Friday, September 30, 2016

shared some pix

Stumbled across, in the Android, the photos I shot at the Probus event at the CAO. Shared a couple with Ian W.

SkyNews out

I had a quick look at Tom's copy of SkyNews before the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting but I was thrilled to see my copy, the November/December 2016 release, when I arrived home on Friday.

The current issue features are article on black holes. I look forward to that.

There's a piece of remote imaging. Uh huh. I've jumped on that bandwagon.

It also has an article on tracking mounts. This is clearly a popular topic.

And it also includes an article on equipment and techniques for observing the Moon. Eww.

tried to sort PPM 89370

Very strange.

During the brief observing session in the wee hours of 24 Sep '16, I thought I saw a pair of close, faint stars when I took in PPM 89370. Then I learned it was a triple so went looking for the C star which I could not find.

Later, as I transcribed my notes, I saw that SkyTools 3 Pro showed the AB separation as 0.5 arc seconds which is down at my life time threshold. And given the conditions on that night, I assumed then I had not split the A and B stars.

Just now I looked at SkyTools again. I measured the position angles and splits (in arcseconds) between A and B and C in the Context Viewer:

AB: 5; 288
AC: 38; 102


Reexamined the data in the Context Viewer.

AB: 0.5; 332
AC: 5.2; 288

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

According to the Washington Double Star database, the numbers in the CV are correct. And that means the visual display in SkyTools is completely wrong.

tried to sort STT 549

Examined the WDS on OΣ 549 (STT). A bit of a mess. A fifth star is noted.


A: 6.15 or 6.14 or 4.6
B: 10.34
C: 10.7 or 11.4
D: 10.7 or 11.5
E: 17.2

The 4.6 value comes from the observer LAF from 2005. Very strange.

The latest separations, 2005 up to 2013:

A-B: 192.9
A-CD: 141.9
C-D: 3.1
A-E: 10.2

It's hard to piece all this together. It could be that I saw C and not D on 24 Sep '16. They appear to be about equal brightness and very close together. And getting closer...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

attended meeting

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting located at the St Joan of Arc church. I used my Sony audio recorder as the recorder had sent regrets. We almost did not have quorum. We're trying to get back on an even keel. We made some good progress, I think. Very good progress. We finished at a reasonable time too!

obtained t-adapter

Procured a #64 camera t-adapter for the ETX telescope (and was happy to use a coupon). It will be interesting to see what kind of results can be obtained with the 90mm 'scope. That will be a "big" lens for the DSLR. Wonder what kind of results I can achieve with simple tracking?

linked to life lists again

Not sure what happened but the link gadget, with sole link to the companion site, the evergreen content, my life lists and photo gallery, disappeared from my blog. I recreated it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

during the short walk (Blue Mountains)

Weird. A little bit of everything in the brief walk to the house!

Good portions of the sky were clear as I exited the THO. Stars. The Milky Way angling east-west.

Still, I noted clouds. Particularly thick/dark clouds to the south.

Distant layered clouds to the north. Those clouds, over the bay, would periodically fill up with soundless lightning.

Faint aurora above or beyond those north clouds continued.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flare, high up. Spotted a rather bright pair of points, above Dubhe, heading north-east. Initially, the right one brightened up to a minus magnitude! There were about a half degree apart.


Looked up satellite and ISS flyovers for this morning. Nothing yet.

a couple of galaxies (Blue Mountains)

I returned to the Tony Horvatin Observatory with the Celestron NexStar 11 still set up.

Around 10:00 PM, Monday 26 September 2016. It was clear. Decided to have a go. It was windy. Gusting. Despite the wind sock on the Sony recorder.

Ian spotted something strange but then realised it was an airplane turning. Outside, we checked the whole sky. Ian also noted some "serious lightning" to the west.

Tended to the dos Santos trailer.

10:02. Returned with the netbook power cord. Decided to not route it through the frame of the lectern instead but the computer atop. I'd be able to sit up straight. Affixed the red film with an elastic band to prevent it blowing off.

Couldn't find the transceiver for the mouse. Probably in the house.

Turned on the N11 and let it do its GPS align. Set the time and date. Helped align it. Vega done. Then Altair. Connected SkyTools. Oops. Forgot to change the port. Closed Evernote. Spotted an email from Burke Gaffney, it had captured data at 9:45, so I grabbed the Halifax weather data. Restarted ST3P and connected successfully. Still had the galaxy filter active.

Clouds! Bastards! Pretty well everywhere. Sheesh. Waited for a pocket to drift through Aquila to verify alignment. Slewed to Ursa Minor to try to see NGC 6217. Patchy clouds. Just as I looked through the eyepiece the stars winked out. Configured SkyTools and then tried to id the field.

10:20. It seemed I had landed on the star TYC 04571-0600 1. Spotted the arc at my 2 o'clock. The galaxy should have been below. Waited for the heavy clouds to move off.

Spotted the faint galaxy. Reasonable large. Popped with averted. Between a wide pair of stars, including Tycho 04571-0972 1, and a gaggle of faint stars to the south-east, including GSC 04571-0704. The galaxy seemed to be oriented in a 1 to 7 o'clock orientation for me. South-east to north-west. Overall, dim. Uniform. Brightening in the centre. Or perhaps it was a foreground star. The brightness of the centre was similar to the south-east star which were in the magnitude 14 range. Those wide stars at the north-west were pointing directly to the galaxy, a good sign post. More and more I could see faint points within the galaxy.

Saw lightning in the eyepiece. Could hear the wind whipping.

On examining the Interactive Atlas, I noted Hickson 84 nearby, along with a triple. Clouds. Killed some time. Located all the camera equipment.

Considered I was in the wrong building to do sucker hole chasing. Saw a gap moving toward the Little Dipper so I readied to sync. Synced on the galaxy then slewed to the Hickson group. Flying blind.

Spotted a triangle of stars. Down and right I wondered if I saw some fuzzies. ST3P showed a couple of large members and a tiny one touching.

Clouds! It occurred to me it was probably a bad night for gathering galaxies.

Continued staring. Nothing. The last sucker hole did not line up.

Considered a double star for imaging, during the cable testing. Reviewed options in the software. Big wind. Wondered about View Again items. My life list choices were generally hard. Rejected targets overhead—probably not enough room with the fork mount. Still clouds. Checked the whole sky. Some holes. Water Jar. Hercules. But then settled on what I had tried before, δ (delta) Persei, to better gauge results.

Planned for my exit tomorrow. Stuff in the THO, GBO, and house.

11:01. At the eyepiece, I tried to coax out fuzzies. I could not see a single member.

Completely clear sky!

11:32. The adjustable height chair broke—again! Fire truck. Different spot this time. The area I had shored up was fine. The wood snapped above this. Glad I had other chairs in the THO. Grabbed a metal folding chair. Turned on the heater. Heartburn.

During my run to and from the house, and the pit stop at the GBO, I saw aurora as well as a direct lightning flash. Forgot the mouse USB thingee. Although I was running out of USB ports.

12:09 AM, Tuesday 27 September 2016. The sky was pretty good.

12:27 AM. Started imaging with the custom hacked mirror cable.

Crazy idea. Considered imaging Uranus or Neptune, to get the moons. Yawn. It was almost 1.

Shut off the mirror cable so to extinguish the yellow light.

Synced then slewed to IC 356, a galaxy in Camelopardalis. Turned the roof a bit. Tried a 15 second image. Tried to identify the field.

1:05. Tore down the camera gear. Turned the focuser about 5 or 6 full turns.

Reconfigured SkyTools. Figured out where I was pointing.

Saw it. Dim, diffuse object. Near a bright star. South of HD 25452. Generally, required averted vision. Faint. Featureless? A few bright points within it. Not uniform. Some mottling. An oval? An interesting object, aka Arp 213.

