Monday, May 22, 2017


I really had bad luck this weekend. It was clear late Friday night and I knew it was likely the best night and I should have gone out but I didn't. And tonight, lots of stars visible when I arrived home after dropping off Cam, but I was too tired, already yawning, and then considered the busy week ahead. Damn.

but 3 visible (Vaughan)

While Cam checked his route planning app, I looked up. About 3 stars were visible from the bright parking lot outside the spaceship-shaped Cineplex. And Jupiter. Terrible amount of wasted light.

did some work at the CAO

Did some pre-work party activities at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Helped the weekend crew get the ride-on mowers up and running. Specifically installed a new cutting deck v-belt with Lora and Rhonda's assistance. Shored the chute bottom bracket on Stargrazer. Took one storm window off (and in that short time, took at least two black fly bites on my hands). Applied Windows OS updates. Updated the electrical panel labels table and verified circuit changes. Installed a fresh red light bulb in the garage. And fixed a toilet.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

gathered photons from NGC 4216 (Halifax)

The automated Burke-Gaffney Observatory procured another RASC Finest NGC for me, 4216 this time. This object is a fantastic edge-on spiral galaxy in Virgo, surrounded by many other galaxies. Sadly, a satellite went through.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 4216 in luminance

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

The view of NGC 4216 is tantalising with the halo around the core and lumpy dark lanes in the tightly wound disc.

Round PGC 39247 is just at the top edge of the grand spiral, due north of 4216's bright core.

Immediately to the right or west of 39247 is a tiny round faint fuzz ball: LEDA 1425624.

To the south-west, there appears to be another little galaxy but this is not identified as such in SkyTools 3 Professional.

Further south-west from PGC 39247 is a little streak of light. This is LEDA 1425156.

IC 771, a pretty but small barred spiral galaxy, is to the west of 4216.

LEDA 1422933 is due south of 771, a small fuzzy oval.

The big edge-on spiral to the south-west of 4216 is NGC 4206. Structure is clearly visible in this neighbouring galaxy.

South-east of 4206, at the edge of the image frame, is a round fuzzy. This is LEDA 1419741.

LEDA 1419993 is visible south-east of the NGC 4216. A small round lint ball to the east of star GSC 00879-0604.

Almond-shaped LEDA 1420615 is north-east of LEDA 1419993.

Further along, in a line with LEDA 1420615 and LEDA 1419993, is MCG 2-31-76. It is large, diffuse, nearly round.

North-east of the grand spiral is tiny round LEDA 1425739.

Finally, the long streak of NGC 4222 is to the north-east. Three big spirals in the view!

clear (Blue Mountains)

Peeked outside. Wow. Very clear. Called Rhonda out. We took in many constellations. I specifically looked at Leo. Many more stars visible. A mag 6 sky?

Friday, May 19, 2017

no data on NGC 6946

While BGO did an imaging run last night, it did not queue up my Fireworks galaxy job. Sadly, no one else imaged it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

checked results

Checked the Globe at Night results map. It was easier to see the dots on the zoomed-out satellite view. Not a lot of reports from Canada...

Globe at Night results for North America

Showed Rhonda the results.

took a reading (Bradford)

I noticed it was very clear as I recovered the recycling bins from the curb. So I put the red film on the tablet screen, opened the Globe at Night page, grabbed a lawn chair, and plunked down in the dark backyard with a good view of Leo. Rhonda joined me a few minutes later. Helped Hawkeye with the main constellation stick figure then we went deeper.

Spotted 31 Leonis (4.4) below Regulus. Spotted iota (4.0) below Chertan, opposite Zosma, in the rump. Then 93 Leonis (4.5) above Denebola, forming a rectangle. Zubrah aka 72 (4.6) above Zosma and 60 Leonis (4.4) to the right. With some effort I noted eta (5.3) between Chertan and iota. The lower stars were more challenging with the sky glow from the GTA.

Submitted our report. LM 5.

made colour image of BU 284

Rendered multi-star system HD 167287 aka β 284 aka SAO 161217 in colour using the LRGB data from Tuesday night.

multi-star BU 284 in colour

Tried something different this time in FITS Liberator. After applying the ArcSin stretch, I moved the black point slightly left to the first full dip. I moved the white point far to the right essentially including all the detected data. And I did NOT hit the Auto Scaling button. I saved the images at that point. The TIFFs looked much brighter than what I've done in the past. 

Simple processing in Photoshop: import, copy into layers, align, colourised each layer, set the RGB layers to screen, set the luminance layer, then a single Levels and Curves to the top, bumped the saturation 5%, and—to a copied layer—applied a 0.5 pixel blur .

This attractive image shows A, B, C, D, E, G/P, H/Q and R are all blue-white. F is a pale orange.

Hard to say what the colour is for dim S. Is it orange?!

It looks like the stars in ARA 741 are also blue-white.

Love the little string of 3 stars at the top of the image, red, orange, and blue!


Rhonda likes the colourful little equilateral triangle at the top-left.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

through high cloud (Bradford)

Jupiter's back. But it remains hazy. We saw it about 30 minutes ago but then it disappearred in high thin clouds. We turned our focus back on the fireplace.

looked into BU 284

Dove into the Washington Double Star database.

Initially I didn't see β284 but when I checked the coordinates again and saw the RA was 18:15, I realised I was in the wrong table. Then when I found BU 284, I noted G and H companions! Ah ha. Letters beyond ST3P... I checked the locations using my Excel radar chart.

I made many discoveries.

