Thursday, May 23, 2019

visited Barnard's Star (Halifax)

Visited Barnard's Star with the BGO robotic system. This star in Ophiuchus shows very high proper motion. It is the brightest star, above centre. If I image it annually, I should be able to see motion against the surrounding stars. It's heading to the north.

fast-moving Barnard's Star in luminance

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

It's close. About 6 light-years away.

I'll try to image this annually for a few years...

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Wikipedia link: Barnard's Star.

dropped in on 70 Oph (Halifax)

Commanded the BGO 'bot to capture 70 Ophiuchi again, the 88-year binary star. By aiming at GSC 00434 02340, this puts Σ2272 to the bottom-right.

fast-moving binary 70 Oph in luminance

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

This is the third fourth year of imaging! I'll have a go at detecting the orbital motion...

Annual image log:

Aug 2016
Jul 2017
May 2018
May 2019 < you are here

I should attempt to measure the position angle in all these... Should see a change.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

imaged xi Boo (Halifax)

BGO captured double-star ξ (xi) Boo (aiming at SAO 101256 to the east). Also known as Struve 1888, it is the bright pair to the right. It is a fast-moving binary system about 22 light-years away. 

double-star xi Boo in luminance

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

I intend to shoot this every May for a few years. The period is 152 years. Hopefully we'll see the orbital motion...

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Now, when I first visually inspected this pair, I was after the colours. Σ1888 is noted in the RASC Observer's Handbook, the Cambridge Double Star Atlas, and the Coldfield list. Sky & Telescope magazine included it in an article regarding colours, if they were real or imagined.

Back in May 2008, I only noted the pair, A and B. Likely as that was all the information that I had to go on, at the time. It was before I started using SkyTools. Now, with ST3P, I know it is a multi-star system!

B is oriented to the west-north-west, tight, of course, to the primary.

The C companion is remarkably faint. I bet it is not visible to the eye at the ocular. It appears to the north-north-west, a good distance away. The Washington Double Star database reports it is mag 13.8.

Ally D is easily spotted, brighter than C. It is nearly inline with B, a touch further south, but further away than C. Two to three times the separation.

The E escort is opposite D, further out again. It is bright, possibly brighter than F. Maybe the same as B.

And finally the F star is to the north-east, the furthest. A tiny bit dimmer than E.

Cool. Wasn't expecting that...

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Wikipedia link: xi Boötis.

aimed at Wolf 359 (Halifax)

I asked the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to image Wolf 359, a red dwarf star in Leo with very high proper motion.

star Wolf 359 in luminance

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

Whoa. Faint. Even though it's only 7.9 light-years away. I should have shot longer... Can you see it?! I believe the target is not dead centre; rather, it is the medium bright star near but right of centre.

Also, this star is best viewed in February and March, after 1:00. Goes over 45° in elevation. It was around 44 for me on this occasion. Conditions weren't great. The ECMWF indicator said there was 5% cloud. Transparency and seeing from the Clear Sky Chart were, respectively, average and poor (2/5).

The plan is to image this star annually for a little while. With a proper motion against the background stars of 4.7 arcseconds per year, I should be able to see the shift...

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Wikipedia link: Wolf 359.

saw BGO fire up

Yes. Clear in Halifax. BGO was running and taking images. I had a few jobs in the hopper.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

measured AFOV

I just learned how to measure the Apparent Field of View (AFOV) of an eyepiece. It's super-simple!

Set up a rig and tested my 36mm 2" aspheric eyepiece. Quick and crude, I computed the AFOV at 71.2°. baader planetarium says it's 72.

field projection through eyepiece

Do you see the large faint illuminated circle?

We can use the technique to measure the antique ocular at the DDO.

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Tip of the beanie to the Cloudy Nights article "eyepiece afov calculation" with discussion, diagrams, and photos as well as the CN article "flashlight test for aperture - illustrated" on using a torch.

tinted Moon with bright Jupiter (Bradford)

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

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

I was a little confused.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 18, 2019

helped at DDO

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

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

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

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

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

A couple more hurdles crossed.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

monthly doubles for May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Binary Universe: measuring darkness

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

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

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

Saturday, May 11, 2019

poster of the Moon

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

Nat Geo Moon poster (new edition)

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

an old Mars article

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

Mars in the news

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

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

received DAO charts

Sis gave me an interesting book (booklet?).

DAO star maps book cover

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

DAO star maps book inscription

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

DAO star maps book sample chart

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

observing from bed (St Thomas)

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

Friday, May 10, 2019

viewed Luna in the Beehive (St Thomas)

The weather suddenly improved!

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

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

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

Very nice.

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

Thursday, May 09, 2019

shared TheSkyX materials

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

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

to identify celestial objects

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

Sunday, May 05, 2019

love the camp fire (Bradford)

First camp fire of the year!

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

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

Quiet. No bug. Warm. For a change.

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

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

worked at the work party

Helped at the CAO spring work party.

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

rat's nest in the super closet

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

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

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

flew the RC16 (Blue Mountains)

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

The sky darkened.

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

Sailu and I looked for other planets along the ecliptic.

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

Tried for M13.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saw Jupiter rising.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Removed the 35 Sextantis annual entry from my calendar.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

they mentioned doubles!

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

Double stars for urban skies and more.

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

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

Yes!