Saturday, December 31, 2016

closer now

I know it's just a day in a sequence of days in our time here on this planet in a galaxy in the middle of the vast cosmos. But it just got personal, all this death. What a send-off. A family member gone on the eve of the human calendar year. I will miss you very much PJ. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, stardust to stardust, where we will all end up, relatively soon, cosmologically.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

noted postage

Received a Christmas card from a client. The whole training team signed it. Very nice. I took another look at the envelope as I headed to the recycle bin. Hold the phone. That's an astronomy related stamp.

unique USA Global stamp

The unique design, round, caught my eye. I noted the text GLOBAL which I took to mean an international postage stamp. And then I noticed what was within the border. Well, well.

set the Moon dial

The former occupant of Mom's new house has yet to remove the grandfather clock. I thought that since it is here, might as well use it! So I would up the clock drive, raising the counterweight. It seemed to work fine. Then I set the Moon phase dial. Over the next couple of days, I watched the Moon disappear.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

caught up on Mars

Binged-watched a few PVRed episodes of National Geographic's Mars with some tips and updates from my sister. Bits were a little hokey but overall it was interesting.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

learned about Vera

On the Science Channel again, we watched a episode of Through the Wormhole narrated by Morgan Freeman. I believe this was episode 8 from the first season entitled Beyond the Darkness. The topic was dark matter and dark energy and featured a bit with Vera Rubin! Awesome! Great to learn a bit more about her. Curious timing, this show. I relayed the sad news about Ms Rubins to Mom.

A lot of people have been talking about her lately and saying she discovered dark matter. It's more appropriate to say that her research into the rotational patterns of spiral galaxies lead to the development of the dark matter theory. What she found make cosmologists throw out their old theories.

on exploring Mars

On Science Channel, Mom and I caught an episode from Mars: The Secret Science. I believe we saw episode 4 called Mars's Deepest Mysteries. There were appearances by Phil Plait, Mike Massimino, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. It's a hot topic.

gathered photo tips

Found the article in a general photography site entitled How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse by Nasim Mansurov. Typos aside, there is some good info.

Monday, December 26, 2016

capped the camera

Rhonda told me she put a plastic cap or cover over the top edge of the pinhole camera. We're trying to keep the winter out.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

received gifts

Enjoyed time with my sis and bro-in-law at my Mom's new house. A low key affair this year. I received a number of astronomy-themed items.

Mission to Mars booklet by TIME magazine

A TIME Magazine booklet called Mission to Mars from Mom. Can't wait to read this. I'm fascinated to read about humans leaving Earth.

crescent Moon tree ornament

My very nice neighbour gave me a gift bag before I departed. On the outside was a tree ornament.

Galaxy chocolate bar

Ha ha! She gave me a Galaxy chocolate bar. I know where she got it!

Meteor chocolate bars

Rhonda also gave me a Meteor chocolate bar. Don't know where she found that!

yum - hot chocolate with Baileys

She knows me. This will come in handy during cold backyard observing!

tiny red LEDs on a 3 metre string

Blinky lights! Blinky lights! Neat. Teenie tiny red LEDs on thin wires. Powered by a battery pack. Also will be handy during astronomy sessions. Great colour/hue.

gave a calendar

Heard from Rhonda. They had opened their Christmas gifts. She thanked me for the 2017 RASC Calendar. Knew she'd like it.


She told me later that she looked for photographs by me. Ha. Mine aren't good enough.

Friday, December 23, 2016

a good morning (Bradford)

Stepped outside to get my car. It was dark and clear! I saw many stars. The Big Dipper was overhead and upside down. To the north-west, I noted a pair of stars. Gemini, I wondered. To the south, I took in the crescent Moon near Jupiter. Lovely sky.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

got more NGC 1931 data (Halifax)

Oh! It was still running. OK.

The BGO robot reported successfully collecting my image data for NGC 1931. Something had gone terribly wrong during my last attempt on 11 Dec '16. I was trying to build on the run of 9 Nov '16. Also procured h-alpha data this time.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 1931 with diffuse nebula in luminance

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


I checked my email from Rhonda's living room, sipping my Egg of Nog. Something went wrong.

Subject: BGO: #bgoreplies  (ID 2666)!
It will be tried again another night.

Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2016 22:55:38 -0400
From: Burke-Gaffney Observatory

Clouds? Other issues? Not sure what happened.

That was my Palomar 2 request...

