Monday, August 31, 2020

posted Sep 2020 doubles

Prepared my double star "bulletin" for September 2020. It is a short list of suggested targets. I will share this on the RASC Toronto Centre forums. And I post here for everyone.


Here it is, a day or two before the full Moon and you're thinking you can't do any astronomy. In fact, planets, the Moon, variables, and double stars are up for grabs.

For Sep 2020, here’s a short selection of interesting double and multi-star systems from my life list for your consideration.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
HD 194192 CygHJ 1510SAO 49538
57 AqlΣ2594 (Struve)SAO 143898, HIP 97966
HD 197913 DelΣ2725HIP 102490
30 PegHJ 962SAO 127453, HIP 110298
3 PegSTFA 56 (Struve Appendix 1)SAO 126940, HIP 106783

Have a go. See if you can split them and detect colour. I hope you'll share your discoveries.

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

Sunday, August 30, 2020

volunteered at CAO

Completed my tour of duty at the Carr Astronomical Observatory. Last official stint for the season.

I was very stressed coming into the weekend. That was mitigated by some clarifying words from the president.

Retrieved some missing computer hardware. Supplied helpful panel breaker information for the members given circuits will be overloaded. Flushed out more cluster flies. Verified the function of the dew heater system for the SLO—now that all the pieces were finally in place. Verified GIMP was installed on the dining room computer—a Linux machine. Verified kstars was installed on the same machine. Could not figure out why the Launcher icon is screwed up. Provided some remote support for users on a forum subgroup. Cut the lawns. Thanks to Rhonda this time was greatly reduced. Transferred an appliance to the alternate kitchen area. Frequently tested the internet performance for the A/V team (PINGs by wifi and hardline, speedtests, WLAN scans) as they were desperate for this information and previous requests had gone unanswered. I even connected a MallinCam Universe camera to the GSO 16 to provide test results for the full screen capture. Assisted a paying customer with a status update of their property on the grounds. Assisted remotely during the DDO speaker's night. Noticed the ride-on mowers were in disrepair and improperly configured. Found that fellows are still not doing their expected duties and chores. It's unfair and discouraging. We're all in this together. Noticed the generator monitoring systems were not functioning. Discussed some IT matters with two keen volunteers. Noticed the damaged west siding was repaired—wow, I only complained about that for four or five years. 

Many things are still unclear for supervisors as to how to receive members and how to proper clean and disinfect the facilities. It is startling to me how members do not follow government recommended protocols during the pandemic crisis—meanwhile there's a push to allow more people on site. That is very disturbing. I sure hope the CAO does not contribute to COVID infection rates. 

I don't envy the current crew on the CAO committee. But there are so many gaps and mistakes and confusing things for the member and for the supervisor that it is... well, mind-boggling. I remain unclear about the solutions to use for cleaning and disinfecting when I think simplified labels could make things obvious and clear for members and supervisors. I'm sure it is taxing but there is much to do to help simplify and clarify things. Personally, I got caught in the middle of document revisions which made for a duplication of effort. Maybe some don't care about that but I find it frustrating especially when it could have been avoided. These are challenging times. And I know that volunteers are working hard. However the lack of communication is... stunning.

Experienced rain and cloud on Friday and Saturday nights. Looked like perfect skies for Sunday evening. Of course, we had to leave. This was the second occasion going up that I was met with bad weather. Being a supervisor is a lot of hard work, very rarely recognised, and some perks are meant to offset that but so far, this year, it's been a burden. It is disheartening and demotivating. The environs are a bit oppressive and the leadership is wanting and seems out-of-touch or unawares. Shame, when we all need a bit of shoring up.

Hopefully things will improve. I know there are some good people involved.

That said, it was good to get out of these four walls... Good eats. Good laughs. Fresh air. And quiet. No loud cars, noisy neighbours, insane out of control barking dogs, fighting neighbours, screaming neighbours, neighbours so self-centred it makes you sick. Peaceful and quiet.

Oh. And my beautiful vines are alive and well!

early bday surprise

Woo hoo. Early birthday gifts!

Received two spaced-out beverages.

Zodiac beer by Omnipollo (Sweden). I remember having this before. Enjoyed it then. Can's different. The black top is unusual.

Deep Space THC infused carbonated drink by Deep Space (Ontario). Little can. Looking forward to trying that.

Thank you!

strange copy

That's quite a headline. For the comet article in the current SkyNews. Does she not know? Wow.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

death from above--not!

