Wednesday, July 31, 2019

nationally recognised

The David Dunlap Observatory is now considered a national historic site, one of eight new national historic sites across Canada, as announced by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

tried for the ISS (Blue Mountains)

Wanted to try a tracked long-exposure of the International Space Station. Multi-tasking...

Prepared the Star Adventurer. Checked all the bits and bobs. Reviewed my notes.

9:35 PM. My reminder alarm went off for the ISS flyover. I headed outside to prepare the Canon camera and Star Adventurer.

Made sure the tripod was level.

Dismounted the ball head from the SA and uncovered the polar 'scope.

Grabbed the illuminator (with fresh CR 2032 battery) from the Warm Room. Installed in the little red mount.

Grabbed my phone and launched PolarFinder Android app. Waited for the GPS signals to kick in. Aligned on Polaris. Reinstalled (gently) the ball head.

9:43. Did test shots, 5, 10, and 20 seconds.

9:47. Jeff looked for us.

Relayed the flyover times. 10:13 it would start, run for 7 minutes. Mag -3. It occurred to me it would be in the northern sky, not the southern, going through the Big Dipper and heading into Cygnus. I was not aimed that way... I wanted to get Scorpius, Jupiter, Saturn, etc. I hoped the 180 degree field would include the trace.

Ed, hovering, asked about using the Star Adventurer. Yes, it was a small equatorial mount. For me, it was no more difficult than using my old Vixen Super Polaris equatorial mount.

9:52. Reframed and shot for 30 seconds.

Double-checked the ISO, f-stop, and intervalometer. Delatched the petals. Double-checked my checklist.

Everything was ready.

10:04. Ian D asked about the ISS. I relayed the numbers again. Showed him the diagram.

10:09. Paused double star hunting. Headed outside.

10:10. Started a 10 minute exposure.

southern sky over GBO and SLO

Canon 40D, Rokinon 8mm, manually focused to infinity mark, f/22, ISO 800, daylight white balance, intervalometer, 720 seconds, Star Adventurer, tripod.

Steve and Dietmar were filming in the Sue-Lora Observatory hence the stray light...

[ed: Didn't know until later. Dang! Missed it. I was aimed too far down... Should have aimed north!]

Risa and I watched the station. I picked it up low, about 10° up, in the north-east, near an airplane. Watched it climb and brighten. It split 31 and 32 Cygni!

We were scolded by the film crew team in the SLO for being too loud! Oops.

Let the camera continue shooting. So to stack some shots for the Milky Way... Considered 12 by 12. Put an entry in my calendar.

When I saw how wet everything was, I suspected the camera lens was dew-covered.

10:58 PM. Waited for a gap to check it. Yep. Soaked!

Shut down and brought the camera into the Warm Room.

11:02. Should have brought the dew heaters... I hadn't felt like bugging anyone.

12:26. Checked the camera shots. Missed the ISS. First shot was OK but second was completely fogged... Diffraction spikes.

[ed: Maybe I should keep a couple of hand warmers in astronomy case alpha primus.]

solved the image

Ran the galaxy cluster through Astrometry.net.

annotated image of Abell 2151 shot

Over 20 identified objects...

Astrometry.net link: Abell 2151.

Centre (RA, hms): 16h 05m 37.559s
Centre (Dec, dms): +17° 46' 21.243"
Size: 47.8 x 31.8 arcmin
Pixel scale: 0.737 arcsec/pixel

From the plate solving and SkyTools 3 Pro (and some help from Aladin), I have identified the following objects:

IC 1188 / PGC 57127 and LEDA 1533342
IC 1173
MCG 3-41-80
IC 1181
IC 1178 / Arp 178
IC 1193
IC 1185
IC 1194
LEDA 84742
IC 1192
IC 1184 (Aladin says this is a star)
NGC 6054 or IC 1183
MCG 3-41-99
IC unknown / LEDA 1541356
IC 1182
IC 1179
NGC 6050 / Arp 272
NGC 6047
NGC 6039 (ST3) or 6042 (Aladin)
NGC 6041
IC 1170
NGC 6043
NGC 6044
IC ????
NGC 6045 / Arp 71
PGC 57131
NGC 6056
IC ????
MCG 3-41-112
NGC 6057
IC 1171 / LEDA 1546800
NGC 6055
IC 1180 / PGC 57057
IC 1175

...

