Thursday, August 31, 2017

rockets at camp

Enjoyed the rocket launches over Lake Koshlong. Tried to capture Bree and Joel's liftoff...

rocket launch liftoff!



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

400 now

Hit 400 observed or imaged NGC objects with the photo of Arp 133...

tried NGC 7550 again (Halifax)

I hoped to image NGC 7550 again with the BGO robot. But without satellites tumbling through the frame like last night.

galaxy NGC 7550 and neighbours in luminance

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

No satellites. But I'm not sure the signal quality is better...

revisited NGC 676 (Halifax)

BGO imaged NGC 676. I had viewed this edge-on galaxy in Pisces last fall from the backyard but wanted to have another look.

galaxy NGC 676 in luminance

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

It clearly has an intense bright core but the disc is very faint. No wonder I struggled with this visually.

imaged Arp 133 (Halifax)

Another clear night in Halifax and the Burke-Gaffney Observatory captured some images for me starting with the region centred on NGC 541 in Cetus. It is also known as Arp 133. SkyTools 3 Professional calls it Minkowski's Object. It is one member in a large galaxy group called ACO 194.

The image quality is poor. A combination of the elevation (37°) and the bright Moon.

galaxy group ACO 194 in luminance

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

NGC 541 is front and centre, aka MCG 0-4-137 and PGC 5305. Again, it is also called Arp 133. It appears a small round fuzzy object.

South-west of 541, I can see a dim fuzzy patch. This is NGC 535 (MCG 0-4-133 and PGC 5282).

A bit further beyond is a very dim oval shape. SkyTools does not identify this as a galaxy instead referring to it as star J012526.8-012628.

Well beyond these two is MCG 0-4-129, a non-round piece of lint.

UGC 996, near star GSC 04682-1494, is a bright but small oval.

South of star TYC 04682-1766 1 is NGC 538, a medium-bright fuzzy.

UGC 1003 aka PGC 5307 is due south of NGC 541.

The bright pair of diffuse balls to the north-east of 541 are NGCs 545 and 547. 547 is south-east. ST3P also calls it Arp 308, MCG 0-4-143, and PGC 5324. 545 is aka Arp 308, MCG 0-4-142, and PGC 5323.

MCG 0-4-139 is close to NGC 541 to the north-north-east. It is very dim.

MCG 0-4-140 is beside the pair of stars. It is very tiny.

Above the stellar pair is NGC 543 (MCG 0-4-138 and PGC 5311).

Wow. Too bad the signal is so poor...


Acquired much better data on 14 October.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

centred on NGC 7550 (Halifax)

We viewed a number of Arp objects last week. I thought I'd ask the BGO robot to centre on NGC 7550 or Arp 99 in Pegasus. This is a group of galaxies also known as Hickson 93.

galaxy group Hickson 93 in luminance

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

Sadly two satellites went through the image. The middle one was a tumbler...

NGC 7550 aka MCG 3-59-15 and PGC 70830 is in the centre of the image. It appears to be a large elliptical galaxy. It is nearly round with a bright core.

Due north is the fantastic barred spiral with extended arms. This is NGC 7549 aka MCG 3-59-14 and PGC 70832. The north arm is very long arcing away from 7550. The southern arm seems diffuse and flattened.

NGC 7547 is west of 7550. It is a canted spiral galaxy. It does not appear uniform with an enlarged region to the east. It too has a bright central region. aka MCG 3-59-13 and PGC 70819.

Where SkyTools 3 Professional shows star J231442.7+184940, I see a faint oval fuzzy. This is south-west of 7550, near the bottom-right corner, near the pair of stars with TYC 01715-2104 1.

To the south-east of 7550, and more distant, is the small round elliptical galaxy of NGC 7558 aka MCG 3-59-16 and PGC 70844. It does not have the Arp 99 designation according to ST3P.

East of 7550 there is a pair of objects. SkyTools shows these as stars. At least one of them is a fuzzy galaxy.

To the north-east of 7550 and due east of 7549 there is another elliptical. NGC 7553 or PGC 70834. This has a slight oval shape. It is slightly brighter than 7558.

I suspect there are many more galaxies in this image.


Imaged again the following night. No satellites; but more noise.

is SN2017eaw dimming? (Halifax)

Looked like a very clear night out east. I quickly submitted some requests for Burke-Gaffney. I noted that I did not have a job for NGC 6946. I wanted to check the supernova in the Fireworks galaxy. SN2017eaw appears to be fading.

galaxy NGC 6946 with supernova in luminance

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

Last imaged on 11 Aug '17.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

soft shadows

I thought about the "fast-moving shadow across the landscape or clouds" during a total solar eclipse.

Many people talk about this feature of a total solar eclipse and say that it is something to watch for. It should occur moments before 2nd contact and moments after 3rd contact. At Glendo, many were facing west just before totality to try to observe it.

I myself did not notice anything or see what I expected. And as I watched videos and played them back over and over, I felt unimpressed.

Ian and I talked about it on the drive back.

And I think I figured out the issue.

I was expecting a sharp, obvious, delineated shadow like one sees under clouds. In fact, on Saturday before the eclipse as we drove through Nebraska and Wyoming, I watched the low fluffy clouds cast dark shadows on the ground. I even thought at the time, "This is what I'll see." And that was wrong.

Ian and I considered that one of the factors is distance. Or distance ratios. The sharp shadows under clouds are obvious because the occulting object is very close to the ground and the light source is far away. Low-level clouds are below 2000 metres. But when we consider the Moon over the Earth, it's around 400 000 kilometres or 400 000 000 metres away, on average.

I wondered if another contributing factor was air.

enjoyed Chris's report

Enjoyed Chris's "Total Solar Eclipse Trip Report" [link] on his Skylights Tumblr blog. It features photos by Ian and the temperature graph we assembled using Katrina's data.

the next one

I guess it is true what they say: immediately after viewing a solar eclipse, people start planning for the next one. The next total solar eclipse (occultation) will occur on 8 April 2024.

2024 solar eclipse path

The 2024 event will cross much of North America again, starting in Mexico, swooping up near the Great Lakes, and heading over New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

Next time, I'm taking Rhonda.

The weather in April will be a significant issue...

Map from Goddard (link).

back to Ontario

"All right. This is your way home."

7:50 AM EDT. We went northbound on Hwy 66 to connect with the I-69.

11:56 AM. Arrived the border. Shift change.

12:02 PM. On the 402. Easy-peasy through border. We imagined a lot of RVs were "returning from the eclipse."

The true north, strong, and free. Good to be back on home turf. "Drive out of here as fast as you can."

3:13. It had been clear sailing the whole day. 100 km from Ashburn and we hit traffic in Milton... Fortunately, it was a short run to the 407 ETR.

3:41. I caught a sign out of the corner of my eye. Did it say Rainbow Creek?

3:46. Went under Barrie GO train line west of Dufferin, a route I have taken many times.

I calculated our round trip was approximately 5500 km. Wow. A lot of earth traversed. It was good to be close to home. I was happy with my driving of the rig. "Never thought I'd do something as shine as that."

4:30. We reached Ashburn. We were met by Sue, Lora, and Phil.

"That's my car!" Transferred stuff from the truck to the old girl. Oh yeah, my umbrella. Oh yeah, the big tripod. Got my car keys, unlocked, and opened the windows. Ah ha, spotted the welder's glass. But no extension cord.

"Return my treasures to me." I helped unload all the other people's stuff from the truck and trailer.

Left Ian's at 5:21 but turned back when I didn't see my smartphone.

6:20. I was back home. At last.

But Rhonda was gone.


What a trip. It was amazing witnessing the total solar occultation with friends old and new in excellent conditions. It was a lot of fun learning the truck and the RV trailer. Saw lots of the North American mid-west. It was a pretty good plan assembled by the team.

sent card

Mailed postcard to my sweetie. A bit late. But from the USA. Complete with eclipse sketches!

I had tried to find solar eclipse specific postcards along the trip but just didn't see anything. Just generic cards.

And I had wanted to find solar eclipse stamps from the USPS. That would have been apropos. Alas, they were sold out.

If I had planned ahead and bought stamps immediately on entering the States, it might have worked.

Initially, I had envisioned frequent postcards issued but the pace of the road trip was fast and furious. But with SMS and email, it kinda of changes things...

Saturday, August 26, 2017

enjoyed Tony's video

Tony published his hand-held video of the eclipse from Glendo. It starts a little over 1 minute before totality. It clearly shows the changing light levels.

I continue to struggling with seeing the shadow move across the ground. But I like how the hot-air balloons go dark one after another and then become silhouetted against the dark blue sky.

the big push

"It'll be a hard day."

