Friday, June 30, 2017

lots of clouds (Blue Mountains)

The Clear Sky Chart was not looking good for Friday night near the Carr Astronomical Observatory. As I had anticipated. The skies echoed the graph.

Clear Sky Chart for Friday night

Mostly cloudy. But it made for a colourful horizon as we started into our movie.

Sun over the Escarpment

Sunset (excuse me, Earth rotating away from the Sun) shot by Rhonda Gribbon. Used with permission. Samsung Galaxy s4, average metering, "rich tone" (HDR) mode.

Perhaps Saturday would be good...


Now I can say I am a professional-amateur astrophotographer.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

viewers to St T

Sent some RASC eclipse viewers to the family via the Queen's Post. They arrived today... Donna was happy!

sent open notice

Posted the notice for the CAO. Used the Forum and Yahoo!Group vehicles. We'll be open despite the volatile weather.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

thrilled recipient

Jackie wanted Rhonda to phone her then put me on. We used the speaker phone mode on rho's Android. Jackie was thrilled with her surprise astro package from me, received today. I had sent her a RASC Star Finder, SkyNews magazine (with solar eclipse viewer), and Moon card. Least I could do.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

found maps for Canada

Spotted solar eclipse maps on Facebook designed to show the views from Canadian locations. Pinged Julie Bolduc-Duval and she shared the full-size versions (3780 x 2700 px).


The images were done as a collaboration between the Astrolab du Mont-Mégantic (English et Française) and Discover the Universe (À la découverte de l'Univers).

Monday, June 26, 2017

plan your route

Read the extensive article entitled How much traffic on eclipse day? by Michael Zeiler. It contains useful and important information for people planning to drive into the path of totality.

"Traffic, along with weather, will be the chief challenges for people wanting to see the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017."

It contains many helpful maps and infographics.

"We expect that many people will only make plans to go in the week before eclipse day."

Last-minute people? If you don't like being stuck in traffic, if you car overheats, you might seriously consider staying home and watching the NASA feed. Assuming internet traffic is manageable...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

SN2017eaw still bright (Halifax)

BGO sent me an email. The bot had just finished imaging NGC 6946. This is another capture of the Fireworks galaxy with the supernova SN2017eaw. It is still bright.

Fireworks galaxy with SN2017eaw

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

I will add this to the data from 11 Jun.

enjoyed OHAP 2017

What a wonderful OHAP! I was feeling under the weather and concerned about the real weather but had a fantastic time at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

Rhonda and I enjoyed the excellent views of the Sun in hydrogen-alpha. Rhonda enjoyed the Bruce Trail hike and flying Doug's beautiful "cathedral" kite. The rocket launches were super-fun, as usual. I'll share my on-rocket videos soon. Congratulations to all the RASC Toronto Centre award recipients: well-deserved. As my cold symptoms flared up, it was good to chill at the fire pit.

Thanks to the supers Sue, Chris, Steve, and Dietmar. Thanks for the all the volunteers, lead by Grace, who organised and ran the Open House and Awards Picnic. And a special shout out to Sue for rubbing her unicorns together to make for beautiful skies day and night. Sorry we had to split early. Well done, crew! The place looked amazing. Thank you.


Ian D was official photographer and he uploaded pix to his flickr gallery. One of my rocket videos (so far) is available in the RASC Toronto Centre YouTube channel.


Dietmar shared his video production with my aerial and Steve's ground footage.


Got a couple of tasks done too. Returned the portable SQM meter and some dishes borrowed. Vetted the small motor start-up instructions (thanks, Ed). Tuned Chris's mount-control profile for power and screen-saver issues. Returned some building materials to Ian W. Returned licence plates and 2017 calendars to Tony.

spotted another planet (Blue Mountains)

Rhonda woke. I woke. Saw her staring to the south-east. She looked perplexed. "What star is that?!" I relayed that the stunning bright object was Venus.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

peppered sky over warm fire (Blue Mountains)

While enjoying a warm fire, we watched the sky overhead.

9:30 PM. Watched the planets pop out. Bright Jupiter led the way. Then the magnitude 1 stars emerged. Not great seeing.

10:00. More stars. The beginning of constellations.

Could not figure out what the bright glow was off to the west. Too low for zodiacal light.

10:23. I spotted Saturn over the house. 

10:26. Noted the Dippers up high.

Saw a couple of faint satellites.

Rhonda looked at Saturn a couple of times. Views did not sound great, due poor seeing.

Not feeling well so I hit the hay. 

I don't know how she does it but Sue had arranged for clear skies for the early part of the evening.


Heard later that the clouds rolled in at midnight. That was too bad. But we had been very fortunate overall.

quickly took in Saturn (Blue Mountains)

Had a quick look at Saturn through the Celestron 14-inch SCT. I saw many moons near the planet. There was also many bright field stars flanking the ringed world. An OK view. It should improve as the evening progressed...

captured rocket launch 2 video (Blue Mountains)

Wanted to try recording a rocket launch with a camera onboard the rocket. Learned that many people used the tiny "808 keychain" camera for this application as it is light-weight, has a self-contained power source, and can record onto a microSD card.

Complete raw video files coming soon...

After seeing the first video and knowing that it was working with a good field of view, I remounted the camera in the same spot. The second video appeared better with less break-up. The rocket also spent more time vertical yielding better views.

