Monday, July 15, 2019

RASC is celebrating the Moon landing

Lots going on around the GTA in deference for the Apollo 11 anniversary. There are RASC Toronto Centre events at the Ontario Science Centre, at the Aga Khan museum, and at the David Dunlap Observatory. I'll be at the DDO. It's another sold-out family night in Richmond Hill.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

watched NG Apollo special

Rhonda and I watched the National Geographic special Apollo: Missions to the Moon. She had recorded it a short time ago. Neat stuff.

assisted at the DDO (Richmond Hill)

We had another awesome evening at the David Dunlap Observatory. Frank predicted clear skies and we got 'em!

We had lots of 'scopes on the lawn showing the Ring Nebula, the Apple Core, Albireo, Mizar & Alcor, Jupiter, Saturn, Titan, etc. I popped out to the lawn for a bit to enjoy the views. In the dome, fantastic views of Jupiter were offered. The Great Red Spot was visible and the moons were in a very interesting configuration.

Really enjoyed Alex's afocal iPhone shot of Jupiter through the 74-inch!

In the lecture hall Dr Rachael Alexandroff delivered (twice) an amazing talk on the Event Horizon Telescope project and the first direct imaging of a black hole, a very appropriate topic at the DDO.

We also hosted a young man as he proposed to his girlfriend in the dome. She said yes!

We had 16 hard-working volunteers. I was grateful for all their support.

Deployed the new table-talkers and mini-schedules, tried our new hand stamp, couched our new coordinator, tried another eyepiece shootout, tried a BNC adapter, and so on.

Overall, a very good event.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

quickly loaded HD 177904 (Halifax)

When the BGO 'bot reported an empty queue, I quickly sent in an entry found in SkyTools from Coldfield. Sounds like a colourful system in Aquila. HD 177904 or STF 2449.

double star Struve 2449 in luminance

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

A very tight doublet nearly oriented east-west. The left or east sun looks brighter to me, by a hair.

[ed: Haas says it is a binary.]

Will have to wait for the colour version...

tried to find BRT 343 (Halifax)

Chose 17214+4552 BRT 343 from the WDS which appears to be a neglected double star. It was viewed once in 1894 and never again since. That's 125 years. Ordered BGO to aim at TYC 3508-0354 1 in Hercules.

possible location of BRT 343 in luminance

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

From the database:

WDS id: 17214+4552BRT 343
discovery year: 1894
position angle: 213
separation: 4.5
magnitudes: 11.48 and 11.7
precise coords: 172125.19+455221.5

Hmmm. Tycho 03508-0506 1 in SkyTools is at shown at this location. This is the somewhat bright star up and left of centre, north-north-east of Tycho 0354 1. ST3P says 0506 1 is magnitude 11.4.

I'm looking for a star of similar magnitude near to or touching. Assuming the PA is correct, it would be to the south-south-west. Nothing super-close at that position.

Know what's at the position angle of 213° that's magnitude 11.7? That Tycho star! That separation is handsome though: 1' 57" or 117". Not 4.5".

Neat star patterns in the field. The string to the south-east and the oval to the top-right.

imaged HD 202276 (Halifax)

I recently viewed HD 202276 aka β 682 at the CAO as I tried to find some interesting doubles in the small constellation of Equuleus. This is a triple with tight and wide components. Maybe not a good choice for my double star programme.

Aimed the Burke-Gaffney Observatory robotic telescope at Tycho 00535-1921 1. It sure is interesting!

multi-star system HD 202276 with friends in luminance

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

The HD 202276 system is centred on the brightest star in the field. Amazingly, I can see the tight companion B. It is much dimmer and located to the left or east. The partner C, which I briefly visually spotted, is below, to the south.

East of C is the vertically oriented (north-south) close pair of equal faint stars of BAL 2979.

To the right is the close and unequal pairs to stars. About twice the separation of BAL. Not quite north-south. SkyTools 3 Professional does not show these as a formal double. The brighter star, Tycho 00535-1921 1, is the one I used for targetting.

The whole pattern is very interesting.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

doubles for July 2019

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


Smoke from forest fires may hamper your efforts and allow only views of the Moon and planets at opposition. Maybe brighter double stars could punch through the haze?

For July, here's a short selection of doubles from my life list, ones I find beautiful and impressive. I did not include terribly tight targets.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
σ CrB17 CrB or STF 2032HIP 79607
μ HerΣ2220 (Struve)SAO 85397, HIP 86974
HD 238823 DraPPM 36404 or STF 2300SAO 30778
γ Ser41 SerpentisSAO 101826, HIP 78072
53 OphSTF A 34SAO 122526, HIP 85998

Consider adding these to your observing list.

Remember doubles are fun, easy, sometimes challenging, always interesting, often colourful, and dynamic!

I look forward to hearing how you make out. Holler if you have any questions.

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

RASC at DDO on Saturday

RASC Toronto Centre is on deck this Saturday at the David Dunlap Observatory. We'll be delivering a lecture night with a speaker from the Dunlap Institute.

Another sold out show!

If you want to visit the DDO and join a tour and look through the big 'scope as well as 'scopes on the lawn, you'll have to plan well ahead. These events are very popular! See our DDO calendar for our upcoming events.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

enjoyed the weekend

We enjoyed a relatively quiet, relaxing weekend at the CAO. That seems in contrast to my last few tours of supervisor duty with huge crowds and some, ah, very keen customers. Also, all visitors were veterans so I didn't need to do rookie tours.

We were able to tackle a bunch of tasks too.
  • I moved the emergency flashlights back to the safety stations
  • I re-powered the dining room computer after someone had monkeyed with the power bar
  • I removed the alcohol left in a public space
  • I installed an A-B video switch box so to permit easy monitoring of the weather/SQM server and surveillance appliance
  • I moved the old CRT (our last one, I think) to the garage
  • Steve brought up the recently purchased video cable 
  • Steve deployed the new donated monitors in the SLO
  • he brought the previously-used wide screen monitor to the dining room computer
  • I installed an information sticker indicating the power switch for dining room computer
  • I installed an information sticker indicating the power switch for the GBO monitor
  • I installed information stickers to the SLO UPS
  • I put a piece of red film over the new stove's green LED clock
  • I also put red film over green LED on GBO UPS
  • and red film on the new GBO router
  • I loaded member images from the SLO to various computers
  • retrieved a mouse pad from the old GBO laptop bag
  • I washed the dining room computer mouse pad
  • I installed the SQM UDM software to the server and verified operations overnight
  • Steve and I inspected the east window
  • Steve and I reviewed the StarAdventurer equipment
  • I checked the clamp bolts on north deck umbrella receivers
  • Steve reviewed SLO operations
  • Steve deployed some new signage in the SLO
  • I performed a WLAN scan
  • Steve and I reviewed how to reboot the UPS units downstairs and in the SLO
  • Steve and I moved the main router to a battery-backed outlet
  • Steve and I monitored the generator exercise cycle
  • I tried the donated 35mm eyepiece
  • I created a proper limited user account on the Linux machine
  • I formally installed Stellarium to the Linux machine
  • I took the custom solar filter off the Oberwerk binos
  • I installed the High Contrast theme to the GBO Chrome browser
  • I updated the weekend "supers" presentation on the Dell laptop and let it run
  • for Phil, I replaced the ceiling tiles in the Orion room
  • I measured all the wide screen monitors
  • I moved a spare flat-screen to the GBO for laptop users
  • I disabled the peer-to-peer updating on the SLO Windows 10 machine
  • I set the SLO Win 10 computer to use dark mode
  • I installed a dark astronomical theme to Chrome on SLO
  • I moved all red film to the GBO cupboard
  • I inspected the Walker 8-inch Dobsonian and demonstrated its use
  • Steve offered tours of the SLO to various members
  • I verified FOV settings in TheSkyX in the GBO
  • Steve and I determined how to access the BIOS of the SLO computer
  • Steve and I set the SLO BIOS to reboot after power restoration
  • and finally got the donated hp laser printer on the Linux machine!
Felt good.

And I got some hammock time!

did a bit more before the clouds (Blue Mountains)

A few more doubles...

1:19 AM. Viewed HD 132357. aka STF 1895. Never viewed before. Dim stars in the Tele Vue 101 but nicely separated. In a big checkmark shape. Cool.

Rhonda appeared. Hello! I had thought she had turned in. "Welcome." We did a little star party!

2:47 AM. Revisited τ (tau) Cygni, once again, a suggestion from Andy. aka AGC 13. With the 10mm in the GSO 16. 'Scope pointing straight up. Pretty well the best time to look at it. I was near the diffraction limit. Saw something at the 10 or 11 o'clock position.

The SkyTools 3 Pro software, in the chart, said the stars were the same brightness. No. That's not what I was seeing. The Object Information said they were 3 magnitudes different. That's more like it. At 0.99 arc-seconds.

There were Q, C, P stars. And then the D well away.

Got all the stars!

Q, C, and P were dim. Similar. Whitish primary. Cool white. D was grey.

I also saw the faint double above and right (west). About the 1 or 2 o'clock position. SEI 1461.

All right.

2:50. Steve returned. I sent the OTA to the Iris Nebula (NGC 7023), the same object he was imaging. Dropped the power. We could see the nebulosity. It seemed to be extended more to the bottom-right.

I felt tired. Steve needed one more 10 minute frame.

I got confused by a searching and slewing issue. It was partly due to font colours with the red film.

Steve suggested slewing by the position. I didn't know who to do that. He spotted it... Telescope tab, Slew to Coordinates.

Headed, at last, to HR 8348, a triple. In Pegasus, also known as HJ 947. With the new 35mm Tele Vue.

3:06. Confirmed I was on the correct target. Put the 10mm in. Yellow, blue, grey. All fairly wide. Terrible seeing. Nothing was visible in the small refractor. C, above (north-west) was very faint in the big 'scope!

One more thing!

I figured out something. When in the Telescope tab and you search for something and it finds it, it immediately lists it. But if the item is not found, the previously used item remains. There's no tone (that I could hear).


3:14. I thought I was seeing two moons but it was a star with Triton. It was south-west. There was a isosceles triangle below (west).

Steve said the seeing was "super brutal."

Both Steve and I were happy with the pointing. Pretty well everything was dead on.

We parked our 'scopes. Started the dehumidifying. Oregon: 77%, 13.8°. I put all the oculars and accessories away while Steve ran the roof motor. I de-powered the main rig.

3:30. We closed the observatory. Headed to the house as astronomical twilight started... Clouds everywhere.

private star party (Blue Mountains)

Private star party for Rhonda.
Instruments: GSO 16-inch RC, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
Messier 13 (M13), the Great Hercules Cluster aka the Keystone Cluster. The big globular. Looked pretty good.

Compact M92 (Messier 92). Also in Her. Very nice.

The Blue Racquetball in Ophiuchus. Small. Very small. Almond shaped.

