Sunday, December 31, 2017

quick chilly viewing (Bradford)

We took in the clear sky from the back porch. The nearly full Moon. Orion rising. The bright winter stars. But all very briefly, in the sharp dark winter chill. Brrr.

east and west (Bradford)

Noted the big Moon as I walked to the store. After a quick grocery shop, I noted the colourful sunset.

sun setting

Looking west. The Earth turning away from the Sun...

Moon rising

Looking east. The Earth turning toward the Moon.

Shot with alcatel smartphone running OpenCamera.

reviewed 2017

I believe it has been some time since I reviewed significant events for a year...

2017, in terms of blogging, passed the number of posts for 2015. But then that year showed a significant drop. Something of a blip. The previous threshold passed was 2010. This means that '17 slides in at 6th spot. Solid.

Stepped down from my councillor role for the RASC Toronto Centre. Having retired from the CAO director role in '16, this relieved me of significant volunteer assignments. I have been struggling with burn-out. I still write for the RASC Journal which I enjoy although struggle some times with ideation.

At long last, the result of a multi-year journey, I made my first three-dimensional part which is not by itself astronomy-related. I made a part for telescope and it was somehow rather satisfying.

I enjoyed capturing imagery with a tiny video camera on-board one of our model rockets launched during the open house at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. The little device worked remarkably well.

Rhonda and I made a solargraph, thanks to Risa, Ian W, and crew. We installed the extra pinhole camera late 2016 and let it expose for the spring and summer. We were very happy with the result and wanted to do it again. We made and installed two new cameras (with slight modifications).

I continued imaging with the Burke-Gaffney Observatory in Halifax. I captured more of the Finest NGC objects. Combined with visual observing, I have seen almost all deep sky objects in the RASC list. Some fantastic sights. While going "around again" I gathered additional data to improve quality and use other filters like O-III for planetary nebulae. After learning in late-2017 that I could override the minimum altitude setting allowing the telescope to go lower, I realised that some targets previously considered inaccessible may be possible to photograph now. I still struggle with image processing.

I had wanted to amp-up my double stars work and was somewhat successful. A major milestone was reaching a total of 1100 viewed doubles. Total attempts are near 1200. Happily, I saw a few more tight pairs, below 1 arc-second. I was thrilled to have a double star photo published in Sky and Telescope. I also imaged many doubles with BGO.

It was fun monitoring the supernova in NGC 6946. It blew in the summer, remains visible, but is slowly fading.

I continue to revisit some of the Messier objects. I visually took in some while photographing others. This is part of the plan to ensure I have seen all the Messiers at least twice.

Imaged a couple more Palomar globulars. A little side-project.

Rhonda and I saw lots of Orionids while up north. That was fun. Really wanted to see the Geminids but it just didn't work out.

Did little observing in backyard sadly. That said, we enjoyed an amazing view of Jupiter in June.

My gut feeling is that overall observing was down this year. I believe this is due in part to the weather. I haven't measured this at all but I think the number of good weather weekends was down a bit. Mind you, I wasn't at the observatory as much. [ed: 10 visits in 2017 vs. 18 in 2016.]

It was fun trying out some different gear this year. Using an 11-inch StarMaster was a treat, for example.

This year I observed and imaged from a few new locations: Big Hawk Lake, the Wanakita camp on Lake Koshlong, Upper Stony Lake near Crowes Landing, the Merritt Reservoir in Nebraska, and Glendo in Wyoming. A couple of those were obviously were as a result of the eclipse trip.

It goes without saying that seeing my first total solar eclipse during the fun road trip, while visiting more of America, was the highlight. I was happy with my solar eclipse photography even though wide angle. My only regret was not being able to share the spectacle with Rhonda.

Being and observing with Rhonda has been good for my astronomy. She puts many questions to me and researching and answering them helps me better understand the science and physics behind them.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

surprising Zodiak

Enjoyed a Zodiak beer. Found at the LCBO by Rhonda. My first impression was that it was a wheat but I learned it was an IPA.

Zodiak beer can front

Zodiak beer can back

Pale, a little cloudy, hint of citrus. Quite nice. From Omnipollo (based in Stockholm). Fun artwork by Karl Grandin.

ST4 announced

An announcement was added to the Skyhound web site regarding SkyTools version 4. Woo hoo! It's happening!

gifts exchanged

Rhonda and I exchanged gifts after returning from St Thomas.