Verified it would be left in the queue for a future run...

up and running

The skies, before midnight, were looking good in Halifax. I hoped I might receive some image data.

I jumped into the live camera page. I could tell the telescope was running (based on the mount position).

Loaded up the twitter feed. Spotted this, at the top of the tweets log:

tweet: BGO says: A special observation of GSC0237400153 for Blake is starting...

Oh ho.

All right. Here we go!

darkest days

The only thing good about the long nights is more starlight.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

checked solargraphs

I would have liked to be at the RASC Toronto Centre astrophotography workshop—for solargraphy—at the Yorkville library but I had to work (a weird shift). Fun seeing the posted photos by Ian on Facebook.

They opened their cameras. Some had water damage (sadly). They scanned the photos (which often destroys the original print). And then they corrected them in imaging software.

CAO solargraph raw paper original with water damage

Image from CAO Garage, raw. Remember: it is laterally inverted.

CAO solargraph inverted flipped from garage

Image from CAO Garage, scanned, colours inverted, flipped horizontally. The horizon is clearly visible. This represents the "fall" season so the Sun lines start high and fall down as we head into winter. The CAO MODLs and THO are visible. Focus is good.

CAO solargraph inverted flipped from Observing Pad

Image from CAO Observing Pad. Also succumbed to water damage. Optically corrected, again.

All photos of the photos by Ian Wheelband.

shifted south-east (Halifax)

I wanted to shoot NGC 2440 again. First shot on 15 Dec '16. I wanted to get the Puppis planetary nebula closer to the centre of the frame. And, if lucky, encompass the nearby multi-star systems. I centred on the star TYC 05984-1357 1.

It worked in the sense that I captured the multi-star system JRN 35. And I just squeezed in the doubles JRN 36 and ARA 385. But the whole image looks softer. Bad skies?

At least this time I received all the colour channels along with the H-alpha and O-III data.

NGC 5466 and some multi-star systems in luminance

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

JRN 35 is the sextuplet south-west of NGC 2440, well away, very near the edge of the frame. A and B are rather close together, angled north-east to south-west, and equal in brightness. They seem closer to the group than what SkyTools shows. Perhaps they are moving north-east? C is the same brightness as A and B and is nearly due north of B. D is the faint star east of B. It is between D and E. E, curiously, seems the brightest of all! F is south of A, B, and C, slightly brighter than E.

JRN 36 is the tight pair south of JRN 35 running east-west. A, brighter, is to the east.

ARA 385 A and B are the equally bright stars south-south-east of HU 709 (the bright triangle). Just at the left edge of the frame.

multi-star Messier 47 (Halifax)

While the sky was full of Moon, I wanted to have a go at the multi-star systems in Messier 47. I sent the Burke-Gaffney telescope on a mission. It brought back some stars from Puppis.

multi-star systems in Messier 47 luminance

Luminance only, 3 seconds subexposures, 6 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

In the middle of loose open cluster M47 is HD 60997 or Σ1121. The A and B stars are the brightest, slightly left or east of centre, and touching in this image. They appear equally bright. A is eastward; B is westward. C is the rather faint star south-east of AB and perfectly in-line. D is the medium bright star due east of A. E is south-west of B showing a bit brighter than C but less than D. Where's F? G is the bright star due north of AB. SkyTools shows this star more eastward. Either its moved to the west or the AB stars have shifted east. H looks the same brightness as D, is opposite D, to the west of A. The I star might be the same magnitude as A or B and is north-east of G. Finally the J star is quite far north, slightly more than the AB-G separation, and slightly to the west, almost opposite C.

Huh. F is the faint star beyond B, slightly in-line with AB, just over half-way to the mid-bright star HD 60968. It seems to be slightly brighter than C.

I had viewed Messier 47 back in March 2013 but had rushed. I had not noted all the stars of the system nor their colours. I look forward to drawing out the hues in colour data.

To the right or west of Struve 1121 is the multi-star system V378 Pup or A3092 or ADS6208. The C, D, E, and F stars are easily spotted. The bright point is the A star (at magnitude 5.7) with the very faint (mag 12.2) B star close by, lost in the glare perhaps. C and D and E appear the same brightness. C is close to AB, to the north-east. D is well-away, to the north-east of C whereas E is to the north-west, about 2/3rds the AB-D separation. F is the faint star between D and E, almost in-line.