Cat's Eye Nebula in the Dragon. Also known as NGC 6543. Greenish. Oval shape. Bigger.

The Dumbbell in Vulpecula. The Apple Core. Or M27 (Messier 27). Huge!

Steve wondered at the naked eye wide double star in the south-east. Took me a bit but I realised it was alpha 1 and 2 in Capricornus. "Algedi." Indeed. [ed: Algedi to Alshat.]

I noted little Sagitta later in the evening.

I could see the Coathanger (Collinder 399) naked eye. Pointed it out with the GLP.

Stared at the dense region north of Deneb where the North American and Pelican nebulae would be.

We looked at Jupiter and Saturn again.

Amazing transparency. Rhonda did not recall ever seeing the Milky Way so clearly.

a late start

The weather turned. We had thought it would be poor Friday then improving through Saturday with very good conditions Sunday.

We got lucky last night.

But clouds moved in Saturday afternoon and evening.

It pushed David away. He had hoped to get in another imaging run at the SLO.

It discouraged Catherine and Barry. They put away the Dobs and went to bed.

Rhonda, Steve, and I stayed up, and kept peeking outside. And after midnight, we started feeling better!

Saturday, July 06, 2019

took advantage (Blue Mountains)

Found a beer in the house! Yes!

12:10 AM. Returned to the GBO. I did not have an observing plan ready so I started to work on that.
Instruments: GSO 16-inch RC, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
Checked the weather station: 98%, 20.1°.

The 'scope was pointed nearly straight up so I put it horizontal to keep the dew out.

Looked for the other mouse pad. I suspected it was in the house, in the basement, in the locked closet, in the locked security cabinet, in the laptop bag, for a computer we didn't use much anymore.

Switched from the new Evernote interface. It's still sucks.

I configured the Chrome browser on the new GBO computer to use the High Contrast theme. Took me a little while to find it.

Reviewed my double star project candidate list (online) and my SkyTools lists. I sought out targets to view again. Ended up with a list with over 25 objects.

12:30. Checked the Warm Room conditions. Bionaire: 68%, 25°. Humidity climbing, temp about the same. Still warmer than outside.

Did a bit of homework...

12:36. Lightning flashes were more noticeable now. Filling more of the sky. More obvious from the Warm Room. Closer now, perhaps?

Checked the CAO weather page. First time in a long time. It was updated at 12:30. 10 minute average wind speed was 1.6 km/h, direction west, current wind speed 3.2 km/h, high 6.4, humidity 98%, barometer 1012.8 mbar, outside temp 22.4°C, heat index 23.8°, dew temperature 22.1 (but 0.3 degrees away), inside temperature 26.7°. Wow. Checked the trend graphs: 100%  humidity Tue through Wed, dropped to 30%, has been climbing steadily, air pressure was lowest Tue night at 1008, then went high on Sat morning 1018.0, outside temp climbing through the week over 26 on Tue then over 28 on Thu, inside temp hovered at 24, dipped to 20, then climbed through the week to over 28 on Wed evening, the reception bar was rock steady at 100%, made sense closer on house, on the roof overhead, a new battery, new solar cell.

Continued working on ST3P list. Finally accessed my project list on the cloud (read only).

Headed outside for a bit.

The Moon was finally gone.

1:01. More list building.

Heard a strange bird call... Weird.

1:19. Skies looked bad again.

Added pre-notes.


1:33. Skies looked pretty clear!

I hadn't really thought about it per se. Lately I have used my netbook with SkyTools talking to TheSky to drive the Paramount. I hadn't done any of the steps for that but it was not really a bad thing. This would give me a chance to get more familiar with TheSkyX. That'd be good.

Considered viewing HD 186224 aka Σ2563. Didn't seem very exciting.

Settled on 3 Pegasi.

Grabbed the 10mm for the Tele Vue 101 refractor. 54x.

1:43. A nice pair! Good at low power. North was down. White and orange, a little hard to tell. Very nice. Equal.

Missed a second monitor with the small computer. Wondered about getting an extra screen...

Went back out to look in the big gun.

Ho ho. Fantastic! Near to 3 Peg was SAO 126937 aka STT 443. Super tight pair. In-line, all the same angles. Same magnitudes. Faint in the TV101. Two in the view.

3 Peg in the big 'scope looked different: yellow and white or yellow and blue. Absolutely stunning.

[ed: Haas describe as yellow-white and ash white. She quotes Smyth: white and pale blue. And she refers to nearby OΣ443.]

Wondered about targets in Equuleus. I didn't have any...

Warm in the Warm Room. Turned the fan off.

Viewed γ (gamma) Equ. Did not dive deep. Super wide stars. Needs to be revisited...

1:59. Short slew.

Headed to the house. Needed a sweater!

The green LED on the new UPS was bright.

Added τ (tau) Cygni from Andy.

Hazy views in the 16-inch.

Tried δ (delta) Equ. Very unequal pair, tight-tight, AB, I did not see that. [ed: ST3P reports the separation is 0.25" as of May 2019, a binary system with a 5.7 year period! Wow! Very fast! aka STT 535.] AC [ed. aka STF 2777.] was visible but very unequal again. I didn't think it a good candidate.

Too hot. Turned the fan back on.

Zoomed into the chart.

2:14. Considered HD 202276 from ST3. Also known as Burnham 682. Entered the coords into TSX. Enter key didn't work; clicked Find.

Not an obvious pair. The software showed a very wide pair and a super-tight pair. Put it to view again.

Tried τ Cyg. Not a good view. Would need to try again later.

Clouded out... Counters dripping. Checked the Oregon: 98%, 19.8, pressure climbing, rain.

Decided to close up shop. Parked, closed the roof, started the dehumidifier, tidied, batteries out of the laser.

Heard some moths at the screen. Some were really big! I checked their eyeballs, some orange, some pink! Equal double stars!

Checked the remaining space: 7 hours.

2:36. Good night!

Chatted with Barry for a bit during the evening. We talked about certificate observing list requirements.

Friday, July 05, 2019

a gift (Blue Mountains)

We headed to the observatory floor.
Instruments: GSO 16-inch RC
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
10:13 PM. Rhonda said she could see the dark part of the Moon. Indeed.

I asked if she remembered what it was called. Not sure. I asked her if she knew what was causing it. She did. With some leading questions, I helped her with the terminology. She got it: earthshine! We talked about contrast issues. It's always happening, of course. Also, discussed the psychology, given that our brain knows the Moon is a circle...

Some clouds went by the Moon. She thought the Moon a big fuzzy.

I offered to put the big telescope on our nearest neighbour. Tried to spot Luna in the software but I did not see it. Must be a realistic size, i.e. small on the computer display. Performed a search, found it, and slewed.

We talked about if astronomers could see the flags and equipment on Moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbitor, lunar erosion, and how long the 50-year-old boot prints would last.

She enjoyed the view of the cratered surface. She saw clouds in the eyepiece. I suggested they might be moving quickly which rho confirmed. "So cool!"

I centred on Mare Crisium. The shape reminded me of a flatfish (like a sole). Pointed out the two little craters (eyes of the flatfish) including Picard.

Rhonda spotted the Big Dipper.

I pointed out the shimmering, the atmospheric distortion from our atmosphere, like heat waves over a hot highway. The Moon was "boiling."

Pointing out faults in lava-filled maria. [ed: in Mare Fecunditatis.]

Noted a smudge in the eyepiece. Figured it out. The pine tree!

I asked if she fancied anything. While it was good, I didn't think galaxies would render well given the conditions. We talked about the Summer Triangle.

I flip-flopped between the Find tab and the Telescope wondering if there was a better way to work.

Rhonda asked about the little box on the counter. That was my portable weather station.

10:30 PM. Slewed to next. Albireo.

We talked about diffraction spikes. I explained some of the pros and cons.

Rhonda asked how I knew where to go. Summer Triangle. Knew Albireo was, knew it would look good. Then the computer did the rest...

She thought "peach and blue." Lovely view.

Rhonda has an interesting thought: we should arrange for red-butt fire flies. They'd be astronomer-friendly.

10:38. Slewed to next, Izar. Similar colours but much tighter. "Oh, wow," rho said. She agreed the primary was pale gold. The secondary I thought pale blue; she argued white.

We talked about colour impressions, mixing, proximity. I grabbed more powerful eyepieces to move the stars further apart. I shared that some observers report colours like green and purple but we know scientifically that's not possible.

Rhonda asked if they were ISS flyovers. None until early morning, pre-dawn.

Higher power again.

I think rho aka Hawkeye was seeing chroma. This telescope, unlike SCTs we often look through, introduces some false colour. We talked about eyepiece design. It is what it is.

10:49. Looked in lumpy to find the super-colourful system I had viewed recently. Right: 31 Cygni. We enjoyed the deep blue and orange and white stars.

Rhonda asked if we had bats. Yep. Not many, unfortunately. We also had owls.

With the green laser, I pointed out the naked eye doubles of 32 and 31. Traced the asterism of the kite.

Big meteor! I spotted it in Cygnus. North-bound. [ed: It wasn't a Bootid. The South Aquarids weren't due for a week...]

I put on some of my anti-bug juice stuff.

Seeing the three stars close together, Rhonda thought it might be Orion. Ah, that was Scorpius. [ed: β (beta), δ (delta), and π (pi).]

Pointed to the bright planets. Rhonda wanted to know if the Great Red Spot would be visible. I wasn't sure.

11:04. Slewed to the Jovian world. We identified the Galilean moons using the cloud bands as pointers. She was curious about the sizes and the numbers. Told her with the new bigger 'scope I was trying for some of the fainter moons.

Time to amp the power! I talked about the outrageous claim by cheap telescope makers but that the recommended magnification limit was around 300x. Encouraged her to use the moons to focus. As she absorbed more photons she started to get more detail of the cloud-tops. Colour, shades, festoons, barges, current and eddies like a slow-moving stream of water. Averted helped.

I noted the equatorial belt, the dark brown bands above and below, the many bands in the upper zone (south), the nearly all-white opposite hemisphere (north).

I backed off the power a little bit.

Distant lightning flashes showed to the west.


11:23. "Woo!" Rhonda liked Saturn! I agreed. My first view of the year. So nice to be back.

We could see little faint points all around. Bright Titan above. Hawkeye could see more than me.

Very high mag. A little soft. Dropped the power.

Added the ringed world to a new observing list in my favourite planning app. Set the settings and viewed the chart. Carefully set the date/time and location. Red mode. Correct 'scope and ocular. Noted little moons scattered all over the place. Hyperion and Iapetus were way out. Mimicked our orientation. I spotted Titan. Good. "I saw the cluster between 2 and 4. We saw the 11 and the 7. So, yeah. Woo!" Rhonda exclaimed. Heh. That was funny. Titan was super bright at 12, Rhea, I could see it, below left, Dione, 2 o'clock. Rhonda saw Tethys and maybe Enceladus. We talked about position of the moons, the inclination, the 29 year cycle, oppositions.