5:14 AM CDT. Experienced a big thunderstorm. Continuous thunder for a while, lots of lightning. But I think it skirted us.

6:40 AM. Ian got up. We had a quick breakfast.

7:35. We were rolling again. The big push. We were aiming for Michigan.

9:19. Iowa.

2:44. Penelope directed us to take I-280 around the Quad City. Underneath this time.

3:51. We were 150 klicks to Chicago. Hoped we wouldn't get snagged.

In the end, it was easy.

We were losing time. The days were shorter now. We switched back to Eastern Daylight.

Still, after a long haul, we were tired. We arrived the Sturgis Wal*Mart with RV and horse parking! Open 24 hours with free wi-fi.

9:00 PM EDT. Bought some food for dinner.

9:15 PM. There was a fuzzy Moon over the parking lot.

Pinged Rhonda. She had packed for her week's vacation at camp.

9:47. Finished my tasty dinner.

Oberon beer from Bell's

Enjoyed some Oberon beer. From Bell's Brewery in Comstock. It is an American Wheat Ale. I'm not a fan of wheats but this was not bad. 5.8%.

11:28. Hit the hay.

Ian likes Wal*Marts but I considered the pros and cons of RV parks to parking lots.

discussed conversion

Picked Ian's brain about converting the old Edmund Scientific 'scope to a Dobsonian. Shared some of my notes and found photos. Gave me some good general advice and very specific comments on the bearings. Thank you!

turned east

"Ride that way... there's nothing but salt."

Heading home day. I was first up! Started my tear-down.

6:50 AM MDT. Coffee by Sue. Thanks!

9:34 AM. We finished packing! "Now pick up what you can and run." We bid everyone a good trip home.

I helped Ian with the dumping.

By mid-day, we were driving through barren lands. "I exist in this Wasteland." Scrub for miles and miles.

2:26 PM. Via I-80, we re-entered Nebraska.

Time zone change plus one.

5:31 PM CDT. After some research using the Garmin and Streets & Trips, we decided on the KOA near Henderson. Ian booked a site at the Prairie Oasis.

At some point, the rest of the gang flew over us. We couldn't see any planes.

7:51 PM. We checked into the RV place. Once again, nicely appointed. With good wi-fi.

dinner at Prairie Oasis KOA

We took in the nice sunset during dinner. Good burgers. Potatoes! And ice cream! The cicadas were going full steam.

They pinged us when the plane landed.

10:22. Signed off the internets.

Prepped my new bed after dropped the dining table. It offered a bit more space. And less interference if Ian walked past.

Saw many toads on the way to the bathroom!

11:34. In bed I reviewed notes. I wanted to be home. But we had a long stint tomorrow followed by the final leg.

Friday, August 25, 2017

gauged delta Cep (Henderson)

7:51 PM. We checked into the Prairie Oasis.

Enjoyed the sunset at dinner.

The skies were fairly clear as the crescent Moon set. Observed the Summer Triangle high up and later the Milky Way.

Ian showed me how to gauge the variability of δ (delta) Cephei using nearby ζ (zeta) and ε (epsilon). A compact triangle. Neat. It was near maximum in the 5½ day cycle. The crickets had replaced the cicadas.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

graphed the temperature drop

"If you can't fix what's broken, you'll go insane."

It was a pajamas day. I wanted to chill. Yesterday's hike was awesome but I just wanted to drink coffee and read and relax.

10:30 AM MDT. Read New York Times article on the eclipse, good, lyrical, fun. Evocative photos too.

Watched Tony's eclipse video. It was very nice. Captured the changing light and crowd reactions.

When Katrina talked about her temperature experiment and how it had changed by 7.4 degrees, we wondered what it would look like graphed. I said, "Let's do it!" Fired up John Repeat Dance and entered Katrina's data into Open Office Calc. We plotted the change. It was very interesting.

Via Bluetooth, I transfered the graph image to Katrina. She pushed it to Facebook.

I watched T's video again. I noticed the balloons go dark, one after another! That was very neat. The shadow moving over the landscape was not as striking as I expected it to be.

4:10 PM. Finished graph v2. I included my magnitude values. Chris helped me massage the data to emphasise the correlation. We could see the slight lag. Very cool (no pun intended).

We dined together. It was good.

Around 8:00 PM, Ian spotted a crescent Moon. That Moon had very recently blocked the Sun.

We enjoyed a nice camp fire.

9:15. I looked up. It was clear again. Very clear. Saw Lyra and Cygnus in the clear spaces between the tall trees.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

clear after dinner (Golden)

"As the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken."

Between the town of Golden and Golden Gate Canyon State Park, I gazed out the window.

The stars were out... and the mountains were black.

Chris spotted the Big Dipper. He asked Katrina if she knew about the Big Dipper when she was little. Nope.

I could see Sagittarius and Scorpius.

on TV

Rhonda said she saw the Glendo TV news story.

into the mountains (Gilpin)

"There's high ground, just beyond that thing."

Essentially, the astronomical portion of our road trip was over. The next couple of days would be spent in Colorado to enjoy the mountains, camping, hiking, etc. Ian and I would move further from home but it would get the others closer to the Denver airport. I shant dwell on the details.

8:16 AM MDT. I woke. It was time to break camp and pack up.

Helped Ian with the big 'scope packing. Helped with the trailer hook-up.

After lunch, we said goodbye to our amazing guest.

1:31 PM. It was very quiet in Glendo. Back to normal. Visited the Trading Post for a few things. The store owner said the town had received 220 000 to 230 000 people! A quarter million... (I heard somewhere else that there were 30 000 cars.)

We lunched by the road. I enjoyed my big burrito called "The Bomb."

A proposal was put forth to stay in the Glendo area for another day-night. The weather was looking good. And we could do some more dark sky observing. We cast a vote. The majority wanted to move to Colorado.

2:05. I returned to post office, now manned, in hopes of buying some USPS "eclipse" stamps. Not surprisingly, they were sold out.

3:02. We traveled the I-25.

4:24. I asked the customer service person at Albertson's if they had the special commemorative stamps. Nope.

6:22. Leaving Denver. The mountains were beautiful in the clouds and crepuscular rays. I tried to shoot photos with the DSLR but was confused by its operation. (I had forgotten to turn off the mirror lock function.)

7:48. We reached Reverend's Ridge and set up the trailer. We helped each other put up tents quickly in the rain.

9:26. I cooked my dinner and wound down.

It stopped raining.

11:10. Dan said he saw stars. I spotted Lyra straight up. Noted Cassiopeia on the way to the bathroom; spotted Cygnus and the Milky Way before entering the tent.

Put my toothpaste in truck. Didn't want any visitors with talons.

Found my black coat in one of my luggage. "That's my jacket!"

Zipped up my three-season sleeping bag and covered myself with two more blankets. I hoped it would keep me warm.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

got a kick out of the news piece

The 9 News NBC crew video article was posted. They focused on Greg's lifelong goal to see a total solar eclipse. It was a lot of fun to see some Canadian content. Chris is seen given the orientation. Phil talked about how far we had traveled. I thanked Eric for arranging the Moon-Sun alignment.

planned the next together

Messaged Rhonda while grocery shopping in Cheyenne. She was pushing through some work before her vacation. I told her I missed her terribly. She wished she was with me. I said, "Let's do the next eclipse together." She told me to get it in the calendar.

heard from Steve

Heard from my bro-in-law.

Facebook post from Steve

Sounds like he had to fight off the raging horde.

heard from sis

Heard from Donna.

Facebook post from Donna

Sounds like her RASC solar eclipse viewer came in handy.

a bunch of Arps (Glendo)

Another clear night. I was keen to try the dark skies of Glendo. We readied for some night time observing with Ian's 20 and eyepieces.
Intrument: custom 20-inch Newtonian, f/5.0
Mount: Dobsonian
Method: Push To
Lot less people this time...

8:11 PM MDT, Monday 21 August 2017. I wondered what would be good for imaging and considering some interesting targets. But when I learned that Ian had put the Star Adventurer away, I shelved my plans.

8:31 PM. We viewed Saturn. Titan, left or 9 o'clock; Tethys, 8 o'clock; Rhea, 8 o'clock and further out; Dione, 4 o'clock.

8:39. A minute or so ago we noted a northbound satellite.

We tagged Iapetus to the east or 3 o'clock.

8:52. I overheard Chris say something well: "They named the stars before they had telescopes."

9:07. The Milky Way was obvious now.

