Tuesday, March 31, 2020

drafted article for local papers

Drafted an astronomy article for Simcoe papers. First time in a couple of months.

attended RASC webinar on Stellarium

Registered and attended the Homebound Astronomy webinar by RASC national office. Jenna was support; the session was lead by Chris V.

RASC homebound astronomy graphic

Chris introduced the Stellarium software and gave a nice introduction to using the tool. I answered a bunch of questions on the Zoom chat channel. And I sent a follow-up to Jenna after explaining that this is still officially beta software.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

drafted BU for early summer

Drafted the next RASC Journal Binary Universe article.

heady stuff

Watched the final episode, number 6, of The Inexplicable Universe series. Tyson took us through Inexplicable Cosmology which had us considering higher dimensions, quantum foam, the multiverse, and antimatter.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

magical stars

Watched Govert Schilling at TEDxAmsterdam. He offered a quick crash class on astronomy with a dash of humble pie. My favourite bit was when he described what was going on inside stars, how stellar fusion makes elements like carbon and nitrogen. It's like "magic." Indeed. It is an amazing and wondrous thing.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

new contract for MDA

shaking hands, robot and human
It was announced today that the Canadian government is supporting continued operations and maintenance of the Mobile Servicing System which includes Canadarm2, Dextre, and the Mobile Base System on the International Space Station by MDA. Woo hoo! See the article at the Canadian Space Agency for more information.

astronomy hotline!

red dial phone
Out of the blue (er, dark), Willy pinged me. "What's bright object is above the moon?"

I was pretty sure; double-checked in Stellarium. "Venus," I told him.

"I knew you'd know. Thanks."

Keep lookin' up.

watched Inexplicable Universe e5

NDGT got into dark matter and dark energy in episode 5 of The Inexplicable Universe starting off with the Pioneer anomaly. Both craft are moving slower through space than predicted and we don't know why. Funny timing given the upcoming anniversary of the Pioneer 11 launch, 5 April 1973. Tyson also discussed the energy state of the Universe in the Inexplicable Space topic. Net zero. Which is a good thing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

another test

Did a full dress rehearsal for the online RASC Toronto Centre meeting.

empty house

Andrew and Ward started all the A/V stuff (from Toronto?), Zoom for the presenters, YouTube for the streaming and recording, Ralph did an introduction (from his home in Mississauga), I delivered my The Sky This Month presentation (from BWG), and then Ralph closed with his modified announcements. Wow. It all worked!

watched Inexplicable Universe e4

Watched the next episode, number 4, of The Inexplicable Universe, one of the The Great Courses available on Kanopy. The topic was called Inexplicable Physics. NDGT talked about atoms, fundamental particles, the three energy regimes, string theory, and black holes. He closed off asking for volunteers to explore the inside of a black hole. Um...

join us next Wednesday for TSTM online!

Join RASC Toronto Centre for our online meetup, webinar, webcast... I don't know what to call it. :-D

I will be delivering a The Sky This Month presentation for April 2020, doing my usual thing of discussing and showing what's up in the sky for the month. With the audio-visual team, headed up by Andrew Reid, we'll be streaming live and recording the session, on the RASC TC YouTube channel.

date: Wednesday 1 April
time: 8:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
duration: about 1 hour
link: https://www.youtube.com/rasctoronto/live

The format is a talking head and slide show for about 30 minutes or so then some question & answer relayed via the YouTube chat. We'll also be joined by president Ralph Chou for some brief announcements.

Please join us!

Be seeing you (online).

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

watched Inexplicable Universe e3

Watched Inexplicable Life, the third episode of The Inexplicable Universe. A few laugh-out-loud moments with Professor Tyson. And the very intriguing aspect of molecules, their "handedness." I have never heard of chiral molecules (or I don't remember learning about chirality chemistry). It's astonishing that organic molecules found in asteroids are split evenly; but on Earth, all are one type.

Monday, March 23, 2020

imaged NGC 4762 again (Halifax)

BGO captured NGC 4762 again. First imaged this thin edge-on galaxy on 13 May '17.

galaxy NGC 4762 in luminance

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

Oooh. Definite improvement. No stoopid moon around this time.

one more time for NGC 4388 (Halifax)

Ordered BGO to return to NGC 4388. First imaged this edge-on galaxy on 3 Jan '18. I was not happy with the results.

galaxy NGC 4388 in luminance

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

Bleech. Slightly better definition in the core but it still seems soft. Still has lots of gradient. This one is vexing.

inspected table

Discovered a few things about the TV table.

