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.

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!

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.

quick star trails

Did a super-quick stack of the star trails, still hoping to see something... Made from 1024 wide JPGs. Using the data gathered on 14 Jun.

star trails from the CAO

200+ lights. 15+ darks. DPP. StarStaX.

Funny Dietmar's disco car.

shot the missing darks

Made a series of darks for the star trails on the weekend. Did it indoors as the air temp was around 14 to 15 degrees. Shot at ISO 1600, 45 seconds, daylight WB, with the fisheye at f/5.6. RAW format! With the same 2 second gap.

looking good out east

I received a notification from the Clear Sky Alarm Clock system for the BGO - SMU location. Good skies were predicted for 22 hours. And I knew the robotic observatory was "back from vacation."

Favorable observing conditions at Halifax
Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
06-19 @ Hour 22 for 2 hours (0%/Above Ave./Poor)
06-20 @ Hour 03 for 1 hours (0%/Above Ave./Poor)


Monday, June 18, 2018

received cards

Rhonda and I received our RASC membership cards from the national office. Ooh. Colour! Just in time too: the Wednesday meeting at the Ontario Science Center? They'll be carding people (on this occasion).

to protect the primary

Posted a note to the CAO supervisors group with a recommended procedure that Ian W and I had considered for the new RC 'scope.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

spotted a flashing satellite (Bradford)

I spotted a tumbling or spinning satellite from 11:05 PM to 11:12. Picked it up around Mizar/Alcor and followed it to near Altair. It looked like it reach magnitude zero or perhaps a minus value a couple of times.


Reported it on the RASC Toronto forums.


I looked it up on CalSky and learned about the TELKOM 3 satellite. The path in Heaven's Above looked correct.

by the campfire (Bradford)

Well. It's not really a campfire. It is backyard fire-pit fire. Anyhoo, Rhonda and I were enjoying the pleasant air temperature and clear skies, enjoying each other's company, having a beer, and feeding the mosquitoes. Encouraged rho to try her SkySafari. I kept watching the sky for tumbling or flaring satellites. Caught something bright just over the house for a tiny fraction of a second. A fireball?

invasion beer

Stumbled across a funny beer. Brought some home for Rhonda. Unfortunately, it is a rather tart IPA and neither of us are fans. So, I just had to drink it.

Space Invader beer

Space Invader is made by Amsterdam Brewing Company (Canada).


Did a bit more work on the observatory today. Installed the synthetic barrier material to the south gable, temporarily removing the vent Ian had just installed. Then I installed the north gable sheathing and fabric barrier.

Jo did it

Learned from Grace that Jo worked on the design of the Cosmic beer label. Small planet.

first light with RC 16 (Blue Mountains)

Saturday 16 June 2018. First light with the GSO Ritchey-Chrétian 16-inch telescope! It worked.

the RC 16 ready to go

But the skies were not great. Still, we were happy. Millie, Grace, Sailu, Tony, Ian W, Dietmar, Thomas, and myself herded into the Geoff Brown Observatory.

We viewed the Moon. Very nice. Ian did a walk-up hand-held iPhone shot. Quite good. Mare Crisium was obvious. Little Picard was stark.

Ian and I were happy with the collimation.

Pointing was wobbly. Had to manually align then sync on objects.

10:33 PM. Viewed something... I forget what... Jupiter? Saturn? Venus?

I asked for Porrima. They entertained me, viewing a double star. Asked people about the colours.

Ian asked for the 10mm eyepiece. I thought it was in the Tele Vue.

Sailu and I talked about red stars. The Garnet was not my favourite.

I created a new telescope profile in my SkyTools software. 16" or 41cm aperture. Focal length is 3251mm. Focal ratio is 8. It was nice to be able to use the optical condition of "very clean" for a change. New info sheets will need to be made up.

I wondered about a galaxy. We headed for the Leo triplets. Sky not quite dark enough yet.

Sailu and I talked about software. He used EKOS. We talked about kStars.

Millie and Dietmar headed to bed.

