Monday, July 31, 2017

that Moon (Bradford)

Spotted the Moon high up in the south while at the barbecue.

That Moon is going to block the Sun in about 20 days...

bright light (Bradford)

Couldn't fall asleep. Looked out the east window as the sky brightened? Venus or a street light? Too high for a LED lamp.

finished with ISS (Bradford)

Enjoyed Sagitta, Cygnus, Lyra, Delphinus, and Ophiuchus. It was good to see Aquila in full view. Now all of Cassiopeia was visible.

Viewed alpha 1 and 2 Capricornus in the binoculars. Pointed out the naked eye double (alpha 1 and 2 merge with brighter beta below) to Rhonda. That's where our first meteor came from.

The Milky Way was washed out by the Moon. We never saw our own galaxy.

Finished with watching the International Space Station pass just under the Big Dipper. Further from Merak than I expected but still bright. Three new crew had just arrived. It faded into sunset.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

odd one (Bradford)

Another meteor. Short and fast, throught Cygnus, brightening at the end. Odd one, going south-east.

Earlier I spotted a bright satellite in the east moving north. As I called it out to rho, it started fading. Might have been an Iridium. It went through a little triangle of stars. Later I realised this was part of Pegasus. It went near Scheat.


Rhonda spotted an alert on her iPad from Meteor Shower Calendar. She investigated. From the table, she noted the alpha Capricornids and Aquarid showers were active. We had seen a meteor from Cap based on the angle at the time.

But she also saw an entry for the beta Cassiopeids: 10 per hour, 52 km/s, and mag 2.0. Peaking July 30. Nicely matched the odd meteor we had seen at 11:24. I did not know about them! Huh!

I found some more info at Universe Guide.

a good meteor (Bradford)

While IDing constellations overhead, we saw a long meteor! Heading north-north-west, it started near Lyra and slipped into Draco. Best one I've seen in a long time.

Rhonda asked earlier about the equilateral triangle overhead. I misidentified it as part of Boötes; it was the chest of Hercules.

Found the Coathanger with the Bushnell binoculars. Also checked the Double Double. No sign of The Ring at 7x. Viewed omicron 1 and 2, splitting 2 and 30 Cygni.

The Moon had dipped below the trees. Just past First Quarter.

Antares was shimmering.

Spotted Saturn through the tree, south-south-west. It was not round in the bins but I could not see Titan.

The mozzies were bad.

The fire was nice.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Moon over Jupiter (Bradford)

From the fairgrounds, after some tasty ribs, Rhonda spotted the fuzzy Moon. A crescent. I asked if she also saw the planet below. Yep.

I hoped they were enjoying clear skies up north. Wisps all around us near The Marsh.

be safe

Found a helpful infographic on the correct and incorrect ways to view or photograph a solar eclipse. It was made by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (link) and American Astronomical Society.

infographic on safe solar eclipse viewing techniques

They show what's safe and not safe. I also like the little timeline during an eclipse showing the only safe time to remove filters.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

downloaded W&B SCOPE

Downloaded the current RASC Toronto Centre newsletter SCOPE with its unique cover and back page, in "eclipse" format, white on black.

processor crashed

The Burke Gaffney Observatory image processing 'bot crashed, sadly. Couldn't immediately process the Messier 26 image...

imaged M26 (Halifax)

In my "race" to view the entire Messier catalogue, I quickly viewed some objects. That is, I didn't linger. And I kept, in some cases, scant notes. For Messier objects that I can only find one blog entry for, I'm trying to view them again. Or image them.

BGO imaged open cluster Messier 26 in Scutum. Viewed only once.

open cluster Messier 26 in luminance

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

It is an attractive clustering in a busy part of the Milky Way. There are a number of little strings of stars. I look forward to processing this in full colour.

Near the centre of the open cluster there is a known double star. They are nearly equal in brightness, canted north-west through south-east, with the brighter partner to the north-west. This is TDT 1033.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

my doubles journey

Thought I'd review my double stars milestones. It's been a fascinating journey...


first documented double star log entry 30 Jun


first documented view of the Trapezium 27 Dec


learned that a 6-inch 'scope can split below 1 arc-second 22 Dec


selected some doubles from Skyguide book 24 Jun
made multi-star checklist using various sources 29 Jun
noted colours in Mizar/Alcor 4 Aug
logged a few more doubles 20 Aug
created life lists including doubles 24 Aug
developed criteria to extract doubles 29 Aug


received double stars for small telescopes book by Sissy Haas 8 Jan
used 500 power to view epsilon Lyrae 8 Sep
viewed Albireo in 74" telescope 29 Sep
viewed various double stars 2 Nov
might have spotted Rigel B 2 Nov


split Porrima, approx. 1.0 arc-seconds 25 May
decided to measure double stars 29 Dec
asked for calibrated eyepiece reviews 30 Dec


delivered first The Sky This Month (with doubles) 5 Feb
reported error in Sky & Telescope winter list 11 Feb
learned PA and sep 24 Feb
Mortfield imaged Meissa with SN rig 10 Mar
reported error in S&T summer list 6 May
reached out to Spirit of 33 group 19 May
received Celestron Micro Guide 23 May
borrowed Observing and Measuring Visual Double Stars (1st) 24 May
measured Porrima with CMG (using casual method) 5 Jun
learned to Barlow with CMG 17 Jun
measured Porrima with CMG (using Celestron method) 22 Jun
double star work with CMG 1 Aug
viewed 20 pairs 3 Aug
closed in on 100 split stars 6 Aug
practiced measuring (with Teague method) 9 Aug


refined measuring notes (with Teague method) 19 Feb
joined binary stars (JDSO) Yahoo!Group 19 Feb
joined S33 Yahoo!Group 19 Feb
practiced measuring (with Teague method) 20 Feb
began reading the Journal of Double Star Observers 21 Feb
passed 100 split stars 27 Feb
received feedback from Teague 8 Mar
ordered Cambridge Double Star Atlas book 9 May
learned Washington Double Star database 31 May
downloaded neglected WDS list 23 Aug
broke 1.0 arc-second barrier 28 Aug
wrote article on JDSO for SCOPE 26 Nov


imaged Castor with StellaCam 17 Jan
reported errors in RASC Observer's Handbook 2011 12 Feb
learned of Star Splitters group 26 Mar
downloaded REDUC software 18 Jun
split ξ Scorpii AB at 1.01" 30 Jul
reviewed Mollise JDSO article on imaging 21 Aug
downloaded BinStar 23 Aug
sketched eta Per 10 Oct
viewed doubles with Millie 23 Oct
learned double star designations 24 Oct
passed 200 split stars 25 Oct
reported errors in RASC Observer's Handbook 2012 13 Nov
made RASC double star lists for SkyTools 19 Nov


tested BinStar 5 Feb
refined kappa Her sep and PA measurements 6 Feb
tested Tracker software 10 Feb
made new workflow checklist for double star measurement 10 Feb
attempted measurement of Castor with SKYnyx 19 Mar
reduced Castor data 20 Mar
downloaded REDUC software 30 Mar
split zeta Boo at 0.5" ? Mar
passed 250 split stars 9 Apr
offered to help Sissy Haas 2 Aug
viewed doubles for Haas 24 Aug
reviewed Objects in the Heavens book for doubles 2 Sep
imaged Albireo with C14 and 40D 12 Oct
reviewed Berkó JDSO articles on imaging 16 Dec


reached out to Ernõ Berkó 3 Apr
reviewed Ed's double star presentation 3 May
reviewed things needed for double star research 16 May
imaged 41 Dra with C8 and 40D 21 Jun
reduced 41 Dra data 23 Jun
tested RecToPol software 23 Jun
attended Cotterell's double star talk 9 Aug
hatched double star certificate idea 16 Oct


