Tuesday, June 30, 2020

spotted Canadian content

A Google alert directed me to an article at Vice magazine entitled How to Take Stunning Pictures of Space at Home. Apropos given the new normal. Certainly I've been enjoying some more astronomy from the backyard. As I read the article, I noted some people I know and have actually met, including Dr Parshati Patel. She actually took some lovely photos from my old stompin' grounds near and around St Thomas. Cool!


Curious, reading this, now... given where I am now.

Monday, June 29, 2020

noted Stellarium 0.20.2 shortcuts

Performed testing with Stellarium 0.20.2 on Windows 10.

This is an update of my keyboard and mouse shortcuts listing. This reference is for Windows and Macintosh computers.

The "notes" column to the far right with numbers are keyed to the footnotes. For example, 1 is used to indicate newly added or recently changed items.

controlling the surroundings


show Location window


Fn F6


toggle cardinal compass points




toggle ground and buildings



toggle ground fog



toggle atmosphere or air



toggle sky glow/building lights

Shift g

Shift g

ground (mountain) labels

Ctrl Shift g

⌘ Shift g

return to "home" (start-up) view

Ctrl h



controlling the sky - deep sky

toggle stars



toggle star labels

Alt s

Option s

toggle constellation lines



toggle constellation boundaries



toggle constellation labels



toggle constellation artwork



toggle asterism lines

Alt a

Option a

toggle asterism labels

Alt v

Option v

toggle ray helpers

Alt r

Option r

toggle DSO/nebula labels

n or d

n or d

nebula background images



toggle quasars

Ctrl Alt q

⌘ Option q

3, 5

toggle zodiacal light

Ctrl Shift z

⌘ Shift z

toggle Milky Way



toggle digital sky survey

Ctrl Alt d

⌘ Option d


exoplanet labels, indicators

Ctrl Alt e

⌘ Option e


show Sky and Viewing Options


Fn F4

single constellation mode

remove previous constellations




show all constellations

Alt w

Option w


the sky - solar system

toggle planets and Moon



toggle planet and Moon labels

Alt p

Option p

toggle planet markers

Ctrl p

⌘ p

toggle planet orbits



toggle star-lore planet names

Ctrl Shift n

⌘ Shift n

toggle planet trails

Shift t

Shift t

toggle planet surface labels

Alt n

Option n


toggle meteor radiants

Ctrl Shift m

⌘ Shift m

toggle meteor radiant labels

Shift m

Shift m

controlling lines

toggle altitude/azimuth grid



toggle equatorial grid



toggle ecliptic line

, (comma)


toggle celestial equator

. (period)


toggle meridian line



toggle horizon line



changing image presentation

flip horizontally

Ctrl Shift h

⌘ Shift h

flip vertically

Ctrl Shift v

⌘ Shift v

equatorial or azimuthal mode

Ctrl m

⌘ m

look to east (or n, w, s)

Shift e

Shift e

look up to zenith

Shift z

Shift z

look to NCP

Alt Shift n

Option Shift n

look to SCP

Alt Shift s

Option Shift s


zoom in

PgUp or

Ctrl Up Arrow

Fn Up Arrow

zoom out

PgDn or

Ctrl Dn Arrow

Fn Down Arrow

zoom in or out slowly

Shift with keys

Shift with keys

quickly zoom in/out

mouse wheel

mouse wheel

zoom close to selected object

/ (slash)


zoom out fully

\ (backslash)


zoom very close to planet

/ twice

/ twice

set field of view (FOV) to 180°

Ctrl Alt 1


set FOV to 90°

Ctrl Alt 2


... through ...



set FOV to 2°

Ctrl Alt 8


set to 1°

Ctrl Alt 9


to ½°

Ctrl Alt 0



quickly pan celestial sphere



pan right

Right Arrow

Right Arrow

pan left

Left Arrow

Left Arrow

pan up

Up Arrow

Up Arrow

pan down

Down Arrow

Down Arrow

pan a small amount

Shift Arrow-key 

Shift Arrow-key

controlling time flow

set date/time to now



set time rate to zero



increase time flow

l (lower case L)


decrease time flow



run time at normal rate



increase time flow a little

Shift l (that's L)

Shift l

decrease time flow a little

Shift j

Shift j

drag for time

Ctrl drag

Control drag


flip time direction

0 (zero)

