Friday, January 18, 2019

imaged neglected MLB 811 (Halifax)

Commanded BGO during a lull to image neglected double star MLB 811 in the Andromeda constellation aiming at nearby SAO 54361.

neglected double-star MLB 811 in luminance

Luminance only, 2 seconds subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

The poor sky conditions degraded the image slightly.

SAO 54361 is the bright star near centre. The target pair is due east. Very faint!

The WDS shows:

01024+3958MLB 811      1933 1933    1 196 196   5.9   5.9 10.1  10.0                                         D  010225.51+395833.8

No observations since 1933. Unchanged PA and Sep at 196° and 5.9" respectively. Mag 10 stars.

Stella Doppie lists observations in 2007 and 2015. Both note a PA of 202°. The separation is 7.2 or 7.3. Interestingly the 2015 report states the magnitudes are 11.8 and 13.0 for the A and B stars. In my image, think they are nearly equal.

My quick measurement of the image yields of position angle of 201 degrees.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

imaged neglected ES 619 (Halifax)

I asked BGO (with the Windows app) to image neglected double star ES 619 in the Andromeda constellation. It didn't like the HD 14471 reference so I aimed to GSC 03294 01815. Given the empty queue, it captured the target within minutes. ES 619 is the brightest object, just right of centre.

neglected double-star ES 619 in luminance

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

The Washington Double Star database notes the following:

02215+4625ES  619      1894 1970    3 240 246   5.1   5.9  7.9  10.6  K5        -028+009          +45  600   D  022129.8 +462455.

So no observations since 1970. Position angle then was 246 degrees with a separation of 5.9 arc-seconds. The primary magnitude is listed at 7.9 while the secondary is 10.6.

Stella Doppie lists observations in 2008, 2014, and 2015. The latest suggests the PA is 245° and SEP is 5.7".

Mine is not a great image. There are problems in the stack. Probably the sky conditions were a factor. I'm inclined to redo it but in the meantime a deep dive does show a dim companion to the west.

Monday, January 14, 2019

had a thought

The thought occurred to me on the train-ride up to Ottawa that during bright Moon phases I could try to shoot some neglected double stars with the Burke-Gaffney Observatory. Accessed a list for candidates with separations greater than 3 seconds of arc visible in the northern hemisphere. Hundreds to choose from. Good.

spotted dogs (Aurora)

As I travelled to the city to catch my VIA train, I took in the sky and its wispy clouds. Initially I didn't see anything... But later, from the Aurora GO station, I spotted colours.

There were tiny sun dogs. The right one was brighter. They slowly wavered and slowly dimmed. I stood in the shadow of a lamp post for a better view. No rings or arcs anywhere.

Later looked for and found Moon, I guessed about 15 degrees up. Waxing, around first quarter.

collected photons from M98 (Halifax)

The BGO aimed at Messier 98 for me. A large spiral galaxy in Coma Berenices. Viewed only once before (on 19 May 2012).

galaxy Messier 98 in luminance

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

The wonderful nearly edge-on galaxy also known as NGC 4192 looks distorted, particular to the north. Something interfered with it in the past, bending and flexing it. It almost looks like two discs parallels. I can see multiple arms and concentrations of stars within. There seems to be an inner region that is much brighter. Compact and intense core.

Quasar Q 1210+1507 is easy to see. It is to the west of the spiral, in an equilateral triangle with stars J121314.4+145000 and J121307.6+144902.

To the south-west of the galaxy, well away, is a round dim patch: MCG 3-31-76.

Just to the north of this is a tiny dim oval: LEDA 1467279.

NGC 4186 appears to the south-south-east, a nearly face-on spiral, small, with a large bright core.

I can see still more galaxies in this image... Busy place!


Wikipedia link: Messier 98.

captured M87 (Halifax)

I captured Messier 87 with the BGO robot. Another galaxy in Virgo. Another M target viewed only once before (again on 4 May '13).

galaxy Messier 87 in luminance

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

The coolest thing? You can see the jet emanating from the core! The relativistic jet from the intense core of Messier 87 is angled to the west-north-west. Wow.

