Wednesday, August 31, 2016

it was local

Seems the possible signal from outer space was of terrestrial origin, as reported in TASS article.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

checked proof

Proofed my RASC Journal article. No problems.

another council meeting

Participated in the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting. Didn't have the energy to go in person; connected, along with Bob, virtually. Main objective was to fill vacated roles.

checked the field

Ian W sent over an image of HD 164595, captured from his imaging 'scope at the CAO the night before. He asked me to verify the field. It was correct.

possible signal star HD 164595 by Ian Wheelband

East is up; north is right. Copyright © 2016 Ian Wheelband. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

HD 164595 is the bright star in the centre. It is a double star. The B star is the nearby orange star at the 11 o'clock position.

not so clear (Blue Mountains)

Sal asked me about our CCD camera. Indeed, he could use it. A good reminder that I still need to get up to speed on it.

Remounted the Tele Vue 101.

8:47 PM. Monday 29 August. Finished homing. Headed to Saturn.

Rhea, Tethys, Dione were nearly in a perfectly straight line on one side of the planet. Titan was on the other.

It was cool this evening.

Sal dropped by. Ian D popped in. Seeing was poor. He pointed out the Cassini Division to Sal.

Dessert o'clock!

Had another look at Saturn. Spotted Iapetus. Briefly I thought I had seen Hyperion; no, it was a star.

9:15 PM. Rhea 9.8, Tethys 10.3, Dione 10.2, Iapetus 11.0. Random star 11.6.

Didn't feel like doing photography like last night. Maybe TTT, later. It would be dark. Good for galaxies.

We had an appointment to meet at the Dob at 10:00 PM. So to view HD 164595.

Almost at astro twilight. Turned the lights down.

Ian W poked his nose in.

Sal visited. Curious what everyone was doing. I asked his plans. Maybe star trails.

My impressions of θ (theta) Cygni. Yellowy bright star. Orangey star to the right or west. Actually, that was not related. It is HR 7465. θ is a quad. I did not think the primary was round. A and B were 2.9 seconds of arc apart, easy, but very different magnitudes.

Noted a completely different system to the left or east. Oh. That was R Cyg. Strange designations.

I looked for the 18mm ocular. Did see it. Assumed it was in the other 'scope.

9:37. Viewed with the 18mm. Seeing was bad. C was slightly further away that D. C was almost due south; D was north-east. Could not seem to split A and B.

ST3P showed a star marked as B way off to the east. When I hovered over it, the designation SAO 31823 appeared in the status bar. When I double-clicked it, the software said it was part of a double. With R as the primary. R was 91" away, to the south. Whoa. Very dim. I noted a triangle of dim stars, including GSC 03564-1114, further south. They were all between mag 12 and 13. R Cyg was dimmer. It was brighter than the mag 15.6 star GSC -1054. An amazing range.

Reviewed my old notes.

Looked again. Zoomed in with the software. The value on hovering did not correspond to the chart representation.

10 minutes to go.

Considered SAO 87428 from my View Again list. Slewed.

Headed out to the Observing Pad and chatted with Ian W.

He shared some interesting information on a new organisation.

We returned to the Warm Room to get some data about HD 164595. HIP and SAO numbers.

SkyTools produced an error when I tried to slew. Went to Sadr. Tried again. Same error. So I switched to TheSky6 and tried the slew. Error: "Mount is at a minimum or maximum position limit and cannot be slewed. This error may be the result of improper synchronisation..." Oh. I had synced before. That must of messed something up. Never let a telescope know you're in a hurry. Rehomed. That's just great. What are we gonna do now, man? Slewed. Didn't look right. Ian thought it different than where he landed with him imaging rig. Bad pointing.

The target star was in a triangle. ξ (xi) is 92. ν (nu) is 94. Slewed to 92. No joy. Gah. Parked. Slewed. That's where we were before. Parked again. Ian powered off. Up. Homed. Chose a known-good. M13. Ian centred. Then I synced. Searched for the star. Slewed. Different field this time... Ian said, "That's it." We wondered how many amateur astronomers were looking at that star right now. Only 95 light-years away.

B was a faint star to the right or east. A was mag 7, B was mag 13.

10:26. I considered a nearby target.

Sal set up his camera but he saw some clouds. He was intrigued by the audio confirmations from SkyTools.

Ian D said hello. Told him I was on the "alien" star. Discussed the "Where were you on..." scenario. Sal said he looked it up. Might be a natural phenomena.

Connected SkyTools.

I headed to a challenging planetary nebula. Campbell's Hydrogen Star. Again.

I have tried many times to view this object...

10:27. The 18mm was in the C14. The 27mm was in the TV101. That's why the FOVs were messing me up.

I wanted the 10mm. Not out yet. I looked for a 1¼" O-III filter. As I suspected, none. Wondered if someone else had one. Oh. I could use my 2" PowerMate...

Very interesting. I kept thinking I should image it. Why not?! Looked for my t-ring. Found the nose piece. Oh. Maybe I never brought it out. Yep. Mated the bits. Removed the lens. Mounted the adapter pieces. Set up the USB-ethernet 2.0 adapters.

11:00. Realised I should be testing Nicole's mount. This time I had an OTA installed with counterweights. So a normal or typical configuration. Crikey. I had install the tube the wrong way. Fetched a mirror (GBO) and eyepiece (mine). Initiated again a test on M31. After the calibration, it was bang-on: the centre of galaxy on the cross-hairs.

Sal returned. Noted my camera on the C14.

11:15. Proceeded with my imaging setup. Expected the software to launch. Tried manually. EOS Utility was not giving me options. Of course, the camera had gone to sleep. Crashed. Launched it again. OK. Took camera control. Slewed to a bright object. Chose Vega again. Ugh. Manual focusing. Oh boy. "If you wanna do it right..." I headed to the house and retrieved the laptop. Set up the computer control of the Optec TCF-S focuser.

Did a test shot. Image transfer was quick.

11:32. Imaged this elusive planetary nebula. Very interesting colour.

Campbell's Hydrogen Star in Cygnus

North is up; east is left. Canon 40D, Celestron 14 SCT, f/11, 30 seconds, ISO 1600, daylight white balance, RAW, manually focused, DPP.

11:40. Tried longer exposures. Did a couple more at 30 seconds.

Checked on Nicole's mount carrying a Celestron 11-inch. Working well. Andromeda was on the edge of the field, not centred. But that was due to my rough polar alignment. Tapped and bumped. Did not jump.

Chose next target. Minkowski's Footprint. Often added from an auto-generated SkyTools observing list. Another tough visual object.

A funny shape. It was not round. A blob. No colour. Just white. Small. Very small.

Minkowski's Footprint in Cygnus

North is up; east is left. Canon 40D, Celestron 14 SCT, f/11, 60 seconds, ISO 1000, daylight white balance, RAW, manually focused, DPP.


Added the meridian line to the SkyTools chart.

12:05. Slewed to δ (delta) Cygni. Shot an image. I could see the C star no problem. A and B were not separated. PPM 58769 is to the right or west.

delta Cygni with the C component visible

North is up; east is left. Canon 40D, Celestron 14 SCT, f/11, 15 seconds, ISO 1000, daylight white balance, RAW, manually focused, DPP.

Went to 5 seconds to draw and expose the A and B stars. No luck.

Sal popped in. Showed me his light painting with the Milky Way in the background. Very nice! I too have wanted to do that. He was done.

Next up. SAO 87428. I have not been able to see the H star. It was not visible in my 5 or 10 second shots. It appeared when I doubled the shutter time.

B is above A. C is above and left of B. D is the faint star to the right of A and B. G is easily spotted left of A. Dim H is above G.

multi-star system SAO 87428

North is up; east is left. Canon 40D, Celestron 14 SCT, f/11, 20 seconds, ISO 1000, daylight white balance, RAW, manually focused, DPP.

More clouds.

Checked the CGEM. Again, not bad. Andromeda was still visible in the eyepiece (though it had drifted slightly).

What about Lyra? What about Sulafat, aka γ (gamma) Lyr? Another View Again. I had not spotted the B star. OK. Let's try.

