BGO

11:18 PM, Friday 24 June 2016. I tried to program the Burke-Gaffney robotic telescope with new targets.

11:38 PM. I gave up. The BGO rejected my last two items. Both too low... More items from the RASC Finest catalogue that I will not be able to capture...

In the end, I selected some different targets. Edge-on galaxies. Galaxies in groups.

2:15 AM, Saturday 25 June 2016. Checked the BGO conditions. Cloud: 10, clear; transparency: 4, above average; seeing: 3, average; and the Moon altitude: 14.5.

imaged NGC 6781 (Halifax)

BGO imaged the planetary nebula NGC 6781 for me. From within Aquila, one of the RASC Finest NGCs. Wow, huge! Unfortunately, there are problems with the image... lines, artefacts...

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 6781 luminance

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


Got better data on 6 July.


Processed the RGB images on July 14.


Wikipedia link: NGC 6781.

Friday, June 24, 2016

set up trackers

Helped set up tracking mounts on the Observing Pad. Put the spare batteries out. For the astrophotography workshop participants.

tracking mounts on tripods on the CAO Observing Pad

Wild, all the gear.


Later, helped with polar alignment.

started the AP workshop

I welcomed everyone to the astrophotography workshop. Expressed how happy I was that such an event could be offered to Toronto Centre members. I also made a brief announcement on some CAO logistics given the large group. And we're off!

viewed a spotless Sun (Blue Mountains)

We did some solar observing.

In the full spectrum, white light filter, there were zero sunspots. Confirmed on Space Weather. The Sun was spotless. Oh.

In hydrogen-alpha, the view was very pleasing. There were big prominences and a number of filaments. Nice.

fixed one toilet

Fixed the upstairs toilet at the observatory. Sheesh. We can't have both going down in advance of our big event...

The float sponge thing along the flapper chain had somehow dislodged. The upper and lower plastic clips detached as I poked and prodded. I finally figured out the correct configuration. Operates nominally.

The downstairs unit needs new guts. Stupid design.

imaged the Blinking (Halifax)

The BGO 'bot also photographed NGC 6826. A planetary nebula in Cygnus. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Also known as the Blinking Planetary. And Caldwell 15. Neat! Unfortunately, there's a focus issue... or a planar issue, noticeable on the left edge of the frame.

RASC Finest The Blinking Planetary nebula luminance

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


I didn't notice it at first but on the right edge of the frame, above (north) of the star GSC 03565-0243, there's a small round fuzzy: galaxy PGC 63573. Possibly an elliptical. Or a compact spiral.


Wikipedia link: NGC 6826.

imaged NGC 6210 super fast (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 6210 for me. A re-do (from Jun 20) of the Turtle planetary nebula. Grabbed 1.0 second luminance frames so to reveal the central star. It worked!

Also grabbed more O-III and hydrogen-alpha data.

RASC Finest Turtle planetary nebula luminance

Luminance only, 1 second subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; left is east.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

scotch and stars

Risa, Ian, and I decided to enjoy a couple of whiskeys and many constellations.

fix-it day at the CAO

I wanted to get away earlier but I was also very tired and needed the sleep. I really wanted to sort the Swann security system issue, on a work day, during working hours. I also wanted a good amount of time to prepare for the astrophotography workshop event...

Still arrived at the CAO in the morning. Good.

Delivered more iButton TouchKeys, some S-Video jacks, Mom's electric chainsaw stuff, and some neat beer coasters for Ian W. Oh yeah, and my portable whiteboard.

As I worked on the dining room computer, cleaned the mouse.

Happily, with the help of a Swann technical support person, we got the system working--fully. What a relief. Tony was happy too.

Ian arrived in the late afternoon and then hustled off to the Thornbury library for meeting.

I slowly set up in the Geoff Brown Observatory, including firing up the laptop control computer.

The Davis weather data updates had stalled again. I rebooted the machine. Later, when I logged into the weather/SQM server, I discovered some of the apps not running. I manually started UDM along with a couple of other apps. The weather utility seemed OK.

I was ready to go.

started charging

Started recharging my various batteries, the camera, for imaging, and the li-ion unit, for dew heating. And Ananke too...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

finished mirror control cable

Finished the custom serial mirror cable build. Just needs a proper project box...

I wanted to make my own cable for controlling the mirror of the Canon 40D DSLR while using Backyard EOS. This will allow still photography with the mirror locked up to eliminate vibration. Overcame my anxiety.

schematic of mirror control cable using opto-isolator

Ultimately, this design is based on Paul Beskeen's circuit where he uses an opto-coupler. Initially, I had made a cable based on Michael Covington's circuit with MOSFETs, which worked, but I was attracted to the isolation benefit and the status indicator feature. I changed to discreet yellow and red LEDs from Beskeen's plan. I added the switch on the input side to block junk falling out of the serial port on starting a computer. Used the fantastic Express SCH and PCB once again.