M87 is a rather large elliptical galaxy again oriented south-east to north-west. Smooth and uniform. M87 is also known as NGC 4486 and Arp 152.

To the north-west, there is a very compact, small, round galaxy, almost star-like. It is NGC 4486B.

I didn't see it at first but there's a tiny sliver below the pair of stars with J123022.1+122822. This distant galaxy is LEDA 139910.

Bright NGC 4478 is to the west-south-west. It has a bright core with a diffuse cloud surrounding it. Is it an elliptical as well? There's also a bright point just above, to the north, very close. Another galaxy? Or a star?

To the south-west, very near the core of grand island universe are two nearly equal faint oval fuzzies. SkyTools shows the same designation for both: UGC 7652.

To the south-south-west is an oval fuzzy with intense bright core: NGC 4486A.

IC 3443 lies to the south-east, a soft, faint medium bright object, with a brightening in the middle.


Wikipedia link: Messier 87.

imaged M49 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged M49, a big galaxy in the constellation Virgo. One of the Messier objects I had logged but once (back in early May 2013). I wanted to return for another look.

galaxy Messier 49 in luminance

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

Messier 49 aka NGC 4472 and Arp 134 is a smooth uniform elliptical. Blinding bright core. What would it be like on a world there with such a bright galactic core?! Surely the night sky would be very bright... The large galaxy is oriented south-east to north-west.

The outer limits of the canted galaxy extend further out than what I can show in this image. I still struggle with Liberator and drawing out faint details.

There are many little neighbouring and distant background galaxies in this simple image.

I missed it given the star-like appearance but SkyTools 3 Professional noted NGC 4464 to the north-west, near the top-right corner of the digital image. On closer examination, it is a compact almond-shape with a bright core, oriented north-south.

Between is the perfectly round fuzz ball of PCG 41180.

To the west-north-west there appears to be a double galaxy, two faint tight objects, with a dimmer one to the north. ST3P only marks the lower object: NGC 4465.

Due west of the big galaxy, is the medium-bright round galaxy of NGC 4467. It is just east of a star making for a good comparison of faint fuzzy and blotted star.

South-west, about the same distance from the core as 4467, but fainter, is PCG 41185.

Further out is the very faint LEDA 1333286.

And still further out is a large spiral, just at the edge of the frame, at the bottom-right. That's MCG 1-32-76.

Curious NGC 4470 is nearly south, an amorphous mottled blob. It looks like a spiral that's been smashed (previously seen).

The big, round, uniform, but extremely faint MCG 1-32-84 shows to the south-east of M49.

And lastly, to the north-east, I see a somewhat large round fuzzy with a bright core: PCG 41264.


Wikipedia link: Messier 49.

clear in ON and NS

Clear everywhere. Ontario and Nova Scotia. But it was awfully cold here. Didn't feel like braving the elements. And I had some home work to do. Looked like I'd get some images from BGO but nothing had happened when I turned in.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Binary Universe: exploring exoplanets

I received my extract from Mr Edgar signifying the February 2019 edition of the RASC Journal was out.

cover of the Feb 2019 edition of the Journal
I look forward to reading Mr Rosolowsky's article entitled Invisible Light Pollution. There's a very interesting piece submitted by Mr Chapman where in 1966 Father Burke-Gaffney told the story of Mr Messier, with a twist. Mr Percy returns introducing us to the American Association of Variable Star Observers. I always enjoy his words.

In my Binary Universe column, I discuss my favourite exoplanet app. It exists for the iOS only and is made by a Torontian in his spare time. Exoplanet version 17.1.0 remains the most comprehensive and up-to-date of all with a fantastic immersive 3D simulation of all the newly discovered worlds surrounding us.

This entry marks my 25 contribution.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

learned about Mass

Couldn't sleep. Finished reading Spaceman by Mike Massimino. What an amazing little book.

I started following Mike when I was monitoring the NASA shuttle missions. In fact, I remember watching the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission 4 in 2009 where Mike... put some elbow grease into the repair! As I read the book I came to realise that he was one of the key people, in more than one way, for saving and extending Hubble. He helped us go deeper with the HST.

I remember his PR activities at NASA and his hilarious guest appearances on Big Bang Theory.

