Saturday, September 30, 2017

mount still troubled

Went outside to check on the mount, ensure the OTA wasn't going to fall out of the saddle, and that I hadn't dropped anchor... All was well in that respect.

But when I bumped the mount, it did the "skip!" No! So, it seems the Celestron DX is still having trouble. Next step: swap the motors...

Friday, September 29, 2017

SN2017eaw fades (Halifax)

BGO shot NGC 6946 (the Fireworks galaxy) again. The supernova SN 2017 eaw continues to fade.

supernova SN 2017 eaw in luminance

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

Last  imaged 28 Sep '17.

The collimation or registration is wonky.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

aimed at Groombridge 34 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney robotic observed imaged Groombridge 34 aka GX And for me. A multi-star system. From one of my "beautiful doubles" lists in SkyTools.

multi-star system Groombridge 34 in luminance

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

GRB 34 is a triple. The primary is magnitude 8.

The B star is to the north-east, somewhat close. In the SkyTools 3 Pro Object Information box, it says the second star is magnitude 10.6 and 34.7". In the chart, the star is rendered as very dim and shows as magnitude 18.7. Clearly that's incorrect. ST3P also says it is a binary system with a 2600 year period!

The C companion is to the west-south-west, well away. A bit dimmer at mag 11.5.

Why the bright star to the south is not consider part of this system is beyond me.


Wikipedia link: Groombridge 34.

imaged supernova (Halifax)

I ordered BGO to collect data on supernova SN 2017 eaw again. I thought the weather turned poor in Halifax but the robotic observatory was working. The exploding star continues to dim.

galaxy NGC 6946 with supernova 2017 eaw luminance

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

Imaged on 21 Sep '17.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

enjoyed Tarter's talk

Visited the Ontario Science Centre with Rhonda for the Great Conversations Speaker Series. This was the second talk of the current OSC series. It was the first talk for the Charles Darrow Lecture Series in conjunction with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto Centre, made possible by Dr Sara Seager.

OSC ticket stub for the Tarter talk

The presenter is one of my heroes, Dr Jill Tarter of SETI. It was a real treat attending her talk. Ivan Semeniuk's one-on-one was very enjoyable. It was fun being back in the Imperial Oil auditorium. Lots of old and new faces.

Caught up with recent CAO visitors.

Chatted with Nicole, first time in a long time.

Gave Eric a Spitz Jr planetarium.

Reviewed Lucy's telescope and broken red dot finder.

thanked helpers

Thanked Ian, Mary-Ann, Denis, and Tony for their help with grounds keeping at the CAO.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Australia launching space agency

Learned that the government down-under is green lighting the Australian space agency. They've been tangentially involved in human space flight and satellite launches for decades. But given the growth in the space industry, it only makes sense they participate directly. Read the article from NPR.

captured Ha data for IC 289

I asked BGO to image IC 289 again. In particular, I wanted hydrogen alpha data. I first imaged this planetary nebula in August 2016.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

viewed two sunspots (Blue Mountains)

Someone had moved the Oberwerk binoculars to the Observing Pad. We viewed the Sun in the hot air. Ah ha! Sunspots.

two sunspots

Noted one near the centre (AR 2681). One near the edge (AR 2682). Cool!


Learned from that 2682 is the old sunspot group AR 2673.

neat design

Rhonda gifted me a unique t-shirt purchased from an Etsy vendor. It features patent office illustrations for a telescope.

The telescope or survey scope design by J Paoli from 1891 features filaments.

another night of visual (Blue Mountains)

8:55 PM, Saturday 23 September 2017. I returned to the GBO.

Sky conditions were looking much better.

Richard and Wayne discussed small onboard computers and SkyWatcher mounts. Geneviève had her Star Adventurer on the floor.

Geneviève joined me in the warm room. We were going to do another C14 imaging session.

9:02. Ian W popped into the GBO, coffee in hand.

Lucy dropped by.

Helped Wayne with choosing a target. Reviewed his 'scope and camera parameters. Approximated the view in SkyTools. Filtered on galaxies. Selected the RASC Finest list, above 2x, set the times. Left the Real Time tab. Down to 14 candidates. NGC 6503, fairly small. Googled it. The Splinter. In Draco, falling. Ugh. Out of season. Fireworks, face on, with a supernova Cepheus, NGC 6946. He liked that one.

9:31. Rhonda popped in. I gave her the big Celestrons, the 10x50. Suggested she try them hand-held but if too shakey we could mount on a tripod (with Tony's big bracket).

9:43. Lucy asked if I had a star chart to borrow. Or Stellarium. I launched Stellarium on my netbook. She was interested in finding the Dumbbell. She searched and found it.

Sailu dropped by. He had The Backyard Astronomer's Guide in hand, one of my favourite books. I shared my confusion. I thought I had used this book during my telescope shopping but the date of the book was too late; I bought the SCT in December 1990. He noted the copyright was 1991.

Richard continued imaging.

Checked in with Rhonda. She was having fun with the binoculars. She was OK with holding them. Ian had helped a little. She had seen the Andromeda Galaxy. I suggested the Double Cluster.

When chatting with Richard about cable wrap, I suggested tying the cable to the camera body.

There was no note paper in the warm room.

clear sky chart for the evening

10:40. Checked the Clear Sky Chart as the coyotes yipped. Lovely. Lots of blue.

Rhonda was having fun. She found Pleiades. Found all the stars for Cassiopeia. Found Capella. Used the Great Square to find the two arcs (or "tails") of Andromeda. Found the big galaxy. She didn't think the Double Cluster as bright as Andromeda. When she said complained of a sore neck, I suggested an anti-gravity chair. That would be better. She headed to the house for a sweater.

Check the Davis weather station information. As of 10:36. 10 minute average wind speed 3.2 km/h, direction WSW, immediate wind speed 6.4, high was 28, temperature 22.8°C, humidity 88%, barometer 1018.1 hPa. I looked at the air pressure trend. It had been rising Thursday and Friday and 1019 at the T-F midnight transition. It had not yet updated for today.

Realised I had forgotten to spot the Iridium. I had programmed an alarm for the bright flare but the smartphone was in the house...

Lucy needed a chart again. I launched Stellarium again, activated red light mode, turned on the constellation lines. Offered my Pocket Sky Atlas—Rhonda had it but wasn't using it.

11:01. Lucy borrowed the binoculars.

11:14. Rhonda returned. Lucy had the bins. Asked if we could give the PSA to Lucy, after removing the acetate sheet.

Richard was imaging the 7331 and the Fleas.

Richard bumped into the big telescope. Ha!

He spotted the Abraham Dragonfly image on my screen saver.

Ian W was in da house. Things were going well for him.

Rhonda brought my PSA over. She didn't see the transparency sheet; it was there. Sticktion. She was taking a break.

The crew in the warm room observed the coaching as we adjusted the electronic focuser using the Live View.

Rhonda noted the star was changing size rapidly. A clear indication of seeing conditions, magnified.

The bins were back.

We spotted the gang from the NEAF road trip on my screen saver.

Richard showed me his shots of Andromeda with M110 and M32. Very nice. Lots of stars.

11:58. The coyotes fired up again. We could hear an owl in the distance.

Spent some time with Rhonda near the Observing Pad. We visited Mary-Ann in the Tony Horvatin Observatory.

Richard turned the red lights down a bit. Continued imaging.

12:23, Sunday 24 September 2017. Orbit Day.

Tony and I talked about more red light bulbs. I suggested incandescent for outdoor or cold applications. I asked if we could improve the red light in the pantry. We talked about possible revisions to the security circuits.

Rhonda visited the GBO. With jujubes, yeh! But they all looked red, ha ha, in the warm room lighting. And dessert, yeh! Yum.

Discussed guiding equipment and on-board single-board computers. Richard reminded us that a Raspberry Pi ran on an ARM; an X86 might be better.

Richard saw vibration in his images from the outside door slamming!

