Sunday, May 31, 2020

scuppered by clouds

Back in the Geoff Brown Observatory....

Mid-day it really cleared up. Made me think it would be a rather good evening! I was feeling hopeful.

It was nearly perfect during the flyover too!

10:54 PM. Now big fluffy clouds everywhere.

Killed some time.

Checked the Clear Sky Chart. Looked a mishmash, like last night. Checked the Aviation web site, which was very misleading last night. Michigan state looked awesome. The CAO weather page said as of 10:53 PM, 10 min avg 6.4, wind direction (to the) ESE, speed 12.3, high 46.7, humidity 94, 10198 pressure, temp 6.3, wind chill 5.1. Brrr! Looked at the sky—not great. The Environment Canada thumbnails showed clouds. Clear Outside looked bad, after reloading. Fired up Good To Stargaze on the computer. It said it was good now. Liar. Also loaded it on the phone so to store the location. Forecast mode, all the future time slots were bad. Cloud, 18% or higher. Damn... Tonight looked to be a write-off.

11:20. Scary Bear Rhonda visited. I showed her my overexposed flyover shot.

I asked what movie she wanted to watch...

twice as fast

Rhonda helped me cut the CAO lawns. Her first time on a ride-on. She had a blast. I was so grateful. Huge job given the height of the grass. 

watched docking

We watched the docking. Pretty exciting to see SpaceX Dragon dock to the forward hatch of International Space Station.

Dragon DM-2 docked to ISS

Watched the welcome ceremony, head bonk, and Public Affairs Office (PAO) event.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

I saw both (Blue Mountains)

Tried to image the "dual flyover" of the ISS and the Dragon but I goofed on the exposure settings.

Rhonda watched from the deck of the house while I monitored the camera from the west lawn.

The International Space Station arrived on schedule, was easy to see, was bright, and put on a good long show.

The Heavens Above data must have been wrong because nothing preceded the Station. But has I walked from the side to the back of the house, I spotted a faint point following the output outpost. It had to be Dragon, it only made sense, that it would be chasing the ISS. 

Tried to point it out to rho but I don't think she saw it.

saw Endeavour reach orbit

Just missed the launch proper but watched the NASA astronauts reach low-Earth orbit in the SpaceX Dragon called Endeavour. Pretty cool. Could do without all the chest beating. I view this as a big step for humanity, Musk getting one step closer to his vision of a multi-planet race.

installed dew gear

Installed the dew heating equipment on the RC8 telescope in the Sue Lora Observatory. A new Kendrick ring for the secondary, from KW Telescopes, delivered by Tony, I glued in place. Wrap, controller, and power panel from the late Wayne Gilbank. Took photos for Steve.

battled clouds (Blue Mountains)

Set up in the Geoff Brown Observatory, hoping, wishing... Found the UPS plugged in and powered on. Thank goodness there wasn't a lightning strike.


10:06 PM, Friday 29 May 2020. Here we go.

It was cloudy so there wasn't a huge rush.

Oh. Computer woke up. Logged into GBO desktop machine—a little foggy on the password as it has been a while, a long while, the gap over the winter, and the COVID delays. Once the Software Bisque TheSkyX planetarium software was running, I connected to the Paramount ME. Homed.
Instruments: GSO 16-inch RC, Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
Got my netbook going. Mouse going. The bag for John Repeat Dance was still inside the house so I didn't have my red film. Connected to the external monitor. Decided to keep list on netbook and the Interactive Atlas chart on the other monitor. The old SkyTools 3 doesn't know how to deal external screen sizes properly... Played with red film. A little small for the 4:3 flatscreen.

10:11 PM. Powered on Sony recorder. Power showed at 100%. I had spares ready.

Considered the lunar occultation. A couple of hours away. I could set the camera around midnight.

Slewed to keep OTA horizontal.

Let some air in to settle the big 'scope, the 16-inch glass. Still no working cooling fans...

Loaded up the weather dashboard. The European model was not looking good. Cloudy and getting worse. The Canadian model in the Clear Sky Chart showed clear to the morning—ah no. Local weather: wind calm; temp 11.8°C, barometric pressure falling.

Headed inside. Chatted with Rhonda.

10:47. Returned with water and red film for the ASUS. And jelly beans!

A big cloud was parked overhead. Grrr. Looked at the weather imagery from the Aviation site, infrared, water vapour. Seemed we were at the edge of a trough.

Turned off tracking.

Occultation would be at 1:30. Made a detailed sequence plan, all based on the occultation. Took data from the ST3 Nightly Events Planner. Updated the comet data in the software. Compared to aerith and cometchasing from skyhound. They looked doable.

C/2017 T2 - head area
C/2019 Y1 - belly, rear feet

Put the comet viewing on the plan after twilight.

Checked the sky again. Nothing. The clouds looked worse.

I wondered when the Railway was visible. I found a wikipedia note that said when the Moon's age was about 8 days. Moon was currently around 7.4 days old.

Oh yeah. I could try to image NGC 6520. That would be good. I could use with GSO 16 from the GBO with the wall panels dropped so to get low down to the horizon!

Checked the skies again. Frack! Done. Quit. Headed indoors. Opened the 1.5L bottle of wine...

12:10 AM, Saturday 30 May 2020. Moon was poking out a bit. A few stars visible...

Tried to view the Moon, started to increase the power, but it dimmed... Stoopid clouds. I was ready to go. But then it completed clouded over.

Rhonda popped out. Nothing to see unfortunately. She helped me shut down. Time for another glass.

Missed the occulation...

1:39 AM. A few scattered clouds. Transparency looked good. Fired everything up again.

Slewed to SAO 80493. Oops. Too low.

Red star SS Vir. Got a quick peek before dimming. Cool colour. Viewed at 54x.

Clouds again. Clear around Boötes.

HR 7140. SAO 67566. SHJ 282. Nice. Obvious double with A and C. It's a quad. Tried for more companions.

Fully clouded out. Damn.

