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 NGC 4038 (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.
Instrument: Starmaster 11-inch Newtonian
Mount: Dobsonian
Method: digital setting circles
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. It 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.


Imaged again on 22 Mar '20. Is it better?


Wikipedia link: NGC 3628.

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.

tested NexRemote

Tested the NexRemote software first time! I think. Noted the joystick input, extensive tour support, the virtual serial port, and the speech output. Enjoyed some of the nice touches like the "object acquired" wording and the Night Vision mode. It was unclear to me though where to connect... through physical HC... Found good information about remote operation at the NexStar Site.

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.

contacted by S&T

Sky & Telescope magazine asked if they could publish one of my double star photos, specifically the image of omicron Draconis from August 2014! Cool. I told S. N. "JR" Johnson-Roehr they could go ahead. She said she'd send out the agreement paperwork and contract details.

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. aka Caldwell 29.

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.


Wikipedia link: NGC 5005.

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.



Wikipedia link: NGC 5033.

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.


Wikipedia link: NGC 3432.

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?


Wikipedia link: NGC 5746.

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...

checked latest version

After the star name work, I looked for new features in Stellarium 0.15.2.

The Astronomical Calculations Window is new to me. It is triggered with the menu or F10 key. It includes four tabs: Positions table; Ephemeris generator; Phenomena calculator; Altitude vs. Time graph. The last panel reminds of the Night Bar in SkyTools.

I like the custom marker feature. Immediately I wanted to label them. Still, it might prove handy when noting new objects or the expected position of comets or asteroids. Or something found and not on the chart.

When did they add the Bookmarks? I like this idea, that you can quickly tag favourite items, or things to look at.

sky settings window from Stellarium with colour buttons

Oooh. I really like the colour paint chips. Super-convenient to change the appearance of lines without diving into the config text files.

Very impressive improvements!

But what are hell are cubewanos?

collected more star names

After searching for the missing file (again), I updated my star names table. One key objective was to incorporate the International Astronomy Union's official names, some 225+ entries. There were a couple of surprises there, like Ogma (HD 149026) and Veritate (14 And). Checked things against the wikipedia list. Tabulated entries from the Frosty Drew listing, which accounted for a number of unusual entries not shown elsewhere. Noted (and reported on) issues with SkyTools. Finally, after downloading the latest version of Stellarium, I checked against the popular planetarium app. Whoa. Somebody's been busy! There are now over 650 named stellar objects in Stellarium. Had a quick look at the Yale Bright Star Catalog. Finally, when the dust settled, I found that my list had grown from 600 or so entries to over 940!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

watch for the new note

I understand the new $10 note from the Canadian mint will feature aurora.

Looking forward to seeing that.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

rebuilt finder scope again

It had been over 48 hours for the glue to dry/cure on the second cross hair.

I began the reassembly of the finder scope. Oh oh. I could not remember the sequence! Found notes on John's repair blog. The Meade is slightly different than the Celestron but it was enough to get me going. Curved, convex surfaces toward the inside, facing each other. The small, thin glass element went into the ocular section first, flat side toward the output, near to the viewer's eye. I didn't realise it at first but there's a recess to fit the glass. On second try it settled into place. Then the rounded spacer. The thick glass element. Then the spacer tube. And finally the locking ring (with new strands).

finder scope ocular reassembled

Done. Back together. In the right order. [ed: Looking at the photo from the first attempt thought suggests I did it wrong.]

true crosshairs

Had a look. Much better than my first try. The human hairs were smoother. Everything appeared straight. I didn't have big gobs of glue everywhere! And, as Gilles noted, they do seem semi-transparent.

I'm still not convinced the factory-made alignment grooves are perfect. But then, for the normal application of a finder scope, they don't need to be.

Thanks, Rhonda!

doubles before the Moon (Bradford)

8:45 PM, Friday 14 April 2017. Awoke suddenly from my nap! Yikes. Let's get going. Moved the gear outside. Changed my clothes. Headed out. My eyeglasses: I didn't know where they were... Wanted them to ID stars.

