Sunday, May 19, 2019

tinted Moon with bright Jupiter (Bradford)

The Moon was full. And pale yellow. Weird. I wondered where the colour was coming from. Smoke? Cloud? Particulate?

screen snap from SkySafariDown and left a super bright pale beige object. Awfully near the ecliptic. Too low for Arcturus... Arcturus had to be bright orange star nearly overhead.

I was a little confused.

Check SkySafari on the Android (version 6, the free stripped-down edition). Right. Jupiter!

Antares should have been essentially below the Moon but clouds blocked the view during my short walk home from the bus stop.

Spica was visible to the south-west, dimmed by water vapour.

Too bad we had not had these skies at the beginning of the evening...

Saturday, May 18, 2019

helped at DDO

Helped at the David Dunlap Observatory tonight. Chris was away so Denise and I delivered the dome tours. We had two groups. I did the first stint with the first group. We decided to flip-flop for the second tour but handed off to Denise so I could debug the balcony dome interlock issue.

Sadly, we were clouded out. But, that gave me an opportunity to see the slightly different programme when we did not open the shutters.

We had one of the best turnouts, with 58 guests showing up.

We had a decent number of volunteers, in the end. It was fun seeing Risa, first time in a long time.

I'm very grateful to Ron, once again, for carpooling.

A couple more hurdles crossed.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

monthly doubles for May 2019

Sent out my double star "bulletin" for May 2019. It is a short list of suggested targets. I shared this on the RASC Toronto Centre forums. And I post here for all.


Whoop. Snuck up on me, this impending full Moon. :-( Rather than mope, check out double stars! :-) Double and multi-star targets you can observe them any time, anywhere, regardless of light pollution.

Here's a selection of doubles I find interesting and impressive. Targets for May:

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
HD 112733 CVnΣ (Struve) 1702HIP 63317
24 ComSTF (Struve) 1657SAO 100160, HIP 61418
35 ComΣ1687SAO 82550, HIP 62886
δ (delta) CrvAlgorab, SHJ 145SAO 157323, HIP 60965
HD 111398 VirENG 49SAO 100279, HIP 62536

Why don't you add these to your observing list and have some fun! I look forward to hearing how you make out. Any questions?

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Binary Universe: measuring darkness

cover of the June 2019 RASC Journal
Saw a Facebook post announcing the June 2019 edition of the RASC Journal.

Kersti's aurora photo was featured in an article on the Astroimaging Certificate Program. Mr Percy has a piece of computing technology which I very much look forward to reading. Blair has another entry for processing images, this time for dealing with bloated stars. The cover alludes to an article on the black hole inside M87.

In my Binary Universe column, I discussed how to formally measure sky darkness in lieu of using a Unihedron Sky Quality Meter by employing the inexpensive iOS app called Dark Sky Meter, version 2.9.9.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

poster of the Moon

Also included with the DAO book and Mars article from my sister, there was a poster. This is entitled Earth's Moon and it is from the cartographic division of the National Geographic Society. It looked very familiar...

Nat Geo Moon poster (new edition)

I believe I had this same poster as a youth, during high-school. This appears to be new, in very good condition, although yellowed in age. It is dated 1969!

an old Mars article

Inside the DAO Star Maps booklet from Donna, I found a newspaper article on Mars. Positioned in the Sickle of Leo, reaching opposition on February 11.

Mars in the news

The subtitle suggests this predates 2003. Using Stellarium, I determined this was the 1995 apparition of the red planet. I suspect the article (from page D8) was written in February '95.

The piece is by Martin Beech, noted as "a London-based freelance science writer." Perhaps this article is from the London Free Press.

received DAO charts

Sis gave me an interesting book (booklet?).

DAO star maps book cover

It is a collection of star maps from 1956 prepared by the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. Back then, the DAO was part of the Canadian Department of Mines and Technical Surveys.

DAO star maps book inscription

There's an inscription on the inside. "To Miss Chapple With best wishes from G. J. Odgers. April, 1959."

DAO star maps book sample chart

There are a pair of charts from each month, looking north, and looking south. They represent the sky from a location at approximately 50° latitude, in the middle of the month, at around 10:30 PM.

observing from bed (St Thomas)

The blinds in guest room don't quite go down all the way so when I turned the light out, I could see a slice of the southern sky. I noted a single bright blue-white star. Too low of Vega. Must of been Spica. And... sleep!

Friday, May 10, 2019

viewed Luna in the Beehive (St Thomas)

The weather suddenly improved!

Donna had relayed my ask of Steve. He brought over his birding rig, a Celestron 60mm 25x porro-design spotting scope and Manfrotto tripod with window clamp. I set it up on Mom's back deck.

We viewed the half-lit Moon passing through the Beehive cluster (aka Messier 44, M44). As bunnies hopped about. The orb was bright but we enjoyed the earthshine and the two to three dozen stars. When we put the Moon out of the frame, the stars popped. That helped as we looked over the city through light-polluted skies.

Hmm. Some tantalising pairs. I wondered if there were some double stars within...

Very nice.

I was tempted to stay out for a while so to watch Luna creep past stars but it was a little chilly and everyone wanted to go back inside. I agreed.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

shared TheSkyX materials

astronomer friendly - quick reference card
For the CAO supervisors, I did a bit of configuring in TheSkyX in the Geoff Brown Observatory to mimic some of our old settings (e.g. slew configuration; NE indicator). Reviewed Steve's notes. I posted my quick reference cards in the Yahoo!Groups and put copies on the desktop of the GBO computer. One of the versions is red on black!