Rhonda headed out to do meteor watching.

I did some binocular observing with Rhonda near the Observing Pad. Using the Centre's big Celestron bins. Facing west.

Later grabbed the DIY parallelogram to steady the image. The clunky unit made by Mr Brown needs some work. One of the chains is broken or detached. The parallelogram proper is too short; the arms could be 12 or 18 inches longer. The head does not pivot in azimuth which makes it a bit awkward to use at the side of one's chair.

Viewed Albireo. Wow. One could easily split the A and B stars. Lovely colours. I didn't know one could do this. I did not think I had ever viewed my favourite double with binoculars. Awesome view.

Viewed the Coathanger. Nice. Perfect size in the binoculars.

1:18. We both saw a bright meteor, low in the north-north-west, over the house. Fast-mower, west bound. Possibly a Perseid. It was bright.

Turned east.

Looked at delta Cephei. It was at minimum.

Took in the Double Cluster. Lovely.

Took in the Pleaides. It was very nice. Noted the bright pair in the centre with a dim pair above. That was Alcyone, a multi-star system. B was above (or south). C and D were at a 90 degree angle to the A-B alignment, higher again. C was to the north-east; D south-west. Much fainter. They looked dull red to me compared to the blue-white of the bright stars. Cool! [ed: This is an 8-star system. Will need to return...]

Saw the Pinwheel galaxy for the first time naked eye. Yes! Been trying that for years! Very tough though. Required averted. A deep dark adaptation.

Lots of light pollution from Collingwood. Gross.

2:04. Swept the grass from the warm room.

Geneviève reported her imaging run was complete and she was shooting darks.

Consider the next targets.

Chose the multi-star system HR 7075 aka SAO 17995. Had Geneviève slew while I monitored for cable snags. Regained focus control at the Optec hand paddle.

2:27. Super-tight. I thought they were aligned south-east to north-west. Part of a triangle of stars. Way off to the east I saw a hockey stick. Couple of other stars to the south. Pretty blank field in the 18mm. I must have viewed this before. A pair on Sissy Haas's project list... 

Slewed to my next. 72 Pegasi. I split it! Two gold stars. Similar brightnesses. B was to the east.

Yeh! Fire truck, yeh! SkyTools showed the separation to be 0.53" as of July 2017. This was low. I wondered if I had broken my split record. Not really. I have logged items below this but many are suspect. This is a solid 5! Nice. I was happy. A binary, 246 year period.

Geneviève asked how many doubles I had seen. Over 1155.

2:47. The recorder stopped running having run out of space. Oops. I realised I had not cleared out old recordings...

Considered NGC 7253...

2:52. 7253. An Arp. Two interacting galaxies. I was not sure I could see them. Tried averted. The appearence was very soft.

I realised I was probably not fully dark adapted. The warm room was bright.

Rhonda joined me for some high power viewing.

Geneviève started imaging with her Star Adventurer.

3:01. Viewed HD 223070. A multiple star system, aka STF 3037 and SAO 20832. AB is yellow, bright; C is orange-red; D is pale blue; E is to the north-east, white; F is to the south-east, white. Love the colours. Very nice in the 55mm.

[ed: From my View Again list. It is a 6-star system. I had previously viewed A through D—all the stars Haas notes; but I had not viewed the E and F attendants.]

3:07. Put in the 27mm. Wow. Saw STI 1213. Easy split.

Re-examined HD 223070. A and B were split. Beautiful. A was to the north. Yellow. B, much fainter to the south, orange. All right.

We viewed a couple of fuzzies.

3:28. Put the rarely used 20mm in the C14 to check the Iris. It looked good. Wispy stuff.

Tried the O-III filter. No improvement.

3:30. Checked the Davis. 10 min avg 3.2, direction SWW, immediate 3.2, high 14.5, humidity 80, barometer 1018.8, outside temp 23.5.

We were tired. Asked Richard to close up again.

coaching session

Geneviève joined me in the warm room.

8:57 PM, Saturday 23 September 2017. We discussed the plan.

She wanted to rerun the Dumbbell with longer exposures. Half the images were no good. Deep Sky Stacker only used 11. She had researched other photographers. 300 seconds, 100 seconds, someone did 60 seconds, ISO 1000, like us. We wondered if 90 seconds would be better with a higher ISO.

When was it transiting? I checked SkyTools. M27 was peaking right now.

9:01. Proposed that she run everything tonight. She agreed it would be good. It would take more time though to train on all the steps.

We would use the GBO computer to drive the mount and do focusing (unlike last night where it was only used for focus). I'd restart everything so she could go through the telescope/mount setup. Then, a supervisor would only need to open the building and off she could go.

We put the dark red film on her screen.

I parked the 'scope. Disconnected things.

9:15. Starting my training. Grab your notebook. And red flashlight. Had Geneviève do the work.

Went through the pier/mount/accessories connections and power up sequence with particular attention to the Optec focuser. Suggested turning on the computer before powering the mount.

Went through the laptop setup. Tonight we connected the old serial cable. Showed the LCD brightness controls and the red film frame. Logged her in. Launched TheSky 6, linked to the Paramount, and homed.

Discussed viewing the virtual sky, monitoring the meridian, selecting objects or searching and centring, slewing, checking the area is clear, confirming. Don't do sync. Verify the TPoint model is loaded.

Suggested a test slew to check the pointing. To Saturn.

9:56. Bull's eye! The pointing was good. We had a medium powered eyepiece and it was nearly centre. Yeh.

Reminded Geneviève that we needed to choose a star for focusing. Centre, with a high power eyepiece, and check it visually. Do that before installing the camera. We zoomed in and considered 13 Vul. Yesterday we used gamma in Sagitta.

We talked about making the Tele Vue 101 co-linear with the Celestron 14. Not critical but it could be helpful.

Went through the camera control hookup. I pointed out that the dark grey ethernet RJ-45 cable, unmarked, is the one to use. It runs between the warm room and pier. And then a USB-ethernet adapter needs to be used. Unfortunately the CAO kit is USB version 1.1. We'd use mine tonight. I drew a picture.

Did the camera install. She removed the optical accessories and installed her camera. Helped her secure it. She had a fresh battery loaded.

I suggested testing the camera control software. Launched Live View Shooting. Reminded her that we could use Exposure Simulation, assuming we could control the exposure, which meant, for her camera, Manual mode. We determined that the flashing Exp Sim meant it was beyond the normal limit. Bumped the monitor brightness. Could not see a donut. We reviewed zooming the Live View (assuming the Face Detection was off).

Discussed manual coarse focusing, with the SCT mirror. Had her do the first big clockwise turn. Recruited a helper: me. Similar to her work with probes.

Discussed fine focusing, with the temperature-controlled focuser. Tonight we remembered to set to 3500 in advance. Reviewed the cables needed. Passing it through the screen window. On this occasion, we needed the USB-serial adapter as the serial port was occupied with the Paramount control. Showed how to look up the assigned COM port number for the Prolific device. Ran the Optec focuser software. Adjusted as many people observed. Set to auto mode.

We talked about Backyard EOS and its ability to recognise a Bahtinov diffraction pattern. Ian W mentioned that FocusMax uses V-curve technology.

Richard reminded us that continuous Live View gets the camera hot. We closed the windows.

Time to get to the target finally. She slewed. Asked how to verify she was on target. We took a test shot while still in manual mode. A bit low. Showed the telescope motion control dialog box. Moved a bit. Listen for the note change. We went the wrong way. Shot again. She thought it pretty good.

Ready to image now! I popped out for a bit. She switched to Bulb and did some test shots.

12:13 AM, Sunday 24 September 2017. Geneviève and Richard reviewed the first few images. They discussed the ISO values. They decided on ISO 1600. They reviewed the exposure and interval times.

Tony dropped in.

They checked the 90 second shot and it looked good.

The next one they didn't think so good.

Just keep shooting! Just keep shooting! (Sung in Dory's voice.)

That's what you have to do without a guider.