9:33. We viewed M7. Messier 7 is off the spout of the teapot. Technically, it is in Scorpius. I found it with the digital setting circles. Used the 31mm. It is a big loose open cluster. Mostly white stars. HR 6660 was near centre, an easy wide double, equal stars. [ed: The A and B separation is 34.50".] I saw an orange-red star [ed: HR 6658, a tight double, K-class] to the south-west. I compared the view to the chart in SkyTools 3 Professional.

9:46. Chris went after fuzzies using Ian's Arp book and some of the Caldwell objects. NGC 6569 was on the right edge (east). Bright and big. 6558, on the left, was very faint. Had a spiral look. [ed: ST3P says they are both globular clusters in Sagittarius.] I had first viewed 6569 in the summer of 2012 at the CAO. Two in the view at low and medium power.

Then he star hopped a short distance to NGC 6522 and 6528. A nice pair of fuzzies in the field. [ed: Two more globs.] Two in the view again. Near Nash aka γ (gamma) 2 Sagittarius. [ed: These are on the Herschel 400 list.]

9:56. The team didn't think the sky is very transparent. It looked OK to me. It was windy.

9:59. Arcturus was flickering. ST3P told me it was at 37°17' altitude.

My allergies were bad. I turned my chair to change the way the wind was hitting my face. To reduce the watering of my eyes.

I put on long pants and another long shirt.

10:11. We saw a bright satellite northbound heading toward Dubhe. It flared.

10:16. I could see M13 (Messier 13) naked eye.

11:04. Tagged a short meteor in Pegasus. It ended at Enif.

11:20. Viewed NGC 7479. A galaxy in Pegasus. Small. It had a strong bar and swooping arms above and below or the east side and west side. It reminded me of the Deep Space Nine station. We used the 31mm and 21mm oculars. aka MCG 2-58-60 and PGC 70419 and Caldwell 44. [ed: Another Herschel 400.]

11:34. We viewed NGC 2655 in Camelopardalis. I had seen it before. It's one of the RASC Finest [ed: and a Herschel]. There was not a lot of detail with the 31mm. We tried the 21mm.

11:51. Viewed NGC 1023, an edge-on spiral. Another Arp and another Finest. In the constellation Perseus. [ed: Also previously viewed.]

Katrina headed to bed.

12:07 AM MDT, Tuesday 22 August 2017. Viewed NGC 6621 in Draco. ST3P shows the target as two small interacting galaxies (with 6622). Will need to revisit. [ed: aka Arp 81. 6621 is aka MCG 11-22-30 and PGC 61582; 6622 is aka MCG 11-22-31 and PGC 61579.]

I spotted a double star to the left. Perhaps PPM 20801?

When I looked up in the sky, I thought the conditions had suddenly deteriorated. Then I realised I was missing a lens from my eyeglasses. Fortunately, I found it! Wow... Lucky day.

12:22 AM. Crikey. Sat on my glasses. They take a lot of abuse.

Took in NGC 7753 in Pegasus. I thought it was edge-on but the big galaxy is nearly face-on. [ed: SkyTools shows it edge-on.] aka Arp 86, MCG 5-56-5, and PGC 72387. I noted the little oval below or south-west [ed: 7752]. aka Arp 86, Markarian 1134, MCG 5-56-4, and PGC 72382.

We enjoyed scotch o'clock with Eric. He offered a half dozen types. I requested a Macallan and it was lovely. He offered more but I needed to keep a clear head. As clear as possible with my cold remnants and allergies flaring.

Ian went to bed. Chris and I remained.

I suggested Arp 273 in Andromeda but Chris couldn't find it...

12:50. Headed to Ursa Minor and viewed NGC 6217. It was not round. I thought it showed arcs. Two stars pointed to it at the top-left (north-west) [ed: including Tycho 4571-0972 1]. I had viewed this last fall.

12:58. Examined NGC 2276 and 2300, aka Arp 25. 2276 was fan shaped; 2300 was a diffuse oval. I had previously viewed these last summer.

I suggested another Arp target but we kludged the Star Commander and couldn't figure out how to get it back to a familiar mode. I was tired anyway.

Chris and I packed up the gear.

An interesting session with many challenging objects. It was good to have lots of aperture. Nabbed a few unseen items so I was happy.

1:34. I collapsed on my bed. Got my beeswax candle going after many tries. Tried to read for a bit but kept stumbling over the same paragraph. Lights out.

"What a day..."

Monday, August 21, 2017

the Sun goes down

I declined on the shatter cone tour.

5:24 PM MDT. I rested after finishing some packing.

The gang returned from the meteor crater hike.

5:38 PM. It was getting pretty quiet around Eric's home. Many people had left. Jules and Marty left.

6:14. Prepared my dinner.

I asked about wheels-up time. Phil estimated the times: 3.5 hour drive; 1 hour for shopping. Ian suggested departing at 11 and not before 10. Sounded like it was good for all.

"Say, anyone notice that bright light?" A colourful Sun was setting.

7:40. With Grace's smartphone, I finally got a connection. Rhonda answered. It was so good to hear her voice. I was surprised how emotional I felt. I missed her deeply. A disappointment in the amazing day was that I wasn't able to share the experience with her. I promised myself it wouldn't happen again. I barely held it together.

I was also sad to hear that the York U event was not very good... Insufficient viewers. No live NASA feed. She did not get to look through a telescope due to the very long wait times.

Still, she had good weather and saw the partial while sharing her eclipse glasses.

7:50. The Sun disappeared below the horizon. "Thank you for a great show."

my first solar occultation (Glendo)

"He is the one who grabs the sun!"

12:13 AM MDT. I noted the time when I returned to my Pingo tent. Officially it was eclipse day. The big event was just a few hours away... One more sleep.

Suddenly I remembered that I needed to charge up my remaining DSLR batteries. I had planned to swap them through the evening. Now I was too tired. I could finish topping up in the morning.


Slept through my Android alarm but was out of the sleeping bag at 7-ish. Had coffee in trailer with a quick breakfast.

It was fun finding Sara in the trailer.

Yesterday I had readied a checklist. It included items like, load good batteries in everything, prepare the white sheet (on loan from Rhonda), have my big tripod ready, if necessary, have the Canon 40D prepared with kit lens and battery grip, settings set (f/5.6, 1/250, ISO 100), the intervalometer programmed (5 minutes), solar filter in the solar filter adapter, chair and umbrella at Ian's table, my sunglasses, my solar glasses and viewers, an appropriate t-shirt, smartphone at the ready with earbuds, sound recorder prepared, Black Cloak of Doom cloth, eye glasses strap, and some tape (to secure the focus and the filter). Oh, and Imperator Pinkarosa, of course.

Part of the reason for the umbrella was to allow Katrina to get good ambient air readings while avoiding direct sunlight.

8:20 AM. Reconfigured the Sony ICD-SX750D to use the correct local time. Just seemed the better thing to do.

8:39 AM. I felt like I was nearly ready. The photography rig was prepared although the intervalometer was being wonky, kept losing its settings when struck. The Kendrick solar filter in my custom adapter was ready and I was sitting with Katrina.

I continued to charge batteries.

Helped Dan with his imaging rig.

Signed the guest book.

totality cozies

Eric had put out a boat load of beer cozies so I grabbed a couple.

We put out RASC materials. I had a bunch of Star Finders.

We put on name tags. Name and location.

10:10. Chris did announcements to the group. We had a small PA system which was very helpful. Covered important safety items. Shared that he and I would call out events as prompted by our Solar Eclipse Timer app. A bit of cheerleading. "We'll be lifted up!"

10:21. I started my long camera run!

I started my audio recording.

Suggested to Chris that he check his Android device volume. Told him I had not heard my morning alarm. He cranked the volume.

Counted down as prompted by the SET app. 2 minutes. Some whooped, some clapped. 1 minute. A boy nearby counted the seconds down. I repeated the audio alerts from my smartphone. 40 seconds. 30. 10. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

It was windy. I asked Katrina if she wanted the umbrella up.

10:24. Chris and I called out that first contact had started. Within seconds he said he could see it in his telescope. We observed first contact! The Moon was clearly visible. I was surprised at how quickly it appeared. I viewed it in Chris's PST. It was at the 10 o'clock position.

Katrina tagged it in her binoculars. "It was really easy." Shared the bins. Nice. Tony shared his telescope view. Grace said she was excited now. Everybody was pretty happy. "That's the Moon, man!"

10:25. My OneWorld portable weather station showed 33°C, in the Sun. Humidity was 20%.

Charles and Sara were looking for eclipse viewers. We had lots. Their old ones were too dark. The cards were easier and faster to use.

Could see Moon over the Sun at 1x through solar film. Fun.