And here's the snapshot from SkyTools.

screen snap centred on Abell 2151

There are quasars within the frame but I can't identify them in the digital frame given the noise.

collected flats

Shot flats. First time ever, I think. Weird results.

gathered more darks

Programmed a darks run.

fogged

The humidity levels were high. Discovered the finder was completely coated with dew as I shut down. Oooh. That's what PHD2 was struggling...

fogged finder objective

Fired up the dehumidifier in the little observatory.

tried another galaxy (Blue Mountains)

Tried for M33 (Messier 33), a rising galaxy this time. Continued to receive guiding errors so I gave up.

galaxy M33 in Triangulum

Canon 40D (not modified), GSO RC 8, f/8. Guided. 600 seconds, daylight, ISO 1600, RAW. Manually focused, Bahitov mask, Backyard EOS. Image shown is a single frame, no stacking, no significant processing.

tried for Splinter

Tried to get the Splinter. Guiding errors. Also I had forgotten the mask was in place. It was getting low so I decided to try something different...

shot darks

Shot darks after galaxy cluster run, with the camera body on the floor, using the intervalometer as the trigger, from 1:13 to 1:55, while Risa ramped up to use her camera.

aimed at Abell 2151 (Blue Mountains)

Wanted to try the SLO system. Risa and I worked through the steps together. I considered a unique target and selected ACO or Abell 2151, a super-cluster in Hercules.

super cluster Abell 2151

Canon 40D (not modified), GSO RC 8, f/8. Guided. 600 seconds, daylight, ISO 1600, RAW. Manually focused, Bahitov mask, Backyard EOS. Image shown is a single frame, no stacking, no significant processing. North is right, east is up.

Stoopid plane.

This is just a portion of the galaxy cluster in Hercules, with NGC 6047 near the centre of the frame.

§

Was almost scuppered. I dug through my camera bag but could not find my Canon-computer USB cable. I suddenly envisioned it back home, plugged into my office computer. Carp! Amazingly, I found a suitable cable in the SLO desk. Saved my bacon...

§

Plate-solved the image. Identified the members.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

moth in space

Decided to image the Moth Nebula. But it flew away.

moth lit with red flashlight

Funny.

two for one (Blue Mountains)

There was shouting and hoopla coming from outside. Steve uttering incomplete fragments again. Risa and I jumped up, leaving our SLO walk-thru, to stand between the observatories. Nice sky! The Milky Way was spectacular. Then she saw it. The International Space Station blazing out of the west. I noticed it was already dimming. And just then, a fantastic delta Aquarid fireball heading through the northern sky. Wow! It left a long train of sparks! Two for one. The ISS meanwhile, now overhead, faded into our shadow.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

good double graphics

Astronomy Now published an article suggesting people view some double stars. They offered up a range of targets, from easy to challenging. I like the info-graphics provided, simulating the field of view in the eyepiece, with the subtle glow effect from the stars. Rather realistic, I think. Well done.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

SkyNews for Sep/Oct '19 out

cover of SkyNews Oct/Nov 2019
Spotted the newest SkyNews magazine for September and October. We received our shipment at the DDO for takeaways for guests.

There's a brief article on the incredible shrinking Great Red Spot.

Ivan Semeniuk writes about next steps now that astronomers have directly imaged a black hole.

The big feature is the contest winners for photography. Kevin Watson received an honourable mention for his ISS pass in front of the Moon.

Lots of good stuff!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

prepared new dew heater

Finished up dew heater prototype. Took power cord from old finder scope heater project. Quick and dirty. Ready for testing... If it all works, I'll make the fabric pocket/cover.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

lots done

Did a bunch of IT things at the DDO. Then worked on the MallinCam. Made excellent progress. The 2-inch extension tube worked as I expected. And Ron got the video feed working to the old TV on the observing floor.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

a good night at the DDO

Despite thunder boomers surrounding us, we have a pretty amazing evening at the DDO. I flew the 74-inch with Frank and Gary assisting. Celia was team lead and did a fantastic job. Rhonda ran an amazing crafts area. Michele and Ron did great debugging. Grace and Tony were very helpful. It was great to seeing Elaine, Uncle Tony, and crew! Wore my NASA hat.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

they landed!

Caught the live repeat live broadcast of the Apollo 11 mission, on Facebook, seconds before they called up from Tranquility Base. Fun!

space cookie!

A tasty treat appropriate for today... From a vendor at the Newmarket Commons farmer's market.

interactive cookie

Interactive too!

§

Took some pix after painting the cookie.

Binary Universe: that little agency south of the border

RASC Journal for August 2019
With my extract received from James, that signaled the RASC Journal was out. I logged into the national web site and found the August edition ready to download.

Ooh. Interesting. John Percy talks about Donald MacRae. I was just thinking about him last night. Ooh (again). There's a piece on the Event Horizon Telescope. Cool. Looking forward to that. The current issue features another image captured by Adrian in city limits.

In my column, Binary Universe, I review the NASA app for both iOS and Android. For space flight and space exploration junkies.

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...
Instruments: GSO 16-inch RC, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
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).

Neptune!

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.

Departed.

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.

Next...

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

where:

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.