Received two astronomy-themed patches. A solar eclipse one; one on NASA exploration. Very neat.

I gave her the 2018 RASC calendar. She was happy. Lovely photography, of course. I noted a few by Alan Dyer.

the big astronomy news events

Enjoyed reading the article at Sky and Telescope on the top stories for 2017.

Item 1 was the latest LIGO detection. I still feel like gravitational waves is a really big deal. I believe the detections of additional black hole mergers, and now neutron star events, is going to crack open fantastic new things. This is undiscovered country.

The Oumuamua discovery was very cool indeed. Truly, out of the blue.

The discovery of an eight-planet exosolar system certainly occurred in 2017. And while very interesting to me, I don't think it is all exoplanets have yet to offer. I have a feeling there are going to be many more revelations, some astonishing.

The total solar eclipse, not surprisingly, made the list. What struck me, as I read the piece, was the personal connection. One of the ten things I actually, directly, experienced.

Friday, December 29, 2017

no go for BGO

Done for the year. I was hoping to squeeze in a few more images with the BGO robot but it tweeted "[I] won't be running the next few nights as the #human is away." No jobs will be run until 3 Jan (possibly).

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

dug through books

Retrieved a bunch of astronomy books from storage. I was surprised by some old goldies. I was very happy to run into Turn Left at Orion. But I was irked that I couldn't spot Observing and Measuring Visual Double Stars.

Monday, December 25, 2017

received gifts

From the the family, I received some fun astronomy and science fiction related gifts.

Space Invaders mints
Space Invader candy in a little tin.

invader socks
Space Invader socks!

Canadian Geographic Jan-Feb 2013

Canadian Geographic magazine from 2013. An article on solar activity and the effects on the Earth, such as aurora.

caught the doc

Donna phoned us and ordered me to change the channel. Steve had been monitoring CPAC. There was a documentary on entitled Ambassadors of the Sky. They talked about people's love of the sky, light pollution, dark sky preserves. I recognised a couple of names. And then James Edgar, past-president. Cool.


Learned that the feature was made by Brandy Y Productions for a CBC documentary series.

And there's a promo video online.

"Ambassadors of the Sky" promo - a new documentary by Brandy Yanchyk from Brandy Yanchyk on Vimeo.

Astro-geeks unite!

Sunday, December 24, 2017


Happy equation-of-time-equals-zero day.

Friday, December 22, 2017

2 to go

Two to go! With the captures of NGC 1232 and the Antenna. Only two more Finest... I only need to view (or image) two more entries to complete the RASC Finest NGC life list.

Unfortunately, they are summer targets.

photographed The Antenna (Halifax)

I was excited to see NGC 4038 and 4039, the Antenna Galaxies, come into view. And armed with a better understanding of the MINALT, I was keen to see the result. Not to mention seeing another RASC Finest NGC entry. The BGO 'bot recorded data from the duel intertwined galaxies in Corvus.

RASC Finest NGC combination object The Antenna in luminance

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

4038 is the northern galaxy; 4039 is the south. The RASC Observer's Handbook notes these two as a single entry.

The antenna proper are hard to see in my image, just faint wisps arcing up and down, or north and south, along the east (left) side of the two galaxies.

The galaxies themselves, together known as Arp 244 and Caldwell 60, are surprisingly bright. Must be all the star-forming activity due to the crazy gravitational forces.

This target is also on the Herschel 400 list.

Damn it! Stoopid satellite.


Tried shooting again on 26 Jan '18 but the result was soft.


Wikipedia link: Antenna Galaxies.

captured NGC 4157 again (Halifax)

I had programmed BGO robot to return to NGC 4157. This was a redo. Back in April, a satellite had drifted through. This is a better image.

NGC 4157 in luminance

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

4157 is a lovely edge-on galaxy. I like the dark lanes in the foreground, north of the bright compact core.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

crossing lines

Wishing everyone a happy solstice.

installed camera 3

Rhonda and I took to the snowy back deck to install our third pinhole camera. This one is in deference to our anniversary for the first beer can camera we set up about a year ago.