Sailu and I viewed M66, M65, and NGC 3628. We could see the dust lanes in galaxy 3628.

Rhonda and I chatted by SMS. Told her we were enjoying first light.

Everyone was gone. I considered my own programme now with the new OTA.

Ian returned. Asked to go to Jupiter as the sky was better. A pretty good view.

Slewed to HD 125906, a double star target. Almost exactly between the stick figures of Virgo and Libra. Suggested by the ST3P software from the Nightly Observing List Generator. Nice. Noted the tight pair in the centre. Noted a pattern of stars up and right for me (north), evocative of Auriga.

11:18. Reviewed the Virgo star field in SkyTools 3 Pro after ensuring I had the GSO 16 active with the Tele Vue 27 Panoptic. First use of the new telescope configuration with the atlas screens. Nice. Working well.

A triple. The brighter star was to the right or north. The B element was a touch fainter. Magnitudes 6.8 vs 7.5. I did see a faint star to the left or south. The closest star of the Auriga pattern was PPM 197487. I saw a faint star between in and the AB: GSC 5562-648.

I saw the C star, STF 1833 C. Opposite the PPM. Closer than GSC 5562-648. South of AB. Magnitude 13.9. Oh...

Hotel foxtrot! Suddenly realised with the bigger 'scope now I could see fainter moons...

Slewed to Jupiter... Started verifying the field.

Thomas dropped in. Told him I was going for Himalia.

I saw it for a second...

Messaged the super.

Helped Thomas. Guided him to the three vertical stars (north-west to south-east) with GSC 5577-564. Nearly equidistant. The top was slightly further. There was a brighter star to the right or north-east: GSC 5577-566. Further north-east GSC 5577-273. A bit fainter. Left or south-west of 566 was the moon. About the same brightness as the dimmest of the three vertical stars.

I saw it again, briefly, with averted vision.

11:39. Got it! Happy about that. Very happy. So my plan worked, using the new 'scope, that Ian suggested had 30% more light gathering power. The mag limit of the new 16-inch 'scope is 16.5; Himalia is 15.1.

Asked Thomas what he wanted to look at. He had no preferences. I noticed the handle of the Big Dipper up high. Suggested M51 (Messier 51).

Ian W arrived for a look at the elusive moon.

Thomas called it a night.

Slewed to a new target. The Ring Nebula (M57, Messier 57). Lovely. Lots of detail in the nebula. Could not see the star.

Ian chose M27, the Dumbbell. Big! Very nice. Bad point. I panned to it using the 101. Ian wanted to look at it with a UHC but I couldn't remember if we had one. Regardless, he liked the view.

Ian wanted Saturn... OK, fine.

We chatted about the new observation work for Sunday morning and general CAO close-out Sunday afternoon.

Added M51, the Whirlpool, to my list. It was pretty spectacular. Thought I could see The Bridge.

Synced then slewed to M100. Didn't see anything so I picked a bright star nearby. Synced on Denebola. Then back to the galaxy. OK. Super faint. No interesting field stars. Large. Lots of averted vision. Face on. Nothing like M51. The single bright star was HD 107726.

Sounded like Ian was closing up.

Tried for the comet again, C/2015 O1, in UMa. Used NGC 4088 to start.

A mottled galaxy, 4088. Canted. Bright star nearby. Streaky bright small galaxy "over there" (to the south): NGC 4085.

The comet should have been above or north of the galaxies. Near a backwards L. Nothing obvious. It should have been near the mag 13.2 star GSC 3457-80. Nope.

12:43, Sun 17 Jun '18. I was tired. Considered eta CrB. I had seen all the elements. Still it was on my View Again list. And it is a Fast Mover.

Synced and slewed. Tough. Told the software I had the 10mm installed. West to the 8 o'clock positon. I saw a rod oriented west-east. 0.4" apart as of May.

3 hours left on the recording.

Mosquitos were bugging me.

12:57. Chose HD 85458 in UMa. Used the HIP number 48369 in TheSky. Cool! Beside Bode's. Switched back to the 27mm. Probably not a good candidate. Really faint. Hold the phone. A quad.

