Sunday, July 31, 2016

chatted with BGO

Did some reprogramming of the Burke-Gaffney telescope. Wondered if my target specifications were too... limiting.

vintage computer punch cards

It accepted my delete request and new target.

showed BGO shots

Showed Risa some of my deep sky images captured at the Burke-Gaffney Observatory. She was intrigued.

found same badge

Chris brought his LED badge data cable to the CAO for me to try. Immediately I saw it wouldn't work. His is a newer unit with a standard mini USB connector. Showed him my proprietary port.

Happily, after more digging, I found the same type of badge as mine on Amazon. With cable and software! Would have done this the first time if I had known how difficult it is to program.

mini mini work party

Tony and I did some quick repairs in the Geoff Brown Observatory.

We installed new stainless steel screws, larger ones, #12, with larger countersunk heads, in the south-east door panel hinge.

After painting the parts I had acquired on Saturday, we squared and shored the screen door with four L brackets and one T bracket.

made a 2" occulting eyepiece

Uncle Tony and I have been wanting to build an occulting eyepiece from a long time.

I showed him my prepared violet filter, with straight smooth edge. He produced an old Meade 1¼" eyepiece. We took it apart. This revealed, unfortunately, that the inner diameter of the ocular tube, at the field stop position, was much smaller than 1¼. We didn't relish the idea of reducing the size of the brittle filter.

2" eyepiece with occulting foil at field stop

Tony returned with a different eyepiece. And old 2" with a highly accessible field stop in the removeable shaft. I suggested we try building a super-simple barrier. Tony agreed. I grabbed some aluminum tape, cut a small piece, traced around the shaft for the curve, and cut within it. Taped it on the field stop baffle. Done!

I wondered, as did others, if the shiny metal will cause reflections. I proposed we could paint it black.

We were excited to use it...

checked the Azores skies

With SkyTools, Elaine and I reviewed the night sky in the Azores.

screen snap from SkyTools for the Azores location

They should be able to see things well below Scorpius.

fixed ocular

Helped Uncle Tony repair his Panoptic Tele Vue eyepiece after all the bits fell out. It was fairly easy when we compared to one in the GBO.

extraordinary binary

Learned about a new type of binary system from the binary-stars Yahoo!Group. Read the article at Hubble Space Telescope site.

artist’s impression of AR Scorpii from ESA/Hubble Images and Videos

A group of amateur astronomers in Europe stumbled across a very unusual star system in the summer of 2015. Recent research into AR Scorpii has revealed its true nature: a highly magnetic and spinning white dwarf is sweeping its beam across the face of the companion red dwarf star. This causes the entire system to rapidly and dramatically brighten and fade and also emit radio pulses.

Originally it was thought to be a single star or a neutron star.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

a bus and a taxi

Collated information on bus and taxi services near the Carr Astronomical Observatory for those fortunate enough to not have a car.

Friday, July 29, 2016

the taxi

Helped a car-less member get to the Carr Astronomical Observatory for the weekend. Often I leave at weird times but on this occasion it worked out. At least one way.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

still no images

Strange. On a few occasions, the weather in Halifax has looked good. I've even received alerts from the Clear Sky Alarm Clock system. But then no images were captured by the BGO robot. Is there a problem with the system? Or are students doing research? Or did my jobs get deleted? Or are my jobs too restrictive? Or have my jobs gone stale? I wondered.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

received another weather alert

Received another CSAC alarm for BGO - SMU for 10:00 PM. Clouds/Trans/Seeing would be 0%/Average/Average. Good!

Monday, July 25, 2016

into the night posted a memorial for Geoff Gaherty. I repost the text here.

In Memoriam: Longtime Night Sky Columnist Geoff Gaherty

By Pedro Braganca and Denis Grey

in cooperation with Starry Night

[Image of Geoff beside his SkyShed POD outside his home in Coldwater.]

We are deeply saddened to inform our readers that longtime Night Sky columnist Geoff Gaherty died on July 7, 2016, from complications following a kidney transplant. For many years Geoff has been a weekly fixture to his readers on and beyond, teaching us how to observe the rich tapestry of the night sky with all its wondrous objects and intricate motions.

Geoff touched the lives of many in the amateur astronomy community and it deeply saddens us to know that he is no longer with us. He was uniquely generous, committed and talented — a man with a passion for astronomy and the extraordinary ability for communicating it with others.

A Lover of the Sky

Geoff had many interests, including music and nature conservancy, but amateur astronomy had a special place in his heart. The word "amateur" comes from the Latin "amare," which means "to love." An amateur is first and foremost someone who does something because he or she enjoys it.

Noted author Terence Dickinson describes an amateur astronomer as a "naturalist of the night." That is to say, amateur astronomers are to professional astronomers what birdwatchers are to ornithologists. Like birdwatchers, amateur astronomers spend a lot of time outdoors, often in uncomfortable conditions, trying to spot something that is often only of interest to fellow enthusiasts.

Geoff believed that anyone could be passionate about the night sky. They might just need someone to provide them with the spark to ignite that passion. With his weekly column, Geoff always tried to provide that spark for newcomers and sustain the interest of those who were already naturalists of the night.

Journey begins

Born in 1941, Geoff's interest in astronomy goes all the way back to 1957, when he was still a teenager. He got hooked on amateur astronomy because of a newspaper report of a bright comet, Arend-Roland. On May 1, 1957, he went out on his back porch in Montreal to look for this comet. Here's how he described it:

"It was the appearance of a bright comet, Arend-Roland, in 1957 that first piqued my interest in astronomy, even though I never saw it…but I became interested in a bright object high in my southern sky. With the help of a book (no software back then — no desktop computers in fact) I identified this object as the planet Jupiter. Soon I was looking at telescope ads, and ordered a 'Palomar Jr.' 4.25-inch reflector from Edmund Scientific. The telescope was delivered on July 4. I put it together and, as dusk fell, pointed it first at the moon and then at Saturn. Saturn was simply unbelievable: 'It really has rings!' I said to myself … I was hooked on astronomy. A few months later, I made an independent discovery of another bright comet, Mrkos. Spotting Mrkos hanging in the northern sky above our cottage in the Laurentians is one of my all-time most vivid astronomical recollections."

Geoff became interested in astronomy at a very pivotal moment in space science and exploration. Sputnik launched that same year in the fall. Soon, a Russian flew into space and not long after so did an American. The whole space race of the 1960s was a heyday for astronomy and he had a lot of enthusiasm for the subject.

He joined the Montreal Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) and started to learn more and more about his newfound passion. He became a skilled planetary observer, made many sketches of Venus and Jupiter, served as national coordinator for the society's planetary observing program in the early 1960s and recorded hundreds of variable star observations for the American Association of Variable Star Observers.

Geoff's stories from those days tell of a different kind of hobby than one might imagine today. Amateur astronomers attended formal meetings and bought expensive telescopes; astronomy was "work" back then and there was a real focus on making a real scientific contribution with your observations. There was also a lot of fellowship. One of his fellow travelers from the Montreal Centre was the well-known comet hunter and writer David Levy, who still remembers Geoff to this day.