9:05 PM. Put the baader planetarium Hyperion aspheric 36mm wide angle eyepiece in but couldn't reach focus. Oh yeah: removed the paracorr.
Instrument: Starmaster 11-inch Newtonian
Mount: Dobsonian
Method: star hopping
9:13. Finished the finder scope alignment. Looked at Procyon.

9:15. I was ready to go.

My glasses were not on my desk so I went to have another look.

9:21. Returned with old glasses. Found them near my desk. I had put them to the side. On the BDT box, actually.

Left a note for Bree on the kitchen table: I was out back...

Grabbed my point-and-shoot camera. Snapped the setup. A bit further south and west than previous attempts. Out of the direct line of the third floor bedroom ceiling light. Borrowed Rhonda's campfire bench as a table.

quick 10-minute setup in backyard

Now that I had my corrective lenses, I could see stars and constellations. Mars, pale orange, was behind the trees. Auriga was setting. Taurus was low. Realised, sadly, that the targets in Orion were probably off limits. Gemini was almost straight up. Canis Major was falling behind the branches. Monoceros was no good. Andromeda was definitely out.

9:24. Moved the cover down the truss tubes to reduce stray light. Didn't think dew would be a factor.

Reviewed my planned list. Huh. Learned that Procyon (aka SHB 1) was a multi-star system. [ed: Forgot that I had attempted this before. Spotted C star on 17 Apr '16.]

9:27. Viewed with the 36mm (at 35x). There was a little arrangement of stars to my right (or east of Procyon). There was a triple to my left, slightly up. So I was viewing pretty close to north-down and east-right. Within the hockey stick, just inside the apex, there were two faint stars, one I could see direct, one with averted. Saw a star beyond the hockey stick (SAO 115779).

Noted the diffraction spikes from the secondary mirror holder.

Some neighbours to the west were enjoying the outdoors. Did they have a fire going?

Learned that the stellar group to the east was a separate system, nothing to do with Procyon.

9:32. Put the Celestron Plössl 26mm 1¼" eyepiece in, using my 2" adapter. Now at 48 power.

Thought I could see the Procyon C star. Below or north. Well away. Very, very faint. Almost inline with the stars BRD 2 and the middle star (SAO 115732) of the line of 3 stars to the west. The dim C star was near or in a diffraction spike. That was distracting. Just at the edge of visibility.

I viewed the apex of the hockey stick. SkyTools 3 Professional was not showing the A and B stars of HR 2950 (aka Σ1126) separately. I zoomed in all the way with the Context Viewer screen. The Object Information showed they were equally bright stars with an angular separation of 0.9 seconds of arc. I returned to the eyepiece. Could not see anything.

9:43. A car pulled in the driveway.

Upped the power with the Tele Vue Type 6 Nagler 9mm ocular. Oh. There it is... The C star of STF 1126 appeared.

The higher power (140x) also made the Procyon C easy.

[ed: The Washington Double Star database has good information about Procyon. Like that the D star is magnitude 12. It also shows that, currently, it is an 8-star system. D should be along the way to SAO 115746, about 1/3rd the distance. The E designation, aka D 29, is with a position angle of 67° and a separation of 467"! Well, that's the BRD 2 star. I don't know what the F star refers to: nothing shows in ST3P or Aladin/SIMBAD. AG at PA 314 and sep. 356 is the aforementioned SAO star. H is the dim partner to G, to the west. I added skymarks in ST3P to hopefully help in future pursuits.]

9:49. Realised I did not have my house keys...

Found that HR 2950 was already in my logged list (curiously, successfully, viewed almost actually one year previous, with a 14" no less).

Person on top floor went back into their bedroom and turned the ceiling light on. It lit the back yard.

10:02. Landed at Capella. Checked the field orientation in the ST3P software. Readied for my first starhop.

Arrived at Al Anz in Auriga. A 6-star system according to ST3P. Not in Sissy's book. Easy starhop with the low power eyepiece. I was a little surprised that this was not in my previously observed list. A bright straw-yellow light. Part of a big triangle shape of stars, with HD 32017 to the south-east. None of these stars were related. There was a thin, backward 7-shape of stars above or to the south-west.