Tried coaxing V378 B out by dramatically stretching with the x^1/5 function. No joy.

did I need more 1907 data?

Wasn't expecting anything but the BGO robot fired up and grabbed some data. I guess it was somewhat clear in Halifax.

I had programmed a run for the open cluster NGC 1907. It was on my "view again" list. Oops. I didn't realise that I had already captured 1907, back in September. Guess I forgot to update my ST3P list on John Charles... And I forgot to update the "view again" lists...

I'll have to check closely to see if the data quality is any better. First impression is that it looks the same.

Bound to happen, I guess, this type of mistake. Shooting something again when I don't need to is wasteful for all concerned.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

let the Sun in

Set up the pinhole camera with Rhonda's help. Let her open the shutter. Here we go.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

like a hypersonic space brick

From a social media suggestion by Katrina, I tuned into the crowd-funded TMRO podcast. I also jumped into the chat room. Pretty neat show. Inspiring in a lot of ways. Enjoyed the spaceflight and astronomy content. Don't know if I learned anything new... curiously, I was familiar with every topic they touched on. And, a few times, I found it a bit... um... distracting?! The multiple panelists and presenters (and even others off-camera) would often interrupt and speak over each other. Occasionally it was just a mish-mash, just noise and people shouting. Full marks for enthusiasm. Interesting personalities. Lots of energy.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

returned to Jupiter's Ghost (Halifax)

Back in April, I tried to image this target. Neat to work on it again. It's coming around the corner, a target best viewed in the winter. NGC 3242 or Ghost of Jupiter is back. Also known as Caldwell 59.

This was early in my usage of the BGO robot and I did not have a lot of experience. I've since realised that planetary nebulae are rather bright and using 60 second subexposures, fine for galaxies, causes problems. On April 24, I thought the images were blown out. I also felt the blue data very poor. And for PNs, now, I'm trying to collect O-III data.

This time I halved the exposure times, I collected more blue data, requested oxygen, I skipped the luminance, and doubled-up on the hydrogen.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 3242 in green

Green only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. Looks OK.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 3242 in blue

Blue only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. Also looks OK.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 3242 in O-III

O-III only, 30 seconds subexposures, 5 stacked shots. Love that. No stars!

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 3242 in H-alpha

H-α only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. Looks OK.

All processed with FITS Liberator and Paint.NET. All: north is up; east is left.

received NGC 2539 data (Halifax)

I asked BGO to image NGC 2539, aka Collinder 176, for me. A loose open cluster in Puppis. One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest open cluster NGC 2539 in luminance

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

This image isn't quite centred the way I had hoped.

There's a neat multi-star system to the south-east of the cluster. But it's cut-off on the left edge of the frame. Maybe I'll reshoot, using a specific star, to force the star system to be included...


Reframed on 9 Jan.

tried for NGC 2440 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robotic telescope tried to image NGC 2440 for me but something happened. Clouds, perhaps? I only received luminance data so I'll have to reshoot. Looks like a very interesting target!

NGC 2440 is a curiously-shaped planetary nebula in Puppis. It is not round or smooth. It is barely symmetrical. It has bright core that looks like an hourglass, running north-west to south-east, then an almost rectangular shell, then bright points or nodes outside the shell, and wispy wings heading north-east and south-west, i.e. opposed 90° to the core. This looks like one of these cool bipolar PNs. It is one of the RASC Finest NGCs.

Not far from the multi-star system HU 709.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 2440 in luminance

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

Can't wait to get more data!


HU (W. J. Hussey) 709, aka HD 62240, is an eight star system. The bright elements, forming the little right-angled triangle, are the A, B, C, D, and E stars. A and B are a tight pair, merged in the photo, at the south-east; C and D are a very tight pair at the north-east, and E is the west companion. CD is due north of AB. F is west of E, dimmer than E. G is west-south-west of AB and dimmer still. H is the very dim star south of AB.

The AB blob in the image does like, I think, slightly extended, compared to the CD and E patterns. That suggests there is a star in there. But they are too close to split with this imaging system. SkyTools 3 Professional says A and B are 1.8 arc-seconds apart.

C and D, by the way, would be tough for me visually, at 0.4".


Shifted south-east slightly.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

fake or real?

Spotted an article by Bob King while reading in bed. Entitled, Colored Double Stars, Real and Imagined, the article has a seasonally appropriate photo attached: a tree decorated with colourful lights. It addresses the issue of interpretation when stars of different hues are close together. The author cautions that we may experience "spurious color!" It includes a table of colourful stars. I wonder how many of those I have viewed.


