Sunday, October 22, 2017

let's go for Bode's

Submitted a BGO job for Rhonda.


Learned later I screwed up in the syntax... But then, I'm not sure it would have mattered; I think the weather turned.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

from the soil, from the Sun

Rhonda picked up a bottle of wine for our hosts. It sounds really good. The soil, the vine, the way, taking time, the Sun... Modus from Italy. I hope they like it.

bottle of Modus wine

I pointed out the Moon phases on the label.

imaged NGC 2276 and friends (Halifax)

The BGO returned an image centred on GSC 04622 00638. It features NGC 2276 in Cepheus. A "two in the view" target. I was hoping to get 2276 and NGC 2300 but I chopped it off. Happily, there are many more smaller galaxies in the area.

NGC 2276 and neighbours in luminance

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

We viewed this Arp target in Glendo...

Of course, the brightest member is NGC 2276, a wonderful rich spiral. Curiously, it is off-centre. That is, the core of the galaxy is not centred in the arms. Gravitational tidal forces at work, no doubt. It is also known as Arp 25. The core is not overly bright. There seems to be a smooth ring around the core while the arms are mottled.

The bright star right or west of the spiral is HD 51141, a very tight double.

Far to the west is a small edge-on spiral, known as MCG 14-4-24.

Further west is tiny LEDA 2790096. It looks like another spiral.

Still further west is a large elliptical: MCG 14-4-20. A smooth oval with a bright core.

South of these three is a canted spiral. It's MCG 14-4-21.

Further south is MCG 14-4-26. It looks an elliptical to me. SkyTools says it is a spiral.

Again, I cut off NGC 2300. It is the glow to the east-south-east to 2276.


Wikipedia link: NGC 2276.

saw many meteors (Crowes Landing)

After the movie ended, a groggy Rhonda noted on Facebook people talking about the meteor shower. She asked what that was about. I told her the Orionids were peaking. We checked her iOS app. About 20 per hour.

We suited up and headed down to the dock. Had to watch our step, trying to stay dark adapted, using only dim red light.

Viewed Pleiades with the loaner Orion Little Giant II binoculars mounted on my small metal tripod. A pretty view.

Beautiful sky. Fantastic seeing near the zenith. Fair transparency. Some clouds in the west.

Then we lay on the dock to watch the sky. Almost immediately I saw a short northbound meteor near Auriga. Soon we were racking them up. Some left glowing trains. The best was almost overhead, heading west. It was extremely bright, probably a negative magnitude. The long train burned for a few seconds. Probably 20 Orionids together. I also a couple of sporadics.

Looked at many constellations and stars including Capella, Cassiopeia, Perseus, Cepheus, Taurus and the Hyades and intense Aldebaran, Andromeda, Triangulum, portions of Pegasus, Gemini rising, Ursa Minor, the Big Dipper scooping up. In the west Lyra with Vega, Cygnus, Aquila with Altair diving down, and Delphinus leaping. I could clearly see six stars in the Pleiades. The gathering of stars, with 19, 17, IQ, and 16, on the right edge of Auriga were obvious to the unaided eye.

We spent a long time looking at Orion. The Meissa cluster was obvious. Over time all the belt stars emerged over the trees.

Dismounted the 15x70 bins and used them as we lay on our backs.

The Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) was spectacular, beautifully framed. The little smudge of Messier 110 was very obvious, at our 10 o'clock, a short distance from the centre of the big galaxy.

The Double Cluster was very nice. A little small though. Curiously, brighter naked eye. Perhaps it was that the binocular magnification revealed many stars of the Milky Way arm.

I looked for, and found, the open clusters in Auriga: large M38, small M36, and M37 well below. All were lovely. Was there a smudge to the right of Messier 38?

Looked for Messier 33, the Whirlpool or Pinwheel or Triangulum galaxy. Very nice. Definitely smaller than M31. Tough naked eye. NGC 752 was easy with the Mark I eyeball.

Viewed the Great Orion Nebula, M42, in the binoculars. Rhonda liked that a lot.

I was feeling cold despite many layers, jeans, shoes, a jacket, and gloves. We grabbed the gear and headed to the house. Not before enjoying one more look, stars above, and reflected in the shimmering quiet water of Big Stoney Lake.

"... revealed themselves one star at a time."

Thursday, October 19, 2017

aimed into Hickson 10 (Halifax)

Positioned BGO on star on GSC0230001449 in the middle of the galaxy cluster Hickson 10 in Andromeda.

galaxy cluster Hickson 10 in luminance

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

The Hickson 10 target shows in many of my SkyTools 3 Professional observing lists, as far back as August 2014. I believe it gets automatically added in some situations by the Nightly Observing List Generator. But in all that time, I don't recall viewing it. It is a lovely grouping.

West of centre is the large elliptical galaxy NGC 529.

Just above, north-west of 529, is a very small oblong smudge. Another elliptical? That's LEDA 169778.

The bright star to the south is HR 410.

To the east-south-east of centre is a canted spiral of NGC 536. It has huge sweeping spiral arms fanning out into space, perhaps extended by gravity. Fantastic.

NGC 542 appears to the south-east of 536. It looks like an edge-on spiral.

North of 536 is a curious shape, almost rectangular. It is a canted spiral perhaps with a bright core. NGC 531. SkyTools says it is a barred lenticular.

There are many more small fuzzies in this image...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

shot NGC 185 again (Halifax)

I asked the Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot to imaged NGC 185 again. First shot in Aug '16. Tonight's shot is much better.

NGC 185 in luminance

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

received 2018 OH

w00t! Rhonda and I received the RASC 2018 Observer's Handbook. I think she was more excited than me.

cover of the RASC Observer's Handbook

Colourful rho Ophiuchi on the front cover by Lynn Hilborn. Guest writer is Randall Rosenfeld. The 150 year badge on the back cover. I showed Rhonda various sections. We're both looking forward to diving in...

revisited SN2017eaw (Halifax)

Once again, BGO captured supernova SN2017eaw. Much dimmer.

fading supernova in the Fireworks Galaxy in luminance

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

Last shot 12 Oct '17.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

when neutron stars merge

The detection of gravitational waves from merging black holes over two years ago was a big deal. A very big deal. It was like we developed a new sense. The LIGO and similar instruments allow analyses of the Universe in completely new ways.

And now we've detected gravitational waves coming from neutron star collisions. This is an exciting breakthrough partly because neutron stars are visible directly. We can see light from the event in addition to disturbances in gravity. The article at Astronomy Now is intriguing.

This discovery also helps in our understanding of where heavier but still fundamental material likely comes from, such as gold.

captured HR 6043 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged HR 6043 aka STT 305. This is a multi-star system in Corona Borealis. I selected it from a "most beautiful" list in SkyTools 3 Pro. The image is centred on GSC 02576-1852 with the target system near the top.

multi-star system HR 6043 in luminance

Luminance only, 4 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

The B attendant is the medium-bright star immediately to the west, very close, almost touching the primary.

While there are many bright stars nearby, they are not noted in ST3P as members of the system. Also there is a dim star to the south-west. Close.

There is a C element. It is further west. In fact, it is in the vertical line of 3 dim stars, being the lowest or southern point.

It is fascinating to spot the dim oval galaxy south of OΣΣ 305 C. This is PGG 57432. It must be bright to appear in a 4 second shot...

next council meeting

The next meeting of the RASC Toronto Centre council is on Thu 19 Oct.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

helped at CAO work party

We helped at the fall work party at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

welding the Stargrazer cutting deck

I worked on the small motors with Ed. We winterised the Stargrazer and Green Flash ride-on mowers and the Blade Runner walk-behind. With Jeff's help, we welded up the old MTD cutting deck. I winterised the generator. I also replaced the batteries for fire safety and security devices.

Rhonda worked on a number of indoor and outdoor tasks. I think she had fun. It was awesome having her there.

The weather was satisfactory. It was warm. It did not rain much on Saturday. It did not snow!

The event was very well run with Ian W and Phil at the helm.

The food by the dos Santos was amazing.

updated notes

Helped Geneviève with her imaging procedure notes. We refined the set-up notes she had transcribed. Drew an additional sketch for the electronic focuser cabling. I added the closing down notes.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

loaded and locked

Loaded our two pinhole cameras with Ilford 5x7 paper. Closed the shutters. Capped the cans. Ready to go...


