Sunday, September 29, 2019

captured the comet

Captured comet Africano aka C/2018 W2 with the BGO. Fast! Zipping through Pisces.

comet Africano moving fast

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

Saturday, September 28, 2019

enjoyed another cookie

Bought another space cookie today at the Farmers's Market thanks to Nicolle's Cakes.

I took care with this one so it wouldn't break. It survived the journey home, unlike the last time back in July.

rocket ship ready to be painted

Gently removed it from the shopping bag. Then removed the plastic cover. Ready to go.

rocket ship and stars painted

Got some water in a small dish. Painted my rocket ship.

cookie with a bite taken

Then I ate it! Yum!

monitored both

I was wondering if I might image a dual flyover, with the JAXA HTV heading toward the International Space Station. It would be really helpful to know where both orbiting objects were at the same time. Lots of options for the ISS. But what about the H-II Transfer Vehicle 8?

I pinged Chris for ideas. He suggested the web site. That sounded very familiar. I must have encountered it before. Almost 20 000 objects are tracked in the web site.

While it was easy to show the ISS, I could not find anything on the latest Japanese vehicle. I filled out the response form and in short order Ciprian replied. He provided a link with the new object ID. Woo hoo! He had added the new TLE data. The HTV showed.

When I added or combined the two objects, both showed on the map! Cool!

HTV trailing far behind the ISS

As of 26 Sep, 13:46 EDT. A couple thousand kilometres apart.

When I checked the URL, I noticed both the identifiers.|44546

When I activated the "footprint" option (the red circle), it was obvious they weren't close enough to visually see at the same time.

I checked the next morning.

HTV very near the ISS

As of 27 Sep, 11:31 EDT. Ooh. Much closer now!

The HTV was grappled by the Canadarm early this morning. So no more chances.

Sadly, in the end, the timing didn't work. The weather didn't exactly cooperate. Maybe when the HTV undocks...

I tip my beanie to Chris and Chip.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

imaged low ISS (Bradford)

I tried imaging the International Space Station tonight. There was a single, low pass over Ontario.

On time, around 8:48 PM. From WNW to NNE. It was supposed to go to magnitude -1.9. Didn't seem that bright to me. But later, I saw clouds.

It is barely visible in the photo, just over the roof line.

night sky over house

Canon 40D, battery grip, Rokinon 8mm fisheye, manually focused, f/8.0, ISO 125, 480 seconds, daylight white balance, RAW, tripod mounted, Canon EOS Utility, no tracking, Digital Photo Professional 4.6, slight tuning.

I was hoping for a dual streak. Looking for the JAXA HTV 8 vehicle. Nothing obvious...

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

cool stuff

Scored some cool loot.

Funny musical card with some astronomical content. With blinkie lights too!

Funny key tag... Just might have to go on the keys for the somewhat large telescope.

Ursa Major t-shirt by Life Is Good

Very cool tee. By the Life Is Good people. I like the orientation of the great bear. I told rho about H.A. Rey's depiction, in contrast to the Western world standard.

mug of aurora

Finally, a stunning handcrafted ceramic mug from a local artisan, Place of Grace Pottery, with a glaze evocative of aurora.

Thanks, Rhonda! Very generous.

Monday, September 23, 2019

received good advice

Received a funny card from Ben, Bri, and Trev. With good advice from the solar system...

card with good advice



Card by Your True Nature.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

visited SEI 1371 (Halifax)

When I saw the BGO queue was empty I searched for an "old" double star in the WDS, the 18-24 listing. I found SEI 1371, aka SAO 70802, in Cygnus, a pair not updated from its single observation from 1895.

old double star SEI 1371 in luminance

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

WDS ID: 21015+3855
discoverer: SEI1371
observed: 1895
number of observations: 1
position angle: 147
separation: 11.2
magnitude 1: 9.6
magnitude 2: 11.6
class: A5
proper motion: +000-017
DM designation: +38 4316
precise coordinates: 210129.17+385455.4

Love that little faint line of 3 stars to the east...

The bad stacking makes it difficult to tell for certain but I do not see an obvious bright star at 11 arc-seconds to the south-east.

field of stars from SkyTools 3 Pro

Curiously, there's an obvious triad of stars to the south-west. The top star of this system does not show in SkyTools? Is that the missing star? That's far away...

There's also a star to the north. That's closer? Is that it?

Dove into Aladin. Nothing obvious.

Tycho 03168-1962 1 to the south has an obvious tight, faint companion to the west!

On another note, there's a gaggle of stars at the top-right, to the north-west. There is a pair noted in ST3 here with the primary as the east-most star. This is SEI 1365. Fascinating.


Imaged again on 7 Sep '20.

imaged KT Dra and friends (Halifax)

I can't remember why I was interested in this particular target. Ordered BGO toward Tycho 04241-1417 1 which is right beside KT Draconis. It is a dim M-class variable star. Did I stumble across this in some observing session? Is it a particularly colourful red star? Dunno.

What strikes me is the very curious group of stars just south of faint KT.

KT Dra and friends in luminance

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

A fun triplet of stars. No double star designation in SkyTools. Can't find anything in the WDS at this position...


Ah. I figured out where this came from. I spotted an image on the twitter feed on 24 May, another user had imaged KT Dra. A student, I suspect, working on an assignment.

returned to Arp 330 (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory imaged Arp 330. A cluster of galaxies in Draco. First tried to view this target from the CAO on 12 Jun '18. Wow.

galaxy group Arp 330 in luminance

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

The centre of the group is near star HD 234352 aka SAO 30113.

Wow. There are a lot of galaxies here... Look at that crooked line running north-south to the right (west) of the bright star. Amazing!

Apparently some call this the "Golden Chain."

Rick J identified over a dozen (maybe two) in his image that I found on Cloudy Nights. In SkyTools 3 Pro, I verified over a dozen. There are more in the image that my software does not identify.

I found:

LEDA 2444311
MCG 9-27-99 aka UGC 10583
LEDA 2442680
MCG 9-27-96 (part of Arp 330 proper)
MCG 9-27-95 (part of 330)
MCG 9-27-100 aka PGC 59089
MCG 9-27-92 (part of Arp 330)
LEDA 2440308
LEDA 2440298
MCG 9-27-93 aka PGC 59056
MCG 9-27-91 (part of 330)
LEDA 2439198
LEDA 2437977
MCG 9-27-94 (part of 330)

But all are very faint. And small. Most, star-like. No wonder I had trouble visually.

There are outliers too...

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

revisited 61 Oph (Halifax)

Asked BGO to aim at Tycho star 00419-1113 1 so to take in 61 Ophiuchi. I had last viewed the bright pair of headlights with the C8 on 26 Aug '19. But the C companion was not obvious.

multi-star system 61 Ophiuchi in luminance

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

C is visible. Dim. To the north-east.

Wikipedia link: 61 Ophiuchi.

Binary Universe: a digital astrolabe

The October 2019 RASC Journal is out.
cover of the October 2019 Journal
Interesting cover.

I look forward to reading Percy's article on the General Assembly. Curious his impressions.

I look forward to reading MacDonald's review of the CGX-L mount.

Ooh. Neat. A sketch by Mr McNair was featured.