A and C are oriented north and south with A to the south. C and D are a close pair but easy. In the TV101 one can see the A and C. In the RC16 all four stars are visible. A and B are 2.1" apart. Wow! Fun with the galaxy right there. OK. It's a keeper.

Parked. Did a big shutdown, thinking ahead to Sunday day proper...


That was a ton of fun using the new telescope.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

installed the roof

After I filled the voids at the bottom of the rafters with small pieces of foam insulation, Ian and I installed the metal roofing and ridge plates. I built custom beds to help us work comfortably and safely with the slippery surface.

collimated another RC

Ian and I collimated his RC 'scope. More challenging with the controls on the secondary mirror.

collimated the RC

Ian W and I collimated the new GSO Ritchey-Chrétian with his Takahashi tool. The new 'scope was off a fair amount explaining the difficulty focusing on terrestrial targets.

day-time collimation of the RC 16

Overall, pretty easy.

Photo by Grace with Tony's camera.

Friday, June 15, 2018

viewed with the crewed (Blue Mountains)

Dietmar configured the Paramount with the centre laptop. Some of my stuff had been moved around.

9:48 PM, Friday 15 June 2018. Helped Thomas with some photography. He couldn't reach focus in the refractor with his camera. Gave him our extension tube. Ready to go. Dietmar dropped in looking for Thomas. And Thomas's phone rang.

Showed Dietmar the blinkie thing in photo 7922, captured at 10:37 PM last night. Heading down the spine of Cygnus. If it was a low-Earth object it might show up photos 90 minutes later. Started checking the images from 11:00 PM.

Thomas left to pick up the yogis. Asked him to let Ian W know. Reminded him to ask the visitors to park their car(s) northbound.

Called to Katrina, "Come quick!" I wanted to show her my photo. She was on the Observing Pad with her Starmaster. Probably a plane in my shot. We wondered if it was a Soyuz rocket but they don't have flat surfaces.

Ian W popped by. Said about 5 people were due.

Dietmar and I agreed the pointing was way off. I suggested redoing things to see if it would improve.

Tony H popped in.

Katrina invited me to look at Jupiter. The Great Red Spot looked amazing in the big Dobsonian. Good detail on the surface.

10:14 PM. Katrina's 'scope. Jupiter. The GRS. And a shadow transit!

Dietmar parked the Paramount.

Noticed the crazy blue light inside Dietmar's car. Neat colour in the overall shot.

Pointing was still off. Maybe his file got damaged. We tried my account. The target icon was off so I was encouraged. He slewed to the Moon. It worked. In the ballpark.

Found a meteor in one of my shots (7986).

Tonight would be the last time looking through the Celestron 14-inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope...

Made a note to get darks for the run last night.

10:40. Fran, Sara, and Roh visited the Geoff Brown Observatory. We showed them Jupiter. Thomas and Dietmar assisted them at the telescope. The super was curiously absent.

Rohini asked if they could take photos with their smartphones. I retrieved the iOptron bracket from the house.

Challenging aligning it. But figured out some cool tricks.
  1. Loosely attached the bracket.
  2. Align the ocular over the camera.
  3. Shine a flashlight down the telescope side of the ocular.
  4. Look for the camera facia edging in the ocular (it will be magnified).
  5. Align the ocular to the camera lens.
  6. Snug the bracket.
  7. Open the camera app.
  8. Shine the light in the ocular.
  9. Look for a round image on the camera screen.
  10. Align as needed.
Dietmar headed to Saturn. For a second, I thought it was Mars... Low.

Millie dropped in to see the guests.

Rohini asked for more camera help.

Katrina called out. She saw an interesting satellite... I asked if it was the same thing as before, our mystery tumbler.

Checked with the group at the C14.

Visited Katrina. Recalled how Steve was tongue-tied on seeing bright meteors or satellites.

Tony dropped in. We chatted briefly. He tossed his apple core out the door on the lawn. I didn't notice his banana peel was on the counter.