2:00. Headed in, for the final time.

Friday, May 29, 2020

spotted Mercury and Venus (Blue Mountains)

Rhonda and I saw Venus very low. About 3 or 2 degrees above the horizon. I saw Mercury naked eye before I saw Venus. Mercury above! Weird.

Could see a nice crescent for the second planet in the 15x70 binoculars.

I thought back to the driveway sighting a week or so back. Wasn't Mercury below Venus then? Speedy planet...



Confirmed that on the evening of 21 May, Mercury was just below Venus.

So Mercury has been rapidly climbing to greatest elongation (4 Jun) and Venus has been quickly "falling" into the Sun heading toward inferior conjunction (2-3 Jun). Fascinating.

made FNGC gallery

Just rolled out my Finest NGC image gallery.

It occurred to me to make a gallery specifically to show my images of the RASC Finest NGC objects. While these NGC images are shown in my main image gallery, they are not in any particular order or grouping. My FNGC gallery lists the 110+ deep sky objects the same way they are noted in the RASC Observer's Handbook.

Most of the images are shown in black and white, the luminance data often, occasionally hydrogen-alpha or ionised oxygen. 

As I assemble colour images, I will substitute the B&W shots. In other words, you might revisit from time to time to see the colour work show up... That said, don't hold your breath. It will take me a while.

It is fascinating to me to see all the celestial objects captured at the same scale!

Almost all images were captured with the Burke-Gaffney Observatory. The Sculptor Galaxy, NGC 253, was imaged with the Abbey Ridge Observatory. Both are in Halifax. These robotic telescopes are accessible via social media.

The only object I have not imaged is NGC 6520. It is too low in altitude for BGO. It might be accessible at ARO...

Thursday, May 28, 2020

two beer to try

I grabbed from Farmer In The Sky by True History brew company. It is a dry-hopped Pilsner.

Farmer in the Sky beer can

I love beer from Pilsen... It will be interesting to see how this local beer fares.

It's kinda fun when you surf into their web site.

upon arrival at True History

Rhonda picked up some Rainbow In The Dark. Very nice can.

Rainbow in the Dark beer can

A Barrie outfit, Redline Brewhouse. Bunch of gear heads, it seems.

upcoming RASC TC events

The RASC Toronto Centre will continue online meetings and presentations for the time being.

The next RAN will be on 17 June. Sick of me, yet? I'll be talking about how to make an inexpensive dew strap for an eyepiece or camera lens.

The next DDO event is scheduled for 6 June. Dr Rupinder Brar will be talking about the discovery of gravitational waves!

Keep an eye on the RASC TC YouTube channel...

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

presented on sharing

Delivered a redux of my "sharing" presentation tonight during the RASC Toronto Centre Recreational Astronomy Night online meeting. Seems rather relevant given the state of things right now. 

Did a little bit of nudging, urging people to consider blogging and sharing their photos on cloud services. Expanded the showcase section. Felt pretty good. Took a couple of questions.


The raw unedited video is on the RASC TC YouTube channel. My bit runs from 35:19 to 1:08:30.

My eyes are freaky! Green eyes against a green screen...

saw the scrub

Monitored things on the Spaceflight Now website as NASA and SpaceX prepared for the launch of the Demo-2, the first with human crew. Very exciting. But I was not surprised when they scrubbed due to weather violations.

Monday, May 25, 2020

quickly stacked (Bradford)

Quickly stacked the photos from evening of May 21. Used very small JPGs, just over 750 frames. StarStax. Gap filling, comet mode off, trails medium, normal order, no darks applied.

star trails and deep red flashlight bounces

Canon 40D, 18-55 lens at 18, ISO 1600, f/7.1, 20 seconds, manually focused, daylight white balance, RAW format. Intervalometer, DC coupler, tripod.

Me "at work." Rhonda having fun. The stars just carrying on, as usual. The bright one is Vega.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

cut wood (circles)

With Rhonda's awesome 20-inch double parallel-link arm scroll saw, I cut three 14-inch circles from the 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch plywood. They came out way better than I had expected.

I was starting to plan the cuts for the ground plate when it started to rain.

Earlier today, talking with Tony H, I told him what I was working on. Asked a few questions.

He agreed with my approach of using solid wood for the inner reinforcements. He suggested pine or white wood, 1x2. That's what I had been thinking.

He strongly recommended that I water-seal all surfaces. Indeed. I had been thinking about a finish that mimicked modern Dobs with their melamine or laminate finishes. He suggested a good house exterior paint perhaps an eggshell matt. Then he said a paint-and-primer-in-one would save some effort. All applied a good quality non-foam mini-roller. Right-o.

Tony also agreed with me, that nylon furniture glides will work until I can get some virgin Teflon.


See the results after more cutting on 1 Jul '20.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

checked the shots

Checked the camera shots.

Not bad! I was surprised. I can see the sky and stars. Red light streaks everywhere. Yeh.

Found a couple of funny light drawings by Rhonda!

So, I've gotta something to work with...

Checked the frame numbers:

tests 9370-9386 (16)
lights 9387-0143 (~750)
darks 0144-0164 (20)

Checked PhotoPhills again. Using the Timelapse Calculator based on clip length, it looks like the 750 shots at 24 frames per second will yield a 30 second movie! Yes!

cut wood (rectangles)

Dug out my diagram in Visio. Added dimension elements and printed it.

From the 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch plywood I bought last fall, I cut pieces for the Dobsonian base. Four pieces for the cradle (after two tries), the front plate for the rocker box, and the two side plates for the rocker. From scrap I made a couple of retainers. All rectangles.

My new carpenter's square, the repaired work table (with 3D printed part, no less), and inherited circular saw from Mom made easy work of this.

Decided against using plywood scraps for the cradle and rocker reinforcements; I'll get some solid wood for that...

Next big thing is the round pieces. The hard parts.