Jeff told me about he and Richard using Geoff Gaherty's astronomy equipment during the solar eclipse. A nice tribute.

entranced by IC 342 (Halifax)

Directed BGO to image IC 342. Number 5 is the Caldwell catalogue. This is a massive face-on galaxy in Camelopardalis. It is a very challenging visual target...

galaxy IC 342 in luminance

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


Wikipedia link: IC 342.

revisited Arp 133 (Halifax)

Returned to Arp 133 centred on NGC 541. The Burke-Gaffney Observation produced a much better image than my first attempt on 30 August.

galaxy cluster centred on NGC 541 in luminance

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

look at the Elora

Katrina found a cool beer. Astronomy themed, of course. Looking forward to trying it. And made close to home too...

Elora Borealis pale ale beer

Photo by Rhonda.

we brought the clouds

It clouded over just after we arrived. Boo!

The gang had been observing since sunset under rather good skies.

They reported seeing aurora too!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

SN2017eaw still visible (Halifax)

Clear in Halifax. As expected, the BGO robot got busy. Imaged NGC 6946 for me once again. Supernova SN2017eaw is hanging on...

supernova within Fireworks galaxy in luminance

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

Last shot 5 days ago...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

made two new cameras

Rhonda and I made two new pinhole beer can cameras using Justin Quinnell's method. One thing we decided to do different was invert the can. This should help reduce water incursion without installing an additional cover. Also, we're doing an experiment. Ian W suggested changing the location of the pinhole so to get more of the Sun's arc in the "high" season. We put the pinholes about 1/3rd of the way down from the top of the camera.

Link: Justin's pinhole photography site.

Monday, October 09, 2017

quiet observing (Bradford)

Camp fire! Well, not camping. In the back yard. In the fire pit. Under the old rusty fire place, rho built a lovely warm fire.

As we decompressed from the weekend, we took in many sights in the clear sky overhead. The Summer Triangle was straight overhead when we started. Aquila, Cygnus, Lyra, high up while Andromeda, The Great Square, Pegasus were over the cedars. Cassiopeia was behind me. Cepheus was way up too. As it got darker, we could see Delphinus and the top of Capricornus. Rhonda asked about the stars left of Cap and below Peg. I had to check. Yep. Aquarius. I couldn't see it at first but pointed out the faint Water Jar. Then I located Equuleus, between Del and Peg, down a bit. Very faint, a compressed triangle, with two stars at the top and one at the bottom.

Tried to split Albireo with the old 7x Bushnell binocs hand-held—no luck.

Later when I stood on the west side of the yard, I saw Capella and the Pleiades.

We used my high-power green laser pointer. I did a quick test of my work laser pointer, that is the Logitech remote presentation control with built-in green laser. Low milli-watts! It was almost impossible to see.

We were back inside before the Moon came out. Whew.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

shot supernova again (Halifax)

Ordered BGO to capture the SN2017eaw again. I'm intrigued by the long, slow burn-down.

supernova SN2017eaw in luminance

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

Last captured on 5 Oct.

captured 54 Sgr (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged 54 Sagittarii, a multi-star system I wanted to revisit as I had not logged the B star. First viewed in August 2013, at the CAO, a suggestion from a guest.

multi-star system 54 Sgr in luminance

Luminance only, 3 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

C is the bright companion to the north-east.

No wonder I did not see the B element. It is very faint. Due west of A.

SkyTools 3 Pro shows B to be bright and states it is magnitude 11. No way. It's more like mag 14.

imaged Pal 11 (Halifax)

Programmed BGO to image Palomar 11. A globular cluster in Aquila. Frame centred on SAO 143755.

globular cluster Palomar 11 in luminance

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

Faint, loose, south-east (down and left) of centre.

one year ago

Happy astronomy anniversary!

Rhonda and I did our first night-time astronomy viewing together on Fri 7 Oct 2016.

Space-time flies...

more data for NGC 1514 (Halifax)

Sent the Burke-Gaffney Observatory back to NGC 1514, the Crystal Ball, to get more data. More luminance, colour, and oxygen-III data. Also, for the first time, hydrogen-alpha data.

For all: FITS Liberator, Paint.NET, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

planetary nebula NGC 1514 in luminance

Luminance only, 10 seconds subexposures, 15 stacked shots.

planetary nebula NGC 1514 in O-III

O-III only, 30 seconds subexposures, 15 stacked shots.

planetary nebula NGC 1514 in hydrogen-alpha

Hα only, 30 seconds subexposures, 15 stacked shots.

First imaged the planetary nebula on 12 Sep '16.

tried NSV 1484 yet again (Halifax)

I programmed the BGO robot with double the exposure time for NSV 1484 (from the previous attempt). Still I see nothing at the location marked in SkyTools 3 Professional. The region of interest is near centre now as I used the star GSC 03730 00073.

suspected variable star NSV 1484 in luminance

Luminance only, 8 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

Magnitude 17 stars are visible in this image.

Friday, October 06, 2017

received SN Nov/Dec 2017

cover of the Nov/Dec '17 SkyNews magazine
Received some mail today including SkyNews magazine. The November/December issue.

The cover shows Saturn imaged from the Cassini space probe. The Farewell to Saturn headline portends to an article about the craft's spectacular 13-year mission.

Looks like there are also round-up articles and photos from the August 2017 solar eclipse.

received postcard

Rhonda went through her mail shortly after getting home from work. Ha! She spotted my postcard from USA...

I had been wondering what had happened with the Wyoming card! Dropped at a USPS station on 27 Aug. Took weeks to get here...

Oops. I did not apply enough postage, that's why. I had affixed what I thought were two stamps but only one was a valid stamp; the other was some decorative element.

revisited HR 1741 (Halifax)

Sent BGO into Taurus to snap HR 1741 aka STF 680. A double I wanted to view again for its colour.

double-star HR 1741 in luminance

Luminance only, 4 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

On 15 Feb '14 I struggled a bit with the colours. It will be interesting to process the RGB data...

new hand installed

Read an article at Space Flight Now regarding the space walk to replace one of the "hands" on the CanadArm on the International Space Station. All went well exchanging the end effector and they finished ahead of schedule.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

file size matters

Rhonda and I chatted about the Journal. A day ago she had read the notice, sorted out logging in, and tried to download the PDF. She reported that it didn't work or was slow. I pointed out the high and low resolution versions and that high quality one can take a while to download...

tried for NSV 1484 (Halifax)

I charged the robotic Burke-Gaffney Observatory to image variable NSV 1484, an object I had attempted unsuccessfully to view before. Centring on GSC 03730 00607 in Camelopardalis, I was able to include a number of nearby double stars.

variable star NSV 1484 with doubles in luminance

Luminance only, 4 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

I did not see NSV 1484 on the evening of 16 Jan '12 even though I could see magnitude 11 stars. I do not see it in this image, near the bottom-left edge of the frame! It should be south of TYC 03730-0145 1 and GSC 03730-0076, the vertically arranged medium bright stars, and between J041145.8+595414 and GSC 03730-0073, the horizontally oriented dim stars. Nada. Magnitude 16 stars are easily spotted in this stacked photograph. But there's no NSC 1484. Weird.

North of centre, at the top edge of the frame, is the bright and tight pair HD 25993. Their position angle is roughly 45 degrees with A to the south-west. B is only slightly dimmer. It is interesting to note that SkyTools 3 Pro reports the separation at 4.60". I thought the limit for the BGO setup was 5.

The bright triad, with HR 1270, to the south-west is not a double.

South of centre is the faint tight double of STI 500. Tantalising. The brighter element is to the east and the companion looks to be at a PA just under 270. ST3P shows that the A star is in fact on the west side.

The bright non-round star to the north-east is double HD 26112. The stars are merged. ST3P states they are less than 2 seconds of arc.


Did a bit of digging in the New Catalogue of Suspected Variable Stars warehoused at the Sternberg Astronomical Institute, Moscow University. NSV number: 01484.

  • hours RA, equinox 2000.0: 041142.2+595406. 
  • type of variability: UV
  • magnitude at maximum brightness: 6.    
  • l_magMin, "<" if magMin is a bright limit: <
  • minimum magnitude or amplitude: 12.      
  • magCode, the photometric system for magnitudes: p 

Note: Seen only on one plate with double images (Dec. 15, 1900).

Uh huh. So no one has seen this for over 100 years?

And the "if magMin is a bright limit" tag being true suggests perhaps it is not brighter than mag 12?


Tried again (and centred) on 7 Oct '17.

returned to NGC 6946 (Halifax)

Returned to the Fireworks Galaxy with BGO for another view of the supernova SN2017eaw.

supernova SN2017eaw in luminance

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

Imaged two nights ago.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

watched the shadow

Watched the video by Earth to Sky Calculus using a GoPro camera sent aloft with a balloon on 21 August. It imaged the Moon's shadow racing across Wyoming. Fantastic!

members notified

Notice was issued for the October 2017 issue of the Journal (as a PDF download). I thought the timing of that a little curious... I downloaded it directly about two weeks ago.

photographed HD 79210 (Halifax)

Multi-star system HD 79210 aka STF 1321 was on my "view again" list so I sent the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to Ursa Major.

multi-star system HD 79210 in luminance

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

A and B are the equally bright stars oriented east and west with A on the left or east side.