On Saturn, I could see the equatorial belt and a dark line below it.

I headed to the house for a moment. Returned with water to re-hydrate.

11:44. Rhonda spotted the Christmas lights in the GBO chunnel. Yep. Our recent upgrade. We chatted about the roads and routes surrounding the CAO.

Moon was gone.

One more. One more target.

11:53. We finished on The Ring.

We did some whole sky. We spotted the Dolphin.

Rhonda called it a night.


It was such a treat to view the skies tonight. I thought Friday night was gonna be cloudy with thunderstorms. I'm glad I was able to put on a good little star party for rho. Very happy with the performance of the equipment: everything worked very well.

getting ready

Rhonda and I arrived at the Carr Astronomical Observatory a little late. Two members were on site, just setting up. I apologised for being tardy. Immediately opened all the windows and fired up all the fans to cool things off. In short order, I opened the Geoff Brown Observatory.

Powered up gear. Triggered the red lights. Set up my ASUS Eee PC 1000 netbook with SkyTools 3 Professional. I brought a table top fan out from the house. Opened the roof.

9:59 PM. I settled in the Geoff Brown Observatory.

Switched the Warm Room chairs around. I wanted the one that rolled better.

Rhonda popped into the GBO. We talked about the quiet, hammocks, abundant fire flies, strong ciders, the improving skies, mozzie repellent, the warm air...

10:03. Checked my Evernote entry for the new computer details. Logged into the tower computer running Windows 10. Launched the Chrome browser. It landed at the RASC TC web site.

Spotted my Portable Document Format quick reference guides to Software Bisques TheSky X. Ha ha, my dark version, white on black. The PDF opened in Edge. Ugh. Oh well. It was working. Zoomed out a bit.

Launched TheSkyX. Connected, homed, the Paramount ME moved to its start position.

Wow. It looked like we would get clear skies. Opened lumpy, then the companion, my wx portal, then Blue Mountains.

It was hot. And humid. I checked the Bionaire unit above the counter: 63% relative humidity and 26 degrees Celsius. Toasty. The same air temperature as when Rhonda and I had been driving through Grey Bruce a couple of hours back.

Noted alerts all over the place in the Environment Canada tiles. Barrie, Midland, Collingwood, Orr Lake, etc. Violent thunderstorms? No. Ah, just heat advisories.

Checked the alcatel phone. Everything was super bright so I dimmed the Android screen. I was surprised to discovered Twilight. I thought I had deleted it. Yeh. Applied a strong red colour.

Examined the Clear Sky Chart predictions for the CAO: blue at 2100, 30% cloud at 9 o'clock, 10% cloud at 10 and 11 o'clock. The ECMWF said overcast. Transparency was poor. The seeing was good. Strange.

Pointed to Arcturus. Hit the slew button. I had previously programmed TSX to show the confirmation before moving. I acknowledged it and the mount took off. Headed to the eyepiece cabinet to load something into the big RC OTA. Grabbed something for wide field...

With my bug kit, rho returned. We found my 2 new bottles of DEET.

I headed to the telescope with oculars. Ready to show stuff in the sky...

quickly targeted (Richmond Hill)

Amazing conditions developed over dinner... Clouds disappeared from the sky.
Instruments: DDO 74-inch in Cassegrain mode
Mount: equatorial with tracking
Method: push-to
With the MallinCam system more or less working, we tried targeting some objects with the 74-inch telescope. Quick and easy.

Jupiter. Wow! Just wow. I've never seen such a colourful view. Io, a bright white dot, was easily spotted in front of the gas giant.

M92 (Messier 92). Awesome. Finally a globular that looks like a globular.

M57 (Messier 57). Big! Huge! The Ring Nebula took up about one-half to one-third of the field of view.

Monday, July 01, 2019

plotted STT 411

Checked the WDS for STT 411. OK. Stars logged up to F.

Tried to plot it in my Excel plotter file but it gave very strange results for the D and F stars. So I had to hack it.

STT 411 plot with 6 stars

STT 411 with all the stars showing, centred on A. Closely matches SkyTools. And closely matches what I saw. Except the F star: too dim for the little ETX.

Ignore the "x" entry: it's a dummy item for scaling purposes.

designation: 20423+4549
A star magnitude: 7.7

discover ID pair first last PA sep mag
STT 411 AB 1845 2015 349 31.8 10.58
WAL 132 AC 1892 2015 357 71.2 10.23
BKO 158 AF 1998 2015 143 41.0 12.2
WAL 132 BC 1892 2015 4 40.1 10.23
CTT  15 BD 1892 2015 178 86.6 10.60
CTT  15 BE 1892 2015 141 87.9 10.55


first is the discovery date;
last is the last reported date;
PA, position angle;
sep, separation in arc-seconds;
mag is the magnitude of the noted companion star.

Picked up some new discoverer codes:

CTT  for Courtot, J.-F.
WAL for Wallenquist, A.

fixed the VSS

Fixed SkyTools!

I launched ST3P on the John Max computer while I had a Windows Explorer session open. It was filtering on files edited or modified "today." Files like cc.bin, obs.0004, and dds.bin updated.

Then I opened the Visual Sky Simulation for a particular telescope. Nothing happened. Fine.

I made some panel size changes in the chart display and closed it. Ah ha! Some new files popped up including charts.bin and lastchart.bin.

Over on the John Repeat Dance machine, I found a recent backup folder. Copied out the charts.bin file. Made a backup of the charts.bin in the Documents\SkyTools folder. Replaced the "damaged" charts.bin.

Relaunched ST3P of the portable and opened the telescope chart for the ETX 90mm. It worked! I fixed the damaged VSS display. Whew!

Back in business. And I avoided a dreaded full reinstall...

tried the reset option

I used the "reset defaults" option in SkyTools. Many things were put back to factory settings. But not the Visual Sky Simulation charts! Still no joy...

still processing

Let ST3P run overnight thinking the app just needed a long time to render all the stars. When I checked the computer in the morning, after 6 or 7 hours of running, it was the same. No joy.

doubles on Canada Day Eve (Bradford)

I rendezvoused with the big metal tripod, small wood table, adjustable astronomy chair near the shed. About 4 metres to the north-east. Set-up inline with deciduous tree trunk, directly opposite Frederick street light.

Mozzie shields to full power, captain!

Moved Rhonda's wood bench into my workstation.

The little telescope had been cooling on Rhonda's deck.
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Mak
Mount: tripod (with tracking motor)
Method: star hopping (with angle finder)
9:58 PM, Sunday 30 June 2019. Brought out case ε (epsilon) with the eyepieces. Brought out the carry-all, with the audio recorder, running computer John Repeat Dance. Attached the tripod to the telescope.

Fireworks all around. Wood fire smoke. Happy Canadians. A beautiful night.

10:04 PM. It was about 1 hour after sunset. Blinkie red from rho I had draped around the bench. I had the red eyeglasses from Elaine; didn't know where the wrap-around ones were... [ed: Back in case α (alpha) prime.] Both red flashlights ready to go. Connected the lizard green mouse to the netbook. Tested the power on the motor. Had my old specs ready with both available straps.

Spotted some high cirrus cloud to the north-east, moving slowly south. Ugh.

Aimed at Vega so to align the finder.

10:18. Couldn't see anything through the finder scope-right angle viewer combination. I had attached the custom adapter backwards. Remounted it with the spacers/fillers. Fiddly. Tricky.

10:25. Better! Working as before.

Double-checked alignment by going to the Tim Horton star!

Having set up so far south in the yard, I effectively blocked all low southern targets. The trees were occulting things from about 30° to 40°. Scratch Centaurus, Scorpius, Sagittarius. That also included the planets... dang. I could see brilliant Jupiter through the leaves of the big perennial plant. Boötes was straight up, starting to move behind the western trees. Virgo was gone. So that meant targets straight up or to the east were up for grabs.

Started the star hop for my first target, a suggested from SkyTools using the Nightly Observing List Generator: HD 170267 aka Struve 2319.

10:38. Oh oh. Pepé Le Pew was very near by. Didn't wanna startle him...

10:40. Wow. Really hard star hop. No bright stars. Started at ζ (zeta) in Aquila aka Deneb el Okab. Headed toward Hercules, towards the triad, with ξ (xi) Herculis. Challenging overall. A faint target, not directly visible in the finder. Oh boy. A bit blind in the finder but I got it. Obvious triangle of stars with a bright member to the west, the west apex, that appeared to be the double star.

SkyTools 3 Professional said that this was a quadruple system. A and B were 5.3 seconds of arc apart, magnitudes 7.5 and 8.5 respectively. I wasn't sure I was seeing that pair; I think I was seeing the AC pair at 41.9 arc-seconds. C was mag 10.5. The D was 159.5" and brighter at 9.2.

Decided to zoom in... (in the software.)

10:43. Interesting! The star to the upper-right or north-east was the D star. Bright so very easier. Bottom part of the triangle, to the south-east, was another star, essentially the same split. A bit dimmer. Why would it not be counted?! Anyhoo... Hold the phone, was I seeing the AB stars? Yes! Holy moley. Oriented up and down for me, north-south, toward the faint field star to the south HD 348699. Yes!

[ed: The Washington Double Star catalogue is similar. It only includes four stars.]

A and B were blue-white, nearly equal in brightness.

Got it!

Good seeing.

Grabbed a higher power eyepiece. I remembered the Pentax wide field tonight. Hadn't used it for a while. Slight interference issue with my custom finder adapter but it worked. The XW 20mm yielding 62 magnification power. Fantastic view.

Juggled things on the table to make more room.

10:46. Lovely in the Pentax. Super-wide field. Everything popped. C star is visible by direct vision. A and B no problem. C, no problem, C is brighter than D. Great eyepiece. Excellent transmission.

Great system, fun. Still, a hard hop.

10:50. Took on the whole sky for a moment. Spotted a faint satellite moving due east, through the head of the Serpent and over the shoulder of Hercules.

10:41. Examined the Oregon portable weather station as it had been sitting out on the table for a while now. Relative humidity 64%, air temperature 15.2°C. Nearly dark Moon. Level air pressure and partly sunny tomorrow.

Hit the altitude range limit with the 'scope. Weird. It was out of whack. Loosened the clamps and forced the OTA down. Ha. Like the tangent arm on the DDO 74-inch...

Moved to next object.

11:07. Verified the field. I was at HD 145958 in Hercules. Also known as Σ2021. Oriented up and down again, north-south. Very tight, equal stars, blue-white. ST3P said they were 4.1" apart as of May 2019, a 1300 year period binary system. Mags 6.7 and 7.6.

[ed: Haas calls this 49 Ser. She says "pearly white." Smyth thinks they are slightly different colours.]

Just spotted the C companion, to the south-east! Was just looking around. Very faint. Well away. Averted vision. Wow. Angled somewhat to the very distant brighter star SAO 102025. With the low power Celestron 26mm Plössl at 48x. Freaky. Loaded up the Pentax again.