Al Anz (aka ε or epsilon or Burnham 554) was along the upper (or south-west) edge. Opposite edge was a faint star (south-east of A). That was the E element (aka SAO 39960). Plopped in the 26mm. Saw a faint star to the west, almost opposite E, about the same distance as E. That was the F star.

Light upstairs went out. Yeh.

10:09. Spotted what appeared to be a classic double star to the west, far away from Al Anz. But ST3P said they are non-related stars. The bright member was HD 31691. A possible WDS candidate?

10:11. Saw PPM 47643 to the south-east of HD 32017 (the right-most point of the big triangle). Quite faint. The software said it was mag. 12.2.

With the 9mm, I saw Tycho 2907-0440 1. North of the E star. ST3P said it was mag. 11.2. Need averted vision to see stars near Al Anz. No joy.

10:14. I could not see the B, C, or D partners of Al Anz. Sadly. [ed: Strange. I was seeing mag. 12 stars in other places...]

I was feeling cool so decided to go indoors for another layer. Chatted with Bree briefly. I was not done. Not for a while.

10:27. Overshot my target and bumped into χ (chi) Geminorum (aka ES 2628). A neat multi-star system. Not in Haas's book.

A very interesting pattern of stars. There was a pair (with SAO 79902) to the east, not related. There was a wide pair (with HD 66139) to the north. And then a single star further north. With the 26mm, I saw a faint star to the east of the primary, about 1/3 or 1/4 of the way to the east pair. But I was not getting a good presentation from the software. At least, from the Context Viewer. In the Interactive Atlas, the star appeared. Oh. That was the C star!

10:31. With the 9mm, I got the B star! All right. But it was fainter than C. The primary was a rather pale orange. The B and C were at a 90° angle from one another. I saw GSC 1934-1123. ST3P said it was mag. 14.8. Can't be right. Oops. That was slightly to the right... along a line through B and C. I also saw GSC 1934-0888 (at mag. 14.0), slightly to the left. When hovering over the C star, the software reported the brightness at 14.4. Wrong. When I examined the OI box, it showed better numbers matching my experience: B at mag. 12.0 and C, 11.0. B was dimmer. Only revealed with the high power eyepiece. Happy accident, stumbling onto that star.

Next. My original planned target: HD 66176 (aka STT 186). One of the targets from the Sky & Telescope double stars spring "romp."

10:34. My first impression was that I didn't see anything. Swapped out the old Plössl eyepiece for the new TV. Empty field. Holy fire truck. Incredibly tight stars! Equal brightness. Oriented roughly east-west. Damn. No. North-east through south-west. Blue-white in colour. Sub arc-second! 0.90" according to SkyTools (and 1997 data). Wow. Noted a faint pair above... [ed: Very good seeing.]

Was having a hard time seeing the keyboard of John Repeat Dance...

Considered stars in Cassiopeia. Couldn't see it from my vantage.


Quiet to the west now. GO train to the east. A bird chirped madly.

11:02. Hands were cold. Made ο (omicron) Leo; was not yet at ω (omega).

Returned from house with USB mouse. This would allow me to keep my right glove on more. I noticed my legs felt cold when I was inside. But didn't grab my longies.

I was fairly sure I was seeing the B star of omicron (aka Subra).

Neighbours started up again. Nice night.

11:12. Bumped into 6 Leo (as I moved from ο to ω). Previously logged. Colourful. Delicate with the different magnitudes.

Finally reached omega. Changed oculars.

Left for the house again.

11:22. More layers: a vest for the torso and long johns for the sticks. Hard candy for the core. Checked the Oregon Scientific portable weather station. It said the air temperature was 3.2°C, humidity was 33%, and the air pressure was steady. I had noted Rhonda's thermometer said it was 10!

Essentially no wind.

Noted the flag-shape to the south-west (with SAO 117710). A faint star to the west.

Security light was on again. It is way too sensitive.

11:26. Super-tight pair. Light gold colour. They seemed to be oriented to the faint star to the left. Waited for good seeing. OK. Almost perfectly east-to-west.

11:29. Before it was good. Now I was getting touching stars. A rod shape most of the time. Extremely tight.

ω Leonis was in a couple of my SkyTools lists. It was a fast-mover with a 118 year period. It was included in the recent S&T "romp" list.