Humble, funny, self-deprecating, and smart. And deep. He's very altruistic. All that comes through in this easy-to-read book that I stumbled across and downloaded from the library.

What a cool guy.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

transparent skies (Bradford)

During a short walk, in the chilly northern breeze, took in the clear, rather dark skies. Orion rising. But Sirius was not yet visible. Pleiades up high. Mars was astonishing, intense deep orange. Noted the Swan diving into the north-west at the end. No meteors nor fireballs...

just an asterism

Checked the WDS for a multi-star system near or around HD 35038. From my Friday night observing session. Nothing. But I did note that SkyTools showed an open cluster marker at the location. The moniker is Dolidze 17. Huh. Now, that said, in the Object Information box ST3P stated "reality of cluster in doubt." Google search results returned some hits including references to an asterism.

looked into A 666

Had a look-see at the multi-star system A 666 (aka palindromic HD 42924). Pulled the current data from the Washington Double Star database... In particular, I was wondering about the bright star between A and C/D.

06133-0624A   666AB    1904 1995   14  28  37   0.6   0.5  8.91  9.47 G5
06133-0624A   666AB,C  1893 2004   13 318 321 229.1 230.1  8.91  9.25 G5
06133-0624A   666AB,E  1904 2015    4 232 234  24.4  23.8  8.91 13.76 G5
06133-0624A   666CD    1904 2016    7 267 265   5.2   5.2  9.25 14.8  K0

Ah. Found another star. An E companion. But when I reduced the data and plotted it, E showed up to the south-west. Oh.

plot of the 5 elements of multi-star system A 666

So I still don't have an answer per se.

And it suggests there's an E star to view... But I didn't log anything Friday night other than A and C. If the magnitude value of 13.8 is correct, it will need aperture.

And D? Hopeless probably at mag 14.8.

Anyhoo. The system in Monoceros remains on the View Again list. Should go after it with a big OTA to pull out the faint and tight elements.

another minion

Ha ha! Tom posted on the RASC Toronto forum, "Thanks to Blake (and Sissy Hass!) I have become a hopelessly addicted double star seeker!" Resistance is futile.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

tested no-name dimmer

Tested the cheapo dimmer controller I bought off eBay a long time ago... Friday night the dew strap on the camera did not seem to be working. I hadn't felt any heat of it. Tested it on the bench. Nothing!

Checked for volts coming out of the controller. Except when dialled down to zero, it showed over 12 volts DC. OK. After reviewing my notes, tried the little logic probe from Dietmar. It was showing pulses... at certain positions. A good sign. But nothing from 0 to about 10%. And nothing above 75%. Weird.

Put the Kendrick 2" eyepiece dew strap on the Kendrick controller. It immediately warmed at the low setting. Of course. Whew.

Then, out of curiosity, tried the old Micronta logic probe on the Kendrick. And just couldn't figure out what was going on! Anyhoo. The strap is fine. The Kendrick controller is fine. I'll have to do a deeper dive into the no-name controller.

Frank viewed STF 196

Great to see increasing interest on doubles. Frank shared an observing report on the RASC Toronto forum.
Here is a brief observing report for one of the stars on Blake’s December list, HR 577 (STF 196) in Aries.  This was easy to find last night, and I found a nice orange primary star with a fainter pair to the north, consisting of close 8 and 9 magnitude stars.  It looked like all 3 stars made a very nice sight in the field of view of my 8mm Plossl eyepiece (180x on my 100mm f/15 refractor) and it is definitely a nice target on a night of steady seeing.
That's fun.

shot a comet, viewed doubles (Bradford)

Suited up. Three layers (this time) on my legs; five layers on my torso. Even though it was not that cold out tonight...

In the first go-round bringing stuff out, I forgot my eyeglasses.

Did I see a meteor out of the corner of my eye?

Wanted to photograph comet 46P/Wirtanen with my barn door tracker. Readied the Canon 40D with Takumar 55mm f/2 lens on my do-it-yourself barn door tracker.