reported errors in RASC Observer's Handbook 2014 18 Jan
received Observing and Measuring Visual Double Stars (2nd) 5 Mar
made CDSA showpieces list for SkyTools 1 May
compiled first release of double star candidates 19 May
reviewed JDSO articles on new discoveries 19 May
imaged Porrima with C14 and 40D 30 May
imaged 59 Ser with C14 and 40D 5 Jul
assisted Beckett on RASC OH 2015 doubles matter 19 Jul
asked for help with doubles project in Toronto 27 Jul
split zeta Her at last at 1.2" 9 Aug
split HD 206081 at 0.9" 9 Aug
imaged doubles in Draco with C14 and 40D 10 Aug
passed 400 split stars 16 Aug
recorded Cotterell's double star talk 22 Aug
asked for help with doubles project in Canada 14 Nov


passed 500 split stars 21 May
imaged Rasalgethi with C14 and 40D 15 Jul
built double star project web site 7 Oct
referred to in RASC OH 2016 by Brian Mason 12 Oct
built double star list for SkySafari 15 Oct


make naked eye doubles list for SkyTools 6 Feb
passed 700 split stars 23 Apr
imaged double star with BGO 24 and Apogee 27 Apr
made WDS converting spreadsheet 16 May
split Diadem at 0.4" 25 Jun
tried to image J2303 with C14 and 40D 11 Jul
passed 800 split stars 22 Aug
split Ascella at 0.6" 3 Sep
imaged doubles with C14 and 40D 4 Sep


upgraded REDUC software 2 Mar
sold double star image to S&T magazine 21 Apr
added filtering to life list 3 May
made binary fast-movers list by month 6 May
developed Excel chart to plot PA 17 May
eta CrB at 0.5" 15 Jul
imaged SLE 235D with C14 and 40D 19 Jul
passed 1000 split stars 19 Jul


he liked it!

I heard from the owner of the Solar Eclipse Timer app after sending him a copy of the RASC Journal article. He said, "I enjoyed it a lot. It was very well written! You did a good job." He was so impressed, he joined RASC!

imaged Messier 73 (Halifax)

Burke-Gaffney imaged M73. Another Messier that I viewed only once. A very small open cluster in Aquarius. Seems more like a multi-star system. In a nice field.

small open cluster Messier 73 in luminance

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

This tiny open cluster also known as NGC 6994, Collinder 426, and OCL 89, is described in wikipedia as an asterism. That's a good description. They also note it has only four stars. The article goes on to say that there was some controversy but now it is understood that M73 is not an official open cluster; it is a chance alignment of separate stars.

When I first observed this object in August 2008, I noted the V-shape. It is like a little checkmark.


Wikipedia link: Messier 73.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

want 2 in a row

Is it too much to ask? The Clear Sky Chart looked good. Jeff called a GO for the Long Sault event. Once again I considered setting up in the backyard. But the CSC is not showing back to back good nights... And I'm still coasting from last Thursday.

updated supers on Optec

Issued a notice to the CAO supervisors that the Optec TCF-S focuser was back in place on the C14 and appeared to be working correctly. Shared two operational characteristics that I wasn't sure all were aware of:
  • the system should be gracefully powered down at the hand paddle
  • the use of the hand paddle buttons is non-linear
I hope this will help out the team.

tried Eclipse Safari

Heard about, from a couple of sources, Eclipse Safari by Simulation Curriculum. The same people who make SkySafari of course. Downloaded the free app to my Android tablet to try it out. There's an event countdown on the home page.

Android screen grab from Eclipse Safari

It has an interactive map that uses your devices location which in turn calculates the contact times. I didn't see a way to override the location. The Eclipse Viewing Guide is a lengthy article with visuals, some history, some good science content, and safety information. The live update page includes links to NASA, SPACE.COM, etc. There's also a giveaway prize form.

Very basic. Easy to use.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

broke 1000

With the double star project on Thursday-Friday and imaging a number of systems never previously viewed, I ended up adding about 30 entries to my double star life list. In turn, this pushed the counter for the total viewed or imaged systems over 1000. That's very interesting to me.


Rhonda expressed it another way. "That's over 2000 stars." Indeed.

Friday, July 21, 2017

into SW Ontario

Saw a post by Craig Levine on Facebook. It included a map showing the smoke dispersion.

smoke pattern from west coast fires

Yep. It's into south-western Ontario now...


I found the source. The image is generated by the Hazard Mapping System (HMS) Fire and Smoke Product (link) from NOAA.

planets and doubles (Blue Mountains)

Settled into the Geoff Brown Observatory. I had the roof partly open. Installed the dew cap on the Celestron 14 inch. Started the dew heater system.

Checked space remaining and power for the Sony voice recorder. Loaded fresh rechargeable batteries in the recorder, to be safe.

Checked the time stamps on various devices. The ASUS tablet just ticked over to 8:31 PM. Then the ASUS netbook computer did as well. The Sony recorder appeared to be a couple of minutes fast. S'OK.


9:57 PM, Thursday 20 July 2017. Just got off the phone with my sweetie. She was still struggling home. Stoopid traffic.

Finished my vindaloo. I popped outside to quickly check conditions. It was relatively clear. No clouds per se. None in the area. The afternoon wisps had burned off. It was hazy still.

Occurred to me that I did not have astronomy case α in the GBO. Still in the car. I'd need the t-ring and 2" tube for imaging.

Still a ways to go to astronomical twilight.

Noted I had a ton of web page tabs open (from the CHDK research). I started up SkyTools. I put it into red mode. Put my Alcatel phone aside as I did not have a red screen for it.

Before closing the Facebook tab, I noted Mr Park posting lots of remarks on Starfest. Hopefully, the early arrivals would be able to take advantage of the possible good conditions tonight. Someone posted it was currently "Soakfest" with all the day-time rain. I stopped looking at Facebook. Time-sucking, mind-numbing Facebook.

Had a flashback to using Squirrel email when I was doing late-night checks in red light mode. I had set a custom dark theme. Can't do that in RoundCube. Turned off the preview and reduced the window size. Moved the window to the internal monitor.

Congested. Still. Gah. Stoopid sinuses.

Noticed a recent aurora alert. It was to go to kp 5 in the next 4 hours. Huh. I'd have to keep an eye to the north...

Connected my red keyboard light.

Added Polaris to my observing list as a reminder to look north for aurora. Added Jupiter and Saturn. Added the Moon. Added a reference HD 172825 to my evening observing list to serve as a link or gateway to the previously-made double star campaign list. The HD primary contains a neglected star, SLE 235 D, according to the WDS. With the entry I could flip back and forth between the lists quickly.

The whiskey was good.

I had my bug kit ready, for the mozzies.

Readied to fire up the Paramount. Started the Dell laptop. Having this computer out would mean I could later reconfigure the supervisor user accounts with the Kendrick software... Opened the roof. Started Software Bisque's TheSky6.

Occurred to me I did not have my keys for the eyepiece cabinet. They were in the house.

I noted a gravelly noise when I turned the Optec temperature-controller focuser on. That's different. Motor? Gears? But it worked as prescribed: drawing in and returning to the original position. I exercised it. Put it to 3500 and did a graceful power-down. Powered up. All's well.

10:15 PM. Did some double star project checks. Connected the laptop to the mount. While the mount ran through the Home process, I collected items from the house and vehicle.

Put on my eyeglasses strap.

Grabbed some eyepieces: the 27mm Panoptic for the Celestron 14 and the 18mm Radian for the Tele Vue 101. Found both 'scopes loaded with 1¼" adapters.

Slight breeze.

Made TS6 look south. Noted Saturn was left (east) of the meridian and Jupiter, obviously, to the right. Slewed to Jupiter.

10:25. Remembered to check the fire bottle in the GBO to complete my inspection.

Viewed. Jupiter. Seeing was not great. Saw four moons. No Great Red Spot.

10:28. I had been meaning to check the local conditions via the on-site Davis weather station. Loaded the custom page and reviewed the graphic images as of 10:21. The 10-minute average wind speed was 8 km/h. The direction (the thin point) was west-south-west. The immediate wind speed was 8 km/h with a high of 30.6. The humidity was already high at 96%. Oh boy. Dewey. We'd need the heaters at max. Barometric pressure 1012.0 hPa. Just above the low marker. Outside temperature was 20.1°C. Dew point was calculated at 19.4. Pretty close. The house temperature 23.8.