Geoff went on to graduate with a B.S. in mathematics and physics from McGill University in 1964 and then moved to Toronto, where he received a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Toronto in 1970. This period also marked a long hiatus from amateur astronomy.

[Image of musical group members. Five musical "stars" in the northern sky. Geoff was the founding member and anchor of the early music quintet aptly named Cassiopeia. Geoff played a number of instruments including the lute and recorder.]

Second Coming

Fast-forward 34 years, spent getting educated, married, divorced and remarried — little time for astronomy! Geoff was spending his university's "March Break" in New York City in 1997 with his wife, Louise, and son, David, when he looked out of his hotel window on 57th Street early one morning and was amazed to see a bright comet hanging above the skyscrapers to his north. This was Comet Hale-Bopp — one of the most spectacular comets of the 20th century — and once again a comet lured him into amateur astronomy.

He started reading magazines, and then got the telescope out of the closet. Shortly after, he rejoined the RASC, this time with the Toronto Centre, and became an active observer again.

One of Geoff's mantras during his "second coming" to astronomy was that it had to be "fun." He had no interest in the administration and operations of his astronomy club. Instead, he just went ahead and did things that he liked to do, things he wanted to do, and in so doing made richer, larger and longer-lasting contributions to his club and the wider astronomy community.

A prolific communicator

Later in life, Geoff become a prolific writer, astronomy communicator and mentor to many.

Locally, he presented "The Sky this Month" at his regular astronomy club meetings for more than five years.

For the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada's Journal, he wrote a column called "Through the Eyepiece," for which he won the Ostrander-Ramsay Award for Astronomical Writing. Most recently, Geoff penned the text portion of "The Sky Month by Month" for the RASC's venerable "Observer's Handbook."

Since the early 2000s, he was an active participant in many astronomy forums and email groups, where he helped countless people with their astronomy, observing and equipment questions. He moderated two of the most popular astronomy forums on Yahoo Groups — Talking Telescopes and Starry Nights.

He loved trying out different astronomy equipment — he owned more than 25 telescopes since his youth — and many of his authoritative reviews of telescopes ended up in various publications.

His weekly column on in partnership with Starry Night software enabled him to reach millions of readers on a regular basis.

In addition to maintaining his own blog and social media outlets, Geoff also traveled to numerous astronomy clubs to deliver talks.

The internet is sprinkled with his knowledge and wisdom in the form of forum postings, articles, blog posts, e-books and observing guides. He embodied a lifelong commitment to share his knowledge and passion with as many people as he could.

[Image of Geoff Gaherty (on left) receiving 2008 Chant Medal from. RASC President Dave Lane.]

Chant Medal Recipient

In addition to his awards for writing, Geoff was the 28th recipient of the prestigious Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Chant Medal in 2008, which he received at the General Assembly in Toronto. This medal is awarded to an amateur astronomer resident in Canada on the basis of the value of the work carried out in astronomy and closely allied fields. Geoff's accomplishments included:

  • Earning the society's Messier certificate (fourth person to do so in Canada).
  • Earning the society's Finest NGC certificate in March 2001.
  • Earning the challenging Herschel 400 certificate in 2006 (48 years after he began observing the 400 required Herschel objects).
  • Making more than 1,500 variable star observations for the American Association of Variable Star Observers.
  • Regularly observing Jupiter and its rotation for the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers.
Geoff's Law

We also have to speak about "Gaherty's Law," which Geoff described as follows:

"This is an in-joke in my astronomy club, the RASC Toronto Centre. A few years ago I did a presentation on telescopes and binoculars, and I mentioned that any purchase of new equipment inevitably leads to cloudy skies commensurate with the cost of the purchase. Unfortunately, this truth has become permanently associated with my name.

"I also did a presentation called 'The Sky This Month' at our monthly meetings for about five years. It became a corollary to Gaherty's Law that any event I described would be clouded out. Finally, in desperation I declared during my presentation that absolutely nothing was going to happen this month!"

[Image. Montreal Centre "old timers" of the 1950s and 1960s, with Montreal Centre president Bill Strople. Geoff Gaherty, Bill Strople, Constantine Papacosmas, Jim Low, David Levy.]

Into the Night

One of Geoff's good friends, Tom Luton, responded to Geoff's passing with the well-known poem "The Old Astronomer," by Sarah Williams. The poem is written from the perspective of an old astronomer on his deathbed speaking to a beloved student.

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;

I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

On his website, Geoff prominently displays a quote by the philosopher George Santayana. It reads:

"The problem of darkness does not exist for the man gazing at the stars. No doubt the darkness is there, fundamental, pervasive, and unconquerable except at the pinpoints where the stars twinkle; but the problem is not why there is such darkness, but what is the light that breaks through it so remarkably; and granting this light, why we have eyes to see it and hearts to be gladdened by it."

Good night, Geoff, and farewell. Your light broke into our hearts. We will think of you often whenever we see a starry night.

Original article on

Sunday, July 24, 2016

readied for imaging

The Clear Sky Alarm Clock system sent me a message for clear skies in Halifax. I readied my various BGO web pages...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

waves all around

Stumbled across a short but informative video by Minute Physics on gravitational waves. Check it and other great bits on their YouTube channel. Seeing the video reminded me of a feeling I had shortly after learning of the results of the first LIGO detection.

I saw that the ripples in spacetime caused by the gravitational waves detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatories in the US was like us seeing the small waves on the surface of a pond, ripples caused perhaps by a stone tossed into the water, or a fish surfacing to catch a bug.

Scientists determined that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the merger of two black holes approximately 1.3 billion light years away. Something predicted but never observed previously.

Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity says that a pair of black holes orbiting around each other lose energy through the emission of gravitational waves. Over billions of years they slowly approach each other. In the final seconds, they move together very quickly. When they collide, they convert a portion of the combined mass to energy. This energy is emitted as a burst of gravitational waves. Spacetime stretching and flexing. A large rock thrown into a vast ocean.

gravitational waves detected by two LIGO stations

rain drops making expanding ripples on the lake's surface

Elasticity and a source of energy are required for periodic motion. When the elastic object is an extended body, like a pond, then the periodic motion takes the form of traveling waves. It is easy to see these sinusoidal waves. Consider a disturbance in air. A change in air pressure at a single point produces a spherical traveling pressure wave. Or sound. Like a sonic boom. The invisible sound wave in air is a longitudinal wave. 3D.

Of course, the fascinating thing is that space is three-dimensional. The surface of the lake or ocean is two-dimensional and correspondingly easy for us to visualise and grasp. But consider, for a moment, that ripples are being generated all around us in every direction. Every direction. Behind you, above, left, right, from straight ahead.

The other mind-blowing thing to me is to consider that gravitational waves should be produced constantly. Things throughout the Universe are vibrating and shaking and collapsing together. Pulsars, black holes, other cataclysmic events. And, so far, we are only detecting the big events, like black holes merging. But imagine what it will be like when our detection methods improve and our resolution and sensitive increases.

We will, no doubt, see spacetime rippling like a pond in never-ending rain.

