Monday, October 15, 2018

imaged the amazing Pisces Cloud (Halifax)

It's filled with galaxies.

For fun, I commanded the BGO to aim at the Pisces Cloud, a galaxy group also known as Arp 331, centring on New General Catalogue object 383. Wow.

the centre of the Pisces Cloud galaxy group in luminanance

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

There are so many galaxies in this shot. I can see many in my long exposure... But only a few are identified in Aladin/SIMBAD and my SkyTools 3 Pro software.

ST3P calls NGC 383 the Pisces Cloud. That's a little odd. It also shows NGC 383 may be referred to as MCG 5-3-53 or PGC 3982.

The bright elliptical galaxy north-north-west of NGC 383 is NGC 380. 380 is also known as Arp 331, MCG 5-3-51, and PGC 3969.

Due north of 383 and due east of 380 is the tiny nearly-round LEDA 1998992 galaxy.

Between 380 and 1998992 is LEDA 1999066, a small smudge. Dimmer than 1998992 but about the same size.

North of 380 is NGC 379. This looks like a canted spiral galaxy. Or maybe a lenticular. ST3P says aka Arp 331, MCG 5-3-50, and PGC 3966.

There's a flattened triangle of bright stars north of 379. Above or north of the brightest star is the elongated smudge of 2MFGC 815. SkyTools calls it LEDA 2003479.

It sure looks like there are a bunch of faint galaxies here... oriented horizontally.

West of this same triangle is a very dim shape, small. 2MASX J01065374+3234434. Also called LEDA 2003331 according to ST3P.

North-west of 383, nearby, is medium-sized oval fuzzy. That's 2MASX J01071798+3225281. ST3P calls this LEDA 197570.

Nearly due west of the 383, well away, below the tight triangle of stars is the stretched smudge of LEDA 1995971.

Between but a bit south is the edge-on spiral galaxy UGC 679. ST3P also notes this as MCG 5-3-49 and PGC 3950.

LEDA 1993906 is the small non-round blotch south-west of 679.

Further along, further south-west is another similarly sized oval: LEDA 1992085.

NGC 382 is the round small but bright galaxy near 383 to the south-south-west. ST3P: Arp 331, MCG 5-3-52, and PGC 3981.

Further out is 2MASX J01071026+3220485, a soft blob. It's to the west of the right-angle triangle of stars. Known as LEDA 1992625 in ST3P.

West of the aforementioned galaxy is a bright fuzzy, round, but still quite small: NGC 375 aka PGC 3953.

And further still is another round small elliptical: NGC 373. Or PGC 3946.

Nearly due south of NGC 383 are two more ellipticals, practically the same size, but at slightly different angles. NGC 385 (Arp 331, MCG 5-3-56, and PGC 3984) is to the north and NGC 384 (Arp 331, MCG 5-3-55, and PGC 3983) is to the south.

NGC 386 is about half the distance of 385 but slightly east. Smaller and dimmer. SkyTools also calls this Arp 331, MCG 5-3-57, and PGC 3989.

2MASX J01075199+3215217 is much further away but inline with 386. Very dim. Round. SkyTools says it is LEDA 197572.

Aladin notes 2MASX J01073307+3223282 to the south-east of NGC 383. It is dimmer than 386. Smaller. But the core is slightly dimmer. SkyTools calls this NGC 387 or PGC 3987.

NGC 388 looks like a spiral galaxy, canted at an angle, due east of 385 and 384. aka Arp 331, MCG 5-3-59, and PGC 4005.

East-north-east of 383 is NGC 390. Another galaxy disc tilted. SkyTools called this PGC 4021.

North of 390 is 2MASX J01081590+3229567. It looks like a clone of 390 but smaller and dimmer. Maybe further away. ST3P also notes LEDA 1999738.

The curving string, from north to south, of NGC 379, 380, 383, 382, 387, 386, 385, and 384, is really neat, pearls on an necklace.

Ten total NGCs in one shot. Wow.


Wikipedia links: NGC 383 and Arp 331 (en Français).

Saturday, October 13, 2018

fluffy dark matter

Watched Dr Laura Parker's talk on the dark universe recorded at the 26 Sep RASC meeting. She's an excellent speaker. I was most impressed at her answers in the Q&A after. Parker clearly has a very deep knowledge of this incredible domain.

Chris asked an interesting question (around the 44 minute mark). He noted an inverse relationship between the luminous and dark matter in the rotational speed graphic. He asked if dark matter doesn't like regular matter or doesn't want to occupy the same space.

Parker shared that there's a good relationship with matter distribution. But at large radii the dark matter becomes more prevalent than the visible matter. And there's good physics to explain this. The regular matter collapses and sinks to the middle of the galactic region so to form the galaxy and in the process radiates energy. Meanwhile the big ball of dark matter does not collapse, in can't shrink, it cannot give off radiation, so the dark matter remains fluffy and big.

I took lots of questions from Rhonda hopefully clarifying things about dark matter and dark energy.

captured Keid (Halifax)

I was a little surprised to see a couple of emails from the BGO robot this morning. There must have been a break in the clouds. Or better conditions than predicted.

I had had a request for ο (omicron) Eridani aka Keid, the multi-star system. The SMU observatory gathered good data, after aiming at GSC 05313 00997. Looks like a lovely triple!

multi-star Keid in luminance

Luminance only, ½ second subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

The part of the reason for imaging this system (Struve 518) was because I wanted to double-check positions. When I last viewed this target on 19 Mar '18 from the backyard, I had noted the B star in a very different position than it was noted in SkyTools 3 Professional. ST3P shows B at a position angle of 65°. At the time I thought it approx. 60° different from that, counterclockwise in my SCT, therefore an increase in the PA, perhaps 125°. It is obvious in the image above that B (and C) are to the east-south-east. That's a PA of roughly 100°. Curiously, ST3P states in the Object Information box that the AB angle is 104° as of 2002. Here's an instance where the visual chart is very different than the OI data and it threw me off back in March.

Also, SkyTools notes another pair: Aa. With a PA of 97 and separation of 77.9. But it seems, early in 2018, I did not see this companion either.

The Washington Double Star database shows the Keid is a 5-star system with the following data:

pair first last PA1 PA2 sep1 sep2
A,BC 1783 2016 108 102 89.2 83.7
AC 1987 2011 117 97 79.4 77.3
AD 1850 1998 197 38 128.3 481.4
AE 1850 1998 279 24 99.4 569.9
BC 1851 2017 160 331 3.0 8.3
BD 1922 1999 196 28 147.0 457.0
BE 1922 1999 356 16 279.5 563.7

SkyTools lists the A, B, and C stars. The D and E stars from the WDS are mag 12-13 stars well away. They are visible to the north-north-east in the image. I'm curious why the bright, closer star beyond BC is not included.

The BC, BD, and BE alternate measures are support the main entries.

plot of Keid stars for 2018

A plot, using the current or most recent positions, from my Excel mapper tool. Good correspondence to the image.

It looks like for the A-to-B data, there's been little movement. It seems the C is moving about B. SkyTools and other sources quote the B-C orbital period around 250 years.

But the D and E values are kinda crazy. I'll consider that this is not real motion but errors in the original observations.

The SkyTools Aa entry looks suspiciously like the WDS AC datum. I think therefore I should discard it.

By the way, Wikipedia says 40 Eri is a triple.


Wikipedia link: 40 Eridani.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

delivered BGO talk

Delivered my presentation on using the robotic Burke-Gaffney Observatory. I think the delivery went fairly well and people seemed to enjoy it.

I made a quick information page on the RASC Toronto Centre web site. Many hyperlinks are provided. I also shared a PDF download file with general information.

The rough copy of the video streamed during the evening is available on our YouTube channel. My talk starts at the 1 hour 23 minute mark and continues to 2:10.

I was very pleased to learn that Dave Lane was on the line, in the chat room, during my presentation. Keeping me honest.