This installation, like the one at Wanakita, has the aluminium can upside. We hope the continuous metal bottom will reduce the intrusion of water without resorting to a cap or cover.

successfully imaged NGC 1232 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory was up and running again. The robot imaged NGC 1232 for me. A faint face-on galaxy low in Eridanus. One of the RASC Finest NGCs. Is this what our home galaxy looks like?

galaxy RASC Finest NGC 1232 in luminance

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

The spiral arms seem somewhat disturbed or bent, due to the companion galaxy, no doubt. Hence the Arp 41 designation. The large arm opposite 1232A has a definite kink. Meanwhile the east arms are being pulled toward the small attractor.

South-west of the grand spiral is a small faint fuzzy: LEDA 838076. It is near the star J030917.8-204247.

The round circle to the south-east is a satellite galaxy designated as NGC 1232 A.

I noted a faint small oval fuzzy, LEDA 840370, east of the bright star HD 19764.

Sadly, there's a faint satellite trail through the centre of the image.

This was one of the first BGO targets programmed using the minimum altitude setting of 20. My first attempt to shoot it, issued in Oct '16, returned the result "never rises high enough." Recently, when I tried again, I received the response that it would not work "in the next 30 days (with given exposure parameters)!" Which made me think it was possible. That's when I learned about the default elevation and that the mount could go lower.

SkyTools said the true altitude was 24° 50' while the altitude above visible horizon was 25° 13'.

Gar! There's a faint tumbler.


Imaged again on 2 Jan '18.


Wikipedia link: NGC 1232.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

27 engines

SpaceX released some photos of the Falcon Heavy. Look at all those motors...

business ends of Falcon rockets

The Heavy launch is tentatively scheduled for January.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

to and fro (Bradford)

Rhonda and I jumped in the car to do some errands. I craned up to see stars. What?! It was somewhat clear suddenly.

As we headed west to Bond Head, I noticed a bright star to the north-west. Right! Vega! Jammed my noggin to the passenger window, I could see bits of Cygnus. The Summer Triangle was almost gone. Rhonda quoted her funny device to remember the star names.

We passed the Bond Head Market ("How fresh are you heads today?"), arrived the wildly decorated house, and tuned into 88.1. Wild.

Eastbound, I took in Orion and Sirius. The Winter Football was rising. Eww. Bad seeing well up into the sky with Betelgeuse and Bellatrix shimmering.

Barely any stars were visible from the big box parking lot.

Clouds here and there. And windy when we disembarked.

Monday, December 18, 2017

tested ST3

Did more SkyTools 3 testing for Skyhound.

revisited NGC 4414 (Halifax)

The first time BGO imaged NGC 4414, it returned frames that seemed out of focus. The first attempt was on 14 Apr '16. Tonight's run produced slightly better results.

galaxy NGC 4414 in luminance

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

caught The Wanderer (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot imaged Intergalactic Wanderer aka NGC 2419, a globular cluster in Lynx. It is also a member of the Caldwell catalogue: number 25.

globular cluster NGC 2419 in luminance

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

Nearby stars; distant stars. A fascinating contrast.

The bright stars to the far west are part of a double star system. HD 60694. The C star is dimmer by 2 or 3 magnitudes and almost due north of A. D is fainter still and due east of A. It is about 5 times the AC split. The B element is extremely tight to A according to SkyTools at ½ an arc-second.


Wikipedia link: NGC 2419.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

go low

Learned that I can send BGO lower! The default minimum altitude is 25. But one can set it to 20. Well. That changes things...

one more time for NGC 936 (Halifax)

Asked BGO to return to NGC 936. Hoping for images with less gradient. My last try was on 12 Sep. Sheesh. Now there's a satellite...

galaxy NGC 936 in luminance

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

4 to go

With the capture of NGC 4559, I've now logged 106 of the RASC Finest NGC targets. Only 4 more to go.

tried for the Cocoon (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot tried to image The Cocoon, another RASC Finest object, for me but it was very late in the evening. I received the luminance, red, and green data for NGC 4490 but then something happened. I suspect the sky between Herschel 400 galaxy in Canes Venatici brightened with the coming dawn. The small but interesting group also known as Arp 269.

RASC Finest galaxy The Cocoon in luminance

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

NGC 4485 is clearly tugging at the big spiral of 4490, warping and bending it.

Due east of the grand pair is the small round ball of lint, LEDA 2185016.

LEDA 2185640 (upper) and LEDA 2185391 (lower) appear to be satellite dwarf galaxies in the group, just west of 4485. Both are not round and diffuse. 2185640 is the brighter.

