Saturday, August 31, 2019

two pieces merged

The two big components of the James Webb Space Telescope were recently combined completing a major milestone for the project. Gettin' there! See the full article from the NASA JWST web site.

halved September DDO events

The RASC Toronto Centre schedule at the David Dunlap Observatory for September has been disturbed a little with a planned film shoot. Our lecture night on 14 September is cancelled. Our regular programme family night though on 21 September is still a go! That said, the event is already sold out, as usual.


If you really want to get in on a tour of the DDO, time is running out. See the RASC DDO calendar for remaining dates...

clear skies at last (Bradford)

9:25 PM, Friday 30 August 2019. I saw stars! Yes! Clear!

local Clear Sky Charts for Friday night

To the "office." Here we go!

Oops. Forgot the computer, in my excitement.

Powered up the mount. Checked the date and time. All OK. Tried to spot Polaris through the mount: nope. Still too low and north. No matter; carry on. Did a two-star alignment. Albireo and Alphecca. Odd: the target stars were not in the finder but I received small polar axis error numbers (less than 1 minute). No matter; carry on. Slewed to Jupiter (in the trees) and performed a Sync command.

Turned on the dew heaters! The new None More Black controller responded with blinking LEDs showing the duty cycle! Nice. First field test. Didn't think I'd need 11 tonight...

9:45 PM. Fetched John Repeat Dance. Hooked up to the mount. Achoo!

Found the battery pack for the tripod red LED ring light...

Dropped the bike headlamp causing it to switch to white mode. It burns!

9:49. Slewed to 67 Ophiuchi.

Wanted the computer near to me. It would be better, faster, given the pointing was off a bit. Set aside the eyepieces case. Moved the TV table near the mount. Hauled over the computer and recorder.

9:57. On 67 Oph. Viewed with the baader planetarium aspheric 36mm. Noted an arrowhead to the north-west. Tip of the arrow directly north-west. To the west of A there was a faint pair of magnitude 11 lights including Tycho 00434-999 1. To the south-east, there was another pair of stars, with Tycho 00434 309 1, slightly equal.

The custom eyepiece dew heater was working, with rubber sleeve, warm, held in place with a rubber band. Flexible!

10:00. Switched to the Pentax XW 20mm eyepiece. SkyTools showed the centre of the large open cluster Collinder 359 was here. Huh. Spotted a fainter star, GSC 00434-1163, at mag 12.6 (poor quality data warning as usual), seemed right, dimmer than the aforementioned south-east Tycho stars, inline, north of them, east of A.

10:02. Was curious about the delay time in the hand controller, how long the display and keyboard would remain lit. I had stopped using it a few seconds ago.

Seeing seemed off a little. I thought the transparency good.

No obvious additional stars in the field near 67. Cheated. Zoomed in a lot. I mistook E as the obvious star to the south.

10:04. Hand controller lights went out. So about 2 minutes... Too bad it cannot be controlled. I'd make it extinguish faster.

10:05. Realised it was not the E star I was seeing. E is directly opposite A from arrowhead star Tycho 00434-1145 1. The star I was seeing, using the hockey stick pattern, was a bit to the right or east. That was the C star. Or the CD pair. The appearance of E was skewed due to the red film on my LCD screen, dimming the deep blue star C. C (8.1) was definitely brighter than E (mag 10.9).

Went looking for E (opposite 1145), D (east of C) and B (inline with 1145, A, and E).

10:10. Verified the E star. Very faint. Same separation as C. Good.

10:12. Spotted a star, opposite A from TYC 1145. Little bit further away. Much fainter. ST3P said it was GSC 00434-0517 at mag 14.5. Wow. Really?

Doubted the 14.5 value for that other star. Could not see the other components of 67. D star was dim, B was dimmer. And close to A. Done with this... I couldn't get the other stars. Not without excellent conditions and more aperture... (I had wanted to view this with the 74 but we were short on time and clouds were moving in.)

Bumped into the Spacebar on the netbook which initiated a Sync command. Oops. That might have mucked up my connection... No software crash—whew. Reconnected. OK. Weird. Blinking X in the right spot.

Reloaded the low power ocular. In the software, I had noted a double star nearby.

Panned to next, north-east of 67.

10:19. Viewed HD 164529, aka BU 1202, a multi-star system. 6 elements. Formed a large triangle. I saw the C and E stars without difficulty. Companion C to the NE and element E to the SE. I didn't notice B listed (in the Context Viewer window).

To the south-west, I spotted a faint tight pair. That was BAL 2465 according to SkyTools.

Wanted to tackle my double to sketch. The "extra" star one. What was it again? Checked the blog. gamma Her! Right.

10:23. As I surveyed the constellation of Hercules, I observed a faint north-bound satellite. It went through the trapezoid of Herc. Huh. Probably went very close to M13.

Did I just see M13 naked eye?! Or was that averted imagination?

Clouds. High level clouds. Checked the Oregon Scientific portable weather station sitting on the tripod triangular tray. It reported 53% humidity, 13.4° Celsius air temperature, dropping air pressure. It predicted rain tomorrow. Achoo!

10:31. Once again, too late! The target was in the trees. I should have started earlier. This should be the VERY first object viewed... I was getting distortion and dimming. Clouds over there too.


10:32. I did not see anything near the A star. A scratch for tonight. No obvious mystery star.

Slewed to next.

10:45. On the target. HR 7529 or STF 2578. Saw the A, B, and F stars no problem.

Nailed GSC 02668-0049 [ed: Or J194538.5+360313]. Magnitude 12 star. It formed an equilateral triangle with the A and F stars.

I was moving the custom heater from eyepiece to eyepiece. Mildly concerned about stressing the connectors.

10:47. That was easy. The C and D stars popped in the Tele Vue Nagler 9mm (226x). C to the north. D to the east.

I was seeing more stars than the software chart was showing. My previous change from Bortle 4 to 5 was too course. Back to 4 (21.2 mag/arcsec-squared). Identified GSC 02668-0616 to the south-west of F.

Checked my old log notes and life list. I had not seen the C and D stars in the 90mm Maksutov. Good to finally get them. No E noted in the software. Got the 4 pairs.

10:50. I could still see C and D in the 20mm (102x). All right.

Did not report it before even though I noticed it. The D star was visible in the 36mm (56x)...

10:53. Spotted a faint pair to the north-west. Mag 11 stars. With TYC 02668-0186 1. Similar orientation to HR 7529 but a bit wider. Not IDed in ST3P...

Remembered to do some checks with the GoToStar system. Curious. Examined the numbers (rounded) in the software:

J2000 apparent
RA 19h45m40s 19h46m24s
Dec +36°05'28" +36°08'36"
TRA - 19h46m24s
TDEC - +36°08'44"

The apparent coordinate numbers all lined up rather well. The controller showed the current numbers but they were way off. 3 minutes in the RA and over 40 minutes in the Dec. Out of sync, clearly.

Ensured the target was centred. Tried a Sync command on the controller. Of course, this made the "current" numbers on the GoToStar display match the "target" numbers. Which was what the software seemed to be using.

10:57. And back on the computer, the blinking X moved. It was exactly on HR 7529. Good talk-back! Did not blow up or crash the app. That was really good news. Happy.

While the sync command via software doesn't seem to work, I had a good work-around going forward...

Test slew: NGC 6871. Other side of the neck of the Swan. It worked.

10:58. Landed on the open cluster. Nice stars in here. Fine tuned.

Dead centre, neat double, bright yellow and orange. Nice. Bunch of cool doubles in the cluster. Oh wow. Three faint stars right around the yellow! Saw more pairs. Awesome possum.

Ah. V1676 Cygni. Previously viewed (with the ETX). Eight stars according to SkyTools.

The objective of the C8 is dirty...

Felt cool. I'd need another layer soon.

11:03. Headed to the house. Returned with another sweater and the jacket.

Slewed to next.

11:16. Examined 16 Vul. A simple pair on my View Again list (but I don't see it on the life list). It's in the RASC double and multi-star list.

Split them! Two equal stars. Oriented 10 o'clock, 4 o'clock. First order diffraction ring, touching. 9mm. Both white. Wow. Had to wait for the seeing. Obvious. Good seeing gives a black line.

Super-bright star at the 7 o'clock position meant that north was up for me.

The top-left, north-west star seemed brighter. ST3P said mags 5.2 and 6.2 respectively. Also known as STT 395. Got it even though the software said "not splittable at best." The separation was 0.8 seconds of arc!

Made the short slew.

11:28. Viewed HD 339672 in Vulpecula, aka β982, with the low power eyepiece. Two faint stars, 1.3" apart, from my View Again list. Mag 10 stars. Southern part of the open cluster NGC 6885. Oriented north-east to south-west. I thought the brighter was to the top-right / north-east. Software said the stars were the same intensity.