Oh hey! The historical charts were updated! Cool. Friday to Thursday. Hadn't seen that in a long time. All right. Humidity was 100% late Sunday, through Monday, dropped a little bit, spiked Monday night, then started to fall. The barometer dropped Saturday evening and then slowly climbed to Tuesday mid-day. The temperature from Saturday through to today varied between 26 and 15. I was very happy to see the charts working again.

The Kendrick dew controller was running.

I thought of the people at Starfest possibly getting dewed out. If you don't have a dew heater for your 'scope, sucks to be you. Welcome to summer astronomy in Canada.

After some double star target planning, I found I had some time to kill. Considered objects from my July 15 observing plan. SkyTools said Moonrise was at 12:30. Huh? Oops, wrong date. It was New Moon. Astro twilight ended at 11:12. I could go for DSOs then. Unfortunately, I'd be ramping up on my double project.

One of the choices from the list was Antares! A double star system... While the mount slewed, I dropped the south wall panels.

The breeze was lovely.

10:47. Viewed orange Antares with the 27mm. Noted the bright star HD 148563 to the south-east, part of a Y-shape asterism. Noted the pair of stars, with HD 148606, east of the HD 148563. Spotted the faint star, away, to the east, GSC 06803-2124, at magnitude 12.4. But, sadly, I did not see an obvious companion to Antares proper. When I consulted SkyTools and learned the separation was 2 arc-seconds, my heart sank. Such a close partner to such a bright primary would be very challenging. It would likely be lost in the glare. I considered bumping to the Radian 10mm. In fact, ST3P recommended that. I headed to the telescopes to exchange the oculars.

Collimation looked pretty good.

10:53. I thought I saw the partner... Something seemed to be there, to the north-west. It almost looked brown. A very dim brown star in the bright glare of the primary. Brown? It must have been the same colour as A. Considered increasing the power higher.

Checked the Kendrick system. The objective heaters were not running; the eyepiece ones were. Probably due to the temperature differential. I wondered if this would be a problem.

Thought I had the Tele Vue 10mm eyepiece in already; nope, it was the 18mm. Tried the ocular yielding 391x, hoping for an obvious result. Unfortunately, it was very soft. Went back to 217x. Wished I was at a more southern location for viewing this target.

When I compared the view in SkyTools, it showed the B star to my right or west. Noted a triangle of stars to the south-west. Realised it was a bit late in the season to view it. Hmmm. Not a good split. It needs to stay on the View Again list...

Slewed to Saturn.

10:59. A pretty nice view! Still had the 18mm in. Saw the shadow of the planet on the rings on the left (east) side. Thought I saw five moons... in a zig-zag pattern. Noted a star, well off-line to the north-east, bright at magnitude 8.8, about the same brightness as the biggest moon. Titan was south-west, at my 4 o'clock to 4:30 position. A line between Titan and the star would skirt just below the gas giant's north pole. I saw Dione east-south-east. Just for a second I spotted Tethys, quite close, opposite Dione. Rhea was no problem, directly left of the Titan. Went back out to find Enceladus and others... The eyepiece was a little fogged.

Noted a triangle of points well to the west. Oh! That included Iapetus. Seeing got good but I still could not spot Enceladus or Hyperion. Looked for Mimas. No joy. Eyepiece was clear this time.

Reviewed the Canada Day observing list again. Kept ignoring the deep sky objects.

Panned to nearby Sabik. 27mm in the C14; 18mm back in the refractor.

11:18. Sabik, aka η (eta) Oph, was centred. Noted a wide pair at my 6 o'clock to 6:30 position, near the edge of the field (east). I was sure I saw the C and D elements, to the south, to the west respectively. Oh my. Noticed that the AB separation was just over a half second of arc. Headed back to increase the power and wait for good seeing.

I was feeling a little tired. Yawning. I wondered how I would fair later, given the early start today...

Checked the big corrector plate.

11:22. Really tough. Not high in the sky. Marked Sabik to re-observe. C was quite faint, surprisingly so. D was brighter. I guessed the A and B were oriented straight up and down or north-east to south-west. They appeared to be the same brightness. A light cyan colour. Almost a hint of green.

SkyTools showed inconsistent magnitude information on the Interactive Atlas chart and Object Information box:

star IA OI
A 2.4 2.42
B 5.7 3.48
C 12.2 12.2
D 11.6 10.7

Looked like B and D chart values were wrong.

It was already in my View Again list.

11:29. Checked the time.

After a trip to the house, I started my double star research prep.

Amazingly not buggy. None on the observatory floor! Weird.

1:05 AM, Friday 21 July 2017. Popped outside between a drift shot. Thought I heard some voices to the west. Seeing was poor at the 30 degree level. Milky Way was visible. Not great though. Could see the dark rift.

Looked north for aurora. Nothing. Checked the Android tablet. The Widget did not show anything big. Checked Spaceweather web site. Not great. kp 4.

Thought of the die hard Starfesters. They'd be getting a good show tonight.

1:25. While walking between the house and observatory, I thought the sky looked better.

Between double star drift images, I checked the local conditions, as of 1:06. Looked like things, the daily highs and lows, had reset at midnight. The 10-min average wind speed was 4.8. Now coming out of the west. Immediate, 4.8, with a high of 16. Humidity had dropped a bit to 91%. Pressure, 1012.2, at the low mark. Outside temp was 19.6 with a dew point of 18.1. The historical graphs had updated again

3:50. Completed my double star project, collecting the light frames.

Fired up the dehumidifier. Closed the south panels. Closed the roof.

Spotted a super-bright object over the hill. Must be Venus!

Disconnected the Optec focuser software then shutdown the hand paddle. Grabbed things for the house and closed the observatory.

Enjoyed the eastern sky from the walkway. Pleiades, Taurus, and Auriga. Very cool. Nice finish.


4:50. You know the humidity's high when you hear the dew dropping off the roof.

collected data for SLE 235 D (Blue Mountains)

10:15 PM, Thursday 20 July 2017. I wondered when my target would hit the peak. I recalled it was around midnight. Turned on the horizon and meridian lines in SkyTools 3 Professional to check. Set the Interactive Atlas chart to Real Time then toggled it off. Moved forward. Yep. Around midnight it would move into the western hemisphere.

I also wondered about the visibility, with respect to the roof gable of the Geoff Brown Observatory. HD 172825 was a decent distance from Polaris so was there the possibility it would be behind the roof line. In SkyTools, I noticed the horizon line was smooth. I thought I had made a profile for the GBO. Switched to the other computer to display the simulated horizon line with GBO intrusions.

Noted my target was along the neck of the Dragon, as per ST3P, roughly between Grumium aka ξ (xi) Draconis and Nodus Secondus aka Altais aka δ (delta) Dra. I had to zoom a bit to the appropriate level but TheSky showed this well above the roof. Yeh. The altitude was around 60 to 70 degrees. Oh, no problem at all.

Reviewed the operational setup. The CAO laptop driving the Paramount was OK. And using it to remotely operate the Optec TCF-S focuser was OK. That offloaded tasks from the ASUS netbook which would be consumed with image capturing. Made a note to close all the browser tabs. Closed Evernote on John Repeat Dance.

Quickly planned out things. If the target crossed the meridian a little after midnight, I could begin my integration and setup around 11:00 or 11:30. I could have everything connected before midnight and do focusing. After midnight, in theory, the sky would be darker. Did some other things in the meantime.


11:30. Considered focus control. I found the custom Optec cable. I found long serial cable. I popped the screen a bit and passed it through the window. I would need the USB-serial adapter. Checked the assigned port: COM7. Adjusted the Optec software, connected, and tested operation. Put it back into Auto mode.

Closed unneeded apps on the netbook computer. Activated Super Performance mode.