Near the top-left corner of the image is the oval fuzzy, LEDA 2187250.

LEDA 2186780, north-east of the Cocoon, is between GSC 03020-0480 and GSC 03020-1834.

First viewed on viewed and sketched on 5 May '13.


Wikipedia link: NGC 4490.

caught NGC 4274 (Halifax)

BGO collected photons from NGC 4274. A galaxy in Coma Berenices. One of the RASC Finest NGCs as well as a Herschel 400 target. I had first viewed this interesting galaxy on 4 Jul '16.

RASC Finest NGC 4274 in luminance

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

It features a bright condensed core with some nearby dark elements. It is surrounded by bright ring. And then there's a very large diffuse disc beyond. Very interesting.

I think there's something north-north-west of the galaxy but nothing is noted in SkyTools 3 Professional. There's a very soft diffuse brightening. SIMBAD and AladinLite show it is LEDA 213976.

South-south-west of the big spiral is a small, faint oval, LEDA 213975.

Also, nearly due east of the 4274, near the edge of the image, is a bright but small round fuzzy. Not marked in the software. SIMBAD and AladinLite note this is a "GiC" or a "Galaxy in Cluster of Galaxies," specifically 2MASX J12203217+2938184.


Wikipedia link: NGC 4274.

received NGC 4559 images (Halifax)

BGO imaged NGC 4559 also known as Caldwell 36. This is a large canted galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices. It is one of the RASC Finest NGCs. One I had never seen before.

large spiral RASC Finest NGC 4559 in luminance

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

It is not uniform or symmetrical. It seems it has been tidally disturbed. The outer spiral arms to the west are extended or stretched. This is curious to me as I do not see any other big galaxies near by.

My SkyTools software shows objects within the galaxy. The large diffuse nebula IC 3555 is north of the core. IC 3552 is north-west of 3555. It is much smaller. IC 3551 is north-west of the nucleus and nearly due west of the bright foreground star TYC 01992-1757 1. To the south-east of the core is IC 3563. It is south-east of GSC 01992-2058. Always amazing, seeing nebulae inside distant galaxies.

To the north-east of the galaxy is a tiny fuzzy, LEDA 93665.

North of 93665 is a small lint ball, LEDA 1825270.

There's an annoying gradient in this image. There are some strange bands too, running horizontally.


Wikipedia link: NGC 4559.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

watched The Farthest

Rhonda and I fired up Netflix and took in a strange episode of Stranger Things season 2. When it finished, we noticed the night was still young. I suggested we check the recently added. She spotted the show on NASA's Voyager mission.

We enjoyed the space documentary (even though rho missed some bits) by Emer Reynolds. It was fun spotting people I knew in the 40th anniversary special. "The Farthest" had a wonderful visual style, featured some of the music from the golden record, snippits with Carl Sagan, and teary scientists. Amazingly successfully. And still going!

I learned a couple of things too. I didn't know, for example, that the rocket launched with solids. Sadly, they revealed that just when the press conference for the Neptune imagery was due, the Challenger exploded. The pain and the glory.


Rhonda asked me how the probes were powered. Little nuclear reactors. She wondered how the imaging system worked, correctly assuming digital sensors were not available in 1977. I looked it up. Television Vidicon cameras with analog elements. Amazing. I showed her where the current probes were, including the two Pioneers and the recent New Horizons, using Heavens-Above.

imaged PPM 50856 (Halifax)

I ordered the BGO robot to aim at Tycho 34170 0943 1 so to capture double star PPM 50856. I don't recall exactly why I wanted to view this pair in Lynx. It was on my "view again" list in SkyTools.

double-star PPM 50856 in luminance

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

The pair in question is east (left) of centre. Very tight. Nearly the limit of the BGO system. The B companion is nearly due south of the primary. The consort is about 1 or 2 magnitudes dimmer.

First tried to view this object on 25 Mar '11.

revisited SN2017eaw (Halifax)

It's been about 3 weeks since I examined the supernova SN2017eaw in the Fireworks galaxy. The Burke-Gaffney Observatory captured the scene. The dying star is still visible. A touch dimmer than before.

dim supernova in Fireworks galaxy luminance

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

Last viewed on 24 Nov '17.

too tired to try

Rhonda reported it was really clear. Ugh. I was already horizontal, cozy, winding down. Too tired to suit up. I only had about 3 hours sleep the night before... Damn.

plot of Geminids activity for 2017

Showed her the Geminid meteor shower live report chart from the International Meteor Organisation. Already low, between 15 and 30 per hour, down from the peak of 150.