I grabbed the log:

Claudio Oriani: Hi everyone
Eric Briggs: Hi Claudio
Ward LeGrow: hey Claudio
Charles Darrow: hi Claudio
WLG: that was a picture of [a Terminator robot from the James Cameron movie]... in case you were wondering. sorry.. we werent quick enough. ;)
EB: Woo @Smubgobs
EB: Nice shirt too
Astro_yyz: it's very simple to use - and very satisfying when you see the image you requested - many thanks to Dave Lane for setting it up

Dave Lane: (that would be me)
CD: I know that Dave Lane
Astro_yyz: 👏 @Dave Lane
WLG: I will have to try it out! :)
CD: I have a TESS account
WLG: thanks Dave
EB: I've used it before, but in my secret @Dunlap_Obs identity
Astro_yyz: @Ward LeGrow it's fun 😃 No frustrating imaging issues either. Just a few simple steps to get set up
EB: I think @smubgobs was offline for a while this summer because summer
WLG: sounds great!
DL: It was off line only because the #human was away on vacation. Only down when I am not within 100km in case of bad weather.
Astro_yyz: It was cool at the last GA in Calgary. I was showing it to Nicole and Cathy Carr - sent instructions/received confirmation from robot live to my phone, showed them the image later
DL: The #human is working on the Facebook issue. It's open season on app developers these days.
WLG: no doubt.
EB: How about Instagram? Facebook is a bit old-timey.
DL: Instagram, will not let app developers post images/messages! You can read/view messages but not post!!! So it is out of the question until they open up the API.
Astro_yyz: got to scoot - have a great evening all
WLG: tks. you too Katrina!
EB: @smubgobs confirmed the new supernova 2015ai at and during the RASC General Assembly in Halifax in 2015
DL: One new observer - welcome David Quinn
WLG: I will be signing up!
EB: Is the system of astronomical telegrams still relatively solid? I know the supernova naming convention has been changed to deal with the asymptotic curve
DL: ARO has been open to RASC for a while. It is a C14 [telescope].
EB: Geometric curve, maybe I should say. Anyways I think the business model for the astronomical telegrams from Harvard has been facing rapid changes due to technology.
DL: and its a C14!
Ward LeGrow: oh.. thanks. missed that. thanks!
DL: About 120 nights per year of some data. Basic [user] is 3 [jobs in the queue max.]
WLG: thanks also for that too
DL: Calibrations are done automatically. Updated periodically automatically. The subframes all exist - just not on the website.
WLG: wow.. wish you were here!
DL: Fantastic talk

Benoit Brame: Thank you !


It was fun sharing information about BGO. I think a bunch of people will try it.

next council meeting

Tom announced that the next RASC Toronto Centre council meeting is scheduled for Thu 17 Oct up at York U. All members welcome.


Katrina pointed out that 17 Oct is a Wednesday. Tom corrected his note: the meeting in Thu 18 Oct.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

gauged sky darkness

It was clear so I decided to do an assessment. Medium seeing conditions. The neighbour upstairs had their porch light on illuminating some of the trees. Not truly dark in the backyard unfortunately.

Submitted my data to the Globe At Night site (record 14350).

sketch of Pegasus and the faintest stars I could see

Sketch of Great Square and Pegasus. Could see between magnitude 4.5 and 5.5. I.e. a handful more stars than the "less than" 4.5 chart. SkyTools says some of the stars I spotted are mag 4.7 and 4.8.

I also spotted Mars down low, mingling with the trees. But still bright, orange, sparkling.

I was surprised to see meteors. Three Draconids. All short and fast. The third was extremely bright, blue white in colour.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

to present on BGO

This coming Wednesday, I will be one of the speakers at the RASC Toronto Centre meeting at the Ontario Science Centre. I'll be talking about accessing and using the Burke-Gaffney Observatory robotic telescope. Check out the live stream if you cannot attend in person.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

received SkyNews Nov/Dec

cover of the Nov/Dec '18 SkyNews
I received the SkyNews magazine from November/December 2018.

Lovely photography as usual. There's a piece on shooting with a long camera lens.

The main article is on the "greatest voyage," the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon.

I am also interested in the article on Oumuamua.

I left it with Rhonda for her to read.

Friday, October 05, 2018

imaged zeta Sge (Halifax)

When the Clear Sky Alarm Clock notification arrived for the Burke-Gaffney Observatory, I was not surprised. The clear weather over Ontario last evening was due at the east coast. Average transparency but poor seeing. Still I opened up Danko's weather resource for Halifax. Later I opened the Twitter feed. Looked like the St Mary's University robot was up and running. There were some clouds but the imaging system pressed on.

I captured the multi-star system ζ (zeta) Sagittae aka AGC 11 and/or Σ2585 (aiming at TYC 01623-2382 1) . SkyTools 3 Professional shows it has 4 elements.

This request was to resolve a couple of issues with this previously logged item. My life list entry going back to 2008 appears to have a typographical error for the separation. Also I have never noted the easy D element.

zeta Sagittae in luminance

Luminance only, ½ second subexposure, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

The A and C stars are obvious with bright C touching A at the 2 o'clock position or to the north-west. ST3P quotes the angular separation at 8.3" with a position angle of 310°. The D element, happily, is visible is this image. That said, it is remarkably faint when compared to A and C. It is the next brightest star well away to the west-south-west. Perhaps 10 or a dozen times the AC split distance (77.4"). ST3P says it is magnitude 11.8. zeta Sge is in a lovely field.

By the way, the B star, a rapid binary with a 23 year period, was at a calculated separation of 0.2".

I took red, green, and blue data as well, at three times the duration of the clear exposure. It will be interesting to see the results when the colour channels are applied.

First viewed this target on 5 Jul '08 quickly noting the colours. I believe when I placed the entry in my life list, I copied from the row above, and forgot to edit the separation value from 1.6 (from lambda Oph). Sissy Haas notes the split as 8.3 seconds of arc. My 10 Jul '10 observation added nothing. It is nice to tidy this up.


Wikipedia link: zeta Sagittae.

Monday, October 01, 2018

received markup

Rhonda graciously proofread my next article for the RASC Journal.

Monday, September 24, 2018

astro shirts!

I was very surprised by some astronomy themed gifts from Rhonda, in celebration of my orbit day.

blue t-shirt with planets

The blue shirt features the planets with some text. Ah, nine planets... That'll make Nicole happy!

black t-shirt with red planet

The black tee makes me think of Mars. Occupy Mars!

Thank you!

Can't wait to sport these at geek events!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Binary Universe: expand your mind

The October edition of the RASC Journal is available for download for members.

cover of the October 2018 RASC JournalHuh. There's an article on astronomical rug hooking! I'll have to show my sis and mom.

My Binary Universe column this month features Constellation Mind, an Android app for learning the constellations and testing your knowledge. It works for all 88 constellations.

This issue features astronomical paintings, in watercolour, on the back cover. Very nice!


My bio description was updated. Yeh.

Monday, September 17, 2018

your monthly double stars

Issued my double star "bulletin" for September. It is a short list of suggested double and multi-star targets. I shared this on the RASC Toronto Centre forums. And I post here for all.


Hi there. Hi.

The Moon is back. Again. Boo! But there’s no smoke in the air. Yeh! So it’s time to have a go at some more celestial targets resistant to light pollution: double stars.

Here’s a short selection of doubles from my life list, ones I find rather interesting. I did not include terribly tight targets.

staralso known asalternate catalogue 
α1 and α2 (alpha) CapAlgedi, Al Giedi, or STF 4051SAO 163422
U CygBUP 183SAO 49477
HD 193007 in CygBU (Burnham) 442SAO 69728
θ (theta) SgeΣ (Struve) 2637SAO 88276
HD 183014 in VulΣ2523SAO 87218

Why don’t you add these to your observing list. Doubles are easy, challenging, impressive, colourful, dynamic–always fun! Let me know how you did!

