Monday, October 31, 2016

old globe

Mom found this little desktop item in my old toys. A tin globe with a pencil sharpener in the base! The red arrows showing the Apollo 11 and 12 landings have faded.

My aversion began at a very young age.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

stars overhead (St Thomas)

Clear on leaving Donna and Steve's. Mom spotted Orion off her 9 o'clock when we got out of the city.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

rockets aglow

Didn't work. Everyone scratched their head when I showed them.

Rachel's rocket was much better.

planned a carving

It was a beautiful day. Enjoyed the fresh, warm air from the back deck. Borrowed paper and pencil and worked on an idea for a pumpkin carving. I wondered if it would work.

As I finished up the core idea, I was hit with another. But it would mean a lot of work! Next year, maybe.

Friday, October 28, 2016

together (Orangeville)

When I turned south from Highway 9 to 10, I was astonished to see Jupiter and the Moon. Very close! One finger width! Absolutely beautiful clear conditions, suddenly. A velvety dark blue sky. Earthshine too.


I did not see Porrima. Forgot to look.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

stunning morning (Bradford)

Wow. It was very clear! Beautiful. And I had to work.

Bright Big Dipper climbing, crescent surprisingly bright Moon from the corner, Canis Major over the backyard. Sirius burning. Oh to be out with a telescope.

From the station platform, obvious Earthshine. What? Was that Jupiter over the Marsh?! A beige? Or dull orange? About 5 degrees up? Ecliptic was steep. The Dipper was dim here, barely visible, Megrez only by position, under the bright lights, distant train calling.

A comet was in there somewhere.

I checked with Ananke. At 6:47 AM Jupiter was 10.5˚ up.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

alignment of the stones

I did some research into the so-called TorontoHenge, wherein a chance alignment of Toronto streets lines up with the setting Sun.

I thought I'd crunch the numbers. All these values are approximate.

Many of Toronto's streets are canted at a 16 degree angle from the east-west direction. This includes St Clair, Bloor, Queen, and King. According to a compass and its bearings, the east end of these streets appears to point to the 74° position while the west aims to 254°.

Using Stellarium, for today's date, I checked the azimuth or compass bearing of the Sun while it was rising and setting.

108° sunrise
253° sunset

So, as you can see, the closest star is nicely aligned with many Toronto streets at sunset.

While I was at it, I checked for the morning opportunity. I knew it would happen earlier in the summer.

mornings, sunrise, August 23-24, 6:30 AM
evenings, sunset, October 22-23, 6:15 PM

Mark your calendars.


Oops. Forgot that this will happen a total of four times. The other two.

mornings, sunrise, April 17-18, 6:30 AM
evenings, sunset, February 17-18, 5:45 PM

OK. Mark you calendars again.

Monday, October 24, 2016

tested warmer

Found zippo lighter fluid today! w00t! At a strange, small convenience store with a lot of glass pipes. Hmmm.

The box of tins all looked pretty new. No dust. Bottom of the 133mL container had a dot matrix stamp: 091201615uvk. There also appeared to be another stamp overtop: 10/10/14 15 15. I hoped the stuff was fresh.

Added 20mL, with my little syringe, into the Restoration Hardware metal hand warmer. Again, did not overflow. Maybe I can try 25 or 30 next time.

I had the replacement burner installed. Also from zippo. Purchased from MEC? But, if I remember correctly, I never got it started with this new burner. It's made of some sort of fabric material unlike the original. The old was a metallic mesh shield.

Did some research: the new type is "platinum-catalyzed glass fibre." Huh. Glass fibres.

Lit it with a BBQ lighter. It worked! Started it at 5:50 PM. It short order, it warmed. The entire length of the burner started glowing. All right. Toasty!

Winter is coming.


8:14 PM. Still going strong.

9:25. Still good. Almost too hot to handle.

12:10 AM. Cool.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

try a mirror

Helped Peter R with his new 80mm refractor. He was having trouble focusing. He asked about an extension. But it sounded like, to me, he did not have a mirror diagonal installed.

the rig with the new refractor (but without mirror diagonal)

It worked! Yeh.

wet coast

Mr Lane reported 63mm of rain at the SMU observatory. No photography from BGO.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

all sites used

I was very pleased to hear from Denis that his SkyShed POD was installed at the MODL 5 site. It feels, at long last, that the My Own Dome Lot project is complete.

tested the Tasco

Caught up with Rhonda. I was relieved to learn that she had not bought anything from the Snake Oil salesman instead planning to buy online. I, however, wasn't sure that a hybrid 0.965-1¼ mirror diagonal would work. The opening where the eyepiece would normally screw in was 0.82-something-something inches. Proprietary.

We also discussed the optical path. With a mirror, it would be longer. By about an inch. On a whim, I grabbed a prism. Happened to be a loaner 45° erecting unit. Jury rigged it to the OTA with little tiny rubber bands and a dash of hope. Popped in my ole Celestron Plössl 26mm and aimed into the back yard. Wow. I was able to focus on the trees! Huh. Was not expecting that. Unfortunately, it looked like I couldn't get the Tasco 17 EB to focus further than a dozen meters. We hit the inner focus limit.

I tried to remove the shaft at the back. It was secured with a small brass set screw. Once loose, I pulled the metal sleeve off. Oh. There was an inner metal tube—just as long. Damn. Still no way to get the mirror closer. Not without some major mods...

Still, it was a little inconclusive. The Moon would not rise until midnight. Shared that I did not like throwing stuff out if it might be made to work.

considered disks

Had a quick look at Disk Detective. Another citizen science project. They need help identifying the birthplace of planets in never-before seen data. Something to do perhaps in the grey months?

snow at the CAO

It snowed, briefly, at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Report from Clayton.

news from the Planetary Society

Read Emily Lakdawalla's blog post on the ExoMars Schiaparelli lander. Looked at the before and after images captured by the NASA orbitor. Oh oh.

Friday, October 21, 2016

rejigged cases

Reshuffled things a bit. I had not found a home for the Williams Optics focuser (and the little spacer). Wanted something that would protect it. I also needed a spot for the focal reducer. Likewise, it needed to be padded. I also needed a place for the Canon-Backyard mirror lock cable. And the recently acquired Meade ETX adapter. Oh, and the USB-ethernet adapters! The old Blacks camera bag was vacated with all photographic gear now in the large thinkTANK Airport Commuter. The Blacks bag is now astronomy case φ. Somehow, thematically appropriate. While I was at it, I reevaluated things I was carrying about in the astronomy case α. Stuffed another sketch pad in case σ. Labelled the various NOCO cables in case ρ. Oh my: I have a lot of silica packs.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

plotted Jan-Oct SQM

Backed up the last couple of months of SQM-LE data from the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

line graph of SQM-LE readings for Jan through Oct

Wow! Still getting occasional readings over 22. We experienced a very high reading in August that almost broke 23!

getting started

Gave my neighbour Rhonda a RASC planisphere and the Getting Started in Astronomy flyer. I also loaned her my medium tripod to try.

shared binocular collimation material

Nick pinged me. Asked if I still had my notes for the collimation of the 15x70 binoculars. Forwarded him the link to my online presentation archive. Told him to look for the March 2013 material. He was happy.

nice desktop

Sent Rhonda a link to APOD. The featured shot on the 19th was a lovely, colourful, dusty Pleiades. In turn, she forwarded me a snapshot with the image as her work Windows desktop. Sweet.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

even more galaxies

I read an article at the Astronomy magazine web site. It noted that the latest research and analysis shows that the Universe (purportedly infinite) is 10 times "more vast" than previously thought. That's a weird way of putting it. They go on to say that the observed galaxies is 10 times more. So from 200 billion to 2 trillion. That's better. They also said, "The universe seems a little less lonely today." To me, it feels the opposite. The Universe is big. Richer, now. And so far, it seems to be only us.

watched Soyuz launch

Watched a replay of the Soyuz launch to the International Space Station. Looks like everything went swimmingly.

signal stopped

Checked on the status of the ExoMars mission. The orbiter was working well; but ESA had not heard from the lander. Somewhere around thruster firing... Oh oh.

infographic for the ESA landing sequence

The curse continues...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

thanked everyone

Personally thanked all the work party volunteers. We had a good team at the CAO.

Monday, October 17, 2016

missed Antares launch

During the power outage, I was not able to view live the launch of the Orbital ATK rocket. Using new engines.

RD-191 engine

Image from the amazing Wikipedia.

When the internet came back up, I saw they had successfully launched and reached orbit. Glad to see them back on their feet again.

finished deck

Clayton and I finished the deck of MODL 5. Just before the rain, and the wind, and the black clouds to the north, and the power outage.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

clouds in the south (Blue Mountains)

Looked outside in hopes of seeing a clear southern horizon. Nope.

worked at the work party

Helped at the fall work party at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. We replaced the large bed in the Cygnus room, prepared the site for the MODL 5, built a work station in the white light lounge, replaced the kitchen sink and faucet, a number of small, odd jobs, along with the seasonal tasks. I think everyone had a good time.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

quickly processed NGC 1977

Just for fun and upon some subtle prompting from Geneviève tried colour processing in GIMP.

Used the raw data from this morning.