Friday, December 15, 2017

though cloud bands (Happy Valley)

Spotted a very thin crescent Moon through wispy clouds, low. Wow.

Looking higher, I saw a bright point. Jupiter! Yes.

I thought I saw something up and right but when I tried again, nothing. Beige, bottom-lit cloud bands now blocked the planet. Was something there?


Checked later, with Live Star Chart on the Android and Stellarium on the netbook. Mars was much further away, about the same distance as the Moon. So it could not have been the red planet. And Zubenelgenubi was below. And much dimmer.

revisited Messier 95 (Halifax)

I commanded BGO to image M95, another Chuck Messier object I have only viewed once or briefly. A barred spiral galaxy. The robotic telescope apparently did not fully completed the programmed instructions (did not receive the blue data). I suspect daylight interfered...

galaxy Messier 95 in luminance

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

The core is fascinating with the bright nucleus, the obvious bar, and the bright ring connected to the bar. But there exists a very large diffuse oval halo around the ring. Very interesting.

First viewed this galaxy in 19 May '12. My notes are scant. I noted 95 was smoother than 96. Uh huh.


Wikipedia link: Messier 95.

photographed NGC 4449 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged NGC 4449 for me. An irregular galaxy in Canes Venatici. Very cool. One of the RASC Finest NGCs.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 4449 in luminance

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

To the south-east, well away, near the bottom left of the frame, are two tiny faint fuzzies. Markarian 1475 is to the east while LEDA 2233323 is to the west. 1475 is an oval with a bright centre. The LEDA galaxy looks like an edge-on spiral. Possibly longer than 1475.

Last viewed on 3 Jun '16.


Wikipedia link: NGC 4449.

imaged the Whale (Halifax)

It's been a while. Between student projects and bad weather, I've not received any BGO images for some time. I added NGC 4631 aka The Whale to the queue back on 25 Nov. The robot finally imaged the peculiar galaxy in Canes Venatici. A RASC Finest NGC target. A fantastic sight.

RASC Finest galaxy The Whale in luminance

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

NGC 4627 is the little galaxy above (north). Together they are known as Arp 281.

First viewed on 5 May '13.


Wikipedia link: NGC 4631.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

only the Moon (Toronto)

Spotted the Moon, waning crescent, over High Park. But I couldn't see Jupiter. Sky was too bright, me thinks.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

new DDO team announced

At the RASC Toronto Centre meeting, the new team supporting the David Dunlap Observatory was announced. Dr Bhairavi Shankar will chair the group which will report to the Education and Public Outreach chair. Arnold Brody, Eric Briggs, Liza Hancock, Chris Vaughan, and myself make up the rest of the committee.

Monday, December 11, 2017

no chance for meteors

Rhonda peeked outside and reported it was cloudy. Boo. No stars. No Geminids.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

IDed (a) double(s)

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

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

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

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


Oop. Encountering more stuff.

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


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


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

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

Friday, December 08, 2017

Gaia DR1 available

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

assembled M25 in colour

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

open cluster Messier 25 in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop CS.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 07, 2017

most distant quasar discovered

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

the title works

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

added important tips

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

essentially nothing

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

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

documented GIMP workflow

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

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

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

assembled 54 Sgr in colour

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

54 Sgr in colour, pale orange and pale blue

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

down and left

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

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

blind spot test pattern for my left eye

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

Tuesday, December 05, 2017


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


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

more lead and acid

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

heard from Occult developer

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

DS occultations listed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launched Occult to see if there was an issue there.


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

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

Occult Watcher showing lunar occultations of double stars

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


Learned that ZC is the zodiacal catalogue.

monitor power at CAO

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

both happy

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

Monday, December 04, 2017

assembled Σ680 in colour

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

double star HR 1741 in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop CS2.

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

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

penciled in 21 Feb

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

acknowledged error

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

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

Sunday, December 03, 2017

test of polar scope

Headed to the back yard.

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

screen snapshot of test through polar scope

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


It burns!

notifications on smartphone including stoopid Moon reference

Snapshot from smartphone.

activated lunar occultations feature

Sat down to follow Hristo's latest instructions.