Some people are very worried about an asteroid from space crashing into the Earth. You should be more worried about getting an infection. Wear your mask. Wash your hands.

Friday, August 28, 2020

visited IK Peg again (Halifax)

I asked the BGO robotic telescope to return to IK Pegasi, a potential outburst star, aiming at TYC1671008041.

IK Pegasi in luminance

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

Captures, in reverse chrono order:

Is IK a double? I'm seeing dual diffraction spikes...

clouds in my beer

The pubs are open and it's looking cloudy. Cracked a Lost In Orbit beer while listening to Joni croon. A very bitter IPA. Ugh. 

Lost In Orbit beer cans front and back

By Nickel Brook Brewing in Burlington... Did we serve this at the DDO music event?


Ah, we did. They have since changed the can.

all of it

Did the robot hear me? The BGO captured the final panel for the East Veil mosaic. I now have h-alpha and O-III data from teh the entire element.

entire East Veil in hydrogen-alpha

All panels are in hydrogen α, preprocessed in FITS Lib, and assembled in GIMP. As usual, north is up, east is left.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

DDO work continues

Claudio shared some photos of the David Dunlap Observatory as Richmond Hill does some maintenance.

DDO admin building surrounded by scaffolds

Really interesting seeing the Administrative building clad in scaffolding.

eating crow

SkyNews cover for 2020 Sep-Oct
Guess what showed up in the mail? SkyNews! Yep. SkyNews magazine, the Sep/Oct 2020 edition. Cover features an image of comet 2020 F3 (not NEOWISE—sheesh).

There's an article on the Dorner Telescope Museum. I'm looking forward to reading that.

Cover material, the paper finish, is a bit different, going glossy again.

collected another puzzle piece

No hurricanes over Halifax. The BGO robot captured three targets for me, including one more piece in the mosaic of the East Veil. Bottom-left corner...

mosaic of the East Veil supernova remnant

All panels are in hydrogen α, preprocessed in FITS Lib, and assembled in GIMP. As usual, north is up, east is left.

That gap near by the bottom right... The Burke-Gaffney 'scope did aim there but the run failed so I only received luminance data. In theory there's nothing there, as it is quite removed from the main element. Still, I want it for completeness.

One more to go...

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

printer broke

Quickly scanned the SkyNews magazine bulletin that arrived my electronic inbox. The headline September/October mail delay caught my eye...

As you know, COVID-19 has been hard on the print industry across Canada.  The printer that produced SkyNews was not immune to its effects.

Just before the production of SkyNews' September-October edition, these forces finally broke the company.  As such, we've had to shift our magazine to a new printer on short notice, which has delayed the magazine's delivery by a couple weeks.

We apologize for any inconvenience, and we are working to get the magazine to you as soon as possible.

Ah. So. Explains the delay.

turning away

Ha ha. Rhonda liked my table about the Sun from my TSTM presentation.

solar phenomena table

Yesssss! Thank you, Blake. Finally, some accurate reporting. Combat fake news. 👍

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

month end wonder

Wonder where my SkyNews magazine is... I daren't ask 'cause that will ruffle feathers.

things I need

Listened again to Coffee, Stars, And Gravity by Rod Modell aka Deepchord. I first heard this on the defunct Buzzoutroom. Found it in late 2018 on YouTube; still there. Don't know how long it will stay. Electronic trance trip to help me, briefly, forget...

Sunday, August 23, 2020

started dry-fit

Worked on the Dobsonian base build...

Made the cradle box. Was about to put the carry handle on the top when I realised the screws were too long. Put the shiny handle aside. 

Attached the altitude plates. Followed the directions at Stellafane page. Centre point, 45 degree angle, mounting screws, all pretty easy for the first plate. For the second one, I was worried about getting it in the exact same position. I used my lovely long level to help.

Ready to wrap around the Edmund OTA...

Started work on the rocker box, again using the pieces cut as per the Stellafane design. Oops. Ran into a few issues.

First problem is that the first side plate was not square. So it was running at a funny angle for the altitude bearing. Of course, when the base is affixed, I can apply some outward bias to square it up. And I can put a spacer at the front (6½" long)...

[ed: Oh. On re-examining the Stellafane images, I see they have little triangular pieces near the top. Right! I'll do that. Ensure those pieces are square and it will all be good.]

The second problem was very strange but easily fixed. The back (front?) board is too wide. I must have measured wrong. It looks about a ½" too wide. I'll cut that down later... 