The visitors joined us in the warm room. We talked about the software. We identified the moons of Jupiter. Callisto and Io were close. Recommended the SkySafari app, pointing out it was free now. They headed out. Reminded Thomas to have them sign the guest book. They were very thankful.


Later, Thomas joined us. With Dietmar, we closed up.

attended DDO meeting

Attended (virtually) the David Dunlap Observation committee planning meeting in Ian's trailer.

blurred the frames

Shot more time lapse photos for the observatory build. Used Dietmar's neutral density filter. Along with the maximum aperture and lowest ISO, we were able to slow down the exposure to a fraction of a second. To create some blur.

prepared the roof

I worked mostly on my own on the observatory today. Released the rails from the supports. Made and installed the cross braces on the outrigger posts. Installed the vinyl siding on the west wall. Installed the insulation in the rafters. Cut the ends off the strapping. Later Thomas helped me install some support strips.

brought red film

The CAO team was looking for a piece of red film to cover the recently installed white light under the deck. I told them I had brought several pieces with me.


Millie made an insert.

galaxies, doubles, planets (Blue Mountains)

8:45 PM, Thursday 14 June 2018. Started the conversion of the CWIO time lapse photos, from RAW to JPEG, for Dietmar.

8:55 PM. Did some work in Ian's shed. Copied my DDO time lapse JPEG images to his computer—almost 7000! Took them straight from the CF card.

9:02 PM. Helped Wayne with his pod.

9:14. Started the download of Shotcut 64-bit to Ian's machine. The mozzies found me.

9:22. Pulled the EC weather data. Current Conditions. 19°C. Observed at: Collingwood. Date: 9:00 PM EDT Thursday 14 June 2018. Condition: Not observed. Pressure: 101.4 kPa. Tendency: Rising. Temperature: 18.6°C. Dew point: 8.4°C. Humidity: 52%. Wind: W 7 km/h. Forecast. Tonight. Clear. 9°C. Whoa, single digit. Fri 15 Jun. Sunny. 24°C. Night. Clear. 12°C. Sat 16 Jun. Chance of showers. 24°C. 40%. Night. Chance of showers. 18°C. 40%. Detailed Forecast. Forecast issued: 3:30 PM EDT Thursday 14 June 2018. Tonight. Clear. Wind northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 becoming light this evening. Low 9. Fri 15 Jun. Sunny. High 24. UV index 9 or very high. Night. Clear. Low 12. Sat 16 Jun. Cloudy with 40 percent chance of showers. High 24. Night Cloudy periods with 40 percent chance of showers. Low 18.

9:27 PM. Checked the site weather. Wind: 10 minute average 0.0 km/h; direction NW; instantaneous speed 1.6; high 35.4. Humidity: 69%. Barometric pressure: 1014.6 hPa. Temperature: 15.7°C; high 19.0, dew point 10.0; inside 25.0. About 5 degrees from the dew point. Looked at the trends. The wind had tailed off. Humidity peaked Tuesday at midnight at around 85%. Air pressure troughed midnight Tuesday at 1010.0. Rising now. Reception tanked Tuesday mid-day, down to 94%. Something interfered with it. Still working though.

Helped Millie at the THO. The top flap was stuck. North-east corner was resistant. Opened the angled flap from the outside.

Saw Venus (without my glasses).

9:33. Looked at the satellite imagery. Visible. Thin wispy clouds. Looked like we were on the edge of a front. A big system was near Chicago. Switched to infrared. Superior was very cold; the centre of Huron.

Continued the transfer of photos for Dietmar. About half-way.

Set an alarm to start the capture of wide field photos around 10:30.

Considered more targets for the evening. 

The coyotes fired up.

9:46. Millie popped by. She confirmed she was seeing Venus and Jupiter. Wondered about Mercury. I said I didn't think it was visible... She asked if I was going to be doing doubles. A little bit of everything! I hoped. She talked about some of her goals with her small refractor. She vaguely recalled an 8-star system in Cetus or Cass that we had looked at in the C14. I pulled my life list. The challenge is that I have looked at a lot of stuff... 85 pairs alone in Cassiopeia.