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

Sunday, September 09, 2018

M45 quickly (Blue Mountains)

Imaged captured quickly last night with teeth clacking and body shivering. Very quick stacking and processing. I shot the Seven Sisters for Rhonda.

the Pleiades in one-shot colour

Tele Vue NP 101 refractor, Losmandy GM-8 with Gemini mount on pier, FeatherTouch electronic focuser, StarryNight, FocusLynx Commander. Guided through a Tele Vue 70 Ranger with Orion SSAG and PHD2. Canon 40D, Backyard EOS. 5x150sec, ISO 1600, daylight white balance. Dark frames applied. Canon DPP, Deep Sky Stacker, Adobe Photoshop. North is bottom-left; east is bottom-right.

Happy with this result although I need to do more work in post-processing.

Thanks, Phil!

chose NGC 6820 (Blue Mountains)

After a long delay, I finally imaged a deep sky object using Phil's rig. NGC 6820 in Vulpecula, aka Sh 2-86 or LBN 135, in a busy star field. SkyTools describes it has a diffuse nebula.

In the centre of the nebula there's a small open cluster, NGC 6823.

diffuse nebula NGC 6820 in one-shot colour

Tele Vue NP 101 refractor, Losmandy GM-8 with Gemini mount on pier, FeatherTouch electronic focuser, StarryNight, FocusLynx Commander. Guided through a Tele Vue 70 Ranger with Orion SSAG and PHD2. Canon 40D, Backyard EOS. 12x150sec, ISO 1600, daylight white balance. Dark frames applied. Canon DPP, Deep Sky Stacker, Adobe Photoshop. North is top-right; east is top-left.

There are some multi-star systems within the NGC 6823 cluster.

The three bright, beige stars in the centre I believe are HD 344784 or J 490. This is a different presentation than in the SkyTools 3 Pro chart.

A bit to the right or north-west I can see a very tight pair of dim stars. Part of the triple POU 4021.

There is a triangular grouping of stars. to the right or north-west. This harbours some multi-star systems.

The brightest system is at the upper right. This is HR 7485 aka Σ2560. A is bright white. B is tangled in the glare of A. C is above or north-east, pale orange.

There's HD 185820 aka POU 4004 is visible. The bottom point of the triangle is clearly two stars. The system is actually a quadruple but only the A and C stars resolve. Both pale yellow.

Further to the north-west is the tiny, tight pair of POU 4000 A and B. A is slightly orange; B is pale yellow.

The weird orange comet-looking fan-shape is Collinder 404, I believe. A tiny open cluster.


I'm happy that something showed. Hints of red, I'm thrilled to see. I think there are hints of pillars!

Hopefully as I get better at post-processing I can draw out more detail.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

received a cool thing

Received a cool gift from Rhonda. From the Wanakita online Tuck Shop store. A clothing item featuring Umbrella Island at night with the constellations overhead. And green aurora in the background. Very nice.

Wanakita clothing thing

Except we don't know what the item actually is... Muffler? Head band? Foulard? Tube top?!

Friday, August 31, 2018

quick doubles run (Bradford)

After seeing Clear Sky Alarm Clock messages from all my Ontario sites, I thought it appropriate to check the predictions. Wow. Clear, for a change. No good Saturday night. So, a one-night opportunity. I decided to try for a quick backyard session with the little Meade ETX-90 Maksutov.

Noted sunset was around 8:00. The sky would be without Moon (yeh) for 2 hours.

Put on my big jeans, a long sleeve over the tee, my hoodie (still smelling of a campfire). Thought my boots would be appropriate for easy on and off.

While setting up, one mozzie found me. Sheesh. Still around? Not cool enough to dampen them? Not enough bats either. Then I remembered! Dang. I gave rho the Good Stuff, my high-power DEET cream... Have I not donated enough?

Tossed an extension cord from the deck. Set up the big Mamiya tripod. Attached the 'scope. Securely! Didn't want the thing to topple over again. Crude polar alignment. Fired up the motor.

8:53 PM. Viewed Mars with the Celestron 26mm Plossl (magnification 48). It looked good. Steady. Colourful.

Made a quick dew shield with an old file folder.

Aligned the little finder. What a joke that thing is. I have to use my right eye on the short tube. Ugh. Somehow, though, it shows right side up. I don't know exactly how it erects the image...

Found some bug juice, old stuff, dregs from a tiny Muskol pump. It'll do.

9:00. Put the Meade 18mm orthoscopic in (69x). Apropos, Meade in Meade. Unfortunately, this revealed the seeing conditions. Not great at the moment. Was it the sky affecting Mars or the trees at the edge of the yard? I thought I could see light and dark regions on the planet surface. Was the polar cap to the 11 o'clock position? Didn't seem like the correct direction.

The neighbours had the bathroom light on when I re-emerged from inside. A little distracting but I was facing away. Then someone in the townies to the west flicked on their dining room or kitchen light. Flick off! A smoke alarm was triggered nearby. I heard scampering.

9:01. OK. I was ready to start a small campaign on... you guessed it: double stars! Double stars in a small 'scope tonight.

The first choice was near Saturn. Took me a moment to find the dim planet. No. Too near the trees initially. I decided to try later.

Huh. No wind per se...

9:16. Considered going to 44 Boo but it was setting. And the trees that way were are bigger now. I could see θ (theta) Boo naked eye as I stood a bit south-east of the 'scope.

What about Hercules?

9:19. Also considered μ (mu) Dra aka Arrakis. But it was straight up. Nope. Not with this rig. Spotted it naked eye near the head of the Dragon.

Turned south again. Had a quick look at Saturn. Tiny in the little telescope. Shadows in the field--still in the tree. But pretty.

9:25. Ah. I thought so. Spotted Titan at the 2 o'clock or east-north-east. Oddly, my software showed Iapetus as being visible but I didn't notice anything obvious in the direction indicated.

9:29. All righty then. I star hopped to the Lagoon and ended up right at the edge of the tree branch.

I actually saw it right away, at the low power, the double HD 164536 aka RST 3149 in Sagittarius. I spotted a wide pair. No colours detected. Faint. The brighter element was to the south. The dim cohort could be viewed directly. In the 18mm the view was not much better. I was seeing the C star. An easy split. SkyTools 3 Pro says 35.4" apart. [ed: Due to gaps in log updated, I didn't realised I had already viewed this target.]

9:39. And it went into the other tree now!  That's it. Done. Moving on. I decided that I would keep this target on my double star project. It works in a little OTA; it should be fine at high power. And it has the eye candy nearby...

9:45. Woo hoo. The teenie finder scope has a really wide field. I coulld see λ (lambda) and 12 Aquila eas well as η (eta) Scuti no problem. I could also tag β (beta) and R Sct. I was certain that I saw a dim small cloud in the finder so I aimed to it. Bam! I was on the lop-sided cluster of the Wild Duck. That was easy!

Moved up and left or north-west. I saw the pair, HR 7083, aka H 6 50. The A and C stars were easy. Yellow and blue.

Viewed the whole sky. Nice night. Sagitta, Delphinus, Pegasus, Cygnus.

10:00. The lights on upper porch blazed on. Then the dog freaked out, hearing me rustling about below. The human could not control the beast so they headed back inside. And turned the light out. OK, thanks.

10:06. I hopped directly to μ Aql! Wow. Quick. Noted a little C-shape at the 4 or 5 o'clock. Um, more of an arrowhead. There was a triad to the north.

Burnham 653 A was orangey yellow. I could see the E star easily though dim. It was inline with some other similar stars, tailing off up and right.

Tried for the D companion. Not sure, even with the 18mm.

The seeing was good. Quite good.

Tried to see the double HD 184152 to the west too. No luck. Just too dim for this little tube.

10:16. Was the sky getting brighter? The Moon was not due yet.

I was starting to lose my mojo. I had been at it 1 hour. One more...