  • gravitational waveforms readings by the LIGO detectors from Caltech
  • rain drops on Mew Lake in Algonquin by Blake Nancarrow

Friday, July 22, 2016

next council meeting set

The proposed date for the next RASC Toronto Centre council meeting is Thursday 29 September. It will likely be held at the St Joan of Arc church near Bloor and Keele.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

received weather alert

Received a CSAC alarm for my BGO - SMU profile. Starting at 10:00 PM. All right! I would ready web pages to capture the local conditions...

SkySafari 5 moves to beta testing

Mr Tschumy put out a call for beta testers for the new version 5 of SkySafari for Android. Too busy to help...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

found the button!

I found the small plastic button switch cap cover thing for the GoToStar motor control system! It was at the bottom of astronomy case β.

It's grey! I thought it was black. No matter.

Finally, at last, she's whole again!

shared a diagram

Showed Jeff a diagram, with notes, of the declination motor bracket plate I'm trying to make/copy for the Vixen Super Polaris mount.

annotated diagram of the Vixen declination plate

He said it didn't look to difficult. He thought it should be made from aluminum. He just needs the dimensions.

time was right

Fired up the GoToStar system for some quick tests. The time was right (within a few minutes)! Looks like the battery swap on 9 June worked. The onboard clock is running! All right.

stars and bugs

Tried processing my firefly shots from 3 July. Surprising!

First, in Canon DPP. Stretched the histogram on the highlights side 2.0 units, set the colour temp to 4300°K, bumped the brightness to 1.0, and then minor adjustments to contrast, shadows, etc. Cropped 4:3 but I don't think that did anything. Applied the recipe to all. Batch converted to a small TIF.

Then, in StarStaX. Set the Blend Mode to Gap Filling with Comet Mode off. Stacked over 200 images. Set the Threshold to 9/10 or High and the Amount to 8/9 or More. Saved as JPG.

fixed Finest list

Cleaned up the SkyTools RASC Finest N.G.C. Objects list. There were some strange things going on with the list on my netbook...

Monday, July 18, 2016

learned of SpaceX successes

Missed the SpaceX launch today.

Space X launch and landing

But learned it was doubly successful: cargo in a Dragon on its way to the International Space Station; and the Falcon first stage rocket successfully landed back on Earth.

See the SpaceX flickr page for more awesome pix.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

machining options

Met a new member Jeff on the weekend. He can machine small metal objects. Hmmm.

we piped Geoff away

Attended the memorial for Geoff Gaherty. A sad event but light too for this wonderful man. Denis spoke very well of his astronomy interests. I did not know he was a herpetologist. Saw many fellow amateur astronomers, not just from the RASC Toronto Centre.

sketched the bracket

For Jeff, I quickly sketched what I thought the Vixen Super Polaris declination motor mount plate looked like. Not quite right.

sketch of the Vixen declination motor bracket from memory

Can't seem to buy them new anymore.

imaged a summer snowball (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 7662 for me. A planetary nebula in Andromeda aka the Blue Snowball and Caldwell 22. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Sadly, there's a focus issue—bottom-left corner. Also, a satellite went through the luminance data.

RASC Finest planetary nebula the Blue Snowball luminance

Luminance only, 15 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

Spotted a bunch of fuzzies in a highly stretched version...

stretched image to show the faint fuzzies

Top-left corner or north-east, there's a large canted oval galaxy. That's LEDA 2203327.

Toward the top, slightly right or north-north west, I noted a small non-round fuzz ball: LEDA 2203587.

Immediately west of the nebula is a dim small lint ball: LEDA 2200608.

Near the bottom-right corner of the image there appears to be a double or triple star. It is not noted as such in SkyTools. I'll have to look into that later.

Between this item of interest and the planetary I think I see a very dim edge-on. Also not IDed in ST3P.

South-south-west is a dim oval: LEDA 2198265.

Slightly east I think I see a dim fuzzy. Not IDed.

Due east of that there's a small faint fuzzy thing: LEDA 2197897.

Due east of 7662, south-east of the bright star is LEDA 2200851.

Actually, that star is throwing double diffraction spikes...

And there are still more than SkyTools highlighted!


Reshot on the evening of 3 August.


The bright tight pair of equally bright stars due north of the planetary, not circles, is the double star CHE 457.

The bright star close to the planetary, at the 10 o'clock position, is a double. Not circled. The companion is nearly directly above. HJ 1877. Curiously, SkyTools shows a star at the correct location of A but calls it GSC 03238-1111; the software plots A in the middle of the Snowball, in fact!


Wikipedia link: NGC 7662.

worked on some doubles (Blue Mountains)

Ian W and I chased down some double stars with his 8-inch Dobsonian. He let me use his ASUS netbook and SkyTools software.

Ian and I hunting double stars

Photograph by Malcolm Park, copyright © 2016. See Malcolm's Facebook photo album for more shots.

It was a very cool evening. Could have used some gloves.

We viewed (and enjoyed) Asellus Tertius, ι (iota) Boötis, HD 234127, δ (delta) Boo, Alkurhah, HD 213224, and δ Cephei.

I used the Re-observe status on 44 Boo, HR 8357, and Scheat. We were not impressed with these targets.

received 7009 blue data

I also asked the BGO 'bot to image NGC 7009 (Caldwell 55, the Saturn Nebula) again. So to get the missing data not acquired on 14 July. Got the blue this time.


Acquired Ha and O-III data on 1 Aug '18.


Processed in colour on 19 Aug '20.

shot 7027 faster (Halifax)

I asked the BGO robot to again image NGC 7027 for me. I shot faster than the first run on 5 July and also collected O-III data.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 7027 luminance

Luminance only, 15 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.


Shot on 29 May '18 with SBIG and retrieved H-alpha and O-III data.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

happy day

We had a wonderful Star-B-Q and open house at the E.C. Carr Astronomical Observatory. The Friday rain cleared off. Solar observing (with some large sunspot groups), model rocket launches (soundtrack by Chris), guided nature hike, new equipment demonstrations, barbecue hotter than the surface of the Sun, door prizes for many, a surprise birthday cake, Mercury and Venus together, good conditions for night-time observing, despite a bright Moon. And for those with dew heaters. Sadly, the wind was fickle as we tried to fly kites. Everyone went home with batteries!

Many new members attended. That was a treat to show them our amazing asset. Young and old, all walks. Everyone welcome.

I was especially pleased to receive our neighbours from the east side, at last. A pleasure to meeting them both, in the summer, for a change!

Along the way, I helped one of our new supervisors get settled. He did a great job.


A photo album was set up in our private Yahoo!Group.

Ian D, our official photographer, shared photos on his flickr account.

Friday, July 15, 2016

arrived to help

Arrived the Carr Astronomical Observatory, for the Star-B-Q weekend. To help with lawn care. Deliberately tried to arrive a little after 1:00 PM. One couple was already on site. Had been for about 20 minutes. The supervisor arrived 15 or so minutes after me.

The big job ahead was to get the lawn cut before the rain arrived.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

council met

Attended the Toronto Centre council meeting. Wow.


w00t! Received my code. Now I can read the RASC Observer's Handbook anywhere!

screen snapshot of Handbook on Android in Javelin

Assuming I take the tablet everywhere I go.