11:11. Magnification of 62 times makes the AB split easy and makes the C star stand up to direct vision. More field stars. Nice.

Once again a challenging star hop. But very interesting.

Oops. Landed at Rasalhague by accident. Had meant to start at β (beta) Ophiuchi or Cebalrai. Carry on.

Fireworks were winding down...

11:23. Headed to IC 4665 for a quick look. Very loose open cluster. Dim white stars. A couple of faint doubles within...

Moving on.

11:26. Viewed 61 Oph (or STF 2202). Very nice. Two equal stars oriented east and west. Pretty dim. Slightly different colours. The colours were flipping back and forth. Left was blue, the other orange?

Seeing was bad. The stars were bouncing all around.

The planning app said there was a C star but it was mag 12.5. I did not try.

11:29. A breeze came through. The air felt rather cold.

I decided to go in for more clothing...

It crossed my mind that if the neighbour let his crazy dog run around untethered I might return to tipped over tables and a smashed telescope. Gotta talk to him...

11:34. Back at it. Long sleeve shirt and jacket, in addition to the tee and hoodie.

Checked the conditions: 15.1°. 66%. Huh. About the same temp.

11:35. The left or west star was brighter by a hair. [ed: On hovering in the chart, A shows as 6.2 while B is 6.7. Also, the software says A is a class B star while the companion is class A. Interesting. Nearly identical.]

There is a little arc of stars to the south-east. Magnitudes 10.9 and change. Spotted mag 11.2 star Tycho 419-1113 1 due east, barely visible.

11:44. SkyTools said there was a double to the north HD 161262 aka STF 2201. Mag 8.4 and 10.7. Somewhat wide at 7.8". But I could not say for certain I was splitting. Really hard. Too faint in this little OTA.

61 again: left blue; right orange.

[ed: Haas says they are equal and "straw-yellow." Smyth says "silvery-white."]

Nope, not sure about 161262.

I panned around a lot and tried averted vision at various points. Sometimes I think I saw a faint cotton-ball to the north-east of 161262, the distant globular NGC 6426. Nothing definitive.

I heard Rhonda wander outside.

She had a look at 61 Oph. "Oh wow. Really close."

Took in the whole sky. Agreed the conditions were good. Seeing was good (on average). We chatted about fireworks, scaredy cats, air temperature, air conditioners, neighbours, sign-up sheets, the Summer Triangle, skunky smells, lost dogs, light pollution, the new train schedule, naked eye planets. I considered moving the 'scope. The mozzies were on to her so she retreated.

[ed: Happy Canuck Day.]

Decided to try something in the same area.

12:13 AM, Monday 1 July 2019. Viewed 67 Oph or Burnham 1124. Very wide double at low power. Yellow star with an orange star. Or blue? The obvious companion, C, is to the south-east.

[ed: Haas says "lemon-yellow" with a "silvery dot." Webb: "yellowish, blue." Smyth: "straw, purple." OK then.]

I knew it was a multi-star system but I dove back in to see what I could see.

Dialed out the drift and changed the eyepieces. Loaded up the Tele Vue Type 6 Nagler 9mm.

There was a box to the north and west. One of the stars was TYC 434-999 1 at mag 11.4.

I could not see the D star...

I could not see the E star.

Spotted the TYC star 434-309 1 to the south-east with a nearby star making a wide north-south pair. Mags 10.6  and 11.5.

12:22 AM. Nope. I could only see C. ST3P said E was in the mag 10 to 11 range but I was not seeing it. The software reported D at mag 12.5 so out of range, for sure. [ed: was also off limits at mag 13+.]

[ed: The WDS has the following magnitudes: A 4.0, B 13.7, C 8.1, D 12.5, and E 11.0. So I should have been able to see it... The PA and sep are close to the numbers in ST3. Huh.]

It didn't feel cold per se. Humidity 68%, temp 13.3.

12:30. Bumped into a double when I went to Deneb. Wide faint pair. HD 197621 aka ES 2699. Mags 8.6 and 9.5, 40.1". To the south-east.

Lots of doubles 'round here...

12:33. Bumped into another system! North of α Cygni this time. A triple. HD 197488 or STT 411. Extremely faint. Mags 10.5 and 10.3. A curious system. There's an obvious triangle of stars to the south and south-east but they are NOT part of the system. The B and C stars are to the north of A, in a line!

[ed: Oh ho. The WDS shows more entries! Including one from Berko. Sorted it out. In fact, the triangle stars are the D and E components.]

Couldn't get oriented from Deneb...

Then I broke my SkyTools...

In the Visual Sky Simulation, I was zoomed out rather far in the naked eye panel and then I made it rather small. The screen froze. Well, not exactly. Full Windows busy-don't-touch-me hourglass and it would not respond to the stop button or resizing. When I switched to the Interactive Atlas, the app crashed. Oh boy.

If I went directly to the IA chart, it was OK. But I was very disoriented. After a time, I finally landed on 31 Cygni. Absolutely amazing colours. I don't know if I've ever seen a star so blue! That's the C star. Easy wide stars in the little 'scope.

[aka Struve Appendix A 50. A 6-star system according to ST3 but many are very faint. 30 Cyg is the ultra-wide star to the north. That's considered the D star.]

SkyTools showed a bunch of faint and tight doubles surrounding 31 but I did not see anything obvious...

Earlier I had spotted 31 and 32 naked eye.

I could not fix the VSS chart. The SkyTools problems took the window out of my sails. Damn it. I wasn't too tired. Would have kept going...

Another GO train arrived BWG. [ed: Must have been 12:50.]

1:03. Considered rebooting the ASUS. Saved open files. Closed the browser. Restarted.

Put away the string lights.

No joy.

1:11. Fire truck it!

Displayed the VSS chart again. Maybe it just needed more time... So I let it run as I packed up. Hauled stuff back to the house.

1:15. 71%, 12.8°.

Put gear by the "large port" for pickup. Chatted with rho and told her the bad news.

1:24. Collected everything still outside.

1:26. The computer had still not generated the map...

Not a great ending to the evening. Overall didn't get much done. Did see some new doubles, so that's always good. And some of these might be appropriate for the DS campaign. But I don't think I re-examined any of the view-agains from the DS project. That was disappointing. Finally saw 61 Oph—pleasing. No major telescope issues. No crazy animals.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

CSAC alerts galore

Clear Sky Alarm Clock notifications are popping off. Toronto, Fingal, Bradford (twice). In general, average transparency and average seeing.

Kinda too bad I did read ahead for the whole weekend. I might have set up the tent last night. But then, I was pooped at the end of the day...

Saturday, June 29, 2019

observed bright Jupiter from the deck (Bradford)

Casual observing from the back deck while enjoying a pilsner inspired beer, bammed pizza with fresh-fresh basil, and recharging after shady driveway car work.

Rhonda tagged brilliant Jupiter from the west side of the deck; I had to wait an hour to see it from my chair. She checked her SkySafari app. Officially in Ophiuchus. Opposition coming up soon. I talked about transits, eclipses, occultations.

Spotted Spica in the south-west. Later rho spotted a flickering orange star to the right of Jupiter. I surmised it was Antares. Slowly the top two pincer stars showed. Up high we saw bright Arcturus. I saw the Summer Triangle stars over my shoulder.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

shot OSO 97 again (Halifax)

Before the clouds moved in, snapped some more frames of the double star OSO 97. Shot longer and used a different camera (the SBIG) from the run on 18 June.

double star OSS 97 in luminance

Luminance only, 15 seconds subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

The clear sky chart predicted at this time there would be 30% cloud cover with average seeing.

Even thought the job was not fully completed, I like this result. While not perfect, it's better than the previous. Now I can see mag 17 and 18 and some 19 stars...

I dunno. I think I need to shoot longer again, under better conditions.

another good heavy launch

Before falling asleep I caught the launch of the SpaceX heavy STP-2 mission.

The commercial SpaceX hit a few more impressive milestones with this launch.

The primary missions to launch 24 satellites went very well with four on-orbit burns (they had never fired more than three times). SpaceX tried to recover all three stage 1 rockets but they lost the centre core at sea. Still, they landed the side boosters, at night for the first time. Also for the first time, they caught one of the fairing pieces.

See the detailed article at Spaceflight Now.

Monday, June 24, 2019

spaceflight night

On a tip from me, Rhonda recorded the Apollo 11 movie on CNN.

We watched it tonight. Fascinating. Amazing all the never-before-seen imagery. But also the quality! NASA used some high-quality capture methods (including 70mm film) but we were watching on our crummy black-and-white television sets. It was like seeing it for the first time. Very dramatic but interesting music too.

camera E8 during the Apollo 11 launch

I got goosebumps watching the Saturn V engines running.

We've kept it to watch again. Amazing stuff.

I pointed out many things (e.g. escape system, the LEM fuel tank before baffles, the legs made by a Québec company) and fielded many questions. And I learned stuff. For example, I never considered it before but the Apollo missions needed two pilots. Fun!

If you missed it, it is playing at the Cinesphere on Jun 29 and 30.

Check out the official web site for the movie.

Interesting commercials... The car company ad with Dr Shawna Pandya was particularly intriguing. I enjoyed her statement, that basically, "space is trying to kill you." We talked about the Samsung commercial. The company has been around a long time.

Then, funny timing, serendipitous, as we stopped the movie, I heard the City Pulse 24 news channel saying they were going to show live coverage of the expedition 58 (with David Saint-Jacques aboard) return to Earth in Kazakhstan. 204 days in space!

And then I remembered SpaceX is due to launch the Heavy...

Small planet.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

at my back (Holland Landing)

It was interesting biking home late at night. Haven't done that for a long time. But the stars overhead guided me. And I kept the Moon at my back.

more pointing experience

Volunteered at the David Dunlap Observatory last night. After asking Ron to be the ring leader, I oversaw operations in the dome and flew the 74-inch telescope. Lots of lessons learned over the evening like, it's fairly easy to tag a bright star in the daylight (8:30 PM) but it's difficult or impossible to centre on a globular cluster before astronomical twilight ends (11:30 PM). Under duress, we chose the lovely double star Izar.

I was assisted by Ron, Gary, Jack, and Chris in the dome. We had a great crew on the lawn, about a half-dozen amateur 'scopes. Geneviève and Tess managed registration and lead the tour groups. I am grateful for all the support. We put on a pretty good show for the families and kids. Not perfect. But overall good.

I did not crash the big 'scope into a pier. Yeh! I did not set anything on fire. Yeh! It sure is challenging pointing that thing. Chris and I made a bit more progress on the MallinCam. That should help a lot.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

quite lovely (Richmond Hill)

After my failed attempt to tag Messier 3 in the DDO 74-inch telescope, we moved to Izar aka ε (epsilon) Boötis.

While I had hoped to show a globular cluster, this double star was fantastic. A fine specimen, over 200 light-years away.