8:00 PM, Friday 4 January 2019. In the backyard. Different spot this time. Two-thirds of the way south, between the fire pit and the shed. Pretty good when sitting, the street lights were not as annoying. Needed to be a bit south-west so to get the comet. Impacted my Orion angles unfortunately. Neighbours had the blue-white decorative lights on the deck turned on; not home.

8:03 PM. Was shooting the area near the comet. Pretty good focus. Tweaked it a bit. No obvious trailing per se. One minute exposure. Tried 2 minutes.

Thought the humidity was pretty high. I wondered about power for the dew heating. I had considered using the sealed lead acid batteries but had not brought any out at this stage.

Noted a plane in photo. Ah. I heard it. Slight trailing. Rotation? I had not yet done a proper polar alignment... Ugh. More stuff needed. More steps. Ruminated for a while.

Fetched the power tank.

8:15. Attached the 2" anti-dew strap to the camera lens. Used my custom dimmer PWM control.

Performed a precise polar alignment with my new larger chart. The custom alt-az base on the barn door tracker works fantastic! Went quickly.

Checked SkyTools for the exact location of the comet. About 5½ off the nose of Ursa Major, west-south-west of Muscida. Captured more test exposures using Bulb mode. Two and a half minutes, it was super-bright. Ooh. I had turned the drive off. Back on now. Set to ISO 100. Tried another 2.5 minute shot at f/5.6.

Tried field identification comparing the photo to the SkyTools Interactive Atlas chart. Alt-tabbing was acting strangely on the netbook computer. Frustrated.

Realised I had forgotten to do the co-linear alignment check on the BDT. Oh well.

Realised I still had the 2x doubler enabled in ST3P. But I had confirmed my location.

Loosened the ball head and aimed the DSLR a bit higher. Tried another bulb shot.

8:43. Reviewed all the gear to do photography. Barn door tracker, medium tripod, camera, camera AC adapter, extension cord, GFCI power bar. Tether and computer and associated bits and bobs. Battery pack, dew heater gear. Oh and table and chair. Crikey.

Checked field again. Noted a pair at the edge, that had been further up. I didn't move enough. Adjusted the ball head again. Also did a slight counter-clockwise rotation. Programmed the interval settings in Canon EOS Utility this time.

The dew heater did not feel hot... I had the controller at maximum.

8:48. Checked the Oregon Scientific portable weather station. It showed 70% relative humidity. Ambient air temperature read as -2.7° Celsius. There was dew on the unit. Said there would be precipitation tomorrow.

Moved up again.

While waiting, I set up Charles's old Meade ETX telescope on the Mamiya tripod.

Car pulled in the drive.

8:59. Readied for another shot. Programmed a 5 minute shot. Powered the Meade ETX 'scope while waiting.

The camera was nearly centred on the star HR 3106.

Went to f/4. Saw trailing in the 5-min shot. Dropped to 2 minutes. Changed the ISO to 800. Changed to 1:30. Set the aperture in the EU app.

I heard the west-side neighbour outside. Their dog freaked out until they put it inside. Neither of the humans could control it.

Whiskey tango foxtrot. Astrophotography is so... challenging.

Totally blown out exposure. Stopped down to f/8. Tried again. Darker. Continued to try to get the exposure right...

Found the finder scope fogged on the little MCT. Forgot to cap it.

Rhonda came out to see what I was doing. Comet hunting. But "Cupid and Donner were gone," she said. She asked if I had seen any "inids." Nope. I hadn't been looking up much (sadly). Said they should be emanating from over the house. She thought the sky was grey. Indeed. Low transparency. Wondered where the Moon was; new phase! We talked about weird cinnamon-flavoured and pumpkin-flavoured beers. She asked if I had seen the "snowman" object. You bet. She wanted to put a carrot nose and button eyes on it. She said wouldn't mind returning if there was something really spectacular...

What was going on?! Brain fart. I was going the wrong direction with the ISO.

Finally got a satisfying result. Checked the histogram. Programmed for 25 shots.

Activated the three-panel telescope mode chart thing in SkyTools (the Visual Sky Simulation). Installed the ole Celestron Plössl 26mm eyepiece. Set the time sliders in the Night Bar.

9:36. Ready to start visual observing. Considered targets. I thought Cetus was gone. Andromeda? Below Cassiopeia... So portions were still visible, even though I was closer to the western trees.

