Sunday, April 22, 2018

returned to NGC 4216 (Halifax)

Charged BGO with shooting 4216 again. A satellite ran throught it 20 May '17. I wanted to revisit again to get more data.

galaxy NGC 4216 and friends in luminance

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

A good result, i.e. no tumbler; but the contrast and detail seems better in the first. The Moon was up...

returned to NGC 4039 (Halifax)

I sent the BGO robot back to NGC 4039 and 4038, The Antennae galaxies, to hopefully improve from previous attempts.

galaxies NGC 4038 and 4039 in luminance

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

I think this is the best result to date... Or very similar to the first (which included a satellite). A challenging target to be sure. Not sure if there's anything I can do to draw out the antennae proper...

Imaged on 22 Dec '17, 27 Jan '18, and 27 Feb '18.

shot 27 Hya (Halifax)

The good weather we deserved in Ontario rolled into Nova Scotia. The Burke-Gaffney Observatory started off for me on a multi-star system, 27 Hydrae, by centring on GSC 05463 00209. I was hoping to split the B and C elements.

multi-star system 27 Hya in luminance

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

I was not able to split B and C from the backyard on 19 Mar '18. No problem in the image! South-south-west of B. It is clearly very faint compared to the second star. Similar in brightness to nearby magnitude 12 stars.


Wikipedia link: 27 Hydrae.

repaired second cross-hair

Glued cross-hair two. I'll have to be gentle in the future...

watched the video

Watched Tony's video, on Facebook, of the TESS launch. Very nice. Noted the time delay for the sound. Took about 30 seconds.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

beyond human vision

Stumbled across the Micro Macro web page developed by the NASA Chandra X-ray Center. They compare a few things at the nanometre then kilometre or light-year scales. Neat.

sent a note

Finally sent a thank-you note to RASC Toronto Centre awards committee for the OVSA award.

[Edited for the correct committee name.]

he found it very useful

Out of the blue, received an email from Tenho of Saskatoon, which he also shared with the editor. He said he "found something so useful [that] I thought I should write about it." On reading my Binary Universe article in the October 2017 Journal entitled Hacking your Canon P&S, Tenho followed up the mention of the Magic Lantern software for Canon EOS cameras. He hacked his Rebel T5i/700D primarily so to have an on-board intervalometer. This means he can now operate his camera without an external accessory.

Magic Lantern Shoot menu

Nice! It's good to hear from readers. But it especially interesting this note as the reference to ML was incidental.


Suggested he look for the red light mode setting!

started cross-hair repair

Redo. Removed the old cross-hairs from the Celestron 6x30 finder scope. Added a new one—thank you Rhonda. Glued with Home-Bond Solvent Contact Cement. I had broken one of the cross-hairs during the barn door tracker upgrades last weekend.

happy IAD!

Happy International Astronomy Day! Keep looking up. Keep wondering. Keep asking why, how far, when, how...

Friday, April 20, 2018

saw TESS on DSN

Charles shared a screen snapshot on Facebook. Very cool to see TESS listed on the Deep Space Network.

snapshot of the DSN network page

Visit DSN Now (at the right time) to see the probe communicating with the Earth...

[Edited to add link.]

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

learned TESS is powered

Missed the launch; I was shovelling the driveway! Sheesh. Received Tony's email from Florida as they were heading to the viewing site. Finally checked Spaceflight Now and Facebook. Learned SpaceX successfully launched. Yeh! Reloaded Spaceflight and learned that, as of 19:58, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite was "power positive." The feed history reported:
The TESS spacecraft is receiving power generated by its twin solar arrays and ground controllers are [pouring] over telemetry as they check out of the spacecraft's systems following launch.
Great, great news.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

OK to go

Spotted Charles's note on Facebook regarding TESS. He says they are good to go for tomorrow.

Monday, April 16, 2018

read tracker comparison

Found a good comparison of tracking mounts. It compares camera mounts I've heard of like the Star Adventurer and the Polarie with ones I've not heard such as NanoTracker and Minitrack-LX.

an apple and an orange

The article by Lorenzo Comolli, while dated, contains mini-reviews of the units with a large table showing features and capabilities.

learned about SkyGuider

Chatted with Wayne today via Facebook. He has ordered the iOptron SkyGuider Pro. Never heard of it. It is a new astronomy tracking mount for cameras. This summer, it'll be neat to see it in action. Told Wayne about my BDT progress. This whole arena is getting very interesting...

explosions and green fuzzies

Nick recently put out a query on the RASC TC forum. He wanted to know good sources for supernovae and comets.

He indicated he preferred a simple website. He said he found "some resource websites are not very intuitive or user-friendly."

Bryon suggested for comets, specifically the Weekly Information page.

Eric said "the best site for... supernovae is not far away, just over Lake Ontario in Rochester, NY." I wondered what Nick might think of this as I find Latest Supernovae page challenging to decipher.

There was no mention of Comet Chasing page at Skyhound...

I reminded Nick that his SkyTools Starter Edition software should help.

He thanked us.

TESS scrubbed

Learned the TESS launch was scrubbed for today! Grace (on Facebook) and Tanya (on Twitter). No reason why yet... I think I read somewhere that there are no good windows until later in the week.


From SpaceX's Twitter feed:
Standing down today to conduct additional [Guidance, Navigation, and Control] analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of @NASA_TESS on Wednesday, April 18.
The next launch opportunity will come at 6:51 PM EDT Wednesday. The launch times change based on TESS's orbital target and the position of the moon, which the satellite will use to help maneuver into its final high-altitude science orbit.

they made it

I was glad to see the Toronto contingent made it out of the ice storm for Florida for the TESS launch.

Google Maps image of KSC and SpaceX Complex 40

Launching from Complex 40...

Sunday, April 15, 2018

learned how to align

I actually found this Cloudy Nights thread on a barn door tracker a long time ago but only now just read it thoroughly... The original poster "corduroy" followed Seronik's BDT design but had some questions, one of which was on aligning the polar scope. User "evan9162" replied. Wow. The procedure described, using Live View on the camera, is amazing, simple, easy to do. It ensures co-axial alignment of the 'scope and the hinge. And, curiously, allows the finder scope to be anywhere on the tracker! I could move it back to the bottom plate if I want...

2¼ years

Wood finishing aside, finder cross-hair repair aside, the integrated altitude-azimuth base for the barn door tracker is done. From first thoughts to today, 2 years, 2 months, and 5 days. A long journey surprisingly but satisfying. I'm excited to try it. Overall I'm very pleased with the build. And it accomplishes something that I wanted, that it is a complete DIY solution, drive train, electronics, barn door wedge, and now alt-az base made of the same materials and accessible hardware, constructed with tools available at home.

tapped a bracket

w00t! I suddenly realised I could complete the azimuth adjuster of the barn door tracker. While looking at web pages for ideas on how to fasten a metal nut to a metal plate and discovering threaded rivets and wondering if I had a J-nut that might fit, it registered: I could make a threaded hole in one of the brass L-brackets, employing my rarely-used tap-and-die set. Right! Decided to tap the outer bracket and lock the bolt in the inner. Grabbed a fresh bracket from the 4-pack, drilled a 13/64" hole, lubricated with lighter fluid, tapped with the ¼-20 tapered tool, and then bolted everything up. And, amazingly, it is fully functional.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

missed Mars event

I missed it! There was a recent interesting Mars milestone.

I was checking the S&T Mars Profiler and noticed that the Earth-Mars distance was 0.98 astronomical units. I missed the 1.0 AU boundary.

catching up to Mars

Must have happened a short time ago.

hacked a cap

Found a container that will work as a cap for the finder scope. Rhonda had the ends of a supply of bath salts in a small diameter clear tube. It will work well I think.

snapped a hair

Discovered that one of the cross-hairs broke or snapped in the finder scope. Oops. Probably happened when I knocked it over, the first time. Or maybe the second time... Uh boy. Gotta fix it again! Asked Rhonda if she could donate to the cause once again.

worked on the BDT alt-az base

More work on the barn door tracker alt-az base.

Drilled new holes for the motor, which sits to the outboard side now.

BDT with new altitude adjuster

Notched the bottom plate of the alt-az plates to improve clearance issues. I see there's the possibility of the curved rod touching.

Countersunk the new tripod T-nut in the alt-az bottom plate. Went down about 1 or 2 mm into the wood.

BDT with new azimuth adjuster

Drilled a new hole in the outer L-bracket for the azimuth adjustment screw. This aligns with the existing hole on the inner bracket. Decided to mount the screw handle on the "outer" side as I imaged it will get crowded around the tripod head.

Trimmed the cut or drilled pieces of the bottom tile to remove rough spots.