C is the extremely dim star to the north-east.

D, brighter than C, forms a nice equilateral triangle, is to the south-west.

This object is included in the RASC coloured double stars list... I'm very curious how this will turn out in colour.

SkyTools says A and B are a binary system with an initial orbit calculated at 975 years.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

captured supernova again (Halifax)

Ordered BGO to centre on NGC 6946 again. The supernova continues to drop in brightness.

supernova SN2017eaw in luminance

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

It is around magnitude 16.8 now.

Last imaged on 29 Sep '17.

revisited 32 Cyg (Halifax)

I programmed the BGO robot to image bright 32 Cygni (and friends) centring on TYC 3563 02372 1. Bright 32 Cyg aka S 743 is a double-star.

It was recorded in my SkyTools 3 Pro "multiples" life list but not officially logged. Neither was it noted on my online life list. It was marked in ST3P to view again. When I reviewed all the observing sessions it was included in, I did not find any specific observing status flags. I was not sure how it got on the SkyTools list. It suggested I had viewed it before. This could be the first.

double-star 32 Cygni in luminance

Luminance only, 3 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

32 Cyg A is the very bright star on the east (left) side of the image. Nearly due south is a medium bright star. This is 32 Cyg B. Widely separated.

Lodriguss includes this object in his naked eye double star list.

Due west of 32 is what appears to be a dim pair, canted south-west through north-east. This is ES 799. It is actually a quadruple system! The upper left element is actually A and B merged separated by 2.3 seconds of arc. The bottom right star is C. While ST3P refers to D, it does not show it on the chart. The software says it is 3.7" away from C at position angle 74.


I think part of the confusion may be that 32 Cyg is also known as ο (omicron) 2 and it is near 31 and 30. The ο designation has been used over the years for two or three of these stars creating some ambiguity. The Flamsteed designation is more clear than the Bayer.

30 and 31 are not shown in the photograph.

30, 31, and 32, in the Swan's right wing, together make an interesting naked eye and binocular target.


Wikipedia link: 32 Cygni.

Monday, October 02, 2017

returned to HD 194192 (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged HD 194192 aka HJ 1510. A multi-star system in Cygnus. I had first viewed the 6-star grouping from the CAO recently, on 23 September, but had not spotted the C companion.

multi-star HD 194192 in luminance

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

A is at the centre of the compact grouping. B is to the south-east, close, tight, and almost the same brightness. C, which eluded me before, is very dim, opposite B, to the north-west, slightly further away. D is further north-west, quite bright. E and F are opposite again, in the same direction as B, to the south-east, a pair in their own right. E is the brighter attendant to the north-east; F is slightly dimmer. E is brighter than D; F is dimmer.

Sunday, October 01, 2017


Rhonda asked, "Why lumpy darkness?"



Why indeed.

'Cause it's lumpy.

And it's dark.

installed Stellarium

Installed the latest version of the Stellarium planetarium software for Jackie to her laptop. Configured the start-up settings. Gave her a quick demo.

if we make it

We discussed meteors, then asteroids, the differences between comets and asteroids, and then asteroids that might hit the Earth. Tons of material from space falls into our atmosphere every day. The world space agencies meet to plan for some of the game-changer events. But I didn't believe we had global support (and funding) to mount a serious campaign. The object that hit the Earth near the Yucatán Peninsula killed most of the plant and animal species.

Major solar flares can be bad. But that's been happening for millions of years. Serious events can affect satellites and power grids.

I said that I used the Space Weather web site to monitor things like this and specifically referred to the Potential Hazardous Asteroids (PHA) table. Of course that lead to other interesting ways that we might die (if certain world leaders don't do us all in). There are many threats from other space.

I mentioned Phil Plait's book Death From The Skies! You don't want to get spaghettified if a black hole wanders through our solar system, stretched apart by gravitational tidal forces. If a supernova goes off nearby, that could be bad. Betelgeuse, at 222 parsecs, might pop at any moment (it may already have).

Happy thoughts!


I couldn't remember the exact number. The Popular Science article says that 60 tons of cosmic dust falls to Earth every day.

The wikipedia article on the Chicxulub crater says 75% of life was destroyed in the incident.

NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) monitor near-Earth objects (NEOs). Many strategies are discussed in the asteroid collision avoidance article at wikipedia.

The web site has information about sunspots, solar flares, aurora, asteroids, etc.

The Near-Earth supernova article at wikipedia says that we'll get a significant dose of gamma radiation if a star pops within 10 to 300 parsecs (30 to 1000 light-years).

Quick reviews of Plait's book.

couple of DSOs before fog (Big Hawk Lake)

Took my telescope to Big Hawk Lake. Borrowed the mount.

Friday was clear but I didn't set up. Started the integrated on Saturday afternoon so to take it slow and easy. Scouted about the yard.

gear (most of it) unloaded from the car

3:02 PM, Saturday 30 September 2017. I preferred the "front" yard, on the lake side.

I found the dovetail bar attached to the Celestron 8" SCT was too small for the Celestron DX saddle. Had to MacGyver it. Located a 1x½" piece of wood to fill the gap. Strapped it down with hook-and-loop wraps so it couldn't buckle up.

setup (stage 1) complete - note the stick protruding

4:07 PM. Completed the setup.

When I did a test alignment, I heard the RA motor straining. Checked the balance and found it way too top heavy. I had brought two 5-pound weights thinking it would be plenty.

counter weight (aquatic) on mount (telescopic)

6:05. Considered a rock in a sock but settled on the 10-pound anchor roped on RA shaft! Wow.

Installed the baader planetarium 36mm aspheric wide-angle eyepiece.

Put many items under the deck, cases, books, etc. hopefully out of the dew.

Looked up the exact latitude and longitude. Leveled the tripod. Used the compass to get the base roughly pointed to true north.


Set the mount to track the Moon.

Wondered if it would every clear the trees from the location I had selected.

7:21. Looked up the immediate azimuth (148°) and altitude (21°). I estimated I needed the Moon to go 20° to the right and 10 up. At 8:20, SkyTools 3 Pro said the Moon would be at 163 and 26; at 9:20, 178 and 27. Hmmm.


After our late dinner, I headed out to complete the polar alignment. Initially, Jackie and Rhonda helped but then they headed done to the fire pit. The neighbours to the south-east had a fire going too.

10:57. It was really humid. Dew covered the eyepiece case, the glass plate on the dock, the telescope tube.

I finished the polar alignment using the app on the Android.

Activated Rhonda's tiny red LED light string.

The mount motors struggled from time to time with the imbalance so I had to help by holding or pushing the optical equipment.

11:05. Tried to complete the star alignment but I had set the mount too high. And I had forgotten to align the finder scope.

11:12. Grabbed a patio chair to help me view through the finder scope at the top of the OTA. Then I was able to continue the two-star alignment.

11:18. Added a calibration star. But worked blind. I expected the model to be off.

Chose the Double Cluster (aka NGC 869 and 884). The pointing was indeed off. Eyeballed the location.

I was feeling a little out of sorts.

11:22. Final got to the Double Cluster just as Rhonda called up. She and Jackie walked up from the fire pit.

11:23. I hit the Enter button by accident causing the mount to slew. Given the pointing was off so I lost my target. But I was get back to it quickly this time.

Rhonda asked about my binoculars. I had put them on the steps from the deck. We unpacked them. Before going to "back yard" by the driveway to see the Moon, I had them take a look.

11:26. Jackie viewed the two clusters. She enjoyed the Double Cluster. We showed her how to focus for her eyes. She struggled a bit with staying in the ocular's sweet spot; she kept shift off axis and everything went black. I encouraged her to bob and weave a bit and then brought over the astro chair to lean against. That helped.

Asked if they could see colour. None per se.

11:29. Rhonda really enjoyed Caldwell 14. "Look at them all," she exclaimed, two the two groupings for stars, one on the left, one on the right.

Jackie said she was happy to find Cassiopeia in the sky. A new constellation for her toolkit. I had also shown her Cepheus, the upside-down house. I used the green laser point to draw the constellation out for rho.

They then headed "back yard" to do some bino Moon gazing. I went inside for a bit.

Put my winter coat on. Found deep red flashlight! I had not seen it for a while. It was in the red shopping bag with the coat. Yeh.

11:35. When I returned to the telescope, I thought the tracking looked OK.