Indeed, I have viewed all.


Spotted some typos in the table and reported them. Bob fixed up the list.

terrible manuals

Read the SkyNews editor's online report. It was an attack on telescope and mount manuals. On how poorly written and confusing they are. Hear, hear!

I think the situation is terrible for many reasons. Poorly organised, poor translations (in some cases), overly technical for the novice, etc. I wish I could fix it.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


Weird. Funny little things. Looks like the SMU BGO robotic focuser didn't kick in? I think I'm seeing the central obstruction in the star images. Was trying for NGC 1931. Again. A redo.

funny lookin' BGO image

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET.

Received more data on 21 Dec '16.

considered growth

Read with interest Uncle Rod's latest blog entry.

He was speaking to the greying of the amateur astronomy hobby. And in the end he made a strong argument for continuing decline. He attributed some of the effects to modern distractions, the lack of attractive astronomical events (like a big comet), lack of time, lack of funds. And then he wondered about something else: the space race (or lack thereof). Wow. I hadn't really thought about that. On Facebook, a lively discussion started up. Another person suggested the light pollution factor. Indeed.

This made me think about our efforts, for the RASC Toronto Centre, within council, around strategic planning, about membership retention and acquisition. Something I've felt but this helped put a point on. If our membership numbers are staying roughly the same, we seem to have flat numbers from the last few years, then isn't that amazing? Growth may be very difficult at this time. Also, maybe it is not the measure we should be using, headcount. Perhaps we should be paying more attention to duration.

I did wonder about photography. Would this not be very attractive now? Of course, there are challenges here. Even though Rod Mollise dealt with costs, and how now when can get into the hobby at a fairly advanced level, without spending the equivalent funds for a car. That said, many rookies are attracted to deep sky imagery and high-quality results which can not be achieved without some expense.

Mike W in the Ottawa RASC said he was buoyed by the youth at their events. Ah. So what are they doing differently?

I forwarded the article link to the RASC council group on Basecamp. I hope it might generate some discussion. And I will suggest we be careful about the metrics we use.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

not so lumpy

Data from the European Space Agency's Very Large Telescope, the most precise made of an effect known as cosmic shear, suggests dark matter may be significantly less dense and less lumpy. The shear effect is caused by super-large structures in the Universe. These findings are in disagreement with earlier results from the Planck probe. Future missions such as the Euclid satellite and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope may provide an even better understanding of this data. I read this in the article entitled Dark matter may be smoother than expected at Astronomy Now.

Not so lumpy darkness?

Friday, December 09, 2016

he fixed the subject

Helped Mr Lane with a BGO email issue. Shared with him that recent messages were devoid of a subject line. Forwarded an example. He found the programming bug.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

identified (Bradford)

We talked about the planets as we walked to downtown.

I admitted I wasn't clear, at the moment, who was where. Yep. Believe it or not.

Shared my kitchen window observation from a couple of days back. I relayed how some were talking about trying to spot Mercury now. Tricky. Close to the Sun. Very low at the horizon. Against a bright sky.

Spotted Galaxy chocolate bars as we passed through The Flower Merchant.

Over poppers and curd and craft brews, we checked out SkySafari on Ananke. Turned on the ecliptic line. To the west, at sunset? Probably Venus. Super bright and fairly high. Hey. Mars was up and left. And to the east? Bright and somewhat orange. That would have to be the star Capella.

The streets were muffled on the way home. The Moon faded out behind thickening clouds. More snow on the way.

into the ether

Another hero gone. John Glenn left the Earth for the heavens.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

observing moon eclipses

Enjoyed today's Google Doodle.

Google Doodle of astronomer Ole Rømer

It features Danish astronomer Ole Rømer determining that the speed of light could be measured as he observed Jupiter and its Moons.

spin needed

A report at Science Alert says that cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) issues may be responsible for astronaut vision problems. The lack of gravity is changing the pressure in the skull and on the eyes. This might be a big problem for long missions, like a 1.5 to 2.0 year trip, in zero-G, to Mars. We will need to fire up rotary elements...

caught a variable nebula (Halifax)

Looks like a comet.

The Burke-Gaffney robotic telescope imaged Hubble's Variable Nebula (or NGC 2261 or Caldwell 46) for me. It is a small nebula in Monoceros. Another of the RASC Finest NGCs. It is actually referred to as a variable reflection nebula as its brightness changes. It is believed to be due to changes in the brightness of the nearby star (or stars).