10:18. Where to  next? I couldn't get Cas or Cep--I had plunked down too close to the house.

Not all star hops are so easy...

10:42. Finally completed the long star hop (in the eyepiece) to HD 200392 aka BU 69. Three stars in a big hockey stick. The lower tighter two were the target of interest. A was a touch brighter than C. A and C were easily split. I noted in ST3P that it was a multi-star system. It will be fun at high power.

Dim stars in Vulpecula, a challenging hop, but I think it's a keeper. It seemed like a little cluster.

C'est tout. I quickly packed up.

Happy. A little bit of play at the end of an intense week. Some observations of never before viewed objects. Quick and easy.

The mount needs a bit of work. It is sticky or jumpy in azimuth.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

one month past

Huh. Clear. I peeked out the bedroom window for a second and say, without my specs, a couple of stars. And a bright orange point to the south-south-west. A quick glimpse of Mars. One month past opposition. So long! Good night.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

normal motion

Mars resumed normal motion in the sky over the last day or two, halting its retrograde direction. Sad...

Thursday, August 23, 2018

attended orientation

I attended, with a couple dozen other RASC members, the introductory orientation session for telescope operator candidates at the David Dunlap Observatory. Chris V gave us a tour of some parts of the dome, explained the need for new operators, highlighted responsibilities, and relayed significant operational considerations. I feel honoured to be considered.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

getting missing data

Delivering part 2 of my double stars presentation series tonight for RASC at the OSC. Specifically, I'll be talking about how to measure stars casually or with an astrometric eyepiece. The evening's programme will be streamed live started at 7:30 PM EDT.


The rough cut of the live stream recording from 15 August 2018 is available for viewing. My double star talk entitled "Missing data" starts at the 32:20 mark and runs about 45 minutes.

The companion article for the presentation is online at the RASC Toronto Centre web site.

Monday, August 13, 2018

hazy in the west (Bradford)

Moon and Venus were hazy and mingling in low cloud. Talked about Earthshine and albedo with Rhonda.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

don't drink and perform stellar navigation

Tried the Saint of Circumstance citrus blonde ale from Collective Arts. I like it better than the IPAs they make but it is still rather avantgarde with a strong fruity flavour.

Off Course artwork by Matty Jenks

The can featured artwork by Matty Jenks from Boston. A pensive astronaut sans helmet examining a 3D map of Jupiter and area.

Curiously, Rhonda and I had talked of the moons of Jupiter earlier in the evening.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

connected SLO to LAN

I finally started working on the LAN expansion in the late afternoon. The plan was to connect the new SLO observatory building to the site network.

It took me a while to find the existing ethernet drop inside the Geoff Brown Observatory but I finally found the terminus where I was expecting it in the warm room. Still marked "BAO." I actually found it plugged into port 6 on the old switch.

Bought a silly-expensive F-F junction from The Source so to easily extend the wiring inside the SLO.

I built a patch from behind the door to desk area. Put male end on line from the GBO.

Denis let me use his tester that he had coincidentally brought to test his cabling inside his pod. That made it easy.

found C14 bits

Tim L thanked us for the telescope help. Fortunately, I recalled the location of the original Celestron 14-inch SCT parts...

onto the deep sky (Blue Mountains)

12:04 AM. Slewed to next and switched eyepieces.

Found a bunch of oculars on the east table, uncovered. Tidied the eyepieces and covered them. Dew was building. Bobbled one. Oops. Nothing to see here. Move along. Nothing expensive!

Tried for Palomar 15, a faint globular. Started with the 27mm; went to the 13mm. It was getting low...

12:26. Nope. Dang.

Checked in with Steve.

Next. μ (mu) Draconis, specifically BU 1088 C.

Fetched another eyepiece from the cabinet. Tried the occulting eyepiece too.

12:38. Couldn't see the star in the Arrakis system. ST3P said it was mag 13.8. The software said it was about 6 times the AB split. Nope...

Next. Very short slew. HD 156162 aka SAO 30299 aka STF 2146. On my View Again.

12:42. A triple. I thought I got it. Yellow and orange. Super tight. None were bright. These were the A and B stars.

A member visited. He reported seeing lots of meteors. I hadn't seen any yet. Chatted with Steve. They were both having imaging issues.

Charline popped in. She had a look at the double.

Chris offered a view of the comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner in his Dob. They all headed out.

There was another star. Wide. This was the C element.

The software view didn't make sense. The brighter one was on the right or north-east; the dimmer was left. But I was seeing a pair on the left or the south-west. But was opposite. It was very marked. I wondered if it was an error in the software. The brightness values seemed wrong too.

The wide pair was obvious at low power.

[ed: The WDS agrees with the data values in ST3P. The designated system was 17131+5408STF2146.

pair: last observation, angle, separation, star 1 brightness, star 2
AB:    2015,   224,   2.6,  6.92,  8.8
AC:    2016,   235,  89.3,  6.95,  8.87.

Aladin shows the pair to the north-east and the single to the south-west. I must have been doing something wrong. Maybe I had the eyepiece field rotated the wrong way. Should have sketched it...]

Returned from viewing the comet. Big coma. Nice big oval. Nice tail. Really obvious.

12:56. Slewed to next. 26 Draconis. I wondered what was going on. 241 at 25. The angle and sep...

No joy.

1:04. Noticed the battery level was low for the recorder. Swapped in some alkalines.

Saw a rhombus thing to the east.

A and B were too tight.

Chris said he saw a streak thing left of the Pleiades. Weird. Was it Steve? I asked Steve if it was Steve? He wondered if it was moving. I thought it might have had a green cast. It was nearly vertical, quite long. Steve fetched his camera and tripod to get a long shot. I said it would be neat to take a photo of Steve imaging Steve. It had changed. It was more diffuse at the top now. The sky was bright with all the light pollution from Collingwood.

Chose NGC 6068 for my next target. In Ursa Minor. A random addition to my observing list.

1:15. I noticed that there were lots of clouds around.

Faint. I saw something else. A faint diffuse oval patch. A little cluster of stars beside the galaxy.

The gang saw a great meteor.

Steve checked his image. It was a contrail.

Hey! Confirmed! Two in the view. I did in fact see two galaxies.

1:17. Big one was centred. NGC 6068 proper was fairly large oval. Bright star to the east. There was a smaller, dimmer fuzzy to the west, NGC 6068A. Nice!

Offered the view to Chris. Asked if he saw the "surprise." Not a full on Arp.

Really humid. Lots of clouds. Bad in the north. Perhaps it was the stuff I had seen over the Bay when I drove in. Steve checked the satellite imagery. He saw stuff coming in from the north although it was breaking up. West was obliterated. I considered targets by constellation. There was a big cloud straight up that made it seem like the Milky Way was huge.

Moved to my next quarry, another double star. Near Skat. HD 215812 or STF 2944. Didn't see anything... SAO 146315. Verified.

Chris packed up.

Slewed to Neptune. Asked Steve what he thought. Seemed right. But tiny. Verified the field. Bumped the power. Two pairs of two stars off to the right, with TYC 05248-1358 1. Triton was mag 13.5. It should have been at the 9 o'clock position. GSC 05248-1363 was the same brightness at the moon. Charline had a look. The separation was 13 arc-seconds.

Whoa. Focuser released. Unnerving even though it can't fall out...

Put the 10mm in the mirror diagonal. "There it is." It popped! Charline wasn't sure. Steve saw it, well away, around 8 o'clock. Yep. Not a stunning image. Chris saw it. Helped Charline see it with averted. Dropped the power, to the 18mm, now that we know where it is. Crisper. Got it with averted.

I had aimed to Aquarius before as it was clear; now it was Skat with clouds... Ha!

Charline said "Good night."

Tried for NGC 6632 in Hercules. Right on the edge of the clouds. Che. Pfft. "That's all I get?" It's big but not bright. Mr McKinney had a look. Faint. Yep. Bright core. Pretty big. Canted. Not too exciting. Lots of field stars. One of the ones automatically added.