I was chilled.

1:15. The view was better. IC 356 was quite large.

[ed: Enjoyed the image from Deep Look web site.]

Checked the aurora.

Synced and slewed to a nearby galaxy. Tried for IC 342. Oh. Faint. Very faint. The software showed it was very large so I changed to the 36mm ocular. Not really exciting to me. ST3P said it was magnitude 9.6 but it was so big and spread out and face-on, I couldn't see anything really obvious. Marked this object (also known as Caldwell 5) to re-observe. With lots of aperture.

I felt very tired. It's been a long run these last few days...

Slewed to a new subject. Noted a bright star. But couldn't see anything. Didn't have the energy the fight anymore. Decided to wrap.

1:38. Starting packing up. In preparation for my departure, I prepared as much as I could, save moving things to different buildings or outside. Tidied up.

2:00. Exited.


Wow. Over 30 objects attempted during my extended stay. Pretty good.

tested in the field (Blue Mountains)

Conducted a test of the custom Canon mirror lock-up cable (based on the Beskeen design) with the special version of Backyard EOS. In the field this time (versus the bench), with the NexStar 11, on a double star. Everything worked rather well.

I was able to shoot very fast exposures, which will be necessary with some bright stars, and have the mirror up in advance of the shutter opening, in an effort to reduce or eliminate vibration. And, at the end of the imaging runs, I was happy to see the open-shutter command cleared, and everything, the camera, the software, working normally. While the seeing was very poor, I was happy with the results overall.

δ (delta) Persei. All shot with: NexStar 11 GPS at f/11, Canon 40D, Backyard EOS, mirror lock cable, USB control cable, ISO 1600, daylight white balance. North at the top-left; east to the bottom-left.

delta Persei at 15 seconds

15 seconds. Many field stars visible. δ Per B visible.

delta Persei at 1 second

1 second.

delta Persei at 0.5 second


delta Persei at 0.25 second


delta Persei at 1/8th of a second

1/8th of a second.

delta Persei at 1/15th of a second


delta Persei at 1/30th of a second


delta Persei at 1/60th of a second

1/60th. Pretty blobby. Bad seeing? No C star.


The yellow LED is awfully bright. Perhaps, if I do this again, I'll use an orange.


I was a little surprised at the end result. There still seems to be some vibration. Unless it was very bad seeing. Next test will be to shoot video on a tight double star.


It had not occurred to me before that if I want to use this mirror cable in the future, say in the backyard, there may be a technical issue. It is built using COM serial tech and needs a USB-serial adapter. And, of course, I'm using this same old tech to drive the mount. I was lucky to be able to borrow the other unit from the CAO. Hmm. I will need to figure out a solution.

Monday, September 26, 2016

imaged a portion of NGC 7000 (Halifax)

I continue to image the RASC Finest NGCs with the BGO robot. One of these objects is the very large North American Nebula or NGC 7000 or Caldwell 20. In fact, to capture the whole object, out to the peripheries of the diffuse nebula, I'd need to gather nine or more panels or frames in a mosaic. Not sure I want to do this.

Aimed in the "Central America" region by targetting the star GSC 03179 00422. Requested luminance, red, green, blue, and hydrogen alpha.

RASC Finest emission nebula NGC 7000 portion luminance

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

RASC Finest emission nebula NGC 7000 portion hydrogen alpha

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

Also caught, in the net, a couple of double stars.

Left or east of centre is ES 1451, a tight pair of equally bright stars.

Near the bottom right, to the south-west, is a wide pair of stars, a bright one with a faint neighbour. But that's not the official double. It's the bright star, ES 1450, that has a very tight companion. Not sure this is split in the images.

new date set

The new date for the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting is Thursday 29 September in the evening. Location: the Saint Joan of Arc church near Keele and Bloor.

explained date entry

Updated the CAO income workbook primarily to clarify how valid dates can be entered in a spreadsheet.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

cloudy, cold, windy (Blue Mountains)

Spotted an aurora alert. Popped out to the deck. Cloudy, cold, and windy. And no aurora visible. In fact, few stars were visible.

helped a bit

Did a bunch of things at the CAO.
  • tested the John Deere mower
  • taught a member how to operate the John Deere mower
  • helped as a roadie at the Probus event
  • helped Phil with some supervisor tasks including some safety matters, updating the white board, opening the observatory, cutting the lawn, etc.
  • did an inventory of the Star Adventurer camera release cables
  • dropped off some keys
  • sold a RASC 2017 calendar
  • installed a fresh propane tank to the BBQ
  • double-checked the location of the red LED flashlight in the GBO
  • rebooted the server computer (again)
  • did some succession planning
  • labelled the Celestron NexStar data cable
  • explained to Erwin how to join
  • gathered information about the big bed in the master bedroom
  • reprogrammed the lights
  • helped a bit in the closure
  • researched GIMP; I'll install the 16-bit version soon
  • checked the fridge for extra food stuffs (in advance of the work party)
Helped Thursday through Sunday. But not on the Computer Ease national holiday.

processed NGC 147

Cranked out, thanks to Ian W, a final luminance image from CCDStack v2. I was pretty happy with the results, particularly given how faint, diffuse, and dim the target NGC 147 was. This was from data collected on the evening of 4 Sep.

faint galaxy NGC 147 in luminance

900 second subs, about a dozen frames, RCOS 12.5, f/9, SBIG STL 11000M, CCDStack, GIMP. Data captured on Monday 5 September 2016.

This extremely faint object, described as a dwarf spheroidal galaxy, is also called Caldwell 17.

tested focuser control in BYE

Tested the RASC TC CAO GBO Optec TCF-S focuser with Backyard EOS and its ASCOM interface (via my hacked cable). It worked! With a USB-serial adapter based on the Prolific chip!

screen snapshot of Backyard EOS controlling a focuser

I was able to read/see the current focuser position and temperature data. I was able to move/nudge the focuser from within BYE. Sweet.

I didn't see an AUTO mode switch or button. But it looks like I can run out to the focuser and switch the hand paddle to an automatic mode and forget about it.

it can be repaired

Chatted briefly with Mary-Ann, following up on a frustration-fueled remark she made about her Celestron power tank. I informed her that the battery within was replaceable. And if a trip to Sayal was in her future, she could find a compatible new Sealed Lead Acid battery. Cheaper than buying a whole new unit. She was happy to learn that. I also shared some best practices for recharging. Such as charging overnight but not longer. She was already using a reminder to charge up even if not used. Good stuff.

happy observing night (Blue Mountains)

Saw Mars naked eye.

Saw Venus naked eye.

Viewed Saturn in the Celestron 14 SCT with the 32mm. It was lovely.

In the THO, I put out a couple of Kick-Me-Nots so to avoid stepping on connectors.

Leveled the tripod with our medium-sized carpenter's instrument. It had not been true! That's why the pointing was so far off. I was hopeful. The remark I had made in my quick reference guide suggested it was rather important.

Did the initial telescope alignment.

7:51 PM, Saturday 24 September 2016. Found a glass with something rather fragrant. A gift beverage perhaps from a secret admirer?

Looked at the local weather data but I misread the time. It was from the morning.

Continued hooking up gear including the wireless mouse. Closed unneeded apps. Turned off the computer radio again. Fired up SkyTools. Reconfigured it (I had lost all the settings after the previous crashes.)

Went to γ (gamma) Del initially. Got it! A good point. Not perfectly centred but in the field. Showed how helpful the tripod's level is. Gold and blue, a pale blue.

Out on the Observing Pad, I could hear Chris, Ian W, and Millie helping the Probus guests.