Below are screen grabs from the second video file.

rocket on pad, igniter wires attached

On the launch pad. All systems are go!

dual class D engines starting

Engines are running.

dual class D engines running

And we have lift-off.

rocket well above launch platform

The rocket has cleared the tower. Fin #3 reinforcement holding...

rocket well above field, THO visible

Beginning roll program. No unusual vibration.

rocket rolling, east horizon visible

Rocket travelling downrange, on target.

rocket vertical after chute deployment

Stage 1 chute deployed.

descending toward south field and MODLs

Stage 1 returning to landing zone. Recovery team deployed.

rocket descending, Observing Pad and GBO visible

Landing zone in sight.

volunteers heading toward rocket for recovery

Recovery team on the move. Visual identification of rocket descent.

rocket landing just south of MODLs in tall grass

Touchdown. Stage 1 slightly south of target landing zone.

rocket recovered from field

Recovery team at site. Rocket intact.

recovery team member

Recovery team reports no damage to fins.

recovery team member

Recovery team reports no damage to recording systems.

south lawn and Observing Pad with spectators

Flight-proven stage 1 being transported to base for next mission.

That was a lot of fun!

saw an active Sun (Blue Mountains)

The Tele Vue 101 was set up with the Solar Max hydrogen-alpha filters. Viewed the Sun and noted many prominences. There was a huge low arc that appeared very three-dimensional as it curved into the foreground disc. Spectacular. There were many other proms along the edge.

Not a lot of plages.

Sunspot activity was visible too. There was an active region facing the Earth. It was visible, after some adjustments, in the filtered Oberwerk binoculars. My custom toilet paper tube Sun-finder is still working well!


Found the C14 dew strap around the TV mounting plate. I repositioned it.


Later, with Steve, I helped flip the mount around the meridian. Set to solar tracking rate.

Friday, June 23, 2017

congrats SpaceX

SpaceX reused a stage 1 rocket again. SpaceX landed the rocket on a barge again. Awesome! Oh, and Bulgaria now has their first satellite in orbit.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

scanned solargraph (Bradford)

Rhonda and I scanned the light sensitive paper from the pinhole camera.

We dimmed the lights in the man cave. Turned off monitor 2 of John Charles. I had rho remove the duct tape from the cover. She readied to remove the cover.

I ensured the hp scanning software preview option was turned off and the dpi was at 600.

She pulled the 5x7 sheet from the can and handed it to me. It was dry with no signs of water damage. I uncoiled it and placed it face down on the scanner bed. I placed it at the origin point [ed: Didn't need to do that.], and clicked the Scan button. It was like watching a pot boil.

At last the LaserJet stopped and the Windows bitmap was produced. After two attempts, we previewed the digital file. It worked! Launched Paint.NET to do the main edits.

I cropped, reversed the "colours," and rotated counter-clockwise. Rhonda spotted that it was backwards so I flipped horizontally.

solargraph from backyard

This represents the Sun from 18 Dec 2016 to yesterday. Solstice to solstice.

We were very happy.

Props to RASC TC and Risa and Ian W.


P.S. Rhonda said the can could be used. Indeed. Although I would invert the can, as Justin Quinnell suggested, so to take advantage of the seemless aluminium bottom.

found package from S&T

Received a special envelope from Sky and Telescope! w00t!

noticed Noctua Sky was new

New and improved. I had a quick look at Noctua Sky to check some star names. Actually, when I first tried to visit the site the server through a 404 error. I stripped the filename from the URL and it worked.

Don't use:


I noticed some interface changes right away. Like the separate date and time buttons at the bottom-right. (The Time control is remarkably useful with a 24 clock!) Looked like there was better location-detection routines. The menu was restructured. Search bar immediately available at the top of the screen.

Curiously the News page was not updated so I don't know what else has changed or what motivated the change.

celebrated the solstice (Bradford)

After dinner and dishes, after hauling the bins to the curb, we ramped up to have a fire, partly in deference to the solstice.

While Rhonda readied the fireplace, I grabbed some lawn chairs, moved the little table between them, and took in the pretty sky. Fired up SkySarari on Ananke, saved the settings for the recent eclipse demo, switched to a clean saved profile, and activated red light mode.

Jupiter was bright. Rhonda IDed it quickly.

She pointed up near the zenith. "Ar... Ar..." I gave her a hint: "Arc." Arcturus. Right on. I saw many of the stars in Boötes. In the east, just over the coniferous trees, I saw Cygnus climbing. Was curious if I'd be able to see the Milky Way from my (new?) backyard.

The sky was still bright. Rhonda could see remnants of the sunset in the north-west. The longest day was ending...

The Big Dipper was just over the house. Pouring out all its water.

We tried my SkySafari app for a bit. I had to turn off the tilt function as it did not seem to be working right.

I fetched my green laser pointer.

Rhonda pointed to the bright blue-white point high in the east and wondered if it was Spica. I said Spica was gone; it was Vega in Lyra. Highlighted the nearly perfect equilateral triangle including Vega and the Double Double.

10:30 PM. No Milky Way yet.

I took in Ophiuchus, Serpens (Caput), and Corona Borealis. Noted Altair and Tarazed rising. Tagged Saturn in the trees to the south. Rhonda saw it when she shifted.

Corrected a previous error: Spica was in fact still up. Below and left of Jupiter. Rhonda observed the star.

Rhonda had a scathingly brilliant idea and returned a short time later with two mugs of lovely, lovely St Peter's Winter Ale. Sooo good.

warm fire by Rhonda

Lume, 4mm, Open Camera, f/2.8, 1/20 second, ISO 74 (auto), daylight white balance, Paint.NET.

10:59 PM. Shot a number of photos of the fire with the alcatel smartphone. Rhonda suggested a GIF but I could not find such an option in Open Camera nor the default app. [ed: Really should have used a DSLR with wide angle to get fire below and fires above.]

Stared nearly straight up into the body of Hercules. I wanted to tag Messier 13. Initially I was looking between π (pi) and ε (epsilon). Oops. SkySafari showed I needed to search between η (eta) and ζ (zeta) [ed: the long edge.] Couldn't see it.