1. The BR pair details are noted as 324 degrees and 5 arcminutes in the SkyTools 3 Pro Object Information box but the chart view has it plotted 12" away! I added a SkyMark for where it should be in the chart. Happily, this position closely matches the image from last night. WDS says 326 and 5.2. And when I calculated the AR deets, the Excel chart showed good correspendence.

2. When I took in the G and H references in the WDS I thought that this might be more stars, perhaps accounting for some of the other somewhat bright neighbours around D and P, in the busy field. But this does not appear to be the case (as will become obvious below).

3. The G star in Washington Double Star is what SkyTools calls P. Ah, OK.

4. Finally, the H star is WDS is what ST3 calls Q. Right.

So it seems the WDS does not have P and Q references; rather it uses G and H. But still both use S.

Made me wonder if there are other identified WDS pairs in the same spot. Made a note to look.


No other entries except ARA 743CQ which I calculated to be at a 71° angle from A with a separation of 21.4".

plotted elements

At long last, I built an Excel file to help with the plotting of double star elements. After reviewing a tutorial at the Ozgrid Business Applications website, I rolled out my radar chart. Really happy with the result.

Excel radar graph for plotting double star companions

I can rapidly plunk in a set of position angle and separation data (up to 24 entries, in any order) and the workbook with produce an automatically scaled representation.

This will be very helpful when I'm trying to corroborate data values against something I've seen visually or photographed.

no one tried

I checked the BGO log to see if anyone had gone after NGC 6946. Nope. Too bad.

imaged HD 167287 (Halifax)

I had noted the Clear Sky Chart for Halifax was looking good after midnight. In fact, the BGO robot imaged a double star for me. The multi-star system HD 167287 aka β 284 aka SAO 161217 in Sagittarius. The image seems a little soft. Seeing was not great at the time...

multi-star system HD 167287 in luminance

Luminance only, 5 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

The primary star is magnitude 7.1; the dimmest element, S, is mag. 13.5. The target was low in the sky... below 30° altitude. In a rich star field.

I first observed this system on my birthday in 2016. Did not see the S star and I totally missed the F star.

In this image, A is the brightest star near centre. B, a medium bright star, is due north a short distance away. C is nearly due east about twice the AB separation. The D ally is south, twice the AC split, and very slightly to the west. D is much brighter than B. E is further afield, beyond D, slightly east, and slightly dimmer than D. Colleague F is far away to the west, perhaps 1.5 times the AE distance, about the brightness of B. Sidekick P is below or south of A, almost touching, dimmer than B. Q is between C and B, the same brightness as C. Friend R is north-west of B, touching B, dimmer. It appears rather close to B which is a different position than plotted by SkyTools 3 Pro. If I had to guess, I'd say it is actually B who's moving, away from Q and toward R. And finally, S. It is visible, barely, east of A, due south of Q. But it is very dim. I believe it is in the magnitude 15 bucket which is probably why I didn't see it last fall.

So, this image was very successful, in that I was able to pull out all the accomplices.

It is curious to me why the somewhat bright stars, about the same intensity as R, sprinkled between P and D, are not part of this system. Or is that why there's a gap in the lettering scheme?

Wide double star ARA 741 in a nearly north-south orientation is obvious beyond F, west of F.


Did some more digging into the BU 284 system.


Assembled in colour on 18 May '17.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

checked the logs

I checked the BGO logs for the Fireworks galaxy. I imaged it last summer. No one had had a look since February. Nothing in our images...

Ian wants to have a go

Ian W pinged me about the supernova. He forwarded the AAVSO bulletin. He's keen to visually spot it and get some photons in a detector. Indeed.

Monday, May 15, 2017

missed a supernova

On Facebook, Eric lamented not imaging NGC 6946. Apparently a supernova just went off in the Fireworks galaxy.

added a SN to the list

In hopes of doing some backyard observing, I made a list in SkyTools. Included lots of double stars, given the lingering bright Moon. Updated the current data sets, comets, supernova, etc. while I was at it. Noted a bright supernova called SN 2017 eaw, around magnitude 12. Huh. In Cepheus. Maybe we'd be able to see that. I could show Rhonda her first exploding star...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

caught NGC 4699 (in Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged NGC 4699. Another galaxy in Virgo. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Zoomed out, the first impression is an elliptical; zoomed in, there are hints of spiral arms.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 4699 in luminance

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

LEDA 1001825 is to the north-west. Round and small, it is extremely faint.

LEDA 1000452 is nearly due west. Looks like an edge-on spiral. Small. Very faint again.

LEDA 998398 is to the south-west. A very faint oval smudge.

LEDA 998875 is to the south-south-east. Again, very faint. An elongated patch.

Bright, round LEDA 170207 is to the south-east.

LEDA 1000221 is to the east-south-east. A small almond shape.

LEDA 1000538 is east of the big galaxy. It is a dim round ball of lint above  GSC 05535-1552.

LEDA 183306 is east of NGC 4699. Small but bright. North-east of TYC 05535-1227 1.

GSC 05535-1424, to the east, looks like it could be part of a double star.

There's a bright pair in the field, to the south-east, not shown in SkyTools! Weird. [ed: They appear in Aladin.]

Saturday, May 13, 2017

imaged NGC 4762 and 4754 (in Halifax)

BGO also imaged NGC 4762 (with NGC 4754) for me. Galaxies in Virgo. 4762 is another one of the RASC Finest NGCs. It looks like an edge-on spiral but there are no dust lanes. Wisps are very evident along the other edges.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 4762 with 4754 in luminance

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

LEDA 1391072 is a tiny round fuzzy to the west.