Considered my first target, γ CrA. Slew! Mucky. The star was just dancing. Centred. If there were two stars there I could not tell. A lot of colour fringing. ST3P showed a rich field but the extinction was wiping everything out. Reset the telescope control movement rate.

8:07 PM. Panned. Spotted another star. A satellite went through. Detected another star as the sky darkened. Then more. Continued to try and identify the field.

Confirmed! More field stars were visible. North was to my bottom-left. Zoomed in with the software. Great: very low and very tight. But the view in the eyepiece looked better than before.

Milky Way was visible overhead. The Teapot. Mars. It felt colder tonight.

Bumped from the 36mm to the 20. Had another look. The OTA was nearly horizontal. The view was swimming again. Could not split it. Nope. ST3P said the separation was 1.43" (as of July). At aphelion, it would be 1.9". So, maybe I just keep trying... Boo!

Considered HD 164492 in Sgr. From my View Again list. Synced and slewed. Went back to the baader eyepiece. Lots of stars in the field. Another pair? Some nebulosity? Just split a very tight, very faint pair in the centre of the field.

8:36. Checked the software chart. Ah, there was nebulosity. Oh. That's because it is the Trifid Nebula, Messier 20 (M20)!

When I slewed, I landed near star HD 164294. To my 9 o'clock position or north-east was the Trifid and the double stars within. At the 8 or 7:30 position, I saw HR 6716. Panned to put the nebula in the centre while a satellite went through. Saw some nebulosity below the Trifid.

I saw the three bright stars. A. B was to the north. C was to the south. A was brighter, C was the second brightest. Thought I saw G. ST3P's chart did not show the correct brightness; the Object Information box was better. A was mag 7 and B was 10 with a PA of 20. C should be opposite, right? Yeah, 213. C was mag 9. The software showed A, B, C, E, and G in a nearly straight line.

The app showed C and D were on top of one another. Increased the magnification. Saw the faint star far field, still in line, which was G. The A-C separation was x, say. A-B was half that. G was 3 or 4 times x.

I could not split C and D. Maybe for a second?

Did not think I could see the E star.

The seeing was bad.

Tried to locate F. Spotted a star perpendicular to A-C. Fairly bright. But too far away. GSC 06842-0079. F should have been between.

Got D! About half the separation of A-B. Awfully tight. And very different intensities.

Really bad seeing.

Felt like I had done everything that I could do with the star system. I could not extract all of the elements.

Enjoyed the dark lanes. One heading to the 9 or 8:30 o'clock. One going up or to the 12 o'clock. A wide lane to the 4 o'clock. Dim. Very nicely framed in the Pentax. Again, I saw the luminous patch below, to the north, centred on orange HD 164514.

Dropped back to low power.

Chose a target in the same area to avoid turning the roof.

Synced and then aimed at Biurakan 4 (aka Stock 7 and OCL 351). Low in the sky. Swimming a bit.

9:13. A small cluster. Just a dozen or so stars. Super tiny. Two minutes in size.

There was a multi-star system within this cluster: HD 167287, aka BU 284. A was bright and blue-white. Noted the D and E stars to the south, well away. Opposite D was B, no problem. About the same distance as B, to my left, or north-east, was Q. Nutty! Got C. B, Q, and C were all around the same brightness, mag 9 to 10. Increased the power. More obvious. Moved a bit left. Tagged the P star with averted vision, to the south. Noted the non-related stars (part of the Biurakan 4 cluster) to the north-east of D and E.

I found the lines in the charts distracting. Changed their colours and style.

Tried to spot the 13.5 mag S star. No joy. I found the R star! It was north-west of B. But the distance looked different than in SkyTools. Had it moved?

[ed: Oops. Missed the F star.]

Noted Biurakan 5 aka OCL 33 in the software. 4 is to the south and 5 is to the north. 4 has a couple of bright stars; 5 has several stars. They seem to be treated as two separate objects by this astronomer.

Good to have another Stock viewed for the life list.

Off to Lyra. HD 176465. Something automatically added.

Headed to the house for chips. Mmm. Returned for the Sambuca!

Meteor! Through Serpens (on the left side of Ophiuchus).

9:40. Phil dropped by. Caught up on things. We saw fireworks in the distance.

Bright lights down the driveway. People leaving. The EPO portion was over.

Back at the eyepiece. Went back to the widest field. After setting the software to match, I reviewed the field stars.

9:55. Did not look like a round star. Must have been super tight. Seeing was OK. Loaded in the 20mm. I thought I got two stars. Equally bright. Same colour.

It got awfully quiet outside. Phil popped by again, said people were doing a recap for the evening. He was going to have some hot chocolate. And I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Well, until 5 metres from the house.

10:20. Returned to the THO, full of cake, good wishes, rainbows, and unicorn parts. And promptly kicked over my bowl of chips.

I could see the two stars! Easily split. A black line between them. Equal colours. Equal magnitudes. SkyTools said the sep. was 1.6".

There were excited calls from the Observing Pad: bright aurora. It looked pretty good to me. A handsome glow in the north.

Tried the Nagler 9mm. Softer view. Clearly two stars. It was harder to focus. Went back to the 20.

The A and B stars were up and down for me. They seemed to be pointing to the middle star, TYC 03545-2164 1, of the flatten triangle, to the south.

Headed to NGC 6791. At first, I did not see anything obvious. Beside a T-shape. The open cluster was made up of faint stars. Damn. How could one call this a cluster? It looked very much like the field stars. Loose and wide.

Nearby, still in Lyra, I saw a multi-star system. Nuts.

10:43. I reexamined NGC 6791. Checked SkyTools for some notes or comments. Nothing. Well, learned it is also known as OCL 142. While really not obvious, there was a slight concentration of stars, to the left or north of the T-shape. Crazy! How could this have been included in the NGC catalogue? Not very interesting.

Closely examined the group of stars to the south. Located the A star: BD + 37 03421. aka ES 2490. It included elements out to K. I saw a lot of them. Added to the SkyTools list. B and C were to the north-east of A. Then D, with averted, very faint, west of B and C. Saw the K star half-way between B-C and the bright star TYC 03134-1847 1. The bright ones to the left or north-west were E and F. Got I to the south-west of F. Saw H to the north-west. Struggled to get G. Spotted J half-way between I and TYC 03134-1787 1. Finally tagged G, between F and E, slightly closer to F. Why would the other nearby stars not be included? Weird. Regardless, it was pretty funky to get all the companions. Fun.

Slewed to my next item of interest. HD 337398. Another auto-generated item. A triple of tight stars.

10:58. Huh? Clouds?

I could not see edge-on MGC 5-45-3. It should have been beside the star TYC 02130-2085 1.

Tried the multi-star system again. aka ES 480. Put in the high power eyepiece. Could not spot the C. SkyTools said it was to the north. I could see the A and B stars. The ST3P data on the magnitudes was rather strange. The 9mm view was not good.

Checked the corrector for dew. It was OK. But I accidentally breathed on it. Sheesh.

Looked at the sky and considered my next subject. In Delphinus.

Chilled. Went to the GBO for the ceramic heater.

On the walk back I saw a very auroral bright spire. Called it out. Almost immediately it faded but a second spire appeared.

Fired up the heater. Turned it away from the chair.

Viewed NGC 6891 between Aquila and Delphinus. Fuzzy. Quite bright in the middle. Fuzzy at the edges. Perhaps blue or green?

11:24. Very obvious object with the 20mm. Still, it was a small planetary.

Adjusted the SkyTools chart display options. TYC 01081-0256 was to my 12 o'clock or east.

Wished again for a slightly more powerful eyepiece. Bigger now but hard to focus. Finally reached decent focus. It appeared to have a shell. Perhaps a couple. Mottled in the centre.