NGC 1977 in LRGB colour

Very interesting result even though I was using the old version, with 8-bit processing.

imaged NGC 1977 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 1977 for me. A diffuse nebula in Orion. One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

SkyTools 3 Pro shows this as a hybrid object: open cluster (OCL 525.1) and nebula. William Herschel first catalogued the nebula and did not refer to the cluster; it was in 1958 when the stars were official classified.

RASC Finest reflection nebula NGC 1977 luminance

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

The open cluster OCL 525.1 appears to be rather large, encompassing all the bright stars in this image.

The very bright (magnitude 4.6) star near centre is 42 Orionis, a tight double. Due east (left) is the V359 Ori (at mag 7.3). South-east of V359 Ori is triple star 45 Ori (mag 5.2). It is 4 arc-minutes from 42, a nice wide double star target for binoculars.

North-west of 42 is KX Ori (mag 7.3). North of 42 is the triple Σ 746 (mag 9.7). Stephen James O'Meara, in Deep-Sky Companions: Hidden Treasures, says these stars belong to the Orion OB1 Association subgroup c.


Processed quickly in GIMP. Wow. It worked.


Image centred on NGC 1973.

Image centred on NGC 1975.

Friday, October 14, 2016

checked pins

Helped Charles with a technical question regarding is Star Adventurer. Checked the connections to the "SNAP" jack.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

checked the 'scope

Checked out Rhonda's Tasco telescope, the 17 EB. Metal tube, helical focuser, zoom ring (20 to 60), gun-sight style finder. Everything back of the focsuer looks plastic. Should be OK for the Moon, bright planets, open clusters, and double stars! Loaned her my big tripod.


Kp-index 9? I don't think I've ever seen it go that high.

centred on NGC 1973 (Halifax)

The BGO 'bot imaged NGC 1973 for me. This is a reflection nebula in Orion. It is one of the RASC Finest NGCs.

Formally, this is the bright but small nebula in the centre of the image. It appears to be part of the larger complex structure, NGC 1977, the centre of which is below or south, and a small, faint neighbour to NGC 1975 which is to the left or east. This area is often referred to as the Running Man Nebula given the dark region between 1973, 1975, and 1977.

The image is quite flawed. I think I'll shoot again.

RASC Finest reflection nebula NGC 1973 luminance

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

Of course there are a couple multi-star systems in the field.

North-east of centre is the obvious triple, STF 746.

To the south-east is 45 Orionis.


Image centred on NGC 1975.

Image centred on NGC 1977.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

delivered my TSTM

Delivered my The Sky This Month presentation to RASC Toronto Centre members at the Ontario Science Centre. For the balance of October into early November. Shared the link to the content on the web site. Took lots of questions after including ones about Lunar X and meteor showers. Chris liked the solar system 3D images I used and how I had used the constellation images from Stellarium.


Content also stored on my personal server.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

converted three KMNs

Hacked some Kick-Me-Not units. Well. I didn't do anything to the red LED blinkie thing per se.

custom insert to operate KMN without batteries

Rather, I made an insert that goes in place of the two batteries (the LR1130 and the LR44). Apothic red wine fake cork to the rescue (again).

KMN works without a battery (right)

Hammered the ends of the wires flat. Prototyped the first one (right) and tested it on an external power supply (set to 1.5VDC*). It worked!

three KMN units converted to external power

Converted three pieces. Secured the solid wire leads. I'll use these for tripod legs.

All three worked!

Next step is to make the harness to connect them all together.


* Upon review, that note seems odd. The KMN light takes two batteries each outputting 1.5 volts so the total supply voltage should be 3.0. Did I test at 3.0 and write it down wrong? Or did I test at 1.5?


Tried again. Attached the newer camera. Windows did the boop-beep indicating a recognised USB device. Then I launched Orion AmCap. Tried Options, Preview. Wha? I saw live video! Connected to the Meade ETX and aimed out the window.

screen grab of camera sending a live view to Orion AmCap

So the camera is working and the driver seems to be OK. But still no response from MaxIm DL or PHD. Captured a 15 second AVI.


One needs to be careful about saving, closing, gracefully so to not corrupt the file. Played back a movie in VLC. Huh. It works, in a basic way.

found film

Found the missing red film. I had 2 large sheets for the Dell 22-inch monitors. Used 1 piece over the weekend; only now found the other. In the office bookcase. Must have missed it in the dark.

Also removed the square-ish piece from astronomy box α primus. It may be useful with the hp monitor I'm currently using beside the Dell.

labelled key

Put label on the 2mm Allen key for collimating the Celestron 8-inch telescope.

labelled Allen key for collimation

Partly for identification. Mostly for when I drop it in the grass in the dark.

tore down

Slightly forlorn this morning tearing down the portable observatory in the backyard. But it was a very successful experiment.

tried two StarShoots

Tried to test the two old Orion StarShoot cameras I have access to.

The StarShoot Solar System Color Imaging Camera II (52068) is missing its software CD. I can't seem to find anything appropriate on the web.

The StarShoot Solar System Color Imaging Camera (52069) appears to be a complete set. While the camera driver seemed to install, MaxIm DL Essentials did not see the camera.

Tried the SSSSCI-IV software with the first camera. Could not get the camera recognised at all.

Tried the SSSSCI-II camera with the other software. No luck.

Found the SSSSCI-III setup software. It seemed to recognise the camera upon connection but MaxIm DL did not see it and PHD crashed.

Getting nowhere.


Ironically, stumbled across Geoff's review of the SSSSC from 2011.

checked out SolarHam

Rhonda sent me a link to SolarHam by VE3EN. A very interesting solar and aurora portal. It looks very thorough.

Monday, October 10, 2016

looks better

Did another search. Used the keywords "driver for starshoot ii solar system." This time I landed on a page with a camera that looked like the one I had, although with a black case. Looks like it still has the silly blue LED. Perhaps this will have the correct drivers.

checked the sky

Peeked out the window. Bright Moon. Slightly left of the meridian. Ugh.

forgot to hibernate

Didn't think to hibernate! If I had done that with the CGEM mount, I could have easily done day-time planets!

helped Mom

Phoned Mom to catch up, wish her a Happy Gobble Gobble Day, and discuss visits. She said she tried to find Orion the other night after leaving the movie theatre. I wondered if it had been too early. Midnight it would rise. By 1:00 AM, you'd likely see the whole thing.

third time's a charm (Bradford)

What a night! I was already in a good mood going into my third evening. I had not expected that! Three clear nights in a row, FTW. My collimation exercise went very well, better than expected. I saw a bunch of very cool double and multi-star systems. I was able to keep warm despite the low temperature! And it seems I went deep. Low, low magnitudes. Amazing even though I'm not far from the polluted Toronto light dome. And, just before returning inside, as I took in the whole sky, Little Dipper hanging from a hook, Orion, Taurus, and Auriga rising, Pegasus falling, a meteor—for good measure—headed from the west into Auriga. Awesome finish.

focused on doubles (Bradford)

8:59 PM, Sunday 9 October 2016. Suited up. Put on long johns this time!

9:03 PM. Transferred the PHD software to a network share. I had downloaded it a couple of days back. Then I could possibly try the StarShoot with software on netbook.

Used a basket to bring things out. Handy.

9:08. Brought out a marine Sealed Lead Acid battery to power the dew heaters. It was ready. Strapped controller to shaft.

Tied up the fly this time. At the midsection. Yep. This will hold it in place.

Found well-placed ties for the observing roof flap and screen. Did not need the small spring clamps I had installed earlier.

Oregon said: 64%, 5.7 degrees, pressure dropping, rain tomorrow. There was no wind. No clouds... But a bright moon.

Reconfigured the AC power lines with the GFCI power bar as a distribution point.

It as 9:38 and I was in tent. Initially forgot the computer. When I fetched it, I also brought out USB kit.

9:46. Found the needed Allen key, for collimating, in the OTA bag. That was forward-thinking. That said, I thought it would be even better if I put some electrical tape on it. To serve as an identifier. And help spot it when dropped in long grass.

9:50. Brought out the DSLR. For possible imaging projects.

Forgot the stand for the Sony again.

Wasn't sure where the cap was for the Pentax eyepiece. Ah. Found it on the floor. Probably it got yanked off when I snagged my winter coat hood on the 'scope.

I wanted to collimate the Celestron 8. And I suddenly remembered that using a camera would make it very easy.

Considered the sequence. It would be best to go to the star first, visually check it, centre on it, before attaching the camera. Picked a star near zenith.

The hot rods were out again.

Did not have the dew shield on. Would it matter? The humidity was lower tonight. But it could act as a light shield. Then again with the curling, detaching flocking paper, I might get artefacts while collimating. I didn't want that. The dew heaters seemed to be working fine.

10:06 PM. I was on Scheat. β (beta) Pegasi.

Felt a little scrambled. Not sure why.

Removed the visual gear and attached the Canon camera.

10:09. Looked for the star in EOS Utility. Showed a low battery. It was already at 30 seconds and ISO 1600.

Focused, using the mirror, until I spotted the star. Then fine-tuned with the WO focuser. It seemed to be taking the weight of the camera. Good. Reconfigured with the Tele Vue PowerMate.

Eyeglasses were smudged.