LEDA 1389947 is visible to the east. There seem to be two small round objects here.

nabbed the Lost Galaxy (in Halifax)

Clear skies out east! The Burke-Gaffney Observatory fired up and started imaging. I had RASC Finest NGC 4535 aka the Lost Galaxy in the hopper. A fantastic face-on spiral galaxy in Virgo. The central part of the spiral is amazing. It looks like there are lots of star forming regions along the arms.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 4535 in luminance

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

LEDA 1343342 is the bright oval to the north, slightly west.

LEDA 1342675 is a tiny little streak between 1343342 and the big galaxy, slightly further to the west.

LEDA 1340665 is a round fuzz ball to the south-west, close to the big spiral.

MCG 1-32-98 is much further away to the south-west, a large patch of light, not round.

LEDA 1336640 is a very small thin fuzzy, perhaps an edge-on spiral, to the south-south-west, at the very bottom edge of the frame.

LEDA 1342835 is to the north-east from the NGC galaxy, due east from the star GSC 00874-0721.

East of 1342835 is another fuzzy but SkyTools 3 Professional does not identify it.

There are two sets of stars, south of the Lost Galaxy, that look like doubles but are not IDed as such in ST3P, one pair with TYC 00874-0826 1 and one with TYC 00874-0667 1.

Friday, May 12, 2017

found the interactive map

Found it, again! I had seen the interactive Google Map for the August 2017 solar eclipse path before but then lost track of it. While checking out the website and examining the index of the summer eclipse page, I spotted it: the Interactive Google Eclipse Map.

The key feature is that when you click on the map in a particular location, it will drop at marker and then in the pop-up show you the circumstances of the eclipse.

solar eclipse path in Google Maps (static image)

The screen grab above is not dynamic; it is a static snapshot.

If you're outside of the path, of course, you'll only experience a partial eclipse and only see first and fourth contact. When you choose a point in the shadow path, you'll enjoy all four key moments.

I like how the tool shows the times along with the altitude and azimuth of the Sun and the magnitude and obscuration values. The map also shows the points of greatest duration and greatest eclipse.

Monday, May 08, 2017

captured NGC 4026 (Halifax)

The rains had stopped. The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot started imaging, first time in days. It acquired NGC 4026 for me. A edge-on galaxy in Ursa Major. It is one of the RASC Finest NGCs. Slight gradient. Not a sharp image unfortunately.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 4026 in luminance

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

The core of the galaxy is bright. The disc of the galaxy is soft and diffuse. No apparent structure. Similar to the Spindle Galaxy (NGC 3115).

LEDA 2382547 is visible as a dim small oval to the south-west, just beyond the faint right-angle triangle of stars.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

saw Moon very near Jupiter (Bradford)

Peeked up while takin' the gabage out. Smattering of clouds, too many to compel me to set up a 'scope. Moonlit backyard, no surprise, from the gibbous orb. Oh ho. Bright point near Luna. 

Called rho out into the cool air. She figured it out, after a nudge. We measured the gap between Jupiter and the Moon with extented pinkies: about 2 to 2-1/2 degrees directly to the right. Spica below, getting blotted by our gas clouds. Arcturus up high to the south-east. Straight up over the house was an upside-down large dipper. As the clouds slide past, the colourful halo around the Moon bloomed.

Grabbed my old Bushnells from the kitchen in hopes of spotting Galilean moons but I was shaking too much or there was too much bright cloud. rho tried too. She found the gas giant very bright and enjoyed the surface details on our neightbour.

ice cream!

I scream for ice cream!

ice cream for astronuts

Rhonda brought me some astronaut ice cream, freeze dried, ready to eat!

reject 23

The IAU rejected another proposed constellation.

rejected constellation - the big L

Tough job.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

processed HR 6246 in colour

Processed HR 6246 aka STF 2103 in full colour using the LRGB data from 19 Mar '17.

multi-star HR 6246 in full colour

FITS Liberator and Photoshop. North is up; east is left.

A looks blue-white. B is merged into A therefore cannot be isolated for colour. C, to the south-west, looks white or pale yellow. D, to the south-east, looks white.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

turned off tilt

Of late, I have found the tilt-point option in SkySafari somewhat annoying. Perhaps it is because there have been many occasions where I've been demonstrating something, showing a simulated view of the sky, and, invariably, I've been facing a different direction. By way of example, I often show the southern sky while facing north. And it seemed that any slight movement, shaking or tilting, would cause the automatic pointing in SkySafari to activate with the northern sky snapping into view.

This, ironically, is possibly my favourite feature but sometimes I don't want it active! The very frustrating part was that tapping the Compass icon didn't seem to do anything permanently. A moment later, as I moved the tablet, the auto-pointing would kick in. Gar!

Checked the support page today and found a note. So I disabled the Tilt to Use option in Settings, Coordinates, Compass. It seems to work. It does not seem to automatically activate; only when I tap the Compass icon does it operate. Good. Thanks. I'll do it manually now.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

added filtering to doubles table

After testing in Chrome (Windows, Android) and Edge (Windows), I completed the revamp of my double stars life list page. Actually, I broke it into two parts. The original page has been turned into a simple, short introduction, with the existing Catalog (discoverer) reference.

I made a new page without the menu and transferred the table of double and multiple stars life list elements here. This new page, in jello format, allows for a wider table and more columns.

filtered double star life list

I also deployed some new Javascript and CSS assets to permit filtering. With over 1050 entries, the table was getting increasingly awkward to use. I really wanted to be able to make short lists. This new table works very well now. For example, one can filter on a constellation and reduce the list to say a half-dozen or so entries.

tracking well

I've been running a battery of tests on Nicole's mount since adjusting the RA axis bearing. Today, made the mount track on Castor. No issues. Was this the solution? Was it binding too much?