Ian brought his colander from the RV. We couldn't see anything per se. The deformations in the plastic were more of a factor. And old bits of macaroni.

Charles reminded us watch our own shadows.

The app was working well. I could hear the prompts clearly with my earbuds.

the Glendo neighbourhood

We were in a coasting phase.

Lora and Grace compared notes on the excitement factor. So far.

My thermometer had dropped to 30.8.

Pinhole images were working well now. Many thought it "cool." Katrina's cheese grater didn't work but Ian's kitchen colander was fabulous. Crossing fingers worked too.

10:56. Looked through Tony's binoculars, Celestron 10x50, nitrogen-filled. Custom solar filters. Tripod mounted. Good view.

Phil's rig

Looked through Phil's Tele Vue Ranger 70mm refractor, Tele Vue 11mm Nagler ocular (about 40x), Kendrick filter, tracking with the Star Adventurer. Very nice view. The sunspots were fantastic.

colander experiment

Put down the white sheet for the impending shadow bands. Put a rock at each corner. It was a hit for pinhole images! I was surprised by that. Many people used it to do pinhole experiments. The colander was working very well.

45 minutes to totality.

Katrina and I ensured our beverages were on ice...

I checked the camera power. OK.

Katrina noted the temperature was already dropping. She wasn't expecting it this early. I shared some of the expected observations from my amalgamated notes including the temp change. T-45, right on schedule. We were at 50% magnitude. The blue should have been a bit duller. The light on the ground should be a bit dimmer.

the crazy Canucks

We did a Team Canada group picture. Say, "Eh!" We made Eric an honorary Canadian.

The temperature continued to drop.

about half way

About 30 minutes to go.

I re-aimed Phil's 'scope with some effort. Damn. Should not have touched it.

Chris shared that the Moon's shadow would be 70 miles wide, 35 miles each side of us as we were close to the centreline.

I took my sunglasses off. The light was grey or silvery.

11:25. We were around 75% magnitude. Chris said this was it for our friends back in Ontario, i.e. no more of the Sun would be blocked.

Next event: the western sky should get darker.

Chris said he had changed the eyepiece in his 'scope and it was a way-better view. Good prominences and good detail around the sunspot active regions.

15 minutes to go. I walked around a bit to update people.

We noted the sharper shadows.

Spotted hot-air balloons in the west. What a great way to see the eclipse...

Chris reminded people to watch for the surroundings including the sunset colours.

It got cooler. The temperature drop was very obvious. Katrina kept regularly marking the time and temperature. About 4 degrees, so far.

10 minutes left.

There were no clouds anywhere near us. We were in a perfect spot.

I saw an airplane. Wondered if they were watching...

Suggested to Katrina we might be able to see Venus. It would be 30 degrees ahead.

5 to go.

The light was weird.

3 minutes. The app said to watch for shadow bands. The wind gusted.

It was dark enough that I kept thinking I had my sunglasses on.

2 to go. Everyone was getting very excited.

Amazing. Razor thin crescent. The shadows were really sharp.

1 minute.

It was getting really dark in the west.

40 seconds to go. I was getting very excited.

30. Wow. A brief moment before second contact, I saw snakes! Er, shadow bands! Called Katrina over. I was surprised at how rapidly they moved. A shimmering effect. They seemed to be moving west.

I could see the corona emerging! Holy moley.

11:48. Second contact! Totality! The crowd went wild. Wow. Amazing.

I saw Venus and a couple of stars. I tried briefly for other planets.

Katrina reminded me to look around. "He was scanning the horizon." Wow. We observed the 360 degree panoramic twilight.

Some called out they could see proms. Some spotted Regulus. "Oh my gosh," someone said. Ian exclaimed deeply, "Oh wow!"

Maximum eclipse. Cheers all around!

I was amazed at the darkness. It was very dark. Like an hour after sunset perhaps. Darkness in the daytime.

There was a little hole in the sky.

Grace said, "I'm excited."

The corona was fantastic, large, bright, a pure white gossamer veil. It was asymmetrical. There were two extended points at the top-right with one at the bottom left. It reminded me Devil's Pitchfork barbed seed.

Katrina was trying to see Mercury.

Then I noticed colour at the edge of the Moon, near the 4 o'clock. I blinked. Could it be? I realised I was seeing prominences. I was stunned by this. In all my preparation I had missed this. I didn't know one could see flares naked eye. They were pink.

I felt no wind during totality.

corona with the DSLR camera

Transfixed, I almost forgot to pull the solar filter off the Canon camera.

totality from Glendo

Snapped a shot with my phone.

Filter back on the Canon.

I knew third contact was coming. I waited a couple of seconds to soak in the diamond ring. It was incredible. Blossoming rapidly.

Glasses on.

11:52. Over. Suddenly it was done.

Brightness returned quickly. The air warmed. Everyone was ecstatic.

We noted the air temperature.

We had done it. Our troop had traveled 2500 kilometres to make this happen. We did it. No clouds.

When people started celebrating and shaking hands and hugging, then I got choked up.

Monitored my camera.

The Seager-Darrow clan started their journey home.

Couldn't believe how fast it went.

Chris and Dan saw Jupiter. Good sight lines.

The internet and phone networks were clogged.

cork from the Champagne

12:07. Katrina returned with a bottle from Wilson Creek Winery and some orange juice. I helped her disperse the OJ across the plastic glasses. I grabbed some Corona beers. Opa!

We thanked Katrina for the treat. We thanked Eric and Greg for inviting us. We thanked Ian and Phil for organising. We thanked Tony for fixing the plumbing.

12:22. Greg and I chatted. A first for both of us.

12:33. I tried to text Rhonda but it wouldn't go through.

Less than 50% magnitude now.

Kim and crew set out cheese and crackers. Hit the spot. I realised I had effectively skipped lunch. Found I was rather hungry.

12:40. Wow. Just wow. It was "perfect, perfect in every way."

Watched the camera display until I could not see the Sun.

12:48. Concluded the imaging run. I quickly checked some of the images. They worked, sorta. It seemed though that I had the exposure wrong: the images were very dark. I was happy to find the middle shot showing some corona! Wow! The lens was not in perfect focus but I was happy.

The Moon went in front of the Sun, man!

12:55. About 15 minutes left... Almost done.

11 minutes to go. I asked Grace if she was excited!

Wow. Did that really happen?

Katrina and I were both relieved the weather held.

A little bit left. I checked the timer tool. 7 minutes.

The temperature was higher than ever. Surpassed the early high. It was gettin' hot, in fact.

I offered to upload the audio for Katrina.

4 minutes.

I apologised to the Moon for all the bad things I had said.

Almost gone. Just over 2 minutes to go. The tiniest little bite.

Still there. 1 minute. Naked eye was not possible any more.

About 30 seconds. People couldn't see it.

1:12. And the eclipse was over.

My first successful occultation! After many fails (with asteroids and more distant stars).

Ian checked his photos. He was very happy. They looked spectacular. Perfect tracking, perfect focus.

I stopped the audio recorder.

1:41. We had lunch. Times two. Al fresco and then in the house. Didn't like New Belgium Blonde.

2:31. I was pooped. It was weird. Very, very tired. Felt mentally drained. Others felt the same. It must have been an adrenaline crash. Post-eclipse depression.

2:59. Decided to have a nap so popped into my tent for a bit.


heard from Jackie

Jacqueline thanked me for her solar eclipse viewer. You're very welcome.

Facebook post from Jackie

Sounds like she pinged me mid-event.

weather wishes

Rhonda wished me a Happy Eclipse Day. She checked our local weather and thought it looked perfect.

lots of glasses

We were flush with solar eclipse glasses (and viewers). I felt a little weird about that. Greg had lots. They were giving them away at the WYO park booth. Other people had extras. We had brought extras thinking there wouldn't be enough.

a day to rest

"We are not things."

8:32 AM MDT, Sunday 20 August 2017. Read my e-books for a while.

Over coffee, Chris and Ian shared they had an interesting evening with a significant dash of public outreach to Eric's friends and family. They were able to squeeze in a couple of interesting objects for themselves. It left them hungry for some challenge objects. I added some Arps to my ST3P observing list.

10:24 AM. I was watching the clock. It was 24 hours to go. T-24 to first contact.

Chris and I chatted about the MallinCam system. I reminded him of the rig we have. He expressed some interest in trying it.

People wanted shirts. Me too. We jumped in 2 cars and descended to the park proper. Visited the WYO Glendo park booth. They had nice t-shirts at fair prices. I picked up one for myself and one for rho. I noticed they had fridge magnets and key tags too. Laser cut wood. They were giving out solar glasses.