0 (zero)


time with mouse wheel

increase/decrease by minutes


increase/decrease by hours

Ctrl Shift

⌘ Shift

increase/decrease by days

Ctrl Alt

⌘ Option

increase/decrease by years

Ctrl Alt Shift


controlling "regular" time

show date/time window


Fn F5

forward 1 hour solar

Ctrl = (equal)

⌘ =

backward 1 hour

Ctrl - (hyphen)

⌘ -

forward 1 day solar

= (equal)


backward 1 day

- (hyphen)


forward 1 week solar



backward 1 week



controlling sidereal time

forward 1 day sidereal

Alt = (equal)

Option =

backward 1 day

Alt - (hyphen)

Option -

forward 1 year sidereal

Ctrl Alt Shift ]

⌘ Option Shift ]

backward 1 year

Ctrl Alt Shift [

⌘ Option Shift [

working with objects

select an object



centre on selected object



toggle tracking of object



deselect object

right-click or
Ctrl Spacebar

⌘-click or 
⌘ Spacebar


display search dialogue box

Ctrl f or F3

⌘ f or Fn F3

go, i.e. travel, to a planet

Ctrl g

⌘ g

toggle angular measurement

Ctrl a

⌘ a


copy object info to clipboard

Ctrl Shift c

⌘ Shift c


add custom marker

Shift click

Shift click

remove custom marker

Shift right-click

Control Shift click

remove all custom markers

Alt Shift right-click

Opt. Ctrl. Sh. click

working with satellites


configure artificial satellites

Alt z

Option z

toggle satellite display or "hints"

Ctrl z

⌘ z

toggle satellite labels

Alt Shift z

Alt Shift z

controlling the screen

toggle night (red light) mode

Ctrl n

⌘ n

toggle full-screen mode




toggle toolbars/menus, i.e. GUI

Ctrl t

⌘ t

save screenshot to disk

Ctrl s

⌘ s

toggle planet selection marker

Ctrl Shift p

⌘ Shift p

close a window/dialogue box



controlling the application

show configuration window


Fn F2

show help/about window


Fn F1

show script console window



keyboard shortcuts window


Fn F7

show Astro. Calc. window


Fn F10

show Bookmarks window

Alt b

Option b

show Exoplanets config window

Alt e

Option e


show meteor settings window

Ctrl Alt Shift m

⌘ Option Shift m


show meteor search window

Ctrl Alt m

⌘ Option m


quit from Stellarium

Ctrl q

⌘ q


  1. Recently added or changed shortcuts.
  2. On the Mac, the shortcut ⌘ h hides the app. This is an operating system shortcut.
  3. On the Mac, the shortcut ⌘ Shift q causes Stellarium to quit. 
  4. The operation of function keys on both Windows and Mac computers may require the use of a function or Fn key.
  5. Keyboard shortcuts associated with a plug-in. They may not function if the plug-in is not active.
  6. The digital sky survey layering feature refers to the display as a "hierarchical progressive" sky survey.
  7. The "remove" constellation shortcut applies when "single constellation mode" is active, as triggered in Configuration, Tools.
  8. The F11 does not work on iMac 21.5 and 2011 wireless keyboard.
  9. Referred to as surface "nomenclature" labels. This marks detailed surface features on planets, for example, Olympus Mons on Mars.
  10. On the Mac, only works when mouse is dragged horizontally. Only changes seconds.

Some shortcuts were omitted. Notably those for the oculars plug-in. And those to do with scripting.

Finally, of course, Mac documentation and keyboard labelling is inconsistent. We note the symbols below:

⌘ (cloverleaf) is the Command key,

      with the apple symbol on very old systems

⌃ (carat) is the Control key

⌥ is the Option (alt) or alternate key

⇧ (up arrow) is the Shift key

⇪ (up arrow with segments) indicates that the Caps Lock is used

fn or Fn is the Function key

Please report errors in the comments below...


See my "top" list for a very short collection of most frequently used, most helpful, techniques. Handy if heading into a presentation.

tried Stellarium 0.20.2

Downloaded and installed Stellarium 0.20.2, the latest version, 64-bit, to the Windows laptop.