I grabbed the SQM box, pad and pen, extinguished the deck lanterns, and returned to my lawn chair.

11:45 PM. Took some readings with the Sky Quality Meter on loan.

First reading, to warm the unit: 19.53. At the zenith:


with a temperature of 18, one beep on all occasions.

Rhonda suggested I try from the south-east corner of the lawn, in the shelter of the trees. I aimed slightly north-west of the zenith, 10 or 15°.



One time I accidentally dropped the unit down while it was still reading, and as I looked at the display, it scanned the black silhouette of the tree behind me, beeping a second time. The value was 20.54. Nope.

Discussed the sometimes rotten luck we have in RASC Toronto Centre. This week was the designated Dark Sky Observing session window. Monday was a no-go due to the intense weather. They scrubbed Tuesday. Tonight was perfect but it was the planned Recreational Astronomy Night meeting. And tomorrow looked to be bad conditions again. Many a meeting have run with clear dark skies overhead.

The fire died down. All of Cygnus was visible over the tree line. With the pointer, we outlined the wide wingspan. I also highlighted the classic diamond kite shape with the bright stars.

Rhonda asked about the dim little parallelogram of stars down and right of The Swan with another faint star to the right. Well spotted, that was Delphinus the Dolphin.

I asked rho if she could detect the wide pair of the Double Double. She was not sure, fuzzy to her eye. I thought I could see the split. They seemed to be oriented left and right for me and if I extended a line from them, it ran between Vega and ζ. I checked the planetarium app on the Android tablet and zoomed into Lyra. The main double appeared. The angle was close to what I had felt.

We examined Ursa Minor. We found all the stick-figure stars for the Little Dipper including dim (magnitude 4.95) eta at the bottom of the pot.

I traced sinuous Draco.

Cassiopeia was higher. When Rhonda considered going to the street to see the full constellation, I proposed the south-west corner of the lawn, near the shed. She was happy to see the upright W.

Pale beige Saturn required us the stand in the north-east patch of the lawn.

I wondered where Scorpius and Antares were. Kept looking south. Near the house, I spotted an upright line of three stars in a gap in the trees to the south-west. Libra? No. Then I spotted a faint naked double down and left of the top star. Ah ha! ω (omega) Scorpii! [ed: Not nu.] The three pincer stars. But where was Antares? As we bobbed and weaved, we found the orange star hidden behind branches.

We stood together, close, taking in the wonderful sky in the warm still air. All of Aquila was visible from this vantage which I outlined for rho. I kept looking straight up at Hercules trying to coax out M13. Asked Hawkeye if she could see it. Nope. I knew where it was now but didn't feel I was truly seeing it.

I kept trying to cleanly pull out the Coathanger asterism to the west of Cygnus. It was at the edge of visibility.

Traced the little arrow-like constellation of Sagitta. [ed: At the time, I called it Vulpecula. Oops.]

Rhonda thought she saw the Milky Way. Running through Cygnus toward Aquila. I said that was right. There was a very faint glow, to my eye. I had no doubt that with more time at dark adapting and letting it rise higher, we'd see it better. But it was late. And a school night.

The fire had put itself out. We gathered our gear, empty glasses, and headed to the house.

Reminded rho we needed to take down the pinhole camera. She asked if aluminium duct tape would be OK. Quite good. She shuttered the can. I gently shook the cylinder near my ear. No water, yeh! We're anxious to see our solargraph result...

Removed the batteries from the bright laser after letting Tucker have one more go. Packed my long sleeve shirt and cap in the bug gear bag. Spotted my cheapo binoculars on the nearby cabinet. Oh! One more look!

From the deck I spotted the great cluster in Hercules, just down from η, one-third of the way to ζ. Adjusted the right diopter of the Bushnell glasses. Better now. A little round fuzzball. I could see HD 150998 to the north-east (magnitude 6.85).

Shifted east to take in Saturn. A bright oval with some faint field stars to the east. Nice.

What a special evening! Somewhat impromptu Rhonda and I recognised the solstice with a warm fire, a fine beer, few bugs, under a canopy of stars, satellites, and planets. An anniversary of sorts for us.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

took more readings

Asked Rhonda to take SQM readings for me while I recorded the values.

The first (throw-away) reading was 18.95. 

From the middle of the Bradford backyard.


Then from further south, farther from the house.


Temp. showed as 22°C. More than once.

Were the readings off a bit due to the stormy weekend weather?

found a simple simulator

Found a nice, easy-to-use simulator for the August solar eclipse. It only works for USA locations but for peeps in Ontario, you can choose a location just on the other side of the Great Lakes and it will give approximate times and mimic the Sun's appearance.

solar eclipse simulator snapshot

From example, Youngstown, NY state works well for Toronto; Madison, OH is good for London and St Thomas.

The Eclipse Megamovie 2017 web site for has lots of additional information on eclipses and eye safety.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

far afield

Learned of the description "field galaxy" tonight via the amazing Wikipedia. It is a solitary galaxy, one that is not a member of a larger cluster of galaxies. It is gravitationally alone.

Friday, June 16, 2017

sent an aurora alert

Pinged Rhonda after seeing the kp index chart spike. Confirmed in SolarHam. Possible aurora. Happily, they thought they could see it naked eye from the Kawarthas; unfortunately, they don't have a real camera to capture it. Raining at home so no joy for me.

watched Destin's video

I watched the Smarter Every Day podcast by Destin Sandlin on the upcoming solar eclipse. I first learned of this YouTube video via Chris Hadfield's Facebook post on the 14th. Yesterday, Gordon Telepun from Foxwood Astronomy referred me to it.

