Sunday, December 10, 2017

IDed (a) double(s)

I learned (using the Washington Double Star database) that the bright pale orange star at the top-left corner of the M25 image, i.e. north-east from the centre of the open cluster Messier 25, is double star ARN 52.

It consists of a pair (only) with A at magnitude 7 and the secondary around mag 10. They are separated by 69 seconds of arc. The position angle of B is 262°. B is white.

SkyTools 3 Pro shows these stars as HD 170886 and TYC 06275-0740 1 respectively. The magnitudes match. The position information matches too.

Then B appears to have a tight deep red companion! Interesting.


Oop. Encountering more stuff.

The relatively bright star below BU 966 C is D, according to the WDS. Slightly brighter than Q. Almost due south of C. Close to C. Off-white. The D star is not listed in ST3P.


The WDS shows ARN 107 in the area. A simple pair, with magnitudes 9.7 and 10.9. The quoted PA is 289; sep. 21.2. This is nearly due south of BU 966 C (and D), east of the bright orange star TYC 06274-1625 1. The A star is white; B is grey. ST3P does not note this double; the individual stars are TYC 06274-1251 1 and TYC 06274-1349 1.


I noticed this in the August image but didn't dig deeper at the time. All white-grey stars. South-east of ARA 753 a very tight pair. The bright element is between the magnitude of 753 A and B. The position angle is around 135°. The stars are touching. So they are probably have a separation around 4". This extremely tight pair is to the north-north-west of a medium-bright star. This star shows in SkyTools as TYC 06274-1650 1 at mag 11. But the pair is not shown in the software!

The WDS refers to ARA 752. 752 is a pair, mag 11.0 and 11.6, PA 284, sep. 10.9. The angle is very different. The gap between the tight pair and the Tycho star looks double the ARA 753 sep. So, is this it? It's a little confusing.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Gaia DR1 available

Used Aladin briefly today to check on stars in Messier 25. Noticed, for the first time, a Gaia link. w00t! The first data release is accessible.

assembled M25 in colour

Had another go at Messier 25. I had tried processing the LRGB data (gathered on 7 Aug) previously and went through 3 iterations before getting something I was happy with.

open cluster Messier 25 in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop CS.

Most of the cluster's stars are white. There are some fantastic orange and red stars in the field.

The primary star of U Sgr aka BU 966 is orange. B is white. C is white. E is white. F is blue-white. G has a hint of yellow. H is bright grey. J is white. K is white. L has a hint of blue. M is light grey. P is grey. Q is grey. R is beige. The really faint star really close to R is red. S is white. T is white.

The equal, tight pair sharing the label GSC 06274-1098 appear to be the same colour, a very light sky blue.

ARA 753 A is a very pale blue; B is grey.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

most distant quasar discovered

Using the Magellan telescopes in Chile, scientists have discovered the furthest black hole to date. With light travel time more than 13 billion years, this makes it a young black hole, in one of the first galaxies. The quasar is 800 million times more massive than the Sun. That's big but there are bigger black holes. Check out the article at the CBC web site.

the title works

Mr Markov liked the subtitle of my first double star presentation. Unnoticed Treasures.

added important tips

Added some new items to the astronomy tips and tricks page over on the lumpy companion site. Specifically on noting the direction in the eyepiece (west), understanding the presentation in the ocular (rotated or mirrored), matching charts or maps to the telescope magnitude limits, and understanding the scale of the sky. I believe these very important for the new astronomer.

essentially nothing

I went through the December issues (which include the index for the respective year) of the RASC Journal all the way back to 2006 looking for pieces on double stars. And there was nothing. Amazingly, no specific articles on double or multiple star viewing, imaging, measurement, etc. I found one item, in the February 2008 issue, by Ling where he shared his discovery of a double star (ZC1042 aka SAO78770) during a lunar occultation. Cool. But it is somewhat shocking that there are no other items. Not sure why. Also, the author intimated he expected to have more discoveries and I didn't see anything.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

documented GIMP workflow

Occasionally I only have GIMP at my disposal when trying to do LRGB processing on my images. I use it infrequently enough that I forget steps and specific commands. Here I quickly document the workflow.

These notes pertain to GIMP version 2.8 (which is 8-bit) running on an old version of Windows (32-bit).
  1. open all the TIF files (clearing the 16-bit warnings)
  2. change to full-colour mode
    1. pick any one of the images, e.g. the blue data
    2. choose Image, Mode, RGB
    3. rename layer: e.g. blue
  3. copy image data into layers (green, red, and luminance)
    1. go to other image window, e.g. green
    2. select entire frame: choose Select, All or press Ctrl-a
    3. copy: choose Edit, Copy or press Ctrl-c
    4. switch to target (RGB) image    
    5. paste: choose Edit, Paste as, New Layer
    6. rename layer: e.g. green
    7. close source image file (i.e. close the green data file)
    8. repeat for all source frames
  4. prepare to align
    1. except for the bottom layer, set each layer to partial opacity:
      click in middle of Opacity bar or drag or enter 50%
    2. zoom in
      1. click magnifying glass in Toolbox
      2. click in image (to zoom in)
      3. hold Ctrl key to zoom out
  5. align layers
    1. click layer to move
    2. activate Move tool:
      choose Tools, Transform Tools, Move or press M or click 4-headed arrow in Toolbox
    3. move layer
      1. drag with mouse
      2. nudge with arrow keys
    4. repeat for each layer
  6. save a version of the file *
  7. crop out the edges
    1. click Rectangle Select Tool from Toolbox or press R
    2. drag within the image
    3. choose Image, Crop to Selection
  8. colourise each layer
    1. click a layer
    2. choose Color, Colorize...
    3. set the parameters as necessary
      1. set Hue to required value, e.g. 120 for green
      2. set Saturation to 100
      3. set Lightness to 50
    4. repeat for each layer
  9. blend top two colour layers
    1. click a layer
    2. set layer mode to Screen
  10. set the luminance layer to Soft Light
  11. save a version *
  12. carry on, apply levels, curves, saturation, masks, etc. 
These steps are provided as an alternative to using Photoshop.

* Remember that GIMP does not support non-destructive editing of layers so consider layer duplication and saving versions of your file as you work.

assembled 54 Sgr in colour

Processed the LRGB data files for 54 Sagittarii gathered back in October. And did an experiment.

54 Sgr in colour, pale orange and pale blue

I specifically processed in GIMP 2.8 to update my workflow notes. Pale orange (A) and pale blue or white (C). The faint B star doesn't seem to have any particular colour.

down and left

Found a neat web page that let's you find your blind spot.

This is an important consideration when using a classic telescope where, of course, you only use one eye. And as astronomers acclimate to using their equipment and start going for more challenging deep sky, one learns to use averted vision, so to accommodate for the blind spot in a single eye.

blind spot test pattern for my left eye

The image is for my left eye, the one I normally use on the ocular. I could not see the blinking dot down (slightly) and left of centre.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017


A member of the Occult Watcher Yahoo!Group just posted the following.
I have downloaded the LunarOccultation dll, (for double stars) and i get the prediction feed presented which I have ticked.  But the add-in doesnt appear in the add-in menu under >configure add-ins.  As i understand it the add-in needs the location of Occult4 to work.  Have i missed something?
Isn't that interesting.