The parts:
  • old Psion serial cable with female DB-9 connector
  • 470 and 330 ohm resistors, from the spare parts bins
  • diffuse red LED (for exposure indication)
  • diffuse yellow LED (for standby indication)
  • small SPST switch, from the spare parts bins
  • Lite-On LTV-817 opto-isolator transistor from digi-key
  • female 2.5mm submini audio stereo jack (with screw terminals) from Sayal 
The other cabling to make it all work:
  • Neewer Canon N3-to-2.5mm submini plug from Amazon
  • serial 9-connector extension cable
Learned a lot on this build (ironic, given the small circuit). Serial communication signals and that voltages flip from positive to negative and can vary by 12 to 15 volts. What MOSFETs are and how they work—field effect transistors are not unlike regular (bipolar) transistors. What opto-couplers are and how they work—they too act like a switch; the input side, with the internal LED, must be current limited. And that the focus (half-press) and expose/shutter release (full-press) channels carry voltages from the camera. And that I do not enjoy soldering submini jacks.

Again, it works (on the bench). I look forward to trying it in the field!

Monday, June 20, 2016

captured NGC 6939 (Halifax)

BGO imaged NGC 6939 for me. A lovely open cluster in Cepheus. A member of the RASC Finest NGCs catalogue.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 6939 luminance

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

received blue data (Halifax)

BGO helped me with another re-do. The first attempt at NGC 7129 was interrupted and I did not receive blue data. No problem this time...

RASC Finest open cluster and nebula NGC 7129 luminance

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

imaged NGC 6210 faster (Halifax)

I continue to struggle with imaging planetary nebula. They seem to be incredibly bright and exposure times used for galaxies, 60 seconds, 30 seconds, are not appropriate.

I asked BGO to reshoot the Turtle Nebula for me. One-third the speed of the first go-round. It complied. Sadly, I still cannot see the central star...

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 6210 luminance

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


The original post said 60 second subs when in fact they were 10.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

watched reusable rocket launch

Watched the Blue Origins launch. Very interesting. Another successful test of a reusable rocket.

reshot NGC 6940 (Halifax)

Another redo. The May 21 image of the open cluster NGC 6940 showed some trailing. This one worked out much better. Also, I used a different stretch function, Log(x), which seems to be much nicer on star groups...

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 6940 luminance

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


There's an interesting triple star south of centre: L48 (Thomas Lewis). The B star is shown to the south in SkyTools 3 Pro; the image shows it to the east.

Oops! I think I judged the first run images based on the bright star at the bottom right—and interpreted the elongated shape as trailed images. In fact, that peanut is a bright pair of stars! That the double HD 196021, aka Σ2698. SkyTools shows the 8.7 and 9.7 magnitude stars just outside the boundary of the open cluster.


It's interesting to me that this latest image is not exactly the same framing as the earlier. Why? Why would BGO point to a slightly different spot?

dark skies over Runnymede (Toronto)

There was some astronomy content at Hil & Cam's 25th anniversary party. ;-)

The thick clouds moved off later in the evening. I spotted Mars over the neighbour's house, to the south, toward Colbeck (the old stomping grounds). Orange. Bright. Intense. And beautiful. I pointed it out to many. No, that was Antares, twinkling—up and right was the planet.

A lovely temperature. Dark trees and Space Cadet blue.

The nearly full Moon was, fortunately, blocked by the tall trees. At least in the early evening. One thing the Bloor West Village has going for it is that there are fantastically old and tall and healthy trees lining the streets and towering up from people's yards.

Had to wait for it. As people imbibed and reminisced and wallowed. It was probably around 11:00 PM or midnight that Saturn revealed itself, down and right, about the 4 o'clock position from stunningly brilliant Luna. She'll make you a little crazy. I watched the Moon slowly move eastward.


One of the boys asked me if Saturn would be visible tomorrow. Yes. I pointed out the Moon however, if looking for a reference, wouldn't be there. "What?" he asked. It would be further east, about 15 degrees. "What?" That seemed to throw him. I said, "Simply put, same time, tomorrow, sit in that chair, Saturn will be in the exact same spot." It's be there for a month. That worked.


Reconnected with Laurie and Stu. So good. Too long. So overdue. They seemed very interested in my exploits on the Blue Mountain. I promised to invite them up. Sounds like Jamie is still keen about astronomy.


One of the boys asked me if I had heard about Laniakea, the super-super cluster of galaxies. What? A structure larger than the super clusters of galaxies like the Local Group or the Virgo Super Cluster. Wow. No, I admitted, I hadn't. Later he pulled the issue of Scientific American. Wow: big!