Destin interviewed Gordon and relayed lots of good facts. They talked about how things get busy just before Contact 2 and just after Contact 3. They discussed the Solar Eclipse Timer app and how it helps compute event times very accurately.

Destin was blown away by the shadow bands (or "snakes") phenomena and hopes to record it.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

found interference

Discovered there's an interference issue with Barn Door Tracker altazimuth base design I am considered. This was revealed when I decided to test fit pieces. I'm going to have to head back to the drawing board. One option is to back the bottom plates (already resized) even smaller.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

check for clouds

Heard about National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offering a "cloudiness" map for the big solar eclipse. The Ready Set Eclipse page has good information, helpful graphics, and an interactive map.

Personally, it was not news to me per se. The RASC Observer's Handbook features the Cloud Cover Frequency essay and charts (although, technically, for night-time scenarios). Many of us are going west, for geographic reasons and to be earlier rather than later, i.e. to avoid day-time heating weather effects. And basic, high school geography: you want to be in the arid and warm temperate zones on the leeward side of the mountain ranges. The map, based on 10 years of archived data, is quite telling. Wyoming will be a good spot.

predicted cloud cover near Lakes Erie and Ontario

I thought of friends and family in Ontario. Of course, the information is specific to the continental United States. Nothing above the border. But the information for Ohio, Penn, and New York should be good general indicators of likely conditions. And, frankly, they don't look good. Dark grey is bad.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

shot darks finally

At last, an evening around the same temperature. I shot darks for the recent star trails. Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm, f/5.6, ISO 1000, daylight, 35 seconds, 5 second gap, Neewer intervalometer, RAW.

measured the sky

Spotted stars as I set up the camera... The CSC had been right.

Took readings from the Bradford backyard with a loaner Sky Quality Meter. Rhonda recorded the values for me.

The first (throw-away) reading was 18.67. I wondered if the deck lights were interfering. We unplugged them. I moved west to avoid the hallway light.


Temp. showed as 20°C.

Those look like good numbers to me.

Monday, June 12, 2017

TS6 works on Win10

Tested Software Bisque's TheSky 6 under Windows 10. It works. This helps with understanding our software upgrade options at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

did mini work

Helped at the Carr Astronomical Observatory at a mini work party. The big task for me was to help with the refurbishing of the cutting deck of the Stargrazer ride-on mower. We completed that big job. We adjusted the lift lever and the deck height. I reviewed the start-up procedures for all the mowers so to prepare future quick reference guides. The lawns hadn't been cut for some time so we tackled that. Helped with the purchase and testing of some solar rechargeable stairway lights. Testing the security system. I returned the NexStar 11 data cable which I had found in my gear at home.

received more SN data (Halifax)

I totally missed the activity at the BGO robotic observatory. Sound asleep at the time. (And I missed the email in the morning.)

I continue to ask for data on supernova SN2017eaw in the Fireworks Galaxy. It seems just as bright as before.

supernova in the Fireworks Galaxy

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

Rhonda asked me how far away the galaxy was. I guessed 20 million. Wikipedia has 22 million light-years.


I will add this to the data from 25 May.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

watched ISS jump over Jupiter (Blue Mountains)

I noticed that a pass of the International Space Station was due. Checked the details in ISS Detector Pro.

From the front deck we picked up the ISS in the west. Ian W tagged it first. It flew over Jupiter helping us gauge the magnitude. It was almost the same brightness. Tony tracked with his binoculars. Noted stars zipping past. A long pass, it faded as it flew right by Antares. Nice. Grace enjoyed that.

Ian asked how many were on board. It was not a full crew.

I pinged Rhonda. She caught the end.

saw dark rays (Blue Mountains)

Ian spotted dark bands after the sunset. Shadows in crepuscular rays. I had never seen such dark rays personally before; reminded me of photos of shadows by mountains. Full camera in the car. It had faded a bit by the time I shot it with the smartphone.

crepuscular rays over the escarpment

alcatel Lume, Open Camera, auto ISO, auto white balance. I think I had the focus mode set to Fixed.

Must have been some big clouds near the Sun.


Rhonda did not see it unfortunately.


Oh. While looking for photos, I noticed the term anti-crepuscular rays. Right, I had heard that before.

tried a viewer

Tested the Eclipse Shades Eclipse Viewer. Easy to use. I like single aperture. I like the orange colour rendered of the Sun. The view looked crisp and clear.

Eclipse Viewer for RASC and FAAQ

Made by Rainbow Symphony for RASC and FAAQ. Of course it meets the requirements of the ISO 12312-2:2015 standard.

noted Moon in a gap (Blue Mountains)

Still lots of clouds but the stoopid Moon found an open space.

Friday, June 09, 2017

eclipses for GTA

Rhonda shared a link to the web site, specifically regarding eclipes.

I like how they show (and animate) what the eclipse will look like.

Good correspondence to the times I gave Rhonda last night.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

the view from Ontario

Rhonda asked me about the particulars of the solar eclipse. For home or for the Greater Toronto Area. I ran some simulations in SkySafari and Stellarium to determine the local circumstances.

1:10 PM first contact
1:21 PM Sun near meridian
2:27 PM mid-point, roughly
3:48 PM fourth contact

People in Ontario would not get second or third contact...

snapshot from SkySafari at mid-eclipse for Ontario viewers

At first contact, the Sun would be about 57° up and around 175° azimuth. So almost due south. A little ahead (or left) of the meridian.

At the mid-point, the Sun would be about 54° above the horizon and at 208° azimuth.

When the Moon stopped blocking the Sun, Sol would be at 45° and 235°. Still well up; to the south-west.

received SN Jul/Aug 2017

cover of the Jul/Aug '17 issue of SkyNews magazine
I was very excited to receive the July/August 2017 issue of SkyNews.