C8 collimation using Scheat

10:53. Finished the collimation. Looked OK on the camera; hoped it would be satisfactory with an eyepiece. Removed the little driver. Readied to tear down the camera.

Something occurred to me. While using EOS Utility and previewing a scene, using the Live View of course, and then shooting, the software keeps the mirror up. It never goes down! So this means there's no, zero, vibration induced by mirror movement. Can I do the same in Backyard EOS? It certainly does not seem to be the case when using the Imaging intervalometer features. Hmm. I'll have to look at this later...

The collimation looked good! Really good. Almost perfect!

11:01. Think I nailed it. That was a relief because I wasn't feeling really good about itm at the time. Took longer than I expected. My first impression was that I'd only need to adjust one screw. The resulting view was very good in the Tele Vue 9mm (which, if I remember correctly, yields 222 power).

It looked really good! I was very happy.

Found the Williams Optics focuser could not hold the camera (with doubler). I wondered if it is adjustable.

11:07. Viewed the multi-star system for elements, while I was on it. Spotted A, B, and C Scheat. aka HJ 1842. All right. The faint one, B, was to my left. That meant north was right. SkyTools 3 Pro said B was magnitude 13.4 (on the chart). Spotted Tycho 02243-0060 1, at mag 12.8, beyond B. Huh. Never viewed before.

Neck was cool. Adjusted the collars of the 18 layers I had on.

Headache. Weird. Water? Food? Lack of sleep?

Forgot that I had prepared PHD for transfer. Got my wires crossed. Thought I needed VNC.

Opened the Orion StarShoot II box. Reviewed the documentation. Dang. The optical disc included MaxIm Essentials. No software CD. That would have been good, to develop some more experience. Connected the camera to the computer. Crikey. Stoopid blue LED! Windows thought it a USB 2.0 web camera. Did a quick search on the interwebs, found a product support page at, but it showed a very different camera. Oh boy. Perhaps this was a bad idea...

11:30. Checked the audio recorder. Audio levels OK.

Made a note to apply a skin the browser on John Repeat Dance to get rid of the bright chrome.

Reviewed my life lists and the software for targets.

Slewed to Enif. I still had the high power eyepiece in but it was in the field. Impressive.  But a bit too much power.

Covered the red LED string again.

Lovely light gold, the primary. Gold and blue. Widely separated. Blue was the C star. The non-related star to the right or east was PPM 172195. North was up. Noted the gently curving arc of stars on the north-east side of Enif.

11:45. Viewed Enif more. Found the B star! It was super-faint. Strange. When I hovered over the star in the chart, ST3P said it was mag 11.3. The Object Info echoed this. It could not be that. It could not be 11. Many other mag 12 stars were visible to me and the B was dimmer. I could see the star north of the PPM: it was GSC 01125-2020 at mag 13.0. I saw a star between PPM 172195 and HD 206794, almost in the middle: GSC 01125-1933. SkyTools said it was mag 15.0. No!

Around midnight. Humidity had dropped: 59%. The temperature was slowly dropping: 5.4°C. Air pressure was even or steady now. The Oregon still showed rain tomorrow.

Grabbed some more targets.

12:08 AM, Monday 10 October 2016. Viewed 10 Lac. Used SAO 72575. Bright star, blue-white. The other one looked purple! Can't be purple. [ed: Haas quotes Smyth: while and violet! Holy crikey—we agree!]

I identified the A and B stars. B was much fainter. The chart was wrong—made them look equal. The OI box said mags 4.9 and 8.4. [ed: Haas says B is 10.4!]

I like it! Neat pair.

I saw an extremely faint [ed: pair?] north of the pair but ST3P did not show this at all. Not in the software. [ed: Could this have been MLB 798? Curiously, they are about the same distance from 10 Lac as the following pair, 214433...]

Noticed the beehive of faint stars to the north-east.

Spotted HD 214433 A and B off to the west. Tight. Also known as Struve 2926, orange and blue stars. Both dim. The orange one was above or to the north. In SkyTools, it noted the primary star was class A and the secondary was a class M. Rock on!

Lots of multiple star systems in The Lizard! Along the Milky Way. Lots of field stars.

Decided to take a break. Partly to get rid of the headache. Returned with the stand for the recorder, sodium acetate hand warmers (just in case), and an energy bar.

Slewed to HR 8588 (SAO 72446), a system in the 'hood, beyond 8, from 10 Lacertae.

the Clear Sky Chart had lots of blue

12:29 AM. Made a note to thank Phil.

Made a note to check the dovetail plate. I found it slipping yesterday. Hot-cold cycles. Tighten it again. And ensure there are captive bolts. Should be checked each session.

The truck, somewhere in town, was still backing up. Weird.

Security light came on again.

Checked the software for HR 8588 aka ROE 47. Wow! I had seen all the elements! B to the south, C to the north, D and E faintly to the south-west. Reminded me a bit of Scorpius. North was up. The bright star to the north-west, HD 213616, added to the attraction.

I even saw a star beyond DE. The Context Viewer did not show this star but it was displayed on the Interactive Atlas: GSC 03205-1814. It also said the star was magnitude 14.7. Can't be. I saw tiny triangle of faint stars to the south including GSC 03205-1560 at mag 14.1. Can't be. Saw GSC 03205-1908 at mag 13.7 at the top of the gentle arc of 4 stars. Can't be.

Spotted another triangle of stars, south-south-east, further away. It included the double star COU 1834.

Why would the 1560 stars, at the same kind of separation, not be considered a double when the COU was? Why would the COU not be considered a triple? Mysterious.

Knockin' them out of the park tonight. Wow. [ed: Ironic.]

Are mag 14 stars possible?!

12:30. Humidity 60, temp 5.1. Huh. Did not feel chilled, at this stage. But then, I had come out with the long johns, layers, the winter coat.

Thought: Why should I feel guilty about not looking at galaxies? I was not in Mew Lake. Worry about galaxies later. Do double stars!

12:33. Our security light went out.

The neighbours to the south? Their backdoor light is psychotic. It remains on for a long time, extinguishes, then immediately retriggers. There's something wrong with the motion or heat sensitivity setting.

Transferred more targets. A few from Pisces.

12:52. Viewed ο (omicron) Cephei (SAO 20554). Beautiful. Yellow and orange. Quite tight. A triple. I spotted C! Once again, ST3P was not showing the A and B stars correctly. They were not equal. B was actually much dimmer. The OI information looked OK. 4.8 vs 7.3. A and B point to a random nearby star TYC 04478-1238 1. ST3P told me the C star (Struve 3001) was brightness 12.8. No way. It was much dimmer.

I saw the stars GSC 04478-1224 (mag 14.4) and -0216 (13.8) in a westerly line away from AB. Beyond C I noted GSC 04478-0364 (mag 14.0). Crazy. Very interesting.

SkyTools starting acting wonky. Right-click not working. Then the double-click stopped functioning. Closed and reopened windows. Switched to a different list and came back. Switched to a different tab—whoa. Gone. Sucked into another dimension. Restarted it. No data lost. Whew. Where were we.

Slewed to Alderamin. Increased the power with the 9mm ocular.

1:14 AM. Super wide. The bright star of Alderamin was a single. The diffraction pattern looked strange. I saw the B and the C. Hotel sierra! I got the D star. Crazy freakin' faint. Wow. C and D were very close together. They were left-right for me. North was bottom-right. Incredible.

1:20. My headache was gone, happily.

Considered HR 8281 (SAO 36626). Sounded familiar. A short slew, as a helicopter flew over.

Fantastic. I saw C and D. C was orange; D, blue. D was to my right or to the north. C was to the east. Easy. So far. E did not show in the CV chart; had to switch to the IA. On hovering, I saw the listed mag was 15.4. Can't be. Found the E star! It was about 4 times the A-D separation.

Noted HD 206482 at the edge of the field, to the east-north-east. A previously viewed double.

Spotted HD 239729 to the east. Widely spaced. A bright and dim star. Angled north-to-south. About a third of the distance from the HR star as 206482.

Opposite 239729. Spotted a pair, not an official double, including star Tycho 03975-0625 1. To the north-west. Looks like a regular double to me.

Spotted HD 206081 further along. Previously logged.

Saw GSC 03975-0316 to the north-east. Mag 14.4.

With the 9mm eyepiece, the E star was easy. Got another.

I could not see the HR 8281 B star. We'll leave it for another day.

Around 1:50. My legs were cold. 63%, 4.2°.

Slewed to 65 Piscium or SAO 74296 or Σ61. Dropped eyepiece power. Could not detect colour. At first I thought they were pale yellow. [ed: Smyth and I agree again!]

Similar brightness. The one at the top-left was slightly dimmer. North was up and slightly right. The brightness values on the chart did not seem correct.

Observed TYC 01745-1636 1. Sure looked like a double to me. Not tagged as such.

Noted 34 Psc in my View Again list. Slewed to 91750.

1:57. Ya. Very different magnitudes. 34 Piscium. Yellow and orange. The B was toward the triangle to the south-east. A modest separation. Very interesting pair.

The triangle was neat.

Caught, in the chart, HD 530, above or to the north. Panned. Orange and blue. Wide pair. Oriented toward 34. Quite wide. Well. Very interesting.