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

added markers

Not sure how or why I forgot to do this but finally added red reflective tape to the feet/base of the astronomy chair.

happy binary day

Happy binary star day. The first binary system was discovered in 1780.

Monday, May 01, 2017

is it live or...?

Rhonda peeked outside. Wispy clouds but she was able to see Jupiter, Spica, Arcturus. Showed Rhonda SkySafari with the backyard custom landscape. She really enjoyed it. Really enjoyed it!

custom landscape in SkySafari

She explored a bit from the window. I turned the light off to help her adapt. She wanted to know about the stars below and right of the bright planet and star: Corvus the Crow. She spotted the 4 main stars. All around mag 2.5 to 3.0. She pointed to Crater on the screen and remarked it looked like a chalice: exactly. What was the one above Jupiter? Porrima. And further up? Auva? I doubted it. Vindemiatrix. Yes. And what about to the right of Arcturus? Muphrid. There seemed to be a good correspondence to the celestial objects and ground features.

I was happy. Height or altitude might be off a bit but overall I think it's good.

A little while later, in the simulation, I saw Graffias, Dschubba, pi Scorpii, and Antares pushing above the trees. She wasn't sure she could see them. Still low. Hazy over there. And there were bursting buds.

Simulated the rotation of the sky. rho really liked that too.

not from Canada

Rhonda asked me if we'd be able to see the contact binary system VFTS 352. Sadly, no. Not from this hemisphere.

received June proof

Received my June RASC Journal article for proofreading.

feathered her wings

Virgin Galactic passed a significant milestone today in testing the feather re-entry protocol. VSS Unity was piloted by Stucky and Masucci with others onboard.

VSS Unity feathering her wings during re-entry

This photo was captured on the ground by Mars Scientific and Trumbull Studios.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

coming and going (Bradford)

rho spotted Jupiter out the window and was pretty sure about Spica and Arcturus. If Jupiter was the centre of a clock then Spica was at 7 and Arcturus at 10. I suggested we check in Skysafari. All in agreement. But it seemed different than before. Rhonda recalled Jupiter being above Spica; now it was up and right. [ed: Indeed, it had moved over 6 degrees to the west since early March.] She looked again: only Jupiter was visible. Still cloudy, I thought, wondering how the OSC star party had gone. Cloudy in the centre of the country.

clouds happened

Looks like BGO tried to fire up but then it reported an error: "It became cloudy, dawn arrived, or observations were disabled before observing NGC4038 (ID 3722)! It will be tried again another night." Cloudy out east.

fuzzy darkness

Apparently, a modified cold dark matter theory proposing fuzzy dark matter, fits well at small scales, like for a single galaxy, and when it incorporates excited states works at large scales, galaxy super clusters. I read the highlights in the article this morning, as suggested by my Google search bot.

happy IAD 2017

Happy International Astronomy Day. Look up.

Friday, April 28, 2017

topped up all batteries

Finished recharging all the other SLA batteries, rotating across all units.

battery icon

The marine deep-discharge units, A, B, C, and D are all working fine. Happy.

sent work party notice

After reviewing the CAO work party notice with Dietmar, I shared it on the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group.


Forgot to activate the web site article.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

watched RAN on eclipses

I really enjoyed watching the RASC Toronto Centre Recreational Astronomy Night (RAN) meeting video recording on YouTube. Not being able to make the meeting, I was thrilled when I saw it was being streamed.

The topic focus was of some interest to me, solar eclipses, as I have never witnessed a full. Michael's talk was filled with good tips, tricks, and ideas. Like, consider your object size in the camera frame. Ralph's discussed of filters was illuminating to say the least. For example, ensure your eclipse glasses meet or exceed the ISO 12312-2 standard. Added a few more items to my prep checklist.

Hats off to the production team. It is impressive to me how well put together these video captures are. They are doing a great job. This is a tremendous benefit when members are busy or cannot travel.

tested Bluestar

Completed my testing of the Starry Night Bluestar wireless adapter from the Gaherty collection. It was good to get some experience with it, even though a discontinued product. I also wanted to be able to report that it was functional. The key benefit obviously is to eliminate one wire going to the telescope-mount and in that respect it worked, sorta, mostly. I had random and periodic connection errors.

Bluestar adapter with telescope interface cable

I tested the small device with an ASUS Windows XP netbook computer (using SkyTools) and with a ASUS Android tablet (using SkySafari). In turn the Bluetooth transceiver was connected to a Celestron CGEM NexStar hand controller. It both cases I was able to connect to the telescope and slew to targets while untethered. Initially, as I learned the device, I did not understand how to connect. For the computer, I had to install the downloaded drivers before starting.

I learned that one needs to power the device (with two AA batteries), turn it on, note the blinking red LED, optionally reset the device (with a paperclip in the small back port), pair it with the computer or tablet, on Windows start the slave serial port function, note the LED extinguishing, note the assigned port (a serial COM in Windows), and then carry on.

The experience in SkyTools 3 Pro was nominal. Everything worked as expected in turns of slewing to targets, manual moving, and telescope feedback. When the Bluestar or the Bluetooth software on Windows hiccuped, SkyTools performed badly. One time I had to kill the ST3P task to recover. But I think that's ultimately an issue with the planner software struggling with a suddenly absent connection. Still, overall, it was good and I could see the advantage in terms of mobility. At least being able to roam as far as the Bluetooth envelope would allow... I was never more than a metre or so away.