Got it. Very dim compared to the primary. Fantastic. In-line with TYC 02643-1481 1 to the north-west.

double star Sulafat in Lyra

North is up; east is left. Canon 40D, Celestron 14 SCT, f/11, 10 seconds, ISO 1000, daylight white balance, RAW, manually focused, DPP.

Done. Tired. I began to shut down. Disconnected SkyTools.

12:30. A car drove up... A member arriving late? Was it Kenneth?

I closed the roof. Packed up some gear, thinking of the get-away tomorrow. The GBO equipment and Nicole's. Dehumidifier. USB-ethernet. Camera gear. Laptop. GBO eyepieces. My camera adapters.

Noticed red lights moving outside.

12:59. Exited the GBO.

Noted a vehicle driving along the road west...


Forgot to shoot darks.

Monday, August 29, 2016

checked on first fly-by

Checked the NASA Juno site for an update. The probe was expected to perform its first close fly-by of the gas giant. The first of 36. Saw the image of the north pole. A unique perspective. Quickly read the article. Sounds like everything went well. Looking forward to the HD images.

possibly maybe

We're going to look at HD 164595...

fixed chair

Fixed the adjustable height chair. The old one by Dave Getgood. Given to my Mom. Which my Mom donated to the centre. Moved it to the Great Room from the observatory.

fixed bins

Collimated the cheapo binoculars. Just like my old Bushnells. Put them back in the kitchen.

fresh gravel

The road to the CAO was groomed... Excellent.

reached focus (Blue Mountains)

Tried imaging the Sun again in the Coronado Calcium-K Personal Solar Telescope. This time I borrowed Ian's gear: an eyepiece projection adapter which was shorter than ours; and the Losmandy mount so I could piggyback on the C14. It worked!

the Sun filtered in Calcium-K spectrum

Canon 40D, no-name eyepiece projection camera adapter, Canon t-ring, Coronado Calcium-K PST, Coronado 25mm eyepiece, 1/4 second, ISO 1000, DPP.

showed how to print

Entertained some questions from Ian D on SkyTools. He was curious about printing. What, I wanted to know? The lists? Or the charts? Walked him through various procedures.

multi-tasking night (Blue Mountains)

Moved into the GBO.

Fired up the Sony recorder.

Borrowed a hand controller from Mr dos Santos. To test on Nicole's mount. If necessary.

9:00 PM, Sunday 28 August. Connected the netbook to the big monitor. Extended desktop.

Sal was chatting with a coding friend from the picnic table.

Set up my camera out on the lawn, west of the Geoff Brown Observatory.

9:13 PM. Did some test shots, with the kit lens. Mars and Saturn in the background. I was trying to control the depth of field. Could not seem to do it! Weird. RTFCM. Page 90. Manual control. Oh. I was not in super-duper mode. That's why. The power switch was not in the full up position. Whatever it's called.

9:17. Camera was working the way I wanted. Grabbed the intervalometer to get past the 30 second barrier. And to minimise vibration.

Took the hood and filter off the camera lens.

9:28. Wondered if I would need a dew heater.

Ran in a strange problem: the intervalometer was not triggering the camera. At first I thought it was a camera glitch. In the end, I thought it a poor connection between the Neewer and camera body. It worked when I reseated it.

Could not find my eyeglasses! Ooh. I remembered where they were. Took them off in the garage when I was at the lockers. Found them. Clay was busy at work!

bird house in pine tree, stars and planets in background

Canon 40D, Canon 18-55 lens at 18, 120 seconds, f/4.5, ISO 1600, Manfrotto tripod, DPP. Oops. Had the flash open/up when I started the shot and the flash fired. Bird house. Scorpius, Mars, Saturn, the Milky Way, an airplane, and a meteor!

Ian D popped by. Wondered what the white flashes were. Me!

The coyotes yelped. They were in the forest on the hill.

9:45. Popped into the Warm Room for a moment.

Continued working the camera. Dropped to ISO 1000.

10:30. Did get some shots but wanted to try my long lens.

Sal wanted to shoot through the C14. Slewed the Paramount from my SkyTools. I went to Vega to help him focus. Realigned the Tele Vue 101 to the Celestron 14.

Gave him my 2-inch nose piece. Explained his SCT adapter was not appropriate for our configuration. We really do need one for the GBO. We had a hard time threading my nose piece to his Sony t-ring. Finally got it. Helped him with focusing. Various camera settings. He used the in-camera dark application. Suggested the Ring Nebula.

10:58. Took out the Vivitar Series 1. Love a lens with distance measurements! And hard stops!

Watched for meteors. Didn't see a lot... Caught a long one in a test shot.

I could hear Clay cutting and hammering in the garage.

Encouraged Sal to shoot many shots, partly to accommodate for tracking issues.

11:07. I was shooting with the 70-210, wide open, at 70mm, manually focused, around 4 metres, now 5 metres. I had moved the rig again. Out of the gulch. It was not bad.

Crickets in the Warm Room...

Sal requested a new target. Globulars? Perhaps M13 or M92. I loaded up my SkyTools showpieces list. We talked about the number of images to take for stacking. I suggested a dozen. But any number, 2 or more, would be good. Previewed some galaxies in ST3P and simulated the view with my 40D. His Sony had an APC like mine so we hoped the views would be similar. We readied for M13. Slewed to zeta Her for focusing. Fortunately on the same side of the meridian.

11:48. Sal was working on the focus. Slewed using an offset hoping I'd exactly hit the target.

Grabbed my old screw-mount Takumar 55. The fastest lens in my gear. f/2.0. Removed the hood and filter; installed my adapter. Wondered if this was first light, for astronomy, for this lens.

Ian D dropped by. Asked what his fastest lenses were. Among others, 50mm f/1.2, 24mm f/1.4.

My crazy old lens was working!

Looked for Lacerta. The little W of the head, beta, alpha, 4, 5, and 2. Zig zag. That faces toward Cygnus. Did note that it was just above Pegasus.

12:14 AM, Monday 29 August. f/2, 4 metres.

Checked in with Sal. He thought he'd stay on M13 for a while longer.

I wanted to try a new location. Stopped short of the front lawn. Used the maple tree at the south-west corner of the house.

As I returned from the yard, I noticed Messier 45 (M45) rising over the hill. Nice.

Noticed a double in Capricornus. Naked eye.

12:31 AM. Shot the Pleiades. Stopped down to f/2.8 to get rid of some of the bloat. Moved slightly off infinity. I was still at ISO 1000. Programmed a 2 second timer. Took 10 second shots. Amazing, the old clunker lens. It did really well.

Sal asked about a galaxy. His last target for the evening. Showed him some photos (not to toot my own horn). He liked the Splinter. It was around the two air mass. I explained that notion to Sal. Happily, again, on the same side of the meridian. Looked up the NGC number. Suggested he do the centering this time.

12:38. He completed the centering. Focus looked good. Slewed to the galaxy. Asked that he do a test shot.

Set up Nicole's mount for another test. Polar aligned, aligned on two stars, added one calibration star, and then slewed to M31. Left it to see what would happen.

Sal was trying to centre the galaxy in the camera.

1:02. He saw a tumbling satellite.

I saw the Sal was hunting. Perhaps struggling with the joystick. And the weird directions, telescope with mirror diagonal vs. camera straight-thru. I offered to help, using the computer, to move in a methodical way. He gave up. OK. Nailed it! Lucky guess.

1:15. Checked the weather. The Davis weather page was up-to-date. The wind was 1.6 km/h, west, humidity 96%, air pressure 1022.4 hPa, temperature 16.7°C. Damp!

Fetched some water.

Checked the photos on my camera. Happy.

Sal said he was on his last shot.

1:35. Thanked me. Headed to the house.

Connected SkyTools to the Paramount (indirectly). Felt like doing some visual astronomy. Lowered the red lighting.

Checked Nicole's mount. Looked through the saddle. Seemed to be tracking fine. Tapped it, fairly firmly. It did not shift or more.

Clay was still working. I hoped Mr Wheelband was not trying to sleep.