The hook-and-loop tab on the leg armature is gone. Missing. MIA. It probably fell off. The other piece though is safe and sound, still attached to the table top underside. Because it was stapled.

So the fix here is easy. Add some material to the leg piece. Glue it, sure, as before. But staple it down at the ends so it won't go anywhere in the future.

The metal tab? It is not gripping the leg assembly when the legs are opened. It is not obvious why but I suspect, over time, it bent outwards. So it is now not putting any stiction or grabbing force to the leg rod while open.

Solutions here include bending the metal tab and chiselling out the inset area it sits on.

I had wondered about locking the legs into position. But as I examined the side rails and leg assembly, it became clear nothing was possible. Going through the table top was not attractive.

Hold the phone. I noted a hole trough the stop/brace. What? Ah. Someone (a human) had drilled through this brace into the leg assembly before. The trailer coupler latch pin, my sqaure lock pin for keeping the legs closed, could feed through here! It was clear I had run into this issue before...

While this would not offer complete protection, it would resist the legs closing.

Huh. When did I do this? It is a faint dim memory.

In the future, I'll put the latch pin through to resist the legs snapping closed. And I'll dig out some new hook-n-loop material for the leg bar and staple it down this time!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

imaged NGC 3628 again (Halifax)

With BGO, I imaged NGC 3628 again. First imaged this hamburger on 24 Apr '17. The Leo galaxy seems to have very low surface brightness and the first image seemed to lack contrast.

galaxy NGC 3628 in luminance

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

I was able to pump up the core this time but there's a nasty gradient. Overall, I think it's better.

tried NGC 2371 again (Halifax)

With the Burke-Gaffney Observatory, I imaged NGC 2371 or the Gemini Nebula again. First imaged this planetary nebula on 27 Apr '16. Imaged again on 1 Nov '17 with oxygen and hydrogen filters.

planetary nebula NGC 2371 in luminance

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

The luminance from 2016 was rather good. This seems comparable.

planetary nebula NGC 2371 in ionised oxygen

O-III, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

planetary nebula NGC 2371 in hydrogen-alpha

Hydrogen-α, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

I think the results with the oxygen and hydrogen are better than 2017. Perhaps because there was no moonlight.

queued BGO jobs

New Moon. Robotic telescopes. Work alone and stay away from humans. I suspected the queues were short at the BGO and it looked like good skies were heading toward Halifax so I piled in some requests. I hope to improve on some past imaging runs.

do not allow undue attention

Huh. Discovered an interesting statement in the Meade ETX user manual.
Do not allow undue attention to precise polar alignment of the telescope to interfere with your enjoyment of the instrument.  In those unusual cases where more precise polar alignment is desirable, refer to [the appendix].
Wow. That's kinda interesting. That's a roundabout way of saying, Don't sweat the small stuff. Chill. Enjoy the view.

watched Inexplicable Universe e2

Watched episode 2 of The Inexplicable Universe called The Spooky Universe. Atomic particles, quarks, and quantum tunnelling are on the docket. Tyson wraps with the matter-energy equivalence, the most profound, to date, formula for everything happening in the Universe. And then asks, what formulae are yet to be discovered.

the morning after

Had some follow-up items from last night...

Tested my hacked KMN lights. They all work fine, more or less, with the external battery packs, powered by my old Duracell rechargeable alkalines (which the Sony audio recorder doesn't like).

Removed the button batteries installed in the standalone KMN lights. Oops.

Tested the button batteries. About 25% were below 1 volt. Ditched 'em.

Opened up Rhonda's LED string light battery pack. Damn it! Battery leak! Two cells were bad and the third was starting to ooze.

Cleaned out the goo with vinegar.

Reprogrammed the Oregon and OneWorld portable weather stations for Daylight Saving Time.

Found an unopened wind sock pack in my FRS/GRMS radio gear but it is too small. Now I have lots of regular foam...

Saturday, March 21, 2020

couple of doubles, Messiers (Bradford)

Set up further south in the yard than I normally do. This was to avoid unwanted invasive light from someone in the townies to the west. They had their bright kitchen light on and their patio door blinds open, flooding my backyard with annoying white light. I positioned strategically putting a tree trunk between me and the light. If I kept low, I'd avoid the stupid streetlight from Frederick Street.

This put me deep in the south-east corner though and cut off parts of the sky.