Quiet again.

11:45. Hopped to Talitha in UMa. I did not see anything. Hmmph. Will have to visit again.

The wind chimes started up...

11:49. Viewed HD 77078 (aka ES 598). Saw the B companion. Briefly. Much dimmer. ST3P says the difference is 2 magnitudes. North-west of κ (kappa) Ursae Majoris. Looked again. Definitely there.

Wondered if Cepheus was visible. No, not really.

Changed eyepieces.

Prepared to visit Lynx target with α (alpha) as the starting point. Huh! I had never viewed it before. The BC pair was far away. Incredible orange and blue.

Another GO train rolled in.

Jumped directly from the 36 to the 9mm. Oops. Too much? I was lost for a moment.

11:57. What a great system. STT 571 was lovely. I already had it on my candidate list. C was to my left, colourless. A wonderful subject, good at low power, good at high power. ST3P said the primary was a K class star. No doubt. The AB angle was north-east; C was at 90 degrees so the BC line was north-west. B-V was 1.5.

12:01 AM, Saturday 15 April 2017. Oh wow. When I returned to the low power ocular, I could still see the third element, the faint C star.

12:05 AM. Viewed 38 Lyncis (STF 1334). Whoa. Wow. Pretty neat. A was white, B was orange, above, beyond there was a faint star above, left was another faint star. Looked like a quad. The A and B were very close. Quite lovely. Different intensities. ST3P said the A and B were 2.7" apart and about 2.5 mags different. The star to the south-west was C; the faint point west was D. Added it to my evening planned targets. It was then I realised it was previously viewed. It is in a lot of other double star lists.

[ed: While I had viewed it previously (5 years ago), I only took in the AB pair.]

Carried on to my target HR 3701 (aka Σ1338). Arrived. Wow.

12:12. Pair of beige stars. North-west through south-east. Equal in brightness. I estimated more than 1 arc-second. ST3P said 1.0" and 1.0 delta mag. I could not see the third partner.

Tried again to spot C.

Noted the Moon to the south-east beyond the coniferous. Probably bleaching the sky. Ugh.

12:23. Fell onto 10 Leo Minor. Lovely colours. Orange. Flanked by two blue stars. Noted the bright, light orange 9 LMi nearby, to the north-west. None of these are considered members of a multi-star system. Kinda strange.

Viewed 11 Leonis Minoris from my list. Spotted two faint stars above. Crikey. View again...

Looked again to the south-west. The galaxies were pooched now... Comets pooched.

Decided to wrap up after one more target, near Zosma.

12:31. I had not viewed δ (delta) Leonis before! How about that. Blue-white lucida. At low power I saw the B star to the north, below. At high power, I found the P component. No problem. P is at a 90 degree angle to the outlying flanking stars PPM 101001 and SAO 81724. Maybe a good addition to my double star programme.

12:36. Viewed HD 97561. There's an equally bright star to the south-east that makes a very wide pair. It is between I noted the faint point of light. That was the C companion of STF 1517. The software revealed that the B is a 1/4 arc-second from the prime star. Ah no.

[Haas listed the separation at 0.6 but suggested it was closing. ST3P says the orbit is 4000 years.]

OK. Last object: Jupiter.

Wow. Very interesting! Three moons, all about the same separation from the planet, to my left, about the 8 o'clock position (west side); one moon opposite the others, further, 2 to 3 times the separation. The Great Red Spot was very orange-red, on the 3-moon side, upper hemisphere (given the rotated view). It did look small. Whoa! The view was really colourful! Fantastic. The seeing was extraordinary. Very good surface detail.

12:38. Started to pack up. Noted Alula Australis on my list. Gah. Too tired to proceed.

Table and chair to the deck.

12:42. Temp 3.5, humidity 34. OS said it was going to be sunny.

The little plastic bin was very helpful for cargoing small items—glad I brought it out.

12:48. Rest of the equipment was back inside.


Things forgotten: laptop keyboard light; house keys.