11:36. Considered syncing to improve pointing. Pressed the Back button multiple times to return to the main menu. Then hit Align. The hand controller presented various options like Alignment Star, Calibration, Polar, plus Sync. I chose Sync and hit Enter. Used the coarse and fine movement techniques.

I thought the eyepiece view OK. It did not seem dim or fogged even though it looked like it was at 100% humidity. I was worried about the dew on the corrector and the ocular. I had the 8" Kendrick heater; I had forgotten the 2" eyepiece heater. I had the Type IV controller on maximum. The wraps did not seem very hot.

11:38. The neighbour's guests departed. I watch the green and white lights drift across the lake. I couldn't remember my sidelight orientation clearly.

I noted some clouds. I could not see Perseus at all! Damn it.

11:41. Slewed to Albireo, helping the struggling mount. When it completed, I thought the OTA was low. Using the chair again, I put the double star in the centre of the finder.

11:44. Synced again.

When i walked to the back yard, I found the Moon was too low. Rather the trees too tall.

11:48. Returned to the 'scope. Checked over the mount. The hacked dovetail clamp was holding; the hacked counter weight was OK. Rhonda's LED light string was pulsing away. The dew heaters once again didn't seem hot enough. I heard Jackie and Rhonda in the distance, drawing closer. I saw that Perseus was back. Put the SCT cap on while I waited for them to return. The eyepiece cap was on. The neighbours had gone quiet.

11:51. The happy Moon lookers had returned. They had found Luna in the binos once clear of the trees, a couple of cottages over. Unfortunately, the Bushnells fogged up. They had spotted the Big Dipper, low over the trees.

They wanted to know where Auriga and Capella were. Below Perseus. I thumbed the laser. Rhonda did not think Capella as yellow as other times.

11:57. She noticed mist on water. And it was getting worse given the lack of breeze. Did not bode well for astronomy; Jackie liked it. We all agreed it was eerie.

I was feeling a bit bad. Last night had been good but I had not set up. Was kicking myself.

11:59. After I removed the caps, rho had a look at Albireo. Two bright stars just right of centre. She called Jackie up. She really liked the double star in Cygnus. She described the top star as orange with a blue one on bottom. Rhonda was happy for Jackie seeing stellar colour.

We talked about double stars, the different types, etc.

We lost the sky sadly. And Jackie was cold

12:08 AM, Sunday 1 October 2017. Jackie called it quits and headed inside while rho and I went down to the fire. Stoopid fog. Stoopid hobby.

Told rho about once losing the SCT cover in the drink...

We took in the whole sky, such as it was, from the pit, mist and fog and clouds coming and going. I assured rho we were not seeing aurora over the cottage roof; just clouds reflecting light.

12:20 AM. We viewed delta Cephei. Rhonda thought it at minimum. In fact, it was a tiny bit dimmer than "top" star (epsilon).

I shared that this was the first official time using rho's red LED lights. I liked the random pattern. I particularly liked that system used "regular" batteries versus coin-style lithium (or some other nasty metal). Told her about Phil's mild protest in Merritt. I feel they'll be a hit at public star parties.

12:28. Told rho about the trick of putting the bins inside one's jacket. Warm 'em up.

12:31. We decided to head in. The sky was not really improving. Earlier, I had planned to go to the Dumbbell but now it was too low.

Said it was OK to turn the cottage lights on. I slewed to a good orientation and hibernated the mount. I headed to the car to get blankets, a tarp, and the clips.

12:37. Powered off the mount, installed the polar scope caps, covered the 'scope.

Took stuff inside including the recorder and computer.

12:42. Inside, I turned the recorder off.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

mount still troubled

Went outside to check on the mount, ensure the OTA wasn't going to fall out of the saddle, and that I hadn't dropped anchor... All was well in that respect.

But when I bumped the mount, it did the "skip!" No! So, it seems the Celestron DX is still having trouble. Next step: swap the motors...

Friday, September 29, 2017

SN2017eaw fades (Halifax)

BGO shot NGC 6946 (the Fireworks galaxy) again. The supernova SN 2017 eaw continues to fade.

supernova SN 2017 eaw in luminance

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

Last  imaged 28 Sep '17.

The collimation or registration is wonky.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

aimed at Groombridge 34 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney robotic observed imaged Groombridge 34 aka GX And for me. A multi-star system. From one of my "beautiful doubles" lists in SkyTools.

multi-star system Groombridge 34 in luminance

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

GRB 34 is a triple. The primary is magnitude 8.

The B star is to the north-east, somewhat close. In the SkyTools 3 Pro Object Information box, it says the second star is magnitude 10.6 and 34.7". In the chart, the star is rendered as very dim and shows as magnitude 18.7. Clearly that's incorrect. ST3P also says it is a binary system with a 2600 year period!

The C companion is to the west-south-west, well away. A bit dimmer at mag 11.5.

Why the bright star to the south is not consider part of this system is beyond me.


Wikipedia link: Groombridge 34.

imaged supernova (Halifax)

I ordered BGO to collect data on supernova SN 2017 eaw again. I thought the weather turned poor in Halifax but the robotic observatory was working. The exploding star continues to dim.

galaxy NGC 6946 with supernova 2017 eaw luminance

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

Imaged on 21 Sep '17.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

enjoyed Tarter's talk

Visited the Ontario Science Centre with Rhonda for the Great Conversations Speaker Series. This was the second talk of the current OSC series. It was the first talk for the Charles Darrow Lecture Series in conjunction with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto Centre, made possible by Dr Sara Seager.

OSC ticket stub for the Tarter talk

The presenter is one of my heroes, Dr Jill Tarter of SETI. It was a real treat attending her talk. Ivan Semeniuk's one-on-one was very enjoyable. It was fun being back in the Imperial Oil auditorium. Lots of old and new faces.

Caught up with recent CAO visitors.

Chatted with Nicole, first time in a long time.

Gave Eric a Spitz Jr planetarium.

Reviewed Lucy's telescope and broken red dot finder.

thanked helpers

Thanked Ian, Mary-Ann, Denis, and Tony for their help with grounds keeping at the CAO.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Australia launching space agency

Learned that the government down-under is green lighting the Australian space agency. They've been tangentially involved in human space flight and satellite launches for decades. But given the growth in the space industry, it only makes sense they participate directly. Read the article from NPR.

captured Ha data for IC 289

I asked BGO to image IC 289 again. In particular, I wanted hydrogen alpha data. I first imaged this planetary nebula in August 2016.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

viewed two sunspots (Blue Mountains)

Someone had moved the Oberwerk binoculars to the Observing Pad. We viewed the Sun in the hot air. Ah ha! Sunspots.

two sunspots

Noted one near the centre (AR 2681). One near the edge (AR 2682). Cool!


Learned from that 2682 is the old sunspot group AR 2673.

neat design

Rhonda gifted me a unique t-shirt purchased from an Etsy vendor. It features patent office illustrations for a telescope.

The telescope or survey scope design by J Paoli from 1891 features filaments.

another night of visual (Blue Mountains)

8:55 PM, Saturday 23 September 2017. I returned to the GBO.

Sky conditions were looking much better.

Richard and Wayne discussed small onboard computers and SkyWatcher mounts. Geneviève had her Star Adventurer on the floor.

Geneviève joined me in the warm room. We were going to do another C14 imaging session.

9:02. Ian W popped into the GBO, coffee in hand.

Lucy dropped by.

Helped Wayne with choosing a target. Reviewed his 'scope and camera parameters. Approximated the view in SkyTools. Filtered on galaxies. Selected the RASC Finest list, above 2x, set the times. Left the Real Time tab. Down to 14 candidates. NGC 6503, fairly small. Googled it. The Splinter. In Draco, falling. Ugh. Out of season. Fireworks, face on, with a supernova Cepheus, NGC 6946. He liked that one.

9:31. Rhonda popped in. I gave her the big Celestrons, the 10x50. Suggested she try them hand-held but if too shakey we could mount on a tripod (with Tony's big bracket).

9:43. Lucy asked if I had a star chart to borrow. Or Stellarium. I launched Stellarium on my netbook. She was interested in finding the Dumbbell. She searched and found it.

Sailu dropped by. He had The Backyard Astronomer's Guide in hand, one of my favourite books. I shared my confusion. I thought I had used this book during my telescope shopping but the date of the book was too late; I bought the SCT in December 1990. He noted the copyright was 1991.

Richard continued imaging.

Checked in with Rhonda. She was having fun with the binoculars. She was OK with holding them. Ian had helped a little. She had seen the Andromeda Galaxy. I suggested the Double Cluster.

When chatting with Richard about cable wrap, I suggested tying the cable to the camera body.

There was no note paper in the warm room.

10:40. Checked the Clear Sky Chart as the coyotes yipped. Lovely. Lots of blue.