Grabbed a couple of lawn chairs.

Overall, I was able to set up fairly quickly. ETX on Mamiya tripod. At first the motor drive did not run but I suspect that was a poor contact inside the external battery pack. SkyTools 3 Pro (repaired) on the netbook John Repeat Dance. Started off with the Celestron Plössl 26mm ocular.
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Maksutov
Mount: fork mount with tracking motor, tripod
Method: star hopping, with angle finder
Viewed the Orion Nebula, Messier 42, and the Trapezium to start and to align the finder scope.

Tried to get Rhonda's red LED string lights going. Didn't work! Had I removed the batteries? Totally forgot to check in advance. I should keep cells in that kit. Duh.

Tried, for some 20 minutes, to get the Kick-Me-Not lights to work but they were all kind of wonky! All the batteries seemed dead. Only got one going and it was dim and fading. Totally forgot to load regular batteries in the converted units.

8:59 PM. Could not clearly see Sirius for nearby tree branches; I'd have to wait for it to go into the gap or V in the tree line to the south-west. Orion was right over the gap. Venus was nice and bright. Noted the fuzz of the Pleiades (without my eyeglasses). Spotted the Gemini twins. Canis Minor with Procyon. Auriga with orange star Capella. Taurus, the Bull, was low. The Winter Football was kind of right overhead. Big Dipper was sweeping up through the east hedge.

9:02. As I moved my wood TV table it almost collapsed! The built-in metal retaining clip wasn't working. I need to figure out a way to lock the legs open. Many years ago I had installed a hook-and-loop strap but I don't recall it being in place any more. Maybe the latch pin can be used?

This evening, I wanted to view a Messier or two in deference to the scrubbed Marathon event.

9:14. Viewed Messier 40. Gah. A silly Messier, the strange double star in Chuck's catalogue. Big deal. Surprisingly faint. Wide, equal. Colourless, white or grey.

Tagged 70 Ursae Majoris in the field. It was at my 6:30 PM.

Medium bright star to the south-east HD 107649.

Spotted the two stars close to 70 UMa, Tycho ...634 and 03840-583 1 stars. Magnitude 10.4 and 10.7. [ed: one full magnitude from my life limit.]

I was fighting light. Any time the upstairs neighbours turned on their kitchen luminaire, it dumped light into the yard near me. I noted that this may not be a good spot after all as I was also getting hit by the streetlight over near the Toronto-Frederick intersection!

OK. That was kinda silly viewing M40. Decided to do some "real work."

9:19. Noted the wind sock for the Sony recorder kept slipping off: it is torn. Need a new one. I have some microphone windsock spares, I bought them years ago for the radios, somewhere. But where?

I was getting frustrated with all the little breakdowns and issues. Almost dumped the table again!

"There it is. Got it!" Then SkyTools zoomed when I didn't want it to zoom! Smeg! I was trying to drag the rotation handle in the eyepiece view but I must have missed a bit. Accidentally zoomed at a very high level. Zooming out with the roller button on the mouse took for-freakin-ever.

The target, HD 21700 aka STF A 7 in Taurus, was in the trees. But I did get it.

9:29. Easy pair, nearly equal. Left (west) one was slightly dimmer. Oriented north-east to south-west. [ed: SkyTools 3 Professional says A is magnitude 7.4 while B is 7.9 or 8.1.]

Tried to spot the lower double...

I was still having tracking, drift problems. Verified the motor was running. Huh. Way off... Clutch problem?

The wind was shaking the 'scope. I could hear the wind on the ICD-SX 750 recorder.

Grabbed a different eyepiece. Pentax 20 XW.

Removed the dew-light shield from the OTA to cut down on vibration. Probably won't have to deal with dew (or frost) with the breeze.

Cool. OK. Two in the view! It's a keeper.

9:35. Tack sharp. Good seeing. [ed: ST3P says this is HR 1065 or Struve 401.] The tight double, to the south, was 1/3 or 1/4 the separation of the wide pair. [ed: Separation of Σ401 is 11.3 seconds of arc while ΣI7 is 44.4".] Both very pale, very subtle in their colouring, blue, left, west, the right star was orange. Curiously, the tight pair was brighter than the wide pair! Nearly equal [ed: mags 6.6 and 7.0.].

"Oh come on!" More frustrations moving the table. "I don't understand."