Hristo directed the user to the "publish" page which he had updated by deleting the link to the old MSI file. All right.

more lead and acid

Determined that a backup uninterruptible power supply failed during the recent power outage at the CAO. Recommended a replacement battery.

heard from Occult developer

Hristo forwarded an observation of mine to Dave. I thought it worrisome that the Occult installation instructions did not refer to the correct number of files in the archive. These days with virus, trojan, and malware concerns, it is a little unnerving when the zip file has different content than expected. He thanked me and said "I fully agree." Good. Hopefully, another little issue can be corrected to help future users.

DS occultations listed

I was still a little troubled that I wasn't seeing any Lunar Occultation events listed in OW. So I did a bit of digging.

At one point, I opened the regional double star file, NADoubles.txt, for North America. Wanted to see what was inside, if anything. Purportedly it is maintained by Mr Timerson. I was surprised to find a listing for the months of December and January, about two to three dozen each. But the star numbers didn't make any sense. Dec 1 noted "444cK6" and Dec 15 showed "2223SK0." These didn't look like SAO numbers. Was the ending bit hexadecimal? No... It looked like stellar class. Nothing came up in SkyTools.

The Dec 15 items caught my eye.
15 D 2223SK0
15 R 2223SK0

That date got me thinking so I fired up Stellarium and advanced the time rate. And after a while, Zuben Alkarab slid into view! An interesting triple star. Oh ho.

In SkyTools, I switched to the Special Events tab, activated the Two Bodies search, and looked for an occultation of the Moon and γ (gamma) Lib. Yes. Dec 15. Entry (or disappearance) at 9:59, mid-occultation at 10:36, and exit (or reappearance) at 11:17. Oh. Daylight. Maybe that's why it wasn't showing in Occult Watcher.

On a whim, initiated a Google search on 2223SK0. Got a hit. A page at the Lunar Occultations web site, showing the predictions for 2017 for Blue Springs Missiouri.
       day  Time     P   Star  Sp  Mag  Mag    % Elon Sun  Moon   CA   PA  VA  AA
 y   m  d  h  m   s       No  D     v    r V  ill     Alt Alt Az   o    o   o   o

17 Dec 15 14 27 57.6 d    2223SK0  3.9  3.4    6-  29   9 31 149 -88S 113 138 100
   R2223 = gamma Librae
      2223 is triple: Aa,Ab 4.0 4.2 0.10" 191.0, dT = +0.06sec : 
                      AB 4.0 11.2 43" 157.2, dT = +87sec
      2223 is a close double. Observations are highly desired
17 Dec 15 15 55 56.0 R    2223SK0  3.9  3.4    6-  29  20 36 174  87N 294 299 281
   R2223 = gamma Librae
      2223 is triple: Aa,Ab 4.0 4.2 0.10" 191.0, dT = +0.07sec : 
                      AB 4.0 11.2 43" 157.2, dT = +95sec
      2223 is a close double. Observations are highly desired

Coming together. But I still didn't understand exactly why some of these events were not showing in my candidate list.

Made a location in OW for Atlanta, Georgia that seemed better positioned. Nope. Still nothing.

Launched Occult to see if there was an issue there.


Occult shows the unusual star numbers. OK. Found some correlating information there. ZC and XZ lunar catalogs. Displayed a chart for the Moon with Zuben Alkarab. Tried to produce an animated GIF.

Changed the filter settings in OW and forced a sync. Ah ha!

Occult Watcher showing lunar occultations of double stars

At the bottom of the listing, the Lunar Occultation section appeared! So, at last, everything is working as required.


Learned that ZC is the zodiacal catalogue.

monitor power at CAO

Dealt with power outage issues at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Likely the high winds knocked down a tree.

both happy

Hristo shared he was happy that I had things working in Occult Watcher. He encouraged me to report other issues to the Yahoo group or to him directly. Nice offer.

Monday, December 04, 2017

assembled Σ680 in colour

Processed double star Σ680 aka HR 1741 and HD 34579 in full colour. Imaged back on 6 Oct '17.

double star HR 1741 in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop CS2.

I think the primary is yellow or gold. When zoomed out, the secondary looks orange; when zoomed in close, the B star goes white.

There are lots of colourful stars in the field, blue through red.

penciled in 21 Feb

Tentatively accepted the Wed 21 Feb date for delivering my double star presentation during the RASC Toronto Centre recreational astronomy night meeting.

acknowledged error

Received a note from Hristo regarding the Occult Watcher software download page.
You are quite right, the page is confusing.   I should fix that.

Please ignore the "Download" link at the top to an .msi file, and follow the instructions underneath that are based on
OK, good. I made a contribution. Hopefully others will not experience the same pitfalls as me.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

test of polar scope

Headed to the back yard.

I couldn't see Polaris in the little scope. Oops. Forgot to open the shutter on the camera. Still couldn't see anything. Aimed to the full Moon. Ah ha! Played with the exposure setting in the AMcap software. But couldn't seem to stop it from being washed out. Moving the slider to the left increased the exposure value. Heading to Polaris again. Nothing. Went to Vega and saw the star. Shown my red flashlight in to see the reticule.

screen snapshot of test through polar scope

OK. So it works. The Logitech webcam attached to the Vixen polar axis scope. I was very happy the star was relatively in focus. But I need better software to give me more control of the camera. I want better exposure control. And a gamma control.


It burns!

notifications on smartphone including stoopid Moon reference

Snapshot from smartphone.

activated lunar occultations feature

Sat down to follow Hristo's latest instructions.

Removal. Deleted the software from the c:\Occult Watcher folder. Or tried. Windows threw an error that a file, one of the DLLs, was in use. Rebooted Win 10. Finished the delete.

Reinstall. Returned to the "publish" page. Once again, found it unclear. So I just took a top-down approach. Downloaded the MSI and ran it. I noted it installed Occult Watcher in the Program Files area! I thought we weren't supposed to do that. And I thought OW was supposed to start automatically. Tried to manually launch the app. Windows displayed a new error. The application immediately "stopped working." Oh boy. Rebooting did not resolve. Almost gave up. Don't need this... Keep going!

Made a note to tell Hristo about the confusing content on this page.

Update install. Downloaded the OW updater zip again. Installed the updater per the instructions on web page. i.e. not in Program Files. In fact, I used existing empty directory. Would that be a problem? When the updater finished, it immediately launched OW. OK, good. Some progress. Checked the version: 4.5. Good, the most recent. Once again, I observed that OW used my old settings, such as my location. Alas, the app seemed to be working OK.

Add-in install. Reviewed the Lunar Occultation add-in installation notes. Downloaded, unzipped, and installed. Noted the instruction that said, "After a restart a new feed called..." After a restart of what? The app or Windows? I simply restarted OW. This time, I did not install Occult Tools. Checked the add-in menu. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. The Lunar Occ item was there! It didn't make any sense to me why it was working now and not working before. I assume there are steps performed by the OW update executable that rewrites things.

Lunar Occ add-in dialog box completed

Add-in configuration. I was very happy that the Lunar Occ add-in was available again. Finally, I could move on. I had been stalled for days. Launched the add-in. It showed as version 1.0.3 in the title bar. Huh. I thought it was supposed to be 1.1.0. Moving on. No update messages in the status bar. I went about configuring the dialog for my home elevation, the C8 aperture, and the double star resource. With some anxiety, I clicked the OK button. I think I held my breath... NO ERROR! Schlanger! That was the first time I ever got through the configuration! True progress.

So happy. I turned on feed for Lunar Occultations (after the fact; I believe in an early test I had turned it on beforehand). The OW app synced. All OK, normal beeps. I scrolled to the bottom of the list expecting to see a separate catagory, like how it shows on the add-ins information page. Maybe that's not happening as there are no candidate events. In my area. Sadly.