M2! Messier 2. It was starting to descend. Slewed, from ST3P. A good point. A lovely globular. Many stars. Intense. Dense centre. Individual stars could be resolved. With the 27mm in the C14. I wanted to do that again as I have only been able to find one entry in my logs.

Heard a noise. Visited with Ian W on the Observing Pad. He was packing up his Dob. Wondered if had seen Fomalhaut. It was! Due south. 15 degrees up. Noted the Circlet, under the Great Square. The somewhat bright star the left was Diphda.

There was dew on the Warm Room windows.

1:59. Considered my next target from NGC 772. In Aries. Slewed.

Huh. Faint. Wow. I had also seen 770! Right beside the main galaxy. 772 was an oval shape, extremely faint. Very diffuse disc and arms. 770 was to my 4 o'clock. Noted 3 stars to the north. Made me wonder by the BGO had refused it...

A great night. I felt I needed to press. But considered that it was too late to start a major imaging campaign.

Lens simulations. I considered simulating the Canon body and all the various lenses in SkyTools. Be easy to do. Might be helpful for planning for star trails or tracked images.

Bright light! Weird. Coming from the garage? I was worried that Clay was mucking up images with his white light.

Had one more look at the two NGC galaxies.

Pointed to the Heart Nebula aka Sh 2-190 in Cassiopeia. Grabbed some accessories.

The Interactive Atlas of SkyTools showed that these were large structures.

2:28. Tried a bunch of things. Started with the Panoptic 27mm in the C14 and saw what looked like a cluster. Zoomed out with the Plössl 55mm (with the O-III). Then put the 27mm in the Tele Vue 101. Very wide field. And then the 55mm still with O-III filter in the TV101. I saw wispy stuff. Ah ha! And I saw two blobs. One was IC 1805, aka Collinder 26; the other was NGC 1027, aka Collinder 30. They were to my 10 and 4 o'clock. The 18mm ocular cut off one of the clusters. I thought I could see nebulosity.

I saw a round pattern thing. OK. Spotted HD 15558. Yellow and orange. In the middle of the IC 1805 cluster.

Decided to pan to the Soul Nebula. Panned to the east. I could see some stuff. It looked linear to me.

1027 is a very simple cluster. Not very exciting.

Big, faint objects. Considered that I should view again, with a large aperture.

Nicole's mount continued to track fine. Bumped and pushed it.

Viewed RZ Cassiopeiae. In the Tele Vue with the 18mm. I saw three stars, including SAO 12413, pointing to it. Varies 6.2 and 7.7 over 28 hours. SkyTools showed extensive information including the time for the next eclipse. Looked for some nearby comparison stars. Unfortunately, there were not a lot. RZ was brighter than the AB stars of HD 18056 aka HIP 13836, at magnitude 7.7.

The bright star at my 4 o'clock was SU Cas. Mag 5.9. RZ looked about the same brightness as SU.

I was tired.

Read the Turn Left at Orion notes.

3:00. Decided I did not want to look at any more variable stars.

Returned to the GBO with hot chocolate. Orion was rising. Andromeda and the Great Square were straight up. Tried to spot the M33. Noted The Eagle was setting. Weird. The Milky Way was over the house, arcing west to east. Never noticed that before.

Just noticed Neptune in my list. Slewed.

Checked Nicole's CGEM. Expected it to be nearly horizontal. Hibernated it.

Returned to the big gun to check the field. Faint close star above or east, bright star (PPM 709544) to the left or north. Pale blue.

3:28. About an 1/8th or 1/10th of the distance, from the GSC star, slightly to the south. 112 vs 12 arc-seconds. Got it. Spotted several times as the seeing settled.

What about Uranus? Well placed. Slewed.

3:37. Saw bright stars above and below. Saw faint things nearby.

Clay had white lights on again.

Right. The bright star below, or south, the planet was PPM 144664. With two faint stars nearby, making a fine triangle. Saw a star between. SkyTools said it was mag 15. Huh. Titania and Oberon looked pretty close. Grabbed the 32mm occulting eyepiece. It was wet. I put it beside the vent of John Repeat Dance to dry.

Confirmed. I saw Titania, toward the PPM star, and Oberon, to the south-east. Mags 13.9 and 14.2. They were the same distance from Uranus. Forming a triangle.

3:53. Could not see Ariel or Umbriel.

Slewed to Almaak. Nearly straight up. SkyTools said it was a quad. A and B were easy. The BC separation was 0.07". Not happening. D was faint and well away.

Took the dry occulting eyepiece out to the 14-inch 'scope to spot D. No luck. Sadly.

Considered that I should mark this star as logged.

It was 4:00. Time to hit the hay? Started shutting down the computers. Closed the roof. Whoa! The mount went to a weird park position, canted far over. Reconnected, reaimed, reprogrammed the park. Tested it. OK.

4:11. Turned off the recorder.

4:13. Noted a double on the bottom edge of the V of Taurus.

Clayton was leaving!

Checked the conditions: wind zero, W, hum 99, baro 1022.4, temp 15.6.


As I wound down in the living room, Clayton said goodbye.

tested CGEM again

Tested Nicole's CGEM again. In the GBO this time. Polar aligned it. Two-star aligned it with one calibration star. Slewed the M31. And let it track for about 3 hours. No issues. Very strange.

fun with old lens (Blue Mountains)

While I had the old Takumar lens on, I thought I'd try another target. Messier 45 (M45) aka the Subaru. The Pleiades.

I was very surprised by the first shots. This is a fun lens. I stopped it down one position (whatever is between 2 and 2.8) and it cleaned up the image. Neat.

Pleiades rising over the hill

Canon 40D, Takumar 55mm at f/2.4, ISO 1000, 10 seconds, manually focused, Fotodiox adapter, tripod, DPP.

astronomy for birds (Blue Mountains)

From the pine tree.

looking south-east from the pine tree

From the maple tree.

looking north from the maple tree

For both. Canon 40D, Takumar 55mm at f/2, ISO 1000, 30 seconds, manually focused, Fotodiox adapter, tripod, DPP.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

2 but not 3 (Blue Mountains)

Spotted Venus and Jupiter at sunset. Mercury was too low. Found Jupiter first in cheapo binos. Then I saw it naked eye.

helped new supers

Helped out two new CAO supervisors this weekend. Various things. Keys, yard work equipment, using the observatory, helping members, etc.

imaged lambda Arietis (Halifax)

A couple of nights ago I asked the SMU BGO robot to image lambda Aries on my behalf (centred on TYC 1757 00621 1). A double star system. The luminance frame is slightly trailed but it's OK for my purposes.

multi-star system lambda Aries in luminance

Luminance only, 4 seconds subexposures, 5 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

This too was on my View Again list to verify colours, the B star in particular. I look forward to what will be revealed in a fully processed colour image. First viewed 30 October 2008.

squeezed in NGC 1023 (Halifax)

I saw the queue was empty. Fired in a job. The BGO robot captured NGC 1023 for me. It is an angled galaxy with a very bright core in Perseus. The east edge of the galaxy appears large and extended. One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 1023 in luminance

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

Spotted faint galaxy LEDA 2140117.

Spotted long oval LEDA 2140229.

Spotted smudge PGC 10133.

Spotted bright, compact LEDA 2139080.

There's something left or east from SAO 55779, not identified in SkyTools 3 Pro.

There's a small but bright oval to the right of GSC 02845-0174.

To the south-east of TYC 02845-0249 1, there appear to be two edge-on galaxies.

To the west of TYC 02845-0249 1, there's a long streak.

The bright star to the left is the double SAO 55779 aka A 1820. The companion is the nearest dim star to the west-south-west.


Found this target in my SkyTools showpieces list. I removed it. There are far better edge-on galaxies. Also removed it from my View Again list.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

checked CGEM

Had a go at Nicole's mount. The old Celestron CGEM has been giving her grief.

Powered it up with my PSU supply, ran through the alignment, slewed to a target, and let it sit. It did not seem to be tracking. Later when I bumped it, it whirred and moved! Just the signature she had described. Weird.

Tore it down. Removed the side panel.

Inspected the motor mounting positions. No change from when I had last touched it. Good.

Removed the CR 2025 battery, as I had intended. Tested the voltage. Seemed OK.