255 MB. It's not a small app anymore.

I like the camera sensor option in oculars. In particular, I like that you can see the sky surrounding the rectangle. They still mask the sky when using an ocular proper. Never liked that. The icons in the toolbar were refreshed. More consistent with the rest of the interface controls.

Had to change the celestial object information. Sometimes there's enough rows so to fill the display vertically. That's too much. Quickly set to "short" which shows but two lines. I'll need to spend some time customising 'cause something in between is practical.

Searching is enhanced. I like the Lists tab.

Sounds like they updated the user manual. Wow.

read Rod's shocking findings

I read Unk Rod (Mollise's) blog post (in June batch) about the major problem he had with his new-ish SCT telescope. Thinking grease was coming off the central shaft, he opened it up. The strange colour and pattern on the inside of the OTA was in fact the paint coming off! Wow. And apparently other users are experiencing this. A surprising mistake, which it seems the manufacturer is not owning up to. The other bizarre thing he discovered is that the applied glue to the corrector plate complicating removal. I immediately thought conspiratorial thoughts... He hammered things out (do not take that literally) thank the Universe but it is just another disappointment from Celestron.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

finished FNGC gallery

Woo! I suddenly remembered I had an image to add to my Finest NGC gallery! After adjusting for image scale, I updated the online image gallery. With my new image of the open cluster NGC 6520, I have captured every item! Very satisfying to see every RASC Finest object there.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

broke 1600

My double star count passed 1600, including the objects seen and imaged last week. That's kinda wild. The doubles attempted count now is over 1720.

Friday, June 26, 2020


Stop paying for stars.

The services that offer to sell you a star are the new snake oil salesmen.

You cannot officially buy a star and have your name, or you dead child's name, associated with it.

The only official body that names stars is the International Astronomy Union.

The people charging you money are evil, stealing from you, taking advantage of you.


at it's peak

Received a neat message from Andy, variable star expert. 
I just ran a light curve at aavso.org and it looks like VX Sgr is right at its peak.  I don’t think many apps do live tracking of variable star brightness, it may be running with ancient data or they might not even bother.  Good catch, though.
I asked if this was nominal, the high brightness, or a blip. Shared my 16 Jun '20 image.


I was using SkyTools 3 Pro through all this. Maybe I'll have a look in ST4V...


Launched the new version of SkyTools Visual. Centred on VX Sgr. It shows a medium bright star. But in my photo, the variable is brighter than nearby HD 165689 (8.1). I'd argue it is a brighter by a hair than V4382 Sgr (8.0). It's definitely brighter than HD 165594 (8.0).


Ha. Learned that HD 165689 is a double. It's sort of obvious now, looking at the image. The C star is to the north-east, well away. A is white; C is pale blue.

answered gears question

Bob Grueneberg posted a question on the Barn Door Tracker YouTube video.
You said in the talk that the full plans are available???  I'm curious where to buy the gears.
I replied.
My full build notes are here: http://computer-ease.com/darkskies/bdtwaab1.htm but please note I did not buy each individual component so I'm afraid I cannot tell you were to get the gears exactly.  The starting kit came from a fellow astronomy member and the kit came with motor, motor gear, main drive gear, curved rod, some electronic bits, etc. 

See my blog note http://blog.lumpydarkness.com/2014/10/reviewed-tracker-parts.html for more details and a photo. 

This is all based on Gary Seronik's design...  But I would think any hobby store would have the parts you need.  Motor gear has 16 teeth; main drive has 64 teeth.  That ratio is important. Gary says he got his from Stock Drive Products/Sterling Instruments.  You need to drive the main gear at 1 RPM.
Hope that helps.

I noticed the hits counter is over 3400! Wow.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

checked the box

Did a deeper dive into the Washington Double Star database. Extracted the 12-18 hour data set and parsed in Excel. Over 30 000 entries.

Used an advanced filter. Learned some tricks for text substring techniques. Applied 64 constraints to make a box around the imaged zone (revealed with the full mosaic).

On the precise coordinates field, any coordinate starting with RA 192 or 1930 or 1931 or 1932 and with +20, 21, 22, or 230 for the declination. In other words, from RA 19h 20m to 19h 32m by +20° 0' to +23° 10' declination. Less than 8 square degrees.