At no point did I touch Occult proper. I assumed that installation was fine. Certainly I was not asked to deal with it. So these issues were all related to Occult Watcher.


The add-in version issue appears to be a bug. That is, the version listed in the add-in dialog box title bar does not match the version shown in the DLL file properties. I checked again. The file shows 1.1.0.

what I was after

I explained the current/latest problem to Hristo. The OccultTools and Lunar Occ add-ins were not listing in the menu. So I could not run them. Sent a screen snap of the Add-ins menu and the app folder. I explained I was very interested in lunar occultations of double stars. That's why I wanted to add this capability to Occult Watcher. After running the MS debugging tool, I sent the captured log.

He said something odd. "Looking at the files in C:\Occult Watcher, it doesn't seem that this is a new installation." 'Cause I had most recently deleted and reinstalled everything on Friday.

Hristo gave me a sequence of steps to follow. He asked me to not change or rename any files in the "Occult Watcher" folder. I had only done that in one test. He asked me to change anything in the registry. I had never done that. If things were still wobbly, I'd need to send the logs again.


I just don't like the impression I get in these kind of situations from some software developers. It's not my fault. I didn't initially break this software. Maybe renaming some DLLs was problematic but it was for a very specific test. I didn't do it to break things. Why would I want to make things worse. And there was an assumption made that I was tinkering in the registry. I do not do so lightly ordinarily. And I didn't ever venture in for Occult Watcher.

Of late I have taken a conciliatory stance because I just want this software to work properly, as designed, as promised. I know that this developer is a volunteer. So demands of users can be perhaps daunting and overwhelming. I want to comply. But I also don't want to be treated poorly. I think the developer was getting frustrated and took a good approach, backing up a bit, regrouping. Let's get this sorted.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

explained super (Bradford)

Bree asked about the super Moon. And so started The Rant! I think she got a bit more than she bargained for...

I explained that this was all media hype. Selling newspapers! A disproportionate inflation of an event.

full Moon at close perigee

The reference to "super" Moon was that our natural satellite was closer to the Earth than at other times and therefore bigger and brighter. But I cautioned that if one was examining the Moon with just their eyes, they would not be able to see the difference. The next full Moon would be fractionally larger than the previous month's full phase. And it would be a tiny bit brighter. But a casual observer, using their eyes would not be able to tell. If carefully photographing the Moon over each full Moon phase and comparing the results, one would see the very slight difference in size. Joel also referred to a surveying instrument in his field that could measure this. To measure the change in brightness would require specialised light-sensitive equipment.

The Moon's orbit is elliptical. At times it is closer than average; other times further. This is known as perigee and apogee. And the Moon has been doing this for millions of years. Long before humans began observing the Moon and long before we starting keeping detailed records and measuring things. I wondered if people on the coasts, say in the Maritimes, found the whole super Moon business silly. Of course, the Moon at perigee could make for larger tides. Joel nodded in agreement. I knew the term "neap tide;" at the time I couldn't remember the other. [ed: "spring tide," which is the higher tide, during new and full Moon phases.]

This also gave me the opportunity to address the illusion effect, when the Moon is near the horizon. I showed Bree show to measure the Moon's diameter against her pinkie fingernail. I encouraged her to use this standard any time she thought the Moon looked different. She might be surprised.

Now all that said, I'm happy that people are talking about celestial objects and looking up in the night sky 'cause it's cool and all. The more we can talk about astronomy and science and physics the better.

I shared I was worried about the crying wolf effect. That civilians going outside will say, "Huh. Moon looks the same. Nothing special." And feel disappointed or even upset. And then in the future not bother getting off the couch.

Moon at perigee but at furthest distance from Earth

Nothing super about it.

When the bright Moon emerged from the mottled clouds, we measured it.

updated NGC life list

Tidied up my NGC life list over on the blog companion web site. Was missing a couple of entries. So there's over 410 now. And some RASC Finest NGCs were not tagged. Done, now. Again, I have 5 in the Finest category. And one revisited item hadn't been updated correctly; only 4 to re-examine. Yeah.

meteor seasons replotted

With some suggestions from Chris Vaughan, I regenerated my meteor plot chart. In particular, I used a Cauchy distribution formula to calculate intermediate values to the peak.

Cauchy formula

This is much better than my original graph where Excel interpolated the results, given the minimal data, with smoothed lines.

meteors plotted using Cauchy distribution

This effectively shows that meteor showers start slow, slowly build, then, blammo!, there's lots of activity, and then they fall off rapidly.

And, again, the main reason for my making this type of chart was to emphasise our meteor "seasons." Mid-July for a month is a high-water mark with 5 to 6 simultaneous showers. But fall and winter is the best with multiple showers running from mid-October into January plus the two best showers for the whole year.

Friday, December 01, 2017

updated ST3P on netbook

Did some more testing for Greg on SkyTools (under old Windows XP). Intriguing results. But whatever he did re-enabled the "current" update procedure as well as the online shared list downloads. Yeh! I was able get the current comets, minor planets, and supernovae updated and download the new Coldfield Observatory double star list to the John Repeat Dance computer.

pulled off-line

I think Hristo was getting upset with me. On the Yahoo!Group, I said I had deleted everything and reinstalled but it was not working. He thought I was doing "random" things. He pulled our conversation off-line saying it was "not relevant" to others. That's a poor way of saying that. The problem-solving and debugging is not helpful; a final outcome report would be. He addressed my past query at last. He said that where Occult Watcher stored settings was irrelevant. Gah. As an IT person, I'd prefer a more sophisticated response. Still, he wanted to help. He asked me to carefully explain the problem. He wanted details and screenshots. He also wanted a DebugView log capture.

he asked me to reload

Hristo asked me to do everything afresh. He sent a sequence of instructions. A sequence I had done myself, at least once. I was not happy about that. He wasn't directly answering some of my questions. I was very curious if goop in the Windows registry was messing with things. The previous installs of Occult Watcher had baked in some configuration settings that were now not changing or updating. But, I wasn't completely surprised by his response. It's often easier just to reload the app rather than figure out the root problem. The smash-it-with-a-hammer approach. OK. We'll do it that way.

Very different approach from Greg...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

next SpaceX launch on used booster

Read that NASA is going to launch on a previously-flown SpaceX booster. It's all coming together. The commercial entrants in the space flight business are helping their customers, including space agencies, get to space cheaper and faster. The full article at SpaceFlightNow says that Elon Musk's company will send a cargo ship to the International Space Station on a recycled Falcon 9 stage 1 rocket on Fri 8 Dec, mission CRS-13. The booster first flew on CRS-11 in Jun.

now the add-ins were not showing

Told Hristo I had not extracted the debug logs yet. But I verified I had the latest versions of Lunar Occ (1.1.0) and OcculTools (1.4.0). In fact, I had the correct versions installed before he sent the links. Shared the results of a quick experiment. I had renamed the two add-in DLLs and launched OW. They disappeared from the Add-ins menu, as expected. Then I installed the latest versions of the add-ins and re-launched OW. The Add-ins menu did not show them! I asked why would it not automatically detect them.

only one X in 2018

Generated my Lunar X report for 2018. Doesn't look good.