Visitor. I loaned the heater so Sue could warm her tent. Sure.

Now it was time to knock down targets in Cygnus.

First up was ES 1101. Non-descript field. OK. Faint. Going straight up and down for me. Or east-west. Damn! I split them. Tough. Dim stars. Mag 11.9 each according to ST3P. Really close. 2 arc-seconds apart. Wow. Unclear why it was on my list.

Slewed to NGC 7048.

11:47. It was in the field. Pretty large. On the top edge. Centred on it. Oval. Large and diffuse. Not perfectly round. Almond shape? Dark in the middle? Neat. ST3P said "irregular disc with traces of ring structure."

[ed: Enjoyed this photo from the Caelum Observatory.]

Noted a Predator target triangle nearby.

Dark region to the left. A void. No stars. To the north-west. Weird.

[ed: When I looked at photos suggested by Google, it reminded me of NGC 6781.]

Ian offered a view of distant moons in the big Newtonian. Neptune. Yes! I headed out. Chris, with SkySafari, tried to check the positions. With the 10mm eyepiece. Struggle with some of the moons. Checked the configurations with SkyTools. Yep. The Y-pattern. One branch was going straight up. So, I saw Triton. Closer to the blue planet. About a 10th of the distance to the star TYC 05812-0071 1. Before that Uranus. Same config. Titania and Oberon were above or to the south-east. The point opposite was Ariel and Umbriel combined.

Saw a north-bound meteor through Lyra.

Heard people packing up. They were cold.

Dietmar was imaging in Ian's shed. Cool!

12:35 AM, Sunday 25 September 2016. Decided to head to Collinder 419. Did not need to turn the roof. A small concentration of stars with a bright one. Ugh. The seeing went away. Terrible. A very small open cluster, aka OCL 177.

This was also a multi-star system, HR 7767, aka Struve 2666. Spotted the very faint B to my 7 o'clock or west. To the 6 and 5 o'clock were C and D. A was 5.8 while B was 8. C 8.5, D 10. A looked beige, B seemed pale orange, while C and D looked grey. They turned deep blue with the 36mm ocular. [ed: Haas says gold and blue for A and B.]

There was a wide pair of non-related stars far away to the north.

Near Sadr.

Viewed HD 193633 aka STT A 205. White. Blue-white. Then grey. Widely separated. North-east and far from my previous target.

Slewed to the vandenBergh 130, aka OCL 167.1. Clouds? Lost my stars. The stars dimmed. A cloud went through. Son of a gun. Came back. Brightening. Tons of stars. Checked the field. The pointing was off a bit. That's it? You're kidding. That little triangle, with a bright member, HD 228789, itself a double, aka SEI 1070.

12:55 AM. Noted many faint stars around the triangle. ST3P did not show a lot of information.

Was the sky going away? I saw clouds. Checked the whole sky, as much as possible, from the slot. Quite a lot of scattered cloud. So, that suggested I'd be ending soon. Even part of Cygnus was blotted.

I thought it a good run for the evening. Viewed quite a lot of things! In many telescopes. And enjoyed some aurora! And ate cake!

Still... I had really wanted to view some galaxies. Set the class filter to galaxies. I had none in my list in Cygnus. Chose a target. Big slew. Chose another target. Another big slew.

Finally landed near MCG 8-40-2 in Lacerta. aka PGC 68121. Noted a big triangle as the sky faded. Saw the fuzzy during panning. It was small. Bumped the magnification. A small faint oval. At the 4:30 position to the star SAO 51681. The galaxy was oriented toward the bright star to the north-east, HD 210404.

The sky had improved in Cygnus.

1:13. I was tired. Considered my photographic plans but at the same time I was anxious about staying up late. I did not want to much up plans for tomorrow. Work crept into my thoughts.

Clouds in the west. I thought they were moving toward us. Called it quits. Turned the roof to the locking position. Closed the lower flap from outside. Spotted Meissa over the hill. Shut down the heater. Remembered to shut down the software and telescope gracefully this time.

1:16. Turned off the 'scope. Turned off the blinkies. Grabbed Ananke and John Repeat Dance.


I arranged for clear skies and aurora. You're welcome!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

viewed Mercury in the blue (Blue Mountains)

Viewed Mercury in the TEC telescope. Fantastic view against the blue sky. Very obvious crescent. Every once in a while, the seeing would get very steady. Wow.


Tony said the seeing improved.

tried a different hand controller

Had a look at Uncle Tony's Celestron CGEM mount. The hand controller was acting very strange. We tried the HC from the NexStar 11 with little success. His, though, seemed very sick: nothing on the display while the slew buttons worked. He said he's had trouble before.

swapped marine batteries

Delivered the new Nautilus battery to Elaine and Tony; received the damaged one. I look forward to opening up this unit.

imaged NGC 1907 (Halifax)

The Burke Gaffney Observatory robot imaged NGC 1907 aka Collinder 66 for me. An open globular cluster in Auriga, just south of Messier 38. An item I wanted to view again. BGO happened to shoot it on my Happy Orbit Day. Thank you! A small collection, a compact OC, harbouring a multi-star system. While it is not a great image, it was a nice treat.

open cluster galaxy NGC 1907 in luminance

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

Seems I had first viewed this object, in passing, in March 2013. Did not make a very detailed note.

SEI 268, a five-element star system, is buried in the middle of the cluster. There's a line of three similar, equally spaced stars: that's the A, B, and C stars, from north to south. The bright star to the east is D. The dimmer star to the west is F, opposite D, slightly further away. SkyTools does not show an E star.

Above and left, or to the north-east, is the double star HJ 699. The brighter star is further afield.


Had another go on 20 Dec '16.

a couple of multiples (Blue Mountains)

Returned to the THO.

Opened the roof and aligned the 'scope. Connected the computer. Shut down Evernote. Turned off the radio. John Repeat Dance was still acting strange: no audio. Forgot the mouse; battled with touchpad.

Slewed to Alpheratz. Almost straight up. Noted the multi-star system nearby, HR 8, at the edge of the field. A quad on the Andromeda-Pegasus border.

Noted the eyepiece was dirty.

A was bright.

There was a line of stars below or to the south-west. The line was oriented north-west to south-east. About 4 or 5 stars.

HR 8 A was a lovely yellow-orange. All the others were a similar colour.

B was the west-most or left-most star. Brighter than C-D. But dimmer than the far-right star.

The east-most stars were not related.

I could not split the C and D stars. C looked really dim, in the software. Magnitude 12 for C; 10 for D.

Never thought about that before that elements of a multi-star, or even a simple double star, could be in different constellations.

A cloud made the stars fade out. Not a good night to go for galaxies...

Added HR 8 aka STT 549 to my observing list.

I wanted to dive a bit deeper but I did not have my 26mm with me (on loan to Denise). Looked in the N11 kit. Nothing in that range. So I grabbed my 20mm Pentax. [ed: Totally forgot about the Celestron E-Lux I had with me...]

Considered, again, that an outrigger tray or table would be helpful. The computer could go there, freeing up the space on the inner tray for eyepieces. Really the best place to avoid them falling off or rolling away.

Could not see the C star at the higher power.

The seeing was not good.

After syncing, I slewed to the next target in Pegasus. PPM 89370. aka A 429.

Tight pair. I spotted the A and B stars. Delicate. SkyTools said there was a C star nearby. In the chart, it showed as mag 10.1; in the Object Information, 9.2. Oriented left-right for me.

[ed: Upon review, I think I was seeing the A and C stars. ST3P said the are separated by 5.2 seconds of arc; B however is 0.5"!]

I was tired.

Bad skies. Gah! I saw lots of clouds. Mottled clouds. Clouded out again. Damn it.