Removed the circuit board from the panel. Closely inspected it for damage. No blown integrated circuits. No leaking capacitors. Just the solder flux everywhere. Reinstalled.

Fired it up again and let it track. Periodically tapped and bumped it.

Periodically photographed it.

Celestron CGEM equatorial mount being tested

5:57 PM.

Celestron CGEM equatorial mount being tested - 1 hour later


Celestron CGEM equatorial mount being tested - 2 hours in


Celestron CGEM equatorial mount being tested - working


Damn thing seemed to work fine now.

Nicole was very happy. But I don't fancy that kind of repair. That's hocus pocus. Still, was something kludged inside the circuit board? Did removing it from external and internal power make it reset? Or was it a bad connection?

I suggested more testing. A different hand controller would help us isolate the problem. Worst-case scenario is that we discover the mount PCB is wobbly.

fixed starter

Repaired the "new" John Deere ride-on mower. It would not start when Nicole tried. The starter was running but not engaging the flywheel. I removed the Briggs and Stratton engine cowling (which enabled the mouse removal). I was expecting broken teeth; they were fine. I poked and prodded the small gear. That seemed to fix it. It flew up the shaft on all subsequent tests. Sticky, I guess.

made a shield

Made a simple dew shield for the NexStar 11 SCT telescope. Partly in response to getting dewed out last night. Used some of the grey thin camping foam that I had procured early. Donated one of my bungee cords to the cause. Good to go.

didn't work

Tried imaging the Sun with the RASC TC Calcium K-line PST and my Canon DSLR but I could not reach focus. Still, a one-second exposure showed well. So learned something in the process.

from the floor (Blue Mountains)

It was a little cool. I put on my pyjamas bottoms! Ready to observe and then rapidly transit to bed!

I moved into the Geoff Brown Observatory. Nikki was happy that I'd be nearby. Set up the Celestron NexStar 11 GPS near the north-west corner. My eyepiece collection. SkyTools, connected.

The adjustable height chair was broken. I used a rolly-polly chair and the drummer's stool.

8:53 PM, Friday 26 August. Nicole flew the big 'scope.

I loaded some new ODEC batteries in the Sony recorder. I had 24 hours of space left.

Brought out my radio, from the car, to listen to the Blue Jays game. Tuned to 980 in London—weak. They were up 6-4.

Switched to red light mode in SkyTools. Turned down the lights on the observatory floor.

Fired up the mosquito coil. First time using the metal-glass fibre container.

Weather conditions were not looking great. Poor transparency but good seeing. Good for planets. So maybe I'd focus on double stars.

Felt dehydrated.

Logged, given the recent BGO runs, NGC 246, 42 Piscium, HD 196411, theta Lyrae, IC 289. For some, it was the first-time observed. One of the planetary nebula images was badly trailed.

Activated my prepared weekend observing list. Around 80 to 90 objects.

Viewed Saturn. I saw four, possibly more, moons. There seemed to be a shadow in the optical path from some dirt or debris.

Moved to my next target. Big slew.

Clayton dropped by briefly. Done his build work, for the evening, apparently

Jays scored another home run.

Looked closely at HD 204372 in Cepheus. A suggestion from an automatically generated list from SkyTools 3 Pro. I had to do a short, little star hop to get to it. Considered bumping the power from the baader 36mm to the Celestron 26. It was not good. I had a hard time splitting it. Super tight. Equal stars. Perhaps the one on the right was slightly darker. ST3P confirmed that. 7.9 and 8.9. They were oriented left-right to me. According to ST3P, west was to the 2 o'clock position. Fire truck. An interesting pair. The separation was 1.9 arcseconds. Neat pair. Challenging. Decided to increase the power some more. Pentax 20? Grabbed the Tele Vue 9. Not a good view. Dimmer, of course. But it split them easily.

Used my computer mouse, on my knee, wirelessly, to push the NexStar computer buttons. Handy.

Chris dropped in. We talked about the planets visible tonight, the big appulse. Clouds interfered unfortunately.

Considered trying the binoviewers. It had been a while.

Jays scored 3! Wow.

9:19 PM. Could not merge the images in the binoviewer. Frustrating. Tried flexing the unit. No luck. Double stars of double stars. I wondered if they could be collimated. There were some holes, it seemed. Or covers. Put it aside to check later in the weekend.

Went back to the Pentax.

Did a Sync command before going to the next target. Went back to the 26mm.

Once again I was lost.

Decided to go to Deneb then sync. Nothing! The pointing was way off...

Had the wrong eyepiece configured in the software so I was getting thrown off.

OK. Synced then went to target. Again.

Around 9:45. Nicole popped in. She had been talking to Clayton. They spotted some meteors. She thought it gorgeous out. She wanted to shoot some photos of Saturn. Loaned her my 2" nose-piece.

She kept having a little trouble with the door. I thought of the classic Gary Larson comic. ;-)

Bautisa got a RBI. 12 runs now.

Nicole caught another meteor. Over my shoulder. Long tail.

Showed her the cable tether. She was briefly blinded by the camera back when it started up. She forgot her red flashlight; directed her to ours in the drawer. Offered her my DC coupler.

Ian D wandered through. He wasn't getting any good images due to the transparency.

I couldn't see the companion for the diffraction rings. Not exactly concentric.

Bautisa scored. 13-5.

Reminded her to do crude focusing and then rely on the temperature controlled focuser. Ian coached her on focusing and ISO. He suggested 400. Fraction of a second. She used the timer.

Nope. I could not split the double star HR 7843. One of Haas's project stars. On my View Again list. SkyTools said the separation was 0.80"; they are about 3 magnitudes different. The sky would not allow it.

Split HR 8040, aka Σ2741, at 2.0". A triple. The C was much dimmer. Well away. This target sounded familiar. Found it in my View Again list.

I wondered if she might be getting mirror-slap. I posited she could program the mirror-up function in conjunction with the timer, as I had done. She didn't want to bother, partly due to the low elevation.

She saw the planet was swimming. I suggested she shoot video. One minute. Her camera supported it but she didn't know how to use RegiStax. I encouraged her to get some data. Worry about the processing later. I asked if she might want to use her intervalometer.

She was still working on focus. I showed her how to use the TCF. Memorise the starting point.

Noted a pentagon of faint stars nearby.

The stars were in different positions than the software.

Magnitude 15!

Ian W visited. Asked what I was doing. He asked if she was shooting video. He was shooting NGC 5907. He was heading to the Dob to do some visual.

We talked about science education.

Ian D announced it was scotch o'clock. All right!

I was getting disoriented trying to find some nearby doubles in the field.

Nicole found the computer had gone to sleep. We checked her new account power settings. I suggested it be put into Presentation mode. It would never go off then.

She slewed to Mars. We talked about SkySafari. I suggested that the Tonight's Best is useful when entertaining, doing the show-and-tell. Back at the computer, she noticed Pluto was in the area. Told her about my images during fly-by, three shots, each 2 days apart.

Couldn't find a star I was looking for. I could not see B star of HR 8025. This pair is near 8040. I tried it, seeing it in the field, displayed by SkyTools.

The game was over. 15 to 8. Well done. I turned off the staticky Grundig.

Ping and Ben arrived. Nicole greeted them. They headed to the yard to set up their tent.

Nicole received an "invalid code" error when trying to slew to M8. Weird. Something to do with the software date/time. We tried restarting TheSky6. I took the mount down to cold iron. She homed. It was all good again.

I headed to the comet in Cygnus. C/2016 A8 (LINEAR). In the middle of nowhere.

11:43 PM. Viewed the comet. Just barely visible. 26mm was slightly better. A round fuzz. No tail.

Nicole landed on the Swan. I reminded her that we have a 2-inch O-III filter.

Ian D returned. Break time!

The coyotes got going.

He shared that the HyperStar is very sensitive to sky conditions. We talked about awkward Granite Gap situation. Possibly visiting Pelee Island and Pelee Point National Park. Latitude 41.9. About 3 degrees south. Interesting. Verified that he bought SkyTools. The RASC National Office machine. The Burke-Gaffney Observatory. Super-faint quasars. The iOptron smartphone clamp. Angle finders, handy for terrestrial, handy for solar imaging. Canon bodies, including the new WiFi-enabled 5D Mark IV. Shutter lifespans.