The Javelin reader on Android is a little funky. The menu icon at the bottom right does nothing, which is a little off-putting on first try. But double tapping on the doc opens everything up.

installed Javelin

Installed Javelin PDF Reader on the netbook* and the tablet. In preparation for loading the RASC Observer's Handbook.

* Yeh! They still support XP!

the new calendar process

Julia, while she had me, when she learned I was a councilor, asked about RASC calendars for the centre. They are trying to get them out earlier this year. The plan will be to ship orders directly from the publisher. I said I'd check with our team.

Julia helped

Phoned the national office. Julia took my call and handled the e-book sale. Thank you!

the entire West Veil

And all of 'em together. The West Veil Nebula is oxygen.

mosaic of 3 images West Veil Nebula in O-III

Assembled quickly in Paint.NET.

NGC 6960. Caldwell 34.

imaged the Saturn Nebula (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 7009 for me. The planetary nebula in Aquarius. Also know as the Saturn Nebula, as well as Caldwell 55. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Hints of the "rings."

The imaging run was halted and I only received luminance, red, and green photographs. The error message said it was likely due to clouds; I suspect it was the Sun.

RASC Finest Saturn planetary nebula luminance

Luminance only, 15 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.


Got the blue on 17 Jul '16. Acquired Ha and O-III data on 1 Aug '18.


Processed in colour on 19 Aug '20.


Wikipedia link: Saturn Nebula.

reshot the middle (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged the middle of the West Veil for me. This was a re-do. The first attempt on July 12 had problems... This looks better. aka NGC 6960 and Caldwell 34.

RASC Finest middle portion of the West Veil Nebula luminance

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

imaged southern structure (Halifax)

I thought it might... The BGO robot imaged targets for me. Starting with the third panel (of three) for a mosaic of the Western Veil Nebula. Chopped on the bottom; maybe I need to reframe... [ed: Or the pointing was off—the requested target star is not centred in the image.]

This is the southern-most portion of the supernova remnant NGC 6960 (Caldwell 34). One of the RASC Finest NGCs. It really stands out in the doubly ionized oxygen (O-III) imagery.

RASC Finest southern portion of the West Veil Nebula O-III

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

This will be combined with part 1 and part 2.

glorious NGC 6781

Processed the big planetary nebula NGC 6781 in RGB using the latest data acquired on July 6.

planetary nebula NGC 6781 in colour

Red, green, blue 60 seconds each by 5, stacked.

I'm pleased—while I didn't do anything (yet) with the luminance, hydrogen, or oxygen data. Don't know what to do!

In particular, this represents the first time I applied anti-vignetting techniques to one of the colour channels. The red image had a bad gradient.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Juno snapped

The Juno proper sent back a nice image.

Jupiter and moons from Juno probe

I quite like the colours.

downloaded the e-OH

Downloaded the electronic version of the RASC Observer's Handbook. I hope to deploy this on Ananke and John Repeat Dance.

full colour fireworks

Processed, quickly, the Fireworks galaxy (NGC 6946) in full colour using the data from 3 July.

Fireworks galaxy (NGC 6946) in colour

LRGB, 60 seconds subexposures each, 10 stacked shots each. Photoshop. North is up; left is east.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Binary Universe: Aladin

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

My software review column Binary Universe featured the Aladin interactive sky atlas software made by the Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg.

I demonstrated the desktop application for looking up deep sky objects. Version reviewed: 9. Free.

captured the Western Veil part 2 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot imaged the middle section of the West Veil Nebula for me. Part 2 of 3. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Also called NGC 6960 and Caldwell 34. Double star 52 Cygni shines brightly. Looks like I will have to redo as there are double images of all the stars...

RASC Finest middle portion of the West Veil Nebula luminance

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

This will be combined with part 1 and part 3.


Redid the middle on 14 July.

received all part 1 data

The BGO 'bot reshot the West Veil part 1. This run worked well (where the first attempt was halted). Received luminance, red, green, blue data plus H-alpha and O-III. The images look good.

captured a gem (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged the Little Gem aka NGC 6818 for me. A small planetary nebula in Sagittarius. One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest planetary nebula Little Gem luminance

Luminance only, 15 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.


Imaged again on 3 Aug '22. Also procured narrowband data.


Wikipedia link: NGC 6818.

Monday, July 11, 2016

tried to image J2303 (Blue Mountains)

In SkyTools 3 Pro, moved my Fast Movers list from the sharing group to the doubles.

8:43 PM, 10 July 2016. I've been ramping up to double star measurement notes practice.

Equuleus. "e-kul-lee-us." One of the original constellations by Ptolemy. One of the smallest. The ε (epsilon) star is a fast moving binary. A multi-star system! Chose 15 "reference" stars.

Considered only using the GBO Dell computer for focus control and my John Repeat Dance for mount and camera control. Prepared all the cabling. Considered closing the browser on the netbook to release memory. Continued powering up gear. Set the Optec focuser hand paddle to manual mode.

Somewhat attractive sunset. Lots of clouds. Was not feeling confident.

8:54 PM. Continued reviewing checklists. Reconsidered my target. Read some information about the WDS Neglected Doubles.

The lads returned from Collingwood. Had a quick chat. Collected CAO fees. Gave a tour of the THO.

9:36. Really cloudy. Seemed to be no wind. Could not see anything moving.

The ADDS showed the clouds were pushing off! The upper winds were moving. OK!

9:43. The lads said they were gonna split and come back if it cleared.

Fetched some juice.

Tried to find some candidate WDS neglected targets. Reviewed the three sets. Opened Set 3.

Considered HJ 1484 in Capricornus. It would be on the meridian at 2:15. And right at the 2 airmass. I wondered if I couldn't be able to see it, given I could not drop the south panels. Still, I added it ST3P neglected list.

Davis. As of 9:46. No wind, almost due north, very slightly east, humidity 71, pressure 1016.4, temp 17.7, dew point 12.4. Environment Canada, for Collingwood, from 7:00PM, said, pressure 101.6 and falling, dew point 13, humidity 52, tonight a few clouds, wind NNW, becoming light. Monday mix of sun and cloud, a high of 27, humidex 32, clear at night. Tuesday was to be clear too!

Found J2303. Added it in ST3P. Near Sagitta. High in the sky! Appeared to be a triple. First measurement was from 1895. Would pass the meridian at 2:00 AM.

10:13. Made my final decision... J2303! Cleared the observation status on the other candidates.

Add new candidate reference stars. Seemed to be a struggle this time. Did not enjoy it.

10:23. Checked the skies. It was getting better. Ian was having success at aligning.

10:32. Had 10 in the list. 5 more? Weird. It is in a busy part of the Milky Way but I couldn't seem to find many double stars...

10:38. Sky was slightly better. It was 21°C and 42% in the Warm Room accordingly to the Bionaire.

Reviewed the Moon set time: 12:30. That would give 1.5 hours of shooting time...

Looked for a focusing star.

11:00. Opened the roof. A pretty good sky. Much better. Very few clouds.