That will mean the handle-opening is offset but that's a minor concern.

That the cradle box is just under 8" in width, the reinforcement piece for the centre board is too long.

Considered adding the bottom plate but decided to wait until I have the reinforcement piece installed.

While testing the motion and movement of the cradle in the box, I wondered about putting the guides on the inside but there are a lot of collision and interference points. Still, it's got me a'wonderin'.

Everything was assembled with pre-drilled screws, dry-fit. I'll glue the wood later.

oh, two exoplanets!

Watched Dr Becky's podcast for August 2020 and she made it clear for me what the big deal was with the recent exoplanet direct imaging. It was the first time that two planets were observed at the same time around exosolar star Tycho 8998-760-1.

two exoplanets imaged

They are on the bottom right. The dots at the top left are other stars.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

processed ET Cluster

Processed the ET Cluster (NGC 457) in colour. Used the luminance-red-green-blue files from 20 Aug '16. ET's upside-down.

ET Cluster in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop. Relatively minor processing.

There's some cool colours through the whole thing... including some deep red.

attended IDC event

Attended the workshop on Gender Diversity organised by the Inclusivity and Diversity Committee of the RASC and presented by facilitators from the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. Learned lots. Lots of homework to do. I hope RASC at the national level and in all our centres across Canada can become a symbol of inclusivity and inclusion in the astronomy field and the allied sciences. Well, frankly, everywhere.


Curious fact: "inclusivity" is not a recognised word in my computer browser's spelling-checking dictionary.

read about charged kaon decay

I heard about this late July but didn't get around reading the article at Science Times until now.  It talks about a CERN project that produced evidence of a changed kaon particle decaying into a charged pion and two neutrinos, something predicted but never before seen. 

Data was gathered from 2015 to 2018, some 6 x 1012 events, with the experiment yielding 17 charged kaon events, 3 times the predicted result.

This could lead to a modification of or a new physics beyond the Standard Model. A new model explaining all four fundamental forces including the gravitational force, plus dark matter and the matter-antimatter imbalance, will answer a lot of outstanding questions.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

beautiful evening (Bradford)

Razor thin Moon, easy Jupiter, Saturn tangled in the hydro lines, the Big Dipper, portions of the Little Dipper, orange Arcturus, crickets. Nice sky. While enjoying a Polar Eclipse ice cream.

re-did the OTA

Re-did the DDO 3D model. Specifically, I redesigned the optical tube assembly, using subtraction, so to make a monolithic piece.

redoing the DDO OTA by subtraction

Reminded me of cutting down objects on the lathe...

Off to Ward for his consideration.

as I locked up (Bradford)

Woke up in the middle of a bizarre COVID-induced or maybe wine-induced nightmare about my garden shed. Then I remembered I had forgotten to close the shed.

Wow. Very clear skies! Mars was glowing orange high up. The Great Square was south well above the trees. 

It flickered through my sleepy brain the thought: do I stay up and get out a telescope.


Put away the mower and quietly locked up. As I locked up, I looked up...

No creepy screaming red fox tonight.

As I turned around to head back to my warm bed, I saw the Pleiades and Auriga above the hedge. Good news and bad news. Winter's coming. 

Then looking toward zenith I saw a northbound meteor immediately followed by a southbound meteor. The second was a Perseid. Boom boom. Two in one minute.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

delivered TSTM

Delivered my The Sky This Month presentation for the RASC Toronto Centre. I talk about what's up from now to Sep 16. You can see my piece in the raw video, starting at around 4:59 and finishing at 42:37.


Edited final version of just the TSTM talk is available for viewing. Minor correction: the audio dropped out when I was explained the meridian—fixed.

processed Saturn Nebula

Processed the Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009) in colour. Used the LRGB data acquired from 14 Jul '16 and 17 Jul '16 via the BGO. Tiny but very blue.

NGC 7009 in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop. Relatively minor processing.

It's like a candy wrapper!

sent procedure

David reached out to me for the procedure on using the new dew heating equipment in the Sue-Lora Observatory. I sent along a draft of the step-by-step process. Copied Steve and Richard too. Hopefully I didn't miss anything.

BGO sparked up

Three jobs were queued up at the Burke-Gaffney Observatory. I continue to collect hydrogen-alpha and ionised oxygen data for the Veil Nebula mosaic. One job did not complete properly so I'll have to reload it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

the elephant

I am increasingly perturbed by SpaceX. I'm sure many fellow astronomers are feeling this way. Actually, most of the reactions I'm seeing are quite negative. Personally, I'm betwixt and between.