Nicole and Chris joined us in the Warm Room. We toasted new supervisors. We talked about praying mantis, iTelescope locations, science article writing and science education, strange insertions, Ivan Semeniuk, C14 mirror locks, the weirdest animals.

I headed back out to the N11. Sorted the syncing.

Nicole centred the C14 on a planet for Ping and Ben. Then headed to M51, the Whirlpool. Or tried. 'Scope was pointing to a weird spot; she tried again and got it.

Still, I could not see the comet. [ed: Huh?]

Milky Way, right overhead.

Meteor! I got one! Big one. Right through Aquila. Long train. Kinda followed the Milky Way. Must have been a Perseid.

Chris and I talked briefly about the Garnet Star. He talked about nebulosity. Really? I never knew about that. Cool.

Referred Nicole to the Celestron big binoculars.

Nicole wondered if I was packing up. Nope! Just getting started.

She went to the North American (Caldwell 20). Hard targets. They couldn't see anything. Possibly. I could see some wisps in the 20mm (with the filter). Too much grunt. I suggested the 55mm in the TV101. With our Oxygen filter. Suggested asking Ian W for other filters. Ping asked if it was in the right direction. In binoculars, yes. But in our telescopes, backwards. It improved with a different filter.

12:05 AM, Saturday 27 August. Got the B star with the 9mm. I viewed ρ (rho) Capricornus. Another item from my View Again list. A quintuple system. Same separation? Yes! Separated my next target! Got the C star! About the same separation between D and E. I changed eyepieces. "C is toward D and E." Yes! I got the B star. Yes. Freaking eh. 4 o'clock position?

Ping asked if we could see alpha Centauri. No, sadly, not from here.

I synced and moved to my next candidate.

12:16 AM, Saturday 27 August. Tiny object. Blueish, aquamarine. Tiny. Not round. Below the line of 4 stars. [ed: Poor notes. Not sure which planetary I was looking at.]

12:21 AM. Is there a naked eye double, near the centre star of the W, of Cassiopeia? [ed: Yes, υ (upsilon) 1 and υ2, south of γ (gamma).]

12:22. Can you see a shell around the PN with 9mm?

We saw some high cloud.

Super-faint. Doris. Asteroid 48.

12:33. Slow mover from left to right, while on 48 Doris. Very slow. Satellite? Or another solar system object?!

Ping wanted to know how far M13 was. I checked in SkyTools. 2600 light-years. Ian D helped Ping see the Andromeda galaxy naked eye. She asked about the Crab Nebula. Too low. I thought it was a winter target. He slewed to M92 for them. Encouraged her to count the stars. She said 200; Ian said one can sometimes count 500.

Oh oh. I noticed dew on the corrector plate. While I cleared it with the hair dryer, Ian D retrieved his dew shield for me.

Viewed τ (tau) Cygni. Wow. P, C, Q, and D. All visible. P, C, and Q were in a nearly straight line. Nearly equidistant. Could not split A and B. Nicole had a look. This is an entry in the RASC Observer's Handbook Double and Multiple Stars list. It specifically refers to the AB pair only.

To the west was a different system, the pair of SEI 461.

Nicole slewed to the Ring for the crowd.

Chip break.

Low cloud. I could not see all of Cygnus. Ugh. We were in a bowl. Sagittarius was clear. Delphinus was clear. The wind was up.

I wanted to look at Messier 2 (M2) again.

1:12. I slewed to Neptune. Yes! Spotted Triton! The star to the east was magnitude 11. The star to the south-west was mag 12.5. Triton, to the north, was 13.5.

Another double.

Nicole asked me number for the Pleiades. 45. And brightest star in the cluster. Uh. Didn't know that. Merope? Atlas? The numbers for the Double Cluster. They couldn't see anything. Still had a high power eyepiece. I simulated the field for her, the 55mm in the TV101. Made the two clusters very small.

Stoopid clouds. Stoopid hobby. Stoopid roof.


1:35. Clear in Perseus. NGC 1528. The stars went dim. Clouded out.

Checked the weather. Looked at the clouds with NOAA. Something big was headed our way, just crossing over Lake Michigan. And something pushing from the north.

Cygnus was good again. Applied the constellation filter in the Real Time mode.

HD 207087. Slewed. Pretty well straight up. Wasn't sure I was on target. Synced using Deneb. Then tried to sort the field of view orientation. The big house-shape was aiming down. Oh. I see. OK. I could see C to the west and D and E to the north-east. D and E were equal in brightness, very faint; C seemed fainter, required averted. The bright object was supposed to be the A and B pair.

1:58. Switched from the Pentax to the Tele Vue. I was not sure if I could split A and B. Tough. A little challenging with the NexStar set low on the tripod, I had to kneel on the floor. Went to the 20mm again.

Deneb. B was visible. Challenging. Faint. To the east.

Dew on the tabletops. It was a little cool.

Ian D and Nicole looked at M33.

Nicole and I reviewed the telescope shutdown.

Nicole spotted a huge meteor. She just about blew a gasket. The best she'd seen in ages. She wondered if she should report it.

Misread my chart. Thought it said there was an F star.

Finally got the B star.

2:28. Got B of delta Cyg. Visible in 20mm. Very obvious with 9mm.

Headed to the house for another layer. Noticed the Moon was coming up. Reflecting off the clouds. That's it, then.

Started to shut down things. Put the N11 in hibernate mode.

Heard a protesting Killdeer.

2:38. Left the GBO.

Friday, August 26, 2016

viewed Sun two ways (Blue Mountains)

Viewed the Sun in Chris's rig. In white - spots, 2 groups, 1 big. In h-alpha - proms at 8 o'clock, filaments in the centre. Nice.

enabled Hibernate

Had a look at the dining room computer. It responds correctly to being put into Stand By. Tried the hibernate function--didn't work. Dove into the Control Panel and activated the feature. Tried again. Hit the "hidden" keyboard shortcut--now it worked. Made a little note card for users. Clayton wandered through around then. Explained how it all work.

captured IC 289 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged IC 289 for me. A small, faint planetary nebula in Cassiopeia. Curiously, it is one of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest planetary nebula IC 289 luminance

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

shot 42 Psc (Halifax)

I requested imagery of 42 Piscium from the BGO robot. Top-left. ROE 83 is to the right.

double stars 42 Psc and ROE 83 in luminance

Luminance only, 5 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; left is east.

I viewed earlier on 16 Aug '15. I think I wanted to view again, particularly for the colours. So then I'll have to process well in full colour...

To the right is ROE 83 or SAO 91862, easily split in the image.


Assembled in colour on 10 Sep '16.

imaged NGC 246 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 246 for me. A large but very faint planetary nebula in Cetus. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Also known as Caldwell 56.

RASC Finest NGC 246 - a planetary nebula - luminance

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


Noted that SkySafari also refers to this object as the Skull Nebula.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

captured HD 196411 (Halifax)

I asked the BGO robot to shoot the multi-star system HD 196411 in Delphinus.

multi-star system HD 196411 in luminance

Luminance only, 5 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; left is east.

I first viewed this system on 12 July 2015. I did not see the D star at the time.

In the image, A and B are the bright close, (nearly) horizontal stars. The C star, same brightness as A and B, is to the south. D is a faint star to the north of AB, the same separation as C.

At the bottom left is Rotanev. [ed: w00t! Dug the faint, close C star out!]

The bright star near the bottom right is SAO 106294.

imaged theta Lyrae (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged the multi-star system θ (theta) Lyrae for me.

multi-star system theta Lyr in luminance

Luminance only, 3 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; left is east.

I first viewed this system on 2 Aug 2010 and noted two of the star colours. Learned from the Cambridge Double Star Atlas that it was a triple and made a note to view again.

Easy in the photo. The B star is the bright star to the east-north-east; the C star is fainter, to the east-south-east, at the same separation as B. A lovely triangle.