Decided that since Hibernate mode is not really working well for me, there was no point using it. I powered off the mount.

Fair session. Had high hopes but the clouds dashed that. Computer worked better this time.

Returned to my bed.


Did some follow-up on OΣ 549. And then some more on PPM 89370.

checked alignment (Blue Mountains)

Was winding down, in my cot, when I suddenly had the munchies. Headed up to the kitchen. It was quiet. Everyone was asleep except for Clayton.

I peaked out the back door to discover a sky full of stars! What?! It was very clear. But still in my PJs, having readied for bed, I struggled with the idea. Finally, I decided to suit up.

Before returning to the Tony Horvatin Observatory, I thought I'd check the sight lines, angles, etc. for the Milky Way over the road way. Walked down the driveway in the dark, taking in the northern sky.

I don't know why exactly but it still seems very strange to me to do this. I felt the same way when I set up the camera in the forest for the star trails. Is it because it's novel, that I've just never done this before, that I've always stayed on the grounds? I think that's part of it, there's a comfort factor. Is another part just the activity of walking around on roads and paths in complete darkness? It's not like I've never done that; while camping, I've often walked to and fro in the night. But this is different from that. Such a peculiar feeling. There's something primal in it.

At the foot of our driveway, I found that the Milky Way was almost perfectly lined up with the road. It would have lined up or converged maybe in 30 to 60 minutes. I think. Low clouds bloated the galaxy as it neared the western horizon. It was not exactly vertical either. I wondered if that was ever possible, mathematically, for this road. Still, I felt, overall, it should work.

Next clear night. Around 2:00 AM...

What surprised me was the light pollution. I could clearly see many lights from Thornbury. I didn't expect that. I crouched down. It helped. If the camera was mounted low, some of the bright lights would be occulted.

Lyra was falling. The Circlet was rising.

Friday, September 23, 2016

tried to wait-out the clouds (Blue Mountains)

We're an optimistic bunch. Many were busy-bodies setting up on the Observing Pad for a night of astronomical observing and imaging. Despite wall-to-wall clouds... Damn it.

I spotted Venus through the clouds. Just over the south peak of the Geoff Brown Observatory.

I settled into the Tony Horvatin Observatory.

8:38 PM. Restarted my computer. It was still not great.

Some sort of conflict with Evernote?

9:06. The computer-telescope interface seemed OK now. And it was cloudy. Still.

I thought the wind was picking up. I hoped that would push off the clouds. They had been hanging around since noon.

Aligned on Arcturus. It was shimmering. Oh boy.

I wondered about an outrigger tray for THO cart, for my portable computer... Pondered designs.

9:18. Slewed to 57 Aquila. And I waited for for a clear patch. And waited...

Still cloudy.

9:32. I heard a low rumble. Phil closed the roof of the GBO.

9:35. I suddenly realised I had not looked at the radar. And then realised that was probably a good idea. If there were big clouds moving in then there would be no point waiting... Strangely, I couldn't see anything... That was kinda weird.

I wondered about replacing the battery in the NexStar 11. But after some googling, I came to the conclusion that it was not something to worry about.

9:47. From the Observing Pad, I heard someone packing up.

clouds everywhere from low Earth orbit

I was frustrated. I didn't get it. There were clouds everywhere I looked. But why were the clouds not showing on radar or satellite?!

Spotted Mars. Low. Orange. Bright.

Killed some time in the GBO.

Dietmar and I saw it was still cloudy.

11:13. I saw lights on in the garage. That suggested Clayton was still up. In the kitchen I saw that it was now relatively quiet (compared to earlier in the evening). Only Mary-Ann, Ian D, and Art were left. I headed to bed. Passed Chris in the Great Room. It looked like Phil was winding down. I grabbed a beverage and started reviewing my notes...


Forget the exact time but I saw a meteor in the west. Seemed to be coming from Perseus. A final Perseid perhaps?

checked the mirror lock bolt depth

I was curious about the ability to lock the C14 mirror. And I had some time to spare... stoopid clouds. The standard bolts, with the focuser equipment installed, did not seem to work.

I tried a 1/4-20 screw that was about 2 inches long in Celestron 14-inch SCT. I found they touched mirror assembly with about 1/4" or 3/8" to spare....

Dietmar recommended a sign / warning. Good idea.

It didn't feel like they wanted to screw in. But, after reviewing some photographs, I thought it was probably an alignment issue. Next time I'll put the OTA vertical.

[ed: Actually, I don't think now they are meant to screw into anything. I think they simply touch pads and the yoke rests on those screws. That's it.]

I considered that if I was going to make ones as suggested on the Sky Imager web site, I would probably need 3" bolts.

Made a note to go to Brafasco. Perhaps I can find long bolts with a nice knob.

Dietmar talked about the port on the side of the OTA. I had noticed hat before. He intimidated that with and a long Allen key one could lock the mirror. On the shaft, I guess. Huh. Interesting...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

helped at Probus event

Helped with the Probus group event at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. This education and public outreach event was scheduled with a main date on Thursday and, originally, a rain date on Friday. Unfortunately, both of those nights looked grim weather-wise. So we offered Saturday night for a make-up date.

Generally, I monitored. Helped set up the Great Room seating. Arranged our loaner telescopes. Set out our RASC brochures. Answered questions of visitors. Guided some members, in the dark, to the Geoff Brown Observatory. Wore my scrolling LED badge.

Quite a good event, with 40+ visitors, despite the weather. I sense all our guests were rather impressed.


Dorte blogged the evening.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

worked Miram in colour

Processed Miram in LRGB. Worked with the data obtained 13 Sep. Lovely colours.

multi-star Miram in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

updated the map

After fixing exploding directories, I updated the map to the CAO. Redisplayed a couple of the common landmarks. Added a new marker for the vineyard on Grey Rd 2 near the observatory. A few other embellishments.

examined NGC 6882 (Halifax)

A few days ago I considered some targets for the BGO robot. There did not seem to be visible candidates from the RASC Finest NGC list. I was considering the affect of the bright Moon. Found some bright View Again items in my life list, in particularly NGC 6882 within Vulpecula.

This is a curious open cluster. SkyTools 3 Pro shows it around the bright star at the top or north. That star is 19 Vul. But there does not seem to be a collection of stars near to it. Is this why I thought I needed to view it again? Was my first impression, "Where is it?" Or, "Am I in the wrong spot?"

Strange. There's the sweeping expanding arc of stars around it. Starting to the right or west and curving over top and looping down to the south-east, reminding me of the Fibonacci formula. Is that part of the cluster proper?

[ed: I just discovered a note in SkyTools under the Comments for the object: "Contains approx. 3 member stars." Uh huh.]

open cluster NGC 6882 in luminance

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

Just above centre in the image is a medium-bright star (HD 192043) with a small grouping of less-than-a-dozen stars. ST3P shows this is open cluster AH03 J2011+26.7. OK.

The increasing general density of stars at the bottom of the frame, to the south, is part of NGC 6885 (aka Caldwell 37), a large, widely disbursed open cluster.

The thicker clump of stars to the south-west is open cluster Collinder 416. I would argue most if not all of the stars in this cluster are contained within this photograph.

20 Vul is the very bright star to the south, at the edge of the image field.


Did a bit of research. Seems the old (paper-based) cartographers are confused about NGC 6882 and NGC 6885. I read Doug Scobel's remarks with interest. The centres of the two open clusters in Aladin/Simbad do seem to coincide with SkyTools. As does the location of Cr 416.