For myself, I put the files in Andromache and John Repeat Dance. I copied the content into Evernote.

to identify celestial objects

A short time ago, I received a message from a reader, Peter in Ottawa, regarding sky viewing apps.
I read your April column in the RASC [Journal] with interest.  I'll probably get the [Astro Clock] but what I'm looking for is a program for my portable device to give me a view of the night sky in real time as I point up in different directions, with names of planets, stars and nebulae.  Those visible to the naked eye and binoculars.
I apologised for the delay and recommended SkySafari for its augmented reality and identification features.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

love the camp fire (Bradford)

First camp fire of the year!

Enjoyed the good skies overhead while the flames flickered below. With the bats, bunnies, and rho. While sampling Midnight Lager from Side Launch. Leo a'leaping, Gemini (with Pollux and Castor) in the trees, Boötes (with Arcturus), The Big Dipper, Cor Caroli, Virgo (with Spica), Corvus, Vega flickering through the trees... Leo Minor was up there somewhere above Leo. Crater, the chalice, was somewhere to the right of The Crow.

Later, standing, looking north, the Little Dipper. I knew Serpens and Ophiuchus would be rising.

Quiet. No bug. Warm. For a change.

We checked the Moon phase on our phones. Just after New.


Rhonda asked me the name of the somewhat bright star beside Arcturus. I couldn't remember. I looked it up in TheSkyX: Muphrid.

worked at the work party

Helped at the CAO spring work party.

I ran the IT team and we focused on our computer and network technology. Assisted a member with their new webcam setup. Set up the new SLO computer with a UPS. Installed the UPS monitor software on a couple of computers. Collected data on all the UPS batteries on the site (and we have quite a few). Rebooted the new GBO computer after a severe crash then installed MS Office software. Verified it has a classic serial port and was connected to the telescope mount. Deployed a donated computer in the dining room. It is running Linux. It'll be interesting to see how people like that! Repaired the laser printer output tray to only take the printer offline... Ugh. Tried wrangling the weather/SQM server. Not sure if its a bad hard disk or mobo.

rat's nest in the super closet

Deployed a new WAP in the GBO offering class N service. Swapped the router-acting-as-a-bridge in the garage. Tried changing the main router without success. Took PING tests through the weekend. Maintained the Davis weather station, changing the special battery in the instrumentation box and replacing the solar panel. Moved the sensor suite from the garage to the house. Inspected the SQM and UW sky monitoring systems. Started testing of a webcam for a close-up monitoring function in a dark space. During the work party, helped field various questions to the best of my ability.

When a council member made a comment about me sitting around all day, I let him have it.

There were a bunch of things I didn't get to. There's a lot on my plate right now...

flew the RC16 (Blue Mountains)

Headed to the Geoff Brown Observatory as the peepers peeped. Noted the roof was already open. Found the old laptop off to the side and running. I closed it. Readied things for observing. Turned on the warm room heaters. Felt naked without my SkyTools software...

The sky darkened.

We looked at Mars. Just a colourful disc. No features per se. The seeing degraded.

Sailu and I looked for other planets along the ecliptic.

I struggled with TheSkyX software. Didn't have my quick reference guide handy. Some of the colours used in the app do not work well with red film on the monitor (e.g. the ecliptic path is drawn in blue).

Tried for M13.

The pointing was off. Steve showed me how to sync. When Ian W popped in, he scolded us for syncing. I explained the pointing had been off from the get-go. It was getting worse and we were having to starhop. I asked if he could show us how to load his TPoint model. I took notes. We discovered some other model was loaded. Not sure how. We went to Messier 51 (M51), the Whirlpool. Nice view, the main face-on galaxy and interacting companion. The pointing was better. The target would be within the low power field of the refractor. We experimented with the software. Closing (without an prompts like in the past) automatically saved all settings...

We went to Messiers 65 and 66. The two galaxies fit within one field in the big 'scope. I hunted for NGC 3628 and found it after a few attempts.

At the midnight transition from Saturday to Sunday, I went for 35 Sextantis, aka Struve 1466. In a group of stars not unlike the pot of the Big Dipper.

I had not indicated in my notes why I wanted to view again this object. At some point I had put a reminder in my calendar. When I checked my life list, the L through V double star list, I found that I had not split the tight, half arc-second CD pair of stars. Nothing about a fast-moving binary. Anyhoo, the A, B, and C stars were obvious.

The AB pair were close, pale orange and very pale blue stars. A nice view with the Panoptic 27mm in 16" RC. The C star was well away. aka HIP 52438.

On checking my notes, I found that I had not split the CD pair. I thought it odd that Stelle Doppie did not show the D star. I stared for a long time. Maybe... I was seeing them. Often I had the impression that there was an extremely tight pair aimed at AB. [ed: When I zoom in tight in SkyTools 3 Professional, this is what I see!]

Jeremy Perez's sketch of STF 1466 is really nice.

I debated sketching but did not take to pencil and paper...

12:15 AM. Viewed Alula Australis aka ξ (xi) Ursae Majoris. Now this system is a fast mover. I viewed with the 27mm and the Radian 18mm. Lovely pair. Pale gold. Easy split in the 18. [ed: ST3P says PA 155° and Sep 2.13" as of March.] Poor seeing despite looking up high. A little soft. Backed off the power. Quite nice in the 27. I spotted a hockey stick of faint stars at the 1 o'clock position [ed: north-east]. The AB pair was oriented 10 to 4 [ed: Roughly north through south.]

Saw Jupiter rising.

I considered stuff in east but targets were too low and there too much light pollution from Collingwood.

Reviewed my list of Messiers to revisit. 55 and 69 were not up.

Ran out of mojo. And I couldn't party too hard as there was much to do tomorrow.

Countertops were soaked as I closed up. Very damp. Not surprisingly.

