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 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. I was seeing a pair on the left or the south-west. But was opposite what I was seeing. 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.