I looked up the Laniakea article. The video was quite illuminating.

reshot NGC 6503 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 6503 for me. Galaxy in Draco. This was a redo from May 12. But again, I see problems in the bottom-left. Possibly worse than the first time.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 6503 luminance

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

imaged NGC 6210 (Halifax)

A clear night over Nova Scotia triggered my imaging run. The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robotic telescope completed three captures. First up, the Turtle, or NGC 6210, a planetary nebula in Hercules. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. These things are bright! Good round stars in this image.

RASC Finest Turtle planetary nebula luminance

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


Wow. There are a bunch of faint fuzzies in this image... Katrina, using Starry Night and her tablet tried to help me tag them.

Near the top-left corner (that's north-east) are two LEDA/PGC galaxies, both identified by SkyTools. The northern one is, a small oval, LEDA 1696456 and the southern LEDA 1695920. It looks a bit deformed.

Left of the planetary nebula is an extremely faint face-on object. None of our apps labelled this. I had to use Aladin with the NEDS layer. SDSS J164456.12+234621.6.

Near the bottom-left, close to the edge of the frame, is LEDA 1690678, a long thin oval.

Beside the bright star at the bottom left but still close to it is a canted galaxy. It is GALEX J164504.3+234221.

Finally, bottom, right at the edge, centre of the frame, another canted galaxy: GALEX J164420.2+233641.


Found the Turtle in my View Again list in SkyTools. I removed it.


Imaged again, 1/3rd the exposure time.


Wikipedia link: NGC 6210.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Canadian astronauts wanted

The Canadian Space Agency announced a recruitment campaign for two new Canadian astronauts from today through to 15 August 2016.

David Saint-Jacques should be going up in 2018 and Jeremy Hansen before 2024.

We want you!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

he shared his shots

I asked Bill if he had processed any of his photos from his recent CAO trip. Of course.
All shot with the twins. He regrets not bringing his 9¼". But I like 'em, the wide fields.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

received SN Jul/Aug 2016

cover of SkyNews magazine - Jul/Aug 2016 issue
Woo hoo. Newest SkyNews arrived. Feels thicker than normal. Ah: there's a new "section," the RASC national newsletter within...

The July/August issue has an article on the black hole in the Milky Way, a special report on solar eclipse sites next year, and a piece on Canadian dark skies sites.

Best of all: an article on double stars visible in city limits. Nice.

Monday, June 13, 2016

processed NGC 6819

Assembled NGC 6819 in full colour using the LRGB data from 11 Jun. Another go at the new method... Does it seem a little blue? Or is it that there are a lot of young stars?

open cluster NGC 6819 is colour

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

photo featured

My noctilucent photo was featured in Nicole Mortillaro's article. Wow, top billing! :-D

article from Global News by Nicole on noctilucent clouds

Keep looking up!

made new wx pages

I built weather portal pages for my new home and the robot out east.

checked another set

Compared the roof-top SQM values from the evening of 2 Jun to the ones Bill helped me capture...

3:00 - 21.39
3:30 - 21.31

Our four readings, captured at 3:26, averaged: 21.16.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

saw single dog (Talbotville)

Spotted a huge prismatic vertical sun dog to the right of the Sun. Colourful.

sent merge request anew

Sent another request to to merge my accounts. Used the recommended subject line this time...

Saturday, June 11, 2016

checked for BYE patch

Checked for a weather patch for Backyard EOS. Since Yahoo retooled, one of the feeds is gone. Sadly, nothing...

noted June events

Updated my online astronomy calendar, finally, for Mitsky's June events.

found early drawing

Mom stumbled across craft books for my sister and me. From our Kindergarten years. For me, that was 1968, Petrolia, Queen Elizabeth public school.

The top of that rocket sure looks like Apollo hardware; everything else, including strap on boosters, looks very Soyuz. Regardless, we're clearly leaving low-Earth orbit and off to Saturn!

watched NROL-37 launch

Caught the live coverage of the United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket on the NROL-37 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. Pinged Katrina and Cathy.

ULA Delta-IV heavy rocket just after launch from Florida

Smooth as butter. We were blacked-out after fairing opening...

acquired NGC 6819 (Halifax)

Wasn't expecting that. BGO 'bot imaged NGC 6819 for me. Another of the RASC Finest NGCs. An open cluster in Cygnus.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 6819 luminance

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


Wikipedia link: NGC 6819.

Friday, June 10, 2016

no gear here (Union)

Spotted the crescent Moon while collecting my cleaned tent gear. Huh. Skies looked fair...  Although I could see big clouds to the far west. Unfortunately, I don't have any gear here, at Mom's, anymore.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

upgraded GoToStar

Hacked the GoToStar system tonight.