9:37. Wide stars, again HD 21700, were much dimmer, ironically. Slightly unequal. Left is yellow or orange; right (east) was blue.

Great view.

Considered Coma Berenices—too low. Hydra? No, targets occulted by trees. Canis Major?

Switched oculars.

9:43. Was enjoying the low noise... Weird. One benefit to the lock-down, I suppose. Generally quiet around town, little vehicular traffic. It was very pronounced when I heard some joker with a loud rattley exhaust (er, not unlike mine) very rough on his clutch and short-shifting madly. Please.

Decided to try the binoviewer with the pair of wide-angle 20mm Rod Ends eyepieces. I've never used this in the ETX. Returned to M42.

There's a fitment issue. Things were crowded. I had to rotate the assembly slightly counterclockwise to allow the body of the binoviewer to clear the finder scope and angle finder.

This will NOT work in all configurations. The binoviewer assembly cannot be arbitrarily turned. I was viewing a target in the south-west and it worked. But if aiming to the south-east, I have a feeling it wouldn't work.

9:50. I was surprised by the view. Still fairly bright. But a little softer.

The focus control was very stiff, I think I was at the end of the travel. If the binoviewer assembly is not fully seated, one will not be able to come to focus. This is adding a lot to the overall focal length.

It was a little harder to pick off the four stars of the Trapezium. Softer because of the additional glasses and reflections or attributable to the lower elevation? Worked on the interocular distance. Worked on focusing the right eyepiece.

When I was aligned and steady, the view was very interesting. It can't be three dimensional but the impression with dual inputs is very interesting indeed...

9:55. Rhonda joined me. Offered her a view. Encouraged her to focus for her eyes. Then I put my specs on and focused, to match her vision. She split the Trapezium. We talked about averted vision; it might not apply per se with a binoviewer.

We talked about life, the Universe, and everything, in this crazy virus-infected planet.

The binoviewer is really heavy. I had to be careful releasing the altitude clamp.

Cold! Still windy.

Moved to the Sigma Orionis Cluster and double star.

Shared that I was tracking down new candidates for the RASC double star certificate programme; some of the other ones were too hard or too complex.

We saw thin streamers moving quickly.

We tried for The Pup, the faint companion of Sirius. I noted the bent line of three stars included SAO 151867 on the left, to the south-west. Rhonda thought she saw something at the 1:30 position. When I rotated the field in the software, it put the Pup at the 3 o'clock position.

I put the high power Tele Vue 9mm eyepiece in. Slightly non-symmetrical diffraction rings. Rhonda found them a distraction. "Too much noise going on." I could not see anything.

I was feeling cold. My hands, in the thin gloves, were getting cold. I shifted the butane heater from hand to hand. Rhonda headed inside.

Back to a low power eyepiece.

GO train came through town. I wondered how many people were on it.

10:45. Resumed my regularly scheduled programme. Shifted the time constraint filters in SkyTools.

Had a look at the Oregon weather station. The relative humidity was 59%, air temperature -8.2° Celsius, air pressure was falling, calling for rain tomorrow. It said the time was 9:50; I hadn't reset it after the Daylight change. I noticed the wind had died down.

Considered the next target. Found many of Blair's open clusters but I needed to get another double done. OK, 17 CMa, close to where I was...

Software went bonkers again, misinterpreting my drag rotation action as a zoom request. Schlanger!

I was pretty sure I got it. Confirmed. Secondary was very faint. Yellow and orange. Other things... More faint stars nearby? Eye-catching. Increased the power.

10:55. I liked it, H 5 65. Little number-4 shape. But it might be considered a challenge object. Too tough? I dunno... Interesting view with 15 and π (pi).

I could see all 4 stars. [ed: ST3P shows the following magnitudes for A through D, 5.8, 9.3, 9.0, and 9.5, in the Object Information panel; on hovering in the chart: 5.8, 8.5, 9.2, and 9.7. Those latter numbers seemed better.]. D to the south, C in the middle, B to the east. No colours for C and D.

I could not tag B of π [ed: ST3P shows mag 9.6 at 11.5", so doable].

Hands were getting really cold.

Moved the table again. Oh boy. Almost dumped the bino assembly.

Dropped the weather station twice!

Knocked eyepiece covers onto the frozen grass.

Next? Betelgeuse? The comet? Ah, Denebola... Off we go...

11:06. Landed on 93 Leo by accident, a colourful double. Yellow and blue. Pentax eyepiece. Fainter pair, two in the view, the fainter pair (HD 102428) was angled toward 93. Both pairs previously observed. I was still a ways from Denebola (over 5 degrees).