Rhonda was having fun. She found Pleiades. Found all the stars for Cassiopeia. Found Capella. Used the Great Square to find the two arcs (or "tails") of Andromeda. Found the big galaxy. She didn't think the Double Cluster as bright as Andromeda. When she said complained of a sore neck, I suggested an anti-gravity chair. That would be better. She headed to the house for a sweater.

Check the Davis weather station information. As of 10:36. 10 minute average wind speed 3.2 km/h, direction WSW, immediate wind speed 6.4, high was 28, temperature 22.8°C, humidity 88%, barometer 1018.1 hPa. I looked at the air pressure trend. It had been rising Thursday and Friday and 1019 at the T-F midnight transition. It had not yet updated for today.

Realised I had forgotten to spot the Iridium. I had programmed an alarm for the bright flare but the smartphone was in the house...

Lucy needed a chart again. I launched Stellarium again, activated red light mode, turned on the constellation lines. Offered my Pocket Sky Atlas—Rhonda had it but wasn't using it.

11:01. Lucy borrowed the binoculars.

11:14. Rhonda returned. Lucy had the bins. Asked if we could give the PSA to Lucy, after removing the acetate sheet.

Richard was imaging the 7331 and the Fleas.

Richard bumped into the big telescope. Ha!

He spotted the Abraham Dragonfly image on my screen saver.

Ian W was in da house. Things were going well for him.

Rhonda brought my PSA over. She didn't see the transparency sheet; it was there. Sticktion. She was taking a break.

The crew in the warm room observed the coaching as we adjusted the electronic focuser using the Live View.

Rhonda noted the star was changing size rapidly. A clear indication of seeing conditions, magnified.

The bins were back.

We spotted the gang from the NEAF road trip on my screen saver.

Richard showed me his shots of Andromeda with M110 and M32. Very nice. Lots of stars.

11:58. The coyotes fired up again. We could hear an owl in the distance.

Spent some time with Rhonda near the Observing Pad. We visited Mary-Ann in the Tony Horvatin Observatory.

Richard turned the red lights down a bit. Continued imaging.

12:23, Sunday 24 September 2017. Orbit Day.

Tony and I talked about more red light bulbs. I suggested incandescent for outdoor or cold applications. I asked if we could improve the red light in the pantry. We talked about possible revisions to the security circuits.

Rhonda visited the GBO. With jujubes, yeh! But they all looked red, ha ha, in the warm room lighting. And dessert, yeh! Yum.

Discussed guiding equipment and on-board single-board computers. Richard reminded us that a Raspberry Pi ran on an ARM; an X86 might be better.

Richard saw vibration in his images from the outside door slamming!

Rhonda headed out to do meteor watching.

I did some binocular observing with Rhonda near the Observing Pad. Using the Centre's big Celestron bins. Facing west.

Later grabbed the DIY parallelogram to steady the image. The clunky unit made by Mr Brown needs some work. One of the chains is broken or detached. The parallelogram proper is too short; the arms could be 12 or 18 inches longer. The head does not pivot in azimuth which makes it a bit awkward to use at the side of one's chair.

Viewed Albireo. Wow. One could easily split the A and B stars. Lovely colours. I didn't know one could do this. I did not think I had ever viewed my favourite double with binoculars. Awesome view.

Viewed the Coathanger. Nice. Perfect size in the binoculars.

1:18. We both saw a bright meteor, low in the north-north-west, over the house. Fast-mower, west bound. Possibly a Perseid. It was bright.

Turned east.

Looked at delta Cephei. It was at minimum.

Took in the Double Cluster. Lovely.

Took in the Pleaides. It was very nice. Noted the bright pair in the centre with a dim pair above. That was Alcyone, a multi-star system. B was above (or south). C and D were at a 90 degree angle to the A-B alignment, higher again. C was to the north-east; D south-west. Much fainter. They looked dull red to me compared to the blue-white of the bright stars. Cool! [ed: This is an 8-star system. Will need to return...]

Saw the Pinwheel galaxy for the first time naked eye. Yes! Been trying that for years! Very tough though. Required averted. A deep dark adaptation.

Lots of light pollution from Collingwood. Gross.

2:04. Swept the grass from the warm room.

Geneviève reported her imaging run was complete and she was shooting darks.

Consider the next targets.

Chose the multi-star system HR 7075 aka SAO 17995. Had Geneviève slew while I monitored for cable snags. Regained focus control at the Optec hand paddle.

2:27. Super-tight. I thought they were aligned south-east to north-west. Part of a triangle of stars. Way off to the east I saw a hockey stick. Couple of other stars to the south. Pretty blank field in the 18mm. I must have viewed this before. A pair on Sissy Haas's project list... 

Slewed to my next. 72 Pegasi. I split it! Two gold stars. Similar brightnesses. B was to the east.

Yeh! Fire truck, yeh! SkyTools showed the separation to be 0.53" as of July 2017. This was low. I wondered if I had broken my split record. Not really. I have logged items below this but many are suspect. This is a solid 5! Nice. I was happy. A binary, 246 year period.

Geneviève asked how many doubles I had seen. Over 1155.

2:47. The recorder stopped running having run out of space. Oops. I realised I had not cleared out old recordings...

Considered NGC 7253...

2:52. 7253. An Arp. Two interacting galaxies. I was not sure I could see them. Tried averted. The appearence was very soft.

I realised I was probably not fully dark adapted. The warm room was bright.

Rhonda joined me for some high power viewing.

Geneviève started imaging with her Star Adventurer.

3:01. Viewed HD 223070. A multiple star system, aka STF 3037 and SAO 20832. AB is yellow, bright; C is orange-red; D is pale blue; E is to the north-east, white; F is to the south-east, white. Love the colours. Very nice in the 55mm.

[ed: From my View Again list. It is a 6-star system. I had previously viewed A through D—all the stars Haas notes; but I had not viewed the E and F attendants.]

3:07. Put in the 27mm. Wow. Saw STI 1213. Easy split.

Re-examined HD 223070. A and B were split. Beautiful. A was to the north. Yellow. B, much fainter to the south, orange. All right.

We viewed a couple of fuzzies.

3:28. Put the rarely used 20mm in the C14 to check the Iris. It looked good. Wispy stuff.

Tried the O-III filter. No improvement.

3:30. Checked the Davis. 10 min avg 3.2, direction SWW, immediate 3.2, high 14.5, humidity 80, barometer 1018.8, outside temp 23.5.

We were tired. Asked Richard to close up again.

coaching session

Geneviève joined me in the warm room.

8:57 PM, Saturday 23 September 2017. We discussed the plan.

She wanted to rerun the Dumbbell with longer exposures. Half the images were no good. Deep Sky Stacker only used 11. She had researched other photographers. 300 seconds, 100 seconds, someone did 60 seconds, ISO 1000, like us. We wondered if 90 seconds would be better with a higher ISO.

When was it transiting? I checked SkyTools. M27 was peaking right now.

9:01. Proposed that she run everything tonight. She agreed it would be good. It would take more time though to train on all the steps.

We would use the GBO computer to drive the mount and do focusing (unlike last night where it was only used for focus). I'd restart everything so she could go through the telescope/mount setup. Then, a supervisor would only need to open the building and off she could go.

We put the dark red film on her screen.

I parked the 'scope. Disconnected things.

9:15. Starting my training. Grab your notebook. And red flashlight. Had Geneviève do the work.

Went through the pier/mount/accessories connections and power up sequence with particular attention to the Optec focuser. Suggested turning on the computer before powering the mount.

Went through the laptop setup. Tonight we connected the old serial cable. Showed the LCD brightness controls and the red film frame. Logged her in. Launched TheSky 6, linked to the Paramount, and homed.

Discussed viewing the virtual sky, monitoring the meridian, selecting objects or searching and centring, slewing, checking the area is clear, confirming. Don't do sync. Verify the TPoint model is loaded.

Suggested a test slew to check the pointing. To Saturn.

9:56. Bull's eye! The pointing was good. We had a medium powered eyepiece and it was nearly centre. Yeh.

Reminded Geneviève that we needed to choose a star for focusing. Centre, with a high power eyepiece, and check it visually. Do that before installing the camera. We zoomed in and considered 13 Vul. Yesterday we used gamma in Sagitta.

We talked about making the Tele Vue 101 co-linear with the Celestron 14. Not critical but it could be helpful.

Went through the camera control hookup. I pointed out that the dark grey ethernet RJ-45 cable, unmarked, is the one to use. It runs between the warm room and pier. And then a USB-ethernet adapter needs to be used. Unfortunately the CAO kit is USB version 1.1. We'd use mine tonight. I drew a picture.