Ian, Dan, and others wanted to go back; Katrina, Chris, and I headed to town. It was a bit busy...

I noted the time. It was T-minus 24 hours plus 30 minutes to totality.

The Post Office was not open. Wanted to get some stamps. We did some wardriving but couldn't find library. We went to store aka trading post for some supplies.

12:03. I messaged rho and downloaded emails.

The "eclipse" ATM machines looked dodgy...

Katrina went to BBQ and Chris went to shack. We checked out shirts and hats at the tent. Chris put pins in the map for Toronto, Richmond Hill, and the Blue Mountains. I went for the "eclipse burger" from a vendor at the park. Nothing special about it. Chris suggested a pattie on a fried egg would have been visually fun. The food concession people thought I worked for NASA given my t-shirt. I told the truth...

Bumped into Jim on the way back. Fun meeting a fellow RASCal.

Back at the house, I opined that 24 hours from now we'd be crying or laughing.

We gave Eric our gifts. He was very modest.

2:01. We were chillin' in the shade. I said, "I love this temperature."

Tony facilitated a repair in the garage for Eric.

We heard that Sara and Charles and the boys were going head here tonight...

Ian said he was looking for the SA counterweight. I located it in the SA box.

We spotted clouds in the distance. Some thought we might experience an afternoon thunderstorm... Tomorrow's weather looked very good. "Yeah... feels like hope."

The Seager-Darrow clan arrived! woo hoo! They moved into Canada house as there was some additional space.

calculations to determine start time

I tested my camera set-up using a spreadsheet, and Dan's help, working backwards, to figure out the imaging start time. 10:21:13.

Enjoyed a light dinner.

As the sky darkened, I helped Marty with some northern constellations.

On the front lawn, I helped with outreach. We had to do some cloud busting but we did show off Saturn.

Ian corrected me when I said that the Ring Nebula was an exploded star. He was right. It's an old star that has cast off material.

I chatted for some time with a local teacher about increasing interest in astronomy and science. I suggested a couple of things like reaching out to the local astronomy club for star parties. I also said that starting an astronomy club within the school might be a lot of fun.

Eric had received some kegs of New Belgium beer. Had some Fat Tire and and then Blue Paddle with Chris.

12:10 AM MDT, Monday 21 August 2017. Helped pack up.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

spotted new spots (Glendo)

We did some solar observing. We noted a new sunspot group near the edge. Good timing for tomorrow. Still more interesting features to observe during the eclipse. Even Sue looked!

rotating warm sky (Glendo)

It was such a beautiful temperature, I left the tent fly open. [ed: I could have removed it.] I wanted to watch the night sky. My bedding was angled so that I'd get a good view straight up.

Overnight, I enjoyed Lyra, Cygnus, and later Aries.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

liquid corona

When we hit the spirits store at the outskirts of Lusk, I looked for an interesting local brew but didn't see anything from the small selection. Then I spotted Corona and I thought it serendipitous.

Corona six pack

Did you know Corona Extra is made by Constellation Brands in Mexico for export to the USA? For the rest of the world, the pale lager is produced by Cervecería Modelo.

I chatted with someone about the coronal reference. I didn't think they were using astronomical term to be honest; I suspected they were going to the root: a crown.

headed to Glendo

"On the fury road."

I woke with a sore throat. Smeg!

I heard noises. Ugh. People were already packing up. I didn't wanna hold up the parade so I quickly climbed out of the tent. I noted the truck was open and the back seat was emptied. I found the Star Adventurer still on tripod in cargo bed. I wondered if it was to be disassembled. Sue and Ian were done breakfast; Lora and Phil were done everything. While I was not last, I still felt I needed to get a move on. I wanted some coffee but I did a consolidation-pack first.

It looked like it was going to be a nice day. It was already warm.

Wolfed down breakfast.

9:18 AM MDT. We pulled out of Cedar Bay. Ian taught me how to dump the grey and black water.

We started moving west again. Via the dam.

Sue was on-board now; I was in the back seat of the rig.

If one wasn't on Mountain time already, it was good to change.

I proposed that the landscape around us is what Mars would look like when we terraformed the fourth planet. Flat. Desolate. Dusty. Hot. Devoid of humans.

The terrain got flatter. I saw corn, sunflowers, and hay.

11:16 AM. We reached the town of Gordon. We filled the rig with guzzoline.

a yummy snack bar to tide me over

I felt like a snack..

There were a few clouds. The temperature varied between 28 and 30°C.

I made a note of the groceries I needed.

When we tumbled through Hay Springs, I thought of Hay River from Corner Gas.

The cars ahead of us reached Chadron. They suggested we lunch in town. EJ BBQ on Main St (north). OK. My sandwich was good. The Nebraska Nut Brown was refreshing. The staff were excited about the impending celestial event.

1:15. We got back on the road. We pressed to Lusk.

buttes in the distance

Butte mountains appeared. I thought of Devil's Mountain.

2:10. I watched the sharp shadows under the fluffy clouds.

We saw long trains filled with coal. It made us a little sad. We learned later that most was going to China. I counted 135 cars of coal.

2:36. We reached Lusk, elevation 5105 feet. We filled up and then hopped to the grocery store.

We noticed the staff at the grocery store had nice eclipse shirts. Sadly they were sold out. I ran down to Fresh Start. They didn't have any either.

Before leaving town, he hit the local spirits store. I picked up some Corona for the big day.

3:10. Ian was raring to go. We continue.

3:21. Ian noted, "We're over a mile high now." The temp was 31°C, down from 34.

We spotted the mountains ahead.


I made some notes of things to do in Glendo like charging up batteries.

3:43. "Looks like the traffic is moving up ahead," Ian said. We got on Interstate 25.

3:59. The Garmin said it was less than 10 km. I was excited. I was looking forward to settling in for a bit. Getting ready for the big event.

We entered Glendo. Some of the old buildings made it easy to image horses tied up out front, people sauntering the wood plank walks, the old stage coach bumbling down the main street. Population 200.

It was hot and dry. There was sage grass and cactus all about. "My world is fire." It was very hot in the direct sunlight.

It was interesting to note that the parks, farmers fields, the airstrip were already getting busy. It seemed to me that they didn't have very many port-a-potties given the estimated number of humans...

As we made our way to Eric's house, Ian increasingly felt we were committing ourselves. There were only two ways in and out of the neighbourhood. If the weather turned, we'd have to fight our way through the horde in the state park. But the weather prospects, at this stage, suggested we'd not need to worry.

We arrived our guest's place. Eric was very welcoming. Happy to meet us. His log cabin style home was very nice. He offered us the run of the place. We backed the trailer into the double driveway. Eric offered the full use of the big garage. There was an upper level with large living room, kitchen area, and bathroom. There were decks on the north and south sides. This was well-received by our crew and it was quickly christened it "Canada House."

cacti, sage, coniferous, and dry, dry earth

I set up my tent in the backyard between the dry, dry coniferous trees. I was looking forward to my own space, quiet, in the fresh air. I set up minimising my footprint in trailer.

I set up a charging station and reloaded all my batteries.

We hauled out the lawn chairs and enjoyed a pleasant siesta.

Later I helped set up 20" Dob.

A friend of Eric's arrived some time later. Marty had purchased some special binoculars by Lunt with integrated solar filters. We viewed Sun at 8x. We could see the sunspot group from yesterday.

Made dinner: chicken and rice. Joined the RASCals in the garage man cave.

The air cooled off. It became very pleasant.

While I was grilling it occurred to me that I was on the verge of repeating last night's astronomy session. I thought I shouldn't put myself into the same situation so I considered some different approaches and goals. I considered using a long lens with the tracking mount.

A mozzie found me while cooking. I wondered how my anti-bug juice supplies were holding up.

I found the fourth battery for the Star Adventurer in my stuff. I took it to the front yard and put it in the SA box. I was curious my plans. I said I needed a nap. He offered to wake me but I planned to set an alarm.

I had a quick look at Saturn in the 20". Saw 4 or 5 moons through poor seeing.

9:28. I rested in my tent. It was evident we were back in civilisation now. Compared to the supremely quiet and dark Nebraska state park. I could hear highway traffic, shunting trains, the noisy neighbours, and barking dogs. Some of the neighbours were bad light polluters. In fact, there was white light everywhere.

I thought of Chris and Ian flying the big 'scope. I remembered nights at the CAO when Ian and I worked together. But at the same time, I suspected the front lawn of Eric's was going to turn into a star party tonight and I just didn't have the energy to play.

I didn't see or hear mozzies for most of the evening. Nice.