2018 Lunar X prediction table

Only one chance in the new year... January. That's it. Well. Maybe two. The December will start in daylight.

more ideas on OW

Hristo replied to my last update in the Occult Watcher Yahoo!Group. He thought there might be a problem with the AutoUpdate. He noted the latest version of each add-in: Lunar Occ 1.1.0; Occult Tools 1.4.0. He asked me to use MS DebugView and send him the logs. He recommended I download the latest versions of the add-ins. The links he provided were the same as the ones on the OW add-ins web page.

tried V378 faster (Halifax)

Diminished returns. I asked the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to shoot M47 again but with a 1 second exposure. In hopes of split V378 A and B. They are about 5 arc-seconds apart. But B is magnitude 12. I don't see it.

Messier 47 with double stars in luminance

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

First shot on 20 Dec '16.

Then again on 12 Nov '17.

asked for help on OW-public

Posted on the Occult Watcher Yahoo!Group regarding the trouble I was having getting the add-ins to work.

Shared that I had already tried many things. I had downloaded and installed Occult Watcher I had downloaded and installed Lunar Occ add-in along with the Occult Tools add-in. I had downloaded and installed Occult I noted the folder locations used.

Relayed the errors I was encountering.

When I tried to configure Occult Tools, it reported:
This addin requires Occult or later verssion [SIC]

I received a similar error when I tried to configure Lunar Occ.
This addin requires Occult or later verssion

I didn't understand why I was getting these errors when I have the latest Occult installed.


Hristo replied. He asked me to check the supplied path in the add-in location fields. Perhaps the space was not a space. That was a little bit of grasping at straws. He asked me to verify the Occult.exe version. Perhaps he missed this in my post. He wondered if there was a bug but he was certain he had tested this. Anyhoo, I obliged.


I said that whether I pointed to the folder location or typed it, the error was thrown.

I noted the version of the Lun Occ add-in as 1.0.3.

I confirmed the Occult.exe version (as noted in the first message).


Hristo asked me to rename the folder for Occult.exe to remove the space. I had already thought of this and done it.


I said that I noticed previously used configuration settings seemed to be re-appearing when the software was reinstalled. I asked if this data was kept in the Windows registry. I wondered if it was kludging things and should be removed or reset.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

hit 1100

Wow. I have viewed (and split) 1100 double stars!

at least I saw a couple (Bradford)

Set up in the backyard. In the end, big binoculars on the big tripod. Big winter coat.

nearby Clear Sky Chart with fairly good conditions

The 8:00 PM slot said: cloud cover, 10, clear; transparency, 3, average; seeing, 3/5, average, with the Moon altitude at 46.5.

Good To Stargaze showed low wind, high humidity, no clouds, good seeing and transparency. The temperature was to plummet.

Considered V402 in Lacerta but it was almost overhead.

6:40 PM. Meteor southbound, out of the corner of my eye.

6:43. Was going for V640 Cassiopeiae. At β (beta) Cas I noted lots of tiny delicate doubles to the south. Some at 90 degrees to one another. All similar brightness and similar separations.

[ed: SkyTools 3 Pro shows doubles and multi-star systems here. In the magnitude 7 and 8 range. The nearest is not a double proper but two close stars, including HD 627 and HD 594. The "middle" pair is the multi-star system HD 570 with the B component at 123.3 seconds-of-arc distance. The third set is a wide pair, V742, with a separation of 124.9". Cool!]

Could not split V640.

6:46. I checked ST3P for the details and wondered why it was on the list. This is a very tight pair at 1.6". That would be challenging at the best of times in a large instrument. It is a fast-mover at just over 100 years.

It was nearly straight up. A neck-breaker. That made it even more challenging as I could not view it comfortably.

6:59. Could not split HD 13247 in Triangulum. Wider (at 11") but dimmer (mag 8 and 9).

7:04. Thought I was splitting 7 Persei. There seemed to be a faint companion at the 11 o'clock position.

On subsequent viewing, I started to doubt it.

ST3P said the B star was mag 11.5. D and E were brighter...

I wondered about the mag limit of the Orion Little Giant II binoculars. Perhaps 11?

7:11. On 15 Tri. Got 'em! I was happy. Wide pair, 141.5". Mag 5½ and 7 stars.

Easy target in bins.

Pale orange. B is aquamarine.

West was up for me. The colourful pair was on the end of a large inverted T-shape of stars, with HR 738.

7:18. No joy for ζ (zeta) Per. While the primary was bright, all the companions were very dim.

My legs were cold.

Considered candidates that weren't so high. Went back to the main DS list...

Went inside to warm up. Said hello to Bree. Added some more targets to my observing list.

My feet were cold in my regular boots. Weird. Put on the -100 set.

my eastern sky as represented by Stellarium

7:40. Found dew oculars of the binos, sadly, while the sky-facing objectives were fine. Was it my breath or body heat?. Brought a chemical hand warmer to clear the fog.

Viewed phi in Auriga. Nestled in a big flattened triangle of stars, including HR 1795.

Rather cool system. Spotted the B, C, and D stars. They make a triad. B is to the east. C is to the south-east. D was the brightest to the north. C kept fading from view. Sometimes it would pop; sometimes I couldn't see it with averted vision. Very nice. Lovely field.

I wondered about targets in Vulpecula and Sagitta. Wandered to the south-east corner of the yard to take in the sky. Then I felt my mojo go away. Done. Headed back to the gear just as headlights appeared in the driveway...

Pulled some weather data. As of 8:29 PM at Environment Canada observed at the Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport. Current Conditions 0°C. Condition: Clear. Pressure: 102.8 kPa. Temperature: -0.4°C. Dew point: -4.4°C. Humidity: 74%. Wind: N 5 km/h. Wind Chill: -2. The detailed forecast, issued at 3:30 PM for tonight said, "A few clouds. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light early this evening. Low minus 6."

So, not a complete write-off. Got a couple more checked off the DS candidate list. That's good.

Heavy delayed to January

Learned that the first run of Space X's Falcon Heavy was pushed to early 2018. Musk wanted to launch in December.

See the full article at Spaceflight Now.

Be fun to experience one of these. Never did get a chance to see a shuttle launch.

Still slated for December is the static fire test...

reinstall the Occult apps and add-ins

Ran through the entire Occult Watcher set-up again. I deleted everything. I rebooted.

Set up Occult. It is required for the Lunar Occultation add-in. And perhaps I'll use the Occult Tools add-in as well.

Installed the app. Downloaded from the Occult page at IOTA (which referred to version 4.2.0). Used the hyperlink to download the file. Followed the instructions for the manual set-up. Created a directory (natch, folder) on C's root. They suggested "occult 4." Unzip the files. The documentation said there would be 9 files. Hello, there's 11. That's not good. These days, with software threats, they should be precise. I created the shortcut on the desktop. I skipped the option to run as admin as I had not put the subfolder within the Program Files folder.

Configured the app. Launched Occult. It made its subfolders. I let it download the two files for resources and sites. I saw my previously used settings (including dummy SMTP mail stuff) as when I had a configured it before. I downloaded the data again. This time I included the Tycho database. I briefly tested Occult. It seemed OK.

On to Occult Watcher. Tried to follow the instructions on the OW 4.5 "publish" page. It's confusing though with the hyperlink "Download" title which refers to a file called OWsetup.msi (and that's an old version of OW, 3.9). I ignore that and downloaded the file. This seemed correct as the install version was This time I did not create the folder under Program Files (which I had done on my first attempt). As instructed, I ran the OWupdate.exe program as the administrator.