In my column, Binary Universe, I shared my findings with the iOS app called Astrolabe Clock. I used the attractive tool a lot in the past but had another look after downloading version 1.11.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

RASC at DDO on Saturday

RASC Toronto Centre returns to the David Dunlap Observatory hosting the family night programme. The Saturday 21 September show is sold out once again. If you wanna get in, there are only two more events beyond this.

trapped in the queue

Changed the minimum altitude setting for 61 Oph from 40 to 30. Stuck in the BGO queue.

Monday, September 16, 2019

captured kappa Psc (Halifax)

Ordered BGO to image GSC 00578-1121 so to get photons for κ Piscium. I had not seen the C companion of this triple star system with my C8 on 4 Sep '19.

multi-star system kappa Psc in luminance

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

B is the obvious bright star to the north, the closest bright star.

Do you see it. Between, in the middle, is C. It is extremely faint. This matches the visual appearance in SkyTools where the point is rendered at magnitude 15.1! This is further supported by the mag 15 values of surrounding faint field stars.

What means the data in the WDS is wrong. I should submit a notice....

The page at Wikipedia describes it as a "solitary" star. I'll have to fix that...

Sunday, September 15, 2019

captured mu Aql (Halifax)

First viewed μ (mu) Aquilae in August last year, most recently on 31 Aug '18. Spotted most of the elements of the multi-star system but wasn't sure about the D partner.

With BGO, captured the target aka Burnham 653 by centring on the nearby star GSC 00490-3800.

multi-star system mu Aql in luminance

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

The B and C stars at the obvious tight faint pair to the north-west, vertically oriented. D is easy, inline with B and C, further north. Brighter than B and C. To the north-east, the rather bright star, that's E. And P is the faint star due north of A, on the diffraction spike, between C and E. P looks to be the same magnitude as B and C.

Busy field.


Wikipedia link: mu Aquilae.

helped at fall work party

Helped at the fall work party at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

I coached our junior helpers on fire bottle inspections.

Received the new ASUS wifi router. It looks like an alien spaceship. Programmed and deployed it. I activated the 2.4 and 5 GHz wireless capabilities. External WAN config, internal LAN config, DHCP table, port forwarding, admin settings, etc. The whole process went swimmingly well, way easier and smoother than I was expecting (I had had trouble testing a different router in the summer). I look forward to exploiting it's advanced features in the future.

While preparing for the swap, while taking the network down, I decided to program for a new subnet. This to avoid crashes and interference issues of a bridge (er, a router in bridge mode) decides to go sideways in the future. So that meant reprogramming the bridge in the living room, library, supervisor closet, garage, and Geoff Brown Observatory, the radio in the garage, the machines with static addresses including the GBO computer, the Sue-Lora Observatory computer, and the SQM/weather server, and the two security appliances. Lots of mental effort. And lots of physical effort, as I had to carry around another router as a gateway to reprogram all the devices.

Discovered the SQM offline. Right, it too needs to be programmed. Deferred.

As I visited the routers, I covered the WAN ports to prevent humans from using them.

Covered the dead ethernet port in the GBO observing floor.

Noted the bad ethernet cables in the garage.

I PINGed the internal network for analyses.

I received and deployed the new webcam for monitoring. The D-Link unit was very frustrating to use. The setup instructions called for downloading an app to a mobile device. With Andromache, my little Android phone, I followed the instructions and scanned the QR code on the cheat sheet. This linked me to the mydlink app page (which looks a little funny if your squint). The download, while slow, completed successfully. I proceeded to the next step which had me scan, with the new app, the QR code on power supply. This didn't work. Tried a lot of tricks. Nothing worked. And NO OTHER options were provided by the vendor, such as entering a MAC address, or a serial number, or some other unique identifier. Stoopid. Near-sighted on the part of D-Link. Rhonda graciously offered her phone. So I downloaded the app again and scanned the power supply. This worked. And after more gyrations, I was able to view the camera video output. I discovered that the app on my phone worked, it showed the webcam output. Later I loaded up the D-Link web page. No viewing of the camera output. What? Today I tried to configure the camera to "talk" to all the wireless access points but after an hour of fiddling with the Bluetooth, I could not get it to work. Stoopid. The Great Dumbing Down of software prevents me from fully accessing the device. The advanced user cannot do what they need to do. So much time lost. Made a mount (copying Tony's design). Made a sign to tell people not to bonk it.

The set-up of the webcam required the use of a new small CyberPower power bar/UPS. That was simple to deploy. However, the requested cooler/insulated box was not provided. We will need to get this soon. Woke in the middle of the night realising I did not note the plug used. Glad I checked—I had used a suppression outlet, not a battery-backed one.

Assisted a member in operating the Stargrazer ride-on mower. He could not start it. I handed him the quick reference guide. He had forgotten the fuel petcock value. He killed the battery in his repeated lengthy attempts at cranking the motor. He flooded the cylinder in his restart attempts.

Reviewed the mods to the SLO roof panel reinforcements. As I had envisioned.

Did the inspection of our backup power source. All's well.

Did some SLA battery load testing with our new donated unit. Worked well. Confirmed it works for 6 as well as 12 volts.

Noted the changes/additions from the recent site visit by the technician. The oil filter heater was warm to the touch. But then, the motor had run (at full speed) a short time before.

Attempted to deploy our battery blanket but found it damaged. Will need to get a replacement. Deferred.

Did not deploy the new inkbird; instead, brought it how to learn it. They say it is plug and play. Ha. Ha ha. That's funny. Deferred.

Installed a makeshift rubber sheet (from a bicycle tyre tube) over a padlock.

Used the new Linux workstation for the bulk of my work. That was a little challenging at times but overall very good. Still don't know exactly how to release a DHCP lease. Was very happy to find VNC capabilities built-in.

Installed Chrome on Ubuntu.

Loaded the bookmarks bar with our favourite weather pages.

After sorting a completely illogical COM port issue, uploaded the new iButton FOB CUBLOC file, created by Phil. Assisted by Steve during testing. Tested with a known good.

Verified recording on motion detection by our security devices.

Received a 19-inch flat-screen. Deployed in the GBO.

Took inventory of our small motors supplies and parts. Oh. No oil filters...

Programmed a router as a bridge to place downstream in our LAN.

Delivered RCA connectors and a rotary inline switch for the RC16 fan. Deferred.

Recorded the serial numbers of all new devices. In advance to sending to the property team.

Weather was OK. Lots of rain Friday. Saturday clear. Sunday morning rain but eased off. No snow! But that would be a little unusual given the early date.

Food was great. Our first-time cook and sous-chef did an awesome job.

Lots of familiar faces. A good crew. But I was not terribly sociable as I struggled with the IT troubles.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

painted with light

It was a full Moon. As people watched it climb over the eastern hills, I readied the DSLR camera in the Geoff Brown Observatory.

star light paint

This one came out good. Love the colours.

Steve, Rhonda, and Thomas shared some nice words.

viewed the GRS (Blue Mountains)

We had a good look at Jupiter. The Great Red Spot was nearing the meridian. When the seeing calmed down, it was a very good view in the 16-inch RC. We thought of the huge crowds at the Dunlap Institute event.

imaged kappa And (Halifax)

Imaged triple star κ Andromedae (aka HR 8976) with the BGO in search of the B partner. Easily spotted in the digital rendering.

kappa And, A, B, and C in luminance

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

Aimed at GSC 03244-1100.

B is to the south-south-west, about half or one-third the distance to C. They seem equal brightness (once again, SkyTools and the WDS said both were 11.3). I wonder now why I hadn't spotted the element on 4 Sep '19.