Friday, May 22, 2020

tried workspace long-exposure

I want to try an interesting "workspace" photo, with star trails above the hedge, and the red lights moving about with me working. Trails / long exposure / time lapse.

Considered the exposure settings from the January southern sky. Doubled the ISO so I could halve the exposure time so to get more shots... 15 seconds?

9:09 PM EDT, Thursday 21 May 2020. First test shot.

Programmed the camera and intervalometer. ISO 1600, 20 second exposure with a 2 second gap. Stopped down to f/7.1. That might be too much. We'll see...

9:22 PM. Focusing. Oh my. After removing the filter, I put the lens at infinity and then wound back a pit. Test shot of a bright star. Tweaked it a little.

Set all that up before I brought the telescope gear from the "airlock" to the backyard. Used the Manfrotto tripod in the west side of the yard. Used the kit lens, set at 18mm, manually focused. AC power from the house.

A solitary bat flew about.

9:40. Once the photo rig was ready, then I set up the telescope gear.

A little after 10, it was clickin' away.

10:45. Rhonda came out.

She asked about the camera. Explained what I was trying to do. She did a rude gesture. Gave her my deep red flashlight and encouraged her to try light-writing. Backwards. Or a star. Moons, clovers! Gave her hints on writing. Helped her with the timing.

She had a go, giggling mischievously. Evil laugh. I would have to wait and see what she did...

1:35 AM EDT, Friday 22 May 2020. Remembered that I need a couple of those lanyards with the clip. I could have worn my flashlight... for the time lapse.

61 Cygni was great.

2:00. Decided to conclude my visual observing. Tore down and put everything away.

2:19. Checked on the camera. Everything seemed to be working fine.

I capped the lens to shoot darks.

2:25. After getting on the telescope gear inside, I went outside to shutdown the camera rig.

2:35. Back inside.

planets, doubles, planets (Bradford)

Startled the bunny as I moved items to the yard.

Around 9:30, Rhonda came out and said she'd seen a posting by Tony H. He had shared a photo of Venus and Mercury. I thought that cool in itself. I also realised it gave her a visual clue (in contrast to my simple text message prompt). She wanted to see them.

We tried looking around from the backyard but nothing was obvious. As I set up the 'scope, she wandered to the front. A moment later, I went to the front. Didn't see Rhonda but spotted Venus right away, very low, through the trees. Bobbing and weaving, saw another point. Hello! Mercury was just below Venus. Very easy. Nice. Found rho out on the street and eyeballing the planets down the walkway. Unfortunately there was a street light right in the way. Not a great view.

Back in the driveway I found a little pocket between the branches. I was surprised how bright Mercury was. I told rho it was normally pretty challenging to see. We did a quick measurement and it seemed the inner planets were a bit more than one pinkie fingernail apart, not quite two, so a bit more than ½ a degree.

Took in the whole sky. Leo was just going into the trees, Corvus was heading toward the gap, Boötes up high, Corona Borealis, the Big Dipper was straight up or maybe a bit behind me as I faced south.

Horrible seeing (as predicted).
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Maksutov
Mount: fork mount with tracking motor, tripod
Method: star hopping, with angle finder
OK. Little after 10. Essentially set up and ready to go. Ready to do astronomy, visually observing. Ready to fine tune. Roughly polar aligned. Low power eyepiece installed.

Once again I enjoyed the portable, movable blind blocking the LED street light on Frederick. I thought the blind particularly important on the new Moon evening.

Lots of people were driving around their buzzy cars, goofing around, burning out from every stop sign. Brother.

Launched the SkyTools 3 Pro Visual Sky Simulation on a star in Coma Berenices.

10:12 PM EDT, Thursday 21 May 2020. It struck me as noteworthy, this outing, given my sciatica problems for the last few days. I wanted to do something, get moving, nothing too heavy. I couldn't stand the thought of losing another fantastic clear night.

Tried to figure out the current visible constellations in the south. The head of Hydra. One target was underneath Sextans. Too low. Hydra. Cancer? Slightly right, above Leo. Nope.

10:16 PM. Felt pain in my right shin. Tried to sit carefully. I made a mental note to avoid twisting.

Switched to high priority list items.

Star hopped from ε (epsilon) Virginis [ed: aka Vindemiatrix.].

Noticed the battery indicator was very low on the Sony recorder. Another mental note: watch the level.

Viewed a double near 29 Comae Berenices: HD 110932. Nearly equal stars. Upper one was slightly brighter. I could not get pronounced colours. Every once in a while I thought the bottom star orange. Top one was maybe white or yellow. Quite nice. The SkyTools software said the north star was magnitude 7.2 while the other was 7.7 (not 8.5). Struve 1678. Easy split. Quite wide at this low power. But still attractive. Separation 36.7". Noted a little triangle shape to the east.

10:28. Weird. I noticed that ST3P said the target was "not currently visible." Huh? I was just lookin' at it.

I returned to 29 Com. I had seen something, along the way.

South of 29, an obvious pair. Wider than Σ1678. About 45 seconds of arc or more, I guessed? ST3P said 65". Oriented south-north. The brighter element was south, below, and would take direct vision. But the secondary was very faint. In the bad seeing, I could barely see it, it didn't like direct. Easy in averted vision. Cool. Stumbled upon SAO 100278 aka S 642. [ed; ST3P said mags 8.6 and 10.0.]

It would be two-in-the-view at lower power.

My comet target suggestion just popped up. Or, a nearby star that I had added, HD 85457. Near the nose of the Great Bear. Hmmm. But I was not really excited about it... I was not expecting an easy hop. I was not expecting a spectacular view in the ocular.

10:36. The ibuprofen caplet gave me heart burn. Ugh.

Began the long hop.

10:44. Rhonda came out. She was bored. I told her I was comet hunting but not satisfied. I was sure I was in the right area but I didn't see anything. Nothing for certain.

I wondered what to show her. What would be good. The Virgo galaxies? The Leo Triplet. I assumed they'd be too dim. Maybe a globular? I chose Messier 3. Whoa. Straight up. Fire trucking hell.