A low power, it is certainly an interesting area, with conglomerations of faint stars with bright 18, 19, and 20 Vul outlining a large triangle.

put together NGC 1491

Played with NGC 1491 using the data gathered 10 Sep. The Hα data is amazing! I think, though, I was overhanded with the luminance layer.

emission nebula NGC 1491 in colour with H-alpha data

FITS Liberator, Photoshop.

drafted Journal piece

Drafted my next RASC Journal article. Trying to get ahead, a bit.

what goes 'round

Don't mess with karma. Humans pay attention to this. The Universe carries on. Still, I would so love to relay the consequences of previous actions. Is that vindictive on my part? Or is it that stoopid want of mine to help people get better? See the light. Doesn't matter. Let it go. I will make for good memories. 335 to go.

three now

Another sleep-challenged night. That's three nights in a row that I have awoken, thinking about RASC matters, and can't get back to sleep. Through to dawn.

Monday, September 19, 2016

yellow LED!

Did some tests with the special Backyard EOS version that Guylain provided. It worked! After a TV run, after the last exposure, the mirror lock cable went from shutter-active to standby, indicated by the red LED extinguishing and the yellow LED firing. All right!


Guylain committed the change. The next release of BYE, 3.1.9, will include the mod!


My cable works!


Field tested the cable and software. It worked.

puzzled together NGC 772

Put galaxy NGC 772 together using the complete data set from 12 Sep. I had a hard time with the FITS files. They seemed very noisy. The luminance and red channels had significant gradients so I dialled them out. I also did my most aggressive luminosity layer to date. Seems a bit harsh.

FITS Liberator, Photoshop.

assembled NGC 1501 in colour

Put together NGC 1501 in full colour, finally, with the good LRGB data from 12 Sep. I knew it! I have seen this planetary nebula in other images before. A fantastic blue colour. Wow.

blue planetary nebula NGC 1501 in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop.


Risa was intrigued.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

processed NGC 7510

Processed the open cluster NGC 7510 in colour and was pleasantly surprised. For some reason I expected the stars in the cluster to be young but it looks like they are old and wise. Yellow and orange, most. Couple of deep orange and red stars in the field.

open cluster NGC 7510 in colour

Used the data from 13 Sep. FITS Liberator, Photoshop.

The tight double, HD 240221, with bright primary and dim secondary, appear to be white and white.

drew bracket version 1.0

Started working on the bracket in 123D.

123D drawing of custom dec plate over top Vixen motor

Measured then drew the motor to help aid in the sizing of the bracket.

built an Aladin Lite query tool

I built a query tool to work with the Aladin interactive sky atlas. I specifically wanted a light-weight solution for rapidly using Aladin Lite within a browser. I deployed it within my evergreen site.

loaded Stellarium 15

Installed Stellarium 0.15.0 to John Charles. Explored around. These are not necessarily very new features but a few things caught my eye. I haven't used it for a while...

Could not see my mouse pointer when in full screen mode. OK otherwise.

I like the option for detecting one's location from "the network." The app showed I'm near Keswick.

All right! The Great Red Spot can be adjusted without diving into a text editor.

Noted some new line/grid options such as Prime Vertical and Circumpolar Circles.

Saw that some of the artwork is in colour.

I enjoyed the Ojibwe artwork. The wintermaker is coming.

Orion high (Bradford)

Couldn't sleep. Again.

Noted it was bright out. Moon off to the south-west somewhere. Tried to spot stars to the south.

Oh. There's one. Oh. There's Orion. The harbinger.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

a new version to try

Guylain sent me a special version of Backyard EOS to try. He said he "disposed" of the cable object at the end of the session. Interested. He asked me to reply into the forum. OK.

light bulb

Guylain got an idea about the management of the cable object.

the countdown has started

Added some HTML, CSS, and Javascript to the blog to count down to the 2017 solar eclipse! Code and tips from Yaphi Berhanu at SitePoint.

338 to go.

silly Moon

Moon followed me home tonight. Lighting up the trees and overpasses. Turning the sky dark slate blue. Silly big full Moon. I'm no good for you.

Friday, September 16, 2016

ordered box 2

Ordered another box of RASC calendars from Julia. Copied Tony, Peter, and the treasurer.

could not find the notice

Scoured my mail. It seems I never received the notice from RASC national office for the October Journal.


Maybe it is not me. Checked with another member.


I learned from James it had not gone out yet.


3:51 PM. Ah. There it is.

Binary Universe: AstroPlanner

cover of the RASC Journal 2016 October
I actually don't know exactly when the October RASC Journal was released to members but it must have been in early September. I just downloaded my copy tonight.

My software review column Binary Universe featured the AstroPlanner software.

I wanted members to know that there was a good planning application option for Macintosh users. Evaluation version reviewed: 2.2.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

meeting next week (postponed)

The next meeting of the RASC Toronto Centre council is Monday 19 September at the St Joan of Arc church near Keele/Parkside and Bloor.


Postponed! We're pushing this off a couple of weeks...

updated the weather page

Updated the weather page for the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Finally. Updated the cookie deadline so it retains one's preferred background colour again. And I added a new colour, the darkness, for a nearly black background. Updated some other addresses.

no luck with Force mode

Conducted another test in Backyard EOS with the custom mirror serial cable (based on Beskeen's design) using the TV mode. This time I had the Camera Force Use Serial Cable setting turned on. No difference. At the end of the run, the software was slow, the camera could not be properly controlled. The mirror cable status of red (vs. yellow) showed the serial port was holding the shutter closed.

Guylain asked for the log files. I sent them in. He spotted a number of "device busy" errors.

He said he had a 40D in his collection. He said he was going to try it with his DSUSB cable.

who goes there?

Resolved a security matter at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

corrected the weather app

Checked why the weather app at the CAO was not uploading to the web site. Huh. Discovered a completely wrong profile was active! One from many years ago with our old ISP. The first one. How did that happen?

Activated the CAO1F version. Started transferring 513 files. Huh? And there's no FTP settings. What? Tried CAO1C. OK. Back on track.


Archived the other profiles to avoid confusion.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

an interesting evening (Don Mills)

Went to the RASC Toronto Centre Recreational Astronomy Night meeting at the Ontario Science Centre.

Caught up with Guy—back in Ontario.

Helped Peter R sell some 2017 calendars. And so it begins.

Enjoyed the presentations by Alex, Allard, and Serge. I'm fascinated by the ALMA system. I was intrigued by Allard's use of scripts in Stellarium. Serge's h-alpha and red filter imaging tips were very inspiring. I realised, I'm not shoot hα long enough...

Noted Ivy at meeting. Good stuff. Meeting members. Reminded her I do not regularly get to observing sessions.

Said hello to Peter H. We talked about the Richmond Hill SQM-LE meter. I was pleased to hear that a plan is forming.

In the parking lot, I received an Amazon package from Tony (I didn't know it at the time but it was the 808 key chain camera!). Then I assisted a few members: Jeff (very happy), Patrick (a bit bewildered), and Denise (very happy). Viewed the Moon. Viewed Mizar A and B with Alcor.

Upon arriving the pub, chatted briefly with Tom. He thanked me for the Journal article on Aladin. He was now using it to identify faint fuzzies along with his Herschel 400s. He also shared he had determined a way to display labels with the web version, Aladin Lite. Interesting!

Caught up, as I dove into my beef curry, with Jeff, Charline, Peter R, and Phil.

Holey moley! Phil was at the pub!

asked to help again

I was asked by the EPO team if I would help with the NOVA course again. They are starting to settle on dates in November. At a Toronto Public Library branch to be decided.

millions and millions

The European Space Agency released data from the Gaia probe. Wow. Look at the density!

all-sky map of the first data set from Gaia

The first catalogue has more than a billion stars. Clearly, it's not done.

In addition to plotting the star positions, an unprecedented number of distance measures were made, making for the most elaborate three-dimensional map of the Milky Way ever produced.