Did the camera install. She removed the optical accessories and installed her camera. Helped her secure it. She had a fresh battery loaded.

I suggested testing the camera control software. Launched Live View Shooting. Reminded her that we could use Exposure Simulation, assuming we could control the exposure, which meant, for her camera, Manual mode. We determined that the flashing Exp Sim meant it was beyond the normal limit. Bumped the monitor brightness. Could not see a donut. We reviewed zooming the Live View (assuming the Face Detection was off).

Discussed manual coarse focusing, with the SCT mirror. Had her do the first big clockwise turn. Recruited a helper: me. Similar to her work with probes.

Discussed fine focusing, with the temperature-controlled focuser. Tonight we remembered to set to 3500 in advance. Reviewed the cables needed. Passing it through the screen window. On this occasion, we needed the USB-serial adapter as the serial port was occupied with the Paramount control. Showed how to look up the assigned COM port number for the Prolific device. Ran the Optec focuser software. Adjusted as many people observed. Set to auto mode.

We talked about Backyard EOS and its ability to recognise a Bahtinov diffraction pattern. Ian W mentioned that FocusMax uses V-curve technology.

Richard reminded us that continuous Live View gets the camera hot. We closed the windows.

Time to get to the target finally. She slewed. Asked how to verify she was on target. We took a test shot while still in manual mode. A bit low. Showed the telescope motion control dialog box. Moved a bit. Listen for the note change. We went the wrong way. Shot again. She thought it pretty good.

Ready to image now! I popped out for a bit. She switched to Bulb and did some test shots.

12:13 AM, Sunday 24 September 2017. Geneviève and Richard reviewed the first few images. They discussed the ISO values. They decided on ISO 1600. They reviewed the exposure and interval times.

Tony dropped in.

They checked the 90 second shot and it looked good.

The next one they didn't think so good.

Just keep shooting! Just keep shooting! (Sung in Dory's voice.)

That's what you have to do without a guider.

12:41 AM. She started her run with 90 second subs.

I asked how long her run was. 60 shots at 90 seconds plus the interval gap minus the ones done so far. About an hour to go. You have to share. That reminded her of what she tells her kids. She wanted to do more targets.

2:04. Geneviève readied to shoot darks. I explained she'd need new ones for the unique exposure settings. Encouraged her to begin building a library.

She thought something was wrong, that 19 shots had been taken suddenly. She asked what was wrong. I suggested her to look again... Ah. 19 to go.

Geneviève asked what the plan was. I might shoot. But Rhonda wanted to view some objects.

2:24. I asked for focus control. Explained how to release control from the computer.

2:30. Told Geneviève I heard an alert from her computer. I noted the EOS software was showing a warning. The message however was in red text. When the film was removed, it was regarding a "lost connection." I suspected it was the battery power at the camera. She installed a new battery.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

we enjoyed the solar system

People gathered in the kitchen, dining room, and living room. Seemed to be lingering. Hmmm. What were they up to, I wondered...

Rhonda emerged from downstairs with a platter covered with an upside-down enamel pot. What's under there? Ears of corn?

solar system cake by Rhonda

Oh yeah. It was my orbit day (tomorrow at 4:00 AM officially)... :-D

Rhonda made me a super-fun cake with the colour-correct planets! And the Moon. I liked the "Not to scale" flag.

Everyone had some cake with half a planet. We had ice cream too. Rhonda and I ate that first while I continued to grill (burn dinner) on the barbecue.

higher and brighter

Moon was a bit higher and brighter tonight. Above the muck.

Imaged by Rhonda Gribbon with her iPad.

red Sun setting (Blue Mountains)

We enjoyed a colourful sunset from the deck. The Sun went intense orange and red as it descended behind nearby trees to the distant horizon.

red sun behind trees

Reminded me of jelly bean shaped suns of my youth...

Photo by Rhonda Gribbon with iPad.

fixed the time

Put recharged ODEC batteries in the Sony recorder.

I fixed the time problem in SkyTools in a weird roundabout way.

Fiddled with the Windows XP Control Panel settings. Went to the time zone and selected a different one. Then came back to Eastern. Told it to adjust for Daylight Saving automatically. It was off. Shouldn't matter. I have done this manually. I noted then the time was ahead one hour. I put it back to 4:14 PM. The GMT offset never changed in all that.

In SkyTools I left the Real Time tab then returned to it. Looked OK. On reloading the SkyTools Interactive Atlas, it was correct. Yeh!

some visual among clouds (Blue Mountains)

In GBO. I was working with the Paramount. I connected my ASUS and launched Software Bisque TheSky 6.

Richard was multi-tasking: imaging with his 8" compound telescope and his Star Adventurer.

8:28 PM, Friday 22 September 2017. Richard said he saw the sky flash with lightning. Earlier in the evening his wife had reported thunder in Tobermory.

Checked with Richard about vibration from the inner door slamming. He didn't think it was a problem.

I got my keys from the house. Opened the eyepiece cabinet. Installed two oculars.

I offered to help Richard with his Canon DSLR, if he needed it.

The pointing was off. Way off. 33 arc-minutes and 47 seconds! Wow. No good. Was my TPoint model damaged?

8:40 PM. Connected with SkyTools 3 Professional.

I checked weather data. The jetstream looked very strange. Richard showed me a big band of cloud headed our way.

8:45. Slewed to Saturn with SkyTools. Pointing was still off.

Also did not see the blinking X in ST3P to show where the telescope was aimed.

Slewed to the Fireworks galaxy to examine supernova SN 2017 eaw. It was almost straight up. I could see the entire galaxy although dim. At low power, I could not see the supernova. Increased the power. The limiting magnitude of the C14 is 16.1.

It did not seem humid. Richard said the humidity was bad the previous weekend. Along with the forest fire smoke, it made for challenging conditions. The lightning was putting on quite a show.

Used my most recent image from BGO at SMU. Flipped it and rotated it to much my ocular view.

[ed: The supernova in the photo from 21 Sep '17 is dimmer than magnitude 15.1 and brighter than 16.3.]

9:05. Geneviève arrived in the warm room for her imaging session with my assistance.

9:27. I thought I could see the supernova with averted vision.

Richard and I talked about camera settings, ISO, noise introduced before and after amplification.

Put in the 10mm in the Celestron 'scope, for 391 power. Stupid power. It made the supernova barely visible.

Slewed to one of the Messiers. To view again.

Ian W popped in. He caught up with Geneviève.

Weather update. Ian wondered what was happening with the thunderstorms. He thought they were coming to get us. In an hour or so. I pulled up some satellite imagery. It was massive earlier, going down, but then popped up. I checked as well. Nothing showing yet... The jetstream was nuts. The predictions yesterday were for clear, clear, clear. Ian said it would "wreck the night." Some sites were showing rain!

Ian and I chatted about the supernova. Showed him my shot from last night. It was visually dim in the telescope now. He offered to look but I was off the target.

Denis popped in. He was very happy. He had good polar alignment and a functional pointing model. Things were working for him at last.

Someone arrived, white light up the driveway. The Horvatins, Ian guessed.

I had viewed Messier 30 in Capricornus. Nice small lint ball in the Tele Vue refractor. 18mm in TV 101 yielded 30 power. The C14 showed individual stars. The 27mm in the big 'scope was at 145x. There was a star nearby. And a double nearby, according to the SkyTools app.

9:58. Grace visited us. Drive up was OK.

Asked guests to avoid letting the observatory door slam so to reduce vibration into Richard's rig. Reminded them to steer clear of his tripod.

Rhonda visited. She looked at M30 with Richard. Encouraged her to look in both 'scopes. Explained I was revisiting Messiers with only one log entry.

Mary-Ann dropped in briefly. Intros with Geneviève.

Sailu came into the observatory, yawning. He said he was starting to fall asleep in his hammock.

10:37. Tony popped into the warm room. Caught up with the crew.

SkyTools crashed. I restarted it. Oh, the X reappeared. All right.

Razvan visited. When the clouds appeared, he packed up. Now it was clear. He was kicking himself.

11:47. Sailu headed home. To return tomorrow.

Richard asked for a tiny Philips screwdriver. The dial on his accessory was loose. I fetched my eyeglasses screwdriver from the car, steps away. I realised at the car the windows were still down so I turned on the car to raise them. Ruby's headlights came on! Oops! Damn. I'm not used to an automatic car...

Spotted the Pleiades.

I realised I had forgotten to print and post the weekend astronomy information.

Showed Richard my shot of the Iris last night.

His guiding was not working well.

12:38 AM, Saturday 23 September 2017. Pinged Rhonda. We were resuming visual observing after Geneviève's imaging run.