12:41 AM. She started her run with 90 second subs.

I asked how long her run was. 60 shots at 90 seconds plus the interval gap minus the ones done so far. About an hour to go. You have to share. That reminded her of what she tells her kids. She wanted to do more targets.

2:04. Geneviève readied to shoot darks. I explained she'd need new ones for the unique exposure settings. Encouraged her to begin building a library.

She thought something was wrong, that 19 shots had been taken suddenly. She asked what was wrong. I suggested her to look again... Ah. 19 to go.

Geneviève asked what the plan was. I might shoot. But Rhonda wanted to view some objects.

2:24. I asked for focus control. Explained how to release control from the computer.

2:30. Told Geneviève I heard an alert from her computer. I noted the EOS software was showing a warning. The message however was in red text. When the film was removed, it was regarding a "lost connection." I suspected it was the battery power at the camera. She installed a new battery.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

we enjoyed the solar system

People gathered in the kitchen, dining room, and living room. Seemed to be lingering. Hmmm. What were they up to, I wondered...

Rhonda emerged from downstairs with a platter covered with an upside-down enamel pot. What's under there? Ears of corn?

solar system cake by Rhonda

Oh yeah. It was my orbit day (tomorrow at 4:00 AM officially)... :-D

Rhonda made me a super-fun cake with the colour-correct planets! And the Moon. I liked the "Not to scale" flag.

Everyone had some cake with half a planet. We had ice cream too. Rhonda and I ate that first while I continued to grill (burn dinner) on the barbecue.

higher and brighter

Moon was a bit higher and brighter tonight. Above the muck.

Imaged by Rhonda Gribbon with her iPad.

red Sun setting (Blue Mountains)

We enjoyed a colourful sunset from the deck. The Sun went intense orange and red as it descended behind nearby trees to the distant horizon.

red sun behind trees

Reminded me of jelly bean shaped suns of my youth...

Photo by Rhonda Gribbon with iPad.

fixed the time

Put recharged ODEC batteries in the Sony recorder.

I fixed the time problem in SkyTools in a weird roundabout way.

Fiddled with the Windows XP Control Panel settings. Went to the time zone and selected a different one. Then came back to Eastern. Told it to adjust for Daylight Saving automatically. It was off. Shouldn't matter. I have done this manually. I noted then the time was ahead one hour. I put it back to 4:14 PM. The GMT offset never changed in all that.

In SkyTools I left the Real Time tab then returned to it. Looked OK. On reloading the SkyTools Interactive Atlas, it was correct. Yeh!

some visual among clouds (Blue Mountains)

In GBO. I was working with the Paramount. I connected my ASUS and launched Software Bisque TheSky 6.

Richard was multi-tasking: imaging with his 8" compound telescope and his Star Adventurer.

8:28 PM, Friday 22 September 2017. Richard said he saw the sky flash with lightning. Earlier in the evening his wife had reported thunder in Tobermory.

Checked with Richard about vibration from the inner door slamming. He didn't think it was a problem.

I got my keys from the house. Opened the eyepiece cabinet. Installed two oculars.

I offered to help Richard with his Canon DSLR, if he needed it.

The pointing was off. Way off. 33 arc-minutes and 47 seconds! Wow. No good. Was my TPoint model damaged?

8:40 PM. Connected with SkyTools 3 Professional.

I checked weather data. The jetstream looked very strange. Richard showed me a big band of cloud headed our way.

8:45. Slewed to Saturn with SkyTools. Pointing was still off.

Also did not see the blinking X in ST3P to show where the telescope was aimed.

Slewed to the Fireworks galaxy to examine supernova SN 2017 eaw. It was almost straight up. I could see the entire galaxy although dim. At low power, I could not see the supernova. Increased the power. The limiting magnitude of the C14 is 16.1.

It did not seem humid. Richard said the humidity was bad the previous weekend. Along with the forest fire smoke, it made for challenging conditions. The lightning was putting on quite a show.

Used my most recent image from BGO at SMU. Flipped it and rotated it to much my ocular view.

[ed: The supernova in the photo from 21 Sep '17 is dimmer than magnitude 15.1 and brighter than 16.3.]

9:05. Geneviève arrived in the warm room for her imaging session with my assistance.

9:27. I thought I could see the supernova with averted vision.

Richard and I talked about camera settings, ISO, noise introduced before and after amplification.

Put in the 10mm in the Celestron 'scope, for 391 power. Stupid power. It made the supernova barely visible.

Slewed to one of the Messiers. To view again.

Ian W popped in. He caught up with Geneviève.

Weather update. Ian wondered what was happening with the thunderstorms. He thought they were coming to get us. In an hour or so. I pulled up some satellite imagery. It was massive earlier, going down, but then popped up. I checked as well. Nothing showing yet... The jetstream was nuts. The predictions yesterday were for clear, clear, clear. Ian said it would "wreck the night." Some sites were showing rain!

Ian and I chatted about the supernova. Showed him my shot from last night. It was visually dim in the telescope now. He offered to look but I was off the target.

Denis popped in. He was very happy. He had good polar alignment and a functional pointing model. Things were working for him at last.

Someone arrived, white light up the driveway. The Horvatins, Ian guessed.

I had viewed Messier 30 in Capricornus. Nice small lint ball in the Tele Vue refractor. 18mm in TV 101 yielded 30 power. The C14 showed individual stars. The 27mm in the big 'scope was at 145x. There was a star nearby. And a double nearby, according to the SkyTools app.

9:58. Grace visited us. Drive up was OK.

Asked guests to avoid letting the observatory door slam so to reduce vibration into Richard's rig. Reminded them to steer clear of his tripod.

Rhonda visited. She looked at M30 with Richard. Encouraged her to look in both 'scopes. Explained I was revisiting Messiers with only one log entry.

Mary-Ann dropped in briefly. Intros with Geneviève.

Sailu came into the observatory, yawning. He said he was starting to fall asleep in his hammock.

10:37. Tony popped into the warm room. Caught up with the crew.

SkyTools crashed. I restarted it. Oh, the X reappeared. All right.

Razvan visited. When the clouds appeared, he packed up. Now it was clear. He was kicking himself.

11:47. Sailu headed home. To return tomorrow.

Richard asked for a tiny Philips screwdriver. The dial on his accessory was loose. I fetched my eyeglasses screwdriver from the car, steps away. I realised at the car the windows were still down so I turned on the car to raise them. Ruby's headlights came on! Oops! Damn. I'm not used to an automatic car...

Spotted the Pleiades.

I realised I had forgotten to print and post the weekend astronomy information.

Showed Richard my shot of the Iris last night.

His guiding was not working well.

12:38 AM, Saturday 23 September 2017. Pinged Rhonda. We were resuming visual observing after Geneviève's imaging run.

Clouds again. Richard looked at Clear Sky Chart and Clear Outside.

Rhonda said she was coming out. When she arrived, I urged her to look in the big OTA at the Dumbbell.

Clouds! The wind was up.

Wondered about viewing a double star. Asked rho to check if it was clear toward Cassiopeia. Not great. We headed outside to find a clear patch.

1:00 AM. Short meteor! Heading toward Cygnus. Rhonda and I were facing that way. I asked if she saw it. She had. Yeh! Finally.

1:04. I tried to view U Cygni. I wasn't sure I was on it at first, given the poor pointing. This is a previously viewed target but I wanted to see again.

Denis and Richard discussed guiding, software control, backlash, etc.

Figured out my location. I was on 32 Cyg. A bit to the west. I realised I had the 27mm ocular installed; not the 55.

Denis said there were still some clouds out there, playing havoc with the imagers. Richard considered capturing his darks. He checked the radar weather info: nothing. He noticed a north-westerly flow.

I slewed. Gah. Cloudy everywhere.

1:37. Still cloudy.

1:47. Still cloudy. But Richard said it was improving in the north.

2:05. It was clearing. I wanted to resume my observations on the double star.