Configured the app. It picked up my previous settings. So I changed nothing. Tried testing. The main listing generated OK. I activated the Lunar Occultations for Close Double Stars feed but it didn't seem to work. I checked the Add-ins menu. Tried to configure the Lunar and Occult Tools items. They issued errors. That an old version of Occult was installed. Huh? That didn't make sense.

added to IOTA group

Application to the International Occultation Timing Association Yahoo!Group was approved. I have questions about the software...


Oops. Discovered the Occult Watcher group. And I was already in it. Thought it rang a bell.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

draft reviewed

Rhonda proofed my draft article for the Journal.

zoomed to the eclipse

Rhonda received her latest issue of Zoom Zoom magazine. I noted the featured article on the cover, referring to the solar eclipse.

issue 30 of Zoom Zoom magazine

I learned a few Mazda peeps traveled to the Tennessee with a sleek MX-5 RF. They were lucky, seeing totality between clouds.

received SN Jan/Feb 2018

Whoa! SkyNews magazine showed up. Rhonda brought it in. That seemed fast or early! Perhaps it is because the issue is featuring the astronomical highlights for 2018.

cover of the Jan/Feb 2018 SkyNews magazine
It looks like next year will feature good Mars viewing, a special lunar eclipse, and a perfect opportunity (i.e. no Moon) to view the Perseid meteor shower. Yeh!

The current issue also discusses binos and how to choose the best ones for astronomy. A new column accompanies this topic: binocular observing.

There's an article called Image-processing Basics by Mr Puerzer. Hopefully I can learn some tricks. I still struggle with this.

The Jan-Feb 2018 issue also features a solar eclipse shot by Mr Park. Congrats!

applied software updates

Tried adding the Lunar Occultations add-in to Occult Watcher. It needs Occult installed but I kept misreading the notes.

Installed Occult Tools add-in to Watcher. It needed the Occult software. I finally realised what was going on.

Downloaded and installed Occult 4.5.

Tried running the configuration commands for the two add-ins but they kept reporting I needed version 4.0 or higher of Occult. Huh?

Applied the update to Occult Watcher. From 3.9 to 4.5.

All's well (I hope).

Now I can watch for lunar occultations of close double stars!

tested SkyTools

Tested a special release of SkyTools 3 for Greg. We're trying to sort out some SSL issues.

Monday, November 27, 2017

huh, clear (Bradford)

Clear. For a change. They were going ahead with the City Star Party at Bayview Village Park. Saw a couple of stars as we drove north. I stood briefly by the front porch and looked at Cygnus and Lyra. Too tired to set up.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

true colours

I stumbled across this some time ago, don't remember when. But I wanted to share it as it is the most realistic presentation of star colour I have seen in the classic Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram.

HR Diagram with realistic star colours

The blues and oranges are pale. The colours are subtle. And this is how we see the colours of stars in the telescope. Or in photographs that are not oversatured.

From Bruce MacEvoy's web page Astronomical Files from Black Oak Observatory. Such as amazing resource.

Friday, November 24, 2017

after two weeks (Halifax)

BGO imaged the supernova SN2017eaw once again. Hanging in there. Still around magnitude 17.

Recently decreased the minimum height requirement for the Fireworks Galaxy. Image quality may begin to degrade.

supernova SN2017eaw in luminance

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

Been a while since I've had a look. Last shot on 11 Nov.


Reports continue to roll in our asteroid 1I aka 'Oumuamua. It is long and cylindrical, like a cigar. Measurements suggest it is 400 metres long and 40 in diameter. It is tumbling or rotating every 7 years. It is red or ruddy in colour perhaps due to cosmic ray bombardment. The article at has lots of good graphics and interesting data.

no planets in west (Brampton)

It was a very nice sky to the west, with only a few clouds, as I drove up the 410. Noticed the Moon up high when I made a quick launch. I looked for planets through furtive glances. Nope. Had hoped to see Saturn and Mercury. As the highway curved west, I had a good look. Nothing. Too late, perhaps.

was it a planet? (King City)

Saw a planet is a clear pre-dawn sky. It seemed faint. So could not have been Venus. It did not seem to have an orange or red hue. So it was likely not Mars. Was it Jupiter? Or Spica?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

imaged tiny Hickson 1 (Halifax)

I noticed in SkyTools that Hickson 1, the first object in the Hickson Compact Groups was up high. Programmed the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to image it (centring on Tycho 1734 01060 1).

Hickson 1 galaxy cluster in luminance

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

The documented members in UGC 248, PGC 1625, PGC 1614, and PGC 1618.

248 is the large member to the north-east. It is touching 1625 to the south-west. Both of these look like spiral galaxies interacting, tearing each other apart. There is a very interesting bridge between them. They are east of the Tycho star.

1614 is to the west. Round. With a bright core. West of the Tycho star.

1618 is the very tiny faint round fuzzy between the others. Between Tycho 1734 01060 1 and Tycho 1734 00524 1.

South-east of the cluster proper is a bright but small almond: PGC 1628.

made a new doubles list

Made a new SkyTools list using the data from the popular Coldfield Observatory double star list. It contains 200 beautiful double and multi-star systems. I had to review the steps as I was a little rusty but I was able to import a "cleaned" list and then manually match up all the targets. Tried to put on the new SkyTools forums but it is not configured to accept STX files... Sent to Greg for vetting. He put it on the Skyhound server for download and encouraged me to promote it on the new forums. Looks like a neat list.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

showed spinning spirals

When the power came back on, I showed Rhonda the short video of a spiral galaxy spinning. She concurred. There's a strong impression of water running down a drain.

Wish I knew how to make a video loop on YouTube.

Explained that the galaxy on the left is spinning at an expected rate, with speeds tailing off the further we are from the centre; the right spiral portrays the observed speeds, where the outer arms are travelling faster than expected.

tested web cam

Did some testing with the LogiTech 5700 web cam to see it might work as a polar scope camera.

Cut the bottom out of an old (translucent) plastic film container. Quickly attached it to the camera body (with tape) trying to keep it fairly well aligned.

Attached the USB connector to John Repeat Dance. Launched Paint and chose the capture command.

webcam view down film tube

We have a picture! All right. But could not control the camera.

Installed the assembly onto the Celestron/Vixen polar axis scope. Could see the reticule pattern. Yes! Tested focusing. It worked.

webcam view of polar scope

The shaft was clearly too long. Cut down the film tube, removing about 1 cm. This put the camera very near the ocular. Shaft length is about 3.3 cm.

Tried Microsoft AMcap version 8.x and it worked nicely. Was able to control the output video frame size. 640x480. Manually focused the camera.

web cam view of polar scope reticule

Much better.

I suspect the oblong shape is due to the misalignment.

This is looking very promising.

Strapped the polar scope to a tripod. Ready for a star test...

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

designed ocular cover

Once again, in 123D, I made a replacement part for the Vixen Super Polaris mount. This time, I designed the polar scope cover for the rear of the mount. But I suspect it will be a big job. On TPL printers, it will likely take too long, as the part is large. I'm going to have to figure out a solution for actually producing large items.


I've made a mistake.

I have been describing galaxy rotation incorrectly for some time.

I retract the remark that galaxies are acting like rigid wheels. I would describe the motion of the stars at the outer edge of a spiral galaxy being faster than stars in the middle and faster still than the inside stars. Like spokes on a wheel.

That's wrong.

My apologies for confusion caused.