At last, we were at our solar occultation viewing site.

we detected neutron stars merging

A couple of days ago, the LIGO/Virgo gravitational detectors received a pulse of waves produced by a neutron star merger. The event, GW170817, also produced a gamma ray burst and radiation in the visible spectrum. Wow.

shot Milky Way core (Merritt Reservoir)

I wanted to do some tracked photography. My camera gear was ready with charged batteries.

7:24 PM MDT, Friday 18 August 2017. We went to the Snake River site.

7:44 PM. Humidity was 20%. Low. The temperature was 27.4°C. For now. The Sun was soft, coloured, presumably from particulate.

Tony had his Star Adventurer and Canon DSLR. I borrowed Ian's Star Adventurer and tripod for my Canon and grip and Rokinon fisheye.

Tony asked me where the Milky Way would be. I estimated the cardinal points. I wondered if once dark it would be over the road.

I asked Tony if he had the exact latitude handy. Chris said it was 42' 35".

Many vehicles travelled along the park road.

I asked Tony if he had the SA polar finder app. Checked the display and roughly aligned Ian's mount to Polaris.

Milky Way from Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area

Canon 40D, Rokinon, manually focused, f/5.6, 181 seconds, ISO 1000, daylight white balance, intervalometer, Star Adventurer, SLIK tripod, DPP.

8:41. I did some test shots with my camera.

Astronomical twilight was to end between 10:00 and 10:30.

9:14. I started my imaging run taking 2½ minute subs.

When Ed asked about tracking mounts, I showed him the Star Adventurer. He was very interested. Phil did not recommend the iOptron. I shared that the new versions allowed for firmware updates with additional controls. In fact, Tony was exploiting one of the enhanced features.

Before 10:27. Someone was using a GLP.

10:43. It was chilly and a bit damp.

Tony checked the conditions on my little weather device. 17°, 58%. Phil said it felt cooler.

Phil asked if we were losing the sky. We knew not the best this location could offer.

11:20. People were getting chilled. The wind had picked up.

The skies were getting worse.

Asked Tony if he shot his dark frames. He said he didn't need them. OK.

The sky to the north-east looked better, Ian thought. The Milky Way went almost to the horizon. Coming and going.

12:00 AM MDT, Saturday 19 August 2017. Tony noted the time.

As people packed up the big 'scopes, Tony wanted to leave his camera running. Me too. I intended to collect data to the last possible moment.

12:08 AM MDT. I checked the conditions. 16.2° and 74%. We continued to pack. Tony took his camera down.

12:20 AM. I completed my last shot of Milky Way. I had gathered 72 frames at 155 seconds each, ISO 1000. I started my darks run, turned off the SA, removed one battery, and collapsed the tripod.

12:27. Ian fired up the rig.

On the way back to camp, I shot darks. Until the camera battery died.

We returned around 12:30.

1:29. I warmed up in my tent.

I continued to shoot darks. But the battery died again quickly.

viewed showpieces (Merritt Reservoir)

I had packed various items for dark sky observing. The netbook was charged and ready. My SkyTools list was prepped. The big metal tripod was in the truck in case I need another platform. Loose items were in the little corrugated cardboard box. I had my red goggles. And my Sony audio recorder with charged batteries was coming along.

I suited up. I assumed it would cool off so I wore long pants, my long sleeve shirt, my RASC hoodie, and planet socks from Rhonda. I packed my jacket and gloves and toque.

7:24 PM MDT, Friday 18 August 2017. We made our way to the Snake River site. I travelled with Ian and Phil; Katrina, Dan, and Chris were in the other vehicle. We headed to the top of the hill by the Snake River area in Merritt, the location of the Nebraska Star Party.

Helped Ian unload the big and heavy rocker box from the cargo bay.

I asked for permission to run the audio recorder.

7:44 PM. Humidity was 20%. Nice! The temperature was 27.4°C. For now. The Sun was up. But soft, coloured, presumably from particulate.

Katrina relayed that Lachlan wished us luck on Monday. I overheard that Fred was heading to Thunder Bay for some R&R and fishing. Katrina pointed out that excellent fishing could be done at the reservoir. She wanted him to "feel the FOMO."

A dog barked in the distance.

setting up the big Dobsonian

Photo of big Dob. Copyright © 2017 Katrina Ince-Lum. Used with permission.

Ian and Chris set up the 20" home-made Dobsonian with Digital Setting Circles. Phil and Dan set up the 15" Ultralight Obsession with DSC. Tony and I had our camera gear.

Ian noted some "sweat" on the mirror and started his mirror cooling fan. Phil attached the Argo Navis.

Chris and Ian chatted about the building of his Dob. Ian did essentially all the assembly; he did buy the truss tube sockets.

Katrina emptied the rental car so the boot light wouldn't bother people.

Dan wondered if the strobe on the distant tower was going to switch to red. I had never noticed that feature before. In short order it switched colours.

It was a bit windy as the Sun set.

Ian thought for a moment he had forgotten the DSC brains but then found the Sky Commander box. I set up SkyTools on the table

Chris asked about differences between SC and AN. Ian chose Sky Commander for its support of equatorial platforms (I thought Argo Navis did that; maybe it didn't at the time). That said, Ian thought AN the better product.

A vehicle travelled along the park road. We turned away from the headlights even though the sky was not fully dark.

The mosquitoes found us. That didn't take long.

Katrina photographed the sunset as Chris spotted Jupiter.

8:07. We spotted a satellite heading east. It was not the ISS; Chris said it wasn't due until 4 AM. He thought it might have been the Chinese station. As it faded, I tried to direct Katrina to the right part of the sky. It was above the big tree about 20 degrees up. Then I lost it. Chris followed it a bit longer.

I asked Chris to help me see Saturn using Antares. The western sky grew very colourful.

Phil grabbed Ian's laser collimator but found it didn't fit. They accommodated.

Ian found he was getting a poor view. It was swimming. But there was something else. Chris said the moons looked like triangles. Ian discovered that the secondary had rotated a bit. They fix it and continued collimating. It was soft given the elevation and air quality. They said the view was better optically but murky.

Another car came in. Then a third one. It reminded Katrina of Mew Lake, seeing the cars far off. Here, there were no trees to block headlights. There was not much we could do about it except close our eyes and wait. Look away. Look away.

The mosquitoes was intensifying. Tony needed some repellent so I handed him one of my spray bottles. Katrina borrowed some too. Phil thought the mozzies terrible

Phil wanted to start his setting circles alignment process. Vega was straight up. Deneb, Arcturus, and Altair were visible.

I tried the little red LEDs from Rhonda. Cute. We could see the pulse modulation when they were moved fast. I was a little surprised by the fairly heavy wire. I strung it along two tripod legs. Would they be too bright for us? Phil asked me if I thought them excessive... For us? Yes. But they will be fun at a public star party.

Katrina started up Tony's LED lantern. Initially it starts in white but then can be switched to a fairly good red colour. It is rather bright though. She collapsed it as low as possible to reduce the light cast. It rested on the work station table.

We noted other people setting up telescopes in the area. Some were using a lot of white light. But then it wasn't really dark yet.

Ian started up his DSC and set the date (August 19).

We were surprised to hear someone at the other camp was running a generator. Katrina said Merritt had a rule. Ian said most parks had a rule at darkness.

When looking through his 'scope Ian said, "What is going on here, Chris?" He thought the view was still poor. He investigated and reported that the primary mirror had moved. He surmised it occurred when the telescope was tipped far forward. Then it had "jammed up" and required some more efforts to fix it. He and Chris worked on it.

Another car travelled the road. Some one else set up on the grassy knoll to the north. Then a truck went by.

A mosquito bit Katrina through her pants. I had remembered to spray my knees. Chris said gloves with removeable fingers would be helpful. I was running out of bug juice spray but I had a new tube of lotion.

8:30. I asked when the -10 magnitude flare was due. Chris said 9:49 but we wondered the effect of the time zone proximity. If we had things set right, it would be in about an hour. It was materialise in the north, about 20 degrees up.f

Dan and Phil continued to align. They found the planets were off a bit due to date/time. But when Phil realised the stars were off, they elected to redo the alignment. They also adjusted the Telrad.

Ian viewed M57. He was ready to go.

The wind jostled his big 'scope.

8:42. There was some discussion of targets. The Ring and the Dumbbell would be good in these dark skies. Ian suggested looking at the classic eye candy to see how good it was. Chris wanted to view the Pinwheel and Cocoon, Heart and Soul. Ian suggested the Bubble in Cas, a bunch of things in Sgr, later some galaxies. Ian wanted to view NGC 253 again as his timing never worked at OzSky. Chris said he could look up object IC and NGC numbers with his smartphone. Ian had brought his books including the Arp one. I could use SkyTools.