Was a little frustrated with the software. Took me a while to figure out that the Sky Chart was staying centred on where the telescope was pointing... and how to turn that off. Could not figure out how to zoom by dragging [ed: Maybe I'm thinking of a different app. SkyTools does this. Maybe it is because they changed the panning technique from requiring the right mouse button?!]. Couldn't figure out how to free rotate the field [ed: I recall trying the Free Rotation command in the Orientation menu and it didn't work. I should have used Tools, Rotate Tool.]. Wondered if a direction indicator could be shown [ed: Yes. Choose, Display, Chart Elements. Access Reference Lines & Photos, Milky Way Options..., Celestial North Arrow.]. Was surprised that there was not an indication of a mirrored field [ed: There is one! It's the bisected circle at the top-left. I noticed that icon but didn't understand it.]. Did not like the bloated appearance of the stars [ed: Changed the Star Options...]. I made a note to turn on the slew confirmation [ed: It's in the Mount Preferences again.].


Is 35 Sex an error on my part? I don't see anything about a fast binary... Why is it in my calendar to check annually?! Maybe I was thinking about γ (gamma) Sex. It has a 78 year period.


The Washington Double Star database does not show a D star for 35 Sex. Weird. Where did I get this information from? Well... SkyTools. But where did Greg get this data?


I confirmed that old TheSky6 software allowed dragging in the Sky Chart to draw a box and then zoom in to a region of interest... Now, in TheSkyX, in can still be done, wahoo, but one must hold the Shift key while dragging!


Put a red on black version of my quick reference guide on John Repeat Dance and the Lume smartphone. Also copied all the content into Evernote. Applied updates to the Evernote entry... So now I can't complain I'm without instructions.


Removed the 35 Sextantis annual entry from my calendar.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

they mentioned doubles!

Nice! This week's E-News message from SkyNews magazine carried the subject line:

Double stars for urban skies and more.

They talk about how doubles are practical if you have but a small 'scope or binocs or your confined to a city chock-a-block with light pollution. Then they refer to three pairs in the constellation Boötes and invited a comparison to the famous target in Cygnus. And finally they segue to an old blog post by David Rodger offering still more fun twins within the herdsman.

See the Apr 29 to May 6 entry for more info.


Saturday, April 27, 2019

more DDO ops (Richmond Hill)

Tonight I assisted at RASC DDO Family Night with Nancy, Ennio, Ron, and Chris.

This is part of my on-going operations training to be a telescope operator. It was really good to get more seat time. Chris also called on me to talk about our target, the double star Algieba.

At the end, I took an afocal image of the pair, Struve 1424 A and B. Fun! 4.5 seconds of arc. But also to try to pin down the FOV.

Algieba through the 74" afocal

Canon 40D, 18-55 kit lens at 48mm, 1/8th of a second, f/16, ISO 1600, RAW, manually focused, handheld.

I also shot more photos for our documentation.

Travelling with Ron, I learned he's made his own guide. He's gonna share the notes with Chris and me.

Chris and I also verified that the duplicate control on the mobile console for RA clamp is in fact active... I had spotted it in a photo.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

happily received SkyNews May/Jun

SkyNews cover 2019 May/June issue
Received the latest SkyNews magazine, the May/June 2019 issue. Our north-of-the-border publication of astronomy and stargazing.

There's an article on the Canadian experiment measuring Fast Radio Bursts. Looks very interesting.

The Astro Pixel Processor software is reviewed. I'm curious about it.

There's also an intriguing piece on imaging with a DSLR using a hydrogen-alpha filter! Huh.

Inspiring photos, as always...

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

only one (Toronto)

As Cam and I wandered south on Roncie, I looked up. I could only see one star. It was Vega. Sheesh. Terrible light pollution.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

inspired by a dome

Dominion Dark Lager beer
Grace found a cool beer when out west. Dominion Dark Lager by Vancouver Island Brewing.

She had me examine the can. Constellations, stars, the Moon, oh, and a dome. Neat. The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. Nice.

I look forward to trying it.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

give me some heat

Stargazer hot sauce by Pepper North
Stumbled across a super hot—correction, "ultra hot"—sauce today called Stargazer. The award-winning sauce is made by Pepper North Artisan Foods, an Ontario shop no less! It is made with jalapeño, Scotch Bonnet, Ghost peppers. Will it put me flat on my back?

When I surfed into the by web site, I learned that the Oshawa company makes a few astronomically-themed sauces. They've a mild one called Northern Lights. And another called Solar Flare, medium spicy. Will be fun to try them out.

They must have an astronomer on board...

Monday, April 15, 2019

monthly doubles for Apr 2019

Issued my double star "bulletin" for April 2019. It is a short list of suggested targets. I shared this on the RASC Toronto Centre forums. And I post here for all.


It was over one year ago I started trumpeting the unnoticed treasures in our night skies, double stars. Along the way, I emphasised that you can observe them any time, anywhere, regardless of location, Moon light, or city light pollution.

Here's a short selection of doubles which I find interesting and impressive.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
N Hya *H 3 96 (Herschel), HD 100287 HIP 56280, SAO 179968
54 LeoΣ1487, HR 4259, HD 94601HIP 53417, SAO 81583
τ (tau) Leo84 Leonis, STF I 19HIP 55945, SAO 118875
α (alpha) UMaβ1077 (Burnham), DubheHIP 54061, SAO 15384
35 SexStruve 1466HIP 52452, SAO 118449

* There's something odd about N Hydrae. Online resources say this is 17 Crateris. But this suggestion I followed from Sky & Telescope does indeed show a neat pair at 11h 32m 16.40s, -29° 15' 39.7".

Consider adding these to your observing list. Doubles are fun! I look forward to hearing how you make out. Holler if you have any questions.

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

Friday, April 12, 2019

enjoyed the captivating doodle

Loved today's Google Doodle.