With the high power eyepiece, the brightness flipped! South-west now.

Noted a bunch of circles in the digital chart. SkyTools was showing lots of open clusters...

11:37. Clouds in the south. Below Aquila. Blotting out Saturn.

11:43. SkyTools said there was an open cluster near NGC 6885, with the star HD 192043, called AH03 J2011+26.7. No other details. I saw little tiny stars, 4 or 5, cup shape. Interesting object. It seemed I caught it in an image... [ed: Yep, here.]


11:54. On the hunt for HD 180994 in Aquila, never viewed, or never logged, mag 9½ stars. Spotted a tiny pattern of stars to the south, like Delphinus. I could see the two stars, oriented 2 o'clock through 8, or NE through SW. I thought the brighter star was to the NE. ST3P disagreed. The accomplice was mag 9.9 vs A at 9.3. Equal stars in the 9mm. Separated by 1.5". Burnham 1256. On my View Again.


12:06 AM, Saturday 31 August 2019. Nice and easy couple... I wondered if I was on the right target.

Checked HD 172068 in Lyra. Mag 6.9 and 7.7, aka STF 2351. Same colour, same brightness. Easy split. 5". Easy in the low power eyepiece. I pulled this from a different list, a past backyard list. Looks I wanted to try this on a few occasions. An automatic suggestion. In a neat group of stars. Oriented north-south, more or less. There was a nearby fun triple, at the 11 o'clock position, i.e. the west.

Low power, two in the view!

12:10 AM. Took in the triple. SAO 47601 aka ARY 14. Never viewed. Triple. Easy, easy. Ah, northern C is brighter than western B. Neat. Copied to my current observing list...

Something dim went through the field super-fast. Wasn't a meteor; some fast satellite.

A long frustration: hovering over a star in a SkyTools chart almost always shows the secondary, not the primary. Strange.


12:16. Had a quick look at the Double Double since I was in the 'hood. Barely obvious at 56x.

Clouds. Almost at the zenith. From the south? Waited a moment. No, out of the west. West to east. The southern sky was pooched. Cygnus was clear. Considered Cas and And for targets...

Eastern sky. Big slew. Moved the chair and table.

Stopped switching the ocular heater; just left it on the 36mm.

Crazy idea: multiple heaters, one for each eyepiece...

12:24. Viewed V640 Cas or Struve 3062. Yellow, yellow-white. Two stars touching. Oriented to 1 o'clock and 7. Angled toward HD 240500. Mmm, maybe more to the middle of the 3 stars... Essentially north-south. Not logged this high priority item. Fast-mover, on my View Again. ST3P said 107 year period, 1.5" as of July.

Changed the eyepiece. Two separate stars in the Pentax. The southern star was brighter, by a bit.

Clouds were gone. It was a nice sky to the east. All of Andromeda visible. Triangulum above the trees.

12:32. Eyeballed the double star to the west: HD 225257 / Σ3057. Unequal stars. Indeed, SkyTools said 6.6 and 9.5. Pentax eyepiece. White and orange. Nice.

Weather check, 57%, 12.9°, steady pressure, partly sunny tomorrow. Aug 31! Noticed the date. Sheesh, where did August go?!

Zipped the main door to block the neighbour's waste light.

12:50. Navigated to the location of the Bubble Nebula. I wanted to coax out details.

Put in the 2-inch O-III filter. Saw some haziness around the north and west stars. But no bubble...

12:53. Filter out.

Neat star field. Noted a little triplet to the north. SAO 20557.

Messier 52 (M52) was nearby! Popped over. Wanted to dive deep!

No problem with STI 1173. North-north-west of the centre of M52. Two equal stars, faint. North of the bright star SAO 20606. Angled NE to SW.

North of centre of M52 was something that looked like a triple. ST3P only noted it as a double: STI 1177. B was to the west. Faint stars. The third star, GSC 04279-0653, was to the south side.

Oooh. I learned the bright star SAO 20606 is a quadruple inside the cluster! Also known as BLL 58. B was to the south, C to the north, and D very far away to the north-east!

STI 1175. West of the D star, faint. Needed averted for that pair.


1:15. HD 223718 in Andromeda. STF 3042. Nice double. 5.6" sep. Same magnitudes, almost the same. Pulled from a past list, July (and June) targets, for the backyard.

Straight up and down for me. An E-W orientation. Blue-white, very subtle colours. Yellow-orange, bottom one (west) is blue. Quite tight in the 36mm. Nearly empty field. Out in the middle of nowhere. Noted a triangle to the east-south-east...

Oops. As I checked the dew wrap on the finder I touched the lens. Will need to inspect it... May need cleaning.

1:20. Saw a pair of faint stars west of the triangle.

Crazy. Spotted the tight pair of stars, WDS double OL 7, faint stars at mag 12. At the apex of the triangle. 4.3" apart. Angled north and south?


Needed a break. Was pining for hot chocolate... None left. Sad. Found York mint chocolates on my desk. Score! So good.

1:43. Viewed ω (omega) Andromedae. The A star was in a triad, one of the points. TYC 03265-0388 1 and TYC 03265-2204 1 were the other points. Centre of the triad was the C or D star. Wonky. C was 10.4. D was also 10.4. So a little unclear. [ed: Hovering in the chart shows D is mag 13.1...] At 5" I should have been able to split them... Warm yellow and blue. [ed: While the Object Info box says B is mag 11.7...]

Kept staring. Clearly the central item was a double star...

Slewed to π (pi) And aka 29 or H V 17. Wide, easy in the lower power. A nice yellow and blue. Surprised I have never viewed before. Oh. A triple...

1:57. Got the C star but extremely dim in the 9mm. A little more than the A-B separation. Opposite. In a line. Very nice. To the north (while B is to the south).

Aries was rising. Cepheus was high up. Perseus was climbing out of the trees.

Headed to my next quarry.

2:15. IDed the field in Cassiopeia. Also found a double, BD +61 02555 aka ES 1932, mag 11 stars. Oriented north-south. I thought the surrounding stars were part of an open cluster but didn't see anything noted in SkyTools. [ed: It is the King 2 open cluster actually, revealed on zooming in to a half-degree field.]

Saw a super-faint cluster of stars between HD 223987 and HD 224055. That was Harvard 21 aka OCL 273. Very faint stars. Huh. On a number of auto-generated lists. Finally seen.

Panned south-east. Spotted the bright star HR 9085 to the east.

2:21. NGC 7788 (or OCL 275) was quite large. Loose. Lots of faint stars. Maybe 100 stars or so. Seemed to have a fuzzy glow in the centre.

South-east of 7788 was NGC 7790 (or OCL 276). Smaller (althought ST3P shows a bigger circle). A glow. 4 or 5 bright stars with a peppering of faint stars.

To the north of 7788. Least interesting of all. Another conglomeration of stars. About 10 somewhat bright stars. Big. That was Frolov 1. SkyTools has an interesting note! "This cluster apparently does not exist."

Three in the view at low power! Wow. Milky Way action!

Pegasus was high up.

Off to my next target.

2:28. Got the B star of γ (gamma) Persei. HJ 2170. Million miles away. Needed the Nagler to get it. Faint double to the east. B was double that separation. Saw GSC 03701-0599 to the SE. It was about double the AB split.

66%, 11.7°.

2:31. Made the short slew to τ (tau) Per aka EDG 1. Horizontal? Tough. Not 100% sure. Will need to try again.

One more? Something from the Coldfield list then...

2:40. HD 23107 or STF 434. Good one to finish one. Colourful. Orange and blue. Very wide, very easy. Cool!


Added it to the observing list, after a couple of tries, for tagging.

As raccoons scrapped, I packed up. Oculars away. OTA parked. Oh. It hit 90 perfectly on the Dec. Set the OTA horizontal. Remembered to disconnect the computer first this time. Powered off. Remembered the recorder tonight. Stuff in the carry-all. Lights out. Zipped up and clipped down.

Inside. Tired. Stiff.

Wow. A 5 hour run!


One objective this evening was to sketch gamma Her. Once again, I landed at the target too late. And then as I got into the groove, I didn't feel the need to sketch any other objects.

Another objective this evening was to test my dew heater controller. It worked great! I really like the flashing LED indicators. In complete darkness, you can tell how much power is being sent to the heaters. Drove the finder, 8-inch, and eyepiece heaters. I don't think there was a lot of dew this evening but I certainly had no issues. And the custom wrap for the eyepiece worked very well too. I was a little worried it was too big for the smaller eyepieces but it was fine on the baader, Pentax, and Tele Vue. It will work on camera lenses too. Very happy.

Ironically, as I left the tent, I forgot to turn off the dew heaters! Oops. But it gave a chance to "burn in" the custom controller... No pun intended. ;-)

Ah. That means I need to build more...