The SkySafari test was very brief and admittedly I have no previous experience with telescope operations. I reset the Bluestar and paired with the tablet. The SkySafari "scope" controls seemed rather limited. A slew command definitely worked. But the mount seemed to be pointing in the wrong direction when it finished. I wondered if a date/time setting or hemisphere option was incorrect. I did not dig deeper. [ed: Different issue in the end.]

Very briefly I tried using NexRemote with the Bluestar. I was not able to get a connection after two quick tries and did not pursue the matter further.

I learned in researching and reading that the Bluestar doubles as a USB-serial adapter. That's an interesting side benefit given the curious hardware port issues with telescopes (hanging onto the old trusty serial protocol) and modern computers (with USB ports on every edge) and tablets (with one tiny USB port). Using the option defeats the cordless feature but that might be the best option.

Stumbled across Geoff's review from March 2006.

Not sure why the Bluestar is discontinued. Was it a matter of random sporadic issues like what I experienced? Issues with Bluetooth technology? Was it old tech, making way for new? There seems to be the SkyFi III option available currently signalling that Simulation Curriculum is still in the hardware game. It is not a Bluetooth device.


Oh. Learned there's a distinct product, SkyBT, available as well... New, smaller, runs on two AAA, 9-pin serial port, a class 1 Bluetooth device, 100 metre range.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

quickly viewed out back (Bradford)

Checked ISS Detector Pro for the sunset times. 8:15 or so... New Moon! We packed items in the kitchen, lowered the lights, and dressed for cool/damp conditions. Remembered my keyboard light this time.

The grass was wet. Air: warm.

Rhonda and I had finished moving gear outside. Borrowed the Gaherty Starmaster again. My little table flipped, dumping John Repeat Dance on the damp ground. Oops. Good thing I have a solid state drive in the netbook computer now. Put the Dob light shroud in place.

She spotted something in the south, moving east to west. Possibly a satellite; we could not see blinkies. I wondered briefly about ISS passes...

9:07 PM. We were at the telescope. On Jupiter, even though it was in the tree. With the baader planetarium Hyperion aspheric 36mm eyepiece.

She asked if I use my left eye. I could not remember. But I did have a preference.

Explained that using this Dobsonian was manual, completely manual. Showed rho how to grab it and move it.

She noted the 2 points to the right (at 1 o'clock) and 1 to the left (at 7), all in a line. I explained that they were moons. That was impressive. Liked like the orange stripes. "Wow." Rhonda enjoyed Jupiter and its cloud bands.

9:13. Security light came on. I heard a car horn.

Set up SkyTools 3 Professional for the view. Simulated the view. We learned the Io was behind the planet and would emerge from the eclipse in 2 hours. The Great Red Spot should be visible then too. Overall view should be better with it being higher.

Super steady. I briefly explained seeing conditions. Good seeing was good for planets and double stars but usually the transparency would be bad. If transparency was good with poor seeing, then one would go after galaxies. Decided to increase the power. Grabbed the Pentax XW 20mm.

Bree and Joel returned. Rhonda invited them out back.

Intake of breath. "Cool—oh, that's so cool. That's Jupiter? That's Jupiter?! No way. That's so cool! Joel, come look! That's so cool. That's so neat." Yep.

Joel thought it amazing, said that he had never used a telescope. Asked if I set it to a particular azimuth. Similarities to equipment he uses for work. He explained to Bree that the Great Red Spot had be raging since "forever."

They headed to the kitchen to make dinner, apologising about the lights. The stove vent hood light was not bad. Rhonda said she could put curtains up. She's drinkin' the Kool-Aid.

Went to high power with the Tele Vue Type 6 Nagler 9mm. We saw some barges near centre.

Rhonda heading north to find Cassiopeia. Triggered the security light on the way back.

9:27. Considered double star targets. Asked Rhonda if she was ready to go.

γ (gamma) Persei was too low. 14 Orionis would set before 11. Showed her how I was interpreting the Night Bar. That I manually moved the time bars as rough indicators. 16 Aurigae was on the list but the constellation was low and behind the west trees. Procyon, left of Gemini, low, also behind the trees. Rejected some others.

Made a note to build a horizon profile...

Helped Rhonda with star identification. She had found the end stars of the Little Dipper's pot, including Kocab. Explained the dippers were oriented like the yin-yang symbol with one pot pouring into the other. She knew the Polaris-finding trick. We could barely see the handle stars. The bottom of the pot, η (eta) Ursae Minoris, was not visible (magnitude 4.95). Shared that I often used the Little Dipper as a brightness test. She asked about the even pair to the west: the curious stick constellation of Canis Minor, with Procyon. We talked about the magnitude scale.

Decided on γ Sextantis (aka 8 Sex). On my View Again list, in the Fast Movers, also in the RASC Observer's Handbook doubles and multiples list. In Haas's book too (the AB only). But there were not a lot of naked-eye visible stars in the area. Planned the star hop from Alphard. With the low power eyepiece, headed north-east, past the hook, a little line, saw a random pair, made it. In a ladder.

9:46. Asked Hawk Eye to have a look. Asked if she thought it a single star.

Shylow wandered by. Tucker was watching us from the kitchen. Being observed by cats.

When I changed the eyepiece, I lost it, bumping the Dob. Really lost. Went back to the baader. Still lost. Returned to α (alpha) Hydrae. I grew frustrated. Redid the entire hop.