Geneviève headed to the house.

2:15. Confirmed I was on the correct star. U Cygni aka BUP 183. Amazing orange colour. B was white or blue-white. Widely separated. Oriented north-east to south-west. Very colourful pair. In an asterism of stars that made me think of a tadpole. Richard thought it very red.

Panned over HD 194192 aka HJ 1510 (still in Cygnus). Wow. Teenie weenie grouping of stars. I saw five stars. I saw A, B, D, E, and F. D is to the north-west. No problem with seeing D. Opposed, to the south-east, are the E and F stars. Both bright. E and F are oriented 90° to the A-B-D alignment. Could not see the C element opposite B. ST3P said it was 13.1 on the magnitude scale. A new object. Neat. [ed: The C, D, and E stars are under the WDS designation ES 29. F is classified as HJ 1511.]

It was curious the bright pair to the east, with SAO 49549, not identified in SkyTools.

Headed to the house for a sweater. Returned with still-awake Rhonda! We walked directly to the telescope. Showed her both U Cyg and HD 194192.

Tried again to spot the C star without luck.

2:38. Considered Uranus (and some moons). In Pisces in Aries. All right, the sky was clear there. Slewed. Cool blue.

Rhonda saw another short meteor. I asked if it had colour.

Now the challenge. To see Uranian moons through dirty eyepieces and occasional clouds. And old eyeballs.

2:46. The time in the software was wonky. Real time mode was off by an hour. Something to do with time zones? I wasn't sure the exact position of the moons... Tried to compensate.

Rhonda thought she saw something at 7 or 8 o'clock, 5 or 6, and something over by 3. Oberon (14.1) appeared to be around 5 o'clock. Titania, the brightest (13.9), should have been at the 9 o'clock. It should have been easy. I thought Umbriel (15.0) would not be possible. Ariel was probably not possible due to the glare.

We tried again. I decided against the 10mm eyepiece; went looking for the 18mm. No problem with Oberon. Asked rho if she liked viewing the second last planet in the solar system.

I noticed Orion was well up.

3:03. We slewed to our next target, the Great Orion Nebula. Huge in the C14! With the Trapezium in the centre. Enjoyed the wide field view in the TV101. Decreased the power in the SCT to take in more of the nebula. Of course, we looked with our eyes too. Neat, three levels of magnification.

Viewed the lovely σ (sigma) Orionis system. Explained the layout to Rhonda. She headed back to the 'scope to find HD 294271 D. With averted, she tagged it! She also noted the two stars between, one of which was mag 13 (assuming ST3P was right). Way to go, Hawkeye!

Noticed white light in the warm room: it was Geneviève's laptop waking up and applying updates. I covered the screen with the red film for the outdoor LCD panel.

Selected the next target. Something not too challenging. Rhonda said one more. HD 5005 in the middle of the Pacman Nebula in Cas. [ed: On my View Again list under Burnham 1 as I have not split A and B.]

3:42. Pointed out the Winter Hexagon. Or Football.

Holey moley. There were a boat load of stars in HD 5005. The H, I, and E stars were well away; the others were on top of each other. Saw D, to the south.

Also saw STI 1454 to the south-west.

Richard said we were staring down clouds...

Rhonda wanted to retire. I suggested one more observation first, looking to the east. We did not see obvious zodiacal light. If it was there, the light pollution from Collingwood was washing it all out.

3:53. My allergies were acting up.

Richard asked me why the time might be wrong on his computer! Weird. I shared mine was acting up as well.

Was going to look for the other companions in HD 5005 but I was clouded out.

Began my shutdown. Broke the connection with SkyTools. Parked with TheSky. Powered down the mount and accessories. Lifted panel B. Left everything else for Richard.

4:03. Done. Headed to bed.

helped member image

Geneviève was interesting in imaging through the C14 with her DSLR camera. Earlier in the month we had discussed using the equipment in the Geoff Brown Observatory (and at the time I was not to be supervising). I said then if it was OK with the supervisor, I was OK to help. Now that I was the supervisor, I told her we were OK to proceed as long as no one else had booked telescope time. There were no takers. That said, I did have a few things I wanted to look at. And I wanted to show Rhonda some favourite DSOs.

9:05 PM, Friday 22 September 2017. Geneviève brought her gear into the warm room. She had a list of targets. Dumbbell, NGC 6826 aka Blinking planetary nebula, Orion Nebula. We checked locations and simulated views in SkyTools. Checked the elevation and meridian. Did Google search. Dumbbell was good, near Cygnus, high, it was just crossing the meridian. The Blinking was in Cygnus but small. Very small. We simulated the framing with a 2x doubler (mine) and 4x (RASC's). We looked at images from Burke-Gaffney and Hubble. Dumbbell was it.

We talked about computers as she's shopping for a new one. At first she was thinking about Surface Pro. The associate at a store gave her many suggestions including ASUS. Discussed her personal and work needs. I wondered if I would have to go with a gamer style portable computer in the future for fast response with my work apps along with modern connections and the ability to do some medium to light-advanced image processing on the road. Alienware computers would be a good option but they are very expensive.

Told Geneviève my preference for "working:" sitting in the warm room (on this occasion, away from the bugs), capturing images on one computer, and focusing remotely with another. Asked if she had the Canon software on her computer. She headed to the house.

9:37 PM. She returned with computer.

She did not have proper red film; she used two small sheets of red plastic overlapped.

Geneviève showed me a couple of software CDs (the camera instruction manual and the software instruction manual) but they didn't sound right. That's all she had. She shared she had the EOS Utility installed from her old camera. I suggested we try it as it might work fine. Connect the camera and let's see what happens.

Accidentally tripped the camera a couple of times, with the flash firing. Lightning in the warm room!

9:55. She got the EOS Utility running. I had Geneviève hit the Live View button. Had her take the lens cap off and move the camera about. It was working fine. We found the button to toggle off the focus region rectangles. I explained we would not need her intervalometer as EU would do that.

Again, I told her that I liked working in the warm room with the two computers and if she wanted to do that, we'd have to hook up things via the subterranean cable and drop another cable. Or she could sit on the observatory floor near the pier and do things on her computer and use the Optec hand paddle. She chose the warm room option. We made space on the south counter.

I offered my 2-inch nose piece as Geneviève only had a 1¼.

We connected my high-speed USB-ethernet adapter kit to the underground cable.

Asked if she had a DC coupler. No. Asked if she had a battery grip. No. Battery charged? Yes. She also had a spare battery. We connected her camera at the pier, fired up EU, activated the Live View, and tested it by shining a light in the lens.

We set up the remote focusing. I plugged in the custom serial-RJ adapter to the RASC computer (as it was not currently connected to the Paramount ME). Dropped the 6-wire into the observatory and connected to the hand paddle. Launched the app on the Dell machine. Didn't work. I wondered if the hand box was in automatic mode. I found it in manual. Weird. Reseated the connector and tried again. It worked. (Forgot to put the focuser in the middle of the range.)

Richard said were about to lose the sky. Hurry. Hurry hard.

Slewed to a bright star, γ (gamma) Sge. Advised Richard to not back up.

We mounted the camera. Took out the mirror diagonal and ocular. Attached the t-ring and t-adapter to the body. Installed the camera in the focuser drawtube. Gently and progressively tightened the three screws. Looped the strap over another 'scope. Tethered the camera to the big OTA. Camera timed out so we powered it back on.

We checked the Live View Shooting. We shifted the apps on her computer screen so she could see the camera control panel with the Live View. The exposure was at 1/1000. Showed her how to change it. The ISO was at 5000 which was fine for now. I explained that Exposure Simulation would only go so far but should still work for us.

10:36. Clouds prevented us from seeing the star. We paused. I took the opportunity to head to the work room to get some duct tape. It was clearing to the north. Yeh.

We taped down the RJ cable to prevent tripping. I would have preferred double-wide. Tony illuminated the scene with his new red flashlight from Amazon.