All but done. I need either metal-to-metal glue or to tack-weld the nut to the inner L-bracket. I think it should go on the inside face...


I found the finder scope bracket was mounted backwards. I think. Flipped it around.

Friday, April 13, 2018

made M47 colour image

Processed Messier 47 in colour using the LRGB data from 20 Dec '16. Most of the stars are blue-white.

open cluster Messier 47 in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop.


Looks green to me...

built alt-az base

Worked on the barn door tracker, taking steps to add the altitude-azimuth base, now that I have figured out how to make it work...

It's elegant, I think, the pivot away from the hinges and the azimuth adjuster completely out of the way.

Attached the hinges to the bottom (large rectangular) plate of the BDT proper. Removed the motor. It will need to move outboard...

I'm running out of ½" number 6 brass screws... Cut down some longer screws.

altitude plate and eyebolt added to tracker

Attached the top plate of the alt-az to the hinges. After a couple of attempts, installed the altitude adjuster using an eye bolt, t-nut, and mending plate. Had to ensure clearance between the finder scope and the triangular moving plate of the BDT. Locked two nuts on the eye bolt just so it can't go astray. It works great!

azimuth plates pivoting on large bolt

After clamping the alt-az plates together, I bore a 3/8" hole for the pivot bolt. Installed the bolt with washers and locked the two nuts together. It too works great! Smoother than I anticipated.

Determined where to place the azimuth adjuster parts. At first I thought I had a new problem with interference with the hinges; when I realised I could put the L-bracket in a different orientation and between the sliding plates, I knew I could move forward. Notched the bottom tile plate for the L-bracket.

Tore the base apart and glued the slippery tile pieces to the respective boards with Home-bond Solvent Contact Cement. Left it to cure under several mount counterweights...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

reworked the alt-az plates

Whoa. Figured it out. Finally, I found a way to effectively mount the bottom altitude-azimuth plates for the barn door tracker. It's only taken me 9 months!

sketch of alt-az plates, flipped

In a moment of inspiration, I realised by turning the whole assembly upside-down, I could get the azimuth pivot point away from the hinges, and the azimuth adjuster would be away from the plate above.

A fringe benefit is there is now greater clearance for the altitude adjuster.

just a couple more

The capture of NGC 4517 even though not in ideal conditions checks off another box. One more RASC Finest NGC photographed. Nearly done.

received some NGC 4517 data (Halifax)

Wasn't expecting anything as the Clear Sky Chart for Halifax did not look good... No email alert from CSAC. But BGO was up and running I guess and tried to shoot NGC 4517 at 12:28 AM EDT. A message however was generated at 1:02. "Your special observation... was not fully completed!" Uh huh. Only luminance and red data was collected.

RASC Finest galaxy NGC 4517 in luminance

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

This needle galaxy in the constellation Virgo is a RASC Finest NGCs. It is referred to as NGC 4437 in some catalogues. Other designations: PGC 41618 and UGC 7694 and MCG 0-32-20. For BGO to work, I had to use the 4517 moniker; in SkyTools 3 Pro, I used 4437.

The edge-on spiral galaxy appears dappled with dark material. Despite the low image quality, it is very interesting. The right edge, west, appears stretched or elongated. Reminds me a bit of The Whale.

North-north-west of the big galaxy, in an empty dark space, is a very faint round smudge: LEDA 1161319.

Very close to a star in a diamond pattern is a round fuzzy, slightly brighter: LEDA 1161987.

To the south-west, there are many small, distant galaxies. Close to 4517 is a small bright almond: LEDA 1156277.

Beyond is a very small but bright round fuzz ball: LEDA 1155353.

South is a larger brighter oval: PGC 41566.

LEDA 1154647 lies to the south-east. It is a curious shape, like a wedge. It might be among 3 or 4 other tiny, faint galaxies!

Further away is LEDA 1153315, a tiny seed-like shape.

LEDA 1156614 is east of the trapezoid of stars south-east of the big spiral. Perfectly round and small.

I also spotted the very tiny faint smudge east of NGC 4517: LEDA 1157892.



Wikipedia link: NGC 4517.

the only way

Stumbled across John McCue's short article (with very nice sketch) for the BAA's Journal entitled "Observing Double Stars." His opening remark is intriguing:
Observing the time it takes for two stars to orbit each other in a binary system is still the only direct way to measure the mass of a star - knowledge that is central to the study [of stars].
He uses a stopwatch and calibrated eyepiece to measure doubles. He notes that one can use Aladin with their own photos and it will calculate the separation and position angle.

easy to do

Found Jason Nishyama's article entitled "Measuring Double Stars" at the Calgary RASC website. He walks through the whole process for people using either an alt-az or equatorial mount. He also discussed how to compute separation and position angle from photographs. There's a bit of math but he presents the topic clearly.

[Edited to corrected typographical errors.]

all this beauty

A Google search lead me directly to a PDF article on the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association web site called "Observing Double Stars." The overall tone of this piece is like how I presented things in my recent RASC TC double star presentation. The author (not identified) begins:
Some of the most beautiful and intriguing objects in the night sky are not enshrouded in nebulosity, shaped like rings or dumbbells or eagles, or crossed by mysterious lanes of dark, cosmic dust.
While I like faint fuzzies, doubles offer glittering gems with real colours.
Tracking down and observing double stars can be like going on a nocturnal treasure hunt.
Well put, if I may say so.

Then, later, the author laments.
With all this beauty and interest going for them, you would think double star observing is one of the most popular aspects of amateur astronomy.  And yet, although this facet of amateur astronomy has a respectable number of participants, it does not currently enjoy as much popularity as it has in years past.
This, while sad, is affirming. I'm not the only one who feels this way. Why are double stars not popular today?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

clear from the curb (Bradford)

Quite clear out as I carried compost to the curb. Many stars. The Big Dipper was straight up and upside-down. After closing the frost-covered lid, I tried south, and spotted bright Mars, glowing pale orange. We have a rendezvous...

upgraded deep red

Upgraded my deep red flashlight. Now it operates 4 LEDs as opposed to the 2 of the original build. Had the angle DIP socket ready to go with 2 vacant spots. I don't know why but I didn't future-proof the circuit board when I made it so I had to do a wee bit of soldering... Anyhoo. Quick fix.

deep red flashlight now with 4 emitters

Happy to have more 660nm emitters now when I need a bit more light... Easy expansion was designed in from day 1.

confirmed TESS time

Confirmed the planned launch of TESS is 6:32 PM Eastern Daylight on Monday 16 April.

TESS at the Cape

Spotted the item posted by Charles on Facebook. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in the fairing it ready to be mounted.

SpaceX TESS fairing at NASA

Gettin' real.

battery options

Given the difficulty we have had at finding a replacement 33Ah battery for the Sealake FM12330, I've been starting to think about options or alternatives...

original battery configuration with positive on right

The perfect solution. An OEM battery that matches what I found inside the MotoMaster Nautilus power tank would be ideal. The correct dimensions, close to the amp-hours, and the nut-bolt terminals in the correct configuration. Interesting, the stock sealed lead acid battery is lying on its back.

alternate configuration with positive on left

Option 1. Actually, this is Wayne's solution, as he bought a similar (slightly larger) battery that had the terminals reversed. He needed heavy gauge interconnect wires to reach the terminals.

alternate configuration with upright short battery

Option 2. I have looked a little for a battery that is short but deep, in an upright configuration, the same overall form factor as stock battery when on its back.

alternate configuration with two smaller batteries

Option 3. And lately, I've been thinking we are barking up the tree. Maybe we should rethink the solution. Would it be easier to find two smaller batteries and interconnect them in parallel?

In a parallel arrangement, the same battery terminals would be connected. Positive to positive and negative to negative. When done, we can add the amperage and average the volts. So two 18Ah 12 volt SLAs in parallel would put out 36 ampere-hours.

Again, this option needs heavy gauge wire to interconnect the batteries. And there needs to be clearances inside the casing and mounting to support this.


A problem with the dual battery option is that 1 + 1 ≠ 2. The case for individual small batteries looks to be around 3 inches, maybe just under. But combined, it exceeds the depth limit of 5¼". Each separate battery should not be deeper than 2-5/8"...

chatted on apps

Murray P, a RASC west member, and I chatted today as he prepares an article for Jul/Aug SkyNews magazine. He wanted to know my thoughts on the recently reviewed Mars app. I assumed he was asking about the Android option. Told him I had not heard back from the developer despite many attempts. Echoed my findings: the Android app is missing a number of features.

imaged galaxy NGC 4214 again (Halifax)

I tried imaging NGC 4214 with the BGO before in July 2017 but the results were not great. The robot captured more data again. This time when the galaxy was nearly straight up.

galaxy NGC 4214 in luminance

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

Much better.