Here's a company, lead by a tenacious man, making things happen.

Elon Musk can rightly claim to have been responsible for getting USA astronauts back in space with USA-built craft from soil in the USA territory. That will save the government and the space agency a lot of money. That's good.

The company has established a good track record getting supplies to and from the International Space Station. That's good for science and research and medicine.

SpaceX is driving down the costs associated with spaceflight by reusing components. That was the stuff of science fiction a decade ago. Relaunching booster rockets and catching shroud casings is saving a lot of cash. That's good. Good for the company, good for customers, good for the environment (a bit). 

A subtle thing about SpaceX rockets is the modular approach. A typical booster with nine Merlin engines can be strapped to one or two other boosters. The "heavy" lift rocket demonstrates this efficiency.

Another subtle philosophical approach is building as much as they can themselves. By reducing outsourcing, they gain control, speed, and still more cost-savings. SpaceX is doing things at about one-third the pricing as NASA.

That's very helpful for new business and new companies wanting to get into low Earth orbit (LEO). That's helping universities and colleges do more research and science.

This is having an interesting effect on other organisations. NASA is now relieved of the chore of getting people and equipment in LEO. So they can focus on other things, like science, and better rocket propellants.

I'm convinced that humans working and living on the Moon and Mars will be attributed to SpaceX. That's gonna be a lot tougher but I believe Musk's organisation will play a pivotal part. We're on the verge of becoming a multi-planet species. Again, the stuff of SF movies and books. But I now think I will see this in my lifetime. That's... that's... wow.

Not a SpaceX product directly but I'm am very pleased to see Musk putting a lot of energy and money into electric cars. Actually, I didn't think I'd see acceptance of electric vehicles in my lifetime, given the long love affair with the internal combustion engine. But it is amazing to see Tesla shaking the tree.

But these little satellites, the Starlink satellites for the internet relay constellation, this just seems to be a huge issue. A thorn in this rosy future.

It appears to be a problem for the amateur and professional astronomer with dozens or hundreds of satellites streaking through the field of view of the telescope or instrument. It's completely destroying images when they parade through. There are only a few hundred, maybe close to one thousand right now, but the Hawthorne company is petitioning for tens of thousands. What will this do to the night sky?

Is this another nail in the coffin, along with out-of-control light pollution, for amateur astronomy?

But all this is ironic. Ask anyone in a rural location how their internet service is. It is woeful in remote locations in Ontario, I know that all too well. So, hold your tongue. If you want better internet, how to you propose we do that? The Starlink system is an answer for those under-served.

[ed: Update. Beta testers are reporting decent upload and download rates.]

It's a pickle.

close one

Rhonda referred me to an article on Business Insider (OK...) on an asteroid that just missed Earth. My first reaction was, yeah, so, happens on the time...

But digging deeper, this one is notable. It is, purportedly, the closest pass ever, at less than 3000 kilometres.

I looked it up on and found it in the Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) list.

  • name: 2020 QG
  • date (UT) of closest approach: 2020-Aug-16
  • miss distance (LD): 0
  • velocity (km/s): 12.3
  • diameter (m): 4

Whoa. Look at that! A miss distance of zero lunar diameters!

I also checked the data at the NASA JPL solar system dynamics web page. It's an Apollo asteroid.

Along with your other personal protection equipment, now you need a hard hat!

Now, to keep this all in perspective, a four metre asteroid would probably burn up. It is estimated that the dinosaur killing asteroid that left the Chicxulub crater was anywhere from 11 to 81 kilometres in size.

Monday, August 17, 2020

processed the Bubble

Processed the Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635) in colour. Used the LRGB data acquired from 2 Jul '16 via the BGO. Lovely.

Bubble Nebula in colour

FITS Liberator, Photoshop. Relatively minor processing.


Full of or covered with lumps.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

trail goes cold

Nicole forwarded the warning note to me.

From:  *Phil Groff* 

Date:  Wed, Jul 29, 2020 at 11:00 AM
Subject:  A warning to pass along to our contributors!