Went to the shed for Rhonda's garden kneeling pad.

Grew increasingly frustrated. Hard-to-use finder, telescope-tripod height, object elevation, frickin' trees, high-priority targets out of range, bright lights everywhere, cold and damp, high humidity, old specs, bad eyes, finder out of alignment, a total manual 'scope, everything. Everything.

Reviewed a photo.

comet 46P near Ursa Major

Canon 40D, 60 seconds, ISO 800, daylight white balance, RAW format, Takumar 55mm at f/8, Canon EOS Utility, Digital Photo Professional 3.8, Paint.NET. North is left; east is down.

Panned around but finally landed at the Trapezium. Four stars visible. The nebula was spectacular.

9:56. Aligned the little 6x finder scope. It was way off.

Moved to 42 and 45 Orionis. Wanted to have another look at this wide pair.

10:05. Flattened triangle. Orange star, much dimmer, between them (aka V359). 42 was on the left for me, i.e. the west, in the little Mak.

I had added this pair to my list to view again. It is in the Astronomical League's binocular doubles list. But it was also included in Jerry Lodriguss's naked-eye doubles list. I tried to spot the two separate stars with my old fogged eyeglasses without success. ST3P said the stars were 4.25 arcminutes apart. [ed: Mizar and Alcor are 12.0' apart. And I find them somewhat challenging...]

With the 26mm (so 48 times). 42 looked yellow; 45 was dimmer... blue-white? Maybe? Or was it the same?

Forgot to bring out the binoculars. Easily split in the 6x finder. Pleasing pair, in lieu of bins.

There was dew on the screen of John Repeat Dance. Oregon said: 76%, -2.6°.

Upstairs neighbours got home. Their kitchen light flooded the back yard. Brighter now with the snow. I was a bit further away though.

Capped the camera and started a darks run.

Returned to Messier 42. To enjoy the spectacle.

10:14. M42 was very nice in the small f/14 OTA. Very nicely framed. Intense. The U-shape nebula, the grey cloud, was great. With the Trapezium at the bottom of the U. θ (theta) 2, in the string of 3 aligned stars, off to the right. Extremely large. In super-dark skies it would fill this field. Noted M43 (Messier 43) above, to the north. Small, surrounding a single star. The Great Orion Nebula has a large wing went off to the north-west. Quite big with averted. A tail that went to the south-west. Very nice. Big. Noted ι (iota) below (south).

For my next target, I started moving along the outstretched arm of the hunter. Starhopped from γ (gamma) Orionis.

10:32. Landed on a neat pattern of stars with HD 35038, a boxy C-shape.

[ed: Discovered SkyTools marks this as the questionable open cluster.]

Made it to 14 Ori. Oh boy. A super-tight fast-moving binary. About one second of arc between them. Too close to one another for the 89mm telescope.

Checked the camera. Five to go.

Headed inside for a bit.

Bagged the camera. Packed up the camera gear.

Wanted to revisit ζ (zeta) Persei. Hopefully to get more stars...

11:05. Saw the three stars. The two faint ones below. The D and E stars to the south. D was fainter of the two. A was pale yellow. Hard to get any colour on the dim companions. Maybe D was orange and E was blue. Noted the star opposite D, further out, at mag 10.3.

A bunny rabbit hopped by me, to the south.

Loaded the Pentax XW 20mm ocular. 62x.

The seeing was quite good.

Noted the pair to the north-east. HD 24601, the A and C stars. Two in the view...

ζ is on my candidate list.

Tried the Meade orthoscopic 18mm. Only slightly more powerful, 69x. Could not see any more stars.

Tried for κ (kappa) Leporis. Starhopped south from Rigel. The bottom-right star of a cup-shape with ι and λ (lambda).

11:25. Not a great candidate for my programme. Too tight. 2.3". ST3P said it was "not splittable" at any time. While not an overly difficult starhop, just too tight for a little 'scope.

Wondered about some other doubles in the rabbit constellation...