It also looks like there's a boat load of little distant galaxies in this image...


Looks like a cosmic ray hit north-west of the galaxy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

processed HR 8025 in colour

Processed HR 8025 aka β1137 in colour using the LRGB data from 12 Sep '16. I like how the colour image makes it easier to see the dull orange B star beside the aqua-white primary.

double star HR 8025 in colour

FITS Liberator 3, Photoshop CS2.


Opened an envelope today that I thought, at first, was from MTO, perhaps with information about my driver or auto licence. No. It was from Citizenship and Immigration... Holy Universe!

2018 Ontario Volunteer Service Awards invitation

I am honoured to be considered a recipient of Ontario Volunteer Service Award. I thank the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada - Toronto Centre for allowing me an opportunity to lend my skills and knowledge to the organisation so to ultimately help its members.

checked locations

Asked BGO to look up two objects...

object found position
NGC 4517 RA=12:32:47.5 DEC=+00d06'55"
NGC 4437 RA=12:26:47.5 DEC=+09d34'57"

So there ya go.

RASC says 4517 is at RA 12 32.8 and Dec +0 07. OK.

Should have requested 4517...

only one left

The capture of NGC 6445 means that I have seen 109 of the 110 RASC Finest NGCs. Holy Universe. One to go!

captured NGC 6445 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged NGC 6445 for me. It is one of the RASC Finest NGCs. Another planetary nebula. This time in Sagittarius.

RASC Finest planetary nebula NGC 6445 in luminance

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

A fascinating shape, more rectangular than round. Flying squirrel?! Curiously, the RASC Observer's Handbook describes the object as "annular;" no, it's not a ring, nothing like the Little Ghost. In a rich field, salted with fine faint stars. I don't see a star in the centre; there's a bright point though at the south-west corner...

This is another NGC I initially thought too low for the BGO. Glad I got it. This is a RASC Finest NGC that I have never viewed.

Forgot, again, to gather data in hydrogen alpha and ionised oxygen.

Left or east of the pecular planetary is a bright double star HD 162010 aka HJ 2810. The A star is very bright; B is dimmer by a magnitude or two, well away, almost due south.

snapped the Little Ghost (Halifax)

The BGO robot photographed the Little Ghost Nebula also known as NGC 6369. A planetary in the constellation of Ophiuchus and one of the RASC Finest NGCs. It's also a Herschel 400 target. Very nice.

a RASC Finest - planetary nebula NGC 6369 in luminance

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

Originally, this is a target that I thought was too low for the Burke-Gaffney system. Alas when I learned that the default minimum altitude was not the lowest possible, I happily added this NGC object to the queue. It can reach a maximum altitude of 21°.

A lovely little donut. In a rich field of fine stars. The ring is brighter along the north edge. The central star is easily spotted. Slightly off centre. I believe I see hints of a shell beyond the main ring, particular to the top-left (north-east) and bottom-right sides. I first viewed this tiny target in August 2011.

Forgot to get HA and O-III data...


Wikipedia link: Little Ghost Nebula.

went for NGC 4437... (Halifax)

I sent BGO to NGC 4437 but was confused by what I received. I was expecting an edge-on galaxy in Virgo oriented east-west. The photograph did not match the graphical display in SkyTools. Also, I thought it was one of the RASC Finest NGCs...

not NGC 4437 but some other galaxy (or two)

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

I wondered if it was NGC 4517. No...

Fired up, logged in, and loaded the FITS. It identified the galaxy quickly: NGC 4417 (with NGC 4424 to the south). Oh my. This suggests there's an error in the BGO catalogue. Also neither NGC 4437 nor 4417 RASC Finest entries. I'm more confused than ever.

Still, it is an interesting photo. Two in the view!

Virgo galaxy NGC 4417 aka PGC 40756 appears to be a lenticular with no discernible structure in the canted disc. The core is very bright.

South-west of 4417 is a very low contrast but soft smudge. It is more apparent while panning. It is north-east of and near the star GSC 874-423. This is PGC 40722.

There is a very small oval to the south-east of 4417. This is LEDA 213990.

Near the bottom-left of the image is the very large distorted galaxy NGC 4424 aka PGC 40809. also identified it as IC 3366. The outer limits of the galaxy appear fan shaped. There are hints of structure near the muted core.

North-east of 4417 and well away is a round star-like object. This is PGC 40815. It almost looks like a globular cluster.

Up and left from this is a much dimmer fuzzy: LEDA 1369041.


OK. The confusion around NGC 4437 is due to an old catalogue error. Many consider that 4437 refers to NGC 4517 aka PGC 41618 and UGC 7694. SkyTools 3 Pro uses 4437. But BGO goes to 4417. Huh. I'll have to reshoot with BGO and try the designation 4517 instead...

I want 4517 as this is the entry in the handbook.

Monday, April 09, 2018

stump an astronaut

Watched a funny video wherein NASA astronauts answered the top 50 questions entered into Google. And they got most of them right!

astronauts answer 50 questions

The video is embedded in a Wired magazine post.

The victims: Chris Hadfield, Jerry Linenger, Nicole Stott, Leland Melvin, Mae Jemison, Jeff Hoffman, and Mike Massimino.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

spotted a cap

Ha! Spotted a cap or polar scope and illumination dust cover for a Vixen Super Polaris on MakerBot Thingiverse. Two designs actually. One for the mount proper, like what I did; and one for when you leave the red illuminator installed in the mount. How about that. Unfortunately, I didn't see an end cap for the ocular of the polar scope proper.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Peter peeked

Peter R peeked inside his Nautilus power tank to find the same, a Sealake FM12330 SLA battery. He said his unit has a manufactured date of 07/2017. It is curious to me that the new units use this difficult-to-find lead acid power source.

Friday, April 06, 2018

hold the phone

Deeper still! Dove into the other WDS references related to ES 2603...

There was a listing of stars from E. Interesting. Could E actually be considered the prime in this system? Correlates very well with the photograph.

Looked at the STF 484 reference, i.e. the Σ 485 G star. Correlates well with the photograph.

Checked the HZG 2 reference. This seems to be the STF 485 N star in SkyTools but that doesn't look right. Based on the J2000 coordinates, I think it is STF 485 I. The WDS says the "K" star here is mag 15.3. Oh. Not seeing that. But if this is all correct, then I can see the J and R stars in the photo. Wow.

And finally, I examined the HLM 3 data. What SkyTools says are the K, L, and D/O stars. Correlates well with the photograph. The "primary" is this situation WDS says is mag 10.4 while the companion M, to the south-west, is mag 11.4. O is the brighter mag 9.4 star to the east. Once again, this data set adds another star to the mix, P! It is the fainter star to the east-south-east, closer to O than L.

Created an aggregate plot for the other stars.

more stars of ES 2603 plotted

So now I have a couple more...

J is the very faint mag 13.3 star north of I.

The SkyTools K star is a mystery but now there's dim M south-west of L. I'll take it.

P is south-west of O. Dimmer.

R is the very faint star south-south-east of GH.

multi-star ES 2603 with new stars annotated

The new annotated image includes the additional stars.

reviewed ES 2603

Did a deeper dive into ES 2603 extracting the current values from the Washington Double Star database.

pair PA sep
AB 256 6.1
AC 359 11.1
AD 131 16.1
AE 306 18
AF 320 36.2
AG 261 60.3
AH 256 57
AI 279 69.6
AL 71 98.3
AN 206 116.1
AO 78 138.9
AQ 325 45.6
AS 262 20.3
AT 196 27.5
AU 213 35.3

Oh. More stars. Not entirely surprised by that.

But no K; that's weird. There clearly is a pair at the L location. (At least, it is not listed with HS 2603.]

Or J. But that might be correct in that I don't see anything at the J location in SkyTools 3 Pro.

members of multi-star system ES 2603 plotted

Generated a plot of the positions and separations with my latest generation spreadsheet.

The positions of B, C, E, F, H, I, L, N, and O look pretty good.

D is markedly different. WDS says this is close to A, to the south-east, at mag 14.1 as opposed to what SkyTools shows, with D near O. This faint star is visible in the image!

ST3P did not list a G star; WDS shows it near H. Ah ha, the tight pair in the photo. G is brighter at 9.6 and slightly further from A at 60.3" while H is mag 10.5 and 57.0". G is at an angle of 261 vs. 256 putting it north of H. This all checks out.

The WDS includes Q. It says this is north of F at mag 13.2. F is 11.7. This checks out too.

The S star is purportedly a mag 14.1 star beyond B. I think I have captured this in my image! Just barely visible.