Done. Closed up shop.

Checked the portable weather unit one more time. 64%, 4°, steady pressure, rain.


The skies had improved.

satellite infrared imagery - few clouds over the north-east

Looked like the effects of the tropical storm were gone.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

back to liquid

Boiled the hand warmers. Sodium Acetate power!

forwarded lead

Forwarded a potential RASC meeting speaker referral (someone who worked closely on the Canadarm) to Mr Delaney.

charged the warmers

Charged up the electric hand warmers! Might need 'em soon.

sent a link

Sent Rhonda the link to the SkyMaps web site. So she can print a chart when she heads north. I said I really liked these charts. She thanked me.

enjoyed my second night (Bradford)

9:39 PM, Saturday 8 October 2016. I was back in the tent! Ready to go! A short time ago I had looked out the kitchen window and spied clear skies! All right.

What a treat having everything here, already set up.

I checked the Oregon portable weather station. It had been sitting in the tent all day with new batteries. It said the humidity was 64%, the air temperature was 8.5°C! Brrr! The air pressure indicator showed even or steady. The prediction indicator showed cloudy; but no rain.

I had released and folded back the east end of the tent fly to expose the observing section. I noted it was really, really dark with the fly folded over.

9:40 PM. I decided to sit on the other side of the picnic table this time. Dunno why.

I suddenly developed an idea for the astro-tent fly. Use some sort of quick-release clip so to permit rapid attaching and disconnecting of the corners of the fly.

I had forgotten some things in the house. Made a note to get them on the next trip. Which I expected soon, given the amount of water I had had and the falling air temperature.

9:57. After the two-star alignment, I did not like the pointing. It was not good—way off, for some reason. I added a calibration star (on the fly). Bang! Done. First time I had done that, I think, with a CGEM and new NexStar controller. Really easy and fast. And I didn't have to read the manual.

10:00. Slewed to 8 Lac. The seeing looked amazing!

North was top-right for me. I spotted B, C, and D without difficulty. B was bright. A and B were white? Or pale, pale yellow? B was to the south. Very slightly dimmer than A. C was further south, slightly east, much dimmer. It was orange! D was brighter than C, south-east of B, and blue.

Oh. E was well away to the west, pale orange, dimmer than B.

I had put this on my TSTM suggestion list. It was good to be able to do it in advance!

An evocative shape. Like Leo? Noted mag 12 stars at south end.

[ed: My first double in Lacerta! Haas lists A and B and hints at the others.]

10:22. I returned from a trip inside. I had red LED lights for the tent, the GFCI power bar, the collapsible wood TV table, two more layers, and the audio recorder (but I forgot the stand).

Finally found a use for the last, extra, LED red Christmas light set. Outdoors! In the backyard observatory. I briefly considered hanging the NOMA lights from the ceiling. Instead, tossed the LED string on the floor under the west window behind the table. Ugh. The red lights were too bright!

I had thought it a good idea to have the ground-fault power bar in the tent but realised I'd disturb the running mount. I did not want to disconnect the 'scope. For tomorrow then?

Checked the Sony recorder. Oh oh. It only had 2 hours left. I had not cleaned it out for a long time. Located the RASC council meeting entry and deleted it.

10:24. Looked up. Clouds!? What? Jeez. Checked the Oregon unit. 68%, 7.7, steady, and clouds.

10:33. Viewed 6 Tri. Nice. Yellow and orange, lovely colours. Tight but I could see the split in the 36mm. Obvious split in the 20mm. B was dimmer by 1 or 2 mags. North was to the left.

[ed: My first double in Triangulum! Haas says grapefruit-orange and grey; Smyth says topaz yellow and green. Also, Haas says this is iota; SkyTools does not show that.]

10:39. Panned east and found HD 13746, aka STF 232. A wider pair of faint stars. Exact same mag and colour, pale white. Oriented east-west. [ed: Second in Tri!]

10:43. I heard a whispered, "Hi?" Rhonda visited me again. Wasn't sure I was outside but spotted the red glow from inside the tent. She noted the tent was darker inside, referred to the roof. Looked through the eyepiece. Delicate. Asked her her impressions of the colours. She thought yellow and blue. She wanted to know how I knew where to look. SkyTools!

It clouded over.

The wind moved the chimes.

We chatted about family, Thanksgiving, where we had grown up. Making meals for friends. Crazy cats playing with their toys late at night. Volunteering.

Still cloudy. Looked up the weather on Environment Canada. Rain, 40% tonight, 40% tomorrow. High was 13 on Monday. Dropping to 3 on Monday night. Holy! Tomorrow to minus 1! Warms up on Wednesday, to 19, but then falls again. Rhonda asked about next weekend. I loaded up Wunderground. Saturday clear high 15. Sunday night rain. Hmm. The CAO work party. She didn't think she'd be able to get on the water again.

11:25. Went to Achird, aka η (eta) Cas. The kink in the W. Colourful. We figured out the orientation. Little tiny triangle at the bottom; H around the 1 o'clock position; north was to the top-right.

Focuser didn't seem to work.

We talked about types of double stars. After a few years or decades motion might be detected. How are they classed? I don't know the rules.

8.5°C. Dropping.

11:45. Tried for NGC 185 (or Caldwell 18). Couldn't see anything. Sucks!

11:52. Went to another galaxy. NGC 7331 (Caldwell 30). She could see it. Still tough.

She was fascinated by how the telescope worked, how it knew where to go.

We looked at the Dumbbell nebula, Messier 27 (M27). Another planetary nebula. She did not think it round. Elongated. Narrower in the middle. She liked my hourglass comparison.

Rhonda reported it drifting off... What?

11:59. Oh no. The mount stopped tracking. Caught up when I touched it. Zip! This was exactly an issue that Nicole had described. Very strange. I did not know what would cause this. But at least I had seen it happen!

[ed: Seems the work down a couple of nights back was not working...]

Helped her remember the name of M45. She recalled Perseus!

I tried to find a decent-sized planetary. The Crystal Ball? NGC 1514. Had the sky gone away a bit? Oh. Too low. The Cedar Cluster... Next!

12:08 AM, Sunday 9 October 2016. We viewed the ET cluster (NGC 457; Caldwell 13). Phone home!

Why had I chosen Bradford. Felt lucky to find such a great backyard. Learned about the big business in the west end.

12:31 AM. Slewed to Uranus. Pale planet. Obvious disc. Focuser slipped again. Checked the software for moons. Then I increased the power. It would have taken a long time to tag the faint points.

Rhonda said she enjoyed the Moon yesterday. Talked about sleep-shifting.

Cold, 7.4, under the canopy, in the shade. Pondered ski pants. Rhonda suggested MEC or Basspro.

We talked about coffee. She used to drink a lot. Checked if she could hear my grinder. If I start roasting, that'll drive you crazy.

Tried the Fireworks galaxy. Ridiculous. No good. Need a bigger telescope... How about a double star? "Yah!" exclaimed Rhonda. OK!

12:53. We viewed ψ (psi) Aqr, aka SAO 146598, from the RASC Observer's Handbook. We compared colours.


I talked about the Greek alphabet. Another instance of the early astronomers not considering upper limits.

Yellow and blue. Yellow and aquamarine.

I thought the focuser was slipping again. Gah.

She thanked me for another sky show. I needed more clothing.

1:27. I returned to the backyard after warming up. Now I had additional layers: my winter coat, a sweater, a vest. I had tried the electric handwarmers but they did not fire up. I did not have fuel for the butane unit. Grabbed some oxide ones.

It was cloudy again! Grrr.

1:33. It cleared. And there's nothing in my list! Oh oh.

1:49. Didn't mean to go to the star system but I viewed SAO 75179. I saw the C and D to the primary. North was right. Tried to dig out B.

I spotted the faint pair to the north. Beyond C. About double the AC distance from A.

I felt I had seen the B star, with averted. It was about half the A-C sep, to the south. I wondered if it might have moved a bit. I was seeing something due south; ST3P showed it a touch to the west.

2:03. While looking at BD +29 00383, aka MLB 741, I spotted a little triangle to the north-west. After some effort, I got 'em! All three of the crazy-faint stars. I thought A and B were aiming somewhat toward TYC 02310-0333 1.

2:14. Viewed NGC 2129, a small cluster in Gem. A couple dozen stars? Noted HD 40740 off to the right. North was to the top-left. I had it in my showpieces list. I reconsidered.

2:27. Suddenly realised the audio recorder is very helpful when it is cold, so I can keep my gloves on. Yes!

Fetched my winter coat!

I continued examining NGC 2129, very near the Gemini-Taurus border. A very small open cluster. I viewed the triple on the northern edge. HD 250289. It is a triple. The BC pair was west of A. B and C were angled north-east to south-west.

On the east edge of the cluster I noted a double. Faint. Twice the separation of B and C. Angled the same way. This was POU 845.

Crazy faint cluster. Nice, but faint.

2:30. I wasn't feeling overly tired but I was getting cold again. Wondered where my long johns were.

In the software, I looked for a new target. Should do galaxies now that the Moon was gone!

Tried to view NGC 676 in Pisces. From my edge-on galaxy list. The mount flipped. Could not clearly detect it.