Thursday, August 29, 2019

ran a private tour (Richmond Hill)

At the David Dunlap Observatory, we ran a small tour for a couple of visiting RASC members. When Ralph got stuck in traffic, while Ron prepared the 74-inch telescope, I started the dome tour downstairs. Later we went to Saturn. That was awesome. Tried for the Blinking Planetary but we couldn't see it. I went to Rasalgethi for my favourite target, a colourful double star. Ralph then showed off the admin building and, as clouds slid in, Ron and I wrapped up. Ron also tested a flatscreen TV with the MallinCam; I also had a chance to sort out the Stellarium problem.


The view of Saturn was amazing. Equatorial belt white, good detail in the cloud bands through moments of good seeing. Shadow of the planet clearly visible. The A, B, and C bands in the rings were easily spotted, the Cassini Division easy too. We noted Rhea to the left (east) and Dione and Tethys to the west. We used Ron's phone running SkySafari to verify the field of view. I briefly tagged Mimas to the 8 o'clock position, north-east; but I could not see Enceladus.


This confirms north is down and east is left for our typical viewing, in the 74, in Cassegrain mode. As I suspected. Three reflections but... we're underneath the telescope, not above it.

exposed planets

Sorted the Stellarium problem I had when I delivered the sky tour for the Space Camp kids. I couldn't get the orbits (or traces) to show from the Solar System Observer location...

SSO tab in Stellarium 0.19, Limit magnitude option turned off

Turns out there was a limiting magnitude setting turned on in the sky view solar system object settings. Now I know.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

not much water

Opened the tent to air things out and check for water intrusion. It was hot inside so I opened the main door, the window, the side door, and the observatory inner flap. Immediately the temperature dropped. Removed the tarp from atop the 'scope. There was a little bit of water on the floor, in two spots. Nothing major that a small towel wouldn't fix. Now where's my towel?

Monday, August 26, 2019

wishful thinking (Bradford)

Wanted to sort some issues. Skies weren't great so it was a good time for experiments and little repairs.
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: Go To
Affixed the hook-and-loop bits on the back of the hand controller with Gorilla super-glue.

Checked the Allen key size for the Dec axis plate. 5mm, I think.

8:39 PM. I readied to get Polaris. I had moved the mount about 1 foot to the south. I had not yet raised the tripod height...

Raised it a bit.

Knocked the music stand over. Oops.

Moved the lawn chair.

8:44. Back to the computer. Kept waiting.

Could not visually see Polaris. Could not see planets to the south. Vega was fuzzy and dim.

8:48. Yesterday at this time I was able to see the North Star. Not tonight. Wondered if I should scrub.

8:50. Saw a bright north-bound satellite, blue-white, in the north-east. Really bright! Are there still Iridiums? [ed: No Iridium Flares are listed in Heavens-Above... Turned on the daytime option. Nothing in the Daily Predictions list... In Stellarium, I see that COSMOS 1500 was in the area. Also the FIA Radar 2 satellite was near but the path doesn't look right.]

Discovered that the latitude or elevation for the Vixen was close to 50 degrees! Wowzers. That's why I had significant drift! Dropped to 44.

Spotted Polaris through the finder scope, near the roof line.

9:00. Powered up the mount.

9:03. Eyeballed the polar alignment with the finder scope. Which I knew could introduce cone error.

Did a 2-star alignment with the visible points of light, Altair and Vega.

R.A. Axis report said:
15.1 higher.
69.9 west.

Quarter of an arc-minute in elevation and just over an arc-minute in azimuth. I thought that pretty good. For visual work.

With the hand controller, I slewed to Albireo.

9:05. The colourful double was visible in the eyepiece, woo hoo. At the edge mind you, of the lowest power eyepiece, but still there. I'll take what I can get.


Hooked up the computer.

Saw the flashing X right on Albireo.

9:11. Slewed to my new target, not far away in Cygnus, HR 7529.

Saw it on the edge of the field. Manually centred with the hand paddle.

9:12. Checked my notes, my double star life list pages. Lots of entries. I had not seen the C and D stars. I had seen B and F.

9:15. The bright pair was obvious. Noted a little arc thing going up, with TYC 02668-0477 1 at the end. To the far west. Magnitude 10.9. Equidistant from the middle star. Bit of a kink. Main bright stars were light orange and light blue. The faint star was a deep orange. Ah, that's the F star. F is orange. Kinda freaky.

Tried to increase the magnification.

Panned around but got lost.

Issued the slew command again. A little odd that the button said Abort Slew. But it worked...

Wanted the sky to get darker...

9:28. Couldn't do it. The C star did not emerge. The D star was way too dim. Drag. Oh well. Better than nothing.

Closed up. Tried to wipe down the inside of the observatory flap. Dusty, sandy. Oculars away. Fly back in place. Powered down the mount first (back accident, again). That killed SkyTools. Gah. Lights off.


Drunk neighbour lost control of his dog again. Not gettin' it.

[ed: Oops. Forgot the recorder. Captured night sounds for 10 hours...]

backyard session (Bradford)

Ready to go... Even though early, even though the sky was still bright, I headed to the tent. Last-minute checks for everything. And I would wait for the planets to show up.
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: Go To (sorta)
7:37 PM, Sunday 25 August 2019. Popped inside. Returned with recorder, fully charged from desk session.

Checked the weather stations. The OneWorld unit on the desk was reading is 878 mbar (ha), 22% humidity, 20.9 degrees Celsuis, 19:38. Meanwhile, the Oregon Scientific on the tripod tray is steady air pressure, clouds tomorrow, 46%, and 19.5°.

8:08 PM. I tried for Jupiter but it was in the trees! The trees are taller? If the neighbours wanted a look, I might be in trouble. Oh boy. Very low. The only chance to view it cleanly will in the dip to the south-west.

8:17. Got Jupiter at last, through tree leaves. Tagged one bright moon, to the left.

8:21. Got all four moons, yes! Neat, they're all stacked up on one side, to the west. Ganymede is one diameter away, Io is one more diameter, Europa is further out, at a kink. Callisto is above or north of Io, about 1 diameter north.

All this gave me a chance to align the right-angle finder scope.

8:24. I spotted our yard bat scooping up bugs!

8:25. Turned Rhonda's red astronomy lights on. Earlier I had put the thin-wire LED string on the central arc in the tent. Hopefully they'd produce some soft lighting without glare.

8:29. Plugged John Repeat Dance to AC power. Used the nearby tri-socket of the extension cord. Feed the cord through the hole in the centre of the portable table.

8:30. I couldn't see Polaris with the sky still bright. Vega, on the other hand, yes!

8:37. Oh oh. They found me. Little monsters. I lit a new mosquito coil.

8:41. I eyeballed Polaris. Oh dear. My tent is a little too far north and the tripod is a little too low. No way to move. I'd have to wing it...

It occurred to me I should measure that distance. From the house. [ed: 15 feet.]

8:46. Closed the west window and the east doors of the astro-tent. I enjoyed the open views but anticipated distracting light later. It was cooling off. The weather stations said: OW 26, 18.7; OS 51, 15.6.

8:50. I decided to defer the formal alignment for a bit... In case someone suddenly showed up. Then I thought, what are the odds? And I could always halt the process.

Used the alignment stars of Arcturus and Vega. Oh, right. The GoToStar gives a little report at the end of the process...

9:06. Pentax 20mm eyepiece in. I was square to the telescope, or behind it, looking down. Noted something at the 9 o'clock position or orientation. It must have been Titan, bright, about 4 to 5 ring widths away. About 1¼ to 1½ ring widths away, at the 4 o'clock position, a moon. There was a fainter moon due east, just under a ring width. I could see the shadow of the sphere on the rings on the right or east edge. The bright clouds at the equator stood out. Cassini Division. The C-band dark, in front of the planet surface. The seeing was quite good, really good. Sometimes it went razor sharp. It did it again. I thought I saw a moon at the 8 o'clock position, extremely close, about a planet diameter or a bit less.

9:07. Oh dear. I considered the RA "report" after the alignment. I thought it said approximately 17 minutes (sic) north (I think) and 225 minutes west. I didn't change anything. And when I went to Saturn I did a sync so maybe it was not an issue per se. I couldn't remember how to interpret that report... Do I go south and east to correct? I wanted some clarification.

Below Saturn, there was a bright star in the field to the south, 5 o'clock spot. [ed: That was HR 7182.]

9:09. There seemed to be a teardrop or drop effect thing with Saturn. The rings behind the pole of the planet seemed to dip. A dimple. Of course, they can't do this.

9:10. More points of light were visible now. To the east. Inline with the two moons that I saw before. Further away, 2 or 3 times the distance. More moons? Formed an equilateral triangle with another point further east.

9:11. I realised I needed to read the manual to understand what to do after or with the RA axis report. How do I correct it? Could use a cheat sheet (laminated like the star list?) for the future, left in the Vixen mount bag.