The antique eyepiece yielded a lovely view. At 2.9 seconds-of-arc separation, this would be challenging target for many amateur telescopes. It was easily split in the 30-metre focal-length 'scope. Yet, attractively close.

Slightly unequal in their brightness. Again, that makes for a good target and hopefully is intriguing to the spectator.

The colours were very nice too. A pale yellow primary. The secondary? First impression was pale blue. But at other times, I thought light green.

RASC at DDO tonight

The RASC Toronto Centre is hosting guests at the David Dunlap Observatory tonight.

That event is sold out. Yeh. If you wanted to go, it's sold out. Boo.

But you can jump in to a future event. At the time of writing, spots are available in the July and August events. See the web site calendar for RASC dates at the DDO.

gibbous Moon (Bradford)

While walking to the Farmer's Market, I spotted the Moon in the clear blue sky. A few days after full. Waxing, still gibbous.

Friday, June 21, 2019

blue, blue, blue

Wow. Haven't seen that in a long time...

clear sky charts with lots of blue!

Blue in Ontario!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

tried for OSO 95 (Halifax)

Tried for OSO 95 in Ophiuchus.

Another old entry in the WDS catalogue.

WDS ID: 18124+0524OSO  95
number of entries: 2
observed both times: 1994
PA: 202
first sep: 11.1
last sep: 11.2
magnitudes: 10.43 and 18.3
precise: 181221.87+052404.4

I could not find an object in SkyTools at this location. I aimed to Tycho 00439-0972 1 aka HIP 89215.

region surrounding double star OSO 95

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

I dunno.

The only bright star, mag 10.4, in the 'hood is this HIP star.

The software does not show a mag 18 star to the south-south-west...

Will need to shoot longer to get the partner star.

sought OSO 97 (Halifax)

Wanted to capture OSO 97. A quad system in Hercules viewed but once in 1995.

WDS ID: 18164+2912OSO  97
precise coords: 181622.80+291221.2
last observed: 1995
number of observations: 1

pair: AB
PA: 116
sep: 16.7
magnitudes: 12.86 and 18.9

pair: AC
PA: 5
sep: 17.8
mags: 12.86 and 19.0

pair: AD
PA: 264
sep: 23.5
mags: 12.86 and 19.1

The star OSO 97 was not listed in SkyTools 3 Pro. But I found GSC 02104-1481 was at the noted location.

region surrounding double star OSO 97

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

Artefacts again.

I don't think I see any of the companions in questions, primarily because I did not expose long enough. I can tag mag 16 and 17 stars... Too short.


Shot again on 25 June but longer and with the SBIG.

imaged LDS 4781 region (Halifax)

I tried to capture LDS 4781 in Lyra. This entry in the Washington Double Star catalogue shows it has been viewed once, back in 1960.

WDS ID: 18150+3840LDS4781
last observed: 1960
observations: 1
position angle: 0
separation: 4.0
magnitudes: 13.6 and 13.7
precise coords: 181503.48+383931.5

Oops. A bit too tight for BGO. I forgot to filter on rho greater 4...

In SkyTools 3 Professional, a single star shows at this location: GSC 03103-1706. Magnitude 12.84 (poor quality).

The BGO catalogue did not include this designation so I programmed the 'bot to aim at GSC 03103-1510, the dimmer star just to the north.

region surrounding double star LDS 4781

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

There are weird artefacts all through the image.

The star in question, the slightly brighter star below or south of centre, does appear to be rod shaped, in a nearly vertical orientation. But this is very near the resolution limit of this system and with the degraded quality in this shot, it is difficult to know for certain. But, to me, it looks like something is there.

When I examine the blue channel stretched, two peaks emerge...

Also in this image are a couple of obvious doubles.

To the south-east, there's the fainter pair, tight, unequal. This is ALI 869. ST3P says these stars were separated by a 8.8 arc-second gap. Magnitudes 11.4 and 13.6. Oriented at a 36° angle.

To the east, slightly north, is a brighter pair, nearly equal, about double the separation of 869. This is ALI 871. 13.3", 180°. Mag 10.9 and 12.8, according to the Object Information box. When I hover over the B companion in the chart, it shows as mag 11.9; that's better.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

some of the brightest (Bradford)

Spotted the Moon very near Jupiter. About 5° apart. The gas giant near opposition. Super-bright.

a major award!

Received this evening—during the 2019 General Assembly at York University—the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Service Award. This is in recognition of outstanding service to the Society over a 10 year or longer period of time.

RASC Service Award medal front in case

Lovely medal with some heft.

RASC Service Award medal back with name



Link: RASC Service Award.

ran DDO event

Coordinated the Saturday night event at the David Dunlap Observatory. This was a lecture night with Dr Parshati Patel. It was my first time running one of these events so I was a little anxious. But I think we put on a good show and I was very grateful for all the volunteer support. Sadly, it was cloudy so we weren't able to open the dome. We closed the doors just after midnight and then tidied up. Another long day.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

more recording

Back at it with the audio-video team. Helped record the day-time talks at the RASC GA. I had to cut out...

received diffraction grating

Received a neat little item from the American Association of Variable Star Observers during the RASC GA. A diffraction grating, I believe. A double axis type.

diffraction grating

It's fun looking at different sources of light to see where the energy is concentrated or if it's broad spectrum.

I will need to try this on star light!

enjoyed JWST talk

After Dr. Nathalie Ouellette's talk, I was able to ask her a question about the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. I was curious if there were constraints on the launch. While they are not doing a slingshot gravity-assist around the Moon, there are still factors affecting how they can get to the Lagrange point.

James Webb Space Telescope sticker from the CSA

She had lots of cool stickers from the Canada Space Agency. I procured one for myself and Chris.

surprisingly near the Dominion

While recording the RASC GA paper session by Sharon Odell, I learned about the Dominion Observatory. When she mentioned Carling Avenue, I perked up. While on a work term in the nation's capital, I lived in a rental with some friends. It was located at Woodroffe and Carling. The observatory was just a few kilometres away. I had no idea! I wonder now how many times I went right by the place!

Friday, June 14, 2019

helped video record

Assisted at the RASC 2019 General Assembly. With Betty, Andrew, Ennio, and Ward, I recorded video from the day talks as well as the evening session. This started with the intro by Professor McCall and finished with the session by Dr McConnachie. After the BBQ, David Levy talked about his new book. Long day.

met the Hubes

Met the Hubes during the BBQ dinner. Learned that they too worked at the DDO.

met Dr Morton

Met Dr Donald C Morton and exchanged email addresses. It will be good to learn more about his activities at the David Dunlap Observatory.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

doubles for June 2019

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



Tempus fugit. Here we are suddenly in the middle of June with another full Moon around the corner. It seems at long last the weather is finally improving. I myself had a couple of great nights in the backyard chasing down double stars in a little 'scope. You can too regardless of location, light pollution, or interference from the Moon.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
93 LeoStruve B 7SAO 81998, HIP 57565
HR 5397 LibSHJ 179 SAO 158558, HIP 70518
η (eta) LupRMK 21SAO 207208, HIP 78384
π (pi) 1 UMiΣ1972SAO 2556, HIP 75809
HD 132909 BooSHJ 191SAO 29372, HIP 73366

Have fun. Happy splitting. Tell me what you see. Be seeing you.

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

Sunday, June 09, 2019

finished article

Nudged by Nikki this morning... Quickly crafted my next article for the Journal, finishing a piece first drafted in March. Curiously, the timing feels really good.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

observed after midnight (Bradford)

It was late. Rhonda had offered me a beer during the game. I was tired. But the skies were very good. I didn't want to waste 'em. So I suited up.

Set up in the backyard but this time near the shed. No distant street lights hitting my eyes. It was a good spot.

Maksutov on big metal tripod, computer on table, bench moved near to me, eyepiece case ready, carry-all case handy, deep red torch ready, astronomy adjustable chair up. Put on bug juice.
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Mak
Mount: tripod (with tracking motor!)
Method: star hopping (with angle finder!)
Added the dew shield to the OTA.

Did not know where the Oregon weather station was. Probably still inside... Forgot the ETX battery pack. Oops.

12:10 AM. Did not yet have the red film on the LCD panel of John Repeat Dance. Installed it. Switched to my new observing session planning list. Applied the filters in the app including the start and end time constraints, 11:30 to 2:30.

Warmer tonight. No long johns. No hat. Only three layers on top.

Examined the sky. Lyra was well-positioned.

Aligned the finder scope. Right angle finder continued to work well. Changed the diopter again.

12:28. As per usual, loaded in the ole Celestron Plössl 26mm. Aimed at Vega and friends, the Double Double, and ζ (zeta). Hey, let's check out The Ring.

Messier 57 (M57) was a decent size, especially with averted vision. But dim. Clearly a donut, ring with a dark centre. But very faint. The Meade does not have a lot of light-gathering power.

OK. Let's get to work.

12:33. Two in the view! HR 7272 (Σ2474) south and HD 178849 (STF 2470) north. Almost the exact same alignment. Almost the exact same separations. Neat! Good for my candidate programme.

The 178849 pair was yellow and blue or blue-green. 7272 was fainter, yellow and orange. The secondaries were both about the same brightness (8.6 vs 8.3).

Seeing was not good.

SkyTools 3 Pro made it look like upper (north) pair were slightly tighter but I thought they looked the same. 178849 was 13.6 seconds of arc vs 7272 at 15.8. ST3P said the 178849 primary was 7.0 whereas 7272 was 6.7.

Welcome to Saturday. I checked the Oregon weather station even though it was still acclimating: 48% humidity, 14.1° temperature. Oh, as I watched, the RH climbed to 49%.

For the first time, I used the checked entries mode for the Visual Sky Simulation chart; I've only ever used it with the Interactive Atlas.

Reconsidered my targets. I had used the high priority setting in planning this session. Everything in Lyra was not high priority. And already logged.

12:49. Got lost so restarted the star hop from the triangle of Lyra. Arrived finally at η (eta) Cygni. Noticed an open cluster nearby, NGC 6871, so I headed there. Cool!

My back felt cold. Put on three more layers. Put on my winter beanie hat.

Boat-load of stuff in the eyepiece...

1:00. Carefully examined the cluster elements.

Bright 27 Cygni was at the top of the field for me, nearly the 12 o'clock position, or north-east.

There was an obvious wide double in the centre of the open cluster, south of 27 Cyg, with the primary noted as V1676 (suggesting a variable). Hosted an 8-star system!

Down and right of the wide pair was another doublet, south, about half the separation, with HD 227634 as the lead. Light skewed to the right or clock-wise.

Grabbed the 9mm. Really, tonight I ensured I had the Tele Vue 9mm Nagler Type 6.

Checked the pocket weather unit: humidity still climbing, currently 56% , air temp seemed to be flattening out, currently 11.8°. The air pressure was steady. Clouds tomorrow...

Dove deep.