Explained my star hop. Pointed out the starting star, ρ (rho) of Boötes! She couldn't see the screen. I said it was like a lowercase p.

Rhonda thought it a pleasant temperature. I shared that I saw the predicted low was 3°, with a frost warning.

Apologised for the slow progress. Much slower than using a go-to mount.

11:11. Finally landed at M3.

Called Rhonda out.

We viewed the globular. It was granular. A peppering of stars. [ed: Course.] I liked the view.

Got a lawn chair for Rhonda.

Noticed the voice recorder battery level very low. Went inside. Grabbed some AAA rechargeable batteries. And Twizzlers! Movie and treats!

Did some wide-field Mark I eyeball observing.

11:41. Asked Rhonda if she had seen any meteors.

Scorpius rising up through the southern trees. Oh ho! Spotted the Libra! Zubenelgenubi (lower) and Zubenelschemali (above). Verified it with the computer.

Tried to split α (alpha) Librae naked eye. No joy.

Saw Cygnus climbing over the hedge. Lyra and Vega.

23:50. Asked rho if she wanted to see how the focusing Y-mask worked. "Sure." Installed the wire focusing mask I made two weeks previous. I used bright star Arcturus. The 6-pointed pattern was visible although dim. It worked in the Celestron 26mm eyepiece. Then I tried the Pentax 20mm: it was better. Talked about the behaviour of light.

Onto my experiment proper. I had Rhonda focus perfectly for her vision. Then I examined the view with my eyeglasses on. It was pretty good. I removed my specs and I felt the pattern was off a little. Went back and forth a couple of times.

So I think I can conclude the diffraction changes due to the observer's vision. [ed: I should repeat this with different masks and different 'scopes.]

Then I put in the Tele Vue 9mm. She saw the diffraction rings. Like waves around a stone in a smooth pond. I tried to explain the airy disc. She thought it egg-shaped. And the lines leaning a bit to left. Yep, due to an optical flaw in this 'scope.

She headed in, wished me a beautiful night.

12:12 AM EDT, Friday 22 May 2020. Tried for HD 111959 (STF 1686) in Com. Gave up. They must have been too tight. ST3P said 5.7". Should have been possible. [ed: I've made it to 2.2" in the ETX.] The bad seeing, I thought. Mag 7.9 and 8.9 stars.

Compelling group of stars... At low power. L-shape.


Not good for the programme...

12:31 AM. Oh. Forgot, I had the Oregon Scientific weather station sitting out on the table. Checked. The relative humidity was 33%, wow, air temperature 10.7°C, new Moon phase, barometric pressure dropping, cloudy and raining in 24 hours...

Good one in CrB, not far from ζ (zeta). No other observations... Hold on. The entry in my list was for the AC pairing. I checked the primary entry for HD 139691 aka HU 1167. Bummer. Previously observed. But it was on my View Again list. Logged. Probably for the AB pair at 1.3" with a delta-m of 5! I surmised I had just observed the A and C stars at mags 7.1 and 8.0 with a sep. of 15.3". D should have been visible. E would be impossible.

ST3P showed another star. Hmmm.

I think this needs some big aperture.

Was starting to feel cool. Wanted my winter coat. Wondered what I could take back. Grabbed the liquorice and went indoors. Grabbed my toque.

12:47. Centred on the non-ζ star. [ed: Huh?]

HD 139691. Zoomed in the software. Ah. C, D, and E were on top of each other.

The Object Information magnitude data is very different than the values shown when hovering the chart. To the point where I don't know which star I was actually seeing.

[ed: From Stelle Doppie:

A 8.1
B 9.9
C 8.1
D 9.0
E 8.2

C and D are 1.5" apart. C and D are 14.5 and 15.1 from A. So I think C and D are merging...]

Considered HR 6043. Ah, gee. Not doable in the ETX.

1:02. Lovely. Empty field. Nice pair. σ (sigma) CrB aka STF 2032. Looked great at low power. Good. A double-check for the programme.

In Corona, ν (nu) 1 and ν2 are considered a pair, at 360. Bino target.

Next in Corona Borealis.

1:09. I wondered what the transparency was like. Mag limit check. 10.8, 11.0, 12.2, 11.2, 11.5. Good stuff. Definitely in the mag 11 range. Nearly straight up.

Spotted an undesignated pair with Tycho 02580-00742 1.

Viewed HR 6110 aka H V 38 in CrB. What?! I wondered if the secondary was really faint. Hovering over the star, the software said B was magnitude 9.7. [ed: OI box says 6.4 and 8.8.] So weird. Much fainter. 1 or 12:30 o'clock position. Reminded me of the Blinking Planetary. When I looked directly at the star I didn't see it. Tiny bit east of north. Really interesting pair. In the Pentax.

1:15. Checked power. Recorder looked OK. Netbook looked OK. Icon was half-full; 44% remaining; 2-ish hours.

Viewed δ (delta) Boötis. Wide. Easy. [ed: ST3P says 103.8" apart.]

Next. Alkalurops aka μ (mu) works but quite wide. Arguably too wide. Perhaps a target for bins. Very obvious. Bright.

It was interesting looking at δ and μ at the same time, or back-to-back, as they are very similar. Same distance, similar colours.

1:24. A nearby bird suddenly called out. Crazy loud! Hello. You've got a way to go before sunrise...

π (pi) Boo is great. Also known as Σ1864. Good for my programme.

Low battery again.

I considered that delta is not a good candidate.

1:35. Changed one battery again.

Spotted HD 175885 aka STF 2421 in Lyra. Near HR 7140 (which I have viewed)... Fainter pair. Half the separation. One or two mags different. Opposed or rather at a 90° angle—approximately—to the HR pair.

No joy with T Cygni.

1:49. I heard a critter munching on the bread I had tossed by the hedge. Crunchy snack.