We focused. We could see a faint, large donut on the screen. I adjusted the focus using the SCT knob, sliding the primary mirror, crudely focusing, focusing coarsely, while Geneviève monitored the computer. I started by turning the control clockwise until we got a small dot. Went back and forth, following her commands, a bit to make the point as small as possible. We transitioned to the electronic focuser.

In EOS Utility, I wanted to zoom in but the button was not active. After trying some controls, I looked up the issue in Google. Learned we had to turn the Face Detection off; went to Quick Mode. We were able to open the zoom window. Then go to 200%. Centred with the arrows or dragging. Noted the seeing conditions.

Explained that we had 7000 ticks to work with on the Optec TCF-S, we were at 1455 now, and we documented that. Talked about the granularity. She liked the view around 600. We changed the granularity to 50 from 100 and she continued adjusting the focuser. She landed at 820. Suggested a test shot so we could zoom in even more. Suggested 10 or 20 seconds. She chose 10. We checked her ISO range: it went up to 12 800. We chose 1000.

Shared that Richard and I used Backyard EOS and it offered a number of tools to aid in focusing including Full Width Half Maximum.

When I restarted SkyTools after a fatal error, I discussed the offset we'd need to use. It was significant on this occasion as the telescope pointing was way off.

I noted that her EU showed the mirror lock setting. Suggested we didn't need it for our long exposures.

Geneviève took a test shot. I suggested the Quick Preview was not useful—we closed it. We saw the Digital Photo Professional launch automatically. We opened the last photo into a large window. We displayed the Tools panel. I said to drag the brightness slider all the way so we could see lots of stars. We compared the camera frame to my SkyTools window and confirmed we were in right area. I didn't need to turn the FOV rectangle. We shot again at 20 seconds. Zoomed in to 100%. Ignored hot pixels. I thought it was very good focus. We turned the Optec software to automatic mode, using the temperature sensor.

11:18. We acquired Messier 27. Or thought we did. We had to guess the offset. I used Slew to Cursor. She took another long exposure. We wondered if it was cloudy. Sailu told us it was clear near Cygnus. We brightened the last shot; we stretched it too. We did some plate solving visually. We stretched the image some more and spotted the nebula on the top edge of the frame. Slewed a bit. Took another shot. It was nearly perfectly centred.

Rhonda visited, met Geneviève, looked in the TV 101, noted the large fuzzy.

We prepared to take long exposures. 30 seconds wasn't enough; I wanted to double the data. I showed the Timer function in EU. We programmed a 1 minute exposure and set the interval a few seconds longer. Left the number of exposures at 10 with the intention of cancelling after the first shot. Ran the timer. It closed the shutter after 30 seconds. It seemed to me the camera was following its exposure time and not using the software setting of 60 seconds. I was looking for the bulb setting in the exposure values given my 40D experience: I moved past 30 seconds and the bulb mode was shown. When I learned that the 70D has a B mode on the dial, I had Geneviève set that on the camera body. Of course, once reflected in the software, it worked. The EU removed the exposure values from the control window which made sense. A slightly different experience than what I am used to.

The fun part now. Hurry up and wait.

We checked the test shot. It did not seem as good to me; it was dim. I asked to check the Info (from the File menu). 18 seconds. Nope. Re-shoot. We were a little confused about the times. I thought it was using a long delay before shooting the first time... The image downloaded. It was a minute exposure. Good colour, good focus, but some trailing. We changed to a 2 minute shot with a 3 minute interval. I looked closely at the timing box. Oh. It was working right! At the start or trigger point, the shutter opened and counted down, as shown at the bottom of the timing box; the countdown timer at the top was for the next shutter activation.

Showed to Sailu and Geneviève my star trace and that the telescope moves. Vibration, wind, periodic errors.

The faster shot was better, less trailing. But I recommended gathering many light frames in case some showed trailing.

11:50. We set up the image capture. One minute exposures, a 15 second gap, 30 shots, no delay. Go! Coffee time. Encouraged her to set an alarm.

12:05 AM, Saturday 23 September 2017. We returned to the GBO.

Checked the weather conditions for the Davis unit on site. The outside air temperature was 20.3°C, the humidity 84%, barometric pressure 1017.0 hPa, 10 minute average wind speed 6.4 km/h, wind direction south. She updated her log notes.

Geneviève noted the focuser value was at 914, up from the starting point.

She asked about another target. I reminded her that we wanted to do some visual observing after this.

We discussed targets good in September. Richard suggest the big globulars like M13 or M92. Too late. And the Owl Cluster. I pointed out that constellations near the zenith at midnight included Lacerta, Cepheus, Cygnus, Pegasus, Andromeda, and Cassiopeia. She asked about the Whale; I thought it out of season.

We showed Richard the stretched frame. He liked it. Pointed out some of the nebulosity.

12:29 AM. Two more shots to go. Her alarm went off.

The imaging run finished.

Prepared for darks. I suggested she remove the camera from the 'scope, install the body plug, and set it beside the pier. Then she could gather 15 or so dark frames. We dismounted the DSLR. I reinstalled the visual equipment.

Geneviève said she had already captured M13, last June.

Showed her The Evening Sky Map document I had downloaded. Suggested it was good for knowing well-placed constellations and telescopic targets from the relevant list. Said she could print it or download the PDF. Cautioned her about low targets. She saw the Whirlpool and the Helix. Yep, interesting. Whirlpool is better in the spring though. She asked about the Saturn Nebula. Small.

We discussed the size of objects. I suggested she Google them, do so research, to determine their size. From SkyTools, we learned that the Dumbbell is 8 arcminutes in size. It almost filled the camera frame. I quickly checked the dimensions in the software. Her camera was about 12 by 19 minutes of arc. The Blinking in contrast is 27", half an arcminute; it would be tiny in the camera.

12:54. I did the SkyTools software pitch. The Nightly Observing Light Generator, using the date and time and location and instrument, is perfect suggesting things to look at or image.

1:07. The dark run was done. Hot pixel data gathered.

We discussed flats (for dust, etc.) and biases (electronic noise). For future consideration. Richard had recently purchased a light pad for tracing, the same type that Steve was using, with very even illumination.

Asked if she could turn her screen brightness down.

She and Richard considered targets. Geneviève referred to the TESM list. She spotted the Trifid. It is big, 28'. Her frame would only get a portion. The Omega aka M17 aka The Swan she thought nice. 11' in size. Magnitude 6. Sets at midnight. An early summer object. Anything in Sagittarius is best viewed in July. The Crescent Nebula, 20 by 10'. Magnitude 7.4, about the same brightness. Transits at 9 PM. The Bode galaxies (e.g. M81) were higher up and brighter than the Crescent (aka The Brain).

1:45. We checked the sizes in SkyTools. The Crescent would require carefully turning the camera body to fit it. M81 was at its lowest point for the year. March and April would be best. The Crescent, right in the middle of The Swan, was very high earlier in the evening. Checked the meridian line. 9:30 would be the perfect time to start. Astro-twilight was an hour or so before that.

Geneviève asked about a galaxy up high. I pulled up the RASC Finest NGC list, filtered on galaxies, above 2x. Found 10 candidates. NGC 891 in Andromeda. I showed my BGO shot from a year ago. Late evening object, 3-ish it peaked, over the 2x at 11. NGC 772 in Aries, another late night target. Faint and kinda small but neat features in it. I reminded them that my images were 60 seconds but from a 24-inch big gun. NGC 185. I imaged it a year ago. Mag 10. Interesting stuff in the core. NGC 936. Small. NGC 6946 or the Fireworks. Mag 9.8. Peaks at 10 PM. NGC 6503. Edge-on. Detail in the arms. I imaged it in May. Very early evening. 7331. With the Fleas? Yes. Super bright core. Nice spiral structure. Good at midnight. NGC 1023. Another Arp, a pair of galaxies. I imaged them a year ago. Faint. We thought some of these suggestions from RASC were nice.