I misinterpreted information about galactic rotation.

rotation curves for some spiral galaxies

In fact, as measured by Vera Rubins, the inner stars are moving slowly (say 50 km/s). The stars further out are moving faster (100 km/s). The stars further out are going faster still (maybe 200 to 300 km/s). And then the speed curve flattens. The stars in the middle and outer limits are going this same speed (200 to 300 km/s).

I was mistakenly continuing to ramp up the speed, the further we went out.

Given the stars in the outer spiral arms have a greater distance to travel and their speed is the same at ones in the middle, they fall behind!

This consequently explains something for me: the twisting or torquing effect. Which I could not resolve with the rigid disc approach.

All this revealed itself to me as Rhonda and I talked about types of objects in the galaxy, where they were located, how they contributed to the formation of the galaxy, and so on.


Monday, November 20, 2017

the view from 63

Rhonda asked me if our solar system plane (the ecliptic) was at the same angle as the plane of the galaxy. Nope. I knew it wasn't. But I had to look it up.

63 degrees.

Which makes sense! When you factor in the tilt of the Earth to the ecliptic, that puts the galaxy at nearly 90. That's why are certain times of the year, the Milky Way goes straight overhead.

I also said that for all other systems, it would be random. Every exosolar system would be different.

types by galactic view

Ron's talk at last week's meeting was intriguing to Rhonda. But I offered to present the types of celestial objects against a galactic oriented map as opposed to what he did, showing them in maps that followed the equatorial grid (which is an extension of the Earth's terrestrial grid). The sinusoidal line of the galaxy threw her. It just makes sense to me that we take a view most like how we see the galaxy when we look up.

I recalled that the old application Where Is M13? supported a "Sky View" cylindrical projection chart with the plane of our home galaxy flat, along the horizontal. Fired it up.

The horizontal line in the middle, at 0 degrees, shows the plane of the galaxy and alludes to the location of the main disc and the Milky Way's spiral arms.

The vertical line indicates where the centre of the galaxy is, the galactic core, and the suspected bar of our spiral.

screen grab of our galaxy - globular clusters

Above is the built-in "all globular clusters" preset filter. You can see the orange circles are buzzing around the hub of the galaxy with some well above and below the plane of the Milky Way. They are old structures, perhaps important in the formation of a spiral galaxy.

screen grab of our galaxy - diffuse nebula

I made a custom filter for the "diffuse nebulae" to show the dust and gas that may be the fuel for new star systems. The green squares follow along the arms of the galaxy. There is a big void around Aquila.

screen grab of our galaxy - open clusters

Chose the built-in preset for "all open clusters." It is very clear how tight they are to the arms of the galaxy. Note the obvious gap around Aquila. The big yellow disc is Collinder 285 aka the Ursa Major Moving Group. I believe our Sun is considered a member.

screen grab of our galaxy - planetary nebula

Again, I made a custom filter. This one shows the planetary nebulae. Not surprisingly, the blue marks are fairly in-line with the arms. The ones above and below are likely close to us.

screen grab of our galaxy - young hot stars

I found an interesting filter, the "OB associations." Ron did not address these. These are regions of hot, young stars, living life fast. They tend to go out in spectacular fashion, as supernovae, starting the whole cycle again. The stippled patterns, you can see, are in the arms. And all around us. Except in Aquila.

Minkowski's Object, briefly (Halifax)

The BGO reported a partial observation. Sounds like it was able to squeeze in a few images before clouds rolled in. Not much better than the run on 14 Oct.

I had requested NGC 541 in Cetus. A galaxy within a group that appears to be known as Minkowski's Object.

Minkowski's Object in luminance

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

Two of the colour channels were not gathered. There's a satellite in this image. There's a bad gradient. But I don't really care. I just imaged this region for fun.

NGC 541 is the oval fuzzy, with the bright core, left of centre. aka Arp 133.

North-north-west of 541 is a tiny round lint ball: LEDA 1121627.

Right or west of 1121627 is another tiny faint round fuzzy: LEDA 1121698.

LEDA 1120269 is due west of 541, quite a distance away. Also tiny and round and faint.

Between 541 and 1120269 is LEDA 73954. It is a bit larger and brighter than the LEDA.

South-west of 541 is an edge-on galaxy. Doesn't look like a classic spiral. SkyTools 3 Pro says NGC 535 is a lenticular.

Much further, near the bottom-right of the frame, is another object that looks identical to 535: MCG 0-4-121. It's rotated 90 degrees.

A bit to the south of these is a larger lenticular: MCG 0-4-129.

East of 0-4-129 is UGC 996. It looks similar albeit a bit smaller. Oriented east-west.

South of these two, between them, is a slightly larger spiral. NGC 538.

Due south of 541 is an almond shape with a bright core: UGC 1003.

South-east of 1003 is a round fuzzy. This is PGC 5306.

LEDA 1119267 is close to 541, to the south-east. It is very faint.

Due east of 541 is a tiny oval. LEDA 86298.

North-east of 541 is the pair of large galaxies, NGC 545 (north) and NGC 547. Together they are Arp 308. They look like classic elliptical galaxies. Bright!

North-east of these two is a small oval shape: LEDA 169816.

East of the twin stars is MCG 0-4-140. A small elongated fuzzy with a bright centre.

North of the twins is a bright round ball of light: NGC 543.

Wow. Lots happening in this area.

updated TSTM video

Andrew published the final version of The Sky This Month video presentation which I delivered on Wed 15 Nov.

This version has my updated slide elements.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

checking visibility part 5

That was serendipitous.

I was looking for star charts which presented the Milky Way galaxy "flat" or a chart that was oriented in the galactic perspective. Found a cool map.

When I revisited the page (called Commentary on Star Atlas in Galactic Perspective) and read the entire article (with references back to the Apollo missions), I stumbled across his hand-drawn Local Meridian Finder figure. Wow!

local meridian finder for date and time (inverted)

This is very useful as a quick and easy low bandwidth tool for predicting visibility. For example, the graphic says that on 20 Nov at midnight, objects between RA 3 and 5 will be well placed.

Shared on the RASC forum.

[ed. Grahic by Robert Fritzius used with permission. Colour-inverted by Blake.]

Friday, November 17, 2017

shared flattened galaxy

Sent a link to Rhonda. A "flattened" map of the Milky Way galaxy. It presents our galaxy view with little distortion, which is rather helpful I think when trying to understand where things are.

chart of the celestial sphere with the galaxy plane flattened

She liked it a lot.

Chart from the Shade Tree Physics web site by Robert Fritzius on a page called Commentary on Star Atlas in Galactic Perspective. Used with permission.

Arecibo continues scanning

Read an article at Astronomy Now. I was happy to learn that the Arecibo Observatory will keep scanning the skies. It escaped significant damage from Hurricane Maria. And now the National Science Foundation is planning to continue its support of the facility.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

checking visibility part 4

Chris jumped into the "best day to observe" thread. He said:
You could also add (or subtract) twelve hours to (from) the desired object's R.A. and then adjust the date to place the sun at the calculated R.A... Then revert to night time and adjust the hour to put the object on the meridian.
Ah. Is it that simple? By adding (or subtracting) 12 hours against the target RA, it puts the Sun opposite the target. And then the target will be high in the night sky.

This gets it near the meridian at midnight.

What a cool trick.


Not knowing the sky, in my head, in terms of celestial coordinates, I would still have to use software. And if you fire up Stellarium to do all this, then, well... you can just go to the object and figure it out that way... If Nick is after a calculation he can do in his head or do on a scrap of paper, I'm not sure it is possible now.