61 Cygni aka Σ2758 was great.

Done. I didn't feel like carrying on. It was 2 AM. I'd be lucky to get in bed by 3. Started shutting down.

2:04. Last condition of the conditions. 36%, 9.4, still dropping, still rain.

Tore down the telescope, all while the camera continue to shoot the backyard. Stacked things at the airlock. Started taking bits inside. Took the blind down and stowed it in the shed.

Ho ho! Down at the south edge of the yard, I spotted bright Jupiter in the south-east. Looked for Saturn. There it is! I knew it would be nearby. Awesome. Four planets, pairs bracketing the evening! Nice surprise.

2:17. Hibernated John Repeat Dance.

Took the last few items, TV table and carry-all, to the house. Checked on the photo rig.

2:20. Took everything inside.

2:25. Everything (er, the telescope gear) was back indoors.

Found that John Max had restarted. Stoopid out of control Windows updates!


Imaged STF 1686 on 2 May '21 and 4 May '21.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

imaged 70 Oph (Halifax)

Clear skies. New Moon. Asked BGO to image 70 Ophiuchi again in its 88-year orbit. Aimed at GSC 00434 02340 which puts Σ2272 to the bottom-right.

fast-moving binary 70 Oph in luminance

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

This is the fifth year of imaging!

Annual image log:

2016 Aug
2017 Jul
2018 May
2019 May
2020 May < you are here
2021 May
2022 Aug
2023 May

Forgot to measure the position angle change last year...

Friday, May 15, 2020

hope it's clear for him

Chris messaged me. We caught up on some RASC centre matters. Then he said he was "hoping to nab the last of your spring 2019 and 2020 doubles tonight." Good stuff.

I'm not feeling that energetic in this iffy weather...

Thursday, May 14, 2020

heard from Melody

Melody sent some messages. The first was brief observing notes on her recently viewed doubles."Tau Leo and 83 Leo were fun in the same FOV." But she found Denebola peculiar. Tell me about it. I'm so glad she's enjoying this.

In the second message she attached her reminder checklist. It was very good. Reminded me of when I did a similar thing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

refraction refracted refract frack!

Why does refractor always get tagged as a misspelled word? Blogger. Evernote. Stoopid computers.

tried for NGC 4157

Tried to improve on the RASC Finest NGC 4157. But another satellite went through! First attempt with BGO was 24 Apr '17 and the last was 22 Dec '17. Gah.

helping at RASC TC meeting

I'm on duty for tonight's online Speaker's Night with RASC Toronto Centre. We're hearing from Dr Elaina Hyde on What Happens when Galactic Evolution and Data Science Collide. Turn in on the RASC TC live stream... Programme starts at 7:30 PM EDT.

Binary Universe: good to go?

I received an email notification from the RASC national office. The new Journal was out!
cover of the Jun 2020 Journal of the RASC

The June 2020 edition has a number of interesting articles. There a piece on outdoor lighting. A member discusses his Herschel 400 observing project. There's an article on the recent kerfuffle over Betelgeuse. And a piece of using "classic" amateur telescopes. Lots of neat stuff to read.

In my Binary Universe column I talk about the Good To Stargaze products, the web site and the mobile app. I specifically downloaded the Android tool, version 2.2.26. The GTS products are handy in that they give a high level synopsis of sky conditions. Free access gives the evening forecast. A paid subscription shows the forecast for the next 7 days and allows favourite location profiles to be saved.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

answered some YouTube questions

Andrew told me about a new question on my measuring double stars YouTube video.

from Lab Geek:
I’m in the Southern Hemisphere in Australia, I’m interested in observing double stars, I managed to piece together a spreadsheet from this presentation I’m wandering will the calculations differ between the Celestron and Meade astrometric eyepieces? Also does the Sidereal time factor change?
I replied:
Answer 1:  I think you might have to do some specific calculations for the eyepieces, yes.  That's for a couple of reasons. The Celestron (baader) and Meade are different focal lengths. Given the field of view are different sizes, you will get different drift times.  But the time you get will determine the scale for your eyepiece.  Also, the linear scales between the two are different, one has 50 units and the other has 60.  So, again, that may affect your spreadsheet.

Answer 2:  I do not think the sidereal time will be an issue.  You'll simply need your local sidereal time when logging your measurements.

Then I discovered I forgot to the article link! Sheesh.

Monday, May 11, 2020

xi Boo round 2 (Halifax)

Back on 22 May 2019, I imaged ξ (xi) Boötis or Σ1888 for the first time. It is a binary with a 151+ year orbit. Maybe through annual images I'll be able to see the orbital motion. This is the year 2 shot...

double-star xi Bootis in luminance

Luminance only, 0.5 seconds subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left. Centred on SAO 101256.

I'll try blinking it but I suspect it will be difficult to detect any movement at this stage...

Saturday, May 09, 2020

fielded a question

James, the RASC Observer's Handbook editor, forwarded a message to me. It came in to RASC national via the "ask an astronomer" form. It was triggered by the recent talk I did on double stars. Joel asked:

I am an amateur astronomer in Australia, I recently saw a talk on youtube by Blake Nancarrow about observing and measuring double star systems and contributing your data to science.  I was wandering where I can submit my data for my observations?



I crafted a response informing Joel of the JDSO (in USA, the one I have used) and the Webb Society (in the UK).

he's makin' a list

Chris and I chatted about some good sources for solar system data. Then he said, "I scrolled back on the forum and grabbed your double stars for Apr and May 2019 for a look at." He's hoping for clear skies. Me too. I think it's cool that this forum discussion is becoming the building blocks for some.

Friday, May 08, 2020

made a teenie movie

And there it is! Barnard's Star moving over the course of one year... Data from last night and 25 May 2019. This will be fun as I get a few more years! Indeed, it is heading north.

Assembled in GIMP.

That's a star moving, man!