Wikipedia link: kappa Andromedae.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

spotted the fish's mouth (Bradford)

Rhonda dragged me out to the back porch to see the Moon. Eww.

Gibbous. Intense. Behind wispy clouds.

I wondered where the planets were. Too late for Saturn and Jupiter.

She asked about the bright point below Jupiter, in the V of the trees. Fomalhaut, I surmised.

collected photons on omega And (Halifax)

BGO imaged ω (omega) Andromedae aka BU 999 using the star GSC 03265-2190. I was hoping to split the C and D elements? First viewed this target on 30 Aug '19.

multi-star system omega And in luminance

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

Ha. Look at that. C and D, at a north-west through south-east angle are easily resolved, despite the poor image quality. Curiously, SkyTools draws the stars in a east-west orientation but the CD data in the Object Information panel shows a PA of 140°. A and B are merged.


Wikipedia link: omega Andromedae.

BGO back up

Whoa. Look at that. Responses from the Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot in Halifax. Found 3 messages from BGO in my inbox. I guess things have been restored after the hurricane...

shot HR 9074 (Halifax)

I wanted to revisit HR 9074 or Struve 3050, a triple in the constellation Andromeda. The C companion was not visually seen in my 8-inch. The Burke-Gaffney Observatory BGO robot imaged the multi-star system for me.

multi-star system HR 9074 in luminance

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

First viewed on 2 Sep '19. While A and B are merged in this image, the C comrade is obvious, to the north-west, a good distance away. It appears to be in the magnitude 13 range.

gathered data on IK Peg (Halifax)

When I learned of IK Pegasi as a potential outburst star, I thought of having a few looks every year. Or perhaps imaging it a few times when in season.

So I ordered the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to aim there. To be precise, I aimed at Tycho 01671-0804 1. IK Peg is also known as HR 8210.

IK Pegasi in luminance

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

First viewed this target on 2 Sep '19. Well, there we go. Captured officially. The brightest star, near the top of the image.

Neat faint tight double in the middle of the image, in that big flying V.


Captures, in reverse chronological order:

Wikipedia link: IK Pegasi.

imaged epsilon Sge (Halifax)

I asked the BGO Robotic Telescope to image ε (epsilon) Sagittae aka H VI 26.

When I viewed this multi-star system, I didn't see the third element. C was not obvious to me visually in the C8. SkyTools had told me it was magnitude 13, which is doable with that instrument, but maybe lost in my local skyglow.

BGO refused my initial request so I aimed at the star Tycho 01602-0987 1, about a 1/4 of the field away.

multi-star system epsilon Sge in luminance

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

First viewed on 2 Sep '19. The 3rd component of ε Sge is obvious in the image, opposite B, a little bit further away, a titch to the north. But dim. It is in the magnitude 12 to 13 range.


Wikipedia link: epsilon Sagittae.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

attended the RASC meeting

Attended the RASC TC Recreational Astronomy Night meeting.

Travelled to and fro with Ron B.

Good to see familiar faces. Saw Tom L, Peter, George, Clay, Mary Ann, Kersti, Joel P, Joel D, Alan, Louis. Betty and Andrew, as usual, were on audio-visual duty for the evening (thanks for making me look good). Paul M was the M.C. once again. Talked with Shawn about IT matters. Received my finicky green laser pointer from Ed. Caught up with Adrian on observing certificate matters. Chatted with Richard as he shared his new CCD camera woes. Congratulated Millie and Dietmar on their award (SLO Team). Answered a question on the DI event for Dan. Acknowledged Ennio's DDO help offer. Spoke briefly with Marc about the popular Telescope Loan Programme needed another helper. Peter R introduced me to a new member who is keen to volunteer.

I delivered my The Sky This Month presentation. Did not feel really settled, again. I don't know why I get so riled up. The unedited raw video is available for review. My talk starts at the 9:29 mark and concludes at 51:32. Chris offered a comment at the end on dual shadow transits on Jupiter. Indeed, a cool thing to see. In my presentation (and associated article on the RASC web site) I have noted many "Jupiter events."

[ed: Saw Eric was online in the chat channel.]

Denis gave an interesting talk on the Pegasus portable power distribution device with clever software interface.

Steve delivered a great presentation on the new Sue-Lora Observatory (SLO) up at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Exciting stuff. An amazing new benefit of membership. Open for business!

Ralph, during his general announcements, noted my new activity in volunteer coordination. The word's gettin' out...

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

on deck

I'm on deck for tomorrow, to deliver another The Sky This Month presentation for to RASC Toronto Centre at the Ontario Science Centre. See you there. Or see you online.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

helped in decision to measure

A comment on my measuring double stars talk showed up from Mark Harris, from across the pond.
Hi.  Great vid mate.  I've been observing doubles for pleasure for a few years now and been thinking of getting an astrometric eyepiece for a while now.  After watching your excellent vid, the choice has been made.  Thanks.  Mark.  Southampton.  England.
Wow. That's pretty cool.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

watch Last Man

With Rhonda watched The Last Man on the Moon documentary featuring Gene Cernan. It was well done. She enjoyed it and I learned a few things.

from the lunar surface during Apollo 17

I noted that Sir Jackie Stewart was one of the producers. The Jackie Stewart? Interesting.

still not fully understood

SkyNews magazine posted an article by Lindsay Malbon And Ian Ashdown entitled Getting Smart About Light Pollution a couple of days ago.

They lamented how the problem is just getting worse. They shared that while it is high in mind for astronomers, it is important to everyone, for health reasons and the impact to wildlife.

An eerie remark was that the effects are "still not fully understood."

We need to resolve this before something really bad happens.

The planner and researcher shared intriguing data from the US Department of Energy showing the lion's share comes from highway and street lighting.

The authors offer some advice if one wants to address undesirable light pollution and relay some positive changes already happening in some cities. The promise of "smart lighting" is capturing the attention of the bean counters.

Friday, September 06, 2019

identified stars

After some fiddling in Aladin version 10, with the NED catalogue, I was able to get the identifiers for the stars around gamma Her.

2MASS J16215298+1908426 for B
2MASS J16214783+1909214 for C
2MASS J16215134+1910409 for the mystery star

Couldn't get past that so I'll have to explore another avenue.

doubles for September 2019

Sent out my double star "bulletin" for September 2019 (with some appropriate emojis). It is a short list of suggested targets. I shared this on the RASC Toronto Centre forums. And I post here for all.



Get busy. It's time to look at double stars 🌟🌞. Did you notice the statement in the RASC Observer's Handbook? It says that 85% of stars that appear to be single are in fact doubles or multi-star systems.

Here's a short selection of double, triples, etc. from my life list for your next observing campaign.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
V340 SgeH N 84SAO 105104, HIP 96688
31 CygStruve App A 50 or HJ 1495SAO 49337, HIP 99675
HR 7529 CygSTF 2578SAO 68805, HIP 97228
11 AqlSTF 2424SAO 104308, HIP 93203
γ DelΣ2727SAO 106476, HIP 102532

Please consider adding these to your evening list. Doubles are fun, easy, interesting, and colourful! Sometimes they are rather challenging but these suggestions are pretty easy. I look forward to hearing how you did! Be seeing you.

Be seeing you.