The seeing went bad.

9:12. Checked the SkyTools 3 Professional software for the moon positions. Titan (magnitude 8.6) to the west, obviously. Dim Hyperion beyond. Dione (10.7) was east. Rhea (10.0) was further out at the 4 o'clock position. Those inline points were just stars (one was mag 11.6). Tethys (10.5) was the super-close moon. No way, Mimas was mag 13.2—not possible tonight. I wondered if I would be able to pluck out dimmer Enceladus (12.0).

Stared for long time. Didn't see it. Tried and tried but I couldn't dig it out.

Zippered the main door closed, to block the light from the downstairs neighbour.

Oh. Iapetus (11.4) was way out to the east. Tried to find it... Wasn't sure but I think I saw it among some field stars.

Kept checking if the upstairs neighbours were around. No sign...

Tried for my first list target (not a planet). 41 Ophiuchi. I got lost, given the misalignment. Worked for a long time at identifying the field.

9:51. Turned out that I was on 30 Oph! I figured it out at last when panning and spotting the fuzz-ball globular cluster, Messier 10 (M10). Quite fair from 41...

ENG 59. In a Y-shape of stars to the east. It was a multi-star system. Neat! Intriguing. Main star was orangey; all the others were blue-white. B was obvious to the east-north-east. C due east. Taking a star to the south, with the Y-stars, there was a stretched diamond shape. I noted the faint star J170121.8-041304 to the east of the C companion at magnitude 11.9 and the south star J170118.1-041408, mag 13.3, making a right-angle triangle with C.  The stars to the left or west, with HD 153564, were in a curious pattern, symmetrical, that made me think of a bug or a beetle. Interesting multi-stars... Why was the star to the north, the TYC 05072-1212 1 light (10.6) not included, given it was the same separation as C. And why not TYC 05072-0744 1 to the south, again, about the same sep as C?

Fun. But I wanted to get to 41, finally.

Considered computer control...

10:01. ST3P. ASCOM, the SkySensor... Been a while. That sounded right. Configured for the active COM port. Received audible feedback upon connection. Volume was loud! Looked for the blinking X cursor. Got it.

Tried the Sync command. Failed error showed in the dialog box while the audio prompt said "synced." But the connection had dropped.

Tried again. Tried a different command (there's Sync Telescope and Sync Telescope to cursor). Same error and signature. Reconnected again.

I wondered if the alignment was so bad, so far off, if it was causing the problem...

Whoa. Tried various other things but did not meet with a lot of success.

Decided to move to the star by SAO number, 141586. Struggled at first to get them into the GoToStar hand controller.

10:11. I headed to the house for some layers. Checked my notes for other needed items. RASC vest and warm hoodie.

Looked at 41 Oph, aka WDS A 2984, again. Increased the power. Reviewed the details in the software. Uh huh. A tight double at less than 1.0 second of arc. Tried the Tele Vue Nagler 9mm for a plus 200 times view.

10:20. More looks. No luck splitting. Airy disc, one or two diffraction rings. There were brief moments where I thought I saw something but the position kept changing. So indeterminate.

Tried more sync actions. No luck. I would have to star hop...

Considered γ (gamma) Herculis, hopping from β (beta) Her.

10:31. White and orange stars (at low power). Tight. Different mags.

10:36. I spotted the flattened triangle of stars to the east. There was a star inline with gamma B. ST3P said this was GSC 01513-0543 at mag 13.5. That didn't seem right. Did I see a star to the north? No. C was supposed to be west. I saw the big extended 7-shape of stars, with GSC 01513-0424, to the south. Familiar? View Again, Most Beautiful. At high power the colour changed, it went yellow and blue. Why do view again? I saw a star not in the software...

Opened up the sketching kit!

Wondered how to draw a nice round circle...

10:46. Readied to sketch to dig out faint stars and to corroborate what I saw at the CAO. Gah! It fell into the leaves of the west tree, softening the image... Dang!


10:57. Viewed 61 Oph aka STF 2202. Two nearly equal stars, the A and B stars. Viewed before. Hook shape, starting in the east and going to the south. Lots of stars. Stuff to the east, not part of it, reminded me of Cygnus. With TYC 00420-0434 1, where Deneb would be. Curving around, a big arc, with bright HD 161303. Cheated in the software to find the C star. In the north...

Picked up 2 faint stars in the cross, triangle, Cygnus thing: GSC 00419-0729 at mag 12.8 and GSC 00419-0450 at 11.9.

11:00. Checked the conditions: Oregon 58%, 15.1°, air pressure dropping, and rain! OneWorld: 35%, 16.9°, partly sunny. Huh.

Headed to 67 Oph, also known as Burnham 1124.

11:07. Pretty double! Yellow and blue with the Pentax. A bit less yellow in the baader. Now the secondary looked purple! Ha ha. [ed: SkyTools, with the colour saturation turned up, shows a white and deep blue star.] A multi-star system. Previously visited, it seemed. I was after the B and D companions!

11:12. Interesting. Got the E star. Popping in and out. ST3P said mag 10.8, 10.9. Didn't seem right. C was mag 8.1. What?!

Extremely difficult. E was tough. D off limits at 12.5 it seemed. The software said B was mag 13.7 but very close to the bright host star so lost in the glare.

Considered Barnard's Star but then rejected it. Didn't want to hunt for it with the pointing off... OK. Sulafat? No. I felt a little discouraged.

11:21. Aquila. To hop from δ (delta). Challenging...

11:35. Along the way, I stumbled across triple HD 181386 aka Struve 2498. C star easy. There was a star closer than C, TYC 00472-2854 1, that you could argue would be a D partner. The right hand or east star was dimmer; that must be B.

Fired up real-time mode again. Looked around for the mount nudging controls... I remember seeing these (but probably with the Celestron driver). Slewed with the computer. Big jump. Things were not working right. So I decided to redo the alignment.

11:55. I was able to see Polaris in the finder! w00t!

After the alignment, the RA axis report said 17.5' higher, azimuth 6.5' east. [ed: Oh, very good actually.] I had a faint recollection that the units was wrong, a typo. I considered the way to interpret this was to raise the 'scope higher and move east. [ed: Upon reading old notes, I think this wrong, so I made it worse... And the units is shown wrong on the display, it is seconds, not minutes. So 17.5" x 6.5" was quite good. I should have left it alone!]

Went about changing the mount again. Did the 2-star alignment again. Tried syncing again. Failed. Weird slewing behavior.

12:05 AM, Monday 26 August 2019. Oh. Got it working... Maybe? Nope. Sheesh. Slewed. More testing...

12:15 AM. I continued to have trouble syncing with SkyTools. I knew it worked with the NexStar 11 but I couldn't remember if it worked with the ASCOM-SkyTools combo. Decided to try at the hand paddle.

12:17. Viewed γ Equ aka KNT 5. The bright star down and left for me was D (south). Very wide. There was a couple of faint stars, to the west, or south-west, at a separation the same or less than D but not considered part of the system. Strange. I didn't see the C companion (aka Burnham 71). ST3P said it was mag 12.6. Curiously, I was seeing GSC 01108-0282 at mag 12.4 (poor data). Huh. I didn't see the others... B or C.

Bumped the power or magnification.

Got it! Got the C star with the 9mm. Somewhat opposite D. Much fainter! About 1/3 or 1/4 the AB-D split.

B is 1.5" away. And about 4 mags fainter! Ah no.

12:23. Tried to view IK Pegasi. The mount started going a weird direction and suddenly I heard gear hop. I did a panic power-down! Collision! Great. Just great.

12:25. Crikey. Tried moving in RA. Nothing. No action on the gear wheel. Oh boy.

Not happy. But I had half-expected problems earlier. So I should have felt thankful...

Headed to the house for tools (needed a small Philips screwdriver to remove the motor cover). And water. And lip balm.

Removed the 2 screws. Disconnected all the cables. The dummy plug fell out; put it back. The motor had be pushed out of position! Wow. With a 2.5mm hex wrench, I re-seated it.

12:47. Did a run-up. OK again. Did an alignment again.

A piece of hook-and-loop came unglued! Sheesh. Will need to be glued.

12:51. Continued to experience pointing problems...

12:53. After the alignment, the mount reported the following; 123.9' higher; 74.3' east. It seemed to be getting worse. The east had definitely increased. So I reconsidered the directions; I should go the opposite direction: lower and west.

12:56. As another GO train departed the station, I readied to redo the alignment, hoping to see the numbers decrease.

1:00. Numbers were better: 68.5 and 48.4. Tried again. That said, targets were not always in the finder... [ed: Something else wrong?]

Albireo was out of field.

1:07. Now 480 and 108. Gah. All worse. Tried some more.

1:12. Now 172 higher, 57 west. Better.