Meanwhile, from her comfy lawn chair, Rhonda took in the whole sky. She recalled Spica. Thought Polaris orange. I checked she wasn't bored. We picked up a faint smell of smoke, like a wood stove.

10:09. By luck, at medium power, I stumbled on the desired double. Asked Rhonda her impression while I took to the lawn chair. She described yellow-orange to the right and blue on the left. She kept switching eyes. "It's a mystery."

When I increased the eyepiece power, again the telescope moved. I had not had such trouble on the evening of the 14th. Finally, got back on target. Tough target. In the trees now.

10:20. Got it! Got the C star. 7 o'clock position. There, where it was supposed to be, very faint. Far distance away. I did not see the γ Sex B element (which is the actual OH suggestion). So, no joy, for us. We could not see the B star at a ½ second-of-arc.

While rho looked through the ocular, I saw a north-bound satellite, beneath the Little Dipper. I noted 5 UMi (at magnitude 4.2). Could see η UMi easily now.

The primary did not look round to me. Or was it that I knew that it was a pair? Almost a 90° angle to C. Perhaps if the seeing went perfect, they'd split? Also, C was inline with the distant stars TYC 5475-0096 1 and HD 85635 to the south-east. AB is a binary system with a 78 year period.

10:30. Checked the Rhonda was OK. I was a nice evening. Discounted Talitha and 11 LMi. Chose HR 3701, a triple, in Lynx, near the feet of the Big Bear. In the Sky & Tel spring romp list. Also on my View Again.

Rhonda asked which way the Big Dipper was turning. If looking north, counter-clockwise. Acclimating to changing perspectives. Later she spotted another satellite.

10:48. Apologised. Too difficult. Gave up. Looked for something easy. Chose 54 Virginis. From the RASC Coloured list. On my View Again. Considered the star hop. It would be challenging with few field stars, about 2/3rds of the way from Spica toward gamma Hya. It was dewy.

10:52. Ha. Hopping with the finder scope, I landed immediately on the target star! (Should set up a software FOV ring for the finder.) That was quick.

Lovely. Increased the power. Nice. They both looked blue to me. Very, very close. Almost the same magnitude. [ed: Haas said both were "gloss white."]

Rhonda soaked them in. I recentred for her. Yellow and blue. Really?!

I looked again. Ah. I saw the yellow. Top-left, the brighter star; pale blue, robin's egg blue, to the bottom-right. Oriented nearly north-south. 5.3 arcseconds apart. I noted the faint random wide pair of stars to the left (west) including HD 114727. Low and not great seeing.

11:01. Asked if she was up for one more. Then we could return to Jupiter.

I smelled her coconut lotion. She sang Harry Nilsson's song. Rhonda curbed the recycling and garbage while I reviewed the evening observation plan. I switched to my View Again list and filtered on multiple stars. Item in Cancer, no. Rejected objects in the fore of Leo; tail would be OK. Found 12 Comae Berenices. Between Boötes and Leo. Ugh. Of course, no bright field stars, a bit of a dead zone. Decided to start from Denebola. A long hop... but I arrived fairly easily. Identified the target within the open cluster Collinder 256.

11:16. Ooh. Yummy. Carefully raised the power on 12 Com. Let Rhonda have a go. Suggested, given our quarry was almost straight up, that it was more of a twisting action to aim the 'scope. I recentred again.

The bright star was yellowy. There was the faint star above (south-east), close. That was C. Then there was a star further along, more to the right (east), making a hockey stick with A and C, same brightness as C: that was D. Then yet another star, further still, unrelated: HD 107793.

I showed the simulation in SkyTools, zoomed in a lot. I was not seeing faint B. Also ST3P was showing HD 107701 right beside A but there was nothing at that location. B should be around our 2:30 o'clock position; the HD should be around the 1 o'clock.

Rhonda pointed out the faint stars to the right or north-east, in a large triangle. This included TYC 1989-0807 1 (12.0), 1989-0788 1 (10.4), and GSC 1989-0896 (12.7). I saw them too. Good.

Then I spotted GSC 1989-0651 and GSC 1989-0316 to the north. Both magnitude 13 stars! Yes. (Deepest I had gone with this instrument, I believe.)

Back to B. I relayed that SkyTools said the companion was close, to the north-east, at magnitude 11.8, but last reported in 1935. Perhaps the Washington Double Star report was in error. Maybe it had moved. And HD 107701? That looked suspiciously like a software error.

Looked again. I was not seeing a star at half the separation of AC. And if magnitude 11 or so, it should be visible, if we were correctly identifying other mag 12 and 13 neighbours.

Put in the high power ocular, holding the OTA steady. Still on target.

Could be that the B star is a variable and is currently dim. Rhonda didn't see anything. Made a note to look at photos...

11:33. What! I saw it! I found the B! Different position! It was at the 3 or 3:30 o'clock angle and slightly closer than what I was expecting. It has moved! About half the AC separation. B has moved a bit clockwise. Rhonda saw it. Fainter than the triangle stars. I thought it fainter than the other stars at magnitude 13. So perhaps B is mag 13 to 14! Maybe 13.5? Very happy!

Time to wrap. Headed to Jupiter, directly, leaving the powerful eyepiece in.

Rhonda said it was super-bright. Indeed. She noted Io. She did not see the GRS, the "eye of Jupiter." She kept trying for the spot. No luck.

I noted Hercules rising over the east trees. Corona Borealis between it and Boo.

I examined the Jovian world. The Great Red Spot (er, Medium-Sized Pale Orange Spot?) was centre, near the meridian. The upper cloud band for us, very pale, very orange in good seeing. Just gotta wait for it to pop. Not as good as 2 weeks ago...