[ed: Mercury was trailing the Sun. About 12 degrees away.]

Activated red mode in SkyTools.

Added some fast movers to the plan...

Copied some items from my double star candidate programme list. About 15.

Headed to Ian's observatory again. Meltytech Shotcut worked slightly better this time. Still crashed on first start. Drag-and-drop of all 6800 files worked, albeit really slowly. And once again I noticed it does not put the files in the same sequence the file list which means re-sequencing would be required and doing that by drag-and-drop would be insane.

10:18. Felt cold. Considered more layers. Closed the warm room windows.

Returned to the GBO with more clothing. Also had my jacket this time!

Started the Paramount and TheSky. Switched to Real Time in SkyTools 3 Pro. Slewed to Jupiter.

Made a note about a filter idea for SkyTools...

Hit my head. Hit my head again! Almost smacked my face on the huge counterweights. We need some caution tape inside the GBO...

Spotted two moons close together. Io and Ganymede. Both heading inbound...

Got a sugar hit from a soda. No booze tonight.

10:32. Started my camera. Made sure the lens cap was off... Duh. Much brighter images this time! Hoped I had enough space on the card. I guessed there was enough for 300 shots...

The image conversion was proceeding: 277 of 316.

Pulled up the Current Events info in ST3P. Never noticed it before but red light mode doesn't work well in this tab. The blue text disappears. Noted an elongation of mag 14.4 Amalthea at 2 o'clock. Huh. Made a calendar entry. Phobos elongation at 3. Um. 

Reactivated my main list. Suddenly noticed the location was wrong; it was on Cupcakes. Broke the computer connection, reset to the Blue Mountains spot, reconnected. Tried slewing and didn't think it right; it was fine. A meridian flip confused me.

Went to Porrima, partly to test things. Used TheSky6 to do the slew. On target, no problem.

Looked in the TV: wasn't sure. Easily split in the Celestron 14-inch, with the 27mm. Same colour? The one on the left looked orange for a moment. Spotted a somewhat bright star inline. Pale. Flipped the mirror on the Tele Vue 101mm refractor to be the same orientation. Matched the field. The tight pair looked like a snowman. Not a clean split; but clearly not a single star. HD 110381, south or left for me. Seeing was off. Added the double star to my observing list.

10:54. Looked up the details of γ (gamma) Virginis. Separation was 2.74" as of May. Noted it was a multi-star system. Headed back to the oculars.

Reset things in SkyTools. Saw a blinking X on target. Good.

A few things... The Henry Draper star is the E companion of this 5-star system. Equal brightness, A and B. Orange and white. Pale orange, left; the other looked white. Colourless. D was to the east. No problem. Noted the outlier, HD 110298. Why would this bright star not be included? Could not see C. Tried again.

Dimmed lights and screens to improve my dark adaptation.

Turned on the dew heaters and installed the wraps on the eyepieces.

Could not see C. There was a star north-east of D, GSC 4949-1097, which would make a line to C. I also saw the J-star at magnitude 13.1 to the south-east of AB, closer than E, which C would be between. Strange. ST3P says Struve 1670 C is magnitude 15.1. Too dim for the conditions and challenging in the old SCT.

11:04. Found a message from Ian about his trailer jack, in case I wanted to lift the observatory roof.

Rhonda pinged me. Updated her on the building progress.

Looked at Denebola. Just above the 2 airmass line. Looked like one star. In a big V-shape of stars. SkyTools wasn't even showing the B star... ST3P said B was mag 15.7. Oh. That's why. I had seen D in the southern arm. Easy, of course. Saw GSC 870-160, the north-west element in the wide pair, NW of AB proper. ST3P said it was mag 13.5. I got the star in between! NNW. SkyTools said this was GSC 870-167. But mag 15.7. That can't be right. Noted PPM 128588 to the east.