1:17. Oh boy. 242 higher and 109 west. Tried more stuff with the computer. Got very frustrated.

Had to do a graceful shutdown of SkyTools after a severe crash. Mucked up Windows too.

1:36. Came up with an idea. I'd go to the target on the hand controller. Then centre with the hand controller. And finally sync on the hand controller. All while the software was attached and connected...

1:37. Hey. The software showed the cross-hair right on the correct spot. Whiskey tango foxtrot. Slewed to the Tim Horton stars for a test.

Not in the eyepiece; it was in the finder.

Checked the Oregon: 77%, 14° and change. Mozzies still active! Grrr.

1:47. Pair of stars. Really tight in the 9mm. About 1 magnitude different. Orange and blue. π (pi) Aquilae.

Spotted the C element, almost inline, a little bit north. Extremely faint.

1:49. Upset with all the issues so decided to pack up. I didn't feel too tried, actually, but it was pretty late. Fairly rapid process: the main thing was the tent fly. The carabiners worked well. Packed up all the oculars.

2:04. Done.


Out of the corner of my eye at one point while facing west I thought I saw a fast bright meteor. A Perseid!


On re-reading the GoToStar notes on the blog companion, I see that everything's there! Ahhh. Should have paid more attention.


Didn't get a lot done, in terms of targets. It was good and a little frustrating working with the GoToStar system. It had been a while and it worked well overall. Amazing well. No weight or balance problems! That was really good news. But the polar alignment was very confusing. I need to work on this more. It was frustrating slewing and then feeling lost, having to star hop. That burned up a lot of time. And I couldn't sync. What's the deal with that?


Grabbed some "tin can" lids for drawing different size circles. To be washed. Then into the sketching bag.

Sunday, August 25, 2019


Too tired slash lazy to set up last night. Rolling the dice today. Hoping the Clear Outside prediction is pessimistic...

Set up the Kendrick Astro tent while thinking of all the peeps at Starfest, many taking their tents down.

Used the new red aluminium pegs. Nice!

Big yellow extension cord.

2:14 PM. Updated my tent instructions. The second longest pole goes on the "observing floor" side with the telescope; not the "cabin" or "office" side. This means the written instructions provided by Kendrick are wrong while the diagram is correct.

Readied the eyepieces case. Found the 26mm still in the ETX.

Prepared the Sony recorder.

Neighbour's dog came tearing around the side of the house, wrangler unable to keep up. I said "You can't have your dog here." He apologised.

Assembled the Vixen Super Polaris at top the old tripod. Wow. Seems like it's been a long time... Certainly for my mount... Did not raise the tripod to full height.

Brought out the dew heater gear. In the new bigger case. Ugh. I had just thrown everything without organising. A bit of a mess. Grabbed the 8-inch wrap. Grabbed my new custom rubber encased eyepiece wrap. Pulled out the cup warmer heater for the finder scope. Grabbed my custom None More Black controller! I've not field tested this yet! Readied the old computer Power Supply Unit for the evening.

Inside, looked up the exact latitude and longitude, transcribed the numbers. Fired up the GoToStar system. The year and month was right but the date and time off. Entered the coordinates in the mount.

Tried to do a run-up for the mount. After choosing the first alignment star, it went bananas. The declination motor would immediately spin up to full speed and then the paddle display would show a current overrun. Unloaded the motor. Same issue.

Built a black box. It worked!

3:35. Finished testing alignment. No overruns. Used Arcturus and Alphard for the alignment stars. All good. Huh, as it was moving, I watched the point move from the positive side of the declination circle to the negative... Don't recall ever paying attention to any of that before. Cleared the polar alignment report. Slewed to the Moon. Good! Parked the 'scope and powered off the unit.

Neighbour's dogs got loose again, both of them. The humans behaving badly.

4:26. Finished installing the fly. I have more than enough pegs. I used 5 small carabiners for the observatory portion.

Measured the base of the tent, to aid in purchasing a drop sheet.

Astrospheric report as of 1638 EDT

4:39. Checked the weather and sky prediction sites. Clear Sky Chart looks awesome for tonight. Dark blues everywhere. The Clear Outside summary shows green from dinner time through sunrise. The detailed display shows zero clouds. Looks like dew may not be a factor (but I still have the gear ready to go). Astrospheric looks really good. Average to above average seeing and transparency through the night. Again, air temp and dew are far apart to about 2:00 AM. Checked fire-smoke resources. Clear, for a change. I tuned Good To Stargaze: winds 11 km/h or less, humidity below 85% to 5:00 AM, clouds less than 15% to 4:00 AM, seeing at 1.9 arcsec or better, no Moon until 2:00 AM. Looks like it'll be 5 good hours!

5:17. I think everything is ready. I'm sure I've forgotten something...

Dinner was cooked.

Brought the portable weather stations out.

Small dinner. We'll have dessert later...

Changed. Jeans, socks (astrocats!), fresh shirt, plus a long-sleeved shirt.

Dude upstairs was impressed. Said he'd turn out the lights. Thanks! I invited them to look at Jupiter or Saturn.

Attached the OTA to the mount. Found the balance is fair WITHOUT the eyepiece. Could I do alignment without?! That's a weird thought...

7:12. Brought more gear out. Configured computer. Connected the USB-serial (Prolific). Checked the assigned port (COM2).

From earlier, I transcribed my measurements. The footprint of the Kendrick tent is 14'3" x 8'3".

7:29. Played with balance of the mount. I was surprised to find with the dew shield on, it was front heavy! I thought it was extremely back heavy. So I slowly added bits. Curiously, with the focuser and 2" mirror and 2" eyepiece, it's not bad...


Tent was dusty, much of it from the old carpet.


When you slew to the moon with the GoToStar system, it automatically goes into "lun" tracking rate. I didn't know that! Clever people.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

delivered sky show at the DDO

Helped Ron at the final RASC session during the Western Space Camp. I delivered a Stellarium presentation in the David Dunlap Observatory Skylab for the kids.

Before anyone arrived I tidied up the bin for the Skylab equipment. Hopefully this will make for less confusion for the other presenters.

I showed the "pretend" sky at the time and later through the evening. We talked about planets and stars, their favourite asterisms. We talked a bit about constellations and Greek mythology. The Milky Way emerged later in the evening. Only a couple in each group had seen it. Pushed to sunrise. Then I had them fasten their seatbelts and we flew to the Sun so to get a good look at the Earth spinning like a top. I tried to show the view from the Solar System Observer point but I couldn't get it to work right. It was sort of OK from Earth.

After the computer sky simulation, I showed how to use our RASC Starfinder. They look forward to getting those.

Lots of energy, enthusiasm, and questions! Fun!

After, Ron and I did some testin' and learnin' in the dome.


Figured out the issue with Stellarium...

Saturday, August 17, 2019

helped at DDO family night (Richmond Hill)

Rhonda and I helped at the David Dunlap Observatory. She ran the crafts room and I flew the 74-inch telescope and did the downstairs and upstairs talks. Aimed at Rasalgethi for our prime target. A lovely gem-like pair. I was assisted by Chris V and Rick Z in the dome. We shook down things on the MallinCam. It's working really well. Did some testing of the ArgoNavis.

Lots of enthusiasm, lots of great kids with great questions. Later in the evening, for members only viewing, we went to M92 and the Spindle galaxy. I had never seen the telescope oriented that way, to the north-west. Neat. Celia was in charge once again for the evening. Lots of thumbs up from our happy customers. The weather turned out beautiful, clear skies amazingly.

Friday, August 16, 2019

looked for gamma Her D

Did a deep dive into gamma Her. Strangeness ensues...

My BGO image, annotated. SkyTools 3 Professional says that GSC 01513-0543 is a magnitude 13.5 star (but notes the data quality is poor). Similarly, GSC 0513-0424 is 10.7 with suspect data. ST3P agree on the B star, around magnitude 10. Everything else just seems so much dimmer. The planning tool says C is mag 12.2 but the WDS says 13.3. It seems all the faint stars are in the 13 range...

From Aladin, the DDS2 colour image. B and D are completed washed out. C is there though, just above the diffraction spike.

From Aladin again, the 2MASS colour image. Watch out for artefacts. The "stars" going up, vertical, above the primary, are false stars. B is obvious. C, super dim.

The "allWISE" infrared image. B is obvious. C, super dim.

The scaled representation from the Excel spreadsheet plotter tool, using the WDS data, directly and indirectly.

I checked the SDSS2 image in Aladin as well.

I just don't see D in any of the images. While WDS quotes it at 8.1 brightness, it looks to be lost in the overwhelming glare of A.