Focuser slipped on Steve. He adjusted the tension. We wondered if something was wobbly with the slo-mo. Rubbery feel.

Chose something a bit higher. ζ (zeta) Her.

Steve spotted a meteor. We chatted about SB computers. Power and focusing. He's running Ubuntu. Sounds like a very neat solution.

2:16. I saw a super fast meteor down near the right hand side of Cap. Got one!

Chris headed to bed.

More clouds.

Considered the next. Something in Cygnus. Ah, one of the Caldwells. The Cocoon Nebula aka IC 5146. Combo nebula and star cluster. Steve said he had imaged it but never looked. Whoa. Straight up. Kneeled on the floor...

I didn't see anything. Neither did Steve... We tried to figure out the field.

Steve saw a bunch meteors. One was not Perseid. Shut up.

I wondered if it was a dark nebula... [ed: Yes! There is B 168 in the area.]

We both saw a meteor. Going the wrong way. Then one through Andromeda.

We continued to sort the field.

2:35. Oh, wow! Super fast speck of dust. Left a train. Above Pegasus. To the right of Cas.

Clouds in the west. Felt like we were in a bowl.

I wanted something good to finish on. Go out with a bang...

2:43. Searched for a target. Changed the class to stars to filter out fuzzies. Lacerta. SAO 51698 aka V402 or HJ 1735. There we go. In the big 'scope, a nice multi-star system. Nice colours. Beauty. D was to the west. B was medium to the right or east. C was below B, south. D and A were the same colour, kind of lemon. B was blue. Awesome. In the Tele Vue, I could see A, B, and D. Oh. Discovered the TV101 had the 5mm installed (I thought it was the 10 the whole time). From my double star candidate list. A very good choice.

Done. Parked the 'scope (with Steve's profile). Steve was packing up too. I closed the roof. Closed the flaps. Fired up the dehumidifier.

3:09. In bed, in the Orion room.

That was an OK night. Disappointed with Mars (er, the elusive moons). Really cooled off, needed multiple layers to keep warm. No bugs. Yeh. Glad Chris gave me the big OTA to play with. A bit of fogging of the eyepieces but not too bad.

Friday, August 10, 2018

went moon hunting (Blue Mountains)

Fired up my netbook computer. Set up on one of the west tables in the Geoff Brown Observatory. Installed the red film (temporarily).

We viewed Mars. The south ice cap was very obvious. Some dark regions were visible. I wondered what features were facing us. Good to see again.

I saw a point of light about 5 or 6 planet diameters away. This seemed to match the view presented by my SkyTools 3 Professional software.

10:41 PM. Started concerted Mars moon hunting...

We used my occulting eyepiece in the GSO 16-inch RC telescope.

Steve thought he saw an even tighter object. Very close. In the diffraction ray.

That seemed too easy, to me.

Deimos was 11.6; Phobos was magnitude 10.5 and very tight to the planet. Mars was -2.6! Bright.

Chris didn't see it. Steve said there were 4 rays. Yeah. Vertical ray. Second ray down. Just below the second ray. Very close to the middle. Steve said there was a faint point 3/4 of the field (from centre). Oh. That's a star.

I couldn't get ST3P to show the field stars in the area. Ensured the time was correct (or current).

Steve saw a good Perseid, along the Milky Way, which left a smoke trail.

Anne was curious about the eyepiece. I explained how it come to be. Occulting eyepieces are useful for bright planets or tight double stars.

It seemed like the field was wrong in the software.

The polar cap was at the 1:00 or 1:30 o'clock position for us.

False alarm. Sorry. My ST3P settings were not right. When I put south pole of the planet at 1:00, the stars weren't right.

Checked the telescope settings. Compared to other reflectors. Inconsistent. Turned off the planet icon in the chart. Asked Chris for the eyepiece focal length.

We discussed telescope types. I argued it was a reflector. After some changes to the presentation settings, I thought I had the field right. Reset the time again.

Chris saw a triangle of stars.

10:50. I was curious the weather conditions. I amped up the humidity setting in ST3P to dim the field.

Schlanger. The view still didn't seem right. It hit me. The RC 'scope had three reflections. Ooh. The kid was right! Using the stock setting for a reflector was not right; the GSO would present a view like an SCT! I reconfigured SkyTools. [ed: The Richey-Chretien is most like a Cassegrain.]

Chris was working on an asterism. I compared the field to his chart view from SkySafari. No... no... the brightnesses were not right.

I suggested to Chris that we move to a known-good to verify the field orientation and presentation. He proposed Saturn. That would work. We programmed TheSky 6 and the Paramount slewed. Oh. It flipped over the meridian. Oh well.

Titan was at 2 o'clock. Two moons at 9 o'clock, faint and close. Rhea and Dione were way off at 8 o'clock. Chris spotted a nearby asterism. I got my software sorted finally. Chris confirmed with his app. Mimas was mag 13.2. Iapetus was 11.4. We talked about flipping options in software. OK!

We headed back to Mars.

I saw the ice cap was at 1:30. A bright field star...

11:20. Chris thought he got it. Showed Steve. One ray, a strong one, went straight out to the right. He saw a point touching the top edge of the ray, about 25% of the way out. They thought it was Deimos. Phobos was now behind the planet... Steve saw it for a second. They worked some other field stars. Chris didn't think the stars were good in SS. And it only went to mag 13.

As I returned from the house I noted all the planets: Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. Out of the corner of my eye, I kept thinking that Mars was an Iridium flare.

I confirmed a pair of stars. The field of view looked right, at last. Continued checking.

11:29. Sat down. Moved the computer nearby. So to do a deep star field comparison. I had to put the chair very close to the pier. It's a bit trickier now with the GSO as it is more forward in the cradle... Deimos should have been at the 4 o'clock position.

Denis popped in for a bit. He was imaging and happy that everything was working for him.

Saw a mag 12 star. I kept concentrating on the field. No... Not seeing it. The diffraction spikes were not in the ideal location... There were 8 diffraction spikes from Mars...


Midnight. Done chasing...

resolved network issues

Resolved network issues at the CAO. A strange glitch.

I could not connect to the routers on the site. Tried the GBO and house wireless access points.

11:15 PM. Wondered if the GBO router was causing the trouble so I killed its power.

As the GBO WAP restarted, John Repeat Dance tried to connect.

11:18. No joy.

Was not getting an IP address for my 'droid phone or Windoze computer. Something was wrong with the DHCP server. Steve was having trouble too. I rebooted the main router in the basement.

11:25. When I heard my phone notification for new emails, I knew we were up and running. Steve said his telescope router had just connected to the CAO WLAN.

We were back.

Sent Rhonda a text, at last.

arrived CAO

Arrived the Carr Astronomical Observatory. That was a quick trip! About 1 hour 45.

It was dark and I didn't want to disturb the observers or imagers so I drove up the lane with headlights extinguished.

Parking lot was pretty full with vehicles. Hey. Someone was in my spot! No reservations for ex-officios, I guess.

Shut down beside the Chows. Tried to turn off my cabin light but the switch didn't work. Gah. Tried several times. No luck. Tried removing the assembly but couldn't get it out of the roof liner. Oh boy. So I climbed out, as best as possible covered the light with my hand (and head), quickly unloaded the gear from the back seat of the car, and stacked up items beside the back wheel.

Headed to the Geoff Brown Observatory in search of the supervisor Chris. Found the assistant Steve. He was imaging from the Observing Pad by remote in the Warm Room. It was pretty empty in the GBO—I thought it was gonna be busy for some reason.

Headed to the house. Found Chris at the kitchen table. Signed in. Tried to connect to the wifi to ping rho about my status—couldn't connect. Weird. We sauntered outside where the super said I could use the 16-inch if I wanted. Sweet.