Google Doodle on cool science imagery

Be careful! Don't get too close!

Visit the doodle page for more info.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

watched Falcon Heavy mission

Watched the SpaceX launch. This is the second flight of the Falcon Heavy, the first with paid cargo.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket

Falcon Heavy rocket seconds after launch. Must be something with 5 million pounds of thrust.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket

Rocket rolling. Down the pipe.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy three engines

Just before booster engine cutoff. Ground view and views from each of the three boosters.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy side engines separating

Booster separation. The two side boosters peeling away. Central core running.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy engine views

Boosters have flipped for return to Florida. Central core running. Ground view.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy engine views

Second stage separated, ready for start-up.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy engine views

Second stage vacuum motor starting. Cone glowing with the heat.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy engine views

All three boosters are preparing for landing.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy engine views

Side boosters burning. Grid fins on central booster extending.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy engine views

Central booster decelerating.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy side boosters landing

Side boosters landing at the Cape. Such an amazing site.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy centre rocket landing

Just before loss of signal. Rocket glare lighting up the deck of Of Course I Still Love You.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy centre rocket landing

Look at that. The dust cleared. Three for three! Amazing.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy orbit graphic

A good orbit after the final burn.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy satellite deployment

Satellite deployed.

An amazing mission. Congrats to SpaceX.


They also recovered the fairings!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

black hole observing

Our first direct imaging of a black hole. And not any old black hole. This is the heart of the giant galaxy Messier 87.

direct image of a black hole


Katie Bouman was responsible for developing the algorithms for aggregating the data from the fleet of telescopes used around the world.

I like the wide field shot from the Chandra X-ray telescope to get some context.

the core of M87 in x-ray

You can also see the relativistic jet from the black hole.

Check out the detailed blog entry at the Chandra web site.

I also like the diagrams by Alain Marck.

black hole event horizons at different angles

I think they give a good sense of what we're looking at.

See the NASA article for more info.

See the APOD post for more info.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

TC council meeting announced

Tom shared a note on the forum...

RASC Toronto Centre council will be holding a council meeting on Wed, April 17 at 7:30 PM in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics Building at U of T, Rm 88, 50 St. George St.

Members are welcome to attend, please respond to this message if you intend to do so.

Friday, April 05, 2019

removed hot pixels

Subtracted the dozen darks with Deep Sky Stacker. Then played around a bit in Photoshop.

ISS flyover over with some hot pixels removed

The image is a bit better then the raw shot with a bunch of the distracting hot pixels removed.

But I don't like the colour tones...

enjoyed some copper

Had a headache all day.

I think some Moonlight Harvest cab-sav by Copper Moon might be just what I need.

A nice local. Dry, smooth finish. Long finish. A touch tart—which I like. Lovely ruby colour.

They say "cherry" but I'm not getting that. It's a little cool. Waiting for it to warm. It should open up. Oh. I have some old cheddar...

They also make a Merlot. OK.

Ooh. They have a Malbec. I'll have to try that!

Took me a bit to figure out who made it:

Andrew Peller Limited.

blems are back!

Nerts! Just got an email from Rockland. Subject: TeleVue Blem Sale at NEAF!

Back in 2013, a bunch of us went to the North East Astronomy Forum run by the Rockland Astronomy Club. Phil lured me with the promise of great deals, cool talks, etc. It was the place to be! Before I knew about FOMO. He also said that, in the past, Uncle Al Nagler had offered Tele Vue eyepieces with cosmetic problems at deep discounts. Alas, the TV booth informed us that they weren't doing that. We were all a little disappointed.

Apparently the highly regarded ocular shop hasn't brought blems to NEAF for 9 years.

Interesting that it's back... Too bad we can't take advantage.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

shootin' darks

Think I finally got a good one... Could have shot for 3 minutes maybe. But I'll take what I can get.

Shooting darks. Camera outside (in the -2°C air), computer inside! Me inside too!

Gotta shoot flats too, for the dust and junk in the optical train. But I dunno how to do that yet...

near miss!

Whoa. Freaky. Almost a collision! (Well, not really.)

Near the end of the pass, a few seconds before falling into the Earth's shadow. Eastern sky. The ISS was heading right toward a dim north-bound satellite.

snapshot from Heavens-Above app

Oh. I can figure that out, I realised. Checked the app on the phone...

Resurs 01 R-something. Rocket motor icon. Never heard of it.


Resurs 01 Rocket. Spacetrack catalog number 23343. Rocket body from Russia launced November 1994 on a Zenit-2.

imaged the ISS (Bradford)

For a long time I have wanted to image the International Space Station while David Saint-Jacques was aboard. The very clear skies around dinner time encouraged me to try.

ISS flying over Ontario

Canon 40D, battery grip, Rokinon 8mm fisheye, manually focused, f/5.6, ISO 250, 120 seconds, daylight white balance, RAW, tripod mounted, Canon EOS Utility, no tracking, lots of hot pixels, Digital Photo Professional 3.8, WB tuned to 4200K.

Very happy!


This one's a bit better...

slightly enhanced image of the ISS flyover

Dropped WB to 4000, bumped contrast, dropped shadow, bumped saturation.


I like the little bit of trailing in the stars, when you zoom in. It emphasises, I think, the long duration.

readied for flyover (Bradford)

I settled into the backyard, well away from the house. Canon DSLR atop Mamiya tripod. ASUS netbook driving the Canon camera software for remote control shooting. Had the camera and lens preset to manual mode (so RAW format), ISO 100, f/5.6, with a 2 minute exposure.

I was joined by the bunnies again. Looking for carrots?

8:29 PM. I started test shooting. Discovered the white balance was wrong.