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

confirmed 16 Vul split

Checked the split limit for the Celestron 8-inch. I had a note on file that said I had only made it to 1.4 arc-seconds. That didn't seem right.

Why I had recently viewed 16 Vul on 30 Aug '19 at 0.8" (SkyTools dated 2003). But that could have been wonky data from the planning app.

Surfed into the Washington Double Star catalogue. Looked up the pair to see if the separation value was right... 20020+2456STT 395 2018  129   0.7  5.83  6.19 F2III. Wow. That's even less than the 2003 figure in ST3P!

Then I jumped into Stelle Doppie and looked up STT 395. Very interesting stuff.

It shows an orbital diagram. Ah ha: a binary. The period is 1201 years. This is graded 4, out of 9, toward the "definitive" end.

It echoes the 2018 data in the WDS for angle and separation. The Historic Data table at the bottom shows it hovering around 0.7 and 0.8 over the last 10 years.

But at the top it says P.A. Now (θ) 127.3° and Sep. Now (ρ) 0.85". Is that some computed value? No matter. It's clearly below 0.9. So it's good to get a sub-one number with the old telescope from the backyard!

Thursday, September 05, 2019

booster tested

SpaceX tested a new booster that will be used for the first launch with people aboard tentatively planned later this year. Read a full article at

examined gamma Herculis (Bradford)

Clear again! The weather predictors all aligned, including my little desktop app in Rainmeter. I saw the clouds dissipating through the afternoon. I was curious that a no-go call was made by the RASC team...
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: Go To
Main objective tonight: sketch gamma Herculis, aka SHJ 227. That meant being outside and ready to go early! Made a note to be in the backyard for 9.

It was intriguing the thought of just nipping out for a short while...

Wrapped up some online meetings, started dinner, switched to red mode in the home office, packed items.

Suited up with a few layers on the top half. Also grabbed the jacket and winter hat.

Posted the astronomer-on-duty sign.

As I walked around the house, at first, I thought the sky poor, it seemed to have an orange pall. I wondered if there was then high thin cloud. But when I reached the backyard, wow, there was Jupiter, bright. Whoa, and there was the Moon! Holy Moon. A big crescent to the right of Jupiter. OK! It was rather clear. Ah, Saturn too. Funny timing, Jupiter in the right notch, Saturn in the left groove. [ed: Moon in Libra!]

Freaked out the dog upstairs. The wrangler calmed him.

Did not get a chance to invite her down.

Did a quick align process with the IDEA GoToStar system. The hand controller suggested Jupiter, Saturn, and a star (forgot the name). The Moon was not offered. I chose Jupiter. Then I used the slew buttons, at high speed and then confirmed the location. Jupiter was soft, behind the tree leaves.

Decided to have a quick peak at the Moon. When I asked for the target on the controller, the mount started going in a weird direction forcing me to hit the STOP button. Then I tried returning to Jupiter by the controller. Nope. Interrupted the slew again. Huh. Now I wonder if one is supposed to declutch for the quick alignment process? Something to try.

Redid the alignment, using two stars. Before starting that I checked the time. Then I had an idea: I added one minute to the shown time. As I performed the steps, I found the target alignment stars in the finder. Seemed better now. Still, the R.A. Axis report showed over 60 seconds on both of the axes. Interesting. Slewed to the Moon without difficulty. Noted the lunar tracking rate automatically activated.

Wondered about the X but it seemed too soon. Interesting stuff along the terminator... Some high mountain range perhaps? Rugged. Seemed to be very tall mountainous territory west of Mare Nectaris. Bright. Switched to the right eye for viewing. Weird. It left an intense after-image!

Maybe too late to show Jupiter; Saturn would be good.

Fired up a mosquito coil on seeing the little beggars around the telescope.

Turned on the dew heating system once again with None More Black at medium output for both channels.

Set up the table near the mount again. Interconnected the netbook and mount motor system.

8:34 PM, Wednesday 4 September 2019. I was ready to sketch!

Set ASUS computer in red light mode. As I tried to adjust the size of windows, I accidentally made the Task Bar huge. Gah.

8:41 PM. Activated the Real Time mode tab. Connected to the mount within the SkyTools 3 Professional software. Noted in the status box it said "Tracking Sidereal." Not lunar rate. No matter.

Checked the Interactive Atlas chart for the blinking X. Nope. Not shown on the Moon, zoomed out wide or tight. Tried a couple of things. No X. No matter. Maybe I need to issue a command from the software first?

Slewed to a token star. Right in the centre. All right. Been a while since I have had good pointing...

Noted the "Cel." status on the hand controller. Back in true sidereal rate after the test slew.

8:44. Slewed to γ (gamma) Her. The A and B twosome was obvious. B to the 8 o'clock position. All right. Clearly visible despite the sky brightness. Here we go!

Neighbour took a call. Again, I wanted to invite her to have a look-see but the call went long and the Moon was dipping below the treeline.

8:53. Confirmed the field with the baader planetarium aspheric 36mm eyepiece at 56 times. Increased magnification with the Tele Vue 9mm Nagler Type 6 ocular. Now at 226x.

Checked the ambient conditions with the portable weather station in the tripod triangular tray. The Oregon Scientific unit reported: 67% relative humidity, 13.0°C air temperature, steady air pressure, clouds tomorrow.

8:56. I could see the star GSC 01513-0543 to the west. Inline with gamma B. Again, angled to the 8 o'clock position.

I saw a star to the north. I wasn't real happy with the Context Viewer display. Tried to wrangle the Interactive Atlas view, disabled the Real Time switch, changed the time to rotate the field. Played with the Flip and Mirror buttons. Huh. I was seeing a stars to the north-west... There was something north of A not in software! Was this what I had seen at the CAO? Could it have moved? Will have to compare to the various images I downloaded before.

8:59. Saw a point of light to the north. About 3 or 4 times the separation of AB. About the same brightness as GSC 01513-0543. Was it an asteroid or a comet? Time to sketch. Particularly as I didn't know when I could image this...

Collected the drawing gear: Strathmore Field Sketch pad, soft pencil, music stand, deep red lamp, hook-n-loop head band for the flashlight. New food tin lids for drawing circles! Organised my station and put on the red flashlight.

Started working.

Cool. Used the can lid to draw a circle. Super handy. Used the medium one but found it too small. Drew another circle, with the biggest lid. Yes.

sketch of the gamma Herculis double star

Remembered to note the direction west. North is to the top-right.

Seemed to be slight drift in both declination and right ascension. Had to periodically re-centre.

9:14. I thought I had all the visible stars. And the mystery object to the north-west. As the sky darkened, it was easier to see the faint points to the east and south. Cup-shape to the east. Straggly line to the south-east.

Switched the deep red light to the other side of my noggin.

Humidity was climbing. Turned up the dew heaters.

Continued to examine the field.

Tried and tried to spot another star, the purported D ally. Nope. Nothing obvious. Looked all around the A star.

9:29. The target was getting close to the trees. Time a'fleeting. I recalled it was "in the weeds" at 10:30 so that meant I had about 60 minutes left...

Seeing dropped off. It had been quite good earlier. I didn't think the transparency was improving. No new stars had emerged.

9:41. Done. Considered it done. Nothing more I could add to the sketch. Panned around a bit.

Put aside the drawing equipment.

(Maybe black bodied pencils for astronomy are not a good idea...)

Closed the main door of the tent to block light.