Closed all the browser windows on the little computer. Closed some of the additional Evernote windows. Fired up Firefox on the big laptop. Turned up the volume so to monitor the Facebook chat window. Started up Ananke. Bright! Connected to the Paramount with SkyTools via TheSky. Very interesting... The mount had been running the whole time, parked, after the solar observing, driven from the Dell. The resumption with the other computer went very smoothly. Closed the Interactive Atlas (blerg) to get the blinkie X cross pattern. Almost perfectly on target. Good pointing!

Did some visual stuff for a while...

1:36. Tarazed neared the meridian.

2:01. I turned on my camera and waited for EU to start up.

Mildly kicked myself for not going into town to get a modern USB-ethernet extender.

Closed EU and launched BYE. Took a long time. Camera was in manual mode from earlier in the day.

Started working on focus. Looked for a brighter star. Turned counter-clockwise. Headed to Vega. Still didn't see anything. Pointing was off a little. Did more crude focusing.

2:16. Automatic focusing on. FWHM down to 10.4. There's was a pointing bias, about 1 cm down, on my chart. 7 o'clock position. About 6.5 minutes as per SkyTools. Centred the star with the TheSky motion controls. Headed to Tarazed and then manually offset. Took a 5 second shot. Whoa. Way off. Off to the west so I slewed east. Then north. Did a sync in the TheSky. Did another 5 second shot. Realised I did not have the Live View on before whiling focusing. Rotated the field 180 in ST3P. Rotated some more. Good.

Set the ISO 1000 and initiated a 30 second shot.

double stars including Tarazed and Burnham 55

Canon 40D, Celestron 14, f/11, Optec TCF-S, Backyard EOS.

Spotted a faint double near Tarazed, to the south: β55. Correction: a triple. A was down or south-west; B was above. C was well away to the west.

Tarazed itself is a double. It's very faint companion is down and right. SkyTools said it was magnitude 10.8 in the Object Information and 12.8 in the atlas.

Reviewed my notes. Oh Juliet Charlie. I totally forgot about squaring the camera... That is making the long edge parallel to the declination grid. Steps 6 and 7. Crikey.

Physically turned the camera. Used the grid in BYE using the number sign/pound button. It showed a medium-fine grid.

2:45. Started drift images. First shot it only went 1/4 of the way. In SkyTools, added a custom target for the starting point.

The sky would soon get bright. I realised I had mistimed this. I should have started about 1 hour before the targets reached the meridian.

First full trail came in. It looked very good. Only slightly off.

Optimised my process:
  1. wait for the shutter to close
  2. turn tracking on (in TheSky)
  3. slew to starting point (in SkyTools)
  4. turn tracking off (TS6)
  5. start imaging (in Backyard EOS)
Considered further optimising with an imaging run in BYE and a short gap to re-acquire the starting point.

Murray visited me. Curious what I was up to. He was evaluating a mount for KW. It had not gone well, unfortunately. Let me know they were headed back to the hotel. Cheers!

Wondered if I was losing the sky. It was super-bright to the south-east.

Programmed a run with a 20 second pause. Considered that at 2 seconds or 1 second from the end of the gap. Tried it. The gap was too long, given the download time...

3:12. The lads headed down the drive.

There seemed to be high cirrus cloud...

Dropped the ST3P list updating frequency from 2 to 5 minutes.

I had 7 trails so far. Half-way. Dropped the gap to 5 seconds. It worked. Didn't have to rush and didn't have to wait very long.

Had enough time during a trail image to run to the kitchen. Midnight—er, 3 AM—munchies.

Six to go.

Considered shooting the target first and the calibration stars later. Given I was losing the sky.

It was almost 3:30. And astronomical twilight would be beginning. Oops...

I wondered by BYE was using RAW + JPEG large for imaging. And why could I not seem to change this...

3:38. Drift imaging run was done.

Slewed to J2303. Started to image. Good! I was on target.

double star J2303

Canon 40D... Stretched slightly in DPP. J2303 is bright star above centre. B visible zoomed out; C visible zoomed in.

3:41. Tried a 60 second shot. Changed the name. Started exposing.

The TCF was making small adjustments. The air temp was higher. The wind had shifted.

Checked the image. Foxtrot. Nothing. Clouds?! Looked outside... Damnit! Frickin' clouds. Pulled up the weather radar. It was huge. I realised I was not going to get a break.

Set to 120 seconds on the off chance... Damn. Nothing. Nothing in the image. Checked the sky. No point!

Parked the 'scope. Closed the roof. Capped the C14. Turned off the focuser (3784) and dew heating system. Shut down the focuser app. Slept the laptop. Closed TheSky.

3:48. Programmed a darks run at ISO 1000. Copied the BYE log to a Notepad for review. For 120 seconds, 60, 30, 3, 2, and 1. Go! BYE showed it finishing in 1.5 hours. Left the ASUS.

3:59. Grabbed the Android and recorder. The sky was gone. Bright to the north-east. Returned to the house.

warm trace


Canon 40D, Celestron 14, f/11, Optec TCF-S, 120 seconds, ISO 1000, Backyard EOS.

visual observing (Blue Mountains)

After connecting SkyTools to the Paramount, I hopped to the King.

Viewed Jupiter briefly. All four moons were visible—confirmed in ST3P. Noted the rogue stars, in the 'hood: HD 98426 and HD 98398 (closer). Almost inline with the Galilean moons. Interesting. View was terrible, not surprisingly, given the elevation.

Munchies! Spicy hummus!

11:19, Sunday 10 July 2016. Skies were even better.

Had some time to kill before the double star imaging run. Decided to tag targets by constellation... All while trying to stay on the west side of the meridian. Reviewed my double stars life list and searched for items to revisit.

Noticed Struve 1687, aka 35 Com, was marked with an asterisk, to view again. Yellow and blue, widely separated in the 27mm. Seeing was very inconsistent. Almost inline I spotted a fairly dim star: TYC 01455-1058 1. At an almost 90° angle a very faint star to the north-east: J125328.4+211731. And another dim star, opposite this one: GSC 01455-0376. The blue star was C.

Oh. My notes were a bit messy. I had viewed it on a number occasions. The first note was badly written, with a separation value of 12 with a question mark. Haas talked about the AB and AC stars. And I did, in the end, split the A and B... Back in May. Still, I had another look.

A car traveled up the road. Then the driveway. Headlights on. Too bad. Murray's old van probably allows the main lights to be extinguished... This ain't Starfest! :-p

I could not see the B star tonight. Should probably remove the asterisk from the original note with wording to the effect: "poor note-taking." Button things up.

11:49. Viewed HD 115404 in Coma, aka BU 800. Neat double. Actually a quad. Yellow and orange stars, quite dim, both. The B was perhaps 2 or 3 magnitudes different. SkyTools said magnitudes 6.5 and 9.8. I saw A and B aiming toward TYC 01451-0028 1. Almost perfectly. The A and C stars were aiming at the 12:30 o'clock position for me, or north-north-west. Noted a hockey stick with a faint star. Spotted the D star to the north-east! Quite faint.

Wow! The A, B, and C stars were visible in the 101mm 'scope! Delicate. The colours were the same, yellow and orange. Burnham 800 was part of a large triad, with HD 115320 and HD 115538. Neat. Possible candidate then for the double star programme...