She wondered about imaging several objects, something at 9, 10, 11, midnight. Whoa. Keen. I reminded her we might need to share the 'scope tomorrow. More members coming up. Asked her to prioritise.

Geneviève tore down her camera. Reminded her to take the USB cable proper. Explained that the EOS Utility likely prevented the images from being stored on the camera.

She was keen to stack the images tomorrow.

She headed to bed. Thanked me for the help.

Friday, September 22, 2017

split NGC 7318 (Halifax)

I was interested in viewing NGC 7318 A and B. They are members of Stephan's Quintet. I had not had a really good view so I ordered the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to centre on NGC 7320 in Pegasus. A wonderful region with many faint galaxies. The image shows elongated stars and a satellite but I don't care. It was good to dive deep into this cluster.

galaxy group Stephan's Quintet in luminance

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

NGC 7319, a canted oval, is to the north-east. 7318 A and B are horizontally arranged, east through west. A is to the right or west. B looks like a barred spiral with long curved arms. NGC 7317 is south-west, a round fuzzy very near a star, GSC 02743-1548. And NGC 7320 is a large spiral lacking a bright core.

To the south-south-east I see an oval shape, a galaxy. SkyTools 3 Pro does not show a galaxy; rather a star, J223632.1+334746, is noted.

Far away, due east, is a small fuzzy oval, lying under the satellite trace: LEDA 141041.

NGC 7320C is to the east-north-east.


Wikipedia link: Stephan's Quintet.

thin Moon sighted (Blue Mountains)

Spotted the crescent Moon during dinner prep. Told Rhonda to have a look.

arrived the CAO

Rhonda and I had planned to go to the Carr Astronomical Observatory for the weekend. But when Phil took sick and asked for a helper and I put my hand up, it changed the tenor a bit. I would be on duty and wouldn't be able to play as much. But it looked like all the members visiting had been before and had their own gear so wouldn't need much support from me.

The weather was looking very good with clear skies Friday and Saturday nights. It was gonna be hot though.


We arrived before dinner. Mary-Ann and Ian were already there.

Someone had cut half the lawn. Thanks!

I opened the Geoff Brown Observatory.

The cluster flies were back. Ugh.

centred on NGC 7023 (Halifax)

The Iris Nebula aka NGC 7023 seems a popular target of late. Steve captured it beautifully from the CAO. I viewed it briefly at the Merritt Reservoir in the 20" Dob and wanted to revisit. I ordered the BGO robot to aim to it. It's big! The nebula extends far away from the bright double star V380 Cep.

diffuse nebula NGC 7023 around double-star in luminance

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

I wondered if 60 seconds would be too much. Certainly it blows out the central region (like in Orion's Trapezium).

V380 Cephei itself SkyTools shows as a double. I'll have to rework the image in FITS Liberator to see if I can draw out the pair. I doubt however this will work in the 60 second exposure. A and B are 6 arcseconds apart and multiple magnitudes different...

The dark regions surrounding nebula are thick. Few stars on the east can pierce the darkness. SkyTools notes the dark nebula LDN 1174 in the area.

There is a delicate cluster of a dozen or so stars to the west. This is Collinder 427.


SkyTools says the PA is 31° and the seperation is 6.0" as of 1992.

The WDS says theta is 164° and rho is 2.3" as of 1996. Very different. And closer to the primary! In other words, the faint, mag 13 star, should be very tight to A and oriented to the south-south-east.

Even when I alter the stretching in the image I cannot see the companion.


Wikipedia link: Iris Nebula.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

card from Mom

Received a fun birthday card from my mom.

birthday card with alien

LGM. Little Green Man. Goofy LGM with a birthday helmet and some helium.

SN2017eaw very dim (Halifax)

Burke-Gaffney imaged the Fireworks galaxy with supernova SN2017eaw. The exploding star is much dimmer now.

supernova SN2017eaw in luminance

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

Last imaged on 14 Sep '17.

imaged NGC 6621 and 6622 (Halifax)

NGC 6621 and 6622 are interacting galaxies. We had viewed them briefly from Glendo but I wanted to revisit. aka Arp 81. In Draco. Thanks to BGO, we can enjoy the spectacle. Love the arch at the north swooping into the galaxy to the south.

interacting galaxies of Arp 81 in luminance

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

The small round fuzzy galaxy LEDA 2714451 is visible to the south-west, below the equilateral triangle of stars.

Binary Universe: hacking a P&S

I downloaded the October RASC Journal from the members area.

cover of the RASC Journal 2017 October
Spotted Sailu's image of the rho Ophuichi region shot from the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Beautiful! And inspiring. He shot with a DSLR using a regular lens on a Star Adventurer.

Lots of interesting articles (by Levy, Percy, Laychak, Chapman, et al) to read.

My software review column Binary Universe featured the CHDK environment for Canon Point and Shoot cameras. The alternate software (not strictly firmware replacement) allows extensive control of the camera. I discussed specific features such as changing ISO values, using scripts for multiple exposures, and saving to raw formats. I reviewed version 1.00C.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

joined meeting

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting (by Skype). Lots to do in the coming weeks.

Sorry I forgot to post it was happening...

a month ago

At this moment, the Moon is very near the Sun. A month ago, it blocked the Sun. What a great thing...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

target ideas

Downloaded The Evening Sky Map. Printed it. Been a while since I've done this. Did this mostly for Rhonda. If she felt like she wanted to look for celestial items, it would give her some good targets.

Monday, September 18, 2017

transparency askew

Jack encouraged RASC TC members to take a close look at the Clear Sky Chart pages.

I spotted the warning.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

skies whitened

I followed a thread on the RASC Toronto Centre forum about the white and hazy sky conditions in the Greater Toronto Area. It started yesterday.

It became rather obvious while driving from the north-east...

thoughts after tracking

Some lessons learned from the weekend astrophotography...

The slow-motion control under the barn door tracker worked, sort of. However it does not seem robust. The weight of the camera with grip, the lens, and the tracker itself probably overloaded the small unit. More than once the ¼-20 screw at the bottom came loose! Did it hop a thread? I'll have to inspect for stripping. Also the main tension knob had to be tightened a great deal. It sure was enjoyable dialing in Polaris though...

The Celestron finder scope worked fine. Both nights I simply put Polaris near centre. And that seemed sufficient. But I continue to wonder about how to gauge the true location of the North Celestial Pole. I could try mimicking the entire field of view in software, I suppose...

The top plate is not balanced or does not work in all configurations. For example, after shooting the Pleiades, I pondered the Andromeda galaxy which was straight up. When I moved the camera, the top plate flopped open. The camera cannot hang over the hinge. Perhaps twisting and turning the ball head would let me get to a better configuration but I gave up after brief attempts. At the time, I wondered if a counter-weight would solve the problem. But that seems rather clunky. Maybe it is just a matter of persisting and getting the camera away from the hinge.

The ball head worked really well after the cleaning and lubrication. Fantastic.

I just assumed that the Takumar 55mm would be focused at infinity when I reached the hard stop. It was surprising to find it went beyond.

I had the equipment there but I didn't bother to use it. The netbook connected to the camera would have helped me achieve better focus.

Overall the barn door tracker worked well. The speed knob though is extremely easy to turn. So gets bumped out of position regularly. I need some tape to screw the knob. I will put in the kit box.

I borrowed painters tape for the control knob and the lens focus ring. Need tape onboard for that too.

An extremely long exposure of the Pleiades showed trailing. In other words, I had not dialed it out completely. My workflow is maybe inefficient. Perhaps I should start the other way, shooting for 5 or 10 minutes, and then "working backwards" i.e. when planning to shoot a 1 minute sub. If there's no trailing in a 5 minute then there won't be any in a 1.

Shooting the Pleiades is challenging! It has high dynamic range. So an HDR approach should be taken. A long shot would pull out the nebula. Medium or fast shots will avoid bloating the stars.