1:03. V1676 is also known as Burnham 440. The bright partner to A, to the north, was the F star, aka SHJ 314! Fascinating. A and F were nearly equal in brightness. The software chart showed other stars, faint stars, being visible nearby...

At 48x, I could not see any other components. Resisted high power for a moment.

Checked HD 227634, the tighter canted pair, aka SHJ 315. I was thrown off a bit by the display in the software as it was showing a D star (SAO 69404). Was it part of some other system? This in fact was the companion. Simply put, the tight couple in the middle of NGC 6871 is SHJ 315 A and D with dimmer D to the south-west. ST3P did not list B or C.

Remembered to do some limit checks. I could see nearby V1820 at magnitude 10.8.

Installed the high magnification ocular. 139x.

1:13. Spotted star D to the left (north-west) of V1676. Much dimmer. Didn't stand up to direct but was obvious. Software said it mag 9.6 or 9.7. That didn't seem right.

I was seeing stars beyond the chart display this evening. I went into the SkyTools location profile and changed the air temp (was 0°) and the humidity (was 75%). Seeing was set at "good." Ah ha! More stars were rendered. It was better.

I noted the stars Tycho 2682-0316 1 (mag 11.0) and GSC 2682-0424 (11.1) to the west of BU 440.

1:18. Opposite SHJ 315 from BU 440, to the south-east, was BEW. I could see dimly the A and C stars. Magnitudes 11.2 and 11.0. It was actually a quadruple system. Hey, C was noted as Berko 82.

Well that was fun. I decided to not go any deeper into the open cluster. Offering BU 440 on my candidate list would be good, satisfying a few of my wishes for the programme.


Spotted Cassiopeia in the north-east clear of the trees. Would not have been able to enjoy that from the location used the last two nights.

Back at low power, I could still see the dim D star. About 1/3 or 1/4 the AF sep. Pretty well a 90 degree angle to the AF line. [ed: AF is 34.7 while AD is 11.0.]

1:26. Nice double, HR 7529. Nearly equal. White and orange. White and blue? Almost left and right for me (east-west). Milky Way field. Lots of faint stars. Attractively close at 48x. A and B were easy.

[ed: Haas says "pale lemon (and ) greenish white."]

Learned that STF 2578 was a multi-star system! The curious star to the far to the left or west was designated the F escort (mag 9.1). I went looking for the C...

Spotted 10.9 mag star Tycho 2668-0477 1 west of the F star.

Increased the power.

Spotted a star south of AB. SkyTools said this was GSC 2668-0049 at magnitude 12.5. Wha? [ed: Poor quality data.]

C did not make an appearance for me. D was not shown on the screen. [ed: The Interactive Atlas shows D as a mag 13.6 star. C is 11.5 as I hover. Should have seen it...]

Good stuff. A target never logged.

Done my high priority items in Cygnus. It was well up now.

Aimed to the south. Ophiuchus. Star hopped from Marfic.

1:42. Glanced at the Oregon. Whoa. Big jump. 68%! 11.2.

Targeted 19 Ophiuchi. Arrived at a big F-pattern of stars. The F was canted over. Nothing obvious at first glance... Learned that 19 was the bottom, southern star. Yellow. At first I thought there something, an extremely faint orange partner to the left.

With the 9mm in, it was clear there was a faint partner widely to the right (east). Nothing to the left. That was the B companion to 19 Oph (aka Struve 2096). Noted a faint star below. South. Nearly due south. A titch to the west. Fire truck! That was the C companion (mag 11.2). All right. Three stars.

The middle section of the F-shape there was an extremely wide pair. The bright star above was HD 151372 (WDS designation ENG 58). The dim star to the south-west (about the same separation as STF 2096 AC) was the partner.

Spotted BAL 1925 between the B of ENG and the A of 19. It was mag 11.5 according to the software planning app.

Back to low power. The B consort to 19 was very hard to tag...

Couldn't see my next target in the finder...

1:54. Viewed Messier 12 (M12). A little cloud. A couple of strings of field stars passing through, east-to-west, with a bright star on the south edge. Very pale, this globular cluster. Oblong, perhaps. Gradually brightening to the centre. Interesting to tag from the backyard but not a lot of detail.

Eyeballed orange Antares.

2:00. Hopped from Rasalhague. Viewed 53 Oph aka STF A 34. Yellow and blue? Or yellow and orange. Looked away. Yes, deep orange. North and south. Maybe 1½ magnitudes less than the primary. Very nice. Quite wide. Easy. Fairly plain field.

[ed: Haas refers only to the AB stars."Easy wide pair, bright white and fainter silvery blue..."]

Something popped for a second. It was the D star! To the south-west. Whiskey tango foxtrot. SkyTools says that star is mag 12.9! Well, hovering in the chart; from the Object Information box, it reports D as 10.8. That's probably the correct value.

With the 9mm, the C and D stars were easy! ST3P says C is mag 11.8 (or 10.8). They looked about the same. Must be 10.8.

2:04. I heard the neighbour rustling about behind me. Saw a bright light from a flashlight—no, a phone. Thank goodness I had my hoodie on. Heard him calling his dog. Oh oh. He had let the dog out (off leash) and it was tearing around our yard as well as the yard to the south! Neighbour walked by me flooding my workspace with light. I was about to ask him to not shine it on or near me. He said something about looking at stars. Then he called the mutt back and it headed straight for me. Before I knew it, it was under the tripod! Knocking it about. Damn, lost my alignment. I grabbed it just as the dog bolted. It could have tumbled over! If the dog had gone under the wood table, all that stuff would have gone flying. Then they were gone.

What an idiot, the human had absolutely no control of the dog. And no regard for me. He didn't apologise, didn't say anything. What a jack ass. Irresponsible, inconsiderate. As usual. What is it with these people.

Took the wind out of my sails.

Stoopid humans.

2:07. Interesting. Humidity was dropping. Now 66%.

I quickly packed up and went in. Carried the 'scope attached to the 'pod.

Spotted Saturn! Not bright but obvious.

2:18. Inside. Verified everything was in. Returned the ASUS to the desk.



Despite the near disaster at the end, I accomplished a few good things tonight.

Continued the testing of the right angle finder. It's very convenient. I'll try to make a more sturdy adapter.

Deliberately gauged magnitude limits with the little Meade OTA. This will help me in a few ways. Just knowing more about the 'scope's limitations is good. And it will also inform me as to dim targets that are in or out of range. I updated the mag limit page as it had been a while.

Assured myself the tracking motor was working fine. The night before I had noticed some drift. I thought it was slip. Or low batteries. But I think it is just slop in the gears. If I biased the target slightly right or west, it would settle in to the centre and then stay put.

I tackled a few high priority targets. Some of which were doubles on my candidate list.

I revisited a darker area of the yard. Much more enjoyable, with less polluting stray light, if I am not inside the Observing Tent, protected by the tent walls. That said, it is further from the house so if I need AC power, I'll need a longer extension.

And it was good to visit a couple of Messier targets. This inspiration is due in part as I read Mollise's urban astronomy book. While faint and small, M targets are possible in less than pristine skies.

This whole setup is pretty "fast." I can be outside and working within 30 minutes. Tear-down is probably 15 minutes if work quick and dirty.

And finally, thank you weather gods! So good to get some photons, on back-to-back nights. An amazing run of good conditions. I probably could have erected the astronomy tent and enjoyed 3 clear nights. No worries though. It was still good fun.

Friday, June 07, 2019

viewed with creatures (Bradford)

Set up in the backyard. Small table, astro chair, Mamiya tripod, Meade ETX telescope (chilled), astronomy case ε (eyepieces), computer, Rhonda's red blinkie string of LEDs, and paraphernalia. A pleasant temperature.

I positioned a bit further east in the yard thinking I'd avoid the pool of light if the upper bedroom ceiling light was triggered.

Some changes were planned for tonight: I had a DSLR camera right angle finder positioned on the aft-end of the dinkie Meade finder scope to ease 'scope use, particularly when star hopping to objects near the zenith. Also, I intended to run the tracking motor in the telescope base from the external battery pack and hacked pigtail power cord.

I had to readjust the angle finder as one of the elastic bands broke and everything fell apart.

Well, hello. Skunk waddled by, south of me, from the east hedge to the west edge.

9:42 PM, Thursday 6 June 2019. The sky was still bright. Wait! Just spotted Arcturus (without my spectacles).

Tried the jury-rigged right angle finder. It worked! I saw Arcturus. Wow. Put the 90mm ETX tube on the orange star. Then I set about aligning the finder scope proper. Very fiddly but got it done.

9:44 PM. I heard mosquitoes! Gah!

Put some stuff on. DEET supplies are low!

Got the angle finder focused with the onboard diopter adjustment.

Saw bats! Yeh. Keep on eatin'!

Thin crescent Moon through the trees... See ya. Good riddance.

Saw Leo. Or, the tail of the big cat constellation.

9:59. Improved the Polaris alignment.

Started star hopping for my first target in Leo. Found δ (delta) Leonis. Landed on 81 Leo.

10:11. Noted a triangle to my 10 o'clock, a right angle triangle. I put the 9mm eyepiece in (correction: 20mm). It was supposed to be a tight pair with the companion dimmer... About 4 magnitudes different.

SkyTools 3 Professional showed the B star at the 2 o'clock position. This was different than what I was seeing.

Nope. Not seeing the partner.

Probably hidden due to the residual sky brightness [ed: SkyTools simulates this. Triangle stars visible at 10:08 PM. Primary star visible. Secondary emerges from the background as the sky darkens]. Might be fine at a different time or season.

Went to next.

10:18. Cool. Two doubles. Two in the view! Nearly equal in their separation.

93 Leo aka Struve Appendix B 7. Nice! Bright yellow star, I suspected that was 93 proper. To my 1 o'clock (north), colourless, maybe blue, was the faint companion. ST3P said the separation was 74 seconds of arc.

To my 8 o'lock (south-west) was a much fainter pair. Right, 72" separation. Basically the same. The HD 102428 aka SHJ 130 primary was between the brightness of ΣII7 A and B. The second star of this SHJ was challenging with direct vision, easy in averted. Colour? Blue-white? Orange? This pair points at the 93 Leo, perhaps right at the 93 B.

Neat at low power (48x). Two doubles in one shot.

10:21. The tracking motor on the ETX was working well.

My new position in the yard was not great. The stoopid excessively bright LED street light on Frederick was shining right in my eyes.

Next. Chose a quarry in Virgo. Hopped from ε (epsilon).

10:33. Spotted HD 112278 aka STF 1689, popped while panning. In a hook shape of stars, to my 9 o'clock (south-west). Tight pair. The primary looked yellow-white; the comrade orange-red. Challenging. The Object Information box in ST3P listed the magnitudes at 7.0 and 9.5. Generous separation at 30". But difficult to spot the B star in the little OTA.

[ed: Haas says the pair shows "pretty colours." She says the pair is "peach-white" with a blue companion.]

Took in the whole sky for a bit, various constellations. Which Serpens is which? I could see the bits on the right or west side of Ophiuchus [ed: the right piece is Caput].