We checked astronomical twilight time: it was between 10:00 and 10:30.

Some guys from Michigan visited: sons Parker and Jason, dad Ed. He was setting up his Tele Vue 76 for the evening. They are heading to Lusk, Wyoming, a friend's ranch. Ed said he thought there'd be more astronomers at Merritt.

We asked if he knew who the generator guy was. He too had heard him all night. Guessed he was a fisherman.

Chris interrupted us. Said the Iridium was due in a few minutes. Or 1 hour and a few minutes... If SkySafari was right, it would be -10, and would show in the nose of the Great Bear. I reminded people the reservoir was split by the time zone; Ed echoed this.

Ed and Ian talked about home-made 'scopes. Ed was curious the weights. The mirror is about 60 pounds; the rest about 80 or 90. Ian said he elected to leave the wheelie bars are home knowing he would have "strong men" to help. Pfft. Ed had built a 16" and 13" with Kriege's book. He built a "water heater" one. Ian shared that his mirror cost around $2800 to $3000.

Iridium 59 flyover

8:49. Katrina spotted the flaring satellite first. Iridium 59 put on a good show. Chris was happy.

I screwed up Tony's lantern. White light, ah!

Ed asked how we heard about Valentine. Ian knew about the NSP. Ian talked about the Sky and Telescope tour. Ed hadn't heard about Glendo.

Ed referred to the Eclipse Orchestrator program. It worked with a GPS, was compatible with Canon and Nikon, provided audio prompts, triggered the shutter, and used scripting. There was a free version and a $100 full version. He also mentioned a similar Mac app. We shared that we were using the SET app.

[ed: Moonglow Technologies makes Eclipse Orchestrator. I think Ed referred to Solar Eclipse Maestro for Mac OS X.]

Phil viewed Saturn. Ian offered a view of Saturn and its moons. He loaded in a more powerful eyepiece and Ed and the the boys looked. One said, "So cool," while his father described features of the ringed planet. Purportedly it was not a bad view despite being low. There was a lot of detail when steady. Chris IDed the moons and shared Titan was above. They could see all but Enceladus. Dione was just below the planet. Ian saw many moons.

Ian talked to Ed about the RASC Toronto Centre's observatory. Ed said his skies at home were fairly good.

The mosquitoes were bad. I heard them buzzing the microphone. They were biting Katrina's forehead and Phil's neck. I was doing OK surprisingly.

Katrina viewed through the Obsession but thought it a little odd. That's when Phil found a cover on the eyepiece. Things were rather dark and dim with it in place. Oops.

Phil went to M22. Chris went to NGC 6520, just above the spout. He thought it looked cool. They viewed M13. It was described as "a big ball of stars."

The truck cargo bed light came on. Ian wished he had a kill switch. Ed said he had tricked out his Durango. He rental vehicle lights were frustrating.

Ed asked if the boys could see for Albiero.

9:15. Ian saw a fireball and reported it as really bright.

Phil liked the view in Ian's Dob of M13. Things were improving. The mirror was near ambient and the sky was darker. Temperature was dropping.

Ian thought our current location darker than the CAO. Indeed.

Chris went to the Ring Nebula. He described the collapse of a star to the boys.

Katrina wanted to sketch a fuzzy, possibly M51. She readied her book with black pages but was happy to hang out for a while. She said her viewing list had 300 objects. Wow.

Phil and Dan set the Paracorr.

We noted a small light dome to the north-east. Ed said it was Valentine, population 2000.

Another car drove in. Some hoped it was the park ranger...

We could see the Double Cluster easily naked eye. Two blobs. It didn't seem as crisp to me as the previous morning...

Dan and Phil then discovered a semi-transparent cap on the eyepiece, in the inside this time. Dang. That's why things were mushy. They reported the view was much better! They took all the caps off all the oculars to avoid a repeat. They offered up telescopic views to the boys again, M22 again, properly.

Ed and crew departed. They were very appreciative. The boys were very courteous. Nice peeps.

Ian headed to M51 so Katrina could do her drawing. Ian could see the bridge between the two galaxies, on the right. He could trace all the spiral arms out. He suggested going for the deformed spiral soon as it was going down all the time. I had a look at the Whirlpool. The view was nice but I had a hard time with the bridge.

Phil offered his 'scope. Lower. She could sit. But Katrina wanted the aperture. And was prepared to work atop the ladder.

Ian asked for Phil's "roo" binoculars. He predicted the Andromeda galaxy would be edge to edge. They were in the truck so Phil gave us a white light warning before grabbing the Nikons.

9:34. Incoming! Two more cars came in. Chris wished he had flip-down red lenses.

From my SkyTools "Fury Eclipse 2017" list, I suggested the Snake Nebula in Oph. aka B 72. They wanted a IC or NGC designation. Sorry. We'd have to hop. It was near Saturn and theta. We decided to get there by location values. I looked them up in ST3P: 17 23 by -23 34 (J2000).

Katrina continued sketching.

"Car!" Another one! They went down the dead end road. Ian suspected that they wouldn't let people drive around during the NSP. "Car!" We were on a frickin' highway. Chris said, "This is like Bayview Village Park!" Sheesh.

I gave Chris the RA and Dec again.

Katrina paused her sketching and noted the telescope details.

Using the 21mm ocular, Chris saw some voids but wasn't sure what to look for. Ian thought we were on target and suggested panning to emphasise the star-filled and empty regions. Dan and Ian saw a dark and big void to the side. I said it was LDN 66. Perhaps the small Snake object proper was not obvious.

[ed: I found the Snake in my star party showpiece list. I removed it.]

9:50. Chris moved on. The rho Oph nebula identification was IC 4604. Ian considered leaving the UHC filter in. Chris looked for the little triangle of stars. Phil wondered if it was an imaging subject only. Ian got it, saw some nebulosity. It was low but he said he could see a subtle haze, a halo.

Katrina and Ian spotted a meteor.

Phil helped Dan with telescope filter slider, switching between UHC and O-III. All the way in was no filter. Chris, Dan, and Phil argued the benefits. Chris said it well: the nebula is "bigger" with the oxygen.

Still more vehicular traffic! Crikey.

It was rather windy. I could hear it despite the wind sock covering the Sony microphone(s). Even with the strong breeze, the bugs moved in.

They enjoyed the Trifid in the telescope(s). Said it was almost like a picture. I though it a very nice view, without a filter. Good detail. The dividing lanes were very dark.

Phil checked in with me as I took in the whole sky. I was happy chillin'. I looked at the Coathanger. I was anxious to see a meteor as I hadn't seen any. Ian boasted he had "seen about 20."

Asked if I could star hop to M7 in the 20". Checked if the finder was mirror reversed. Yes.

Tony borrowed Phil's binos to tour the sky.

Chris suggested the NA Nebula. Ian said he could see it naked eye. Ian saw another meteor. Gah.

10:00. I was lost. Could not get to M7. I surrendered the 'scope to Ian; he wanted to go back to the M51.

Chris wondered what it would be like on the ocean in super dark skies. We thought of Millie and Dietmar.

10:02. I saw a meteor! Finally! Through Pegasus, going south, it left a brief train. A Perseid?

We viewed M51 some more but with the 13mm. 195x now. I could see multiple arms, lots of detail in the primary galaxy. But I still struggled with the bridge. I didn't think the contrast as good. Chris said he had a hard time focusing.

Tony saw a big meteor, without a trail, over the truck.

Katrina went for her jacket. Ian and Katrina discussed making hot chocolate! It would be bright with the stove in the back of the truck! Now here's a tail gate I can really get into...

I suggested the supernova in the Fireworks.

Asked to borrow a chair and Chris offered. I wanted to gauge the naked eye magnitude, using Ursa Minor. I was "going deep."

The mosquitoes were annoying!

Spotted yet another satellite.

Dan and Ian checked M101. Dan recounted the first time seeing it: at the Frozen Banana. Ian was not impressed with the view. Phil didn't think like it either.

Phil went for his coat in the truck. Katrina took hot chocolate orders.

The cars to the north-east started up. Bother! Pleasantly, they drove out with parking lights only. Thanks! But then someone fired up a green laser. Dan wondered if it would show in our images. I wasn't too worried.

They sky did not seem as good. It was OK straight up at the zenith. High extinction was apparent near the horizon. Aerosols? Smoke? It had been deep red at sunset.

The crew viewed the Dumbbell in the 20. The gusts continued to shake the 'scope.