Panned and hopped. Made it. Noted a very wide pair. Screwed up in SkyTools, pulling the wrong chart. Determined the companion was the D star. Learned that B (mag 15) and C (mag 13) were below the limits (well below) of the 90mm telescope.

So quiet I could hear the furnace running.

I don't think Denebola is a good double star for my programme... AD is too wide; the others are too difficult.

Interesting bird sound.

Looked at stars in the notch. Ah. Maybe Hydra would work now...

Dumb ass neighbour let his psycho dog out and the mutt's fluffy radar picked me up, whisperin', movin' about, sniffin'.

Tried to figure out what star I had landed at. Ooh. That was Alphard! Oops. I had meant for a target in the head of the water monster... Much higher. Naked eye I could just make out the 2 stars (in the neck).

Told the barking dog to shut up. Hrrm.

11:22. It is a very easy star hop in the head of Hydra. Lots of stars around, including ε (epsilon) and ζ (zeta). Easy to spot in the finder, HD 73668 aka STF 1255. Faint pair. Easy split in the 20mm. Yellow and orange. They are faint to be sure.

Take care of your loud mutt, stupid human.

I hoped the beast was leashed; I did not relish it bounding across the yard.

I can revisit this double Σ1255 as it has 2 more companions that will appear in a bigger aperture.

The other Hydra target was in the body, south of α (alpha) Hydrae. Too low for me. Too low now.

Legs OK (3 layers); torso OK (∞ layers); head OK (toque, hood 1, hood 2). Hands very cold.

That's it. I'm done. No more energy. Started packing up.

11:28. -9.3°, 59%.

11:32. Put the chairs back. Moved gear to the loading dock. Left the backyard.

Hot chocolate time!

watched Inexplicable Universe part 1

From the Great Courses catalogue available on Kanopy via the public library, I watched episode 1 of The Inexplicable Universe, entitiled History's Mysteries. It was narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson. As usual he was ebullient and effective. He did make one mistake though! Huh. I was surprised by that.

I enjoyed the discussion of the "greatest null result," the attempt, with an interferometer, to show the speed of light varied travelling through the luminiferous aether ahead of and trailling the Earth. NDGT said this was a milestone, a shift from practical, observational form of "common-sense" science to one explained by mathematical formulae and tested by experiment.

spotted thin clouds

Lots of wispy clouds. Hopefully they'll push off. Brisk. Will need lots of layers tonight.

received SkyNews Mar/Apr '20

Finally received my March/April 2020 edition of SkyNews. Over 3 weeks late. Still, it will be something to read, in these strange days.

made the piers

Made some good progress on the DDO telescope 3-dimensional model... The arched north pier was stumping me. I considered some advanced techniques such as lofting but in the end made a hollowed out cylinder and sculpted and cut away.

74-inch telescope and pier 3D model

Used a pentagonal prism for the motor drive mechanism atop the south pier. Nearly done now...

readying for tonight

I'm going into the backyard tonight. Skies are looking good.

Clear Outside chart

Clear Outside is showing green chips from 9:00 PM through midnight.

Good To Stargaze chart

Good To Stargaze shows green chips based on my criteria.

Astrospheric chart

Astrospheric does not paint as rosy a picture with so-so transparency and seeing for the early part of the evening. If I can make it to 11:00 PM, things look pretty good for 2 hours. But then, we're diving toward the dew point...

Just waiting for the Clear Sky Chart to update.

Clear Sky Chart

Currently it looks good after 9.

So I'm going to work alone, access resources online as needed, and be isolated.

What amateur astronomers who find many humans annoying normally do.

she saw them

Rhonda reported seeing Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in the early morning. I was cutting logs. She said she thought she might see the Moon too, based on the APOD image from Montréal that I had shared. Nope, Moon was with the trio on Tuesday; now long gone.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

simulated a webcast

Participated in a test of RASC TC 'casting. Andrew and Betty were the A/V crew. Ward was observing. Jim and I delivered mini-presentations. This to verify viability from Windows and Macintosh platforms, the presenters working from their homes, and to give Andrew more experience sorting the logistics of collecting and collating our data and then streaming and recording to YouTube. It looks like it is all working well.

had a volunteer meeting

Discussed the use of student volunteers at the DDO with Sue and Chris. Still more action items for me.

attended a planning meeting

Had a video meeting with Celia for various DDO matters. She updated me on her presentation work. We talked about digital signage solutions.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

attended DDO meeting

Attended the RASC DDO committee meeting to discuss plans, dramatically altered plans, for the Richmond Hill David Dunlap Observatory. More action items for me.

this crazy sleep

Read a wonderful article at the Astronomy magazine web site. They interviewed Ann Druyan about the new Cosmos series. What an amazing woman! So eloquent, so compelling. Inspiring in the same way as the late Carl Sagan. She believes we have a lot of promise and more than enough capacity but only "if we awaken from this crazy sleep."