9:46. With the low power ocular, the A and B elements looked yellow and orange respectively. C was not visible at 55x.

OK. Now what? What to observe?

Looked at my RASC Finest NGC list in SkyTools. I wondered which ones I had only photographed. Considered that if I used the "re-observe" tag in the list, that would be helpful. I noted the current High Priority tagged on NGC 6520. [ed: Done. Maybe dropping them into View Again would be good too...]

9:55. Rhonda arrived home.

Ah. What about some showpiece objects for later... Loaded up my star party showpieces list. Huh? Why was SHJ 227F in this list?

Slewed to new target, ε (epsilon) Lyrae.

Looking out her window, rho spotted all the red lights under the stars. "Hello!"

10:02. With the 9mm eyepiece, I could see the associates E, F, and the I-star between ε1 and ε2 without difficulty.

Spotted the G comrade with averted vision—magnitude 13.2 according to the software.

It seemed an error to me. I didn't understand why SHJ 227F would be in a "showpieces" list. I checked the computer again and... oh... that's why! Brain fart. I was in the correct "folder" or SkyTools group, "my star parties / public outreach." But a different list was active, "DDO suggested targets 190518" when I had assumed I was in the "! star party showpieces."

Consulting my double star life list page, part 2 (L through V).

10:04. Noted there was also an H star, near G. Right angle to E. Not visible in the C8.

And what about D? Not in my life list... Confusing. I think this was a mistake on my part. Clearly D is one of the bright stars of the Double Double, the east-most star of ε2. Obviously seen.

Sorted the list by the Log column, so to try for things never viewed, to vet them. Ink Spot? Too dim? Awfully low for Ontario observations. NGC 6553? Too low for me from the backyard. Found a bunch of nova entries. Temporal. Should probably remove them... IL Aqr? Oh. A quasar in Hercules. Huh. Never viewed. Fairly high right now. Maybe in range of this 'scope?

Slewed to π (pi) Her first, so to sync to a known-good, before heading to a ultra-dim object.

I heard the back door. Quickly slewed to nearby globular cluster Messier 92. Looked good to me in the wide field eyepiece.

"Hark." Rhonda visited. Her toast smelled good. Offered a view of a fuzzy blob.

"Ooh, fuzzy." She guessed it was a Messier. Yes, number 92. It popped for her with averted, "really bright." Not centred. Around 4 o'clock. I let her pan to centre.

We caught up. Family matters, singers, the backyard, me killing the grass, impending snow.

Showed her my double star sketch. Pointed out the unknown, unidentified point of light, not in any of my charts. Moving north. To be corroborated.

Offered to make me some toast. No thanks. Toasted out for today. She requested another good fuzzy, before heading to the kitchen!

10:18. I enjoyed the glob. Very nice direct and averted. Synced on M92.

Slewed back to the quasar. ST3P said B3 1715+425 was mag 13.3.

Highest power eyepiece. I saw the pair of stars Tycho 03081-0148 1 and GSC 03081-0739 to the south-west and the bright star HD 156756 to the north-east.

Rhonda returned. I put out the comfy chair with a spot for her beverage.

If visible it would be 2.1 billion light years away...

Vetting my list, that is too optimistic.

Talked about cars, sensors, indicators, gas caps, and siphoning. She observed it was not cold out. She was "toasty." Ha! We chatted about arts and crafts at the DDO. Upcoming events. Sideways work projects. She liked the red lights, the ones she had given me. She asked about bats—I had seen some before; none tonight.

She saw a really bright meteor. From Cassiopeia, heading toward the shed, the south-west. Sounded like an Aurigid. Chris had seen some on the Blue Mountains. Normally a weak shower. We're slipping into a lull for meteors. No big showers in September and October.

Considered a good target. Saturn? Still occulted by the tree.

Moon? Gone. Told Rhonda I had looked at Luna earlier. "But you hate the Moon," she said. Indeed. "But I only looked at it with my bad eye." She enjoyed that. "Save the good stuff for my good eye."

Ah. Cat's Eye! Slewed. Dropped to low power. Oh! Bright satellite went through! Got it. Seemed star-like in the middle. Centred in the field of view. "A tiny fuzzy." Told her to have a look and then we'd bump the power. Traded seats. "Kind of a bluey fuzzy? A bit of violet?" rho asked. Yep. Pretty tiny. So I loaded in the Pentax XW 20mm.

Dew heater was working good. Now I need to make more!

She thought more "bluey violet" at this increased magnification. I thought it was taking on an almond shape. "No way." She thought it round. It looked good at 102x.

Rhonda popped inside for beverages.

I loaded up the TV for 226x. Worked good but less colourful. Big now! But a little soft now. Grainy. Definitely not round.

Talked about spiced rum recipes. She had just finished hers from Barbados. Large mouthed bottles. Maple syrup... Stocking up at the next farmer's market. Apples. She suggested getting some from a Blue Mountain orchard. Good idea! Dew heaters for the bum, the camping chairs. Good idea! We could hear people hauling out their recycling. She heard birds peeping briefly.

From rho, still a blue fuzzy. Bigger. She still thought it round, not oblong, not enough to call it almond- or football- shaped. An old, retired star with a white dwarf in the middle. Admittedly, a little small. [ed: 22".] How about something bigger? The best one? The Ring? Rhonda agreed, "Yeah." Slewed. Nearly straight up. A bit disoriented in the finder scope but I found it and centred. Looked good in the 36mm.

"Oh yeah." She liked it. "Bluey, too. Not as bluey [as the Cat's Eye]. Nice ring. Yeah, good. Cool. Good eye candy."

Next up. A really big object. Only for the finder scope. I shifted it off the cross-hairs... Not easy to focus.

Helped her identify it. Asked if she saw the horizontal line of stars. Yes, six stars. And a cup-shape below, like the Big Dipper. A very small object. "It kinda looks like a coat hanger." There ya go! "What?!" It's official the asterism Collinder 399, a bit prosaic, but casually called "The Coathanger Cluster." With her above average vision, I suggested she could see it naked eye. Showed her the SkyTools chart. Grabbed my green laser pointer. Got it going after a moment. We looked between the two bottom stars of Sagitta and Alberio of Cygnus, closer to Sagitta, a bit down from that. Actually, with alpha Vul and beta Sge, it formed a flattened (upside-down) triangle. I thought I could just barely see it.

Rhonda tagged another shooting star, south-east to north-west this time.

Kitty Tucker bayed in the house.

11:08. She went to comfort her feline. Found Tuck in the bedroom window, watching us. Stargazing cat.

I wanted a good colourful double, something interesting. I looked for a target from the Coldfield 200 beautiful doubles list.

Rhonda returned. Scanned the sky for more meteors.

11:10. Medium slew. One axis shut down quick. Wow. Middle of nowhere... Wasn't sure I had it. Pointing was off. Rhonda spotted the Dolphin. I went to a known-good. "Hold, please." Then back to the star to demo. A "cute double star" on the west side of the meridian.

"So bright. Little... eyes. They don't have much colour. Pretty white..." She wanted to know their relationship. A binary? Didn't know. "Maybe the bottom one was cooler, whiter. Top-right was yellow. Really close. Oh, wait. Flipped. Flipped again. Nice and bright. Very nice." Neat patterns around the pair. Asked if she saw a little C-shape of stars nearby. One to the left. Yep. She also saw a kind of C-shape to the right. More doubles below?