Separation had to be greater than 1 and the magnitudes had to be less than 16. That gave me 47 items. Half of those will still out of range, in gaps, or not visible or not splittable. That left about 20 known doubles in the box...

HJ 886 (inside the open cluster NGC 6793)
SLE 939 (3rd and 4th stars of 886) *
SLE 940 *
TDT 1421 *
STF 2515 (a triple)
SLE 942 *
SLE 943 *
WSI 22
STF 3111
SLE 946 *
KPP 439 *
STF 2523 (a triple... well...)
KRU 8 (near Σ2523)
HLM 23 (near Σ2523) *
J 1221 *
LDS 1023
COU 516

I plotted all those... In general, all visible and splittable in my images.


* Not in SkyTools 3 Pro, as an official double.

expanded the mosaic image

Updated the mosaic. This adds the images from Friday night, another 18 or so, atop those from the Thursday run. You can see the clouds coming on with the last image.

expanded mosaic in Vulpecula

It was good to fill some gaps and expand the zone a bit.

With an overlay from SkyTools I was able to position the outliers.

I also brightened all the layer images to help one see them a bit better.

only found about a dozen

Compared the Interactive Atlas chart to the expanded mosaic, blinked it exactly. I had added all known doubles in SkyTools within a 5 degree radius. I removed all the out of bounds entries. The process also helped me fine-tune the locations of a couple of disparate images.

The amazing thing is that according to SkyTools, there are only about a dozen official doubles in the zone that I photographed.

Now I'm full expecting to find more in the WDS but still... it's kind of amazing to me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

more than a boatload

Wowzers. I analysed my Thursday night Vulpecula double star image, called Tycho 1612-753-1. And I found 18 undocumented doubles! What?! That's in the first image!

double star candidates marked

And I shot 18 images on Thursday night.

And I shot 18 more on Friday night.

That's 648 total possible double stars! Boom!

Be careful what you wish for...

Now, that said, I do think it won't be that... much. Thank the Universe.

That's because there's a lot of overlap in my images (which you can see in the mosaic so far). Also I think the image I started with is chockablock with doubles but some of the others are not, won't be.

Still... at half... that's over 300 double stars! Crikey.

identified more Vulpecula fields

Identified the images from the Friday night double star run. All times Friday late-night and early Saturday morning. All images RAW, daylight white balance, ISO 3200, 20 seconds. Darks not applied, so lots of hot pixels.

HD 182570 imaged at 23:47.

Vulpecula stars with HD 182570

HD 183013 captured at 23:52. It's the bright star below centre in the image below.

Vulpecula stars with HD 183013

[ed: Imaged HD 183013 with BGO on 25 July 2021.]

[ed: Did in fact capture the area, wide-field, with the MRO refractor a few nights before.]

HD 183013 at 12:56 AM. It's near the bottom edge of the frame below.

Vulpecula stars with HD 183013

TYC 2138-183-1 imaged at 1:02.

Vulpecula stars with TYC 2138-183-1

HD 184173 photographed at 1:04.

Vulpecula stars with HD 184173

Caught tight double COU 516 at the far west edge of the image. Too tight at 1.8" to split.

GSC 1613-636 photographed at 1:08.

Vulpecula stars with GSC 1613-636

TYC 1613-269-1 imaged at 1:09.

Vulpecula stars with TYC 1613-269-1

The top of the backwards L, on the west side of the image, that's double HD 344494 aka A 161. Whoa, with a sep of 0.20", it is definitely not splittable.

TYC 1613-569-1 imaged at 1:14.

Vulpecula stars with TYC 1613-569-1

GSC 2125-1477 photographed at 1:16.

Vulpecula stars with GSC 2125-1477

GSC 1612-1177 imaged at 1:18.

Vulpecula stars with GSC 1612-1177

HD 344319 is at the top of the bent line of stars at the right or west. That's TDT 1453 with an impossible sep of 0.60".

HD 344413 imaged at 1:21.

Vulpecula stars with HD 344413

TYC 1612-761-1 imaged at 1:22.

Vulpecula stars with TYC 1612-761-1

TYC 1612-571-1 imaged at 1:26.

Vulpecula stars with TYC 1612-571-1

Fantastic stuff here! 