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

found Venus second time (Bradford)

7:29 PM. From the Zehrs parking lot, after emergency party mix snack run, without my glasses on, squinting and scanning, I could not see Venus in the smooth sky. Probably focused wrong.

7:43 PM. From the plaza parking lot, after emergency Subway sandwich pickup, without my specs, I immediately tagged the second planet from the Sun.

Lovely sky.

Monday, March 16, 2020

attended emergency meeting

Attended the RASC Toronto Centre council meeting, an emergency session. Ian conveyed that we will shutter the CAO. Andrew and I relayed that we were testing online delivery so we could continue to do presentations and talks. I think everyone is in shock. Some action items for me.

iridescence (Newmarket)

Had another look at the Sun from the big west window, upper level of the Bombardier BiLevel Coach. Ooh. Iridescence! Pretty. Very close to the star, hard to look at. Lots of interesting ice crystals up there. Pinged Rhonda again.

big halo (Toronto)

Leaving the city. From the GO train, I spotted a big halo! A full 360 degree prismatic circle around the Sun. Looked for dogs and arcs but couldn't see any other features.

amazing sky (Bradford)

The sky was amazing. Cloudless and clear. Immediately, from the driveway, I spotted a bright planet in the south-east, off-white, well away from the third-quarter Moon. Too bright for Saturn; must be Jupiter.

During my walk to the GO station, I kept looking. Oh, look at that red point to the west. That's Mars! Three times the distance but to the left was another bright point, same colour as Jupiter, on the ecliptic. But I wasn't sure. SkySafari confirmed it was Saturn.

screen snap from SkySafari showing Saturn, Pluto!, Jupiter, and Mars

Gonna be amazing this year!

Took me a while to get my bearings but when I spotted Cygnus all was well. The Summer Triangle foretelling of Spring. OK, so that meant the bright orange point in the south-east was Antares. I could see Graffias and Dschubba without my glasses but not π (pi) Scorpii. Brilliant Arcturus was in the west. Lovely scene, those three planets.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

watched RTP video

Watched the RASC national Robotic Telescope Project (RTP) information session video by Jenna which was streamed on 19 Feb. Learned about the user structure and fees. I was intrigued by the planned uses: astrophotography, outreach, and science. Listened to all the Q&A. Lots of experienced imagers on board... Good info even though Jenna struggled a little with Zoom. Pricing looks reasonable. Unfortunately, my Number 1 question wasn't asked. But I saw disturbing tell-tales.

for virtual meetings

Andrew and I had a quick phone call today. We're going to test Zoom as an option for running our RASC Toronto Centre speakers and recreational astronomy night meetings.

Friday, March 13, 2020

photo featured in Journal

w00t! My Orion-Taurus shot photo, shot on 29 Jan, stacked well on 9 Feb, was featured in the RASC Journal April 2020 edition. I think that's my first pic ever in the Journal. Wow.

Binary Universe: mount control

That was weird. Went to the RASC national web site and viewed the Journal section and noted the April edition and downloaded it. Hmmm, seemed familiar. After scanning nearly the whole thing, I hit the Binary Universe column. Hold the phone. I submitted that article on long time ago! I finally looked at the footer. April 2019? What the hey? I re-examined the web page. It did not show any of the late 2019 issues nor the February 2020. 'squeeze me? I even performed a filtered search. Oh well. Closed the page, started doing something else... But then thought, let's try that again.

cover of the Apr 2020 Journal of the RASC
This time, as soon as I landed at the Journal section, I saw it was different. All the 2019 editions showed. The Feb 2020 was there. OK. Working as per normal. Bad cache data? "An undigested bit of beef?" Who knows...

Oh ho! And as hoped, the new April 2020 issue was accessible. I downloaded it.