The T and U elements from the WDS I do not see in the BGO photo. They are south-south-west of A. The USNO database says they are magnitude 15 stars. Ah. That's why.

While checking the double star database, I looked up the magnitude value for B. Oh, it's listed at 12.9. There you go. Rather dim. Which matches what I am seeing in the photo.

BGO image of ES 2603 annotated

So, I think I have tagged all of the stars from the WDS save the extremely dim ones...

There is more data offered in the WDS but I did not review or cross-check these.

Ea 291 0.1
EB 146 14.2
EC 86 14.7
EF 334 18.6
EG 246 49
EH 240 47.1
EI 271 54


sent my notes

Sent Peter R my teardown notes. He's offered to open up his Nautilus power pack.

make your own power tank

Shared my notes with RASC TC members on building a solution for power astronomy equipment. I suggested my solution is cheaper in the long run. Provided links to my past posts and to my 2012 presentation.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

imaged NGC 1502 (Halifax)

BGO captured open cluster NGC 1502. This cluster in the constellation Camelopardalis also harbours the multi-star system HR 1260 aka ES 2603 and STF 485. The NGC proper is one of the Herschel 400 targets. Rhonda and I had viewed this with my C8 on 17 Mar but I never really had a chance to dive deep.

multi-star system HR 1260 in luminance

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

The two obvious bright stars at the centre of this grouping I believe are A and E. SkyTools 3 Pro says A is magnitude 6.9 as it E. A is to the left or south-east; E is north-west.

ST3P shows the B stars to the right of A and mag 7.1 with a separation of 6.5" but I don't see this. This is an extremely faint star in the image. Could that be it?

The C comrade appears to be north of A and east of E. It is much dimmer than A and E. ST3P says mag 10.4.

D is an associate far away. It is to the east of centre in a grouping of four stars, something of a squished rectangle. D is brighter than C. ST3P says 9.4.

SkyTools shows F (at mag 11.2) as a solitary star north-north-west of E but I see two stars in the image. Perhaps it is the dimmer upper (northern) star?

The software does not show a G element.

ST3P shows the H attendant (mag 9.6) to the west of A-B; again I see two stars here. Perhaps it is the brighter of the tight two, the one on the north. The H star is also noted as STF 484 along with I...

The I accomplice is west of E and north of H. It seems in the image to be the same brightness as H but ST3P says it is mag 9.8.

Friend J? I don't know where it is. SkyTools says the mag 9.3 star close to and north-west of C but there's nothing there in the image. But F has a consort that does not show in the app. Has J moved toward F? Or is the software showing J is the wrong spot?

K is back to the east, near D. The mag 9.1 star is due west of D, close to another star.

In fact, the star very close to K is L. The mag 11.4 star is south-west of K. K and L are noted as HLM 3.

SkyTools does not refer to a M companion.

Partner N is well away to the south-south-west from centre. The mag 9.6 star is almost due south of H. Also known as HRZ 2.

SkyTools says O is a mag 9.4 star very close to D, less than 1 arc-second to the south. I don't see this. If it is real, it would be too tight for the BGO system.

Fun. Tagged most of the elements...

The very wide, bright pair to the far right or west in the image is HD 25498 aka CTT 7.


Wikipedia link: NGC 1502.

aimed at 33 Ori (Halifax)

I was a little surprised when the Burke-Gaffney Observatory informed me it had shot an image as I did not think the conditions were good. Regardless, BGO imaged 33 Orionis, a multi-star system, aka Struve 729. I was trying to tag the C companion.

multi-star system 33 Ori in luminance

Luminance only, 1 second subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left. Centred on GSC 00118-2404.

Wow. The C star is barely visible to the north-east of the AB pair, forming a zig-zag with some magnitude 14.8 and 15.0 stars. The other stars are north of C. C is slightly brighter than these.

SkyTools 3 Pro reports C is mag 14.7 while hovering in the Interactive Atlas. The Object Information box says 13.4. The Washington Double Star database says 13.9. I believe 14.7 is the appropriate value.

Not a great image... A tracking problem? Or wind? Or exacerbated collimation issues? The target is extremely low. ST3P says it was 19° above the horizon at the time.

updated project table

Updated the double star project spreadsheet. It's been a while. Totally forgot to add things from the October 2016 session! With the additions from March 2018, we have over 200 logged items. Nice.

brief burn

Virgin completed a successful test after firing up the Unity rocket motor for a brief "partial duration burn." Noted the tweet upon the touchdown.

They shared some video: uncouple, engine firing, engine shutdown, coasting, and touchdown.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

old stars

Rhonda and I, before she fell asleep, talked about far away things. She asked if I had seen the news about the oldest star. I shared I had glanced at the headlines but not looked in detail. She said it had been nicknamed Icarus. I said I wasn't surprised by these types of discoveries. Our processing of data from space telescopes continued to improve so we were reaching further back all the time. Things that distant were often measured by their redshift values. I told rho how Ian W and I had enjoyed viewing quasars with very high redshifts and light-times on the order of 10 billion years. About 2/3rds of the age of the Universe. Before our solar system had formed. Didn't that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? I reminded her that she had seen some pretty distant (way back) things in space-time. The Andromeda was 2.5 million light-years away. Some of the Messier galaxies are really far back, to the time of the dinosaurs.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

submitted draft

Submitted my draft article of the next Journal Binary Universe column. A shout out to Rhonda for the quick turnaround!

saw her award

Kersti was awarded an Ontario Volunteer Service Award. She shared a photo on Facebook of the invitation by the Honourable Laura Albanese. She deserves it for all her volunteer assistance at the RASC Toronto Centre. Congratulations.


Charline noted that she too received an award.

Congrats to both!

learned of another source

Another member, "wlegrow," wondered if Torbram Electric Supply might have replacement lead acid batteries. He said they stock just about anything.

Monday, April 02, 2018

two more down

With the captures of NGCs 4526 and 4494, there are now only 6 Finest NGC objects I have not imaged with the BGO system. Again, there may be a couple out of reach, too low for the Halifax robot...

captured NGC 4494 (Halifax)

BGO also imaged NGC 4494. This is an elliptical galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices. Another one of the RASC Finest NGCs.

galaxy RASC Finest NGC 4494 luminance

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

A strange little oblong shape shows north of the big galaxy: IC 3449. It's a good distance away, near the top of the image frame. It is north-west of the star HD 109030.

I believe there's something due east of centre but it is not identified in SkyTools. Aladin says it is 2MASX J12314455+2547098, a galaxy.


Wikipedia link: NGC 4494.

imaged NGC 4526 (Halifax)

Whoa. Two nights in a row. The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot imaged NGC 4526 for me. A canted galaxy in Virgo. It is one of the RASC Finest NGCs. The dark lanes near the core are just barely visible, an arc along the north.

RASC Finest NGC 4526 galaxy in luminance

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

Ghostly MCG 1-32-97 is visible to the north-west on the top edge of the image, a long vertical smudge.

Tiny round LEDA 1332022 is just visible to the north-east.


Wikipedia link: NGC 4526.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

monitored the fall

Rhonda and I monitored the re-entry of Tiangong-1, the Chinese space station, using the Heavens Above and ESA satellite web sites. The eight-ton vessel went down over the Pacific ocean. No need to grab our Go bags... Or Go-Go bags.

the wow factor

I enjoy this astronomy video by Alex Gorosh. It captures many of the typical reactions when people look through a telescope for the first time.
A New View of the Moon from Alex Gorosh on Vimeo.

It is fun sharing the sky.

One of my favourite pieces of music...

others had trouble too

I put out the word on the RASC Toronto Centre forum a couple of days ago about our Nautilus battery replacement situation.

Eric P jumped in. He bought the Nautilus power pack about 8 years ago. He carefully charged it but the battery died after about 11 months of casual use. It is now collecting dust. He also shared that Arnold bought two of these and had trouble with both. Interestingly, Eric's Motomaster Eliminator is a couple of years older and works like brand new.

imaged SN 2017eaw (Halifax)

It's been over 2 months since I received an image off the supernova SN 2017 eaw within the Fireworks galaxy. The BGO gathered some data last night. The exploded star is almost invisible now.

Fireworks galaxy, supernova barely visible

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

It is dimmer than the nearby star J203443.9+601103 which is magnitude 17.6.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

more rings (Bradford)

Rhonda called me over. The big bright full Moon, high in the sky, had a colourful halo. There was a second large ring, fainter. Huh.

Friday, March 30, 2018

spotted rings and arcs (Bradford)

During our walk about the 'hood, between 5:30 and 6:20, Rhonda and I saw a number of parahelia phenomena. We saw the entire 22 degree halo along with very faint sundogs. I pointed near the zenith where there was a fairly bright prismatic circumzenithal arc. Later, the upper tangent arc brightened. I wasn't sure if we were seeing the 46 degree halo or an infralateral arc on the left. It was quite faint. Oh, and Redwing Blackbirds.