Replaced the old Ni-MH battery in the hand controller for a new. The hand paddle does not appear to keep time; while the location seems to be stored. Removed the original 2.4 volts 40 mAh dual coin battery. It was hard soldered to the main board.

old battery on left, new bigger battery on the right

The replacement unit (round 2) from Battery Canada was bigger. Still 2.4 volts. 80 milliamps, this one. Much bigger diameter but almost exactly the same length. It fit into the alcove like the original.

new battery hot-wired into hand controller

I didn't feel like trying to force the new battery pack onto the same pads on the opposite side of the PCB; I made little jumper leads to ease the installation. Non-invasive.

Decided not to change out the white LED inside; the red film outside will be fine. More flexible. I buttoned up the hand controller. Fitment OK!

Then I swapped the status indicator bi-colour LED on the RA drive motor. From day 1, I thought it unfriendly to astronomers. As I pried on the old assembly while desoldering, it went flying—I didn't find it until the end of the job. Verified the polarity on the main circuit board from the power inlet. Looked up dual-colour LEDs on the interwebs. As I suspected, the centre (long) leg was the negative. This matched the PCB. Pumped out the solder then fit the new yellow-red LED from digi-key into the board.

Moment of truth. Would I blow anything up? Interconnected the paddle to the RA motor. Interconnected the motors. Plugged into the AC power supply. LED (inside the supply) lit. Connected the power cord to the RA motor. The new bi-colour LED lit. w00t! In red, mind you. Depressed the switch to go from standby to on: the mount powered up, the hand controller activated, and the bi-colour LED turned to yellow. All right. No explosions. Ran through the menu and did some short slews. All good.

GoToStar system on standby indicated by new yellow LED

Powered down, disconnected the AC supply, flipped the 5mm, diffuse, three-legged LED, and tried everything again. This time: yellow on standby; red while running. Perfect.

GoToStar system fully on indicated by new red LED

Checked the alignment of the indicator window, bent the legs, and soldered the new LED in place. Done. One more test. Slewing went bananas and I was worried about a short until I remembered that the Tizio was flooding the encoder.

Very happy. Hopefully the new battery will improve the date/time management in the hand controller. And no more silly green LED on the mount motor under normal power-up situations.


Time was OK on 20 July!

captured NGC 6802 (Halifax)

Haven't heard from the robot for a while... While I was sleeping, it shot one of the RASC Finest NGC objects: the open cluster 6802. In Vulpecula, this compact cluster is right beside the Coathanger (out of frame).

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 6802 luminance

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

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

to get better

What would Picard do...? I hope I can exhibit such wisdom.

BEAM inspected

Read on article on the BEAM inflation. Sounds like the subsequent attempt went fine. The hatch to BEAM was opened by Williams and Skripochka. They verified the condition of the new expanded module, reporting it “pristine.” They then closed the hatch behind them. I guess the new rule will be, always close the door...

electric aurora

One of my new/recent favourite electronic psychedelic artists, Boards of Canada, shared an unofficial video.

It features a song I've not heard (though it says it is from Japanese release of Campfire Headphase), a time lapse, clouds, stars, and aurora. Perfect.


Macquarie Ridge is a bonus track on the Japanese version.

Monday, June 06, 2016

storm gone (Bradford)

Just spotted Mars out the window! Orange Mars. Weird. I heard water dripping, thought it still raining. Nope. Mars glowing above the trees. Must have been run off from the afternoon thunderstorm. Cool breeze.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

lost the sky (Blue Mountains)

9:00 PM, Fri 3 Jun 2016. I had the Celestron NexStar 11 up and running on the observatory floor, connected to John Repeat Dance, running SkyTools. Red blinkies on the tripod legs.

9:23 PM. Checked the weather via the Davis weather station (having reset it earlier in the day). As of 9:01, the 10 minute average wind speed was 3.2 km/h, the wind was from the NE, the current speed was 1.6, the peak had been 27.4, the humidity was 77%, the barometric pressure was 1016.7 hPa, the outdoor air temperature was 15.4°C, with a dew point of 11.4. The local weather page showed that the predicted air low was going to be quite low, around 9. Below the dew point...

9:42. Thanked Risa for the coffee.

10:12. Viewed τ (tau) Leo. It was a neat system. A quadruple according to SkyTools 3 Pro. The A was yellow-white, the B was blue, much dimmer. B was to the south. There was a diamond of stars to the east. I saw GSC 00267-0050 inline with A and B tau, to the south. D, far afield to the east, was brighter than B. Slightly more than 90° from the AB angle. It was white, maybe blue white. Saw J112810.3+024938 between A and D.

Helped Bill with imaging the flyover of the International Space Station.

10:45. Saw GSC 00267-0043. Spotted it in an arc of three other stars. 43 was further south. Noted GSC 00267-0037. It was fainter. ST3P said it was magnitude 13.79 (but poor quality).