I dropped the control unit. Actually, the self-adhesive hook-and-loop strip on the back let go. I dropped the lithium-ion battery. I did not seem to have enough straps and elastics and hooks and lanyards to hold everything to the tripod. Will need more means of secure things.

a better sky (Crowes Landing)

The sky was better this evening. The air was a very pleasant temperature. The Milky Way was brighter, stars lower down showed. Greg and Brent and I looked briefly from the cottage lawn. Later, while the camera robot shot images, rho and I watched the whole sky. She could see more than 6 stars in the Pleiades and was able to spot the Andromeda galaxy. It seemed to me that delta Cep was between zeta and epsilon in terms of brightness. Rhonda wanted some meteors; I saw two. We worked on a few more constellations including Pegasus. We finished the evening looking down! At the stars reflected in the undulating dark water.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

shot with fast lens (Crowes Landing)

Tried imaging Messier 45 (M45) with the fast lens, the old screw-mount Takumar 55mm, f/2.0 lens from my Pentax film system. Atop the boat house.

Continued adjusting the barn door tracker controller speed. Initially racked the focus to the hard stop. But I found it improved when I came back a bit.

Pleiades star cluster

Canon 40D, fotodiox adapter, Takumar 55mm, f/8, manually focused, 45 seconds, intervalometer, ISO 800, RAW, tracking mount, tripod, DPP.


There are two comets in the area: C/2017 O1 (ASASSN) and C/2015 ER61 (PANSTARRS). But I can't see them.

clearer sky (Crowes Landing)

Clearer tonight. Looking good...

Sun setting through less smoke

Shot by Rhonda. Samsung sgh-i337m, Android 5.

enjoyed astro beer

Had some beer from Collective Arts. Astro-themed this time...

beer can with astronaut helmet artwork

Astronaut helmet reflecting the scene. Artist Lior Shkedi from Israel calls this Folk Astronaut. See more at the artist's web site.

beer can with astronaut and cat artwork

Rocket cat. This work is by Blake Stevenson of Toronto, entitled Astroskeleton and his cat. See more of his work at Jet Packs and Roller Skates.

stars and planets

I looked up some numbers for Aubrey. From the amazing Wikipedia...

The Milky Way galaxy has a diameter between 100 000 and 180 000 light-years. I didn't realise it was so indeterminate. The number 100 000 had been in my brain last night. But it could be double. That affects my distance remark. Last night I had said that all the stars we could see would be a fraction of 100 000 light years away. I have to revise that to 180 000. All the stars we can see are 180 000 light years or less. And that we are about 25 000 light years from galactic centre, then the (current) furthest extent is 115 000 light years.

Our galaxy may contain 100 to 400 billion stars. Wow.

Then I found the note: "There are probably at least 100 billion planets in the Milky Way." That's worded weakly, I think. And it's a number I see as changeable. As our exoplanet research evolves and our instruments get better, we're going to find more planets around stars. As a thought experiment, let's consider the 200 billion stars harbour solar systems and the average number of planets in a solar system is 10, then that means we're in the 2 trillion range.

Milky Way over water (Crowes Landing)

Tried some long exposures with the barn door tracker from beside the boat house while Rhonda took in the whole sky from the dock. Hadn't used my custom BDT for a while. Centred on Camelopardalis.

Cassiopeia and Perseus over Upper Stony Lake

Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm, f/5.6, manually focused, ISO 1000, intervalometer, 4 minutes, daylight white balance, RAW, tracker, tripod, DPP, GIMP.

Haze from the western wild fires...

Focus is off unfortunately...

Double Cluster is visible. Near the top-right, the Andromeda Galaxy. Cepheus with δ (delta) Cep near maximum.

Friday, September 15, 2017

observing from the dock (Crowes Landing)

Mist over the water.

We did some visual observing from the dock. We watched Pleiades rise out of the murk. We took in constellations and various stars. The Big Dipper was obscured by low cloud and haze or smoke. Fairly clear straight up. We couldn't figure out what was causing the sky glow to the north-east.

Explained that all stars we could see were in our galaxy. And therefore all were less than 100 000 light years, in fact, a fraction of that. Vega was extremely close, 26 light years. [ed: Wikipedia says the size of our home galaxy is between 100 000 and 180 000 light years.]

Talked about exoplanets and candidates in the Goldilock's zone. That our current instruments are getting better and better.

Helped Aubrey and Rhonda find the Andromeda Galaxy with just their eyes. Used the bright LED flashlight focused to a narrow beam, in lieu of a green laser pointer.

I saw one meteor, a brief slow-moving south-bound traveller.

I pointed out the sleepy fire flies in the grass.

gauged delta Cep

I noted δ delta (Cephei). It seemed to me to be nearly as bright as ζ (zeta) to the left. It was certainly brighter than ε (epsilon).

banded Sun (Crowes Landing)

Just before dinner, we enjoyed the sunset and the weird appearance the Sun took on as it descended through distant atmospheric bands. Wildfire smoke from the west. It looked like Jupiter with the bands.

Sun setting with clouds bands

Shot by Rhonda. Samsung sgh-i337m, Android 5.

signal lost

So long and thanks for all the pix. All the amazing images... The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft was deorbited into the planet Saturn concluding its very successful 13 year orbital mission. I'll miss the incredible new photos of our ringed planet.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

more data on NGC 40 (Halifax)

I collected data on NGC 40 back in August 2016. But I did not gather hydrogen alpha or ionized oxygen. So I queued up BGO.

 FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left. For all.

planetary nebula NGC 40 in luminance

Luminance, 10 seconds subexposures, 20 stacked shots.

planetary nebula NGC 40 in hydrogen

Hydrogen α, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. Big and bright! Lots going on.

planetary nebula NGC 40 in oxygen

Oxygen III, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. Round! And compact. Very interesting.

imaged supernova (Halifax)

Imaged SN2017eaw again. It looks much dimmer even from the 11 Sep '17 photo.

supernova SN2017eaw in luminance

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

returned to M10 (Halifax)

The globular cluster Messier 10 is another object I seem to only have one observation logged. I asked the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to aim into Ophiuchus and capture it.

globular cluster Messier 10 in luminance

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

I like being able to see many of the individual members in the somewhat open core. When Chuck Messier logged it in 1764, it described it as "nebula without stars." Ah, no.


Wikipedia link: Messier 10.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

on the big screen

Enjoyed Tony's videos and stills from the eclipse, while hooked up to the TV. I didn't have a large capacity storage device to take anything...

forwarded an alert

Texted Rhonda with an aurora alert. kp 7.7.

was it Mercury? (Bradford)

Ugh. Up early. Kissed rho and headed outside for the brisk walk to the GO station, dodging skinny kitties and skunks.

Dark again. Winter is coming.

I saw stars! It was very clear. Took in Orion, flickering Sirius, Gemini, Auriga, and the Moon. Tilting my head back, I could see the big Winter Football.

Venus blazed in the east. I noticed something 8° away, below, at a steep angle, about 70 or 80°. Was it Mercury? I know it was near maximum elongation.

I checked Sky Map on the Android smartphone and learned that Mars and Regulus were there too... But which one was I seeing? Sky Map did not show magnitudes.

The point of light faded in creeping fog.


Checked on Grace's iPad in SkySafari. It was Mercury! At magnitude -0.4.

acquired HD 15407 (Halifax)

I wanted to check out multi-star system HD 15407 aka STF 270 in Perseus from one of my "beautiful" lists in SkyTools. I sent BGO on a mission.

multi-star system HD 15407 in luminance

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

HD 15407 is a 4-star system. B is the bright, nearby star to the north-west. C is the medium-bright star north of B. It appears to be moving west, compared to the chart in ST3P. D is the dim star to the west. C and D make a right-angle triangle with B at the apex.

To the north-west lies a faint pair of stars oriented north-south. This is STI1900.