Clouds again. Richard looked at Clear Sky Chart and Clear Outside.

Rhonda said she was coming out. When she arrived, I urged her to look in the big OTA at the Dumbbell.

Clouds! The wind was up.

Wondered about viewing a double star. Asked rho to check if it was clear toward Cassiopeia. Not great. We headed outside to find a clear patch.

1:00 AM. Short meteor! Heading toward Cygnus. Rhonda and I were facing that way. I asked if she saw it. She had. Yeh! Finally.

1:04. I tried to view U Cygni. I wasn't sure I was on it at first, given the poor pointing. This is a previously viewed target but I wanted to see again.

Denis and Richard discussed guiding, software control, backlash, etc.

Figured out my location. I was on 32 Cyg. A bit to the west. I realised I had the 27mm ocular installed; not the 55.

Denis said there were still some clouds out there, playing havoc with the imagers. Richard considered capturing his darks. He checked the radar weather info: nothing. He noticed a north-westerly flow.

I slewed. Gah. Cloudy everywhere.

1:37. Still cloudy.

1:47. Still cloudy. But Richard said it was improving in the north.

2:05. It was clearing. I wanted to resume my observations on the double star.

Geneviève headed to the house.

2:15. Confirmed I was on the correct star. U Cygni aka BUP 183. Amazing orange colour. B was white or blue-white. Widely separated. Oriented north-east to south-west. Very colourful pair. In an asterism of stars that made me think of a tadpole. Richard thought it very red.

Panned over HD 194192 aka HJ 1510 (still in Cygnus). Wow. Teenie weenie grouping of stars. I saw five stars. I saw A, B, D, E, and F. D is to the north-west. No problem with seeing D. Opposed, to the south-east, are the E and F stars. Both bright. E and F are oriented 90° to the A-B-D alignment. Could not see the C element opposite B. ST3P said it was 13.1 on the magnitude scale. A new object. Neat. [ed: The C, D, and E stars are under the WDS designation ES 29. F is classified as HJ 1511.]

It was curious the bright pair to the east, with SAO 49549, not identified in SkyTools.

Headed to the house for a sweater. Returned with still-awake Rhonda! We walked directly to the telescope. Showed her both U Cyg and HD 194192.

Tried again to spot the C star without luck.

2:38. Considered Uranus (and some moons). In Pisces in Aries. All right, the sky was clear there. Slewed. Cool blue.

Rhonda saw another short meteor. I asked if it had colour.

Now the challenge. To see Uranian moons through dirty eyepieces and occasional clouds. And old eyeballs.

2:46. The time in the software was wonky. Real time mode was off by an hour. Something to do with time zones? I wasn't sure the exact position of the moons... Tried to compensate.

Rhonda thought she saw something at 7 or 8 o'clock, 5 or 6, and something over by 3. Oberon (14.1) appeared to be around 5 o'clock. Titania, the brightest (13.9), should have been at the 9 o'clock. It should have been easy. I thought Umbriel (15.0) would not be possible. Ariel was probably not possible due to the glare.

We tried again. I decided against the 10mm eyepiece; went looking for the 18mm. No problem with Oberon. Asked rho if she liked viewing the second last planet in the solar system.

I noticed Orion was well up.

3:03. We slewed to our next target, the Great Orion Nebula. Huge in the C14! With the Trapezium in the centre. Enjoyed the wide field view in the TV101. Decreased the power in the SCT to take in more of the nebula. Of course, we looked with our eyes too. Neat, three levels of magnification.

Viewed the lovely σ (sigma) Orionis system. Explained the layout to Rhonda. She headed back to the 'scope to find HD 294271 D. With averted, she tagged it! She also noted the two stars between, one of which was mag 13 (assuming ST3P was right). Way to go, Hawkeye!

Noticed white light in the warm room: it was Geneviève's laptop waking up and applying updates. I covered the screen with the red film for the outdoor LCD panel.

Selected the next target. Something not too challenging. Rhonda said one more. HD 5005 in the middle of the Pacman Nebula in Cas. [ed: On my View Again list under Burnham 1 as I have not split A and B.]

3:42. Pointed out the Winter Hexagon. Or Football.

Holey moley. There were a boat load of stars in HD 5005. The H, I, and E stars were well away; the others were on top of each other. Saw D, to the south.

Also saw STI 1454 to the south-west.

Richard said we were staring down clouds...

Rhonda wanted to retire. I suggested one more observation first, looking to the east. We did not see obvious zodiacal light. If it was there, the light pollution from Collingwood was washing it all out.

3:53. My allergies were acting up.

Richard asked me why the time might be wrong on his computer! Weird. I shared mine was acting up as well.

Was going to look for the other companions in HD 5005 but I was clouded out.

Began my shutdown. Broke the connection with SkyTools. Parked with TheSky. Powered down the mount and accessories. Lifted panel B. Left everything else for Richard.

4:03. Done. Headed to bed.

helped member image

Geneviève was interesting in imaging through the C14 with her DSLR camera. Earlier in the month we had discussed using the equipment in the Geoff Brown Observatory (and at the time I was not to be supervising). I said then if it was OK with the supervisor, I was OK to help. Now that I was the supervisor, I told her we were OK to proceed as long as no one else had booked telescope time. There were no takers. That said, I did have a few things I wanted to look at. And I wanted to show Rhonda some favourite DSOs.

9:05 PM, Friday 22 September 2017. Geneviève brought her gear into the warm room. She had a list of targets. Dumbbell, NGC 6826 aka Blinking planetary nebula, Orion Nebula. We checked locations and simulated views in SkyTools. Checked the elevation and meridian. Did Google search. Dumbbell was good, near Cygnus, high, it was just crossing the meridian. The Blinking was in Cygnus but small. Very small. We simulated the framing with a 2x doubler (mine) and 4x (RASC's). We looked at images from Burke-Gaffney and Hubble. Dumbbell was it.

We talked about computers as she's shopping for a new one. At first she was thinking about Surface Pro. The associate at a store gave her many suggestions including ASUS. Discussed her personal and work needs. I wondered if I would have to go with a gamer style portable computer in the future for fast response with my work apps along with modern connections and the ability to do some medium to light-advanced image processing on the road. Alienware computers would be a good option but they are very expensive.

Told Geneviève my preference for "working:" sitting in the warm room (on this occasion, away from the bugs), capturing images on one computer, and focusing remotely with another. Asked if she had the Canon software on her computer. She headed to the house.

9:37 PM. She returned with computer.

She did not have proper red film; she used two small sheets of red plastic overlapped.

Geneviève showed me a couple of software CDs (the camera instruction manual and the software instruction manual) but they didn't sound right. That's all she had. She shared she had the EOS Utility installed from her old camera. I suggested we try it as it might work fine. Connect the camera and let's see what happens.

Accidentally tripped the camera a couple of times, with the flash firing. Lightning in the warm room!

9:55. She got the EOS Utility running. I had Geneviève hit the Live View button. Had her take the lens cap off and move the camera about. It was working fine. We found the button to toggle off the focus region rectangles. I explained we would not need her intervalometer as EU would do that.

Again, I told her that I liked working in the warm room with the two computers and if she wanted to do that, we'd have to hook up things via the subterranean cable and drop another cable. Or she could sit on the observatory floor near the pier and do things on her computer and use the Optec hand paddle. She chose the warm room option. We made space on the south counter.

I offered my 2-inch nose piece as Geneviève only had a 1¼.

We connected my high-speed USB-ethernet adapter kit to the underground cable.

Asked if she had a DC coupler. No. Asked if she had a battery grip. No. Battery charged? Yes. She also had a spare battery. We connected her camera at the pier, fired up EU, activated the Live View, and tested it by shining a light in the lens.

We set up the remote focusing. I plugged in the custom serial-RJ adapter to the RASC computer (as it was not currently connected to the Paramount ME). Dropped the 6-wire into the observatory and connected to the hand paddle. Launched the app on the Dell machine. Didn't work. I wondered if the hand box was in automatic mode. I found it in manual. Weird. Reseated the connector and tried again. It worked. (Forgot to put the focuser in the middle of the range.)

Richard said were about to lose the sky. Hurry. Hurry hard.

Slewed to a bright star, γ (gamma) Sge. Advised Richard to not back up.

We mounted the camera. Took out the mirror diagonal and ocular. Attached the t-ring and t-adapter to the body. Installed the camera in the focuser drawtube. Gently and progressively tightened the three screws. Looped the strap over another 'scope. Tethered the camera to the big OTA. Camera timed out so we powered it back on.

We checked the Live View Shooting. We shifted the apps on her computer screen so she could see the camera control panel with the Live View. The exposure was at 1/1000. Showed her how to change it. The ISO was at 5000 which was fine for now. I explained that Exposure Simulation would only go so far but should still work for us.