It's pretty easy in GIMP 2.10 to do this...
  1. load images as layers
  2. enter in name of layer "(1000ms)" or something to that effect
  3. align the images, if nec.
  4. crop, if nec.
  5. resize, if nec.
  6. use the Filter, Animation command
  7. optimise, if nec.
  8. save as a GIF
More or less.

round 2 for Barnard's Star (Halifax)

Last year, on 23 and 25 May '19, I imaged Barnard's Star for the first time. The object in Ophiuchus is a star with very high proper motion. So I plan to image it for a few years to monitor its motion and maybe make a little movie.

Once again, this image in cented on HIP 87937.

Barnard's Star in luminance

Luminance only, 3 seconds subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.


Switched to an archive:


Made a little animated GIF on 8 May '20.

looked again for SEI 774 (Halifax)

Back on on 23 Feb '20., I asked the BGO Robotic Telescope to collect data near TYC 02678-0101 1 as I was searching for the "neglected" or dubious double SEI 774. 

I did not find an obvious pair of stars with a position angle of 105° at a separation of 25.4" of magnitudes 11.8 and 12.7.

With the full Moon out, I thought I'd double down on my image data of the area in Cygnus. So I can have another go. I'll blink the first image. Maybe things are moving. Maybe there's a variable star.

centred on star Tycho 02678-0101 1 in luminance

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

Thursday, May 07, 2020

I think he's hooked

Chris told us he viewed doubles. And he returned to some.
Last night I added 6 Leo (agree with Frank) and HD 109556.  I loved the tiny reddish bonus star added under higher magnification!  The seeing was much better than the rest of the past week.

I re-observed Theta Vir and HD111845, and added Cor Corali, Mizar, Algieba, Castor...  But I'm ready for dark skies again.
Aren't we all.

made focus Y-mask for ETX

Made a focus mask for the Meade ETX 90 Maksutov.

Measured the circumference of the OTA. About 327 millimetres. Maybe 328? That put the OTA diamter at just over 104 mm. 104.1 to 104.4.

Fired up Visio and loaded my Y-mask VSDX file previously made for the Canon camera lens. Lines at the magic angle...

wire Y-make on ETX-90

Made the mask out of light-weight card stock and solid copper wire.

Ready for testing.


Tested the mask in the backyard on the evening of 21 May.


Oops. Totally forgot to try my new approach.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

proofed column

Proofed the June RASC Journal Binary Universe column copy. No major issues.

Frank viewed 6 Leonis

Frank shared another double star report.
I found 6 LEO really nice with a vivid red primary and the much fainter, 9-magnitude secondary colourless.  Monday night had very bright moonlight and it will be interesting to check this double again during moonless conditions to see if any colour appears in the secondary.
I like the repeat value.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

delivered talk on double stars

Delivered my talk on double stars for the RASC insider series. It was streamed live. It looked like we had over 100 people in the Zoom webinar. You can watch the recording on YouTube.


My bit specifically starts at the 0:23 (minute) mark and finishes at 1:06.

Chris nabbed two doubles

On the RASC Toronto Centre forum, Chris reported viewing some doubles.
I nabbed two of them last night - the ones I could see given my driveway set up sightlines. 

The HD 111844/45 pair was delightful.  I also enjoyed the way Theta Virginis at first looked like an easy double, but then the brighter star split to show a tiny companion at high magnification.

Wednesday night looks promising.  I'll set up in a different spot to catch the others.
Another convert!

Monday, May 04, 2020

plotted xi UMa

It hit me, as I logged my recent backyard observations, I have been watching ξ Ursae Majoris for a long time. "I should plot it," I thought.

My records were a little messy so I spent some time collating. Wow. Ten years! Then used some of the techniques I employed in my double star plotter workbook.

plot for xi UMa observations

Here's a snapshot from my Excel file.

I was disappointed to find that my early records were poor. Or, to the point, incomplete. I was focused on the separation and not the position angle. That data doesn't appear, and it's casual at that, until 2016. Still, the last event, from a couple of nights ago, in a tiny telescope—surprisingly accurate.

Position angle (theta) and separation values (rho) are from SkyTools 3 Pro.

plot from SkyTools with time marks

My graph corresponds nicely wiht the chart from ST3P.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

posted May 2020 doubles

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


Chris asked me for my monthly double stars to include in his May 2020 The Sky This Month presentation so you may have had a sneak preview… [tada!]

Here’s a short selection of fairly easy double stars from my life list.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
δ (delta) DraAltais, Nodus Secundus, BUP 186SAO 18222, HIP 94376
θ (theta) VirΣ1724 (Struve)SAO 139189, HIP 64238
HD 111845 ComSTF (Struve) 1685SAO 100307, HIP 62783
HD 109556 CrvΣ1659SAO 157384, HIP 61466
6 LeoSHJ 107SAO 117751, HIP 46774

Please consider adding double stars to your observing list. They are fun, tantalising, colourful, and dynamic! Visible anywhere, any time, with any equipment.

I look forward to hearing how you did! Share your observations. Happy to take questions.

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

Saturday, May 02, 2020

found Saturday Night

Stumbled across Stack Brewing Saturday Night while loading up on provisions.

Saturday Night beer, good any night

A cream ale. Stars and the Moon on the label. Looking forward to trying it.

The Sudbury brewery has a few science/astro themed beers including Shatter Cone and Impact.

happy binary day!

Happy anniversary to all you splitters out there. 🎉

Today is the anniversary of the discovery of the first binary star in 1780.

On May 2, William Herschel discovered the first binary star, ξ (xi) Ursae Majoris. Orbital period is about 60 years. You can watch it move! :-o


I looked at Alula Australis last night in a 90mm 'scope. Very tight but doable.

a few doubles behind the blind (Bradford)

Clear! Yeh! Set up in the back yard. Chris said he was going for the Moon and my double stars. I wanted to knock down a few more doubles...