Readied for camera control. Hooked up my USB-ethernet 2.0 extension kit (with power supply) with the subterranean cable. Attached the 2" nosepiece to the 40D body and connected the DC coupler. Hate the Canon power supply design. Bolted it up to the SCT 'scope and powered it on. Oops. Forgot the USB cable...

11:48. EOS Utility launched once I had the cable in place. Huh. Nothing. Tapped the shutter; it seemed the camera had gone to sleep. Switched the body to Manual to allow Live View at the computer.

Went to the camera, turned on the back display Live View, adjusted the exposure settings, ISO, white balance, a longer exposure time, and did crude focus, still on Sabik, with the telescope's mirror control. Forgot how easy that was to do, at the camera.

Operated the Optec software, starting from 3528, using the Dell computer, while monitoring the image on the ASUS computer (and external monitor). Everything was working just fine. No issues. Went down to 2528; went up. I thought it better when I went down. Stopped at 3328.

My target star was very close to the meridian. Slewed to a brighter star. Watched closely for cable binding. Wow. Nearly straight up. Bonkers.

12:01 AM, Friday 21 July 2017. Noted the Kendrick controller was now sending power to the objective dew heaters.

Pointing was off a bit so I manually panned. The refractor and SCT were fairly well-aligned. Decided on the 5mm eyepiece so to reduce the field, to make the 101 act as a finder. Opened TheSky's motion control dialog box. Fine-tuned the refractor alignment. Noted nearby the two sets of wide pairs, with HD 163769 on the west, and PPM 36276 on the east.

Now HD 172825 was over the meridian.

Initially, for me, the camera view wss upside,-down, north was down, almost straight down.

Gauged the pointing off-set in TheSky versus the camera view. Chose Orientation, Zoom To... Used Telescope (Ctrl-t) and Finder. The Finder was too wide. The Telescope field (on the long edge) was 1 degree. The telescope was pointing slightly above. The offset was not bad: a fraction of a degree. 8 arcminutes. Rotated the field in TheSky. Put north down. Activated the camera field in SkyTools.

Adjusted the camera settings in EOS Utility.


Except where noted, all photos were shot with a Canon 40D, daylight white balance, on a Celestron SCT 14-inch, f/11, atop a Paramount ME, Software Bisque TheSky 6, unguided. Initially manually focused using the SCT mirror shifting control.

These first few preparatory images were shot using ISO 1600. Initially used Canon EOS Utility. All the images were processed using Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) 3.8. All images are oriented north to the top and east to the left unless noted otherwise. Lots of hot pixels. While dark frames were shot, none were applied to these images. Remember to click on images to enlarge; right-click to view in a separate tab or window at full size.

Performed crude focus and telescope(s) alignment with γ (gamma) Draconis. Did a test shot.

multi-star Etamin or gamma Draconis

12:11 AM. Gorgeous Etamin (aka Eltanin and Burnham 633). 10 seconds.

This is a multi-star system with 7 elements. The primary star is a lovely gold. B is faint, to the south-east, very close to the bright main star. Is it gold too? Or is that colour coming from the host? C is a very pale, dim partner to the south-west. It is the faintest star in the group. D is to the north, further out, and only slightly brighter than C. The white comrade E is beyond C, about the same brightness as B. Ally F is pale orange, further out still, to the east-south-east. Lastly, beige G is above or north-north-east, the brightest off the squad. Very cool to spot all the elements.

Searched for the star in TheSky using the SAO designation and manually accommodating for the offset. Did more checks and tests with my main objective, HD 172825 (aka SAO 17961 and HJ 2836A). I'm after the D companion...

multi-star system HD 172825 in Draco

12:22. 10 seconds. North is down; east is right.

I was happy to spot all the elements. Good correspondence with SkyTools. See below for the identification of all components.

Checked the infrared black and white satellite imagery. It was looking fine over Ontario.

Made a reminder note to get darks, at the end. Opened Evernote on the laptop to review my double star shooting notes (since the ASUS tablet was screwed up). Right. Do the "squaring" step...

Turned the camera in the focuser and did some manual drifting to better align the camera frame. A long run given the proximity to the pole. Used the grid in EOS Utility.

Ran a stopwatch app on Ananke to measure the full drift time. Figured out the timing: turn off tracking (a couple of seconds), expose (for 2:15), turn on tracking, slew back to the (previously selected) starting point (couple more seconds), wait for the next shot (about 10 seconds). Put the camera in bulb and programmed the interval to 2:35. Captured the multiple long exposure trails, using Etamin once again, using EOS Utilities script controls. These images will be used to measure the camera's orientation against the sky's declination.

trailed star to measure camera orientation against declination axis

1:20. 135 seconds. Pretty good alignment on the long axis. I'm not sure which way north is. Shot 15 images.

I just love the look of these traces...

Reviewed the process:

  • I ended up monitoring TheSky (that was better than watching the timer in EU). 
  • As the 'scope indicator drew near the edge of the frame. I would glance at the EOS Utility. I'd see the exposure timing around 2 minutes or 15 seconds to go. 
  • I'd return to TheSky. 
  • I'd choose Telescope, Options and hover the mouse pointer over the Tracking command. 
  • A quick glance at EU would show it the exposure time of 2:03 or so. 
  • Then I'd listen... When I heard the camera shutter close, I'd click the mouse, to turn the tracking on. 
  • Immediately, I'd hit the Slew button (using the previously selected point) and confirm the action to return to the start point. 
  • I'd choose Telescope, Options and hover over the Tracking command again. 
  • I'd watch EU count down to the next shot. About 8 seconds to go.
  • At 2 seconds before, I'd click the mouse, turning the tracking off.

Switched to Backyard EOS for advanced focus control. Operated the Optec TCF-S via the computer app again. Shortly after I activated the Frame & Focus, the FWHM showed a value 6.5. Curiously, as I adjusted the focuser, I never got a better value. Funny. Ended up back at 3328. Got a 6.7 at 3338. Went back to 3328. Remembered to put the focuser back to automatic.

Stayed in the BYE tool for its advanced filenaming and scripting controls.

Remembered to drop the ISO to lower the noise in the subsequent images.

OK. Next up was the image scale calibration stars, starting with ω (omega).

double star omega in Draco

1:52. Also known as 28 Dra and SAO 17576 and FOX 203. 10 seconds.

A is pure white. The B companion is very faint, a fair distance away, to the 4 o'clock position, or west-south-west. Also shot it at 20 seconds. BYE said the camera sensor was 29°. Shot it at 5 seconds and I could still see the B star.

The FOX 167 entry on the list seemed strange. Not sure how it got there.

Next up was Grumium. Couldn't see the companion so I shot a longer exposure.

double star Grumium in Draco

2:03. AKA ξ (xi) Dra, 32 Dra, SAO 30631, and LDS 1457. 20 seconds.

The main star is a pale gold. If I'm interpreting things correctly, the B colleague is the dark orange star to the west-north-west, well away. Really far. ST3P presents a chart that is different than the image. It's either bad data in the app or a bunch of these stars are moving around... Fascinating in any case.

Headed to T Dra, a M-class variable star. That is not a hot pixel.

variable and double star T Dra

2:07. aka HIP 87820 and ES 20. 10 seconds.

Wow. What an amazing colour! That might be the deepest orange-red star I've ever seen. The B partner, nearly equal in brightness, is close by, to the south-west. ST3P says it is also a variable, UY Dra. Wow.

I used the HD feature in Frame & Focus for the first time. It reminded me of the integration feature of the MallinCam, doing on the fly stacking.

Our next destination was HD 164330, a triple.

multi-star system HD 164330 in Draco

2:13. Other designations include: SAO 17695 and STT A 163. 5 seconds.

The primary star, near the centre of the photograph, is a beige or grey colour. The equally-bright B friend to the north-east is blue-white. Due north, well away, is the C star, dim, same colour as A. Also shot at 2 seconds.

Headed to HD 164984.

multi-star system HD 164984 in Draco

2:22. Other labels: SAO 17717 and Σ (STF) 2273. 10 seconds.