Returned to the car. Rolled up the window. Hauled gear to the house and observatory.

planets abound (Feversham)

Lovely view. Four bright planets out. Venus ahead of me, getting low, turning yellow. Jupiter, Saturn, and brilliant Mars from the side window of the car, in a darkening sky.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

admit it

Rhonda called out, "Mars is up!" I smiled. Closet astro-geek.

Lovely brilliant warm orange, in the notch of trees, along the south edge of the yard. Close to Earth.

Friday, August 03, 2018

spacey beer

Some Collective Arts cans caught my eye this evening. The Ransack the Universe IPA featured interesting artwork. The beer is made with Galaxy hops from Victoria, Australia and Mosaic hops from Washington state, US of A.

Biddeford album cover by Sun Seeker

One tin appears to show the cover of the Biddeford album by the musical band Sun Seeker based out of Nashville. It is evocative of a galaxy with a bright Moon near by. Sadly the piece does not render well on the can.

Parada Square by Mary Haasdyk

The other tin sported a very intriguing piece by Canadian illustrator Mary Haasdyk entitled Parada Square with a hat-wearing polar bear. It immediately made me think of the fantastic colourful visions of Moebius aka Jean Giraud.

Copyright the respective artists.

The light amber Ransack beer has a intense citrus nose and strong citrus starting taste with classic bitter IPA finish.

Pointed out to Rhonda that CA accepts submissions...

Thursday, August 02, 2018

let's find aliens

Read the article about the recent NASA senate hearings. US senators were collecting responses in preparation for budgeting and directions for the space agency. Various scientists (including Dr Seager) and administrators were on hand. An interesting message emerged emphasising the need to continue exoplanet studies and solar system body research. We need to continue our search for life in the Universe.

Spotted Charles in the background of a C-SPAN feed...

tried for 7 Per (Halifax)

Asked BGO to aim at GSC 03694 02703 so to capture multi-star 7 Persei, aka Burnham 1170. Also in the field is STI 1830. They are in an interesting field. These systems are not far from the Double Cluster.

The robot in Halifax reported that the observation "was not fully completed!" I only received the luminance and red channels. Clouds, it seems. Regardless, I can see the elements I was interested in.

multi-star system 7 Per in luminance

Luminance only, 0.5 second subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

7 Persei is a 5-star system. The brightest star is 7 Per A proper.

Nearly due north of A is the B star. Rather dim.

SkyTools 3 Pro reports that C is here too but 0.3 seconds of arc from B! So, not possible for this imaging system. Probably not possible for my eyes either...

The D companion is the brighter star to the south-east. About double the AB split.

Finally, the E element is to the north again, slightly east, further still than B, and a touch dimmer than B. About 3 or 4 times the AB separation.

STI 1830 is an attractive pair well away from 7 Per, to the south-south-west. Relatively tight. ST3P says 10.2". Unequal. Nice.


Wikipedia link: 7 Persei.

shot 41 Aqr (Halifax)

Second night in a row...

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot imaged multi-star system 41 Aquarii, aka H N 56, aiming at GSC 06384 00537. I observed this system on 15 Aug '15 but did not make good notes. It is listed in the RASC Observer's Handbook in the Coloured Doubles table.

multi-star system 41 Aqr in luminance

Luminance only, 0.5 second subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

The A and B stars are merged in the image. If I had to guess, I'd say B is the bump on the left or east edge of A. SkyTools 3 Pro says they are 5.1 arc-seconds apart. This is the limit of the BGO Apogee system given the delta magnitude.

C and D are to the north-east. D is the delicate star west of C, ever so slightly to the south. ST3P quotes the sep. at 12.0".

Lovely. Finally, I have good positional notes.


Wikipedia link: 41 Aquarii.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

ETU work acknowledged

The August 2018 issue of the RASC Bulletin was released. I was surprised to read Dave Chapman's words about my work on the Explore The Universe document. I rebuilt the Microsoft Word file with proper style-based formatting and clean tables. Thanks for the kudos! Happily it the ETU has been translated to French.

returned to the Saturn Nebula (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged a couple of targets for me this evening including NGC 7009. Two years ago I imaged the Saturn Nebula. Exposed the luminance then for 15 seconds. This time I shot faster.

All images: FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 7009 in luminance

Luminance only, 10 seconds subexposures, 15 stacked shots.

Saturn Nebula NGC 7009 in hydrogen

Hydrogen alpha, 30 seconds subexposures, 15 stacked shots.

Saturn Nebula NGC 7009 in oxygen

Ionised oxygen, 30 seconds subexposures, 15 stacked shots.

Arguably, they are still blown out, it is such a bright object.

imaged the Helix Nebula (Halifax)

BGO imaged NGC 7293 aka the Helix Nebula. This is a large planetary nebula in the constellation Aquarius. It is one of the RASC Finest NGCs.

When I started my Finest NGC imaging project with the SMU robotic telescope, I didn't think I'd be able to capture this object, being quite low. But as my understanding of the controls improved, I learned it was possible to reach. Happy to finally image it.

All images: FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

RASC Finest planetary nebula The Helix in luminance

Luminance only, 10 seconds subexposures, 15 stacked shots.

The Helix in hydrogen-alpha

H-alpha only, 30 seconds subexposures, 15 stacked shots.

The Helix in ionised-oxygen

O-III only, 30 seconds subexposures, 15 stacked shots.

Wow. Huge. And extremely faint. Longer exposures in all wavelengths would be best. With no stoopid Moon around either...

Wikipedia link: Helix Nebula.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Binary Universe: a new weather forecasting tool

I spotted a post on Facebook noting the release of August edition of the RASC Journal.

cover of the August 2018 RASC Journal
There is another article on masking in Photoshop, with a goal of reducing noise, which I look forward to reading.

The article on early research at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory sounds intriguing.

My Binary Universe column this month features the Astrospheric weather resource. I refer to the web site as well as the apps for iOS and Android.

Lovely sketches and photos as usual.


Finally updated my photo for my column. Rhonda approved.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

TESS starts up

Spotted the article over at Spaceflight Now on TESS. The commissioning is complete and the space telescope is beginning science operations. w00t! The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite began its two-year science mission Wednesday. The first dataset will be downlinked in August. It will be exciting to see the new discoveries made. Sara is quoted in the article.

Friday, July 27, 2018

greetings from Earth

Hello Mars!

she spotted Mars

Rhonda peeked out the window and noted the big, bright Moon. Whatever. Then she asked about the bright orange star nearby. We wondered if it was Mars. She fired up SkySafari on her phone but didn't understand the view. I suggested she verify the date and time was correct. Then rho got a good simulated view to match the sky. It was Mars. Near opposition!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Sun and Moon

Noticed rho's necklace this morning as she headed out the door: Sun and crescent Moon. Pretty.

Monday, July 23, 2018

wrote next article

Drafted the next Journal article. Trying to get ahead...

Saturday, July 21, 2018

did some IT work

Helped at the DDO with IT matters.

First Chris and I visited the dome and gathered together miscellaneous computer peripherals. There are a few keyboards and mice now so to help run some of the boxes we pulled from storage. I helped Chris with the PA system which he was very pleased with. We found a mobile computer cart that would prove useful for the Skylab setup. We returned to the Admin building.

We labelled and tested the various system units. Some were running Windows; some Linux. We reviewed all the video boards available. The newest, unfortunately, needs a special power input from the PSU and now of the machines would support this. But a dual-out video board with PCI-E interface looked promising. I installed it in one of the extra Dell OptiPlex machines and got it working well with the official drivers installed. We elected to make this computer the prime unit for the Skylab. I installed Stellarium 0.18.1. I gathered together the needed cables so it would be self-standing, complete. We configured and tested it in the presentation room. Good stuff.

Then I set up the Canon multi-function printer. I configured it to offer a wireless access point and did test printing from my old netbook computer. Shared the good news with Bhairavi.