ST4 announced

It's official. Greg Crinklaw informed us on the Yahoo!Group that SkyTools 4 will be released soon, hopefully around the new year. He shared a link that mentions some key features and shows some screen snapshots. Can't wait!

photographed NGC 884 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged χ Persei or NGC 884 for me. The other half of the Double Cluster between Cassiopeia and Perseus. The pair of clusters is also called Caldwell 14. One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 884 luminance

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


Very near the centre of the open cluster, SkyTools notes a double: SAO 23245 aka WFC 8. The software says the partner star is V619 Per, a variable. The positions of the stars in the software closely match my image. But there's something odd. In the Object Information box, A is noted with a magnitude of 9.4 while B is 9.5. The chart however makes B appear brighter. And when I hover over the stars, A shows as 9.4 and B as 6.6! When I specifically double-click on B and examine the Object Information, V619 is listed as a variable star ranging from V 6.59 to V 6.63. And in my image, the "B" star appears dimmer by a magnitude or two from A... That's confusing.

Near the top-left of the image, north-east from the centre of the cluster is a faint double, STI 1857. The dimmer companion is toward the cluster. Curiously, opposite B, is a star of similar brightness, similar separation, making a pleasing visible triple. But it is an unrelated star.

shot NGC 869 again (Halifax)

I asked the BGO robot to shoot NGC 869 for me again (after the partial run on 21 August). Better quality, in general. One half of Caldwell 14; one half of the Double Cluster.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 869 luminance

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

captured NGC 1501 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 1501 for me. A neat planetary nebula in Camelopardalis. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. The slight registration problem is affecting the central star.

RASC Finest NGC 1501 planetary nebula luminance

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

images HD 186224 (Halifax)

I asked the BGO robot to image the double star HD 186224 (by centering on SAO 105169) in Sagitta. There's the diamond kite with short tail.

multi-star system HD 186224 in luminance

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

I wanted to revisit this target as I had trouble spotting the D star in the quad. The image shows a star in the same location as SkyTools 3 Pro says the D should be. Pretty easy.


This image includes HD 350461 to the north-east...

imaged 70 Ophiuchi (Halifax)

I asked the BGO robot to image the fast-moving double star 70 Ophiuchi (by centering on GSC 00434 02340).

multi-star system 70 Ophiuchi luminance

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

70 Oph aka Σ2272 (Struve) is a multi-star system. Part of the reason I was interested in imaging it was to identify some of the other members.

Also, the AB pair is a binary system with a 88 year period. If I image the pair periodically, I might see the motion.

Curiously, SkyTools 3 Pro shows pairs such as VX and AY but in the end there seem to be 11 or so pairs. From the image, I'm having no trouble seeing P, Q, R, S, T, U, W, and Y. V and X are interesting. I think I can identify V without difficulty but it looks like the X star has moved dramatically—it is heading to the south-east. Anyway, it's very neat seeing all the elements!

There looks to be a double well away to the north-north-west in the image. Not identified in ST3P.

The 5 second exposure time is blowing out the A and B stars. If, in fact, I want to record the binary motion, I'll have to use a faster exposure time. Maybe I'll try around 2 or 3 seconds...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

on deck for TSTM

Mr Markov asked me if I'd deliver The Sky This Month for October 12. Checked the sked. I'm good to go.

all MODLs leased

The last My Own Dome Lot at the CAO was leased! We will be at full capacity. w00t!

Monday, August 22, 2016

downgraded BOINC

Hacked the Android to get BOINC working again. Downloaded the boinc_7.4.43.apk and installed it from the PC drive. Good.

view the Palomar globs

That's interesting that an article at Sky & Telescope should appear about the Palomar globular clusters. I became aware of them back in July and built a list in SkyTools. And have considered imaging them with the Burke-Gaffney.

IDA installed

Read about, on the web site, the installation of the new International Docking Adapter (IDA) on the International Space Station (ISS), completed by the spacewalkers Williams and Rubins on the 19th.

over 800

Broke 800 multiple stars with the open cluster images from the weekend.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

spotted planets (Bradford)

Spotted Mars and Saturn in the south-west as I headed toward the highway.

And Antares.

Did I say stupidly busy highway?!

work party prep

Did some fall work party prep at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Examined, photographed, and measured the deck under MODL 3 in preparation for building a new deck for MODL 5. Checked the electrical and ethernet hardware in MODL 2 and then located many of the parts required in the work room. Also did some recon in the kitchen. More photos and notes.

received some 869 data (Halifax)

I noticed that BGO was running so I quickly sent in some requests. The 'bot was able to partly image NGC 869 aka h Persei for me. One half of the Double Cluster (and Caldwell 14) which is one of the RASC Finest NGCs. The imaging run stopped short of collecting blue data so I'll have to have another go.

part of RASC Finest the Double Cluster - NGC 869 luminance

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


SkyTools says there are a few doubles included... ;-)


The bright star dead centre is V520 Per. It is a simple pair, also known as HJ 1114. The dimmer B star is easily spotted up and right or to the north-west. ST3 says it is 20" away. My image shows is closer. The Washington Double Star Catalog says, as of 2013, the separation is 16.4". This matches more closely my photo.

The bright star up and left of centre or to the north-east is HD 14143, aka Burnham 1370, a simple double. SkyTools 3 Professional shows the B star well away and almost north. My photo does not show a star in this location. I noted ST3P says the data is from 1902! Old data. My photos does show a faint star, around magnitude 13, at the 2 o'clock position, attractively close. Is this it? Has the B star moved dramatically in 100 years? Or has it wandered further north?! Up into the triangle above?! The WDS is interesting. It says the mag 12.0 B star is in basically the same position as ST3. I dunno...

Perhaps the gravitational effects in open clusters are significant and the members get pushed and pulled in all different ways.

Near the top of the image, slightly left, is the triple system WZ 4. The B star is visible as a bump on the west edge of A, touching. ST3P states the separation is 3.6". C is away, to the north.

At the 1 o'clock position from centre, not quite as far away, is SAO 23172 aka TDS 81. ST3P says the separation is 1.2". But I see a pattern like WZ 4. The WDS shows two pairs actually! The AB sep is 1.2". But the AC pair aka BKO 168 (not listed in ST3) shows a sep of 4.3 as of 2015. Ah ha! I've caught the C star.

The bright star with close partner to the bottom right is HD 14053. South-west of centre. Three or so magnitudes different.

The wide dim pair south of HD is STI 1842. Curiously, the A star is the dimmer one.


Imaged again on 25 August.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

thanked Dr Seager

Hand-delivered a 2017 RASC Observer's Calendar to Dr Sara Seager and thanked her for everything she's done for the Toronto Centre.

received NGC 891 data (Halifax)

Wow. Cool galaxy. BGO captured NGC 891 for me. This edge-on galaxy is in Andromeda (aka Caldwell 23). It is one of the RASC Finest NGCs. There's a bit of a gradient; not surprising given the moonlight.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 891 luminance

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


On the east edge of the galaxy, slight above the bulge, there is something going on. An oval and a wisp. I suspect the oval is a background galaxy. Possibly it is a small satellite! But the wisp?! Dunno!

On the west edge of the bulge there is a bright round fuzzy. I wonder if this a large globular cluster or a large satellite galaxy to 891. Very neat.

At the bottom edge of the frame, to the south-south-east of the galaxy, is a distant oval galaxy. This  is PGC 9042.

Due south of the galaxy is a small round lint ball. This is LEDA 2194478.

In the image, I see another fuzzy near the aforementioned, below and right, or south-west. Slightly fainter. It is not identified by SkyTools.

The bright star is the bottom left is double ES 1501. I cannot split the A and B stars.

North-east of ES 1501 is a small round fuzz ball. Again, not identified in my software.


Tried again on 3 September but did not get a full data set.

captured NGC 663 (Halifax)

The BGO 'bot imaged open cluster NGC 663 on my behalf. Located in Cassiopeia, it is one of the RASC Finest NGCs. Also called Caldwell 10. There is an interesting line or band of stars, a rift, along the east edge, nearly vertical. Neat.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 663 luminance

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


There are a bunch of double stars in here too!

Pretty dead centre in the image is a tight double. Barely a black hairline between the two stars. SAO 11968 aka Σ152. About two magnitudes different.