She asked for one more. I wanted gamma And. Pivoted to the star. Oopsie. In the trees. Too early. Stoopid trees.

OK. η (eta) Cass or Achird. Slewed. That was not it. Don't know my Cassiopeia doubles very well. Panned about. Got it.

Rhonda tried to split the bright star. Drew her attention to three different stars, three different colours I proposed. 2 o'clock and 7 o'clock. 2 was close, orange. 7 was 4 or 5 times the distance, white or blue. She saw more. She saw a star at 6, fainter. It made a triangle, nearly perfect. I saw that too. An 8 star system! She wanted to know if the bright star was a tight double. Didn't think so. I checked SkyTools.

She thanked me for the mini star party and headed to rescue her kitty. Good night!

11:33. Oh. Not that late! [ed: The early start threw me off.]

Returned to the "showpieces" list to vet more suggestions. Chose my next, a short distance away. Ordered the mount to move. Lost. Known good, again. Got it finally.

11:44. NGC 185? No good. Not visible in Bortle 4 to 5 skies in a 8-inch instrument. I tagged it for removal from the showpieces list.

Adjacent NGC 147 was not visible either.

Next. I chose a target in Pisces.

Closed the door again.

11:58. Bumbling about. I needed a plan. [ed: Should have quit.]

Loaded up "Ahad's red star" list.

12:01 AM, Thursday 5 September 2019. Headed to 19 Piscium.

Took me a long time to figure out where I was. I initially was dropped on the west side of the Circlet, near a big L, near γ Psc, just about the tree to the south-east. Finder view seemed upside down. Loathe to move the finder. The Circlet was barely visible naked eye. Lots of light pollution from Newmarket. Essentially, I needed to star hop backward, eastward, through κ (kappa) and λ (lambda).

Spotted the wide double in the finder!

12:19 AM. Viewed κ closely. Wide double. Easy. Primary white; secondary blue. ST3P said it was a triple. GSC 00578-1121 to the north-west, a bit further away than B. ST3P said mag 13.1. Looked briefly for C. Between A and B, inline. Nope. Apparently also 13.1 in magnitude but not accessible to me. Too low. Too bright over there. Makes a binocular double with 9 Psc. [ed: Hovering in the IA chart says mag 15.2!]

[ed: Checked the WDS. Pulled the data for 23269+0115 S 830:

AB    2014   342 182.7  4.92  9.96 A-class
BC    2015    156  80.3  9.96 11.2

So, fairly recently viewed by others. B is listed at mag 10.0! And C is pegged at mag 11.2. All doable. On closer examination, the AB data in SkyTools is from 1991 but the BC numbers are dated 1907. Perhaps sky glow was a big factor, washing out mag 10 and fainter objects...]

Continued eyepiece hopping.

12:28. Ugh. Arrived at last. Centred. Variable star 19 Psc. Certainly it was a warm orange. I would not call it red. And a completely empty field—at low power no less—so nothing to compare against.

Nerts! This was already observed! Sheesh. All that for nothin'! I wanted something new.

Wanted to wrap it up. Didn't feel like going all night again...

Turned to the Cambridge Double Star Atlas showpieces list for a good one, to go out with a bang. Looked for items not logged.

TZ Aries? Still too early.

GQ Andromedae? Slewed.

12:42. Arrived at the crazy star. Interesting stars, interesting field... Craggy line to the far right. North was to the right. There was a bright star to the 8 o'clock: STT 5 AB aka 26 And. Stuff below... Very different presentation than in the software. SkyTools showed an equilateral triangle but I saw a flattened one. Ah, dag nabbit. I've viewed this too! It is Groombridge 34 [ed: Viewed 2 years ago. Correction: imaged with BGO.] Top apex star yellow-orange; the right hand star red; the left (south) star, 2 or 3 times the sep, blue or green.

Was the transparency going away?!

Headed to another object. Ross 248. From another "red" star list. Slewed and panned.

12:48. In the 36mm, noted κ And. Was a white star. To the west I saw the C star, very faint, no colour. Could not pick off the B though. SkyTools said they were both mag 11.3. West was up.

[ed: Pulled the WDS data for kappa, aka 23404+4420 HJ 1898:
CSN   1Aa,Ab 2012    55   1.0  4.6  14.6  B9
HJ 1898AB    2002   202  47.4  4.14 11.3  B9
HJ 1898AC    2012    293  115.3  4.14 11.3  B9

Here, the magnitude numbers are all OK. Stars are moving around a bit but the position angles aren't too different. Same class. So, I can't explain why I didn't see partner B. High up at the time, 80 degrees. So very little atmospheric effects. Note: there's a new element at 1.0 arc-seconds! But incredibly faint!]

Spotted a wide double to the west. Extremely wide. Nope, misread that. TYC 03243-1401 1 was near a bright star, itself a double.

To the west-north-west, at the edge of the field, there was an interesting looking quad. The host star was HD 222229, in the WDS as WEB 10. Cool diamond shape. Centred on it. Cute little diamond. Brightest element was to the east, blue-white. To the north was B, second brightest. D, west, was orange. C: blue or orange? Hard to tell. Dimmest. Um, tied with D. Perhaps they are the same brightness and colour.

Moved further west. Seemed to be a lot of things that could be classed as double stars.

Tagged HR 8962, aka STT 500, no problem. The A and C stars. C, dimmer, to the north. SkyTools said B was 0.4 arc-seconds from A. Wowzers.

The whole object here was to get Ross 248. Stoopid faint. A variable at mag 12.3. So faint. I couldn't get any colour off it. In a row of three stars, it's nearest neighbour was Tycho 03244-1352 1. Boring!

One more interesting object. 35 Psc. Slewed.

12:57. Nice. Yellow and... blue? Orange? About 1 mag different. Tight. Tight at low power. Nearly empty field. Pisces has no background stars!

Well, that was all kinda silly. I should have quit an hour previous. Done. Shut everything down. Final conditions check: 85%, 9.8°, steady pressure, clouds.

1:10. Back inside. Did I hear the west neighbour finding his lost dog? Son of a motherless goat.


Also viewed the ET Cluster, briefly. Found I had already IDed the double stars within. A great item to keep on the showpieces list.

Similarly, popped into NGC 663. Already viewed. Borderline for the showpieces list...


Really happy that I sketched.


Did you know... The word slew means "turn or slide violently or uncontrollably in a particular direction." Huh.

Ah. This from Merriam-Webster is better: "to turn (something, such as a telescope or a ship's spar) about a fixed point that is usually the axis."

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

over 1500

Passed the 1500 observed double stars threshold.

unexpected viewing (Bradford)

Wow. It was clear! The satellite imagery was right and all the prediction tools wrong.

I packed up and headed out back. Oops. Forgot the stand and sock for the voice recorder... Oh well.

10:13 PM, Monday 2 September 2019. Checked the sky. Some clouds but they were moving out. Maybe 75% of my sky was clear now.
Instrument: Celestron 8-inch SCT
Mount: Vixen Super Polaris
Method: slewing and tracking with IDEA GoToStar
Found the ring light on. Oops. Forgot to unplug it. It was still working but dim.

Powered up the mount. Installed the dew cap. And the 36mm. For balance. Wondered about the home position, particularly the vertical. Decided to do a one-star alignment tonight. Albireo. Fine tuned. Quick. Done. Ready to go.