Friday, July 20, 2018

your monthly double stars

Issued my double star "bulletin" for July. It is a short list of suggested double and multi-star targets. I shared this on the RASC Toronto Centre forums. And I post here for all.


Happy Moon Landing Day. Speaking of our nearest celestial neighbour… even though Luna is getting brighter and brighter in the evening, you can still do astronomy. Double stars punch through moon-lit skies!

After delivering my double stars presentation in February, I thought a periodic post with fun multi-star systems would be interesting. Here’s a short selection of doubles from my life list, ones I find very impressive. Good for July. I did not include terribly tight targets.

staralso known asalternate catalogue 
HR 6043 in CrBSTT 305HIP 79350
T DraES 20HIP 87820
γ (gamma) DraEtamin, Eltanin, or Burnham 633SAO 30653
α (alpha) HerRasalgethi or STF 2140HIP 84345
HD 159481 in OphΣ (Struve) 2185SAO 122529

I encourage you to add these to your observing list. Doubles are easy, challenging, interesting, colourful, dynamic–always fun!

Let me know how you did! Happy to take questions.

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

Monday, July 16, 2018

brain bending stuff

Had a very interesting conversation with rho which started at the end of our after-dinner walk. As we slowly neared home, savoring the quiet warm air, enjoying the Moon and Venus in a pretty sky, the Moon down and right, just a couple of degrees apart, checking the separation with our hands, wondering where Mercury was, I think I said that the Moon was "drawing closer" to Venus. And that it was going to "zip past" Venus and be beyond it by a few degrees tomorrow. She immediately disagreed. She looked at me like I was from Mars.

"The Moon isn't going toward Venus; Venus is going toward the Moon." And they were going down, west. Like the Sun! Part of it was terminology. Was it an orientation issue? I wasn't explaining some of the concepts clearly. I felt that part of it was the complexity of the multiple vectors or sets of motion.

We talked briefly about occultations before heading indoors.

Later, winding down for the night, we enjoyed Ian's photo (on Facebook) of Venus "in the cradle" of the Moon, Earthshine showing, we reopened the topic of celestial motion. I launched SkyTools to get some data.

In the Interactive Atlas, zoomed in on the scene, I showed how moment by moment, the Moon could be seen moving eastward, toward Venus, very quickly. I had mentioned this outside that through a telescope, tight on the Moon, one would see stars disappearing on the east edge of the Moon. All the while, Venus was moving too, surprisingly fast actually, against the background stars.

This really threw Rhonda.

I included the horizon line in the chart to show how the planets, including Mercury, and the Moon, were setting, falling into the western horizon. That was the major or significant observed motion over the course of minutes and hours of time. Then I showed the scene the following night where the Moon was now a thicker crescent and left of Venus. I showed that the Moon had "hopped" over the planet. Day by day records would show the Moon travelling east.

I think I hurt her brain. She thought everything moved east to west. I explained that was true for all deep sky objects and the stars. Yes.

And, again, I tried to distinguish between the Earth's rotation. The diurnal motion. The 24-hour rotation of our planet. Under the sky.

Opened Stellarium for smoother time control. Tried to use the Solar System Observer feature but couldn't get it to work. Assumed the old version on John Repeat Dance didn't have the capability. [ed: Not true. Feature is present in version 0.12.4. Use the whole words, not the acronym SSO, while searching to select it.]

She asked why the ecliptic line was moving. Let's leave that for later, I suggested...

Tried to simulate the solar system motions in Solar System Scope web site but it didn't load properly in my old Chrome browser. [ed: And it no longer works on the John Charles computer—Javascript errors.]

Found another simulator, The Sky Live. I positioned us over the north pole of the Sun and speed up the time factor. We watched the planets orbit around our star. Unfortunately, this resource did not show the Moon around the Earth. But then, I assumed, the scale would be a challenge...

inner solar system view from above

I emphasised that everything was rotating counter clockwise. All the planets were moving counter clockwise. And that, in general, all the prime solar system objects, including all the moons around the planets, did the same thing. What?!

Something clicked. I could see her brain rewiring. "I never thought of it that way."

We talked a bit about spin and conservation of momentum in early solar system formation. We talked a bit about exoplanet systems and their motions. We talked about why up is up and north is north.

"The counter clockwise motion of the planets in the solar system and the Moon accounts for the eastward motion of the objects in the sky." I wanted to keep it simple, not getting into retrograde apparent motion, the inferior planet motions, etc. Another day...

We talked a bit about orbits and that in general they were all elliptical. Nothing was a perfect circle. She wanted circles. Nope. Ellipses are common. We talked a bit about solar system orbit migration.

We talked a bit about orbital speeds. I misinterpreted a question initially but clarified that the orbital speeds were in fact different: faster for the inner; slower for the outer.

I played with the date/time settings is TSL. We talked a bit about now being an awesome time to look at Mars from the Earth, given their proximity and given Mars's offset orbital path.

While in the tool, moving freely in space, I zoomed out. It was clear the Pluto is very different than all the other official planets, looping inside Neptune for a time, very elliptical, and highly inclined.

I still wanted to show a simulation of the Moon spinning around the rapidly spinning Earth all while the planets drifted slowly around the Sun. I mentally noted to look for a tool.

Mind blown...

Monday, July 09, 2018

today's Mars facts

Here is some updated Mars info.

The Earth-Mars distance is 0.4 AU right now. That's approximately 60 000 000 kilometres. This continues to decrease toward opposition.

The phase is 0.98 or 98%. Nearly full.

The magnitude is -2.44. Quite bright. And will increase.

Current apparent visible size is 22". This will increase too.

It crosses the meridian, above the south cardinal point, at around 3:00 AM.

Mars will reach opposition in about 17 days.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

colourful crest

Rhonda won a draw prize at the Open House and Awards Picnic. She picked out an embroidered patch, the new one for the RASC 150th anniversary.

RASC 150th anniversary crest

Then she handed it to me. Ah! Thank you!

We identified the Moon, colourful stars, comet, open cluster, galaxy with globular clusters, and the aurora. Very nice.


We missed the Manicouagan astrobleme alluding to impact cratering in the Canadian Shield.

recognised for double star work

After recognising the recipients of the Ontario Volunteer Service Awards, the president Ralph Chou announced the winners of the RASC Toronto Centre awards. I was astonished when I heard my name called for the Bert Topham Award for Observing, notably for my double star work, both at the local centre level and nationally. Wow. What a surprise!

Bertram J Topham became fascinated with astronomy after the First World War and built a large observatory behind his home. He observed rather faint variable stars with great precision. He also searched for novae and comets. He was a careful observer of aurora and made significant contributions to meteor research. In 1984, the Toronto Centre created the award for outstanding observers.

I am honoured to have my name with the likes of Guy Nason, Bob Chapman, Andy Beaton, Tom Luton, to name a few.

Friday, July 06, 2018

scanned solargraph 2 (Bradford)

Scanned the solargraph from our backyard pinhole camera, installed December 2017. A rather different result than June 2017.

backyard solargraph 2017-2018

There was some strange shadows but I like the look better. Processed with an hp scanner and GIMP.

Monday, July 02, 2018

no Mercury but a fantastic fireball (Bradford)

During the drive home, Rhonda repeatedly looked for Mercury, staring out the car window and comparing the scene to the view in SkySafari.

As we arrived home, we decided to try for some elevation, atop the water tower hill west of the St Teresa Of Calcutta Catholic School.

Too late. We noted Venus was low while Leo was still fully visible. When I checked her smartphone, I found the time was not current. When set dynamically, we found Mercury was well below the horizon. Oh well.

We turned west for the car and followed the foot path to Mills Court. As I scanned the sky, I spotted something strange. For a good second of time, I was transfixed. But then I called out and pointed. Rhonda saw it too.