Tried for BU 604 C again... Could not see it... ST3P said it was 13.2. Why couldn't I see it?! This is a tricky one! Maybe it should not be on my candidate list.

Being mindful of the meridian, I slewed to HD 92370 aka Σ1460 in Ursa Major.

11:26. Interesting! Very dim in the small 'scope. At first I didn't see it. A tight double. Very faint. The one on the right looked slightly dimmer to me. 3.8". Noted a bent line of stars on the west edge of the FOV. West was up. Neat shape of stars, like a funnel. ST3P said the left one was dimmer, mag 8.8 vs 8.0. Effectively the same. Nearly oriented north-south. Super-tight. Easy in the C14. No colour per se. Equal colours. The double is in a right-angle triangle. Faint star on the 90 degree bend. An automatic suggestion from SkyTools. Huh.

ST3P suggested I look at Amalthea.

Someone was fiddling with their car in the parking lot, triggering the lights. Multiple flashes. Sheesh.

11:34. Millie dropped into the warm room and said the tumbling satellite would be visible in 9 minutes. I asked her how she knew that. She was going for someone's logged entry time. I shared it had appeared at different times. Her guess would be as good as mine as to when and where. She headed out to watch for it.

Slewed the Paramount to NGC 3088 B.

Freakin' nasty. I suspected I was seeing A. I knew I was on target with the medium bright star SAO 81939. But I thought I only saw one fuzzy.

Got it!

11:41. Wow. Saw both! Added NGC 3088 A to the list. Arp 87 in Leo. B to the right or north was dimmer and smaller. Opposite from the SAO star. Well separated, the two small galaxies. Surprising I got them given April is the best time.

Lost the blinking X again. Fixed.

Slewed to NGC 4884 in Coma Berenices. A Caldwell target.

11:49. Wow.

Considered checking on my camera rig. Lamented not testing my BDT.

Interesting galaxy. Lot of stuff going on. SkyTools shows dozens of little galaxies in the field.

Noted a bright star, HD 112887. Saw galaxy NGC 4884 in the centre of the eyepiece. Spiral with a bright centre. This was right or north of another big galaxy. I saw two faint small fuzzies above and below 4884. The little galaxy ahove or north might have been NGC 4882. Perhaps the one below was NGC 4898? ST3P said it was mag 15.6. Didn't seem possible.

SkyTools says 4884 is an elliptical.

The large galaxy to the west of 4884 was NGC 4874. Fainter than the right one. SkyTools says it is a lenticular. 2.5' by 2.1'.

Would be astonishing to photograph this region.

My DSLR seemed to be working fine. Tried checking for the remaining shots using the top LCD but didn't see a number... Thought it did that. Oh well.

Dimmed the galaxy drawing colour in the software chart so to make it less distracting. Back to the big 'scope.

Noted a keystone shape of stars with GSC 1995-1926 and Tycho 1995-1988 1 to the south. I think I was definitely seeing NGC 4898! Nuts!

Could be included in a "two in the view" list.

12:00 AM, Fri 15 Jun '18. Visions of popcorn popped in my head!

Couldn't find any popcorn kits! Boo. Returned with some spicy chips.

Closed the doors and fired up the heaters.

Slewed to next: ξ (xi) Scorpii. Nice! Surely I have looked at this before... Yes, showed as logged. On lots of lists, including Cambridge and Two in a View. On this evening's list for B, as B is a fast mover. Very, very tight. C is the easy split, at low power. The D and E stars below (south) as very far from AB. F is no problem. The software shows a star between E and F but I don't see anything there. On my candidate list which is brilliant.

Tried more power. Stupid high power.

Millie peeked in but didn't see me.

Toasty in the warm room. Turned down the thermostat.

I tried to convince myself I could see something below A, south. Orange-red fringe on the bottom. No black line. SkyTools said limited by seeing. A is pale yellow. C is orange. In a small telescope, A, C, D, and E were all visible. So a good candidate system.

Looked for my next quarry. Close to where I was. On the same side of the sky.