To:  James E, Nicole M, Paul G, Allendria B

To all our editors and contributors,

I am writing to provide a warning.  One of our contributing editors at the Journal has recently received a solicitation to submit articles and to join the editorial board of a publication called The American Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics.  You should be aware that this journal in particular and it's parent company Science Publishing Group are widely considered to be examples of the emerging trend of predatory publishing, which Wikipedia defines as an "exploitative academic publishing business model," marked by such features as absent or minimal quality control such as peer review, minimal or no qualifications for editorial board membership, and frequently, fees charged to authors for publication of their materials.  What's particularly worrisome in this case is that the solicitation included specific reference to an article that our author had published in the RASC Journal, and thus was targeted in a quite specific and sophisticated way.

Please be cautious about any such solicitations you receive.  Submitting articles to such a venue will do nothing to improve your c.v. and may end up costing you some money as well as time and reputation.  We would hate to see any of our RASC contributors exploited by such a scheme, based on good work they had done for the Society.

To read more about predatory publishing, see:

and to read more about Science Publishing Group in particular, see:

Clear skies!

OK. This shows the ED sent the note to the editors. But then the trail goes cold... As far as I can tell, no message was sent to the Journal contributors. I never received this.

Sad, because this is where it all started!

Why do we have communication problems in this day and age...

I'm not following up as I will be viewed (probably already am) as grumbly and complainy. If I try to dig any deeper, I'll get push-back. It's happened before and I don't need to go there again. I've done what I think I should do.

I sure hope no one gets hooped. If it happens, it'll be a "I told ya so" moment.

That's about RASC internal issues. 

Blog readers? If you submit papers to journals or scientific institutions, this is a caution. A courtesy message to be aware of solicitations for your work. Do your homework. Use trusted sources.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

helped with virtual event

I helped at the first OSC-RASC virtual star party. I was very stressed but it went pretty well. Lots of viewers, new subscribers, and no technical glitches. Sadly, Francois was clouded out but the skies cleared for Claudio and I. Wow.

I showed some double stars.

This was made possible by incredible efforts by Tanya, Andrew, Betty, Ward, Francois, Claudio, Chris, Rachel, Roshelle, Angel, Jana, John, and Peter.


Check out the recording of the event on the RASC Toronto Centre YouTube channel.

rapid start-up

So to be properly aligned for tonight's event, I set up last night, and did a decent polar alignment. Left the tripod and mount outside, undisturbed.

So then I was able to attach the Optical Tube Assembly atop the super-charged Vixen Super Polaris and be ready to go.

Used a third counterweight to accommodate for the heavy MallinCam Universe. Dew/light shield installed. Cap tether not connected tonight (to avoid snags). Just needed to mount the camera.

OTA setup in backyard but clouds...

That's one shaggy lawn... Don't judge me.

heard from OH editor

I had not heard back from Nicole.

I reached out to James, editor of the Observer's Handbook.

Yes, we got this from Phil Groff on July 29.  I sent it to my Handbook contributors, and I assumed Nicole would do the same.  Perhaps I assumed incorrectly.

So some people received the warning. But clearly not all. Not me. Not Dave.

Friday, August 14, 2020

tested MCU on double stars (Bradford)

Skies were good!

dark blue Clear Sky Charts for the region

7:56 PM. 7 hours left on the voice recorder... It would be enough.

I was ready. Mostly.

backyard setup stage 1

Telescope was set up, with an eyepiece. Camera ready. Computer ready. I had let Andrew know I had a good hardline internet connection from the yard. The loaner coupler did not work—maybe it is not a full 8-wire unit. Had to use my old no-name hub/switch to bridge two long ethernet cables together. Weird. I thought it was dead... Working fine. Whew!


Clear Outside chart for the evening

Checked conditions, Clear Outside and Good To Stargaze. Dew point was predicted at 15°C. It was 25; it would be 15 at 4? It would be at 19 at 1:00 AM so probably I wouldn't need to worry about active heating. Good. Keeping it simply. Already had a lot of wires!

8:11. Retrieved the netbook and some water. And another counter-weight.

Rhonda popped out for a bit while a cardinal trumpeted. We pondered the bizarre locations that squirrels were hiding their nuts. We avoided the murderous tree in the back corner.

Decided to take some screen snapshots of SkyTools running in Real Time mode via ASCOM while controlling the mount through the IDEA GoToStar motor drive system. For the evergreen GoToStar page... Powered up the mount, skipped alignment, turned on tracking, and slewed to Polaris (or thereabouts). Grabbed a half-dozen shots. Slewed again.

As I mounted the camera, the mount fell or pivoted forward! Whoa! Scared me! The altitude axis was lose! Grabbed the Allen key from the case and secured things. Sheesh! Wouldn't not have been good on show night...