It is chockablock with pieces on the August solar eclipse (occultation). It also includes a complimentary pair of solar eclipse glasses!

Steven Fanutti has a image featured in the letters to the editor.

Rhonda enjoyed the evening sky chart.

stacked the Moon

Stacked the Moon shots using last night's data. Used Digital Photo Pro and Photoshop.

First with the Canon kit lens at 55mm, fully zoomed.

multiple exposures of the Moon with lens zoomed fully to 55

Then with the lens at 35mm, mid-way.

multiple exposures of the Moon with lens zoomed mid-way to 35

I like both but for different reasons. In the end, the 35 is nice while Luna is a little small. I'll be able to get more frames in at 35.

I remembered the APC factor, 1.5 or 1.6, for the 40D Canon body. So the 35mm lens is like a 55 while the 55mm is like 85. This means shooting at 35 is comparable to Espenak's shot I was trying to mimic.

I find a spacing is rather generous. Possibly I could drop to 4 minutes?

Moon, planet, and stars (Bradford)

9:22 PM, Wednesday 7 June 2017. Outside, ready to go. Camera outside. Dobsonian was set up with Wildcard Innovations Argo Navis digital setting circles. I needed to read about the alignment process.

Clear Sky Chart for Wednesday evening

Conditions were looking good as alluded with the Clear Sky Chart. (Thursday looked good too.)

The June bugs were buzzing all around. Some were nestled in the grass. Reminded me of the static-like crackling noise under wet high tension wires.

Had to remove red film from the netbook screen so to be able to read the Argo Navis User Manual. Someone decided to render text shown on the hand controller display as red. Duh. It was impossible to read. I wondered if I could make a black and white copy...

I saw a bat.

Aimed at Jupiter. A nice view in the baader 36mm!

9:42 PM. Headed to the house to call Rhonda. She was chatting in the kitchen. Apologised for interrupting.

At the telescope, rho said she said she saw three points. I encouraged her to look closely and to have a seat. "I thought I was looking at the Moon a minute ago with dots on either side of it." I was distracted and missed her reference to the Moon. Again I encouraged her to look closely. I got her to examine the first point to the right. She thought it fuzzy. We set the seat height on the astronomy chair to better suit her viewing position. "So I'm looking at the one on the right that's closest to the Moon. And I'm supposed to notice something different about it?" I missed it again. Urged to finely tune the focus, using the moons. "Well, I got as close to I can focusing on the Moon. I don't know what you want me to see." I missed it yet again! "Two moons," I said. "Like a double star." Totally not listening.

9:48. Oops. I realised she thought it was the Moon in the telescope. I said we were looking at Jupiter and its four Galilean moons with two essentially on top of one another. We were clear now.

9:50. I bumped the power. Went to the Pentax 20mm. Pretty view. The seeing was amazing. Rock steady. rho thought Jupiter looked great. She enjoyed the cloud bands. Now the two moons were easily split. Very nice view. Rhonda thought the seeing was very steady. And that meant we could go with even higher power. I grabbed the Tele Vue 9mm.

9:54. Shared with Rhonda that I was using digital setting circles to help me with pointing. Very easy to use. Fast. Hopefully I would avoid repeatedly getting lost this evening.

I noted dark region near the meridian, in the lower band. Possibly a shadow? Or a barge?

9:56. "Oh wow! Very nice. That's pretty amazing." She liked it. Encouraged her to focus, again with the moons. Then nudge the 'scope so Jupiter would drift through the field and then let go of the 'scope. Then just watch and soak it in.

I identified the Jovian bodies using SkyTools 3 Pro. Io was to our left, Europe and Ganymede were on the right, together, and Callisto was far off to the right (or east). ST3P did not show any moon shadows.

Tried to eyeball Saturn but it must have still been low. I thought we'd probably have to wait an hour or so. ST3P said it was 22 degrees away from the Moon.

Jupiter looked incredible in the amazing seeing. The upper belt was divided with a light region in the middle, right (east) side of the meridian. Colourful! Swirls and eddies.

10:00. June bug bounced off my head.

Rhonda asked how close she should get to the eyepiece. I don't think it mattered in the end. You can go close enough that the rubber cup touches you, then the eyepiece presents the full view, which is a fairly wide field. But I usually didn't do that, I viewed back a bit. A disadvantage to sticking your eye all the way in on a Dobsonian was the risk of moving the tube.

Considered the supernova. It was near Cepheus. Again, a late-night object. Should be visible in an hour or two. Before bedtime.

Rejected targets over the house particularly with the top-floor neighbour's light on.

Rhonda headed inside for water.

10:09. Fantastic seeing.

Choose PPM 225935, near Jupiter, for my target. When I discovered it did not have a SAO number, I thought about star hopping to it. It would be a long hop from Jupiter; be better to begin at δ (delta) Corvi aka Algorab. Loaded in the 36mm ocular. Oh. Maybe I could look up Algorab in the Argo Navis.

I could not find a list or catalogue of named stars. There was Bright Stars and Double Stars. There was no SAO catalogue. I found the RA Dec option! Wow! Freaky. I headed to 12h30m and -13°31'. Way easier than star hopping. The DSC system also meant that bumping the 'scope would be less an issue.

Rhonda returned with travel mugs.

She asked if she could look at the Moon in the 'scope. I cautioned it would melt her eyeball. OK. Not really. Would she be able to see anything? I pointed out that we were a day or two before the full Moon so there should be some craters and mountains visible at the terminator near the eastern limb.

Rhonda pointed straight up and asked if she was seeing Draco. She was looking toward Boötes. Also known as "booties."