10:23 PM. Humid. According to the Oregon Scientific weather station on the tripod tray: 83% relative humidity, 16.3 degrees C, pressure steady, rain tomorrow. Yikes. Gonna get dewy.

Found the elastic band in the triangle tray. Installed the custom eyepiece heater. It was already nice and warm. Yes.

10:25. Remembered gamma Herculis. Each time before it was too late. How 'bout now?

Checked the chart. I could see the star in a notch in the tree. Probably too late again but I decided to try. Hurry!

[ed: Huh. Was even later Friday night!]

Connected the netbook to the GoToStar and issued the slew command. Fine tuned.

10:31. Two stars, no problem. But it was already going behind the apple tree leaves. I was seeing dimming and distortion. Identified the field. 11 o'clock and 5 o'clock. That meant north was right and east was down. Spotted the "stringer" to the south-east and the cup to the east. And it faded out...

10:34. Earlier in the day I had added more items to the session list (versus making a new one) and at the time thought them high priority. But then I had worked my "final" list of double star candidates, 110, so it meant I didn't really have to do anything. No items not observed. Good! There were targets I could double-check; but I could also view new things, for fun!

10:36. Remembered to review various ways of slewing, to be thorough. Friday night I often used the Slew To button. It worked great.

This time, from a list item, I used the right-click option Slew Scope to. It has the keyboard shortcut F3. Everything responded appropriately in the software. During the slewing action at the mount, the Telescope Status box showed Slewing and the Slew To button changed to Abort Slew. When the target was achieved, the mount beeped, SkyTools issued the verbal confirmation, after a couple of seconds the Telescope Status box message changed to Tracking (Sidereal), and the button reverted to Slew To. All good. So that is a good technique.

I had selected HD 350459. Something from my View Again list. Identified the field. "There it is." Whoa.

10:43. Near β (beta) Sagittae. Interesting stuff. While faint, immediately spotted the close, tight pair to the south-west. HD 186224. Familiar! Used the 36mm. All were very faint. Increased the power with the 20mm.

10:46. Tried to draw out more of the pairs. Oh yeah. The kite shape. I had photographed this many times! [ed: Most recently on 24 Aug '16. A mighty fine image too. Plus another shot from 2 Sep '17 aimed at HD 350461.]

Gah. Couldn't see anything... Loaded the 9mm for maximum power.

10:52. Oh. OK. With the Tele Vue, I clearly saw a star south-west, below, HD 350461. I had seen this in the Pentax too... I was confused by the SkyTools chart presentation.

A silly thing. I wondered why I kept chasing this.

Did a sync command on the hand controller.

Tried slewing different ways... In a chart display, I tried Slew to Chart Target. That was wrong. I think that goes to your last target. Then I did Slew to Cursor for a new quarry and it worked right.

11:01. HD 185354 aka J 138 in Sagitta. Arrived a little triangle. Faint stars nearby. Yellow. Dim ones were orange. Neat system.

I didn't see any clouds! The transparency seemed quite good.

With the 9mm, I got the B and C stars! The SkyTools Object Information box said these stars were magnitudes 6.9, 13.4, and 11.4. That didn't seem right. Certainly C was brighter than B. But mag 13.4? I doubted that. [ed: Hovering over the stars in the chart: 6.9, 13.4, and 10.4. Ah. OK.] Three stars in a line, angled north-west to south-east. Very interesting.

[ed: The mag for the C star from the WDS database is 11.9. Curiously, it shows 13.4 for B.]

To the east there was a pair. HD 185418 or BU 1471. Almost angled the same way. But the faint companion was the opposite side of the primary. NW. So faint at 226 power! Ridiculous. SkyTools said B was 11.0 but I thought it fainter than that.

Decided to explore in the 'hood. Not hop all over. Check out things nearby. And save time.

11:12. Moved to V340 by panning. Also known as H N 84. Widely split. Orange and blue stars. Or green? Unequal. Low power. Interesting.

Off to the west, I spotted an obvious double. Super-wide. Yellow and blue. ST3P said this was a triple. [ed: That was epsilon Sge. Also unequal.] The C star was not visible with the baader.

I was getting too many stars in the Context Viewer. Adjusted the humidity and light pollution settings in SkyTools. Better.


11:21. Decided to pop in on Messier 71 (M71), a glob. Hello. Quite large in the 36mm. Fuzzy patch. Didn't look round. Interesting.

Neat pattern of stars to the left or west. Curious it is not an official star cluster.

It occurred to me again that there's a difference between the actual field of view and the simulation in the planning app. Probably due to the focuser. The software was optimistic or showed a larger field.

Noted a blob at the edge of the field to the south. An open cluster. That was Collinder 408 aka Harvard 20 and OCL 116. Didn't I look at Harvard 21 recently? Small. About 7 main stars, in an arc. Big flat triangle? Seemed to have a misting of stars in the middle.

Lots going on.

Considered the eastern sky.

Slewed. Big jump.

11:30. Enif. Moved the "workstation" around. Saw the B companion star. But not C. I thought it was on a View Again list...

Readied to take in IK Pegasi. aka HR 8210. Variable. Outburst star. Potential outburst. Candidate for explosion. Slewed. In the eyepiece. Huh. Nothing special... yellow. Dim. [ed: Plait talked about this back in 2012. He described it as a "weird" star. While itself not big enough to explode, it has white dwarf sidekick that may blow up. At 150 light years, it probably won't hurt us. Whew. But if it goes, we'll have a ring-side seat.]

11:39. There was a faint star to the north, well away. Beyond that, equidistant, a faint pair of stars oriented north-south. With TYC 01671-0621 1. SkyTools did not show these as a double.

Upside-down V-shape of stars to the south. Neat field.

Remembered a thought from last week. I should set up a "permanent" notes file in SkyTools, for things like this. Why do I wan't to observe this object? Why did I add it to this list? Why do I need to revisit it? If I keep a general pro-active notes group in the software and just continually add to it, it would work nicely. At first I was worried about overwhelming notes everywhere but it is self-correcting. That is, when I complete things, I won't have them in upcoming observing sessions so there will be no clutter. Good. OK. I'll have to do this for future sessions... Might help me avoid repeats too.

Closed outer main door to block the light from the neighbour.

11:43. Ooh. I considered photographing IK periodically. [ed: Added to BGO list.]

Made the short slew to 3 Pegasi aka STF A 56.

11:46. 3 Peg is a great system. Wide pair. Nearly inline another pair, ¼ the separation. Yellow and blue, the wide pair; the faint pair, both orange. Fun at low and high power. That was a double-check. Yes, in my final DS list. An excellent target. The whole pattern was neat. [ed: The faint doublet is SAO 126937 or STT 443.]

Panned and synced. Off to the next subject in Pegasus.

11:49. Another double-check. Triple HR 8348 or HJ 947. Also on my final DS list...

I heard the back door. Rhonda ventured out. Noted right away it was humid. Yep, over 80%. But she saw the skies were quite good. She pined for aurora. From the street, it seemed the glow to the north-east was from bright street lights... If there was northern lights, they were low and faint.

Asked if she wanted to see anything in particular. Ring? Dumbbell? I suggested the cool double in Delphinus. Slewed to γ (gamma) Del, the nose of the Dolphin. Panned about until I got it. Pretty. Dimmer element to the left or west.