The somewhat bright point at the south edge of the nebula is interesting. Some refer to its as a variable star, R Monocerotis; others say it is just highly concentrated gas within the nebula.

RASC Finest variable reflection nebula NGC 2261 luminance

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

There are problems in the bottom-left corner of the frame.

That's too bad. There's a double star there, south-west of the nebula. It's SLE 557. Two somewhat tight and equally bright stars. Very blurry in the image.

aimed at Thor's Helmet (Halifax)


The BGO robot imaged Thor's Helmet aka NGC 2359 for me. An emission nebula in Canis Major. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. The south wing is bright; the north wing is very faint. SkyTools shows another wing flying off to the east. I can barely see this.

RASC Finest emission nebula NGC 2359 luminance

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

I wonder if I need to go back and do longer exposures... I also found it included in an O-III filter list in SkyTools. Yeah. I should get more data.

There are problems in the top-right corner of the frame.

Again, this is unfortunate. There's a triple star system, BRT 2664, north-west of the nebula. Tight stars. But with the blurry collimation issue, the three stars merge together.


Tried again on 29 Jan '17. And took O-III data!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

shifted to NGC 1975 (Halifax)

As expected the skies cleared over Halifax. I had 4 items in the queue.

The BGO robot imaged NGC 1975 for me. aka Ced 55c. Previously, I had aimed directly at 1973 and 1977, all in the area of the Running Man Nebula, north of the Great Orion Nebula. 1975 is above (north) 1977; 1973 is below and to the right (south-west). It seems that 1975 is the faintest of the reflection nebulae, centred on the multi-star system STF 746.

This whole area is considered one of the RASC Finest NGCs. The RASC Observer's Handbook has the entry notation NGC 1973+ meaning 3, 5, and 7.

RASC Finest reflection nebula NGC 1975 luminance

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

There are problems in the bottom-left corner of the frame.


Image centred on NGC 1973.

Image centred on NGC 1977.

gave a suggestion

Chatted with Mr Chapman online. Gave a seed idea for the national newsletter in SkyNews. Sounded as if he liked it.

first clear sky in days (Bradford)

Peeked out the window before starting the coffee. Whoa. Clear. A beautiful sky. And even without my specs on, I could see a bright planet to the south-south-east. What was it? Not bright enough for Venus. It was beige in colour.


Morning, Jupiter.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

done 60

The RASC Finest NGC list, from the Observer's Handbook, is said to have 110 targets.

Really, it has more than that, with compound, complex, or hybrid objects. The Veil Nebula for example is listed twice, as item 99A and 99B. That makes the table include 111 rows. And still some of the items are "double" objects, like the Siamese Galaxy, and the Hockey Stick.

With NGC 2392 yesterday, I've imaged 60 objects.

45 to go...

Unfortunately, so far, I have found 6 targets are too low for the BGO robot.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Unity glides

Virgin Galactic is getting back on the horse.

Virgin's VSS Unity glides free

VSS Unity went for its first glide today.

received NGC 2392 data (Halifax)

I got it too!

Ian had imaged this target recently from the CAO with his RC. See his RGB colour image at SmugMug.

It must have cleared briefly at Halifax.

The BGO robot captured NGC 2392. A mid-sized planetary nebula in Gemini. aka The Eskimo or The Clown Face or Caldwell 39. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Alas, slightly flawed data.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 2392 luminance

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

I collected red, green, blue, Oxygen-III, and hydrogen-alpha data as well.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

on lumpiness

Saw a post on Facebook shared by Malcolm Park. It referred to an article at Quanta Magazine entitled The Case Against Dark Matter, which documents how Erik Verlinde, a theoretical physicist at the University of Amsterdam, is proposing that gravity is a byproduct of quantum interactions. He says that extra gravity, that many attribute to dark matter, may be be an effect of dark energy.

Perhaps dark matter doesn't exist at all. Certainly we have not directly observed or detected it.

Very interesting.

Jamie Flinn commented on Malcolm's post. He said, "Y'all thinking about it wrong way - you don't need dark matter or anything exotic... my theory is that lumpiness or large scale shape out side of our universe warp our spacetime time [like] a bedsheet covering a body, producing climes and slides on which our spacetime flows..."

I tend to agree. We're stuck in a rut.