10:20. Hell. Faint. Freaking faint! ST3P said the PPM 228935 stars were in the low magnitude 11 range. Nuts! A hard double. No colours per se. Wow. I could not split, at 1.6 seconds of arc, sadly. Marked to view again.

I could see two stars in rho's eyes, reflections of the big Moon. She broke into song. "When the Moon hits your eye..."

10:25. Considered objects in Leo but only the rump was visible above the trees. I noted the custom horizon outline in SkyTools was off a bit. Showed that feature to rho.

She asked about the backyard view on her iPad. I had demoed it interactively in Stellarium on John Repeat Dance and SkySafari on Ananke. I didn't think she had an astronomy app; it was likely a screen snapshot I had shared. rho walked to the front to check stars to the north.

10:28. Decided on 17 and 15 Canum Venaticorum. Used the RA/dec coordinates with the AN again. This system was on my View Again list. While I had seen 17 (the A star or primary) and 15 (the B star) before, I had not split out the C element, which was near to B.

Rhonda reported seeing a satellite. That reminded me that the International Space Station was due soon. It would start around 10:46 and get near the Moon at 10:52. About 15 minutes. A treat. She spotted an airplane above the Moon.

I checked the software to determine which star was which. The right-hand (easterly) one was 17 CVn. It looked brighter to me; 15 was slightly fainter. I invited rho to check out the wide, easy double. I asked if she saw colour—she knew I was going to ask. I thought they looked the same, blue-white; rho thought 17 was warmer. Really? I looked again. OK, it could be pale yellow while 15 remained blue-white. There ya go.

Rhonda set up her hammock for some Moon bathing.

10:41. Yellow and orange. Split HD 114146 aka Σ1723, north-west from 17-15. Ah, previously logged. The 6" separation was quite doable though tight in the StarMaster. They looked yellow and blue at higher power. [ed: Found this on my SkyTools View Again list. Removed it.]

Tried for 17C. I was not feeling hopeful given the 1.2" sep. Increased the power. Nope. Could not split...

10:47. Readied for 78 Ursae Majoris. Went back to the low power eyepiece.

When Rhonda returned I bull's-eyed the Moon for her. I think she liked it. "Whoa. Holy! Oh my goodness. Oh, wow. Wowzers. That's amazing."

I went in for a sweater. A smokey sweater.

She was a little perplexed by the view. I explained that while my (SCT) telescope created a flipped, left-right view, a mirror image, this (Newtonian) telescope showed a rotated view, turned 180°. I suggested a check: the Sun was over in the west of course, it was illuminating the right edge of the Moon, but in the telescope the rough edge, with the shadow effects from the terminator, was on the opposite side.

Rhonda spotted the space station going over the Moon but when I looked it was gone. Missed it! I had not heard the programmed alarms as my tablet was indoors. Where was my smartphone?

Some of the craters were amazing. Tycho and its huge rays were bright. There were a couple of small but extremely bright craters.

Bree called out getting ready to hit the hay. We invited her to have a look. "Oh my gosh it's beautiful."

I offered up Jupiter at high power. Bree liked it too.

On a lark, I ask the Argo Navis where Saturn was. Crazy low. The OTA was almost horizontal.

11:01. I headed to 13 01 by 56 22.

The air was moving slightly, echoed by the wind chimes.

ST3P calculated the split of 78 UMa at 0.9 arc-seconds as of April. Ugh.

Medium power. Continued star hopping. High power. Could not cleanly split them. Decided to try the Meade orthoscopic 4mm! Such a tiny FOV... Gave up on 78.

11:22. Rhonda checked in. I was struggling.

I re-aligned the Argo Navis. Offered the view of Vega to rho. Part of the Summer Triangle. Headed to η (eta) CrB.

No chattering raccoons tonight, thankfully.

11:36. Wanted to show rho something fun. Asked if he had looked at the Double Double before. It didn't sound familiar to her. But then we had viewed the Ring Nebula...

11:41. Spotted KZA 86 A and B south-east of eta CrB. A very faint, colourless pair. There was a nearby star to the west that made KZA 86 seem part of a thin triangle. [ed: Previously logged.]

Crikey. Saw η Crb C. Saw D. Magnitude low-12 to 13 stars. But I could not tag B...

It was quiet as I aimed to the ε (epsilon) Lyr. At high power, rho that it really neat. I noticed that SkyTools showed it was a 9-star system. Huh. I didn't recall probing deeper before.

She was getting tired. OK. Where was Saturn? Right in the trees. Still, I centred on it. It was soft but I could clearly see the rings and a couple of bright points. Increased to medium power. I warned rho to put on more socks.

11:51. Rhonda was very impressed.

I suggested she come back after washing up. Hopefully it would clear of branches...

Put on my bug spray.

12:00 AM, Thursday 8 June 2017. Targeted γ (gamma) Coronae Borealis.

Rhonda returned. While not free from the trees, I found Saturn, happily, briefly, in a clear space! Spotted some moons, two or three. Quick! Raised the magnification. She had not put more socks on. She liked it, enjoyed seeing the whole ring system. Titan was below, to our 7 o'clock. I directed her to other moons but I think the view had gone soft again, occulted by pine needles. And the seeing went off.

Rhonda asked about when Saturn would be visible. I did not explain it well at the time. It is not strictly an annual event.

I could see ζ (zeta) Ursae Minoris despite the light pollution from the Moon... Mag 4.3.

She headed to bed. I obliged to keep the "holy nut butter" exclamations to a minimum.

Re-checked the location of γ CrB.

Considered Sabik. Too low.

12:22 AM. Remembered the extra stars around ε Lyrae.

Immediately after aligning the AN, it worked great. But it seemed to drift. I wondered about adjusting or improving the alignment afterwards...