Balanced the mount, as best as possible. It is so heavy in the butt when the big MallinCam and the doubler are attached.

Waited for some stars to appear.

Did a proper two-star alignment. Ha! First suggestion was Albireo! I'll see you later. Off to Alphecca. 

Back to Albireo. Pointing was off a little. 

8:52. Phone rang! Weird... Was in the thick of it so had to let it go to voice mail...

9:01. Slewed to Vega. Installed the camera with the Tele Vue 2x PowerMate.

9:05. Tried to get something on the camera. I was sure I was out of focus. I had no idea what settings to use on the MallinCam. Did a 3 minute exposure. Had the gain high. Set gamma every which way. Oh! When really low, I saw it, the big donut. Focused the SCT by moving the primary mirror. Collimation looked good! Yeh. Balanced gain and gamma. Noted drifting, to be expected—I was not formerly polar aligned. Overshot the focus. Tried to centre the star and almost lost it. Dropped exposure from 3 to 2 seconds while the neighbour's dog freaked out and a firetruck peeled through town.

Rhonda returned. She tagged the Summer Triangle. She asked about our meteor tally. I shared Richard's amazing meteor count, 10 times our numbers. The advantage of being away from the awful light pollution.

I continued to work the focus, now on the Williams Optics. I had no idea what camera settings were best. 

Synced on Vega. Slewed to Albireo. Nothing... Panned over using the finder.

more trip hazards

The mount protested at one point... motor overload?! "Overcurrent." I ignored it and carried on.

9:23. Recorded video of Albireo. Nice colours. All video was produced by the MallinCam Universe software, the new version. 

It was surprisingly steady so my rough alignment to the north celestial pole was not too far off! Lucky.

Checked the video in the MS annoying app.

Reported to Andrew it was working.

All image frames grabbed from VLC. Best frames manually selected. All images, north is left, east is down.

Albireo aka β (beta) Cygni. Round one.

first attempt at Albireo

Increased the exposure to 5 seconds and I immediately saw trailing.

Reviewed the MallinCam Universe settings:

  • gain: left, 6.8
  • contrast: left, 16
  • gamma: left, 17
  • exposure: 5.2 seconds

Contrast to the extreme right made the stars look bloated with hard edges. 

Did a quick polar alignment putting Polaris in the centre of the reticule. Close enough. Put the OTA back on Albireo.

Moved the gain to the middle. It did brighten the stars. Then all the way to the right. It did bloat the bright stars but I could see other stars, w00t! Decreased the exposure to 3.2 seconds.

This was better:

  • gain: far right, 26
  • contrast: far left, 16
  • gamma: far left, 17
  • exposure: 3.2 seconds
  • histogram: full

Other stars visible. It minimised the effects of drift.

Gamma at the far right may the stars look weird and lose all colour.

9:27. Andrew told me to share so I looked in Evernote. Launched the OBS Ninja link.

9:39. Asked Drew if it was coming through. 

9:40. Bumped saturation a bit, which was good, and turned on sharpening, which made no improvement and created noise.

Did another recording and launched Zoom, via wifi, on my phone.

Albireo aka β (beta) Cygni, round 2.

double star Albireo

Awesome. Yellow and robin's egg blue. Magnitude 11 stars in the field.

Tried the automatic setting on the histogram but it didn't work... Tried manual settings of the white and mid-tone. Meh. Back to full. Tried noise reduction. No improvement.

Good settings are:

  • histogram: full
  • gain: far right, 26
  • contrast: far left, 16
  • gamma: far left, 17
  • exposure: 3.2 seconds
  • saturation: 2/3rd the way to the right
  • sharpening: off
  • noise reduction: off
Centred the pair. Synced with the hand controller. Verified SkyTools repositioned the marker.

Checked my email and found an invitation.

9:51. Connected to the Zoom call with Andrew, Jana, and Roshelle. They were sorting out other issues but were happy to have me join. Plugged in my earbuds.

Used the crop feature to get closer to the colourful stars. Jana really liked that.

Moved to the deck to get a better wifi signal for the call.

10:05. After the Zoom, I returned to the mount. Checked the next pair in the software. Whew, same side of the meridian, hadn't considered that... Lucky. Synced and slewed. Oops. Didn't leave enough room between the camera and the laptop screen. Had to fine tune again the pointing.