[ed: Haas notes only A and B. "Bright yellowish crimson and whitish opal." Uh huh. Whereas Hartung says "yellow and red."]

The stoopid Moon, very near Porrima, was not down yet.

Manually slewed north-west from the current spot. To another corner of the triangle.

12:03 AM, Monday 11 July 2016. Viewed HD 115320 aka Σ1733. Very faint stars. Yellow and orange again.

Viewed another double star. HD 114520? Tried twice. Could not see the B star.

There was just a glow in the western sky now. The Moon was almost gone.

12:14 AM. The howling! Coyotes? Wolves? Grabbed the recorder for Trevor...

Considered some deep sky targets while waiting for my stars to cross over the meridian. Pulled up the NGC life list. Slewed to 4319. Where we saw quasar MKN 205... At that time, I had not made good notes of the galaxies.

12:30. Saw an L of stars. The long stroke was aiming toward 1 or 2 o'clock, or north. Opposite of the apex of the L was a large fuzzy. That was NGC 4291 actually. It was pretty obvious. Cool, not in my log. A fringe benefit. Below the L, to the south-east, was 4319. Very faint. Noted a triangle of faint stars to the right of the L, including GSC 04550-1745. Noted a flag shape below 4319 including TYC 04550-0859 1.

Checked in with Murray and Dave. They thought the sky really good. I rated it fair.

Starting scanning my "other" deep sky life list. Reviewed my notes NGC 4449 aka Caldwell 21. Looks like I finally got a good look in June 2016. But I had not updated the Caldwell life list.

Spotted a typo in the Arp list. Noticed the 10.0 Gyr quasar was not on my life list...

Checked SkySafari for suggestions. Tonight's Best. Nothing grabbed me.


1:16. Viewed Sheliak.

I was cold. Got some more layers. And jelly beans!

Viewed β (beta) Lyrae in terms of a double star. Could see B, E, and F, without difficulty. I saw a faint star between B and the double to the south. ST3P did not show anything there. The app said the C and D stars were in the magnitude 14 range.

1:31. Got the C star! Could not see D. I had to pan A out of the field. Very faint. Lost in the glare... Well. That's good. I got one of them.

1:36. Slewed. Short jump.

Could not see the selected planetary nebula (at first). Bumped into a very orange star. HR 7302. Class K. Near a crooked line of stars including BD +30 03488.

1:43. Yep. Saw it. NGC 6765. Very small. Colourless. Almond shaped. Near a pair of stars including GSC 02640-0790 and a triple including TYC 02640-0544 1. Averted vision helped. Like the Blinking...

Started switching gears...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

spotted 2 groups (Blue Mountains)

Viewed the Sun with Ralph.

He installed the Solar Max gear to the Tele Vue. There were a number of interesting prominences and filaments.

I looked with the Oberwerk binoculars. Oh ho. Two small sunspot groups! 2564 and 2562. All right!

trained new super

Trained another supervisor for the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

briefly clear (Blue Mountains)

Did some wide field observing. Took in the sky with just eyes and with big binos. With Ralph and Nicole. Viewed Capricornus, Sagittarius, Scorpius, Ophiuchus, Serpens twisting around, Corona Borealis, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cephus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Cygnus, Sagitta, Lyra, Aquila, Delphiuns, Aquarius.

I wondered about the thin, flattened triangle of stars to the right of Pegasus. Was that Equuleus? Grabbed the giant-size Pocket Sky Atlas and red flashlight from the GBO. Yep, confirmed. With Kitalpha at the bottom point.

We saw random meteors. I saw a bright southbound fast one that started in Aquila and ended in Sagittauris. And a short streak near Scheat and Matas and Sadalbari which left a sparkling train.

I checked for aurora from the north deck.

With Nicole's Celestron binoculars, I took in various items. Swept thought the heart of the Milky Way and stumbled across blob after blob. It was partly clear and the clouds drifting through discouraged us from opening the observatory. But it was better than nothing.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

made Genesis ready

Photographed the Tele Vue Genesis 'scope on the new mount. I had recently affixed the Rigel Quik Finder proper and bracket. And Ralph had twigged a memory. I found the solar filter in the Geoff Brown Observatory [ed: made by Ian D, I later learned] that fit in the objective opening. Fully deployed! Ready to go.

Friday, July 08, 2016

imaged the SA

Imaged our Star Adventurer rig. All the bits and bobs. In the case. As I prepared the inventory checklist.

dark needed

Beans appropriate for this weekend...

Midnight Darkness by Mountain Wolf Coffee purchased at the Ravenna General Store.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

so long Geoff

Geoff Gaherty left the Earth today.

Geoff and Andy (Schuh) were people I met before I joined the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Met online, virtually, on Yahoo!Groups, many years ago. Never met Andy in person; was thrilled every time I was in Geoff's presence.

They were instrumental in bolstering my confidence, extending my knowledge, and helping me. Such generous, giving human beings. I believe they contributed to my joining the RASC.

They are gone.

I took on information technology tasks in Andy's absence.

I conducted many The Sky This Month presentations over the years. I always wondered, how would Geoff do them.

I wanted to visit Geoff. Nip into the city. Say hello. Bolster him. I had tried to find a time in my calendar. I had considered a date next week.

I'll have to cross that off now.

I am so sad.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

caught the launch

Katrina reminded me with 6 minutes to go... Caught the Soyuz launch to the International Space Station. Jumped into the NASA feed.

Soyuz rocket launching

Smooth launch of the modified Soyuz MS-01. I couldn't see the "floatie" in the cabin...


They're doing the traditional approach vs. the fast. Due to ISS on Saturday.

shocked the timer

Inspected the Neewer intervalometer. Tapped it. Bonked it. Gently hit it. Bonked it on its end, side, and face. Knocked it. Slapped it. Banged it. Flipped it. Tapped it some more.

It did not lose its settings!

Opened the battery compartment. The AAA batteries looked secure. They are spring-loaded.

Huh. Seems OK to me.

Turned on the LOCK function.

checked our SQM meters

Compared the roof-top SQM values from the evening of 30 Jun to the ones Steve helped me capture...

6-30, 23:00 - 21.11
6-30, 23:30 - 21.46
7-01, 00:00 - 21.49

Our three readings, captured at 11:55 PM, average 21.24.

council meeting next week

The next council meeting of the RASC Toronto Centre is set. 7:30 PM on Thursday 14 July. At the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO).

captured the Western Veil part 1 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged part of the Western Veil Nebula (NGC 6960, Caldwell 34) for me. A supernova remnant in Cygnus. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. This is a very large object that subtends 3 frames. Part of this run was done before an error occurred (likely clouds). Pity. I'd love to see the hydrogen...

RASC Finest diffuse nebula NGC 6960 luminance

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


This will be combined with part 2 and part 3.


Received all the data on the morning of 12 July.


Wikipedia link: Veil Nebula.

imaged NGC 6781 again (Halifax)

I asked the 'bot BGO to reshoot the planetary nebula NGC 6781 (the images from 25 June were quite bad). No artefacts or weirdness. There's a gradient but I think I can deal with that.