Ed has been alluding to this in a way in his comments that the "best night" is also impacted by other factors. The big one, for me, is moonlight. If you're going for dim fuzzies, you want maximum elevation on dark nights. The elevation is pretty easy to get. But then the lunar cycle comes into play...

fits like a glove

Grabbed the Vixen Super Polaris mount. Installed the new cap. It fit! Amazing.

When I bought this mount on consignment many years ago, at the time, I did not know it was missing many pieces. Like the fore and aft polar axis scope caps.

Slowly, I'm getting it back to its original state.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

what about flat?

Rhonda and I chatted on the way home. She enjoyed the evening. Learned lots from the presenters. She particularly liked Ron's talk on the Milky Way and spiral arms of galaxies. I wondered about viewing the charts though a different way, with the galaxy plane flat—I think it might be more powerful that way.

a new part

It freaks me out a little bit. This little plastic object did not exist in the world a few hours ago. The cap I made for my Vixen SP mount I drew in computer 3D software, copied to a memory card, converted to print code, loaded into a 3D printer, which extruded white PLA in the appropriate pattern.

finished 3D printed part

I showed my new prized possession to Peter H. He said they too use 3-dimensional printing, for their electronic equipment projects. Showed Rhonda. She was excited for me. Showed the gang at dinner. I thank Chris V for spotting it all the table as we were leaving. That would have been heart-breaking if I had immediately lost it.

go for your certificate

For the first time, in my TSTM presentation, I promoted observing certificate programmes. I deliberately included a number of targets that are in different campaigns. For example, the planets, a comet, features of the Moon, are on the Explore the Universe. There are targets included in RASC Finest NGCs. I referred to a few Messier objects. And there are a couple of Herschel 400 targets. From beginner to advanced.

delivered TSTM

Delivered The Sky This Month presentation at the Ontario Science Centre for the RASC Toronto Centre.

The time frame reported on runs from 15 Nov to 13 Dec. The meeting was streamed live; final video will follow soon. My presentation notes were used to form the web page article. As usual, it includes a downloadable month-at-a-glance calendar. There are observing list files available for SkySafari and SkyTools. New, this time, I made an Excel file.

Wore my red LED name badge programmed as "Blake. Space Tour Guide." People liked that.

Wore my eclipse t-shirt too.


View the captured rough-cut video on YouTube. Sheesh, I look funny. This includes all the speakers in the evening. About 2 hours in length.

Updated video online. Just the TSTM. About 30 minutes.


Accolades from various members. No, thank you.

A/2017 U1 renamed 1I

The International Astronomical Union has reclassified the interstellar asteroid A/2017 U1 to 1I. The digit one indicates it is the first object under this category. The letter i represents the interstellar classification.

They also applied a given name, 'Oumuamua. This is a Hawaiian term meaning "scout." The first element ʻOu means "reach out for" and mua, repeated for emphasis​, means the "first, in advance of."

checked out LXD55

Inspected a telescope a member wishes to donate. A 8-inch f/8 Meade LXD55 with its equatorial mount and accessories and custom case. I don't think I've ever seen this particular one before, a Schmidt-Newtonian.

made cap

Completed my first ever 3D print job. Thanks to the Toronto Public Library staff at the Reference Library for their support and assistance. Produced the telescope part I had designed last night.

Lulzbot printing telescope part

We struggled with a finicky Ultimaker 2 printer and later switched to their fast LulzBot. Made my polar scope outboard cover for the Vixen Super Polaris mount. The 4-gram piece was completed in about 12 minutes.

Printed in white PLA. The original Vixen part was black. OK with me the bright colour. It will be easier to see if dropped at night.

A little boy with his mom looked in as I started my print job. She asked him to ask me what I was doing. I told him I was making a cap for my telescope because I had lost the original part. His mom liked that story. Learned he has a telescope too. And if he loses any parts, he can make a new one.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

quickly designed cap

As I planned a trip to the Toronto Public Library, I considered what I might produce with a 3D printer. Didn't think I should proceed with making the replacement latch for Mom's old cassette deck. The iOptron motor cover I had designed back in March 2016 was not an option. Didn't need a spacer for the C8 and Williams Optics focuser. I wasn't prepared to design (or refine) the new deep red flashlight case. I checked Evernote for ideas. Ah. A cap for the Vixen Super Polaris mount to cover the sky-facing port of the polar axis scope. A nice little small project...

polar axis scope cap designed in 123D

Quickly dashed off the design in Autodesk 123D. Saved the STL file to a SD card.

plotted distant moons

As I prepared for my TSTM presentation, I wondered about the moons of Uranus. I wondered if it was possible to view them in a graphical way, in a sinusoidal chart like what is shown in the RASC Observer's Handbook, for the moons of Jupiter. Initially, I considered that I could make such a chart myself if I could get the periodic data. On a whim, I conducted a search on the interwebs, and was pleasantly surprised to find the Uranus Moon Tracker tool. Perfect! Pretty easy to use. I made a chart for my TSTM article showing Oberon, Titania, and Ariel. Verified that 10 December will be a particularly good evening.

checking visibility part 3

We heard from Nick!

He thanked everyone for their responses.

He shared he's been using many of the tools we've already referred him too. And he indicated he's using the "intro" version of SkyTools. I think he means the Starter edition.

He also told us about objects he likes looking at. Sue French's Asterisms list, Palomar Globulars, Harvard objects, Abell objects, Jones 1, Klemora 4, Basel 1, Jonckheere 900, ESO galaxies, some red variable stars, etc. Whoa. Some of those are faint.

SkyTools Starter edition only includes 4 million stars, down to magnitude 12.5.

Nick said that DSO Browser was the best tool for him but doesn't allow the adding of objects. He also said he cannot search by RA & Dec. Oh.

He asked again, "What is 'this easy calculation?'"

Binary Universe: aligning to the pole

I saw on Facebook that the December RASC Journal was being upload to the RASC server for members to retrieve.
cover of the RASC Journal 2017 December

Lots of wonderful images by members some of whom I have met.

Lots of interesting articles. I look forward to reading an account of zodiacal light, the history of astrophotography, more eclipse reports, observing tips, etc.

My software review column Binary Universe featured a simple Android app for the polar alignment of an equatorial mount. Polar Finder by TechHead version 1.34 works well, supports different reticule patterns, and supports different field of view presentations.

Monday, November 13, 2017

next council meeting noted

Funny. I was just thinking about it. And Tom posted a notice. The next RASC Toronto Centre Council meeting will be on 21 November. It will be at the St Joan of Arc Church.

Skyhound launches forums

Skyhound (maker of SkyTools) launched a forum product. They too are migrating away from Yahoo!Groups.

correction applied

After checking with Patrice, Michel, and Richard, James updated the double star supplemental materials with the correction I had suggested on 31 Oct. gamma Cru showed as having SAO number in 239791 but that's for delta Cru. According to various sources, the SAO number should be 240019.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

checking visibility part 2

Sent a follow-up to the RASC TC forums regarding Nick's issue of checking the visibility of objects (after my 8 Nov remarks). I had popped into DSO Browser to check something on one of my astrophotos and I spotted the elevation graphs. Similar to SkyTools but online.

elevation charts from DSO Browser

The image shows the data for the Pleiades given the viewing location of Orillia.

The first helps verify the best time to view or shoot in an evening; the second tells you when the item is best viewed in the year.

It lets you adjust the observing time in the Monthly Elevation chart which is cool. SkyTools does too—I've never used the feature before.