Nicole shared a good sundog shot on Facebook..

Thursday, March 29, 2018

reformatted the EtU

I assisted the RASC national observing committee with a freshening update for the Explore the Universe checklist document. Mr Chapman reached out to the team for some help. As a Word jockey, I tidied the formatting. Did away with the peculiar text boxes, applied paragraph styles, consistently formatted the tables (with a style again), generally uncluttered the document, and got rid of curly apostrophes!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

he needs to upgrade

I heard from Arnold. He was happy to report that he got the Starfinder telescope and Idea GoToStar mount working. He successfully aligned the telescope using the two-star process and slewed to a number of objects. However, he wants to update the old firmware and, without the cabling, wasn't sure how to proceed. Sounds like we'll have to get together. I've got the data cable, loader, and firmware file.

fluffy darkness

Saw headlines in the interwebs about a recent discovery: a galaxy without dark matter. Read the article at Sky & Telescope.

The galaxy NGC 1052-DF2, described as "fluffy," makes no sense to astronomers. It seems to be without dark matter or with very little dark matter. The surprisingly large galaxy appears internally sparse or diffuse and the globular clusters within are moving at rates slower than expected. It is unclear if the ultra-diffuse galaxy (UDG) had gas or dark matter that was stripped from it. The team is looking at other UDGs to see if they exhibit the same characteristics.

Dragonfly lenses

The primary instrument used in this analyses was the Dragonfly Telephoto Array from the Dunlap Institute headed up by Roberto Abraham. Cool!

Monday, March 26, 2018

bright things (Bradford)

While jostling cars, I saw brilliant Jupiter in the south-west. And a very intense orange point, west, high in the still-dark sky. Amazing colour. Couldn't be Mars for it was too far off the ecliptic. What was it?! [ed: Arcturus.] A very nice sky.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

a view of a fuzzy

While reading up on stellar magnitude, I noted the "image" of Messier 104 in the Night Sky Session 5 article at The Millstone. I thought the image provided by Pat Browne very appropriate—a very low contrast view with a few "bright" points (stars) and then this amorphous soft elongated dim tenuous thing in the centre. That is often very similar to what we see in the eyepiece when chasing down faint fuzzies... Exciting, hair-rising stuff for astronomers!

considered magnitudes

I've been thinking about magnitude. For a while but more so lately. The visual magnitude scale used with stars. How I interpret or use it. How perceptually different stars will appear at specific magnitudes. That the whole system is logarithmic. And I wondered if there were some tools to help with this...

More frequently, I have been estimating the magnitude differences of pairs of stars. But in the back of my mind I've been thinking that this is not scalar.

The observing sessions last week elevated things a bit more. Partly because I was trying to monitor VZ Cancri, a suggestion from the Turn Left at Orion book, wherein the author notes that the variable star "doubles in brightness" at maxima. When I looked up the details of the RR-type star in SkyTools, it showed the magnitude ranging from 7.18 to 7.91. On the face, that doesn't seem like much.

A quick search of the interwebs lead me to a long and interesting page. where I spotted a familiar diagram. The Star Magnitude infographic in the section Starlight Luminousity – How bright is your star looks like it is from All About Telescopes book. I link directly to the Millstone News site, their Night Sky News section, for the image:

stellar magnitude infographic

The little box is filled chockablock with useful information such as the brightest star, the limits for the eye and typical instruments, naked eye limits for city and country locales, and the math tip for determining the difference between stars. All good stuff. But the diagram proper, with the circles, does not immediately convey the incredible differences in brightness; the circles are progressively larger or smaller. It feels like an arithmetic series, not a geometric.

One of the big takeaways is the difference for each magnitude value: 2.5. Technically, it is the fifth root of 100. Hence the TLAO reference. Going from magnitude 7 (rounded) to 8 would be a 2½ change in brightness.

And now that I think on it, perhaps what I have been doing with double stars is not incorrect. That is, if I was comparing a mag 7 and 9 pair as opposed to a mag 2 and 4 pair, the differences are the same, approximately 2.52 or 6.3.

Some easy to remember numbers are that if there's a five magnitude difference between stars, they are different by 100 times in brightness. And if ten mags different, then the brightness varies by 10 000 times.

he hacked the Nautilus

Chatted with Wayne briefly via the Book of Face.

I wasn't able to find an exact replacement for the FM12330 battery used in the MotoMaster Nautilus 800 booster pack. He bought a similar sealed lead-acid batt from Total Battery in Barrie. Part number PK 12350, 35AH. The price around $100. He reported this battery is a ½" taller.

As the battery terminals were reversed, he bought some "jumpers" from Canadian Tire. The 15-inch Switch-to-Starter Battery Cable, 4 gauge, 100% copper conductor. P/n 011-0961-6. Around $7.

He said it's a tight fit but it works.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

she's up and running

Pictures or it didn't happen! Oh. OK. There's the CGEM mount under her Edge SCT.

Nicole's OTA and repaired mount

Hey, wait a second. I don't see Nicole anywhere...

hopefully helpful

Sent Andrew a little cheat sheet with shortcuts for OSC presenters. He liked it. He tried them out. He thinks it will be very helpful.

what, it's cold out?!

Returned Nicole's CGEM mount. Reviewed the changes made and the results of the most recent tests. Talked about next steps, if it exhibits the old problem. She's off to try it. In the cold!

Friday, March 23, 2018

not an option

I heard back from Battery Canada. They do not carry the Sealake FM12330 nor do they have a source for it. They offered an equivalent but I'm not sure it would work... Different terminal connectors, reversed positions. The form factor didn't look right. The shown CSB battery was 33Ah. The search continues...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

imaged HD 82394 (Halifax)

It's been about 3 weeks. BGO imaged double star HD 82394 aka Burnham 909. Near the head of Leo. First stumbled across this double on 9 May '16 while at the CAO at which time I could not split it (with the N11). Tried again a couple of nights ago in the backyard (with the C8).

double-star HD 82394 in luminance

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

I actually shot this differently than other images with 1 second luminance frames but 3 seconds for each colour channel. A 3:1 ratio...

Whoa. Tight. Challenging with the different magnitudes.

The WDS shows that BU 909 has (as of 2014) a position angle of 89 and a separation of 5.6. The stars are magnitudes 7.6 and 12.3. The fast exposure shows the faint companion to the left or east touching the bright primary.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

completed tests

Shutdown the CGEM mount down. All the tests performed were satisfactory. Will continue testing on targets near azimuth 300 and altitude 30...

noticed a pattern!

After watching the repair video from Dakota Starry Nights, I analysed the faults with Nicole's Celestron CGEM mount and I found a most curious pattern! In many instances where I personally saw the mount freeze up or lock up in RA, the OTA was on the east side of the meridian and the counterweights were on the west.

date time link object azimuth altitude
7 Oct '16 16:30 post Sun 236 22
8 Oct '16 23:59 post Dumbbell 279 24
9 Oct '16 02:59 post NGC 7814244 46
17 Mar '18 00:40 post ψ5 Aur 302 32
18 Mar '18 21:54 post 42 Ori 247 16

The 7 Oct time is estimated. There are some other incidents but I am not sure where the mount was pointing at the time...

Now I'm aiming into this area to see if the problem re-emerges.


Well! That was pretty amazing. Four nights in a row of astronomy. All from the comfort of the backyard—although it was below seasonal temperatures. The sky conditions were surprising, good at best, often fair or poor. The transparency was completely off sadly and that nixed deep sky objects. But I got a boat-load of double stars. Yeh! The observing list grew to 192 targets; I observed 97 things.

night 4 in the tent (Bradford)

Around 7:20 PM, Monday. There was sunlight still hitting the tops of the trees. I was ready for an early start. Wanted to knock down some of the targets in my observing list that were deeper in the west after sunset.

I had brought out hard candies.

7:27 PM. Inspected the saddle and my hacked plates. The Celestron 8-inch was secure in the CGEM saddle. No movement whatever. Good stuff.

Fired up the ASUS Eec PC portable computer. Mouse trouble. Didn't work when I plugged in the USB receiver; the touchpad responded when disconnected. Repowered the mouse and then it started working fine. Launched SkyTools 3 Pro. Noticed that when I landed in Real Time mode it showed Imaging mode. I thought it ordinarily switched to the last-used mode. Oh well.

Booted the mount. Set the time. All's well. Used Sirius to start. Found the bright star in the blue sky. Synced the software and the mount. Slewed to Rigel.