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

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

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

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

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

Lunar Occ add-in dialog box completed

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

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

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


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

what I was after

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

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

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


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

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

Saturday, December 02, 2017

explained super (Bradford)

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

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

full Moon at close perigee

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

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

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

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

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

Moon at perigee but at furthest distance from Earth

Nothing super about it.

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

updated NGC life list

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

meteor seasons replotted

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

Cauchy formula

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

meteors plotted using Cauchy distribution

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

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

Friday, December 01, 2017

updated ST3P on netbook

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

pulled off-line

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

he asked me to reload

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

Very different approach from Greg...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

next SpaceX launch on used booster

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

assessed the damage

Tore down ETX to assess the damage.

The right fork arm was completely broken. It tore away from optical tube assembly and the base! The three arm mount points were broken. Short fasteners normally screw into these posts to hold the arm to the base. Two were fully snapped off. One was broken at the mid-point but I suspected the screw wouldn't reach it. The OTA attaches to the arm by two bolts. One mount hole was destroyed with the bottom ripped out. One OTA machine screw was missing. Was it in the grass; was it ever there?

The left fork arm was attached to the base and felt secure. [ed: I discovered later that one screw mount was damaged, probably in the crash.] The OTA mounting plate was damaged with one corner cracked. It disintegrated when I removed the bolt.

There was no interior damage, that is, nothing wrong with the motors and gears. Guts were good!

Happily, there was nothing wrong with the telescope proper. The expensive bit.


now the add-ins were not showing

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

only one X in 2018

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

2018 Lunar X prediction table

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

more ideas on OW

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

tried V378 faster (Halifax)

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

Messier 47 with double stars in luminance

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

First shot on 20 Dec '16.

Then again on 12 Nov '17.

asked for help on OW-public

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

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

Relayed the errors I was encountering.

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

hit 1100

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

maybe should not have

That was a comedy of errors...

Dropped the ETX 'scope.
Could not find a proper bracket for big binos.
Mounted alternate bracket backwards on tripod.
Initially chose targets nearly straight up.
Didn't dress properly so felt rather cold.
And the binoculars dewed up.

Was the Universe telling me something?

at least I saw a couple (Bradford)

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

nearby Clear Sky Chart with fairly good conditions

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

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

Considered V402 in Lacerta but it was almost overhead.

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

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

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

Could not split V640.

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

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

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

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

On subsequent viewing, I started to doubt it.

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

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

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

Easy target in bins.

Pale orange. B is aquamarine.

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

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

My legs were cold.

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

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

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

my eastern sky as represented by Stellarium

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heavy delayed to January

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

See the full article at Spaceflight Now.

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

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

reinstall the Occult apps and add-ins

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

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

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

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

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

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

added to IOTA group

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


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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

draft reviewed

Rhonda proofed my draft article for the Journal.

zoomed to the eclipse

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

issue 30 of Zoom Zoom magazine

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

received SN Jan/Feb 2018

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

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

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

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

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

applied software updates

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

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

Downloaded and installed Occult 4.5.

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

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

All's well (I hope).

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

tested SkyTools

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

huh, clear (Bradford)

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

DR2 will be added...

Read on the Skyhound forums that the ESA Gaia DR2 data will be integrated into the SkyTools 4 database about "year or so" after the release, which is slated for April 2018. (Missed this note, at the time...)

true colours

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

HR Diagram with realistic star colours

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

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

Friday, November 24, 2017

after two weeks (Halifax)

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

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

supernova SN2017eaw in luminance

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

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


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

no planets in west (Brampton)

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

was it a planet? (King City)

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

imaged tiny Hickson 1 (Halifax)

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

Hickson 1 galaxy cluster in luminance

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

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

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

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

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

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

made a new doubles list

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

new light kept going

While the power was out for a few hours, I noticed that the new "street" light was burning. This was the new light, at the top of the walkway, Rhonda had pointed out to me some time ago and that we walked under, triggering the sensor, on 19 Nov. It continued to operate during the outage. That made me wonder if it was battery powered and recharged with a solar panel.


I checked how much this light my intrude into the backyard. I can see it from certain spots unfortunately.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

showed spinning spirals

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

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

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

tested web cam

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

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

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

webcam view down film tube

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

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

webcam view of polar scope

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

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

web cam view of polar scope reticule

Much better.

I suspect the oblong shape is due to the misalignment.

This is looking very promising.

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