YU received 1m 'scope

York U is receiving their new 1 metre telescope to the Allan Carswell observatory. Exciting!

on deck for 11 Sep

Mr Markov asked if I'd deliver the 11 September 2019 The Sky This Month. I accepted.

returned to gamma Her (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot imaged the multi-star system γ (gamma) Herculis in the constellation Ursa Major. aka SHJ 227. I aimed the system at nearby GSC 01513-0543.

multi-star system gamma Her in luminance

Luminance only, 0.1 second subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint.NET. North is up; east is left.

First viewed this target on 1 Aug '19.

Primary is bright at magnitude 3.8! The second to the bottom-right or south-west is much dimmer. Mag 9.9.

I spotted the C companion visually in the 16-inch reflector two weeks ago.

At the time I wasn't clear about the position of the D element as noted in the Washington Double Star database.

During the observing sesssion at the Carr Astronomical Observatory, I thought I saw another star... To the north-west.

So, I wanted to dig out the C and D stars with an image.

C is there but extremely faint, to the west, about two or three times the AB separation.

I don't see a D star. It should be very close to A, to the south...


Wikipedia link: gamma Herculis.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

tested adapter (Bradford)

After the garbage run, I tested the recently printed adapter. The 3D hard plastic piece works fantastic. Perfectly circular view through the finder scope and right-angle viewer. Extremely stable. Which made the right-angle viewer very positive to use. The finder proper is another matter. Very difficult to get co-axial. But I finally got it. Used Jupiter as my target (with the Celestron 26mm). Three moons, the planet, and one more. Bad seeing.

Monday, August 12, 2019

will be at DDO on Aug 17

We're back at the David Dunlap Observatory again this Saturday. This time it is a family night with a Stellarium show in the SkyLab, fun craft activities for the whole family in the lecture hall guided by Rhonda, and dome tours. Weather should be OK so we'll be flying the big 74-inch 'scope along with amateur telescopes on the lawn. I've offered to operate the dome but if we have additional resources I might work somewhere else.

If you're interested in attending a RASC event, see our DDO event calendar and book ahead. The shows continue to sell out rapidly.

If you're a RASC member and you're interested in volunteering, let me know.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

the shifted Moon (Bradford)

Couldn't help but notice the bulging Moon as we walked toward downtown. While enjoying our ice cream cones from the alley off Barrie Street, I asked Rhonda if she could see Jupiter. Easy. I was looking too close to the Moon; it was much further to the right. Then I asked if Hawkeye if she could see Saturn. Immediately, yes. It took me 15 more minutes to tag it (without my corrective lenses).

Saturday, August 10, 2019

helped at DDO lecture night (Richmond Hill)

Went to the David Dunlap Observatory really early. I wanted some quiet time...

Hopped off the bus once again at Weldrick and Essex. This time, after starting up the DDO driveway, I cut through the woods so to shorten my walk. That worked out great following the obvious path. Gave me a chance to inspect the north side of the dome. I think I arrived around 3:45 PM.

There was a wedding party wrapping up as I walked up to the admin building. Introduced myself to the Richmond Hill afternoon staffer.

In the RASC office, I signed in, connected to the wifi, checked text messages, dropped off the name tags sheet, dropped off my (keyed) cable lock, pocketed a radio, left a note for Celia, grabbed a member's forgotten USB key, noted the left-behind BBQ tools and lawn chair, tidied up the SkyNews magazines, grabbed an extra clipboard, verified the A/C was on in the lecture hall, visited the "cloak room," filled up my water bottle, loaded up the "DDO bin" (along with cooling fan), and head to the dome.

Fielded a query from the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Helped a volunteer with a technical issue there.

Opened the windows on the observatory floor again. Elected to not activate the fan as the air was already cool. This time I explored the north window. That allowed cool air into the Warm Room.

Installed the LED red light bulb in the eyepiece cabinet.

Brought out the big whiteboard, my markers and brush (but never ended up using it).

Deployed some plugs and caps for our eyepieces and the mirror diagonal.

Briefly tried connecting to the hard line ethernet devices in the Warm Room. No joy.

Found my missing favourite eyepiece strap! It had been missing for a long time. I must have dropped it at a past DDO event. Ha. Weird.

Configured the MallinCam. This time for semi-permanent installation. So, I attached the camera (once again with the loaner 2-inch long extension tube), fired up the Warm Room old CRT monitor and video signal amp, along with the CRT TV on the observing floor. All good. Connected the remote control and reviewed settings. Left it connected for further adjustments as the sky darkened.

Centred the tangent arm.

Enjoyed a light dinner in the Warm Room. Kinda neat. Felt nostalgic.

Changed into "the uniform." RASC volunteer shirt, RASC name tag, RH volunteer tag, red LED name badge. Made sure I had my whistle, (finicky) green laser pointer, telescopic pointer, RASC business cards.

Set the sidereal time well in advance.

Fired up Stellarium on the west computer and viewed it on the monitor atop the console. It proved very convenient when looking up the RA and dec numbers.

After Celia arrived, I slewed to Arcturus. No issues with the Right Ascension clamp. Nothing in the finder scope and, of course, nothing in the big 'scope. Made me wonder if my numbers were screwed up, Had I done my math wrong? Swapped out Chris's reticule eyepiece for the 30mm Plössl. Ah ha! I was a little off. Slewed closer to centre. Reinserted the (higher power) Meade reticule and centred again. Found it in the visitor ocular. Adjusted the movable cross-hairs. Happily, I quickly reached focus on the MallinCam. Locked the focuser down. That was easy!

Erased the first marked position on the CRT monitor and put on the new one. Adding markings to the TV.

We found an AED and first aid kit in the Warm Room. We talked about home to inspect a fire bottle.

Phil arrived. We went to Jupiter, double-checking each other's steps. Got it on the MallinCam. Yes!

Frank arrived. We completed the dome preparations: log book, projector, construction movies, table talkers, downstairs lighting and backroom barriers.

The wind was gone. We enjoyed the view from the outer catwalk. I picked up Saturn, over the north dome of the admin building. The lads spotted it later with some hints from me.

Bumped into John B setting up his Dob on the lawn. Handed off the BBQ items to him.

Met everyone at the team meeting. Good to see all the helpers.

Walking back to the dome, we hammered out who would do what. Showed the lads my script.

Celia pinged us as the welcome meeting let out and a few minutes later we received our first tour. Phil did the downstairs preamble. Then I lead the group upstairs and we viewed Jupiter through the big 'scope. Good crowd, good questions, met some new RASCals.

It was neat seeing two moons flanked Jupiter in the big 'scope.

I did not have time to dig deep for Amalthea.

I was really happy to see my Saturn rubber stamp used for one of the groups!

At around 10:15 o'clock, during the second group tour, I noticed the spectrograph starting to touch the north pier. Ah ha! I knew it. As predicted. This was satisfying as I had correctly interpreted the old instrumentation Hour Angle chart.

I apologised to the visitors but quickly moved the OTA north. The team considered the next option and decided on the Moon. I relayed the RA and dec numbers to Phil. We missed a bit but when I put the 30mm in the finder scope, I could see our target. Slewed (slowly) the last bit and centred on a nice crater. The Moon looked pretty neat on the MallinCam display.

[ed: I think we landed on Sinus Iridum...]

We sent the second tour group on their way at 10:45. Everybody seemed pretty happy.

Invited members to the dome after the customers left. Adiv, our evening speaker, also wanted to visit. Fun. We aimed the big OTA to Saturn. Easy peasy to bull's eye with the MallinCam again. When Phil dialed in the RA and dec (after a little correction from me), I could see the planet on the TV screen. Once centred on the cross-hairs I had marked on the screen, Phil said the planet was in the visitor eyepiece. Nice.

Seeing was poor but Saturn was big and bright. We could see Titan on the monitor.

As our members had a look I began the dome shutdown procedures.

Quick debrief in the admin building with Alex and Celia. Sounded like everything went well. We talked about an interactive workstation for fun quizzies and perhaps a quick and easy survey. Alex wanted the new volunteer form—I promised to send.

A volunteer was kind enough to give me a lift to Yonge St. With the construction, the street was a mess. I did not see any nearby bus stops so walked all the way to Harding. Happily a bus arrived seconds later so by midnight I was on my way home. A chance to sit! I was tired.

Friday, August 09, 2019

doubles for August 2019

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


The Moon’s getting bright again. Don’t despair; do doubles.

For August 2019, here’s a short selection of double and multi-star systems from my life list for your observing campaign. They are all pretty easy.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
θ (theta) LyrSh 292 and 21 LyrSAO 68065, HIP 94713
OΣ525 LyrSTT 525 (Otto Struve) or SHJ 282SAO 67566, HIP 92833
Σ2470 LyrSTF 2470 or HD 178849SAO 67870, HIP 94043
54 SgrHJ 599 SAO 162883, HIP 96808
HD 174005 SctSTF 2391 SAO 142640, HIP 92296

An interesting quality of double stars is their resistance to the ever encroaching infiltration of light pollution. So, have a go. See if you can split them and detect colour. How different are they in brightness? Please share your discoveries.