Literally, this is huge.

See the full article at the ESA web site.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

captured curious NGC 7510 (Halifax)

There seems a dearth of Finest NGC targets at the moment. That is, for me to capture. With SkyTools, I looked up some interesting objects. NGC 7510. A compact open cluster in Cepheus. The queue was nearly empty so the BGO 'bot tagged it quickly. Neat! I get a strong sensation of motion, that this gaggle of stars is zipping through space. "Follow me!"

curious open cluster NGC 7510 luminance

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

To the north-east of the cluster, half-way to the top-left corner, is an obvious double star. A tight pair with a bright primary and dim secondary. This is HD 240221 aka STI 1150.

There is, obviously, another pair of stars, further up. Very similar to the HD star. A different position angle, a dimmer second star, almost the same separation. But this does not appear to be an official double. At least SkyTools does not show it as such. HD 240227 and GSC 04279-2369. Huh. [ed: Nothing in the WDS.]


Processed in LRGB.

tried for Palomar 10 (Halifax)

Thought I'd try one of the Palomar globulars, number 10 in particular. It is one of the higher ones, in Sagitta. Super-faint. Can you see it? It's the smattering of faint stars near the bottom-right. There are artefacts in the image detracting from the view but the very dim globular cluster is there.

globular cluster Palomar 10 luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east. Centred on TYC 01603-1063 1.

Where Is M13? says it is 34 500 light years away.

It was back on 3 Jul that we tried to view and image Palomar 4.

split POU 3855 (Halifax)

From my double stars View Again list, I asked the St Mary's University telescope robot to image POU 3855 for me. It is in Vulpecula. While there are registration problems in the image, A, B, and C are easily spotted.

multi-star system POU 3855 luminance

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

POU 3855 is down and left slightly from centre. It is the left side of the arc of medium stars. This has all the appearance of a small open cluster but SkyTools does not note it as such.

Right or west is bright α (alpha) Vulpeculae. Up or north is 8 Vul. It is consider the companion to alpha. It's the B star of this extremely wide pair.


Kady said she was progressing with her reflector telescope. Nice! She thanked me for the assistance.

imaged Miram (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged Miram in Perseus for me. This should be a very colourful multi-star system.

multi-star system Miram in Perseus luminance

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

This was a target from my View Again list. I had not split C and D in the past. That is easily done in this image—the faint pair to the west of the primary. C is the brighter outer star; D is the fainter inner star.


Assembled in colour.

Monday, September 12, 2016

suggested an option

Guylain wondered if it was an issue with TV (speed) mode. He asked me to try the Force option.

sent in test results

Submitted some mirror cable test results to the O'Telescope forum. For BULB and TV modes.

still not connected

Checked my account. Still nothing. Well, that's it. I'm not going to bother any more. I just can't help thinking the admin is ignoring me.

imaged HR 8025 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged HR 8025 for me. A double star in Cygnus.

double star HR 8025 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 not been able to split out the B star.

is the B star just barely visible to the north-north-west?

Do you see it?! There's a faint little blip at the 1 o'clock position? Just to the right of the diffraction spike? Nutty!

I had to really dial back the brightness in FITS Liberator to coax it out...

According to SkyTools, A is 5.83 and B is 13.5. They are 7.3" apart. And the PA is 348° (as of 1934!). Very nutty.

The Washington Double Star database has some more recent data, from 2000. The first measure, from 1888, shows the separation (rho) was 6.9 with a position angle (theta) of 344. In 2000, the sep. was 7.1 and PA was 350. Interesting... The magnitudes are in agreement.

it accepted theta Cyg! (Halifax)

Wow. I had tried before but the BGO robot protested saying theta Cygni was too bright. I submitted a request again, on a whim, centred on GSC 03564 1184—added to the queue! All right. I successfully imaged the multi-star system.

multi-star system theta Cygni luminance

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

I'm not exactly sure, now, why I tried imaging this system. Yes, I've not split A and B. But SkyTools shows they are 2.9 seconds of arc apart. And that's well below the limit I have been able to resolve things with the Burke-Gaffney gear. And certainly in various attempts in FITS Liberator I was not able to expose the tight B star.

imaged HD 350461 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged HD 350461 for me. A double star in Sagitta.

double star HD 350461 luminance

Luminance only, 6 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

There's the kite-shape off to the right (west) with multi-star system HD 186224... That I had first viewed a year ago and then imaged last month.

I tried to tease out the B star from the image but dramatically "unstretching" it in FITS Liberator but I could not spot it...

SkyTools shows, in the charts, an equally bright star about 5" away to the north-west. The Object Information box says, however, the B star is very faint, at mag 13. The WDS reports a similar magnitude.

The weird thing is I can see GSC 01606-1607 due west at mag 13.8. I can see J194251.3+173058 tot the north-west at mag 15.1. And then I can see J194252.4+173053 and J194251.9+173043 both of which are in the mag 17 range!

Where the hell is HD 350461 B?

imaged SAO 87428 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged SAO 87428 for me. A multi-star system in Cygnus.

multi-star system SAO 87428 luminance

Luminance only, 7 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; left is east.

Ha. Got Minkowski's Footprint again!

it all worked out

The Moon is coming.

I was prepared to delete my current jobs from the BGO robot queue but with the clear weather last night and a rather successful imaging campaign it turned out that I didn't need to do that.

I filled the empty queue with new targets. Ones impervious to the glary, offensive Moon.

gaze in the Crystal Ball (Halifax)

Finally, the BGO robot imaged NGC 1514 for me. Another planetary nebula. Another RASC Finest NGCs. Also known as the Crystal Ball Nebula in Taurus. Alas, there are some strange artefacts along with a mild gradient on the bottom edge of the image.

RASC Finest NGC the Crystal Ball Nebula in luminance

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

nailed 1501 (Halifax)

A week ago, I had tried to image NGC 1501 again. But the data from the BGO robot imaged, for a second time, showed significant registration problems. Bingo! Nailed it this time!

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 1501 luminance

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

Finally assembled the LRGB files.

received more 936 data (Halifax)

I also had BGO reshoot NGC 936. Again, I did not receive a full LRGB data set during the first attempt.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 936 luminance

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

received all 772 data (Halifax)

I asked the Burke-Gaffney robotic telescope to shoot NGC 772 again. On 5 September, during the first attempt, I only received luminance data. This time, I got it all. Curious... off-centre.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 772 luminance

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


Assembled in LRGB.

received good 891 data (Halifax)

On 3 September, the BGO robot tried to image NGC 891 (Caldwell 23) for me, again. But something went wrong and I did not get a full set of data. And that was in an effort to improve on the first run on 20 August where there was a significant gradient. This one worked out very well. Thank you BGO!

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 891 luminance

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Sent a message directly to Guylain regarding the issue I was having with Backyard. He asked me to post to the EOS support forum. So others could assist and/or benefit. OK.

another great feature

It occurred to me that there's another advantage to the MotoMaster Nautilus battery for astronomy applications: it is water resistant. Of course, it is designed to go on a boat. And perhaps get splashed. Or rained on. So they designed it with caps and covers everywhere. Which means, it is dew resistant too!

grabbed a battery

Picked up an 800 amp Nautilus battery for Elaine and Tony. So to take advantage of the excellent sale price.

The Dude at Canadian Tire said he had more in the back. I thought he was talking to Slick behind me. When I tracked him down, for an unopened box, he echoed his remark. Oh. Most helpful. Thank you!

Sealed box. Mint. All items provided, of course, including the CLA-to-CLA charging cable, missing from the floor unit.

interconnected 4 and 6

Another test. Pins 4 and 6 on the serial DB9 port were interconnected. I had overlooked this from Beskeen's diagram... I noticed this after the afternoon test.