Examined the first shot. Accidentally closed the preview. The framing was OK. Dropped the ISO to 100. As low as I can go. But I knew it was early and I may well have to go to 200 or more. It was just over 30 minutes from the flyover...

I just remembered a lesson from before. You want to avoid really small apertures which can multi-pointed stars, from diffraction. I wasn't planning on changing the f-stop from 5.6.

8:34. Checked the latest image. Zoomed to 200%. I could see stars. But it seemed a teensie bit soft. Blinked the first and second image. I turned the focus ring about 0.5mm to the left or counter clockwise, from the back of the camera.

My Google calendar event alarm went off. 30 minutes out from the start. (John Repeat Dance was running 1 minute fast.)

8:38. Blinked the first three images. Focus looked worse. So I went clockwise 1mm. Heard the GO train rolling in.

8:43. I thought the focus looked good. Done! I reviewed the mental checklist. Framing was good. Exposure was OK (for now). Changed the ISO to 125.

A new photo appeared. It was nice! Pleasing colours.

8:46. Now at ISO 160. Told myself I was not going to open the lens wide. It would be soft. Battery level OK, still, but low.

Aside: I discovered inside there was no f/4 detent for the Rokinon lens. It went straight from 5.6 to 3.5. Huh. Didn't know that. Never noticed it before.

8:49. ISO 200. About 14 minutes to go.

notifications from Lume phone

Andromake beeped. Oh, an alert from the Heavens-Above app.

8:55. ISO 250 showed a somewhat bright sky. I decided to leave it now. I predicted the exposure would be appropriate as the sky darkened. 10 min to go.

Heard the woman next door with a dog. The canine, curious, ventured into backyard, hearing me, not seeing me. She coaxed it back.

8:57. I decided not to risk running on the low batteries. It would be maddening if the camera died half-way through the pass... I swapped in freshened cells into the battery grip. I waited for the Canon app to restart, ready to check the settings.

It was a hazy sky. No good for astronomy but fine for my project. Noted the Big Dipper, all stars visible. Could only get three stars of Ursa Minor. Auriga with bright Capella. The Gemini twins up high. Part of the Winter Hexagon.

I was happy to find all the camera settings retained. WB OK, ISO still 250, RAW of course. And now a full battery icon.

Made a note to shoot darks and flats.

I waited. Switched to the live view in Heavens-Above Android app. Noted the icon moving on app, glacial. Watched the north-west sky... Got it! Waited a few seconds for Space Station to clear the tree then starting the timer run with EOS Utility.

Sat back and enjoyed the view.

Just west of the Big Dipper, it was very neat when the ISS went over some cloud. Invisible to me but the station developed a halo.

Very happy that I finally caught the Space Station with a Canuck on board.

did some math

Really wanted to get it right this time...

Buoyed by the good skies noted at my 6:00 PM walkabout, I researched the upcoming flyover of the International Space Station.

I recalled the pass was going to be around 9 PM. I noted sunset was going to occur at 7:49 PM. I planned to go out early, in darkening skies, so to have lots of time to set up and focus.

Verified the flyover info in the Heavens-Above web site. Peak magnitude: -3.7. Nice and bright! Location in sky: nearly overhead; slightly north. Checked the times.

    Rises 21:03:46 0° 302° (WNW) 2,338 1.9 -13.7°
    Reaches alt. 10° 21:05:52 10° 305° (NW) 1,475 0.4 -14.1°
    Maximum altitude 21:09:10 67° 29° (NNE) 447 -3.7 -14.6°
    Enters shadow 21:10:27 33° 102° (ESE) 711 -3.2 -14.8°

Verified everything in the phone app.

Considered tracking, with the barn door. Very briefly. Then decided to keep it real simple. For this go-round. Get the exposure nailed down.

Charged a pair of camera batteries. Verified the battery grip was installed (for dual batteries). Grabbed the big tripod, double-checking it had the hex plate. Set the camera to M, ISO 100, and bulb. Then changed to ISO 200.

Set an alarm for 9:03 PM (on the phone).

ISS flyover simulated in Stellarium

Ran a simulation in Stellarium. Definitely a northern sky vantage. I'd set up in the southern section of the yard. Checked the visible duration. Stellarium said if I was viewing from the former tent location, near the house, the ISS would clear the roof at 21:08:15 and then enter the Earth's shadow at 21:10:30. So about 2 minutes.

Lots of people do multiple short images and stitch. I did not want to do that...

Worked the math. Found a nice ISS shot against a dark blue sky by Paul Willows. The photographer used f/8 for 15 seconds at ISO 3200. I was planning a single shot at 8 times the duration. I dropped the ISO to a 400 to let me shoot at 2 minutes. Then I opened the aperture to f/5.6 further dropping the ISO to 100. This would be my starting point.

Simulated the field of view in SkyTools to decide on the lens. The kit lens at 18mm was not bad and would likely fit the whole pass. But the 8mm lens would get a lot more sky. Maybe even a planet or two... Installed the fisheye lens, set it to the infinity MARK (which is back about 2.5mm from hard stop). Set to f/5.6.

Decided to use the netbook (with tether) for focus and image capture. Then I wouldn't need the intervalometer. I planned for test shots a few minutes before the flyover to do a final assessment of the exposure.

Switched to red light mode. Suited up (double layered pants, winter coat). Shut off the driveway light. Packed my carry-all. Strapped on the tripod. Headed out the airlock.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

why is the sky blue?

Surfed into Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD). Checked the last couple of articles. Yesterday's caught my eye. I read their explanation of why the sky is the colour that it is.

What the hey?!

That's... what? No. Really?

I started to think about a reply. Or sharing with others to ask for feedback. How could they be so...




They got me.

I didn't notice the publication date at first...