10:43. Lovely. Fantastic. HD 111845 in Coma Berenices. Also known as STF 1685. Yellow and orange. Or was it yellow and blue? In a right angle triangle with the target at a point on the short side. Other stars near by. In a loose cluster or asterism? There were a number of bright stars sprinkled about. The pair was tight. B was a bit dimmer. Noticed in the software it was about a half-mag fainter.

A triple. Nice! C is easily seen, to the north-north-west. Extremely wide. A dozen times the AB sep. C is about a full magnitude or so dimmer?

[ed: Haas only refers to the AB pair.]

Interesting the star (or pair) to the left (or west). Why was it not included? Well, it's double the AC sep.

This target is smack-dab between 32 and 35 Com.

Checked the Oregon portable weather station (with external battery pack): relative humidity 54%, air temperature 13.6°C, air pressure dropping, cloudy tomorrow.

Felt a little cool. Decided to head inside for more layers. Added a vest and two hoodies. Switch from cap to full hat.

I riled up the mozzies as I walked around the shed. I was checking for a dark spot on the lawn... It would be good on the west side of the lawn when viewing the eastern and north-eastern sky.

11:03. Viewed ξ (xi) Boötis, aka Σ1888, near DE Boo (a variable?). Very nice, in an attractive field. A fun tight double. Yellow and orange stars. The orange was to my 10 o'clock (north-west).

[ed: Haas quotes Hartung: "yellow and deep orange."]

In a large triangle. Fantastic, a multi-star system. The other parts of the triangle were the E and F stars, very wide, faint. F was at the top (north) with E to the bottom-right. I noted another star, similar to E and F, to the south, about the same distance and same separation, Tycho 01481-0609 1. Not part of the system. Whoa! AB are a binary system with a 152 year period. Yes!

[ed: ST3P shows it drawing closer in the coming years. It will be 1/2 or 1/3 the separation in 50 years.]

Viewed previously (in ancient history) and also photographed (with BGO).

Went looking for the D accomplice. ST3P was not showing it on the chart. The OI box said the PA was 286° with a separation of 149". At mag 9.6, I should have been able to see it in the little ETX, roughly the same position angle as B, just further out... Was it an error in the brightness value? [ed: Yes. The Interactive Atlas shows the star opposite E at mag 13.8.]

11:14. The conditions: 55%, 12.8°.

For fun, went to the cotton ball of Messier 5 (M5). Quite large at low power. I could almost resolve some stars in the globular cluster with averted vision. Fuzzy. Speckled. There was a bright star well away at my 5 o'clock position—that was 5 Serpentis. I bumped the power (darker, not a great view). Something bright at the bottom-left. A foreground star?

11:32. Eyeballed Jupiter through the trees. Some of Scorpius.

Decided to try for targets on Corona Borealis despite being quite high. I was hoping the angle finder would make this easier than ever before.

Started from α (alpha) CrB. Headed to HD 139691...

11:42. Landed on a bright tight pair of white and blue-white stars. Oops. ζ1 (zeta) and ζ2! My quarry was down and left.

My target? Also known as HU 1167. Faint pair, double the separation of the ζ doublet, much fainter, equal brightness. Orange (right) and blue. Another great "two in the view" target.

The right angle finder was amazing. A game charger. I would not have been able to do this otherwise! Avoided back-breaking contortions for overhead, straight-up targets. My little crazy cardboard adapter was working! If I made a 3D printed adapter thingee, it would be good...

Oh ho. Learned that HU 1167 was a multi-star system. A quint. AB 1.3" (tight and very dim), AC 15", AD 14" (dim, mag 10), CE 0.1". C and D were inline and 0.6" from each other. I must have been seeing the C consort (at mag 8). It will work in big 'scopes too! Fun!

[ed: Haas said the A and C elements were "gloss white" stars.]

11:52. HD 139569. Super dim. Very tight. Perhaps one of the tightest doubles I've seen in the Meade. I guessed 3"? ST3P said STF 1963 was 5.1 arc-seconds. Mags: 7.9 and 8.9. It's a triple—a big gun would be needed for the C element.

Probably shouldn't be on my candidate list. This is an "advanced" level target, methinks.

Tried for HD 144999. Too tough. Faint. Very tight at 2.7". B just below limits of this 3½" aperture. A and C are easy.

[ed: Not in Haas book.]

12:06 AM, Friday 7 June 2019. Ah. Nice couple. σ (sigma) CrB. Pretty tight, medium tight. Dozen or more? [ed: Sep. of AB is 7.4".] Main white; companion pale orange. Oriented 2 through 8 o'clock for me.

Then viewed the υ (upsilon) star of Corona Borealis, aka SHJ 223 or 18 CrB. Neat! Wide stars, forming a small triangle, two, to the north and north-east, C and D. Quite faint. Averted. I could not see the other stars, B and E, below or between. Neat system. Another candidate that works at small and big apertures.

[ed: Not in the Haas list.]

12:17 AM. Viewed HR 6110. WDS catalog name: Herschel V 38. Primary, dim, white. Above, fair distance away, a dim orange star. I noticed it was included in the AL binoculars (advanced) list. Curious.

[ed: Haas has some interesting colour descriptions.]

58%, 11.4°, pressure steady.

Tired. Almost 2 hours.

Happy Friday.


Decided to look in the north-western sky. Reorged the workstation.

12:31. After a quick peek at Cor Caroli, checked 25 CVn (STF 1768). Got the C star with good seeing and averted vision. Well away at 210". F star was easy (mag 9.5). Super distant at 438". AB is 1.6" so probably not doable. E is mag 11.5 according to the planning app. Not a great target for a small 'scope. Oh. A binary. Interesting to me but...

More tired. Considered something amazing to finish on... Pulled up the Coldfield doubles list. Maybe there was something in Ursa Major.

12:41. I briefly viewed Jupiter. Everything was roughly equidistant. North and south equatorial belts obvious. The south band was a bit fainter. Good seeing. Nice crisp view.

Surprise: rho came out! She liked the string lights. Thanks! ;-) Returned to Jupiter for her. She was impressed by the arrangement of the moons, in a nearly perfectly straight line, nearly equidistant. "That's so neat." I told her they had all been on the right side on Sunday night. On her second viewing, she could see the long cloud bands.

She heard an animal in the east hedge. "It's big." Was Mr Skunk back? Coon? Bunnies plotting an attack?

Rhonda told me about the grey cat blocking the driveway when she got home. Didn't want to move. "Not today." Someone walking by shooed it away.

12:52. 60%, 11.7°. Decent seeing in the small telescope.

Started packing up...

As I returned the oculars to the eyepiece case, I realised I had removed the Rod Ends 20mm, not the Tele Vue 9. Ha! That explains why the views were not great...

Returned all the gear to the east window portal. Carried the eyepieces and OTA in by hand.

(Helped Rhonda with her car.)

1:08. Everything was back inside.

Removed the 83 layers of clothing. Red lights off. Double-checked I had everything from outdoors. Really wanted an aprés-view beverage. Made some tea.


Seeing was OK this evening. Nothing jiggling in the eyepiece anyways. Transparency seemed a little off. Smoke?

Once again, no dew!

The right angle finder was incredible. Made things so much easier. The pivot feature to change the viewing angle was also very handy.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

helped at DDO

Helped at the David Dunlap Observatory tonight. We received a local 4-H group of kids and their stewards. I think everyone had a great time despite the poor skies.

Ron and I arrived early and readied the dome. When Chris arrived we started working a few projects. We made excellent progress on the MallinCam system. I deployed one of the Linux boxes in the Warm Room. I also measured the Apparent Field of View of a few eyepieces.

Bryon entertained and informed the group in the lecture hall. Ron welcomed them to the dome. And I received the group on the observatory floor and offered them the grand reveal of the big 'scope. Fun kids. Great questions. Inspired, Ron pulled a Dobsonian out of storage so they could get a close-up look.

When someone asked me to explain why we could see both sides of a black hole at the same time, I grabbed my mini whiteboard and markers. Sadly, both my black dry erase markers had dried up. So... I drew a green hole!

For the first time I felt pretty settled. Finally.

between north and south

Tested the ETX on an external power supply and my custom pigtail power cord. Verified 4.5 volts direct current and centre tip positive. When I plugged it in initially, nothing happened. But as soon as I touched the direction switch, the motor started running. Whew!

This had flickered through my brain on Sunday night...

When I attach the Manfrotto tripod hexplate to the base of the mount, it just touches the North-South toggle switch.

Sunday night I inspected the base of the Meade mount and thought the direction switch looked funny. Half-way between N and S. Should have remounted it...

Anyways. It works! And there was much rejoicing.

broke 1400

Hit 1400+ viewed (or imaged) double stars on Sunday. Almost 1500 attempts.

Monday, June 03, 2019

viewed DS candidates (Bradford)

10:23 PM, Sunday 2 June 2019. Dark. Good looking skies. Wind had died down. Ready for the dropping temperature, I put on long johns and many layers for the torso.
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Mak
Mount: tripod
Method: star hopping (and no tracking motor!)
Outside. With (almost) everything needed for my observing session. Just finished putting the telescope on the tripod and roughly aligning to Polaris. Set up the chair and table. Started unpacking gear from the carry-all.

Rhonda's little red LED light string for the tripod, eyeglasses, eyeglasses strap. Looked like I wouldn't need the dew heating gear [ed: That was good as I forgot the 8-inch strap inside], deep red flashlight, new external battery pack for the mount. First time in a long time, I had the Oregon portable weather station outside (with new external battery pack). Grabbed a 26mm eyepiece, the old Celestron Plössl.

I could not hear the mount whirring no matter what I tried. Dead batteries? Someone wrong inside the mount? Should I get the AC adapter and extension cord? Could I simply manually track?

Someone turned the upper bedroom ceiling light. It shone down directly onto my work site! Schlanger. I did not relish moving to a new spot but with the light on it was unworkable...

10:31 PM. I headed inside to get three fresh AA batteries and the John Repeat Dance computer.

Inside, I found batteries (after grabbing the LED "ice cube" for a light source).

Yeh, security light did not trigger as I walked about the drive! That was a first I think.

10:35. Returned to the yard. The upstairs light had been turned off. Thank you! Allergies acting up.

Tried the new batteries. Nothing! Oh, that's not good...

Didn't wanna futz with extension cords and the like so I pressed ahead. Old school...

Misplaced an elastic band so secured the Lee Filters red film with one along the top edge.

Looked south. Blue Spica and sprawling Virgo.

Went to Arcturus (confirmed). Aligned the finder. Readied the netbook and SkyTools 3 Professional.

10:48. Checked the Oregon: 37% relative humidity, 7.9°C air temperature, air pressure steady, cloudy conditions tomorrow, new Moon icon.