To the south-west is another faint pair of stars. STI1899.

shot 77 Psc (Halifax)

I ordered BGO to shoot 77 Piscium, aka Σ90, a multi-star system. I centred on GSC 00022-0669. From a "beautiful" list in SkyTools, based on an observing list from the Coldfield Observatory,

multi-star system 77 Psc in luminance

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

77 Psc is a 5-star system according to SkyTools.

The B companion is the bright star to the east of the primary. Nearly the same magnitude.

C is the dim partner to the west at 5 times the AB separation.

There is a very faint star to the north-west at the same distance as B. This is the P star.

Q is north of A, about 3x the AB sep. Same intensity as P.

captured nu Cet (Halifax)

BGO captured ν (nu) Ceti. Centred on GSC 00052-0838. A double star from the RASC Observer's Handbook.

I had hoped to catch in the net another pair nearby, to the far east. But PPM 145753 aka PLQ 34 is off frame.

double star nu Ceti in luminance

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

nu Cet B is the delicate dim star to the left or east of the primary. SkyTools says it is 8.1 seconds of arc away.

Monday, September 11, 2017

no data on the supernova

BGO was charged with imaging the supernova in the Fireworks galaxy again but something went wrong. Almost all the data files show registration problems.

quickly viewed the sky (Bradford)

Rhonda and I went to the back yard. The Summer Triangle was straight up. Her memory trick worked as she quoted Deneb, Altair, and Vega. Low clouds in the south but it was fairly clear. She found Polaris.

imaged alpha Cap (Halifax)

I asked Burke-Gaffney Observatory to image the alpha Capricorni multi-star system. That is α1 and α2 Cap. Centred on GSC 05748-2586. The extremely wide pair of bright stars are a wide visual optical double. But each bright star is a multi-star system in its own right.

alpha 2 is at the far left or east-most; alpha 1 is west or near centre.

multi-star system alpha Cap in luminance

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

Due south of α1 is a faint point, possibly elongated. According to SkyTools 3 Professional, this is the location of the B and D stars, both in the magnitude 14 bucket! When I zoom in, I feel like there's a bright point to the north-west and a faint one to the south-east. The HJ 207 C is the somewhat bright star south-west of α1. ST3P also notes an E star, less than 1 arc-second from the primary. Ah.

Below α2, aka HJ 608, slightly east, is a somewhat bright star (although less than alpha 1 C) in a gaggle of faint stars. This is α2 D, aka PPM 721720 and AGC 12.

The little triangle of nearly equal stars to the west-north-west of α1 is HJ 2943. A grouping I had viewed a year ago.

tried for NGC 1528 (Halifax)

BGO shot NGC 1528 for me. An open cluster in Perseus. Just for fun.

Whoa. Something went wrong with the luminance data gathering... (The red, green, and blue channels are OK though.)

open cluster NGC 1528 luminance with registration problems

Luminance only, 30 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

I had tried to view this big cluster on the evening of 26 Aug '16 but was clouded out just after slewing.

aka Collinder 47, Melotte 23, and OCL 397. This is considered by many an interesting and fun target. The Astronomical League has it on their deep sky binocular list. It is listed in the TAC eye candy table. It is also a Herschel 400 item.

Given the RGB data is OK, I may try to assemble...


Reshot on 12 Nov '17.


Wikipedia link: NGC 1528.

revisited phi Psc (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged phi Piscium. Centred on TYC 1747 01532 1. This target is in the RASC Observer's Handbook double and multi-star table. It's been on my to-view list for a long time, over 3 years.

multi-star system phi Psc in luminance

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

phi Psc aka 85 and Σ99 is a triple. The B star is to the south-west, very close to the primary. Bright but much less so than the host. C is well away and almost due south. Much dimmer. Further along is a slightly bright star, almost inline with C, but it is not related.

Curiously, SkyTools 3 Pro shows B to the south-south-east. It looks like a chart plotting error. It shows it at 163° at 9"...

The WDS says B was at 226° in 1832 at a separation of 8.0"; in 2012 it was at 221 and 7.8. Haas quotes the same numbers.

Far to the east, near the left edge of the image, is a separate double star: POU 113. Both in the duo are faint. B is to the west of A.


Wikipedia link: phi Piscium.

imaged SN2017eaw again (Halifax)

For a third night in a row, the BGO 'bot captured SN2017eaw in the Fireworks galaxy as it begins its decline.

supernova 2017eaw in luminance

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

It looks similar to last night.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

clearly dimming (Halifax)

Received another image of the Fireworks galaxy from SMU. The supernova SN2017eaw continues to dim. Seems the same or dimmer than yesterday.

SN2017eaw in luminance

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

zoomed on the ring (Halifax)

I asked the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to image the Cygnus Fairy Ring—for fun. A rather large ring of faint stars, many pairs of stars, roughly between γ (gamma) and η (eta) Cygni.

Perhaps not the best subject for BGO as barely fits on the reduce sensor frame. The effect is not as striking as I had hoped. And a couple of the doubles are out of the view.

Cygnus Fairy Ring in luminance

Luminance only, 15 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

Centred on GSC 03150-1379.

North of centre, near the top of the frame, slightly left is the obvious bright pair. However the bright stars are not considered the double star proper. Close and south-south-east of HD 190628 is the much dimmer companion. This couple is also known as PAN 17.

North-west of centre, near the top-right corner, is another bright pair. This time the two stars are related. This is HD 190466 aka HJ 1470.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

shot HR 8 faster

Shot multiple star system HR 8 again but faster. Down to 1 second (twice as fast on 1 Sep). Unfortunately, the image quality was poor. While I could still see B, C, and D, I could not split any new stars from the primary.

dimmed further (Halifax)

BGO captured SN2017eaw again.

SN2017eaw in luminance

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

It is clearly dimming.

Even dimmer than 29 Aug '17.

Thursday, September 07, 2017


Wow. Even higher.

aurora alert message from CalSky

Alert from CalSky.

occulted aurora (Coulson's Hill)

Drove north a bit to get out of the city. Turned east onto 11th Line and stopped just past the train tracks. Focused on the stoopid Moon then switched to manual.

aurora behind stoopid clouds

Canon 40D, 18-55 kit lens at 18, f/5.6, ISO 1000, daylight white balance, RAW, 15 seconds, self-timer, tripod, DPP.

Test shots revealed green! Strong in the north-north-east. But the clouds never cleared.

Perseus at the right edge of the shot.

At least Rhonda enjoyed the chase.

kp 8

Wow. The kp index showed 8!? I didn't recall seeing that before.


Produced by the active regions we saw a couple of days back.

watched OTV-5 recording

I've been thinking about the Florida Space Port with all hurricanes barreling into the Caribbean. Played back the video of the SpaceX OTV-5 launch (with mini space plane onboard) and Falcon 9 booster landing. All went well. They said the weather was a little iffy but they got away without a hitch. I would think they will be battening down the hatches soon.


Proofed my RASC article and readied a number of edits for Nicole.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

enjoyed Eric's shots

Lots of great photos are in Eric's Facebook eclipse photo album. The crazy canucks are in a bunch of the shots. Fun!

multi-exposure eclipse

Assembled in Photoshop the frames shot in Glendo. Aligned. Bumped the levels of the totality frame, then shifted the colour a bit.

multi-exposure of the 2017 occultation

Canon 40D, 18-55 kit lens at 35, f/5.6, 1/200th of a second, ISO 100, Kendrick solar filter in custom adapter (removed at totality), RAW, daylight white balance, DPP, Ps CS2.

It came out pretty good. That's 29 images. I'm still kinda blown away that it all worked.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

get elevated

My sis invited me to a star party by the RASC London troop at the St Thomas Elevated Park. Not enough weekends.

Monday, September 04, 2017

two spots (Bradford)

We did some more solar viewing from the backyard. Mark I eyeball with the RASC eclipse viewer. Rhonda and I could see a big sunspot at 3:30 o'clock a little off centre and a smaller one just above centre.

the Sun on Sunday and Monday

Imaged from SDO, HMI Intensitygram.