7:47. Synced on β (beta) Orionis. Saw Rigel B. Checked ST3P: 0.1 vs magnitude 10.4. Just over 9 seconds of arc away. Moved to next target.

7:51. Viewed 33 Ori. aka STF 729. Two extremely close stars. White. Maybe yellow. Not equal. A magnitude or two different. Saw another bright star, much further away. Same brightness as B. It was at roughly a 90° angle to A and B. Not related. Wow. I just picked off A and B at a 1.9" separation. A was magnitude 5.5 and B 6.8. ST3P said C was very far. The US Naval Office has C listed at magnitude 14.7. Oh. That's why it was not showing in the software Context Viewer display. On Haas's research project, in the RASC handbook (regular list), the Cambridge showpieces. On my View Again. Subsequent viewing would require a big gun...

Computer crashed. Schlanger. Not the mouse; it had totally frozen. I suspected it was static electricity again. Made a note to touch the table as I sat down. Pondered ways to avoid ESD in the future: A wire to a ground plug? A wire to a water pipe? A wire stuck in the ground nearby?! Where was I...

I had notice a wide double to the south-south-east (HD 36429). And another pair, tighter, to the west (HD 36133). Headed back to the ocular.

Checked HD 36133. A triple actually. Yellow and orange stars. A and B were wide. ST3P said the separation was 25. Oh my. The B and C were extremely close—not doable.

Examined HD 36429. Very wide. Easy. About a magnitude different. The software concurred. Yellow and orange. Bright one on the bottom or south.

Chose κ (kappa) Lep from the candidate list, to evaluate. ST3P said they were pretty close and unequal. I could not see B. On lots of other lists but maybe too tough for mine. Part of an interesting hook-shape of stars. "No way." I marked it to re-observe. Might be better in January. Removed the high priority.

Decided to find something in the area... Slewed briefly. ι (iota) Leporis aka STF 655. Heh. Interesting field! White star with a very faint reddish companion. A tiny little dot! To the north. A good distance apart; no problem separating. A very cool double. To the west was a neat warm, deep orange star. That turned out to be RX Lep! There was a somewhat bright star to the north, forming an L-shape with RX and iota. The double was not in any observing lists! A great discovery. I will add it to my candidate list. It would be a challenge in a very small 'scope but rewarding. The RX was not in any red list... Wow. No new data on that pair...

Slewed to 55 Eridani nearby. On my View Again and candidate lists. Nice! Easily split. Initially looked identical but slightly different brightnesses. Yellow. A F-class star. Easy. Great.

Went to Keid or ο (omicron) 2 Eri or Struve 518. From my candidate list.


8:26. Very wide. The A star was orange or intense yellow. I couldn't get a colour for B. Blue or red? ST3P said B was wide, 80". The app said C was an easy separation and mag. It also showed the B and fourth star were well apart. The fourth element shows as lowercase a. Mag 12. Should be easy.

It was falling into the trees. Noted the Scorpius-like grouping to the right or north. I'd need to look again, earlier in the year. B was to the east; for me, below the bright primary. Checked the Interactive Atlas to try to identify all the consorts. Really interesting. The 1-2-3 Scorpius stars were at my 3 o'clock. I saw the B star at 7—very different than the software. SkyTools showed B at 5 o'clock!

Reviewed targets on the same side of the meridian...

Went to W Ori, another red star, that I had selected for Rhonda. C class! Good colour but all by itself. Moving on...

The wind picked up.

Bulls-eyed HR 1669 aka STF 644. Yellow stars. Extremely tight, just touching. Needed to wait for brief, good seeing. Nearby red star below (C) or south. Dim. Wide, well away. A triple! A and B were right on top of one another. ST3P said 1.6" apart. Wow. Great! A was magnitude 6.0 and B was 6.9. C was mag 9.4. A great triple in Auriga. Would be an awesome choice for my candidate programme...

Flattened or squished rectangle to my right or the east. The rectangle, or parallelogram, with HD 33364 had a double in it. The west-most stars, closest to HR 1669, were an extremely wide double. aka HR 33308 or BLL 13.

Lots of doubles in the area. Busy field. Milky Way in the background.

Panned left or west over to NGC 1778 aka Collinder 58. A small open cluster. Very dim stars. Relatively compact. Below a loose grouping of stars to the north. I thought it might have 50 to 100 stars. Looked like it harboured a number of doubles. ST3P showed a few... For another day though... The whole area will be fun to return to!

8:52. Shouted at my erratic optical mouse.

HD 17359 in Perseus... (?) Extraordinarily faint. Looked like a triple... The computer view looked different. I was in the trees, decided it too low. Moved to 14 Ori.

It looked like a single while located in an interesting pattern. Near a cup-shape. The software showed another double nearby, to the south. But 14 Orionis proper, a binary with a 200 year period, was very tight at 1 arc-second. Uh huh. I didn't want to change eyepieces... Probably high power would be useful. No split. For another day.

From my View Again list, I selected HD 49317 in Canis Major. A double in the open cluster Messier 41. Which was at my 4 o'clock (west). Orange (8.2) and really faint (10.5) white stars. Tight at 4.4". B is toward the really bright star in the field, 12 CMa. A bit clockwise of that. Roughly a PA of 185°. The software said the PA was 190. Removed the priority flag; marked as observed.

After 9 PM. My left hand was cold. Something to do with mousing? Switched to my right hand.

Slewed to a Monoceros target, HD 262066. Near the cluster NGC 2264 with the bright star. My target was the triangle to the east of the cluster core, a quad-star system. The PA of AB was running between C and D.

Whiskey tango foxtrot! Bad computer crash!

9:16. Hard booted John Repeat Dance.

OK. The separation of Struve 3118 was 3.3". The stars were essentially the same mag, around 10. The A star was canted slightly toward the D star of the triangle; B was the outside star.

Headed to my next objective: HR 2879 or Σ1108. Pair in Gemini. Orange and blue, possibly. Easy split. From the Coldfield beautiful doubles list. Nice.

Cold. I needed to warm up.

10:50. Slewed to Propus in Gem. Noted a funny little shape. Tight? Another pair in the field. Close pair toward the... returned to the ocular. The software showed they were equally bright. The Object Information showed they were very different magnitudes. I could not split them. Not a good one for my candidate list. Not a terribly interesting field.

Off to HD 58246 or STF 1083. Once again, from the Coldfield list. Faint pair in The Twins. Nearly equal. White and orange. Nearly empty field. ST3P said the primary was an A5 class furnace.

Forgot to sync, again.

Traveled to TU Geminorum. Saw a faint red star. No marker in the software for the companion. Ugh. The companion was 0.4" away. Yikes. Colourful. And the field was unique. In a triangle pattern or a big flying-V. To the south, a pair with Tycho 1881-199 1. And some stars to the east, HD 252966. Could not split it.

Synced before going to HR 3395... Nice pair. Yellow and white star. In the middle of a triangle. Cool. Flanked by stars to the west and east. And a star to the south. How about that. Hold it, it's a 5-star system! C was to the east, was dimmer than E. C looked red. E was mag 9.5. To the south. It looked blue. B was roughly north. ST3P did not show, with the Moon lighting, the star to the west. I tagged the D star! The dimmest of all. The OI said 12; the chart said 13.3. Opposite C. A great system! On the Hydra-Cancer border. Also known as Struve 1245. There was a band or stream of stars on the east side running due north-south. Very attractive view.

Went to Tegmen. Easily split. Checked my notes. Hadn't seen anything new.

Noted a quad nearby that I had not logged: HR 3228 or BU 1243. A little bent stick. The bright one was below or to the south-east. No colour per se on the upper star. I could not split the A and B stars... ST3P showed B was close and faint. The dim visible star, at the apex, was the C. Blue. The further star was D.

It felt rather cold. Grabbed the electric hand warmers and stuffed them in my gloves.

Slewed to VZ Cnc again. Tried to shift to get 36 (at mag 5.9) or 37 (6.5), for comparison, in the field. I was a bit disoriented so I synced to a known object. Figured out the view. The star in question looked dim. More so that earlier. Who knows... Quite a lot dimmer than 36 and 37. Compared to HD 73488 (north-west)—a little bit brighter than that star (8.2).

Considered a Hydra target: HD 81029. A suggestion from the Coldfield doubles list. White and blue. Nice, wide pair, STF 1347. 21", 7.3, 8.3. A very faint string or stream of stars to the south-west (below). Relatively empty field.

Ignored U Hyr, close to Crater, as it was in the other hemisphere.

Went to Alphard! Never viewed. Really easy. The B star was well away and dim. A and B together began a flattened W shape heading to the east.

Noticed a Number 7 shape to the north-east.

Orange A; very dim B.