γ (gamma) Delphini

double star gamma Del

It looked good. Gold stars. Double HD 197913 aka STF 2725 is visible at the far right.

10:11. Andrew saw the change, asked what we were looking at.

I wondered about better settings...

Focus was off a bit. Two ticks clockwise. Oh. Better.

10:17. Hey. I noticed Jupiter was visible, clear of the trees, above the notch. And Saturn would be soon. So I could do planets, if need be. Except it is "end of the event." 

Considered other doubles. Reviewed my suggested targets in Evernote. Slewed.

61 Cygni, round 1.

double star 61 Cygni

Yellow and orange stars. 10 seconds, to draw in surrounding stars. Verified the view in the SkyTools 3 Pro Interactive Atlas.

[ed: Misread the chart. ST3P has an error. The A star is not a tight double.]

Discovered I had forgotten to stop recording on gamma Del. [ed: That made a 2 GB movie! Yikes.]

10:26. Andrew suggested binning, to increase the sensitivity. I stopped the camera feed, changed the option, reconnected to the imager. Dropped the exposure time to 8 seconds.

61 Cygni, round 2. 

61 Cygni binned

10:31. Binned 2 by 2. Neighbouring stars visible.

The E star of 61 Cyg aka STF 2758, orange, is near the top-right, bright. Amplifier glow visible at the top-left.

eta Cas was not possible, given the time. Didn't feel like chasing down epsilon Equ.

Went back to gamma Del. Then bounced around the head of the dolphin. Nope, none of the other doubles were better.

10:43. Told Andrew I was gonna tear down.

One more.

Ugh. Way off target... Did I hear gear hop?!

Alfirk aka β (beta) Cephei. 

10:47. Set to 1 second exposure.

double star Alfirk

Lovely unequal pair. I like it but maybe not a good candidate... The primary is a fantastic ice blue.

So, a successful test for the OSC/RASC event 24 hours away. Figured out good settings for the MallinCam for the stellar pairs, despite the frustrating software. Reached a decent polar alignment. Verified I can be on a hardline in the middle of the yard. Tested Zoom on the phone in the yard (not great). Was able to record images for rain-date playback. Oh, and tested Ninja with Drew.

22:53. Dismounted the camera. Started packing up. Asked Rhonda if she wanted to look at Saturn.

Accidental hit a key on the computer. Whoa, stop. Bull's-eyed the ringed planet.

Hawkeye spotted Titan, Rhea, Dione, Tethys, and Enceladus. She was stoked. I noted Iapetus way out there.

Continued the tear-down. Rhonda helped me haul gear inside.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

checked with Journal CE

Followed up with the chief editor of the RASC Journal. Nicole thought the warning message about predatory publishing had been sent out last week. I told her I had not seen it.

followed up with ED

Followed up with Mr Groff, the RASC ED. He assured me he had sent out the warning.

Didn't explain why Dave did not get the warning about predatory publishing requests.

And I wondered who else then did not receive it.

another contributor hooked

Well, this is no good.

I read the RASCals listserv digest message. The second item was disheartening.

Subject: American Journal of Astronomy and Astrophics (Dave Chapman)


Date: Thu, 13 Aug 2020 11:15:41 -0300
From: Dave Chapman <>

Hi all,

I received an invitation to submit to the publication in the title, based on something I wrote for JRASC.  To me it smells funny.  What do people think?

cheers, Dave Chapman, Fellow of the RASC
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada

This suggests the warning message about predatory publishing did not reach all the contributors! Why?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

how to see meteors

Read the CBC Kids article on the Perseid meteor shower for 2020. Pretty good information. Oddly, they closed saying, "[Binoculars] or a telescope might help if you're in the city. It will be harder to see the meteor shower with all the city lights." What? No. Do not use binoculars or a telescope to view meteors. Whole sky with your eyes is best.

tune in on Saturday

The Ontario Science Centre with RASC Toronto Centre is planning a virtual star party for Saturday 15 August. You can tune in from your couch! 

OSC RASC online star party

I'll be flying one of the "live" telescopes with camera. Hopefully we'll get clear skies.

You can watch on the RASC TC YouTube channel.

watched meteors (Bradford)

Settled down in the middle of the yard, with Rhonda, facing east. Armed with smartphone, binoculars, and repellent.

Great skies! No clouds.

Jupiter was behind the trees to the south...