11:42. Rhonda saw it. A bump. Yep. Gave her the medium power eyepiece and let her change it. Guided her on focusing. I started packing up. It would be smaller now, with the lower magnification. She liked the higher power.

We hauled everything inside. Very convenient, very easy.

I inspected the primary mirror for dew. It looked clear. Good.


That was a fun evening. It was OK conditions. I was able to set up easily and quickly in the back garden to take advantage of the clear skies. I was able to do a "bit of work," knock down a couple of double stars. It was a treat to have Rhonda join me and help in the hunt. My happy place.

Another exciting bit of this evening's session was that I was able to cross-off one more entry on the RASC Observer's Handbook coloured double star list. There are remaining unseen entries from that list but they are only visible in southern locations. Viewing 54 Vir this evening means I have effectively completed the coloured list.

loosened collar

Loosened the RA lock nut on Nicole's mount. After releasing the four 2mm Allen grubs, I turned the collar about 1/16th of a turn. This to reduce the friction in the RA bearing. It seemed to bind every so slightly before; now it ran smoother, easier. Ready for another battery of tests.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

simulated south view

rho discussed feeling disoriented looking at the night sky on the way back to Miami. She said she saw a "chevron" of three stars and then "two bright stars" out her port side patio. I suggested it was possibly the Southern Cross and Rigel Kent with Hadar.

looking south from Caribbean sea

When I showed her the pattern in software, based on a location in the Caribbean Sea, around 18° latitude, she was happy, confident that that's what she saw. I was jealous.

Monday, April 24, 2017

imaged NGC 3628 (Halifax)

BGO imaged NGC 3628 for me. A very large galaxy in Leo. Another RASC Finest. Edge-on, it seems the outer edges of the spiral arms are disturbed. They seem to fan out. Those dark clouds are amazing. Fantastic. Sometimes known as The Hamburger Galaxy.

RASC Finest NGC 3628 galaxy luminance

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

There seem to be a lot of faint small fuzzies in this image too. SkyTools labels a couple.

LEDA 1431922 is south-west of the grand galaxy, just south-west of the star J112004.7+132846. A dim round ball of lint.

Further along is bright LEDA 1430824. The round glow is nestled in the centre of a triangle of points of light. Are those distant galaxies or nearby dim stars?

LEDA 1430330, a faint, stretched oval, is slightly west-south-west of 1430824.

LEDA 1439902 is a very dim small elongated fuzzy to the north, slightly east.

SkyTools reports a lot of WEE quasars in this field but I don't think I see any of them.

a few stars, one planet (Bradford)

It was not really clear during our walkabout. High, thin cloud. I wondered how the RASC TC were doing at Long Sault. Rhonda and I saw some bright stars. She picked out Jupiter, Arcturus, Spica, and the Big Dipper. I shared the twinkling trick for dim planets versus stars. I pointed out Auriga, with Capella. Then Gemini and how to know which is Pollux and Castor. She asked if Pollux was orange and Castor white. Perhaps. I liked how the Fred Cook school did not run their lights unnecessarily. Marie Of The Incarnation C S on the other hand: extreme light pollution. On the last leg, I could barely see Polaris.

caught NGC 4157 and a satellite (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged edge-on NGC 4157. A canted spiral galaxy in Ursa Major. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Dark dust in front of a compact core. It does not seem symmetrical.

Dang, an artificial satellite wandered through the luminance frames...

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 4157 in luminance

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

It looks like there are a lot of small faint fuzzies in this image, particularly to the north of the central galaxy, and to the east. SkyTools 3 Pro only identifies a few subjects.

LEDA 213943 is a bright thin almond-shape to the south-west of the big spiral. In Ursa Major.

LEDA 2377854 is to the north-east. It is a dim oval. In Canes Venatici.

tracking paused again!

While testing a Bluestar wireless adapter on Nicole's mount, I noticed the pointing symbol in SkyTools, the flashing X, was off target. Oh no. I tapped the mount. It did the "catching up" routine. Damn it. The problem persists.

recovered battery D

Finished recharging the marine deep-discharge sealed lead acid battery "D." Whew. It appeared to be fully charged and working normally despite me depleting it to nearly zero. I had been using it for testing the Celestron mount. And while I had turned off the mount I left the CLA plug attached. Oops!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

tested Argo Navis

Tested, briefly, an Argo Navis system with SkyTools. Pretty easy to use. My first time officially working with a push-to system with my favourite planning software. The red slider bars were pretty easy to interpret and respond to.

This was, again, partly for my knowledge and partly to verify the used equipment worked as expected.


Later tested loading a custom observing list.

Friday, April 21, 2017

hopefully there's time

I enjoyed today's Google Doodle for Earth Day. The fox, frog, and cat... It's sweet and unsettling.

thinking about renewal energy

The fox has a vision. But, really, it's not a dream. It's reality. Hopefully there's time left for humans to fix things.

I like the little telescope in this image.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

another one, NGC 5005! (Halifax)

All right. The Burke-Gaffney robot captured a third party. NGC 5005, another lovely galaxy. This RASC Finest NGC lives in Canes Venatici.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 5005 in luminance

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

Noted LEDA 2095155, north of 5005, above and left of the star J131056.4+371034.

The very small dim fuzzy LEDA 2091749 is just west of the big galaxy.

LEDA 2089756 is obvious to the south. While large, it is very faint.