2:41. Verified I was pointing in the correct area. Freakin' faint. Damn. Small, too. Not satisfying for the conditions.

I found the red LED lights too bright. Tried to move and cover them a bit so they wouldn't shine in my eyes at the table or at the telescope.

Chose NGC 7814, another galaxy. Another edge-on. In Pegasus. I saw a smudge going up-down. Couple of medium-bright stars on my left. A very bright star to the top. North was to the top-right. Saw a couple of faint stars, including Tycho 01178-0738 1, to the north. Did not look uniform. Was it curved or bent? [eh: Whoa. Images show a razor-thin dust lane. aka Caldwell 43.]

Faint. Nuts!

The mount just did its quirky thing again! Froze, so the field drifted, but it caught up when I nudged it. The OTA was on the east side. That's where it was before. Is that a pattern? What would be causing this? Strange!

It was almost 3:00. Decided to finish off with one of my double star list candidates. Funny format on the list.

Moved to 55 Eridani or SAO 131443 or Struve 590. Big slew. Damn. Big maple tree in the way.

Shifted to HD 37013 or SAO 77313 or Σ742. Tight pair, nearly equal stars, somewhat faint. Oriented east-west. Simple pair. 6.9 and 7.9 mag stars in Taurus. Easily split, at 4 arc-seconds, with the 20mm eyepiece. A nice view.

[ed: Haas shows this near Struve 740 and zeta Tau. I gather that's obvious at low power.]

OK. One more! 118 Tauri. ST3P did not show a SAO number. It had HIP and Struve. Did not see anything in the hand controller.

3:07. As someone gunned their hot rod, I opened the SkyTools telescopic view so to star hop. Almost exactly between Alnath and ζ Tau. Light orange stars. About 1 magnitude different. Tight, again, like the separation of the previous. Thought I sure I saw the C star—a lot dimmer. To my 7 o'clock. North was to the bottom-right for me. Noted the arc of stars at the edge of the field to the east. Spotted two faint stars, mag 13 range, in a north-south line further away, beyond C. About a fifth of the way Tycho 01852-0777 1. The OI box showed the C star was mag 11; the charts showed it at 13. I agreed with the chart.

[ed: Haas shows others reporting different colours. She and I agree.]

I was done. I was cold. Wrapped up.

The corrector looked a little fogged as I was closing up.


That was a pretty good night albeit very cold. This is what it's all about. Setting up for more than one night. It had not looked promising in the afternoon. I was surprised that the humidity was low too. It was good to knock down some doubles.


Broke 900 attempted double stars!


I have no hot chocolate!

Saturday, October 08, 2016

resolved LAN issue

Debugged the networking issues at the CAO with Ian W serving as the local ears, eyes, legs, and arms. And cold nose. Bad router in the GBO. It had reset and was in conflict with the main.

looking not bad

Checked the chart.

Clear Sky Chart for Sat and Sun nights - some blue

The Saturday night sky looked fair... Early on.

And Sunday was looking OK, especially after midnight.

dry inside

Everything was perfectly dry. Retrieved my camera from the tent. And my apple. Not eaten by bears.

fuel tips

Phoned Tom. Apologised for not being able to help with the DDO move. Discussed how to remove fuel from the internal combustion engines. Suggested we buy a hand syphon. He said that there was not a large vehicle arranged, so it would have to wait.

rained again

Steady rain. For a long time. Not hard this time. I hoped the astro gear would be OK. And I feel asleep as it continued. I could not have done this before, say on the porch on Colbeck...

woke me up

It rained hard but briefly.

imaged NGC 1788 and LDN 1616 (Halifax)

I had asked the BGO robot to image NGC 1788 and collect data in luminance, LRGB, as well as Hα and O-III. It reported an error, that the session did not complete. Perhaps due to clouds. After downloading the data container, I found the oxygen filter data was missing. Alas, maybe I won't need it. 1788 is a reflection nebula in Orion. Another RASC Finest NGC.

RASC Finest reflection nebula NGC 1788 luminance

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

Look how dark it is along it's south-west edge! Dark nebula! And the lumpy dark material along the bottom-centre of the bright nebula, like brooding thunderclouds. Lynds (LDN) 1616.


Reflected on the evening and the various tests and experiments.

I had wanted to try out the Kendrick astronomy tent. It was a lot of fun.

The observing section is a good size. I was surprised by how spacious it felt. I had no trouble navigating around the big equatorial. There was plenty of room for the adjustable height chair. No trouble for two people near the 'scope. I knew I would even be able to fit a small table within. I'd try that tomorrow. My small folding wood table near the 'scope would allow a place to put things, like the corrector cover, or lens caps. "Luxury!"

table in a tent

The other section, normally the sleeping area, was excellent for the work station. It was great having the portable Hillary picnic table inside. It was good having seating for guests! I had not considered or planned for that per se but I think Rhonda enjoyed sitting and relaxing and chatting. Back to the work station. It really was amazing as a work space. Initially, I was irked that I could not find a data cable and was worried about the back and forth. In the end, I didn't feel inconvenienced. A non-issue. Maybe it's something about the Geoff Brown Observatory, the door, the distance, that is off-putting.

Hmm. What will I do if I actually want to use this for camping? Where would I sleep?!

The tent was fantastic as a light shade! Evelyn Crescent had always been a struggle with all the neighbours and their bad lighting. Not to mention feeling like I was in the bottom of a pit. Colbeck had been very good with the walk-out porch, once I figured out the fabric light barrier. Still, very limited view of the sky, especially in the summer. The Mississauga backyard was poor with the high pressure sodium 5 metres away. I suspect the Woodcrest yard would have been good but I never tried it. Let's not talk about Humbervale. This is the best! And the tent, as hoped, makes for a light shield, when at the 'scope, when at the table. Just need to figure out the driveway security light...

After a while, when you get so effectively dark-adapted, you can see everything. And the sky looks grey.

It seemed that the tent would work very well for sheltering items. The observing section roof panels, when closed, nicely sat above the 'scope in its sleeping position. I felt comfortable leaving all the things at the table. It was a lot like when I had observed at Colbeck from the deck: just being able to leave things there was a treat. Unlike the porch, having things covered, should there be light rain (or snow), was very attractive. At Colbeck, I used to tarp the 'scope.*

There were not a lot of bugs!

Tenting in the winter? Looking forward to that!

Hacked some things. Like the inner flaps.

Some lessons learned:

I discovered it is not a good idea to put roof flap outside for it will collect dew. And if it heavy, you'd be bringing that moisture inside the tent and possibly having water fall on the 'scope and mount. Made a note to keep it inside tomorrow. And to use more spring clamps.

It's also a good idea to have the fly installed before the end of the evening. That was a little awkward putting it on in the dark. There are a number of clever things designed into the astronomy tent but the fly seems almost an after thought. The way it's fastened down, in particular, leaves a lot to be desired.

Thought about the next time as to where to position the tent. I will try setting up a bit further south so to guarantee Polaris alignment and a bit further west to avoid the parking security light.

* Having a tarp for the 'scope might still be a good thing to do if heavy rains are expected, say if actually camping out in the middle of nowhere.

Of course, I had a chance to air out the tent. And remove all the stowaway earwigs!

I had wanted to test Nicole's mount again. After working the contacts, it seemed to work very well. That was rather satisfying.

I was somewhat astonished with the pointing performance given the lackadaisical polar alignment routine and the completely unconfirmed two-star alignment. Huh. Objects slewed were often in the low-power eyepiece.

The focuser needed testing. At first I thought there might be a focal length problem but it worked great. The rotation feature is awesome, better than expected. The focusing proper was satisfactory. While single speed, it was smooth and, of course, completely eliminated the mirror shift.

I was happy to have had a chance to show the night sky to my neighbour Rhonda. We had talked about it many times. She was happy to let me use some AC power. I think she was comfortable with me in the backyard.

And I was happy too. Backyard astronomy. Awesome. The set-up was somehow easier than I had anticipated (and should improve). While not quite as convenient as the walk-out on Colbeck during the evening, it was very nice. Power, shelter, wifi. Snacks not too far away. It was all good.

The sky did not seem great. It is light pollution? Is it Bradford's stupidly excessively bright LED street lights? Was it the moisture? Was it just the weather? Was it the distant churning hurricane? Am I comparing to the Blue Mountains? Expectations too high? Hard to say at this stage. Certainly better than Mississauga or Evelyn Crescent.

Bradford, on a Friday night, is noisy! I remember Colbeck being a highway. Maybe it was a mindset thing, expecting Bradford to be like the CAO, which of course is hushed.

As I readied for bed, I was a little anxious about the weather predictions. Looked like rain was on the way. Hopefully everything would be OK. Hopefully, the tent would keep everything dry. I had forgotten to tarp the 'scope.

This was overdue. After a long drought. I felt very satisfied. My observing session proper was not great, due to the very challenging attributes of the targets, but I still felt content.

There were many lucky breaks over the evening. I did not drop my C8. My C8 did not fall off the mount. I did not break other people's stuff. I was able to see Polaris.


Looks I have not used my C8 since April 2014! Wow.