It was a treat to try the Starmaster telescope (from the late-Geoff Gaherty collection). Certainly it was easy to use. The 11" instrument offered good views (at the centre of the field of view). I was impressed with the collimation—it appeared spot on. Didn't have to touch it. I was surprised that I could not go terribly deep with it. Probably the sky conditions.

If I only had a Dobsonian. It certainly allows rapid setup and quick teardowns.

It was a joy to use my neighbour's deck. I could avoid the bright front porch light. I could avoid the parking lot security light. Nearby warm-up hut. A few less steps.

A fun night.

I had really wanted to get some more double stars under my belt.

My only regret was not being able to share.

Friday, April 14, 2017

planned an easy session

A chance to observe! The Clear Sky Chart was looking good for Ontario locations. The Moon would be bright (after midnight) but I could view some double stars. I really wanted to do that. That said, I wanted to keep it simple. No tent, no EQ mount. Fast and easy. Ah, I could try the Starmaster...

Consulted my observing prep checklist in Evernote.

Started recharging batteries including the 12v SLAs and 12v Li-Ion.

12:21 PM. Recharged some AAA batteries for the Sony voice recorder.

Checked the audio device. It was showing that battery level low. No surprise. Checked remaining time/space: 17 hours.

Grabbed my red glasses. Deep red flashlight. Checked power: OK. Grabbed the black cloth. Might prove handy if I was not going to use the tent.

Readied astronomy box ε with my (recently-cleaned) eyepieces. Checked the netbook computer. Removed the red film from the carrying case. Moved the portable table and observer's chair to the hall. Checked the sunset time: around 8 PM.

Oh. What if the Newtonian needed work? I hoped I would not have to collimate...

12:36. Found the 2016 RASC Observer's Handbook in astronomy box α 1. Removed it.

Grabbed my eyeglass strap.

Built an observing list in SkyTools 3 Pro. About 60 items. Mostly double stars.

1:08. Checked my astro calendar for current events. Nothing really. All those comets...

1:37. Tried red light mode on John Charles using Backyard Red. Never used it before. Not bad. But I don't like that you cannot move the applet from the top edge of the screen. For me, that's an issue, for I run my Task Bar there.

Checked the satellite imagery. Pretty clear. Cold lakes...

Clear Sky Chart for Friday night

Dark blue. Yeh! Transparency looked very good. Seeing not bad.

Pulled the Environment Canada data for Newmarket.

The 24 hour forecast showed Fri 14 Apr would be sunny and 15°C. Tonight would be clear and drop to 1°C. Brrr. Sat 15 Apr would bring a few showers but would warm to 19°C. Saturday night: chance of showers, 30%, at 12°C. The detailed forecast, issued at 11:00 AM EDT Friday 14 April 2017, showed: Today: Sunny. High 15. UV index 6 or high. Tonight: Clear. Low plus 1. Sat, 15 Apr: Increasing cloudiness. A few showers beginning in the morning and ending late in the afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm late in the morning and in the afternoon. Wind becoming south 20 km/h in the afternoon. High 19.

1:45. Checked Clear Outside. It was showing green to midnight! All right.

Then the CSAC alerts started pouring in...

2:24. CSAC Alarm for 2017-04-14 21:00:00 at Toronto.

Favorable observing conditions at Toronto.
Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
04-14 @ Hour 21 for 8 hours (0%/Above Ave./Good)
Thank you for using the Clear Sky Alarm Clock,

3:33. Then one for home...

Favorable observing conditions at B. Williams Mem. Observatory.
Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
04-14 @ Hour 16 for 7 hours (0%/Average/Average)
04-15 @ Hour 05 for 3 hours (10%/Average/Average)

Everything was ready... Had an early dinner.


In short order, I felt super-tired. Nap-jerking at my desk. Effect of the early start today. Headed to the bedroom for a cat nap...

enjoy meeting video

It really was a treat watching RASC Toronto Centre meeting video from Wednesday. Harald Pfeiffer's talk was very interesting. But I greatly appreciated the work done to make this happen. It looked like there were two videographers, someone acting as a director, switching between camera views, grabbing the computer presentation data feed, and managing the sound input. Someone took care of the Youtube storage. Of course, the Ontario Science Centre was instrumental with the internet connection. Well done, all!