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


Processed the RGB images on July 14.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Arecibo may be closed

Checked the notices from BOINC. I had heard about this a week or so ago... Heard some people talking about the big dish. Old tech, to be sure.

Arecibo still threatened with closure.

Recently the NSF announced its intent to start the process which could lead to the partial shutdown, mothballing, or complete dissembly of the Arecibo Observatory. As most of you know, this is not a new discussion in the scientific community. Several years ago we had asked you write letters to Congress in hopes of averting this fate.

A petition has been started on to ask the President to ensure it is funded. I'm pessimistic about the chances that it will change anything, as the President cannot change Congressional budget priorities, and only has limited ability to move money between NSF programs. However, bringing attention to the issues of science funding in this country cannot hurt.

Date 10 June 2016.

proofed article

Reviewed my next RASC Journal article proof. For the August issue. Reported on one matter.

IDed the streak

Fired up Aladin and from the SIMBAD database determined that the vertical streak beside MCG 4-44-10, visible even in my image, is in fact another galaxy: LEDA 2812073.

LEDA 2812073 galaxy beside MCG 4-44-10

Very neat. Maybe I'll be able to draw it out in post-processing...

Google noted Juno

Today's Google Doodle tipped the beanie to the arrival at Jupiter.

8-bit ani-GIF fun!

imaged NGC 7027 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 7027 for me. A small planetary nebula in Cygnus. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. It is an unusual shape, almost rectangular with rounded corners. Informally known as the Magic Carpet. Once again, it seems blown out, overexposed. I used similar numbers as Adam Block.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 7027 luminance

Luminance only, 25 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.


Shot it faster on 17 July.


Shot on 29 May '18 with SBIG and retrieved H-alpha and O-III data.


Wikipedia link: NGC 7027.

imaged Barnard's Galaxy (Halifax)

Just for fun, I asked the robot BGO to image Barnard's Galaxy, aka NGC 6822, for me. Purportedly, it is one of the RASC 40 Brightest Galaxies. In Sagittarius, it is also known as Caldwell 57, IC 4895, MCG -2-50-6, and PGC 63616. While I've viewed it before, last weekend I could not see it visually. It's huge and irregular with some large H II regions. Bit of a gradient in this photograph.

RASC Barnard's Galaxy NGC 6822 luminance

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

At the top-right or north-west, there's a small elongated blob. That's actually two distant galaxies. The inner one is MCG -2-50-3 and almost looks like a ring. The outer is MCG -2-50-2.


Wikipedia link: NGC 6822.

Monday, July 04, 2016

welcome to Jupiter

Watched the Juno Orbit Insertion broadcast from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


This requires patience. It is setting up for a highly elliptical orbit. In 53 days it will dive back in...

imaged NGC 6712 (Halifax)

The BGO robot photographed NGC 6712 for me. A globular in Scutum. One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest globular cluster NGC 6712 luminance

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


Wikipedia link: NGC 6712.

noted omega Sco (Blue Mountains)

I don't remember which day (or night) it was now but I recall, while visiting friends on the CAO Observing Pad, over the last week or so, seeing the faint double near β (beta) in Scorpius. Later I looked them up: ω 1 and 2 (omega).

the last night (Blue Mountains)

9:56 PM, Sunday 3 July 2016. Viewed Jupiter. Swimmy. Worst seeing conditions to date.

Checked the Davis weather station page. As of 9:31 PM: 10 min avg wind speed 1.6 km/h; from WWN; current speed 1.6; high today 27.4; humidity 65%; barometric pressure 1016.0 hPa; temperature 18.6°C; dew point 11.8.

Viewed Saturn. Not great.

Helped Risa with her reticule. Seemed very wobbly, despite new batteries. A poor connection from the battery compartment contacts? Perhaps a broken wire? Showed her my Celestron Microguide. Unfortunately the threads on my illuminator were different so we couldn't swap. Still, we held my red LED to the port and it revealed that the reticule proper was fine.

10:37 PM. Tended to my camera near the garage.

Viewed Alkalurops. Fantastic for the double star programme. Great at low power; awesome at high.

10:54. Ian W said he was imaging the quasar. Asked if I could post the photo. Sure. He was just trying to add his banner tag thing. Could not figure out how to get Photoshop to add the copyright symbol. I explained how to do it on a (Windows) laptop keyboard with embedded numeric keypad. Or use Character Map.

Viewed 41 Oph. No luck. It was not round. But no clear split.

11:09. Viewed HR 6594. No joy.

Risa popped by. Bev too.

11:21. View NGC 6595. It looked like a double star... What constitutes an open cluster, we wondered. Weird.

[ed: Did not notice at the time that it appears to be a hybrid object: small star cluster and a diffuse nebula.]

11:23. It seemed that the SkyTools observing list was updated too frequently. I could barely do anything and it would regenerate and take a lot of cycles. I changed it from 1 to 2 minutes.

11:34. Viewed NGC 4274. A canted galaxy. There was a wide pair to the left (east) and a tighter double above (south). The southern one was not shown in ST3P.

Headed to the observing pad with my note: μ Dra, Σ2130, 21 Dra, HD 154905.

12:22 AM, Monday 4 July 2016. Tried to spot mu Draconis C in Ian's big Dobsonian. Nope. Hawkeye Ian tried too!

[ed: Damn! It must be super-faint, in a dramatically different location, or just bad database information... Or difficult to see near the bright primary?]

Spotted a tiny meteor westbound while viewing Messier 13 naked eye.

Noted ω1 and ω2 again in Scorpius. And no Sargas.

12:39 AM. I noted comet C/2015 WZ nearby, in the software. We tried for it in Ian's 20-inch. It should have been beside σ Herculis. No joy.

Risa went to bed. Pooped.

1:13. Didn't feel like doing double star work. I decided to try imaging a galaxy group with NGC 6285, NGC 6286, MCG 10-24-79, MCG 10-24-82, from the Arp Galaxy List. Arp 293. Hooked up the camera.

galaxy group with NGC 6285, 6286, and MCG 10-24-82

Canon 40D, Celestron 14, f/11, 180 seconds, ISO 1600, WB daylight, Backyard EOS, Canon DPP. Single frame stretched without darks applied.

NGC 6285 is near centre. 6286 is left. Near the top-right is MCG 10-24-82. All 0.2 Gyr light time. Not bad for a DSLR, eh? MCG 10-24-79 is in the pentagram of stars near the bottom-left but I can't see it.

2:12. Turned camera counterclockwise a bit to improve the framing.

2:17. From the Davis as of 2:01. 10 min avg wind 6.4; SSW; immediate 6.4; high 11.3; hum 69; baro 1016.3; temp 16.4; dew 10.7.

2:32. I programmed 10 lights of 180 seconds each.

2:58. Funny. I was awake now...

3:04. Captured the last sub. Readied to program and shoot darks.

3:06. A bird just started chirping. Sun would be coming up soon...

3:11. Started the darks.

captured NGC 7331 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 7331 for me. A galaxy in Pegasus. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. A lovely canted spiral galaxy, also referred to as Caldwell 30. Huge. Amazing structure. Had to clip the whites to draw out the neighbouring galaxies.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 7331 luminance

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


There's a small canted spiral at the 10 o'clock position. That's NGC 7335.