Could not see the C star... The Object Information panel said it was 14.4; the Context Viewer said 15.1. I wondered if the latter was correct.

Spotted another double to the west! That was 83 Leo! Two stars split, while tighter than tau AB. Bright stars.

11:14. Returned to an old target... Could barely see IC 983. Could barely see NGC 5490. I considered that these would be better to photograph!

11:29. I found The Blaze Star to be very dim. I guessed around mag 10.

11:42. Viewed Mars. Tried panning the planet out of the field but I could not see a moon.

Verified the software was correct. The Interactive Atlas with the current time. The cross-hair showing.

11:48. Viewed Saturn. Dione, Tethus, Rhea, Titan, Iapteus all to the west. Could not see Enceladus, Mimas, or Hyperion.

12:25 AM, Sat 4 Jun 2016. Finished the second run of the ISS...

Viewed NGC 4214 in the N11. Not uniform. An oval in Canes Venatici. Large in the Pentax 20mm. [ed: ST3P says it is an irregular. Photos show it to be very blotchy.]

12:28 AM. Viewed Saturn in the C14.

I noted faint stars near 4214. The galaxy proper seemed faint overall.

1:06. Helped Katrina get to φ (phi) Virginis (using its SAO designation: 139951).

Had some sort of glitch. Then increasing problems and weirdness. Rebooted everything after two "No Response 17" errors.

1:15. Very faint. Big in the 20mm. But a bit better view in the baader 36mm. Not satisfying.

[ed: Found NGC 4214 on my star party showpiece list. Removed it.]

I looked up. The whole sky was soft. OK, that's it, I thought.

Friday, June 03, 2016

helped members (Blue Mountains)

4:02 PM, Thu 2 Jun 2016. Sent directions to Super Genius.

After dinner, Ian and I chatted with Wayne about imaging. We tried to give him some simple takeaways: shoot darks; preload the mount.

10:00 PM. Risa, in the Tony Horvatin Observatory, installed LAN Messenger on her Mac so we could instant chat on the grounds. It worked!

Super Genius arrived a little after 11, with the twins. Offered a White Zone parking spot close to the GBO for unloading. He asked about the ISS. I had missed the 9:45 PM. I suggested he set up inside the GBO for end-of-night protection. Encouraged him to set up near the east wall with the south table flipped up.

11:19 PM. Got a flyover notice from ISS Detector Pro. 5 minutes to go. Bill asked if we could track it. Wow. OK. Would have to do a fast set-up. Updated the TLE data in TheSky. The ISSDP app was showing it funny... Like a very short path, with a hook? [ed: The blue path was hidden by the red film. Night mode avoids this.]

11:24. The app did the beeping 5 second countdown. Bill spotted it naked eye. Through the C14, he focused. "Oh, that's so cool!" The Paramount ME followed it well until we reached the meridian.

I commanded a meridian flip. Tried to catch up. Bill did not see it in the eyepiece.


Bill started his polar alignment of his CGEM. He enjoyed the carpeted floor of the observatory rather than lying on the ground.


11:49 PM 02/06/2016. Pinged Risa, in the THO, via LAN Messenger. She was trying to get her webcam going.


12:14 AM 03/06/2016. Got a snack. Risa swung by. Her webcam was working good. She offered to make coffee.

Gave Bill some suggestions for targets. Small NGC targets inside Messier 101. Seemed a little early to go for the North American Nebula. Gave him some loaner red film.

I suddenly realised I had not checked for comets in SkyTools. And it promptly crashed! Sheesh.

12:28 AM. 78% humidity.

Bill asked me to remind him to shoot darks and flats. OK!

12:39. We checked out his first 5 minute shot. Tried to figure out the blob at the top-left of his image.

Bill spotted a meteor. No major showers at the time...

Risa shared she was having trouble playing her captured video files. Bill headed over to the THO to visit.

Risa sorted more technical issues. Good.

After 12:55, received an alert for another ISS flyover. Figured out the colour issue! We visually watched it. Offered that he could connect his camera on the C14 tomorrow.

Risa asked about imaging Saturn on the C14. She and Bill went to the THO to check things.


I flipped the mount. Saturn was in the hot zone. Could not slew to it, yet; I forced it with the joystick. Dropped the power. Thar she blows. Wow. It was nice. I had not looked at Saturn for a while. Very nice. Seeing looked good. Ian agreed. Greatly tilted.

Risa gathered her equipment. Bill provided a 2" nose piece. Ian grabbed the 2" extension tube.

Bill asked when Sun rose. 5:30. Twilight would begin at 3:15. He considered the Veil.