Be seeing you.

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

time to get hazed

beer by Muskoka
Received a little treat from Grace via Bri for helping out with Ben. Some Hazed & Confused beer from Muskoka Brewery. One of their products from their Moonlight Kettle series.

It is a Vermont-style IPA with aromas of fruit and hints of citrus. Sounds good.

Ewww. There's a Moon on the can! I'll have to close my eyes.

Perhaps that will enhance the nose...

Thursday, August 08, 2019

paint a nebula

[ed: Update. On 13 Aug '19, the event was cancelled.]

With brush in hand, watercolours at your disposal, and visual artist to guide you, you can paint a nebula from outer space!

DDO Paint Night poster

RASC Toronto Centre is running a Paint Night at the David Dunlap Observatory on Tuesday 20 August. See our information page for more data; book on Richmond Hill's web site.

helped at star party (Toronto)

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre city star party. Been a while. Caught up with Adrian. Spent most of my time helping Tess with her ETX 90 with AutoStar. Overall, we made good progress but were scuppered by battery issues. Not enough power!

The sidewalk had been rebuilt which blocked our access to the parking lot, unfortunately. So we had to get a bit creative...

Met new member Sal and gave him a few tips. There's was a full-circle moment to that. Bayview Village Park was the site of my first RASC star party as a green-horn. Wow, that was 20 Mar 2007.

made adapter for finder scope

Made an adapter for the Meade ETX 90. Designed the part, er, parts, with 123D. Produced with a Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer at the Toronto Public Library.

2 piece adapter for ETX 90 finder scope

It will firmly hold a right-angle finder to the small spotting scope atop the ETX main optical tube assembly which in turn will afford more comfortable viewing.


I did not accommodate for the dimples in the right-angle finder plate but those were easily dealt with using the high-speed rotary tool... Otherwise, perfect! It works. Very nice fitment. Wow. Can't wait to try it.

spotted old papers

Exiting the Toronto Reference Library, I spotted the display case.

display by the Toronto Public Library

Featured newspapers from 50 years ago... The Toronto Star and the Belleville Intelligencer.

There was a claim that the Moon landing was shown on the world's biggest TV at Nathan Philips Square.

There was a reference to a past exhibit called Retro Futures by TD Gallery (link).

Sunday, August 04, 2019

over quota on 15 minutes

Rhonda messaged me. Sent some photos from her mobile phone. My mug showed up in the latest SkyNews magazine, I gather. More correctly, the RASC newsletter inside SN.

many DDO events in August

There are a bunch of events coming up at the David Dunlap Observatory...

Western's Space Camp for kids continues.

RASC is hosting regular programme nights again, on August 10 and 17. And, once again, these events are sold out. If you want to attend a lecture or enjoy a night with the family, you need to book well in advance. That said, Richmond Hill has not yet listed the September and October dates...

[ed: On 13 Aug '19, the Paint Night event was cancelled.] We're planning a Paint Night on August 20. Render a nebula in watercolour with tips and assistance from an artist.

Finally, on the 23rd, Richmond Hill is running a big event with 1500 visitors expected. We're assisting with tours and lawn 'scopes.

See our web site calendar for specific dates. And check out the web page for more info on Paint Night.

Visit the Richmond Hill DDO web page for more info or to register.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

a smack of doubles (Blue Mountains)

Prepared the Geoff Brown Observatory for viewing. Readied power. Cooled the big telescope. Dropped the south walls, for low targets in the south. Started TheSkyX.
Instruments: GSO 16-inch RC, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
8:29. The humidity was 76%, from the Davis weather station.

8:49 PM, Wednesday 31 July 2019. Went to Jupiter with the GSO RC 16-inch with the Tele Vue 27mm. Colourful. I could see two moons already.

Back to the 'scope.

Then three moons.

Realised SkyTools was not showing the current time. East was more or less up for me. Ganymede was about a half-planet-diameter away, to the east. ST3P said Callisto was the same side as Gany. Io was 3 or 4 times the distance, opposite. Europa beyond, almost double the distance.

I headed out to the Observing Pad to see how everyone was doing. Ian had his 20" Dob going. Jupiter was pretty fantastic. Cloud tops were amazing. We thought we saw a shadow transit. But my software wasn't showing it. Verified I had it set to real time...

[ed: Must have been a barge!]

Put on bug stuff.

9:06 PM. Shared the view with Wayne. We enjoyed the Jovian view.

Needed help to spot it naked eye. Encouraged Millie to stand behind Ian's Dob, like I did, to find it. Later, tagged Saturn in the south-east.

Considered μ (mu) Scorpii. Ha! SHT 72. I wondered who the discoverer was... [ed: Shatsky, N.I.]. Slewed to HD 151890.

At some point, I had added this object to my double star candidate list. Too low and too wide... It was on Lodriguss's naked eye list.

The telescope was nearly horizontal. The star's elevation was 6 degrees!

9:29. Noted a very wide pair. Oh, μ1 and μ2. Equal stars. Bright.

Extremely wide. Over 5 arc-minutes apart. Almost 6. With a PA of 72°. μ1 was to the right (or west) with μ2 to the left (east).

An interesting pattern of stars to the north.

There was strange stuff going on in SkyTools. The Object Information box indicated it was a triple. There were AB and AC buttons. The drop-down menu for the companions however only included A and C. When I clicked the AC button, it said the stars were 80.5" apart, at a position angle of 257°, and the magnitudes of the primary and tertiary stars were 3.0 and 9.6 respectively. When I clicked the AB button, no magnitude was listed. Sep 9.2", PA 210°. B was not shown in the chart.

C was supposed to be opposite μ2...

9:34. Tagged it. About 1/5th the sep. of μ1 and μ2. Yep. That was the C companion. Extremely faint. Mind you the sky was blue.

Alarm went off for the ISS pass... Did some prep for that.

9:54. Returned to the Warm Room after the camera-mount setup. Looked up the particulars of mu Sco. Checked the recent numbers from the official source, the Washington Double Star database:

SHT  72AB    2000    210   9.2  3.70  8.91 B1.5+B6.5
WFC 181AC    2016    257  80.6  2.97  9.41 B1.5+B6.5


B was brighter than C. But rather close to A. Should have been possible, I thought. [ed: Not like it is neglected...] Looked again. Nothing.

Steve came through briefly. Terse. Oh oh.

10:09. Ed was surprised how low the subject was. He said he saw something at the 2 o'clock position, very close but with a black gap. Oh. Maybe he saw it...

I headed outside for the ISS, to observe, to start the camera.

After the flyover, I returned to the GBO. Slewed to next target. HD 112733. Struve 1702. In Canes Venatici.

Risa popped in. She shared the lights were off in the SLO. Steve reported Risa could start her imaging.

10:31. Orange and blue stars. Subtle colours. Dim. Previously logged. Widely separated in the big 'scope; easily split in the small 'scope. Nearly equal brightness. Beside another bright pair: ah, Cor Caroli.

I had put in my candidate list. From the TLAO book. A keeper.

I heard exclamations from outside. Ian D saw a fireball.

Ed visited returned to the Warm Room. He had been staring at the head of Draco trying to pick of dim stars. According to Stellarium, he had reached 5.7. Shared my life list numbers, in particular, that Steve and I got to 6.4 at the CAO using stars in Ursa Minor. Coincidentally Steve wandered through.

Steve shared that the OBS software had crashed when they were almost done.

Went to next. Mused on sketching the scene. 25 CVn aka STF 1768. Yellow and orange.

Spotted the A and B stars with a separation of 1.8" despite bad seeing. Wow. Different magnitudes and close. Correction: SkyTools said they were 1.7" apart as of June 2019. A binary system drawing together.

10:44. Noted the mags of 4.8 and 7.1. This was on my candidate list but I wondered if it was too hard. Too tight and too different, needing a powerful large 'scope to get the A and B. A "box" of stars. The C, D, E, and F were doable in a big instrument. Some not visible in the TV 101. And still too wide.

Next. ξ (xi) Bootis. Nice. Orange. Triangle. Awesome. Fantastic colours. On a bunch of coloured lists. Steve had a look. He thought orange or yellow and white. Different magnitudes A and B: 4.5 and 7.1.

On my View Again list. A 150 year binary.

Tried to dig out the D partner. Got it. I could see mag 13 and 14 stars but not the C.

10:55 PM. Confirmed I got it. Checked the magnitude limit of the RC 16 telescope: 16.3. I estimated the star was in the 15 or 16 brightness range.

Checked my image of ξ Boo. Yep. C was very faint. Fainter than D.

Popped outside to inspect my camera. Dewed out. Chatted with Wayne briefly. He was noting the crazy humidity. Millie came round. Asked me where Dietmar was. Ian W and Steve chatted.