I still like the SkyTools YearBar better. A subtle thing is that it includes the moonlighting. From the graph above, we can glean that Pleiades is best in the winter, high in the sky in November, December, and January. For the example date shown, Nov 12, it crosses the meridian around midnight. For 2017, that's OK as there's little moonlight; but in 2018, the sky will be washed out with the stoopid Moon.

Another member referred to a "simple calculation" to locate objects but did not expand.

Antares away

Orbital ATK got away this morning. They, returning to flight on a new rocket, are on their way to the International Space Station with supplies and science. The space truck was christened S.S. Gene Cernan. Apropos. Details at SpaceFlightNow.

returned to M47 (Halifax)

About a year ago (20 Dec '16), I imaged Messier 47 and the double stars within. At the time, I was not able to split V378 Pup AB. Wanted to have another go.

open cluster M47 with doubles in luminance

Luminance only, 2 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

Unfortunately, I still cannot split A and B.


Tried a 1 second shot on 30 Nov.

reshot NGC 1528 (Halifax)

Needed to revisit NGC 1528 with BGO. Something went terribly wrong on 11 Sep '17. A very good result this time. I also dropped the exposure time a bit.

open cluster NGC 1528 in luminance

Luminance only, 20 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

started collecting cloud data

For the first time I grabbed the sky sensor data captured at the Burke-Gaffney Observatory. I missed the memo about this new device (a Boltwood Cloud Sensor II) and the web page showing the daily, weekly, and monthly charts.

cloud sensor data chart from BGO

The charts show the cloud cover with the green bars. The higher the green level the better the sky, i.e. it is clear. The value 40 is the maximum. A low value like 20 indicates very cloudy.

The blue line on the chart shows the difference between the air temperature (nominal values, like 6°C) and the sky temperature (usually very close). High numbers suggest clear skies.

clustered around NGC 7619 (Halifax)

For fun, I charged the Burke-Gaffney Observatory with imaging the group of galaxies around NGC 7619 in Pegasus.

cluster of galaxies around NGC 7619 in luminance

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

This is an interesting group of galaxies and I can't help but wonder if it is part of a formal group. SkyTools 3 Pro shows that NGC 7619 is west of ACO or Abell 2594. Is it part of it?

To the north-west, well away, near the top-right of the photograph, is LEDA 1344694. It is just a little bit north-east of the bright pair of stars. It looks like a distant canted spiral galaxy.

Still north-west but closer is a very dim round patch. LEDA 142907 is just below the faint star J231948.8+081639.

Nearby, to the south-south-west, is a small almond shape. LEDA 1342934.

To the west of these two dim objects is the rather large but faint galaxy UGC 12510 aka PGC 71085. I don't see a spiral arm structure; perhaps it is an elliptical.

Close the NGC 7619, to the west-north-west, I see a faint fuzzy. Below star J231959.2+081401. It is not tagged in ST3P.

LEDA 197669 is nearly due west. It is medium-sized and bright. Nearly perfectly round.

Far away to the south-west is the long streak of LEDA 214939. It looks to be a edge-on spiral but does not show any brightness at the core.

Unlike NGC 7611 to the south. A smooth large oval with a very bright central region.

Near 7619 is NGC 7617. To the south-west. The outer edges of this galaxy are very dim; the core is very intense.

MCG 1-59-54 is due south of 7619. It is barely visible at the bottom edge of the photo. It appears as a large but dim face-on spiral.

NGC 7626, to the east of 7619, appears almost identical. Elliptical, bright, about the same size.

Tiny LEDA 3097931 is visible just a bit north of 7626.

At the far north, at the edge of the frame, is the round fuzzy of LEDA 1344674.


For the first time, with this image, I tried the OFFSET option. I specifically used
which shifted the mount (positive) 10% in R.A. and negative 10% in Dec. The end result appear with the centre of the image down and right or west and south of 7619. I did this primarily to include NGC 7611 at the bottom-right. Wait a sec'. Isn't R.A. decreasing?

aimed at NGC 6946 again (Halifax)

I sent the Halifax robot to the Fireworks galaxy once again. Slow burn that supernova, SN2017eaw. Still slightly brighter than magnitude 17.0. Last shot on 4 Nov '17.

fading supernova in NGC 6946 with luminance filter

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

added a new aurora link

Updated my aurora evergreen page (no pun intended) on my blog companion for Aurorasaurus.

nudge from Facebook

Now Facebook is reminding me about astronomical events... Appulses, no less. Huh.

The only problem is that we'll have to get up stoopid-early to take it in. That might be a deal-breaker.

plane in the box

Learned the Orbital ATK had to scrub when an unidentified plane flew into the hazard zone near Wallops. The SpaceFlightNow article includes details. They had a 5 minute launch window for the ISS resupply rocket but did not feel they could clear the airspace in time. They are going to try again tomorrow morning.

shot HD 46150 faster (Halifax)

First shot on 17 Jan '17 when I was trying to capture the bright open cluster NGC 2244 (within the Rosette). At 30 seconds, many of the bright stars were flat-topped. Learned of the multi-star system HD 46150 aka SAO 114010 but many of the components were merged. So I ordered BGO to expose for a 1/3rd of the time.

multi-star system HD 46150 in luminance

Luminance only, 10 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

Got 'em!

Dim B is visible very close to the primary to the north-east, near the 11 o'clock position. C is slightly brighter than B. It is to the north-west (around the 1:30 position). Perhaps a titch closer than B. These two elements I had put on a "view again" status. Tagged!

D is brighter still, to the west-north-west or 2 o'clock. E is easy, brighter again, to the south-south-west or 5:30.

A, B, C, D, and E were lost in the glare or merged in the 30 second shot.

In addition, I had thought that the B had moved. In this image, it is clearly in a different position than indicated by SkyTools 3 Pro.

Also, quadruple system HD 46056 is more clearly resolved. As is triple HD 46180.

Friday, November 10, 2017

shot HR 8 longer

With the Burke-Gaffney Observatory, I tried imaging the multi-star system OΣ 549 (or HR 8) again. Gah. Nothing...

Visually observed this system from the Carr Astronomical Observatory with a NexStar 11 on 24 Sep '16. Split A and B. Could see the other stars, C and D, but in mediocre seeing they were merged.

Did some digging on 30 Sep '16. I learned of the E star on referring to the Washington Double Star index. But the LAF 21 entry looked odd: the E was noted having a magnitude of 17.2 while A was 4.6. What? Other WDS entries said 6; SkyTools 3 Pro said 6.

Decide to image this target with the Burke-Gaffney Observatory in Halifax. Received my first photograph on 14 Jul '17. Searched for more companions. Happily, I spotted the C star, very close to D, albeit, in a slightly different location compared to the chart display in ST3P.

But I could not see the E element even though the WDS said it was over 10 arc-seconds away. Yes, it was very dim but other mag 17 stars were visible in the 4 second exposure. Was it caught in the glare of the bright primary?

On 1 Sep '17 I decided to shoot the system faster, twice as fast, to better see the C and D partners and maybe reveal the E. Received a decent image but still E was hidden.

Tried faster again, down to 1 second, on 9 Sep '17. No E star. I was starting to seriously doubt the quality of the entry in the WDS.

Tonight, BGO aimed at the system again (using GSC 01735-0996). Following my directive, it exposed longer—8 seconds. And still no E star emerged.

Perhaps I should send a report to the JDSO stating that the E star data does not seem to be accurate.