Sunday, March 31, 2019

in deference

Am I an uber geek given that I wore my NASA t-shirt while watching The First Man?

Saturday, March 30, 2019

remembered Earth Hour

I forgot about Earth Hour!

I had noticed the signboard earlier today at Vaughan city hall...

At 8:29, I paused my movie, I ran around about, and I shut off every light. I unplugged the bathroom night light. Turned off the hallway light. I powered off the work laptop and the netbook computer. Turned off my smartphone. I hear the fridge and furnace running. They're the big consumers.

uploaded column article

Submitted my article for the Journal. Once again proofed by Rhonda. I got an A+! Woo hoo!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

thinner red

Received the 2-foot-wide roll of red theatre "gel" film from Ward, made by Rosco. Oh, it's thinner than the Lee Filter material I'm used to. The colours are bang on. Roscolux #26 Light Red.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

sunrise to sundown (York Region)

I watched the Sun rise. I watched the Sun fall.

stars and planets (Bradford)

Through crisp air I viewed the Summer Triangle rising.

Deneb in the middle. Never really noticed that before.

Spotted Altair and its companion. Why can I never remember... [ed: Tarazed!]

Looking north, I saw a big dipper scooping up water and a big W rising.

The old Moon was bright. Jupiter beige. Yes! Got it. Saturn dim, about 3 magnitudes less, about 20° away.

I kept looking and finally tagged a simmering Venus.

The increasing glow in the east. Beautiful sky. I was headed for a window less room...

Thursday, March 21, 2019

received 7 Leo data (Halifax)

BGO said queue was empty (back on 19 Mar 2019 around 22:42 EDT) so I looked for and submitted a target quickly. I chose a Sissy Haas double, one with curious colours. She says 7 Leonis is a deep blue star and blue-green partner. I aimed at nearby GSC 00827 00796.

double-star 7 Leo in luminance

Luminance only, ½ seconds sub, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

7 Leo proper is the bright unequal pair to the south. Will be interesting to see this in full colour.

There's a doublet to the north. SkyTools 3 Pro does not show this as a pair; rather the single stars SAO 98667 and SAO 98665.


A little update as the data in ST3P is a bit old, dated 2003. The latest info in the WDS for 09359+1423 H 5 58 is from 2014.

PA 90
sep 41
mags 6.31 and 9.39.

That angle doesn't look right. I think it's less than 90.


Searched the WDS by coordinates. Found an entry for the equal pair to the north.

09362+1436 ARN  72
first report 1893
last report 2015
PA 111
last sep 81.7
mags 8.82 and 9.09
precise 093613.29+143547.8.

That's a good match for the ST3P info.

surprise, two!

That was weird.

I received an email message from bgorobot.
Subject: BGO Robotic Telescope reply message
Date: 2019-03-21 06:18
Your observations taken overnight are ready...
I didn't know I had any completed observations...

Oh. Maybe this would show the one missing from the previous evening. A dynamic message said one had been captured but it never appeared in the done queue. I pulled up my Completed Observations page.


There were two listed!

The missing one plus another.

Oh well. Won't complain.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

received STF 1143 data (Halifax)

I wanted to image a double star in need of attention using a different method, a new technique, now that the WDS "neglected" system as been decommissioned.

After filtering for "old" data, I came across the entry 07481+0525 STF1143 with the last entry reported in 1825! Almost 200 year old data.

neglected double-star STF 1143 in luminance

Luminance only, ½ second subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

Struve 1143 is also known as HD 63241 or SAO 115947.

I found some notes in the WDS database: Some error in position. See note in BDS II. Bu_1906; This may be STF1134AB with a larger error than is typical for a FGW Struve measure.

Now Sigma; 1143 is supposed to be a somewhat tight pair of unequal stars. The primary is mag 6.6 with a secondary at mag 11. The separation is purportedly 9.3 seconds of arc. B is supposed to the to the south-east.

I don't see anything...

The equal part of stars to the north (not noted as a double) are separated by about 22". So 1143 A and B should be visible at half that distance.



What did Friedrich Georg Wilhelm see?

Regardless, it is a lovely little pattern of stars...


Another curious thing about this is that SkyTools shows a star north-east of the upper pair, of equal brightness. It says it is NSV 3739. I see nothing.


Strange. When I went looking for the completed data the morning after, the target showed as pending... Some short of glitch which in the end worked itself out.

imaged ARY 51 (Halifax)

Tried to sort another "neglected" double star...

I used the data culled from an old list for 09390+3017 ARY. It showed data from 2003 with a position angle of 273 and an angular separation of 116.4. Magnitude 9.1 and 9.4 stars, one of which was a K2.

I programmed the Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot to acquire some photons from the distant suns in Leo.

neglected double-star ARY 51 in luminance

Luminance only, 1 second subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

Clearly there's a very wide pair of stars, nearly perfectly horizontal, nearly equal in brightness. So, not a lot to write home about.

A pair of stars shows in SkyTools at this location. SAO 61616 on the left or east and SAO 61615 to the west.

This is the last neglected done via the old technique...


I checked the current data for the system.

ID 09390+3017
discoverer ARY  51
pair AB
first report 1903
last report 2017
angle 273
first sep 116.4
last sep 118.7
mags 9.15 and 9.55
precise 093859.33+301631.6

It's interesting that the first reporting appears to have been rolled back 100 years.

imaged HJ 465 (Halifax)

Captured the double star HJ 465 in Leo with the BGO system. Aimed at GSC 01959 00225 which then puts the faint double in question in the lower portion of the image.

double-star HJ 465 in luminance

Luminance only, 1 second sub, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

This double star target was chosen from an old "neglected" list at the WDS. I initially used the location, 09312+2446, in the ID to try to find the object. There was nothing at the location in SkyTools 3 Pro. But ST3P showed a conspicuous pair due south at +24 36! Proper motion? Looked like an entry error in the coordinates to me. Also my software showed the pair data was dated 1915. Over 100 years old. I selected the star GSC 01959-0225, kind of in the middle, for the Burke-Gaffney robot.