Risa couldn't see anything. No gain option. Considered the gamma. Tried the Star Search. Hold on... Dug out my Celestron Micro Guide reticule eyepiece and batteries. Re-centred and focused. She remounted the camera. She restarted the software. Did hard focus. Then gave her the Optec hand paddle. "It's gorgeous," she said.

I found Chocolate from Heaven!

1:39. I headed to the house for another layer. Risa asked me to fire up the kettle. Bill wanted a guide star. I said I'd check.


Risa requested Mars. I wanted to try slewing by off-set method. She saw it fly by. I did a spiral search and stopped almost immediately. Manually moved. Then Risa recentred. 

For Mars, we recommended a faster shutter. Or exposure. Her app was acting weird. For a second it looked perfect. It looked like, to me, it was in some automatic mode. The Gain was in auto; asked her to turn it off.

Bill asked where The Whale (NGC 4631) and The Hockey Stick (NGC 4656) were. I looked them up. In CVn.

Bill showed his Dolphins and Jai alai shot. Looked good. He wanted a new target. In the west. I did an advanced search in SkyTools. Blackeye (M64)... no, too low.

2:31. Wayne dropped by. He was frustrated. Ian had helped a bit. I pointed out one of Ian's favourite beverages... He asked where Vega was. We checked my tracked Cygnus images. Wayne headed home. Felt bad for him.

2:48. Risa headed to bed.

I spotted something in Hercules. Oh. Comet 252/P Linear. Magnitude 9 (point source). 8 minutes in diameter. Gave Bill the SAO number of a nearby star. About 1 degree away. He didn't see anything in the test shot. Bill said it was near NGC 6224, a planetary.

Tried an advanced search. Minimum size 3. Received 84 candidates. How about NGC 3147, a spiral. In Draco. Just above the roof. Just a smudge, Bill reported. He set up for 10 minutes. I ran into a technical glitch and had to redo the search. Oh. A double galaxy, with NGC 4302, in Coma. Did a new search. Size 10 now. Added Lyra and Hercules. Ha! The Splinter or NGC 5907. Showed him my shot, from the 24... He saw it in his preview. He programmed a 10 minute.

3:19. Verified the glow in the east was not following the ecliptic. Bill caught another meteor.

Neptune! Planets galore.

Ha. The big 'scope was still on Mars. We had a look. Some detail, even though very low. Soupy.

Gave him another suggestion: NGC 4236. Another big edge-on. Similar to the other one. More wispy?

3:31. I turned on the heat for Bill. Gave him a tour of the GBO roof drive. Encouraged him to keep everything inside. We'd dry stuff out with the dehumidifier.

Had Bill help me with the south walls. Had him close the roof.

tested the Star Adventurer (Blue Mountains)

I wanted to get to know the new Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer product. Basic operations, anyway. Set-up, polar alignment, accuracy testing, etc.

Configured the camera. Battery grip to 40D body. New batteries installed. Rokinon fish-eye lens. Neewer intervalometer. 3 second gap between the 30 second shots.

Unboxed the main unit from the Pelican case.

Batteries were already installed—checked for power. Good. Made a note to remove the four AAs at the end of the evening.

Set up the polar scope finder. The battery covered screwed on easily this time. I swear. That's gonna get cross-threaded...

Bolted everything to the tripod.

I wondered about weight limits. When does one transition to the counterweight mode? I supposed that figure was in the manual but I didn't feel like digging for it. Then decided: let that be part of tonight's experiment. That said, I didn't think my photo gear would burden it.


4:21 PM, Thu 2 Jun 2016. Phil messaged me. Wanted to know my plans with tracking mount—Jason wanted to try it. I offered to use it Thursday night but release it for the rest of the weekend...


Twilight would ends at 11:20. An hour to go.

10:25 PM. Could not remember if I had purchased an Android app for polar aligning... Yep. I had. PolarFinder.

Fired it up. Fiddled with it a bit and was immediately confused. Could not see where Polaris was! Was the program not working? Changed the size of the star. Finally went to extra large. Uh huh. That was a bad colour decision: the location of the pole star was denoted with a green star! Under the Lee Filter deep red film, it disappeared!

Set up the Star Adventurer rig for the planets run. Just south of the Geoff Brown Observatory. Polar aligned. Pretty easy. In fact, very easy with the geared wedge!

Put the polar scope away, after removing the coin battery.

10:55. Set up the camera. Removed the petals. Did some test shots. Didn't think the lens was focused but I couldn't remember if I was to go fully clockwise or CCW... Grabbed a red flashlight to find the 8mm was at the completely wrong end. Ha! Rolled over to infinity. Verified the iris was at f/8.0.

11:02. Started the run.

(Forgot to rig up dew heater... Oops.)

1:00 AM, Fri 3 Jun 2016. Decided to conclude my imaging run. No fog on the lens. Woo hoo!

1:07. I put the cap on. I starting shooting darks. 30 seconds, again. Wanted about 20. Made a note to go our at 1:25....