This might appear, at first glance, a simple pair. "Moth Eyes," as it were. But if you look closely, you'll see faint companions. SkyTools shows this to be a 4-star system. The A star is to the left or east. It is a pale blue-white. B is very slightly dimmer. And has a touch less blue. Further west, but at the same angular separation as A and B, is faint C. It looks grey. For bonus points, look near A and B, slightly north, to tag P, the very dim fourth star.

Lots of other interesting colourful stars in the field.

Took the big dew cap off to reduce wind-shake. From the floor I noticed clouds! That explained why some of the exposures were wonky. One shot showed a lot of vibration.

Did some shots of the main goal, HD 172825, in case the sky turned bad. Got the D star. Programmed a run for 5 images. Was feeling a little tired. Took stuff to the house. Some images were faded with clouds; some were shakey.

Slewed to HD 238823. A delicious treat. A quadruple.

multi-star system HD 238823 in Draco

2:38. SAO 30778, PPM 36404, or Σ2300. 10 seconds.

A is the brightest star, of course. Blue-white. It is on the right or west side of the group. B is the next brightest distant furnace, tan in colour, along the north edge. Below and tight to B is the delicate little C element. Not directly south of B, it is slightly west. Finally the D star is to the east. Hint of orange. About the same intensity as C. An amazing little collection.

There's a red dot about the D star. Sorry. Hot pixel. Please ignore.

Neat system.

Had trouble finding my next Skytools suggestion in TheSky so I moved on to 36 Draconis.

double star 36 Dra

2:43. HR 6850, HD 168151, SAO 17828, PPM 20819, HIP 89348, and STT 586. 5 seconds.

A simple wide double. A is white. B is far away to the west, pale orange. Also shot at 2 seconds.

Skipped to HD 170508. There seemed to be clouds again as I could not see the stars in the HD view. Peeked outside. Wasn't terrible.

Checked the weather conditions. 10-minute average was 6.4 out of the SW. The immediate wind speed was 8 with a high of 22.5. Humidity 94. Pressure 1011.9, still falling. Temp 19.2, dew 18.2.

double star HD 170508 in Draco

2:50. AKA SAO 17882 and ES 2666. 2 seconds.

An easy faint pair with robin's egg blue and grey stars. B is due west.

Next up: HR 6979. Could not see anything at first.

double star HR 6979 in Draco

2:55. Also referred to as HD 171653, SAO 17912, and KUI 86. 5 seconds.

Another pair of stars. The host is blue-white while the partner is a very dim white to the north-east. Is B greenish?

The astronomical twilight would beginning around 3:45.

Centred on HD 172323.

double star HD 172323 in Draco

2:59. AKA SAO 17936 and STF 2365. 5 seconds.

White and orange stars with the dim sidekick to the north-north-east. SkyTools makes them look nearly equal in colour and magnitude. Nope.

Came to the main target in the observing list so gathered more data. Could see the B, C, and D stars in the 5 second shot.

Found dew on the corrector even with the dew heaters running. Grabbed the hair dryer to clear the fog. Switched the controller to our winter configuration.

Off to 46 Dra, a wide triple. Bright stars in the area.

multi-star system 46 Dra

3:08. HR 7049, SAO 31119, and H 6 37. 5 seconds.

Bright A is blue-white. B is a good distance away to the south-south-east, dull white. C is opposite B, double the separation, and is brighter. It is a very pale peach. Curious. Why wouldn't the star to the south, with the same brightness as C, almost the same sep., not be considered part of 46? Or the orange star to the west? Oh well...

Selected the double SAO 18068.

double star SAO 18068 in Draco

3:21. Also known as ES 2669. 2 seconds.

A very faint pair. A pale orange primary and a faint white secondary, close, to the south. It was very obvious in the 5 second exposure.

Targeted triple HR 7191. Shot for 1 second. Shot again.

multi-star system HR 7191 in Draco

3:14. HD 176668, SAO 18082, and Σ 2440. 2 seconds.

The leader is off-white or beige. The second point is at the 8 o'clock position or east-south-east, close. It might be a light yellow or very light orange. The third member of the group is a good distance away to the north-east, slightly dimmer than B. Also whitish in colour.

Went to the faint pair PPM 21295. Short slew. Had a hard time seeing it in Frame & Focus.

double star PPM 21295 in Draco

3:17. The Washington Double Star database designation is MLB1082. 5 seconds.

A is blue-white; B, to the north-east, is a dull orange. Also tried 4 seconds.

If passengers would look out the forward port window, they will see Altais or δ (delta) Draconis. I could see the B in a 5 second exposure.

double star delta Draconis

3:21. SkyTools calls this target Nodus Secundus. Other designations are 57 Dra and BUP 186. 20 seconds.

This simple double is comprised of the very bright, yellow component with the dim nearby white star to the north. Why the other stars aren't included is beyond me. Regardless, a lovely field.

I thought it odd that the star GSC 04444-1629 did not show in the image. SkyTools plots this mag 10.6 star to the south-west.

Slewed to HR 7361, a double.

double star HR 7361 in Draco

3:25. aka SAO 18287 or BUP 188. 5 seconds.

An intense blue-white primary. Again, you'd think this a multi-star system with all the nearby points of light. The companion is south, due south. White or grey. Nice field. Shot again at 3 seconds.

This time 'round, I was able to find the double HD 234577. Did I type it wrong before?  Shot blind. Whoa. Interesting stuff going on here... Shifted a bit and shot again.

double star HD 234577 in Draco

3:31. AKA SAO 30796, PPM 36426, and AG 217. 5 seconds.

There appear two doubles in the image. The right-hand pair, which are slightly tighter, is the target in question. The A star is the upper-left light tan point; to the south-west is the pale white slightly dimmer B star.

The east-most pair, with a slightly greater separation than HD 234577, is the pair HD 234579 (WDS VBS 27). Here the A star is bright with a very pale orange hue with the dim white B partner to the north-east.

Two for the price of one!

The blue-white star, HD 167103, to the west is unrelated.

Star hopped to Σ2332 using SkyTools as the target. Took a while. Near the neck. Shot blind. Got it! A delicate double.

double star STF 2332 in Draco

3:36. 5 seconds.

A is blue white. B, west, is very dim, grey. Orange?

Star hopped to another faint pair, STI 894. Shot blind again. Nailed it.

double star STI 894 in Draco

3:41. 5 seconds.

A is white, possibly pale blue. B, close, to the north-west, is white, a couple of notches dimmer.

From lessons learned during previous double star runs and considering the sketchy sky conditions, I grabbed data on the target multi-star system HD 172825 along the way. Returned to shoot a 5 second image. Moved west a bit. I wanted one very long exposure to get the field stars.

multi-star system HD 172825 in Draco with SLE 235 D

3:45. 30 seconds. Neat.

The primary star is the brightest in the field. It is white with subtle hints of blue. The B member is to the north-west or 2 o'clock position. Quite a bit dimmer than the lucida. A touch of pale orange. SkyTools shows B much dimmer but it is similar to C. The C element is to the west, slightly south, about double the AB separation. It is white. A fraction dimmer than B. Beyond B, about 5 times the distance, is a bright star. The software says this is D, specifically SLE 235 D. I went on this campaign as D is considered a neglected star in the Washington Double Star database.

Lots of data for reduction.

Reviewed my light frame times. Initially I viewed the EXIF data inside Backyard which was painfully slow. Went faster when I remembered the exposure value was in the filename. Programmed the dark frames run for all the exposures with 30 second delays. It would finish at 6 in the morning. Parked the 'scope. Monitored for cable wrap. Before installing the C14 cover, I dried off the corrector.

Fun. Overall, everything worked well. It took longer than I anticipated. Perhaps primarily due to taking more drift images and capturing more calibration stars. What I had forgotten is that targets near the North Celestial Pole have longer drift times.

The dew was incredible.

I'm thankful for the relatively clear skies.