South-west of Struve 152 is another tight pair, touching stars, equal brightnesses. That's Σ151.

South of 152 is a quad system. STI 288. A is fairly bright. South-east and close is faint B. North-east is C then D. Both C and D, in the image, seem the same brightness.

Beyond 151 from 152, about the same distance, further to the south-west, is equal pair STI 285.

The angled triple to the south-east is STI 298. B and C are equal and very slightly dimmer than A.

East-south-east of centre is an interesting system. In the image, it looks Saturn like. Vertically oriented, there's a dim, bright, then dim star, all touching. This appears to be STI 295. SkyTools lists the C star but does not show it in the chart.

STI 291 is slightly east of centre. It appears in a box or square of stars. The positions are different than in SkyTools. Proper motion? Gravitational forces?

Due east of centre is the tight, touching slightly different pair STI 297.

An obvious double, touching stars, slightly different intensities, up and left or north-east from centre is SAO 11974.

Amazing. Why would some of these be tagged as doubles and not others? It's a mystery to me.

imaged NGC 457 (Halifax)

BGO imaged NGC 457 for me. Also know as the E.T. Cluster (or The Owl or Caldwell 13). An open cluster in Cassiopeia. One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest NGC aka The ET Cluster luminance

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

SkyTools shows it is full of double stars...


The bright star is, in fact, φ (phi) Cassiopeiae. aka 34 Cas and H III 23 (William Herschel's group 3). A quintuple system! The second brightest star is HD 7902 or the C star of phi. Between A and C, equally spaced, nearly the same magnitudes, are two faint stars. The one closest to A, or to the north-east, is B. You'd think the other star would be part of the system. Nope. Just some random star. SkyTools 3 Pro says it is GSC 03681-1653. Beyond C, opposite A, is E. Not quite inline. And much brighter than B. D, curiously, is well away, to the WNW of A. It looks to be about the same magnitude as E. [ed: Found it in my View Again list in ST3P—removed it.]

Beyond φ D is a tight group of bright stars, some brighter than D. This is ES 408. This is an 8-star system. I cannot split A and B in the image but A is not completely round. C, oddly, is way off to the north-west. C looks to be a similar brightness to A. D is to the east of C, merged, but dimmer, so making a dog-toy shape. E is to the north-east of A, close, and also about the same magnitude. F is a dimmer star to the south-east of E. Compared to ST3P, it appears to be moving, to the south-west. G is east of A. Dimmer. It also appears to be moving, north, this time. H is beyond F, opposite E. Same brightness as G. [ed: I think there's a glitch in ST3P as I cannot select the A star directly.]

STI 1564 is a touching pair of nearly equal stars to the east of ES 408 C. Perhaps A or B or both have moved a lot...

Finally, STI 1560 is a wide pair of equal stars north-west of ES 408 C.

re-framed Pac-Man (Halifax)

BGO shot a field centred on star TYC 3663 00635 1. This is near the middle of the Pac-Man Nebula and open cluster NGC 281. I wanted to reframe the shot from the first run on 8 August. It worked. Unfortunately, it looks like there's a bit of a gradient on the bottom edge.

RASC Finest NGC Pac-Man Nebula and open cluster luminance

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

tested USB 2 adapter

Tested the new USB ethernet extender. It worked! In the Geoff Brown Observatory, we have a kit but it only operates at USB 1.0. The new IOGEAR USB 2.0 ethernet extender is, obviously, 2.0 compatible.

I did a quick test with the Canon 40D, Backyard EOS, John Repeat Dance, a short networking patch cord, and the new doodads, and everything seemed to work fine, no protesting, no low-speed warnings.

Clay asked about speeds so I looked them up.
  1. 1.5 to 12 Mbps
  2. 480 Mbps
  3. 5000 Mbps
Explained I could not seem to find a USB 3 option but the 2 would be much better than the current! And maybe that's moot anyway since the ethernet will top out at 100 or 1000 Mbps.

and then the rain

The rain started shortly after Clay arrived.

Friday, August 19, 2016

shot The Veil again (Halifax)

All right. Clear in Halifax! The Burke Gaffney telescope started imaging for me. First up was a re-shoot of the lower portion of the Eastern [ed: Correction! Western!] Veil Nebula.

This time I used the star TYC 2687 02620 1 as the centre point target. Unfortunately, a satellite wandered through the luminance data. The O-III still does not appear positioned where I want... Seems to be the same 7 August. I think I'll not fight this any more.

RASC Finest NGC portion East Veil O-III filter

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


NGC 6960. Caldwell 34.

ahead of the rain (Blue Mountains)

Did more testing of Sound Recorder.

Spotted Mars and Antares.

Saw a glow in the eastern clouds. Impending Moon. Light bouncing around.

I was anxious about possible rain. Closed the roof of the Geoff Brown Observatory.

Noticed the lightning in the south-west was continuous. Decided to disconnect the Paramount for protection.

I considered trying my new USB-ethernet adapter. But then I didn't feel like hanging out in the GBO further. Packed up gear for the house. Exited the observatory.

9:41. Opened the blinds and dimmed the lights so to watch the storm roll in.

Reviewed audio recording technique.

wishful thinking (Blue Mountains)

Started recording with the Windows XP Sound Recorder (having left my Sony unit in the other vehicle).

9:14 PM. Settled into the Warm Room. And it was very warm. Was hoping to do a bit of observing after the tour for the Mr Store.

Saw lightning in the clouds to the south-west. That was not looking good. Clouds coming in from the west.

Now I could not see Mars, Antares, or Saturn together. Earlier, that was no trouble. One or two, through the clouds. I did see σ (sigma) Scorpii briefly.

Checked the weather forecast. Rain tomorrow. The Clear Sky Chart was very spotty.

did a quick tour (Blue Mountains)

Provided a quick site tour of the Carr Astronomical Observatory to one of our neighbours. A retired teacher, he's interested in sorting out his telescope, which is collecting dust. Pointed out some stars and planets.

delivery service

Delivered a bunch of stuff to the Carr Astronomical Observatory including a ride-on mower, new iOptron smartphone telescope adapter, a replacement Manfrotto dovetail plate, RASC licence plate holders, big cooler I had borrowed, new medical supplies, and RASC 2017 Observer's Calendars.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

quick peek (Bradford)

Took a look from the backyard. Surprisingly clear. A bit lost for a moment. Ah, Lyra, straight up. What was that to the right/west? Looked for Cygnus—found it. Swept right again. It must be Hercules. Ah yes, found the keystone. Then Aquila. With Altair. Tarazed looked red! Weird. And I can never remember the name of the other... [ed: Alshain.] No obvious Milky Way. The long grass was soaking wet.

2017 calendars available

The 2017 RASC Observer's Calendars are out!

saw the Moon (Toronto)

Saw the full Moon rise over Toronto. Eww.

Some stars...

Back to work.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Klingon ale on its way

Ian W spotted some Klingon beer—Warnog. Of course, he was at the Garrison Brewing Co. He asked Chris if he need one for his collection. He had already procured some for Nicole and I. Maj!

meteor seasons

It occurred to me that I have never seen a graphical display of meteor showers on a time axis. So I made one.

Note, the curve profile was automatically generated by Excel and does not (likely does not) reflect the actually activity of a shower. The point is to show when the "big" showers happen in a year.

You can see that July and August is a busy time.

There's a 30 to 40 day quiet spell.

But if one were looking for the high-water marker, the big meteor season, as it were, it would be in the winter.

Data from my meteor table.

Monday, August 15, 2016

tidied the blog and companion

Over the last two days, I applied a bunch of updates to this blog and companion pages. In no particular order. I added date links in the Messier life list page for a couple of reasons, to see the history or sequence in which I viewed an object, and to highlight the first logged entry. I found duplicate entries for Burnham 1, HD 5005 in the double stars life list. Noted that the NGC life list was missing a number of links to the recent BGO image captures. And one or two completely missing entries! Updated the photo gallery with 9 new images. I've started adding the text "Messier 999 (M999)" to blog posts to improve searching.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

4.3 ly away

Popping up in headlines but I don't see anything official yet... A rocky planet around red dwarf Proxima Centauri.

listened in to SpaceX

Heard the SpaceX webcast from Florida.