Beyond it a tiny round fuzz ball. NGC 7336.

Due east is round bright object. NGC 7340.

At the 8'clock position there's a small round, slightly oval, fuzzy right beside a star. NGC 7337. SkyTools does not show the star.

At the top-right of the image is a faint small canted spiral. NGC 7326.

[ed: Curiously, NGC 7325 is not visible. Assuming SkyTools is right, it should be between the main target and 7326. ST3P shows it is larger and quotes the magnitude as 14.9. ST3P shows a bright star here, GSC 02743-2056. Something is odd about that star, if you zoom in. It looks fuzzy on its left edge...]


Wikipedia link: NGC 7331.

imaged Crescent in H-alpha (Halifax)

I asked BGO to get more data on NGC 6888, the Crescent, Caldwell 27. Specifically, hydrogen-alpha and oxygen-III data. To augment the image from the evening of July 1. Amazing.

RASC Finest Crescent Nebula in hydrogen-alpha

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

Sunday, July 03, 2016

captured a gaggle (Halifax)

Knew this would be an interesting target... The BGO robot imaged MCG 4-37-34 for me, aka PGC 56094. This is a small edge-on galaxy in Serpens Caput. From the Astronomical League's thin galaxy list. It is in a gaggle of other galaxies as well as the Hickson 77.

galaxy MCG 4-37-34, group Hickson 77, and others, luminance

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

MCG 4-37-35 is a pale round fuzzy immediately left (east) of the centre galaxy.

LEDA 214424 is a small edge-on galaxy further east.

North-east of LEDA 214424 is the very small but bright almond shape of LEDA 1659534.

Due east, right at the edge of the picture, is the bright edge-on disc: LEDA 1659475.

The Hickson 77 group is near the left edge of the image. It includes 4 galaxies. Top-down is the large, somewhat dim oval. Just below it is the small oval which is the same brightness as the one above. Then there is a very bright oval. And finally a slightly larger very bright oval. Very neat! All four elements go by MCG 4-37-37, in SkyTools 3 Pro.

South of Hickson 77, near the bottom-left corner of the image is the large canted galaxy PGC 56117.

South-west of H77 is a faint edge-on galaxy, near two stars. That's MCG 4-37-38.

South of MCG 4-37-38 is a small medium-bright oval: LEDA 1656651.

There are still other small, dim galaxies in this image... Fun!

tried for lightning bugs again

10:37 PM. I tried imaging the fireflies again, near the garage.

Low, just above the grass.

Amped the ISO.

11:44. Nothing obvious in the firefly shots.

Just not working.


Hold the phone. Found one neat frame...

some fireflies above the tall grasses while looking north-east

Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm, Neewer intervalometer, 15 seconds, ISO 400, daylight white balance, RAW, quickly stretched in DPP.

There's hope.


On further examination, I could see Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Lacerta, Cygnus, Lyra, head of Draco, Ursa Minor, Sagitta, Delphinus. Wow!


Did some quick processing on 20 July.

fix it

Peter told me that his 3 year old Celestron 17 power pack was dying. "It won't last an evening." He asked if there anything to be done to keep it alive or was it just scrap.

I told him it was recoverable and inexpensive. I recommended he open it up. He'd find a fairly standard lead acid battery inside. Told him that I had helped Risa with her battery swap recently and that she bought the replacement from Sayal for around $65. Bill Longo, same thing.

faint and far away (Blue Mountains)

9:52 PM, Saturday 2 July 2016. It noted it was quite busy on the Observing Pad! Nice. I saw Dietmar helping Tony. I saw Steve setting up his Star Adventurer.

I finished submitting two jobs for BGO in Halifax.

We viewed Jupiter.

Dropped the south walls of the Geoff Brown Observatory.

10:27 PM. We viewed Saturn. Lovely. Four or so moons.

10:57. I tried 15-17 CVn again. No joy splitting the tight pair. Gah.

11:04. w00t! Got it. Nailed HR 6267. A was pale yellow, B was dark orange. C was well away. Opposite. C was down, in the field of view, for me tonight. B was above and slightly left. C was 6 o'clock. B was 11:30 or 11:45. Yes! Finally!

Iosif and I talked about globular clusters. He mentioned reading about one very far away. Something about one cast off from Andromeda. Or maybe from the Milky Way headed to Andromeda.

Where Is M13? software showing Milky Way globulars

I launched Where Is M13? and activated the glob preset. And I zoomed out. Wow. Reverse sorted the table by distance. AM 1 in Horologium was 410 000 light-years away! Pal 4 was number 2 and we could see it (potentially) from our location, in Ursa Major, 319 000 ly. Found it in SkyTools: Palomar 4. Magnitude 14+. We slewed to the area...

Nothing... It must be big and dim.

12:12 AM, Sunday 3 July 2016. Very near PGC 1856336.

I decided to try to image the distant globular. Set up the DSLR. Configured for 4 minute sub-exposures...

12:45 AM. We successfully viewed quasar B 1422+231 in Boötes in Ian's 20-inch Newtonian out on the pad. Beside a little hockey stick of stars. Almost in-line with the pair of stars to the south, J142437.7+225309 (15.8) and J142436.9+225252 (15.8). Magnitude 16.1; redshift or z 3.62; light time 10.0 Gyr. Wow. That one broke our record...

12:48. Completed the 4 minute shot of Pal 4.

star field surrounding Palomar 4 globular cluster

Canon 40D, Celestron 14, Neewer intervalometer, f/11, 240 seconds, RAW, DPP. Can you see it?

Tried 8 minute shots.

1:04. I was getting cold. I put on two more layers.

1:13. I saw nothing in 8 minute image of Palomar 4. Trailing? Or vibration, unfortunately.

Could not see Barnard's Galaxy this evening. It seemed very strange to find this suggestion in the RASC 40 Brightest Galaxies listing.

1:59. Had a long chat with Uncle Tony.

2:01. Checked conditions. 10 min avg 4.8; from W; immediate 3.2; high 19.3; hum 76; baro 1017.7; temp 14.8; dew 10.6.

2:18. Viewed NGC 5322 with the 27mm. A small oval, canted spiral. Somewhat plain field. A dim galaxy. Angled east-to-west. From the Herschel 400 list.

2:27. Viewed NGC 7217. Another small canted galaxy. Noted a little diamond of stars including TYC 02720-1421 1 to the south-west. Wondered for a moment if there was a companion... Also from Herschel 400.

2:50. Viewed NGC 2276. From the Astronomical League list "two in the view." I saw a soft amorphous fuzzy in the centre (that was 2276 proper). It almost looked like a reflection nebula. I saw an oval canted spiral below (east). That was NGC 2300. There was a bright star HD 51141.

3:00. Looked up another "two in the view" items. Viewed NGC 6885 and 6882. Not very exciting. Sounded familiar. Did I view these before?

[ed: Yes, took in 6885 (aka Caldwell 37) a couple of nights prior... The two might be more appealing at low power...]

3:05. I was falling asleep. Headed to my new bed in the Great Room. Hoped it would not be too noisy in the morning...