I can see the tiny faint almond of LEDA 2095424, north-north-east.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

BGO also imaged NGC 5033 (Halifax)

Wow. Another one. BGO imaged NGC 5033. A fantastic large special galaxy in Canes Venatici. One more RASC Finest NGC. Look at those magnificent arms!

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 5033 in luminance

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


5 to go

With the image capture of NGC 3432, I have seen or photographed 105 of the 110 RASC Finest NGC target list suggestions. A handful to go. Another life list almost done.

received NGC 3432 data (Halifax)

w00t! The Burke-Gaffney Observatory fired up and started imaging. I was happy to see it image another RASC Finest NGC for me. This time, the interesting edge-on galaxy NGC 3432 (aka Arp 206) in Leo Minor. It looks bent!

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 3432 in luminance

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

LEDA 2083781 is visible to the west of NGC 3432. It is a very bright but compact ball near the star J105145.0+363633.

The soft diffuse glow off the south-west edge of the big galaxy is MCG 6-24-27. Is this the culprit? It this small galaxy disturbing the big one?

LEDA 2081645, a faint oval smudge, is just north of J105154.4+362902.

There seem to be many more galaxies south-west of the 3432 but they are not identified by SkyTools 3 Pro. To the south and south-east too!

I see LEDA 2081544 above and right of J105245.4+362846.

captured NGC 5746 (Halifax)

BGO imaged RASC Finest NGC 5746 for me. An intriguing edge-on galaxy in Virgo. Dark lane in foreground. Bright core. 

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 5746 in luminance

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

Spotted PGC 52633, a faint, small fuzzy galaxy north-west of the needle, near the top-right of the image.

Noted LEDA 1214810, a small, oblong fuzzy, north-east of the big galaxy. Nestled in the top-left.

Is that a double near the bottom-right?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

third time for NGC 3003 (Halifax)

I had tried to improve on my image of NGC 3003 (the galaxy in Leo Minor) from 4 March without success. The Burke-Gaffney Observatory had another go. The results seem a bit better than 3 February. Maybe.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 3003 in luminance

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

watched OA-7 launch

Tuned into the launch of the Cygnus OA-7 aboard an ULA Atlas rocket on Spaceflight Now. The John Glenn is bound for the International Space Station for a Saturday docking.

Monday, April 17, 2017

noted Stellarium 0.15.2 shortcuts

I downloaded Stellarium 0.15.2 on Saturday to check its use of the new IAU official star names. Spotted the Astronomical Calculations window. That was new to me. I wondered what else was different. Found a number of interesting changes...

This is an update of my keyboard and mouse shortcuts listing. This reference is for Windows and Macintosh computers (although not all shortcuts have been tested on a Mac).

controlling the surroundings

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

controlling the sky - deep sky

toggle stars
toggle star labels
Alt s
Option s
toggle constellation lines
toggle constellation boundaries
toggle constellation labels
toggle constellation artwork
toggle DSO/nebula labels and indicatorsn or d
n or d
toggle nebula background images
toggle quasars
Ctrl Alt q
⌘ Option q
toggle zodiacal light
Ctrl Alt z
⌘ Option z
toggle Milky Way
toggle digital sky survey *
Ctrl Alt d
⌘ Option d
show Sky and Viewing Options
Fn F4

controlling the sky - solar system

toggle planets and Moon
toggle planet and Moon labels
Alt p
Option p
toggle planet markers
Ctrl p
⌘ p
toggle planet orbits
toggle starlore planet names
Ctrl Shift n
⌘ Shift n
toggle planet trails
Shift t
Shift t
toggle exoplanet labels, indicators
Ctrl Alt e
⌘ Option e
toggle meteor radiants
Ctrl Alt m
⌘ Option m
toggle meteor radiant labels
Shift m
Shift m

controlling lines

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

changing image presentation

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


zoom in
PgUp or
Ctrl Up Arrow

Fn Up Arrow
zoom out
PgDn or
Ctrl Dn Arrow

Fn Down Arrow
zoom in or out slowly
Shift with keys
quickly zoom in/out
mouse wheel
mouse wheel
zoom close to selected object
/ (slash)
zoom out fully
\ (backslash)
zoom very close to planet
/ twice
/ twice
set field of view (FOV) to 180°
Ctrl Alt 1
⌘ Option 1
set FOV to 90°
Ctrl Alt 2
⌘ Option 2
... through ...

set FOV to 2°
Ctrl Alt 8
⌘ Option 8
set to 1°
Ctrl Alt 9
⌘ Option 9
to ½°
Ctrl Alt 0
⌘ Option 0


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

controlling time flow

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

controlling time with mouse wheel

increase/decrease by minutes *
increase/decrease by hours *
Ctrl Shift
increase/decrease by days *
Ctrl Alt
increase/decrease by years *
Ctrl Alt Shift

controlling "regular" time

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

controlling sidereal time

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

working with objects

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

working with satellites †

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

controlling the screen

toggle night (red light) mode
Ctrl n
⌘ n
toggle full-screen mode
toggle toolbars/menus, i.e. GUI
Ctrl t
⌘ t
save screenshot to disk
Ctrl s
⌘ s
toggle planet selection marker *
Ctrl Shift p
close a window/dialog box

controlling the application

show configuration window
Fn F2
show help/about window
Fn F1
show script console window
show keyboard shortcuts window
Fn F7
show Astronomical Calc. window *
Fn F10
show Bookmarks window *
Alt b
Option b
show Exoplanets config window † *
Alt e
Option e
quit from Stellarium
Ctrl q
⌘ q

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

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

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

Please report errors in the comments below...