I really enjoyed the Ceravolos front cover image of the Corona Australis Complex and Ron Brecher's California Nebula shot on the inside cover.

I'm looking forward to reading the article on the history of radio astronomy.

In my Binary Universe column I discuss EQMOD. I tested version 2.00 on my Windows 10 environment. The feature-rich suite of tools allows remote computer control of a Sky-Watcher equatorial mount, including guiding. Used with a planetarium app and EQTOUR, in theory, you need not touch the limited, awkward-to-use, frustrating hand controller.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

imaged Wolf 359 for 2020 (Halifax)

Imaged Wolf 359 again, for 2020. A fast-moving, close star. This is the best image so far.

star Wolf 359 in luminance

Luminance only, 8 second subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.


12 Mar 2020
22 May 2019


I found some notes and photos at the SolStation web site. You can see that the star is heading down and right or to the south-west.


Ho ho! When I carefully compare the 2019 shot to this, I can see a small amount of movement. Cool! This will be fun after I get a few years of data...

cancelled MM

Considering virus pandemic concerns, not to mention parking issues, I cancelled the RASC Toronto Centre Messier Marathon event.

Monday, March 09, 2020

still in the sky (Bradford)

The Moon was still up. In the west now, behind mottled mercurial clouds. Saw it last night in the east; now I saw it in the west. It had moved across about ¼ of the sky. I think that shows I only got 6 hours sleep. Ugh.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Luna through the window (Bradford)

Beautiful day today. Opened my windows and threw open the blinds to blow out the old stale air. Lovely. No bugs! Fresh breeze. The Moon just caught my eye, up high, in the east-south-east.

spectral calendar

Spotted this yesterday but I was a bit late. Today, I caught it at the perfect time. The Sun—yes, we have a star at the centre of our solar system, believe it or not—was out, and light shining through a south window went through one of my prisms or cystals, split, and then hit the RASC Calendar hanging on the wall.

spectrum on wall calendar

Apropos, yes?

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Mar 2020 doubles

Sent out my double star "bulletin" for March 2020. It is a short list of suggested targets. I shared this on the RASC Toronto Centre forums. And I post here for everyone.


I'd like to share some double stars for your viewing enjoyment. These are interesting and not too tight. Hopefully the battleship grey skies will go away.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
Σ1327 (Struve) CncHD 79552SAO 80723, HIP 45430
HR 2764 CMah3945, 145 CMa, or HD 56577SAO 173349, HIP 35210
19 LynHD 57102 or STF (Struve) 1062SAO 26312, HIP 35785
57 UMaSTF 1543SAO 62572, HIP 56034
δ (delta) GemWasat or Σ1066SAO 79294, HIP 35550

Doubles are fun and easy! So add them to your observing campaigns for variety and a little bit of eye candy. They are fantastic to show are star parties and lend themselves to good science discussions. They withstand light pollution.

If at first glance, you don’t see anything obvious, keep warm and keep staring.

Be seeing you.
Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

SETI to sleep

Heard from Rhonda from Rina that Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence programme is shutting down. Rhonda said Rina was sad.

Found the article at the SETI Institute website. Made me sad too. Specifically, the volunteer computing part of SETI @ home will stop distributing work.

my BOINC queue

Still three still in the hopper...

at my local

Spotted SkyNews at the drug store...

what have they done?

Looks like Sky & Telescope magazine did a big revamp of their web site...

First impression is that I don't like it. Clunky layout. Unimaginative.

I really don't like the white ground. Hello. Not astronomer friendly. Have you heard of dark mode?

The biggest issue? They moved content. So all their web links just changed. I have many links into their web site. They are all broken now. 404 errors, here we come. Great, thanks for all the make-work.

Sheesh. Don't they know anything about web design?!


It's even worse. Internal links are broken, i.e. article links to other S&T articles are broken. Wow. What a mess.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

showed Castor at 1000x (Richmond Hill)

A guides group booked an event at the David Dunlap Observatory. I was the telescope operator hired gun. Amazingly the skies turned as I rode the GO train into Richmond Hill. So I opened the big dome and turned the 1.88 metre telescope to Castor. We could see the brilliant A and B stars and we easily tagged the C companion. I was aided by Kersti, Ron, Julia, Rohan, Celia, and keener Matt. Humid.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

where's SkyNews?

It occurred to me I have not seen the March/April edition of SkyNews magazine… Posted to the RASC Toronto Centre forum.


Others had not received it. Apparently some sort of problem with the shipper.