10:36. Clouds prevented us from seeing the star. We paused. I took the opportunity to head to the work room to get some duct tape. It was clearing to the north. Yeh.

We taped down the RJ cable to prevent tripping. I would have preferred double-wide. Tony illuminated the scene with his new red flashlight from Amazon.

We focused. We could see a faint, large donut on the screen. I adjusted the focus using the SCT knob, sliding the primary mirror, crudely focusing, focusing coarsely, while Geneviève monitored the computer. I started by turning the control clockwise until we got a small dot. Went back and forth, following her commands, a bit to make the point as small as possible. We transitioned to the electronic focuser.

In EOS Utility, I wanted to zoom in but the button was not active. After trying some controls, I looked up the issue in Google. Learned we had to turn the Face Detection off; went to Quick Mode. We were able to open the zoom window. Then go to 200%. Centred with the arrows or dragging. Noted the seeing conditions.

Explained that we had 7000 ticks to work with on the Optec TCF-S, we were at 1455 now, and we documented that. Talked about the granularity. She liked the view around 600. We changed the granularity to 50 from 100 and she continued adjusting the focuser. She landed at 820. Suggested a test shot so we could zoom in even more. Suggested 10 or 20 seconds. She chose 10. We checked her ISO range: it went up to 12 800. We chose 1000.

Shared that Richard and I used Backyard EOS and it offered a number of tools to aid in focusing including Full Width Half Maximum.

When I restarted SkyTools after a fatal error, I discussed the offset we'd need to use. It was significant on this occasion as the telescope pointing was way off.

I noted that her EU showed the mirror lock setting. Suggested we didn't need it for our long exposures.

Geneviève took a test shot. I suggested the Quick Preview was not useful—we closed it. We saw the Digital Photo Professional launch automatically. We opened the last photo into a large window. We displayed the Tools panel. I said to drag the brightness slider all the way so we could see lots of stars. We compared the camera frame to my SkyTools window and confirmed we were in right area. I didn't need to turn the FOV rectangle. We shot again at 20 seconds. Zoomed in to 100%. Ignored hot pixels. I thought it was very good focus. We turned the Optec software to automatic mode, using the temperature sensor.

11:18. We acquired Messier 27. Or thought we did. We had to guess the offset. I used Slew to Cursor. She took another long exposure. We wondered if it was cloudy. Sailu told us it was clear near Cygnus. We brightened the last shot; we stretched it too. We did some plate solving visually. We stretched the image some more and spotted the nebula on the top edge of the frame. Slewed a bit. Took another shot. It was nearly perfectly centred.

Rhonda visited, met Geneviève, looked in the TV 101, noted the large fuzzy.

We prepared to take long exposures. 30 seconds wasn't enough; I wanted to double the data. I showed the Timer function in EU. We programmed a 1 minute exposure and set the interval a few seconds longer. Left the number of exposures at 10 with the intention of cancelling after the first shot. Ran the timer. It closed the shutter after 30 seconds. It seemed to me the camera was following its exposure time and not using the software setting of 60 seconds. I was looking for the bulb setting in the exposure values given my 40D experience: I moved past 30 seconds and the bulb mode was shown. When I learned that the 70D has a B mode on the dial, I had Geneviève set that on the camera body. Of course, once reflected in the software, it worked. The EU removed the exposure values from the control window which made sense. A slightly different experience than what I am used to.

The fun part now. Hurry up and wait.

We checked the test shot. It did not seem as good to me; it was dim. I asked to check the Info (from the File menu). 18 seconds. Nope. Re-shoot. We were a little confused about the times. I thought it was using a long delay before shooting the first time... The image downloaded. It was a minute exposure. Good colour, good focus, but some trailing. We changed to a 2 minute shot with a 3 minute interval. I looked closely at the timing box. Oh. It was working right! At the start or trigger point, the shutter opened and counted down, as shown at the bottom of the timing box; the countdown timer at the top was for the next shutter activation.

Showed to Sailu and Geneviève my star trace and that the telescope moves. Vibration, wind, periodic errors.

The faster shot was better, less trailing. But I recommended gathering many light frames in case some showed trailing.

11:50. We set up the image capture. One minute exposures, a 15 second gap, 30 shots, no delay. Go! Coffee time. Encouraged her to set an alarm.

12:05 AM, Saturday 23 September 2017. We returned to the GBO.

Checked the weather conditions for the Davis unit on site. The outside air temperature was 20.3°C, the humidity 84%, barometric pressure 1017.0 hPa, 10 minute average wind speed 6.4 km/h, wind direction south. She updated her log notes.

Geneviève noted the focuser value was at 914, up from the starting point.

She asked about another target. I reminded her that we wanted to do some visual observing after this.

We discussed targets good in September. Richard suggest the big globulars like M13 or M92. Too late. And the Owl Cluster. I pointed out that constellations near the zenith at midnight included Lacerta, Cepheus, Cygnus, Pegasus, Andromeda, and Cassiopeia. She asked about the Whale; I thought it out of season.

We showed Richard the stretched frame. He liked it. Pointed out some of the nebulosity.

12:29 AM. Two more shots to go. Her alarm went off.

The imaging run finished.

Prepared for darks. I suggested she remove the camera from the 'scope, install the body plug, and set it beside the pier. Then she could gather 15 or so dark frames. We dismounted the DSLR. I reinstalled the visual equipment.

Geneviève said she had already captured M13, last June.

Showed her The Evening Sky Map document I had downloaded. Suggested it was good for knowing well-placed constellations and telescopic targets from the relevant list. Said she could print it or download the PDF. Cautioned her about low targets. She saw the Whirlpool and the Helix. Yep, interesting. Whirlpool is better in the spring though. She asked about the Saturn Nebula. Small.

We discussed the size of objects. I suggested she Google them, do so research, to determine their size. From SkyTools, we learned that the Dumbbell is 8 arcminutes in size. It almost filled the camera frame. I quickly checked the dimensions in the software. Her camera was about 12 by 19 minutes of arc. The Blinking in contrast is 27", half an arcminute; it would be tiny in the camera.

12:54. I did the SkyTools software pitch. The Nightly Observing Light Generator, using the date and time and location and instrument, is perfect suggesting things to look at or image.

1:07. The dark run was done. Hot pixel data gathered.

We discussed flats (for dust, etc.) and biases (electronic noise). For future consideration. Richard had recently purchased a light pad for tracing, the same type that Steve was using, with very even illumination.

Asked if she could turn her screen brightness down.

She and Richard considered targets. Geneviève referred to the TESM list. She spotted the Trifid. It is big, 28'. Her frame would only get a portion. The Omega aka M17 aka The Swan she thought nice. 11' in size. Magnitude 6. Sets at midnight. An early summer object. Anything in Sagittarius is best viewed in July. The Crescent Nebula, 20 by 10'. Magnitude 7.4, about the same brightness. Transits at 9 PM. The Bode galaxies (e.g. M81) were higher up and brighter than the Crescent (aka The Brain).

1:45. We checked the sizes in SkyTools. The Crescent would require carefully turning the camera body to fit it. M81 was at its lowest point for the year. March and April would be best. The Crescent, right in the middle of The Swan, was very high earlier in the evening. Checked the meridian line. 9:30 would be the perfect time to start. Astro-twilight was an hour or so before that.

Geneviève asked about a galaxy up high. I pulled up the RASC Finest NGC list, filtered on galaxies, above 2x. Found 10 candidates. NGC 891 in Andromeda. I showed my BGO shot from a year ago. Late evening object, 3-ish it peaked, over the 2x at 11. NGC 772 in Aries, another late night target. Faint and kinda small but neat features in it. I reminded them that my images were 60 seconds but from a 24-inch big gun. NGC 185. I imaged it a year ago. Mag 10. Interesting stuff in the core. NGC 936. Small. NGC 6946 or the Fireworks. Mag 9.8. Peaks at 10 PM. NGC 6503. Edge-on. Detail in the arms. I imaged it in May. Very early evening. 7331. With the Fleas? Yes. Super bright core. Nice spiral structure. Good at midnight. NGC 1023. Another Arp, a pair of galaxies. I imaged them a year ago. Faint. We thought some of these suggestions from RASC were nice.

She wondered about imaging several objects, something at 9, 10, 11, midnight. Whoa. Keen. I reminded her we might need to share the 'scope tomorrow. More members coming up. Asked her to prioritise.

Geneviève tore down her camera. Reminded her to take the USB cable proper. Explained that the EOS Utility likely prevented the images from being stored on the camera.

She was keen to stack the images tomorrow.

She headed to bed. Thanked me for the help.