Commanded the ME mount to HD 144564 aka Struve 2007 in Serpens. A double star system I had added to my DS candidate list.

Wide pair, easily separated in the Tele Vue; super-wide in the Celestron. Triple. C was well away, opposite B. The primary star was yellow with a hint orange while B was white. B is to the north-west. The C attendant was in an arc of stars. Easy triple. Interesting field. Good choice.

Next. γ Serpentis.

Tough. Logged. Interesting. Wait a sec. I wondered if it might be confusing. Triple system, again. I was expecting a tight double but in fact they are very wide. Noted lines of stars in the field. B and C are almost invisible in the small aperture. Markedly dim. Needed averted. B and C could be confused with other field stars. At low power, it does not seem an obvious double or multi-star system. The main star looked blue-white in the TV101 but yellow in the C14. I dunno...

Slewed to LY Ser aka ARY 11 from my candidate list so to double-check. A rather wide double. Orange primary. Noted the squash triangle to the south. And a pair of stars to the north-west (not official). Went to have another look. The B star is easily seen in the small OTA. Not terribly exciting.

12:54 AM. Mars was up. Camera was still working.

Slewed. Oops. Missed the button. Slewed. Returned to the gas giant. Ganymede was not visible.

Headed to Messier 62 (M62). Low. Had to drop the wall. Very nice, the globular cluster in Ophiuchus. Smooth, diffuse, gradual brightening to the centre. Not particularly bright. Unmistakable in the small telescope. Seemed dark on one edge, the right edge. 26 000 light-years away.

Millie dropped by. Wayne had gone to bed so I could close his pod. She offered to close the garage. She also apologised for walking in front of my camera. No worries!

1:17. Couldn't see the bottom star of Scorpius. Pretty amazing the three planets in the southern sky, nearly equidistant. Perseus rising. Saw a satellite near Polaris.

Checked the current weather from the Davis weather station. As of 1:04 AM. Wind: 10 minute average 0.0 km/h; direction NW; instantaneous speed 0.0; high 0.0. Humidity: 78%. Barometric pressure: 1015.9 hPa. Temperature: 12.9°C; dew point 9.1.

I thought it would be nice to stay up really late but I was fading.

Tomorrow night looked good (according to the CSC)...

Returned to Jupiter. But could not see Amalthea. Shoot.

Slewed to next double. A suggestion from SkyTools. Challenging in the Tele Vue. Tight, faint pair. Equal stars. Lovely field. Orange and blue in the C14, easy split. Not logged. [ed: Not sure the target. Will need to determine by inference... HD 159660 aka STF 2186.]

Closed up shop. Activated the dehumidifier.

1:32. Rescued my camera. Over 200 shots. The fisheye was a bit fogged... And had pollen on it. [ed: Forgot to get darks.]

The photo conversion had finished. So I initiated the file copy to the server...


A good night. Nothing earth-shattering. But good to get some doubles done. And to check off another Messier second-visit. And shoot better the north sky.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

aimed north again (Blue Mountains)

Tried shooting the northern sky again. Opened up the lens more. And this time I took the lens cap off... This is a single shot from the middle of the run.

twilight sky from Carr Observatory

Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm, intevalometer, big tripod, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 45 seconds, daylight white balance, RAW, DPP.

No tumbling brilliant satellites. A few airplanes. One meteor. No UFOs.


Made a quick stack.

Friday was turning

Checked the conditions. Tonight was looking pretty good.

CSC chart from mid-day

The Clear Sky Chart from mid-day.

CO table from the evening

Clear Outside. But now Friday was poor...

shot many photos

Shot photos of the build from mid-day to the end. So Dietmar could make a time lapse. Used my Canon kit lens, big tripod, intervalometer, one shot every minute, aperture priority, manually focused. Saved to RAW... That wasn't really necessary.