Startled a bunny as I transferred things to my workspace...
Instrument: Meade ETX-90 Maksutov
Mount: fork mount with tracking motor, tripod
Method: star hopping, with angle finder
For the first time, I tried the light shield. It did not take a lot of time to set up, happily. The old black fabric material from "the Overlook" porch perch from Colbeck. Hung from the same poles which were attached to my folding wagon. I positioned the mobile blind south of my seat so to block the stupid street light from Frederick. It looked like it would work well. Maybe moot given all the moonlight... But it was in part an experiment.

I was warm after all the moving around. I had many layers on including long underwears and the winter coat. And my winter boots.

9:12 PM, Friday 1 May 2020. Fired up the Sony recorder. Battery level at half; 10 hours of space.

Mounted the ETX to the Mamiya tripod via the hex plate.

9:16 PM. Unscrewed the cover from the optical tube assembly.

Noted the Moon surrounded by stars. Just past first quarter. Ah, Leo. Regulus below, Denebola to the left. The Moon was in the handle of the Sickle.

Spotted Arcturus to the east. Ew. The seeing was bad.

Started preparing SkyTools.

9:21. Initiated the polar drift alignment routine in SkyTools. Quickly loaded up the Celestron Micro Guide. ST3P directed me to a star in Sextans, at the intersection of the meridian and the celestial equator. Faint star. I didn't feel like making a long star hop to the exact suggestion so I chose something in that area. Got confused at one point, turning the wrong way in azimuth. "Turn the forks east!" OK.

9:44. Switched from east/west to up/down. ST3P sent me to the east part of the celestial equator.

9:49. Slight drift but I was happy. Didn't want to fiddle with the Manfrotto head. Removed the reticule ocular.

OK. Ready to begin the evening campaign! Applied filters in SkyTools. Considered HD 63241, a "neglected" double I had already tried to check, already imaged with the BGO. But too low, unfortunately, in the trees.

Headed to HD 73668 in Hydra. Seemed familiar...

10:02. Right! Already logged Struve 1255. OK, whatever. Yellow and orange. Very faint. Barely detectable (with the moon glow) in the finder. But a pretty easy target overall, in the head of the sea monster.


Adjusted the star settings in the software, trying to improve the Visual Sky Simulation telescope 3-way view. It's a catch-22. To be able to see the stars in the finder, they need to be a certain size; but that affects the eyepiece view where tight double bloat and merge together.

10:08. Confirmed I was at HR 3963 aka Burnham 1072. I had found this target on the Astronomical League's double star binocular list.

Dropped the star brightness a bit.

Wide pair at 48 power. Blue or blue-white and orange. Nice double but faint. I star hopped from Alphard so not too difficult. Oriented 10 o'clock to 4 o'clock. An east-west angle according to the computer. About 1 magnitude different I guessed. [ed: I was seeing the A and C stars at magnitudes 6.3 and 7.2 with a 20.9 arc-second separation. The B star will need more aperture.]

Noted another pair, to the north-east, almost aiming toward HR. Two in the view. This duo with HD 87425 was not shown as an official double in the planning software.

[ed: Checked the WDS. No entry for this.]

Seeing went away... Got really bad. Hard to focus, even with the new clothespin arm.

Bored drivers ripped around town. Neighbours hacked on their doobies.

Star hopped from Regulus bound for my next quarry.

10:24. Landed at 18 and 19 Leonis. Variable star R was part of the little triangle.

18 was at the 11 o'clock position, for me (north-west). Brighter than 19. A little east of 18 was SAO 98762. Stood up to direct vision at magnitude 9.1. Saw a far away star inline with 18 and SAO: Tycho 831-203-1 at magnitude 9.8. Nothing notable near 19. R Leonis was in a curve of stars with 18 and 19. It was the eastern point of the small triangle. Slightly brighter... all pretty close, those 3 stars. Centred on it.

10:27. Southern star: TYC 00831-1223 1, magnitude 9.9, direct vision. The north star was the second brightest. The north star: PPM 126787, 9.2.

Spotted a star south-east of the triangle. PPM 126807, 10.0.

[ed: Looks like I have visited R Leo during it's minimum. A year from now, it will be near its max... Made a calendar entry. Some info is available at the AAVSO page.]

Some bigoted dudes had a little party in the driveway. OK. Hoped they wouldn't stumble across me.

Hoped the crazy neighbour wasn't gonna let his crazy mutt out unleashed.

Wanted to go for VZ Cancri... Really wanted to get it. But the longer it took for me to navigate to it, the deeper it fell into the western trees. Gave up.

Considered some of the next targets as suggested in the ordered list. Talitha in Ursa Major, stars in the Giraffe. They were setting, getting blocked by the roof of the house. Re-evaluated. Oh. How about the back feet of the Great Bear? Cool, wasn't expecting to get these.

Arrived Alula Borealis (ν or nu) and Australis.

10:51. Viewed ξ (xi) Ursae Majoris. Very equal, in brightness and colour. 11 o'clock, 5. Fainter one to the south. I could easily see the split in the 20mm Pentax (around 60 power). Wanted to go to higher power.

I thought the view in the software wasn't right... No, it was pretty close.

10:55. Checked the Oregon Scientific portable weather station. Relative humidity was 49%, air temperature 6.9°C, pressure steady, clouds showing, i.e. cloudy conditions in 24 hours.

Verified the B star was to the south. The faint dipper shape was to my left, WWWS. Sheesh, very close to each other...

Loaded up the Tele Vue Nagler 9mm. Wow.

10:58. Looked great at 139 power. Equal round airy discs. Seeing was good. Very interesting diffraction rings, nearly symmetrical. B was on the first diffraction circle. Same colour. Wow.

This meant the B companion was east-east-south, nearly so south-east.

What?! 2.2 seconds of arc?! Fire trucking wild.

Great to see that.

Headed to Borealis. Nothing obvious.

Went back down to the 20mm for Borealis. aka Σ1524.

Wondered about making these eyepieces parfocal...

Saw the star far to the west, HD 98216.

The software made it seem that it was doable. 10.1 mag. 7.1" away. That it showed it! But I couldn't see it. Must have been buried in the glare (mag 3.5) of the A star.