11:35. Considered 27 Hya, not far away. I saw a really wide pair up and down. The software showed it was a triple with tight B and C stars. Had another look. I could not split the B and C. ST3P said they were over 9 arc-seconds apart. That should be easy. But C showed as mag 11. Might be a good one for the candidates... Works at very low power.

Considered Pyxis! Low! Added HR 3430 to the list.

Not quite sure what I was seeing. Checked SkyTools. I saw the A and C stars, for sure. The A and B are ½ a second of arc apart. Fast mover. Already on my list. C looked really faint to me. When I hovered in the Context Viewer, it said C was mag 11.2, but I thought it dimmer. It was in a triangle with other stars.

Spotted another pair. Very faint. Orange and blue. To the north-west. [ed: Should check this. There's a single star HD 73543 near a double SAO 176206 or ARA 1746. Did I actually see the pair? Or the HD star (mag 8.9) with one of the double elements.] ST3P said ARA was mag 10.0 and 12.3. I thought the pair was in-line with the HR 3430 system...

Saw something south of ARA 1746 that looked like a double but ST3P did not say it was so.

Fun. Had another look.

Lights went out in the house. Heard an incoming train. Geese on the move.

Slewed to my next time but it was in the trees...Next?

The USB powered hand warmers were still working thankfully.

I continued to look for triples.

It was midnight. Tried γ (gamma) Sextantis, from my fast-mover list. I could not see the A and B stars. ST3P said the AB split was 0.5". C was further away but much dimmer. I didn't see anything. Nothing obvious.

Noticed Lynx was visible. Slewed to 12 so to enjoy the view. Very near the NCP. Got all them. D to the west. Tight B and C. Unrelated star to the east. Good to see again.

Spotted HD 47977 to the west of 12 Lyncis. Tight. Unequal. STF 946. Mag 7.1 and 9.2. Yellow and orange. The PA was 130. Roughly the same direction as 12 Lyn A and C.

Done. Started the shutdown. Disconnected SkyTools and parked the mount. Closed the observing section of the tent. Disconnected the cables from the computer.

12:18 AM, Tuesday. Exited from the tent. Closed the fly. Headed inside.

12:30 AM. Ready for bed.

Interesting evening. Lots of computer woes. The CGEM mount worked great though. Lots more double stars.

Wow. A great run... Over 100 objects viewed. But the vacation was over.

Monday, March 19, 2018

good to go

Loaded up the Good To Stargaze web page. Whoa!

the GTS weather prediction page

I haven't seen this display with so much green.

Monday still good

Wow. The CSC showed good conditions for Monday night.

local Clear Sky Chart for Monday

Four nights in a row...

swapped the motors

Opened Nicole's Celestron CGEM mount with the intention of swapping the motors proper.

inside of Celestron CGEM mount

Removed the motor assemblies. Looks weird with nothing inside...

motors for Celestron CGEM mount

The RA assembly is on the left with sensor unit; the Dec assembly to the right.

Measured the exposed shaft on each drive. Removed the drive gears. Needed a 2mm hex for gears. There were 2 grubs on each brass gear.

Removed the support plate from each motor. Exchanged the entire motor, that is the motor, wiring harness, gearbox, etc. Really, I moved the mounting plates.

Completed the swap. Reinstalled the assemblies and buttoned up the mount. Fired it up. All's well. Did a simulated alignment. The RA and Dec drives sounded OK.

Readied for testing.

downloaded March SCOPE

The SCOPE newsletter was released today. The March edition of the RASC Toronto Centre's newsletter has a number of interesting items (e.g. Ian W's pro-am collab) I look forward to reading. I noted my announcement of the SkyTools offer to RASC members.


There was an interesting remark on my double star presentation:
Blake Nancarrow laid out a very convincing case that double stars have been unloved for far too long and need to be on your next observing list. 
Links were also provided to the YouTube video and my “show notes” on our website.

enjoyed planet photos

Many people shot and shared excellent photos of the sunset scene with the Moon, Venus, and Mercury.

Stu McNair on Facebook: link. His was most evocative, much like what we experienced.

Moon, Venus, and Mercury after sunset

Photo copyright Stu McNair © 2018. Used with permission.

Bill Longo on Facebook: link.

Dave Chapman: link.

Dan Falk: link.

I was gonna take the camera and tripod to the hill; alas, we stayed warm and watched the show indoors.

night 3 in the tent (Bradford)

Good eats.

The seeing looked poor to the south as I stepped out the airlock...

Opened the observing section of the tent.

Checked the time on the Sony recorder. 17 hours left. That showed the deletion was successfully.

9:41 PM, Sunday. Headed to the mount. Woke it from hibernation. Ended up at Capella. The pointing was quite good.

Felt windier tonight. Closed the tent door. The east side of the tent was wobbly as the pegs had pulled out. Reset the lightweight pegs.

Set up the computer. SkyTools to red mode. Real time. Flipped to my notes. Turned off the natural sky, which I had used to help us spot the sunset planets. Turned on the horizon and meridian. Gracefully closed ST3P to save all the configuration. Connected to the mount without changing settings. Opened the Interactive Atlas and saw the X. Synced.

Ready to go.

Sorted by transit time [ed: blurgh.] Considered Auriga and Orion targets. Ah. 42 Orionis, super wide field, finally. I would only use the finderscope to officially complete this. Slewed.

9:53. Mount zipped! Weird that it happened at the beginning of the session. Would I continue to see the problem through the night?

Viewed through the Orion 9x50 finderscope. Stars 42 and 45 in Orion appeared as two equal blue-white stars with a medium separation. Clearly near the great nebula and iota. Between M42 and the NGC 1981 open cluster. I knew the Running Man was there. As I suspected, a very obvious binocular double star.

Decided, while I was in the 'hood, to dive deep in the telescopic view of the Running Man. Couldn't see anything... Faint.

Checked the OneWorld weather station. -1.0°C, 29% humidity, 884 air pressure, altitude 286m. I hadn't seen the humidity change before but it was working. The air pressure sensor is clearly wobbly. Suddenly the unit rebooted! Lost the settings. Date and time were reset. Frick. Temp appeared as -0.7.  Warmth from my hand? Considered an external battery pack for this stoopid thing...

In the eyepiece, the stars 42, 45, V359, and HR 37059 reminded me of Corvus.

NGC 1981 was to my right. Just to the north.

Panned to ι aka Nair al Saif.

The diffuse nebulae of NGC 1973, 1975, and 1977 were barely detectable.

Looked for targets higher in Orion. Used the "checked items" mode in the Interactive Atlas in SkyTools.

Heard Rhonda come down the back steps. I asked her what she thought of the skies. "A little blurry in the east. Fuzzy. A little blurry in the west." Way windier. She thought it damp. She surmised there was more moisture in the air due to the warm day-time temps. She thought it rather cold in the tent. Said it was too bad that we couldn't direct the dryer vent into the tent.

Showed her Messier 42 again. "Why?" she asked. Well, you can't go wrong.

I put the Pentax eyepiece in so we could zoom in. But it was soft. We were gettin' in the trees.

10:11. I wanted to show her σ (sigma) Orionis. The little cluster and the triple star. I liked the view a lot. "Oh, nice," rho remarked. Lovely.

I wondered if we might see some Messier galaxies tonight. Looked for some Leo targets, ideally two or more in the view. Decided on M65, M66, and NGC 3628. Big meridian flip.

Asked Rhonda to help me with alignment on a star to improve the pointing. I synced the software. Slewed to the space between the three galaxies. She could just see them. I was disappointed. I apologised. Maybe they'd get better as they rose higher.

Considered NGC 3077. No... While high in the sky, it was small.

Noticed I was in photographic mode.

Switched to a showpieces list. Applied aggressive filters. We received a short list of double stars only. No galaxies for my sugar.

Slewed to 54 Leonis. Rhonda said, "Tiny. Nice." A tight, colourful double.

Commanded the mount to the next objected. Another meridian flip—oops. Mekbuda. She called. "That's kinda nice. Pretty."

I asked if she recalled seeing Castor. "The Beaver?" Ha. No, the multi-star system. I thought it fantastic. "Oh, wow. Awesome!" She could see the faint nearby stars. She asked if she could see the main star naked. I showed her the trick for identified Castor versus Pollux, using Capella (over the house) and Procyon. She memorised the star names.

We noticed some clouds.

Looked for high priority items in Gemini. Ah, λ (lambda). Asked if she wanted to try it. It was a double star I had added to my candidate list, that I had never looked at before, so I had no idea what we'd get. Could be super-tight. Rhonda asked if it was a double. Yes... I had a look. Nothing obvious—holy cow! Quite close, easily split, but astonishingly dim. Thousands of times dimmer! [ed: Er, no, just over 7 mags different therefore 759x unequal in brightness.] Hawkeye saw it now, at the 1 o'clock position (north-east). 3.5 vs 10.7. She wanted to know if they were a system. I couldn't tell. Possibly an optical. 94 light-years. That's part of what double star research is about...