Ian and I worked on the roof rafters and strapping. I handed him his coffee. Mary-Ann and I worked on the sheathing on the south gable. I completed the vinyl siding (save the top course) on the west wall. I installed the finishing strips and J-forms on the north wall. Millie and Dietmar arrived so we showed them what was new.

too windy

Clear skies but super windy. No observing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

more work

Got more done on the new imaging observatory. Installed vinyl siding on the south and east walls. And did the little bit left of the door. Placed the rail supports atop the walls and installed the gables. Cut the rafters. Determined we needed the vinyl "finishing" strips for the top of the walls. Mostly Mary-Ann and I as Ian received some family from out of town. Some big weather came through around 2:00 PM so to retired for a time.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

tried for Himalia again (Blue Mountains)

10:32 PM, Tuesday 12 June 2018. Checked the space on voice recorder: 12 hours. OK.

11:16 PM. Went for Himalia again. Left the observatory inner door open. Hopefully no bugs tonight.

A text message came in... Funny timing. Rhonda asked if we were stargazing. I told her the skies were not great.

Switched from the 55mm to the 27mm.

Himalia in SkyTools chart

11:23. Closed in on the little moon...

Identified the bright star PPM 229302, north-east of Himalia. To the south-west was a wide pair of equal stars, mag 12.4 range, with GSC 5577-508, in-line, or pointing to Himalia. Right in the zone...

No joy, yet.

Saw the star GSC 5577-185 to the west of nearer star to Himalia. SkyTools said it was a mag 14.3 star. Ooh.

Back to the ocular.

The mozzies found me... Went to the house for bug juice.

Tagged the dim star south of GSC 5577-367, a J-star, at magnitude 14.4. Going deeper.

Oh! For a second I thought I saw GSC 5577-677 at magnitude 14.7! South-east of the moon. ST3P showed it was possible...

Nope. Crazy. Too dim...

Made a note to look for Jovian shadow transits with ST3P. Hopefully there were some coming up in the next couple of nights.

Closed the door.

11:43. Lost the sky. Told Rhonda. She asked if there were any fireflies around. Yep. I saw some last night. And tonight.

Chris M popped by. "I just saw that tumbler." At 11:40 according to his phone. What?! I zoomed outside but it was gone. Dang! Around Draco and Cassiopeia (above), near Cygnus, heading roughly east-south-east. He saw a flash from the THO. I offered to check Heaven's Above but couldn't find anything. Weird. [ed: Looks like it might have been the TELKOM 3. Path from Heaven's Above. But only mag 5.6...]

Grabbed another Cosmic Cream Ale. And munchies.

Fireflies were still going...

Warmer tonight.

11:57 PM. Pulled the Davis weather station page. Wind: 10 minute average 0.0 km/h; direction WNW; instantaneous speed 0.0. Humidity: 85%. Oh, high. Barometer: 1010.4 hPa. Temperature: 19.9°C; dew point 17.3. Close.

Checked the ADDS in infrared black and white. Looped it. The lakes were still cold. Clouds everywhere!

Disconnected from the mount and parked.

12:16 AM, Wed 13 Jun '18. Closed the roof.

12:28. Just noticed ST3P said Mars's moons are easy!

lookin' for clues

Grace said that Tom thought the old CAO guest books might be in an archival box in the library. Marked "2000s." I reported to Grace that I had had a quick look. There were lots of archival boxes but only a few are marked. I didn't see a "2000" box. I looked in one randomly and it had really old stuff.

juggled sked

One of the presenters cancelled for Wednesday 20 June so Paul Markov asked if I could step up. I have three slide decks in the can. So we settled on my barn door tracker topic. At the Ontario Science Centre of course. And streaming live. See you there.

That jostling means that my double star presentation, part 2, will go on 15 August...

made good progress

We worked on the observatory. Ian W liked my rail support idea so we built my simple support structure. Started at 8:26 AM. Extended the rails. Built the wooden roof supports for the roller wheels. Installed the barrier fibre material. Built the gables. I studied some YouTube videos to learn how the vinyl siding would be installed. Made a temporary bridge to access the deck from the east. Hmmm. Took siesta after noon and resumed work at 1:53 PM. Extra assistance from Mary-Ann and Chris M.