12:12 AM. At first, I was hopeful. Standby yellow LED was burning immediately. I didn't think I had seen that before. But after the initial delay, I did not hear the mirror go up. And then the shutter didn't open.

Happily, I was able to issue an Abort command in Backyard and it responded at normal speeds. I was able to saving the image profile.

12:16. Rebooted everything. Cold iron.

12:24. Remembered the note in the user manual about the Virtual Mirror setting. Turned it on.

No joy. It's actually worse. The camera is not operating at all. Aborted again.

12:28. Popped into Frame & Focus. All's well. Turned off the mirror option in the imaging run and tried. Camera worked fine. That suggests the USB is OK and BYE is OK. I noticed the red LED extinguished and the yellow turned on. Huh.

12:31. Reseated the N3 cable at the camera body and reseated the submini plug. Holy moley. Started working again. Gah.

But. At the end of the run, the red LED is burning. So that's the serial port holding the shutter button...

Tried to program a single shot. No luck. In fact, some BYE error.

Disconnected and reconnected. More error messages and an empty dialog.

Quit the app and the yellow LED came back.

12:40. Did another test. Looks like the mirror up time gets included in the exposure time. Regardless, disconnected at the end of the run and the port reset. Back to yellow LED. So, I have a workaround.

12:49. Turned on the virtual mirror option. Set the exposure time to 13 seconds. Set the mirror up time to 3 seconds. Counted steamboats. This time I got 10 second shots. Software virtual setting appeared to have no effect. A full quit reset the serial port.

1:07. I started to wonder if there might be an old DOS MODE command I could issue. Did a quick test. I think the COM port is locked while BYE is running.

Or perhaps there is a setting I can configure in advance, like DSR handshaking, or XON/XOFF. Ugh. Lots of permutations.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

344 days

I think it hit me for the first time, really. The total solar eclipse is less than a year away.

in a little white box

Received another camera release cable for the CAO Star Adventurer. Excellent.

bad setting?

3:38 PM. Decided to do another test. After the odd results last night. I wondered if there were some strange camera settings.

Oops. Found the mirror lock setting enabled in the camera, in Manual mode. Hmm. I had seen that last weekend, from EOS Utility...

3:45. Camera seemed to work OK. Timings looked OK.

But Backyard EOS still goes wonky after the run. I think. It is very slow afterwards. Slow switching modes. Slow to take inputs.

When I go back to Frame & Focus, it does not lift the mirror or open the shutter.

When I turn of the custom cable mirror enable switch, the camera seems to settle.

When I turn it back on, the red LED burns, and the shutter opens. An incorrect signal is getting pushed into the camera.

3:52. Gar. I think I'm going to have to go back to a prototype.

The circuit looked OK when I examined it last night.

Is the opto-isolator fried? Is there a short? Did I hook up something wrong?

Finally, when I close the BYE app with the cable off, the camera seems locked.


made some actions

Tried my first Photoshop macros, er, actions. Limited success.

checked the colours of 42

Had a quick go in Photoshop, using the LRGB data from 26 Aug '16, at processing 42 Psc (and neighbour ROE 83) in colour. What do you think?

double stars 42 Psc and ROE 83 in colour

Yellow and blue, the A and B, the bright pair on the left? Or, as Haas describes, topaz and emerald?

Curious, I think, the gem theme. Certainly, B, to me is hard to tag. Aquamarine is the feeling I get.

"Topaz" is an interesting choice. If you know about the mineral in crystal form, you know it is clear. But impurities, like in many gems, makes for colour. Consequently, topaz can come in lots of flavours, like red, yellow, grey, red-orange, and dull blue. I think she meant the orange-yellow kind.

ROE 83 aka SAO 91862 A looks blue-white to me. And B, pale orange. Or dull yellow.

looked up a number

Looked up the distance from MODL 5 to the communications box for Tony: 80 feet.

NGC 1491 after the party (Halifax)

It looked like after the observatory tour and star party for humans, the BGO robot resumed its imaging campaigns. For me, it acquired NGC 1491. A diffuse nebula in Perseus. Another of the RASC Finest NGCs. A curious shape. I can see hints of things far from the central object.

RASC Finest diffuse nebula NGC 1491 luminance

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


Played with the colour and hydrogen-alpha data on 20 Sep.

Friday, September 09, 2016

switched to stranded

Don't know what I was thinking but when I built my custom mirror cable adapter, I used solid copper wire to connect to the Enable toggle switch and the submini jack port. These rigid wires did not respond well to the flexing, pushing, and pulling encountered in a typical imaging run. Two wires pulled out of their soldered joints. Gah.

Tonight I rewired with stranded leads.

Missed having it last weekend. I think the mirror vibration was affecting some of my high-speed double star shots.

Tested it. It is working. I think.

BYE seems very sluggish after the imaging run...

here they come

Didn't take long for the vultures to swoop in.

cleaned up camera-lens profiles

Did some SkyTools clean-up. Before deleting duplicate/extra telescopes, I moved associated log entries to the proper instrument. Made a telescope called the "tracking mount for photography" which I associated the DSLR with. Partly in deference to the barn door tracker. Mostly to have the camera and all the lens choices in one spot. I added the Rokinon 8mm lens to the camera profile. Changed the existing entry for the 18-55 kit lens so that it worked at f/5.6 when zoomed out, not f/3.5. Checked that the Vivitar Series 1 stays at f/3.5 when zoomed. Verified, after setting to piggyback mode, the field of view against past photos. Looks good!

Thursday, September 08, 2016

portable power on sale

I let RASC TC members know about the excellent sale on the MotoMaster Nautilus 800 A battery. Shared that I had not seen it at 50% off for a long time. Wayne gave a thumbs-up quick review.

inspired by sci-fi

During the bubbly interviews before the launch of OSIRIS-REx, I was particularly intrigued by the one with Dr Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona. They started off referencing the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. The announcer asked if had been influenced by science fiction. Of course he had. And then he proceeded to rhyme off names: H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury. Classics! He was a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I enjoyed that bit a lot. It flickered through my mind at the moment: how many space geeks, astronauts, technicians, scientists, etc. are influenced by SF? Presumably, there's a bunch. Presumably, it was more than just a job for these people. Making science fiction science fact.

watched launch

Caught the OSIRIS-REx launch. Looked like everything went perfect.

rocket lifting off


rocket rising about the buildings

Cleared the towers.

rocket atop a tall plume of fire and smoke


rocket tilting away for orbital insertion

Done the roll program.

close-up view of rocket and engines

Great view of the 411 configuration.

rocket in low Earth orbit

The fairing flipped off but I was a little slow on the trigger.

We're off to asteroid 101955 Bennu.


Found the mission web site.

OSIRIS-REx to launch today

The NASA OSIRIS-REx probe is launching today. The beginning of the asteroid-return mission. Many friends and RASC members are in Florida for this event.

tight at last

Finally tightened extremely tiny grub screw on the motor gear of the Barn Door Tracker. Used a new 0.9mm Allen key! Thank you Tekton.

still stiff

Took a very close look at the input shaft of the baader planterium 36mm 2-inch eyepiece in an effort to determine why the filter would not screw in. It did not look out of round. No flanges or deformations from drops. No bad threads on the inside. A bad paint job? I thought for sure I had used 2" filters before. Alas, the filter still would not thread all the way—and seat. But I was able to get all the visible threads in such that it was usable. I don't think a filter will fall out. Strange.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

viewed Randy's gallery

Randy H shared a link to his flickr gallery. Great work. Lovely astronomy shots. Recent aurora captures. With links to movies on YouTube and Vimeo. Some from the Carr Astronomical Observatory too! :-D