If the magnitude values are correct in SkyTools, I saw 13.6 and 13.9 stars! One, that's incredible for the telescope; two, that's amazing for this old man; three, that's incredible for Bradford; four, that's way beyond any of my past urban limits.

stared into NGC 1535 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 1535—Cleopatra's Eye—for me. A planetary reflection in Eridanus. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Small but interesting.

RASC Finest planetary nebula Cleopatra's Eye luminance

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

busy night

Full night of astronomy! I was inside, winding down, after my backyard adventure, which was multi-faceted in its own right, with equipment experiments, repairs, double star observing, and a little star party for the neighbours. Considered, briefly, the CAO network problems. And wondered what was going on in Halifax. Noticed the tweet log had updated. Coming out of its idle state, I saw that BGO had started my job, a few minutes back, for NGC 1535. Ha!

could not connect

Tried to remote-in to the CAO. Didn't work. That looked bad. Messaged Dietmar.

catching my breath

I was back at my desk. Wow.

sky tour (Bradford)

10:23 PM, Friday 7 October 2016. Rhonda joined me.

Previously, I had selected some show pieces in SkyTools.

Albireo, a double star, in Cygnus. Lovely colours. She wanted to know the distance, fascinated by the distance-history aspect. About 430 light-years away. We talked about types of doubles.

She pointed to the south-west asking if the three stars were Orion's Belt. Good try, as the spacing and alignment was similar. Nope. That was Altair of Aquila. Forgot (again) the names of the other two stars. [ed: Tarazed and Alshain!] Reminded her that the Belt stars are equal in brightness.

Ring Nebula, Messier 57 (M57), in Lyra. Smokey faint ring. A dead, dying star. 2300 light-years. We increased the power. Not perfectly round.

A globular cluster, Messier 15 (M15). Nice! 42 000 light-years! In general, they live above and below the plane of the galaxy. Some have tens of thousands or millions of stars. Imagine the sunrises and sunsets!

The Double Cluster, two open clusters, between Cassiopeia and Perseus. Loose associations of stars. A much smaller number of stars. Generally close. And within the disc of the Milky Way. 4600 ly. Perseus looked like the Eiffel tower.

The Garnet Star, an orange-red variable star, in Cepheus. 6000 ly. A long-period varying star. Initially, I could not see the Cepheus figure. Ah. I had to rotate my perspective.

Used my laser pointer to illustrate constellations. It worked very well (for a change).

We talked stellar colours. I emphasised it was primarily an indicator of temperature. Age is a factor but initially it tells us surface temperature. She understood the scale.

We heard then saw some geese fly directly overhead, close. Eerie. Their bellies were glowing. They looked green! Could easily hear their wings. They were heading due east. Toward the train station... How do they know which way to go?

We viewed UX Draconis.

11:09 PM. Rhonda went to the house for a coat.

I shared some details of UX Dra. Faster period. 168 days. Dimmer.

Talked about naming conventions and the short-sightedness of astronomers. Variable stars. And comets are good examples.

Neptune time! Slewed but had to check SkyTools. Realised I was not on Neptune. Got it. Four hour light time. Talked about gas giants. Tried to spot Triton. Not good conditions. Bonked the hand controller and the mount moved. Gah! And didn't bother going back.

Talked about why Pluto got booted out. Strange orbit: highly elliptical and highly inclined, not unlike a comet.

Helped her with the Perseus constellation again. I spotted Aries. Considered the colourful double. I couldn't remember which one it was... In the middle, the bright one? Or the right one? [ed: The right star, gamma.]

We talked about the thirteenth zodiacal constellation, Ophiuchus. How astrologers were busy scrambling to make new predictions. We talked about hidden forces. Like dark matter and dark energy. Magnetism. Birds navigating by the stars. Ratios. da Vinci. Cosmic rays. I thought of complexity theory and Fibonacci numbers. I talked about how the recent gravitational waves detection is like opening up a door. Beautiful math and elegance in nature.

11:59 PM. Clouds! Boo.

We talked about interests when we were young. Her family knew Prof. Rick Crowe. How the Apollo lunar landings affected us. Star Trek.

12:14 AM, Saturday 8 October 2016. Checked the conditions on the Oregon. Clouds, humidity 79%, was 80%, 15.9°C, now 16.3 (close to the computer), now showing rain... Rhonda noticed no wind.

Talked about SETI. Distributed processing. The Drake equation. That I'm convinced will we discover life in the galaxy. We considered distances. Vast distances. Space is big. I talked about the millennium ship concept. Or that we have to crack the light barrier. And while that seems out of reach, we've made extraordinary technological progress. Voice interactions with computers, for example, kinda freak me out.

bi-polar planetary nebula

Bruce Balick (University of Washington), Vincent Icke (Leiden University, The Netherlands), Garrelt Mellema (Stockholm University), and NASA/ESA.

Showed some photos. Ring Nebula in colour. Planetaries. Their bi-polar structure. Almost organic.

Talked about my interest in double stars.

I spotted the Pleiades! The Subaru. The Seven Sisters. She could see many stars. More than 7. Wow. Fantastic distance vision! A lollipop. I put it in the centre of the finder scope. Nice view. 490 ly. Messier 45 (M45). And then the main 'scope, just a handful of stars.

Star life cycles.

The constellation Andromeda was overhead but I couldn't see the galaxy... We looked at some galaxy photos. Spirals. We talked about the Andromeda Strain book and movie.

Spotted Taurus and Aldebaran.

1:13. Rhonda headed in. I declined her generous offers to help.

There was a bit of dew on the corrector. Tried to using the 12 volt hair dryer but it leaves a lot to be desired. Packed up items needed for the house. Zipped up the north doors. Closed and zipped the roof! Ha! Neat. Very neat. After a couple of attempts, put the fly on and secured it. Even darker inside! Power off. Moved things off the floor that I did not want to get wet. Zipped up the east door.

Fun. I think she enjoyed that.

Friday, October 07, 2016

tough doubles (Bradford)

6:57 PM. Put new Duracell 2032 batteries in the Oregon.

The pests found me!

7:16. Fetched some matches for the mosquito coil.

Did a crude polar alignment. Ha! The pole star was right at the edge of the roof, almost blocked! Lucky I could see it. Next time, perhaps, I should move a foot or so further south.

It was too bright to see Cas or UMa, to orient them with the polar axis reticule, so I didn't bother with exact alignment. Considered the Android app. Considered SkyTools. Nah. It would be fine for my visual session, just centred.

Did a blind two-star alignment!

The people on the top floor had their porch light on for no apparent reason. They were not out there.

I reacquired the Moon. Good pointing!

I wondered about the humidity. I had not set up to run the dew heaters. I wondered if I should but was not really sure how to power. I could grab an SLA from inside. Or the Li-Ion from the car. It felt humid. I decided, in the interim, to keep things covered...

7:32. Closed the side door. Or is it the front? The one near me, near the table, in the sleeping quarters end, and nearest the house. This cut some of the stray light. The tent was awesome.

Partly out of curiousity, I aimed at Venus. As suspected, it was very low. Tried for Saturn. Damn. Behind the maple tree. Doable if I had set up two to three metres further south.

Perhaps I could use another 'scope for that...

7:40. Went for Mars. Good pointing again. The orange planet was in the 36mm baader planetarium eyepiece. But there were diffraction spikes from the leaves! The disc is obvious but it was small. A nice orange.

Slewed to 41 Oph, from my View Again list, using SAO 141586 in the hand controller. Found a light orange star.

7:47. Yeh. The upper neighbours just shut off the light!

7:49. Achoo! The Oregon said the relative humidity was 70% and the air temperature was 16.6°C. It showed even air pressure and partly sunny tomorrow but I did not trust that. What? Low battery?! Whiskey tango foxtrot?

7:55. Heard the lonely blast of the train is coming in. Was it the last one? Late. For some, their weekend was only just starting.

Borrowed Geoff's / Denise's eyepiece, the 25mm, the E-lux by Celestron. It was a little dirty. I noted a triangle is at my 7 o'clock, with PPM 180027. North was right; east was down.

Someone triggered the security light at the north-east corner of the house. Bright. Stoopid bright LEDs.

8:00. I went up to the 20mm now, the Pentax wide angle.

Tried the Tele Vue Nagler 9mm. I noticed a slightly asymmetrical diffraction pattern around the airy disc. The collimation was fair but needed a tweak.

There was distracting vibration when I touched the 'scope, the focuser, at this high power. No mirror shift, happily, but substantial shake. It damped out quickly but it was a little challenging getting to perfect focus. I'm spoiled having the e-focuser at the CAO.

Did I see dark orange dot? I thought I saw something to my 11 o'clock. But ST3P showed the B star opposite. Hmm. [ed: Hold the phone. In the daylight, with the red film removed from the netbook screen, I noted the star at the top-left was dark and the one at the bottom-right was white. Interesting.]

8:08. The security light had gone off earlier. I was enjoying the dark backyard. Still, I could not split the pair. This target sounded familiar. It is one of Haas's test stars. 2.5 delta mag; 1.0". Nope.

8:10. The sec. light came back on.

Went to HR 6594 (SAO 103033). Another item to view again.

8:20. The sec. light turned off.

8:24. The sec. light tripped on. Did a car come in?