It was a relatively slow-moving fireball! Low in the eastern sky, exiting Sagittarius, travelling below Aquila and Cygnus. Parts were breaking off, it was fragmenting, leaving a long glowing train. The meteor was yellow, not terribly bright. It was amazing.

We noted the time. Headed home. And I submitted a report to the International Meteor Organization. We were assigned number 144047 (link).


Several observations were added to ours. The IMO issued a formal report, number 2018-2286 (link).

northbound fireball

The plotted trajectory closely matches our observation. Exciting!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

your monthly double stars

Issued my double star "bulletin" for June. It is a short list of suggested double and multi-star targets. I shared this on the RASC Toronto Centre forums. And I post here for all.


With the full Moon phase approaching, you might think you can only clear eyepieces. In fact, you can do lots of astronomy. Double stars, for example, punch through bright skies so you can observe them any time, anywhere!

Here’s a short selection of doubles from my life list, ones I find rather cool. Targets in Lupus will require good southern sight lines and good seeing. And alpha Librae is right beside Jupiter!

staralso known asalternate catalogue 
α (alpha) LibZubenelgenubi or SHJ 186SAO 158840
κ (kappa) BooAsellus Tertius or STF 1821SAO 29046
μ1 (mu) BooAlkaluropsSAO 64686
α UMiPolaris or Σ (Struve) 93SAO 308
ξ1 (xi) LupPZ 4SAO 207144

Please consider adding double stars to your observing list. They are fun, easy, sometimes challenging, interesting, colourful, and dynamic!

I look forward to hearing how you did! Share your observations. And
holler if you have any questions. Go!

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

Friday, June 22, 2018

rough cut up

The rough cut of the live stream is online. This is from the RASC Toronto Centre Recreational Astronomy Night meeting on Wed 20 Jun. Presenters include Chris Vaughan delivering The Sky This Month and the Nath family on predicting potentially hazardous asteroid impacts. I talked about my barn door tracker with alt-az base. My presentation begins at 1 hour 7 minutes.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

assisted at DDO

"Worked" at the David Dunlap Observatory for the day with Chris and Bhairavi. Sorted many things including computers, info tech equipment, the new Skylab projectors, telescopes for lawn observing, craft supplies, etc. Did some prep of the SkyLab room for my delivery on Sat 23 Jun. As Chris did some tests in the dome, I was able to observe. The day went very fast!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

RASC meeting tonight

Remember if you can't make RASC Toronto Centre meetings in person you can watch online. Our live stream will start shortly before 7:30 PM EDT.

Once again, this evening, I'll be delivering a talk on my barn door tracker (with integrated alt-az base) construction project.

And with respect to tonight, 20 Jun '18, as there is another big event happening at the OSC, RASC members are reminded to bring their ID cards.

And to be clear, your RASC member cards are not mailed out anymore; you can print your own after you log into the RASC store and access your membership account. Or copy the PDF to your smartphone or tablet.

photographed SAO 186216 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged HD 164863 aka SAO 186216. This is a multi-star system in the constellation Sgr. In the middle of open cluster Messier 21 (M21). Viewed the star system in July 2015. I had not split the G, E, and the C stars.

multi-star system HD 164863 in luminance

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

A is the brightest star, of course.

B and C, merged, are to the north-west. They are too close together for BGO to resolve.

D is the somewhat bright star north of A.

E is an extraordinarily dim star north-east of A, inline with a number of bright stars aligned to the east-north-east. Barely visible in the photo! That seems very strange.

F is east-south-east of A, opposite BC, twice the distance.

G is the dim just close to F, just north. Actually, north-north-west. Never spotted before.

H and I are the equal stars, dim, to the west of BC.

Good to get a couple more...

Double star V4202 is visible to the south-west, far away, near the edge of the image. A bright primary and dim secondary to the north-east. A non-related star to the east makes for an attractive little triangle.

The wide pair LYS 32 is due south, also near the edge. Nearly equal stars, oriented south to north.

imaged HD 164492 (Halifax)

Ordered the BGO robot to image HD 164492 aka H N 40. This multi-star system is in the middle of the Trifid Nebula. I have tried on many occasions to split the stars in the centre of the M20 and B85.

multi-star system HD 164492 in luminance

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

A is the brightest star, to the north.

B is north of A, somewhat bright, with a hint of a black line between.

C and D are merged in this photo but clearly making a rod shape oriented east-west. SkyTools says they are 2.3" apart, below the BGO's limit.

E is the dim star below or south of CD. I have never split the E element before.

F is the very dim star east of AB. At a 90° angle to the line of the other stars. I have never seen the F partner before.

G is the dim star, about the same as E, to the south-west, inline with B, A, CD, and E.

It is really good to dig out some of these challenging stars.

Only C and D remain...


Wikipedia link: Trifid Nebula.

aimed to M24 (Halifax)

I asked the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to image Messier 24. This open cluster or "star cloud" aka IC 4715 in Sagittarius I only have a single log note for so I wanted to revisit. First viewed this target on 5 Jul '08.

region near Messier 24

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

It look me a while to identify the field. Compared to the location marked in SkyTools 3 Professional, this field of view is west and south. The amazing wikipedia says that some improperly identify M24 as the faint cluster NGC 6603. This is what happened in ST3P.

Ending up in this slightly different location however was fortuitous. This field includes other catalogues clusters and some double star systems.

West from centre, near the edge of the field, is a tight, nearly equal pair of stars orientation north-west to south-east. This is the double ARA 468.

South-west of centre, a short distance away, is a small grouping of bright stars. This is the Turner 4 open cluster. It appears to have some double stars within it!

South, near the edge of the frame, is a large grouping of stars, some of which are arranged in a scraggly vertical line. This is open cluster Turner 2. The wide pair ARA 470 is at the southern limit of this line.

Open cluster Turner 3, with what looks like a little Cassiopeia W-shape of stars, east of 2, is partly cut off.

South-east, well away, is the multi-star system HD 167863 aka SHJ 263. The primary is the bright star to the south. B is bright too, not as much, to the north-north-east. Between A and B are the pair of stars S and T, west to east. They are equal. Inline with S and T but further east is the U element. U is dimmer. West of S and T, in a similar alignment, is the fainter pair of V and W. V is to the north-west and dimmer than W. The R companion is near B, to the south-east. A neat little system. Note: it is a target in the AL advanced binocular programme.

ARA 473 is a simple pair to the north-east. Wide. Actually, the A star is slightly dimmer than B. The SkyTools chart shows B is mag 10.9 vs 11.7.

A busy part of the Milky Way...

Upon review, I think I"ll leave M24 in the View Again list. It should really be viewed with binoculars or at very low telescopic power.


Wikipedia link: Sagittarius Star Cloud.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

found a blinking satellite

Found the TELKOM 3 satellite in the star trails images. The images below were captured on the evening on Thursday 14 June from the Carr Astronomical Observatory on the Blue Mountains. The times shown are Eastern Daylight.

The satellite information from Heaven's Above:

Spacetrack catalog number: 38744
COSPAR ID: 2012-044-A
Name in Spacetrack catalog: TELKOM 3
Orbit: 246 x 1,930 km, 49.9°
Country/organisation of origin: Indonesia

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - A

Shot 8012. At 11:47:36 PM. North-bound airplane over the house.

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - B

Shot 8013. At 11:48:23 PM. That plane continues north.

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - C

Shot 8014. At 11:49:10 PM. Flashes appear inside the Big Dipper pot.

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - D

Shot 8015. At 11:49:57 PM. Flashes above UMi and thru Dra.

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - E

Shot 8016. At 11:50:44 PM. Flashes below the head of Draco.

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - F

Shot 8017. At 11:51:31 PM. Flashes in Cygnus.

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - G

Shot 8018. At 11:52:18 PM. Gone?

tracking satellite TELKOM 3 - H

Shot 8019. At 11:53:05 PM. Gone.

satellite TELKOM 3 plot

Image from Heaven's Above, rotated.