Oh. Red star! M-class. Went to ι with RX Lep right beside it. Nice. Arrowhead of stars. iota proper was a double but the B consort was 6 magnitudes dimmer and fairly close at 12". I peeked. It was to the north according to my software atlas but I couldn't see in the telescope. [ed: Previously viewed in early 2018.]

Viewed double HD 34071 aka GAL 378 near μ (mu) Lep.

11:36. Yellow and orange. Nice. Separation 38.6, mags 7.6 and 9.1. Ah. The primary was a K2 star.

Accidentally activated the Interactive Atlas. Dang!

Noted Sirius was twinkling wildly. Flashing into different colours like a police car cherry bar.

Took in the huge Winter Football.

11:42. Wondered about The Pup... Hmmm. Eleven arc-seconds away...

I had HR 2358 in my list, the C star of β (beta) Monocerotis. I decided to return for another look. Started my hop and landed at γ.

SkyTools said there was a multi-star system west of gamma. A nearly straight line of 3 stars. Quite faint. This was HD 42924 or A 666. Actually, the Object Information box revealed it was a quad with the B partner less than 1 arc-second away. The C sidekick was a mile away. OK, 230". C and D were too close for the ETX. Intriguing the star between A and C...

[ed: Reviewed the WDS data on A 666.]

Hopped using the ocular again... Carried on east.

When I arrived, I saw a tight double. Changed eyepieces, going from the 26 to the 20mm. No way!

11:52. Whoa! I split the B and C stars of β (beta) Mon! Wow! All the same colour... C was dimmer than B by a touch. B was a tiny bit dimmer than A. When I had the 26mm in I thought at first I was out of focus when examining the B star but it was because it was two stars! Fantastic. [ed: B and C are 3 seconds of arc apart! That's a useful number...]

Went back to the 26. I could see B and C separate! How about that! Amazing.

Now that's good seeing conditions!

Tried to coax out the faint D attendant. Nope.

[ed: Highlight of the evening, right there.] [ed: While I had seen the C star before, never in so small an instrument.]

Headed to Sirius. Looked for the B colleague. Used my flotilla of eyepieces.

Rhonda checked in.

Suddenly I felt tired. My disturbed sleep patterns of late were not helping. I was a bit cool in the torso.

12:10 AM, Saturday 5 January 2019. Done with Sirius. I kept wondering about diffraction mask tricks...

Starhopped from Procyon for 14 Canis Minoris. Somewhat tricky.

12:16 AM. A triple, also known as SHJ 87. Nice. Nearly equilateral triangle. The B and C stars were very faint. I wondered if this item should remain on my candidate list. Hard to get to, the companions might be invisible for some, nothing exciting nearby.

Started packing up.

There was a lot of frost. Checked the weather device: 82%, -2.6°.

Energizer head lamp light was working poorly. Low batteries presumably.

12:30. Hauled the marine batteries back to the house.

Enjoyed a night cap.

Friday, January 04, 2019

good looking charts

Wow. Hadn't seen an optimistic Clear Sky Chart for a long time. The Clear Outside and Astrospheric charts echoed the good prediction.

Clear Sky Chart for Friday night

I considered observing in the back yard. Maybe I could multi-task too and try to image the comet as it headed toward the snout of the Great Bear.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

lunar and solar phenomena (York region)

On leaving the house to catch the train, I spotted a very thin old crescent Moon. It grew increasingly difficult to see as it rose into a bright sky.

Later I spotted iridescent clouds. There was an extremely bright rapidly evolving spectrum of intense colour left of the Sun and close-in to the right mottled opalescent pigments.

On the way home, my heart sank as the high and low cloud cover increased. I had hoped to spot Venus naked eye near the Moon... Mr Markov had encouraged everyone to try.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

happy new asteroid

Watched the Ultima Thule NASA media event live. Alice Bowman, Chris Hersman, Alan Stern, and Hal Weaver updated us on the New Horizons spacecraft and the data coming down. They shared the highest resolution image, so far.

early approach image from Ultima Thule

Early views support the bilobate shape, like a peanut or a bowling pin. Reminiscent of the rubber ducky shape visited by ESA. Amazing this view of the furthest and most primitive solar system object. And it's only gonna get better.

See the John Hopkins Pluto web site for more info.