I bumped to the 20mm. Noted a triangle with TYC 01551-0516 at my 1 o'clock. I saw TYC 01551-1256 1 at my 2 o'clock. A magnitude 11 star. North was right.

8:25. Heard a noise just outside the tent, east side. Saw the black-and-white kitty moving away. He had walked across the tent fly. I had wondered if he would come by. On his turf.

Tried to get SkyTools to render a display to match my ocular view. Set the sky brightness to 20, set the temp to 15, set the humidity to 75.

8:34. I could see GSC 01551-0904 and GSC 01551-1240 in-line with the triangle. Mag 13 stars (although ST3P said the data was poor).

Oh. Oh. Shoot. When I hovered over the star in the Interactive Atlas, it said the mag was 15! In the Object Information box, mag 12. Ah no. I should scratch this from the list. [ed: The WDS shows the C star is mag 14.5. So pretty faint.]

8:44. Sec. light had been out for a while. The downstairs bathroom light came on. I closed the west window flap just as the light went out. I'd be ready.

Tried the old Meade 18mm orthoscopic. It was no good. Went back to the 20mm. Again wondered if there was a blip at the 11. Nope. The other way accordingly to the software.

Viewed HD 156162. C was easy (which I've seen before). Could not see B. Now, for me, north was down. Also from the View Again list.

Noticed HD 155674 to the north-west. Previously viewed (in the summer of 2014).

8:57. The sec. light went on. Not sure why. The cat?!

Saw GSC 03887-0310 to the east of HD 156162. Mag 13.9. Wow. Low brightness.

9:07. Sec. light off; another light off. Oh. It was really dark now...

No joy with B star.

Headed to my new target in Aquila, HD 180994 or SAO 124489.

9:16. The sec. light came on. I saw more lights. Red lights... Was it Rhonda? Did she back in? Yes! Thanks!

Way off target.

9:28. Saw HD 181781 with a close companion. I wondered why it would not be considered a double.

Panned to the east from HD 181781. Noticed GSC 00476-1906, a tiny triangle of faint stars, mag 11 and 12. These could be considered doubles or triples, no?

9:33. Viewed HD 181526 aka HO 576. Split A, B, and C. Wow. Didn't mean to. C was to the west, well away. B was to the south and close, much fainter. A was pale yellow? No colour in the other stars. Now, north was up.

The downstairs bath light came on again. Ha. I had the window flap partly closed and it was very helpful!

9:37. I turned the mirror again. Actually, released the Williams Optics focuser shaft. It was so easy to turn. A great feature. It's like the old Tele Vue adapter I had used for a number of years. But better. It is better than releasing the mirror screw; no danger of anything falling out. Now north was at the 2 o'clock. I panned left or south-west.

9:41. Noted a broad V of stars. My double target, at last, was the bright element. North was up.

With panning, I could see the large round fuzzy at the top or to the north. That was NGC 6781. Wow, hard to see. If I had not known it was there...

9:48. The sec. light came on again. Considered that if I put the tent a half-metre west I would not see the security light directly. The bright light would still bounce off the car though.

Then a light to the west came on. Over on the other property. The townies? It had come on before.

I tried the 9mm. It was hard to split. Just barely doable. Extremely faint and tight. And the skies just did not seem terribly dark. I thought it best to leave HD 180994 on the View Again list.

I was not satisfied. Considered wider targets.

And then I had a visitor!

took in the Moon (Bradford)

Cleaned the 36mm eyepiece.

Viewed the Moon.

Aligned the finder scope, finally.

Showed Rhonda. She really enjoyed that. We talked about maria and the period of heavy bombardment. It was slightly less than First Quarter. A good time to look.

Bree had a look later. "Oh my gosh." Yep.

dinner time

I tried to find Venus, manually panning. No luck. I really had no idea if I was in the right area.

Of course the mount wasn't aligned to the pole yet.

Spotted the quarter-phase Moon to the south before heading inside.

Implemented red light mode inside. Bathroom, bedroom, desk, kitchen, stairs lighting. The base of the old floor lamp!

dive dive

Installed red film on the big computer monitor. Only found one sheet. Where was the other red film sheet, I wondered? I had had two pieces for the 22-inch Dell monitors. Had I loaned one out?

5:44 PM. Responded to a RASC council matter.

Received a SMS out of the blue from the CAO.

Had a quick dinner. Not really hungry.

6:05. Suited up.

An alert from CSAC for Halifax popped up. Oh ho. Maybe I'd be doing some astronomy on the east coast too...

6:33. Loaded up my wx portal page. Checked the weather predictions. Crap! The Environment Canada pages for Barrie and Newmarket showed rain in the late evening. No!

LAN issues

Heard that there are issues with internet and/or network at the CAO. GBO router did not appear to be working. Another router was listed. Poor or no internet service. Responded, wondering what might have happened. Unfortunately no time to help.

got lucky

Remounted the OTA.

When performing a two-star alignment test, the Vixen plate slipped in the Orion wide-to-narrow adapter. My heart skipped a beat.

That could have ended in a disaster!

I grabbed the long narrow dovetail, moved the OTA rings, with the aft one around the mirror cell, and bolted everything up.

It worked!


applied grease

Nicole's CGEM mount was not working right.

When I powered it up to slew to the Sun initially, it seemed fine. But then, at one point, one of the motors stopped responding. Pressing either of the pair of buttons on the controller did nothing.

Later when attempting a full proper two-star alignment, the mount only rotated on one axis. The other motor did not operate. The hand controller appeared to wait for a response—which it never received.

Put grease, using a toothpick, on the pins of the motor harness connectors.


Discovered another benefit to the astronomy tent. When affecting repairs and you drop tiny screws, you don't have to go foraging in the grass to find them.


I reminded myself: "It's always the wire."


The mount worked great the rest of the evening!

tested the focuser again

Remounted the Williams Optics focuser (with plastic plate) while still on the Sun. Oh ho. There it was. Only slightly out of focus. Whew. It works.

Adjusted the primary mirror for the focuser at the half-way mark.

Now it will just be a matter of getting used to it!

spotted spots! (Bradford)

Powered up the Celestron CGEM. Without doing a full alignment, I wondered if it would track at sidereal rate. No matter. Once I manually eyeballed the target, at least I could use the hand controller to slew and nudge.

Except that one axis stopped working. Weird.

Could not focus. Removed the focuser.

Finally got it.

Viewed the Sun. Spots! Wow.

Offered views for Rhonda and Bree. But I was not sure if they understood the view. It was challenging with the tree leaves. The dirty eyepiece didn't help. I promised a better view on Saturday.

I was surprised to see lots of sunspots!

Simulated view using NASA imagery.

Spot 2599 was big! I saw 2600 on the edge. Noted 2598 as well but did not review it closely.

prepped for first big run

OK. OK. Let's do it.

I had noted that the mini Clear Sky Chart on my John Charles desktop was looking pretty good. Both Friday and Saturday. It was looking clear. Examined at the full one.

The CSC for Newmarket, as of 11:44 AM Friday, showed:

cloud from 11 AM to 1 AM: 10, clear
trans from 3 PM to 10 PM: 4, above average
from 11 PM to 1 AM: 3, average
seeing from 4 PM to midnight: 2/5. poor
from 1 to 2: 3/5, average

The Clear Sky Alarm Clock had sent me an alert for Toronto at 2:18 PM. Then one came in, at 3:24, for BWG.

Since I did not feel like going to the observatory...

Did I hear Rhonda in the hall?

I pulled the trigger.

I could complete many things. I considered some objectives:
  • test the Kendrick tent
  • air out said tent
  • test Nicole's mount, fully, properly
  • test the focuser (and spacer) from Phil
  • do some "deep" work in back yard
  • show Rhonda the sky, at last
Ian W had loaned me his Kendrick test to try in the backyard. I was curious to see if it could improve my backyard observing experience. While checking my notes or at the eyepiece, I was hoping it would block stray light from the neighbours porches and backyards. I also wanted to have a shelter to quickly cover and protect gear at the end of the evening (dew? light rain? intense sunlight?), when planning double or multi-night sessions. And if it could get things out of sight... that would be good too.

When Ian had showed me the tent at the CAO, I had detected it needed airing out. That had been on my list to do as well. Being able to set it up in the back yard for a few days should help.

I kept thinking about Nicole's misbehaving Celestron CGEM. It had seemed to work as required at the end of August, but I really felt I needed to try again. Do a full shakedown. A full field test. Under load.

It had been so long that I had used my C8. Once I had decided, I was excited. It would be fun to use it. Such a long time... Too long.

It occurred to me that I had never used the C8 with the Williams Optics focuser (and spacer). This evening I could test it, finally.

Found Rhonda in the hall. Asked if she was gonna be around tonight. Or tomorrow. I was going to set up the telescope. She was very happy to hear the news! Her daughter sounded interested too.

Asked if I could plug in at her deck. Grabbed my long extension.

I set up the Kendrick tent. Was mildly anxious as I unpacked everything, wondering how to assemble it. Had I made notes anywhere? Evernote? Where did the poles go? I winged it. I assumed the longest pole went at the centre line. The other two seemed essentially the same length. Actually, it went very well. Pretty easy to construct. No hitches. I decided to worry about the fly later. Again, I wanted to air things out. And I did not want the inside of the tent to get overly warm.