Then back to the 9mm. Couldn't see anything. Three or four diffraction rings... Gah!

Break time. Went inside for a bottle of water.

11:15. Back. Water. And some jelly beans!

Next target was in Leo.

Swapped oculars again.

Swapped oculars again.

Nope. Nothing in the 9 or 20.

11:29. I could not see the partner in 81 Leo. Dim, to be sure. Mag 10.8. Darn.

Noticed more wispy cloud bands.

Moving on. Corvus? The bottom half, with beta, was in the trees.

Oh. Spotted a note about a naked eye pair in Corvus. Walked west a bit to get into the notch. Nothing obvious... I could see δ (delta) at the top-left, γ (gamma) top-right, β (beta) bottom-left, ε (epsilon) bottom-right no problem.

It's curious how dim α (alpha) is in this constellation.

Cheated. Scanned around on the computer screen. SkyTools showed it near the bottom of the big diamond asterism. ζ (zeta) is roughly between β and ε.

Rhonda, yawning, ventured outside. "Hark." She noted it was very clear. Indeed.

Offered a view of the Moon. Loaded the Celestron 26mm. While I aimed, she fetched a coat. I tried to use my bad eye...

Reminded rho of my super-duper expensive sophisticated focuser system. "Oh, cool. Wow. I love the Moon."

I grabbed the Rod Ends binoviewer and the 20mm XW eyepieces. Wasn't sure it would work but the angle was perfect. Again, challenging being at the end of the primary mirror movement. A great view. Filled the field.

medium resolution Moon image from NASA SVS

Hint of yellowing in the dual viewer. A bit dimmer, which was not a bad thing.

Rhonda thought if the blind was white I could show outdoor movies. Hmmm...

It looked really nice. Gave her the helm. Encouraged her to push in with the eyepieces. Showed her how to change the interocular distance. Settle in.

She asked if we could see the Sea of Tranquillity. I said I didn't know. [ed: It was right there! With the Apollo 11 landing site near the bottom edge!]

I pointed out the crater near the centre, along the terminator. Perfectly round. Text book. [ed: Copernicus.]

The curved mountain range [ed: Mons Huygens] was the crater wall around the old massive hit. [ed: Mare Imbrium.]

I could see lava flows, ridges. [ed: In Mare Nubium.]

Rays through large northern mare. [ed: Mare Serenitatis.]

Super bright white crater in the east.

Rays from the small crater in the south. [ed: Tycho.]

Some of the medium-size craters in the south looked incredibly deep. Big hits... [ed: Including Longomontanus.]

Rhonda asked about my photos. Oh. I decided not to do that given the moonlight. I want some long exposures with bobbing red trails from my work area and the star traces rising up out of the hedge...

Pointed on the interesting crater near the south [ed: Clavius] with a bunch of little craters, boom, boom, boom, in the middle. [ed: Rutherford, Clavius D, Clavius C, Clavius N, and Clavius J.] And a "late one" on the rim wall. [ed: Porter.]

She noted there was no wind. I said I had been worried that my mobile blind cart might topple over in a strong breeze. "It's like a sail." Indeed. I could collect some jugs and fill them with water as needed.

Three similar, equally distant, small craters near the centre of the lit region. [ed: Pickering, Hipparchus G, and Hip C.]

The seeing went bad.

Choppers! "Incoming."

More clouds. Oh, quite a lot. I asked the time. Rhonda said it was around midnight. Really, wow. OK. So then those clouds were on schedule...

Switched to super-high power for the Moon. Showed rho how to pan with the declination knob. She enjoyed exploring. She noted the presentation; I reminded her this 'scope flipped the view, laterally, like a mirror.

She asked what the average size or diameter of the craters was. I guess 100 km. Then I tried to remember the size of the Algonquin crater... 50?

We talked a big about the history of our satellite.

Hawkeye spotted stars near the Moon.

She noted the bright yellow star in the east. I gave some hints. Arcturus.

I started pre-packing. Rhonda heard the little animals moving in the hedge. No skunks. One bird peeping.

Headed to easy double star ν (nu) Draconis. "Dracula?" asked Rhonda. Well, the Dragon, yes. She thought them equal. "The Dragon's Eye." Looked nice in the little 'scope. [ed: aka Kuma.]

Clouds had pushed off to the south. If to the north, they could be mistaken for aurora.

I wanted to know if Hawkeye could see ζ Corvi with just eyeballs but my green laser pointer would not start up properly... Man!

I had HR 4691 on my list but then on checking the Object Information box in SkyTools learned that it was crazy difficult, a very tight pair, way below my life limit for splits. Part of the zeta group. It must be that HR 4691 A is considered the naked eye partner to zeta proper (mag 5 stars).

Last one, with Corvus was in the notch. Moved the blind a bit. Aimed for Algorab. A challenge. Rhonda was up for it. "Oh yeah, really faint." I pointed out the flying V shape. She had trouble with the field. And then John Repeat Dance shutdown—battery done! OK. That's was probably a sign...

Rhonda helped me take down and stow the blind and lug gear to the loading dock...

Checked the humidity: 54%. Did I see around 5½°?

Knocked a picture frame to the floor as I moved things inside. Rhonda worried; no, not a telescope smashing!

1:03 AM, Saturday 2 May 2020. Inside. Grabbed the computer to charge it up.

Time for a night cap, a snoot of whiskey, to wind down.


So, a good evening, overall.

Polar alignment was really good. No appreciable movement at low and medium power magnification. So I think I'm good with the overall drift process. And certainly using SkyTools makes it easy.

Did not do quite as much as I wanted in terms of double star sightings but was really happy tagging Alula Australis!

The portable light shield was great!

A regret: I forgot to look for Rupes Recta aka The Railroad!

Need to check the GLP again...

Didn't get anywhere near ETX mag limit of 11.6. But then, the Moon...


Moon image from NASA Scientific Visualisation Studio.