1:24. I concluded my darks.

Checked my super-wide planet shots. Cool!

Wondered what I should do next. I wanted to use a longer lens. Put the kit 18-55 on. Remembered to remove the filter. Aimed toward Cygnus. Did some test shots. ISO 1600.

1:50. Did a test shot of the Swan at 30 seconds, f/4.0. Looked OK. Reframed a little. 

1:59. I checked the shot. At 2 minutes 30, f/8.0, it looked good! Not bad at all.

2:06. I got the North American! 3.5 minutes. Still round stars. All right!

2:08. Did a 4.5 minute exposure.

2:16. Checked my shots. Wow!

I went for 5½ minutes. Adjusted the focus.

Wayne dropped by before heading home. Risa cruised by. We checked my tracked Cygnus images. Pretty neat.

Turned to the south, to get the Milky Way. Reframed in portrait.

2:35. Examined the shot. Wow. I was happy. Still round stars. The Star Adventurer was working great. A treat to use.

Shot darks.

3:35. Shut down.

I planned to pack up the whole in the morning for Jason (or others) to use.


Quickly processed shots:

revisited targets (Blue Mountains)

In the afternoon, I set up most of my gear in the Geoff Brown Observatory proper. Mostly as I was planning to use the NexStar 11 Friday and Saturday nights. Partly to keep the Warm Room tidy from Friday on.


10:30-ish PM, Thu 2 Jun 2016. Reviewed my SkyTools 3 Professional observing list... Around 25 items... Many targets to view again, for various reasons. I really wanted to tag ultra-faint IC 982 and 983 but when Ian relayed that he had not brought the 20", I scratched them.

Started up a Notepad.


Chatted with Risa. She offered to make some coffee.


While high up, slewed to the double star 78 Ursae Majoris. Bad seeing. Could not split. No go. Reviewed notes.

Checked the conditions. Or tried. The Davis weather page had not updated for days. Again! Gah. It has to be fixed yet again. Grabbed my portable unit sitting on the work bench. 72% humidity. According to the Oregon Scientific. June bugs! The Bonaire said 49%, in the Warm Room.


11:56 PM. Had another look at NGC 4026. Looked like an edge-on spiral. SkyTools says it is a lenticular. Noted the faint gaggle of stars to my 4 o'clock or south-east including GSC 03454-0576. And the bright star HD 233887 to the top or north-east. A RASC Finest NGC, in Ursa Major.

Ian popped in. He was having trouble Backyard Nikon. Thinks he might have to reinstall. I reminded him to check for a new version. In the meantime, he was using Maxim to get his data.


I suddenly realised I had not checked for comets in SkyTools. And it promptly crashed! Sheesh.

12:28 AM, Fri 3 Jun 2016. 78% humidity.

Good coffee!

12:49 AM. I slewed to NGC 4449. aka Caldwell 21. In Canes Venatici. Big. Quite large in the 27mm. Impressive. Irregular. Not a smooth oval shape. Kinda wiggly. SkyTools said it was an irregular, type 1B. Quite bright too. Why did I want to view it again? Checked my notes. Past notes were rather unclear. I saw a bright star, PPM 53014, around the 2 o'clock. The north-east. Noted a little L-shape of stars to the east. Neat object. Great. One of the RASC Finest NGC.

12:55. I slewed to my next. Grabbed a different eyepiece, 18mm. IC 3568. Wondered if I was seeing a ring structure. [ed: Some call it the Lemon Slice Planetary.]


Read the SkyTools notes on the planetary nebula, also known as IC 3568. Looked at some photos offered up by Google. There was a ring... Appears to be a star beside it.

I flipped the mount. Saturn was in the hot zone. Could not slew to it, yet; I forced it with the joystick. Dropped the power. Thar she blows. Wow. It was nice. I had not looked at Saturn for a while. Very nice. Seeing looked good. Ian agreed. Greatly tilted.


1:39. Visually looked at Scorpius skirting the horizon.


2:30. Checked the temperature: 9.8°C. Humidity: 78%. Pressure was steady. Sunny tomorrow...

3:19. Ha. The big 'scope was still on Mars. We had a look. Some detail, even though very low. Soupy.

3:26. Asked Bill to help me get some SQM readings with our hand held Unihedron meter. Initial: 21.13. Temp: 13°. Readings: 21.15; 21.19; 21.14; and 21.17.

3:31. Slewed to the Turtle. The planetary looked like a fuzzy blob. A bit rectangular.


Felt a little... out of sorts. Don't think I had a good plan in place. It got surprisingly busy (for a Thursday night) and there were lots of distractions. Just never seemed to catch my breath. Still, I had some good views of a few fuzzies. Better than a poke in the eye.