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

Encouraged Ian to have a look at ξ Boo. He doesn't get jazzed by doubles...

I complained about TheSkyX. Issues with searching. Steve suggested in work in the Find tab as opposed to the Telescope tab. Finding it cold, Steve closed the outside observatory door. I complained about the focuser. Steve described it as being made of rubber bands. Risa said she was imaging.

Went to HR 5831 or STT 300 in Serpens Caput. Ah. Never viewed. Sep 15". Got tripped up in the software. Came from a colourful list. It was quite beautiful. Orange and aqua-green. Dim though. Steve thought one of the star's was purple. Big difference in magnitudes. Yes, 6.2 and 9.5.

11:17. It reminded him of a pair in Canes Venatici. [ed: He was thinking of Cor Caroli.]

We checked the weather conditions. Compared results. I refreshed the Davis weather page. Was 76% at 8:09. Now it was 83%. Dew point was 13.3°C. Air temperature was 16.3. Steve's on-board sensors said, 92%, dew point 10.7, air ambient 12°. I noted that the Davis sensor is in a different location now... Maybe there's a radiant heat factor? Pulled up the weather page for Clear Outside: 17°, dew 13°, 76%. Checked Astrospheric: 16° air and 11° dew. Good to Stargaze echoed the numbers. Environment Canada from the airport: 15.6°, 12.7°, 83%. We concurred, not as good as last night.

Steve dimmed the red lights. We talked about the pointing model for the Paramount ME. Working very well.

Tried the searching in TheSkyX on the Find tab. Better response.

11:31. Wondered why I put γ (gamma) Ser on my list. Very wide stars. Not terribly interesting in a telescope... Maybe best with binos.

Moved the 'scope. HD 144564 aka STF 2007. A triple.

11:33. We wondered at the colours. Smalt? White Atlantic blue perhaps?

Readied for HR 4917 or Struve 1695 in Ursa Major. Very nice. Need a bit of aperture to get the AB, at 3.8 arc-seconds. C was a mile away, at the 8 o'clock position. In a little football below (east). Yellow and orange in the big 'scope. I like it. It could be in my candidate list. Primary was K class.

Millie saw a meteor, her first one.

11:49. Turned on the baseboard heater.

Slewed to γ Her aka SHJ 227. Never observed. Holy cow! Millie and Ed had a look. "Orange and whitish? Orange and blue?" Millie said. Ed didn't think it was pure white. Worked in the TV101 although very dim. Millie helped Ed.

From a "most beautiful" list. Oh ho. Neat. Widely separated. Magnitudes were 3.8 and 9.8. A triple. Lots of field stars at high power. Interesting field, at high power. A and B were 43" apart. Millie said that B was "to the left?" Yes. "The main star was very bright." Yes.

I went back to find the third star. C was 3 times the distance. "Oh, that one!"

I spotted a star not in the software, at a right angle to the A and the B. [edit: How far?]

Noted a C-shape of stars below and right (east).

Millie retired.

I saw a star not in the software... Above A (north-west). At a right angle to A and B. About the same brightness as C. Er, dimmer. About the 12 o'clock position. ST3P said C was mag was 12.2. [edit: How far?]

Ed said he was seeing something but I couldn't understand his directions. Opposite B but closer. He went to have another look. Wondered if he was imaging it? "A beam of light?" Maybe a diffraction spike?

Distracted, I didn't think to sketch it...

12:00 AM, Thursday 1 August 2019. Tried looking it up in Aladin (in my custom quick look-up tool). Didn't work as the primary was too bright.

[ed: From the WDS...]

SHJ 227AB    2013   226  43.3  3.76 10.05 A9III   
DRS  58AD    2010    176   8.3  2.94  8.08 A9III   
SHJ 227BC    2015    298  82.1 10.05 13.31     

Unclear to me... Oh well...

Moved on to a non-double star. A small planetary nebula, NGC 6445, one of the Finest. On my View Again list. I changed eyepieces, increasing the power. Rectangular shape?

We have lots of LPR filters... Looked for the ionised oxygen filter. 2". It would not fit in the Tele Vue 27mm being out of round.

Asked Steve if I could borrow an eyepiece.

Found the 20mm ocular in our cabinet. The O-III dimmed the stars. Better contrast.

I pulled up some images from the interwebs. A little box. Wispy stuff around it. I found it in the TAC Eye Candy list. Also on my View Again list.

Fell into a different SkyTools list.

Jeff popped in, from the THO. Where's Waldo. He was doing some wide-field. Talked about his new Y-mask. He uses a jeweller's loupe on the back of his camera.

Steve checked the transparency. Jeff thought it could be better. Maybe smoke was a factor. Weather check: Davis, on the roof: no wind, 85% humidity, 16.5°C air. Steve's: 93%, 12° ambient, 11.1 dew.

Turned off room heater.

Slewed. A couple of doubles, but not the Double Double. HD 154510 aka STF 2120. Neat-o in the little 'scope. Ooh. With a little surprise! A keeper, a good one. In Hercules. Faint pair below (do the south) beyond the C star. Not an official pair according to ST3P. With GSC 02068-0695.

Ed asked which of the ice planets was up. Neptune was first, currently at 22° elevation; Uranus was behind and only 5°. Both in the muck, Toronto and Collingwood light domes.

12:45 AM. Sent the Paramount to Neptune. Noted the right-angle triangle of stars to the left or north. We could not see Triton. Set the time to now in SkyTools. Accommodated for the mirror diagonal. I simulated the view. Triton should have been below for us. 10" separation. Ed asked how big the planet was: 2". Oh. Mag 13.5. The software did not show the moon until a 5mm eyepiece was active! Weird. I saw stars in the field that were magnitude 13+. Verified sighting a 13.6 star.

Ed called it a night.

12:57. Decided to go after 56 Her. aka STF 2110. Not viewed. On the Coldfield list. Slewed. "Summer wheat and campfire ember!" Steve said he could visualise those colours. He hustled to the eyepiece. Ah, a G0 star. We talked about G2V stars. Easy split but very different magnitudes. I estimated 4. SkyTools said more than 4. Wow.

Next up: 21 Sgr. I could not split. Too close, too different. Also below the 2x. Should not be on my candidate list...

1:13. Viewed Arrakis, mu Draconis, was splittable in the small 'scope. Up and down. In-line, I had never seen the C star. A binary. Should be easier now. Grabbed a higher power eyepiece. North was straight up. C should have been at the 5 o'clock position. 6 times the separation. 2.5 vs 13.0". Back to the ocular.

I needed hot chocolate... In my mug.

Visited our member on the Pad. Imager.

1:30. For the Don't-Even-Bother Category. Could not find the C element. Next...

Risa dropped in with a couple of SLO questions. I asked her to fire up the dehumidifier. And to not install the telescope caps.

1:38. Orange and green. HD 169392 or STF 2313.


Went to M69, Messier 69. An object only viewed once before. Very faint. A smooth concentration of stars, this globular. Reasonably large. With a bright star nearby. The OTA was nearly horizontal... Wow. It dimmed the object. Shame. I guessed 7 atmospheres. [ed: SkyTools says 8.1.]

You know it is silly when the 'scope is pointed below horizontal. It was perfectly "cromulent," Steve suggested.

I took in HD 178211 or Struve 2455 in Vulpecula. I returned from telescope. White satin and crimson. "I gotta see this," Steve said.

He reported his on-board computer was reading 97% humidity.

Now yellow and blue with the 18mm. The bright star above or south-west HD 343742 was not related. No problem spotted faint C in the large OTA. Dimmer one was above, to the north-east. Noted a J-pattern. Checked for the C star in the small 'scope--nope, not possible.

2:00. Decided to look at Saturn. Nice view. Many moons visible. Some colour. Cassini Division easy. Different colours in the cloud bands, equatorial belt bright, lighter than the others. I wondered if I could see the C ring. Too bad Risa missed it... Dione and Titan visible to the east. Rhea opposite, in a curving arc. Nice.

Next: HR 7412 or SAO 124698. STF 2532 in the middle of Aquila. A quadruple from a "most beautiful" list. Very interesting. Lots of stars. I didn't see anything at first in the 101. Briefly visible with averted. In the 16-inch with the 18mm, obvious, gold and deep blue dim star. Widely separated. D was visible, 3 or 4 times the distance, opposite B. C formed an equilateral triangle with A and B, extremely dim. ST3P said it was mag 13.9. Noted high-13 stars to the south. Fantastic colours. Needs big aperture and/or high power.

It was late. Considered one more target...

Selected HD 200256 or HIP 103813 or Σ 2742. Dim. In Equuleus. Nearly equal, bottom one was slightly dimmer. Same colours. Easily split in the 18mm.

2:16. Parked the 'scope. Packed up, as much as possible.

Steve's rig was still running. Found him in the house.