Phil went to M57. He argued it didn't need filters as it was so darn bright. Whereas many planetaries look better with oxygen emphasised.

Gave Katrina my travel mug. It took a while with the wind but tea and hot chocolate was served up. Cookies and chips too. From the elves!

We noted the laser pointer was going again. Some in our crew seemed irked. Clearly someone was teaching the sky.

10:27. Ian took an SQM reading with his iPhone: 22.06, 21.93, 22.03. Darker than the CAO which clocks in at 21 to 22. Roughly a full magnitude dimmer here than our local. And my back garden in Bradford is 18 to 19.


We tried to spot M33 naked eye. I shared that I had tried at Mew Lake and Katrina's cabin. Ian said it was opposite M31 from Mirach, about the same distance M31 was from Mirach (which is a good hint). Then Ian said it was half-way between Mirach and alpha Tri. That sounded a little off so I checked SkyTools: it was more like 1/3rd of the way from alpha Tri and beta And; not half-way. NGC 752 (aka Caldwell 28) was easy above the two stars, half-way between Tri and And. Ian thought he could see Messier 33, just barely, with averted vision. I was finding it difficult. I was not convinced.


Someone was waving a flashlight about in the north.

Another meteor was spotted. Ian said again he had seen 20. Ironically, a meteor went through. Ha, many saw it.

You know you're a double star observer when you gauge the separation of tail lights of a distant pick up truck.

The stoopid mosquitoes were still around.

I got magnitude 6.1 visual. Didn't feel like digging any deeper.

Chris wondered about Fomalhaut. But it was murky.

10:43. We saw a meteor, a big one, through Perseus. I guess it was an Aquarid. Both Ian and I saw it.

Phil and Katrina finally got there hot chocolate. Gracious, Katrina, filling her mug last.

Ian wanted NGC 7331 and hoped to see the Fleas. He stated seeing a decent amount of detail. Counted off the neighbours: 1, 2, 3, 4. But Hawkeye could not see the fifth. He noted Stephan's Quintet was about one field away, toward the 7:30 o'clock position. Ian centred on 7331 for the next viewer.

It was chilly and a bit damp.

We remarked there were few airplanes. I guessed we were not near an airport. Dan said we were not on a fly-way.

Chris could see the Quintet, in a diamond.

Car! This one was leaving. The back up lights fired. Ian wished the other astronomers would give a warning. "Is it over?" No. We kept our eyes closed for a bit. Good riddance.

Ian tagged another meteor.

Ian said he thought M33 was easily as big as Andromeda, "Bigger," even. I disagreed. He said there was no central condensation; it was just a brightening in the sky.

Tony checked the conditions on my little weather device. 17°, 58%. Phil said it felt cooler.

Phil asked if we were losing the sky below 45. There was some high cloud. I could see Capella flickering. Certainly the Milky Way was wiped out at 10 degrees. The south was terrible. Straight up was good. We knew not the best this location could offer.

Remarkably, the mosquitoes were still active. Despite the cool conditions and wind. While Katrina was on the ladder, she said the mosquitoes bit her knuckles and cheekbones. Persistent. Stoopid hobby.

More meteors. Dan saw one naked eye. Ian saw one in the eyepiece which left a train.

Tony and Katrina looked at the Quintet. Ian recommended pushing up, toward 1 o'clock, for 7331. He said he could see the dust lanes in 7331. He encouraged people to look for the 4 fleas above the galaxy. Tony said he could see 3 easily. For Tony another meteor went through the eyepiece.

Chris had his bright gloves on.

Ian asked "What's next?" I voted for the Fireworks.

My allergies were going bonkers.

Ian said it was worth looking at the Andromeda Galaxy at high power. He could see dust lanes. I moved between M110 and M32 in the Obsession. It was like I was in orbit.

Ian thought M33 more obvious now. Ian said he thought it slightly closer to Mirach and Metallah. He reminded us to "look a little bit away." Averted vision. "Look away, look away." I said that SkyTools showed it much closer to alpha Tri. Chris concurred.

A meteor went through the eyepiece. Ha. At last I got one up close too. I thought it green.

The mosquitoes were vicious.

Chris asked for the Crescent Nebula aka The Brain but Ian said he'd go to the Fireworks to appease me.

Ian noted that delta Cephei was at minimum.

Chris realised that TRAPPIST-1 was in range. Mag 14 something. Ian said he had seen down to 16.4 in the 20-inch.

Ian wondered where the SN was. I found it. I thought it still quite bright. I thought it was at the 11 o'clock position. The big OTA was almost in the Dobson's Hole. I noted the triangle on the right and the pair on the left. Between, there was a checkmark of 4 stars, two vertical, two horizontal, with the right most of the horizontal being the SN 2017eaw.

Car! Again, happily, the driver used the parking lights as they moved past us.

Ian spotted a satellite near the Big Dipper. Chris again wondered if it was the Chinese station.

11:20. Phil was cold. Chris offered his nylon shell. The wind had picked up.

Next up: NGC 6888 in Cygnus. Also in the Dob Hole. Phil offered a filter. Ian thought it quite nice. It was an obvious crescent shape showing lots of structure. I thought it very big. Chris noted the brightness on the "brain stem." He reminded us it was Caldwell 27.

I suggested we cart around a cow to attract the mozzies.

Chris lost it but Ian guided him back with the digital aids. Tony enjoyed the view. Was it "smiling or frowning?" Smiling. I suggested rotating the rocker box counter-clockwise to reacquire the target.

The skies were getting worse.

Next? I could not find TRAPPIST in SkyTools. Ian though it was in Cygnus [ed: it's in Aquarius]. And Chris did not have the coordinates. [ed: 2MASS J23062928-0502285 or right ascension 23h 6m 29s and declination -5° 2′ 29". Added to SkyTools.]

I borrowed Phil's bins to look for M33. For me, it was crazy faint.

Chris headed to his next target. Supposed to be a bright nebula, IC 1546. 12 arcminutes in size. In the UHC filter, he noted a subtle glow in the middle. Not massively brighter, a gentle glow. About a 1/4 of the field of view.

Phil wanted to pack up his 'scope

Asked Ian if he wanted to go for a quasar. At 10 Gyr with a z of 3.8. Sure. But when I proposed PKS 1937-101 at mag 17.6, Ian said it would not be visible. He said 16.4 was his personal limit in this instrument. Dang.

The sky to the north-east looked better, Ian thought. The Milky Way went almost to the horizon. Coming and going.

Chris selected another target, Iris Nebula aka NGC 7023 and Caldwell 4 in Cepheus. Ian thought it fairly small, saw some nebulosity. It was almost like a half moon. With dusty knots. Chris saw a big halo with few stars in the field. He thought the star looked extincted. I thought it a fuzzy blue star. Should look again...

Phil showed Dan his jump start battery slash astronomy power supply. It had lots of outputs. Cost $70. I said my early generation NOCO was pretty good.

Chris suggested the Cave Nebula. Ian felt he saw the nebula. It was an emission, reflection, and dust object. Chris said there was a dark patch with a chain of stars. Lamented that some Caldwells were dogs. Ian changed the power. For them it evoked a boomerang shape. There was a dark region at the 5 o'clock position.

I spotted the Pleiades. Thought on my Rhonda back home...

The crazy mozzies were still active.

12:00 AM MDT, Saturday 19 August 2017. Tony noted it was midnight.

Katrina was warming up in the rental. We decided to wrap. Chris thanked Ian for the good views. Overall, it was a good session. Not awesome, as we had hoped. If we had elected to not pull up stakes, we'd have another shot at these dark skies. Ian hoped for a good more in Glendo. Of course, we all were wishing for a good day session...

Tony offered to help with big telescope breakdown but wanted to leave his camera to the last moment. Me too.

12:08 AM MDT. I checked the conditions. 16.2° and 74%. We continued to pack up. We loaded the big items into Big Red first.

traces of light as we packed up

12:21 AM. We scanned for dropped items.

12:27. Ian fired up the rig. We waited a few moments for someone in a car. They appeared confused or lost

I was feeling a tiny bit sad. I think I wanted more telescope time. I had thought we would view more new objects. I understood the rationale for viewing classics. In an extremely dark location with very good skies, they would look significantly better. But I assumed we would go for more challenging objects.

I was feeling physically off. My allergies were bad. I was snuffling all night. My eyes watered. I had a strong headache at end. I was probably very dehydrated. (I didn't realise it at the time but I had caught Ian's cold.) I took some pain killers.

We returned to our site around 12:30.

I hit the showers.

1:29. I warmed up in my tent.