"Oh, cool." She thought it a nice one. Close. I thought they were different colours but they were clearly the same. rho agreed. I must have been thinking of something else. The same. She enjoyed seeing it naked eye and through the 'scope.

Rhonda spotted Milky Way, faint. Very good. Running along the body of the Swan, straight up. Wow. It was good transparency. It had been clear for her at camp. She reminisced seeing the Milky Way, with dark rifts, from the Carr, thought it more prominent, clearer then. I wondered if Haliburton wouldn't be darker but she was blinded by campfires! True. She headed in. Holidays over, sadly.

Spotted HD 197913 below, to the south. Previously logged.

12:10 AM, Tuesday 3 September 2019. aka STF 2725. Blue and orange stars. Pointing toward γ. Mag 7.1 and 8.5 stars. Two in the view!

Panned about. Synced. Slewed to Rotanev.

12:15 AM. Also designated as β. Previously viewed.

Spotted the faint tiny triangle nearby, again, previously logged: HD 196411 or Struve 2703. North-west of the neck of the leaping dolphin.

There was an extremely faint pair of stars south-east of beta, with TYC 01100-0667 1.

Back to the east. Next! Aimed to γ Andromedae. Almaak.

12:22. Forgot how amazing it is. Amazing colours. Yellow and pale blue. γ1 and γ2.

Right, it is a quad. And I've never been able to split BC. SkyTools said the separation was 0.2 seconds of arc as of July. No. Way. The blue colour was more pronounced at high power.

Checked other observing lists for ideas.

Slewed to the selection. From a list made over a month ago. From the Coldfield list.

12:34. Viewed HD 220334 aka Σ3007. Triple. One of the apexes of a large triangle with colourful stars. Spotted the faint star pointing roughly west, slightly to the north, to the inner part of the big triangle. I did not see the B partner.

12:36. Wow. Got it! Very subtle. A is yellow, warm yellow. Very close, orange star, the B star, to the east. C, again, was opposite, inside the triangle. C looked orange. Wait. Or was it blue? Or grey. Ha! Super-dim. Wow, all with the low power eyepiece.

Felt chilled. Damp air. Coveted my coat. Grabbed some hard candy.

Chose my next target and issued the command to slew. The mount started a big motion that I wasn't expecting so I halted it. Oh. Wait. Not a fault. It was because the item in Pegasus had crossed over the meridian. Right. (I was happy to see the Abort Slew button worked well.)

Picked a new item on the current side of the sky...

12:52. Checked the conditions: 95% humidity, 13.4°C, oh, it dropped to 13.3, steady pressure, rain. I turned up the dew heater outputs.

Did I hear the last GO train rolling in?

12:57. Figure it out, at last, my star field between the King and the Queen. Not far away from my objective.

Spotted Struve 57! Faint tight pair in Cassiopeia. Extremely faint. The right star, to the north-east, was brighter. Mag 10.5. The B star was the left on, mag 10.7. Huh, barely different. Roughly pointing to the bright yellow star (HR 212). SkyTools showed an alignment below the yellow star; I thought they were pointing toward the faint star above, TYC 04303-0585 1. Maybe it is a fast-moving binary?

Panned about. A bit to the west. Something caught my eye.

There were a million doubles...

1:03. Landed at HD 3162. An official double in the Washington Double Star catalogue as member HJ 1983.

This was crazy. Just to the west was a little trio, or multi-star, system, with mag 10.0 star TYC 04303-2073 1. ST3P did not show this as an official double. Crazy.

Wanderin' Cas.

1:07. Finally arrived my desired target, a frequently auto-suggested item from SkyTools, HD 3891. Tight double, equal, white. Faint star above or north, orange, that was the C companion. Almost all were inline. Also called STF 48.

[ed: Heh. Close to the Struve starting point.]

To the south-west there was an interesting arrangement of close-together stars, with SAO 4170. Once again, not an official double. Three stars in a line, faint one in the middle.

Slewed to the open cluster Collinder 463 aka OCL 324. Not far from Segin, the left star in the W, in Cassiopeia. Positioned in the centre. Mostly faint stars. Clearly harbouring some doubles. Sparse.

1:15. Left and right for me; west and east. Bright star on the left; west. HD 10563 or mag, HJ 1089. A four star system. The A and B stars were obvious. Wide at low power. The C and D pair was at a 90 degree angle to A and B. Much fainter. One third or one half the AB separation. Very near the centre of the cluster. Just south of centre.

With TYC 04318-2177 1, there was a tiny triad of stars, east of HD 10563. Nutty.

East-south-east of the cluster centre was a faint pair, about the same split and orientation as HD 10563 AB. No ST3P designation. Included TYC 04318-1605 1.

Noted a triangle, a triplet, of faint stars to the east of the cluster mid-point. This included star TYC 04318-0011 1. Why not catalogued?

1:24. Found δ (delta) Cephei on my list but I couldn't remember how to visually assess it. Found an AAVSO article on the ESO web site that clarified things: use ζ (zeta) and ε (epsilon), the stars making up a flat triangle with delta. Magnitudes 3.6 and 4.2 respectively.

I thought it brighter than ε but less than ζ. So that would be around 3.8 or 3.9 maybe? [ed: Double-clicking δ from the chart with the time set to 1:14 AM, the Object Info box says the mag is 3.9.]

1:32. Headed to the north edge of the Collinder cluster to dig out the faint, tight pair HJ 2068. Wow. Extremely faint. Mag 11 and 12 stars. Angled north-south, pointing a bit left of the star SAO 4481.

Slewed to next.

1:35. Checked out 15 Trianguli, a selection just to get in the neighbourhood really. A rather wide pair, yellow and blue. An amazing gold star. A fine double.

Noted a pair to the west. Why would they, at the same separation, not be considered a double?

Spotted the faint star near 15, GSC 02332-1623 at mag 11.9.

1:47. Clouds! Moving from the north. Uh oh. Must have been low, they were bright white, reflecting wasted light from town.

Marched to my next task. A fun item, something from the Coldfield collection... HR 9074 or Struve 3050.

1:52. In the baader planetarium ocular, two equal stars touching. Oriented north-south, more or less. Both yellow, same intensity, same colour. Nice. The software said it was a triple, with the third member well away. Clouds distorted view. The software did not show the C star, oddly. Couldn't get it to show in the Context Viewer. I found it in the Interactive Atlas chart. Hovering over C said mag 14.6.

More clouds.

OK. I decided to finish. Remembered to disconnect the battery pack from the tripod ring light.

Inspected lenses. Dry. Everything else was wet.

2:03. The OneWorld, in the tent, under cover read: 94%, 14.0°. The Oregon, out in the open, read: 98 and 12.9.

2:12. Inside. Dropped off gear. Wide awake as usual.


I remarked about the Struve catalogue starting point in this point. I noted in Haas's book, she lists Σ10, Σ16, Σ30, and so on. They are found in Cassiopeia. This strongly suggests that the first ones are in the vain Queen's constellation...


Hold the phone. Found STF 12 in Pisces... So now I don't know how it works.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

snowball runaway clumping

Read a report from last year about the lumpy universe and how the "relentless pull of gravity... taking over [can make] a tiny mass... snowball into runaway clumping of matter." But results are still surprising.

While scientists continue to study 10 million galaxy images captured by the Hyper Suprime-Cam Survey (HSC) of Japan, team member Surhud More said the current "lumpiness is less than the expected."

This echoes the analysis from the VLT survery from 2016.