Remembered past successes with the "telescope" 3-panel view in SkyTools. Too big, sized for the external monitor in the office, so I adjusted the window size. Washed out. Set the time to now to improve the display. Tried switching the panels around but couldn't remember how to do it [ed: Shift-Drag].

Considered my targets from the previously compiled observing list in the planning app. It was too late for targets in Hydra. Messier 68 was too low. Probably selections in Centaurus were not an option with trees and houses. Leo, or parts, were still visible. I aimed to the rump.

As I turned the azimuth control, I found the mount jumped. Too tight! I made a note to decreased it to reduce binding (but that requires a full tear down...).

10:56. Went to Denebola aka β (beta) Leonis.

Noted SAO 99800 to the south-south-west. Also known as HR 4531 or Burnham 603. Fairly bright. ST3P said it was a tight double [ed: 1.12" as of April 2019, a fast binary at 134 years]. Too tight for me with this little OTA [ed: calculated Dawes limit is 1.3"].

[ed: ST3P shows it with a log entry but there's nothing on the life list. Logged 16 March 2018, from here, with the SPC8. Huh...]

10:58. The fainter star to the south (dimmer than 99800), near to Denebola, was the D star, the fourth companion with β.

11:00. The neighbours to the south presumably went to bed, turning out their backdoor lights. w00t! But that emphasised the bad streetlight. Nearly due south, on Frederick, over a block away, there's a bright LED light angled such that it directly shines in my eyes. It shines in our bedroom windows. Bad, boo, hiss! Completely unnecessary, wasted, intrusive, inappropriate, light pollution. I should talk to the town about that one...

While trying the Meade 18mm orthoscopic ocular, I noticed some optics issues. Collimation? Or something else? Not a good view. Rocked the eyepiece, turned it. Meh. Took it out.

Put caps on. Gently put the OTA cover on as I reviewed things at the computer.

11:04. Trusting SkyTools, zoomed in a lot on the eyepiece panel, and it only showed the D partner of Denebola. B and C were apparently too dim for the small aperture. The Object Information box said B was mag 15.7 and C 13.2. [ed: Mag 11 or 12 is probably the limit for the ETX 90.]

[ed: SkyTools shows the C star revealing itself with the C8 and B making an appearance with the GSO 16...]

Checked 99800. The software showed the B star almost due north, north-north-west. Different from my "up-down" impression at the eyepiece. Hard to say. I thought the orientation I was seeing looked more to the north-west. My imagination?

[ed: Viewed on 16 Mar '18 with the C8 but did not split.]

Considered HD 105913 in Corvus but it was not possible without moving the rig. I could just see γ (gamma) in the tree foliage.

The metal OTA cover fell off. Oops.

Got tangled in the LED string.

Found another target in Corvus, higher.

11:13. Cool! HD 109556 or Struve 1659. Wow. Immediately saw a neat pattern of stars, an obvious triangle, and then a close faint pair in the middle. And then spotted a very dim outlier star making a very interesting triad!

[ed: Sissy Haas notes this system in her book double stars for small telescopes. She specifically refers to the A, B, and C stars. No colours noted. She also quotes Dembowski describing a triangle in a triangle. I see that.]

Not too difficult a star hop from the top of Corvus, from Algorab (delta, right?). Straight up, basically.

Oh boy. A six star system.

Really cool.

I had added this to my double star project candidate list, unseen. Is it too wide? I can appreciate that at high power all the members would be far apart. But I was working at 48 times and it was fantastic.

Put the Tele Vue 9mm Nagler Type 6 in. No major optics issues. Dove deep.

A and B are the central stars, a faint close pair. A was to the bottom of the field of view for me (south).

11:16. Got the extremely faint C star at this higher power. Initially with averted but now easy to pick off. C was at a right angle to the line between A and B. Between A and B? No. Touch closer to A. About 1½ times the AB split, the distance from that imaginary line between AB. The E star was to my left or west (opposite C, a right-angle again). Fairly bright. Tiny bit closer to A than the D star. D was very faint (although visible in the 26mm). F was actually the brightest of all the members, to the south-east.

[ed: ST3P shows an S element but it's mag 15 and change!]

All stars blue-white. Maybe the two centre stars were slightly warmer.

A great little target. I want to keep it! (I also really like this target as there's other very interesting objects nearby...)

It was not annoying having to manually target. An advantage of low power, I surmised.

11:20. Spotted another multi-star system nearby, to the north-east, HD 109875 aka Σ1664. Faint stars. A hockey stick.

SkyTools showed 6 stars!

Three stars inline with a kink to the west end. Neat. A was the brightest, with a hint of colour, light orange. Down to my 5 o'clock clock, to the east, the E star. Further afield, not related, about 2/3rd the AE separation, was a dimmer light [ed: HD 109916]. To the south-west, 10 o'clock position, was the B companion, close, about a 1/3rd or 1/4th the AE sep. I did not see others... ST3P did not show the D star in the electronic chart [ed: The OI box said it was mag 11.6; the Interactive Atlas said it was mag 12.6; that looks right]. I did not see the C.

[ed: Haas includes this system in her book. In fact, she refers to AB, BC, and CD. She says C is magnitude 11.6. As is D. No colours noted.]

I learned this multi-star system was technically in Virgo. I'm right on the border...

Could be two-in-the-view at 50x or less!

[ed: Forgot to look at the galaxy!]

It was 11:30.

44%, air pressure dropping, rain tomorrow, 6.2°. Optics were clear. Occasionally I was fogging the ocular.

11:37. Phone alarm went off. I watched the western sky for the Space Station. Then I remembered the late one was low and short. I think I looked in the wrong part of the sky. Oops. I did see a couple of north-bound satellites. Anyhoo.

[ed: Not sure the target. HD 112278?] Decided a DS candidate was too tight, it appeared as a single star. One of my DS candidate suggestions. ST3P said the split was 30". Huh...

I spotted Antares and the pincer stars of Scorpius. Saw Jupiter too, tangled in the trees.

Rhonda popped out noting it was very cold. Relayed the bad news about the basketball game.

My back was cold. Headed inside to fetch my winter coat!

Looked for another double with Lucian remarked on.

Snagged the LED string again. Put it aside.

Tried for a star near Hercules but gave up. Saw a neat pattern but had no idea where I was.

12:01 AM, Monday 3 June 2019. Had a quick look at Jupiter (through the coniferous needles). Neat. All the moons were on one side, bit of a jagged line.

I was on track for HR 6341 or STFA 33. Near Rasalgethi. Star hopped away from α (alpha) Herc. According to SkyTools this was in the direction opposite "L." What's L? Leading? Noted in the finder a stringer of stars going up and down and a wide double.

12:07 AM. My impression was that there was a T-shape. Sort of. Roughly oriented east-west was the top of the letter T. Equally bright. At a right angle, going down the middle, between the bright stars, a line of stars. There was a long stem with faint to very faint stars. Then at my 10 or 11 o'clock position there was a medium bright star, same intensity as the star at the bottom of the T. A bunch going on. Wow.

The primary was to my left (or north-west). B was right or south-east. SkyTools showed P and Q between A and B, P almost inline, a bit south. Then Q further away. The brighter star (brighter than P and Q) was further still and not related [ed: HD 154211]. Surprising it was not included. C was to the north of A. Ignoring P and Q, they formed a isosceles triangle.

I could not get any colours from the members. All blue-white.

All super-wide. Lucian suggests it is too wide. I really like it for a few reasons. A super-low power target and keeps giving with larger apertures. And it's easy to get to. Plus the logical put-in point is a very cool double. [ed: It is in Haas's book.]

[ed: Viewed back in July 2015.]

My allergies were really bad.

Consider Draco targets. They'd require more neck-breaking finding. So, no.

12:14. Weird. As I looked at Vega at 1x power (with my eyeglasses) it seemed bluey-green! Huh? Aquamarine. Where was that coming from?!


μ (mu) Herculis. Another candidate checked by Lucian. He said he only saw one star.

12:22. Switched eyepieces, bumped the power.

Slight collimation issue. Airy disk. Diffraction rings, bright on the one side. Probably the skewed secondary. Noted a faint object... to my 8 o'clock. Yep. Definitely something there. Set SkyTools to simulate the sky with the 9mm. I got it! Wow!

I saw the extremely faint companion. ST3P says A is magnitude 3.4 while B is 10.2.

The software shows two more dance partners but C is overly tight and D is likely below the light grasp limits of the 90mm.

Curiously, the A and B separation is rather generous (at 139x)!

Should we keep it? Yes. I think so. If I can see the B with a tiny OTA, then it represents a good, albeit challenging, target.

Huh! There's a star near the head of Draco that I have often viewed as a nose or snout to the dragon; in fact that star belongs to Hercules.

Neighbour to the east, on the other side of the hedge, appears to have a new motion light. When he headed out back to smoke, it triggered the luminaire. I don't remember seeing that before. It started bugging me as I tried to work in the eastern sky. I shifted to the south-west and moved the desk.

Wow! Cool!

12:38. Shot in the dark. City skies. Could not clearly see where I was going in the finder. Headed "down" from Zubenelgenubi. But happily, I landed at HR 5397 aka SHJ 179 in Libra. Very nice double at low power. Nearly equal brightness. Slightly different colours. White and orange or yellow and orange. Line of three stars (at a 90 degree angle) off to the north-west.

[ed: Haas calls "haunting." A pair of "reddish white" stars. Interesting.]

Another DS candidate. Never previously viewed. Yeah.

ST3P says it is a triple with a tight BC combo—that'll make it a good quarry in a big 'scope.

I couldn't remember what time I started... How long had I been going? Wondered if I should carry on.

12:42. Consider travelling to Vega. Decided to head inside for a break. As I walked in I wondered if I had any hot chocolate left...

Sadly, out of the good stuff. Put the kettle on and used the second last lemon tea bag.

1:15. Back in "the office."

Vega is too hard I think. While it has a number of companions, with decent separations, the parent is just too brilliant, and washes out the surrounding region. One needs a blocking or occulting eyepiece. So I'll remove it from the candidate list.

1:23. Double checked the Double Double (affectionately Tim Horton). In this little 'scope, I saw rod shapes at 48x. The ε1 (epsilon) pair was angled toward the 11 o'clock and 5 o'clock positions and pointing toward the lower-right pair, ε2 oriented to 8 and 2. No black lines but clearly tight doubles in the ETX.

[ed: Looks like the split limit for the little ETX is around 2½ to 3 seconds of arc.]

Really good to see the Swan back in the sky...

Spotted Altair and Tarazed.

1:38. Oregon said 61%, 4.6°.

Tried for HR 7529 in Cygnus but had a devil of a time with the stupid, useless finder scope.

I think I bumped into the Cygnus Fairy Ring! Ha!

Decided to quit [ed: Three hours. A good run]. I knew it'd take me 15 minutes or so to get back inside. In bed by 2 perhaps?

1:49. Back inside. I plugged in the ASUS to recharge.


Many complained of bad seeing this evening. Was OK for me in BWG.