OK, left of centre, stlightly east, there's that isosceles triangle. The bright northern apex is double star HD 183014 aka STF 2523. A simple double with two equally bright stars, white to the north, pale yellow to the south. They look to be at a 45° angle compared to the image frame (but that's off by about 10 degrees). So the position angle is around 135? Plus or minus 10? Very close, touching, a snowman shape. ST3P says they are magnitudes 7.4 and 8.2 at a separation of 6.5". PA is 148°!

[ed: Oh. Look at that. I observed HD 183014/Struve 2523 in the past... Evening of 8 Aug '14.]

The bottom apex is double star HD 183058 or KRU 8. I just love the dim companion to the south-east. Maybe again 135—no, 145! Blue-white and pale orange. Many magnitudes different. ST3P Object Information says: mags 7.1 and 14.2, PA 135°, sep 7.0". Sweet.

The dim star at the mid-point apex is a double. But not splittable at 0.4". That's HD 344434 or A 2786.

There's an orange star a bit north of centre. WW Vul or LI 2. SkyTools says the B element is mag 16 so I don't think I'm getting that.

[ed: This is a little hard to see but there's a wide pair at a 45 degree just right of centre. Part of a triangle with a very faint object at the right or west. That's the double star KPP 439. ST3P thinks this is a single star called GSC 01612-0336. Very faint, oriented roughly east-west. Tight. The image quality is poor so it makes the two stars touch.]

annotated image for doubles near STF 2523

[ed: Oh. Just learned that HLM 23 is the double of medium faint stars south-east of the lower triangle apex. I thought that was KRU... A is brighter, to the south-west; B is about 1 mag dimmer and to the north-east. Both are white. SkyTools calls the bright star TYC 01612-0316 1.]

TYC 1612-205-1 imaged at 1:28.

Vulpecula stars with TYC 1612-205-1

PPM 108934 captured at 1:30.

Vulpecula stars with PPM 108934

There's an obvious pair at the left (east) with equally bright pale orange and blue stars. Nearly perfectly west and east. That's WSI 22. I visually spotted them a couple of nights back.

The bright unequal touching pair is HD 182570 aka Struve 2515. A is white, B is pale orange. It's actually a triple. The B companion is the bright one merged with A. I believe C is visible, well away, due south, a dim orange.

TDT 1421 photographed at 1:33.

Vulpecula stars with TDT 1421

TDT 1421 is a very tight double with a faint companion, 1.0" separation. It's the dim star slightly right of centre. I cannot split it in the photo. The medium bright star toward the south-east is TDS 990. It's 1.1". So, again, no split happening.

At the far east edge of the image we have HD 344338. STF 3111 is a 2.5" double. It is rod shaped in the image. I think that's legit as the rest of the field shows round stars. But certainly they are indistinguishable.

Collected photons for HD 182421 at 1:36.

Vulpecula stars with HD 182421

This image encompasses double HD 344315 also referred to as TDT 1416. Not split at 0.7".

Interesting that last shot. It has an orange cast. The light pollution from Newmarket bouncing off the incoming clouds?

Most were manually identified. Astrometry.net helped with one or two images.


Oops. Forgot to include for review the image with NGC 6793.

small open cluster NGC 6793

This is centred near the bright star HD 344322.

The brightest star, heading east, is HD 182695. The double, aka COU 513, is not splittable at 0.2".

Now, finally, within the small open cluster, toward the north, there is the obvious close double. HJ 886. They seem to be equal in colour to me and about 1 magnitude different. The PA is just a few degrees from north, 5 or 10? ST3P OI says: 10.4 and 11.5, PA 47°, sep 9.3".

[ed: Dove into the WDS. The equally bright stars south of HJ 886 are now considered the C and D stars, SLE 939 AC and SLE 939 AD specifically. Cool! C is roughly south and D is south-east. C is about 5 or 6 times the AB split and D is a bit less than double C.]

[ed: With a nudge from the WDS, spotted the tight double north-east from the 886, inline actually. Very tight, black line, with B about two magnitudes dimmer and to the south, maybe about a PA of 200. That's SLE 940.]

[ed: Bottom-left quadrant of the image is a faint pair, A to the south-east. Touch wider than 886. Oriented around 310 degrees PA. They are a bit dimmer than 886. That's SLE 942. SkyTools calls this TYC 01612-1393 1.]