The image clearly shows the pair with the brighter element to the west. They are nearly in a perfect east-west orientation. There's a neat big funnel shape...

I plate-solved the (rotated) FITS image with The image centre is at 09h 31m 11.498s and +24° 41' 53.307". The image size 23.9 x 23.9 arcmin with a radius of 0.282 deg. The pixel scale is 0.934 arcsec/pixel. The image is rotated from the equatorial coordinate system very slightly: up is 0.298 degrees E of N.

As I examine the current "main" Washington Double Star 06-11 list now, I see there have been 9 observations for HJ 465 with the most recent in 2015. I don't see any notes on the database entry. Most importantly, the WDS shows the precise coordinates as 093112.74+243605.5 so all appears good now...

Monday, March 18, 2019

shot STF 1682 (Halifax)

Aiming at GSC 05538 00035, I asked the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to shoot the colourful multi-star system Struve 1682. Haas uses intriguing terms when referring to this star in the constellation of Virgo.

multi-star system STF 1682 in luminance

Luminance only, 1 seconds sub, a dozen stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

aka HR 4877. The B partner, about 3 magnitudes dimmer, is close and to the west-north-west. The C consort is much dimmer, about 6 times the distance, lies to the south-west.

In double stars for small telescopes, Haas describes the primary as "pearly" and the companion as "ghostly" and "ethereal." She quotes Smyth on this one who says they are "topaz yellow" and "lucid purple." SkyTools 3 Pro shows the main stars as deep orange with a classification of K0 while the other two appear white. And B, aka SAO 157549, is a G0 star. It will be interesting to process the captured data in colour...

There's a fuzzy star near the middle-left of the image: that's the core of the elliptical galaxy NGC 4742.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

monthly doubles for Mar 2019

Issued my double star "bulletin" for March 2019. It is a short list of suggested targets. I shared this on the RASC Toronto Centre forums. And I post here for all.



Days are getting longer and sun is getting higher. Hopefully weather more conducive to astronomy is around the corner. If you get chance to do some quick backyard observing, here are some double stars for your consideration.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
HD 75646 CncSTT A 96SAO 80467, HIP 43535
α (alpha) LynSTT 571SAO 61414, HIP 45860
HD 60997 PupΣ1121SAO 153142
Struve 1126 CMiHR 2950SAO 115773
ε (epsilon) Mon8 Mon and STF 900SAO 113810, HIP 30419

A couple of hints... α Lyn is great triple as is HD 75646. STF 1126 is also a triple but the AB is rather challenging. HD 60997 comes with a couple of surprises!

I look forward to hearing how you did! Let me know if you have any questions.

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

Thursday, March 14, 2019

darkness again (Bradford)

It was dark again, with the shift in time. Stoopid system.

I could only see Jupiter on the walk to the train station. Clouds blocked Saturn. Venus was nowhere to be seen.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Binary Universe: more than just a clock

Saw a Facebook post which meant the April 2019 edition of the RASC Journal was out.

cover of the Apr 2019 edition of the Journal
Adrian made the Journal, page 2, with a fantastic hydrogen-alpha image. There's a lengthy article on radio astronomy at Queen's University, with a reference to the ARO, that looks very interesting. This ties in nicely with Erik Rosolowsky's piece on Fast Radio Bursts. John Percy has an intriguing article on pseudoastronomy that I will devour.

In my Binary Universe column, I return to the Android app Astro Clock Widget. I briefly mentioned in a past article when discussing apps that show sidereal time. But I wanted to share Astro Clock's many other interesting features including rise and set times for all the planets, the Sun, and the Moon, mini-display of the sky, and alerts of course.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

spotted bright planets (Bradford)

During my walk to the train station, I saw Jupiter nearly due south and a bright but yellow Venus low. I wondered where quick Mercury was...


Remembered that the Astro Clock Widget app on my phone would help. Learned later than Saturn was between them. Dang!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

red band, white disk (Bradford)

Saw an evocative orange-red stripe to the east, at least from high ground. Couldn't see it as I neared the train station. A "sailor's warning..."

Noted a very soft crescent glowing in the south.

Snow is coming...

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

tomorrow's meeting cancelled

I just learned that tomorrow's Recreational Astronomy Meeting for the RASC Toronto Centre is cancelled.

cancelled meeting note from RASC Toronto web site

This is because of the impending heavy snow.

Monday, February 18, 2019

monthly doubles for Feb 2019

Issued my double star "bulletin" for February 2019. It is a short list of suggested targets. I shared this on the RASC Toronto Centre forums. And I post here for all.


Hi there, hi.

If it isn’t cloudy and grey, it is bitterly cloud, it seems. Such that it is, here are some double and multi-star targets for your consideration for February.

staralso known asalternate catalogue 
φ (phi) AurBUP 79SAO 58051
11-12 Cam-SAO 25001
HR 2879 GemSTF (Struve) 1108SAO 79489
ζ (zeta) GemMekbuda or SHJ 77SAO 79031
HD 34071 LepGAL 378SAO 150258

Remember double stars work in the city as well as in dark skies. I look forward to hearing how you did! Any questions?

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

tested LED dimmer again

Tried LED dimmer again, with my little custom Telrad heater with resistors. Heat came out! Whiskey tango foxtrot, I thought this thing didn't work?! Carefully measured the amperage with the (repaired) Micronta multi-meter: 0.11A. Huh.


Tried the other heat sources...