There was a neat snaking pattern of stars to the left or west and wriggling down or south.

I told rho that I often chose targets that had something else interesting nearby, like a galaxy or a cluster. I checked the field and noted another double nearby. I panned west a little. We noted a faint little triangle well away from λ. And then we spotted the faint pair of HD 55998, equal. 450 light-years away!

Stoopid clouds everywhere.

10:53. Went to HD 41996. Sounded familiar. From the Coldfield list. Hmmm. In an open cluster. Oh! It was in M35. An identified double within it. It was near middle. Rhonda thought the A star bright yellow but nothing special about the companion. She asked "There's so many close together, how do you define a double?" Exactly. She felt like there were many doubles within. SkyTools showed there were about 6 double stars within the boundary of the cluster. I didn't know if there was formal criteria.

I thought about eye candy. Colourful, i.e. "red" stars, in the area. Found one in Auriga. Not bad. High enough, still.

UU Aurigae. Whoa. Pretty good, actually. Very orange. Like an ember. She thought it nice but then reported it fading and blinking with the clouds.

Whoa! Spotted a tight, faint double at the 4 o'clock position! ST3P showed a bunch of known doubles in the area.

Tried added an item to the SkyTools list but it didn't work. Added the companion.

Rhonda requested one more before heading in. Busy week ahead. I wanted to carry on.

The skies were improving. Really clear near Capella.

Chose another red star. Very short slew. Rhonda thought it a nice orange colour. TU Geminorum. She saw doubles all around the edge of the field.

A car, almost as loud as mine, drove around the neighbourhood.

The extremely loud dog was let out into the north neighbour's backyard. Wow.

Realised what was going on with the list. Transit time is a tell that photography mode is active; switched to visual mode.

Returned to Struve 1327 aka HD 79552. An on-going exercise. Blue, orange. White and orange. Red? White, orange red, maybe. Yellow and red? Yellow and orange? Yellow, orange, red?

11:17. Read my old notes: "I thought them yellow and orange and red." RASC says yellow and blue. I decided to put this to bed. I was done looking at this system. I will mark it logged.

Checked the power level on the Sony recorder. It was fine. A GO train rolled through the area.

Moved to next. HD 75646 or STT A 96 in Cancer. Very close. Triple. Yellow, blue, super dim. Orange. Green? Triangle, right angle. Awesome! Faint. Nearly empty field. Great one. Very good for my programme. Oops, I had already looked at... Still, a really good target. Removed the high priority setting.

Considered Talitha, while monitoring the meridian.

Logitech computer mouse was acting up again. The list kept regenerating. Annoying. Then the slewing kept aborting. I broke and resumed the connection to fix it.

Slewed. Took a look. Didn't see anything. Probably extremely tight so I grabbed a more powerful eyepiece. The cold 9mm ocular fogged a bit, damn it. Airy disk. Pretty good diffraction rings. But could not see a companion. Noted a somewhat bright star at the 8 o'clock position, HD 76552. Talitha or ι UMa A and B should have been vertical.

Swapped the 36mm eyepiece back.

Wondered why Talitha was in lists like View Again and the Cambridge Double Star Atlas showpieces...

Slewed to Algieba then Dubhe, syncing. Headed to Alula Australis. Noted a hook of stars nearby. I could split the stars. For me, up and down. That was north and south. The software chart showed A as mag 4.4 and B at 3.8, the bright one above and the dim one below. That was opposite what I was seeing. The Object Information said A is 4.4 and B 4.9... I spotted a dim star (9.8) to the north, Tycho 02520-0324 1, which was roughly inline with AB. I drew an angle in the app at 162°. As of Feb 2018, ST3P showed the PA of AB at 160. Ha. Close. Impressive. The C star is mag 15, outside the C8 capability. OK: A and B observed! At a sep. of 2.03".

Now I was on the same side has 35 Sex now. Considered 15-17 CVn. Thought about HD 85458 but it was just the other side of the meridian. Could not trick the mount... Slewed to into Boötes.

11:58. Nearly Monday...

STF 1785 or HD 120476, a fast-mover. Nearly equal stars. Neat. Yep. Saw a big line of stars... The B was to the south. Estimated PA at 189, toward Tycho 02002-0405 1 (mag 10.3). Checked for a bright star (HD 120802) at the 1 or 2 o'clock position. Faint L, right-angle triangle, to the south. Also inline with Tycho 02002-0207 1 (mag 10.2). Separation 2.81".

Again I enjoyed the "pre-notes," helpful for fast moving binaries.

24 Com? Virgo items?

The sky was clearing. Felt colder. -0.1°, 20%, 885 mbar.

HD 108424 or FOX 175. Wide pair in Virgo. Yellow, blue. Dull. On my candidate list. B was to my left or 9 o'clock position (north-west). Mags 8 and 10, roughly.

Tight pair at the 11 o'clock position. Yellow and orange? This is HD 108423 or ADS 8556.

Super-faint pair between (no designation). No colour. Wider than the previous pair but not as much as FOX 175. Includes GSC 00288-0077 at mag 12.4; the other star is mag 13.3!

Neat grouping! All relatively faint. Great choice.

The horns of the train...

Next: Zavijah, also in Virgo. aka Otto Struve 576. On my candidate list. A triple with very wide companions. I saw all. Faint! Big bent V shape. B off to my left (west); C to the right. C slightly further out. The primary was extremely bright. There was a medium bright star at my 11 o'clock, HD 102747. I enjoyed it. Had another look. B (mag 10) was dimmer than C (8). Good at low and high power.

Went to Denebola aka β604. A bright blue-white star, the primary. Part of a string of stars, up and down, north and south. One of which was a companion. The first one south was the D star (magnitude 8.5). No problem. SkyTools showed C (mag 13.2) above or north. I went for another look... I couldn't get it! I turned on the Moon light feature in the chart and the C star was removed. Uh huh. ST3P said the B star was mag 15! It's probably a good option... Low and high. And very high. I'll see what team thinks.

The bright pair to the south-south-west, SAO 99800 (or HR 4531), I could not split (tonight).

Noted a very faint pair (not designated) to the east (right) with PPM 128588, mags 10.9 and 12.7.

The wind gusted. I was getting cold.

Noticed photographic mode was on again... The list kept updating.

Chose a low target.

12:28 AM, Monday. Could not split HR 4758 or Burnham 28. Fast mover, 2.2", 6.4 and 9.6. Too low, I thought. It was already logged but I marked to re-observe.

Security light came on...

Noticed M98 was near max. altitude. No joy. The current sky's transparency was simply not permitting galaxies to show through.

Aimed to HR 4698 in Coma. Σ1633. Candidate item. "Hmm. Look at that." Equal. Nearly perfectly equal. Yellow and yellow. Not exactly oriented east to west. They were slightly canted toward 2 and 8 o'clock. Left star which I thought was slightly fainter was mag 7.1 and right was 6.3. They were tight. They software made them look really close. Noted a bright star below (south): HR 4693. A good one!

A car came in.

The checkmark column was really wide. Whiskey tango foxtrot.

Almost 1 o'clock in the morning...

Selected HR 5346 or Struve 1825 from the Coldfield list. A great double. Tight, 3 or 4 seconds, I guessed (ST3P said 4.4"). Different magnitudes, 2 or 3, I guessed (6.3 vs 8.7). Almost a completely empty field.

Virgo? Coma Berenices? Hercules?

I figured out that if you change a column width in the display the list regenerates! Weird. Avoid.

Slewed. HD 130466 in Boo. STF 1910. From the Coldfield list. Two equal stars (m 6.7 and 7.7). Possibly yellow and blue... Very tight (4.0").

Jumped to HR 5659 in Ser Cap. STF 1919. Nice. Pretty wide. Yellow. Yellow? Different magnitudes. ST3P data: sep 23.1", mag 6.7 and 7.7, again.

Decided to wrap. The battery charger was really loud when I started it up—attributed it to the cold.

1:03. Looked at the OW unit again: -1.7°, 20%, 885.

1:09. Inside.

1:13. Ice cream?!

Interesting evening. After the early hiccup, the CGEM mount worked fine. Overall, the equipment worked well. Saw a bunch more doubles. No galaxies again. Why? Are the Bradford skies tanking with new (bad) lighting and urban dev? Essentially used one eyepiece for the eve which was fine, worked well, particularly for my project candidate targets. Very happy getting a third good night. And the planet show at sunset was an awesome bonus.