Wikipedia links: gamma Draconis; omega Draconis; xi Draconis; delta Draconis.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

deep red (Blue Mountains)

The Sun was deep crimson red. Amazing colour. Is this also caused by the BC fires?

orange haze (Blue Mountains)

Weird. The Sun was still high up, it would be some time until sunset, but it was hazy and orange-coloured. Actually, the whole sky was somewhat hazy. I wondered if the smoke and particulate from the terrible fires in British Columbia were reaching us. Transparency would be off. But I was hopeful. I just needed decent seeing...

cancelled CAO weekend visit

Stoopid weather. Peter and I conferred. The weather does not look good for the weekend. I cancelled my supervised visit.

imaged NGC 6946 again (Halifax)

BGO imaged NGC 6946 for me. I continue to monitor the supernova in the Fireworks galaxy. SN2017eaw is still fairly bright and plainly visible (despite the tracking issue).

supernova SN2017eaw in luminance

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

I will add this to the data from 11 Jul '17.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

imaged 70 Oph once again (Halifax)

The image of 70 Ophiuchi from 10 Jul '17 did not work out well so I asked the Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot to shoot it again. I also programmed it to shoot faster.

multi-star system 70 Oph in luminance

Luminance only, 1 second subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

That's better! I can see the B companion rather clearly now. I "unstretched" or compressed the histogram in FITS Lib to desaturate the image.

Centred on GSC 00434 02340.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Binary Universe: hearing the eclipse

The August RASC Journal was uploaded to the members area.

cover of the RASC Journal 2017 August
Spotted Bill's photo of Lunar X inside the back cover. Congratulated him. He said he's not a RASC member anymore. Spotted Malcolm's aurora shot from May on the back cover. Congratulated him. He wondered how I obtained the Journal.

It will be interesting to read Peter Hiscocks article Maps of Light Pollution. Blair MacDonald continues his imaging software masks topic.

My software review column Binary Universe featured the Solar Eclipse Timer for iOS and Android. The inexpensive app accurately computes the times of first through fourth contact and will issue audio prompts during the eclipse. I reviewed the Android version (1.3) with assistance from the author.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

saw streaks

Had a look at Tony dS's SCT corrector. Lots of water streaks, meandering long streaks. They appeared to be on the outside. Offered to clean it. I also suggested not capping it at the end of a session until dry. And parking nose down. We looked at our calendars for a repair date.

checked the graphs

Fixed the Davis weather station historical reports! I found the 7-day graphs updated, the first time in months.

Yesterday afternoon I had performed two specific actions at the console. I disconnected and reseated the USB adapter converter thingee. I also rebooted the console (simply removing a battery for 20 seconds or so).

Very happy.

viewed fast movers (Blue Mountains)

10:00 PM, Saturday 15 July 2017. I visited the lads on the Observing Pad. Viewed Saturn in Ian's homemade Dobsonian. The Division was visible, the equatorial belt, dark at the pole, hint of the shadow, Titan, a bright moon opposite. Viewed Jupiter in Chris's new Dobsonian. Three moons nicely aligned. A pinpoint just off the disc, very close, but way out of line. I was assured it was Callisto.

The supervisor was asleep so I decided to do my own thing in the Geoff Brown Observatory. Started with some high-priority double stars.

10:34 PM. Viewed HD 120476 in Boötes. aka SAO 83011 or STF1785. One of the fast movers. I saw pale orange stars, A slightly brighter and paler than B. An easy split. Oriented roughly north-south. I estimated the PA is around 12. Uncle Tony had a look.

partial orbit diagram of HD 120476

That was nice. A new binary double star for me.

Richard was fighting his mount. EQ Mod issues with the date/time.

10:59. I had been viewing eta Coronae Borealis for some time now. I could see faint C and D plus other stars.

11:10. Uncle Tony wanted to tested a Celestron 8mm ocular. It was OK. There was a slight collimation issue but overall it was OK. He said the views in his C11 were not good. Offered to have a look but he had buttoned up his observatory.

I split η CrB with the 10mm in C14! Yes! Extremely tight. Good to see them again.

11:16. Turned on Optec focuser. It seemed to be working fine. Normally ramp-up non-linear progression of the controls. But I was having a harder time now seeing things. The clouds were not helping.

11:39. We had a bit of rain. Richard called it out first; immediately I felt some drops. I panned the C14 horizontal. We had to close the roof.

We waited for a long time but the clouds just didn't seem to be letting up.

12:29 AM, Sunday 16 July 2017. We were back in the house...

12:40 AM. I checked conditions from the front deck. Still cloudy.

I checked again. Marginally better overhead but lots of clouds in the north-west. I retired.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

ran Kendrick seminar

Ran a little hands-on course, for a couple of the supervisors, on the Kendrick dew heater system on the C14 and TV101. Showed where the wraps should be mounted, how to check the operational status at the controller/keypad, how to select a stored configuration profile, and how to interface with the computer.

revised essay

Ian W and I cranked through another edit of our article. We used his computer to revise a local copy. Now we're looking to a pro to vet the material.

put back bits

Reinstalled the Optec temperature-controller focuser to the Celestron 14. Tested it. Seems to be working nominally.

Put the visual back accessory back on the NexStar 11.

viewed Sun (Blue Mountains)

Huge sunspot complex, stunning in hydrogen-alpha and visible in full spectrum.

SuperGenius got a great photo.

Friday, July 14, 2017

received S&T

Grace found a few copies of Sky & Telescope at the Chapters-Sherway Gardens. She brought 2 copies to the CAO for me. Thank you!

subbed as sup

Helped out Tony H as backup supervisor. Late arrival.

imaged HR 8 (Halifax)

BGO imaged HR 8, aka STT 549, a multi-star system in Andromeda. Centred on GSC 01735 00996.

multi-star system HR 8 in luminance

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

Back in Sep '16 I had viewed this system but had not seen the C star. The photo is very interesting. Clearly, to the south-south-west, there is a double. This is the C and D pair. The curious thing is that the position of the D star is very different from the SkyTools software. The software chart shows C and D well separated and D almost due west of C; the photograph gives the impression they are on top of one another. Looks like D is moving fast to the east.

This seems to support the data in the WDS.

Now the strange thing with this multi-star system is the E star. I learned of the fifth element via the Washington Double Star database. But it does not appear in the photo even though I can see magnitude 17 stars. LAF 21 (AE) should be opposite B.

annotated photograph of HR 8 A, B, C, and D

I don't see anything...


Using Triangle Calculator, I computed the D star with a:
  • theta (PA) of 200 + 0.213° which I rounded to 201
  • rho (sep) of 144.954" which I rounded to 145.0
So, the good news is that I finally spotted the D star.

The bad news is that I can't find the E. But then, I'm suspicious of the single entry from LAF.

imaged epsilon Lyr (Halifax)

The BGO robot imaged epsilon Lyrae for me. A multi-star system typically referred to as the Double-Double. This image is centred on GSC 03122 01380.

multi-star system epsilon Lyr in luminance

Luminance only, 5 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

The Double-Double is well known for its 4 years but it is actually a 9-star system. I wanted to view/image this region again so to tag the H star (aka SHJ 277). I had not spotted it on the evening of 8 Jun. SkyTools 3 Pro showed H was almost due north of G. In the image, it is obvious. It is the same brightness has G, arguably brighter. Is it a variable?


Wikipedia link: epsilon Lyrae.

imaged HD 350461 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged the double star HD 350461 for me. Located in Sagitta, aka HDS 2798 and SAO 105182. Centred on Tycho 1606 01248 1.

double-star HD 350461 in luminance

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

I first viewed this system in Jul '15 and viewed and imaged many times since. I have not been able to split the A and B stars.

SkyTools shows the angle is 280 degrees or so. The image from BGO shows artefacts but I think I see something along the 346 line. Um. It's probably an artefact. Wishful thinking that I have extracted meaningful data. I will need to carefully examined the colour channel stacks.

TYC 01606-1923 1, north-north-west of HD 350461, appears to be a double star in the photo...

HD 186224 is obvious in this image, at the bottom of the diamond or kite.


The colour channel stacks are no better.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

August S&T is out

I learned from Grace that the August issue of Sky & Telescope is on Canadian newsstands.