Found it a little odd that the inner flaps did not have ties near the top. When Rhonda shared that she did not have clothes pins, I dove into the cellar to find mine. Spotted the work tools squeeze spring clamps bag! Perfect.

Put my little camping picnic table in the sleeping end of the tent. Well spaced! It looked like it would be a good workstation.

Set out the special carpet Ian had provided inside the tent, the observing end, of course. For under the tripod. It fit nicely under the CGEM pod at the height I decided to use. Sweet.

Mounted the mount. Connected to my computer power supply unit. Borrowed some counterweights. Ready to go.

Does Nicole not have a data cable? Wow. I'd have to drive the mount by the hand paddle! Weird!

Readied to install the Celestron 8-inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope. My C8 was configured for the old Vixen Super Polaris of course, before dovetails, with the OTA rings. The rings are normally fairly close together. I grabbed the Orion wide-to-narrow dovetail adapter from Geoff's gear. Found a green Vixen plate or bracket. It was not a modern dovetail and not beveled. I saw that the wide-to-narrow adapter would not grip it properly but I tightened it down as best as possible.

Pulled off the corrector cover. It was tight. Oh yeah! Forgot about adding the artificial cork to the lid. It works great!

Observing chair. Pulled the dew shield from the tripod case (flocking paper is pealing away). Eyepiece case from the car. John Repeat Dance. Astronomy case α primus. Lawn chair—in case I wanted a comfy seat. Borrowed the Celestron 25mm E-lux.

Installed Kick-Me-Nots. Grabbed the LED ice cubes.

Kendrick observing tent in backyard, looking in the north door

Installed the Kendrick solar filter! Wow. Long time for this too!

Kendrick observing tent in backyard, looking in the east door

Wow. I like the tent.

It was a rather nice day. Warm. A cloudless sky.

thanked Greg

Thanks Mr Crinklaw of SkyHound for SkyTools. Helped me photo the comet.


Greg replied, "Awesome! I see it is sporting a nice little tail now. I imaged this comet several months ago as part of a my testing program and it was barely non-stellar."

caught C/2015 V2 - Johnson (Halifax)

Wow! It worked. I was able to image comet C/2015 V2 (Johnson). I programmed the Burke-Gaffney robotic telescope by centring on the star GSC 03451-0919. With the elevation restriction applied, I hoped it would capture the comet after 5:00 AM ADT. Tiny little thing. With a tail, even! The comet is slightly left or east of centre.

comet C/2015 V2 (Johnson) luminance

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

The elongated core of the comet shows the relatively slow motion, from right to left, or west to east.

The comet was right where it should be, accurately predicted by SkyTools. Slowly drifting through Ursa Major.


North of a comet is a faint fuzzy streak. It appears to be angled in the direction the comet is moving. It's a random faint galaxy. LEDA 2308346.

To the south-west of centre are two small round and slightly oval fuzzies. LEDA 2305554 and LEDA 2305602. They are just above an arc of stars.

Further to the south-west, just below the arc, is LEDA 2304152.

West of centre is a stretch mottled fuzz patch. LEDA 2306379.

Between this and the two bright in-line stars is a bright but small fuzzy LEDA 2307244.

Are those stars or a dozen galaxies. Huh.

imaged NGC 2655 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 2655 for me, aka Arp 225. A galaxy in Camelopardalis. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Fascinating. It has an incredibly bright core, some dark material in the foreground, and a huge round halo. Is it a spiral? Is it an elliptical? It is a lenticular.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 2655 luminance

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

There is a faint oval fuzzy north-east of the bright star. Not identified in SkyTools.

South-south-east of the bright star, beyond the three or four little faint stars is a round lint ball. This is LEDA 2775547.

South-east of the NGC galaxy, slightly west of the four bright stars is a very faint round fuzz. LEDA 2775614.

Due west of the galaxy is a small round fuzzy. Not identified in SkyTools.

West-west-north I can see LEDA 2775979.

North-west of the main galaxy, nearby, I think I see a lot of small faint galaxies.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Stellarium 0.15.x shortcuts

Stellarium 0.15.0 has been out for a while. It has a number of improvements. This is an update of my keyboard and mouse shortcuts listing. This reference is for Windows and Macintosh computers (although not all shortcuts have been tested on a Mac).

controlling the surroundings

show Location window
Fn F6
toggle cardinal compass points qq
toggle compass marks †
toggle ground and buildings
toggle ground fog
toggle atmosphere or air
toggle sky glow/building lights
Shift g
Shift g
toggle ground (e.g. mountain) labels
Ctrl Shift g
⌘ Shift g
return to "home" (start-up) view
Ctrl h

controlling sky appearance

toggle stars
toggle star labels
Alt s
Option s
toggle constellation lines
toggle constellation boundaries
toggle constellation labels
toggle constellation artwork
toggle planets and Moon
toggle planet and Moon labels
Alt p
Option p
toggle planet markers *
Ctrl p
⌘ p
toggle planet orbits
toggle starlore/Western planet names *
Ctrl Shift n
⌘ Shift n
toggle planet trails
Shift t
Shift t
toggle exoplanet labels and indicators
Ctrl Alt e
⌘ Option e
toggle DSO/nebula labels and indicatorsn or d
n or d
toggle nebula background images
toggle quasars
Ctrl Alt q
⌘ Option q
toggle zodiacal light
Ctrl Alt z
⌘ Option z
toggle meteor radiants
Ctrl Alt m
⌘ Option m
toggle meteor radiant labels *
Shift m
Shift m
toggle Milky Way *
show Sky and Viewing Options
Fn F4

controlling grid-lines

toggle altitude/azimuth grid
toggle equatorial grid
toggle ecliptic line
, (comma)
toggle celestial equator
. (period)
toggle meridian line
toggle horizon line

changing image presentation

flip horizontally
Ctrl Shift h
⌘ Shift h
flip vertically
Ctrl Shift v
⌘ Shift v
toggle equatorial/azimuthal mode
Ctrl m
⌘ m
look in direction, east * (or n, w, s)
Shift e
Shift e
look up to zenith *
Shift z
Shift z

controlling time flow

set date/time to now
set time rate to zero
increase time flow
l (lower case L)
decrease time flow
run time at normal rate
increase time flow a little
Shift l (that's L)
Shift l
decrease time flow a little
Shift j
Shift j

controlling "regular" time

show date/time window
Fn F5
forward 1 hour solar
Ctrl = (equal)
⌘ =
backward 1 hour
Ctrl - (hyphen)
⌘ -
forward 1 day solar
= (equal)
backward 1 day
- (hyphen)
forward 1 week solar
backward 1 week

controlling sidereal time

forward 1 day sidereal
Alt = (equal)
Option =
backward 1 day
Alt - (hyphen)
Option -
forward 1 year sidereal
Ctrl Alt Shift ]
⌘ Option Shift ]
backward 1 year
Ctrl Alt Shift [
⌘ Option Shift [


quickly zoom in/out
mouse wheel
mouse wheel
zoom in
PgUp or
Ctrl Up Arrow

Fn Up Arrow
zoom out
PgDn or
Ctrl Dn Arrow

Fn Down Arrow
zoom in or out slowly
Shift with keys
zoom close to selected object
/ (slash)
zoom out fully
\ (backslash)
zoom very close to planet
/ twice
/ twice
set field of view (FOV) to 180°
Ctrl Alt 1
⌘ Option 1

set field of view (FOV) to 5°
Ctrl Alt 7
⌘ Option 7
set field of view (FOV) to 2°
Ctrl Alt 8
⌘ Option 8
set field of view (FOV) to 1°
Ctrl Alt 9
⌘ Option 9
set field of view (FOV) to ½°
Ctrl Alt 0
⌘ Option 0


quickly pan celestial sphere
pan right
Right Arrow
Right Arrow
pan left
Left Arrow
Left Arrow
pan up
Up Arrow
Up Arrow
pan down
Down Arrow
Down Arrow
pan a small amount
Shift Arrow-key 
Shift Arrow-key

working with objects

select an object
centre on selected object
toggle tracking of object
deselect object
display search dialog box
Ctrl f or F3
⌘ f or Fn F3
go, i.e. travel, to a planet
Ctrl g
⌘ g
toggle angular measurement †
Ctrl a
⌘ a
copy object info to clipboard
Ctrl c
⌘ c

working with satellites †

configure artificial satellites
Alt z
Option z
toggle satellite display
Ctrl z
⌘ z
toggle satellite labels
Shift z
Shift z

controlling the application

toggle night (red light) mode *
Ctrl n
⌘ n
show configuration window
Fn F2
show help/about window
Fn F1
show script console window
toggle full-screen/window
toggle toolbars/menus, i.e. GUI
Ctrl t
⌘ t
save screenshot to disk
Ctrl s
⌘ s
show keyboard shortcuts window
Fn F7
close a window
quit from Stellarium
Ctrl q
⌘ q

* Recently added or changed shortcuts are marked with an asterisk.

† Keyboard shortcuts noted with a dagger are associated with a plug-in. They may not function if the plug-in is not active.

Some shortcuts were omitted. Notably those for the oculars plug-in. And those to do with scripting.

Please report errors in the comments below...