With the 9mm, I spotted many stars. E and F were between AB and CD—almost exactly between. E was brighter, closer to CD, lower (for me, or more to the west); F was dimmer, closer to AB, and eastward. I needed averted often to get F. G? It was tough. Occasionally I'd see G, below E, about the same distance from F, almost opposite F. ST3P said it was mag 13.2. The I star was easy, bright, further I above F. Really interesting.

12:31. H was not showing in the Context Viewer screen; I switched to the Interactive Atlas. Ooh. Very faint. Right (or north) of G. The ST3P chart said it was 16.2! The OI box said 13...

Noted a faint double to the east. ST3P showed it was actually it was a triple. SAO 67349 aka β51. The primary star was bright; the B and C associates were quite dim and angled toward the Double Double.

Noted the time. Wondered if I should wind it up soon...

12:46. Finally got 'em, ε Draconis. I had been accidentally aiming at stars in Cepheus. Golden and orange. Quite tight. Very different magnitudes. The B colleague was to my 1 o'clock, i.e. north. Very nice. It was really hard to tell the colour. The same, perhaps? A pretty barren field. This pair is in the RASC multiple star list. [ed: Haas says Sun yellow and powder blue.]

Just remembered the supernova SN 2017eaw. I was not far away.

At first, I thought of hopping from Alderamin then eta but when I spotted eta naked eye, I put the 'scope there.

Lots of doubles in the area!

Put in the 20mm so to minimise the jump.

Used the craggy line of stars to the west to verify my location. The galaxy NGC 6946 was just right of the small triangle of stars (with Tycho 4246-0779 1).

Raised the eyepiece power with the 9mm.

12:56. I thought I could see the galaxy, faintly...

The supernova should have been between the inverted triangle to the south and double (with Tycho 4246-0473 1) to the north.

Adjusted the SkyTools software to remove distractions. Customised to the Interactive Atlas. Added more stars.

The SN was almost inline with the bottom of the two stars on the right and the top two triangle stars on the left. No... slightly above. If I extended a line from the bottom right star through the supernova it was just above the triangle.

Slightly closer to the double.

ST3P said it was magnitude 13.

Done. I started to pack up.

1:01. Continued packing. Staged telescope items on the back deck while the camera continued shooting. The Dob was too heavy to move as one piece. Packed up the camera gear. Moved items indoors.

Bonked the door frame at one point and something fell in my mouth! Ew! A bug. Turned out it was a small spider. Blech.


A good session overall. About 10 things observed. Sadly, did not have a lot of luck with some fast moving binary stars.

Good conditions. Quite good seeing. Low humidity. Just had to contend with the stoopid Moon.

It was super-fun showing Saturn to Rhonda.

testing framing and spacing (Bradford)

With the clear skies, I wanted to conduct some imaging tests in advance of the solar eclipse. I could use the full Moon for gauging the framing and spacing.

I prepared the equipment needed. Tripod and hex quick-release plate. The DSLR Canon 40D camera body. I decided to try the 18-55 kit zoom lens at 55mm based on Espenak's multiple exposure photo from the 1994 November event. He had used a 50mm Nikkor. I sent the zoom level, turned off the automatic focus, and manually focused to infinity.

Fred had shot the Sun every 5 minutes in his portrait shot. I liked the spacing. So I programmed the intervalometer for 5 minute intervals. I set the exposure length to 15 seconds knowing the camera would override. I set the start delay to 10 seconds.

I installed the battery grip and loaded it with one charged battery. I tested the external power source DC coupler. I grabbed an extension cord.

I considered dew heating. Environment Canada said the evening low temperature would be 7°C with a dew point of 8.6°C (from the 2:20 report). The humidity was standing at 46%. Not bad. Still, I readied the gear: 2-inch wrap on the lens, custom controller, NOCO battery with hacked power leads.

Espenak said he used ISO 100 and f/5.6. I did a bit of searching. One person said to not go slower than 1/125th of a second to avoid motion blur. And then I found details of the Looney 11 rule. Set your f-stop to f/11, then match the shutter speed to your ISO.

I considered matching Fred's old film sensitivity but then settled on ISO 200 and 1/200. Programmed the camera Manual mode settings. Verified daylight white balance.

Then I remembered the mirror lock! So I dove into custom settings and, in conjunction, programmed a 2 second self-timer action.

Checking the evening's timing. Sunset at 9:03, sunrise 5:31. Moonrise at 7:07, moonset 5:24. Remembered we were in evening ISS flyovers. Found at event at 10:52 PM with the space station flying toward the Moon.

6:10 PM, Wednesday 7 June 2017. I had everything ready to go.

9:43. Shot my first image.

9:46. Found the camera off. Shot my second image manually.

9:50. Shot another photograph.

Moon shot with zoom at 55mm

9:51. Checked the camera rig. The camera was off again. Weird! I wondered if it was not getting power.

Rhonda liked my blinky LED ice cube things under the tripod.

I moved the AC power to a different socket in the extension cord. Got it sorted...

10:18. Rhonda heard the camera clicking. Yeah!

10:38. The camera was still working OK. Checked it. Explained to rho how I had programmed the intervalometer.

11:27. Rhonda reported the Moon was out of the view. I didn't think to check the time, how long the run was, when I started. [ed: About an hour and 15.]

Checked SkyTools 3 Pro to see if it was before or after the meridian. I found it was not there yet. Meant it was still climbing.

I considered zooming out and conducting another run. Rhonda helped.

11:33. Set the kit lens to 35, reframed Luna, crudely focused, shot a random shot, and let the intervalometer resume. Checked the power supply on the dew heater: OK.

11:35. Started the second run.