For me this marks the occasion of officially becoming a pro-am astrophotographer.

The article entitled Eyes of the Dragon (starting on page 24) on double star systems in the Draco constellation includes photographs by Scott MacNeill, Mike Wood, and yours truly. They selected my shot of omicron Draconis from August 2014.

I must have been too early trying to find the periodical at my local stores.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

eat more cereal

Katrina shared a video link on how to make a quick-n-easy pinhole viewer for safely looking at the Sun. Will be handy when viewing the upcoming solar eclipse.

cereal box solar viewer

I found the source video at NASA's eclipse web site. A cereal box viewer is tad easier to use than a banana box viewer...

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

is the supernova fading? (Halifax)

Before clouds scuttled the imaging run, the BGO robot captured some more data from the Fireworks galaxy with SN2017eaw. Is it slightly dimmer now?

Fireworks supernova in luminance

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

Will add to data from 6 Jul.

Monday, July 10, 2017

shot 70 Oph again (Halifax)

Last August, I imaged 70 Ophiuchi with the Burke-Gaffney Observatory. I was able to see all the members of the multi-star system but A and B were merged in the 5 second exposure.

multi-star 70 Oph luminance

Luminance only, 2 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

Still too much...

There's also a glow. Perhaps from clouds?


Reshot on 19 Jul at 1 second.

consider York U's Solar Fair

Delaney tweeted details of the planned Solar Fair at York U.

Sounds like it will be a good show.

couldn't find S&T

Tried to find the August issue of Sky & Telescope. In addition to some little stores, I checked a local Chapters and Coles but couldn't find it.

Sky & Telescope magazine cover August 2017


Thursday, July 06, 2017

imaged NGC 4214 at last (Halifax)

I asked the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to image NGC 4214 some time ago. A galaxy in Canes Venatici. Another of the RASC Finest NGCs. Finally got some data (albeit during a bright Moon). It is a disturbed system, amorphous and mottled.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 4214 in luminance

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

There seems to be a double to the south-east...


Wikipedia link: NGC 4214.

checked the WAPs

Received a report of wifi problems at the observatory. I reminded the users of the password. Then I remotely access each wireless access point. All looked good... Strange.

hiding Moon

Just spotted the Moon. I see you. Hiding behind the tree. I know you're there...

another shot of SN2017eaw (Halifax)

Burke-Gaffney tagged the Fireworks Galaxy for me once again. I continue to monitor SN2017eaw.

supernova SN2017eaw in NGC 6946

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

It still looks bright.

I will add this to the data from 25 June.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

imaged M109 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney BGO robot imaged Messier 109 for me. A large barred spiral galaxy in Ursa Major. From my list of Messiers viewed once...

Messier 109 in luminance

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

M109 is slightly canted. It features a large, pronounced central bar. Large spiral arms with a bright core. Some foreground field stars. The left/east edge of the galactic disc seems less defined than the right. Is this what our galaxy looks like?

To the north-west, there seems to be a double with GSC 03833-0437 and GSC 03833-0436.

South, there's a small fuzzy comma. MCG 9-20-45 aka PGC 37621.

East, I see a medium-sized oval. MCG 9-20-48 aka PGC 37700.


Pretty scant notes from Aug 2011.


Wikipedia link: Messier 109.

received Aug proof

Received proof for the August RASC Journal. Was asked to turn it around quickly. Good.

built a new profile

I made a new profile in the Davis Weather Link software. Verified the new instant images were working... I was hoping this would fix the historical graphs problem.


The graphs are still not working.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

now it's clear!

Figures! I'm feeling like a dog's breakfast, not seemingly recovering from this cold-sinus thing, and it's predicted to be beautifully clear out.
Subject: CSAC Alarm for 2017-07-04 16:00:00
Date: 2017-07-04 15:45

Favorable observing conditions at
B. Williams Mem. Observatory

Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
07-04 @ Hour 16 for 9 hours (20%/Below Avg/Average)
07-05 @ Hour 02 for 3 hours (0%/Above Ave./Good)
07-05 @ Hour 06 for 3 hours (0%/Above Ave./Good)

Thank you for using the Clear Sky Alarm Clock,
Mark Casazza
The next night looks good too! Tent time? I would if I could...

shared his solargraph

Ian W shared his solargraph from his beer can pinhole camera. He noted that the plastic on top of his can prevented water damage (just as Rhonda and I had done). He proposed another revision though. He suggested that the aperture pinhole "needs to be placed higher, I think. The top images are cut off." His approach may be easier to implement than what rho and I had considered, tilting the whole camera.

Monday, July 03, 2017

supervised a small group

Served as supervisor this long weekend at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Somewhat low-key with many members away celebrating Canada Day. Some first-timers, some new members, and a few regulars. Still, we had fun. And we were able to do a bit of observing despite the unsettled weather conditions.

read CBC article

Nicole wrote a piece on the upcoming total solar eclipse featuring Ms Ince-Lum and Mr Delaney. Nice! Katrina heading, like many Canadians, south of the border. Paul reminded all of safety issues and urged we all sit back and enjoy. Right on.

we did a few tasks

Did some chores and tasks at the CAO during my tour of duty.

Reported on the road conditions. The town had dropped fresh new fine gravel all the way to the service demarcation point. The grader had clearly come down the rest of the way. It was fair on the 18th Side Road but we could use some new gravel too.

Tested the house and observatory security systems. All was nominal.

Watered the hummingbirds.

Added some additional labels to the Blade Runner walk-behind mower. Attached the discharge chute to mulch plug so to avoid loss in the future.

Investigated the propane tank adapters for the new/used 'cue. Reported my observations.

Tested the Davis weather station console physical interface to the server computer. Currently we use the USB type adapter in the console with the stock cable which restricts where we may place the tethered computer. As we wish to relocate the server but keep the console in its existing spot, we need to know our options. The expensive route is to ditch the USB adapter and buy the serial. But it occurred to me that a USB extension cable may work. We have a USB-ethernet kit already at the CAO (USB 1.0 mind you). I tested it and it immediately failed. I had brought my personal 2.0 kit and it appeared to work.

While working on the Davis system, I tried to sort the historical images problem. It looks like the graphical chart images have not uploaded to the server for many months. The date stamps show from November. I initially assumed there was a problem with the upload but when I checked the web server, I found the historical files with time stamps a little after the scheduled process time of 1:03 AM. Weird. That suggested the upload routine is fine but perhaps the wrong files are being sent. More work is needed here.

And while working on the server I noticed some other odd things so I changed the password to limit access and begin deeper analyses.

Rhonda helped me with power washing the back steps. This touch-up should allow Tony to proceed with this finishing steps and staining.

I investigated the network problem in MODL 5. When I opened the west junction box, I found a very poorly done ethernet 8-wire jack. I could see the wires were misaligned (as the wire-holding insert had not been used), the teeth of the plug leads were not biting, and the strain-relief had not been installed. I thought this the root cause. Checked the wiring format at the other termini and found that 568A had been used at the pier. I cut the bad plug and properly installed a new one. Sadly, tests in the MODL (5) failed. Asked Ian D if I could test for a good LAN connection in his MODL (1) and did not get access. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! Headed upstream to the GBO and found the ethernet switch show a good signal on the input side and a good signal downstream to the MODL switch. Curiously, the GBO router was not showing. And my netbook would not connect! What the hell is going on? I wondered. I took the GBO router offline. I rebooted John Repeat Dance. The netbook started working fine. I tested the LAN cable from Denis's collection and the one I had grabbed from our on-site parts bin. I headed to the junction and got a good connection. Headed to MODL 5 and connected to the pier. The computer tried to get an IP but failed. I connected to the port Denis had installed on the wall. Nothing. I disconnected all his cables and his mysterious TP-LINK box and once again rebooted the ASUS computer. I had a good LAN link at the junction box. I also could connect at Ian's. I buttoned everything up. I was irked at not being able to resolve the matter. But I think I need more information from Denis on how he wired things up and what the TP-LINK is doing exactly. I'd really like to verify a clean cable to the lot specifically. Frustrating.

captured the Moon and Saturn (Blue Mountains)

We viewed and imaged the Moon. Used the iOptron smartphone holder I had brought from the house. Rhonda liked the colour. Thought it matched the Paramount. Indeed. Helped people wrangle their smartphone camera apps to improve the shots.