Big heating pad: 1.6A.
Kendrick 8" heating strap: 1.0A.
Hacked Heatech cup warmer: 700 mA.

Look at that.


Tested the Kendrick 2" strap with the Micronta audible continuity resistance setting... and was able to get a tone when I bent the strap a particularly way. It has a broken wire!


I don't know what happened... I don't remember now. But it seems that in late-January I was doing lots of little tests and checks and I had a malfunctioning multi-meter as well as an erratic dew strap. Looking back, the cheapo LED dimmer had worked fine.

My theory is that the dew strap itself was not working (hadn't been since early January) and it didn't draw any power from the dimmer circuit so I assumed the LED dimmer was bad.


I need to make some good dew straps. I have lots of nichrome wire...

Sunday, February 17, 2019

finished dew controller

Buttoned up the dew heater controller. It works well. Now I can battle sultry nights on two independent rigs.

Cut the lead wires from the components off the bottom of the finished printed circuit board. Cut the test power feed. Used thermal paste between the sinks and the big transistors. Finally drilled the PCB for the large wire of the reverse polarity Schottky diode and connected the positive power input line.

Tried some plastic standoffs with tiny screws with hot glue but I wasn't really happy. Hacked some shrink wrap tube cut very short and used contact cement.

Wired up the fused Cigarette Lighter Adapter with heavy wire, cut a bit longer than my Kendrick controller.

Attached the case parts. Stoopid skating drill bits; should have used a press. Installed the Richlok plastic strain relief. Soldered the big pots and the indicator LEDs. Pressed the LEDs into place; locked. Soldered the shell tabs of the RCA female connectors in advance. Tightened the RCA jacks with a 9mm spanner. Once the PCB was glued in place, I soldered the RCA plugs on their centre pins.

Glued the power switch into the case. I wanted to use removable connectors to the tabs but they were too deep so I (carefully) hard-wired the SPST.

Summit Brand. Sony guts.

Heated the shrink tube on the power feed. Closed up the box. All done. Tested. Works good.

Project box sealed. Go to eleven.

In a moment of inspiration, printed up some labels.

Shared the photo with Charles on Facebook. He quickly responded: "When we're observing and it's hit the dew point and our dew controller is already on ten and we need a bit more to get us over the edge we can go to eleven." Couldn't have said it better.

None more black.

Friday, February 15, 2019

gazing from 9700 metres (Lachute)

As we rose above the clouds, I noted the Moon, getting bright, high up. Couldn't view it straight on until the plane banked right.

Saw Sirius. Bright, blue-white, intense.

Then I saw deep orange Betelgeuse, and when I squinted, without my eyeglasses on, all of Orion.

Very dark sky above the pale blue clouds below.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

received more NGC 4388 data

I imaged NGC 4388 about a year ago with BGO. The result was fair but I wondered if I could improve on it. So I put it in the queue again. Not sure of the latest photon collection is any better. I also noticed the frame sizing was different, wider.

Still on the Apogee camera, according to the FITS header... Was it cleaned? The axis values show as 1536 pixels.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

received SkyNews Mar/Apr

cover of the Mar/Apr SkyNews magazine
w00t! Received the latest SkyNews magazine today. Excited to read this one with the cover emblazoned with Fight the Light! Content on light pollution! We must fight the light!

Inside, after a quick skim, I noted lots of wonderful photography including shots with the Pleaides and comets.

I also look forward to reading the piece on astroimaging inside city limits. I need all the help I can get.

Friday, February 08, 2019

built a working board

It took me a while to resolve the dew heater controller circuit problems but it is done now. Circuit works.

I sorted an issue with the switching transistors. Initially, I mistakenly used the same pin position assignments for the 2N2222 and TIP31C pieces.

transistor representations in ExpressPCB

I learned that you need to go back to the schematic and ensure the pins of the physical part correspond to the schematic.

After testing a simple 555 schematic from Math Heijen, I successfully debugged my soldered 556 board layout. Carefully comparing the schematic and board layout, I found the error. It was caused by a fault back in mid-January, when I first considered the board layout and I changed from the stock diode object. With my "custom" diode part, I flipped the polarity. I edited the part polarity in ExpressPCB and repaired the board.

Below, is the full, correct board layout I used. Eleven versions! [ed: Oops. Forgot to update diode D7, the Schottky. Corrected version 12 shown.]

v12 printed circuit board layout for the custom dew heater

The board has left and right sections meaning the left R1 potentiometer controls the power output to heaters H1 and H2 and which is reflected in diode D5. Close examination will reveal the correct orientation of the signal diodes. It's a little messy around the TO-18 transistors but the traces drawn indicate where the long legs were attached (when possible). The offsetting (again) of B1 and F1 show the power source is outboard and the fuse is inside the CLA plug.

Cut the long 4-40 bolts for the heat sinks (first time doing that with the GB wire stripping tool). The PCB was (nearly) done and working.

photograph of the completed working PCB

The heavy gauge red and black wires (in the photo) at the upper corners of the PCB are for the heater networks of course. The yellow, purple, and black wires at the bottom corners are for the pots. In my case, the black wires are for the middle pins. You can clearly see one of the indicator diodes; the other is cropped out. The black wire going from the middle of the board straight up in the negative 12 volt power input. I used the red lead at the bottom-right as a temporary feed into the PCB.

With the controller working, I was able to test with the Schottky diode. It was fine, of course. But it will require some special effort: the pins are a bigger girth so I'll have to drill the PCB...

I'm ready for the next phase. Yeh, I can cut the long leads off the bottom of the PCB. I'll attach the case parts now, the pots, the RCA plugs, the power switch, and power feed. Saw a neat trick of gluing stand-offs to the project box so I'll see if I can pull that off...


Next: finished dew controller.