Moon shot with zoom at 35mm

12:53. Heard the camera click.

1:10. Stopped the imaging run. Checked the NOCO lithium-ion battery. OK at three quarters full.

1:18. Brought the imaging rig inside.

1:25. Checked the photos quickly, on the back screen. Looked like I got lots of data. Good.


Forgot to shoot darks again!


Stacked the 55mm and 35mm series.

Monday, June 05, 2017

made a quick star trails

Did a quick test of star trails with the data from Friday night.

Made very small JPG images using Digital Photo Professional, 640 pixels wide. So to evaluate the data, quickly process the 191 frames captured, and quickly stack.

Used StarStaX of course to create the star trails. Ignored the first 55 images as the sky was too bright and threw out the last 25 frames due to clouds.

star trails from cottage assembled quickly

Not bad. Really wanted more data but the south-bound clouds were not going to allow it.

I'm still amazed by the clarity of the sky down to the horizon.

Dragon back in space

Read an article about the successful SpaceX flight.

It was interesting to learn that they reused a Dragon capsule from an earlier flight. The key moment however will be upon its return (in one month).

And they landed the stage 1 rocket again.

Rewriting the rules.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Sunday science

Rhonda and I did some Sunday science.

We discussed Moon phases and the confusing terminology and concepts. Like, why is it called First Quarter when the Moon is half-lit. I clarified that the phase refers to the orbital position, which I found very curious, as it requires a big leap. The observer must take up a vantage off the Earth, in outer space, viewing the Earth-Moon system in three dimensions. I think this is challenging for some.

Got out my Shasta marbles for the Earth, Moon, and Mars. Grabbed the LED flashlight from the kitchen. Demo time! I think it helped rho a lot to see it this way.

We talked about prograde motion which most planets and moons follow. But some go the other way, retrograde. [ed: This is incorrect use of the terms. Better to say counterclockwise and clockwise.]

We simulated lunar and solar eclipses (er, occultations).

Lodged my complaint about "Last Quarter." To me, the last of something means final. To me, Last Quarter should refer to 4 of 4, the New Moon phase. I would prefer that only Third Quarter be used to describe position 3 of 4 in the lunar orbit.

We talked about tidal locking. The Moon of course keeps the same face toward the Earth. She asked if it only applied to moons. I shared that Mercury is gravitational locked to the Sun.

In Stellarium, I showed the Earth-Moon system from the Sun and sped up time. We watched the Moon slowly orbit around the planet while we could make out the Earth rotating briskly.

Then I showed the Earth from the Moon surface and sped up time. While the rapidly spinning blue planet never set, it bobbed and weaved, due to libration.

rho does not like the terms sunset and sunrise. It propagates the idea that the stars and planets are moving across the day/night sky when in fact it is due to our planet's axial rotation. These classic terms are appropriate in a geocentric system but confusing in a heliocentric model. I agreed. But what would be better terms? Ingress and egress? Dunno.


shared annotated image

Rho and Jackie liked my annotated shot (from 10:15 PM last night). So I added a few more notes and shared it. They wanted to put it on Facebook for others to enjoy.

stars and constellations from the deck

Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm, f/5.6, manually focused, ISO 1000, daylight white balance, 35 seconds, RAW, DPP, Paint.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

caught ISS (Big Hawk Lake)

During our lake-side campfire, we spotted the International Space Station. Rho and Jackie were surprised how bright it was.


I looked it up.


We talked about the gibbous Moon near Jupiter. We measured it with our pinkie finger. We watched the Moon slowly move away from the bright planet.

shot the Moon (Big Hawk Lake)

Boo! Moon! We spotted Luna over the roof of the cottage. Zoom in! You can just barely see Jupiter...

Moon over cottage

Canon PowerShot sx100 IS, f/3.5, 1/100th of a second, ISO 80, 13mm, automatic white balance, hand-held.

Jupiter is at the 5 o'clock position about 2.5 lunar diameters away.

two links

Jackie shared two links to my blog on The Halls & Hawk Lakes Facebook page. Thanks!

one star bouncing (Big Hawk Lake)

Coffee. Dock. Water. I was feeling very fortunate. I looked down and saw our Sun making multiple images, like a star cluster in velvety dark space.

one star reflecting

Canon 40D, 18-55 kit lens at 18, f/10, manual mode, 1/500 second, ISO 400, RAW, DPP.

Friday, June 02, 2017

boat trails (Big Hawk Lake)

Set up to shoot for star trails/timelapse from Jackie's cottage. At one point, I spotted a northbound boat. I suspected it would show in a frame.

boat lights trailed during star trails run

Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm, f/5.6, manually focused, ISO 1000, daylight, 35 seconds, 5 second gap, Neewer intervalometer, RAW, DPP.


Assembled star trails on 5 Jun.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

tried to emphasise 70 Oph B

Had another go in FITS Liberator to pull out the B companion of 70 Oph. From the default linear stretch, I moved the white point to the extreme edge. Much more noticeable now.

multi-star system 70 Oph with the B companion emphasised

The B element to the south-east is still merged given the exposure and brightness but it is clearly dimmer.

Used the luminance data from August last year.

assembled 70 Oph in colour

Processed multi-star system 70 Ophiuchi in colour using the LRGB data from August last year. Used the new approach as I did with β284 on 18 May. That is, primarily, when pre-processing in FITS Liberator, I did not hit the Auto Scaling button. Came out pretty good again, I think.

multi-star system 70 Oph in colour

A colourful field.

70 Oph is the centred on the bright and lovely light gold merged stars of A and B.

P is orange, Q grey, R dull orange, S white, T citrus orange, U light orange, V gold like A and B, W white, X light orange, and Y pale orange.