Moon, waxing gibbous

10:38 PM, Sunday 2 July 2017. Moon by Rhonda Gribbon. Used with permission. Tele Vue 101, f/5.3, iOptron adapter, 12.5mm PL eyepiece, Samsung Galaxy s4, f/2.2, 4mm, 1/100 second, ISO 80, spot metering.

Started my audio recorder.

11:08 PM. Rhonda was singing in the Warm Room.

Rohini, Kitty, and Thomas saw Saturn. We used SkyTools to figure out the moons we saw. Rohini helped me get the orientation with bright Titan at the right. I didn't think Hyperion was possible but the others should be. Rhonda had another look.

Aditya said Saturn was very distant. Indeed, small in the eyepiece.

Rohini asked about taking a picture of Saturn with her huge smartphone. I connected the iOptron adapter in anticipation. Thomas said that Kitty was expecting Saturn to be as big as the moon. I wondered if she's been reading too many of those spoof emails... 400 000 kilometres versus 1 400 000 000.

I was trying to remember the line... "I'm ready for my close-up..." [ed: Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up, from Sunset Boulevard.]

11:13. Thomas spotted fireworks from our southern neighbours.

Set up the ladder for Adi to look at Saturn.

Rhonda could see the "double" of Rhea and Dione. I could see Titan and likely Rhea in the small 'scope. The seeing went really steady. No Mimas: it was too close to the rings.

Rhonda thought she saw Hyperion (magnitude 14.4). It did not seem the right distance. It was a star. It was much further away. Hyperion was closer than Iapetus.

Realised I was mistaking Tethys for Enceladus (11.9). So, to recap: Tethys (10.4), Rhea, Dione, Titan, Iapetus.

Rhonda was certain she saw Mimas, a bump on the ring. Impressive! Hawk-eye!

11:19. Grabbed a 2"-1¼" ring to hook up the camera adapter. Reminded everyone to hang onto their butts!

Rhonda spotted a meteor! Right above the bowl of the Big Dipper.

Reminded Rohini to use her timer function again. Suggested she try movie mode and later examine for crisp frames.

Saturn through the big 'scope

Saturn by Rohini Bernard. Used with permission. Celestron 14, f/11, iOptron adapter, 12.5mm PL eyepiece, Apple iPhone 7 Plus, f/1.8, 4mm, 1/13 second, ISO 100, spot metering, exposure compensation -3.9.

Decent skies. Freaky, given how it had been all day, scattered clouds, high cirrus and low fluffy. We could almost see all of Scorpius. There were low clouds far to the south.

11:26. Helped Kitty take some photos of the ringed world.

Rohini said, "I only have two more things on my checklist." To which Thomas said, "No pressure!" She wanted to see Jupiter and a meteor. I could help with the first... I suggested her air bag chair donut thing for the latter.

Rhonda helped people spot the faint Milky Way. She used Vega as a marker.

Ian D popped into the observatory, dressed for deep sea diving. Wondered what we were doing. He said there were a lot of fireflies in the field. He headed back to his Pod for more visual observing.

11:36. Thomas said there was a -7 Iridium due soon. Roh wondered if we might see aurora tonight. She was thrilled to see the big show on 27 May.

Deepak got some good Saturn photographs with his smartphone.

I suggested the keeners could use AutoStakkert or RegiStax with their planet movies.

I had another look at Saturn. I could see the C ring and the Cassini Division and the equatorial belt. But no Mimas. Lovely.

11:43. Flipped over the meridian as we slewed to Jupiter. Rohini found the motion hypnotic.

Rhonda came into the GBO. She had seen another meteor. This one near the horizon.

Rohini said she saw one moon on the left--that was Europa. I shared that the other three should be visible according to the software simulation. From inner to outer: Io, Ganymede, and Callisto. Gave Roh the joystick to shift a bit. Kitty saw all 4 moons. Rohini filled out her customer satisfaction card.

11:48. Catherine and Barry dropped in. They were doing OK on the Observing Pad. One of their 'scopes (the hybrid Newtonian) was badly collimated unfortunately.

Kitty shared they had gone on an expensive tour north of Edmonton but not seen any aurora. Takes yer chances..

I encouraged people to look very closely at Jupiter. Look for a bump in the "upper" cloud band, on the outer edge. Adi and I had checked the software last night and it was not visible; I was hoping it would be facing us today. The feature often referred to as the Great Red spot was toward us. The Great Pale Spot. The Feature-Formally-Known-As-The-Great-Red-Spot. But it was hard to see. Low planets in the summer...

11:55. We waited for the Iridium. We spotted a dim satellite going north, near Jupiter. But no flares... We filled out our customer satisfaction cards.

Rhonda asked how far the Moon was, in terms of light: 1.3 seconds, on average.

12:01 AM, Monday 3 July 2017. Slewed to the Great Hercules Cluster, Messier 13. SkyTools calls it the Keystone Cluster. Rohini thought it a "fuzzy little thing." That fuzzy little thing is made up of 300 000 stars. Kitty thought it very pretty.

Rohini asked me to wake her if aurora appeared. No time restrictions. Rhonda took a look to the north for us. I had not seen any major outbursts on SolarHam.

Adi had a look at M13. I reminded him of the Wild Duck from last night, an open cluster, had a few hundred stars while this cluster was closer to a half-million.

12:06 AM. The Bernard entourage headed to bed.

My coughing frequency was increasing.

Rhonda returned. Sent her to the telescope. "Holy moley, straight up." She looked in. "Holy!" She recognised it as a globular cluster. "Nice, very pretty."

It got quiet in the GBO. Just the two of us.

12:13. Slewed to a double star from my list, ξ (xi) Scorpii, one of the fast-movers. Between Ophiuchus and the scorpion.

After a moment, I split A and B--super tight. Roughly angled toward C. D and E were obvious. F was faint.

Rhonda had a look. At first, she thought the bright element a single; she noted the wide pair off to the left (or south). Told her the bright thing was a tight binary. She said she could see different colours on A and B. Blue on right, 4 o'clock, orange at the left, 10 o'clock. Kept looking. Then she saw the split! "Wow." Showed her a zoomed view in the SkyTools software. "That is cool!" Training her eyes...

I increased the power from the 27mm to the 18mm. Yep. Easy to split now.

I looked for markers to gauge the alignment of B to the primary. I drew a line from A, almost north-south. Noted a couple of stars, bright TYC 05619-0901 1 and dim GSC 05615-1059. I panned and put them at the bottom-right of the field. My line showed, below GSC, was around 9 to 10 degrees. ST3P said the PA was 8.0° as of May. Nice.

Considered Duval's double but the Cancer constellation was out of view.

Comtemplated tackling my high priority list items but then thought I should be careful. Wanted to do more but felt I needed the rest. Asked rho if she wanted to do any more observing.

I decided to show rho La Superba.

12:31. Slewed to Y CVn aka SAO 44317, a class C star. We looked in the Tele Vue.  She thought it orange. Used a longer eyepiece to draw in more field stars. We looked into the C14. Intense deeper hue at the higher power. "A cool star," in terms of temperature. Cool to look at too.

She asked why I didn't look at stars to the north. Coincidence is all. Suggested the grand multi-star system in UMa.

12:37. Had Rhonda search for and slew to Mizar. "Oh, it's two! White, silver." We looked at A and B and Alcor.

We opted to close up. Parked the 'scope. Rhonda closed the roof while I put up south wall panels. Powered up the dehumidifier. Put away a few items. Grabbed our gear.

12:43. We left the building.


I had really wanted to do some double star research. But I just didn't think I had the stamina to pull it off. Shorting myself on sleep would not wise.