Left a browser window open as I crawled into bed. Around 1:30 AM, I woke and heard the feed start up. But stayed in bed.

Heard the successful launch and MECO. Then I listened to the group monitoring the stage 1 landing and the ruckus as their video feed cut out. The quick recovery by the people reminding all that the focus was on the primary mission. And then the incredible outburst which I can only presume was the reacquisition of the video from the barge with an upright cooling rocket! Surprise, whoops, and cheers. 1:37.

Funny to only participate by audio. And then 15 or 20 minutes later another milestone as they achieved the parking orbit for the Japanese video/data satellite.

Congrats, SpaceX.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

sent late article

A little overdue, I submitted my next Journal article, for the Binary Universe column.

Friday, August 12, 2016

dark again

It was dark when I woke at 5:15 AM today. Winter is coming.

I used to greatly dislike this time of year, as a kid, as a youth, for summer vacation was drawing to a close, that care-free, wanderlust, time of hot days and warm nights. Made me sad. School and classes would be starting up soon. The trees would start turning and cold, harsh winter was around the corner. Never really liked winter. Now, at this stage for me, it is bittersweet. I still love those hot, hot, endless summer days; but I'm coming to enjoy the long, dark nights, for astronomy of course.

I saw (somewhere) a post about the change in daylight at the end, versus the beginning, of August. Can't find it now. But the gist of it was that it was significant.

I noticed it today. A couple of weeks ago, when the alarm went off, it was light out. Not now.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

went to special meeting

Participated in the requisitioned meeting of RASC Toronto Centre Council.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

SS5 for Android available

SkySafari 5 for Android is out! Bill Tschumy of Simulation Curriculum Corp. made the announcement today on the Yahoo!Group.

of the clock

What time is it? Around 10 AM.

sundial at camp

Or about 3 walnuts after sunrise.

Monday, August 08, 2016

too tired (Silent Lake)

So tired. I could not push myself to join Tony again. Headed, with Lora and Phil, back to our camp. Noted the crescent Moon low in the trees. And clear, dark skies in the clearings...

captured cluster and nebula (Halifax)

Huh. Strange. I had charged the BGO robot with imaging NGC 281 for me. But I received an email response noting an error. It might have become cloudy or dawn arrived. Could not have been dawn, given the time of capture. When I checked the Completed Observations log, it was included. And when I checked the ZIP archive contents, I found luminance, red, green, and blue FITS files. Looks like it worked!

NGC 281 is a compound object in Cassiopeia. It is an open cluster (also known as IC 1590, Collinder 8, and OCL 313) inside the Pac-Man Nebula (aka IC 11, Sh 2-184, LBN 616, and Ced 3). One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest NGC 281 cluster in nebula luminance

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

The centre of the cluster harbours the multi-star system HD 5005 aka Burnham 1. Slightly south-west is the double star STI 1454. Both systems I have observed previously.


Shot again 20 August.

photographed NGC 185 again

The BGO robot imaged NGC 185 for me again. I didn't like the severe gradient in the first capture on 4 August. There's still some but it seems less pronounced.

caught NGC 40 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney robotic telescope imaged NGC 40 for me. A very interesting planetary nebula in Cepheus. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Sometimes called the Bow-Tie Nebula.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 40 luminance

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

There are also a couple of very nice double star systems in the field...

At the 10 o'clock position from the nebula, i.e. east-north-east, ¼ of the way from centre, the bright star... that's the A (and B stars) of SAO 4061. The fairly bright star above and slightly right (north-north-west) of A is the C star. Curiously, SkyTools 3 Pro does not show the tight B star until one dramatically zooms into Interactive Atlas. It shows below or south. ST3P, in the Object Information box, says B is 0.5 arcseconds away. The photo however shows a star dimmer than C below A, slightly right, and rather tight. What star is this?! Part of the system or some other star with high proper motion... The WDS shows the AB theta or position angle was 165 in 1971 and 157 in 1991. That's about 10° in 2 decades. And the rho or separation was 0.4 and then 0.5. So moving away. Another 20+ years have gone by... Both ST3P and the WDS suggest they are the same magnitude. Very curious.

At the bottom-right of the image, so south-west of the planetary, is the fairly tight couple HJ 1940. Bright primary and dimmer secondary to the south-east. Thin black line between them.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

fuzzy viewing (Silent Lake)

Ian W, Tony, and I headed to the beach for some astronomy.

Ian and I helped Tony set up his Star Adventurer and capture some wonderful images of the Milky Way overhead (and reflected in the glass-like water). He got very good tracking in his 6 minute subs.

I helped Ian haul the 8" Dob to the shoreline. We enjoyed some lovely views. Then with Ian's binoculars, I spotted Messier 33 (M33). Big and round. Up and right of Metallah aka α (alpha) Tri. That was a first!

A great night, very good conditions, no Moon, no bugs.


The next night he got another great shot. Shared on his Facebook page.

reshot the southern piece (Halifax)

I asked the BGO robot imaged a portion of the West Veil Nebula again. My last attempt (a couple days ago) was halted (perhaps due to clouds). And this was to ultimately make up for badly registered luminance frames captured on 14 July. Looks OK. But chopped on the bottom edge again...

southern portion, Western Veil Nebula in luminance

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


NGC 6960. Caldwell 34.

stood in awe

We visited the Petroglyphs Provincial Park. I was quite moved by the whole event. Glad I went.

I liked the colours associated with the cardinal point directions: yellow for east, red for south, black for west, and white for north. I was intrigued by the medicine wheel.

I enjoyed the story of the angry turtle and how Nanabush used powerful magic to turn the splash of water from its tail into the Milky Way.

The carvings at Kinomagewapkong were incredible. From remarkably realistic to eerily fantastic. I tried to imagine the shaman, the elders, the chosen youth at this sacred place, listening to the spirits below the white marble, sharing their knowledge and wisdom, and adding to glyphs for future generations.

The holistic lifestyle is very inspiring. Everything is connected. The sky, the Moon, the Earth, the water, the land, animals, us. Balance must be maintained. We must share.

What struck me the most perhaps was the remark: "nothing belongs to you."


See ramblin' boy blog post for more information and photographs.

See also James W. Werner's web page.

clear out east

Shortly after I left for a camping trip, a Clear Sky Alarm Clock alert came in. The good weather would enable photography.
Favorable observing conditions at Halifax
Based on your BGO - SMU subscription.
Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
08-07 @ Hour 22 for 2 hours (0%/Above Ave./Average)
Didn't get the message for a few days...

Friday, August 05, 2016

snowball now blue

Quickly put together the LRGB in Photoshop for the Blue Snowball (Caldwell 22). Used the most recent data, from 4 August. Zoom in to enjoy the central structures...

I tried to not make it too blue. Some process it to dark cobalt; I wanted ice blue...

Thursday, August 04, 2016

zip process glitched

Heard from Dave again. One of the recent - untested - changes was to put all the images for a "special" request into a single zip file (to save download time). Looks like that hiccoughed. He said he'd look into the issue.


He fixed it!

I found my updated observation pages linked to a zip file. Yeh!


Checked the observation pages to discover they were without hyperlinks to the FITS images. Checked the images folder on the server: some images for others are there but none of mine.

imaged NGC 7789

The BGO robot imaged NGC 7789 for me. A big open cluster in Cassiopeia. One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 7789 luminance

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

North of the centre of the cluster is the double star STI 3065. ST3P shows the pair well away. But in the image, it's interesting. Perhaps it is a triple!

To the north-west is TDT 4287. I cannot split them.

South is a double star, according to SkyTools 3 Pro, STI 3063. It looks like A and/or B have moved.

To the east is STI 3067. Cannot split.

It seems to be there are a lot of other pairs in here...


Processed in colour on 14 Mar '17.

second snowball (Halifax)

Reshot the Blue Snowball (NGC 7662; Caldwell 22). The luminance frame from July 17 showed a satellite. No traces this time... Love the detail inside the sphere!

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 7662 luminance

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


Processed in colour on 5 August.