Milky Way in the south (Blue Mountains)

Turned to the south to shoot the Milky Way around Sagittarius. Centre of the galaxy. Realised it only required turning the camera on the ball head. Triggered the intervalometer, as is, since I was getting good results... This image is centred on Messier 24 (M24). I got the Great Dark Horse!

Milky Way over Toronto

Canon 40D (unmodified), 18-55 kit lens at 27mm, f/8, no filter, 330 seconds, ISO 1600, manually focused, Neewer intervalometer, Star Adventurer (type I). Digital Photo Professional.

shot Cygnus (Blue Mountains)

Moved the tripod to the east side of the GBO. Shot the Cygnus region with the Star Adventurer. Started 30 seconds. Stopped down the lens. Increased the time to 150 seconds. The stars looked good. Kept pushing the time. Still had pretty round stars at 5.5 minutes! Amazing.

Hints of the North American Nebula (Caldwell 20).

Cygnus constellation with the Milky Way

Canon 40D (unmodified), 18-55 kit lens at 27mm, f/8, no filter, 330 seconds, ISO 1600, manually focused, Neewer intervalometer, Star Adventurer (type I). Digital Photo Professional.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

viewed Mars and Jupiter (Blue Mountains)

Viewed Jupiter in Ian's 12½" Dob. Only 3 moons. Great Red Spot front and centre. At times, a stunning view.

Later, I turned to Mars. Odd. Took a while to tag it. Had to re-centre the finder scope. Thought I had seen Ian adjust it earlier... The planet looked horrible. And it was not just the elevation. The collimation had gone off! Way off. Weird.

10:30 PM. Let Ian know. He was perturbed but concurred that the primary mirror had moved. He adjusted the sling and got it sorted. Yeh!


Looked up Jupiter in SkyTools so to find the missing moon. Io, on its own to the west; Ganymede and Callisto on the other side.

Oh ho! Europa was in eclipse. It would pop into view on the east side after 11:15 PM...


11:35 PM. Slewed the Celestron 14" to Jupiter. Dang. Europa was already out from the eclipse. I missed it emerging. It knew it was some time between 11:15 and 11:30...

three planets (Blue Mountains)

Set up the new Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer south-east of the Geoff Brown Observatory. Did a quick polar alignment, double checking in SkyTools and the Android app. Aimed south to catch the three planets arcing across the sky. Saturn and Mars in Scorpius; Jupiter below Leo. Sadly, the clouds over Toronto kicked back a lot of light...

Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter from the Carr Astronomical Observatory

One frame of over 200. Dark applied. Canon 40D (unmodified), Rokinon 8mm, f/5.6, no filter, 30 seconds, ISO 1600, manually focused, Neewer intervalometer, Star Adventurer (type I). Digital Photo Professional. Photoshop.

got tile?

At Home Depot, I found some vinyl floor tile material that will work for the interface between the alt-az plates of the barn door tracker. Not Formica per se. Grabbed a couple of individual 12 x 12 inch pieces.

lookin' good

Two in a row. So far... And no frickin' Moon!

It's a summer miracle.

taking names and numbers

All right! The June RASC Bulletin was released. It includes my piece regarding SkyTools. I asked Royal Astronomical Society of Canada members if they are interested in purchasing the SkyTools software under the "club discount" to let me know. Ha! Didn't take long for the first responses to come in!

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

intense Mars (Bradford)

Cloudy. But I spotted Mars down the driveway glowing brightly warmly. Intense orange.

the replacement

The right battery showed up. The replacement for the replacement. Found a parcel from the BC battery company. This time (unlike last week) a 2/60DK-PC was within. All right! At last, I can repair the GoToStar hand controller...

imaged NGC 7129 (Halifax)

The robotic telescope at St Mary's University imaged NGC 7129 for me. Until it stopped. It reported an error, "likely clouds," interrupted my run. It acquired the luminance, red, and green data.

While stretching the FITS, I spotted haze around the cluster in Cepheus; aggressively clipped the highlights to draw it out in this image. SkyTools calls this the Small Cluster Nebula. Quite fascinating. Another of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest open cluster and nebula NGC 7129 luminance

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


At the 1 o'clock position, a short distance from the centre of the image, there's a straight line of three equally bright, equidistant stars. SkyTools shows the lower two associated with nebula. Star GSC 04261-1692 with diffuse nebula IC 5133 and GSC 04261-1533 with IC 5132. There is a hint of these in the photograph. I think I see some faint nebula around GSC 04274-1014 which is at the 10 o'clock...

SkyTools also notes LDN objects in the area, 1181 and 1183, both to the upper-right. I don't know if I'm seeing this. Certainly, to the immediate left of the main cluster and nebula, it seems curiously dark...


Shot again to get the blue data.


Wikipedia link: NGC 7129.