10:55 PM, Tuesday 11 August 2020. We saw our first meteor, a north-bound streak, bright fast. Curiously, not a Perseid... (1)

Took a sky reading with the Loss of the Night app. Did the main 8 stars then did another 3. With a profile this time... In night mode or red light, the constellation lines are too bright. It is really challenging with single-prescription eyeglasses! It said the sky was better than mag 5. I'll say!

Lyra up high. Tried to see the Double Double naked eye. I think I saw the wide pair...

11:09. A Perseid meteor went through the north wing of Cygnus and it was headed toward Aquila and Ophiuchus and it was faint and it was really fast. (2)

Aquila was nice. Altair, Tarazed, and Alshain.

11:28. Perseid meteor! Really long train, super-bright, headed towards the south-west. Twenty degree long train! Impressive. (3)

11:27. Perseid just above Pegasus, short short and fast meteor, not as bright as the other one. (4)

11:30. Super-fast one between Pegasus and Cygnus, fairly long meteor train, may be 15 degrees long. (5)

Ooh. Got my bearings. It was Cepheus! The house upside-down with the roof peak star aiming toward Ursa Minor.

Wow, Lacerta is faint...

11:54. Rhonda got one going through the Great Square. She said the meteor was short. (6)

Fired up SkySafari. It's really hard to see the constellation lines in red light mode.

I looked at delta Cepheus. I thought it the same as zeta less than epsilon. Mmm. No. Maybe more. Earlier I thought it was brighter. Now I thought that true. [ed: epsilon is magnitude 4.2; zeta is 3.5. So delta must have been around mag 4.]

And I did see the naked eye split of 30, 31, 32 Cygni. Never seen that before. 31 and 32 are easy. It's 30 that's really close to 31. Cool!

11:57. There was a flare, satellite flare near eta Cassiopeia. Rhonda saw it first. Not Space Station... Slow-moving, too brief. [ed: Checked Heavens Above but even with Starlink sightings enabled did not see anything! Unidentified.]

Midnight. Straight up, short, slow-moving meteor above Cassiopeia heading towards the centre of a Cepheus. (7)

12:02. Meteor, short one, that was kind of in Lacerta. (8)

Viewed two wide stars in Capricornus. Must have been the east ones. [ed: Yes, delta and gamma.]

Rhonda saw it first. I have never seen the Milky Way in the backyard before so it is pretty amazing, outstanding transparency. Razvan of RASC TC had said earlier he hadn't seen a prediction of "excellent transparency" for a while. It was really good for us.

12:14. Way off in the south-east which is over by Capricornus. Was the meteor going west? Odd angle. So maybe not a Perseid that one. (9)

Rhonda thought the sky darker. Yep. Right on schedule...

12:17. Meteor. Went to the south-west medium speed. (10)

Rhonda saw a meteor rising above the cedars. (11)

She enjoyed seeing The Dolphin.

Amazing skies. I was really impressed with all the stars I could see.

The Great Square climbing above the east hedge.

Could see the Andromeda Galaxy with averted vision.

Sagitta was overhead.

Tried to see The Coathanger but could not tag it.

12:22. Spotted a meteor just below Andromeda. A nearly horizontal short train, slow-moving, super-bright train though, glowed for a bit after it was gone. And I think the meteor itself was green! A great one. (12)

12:27. A short one between gamma and beta Andromeda heading to the south. Another meteor. (13)

12:38. Meteor, just to the right of the bottom of Cassiopeia and Andromeda. (14)

Saw the Water Jar of Aquarius, triad of stars. The water constellations were rising...

Looked at mu Cephei, the Garnet Star. Dim.

12:44. A short one went through Pegasus. Another meteor! (15)

12:40. Rhonda spotted a meteor over the house in the north going to the west. Below the upside-down Little Dipper. (16)

After Rhonda returned with her coat, I fetched my jacket.

Saw the Eiffel tower of Perseus. Almost above the cedars now. I could see Mars punching through in the east-south-east.

We talked about meteors, their origin, and how it is a very dynamic system.

1:08. It did look like the moonlight was becoming apparent. The sky was slowly brightening in the east-south-east. 

No bugs!

Aries was over the cedars now. 

Looked with the binoculars and I could see the Double Cluster. Couldn't see any of a deep sky stuff in Triangulum.

I could see 5 UMi and theta UMi without difficulty.

"Gimme a double!" Waited. Like Prospero after his appeal to the gods. No such luck.

We hadn't seen a meteor for a bit so packed it in. That was a good show!

Mars was fantastic, intense orange, bright! It's gonna be good...

1:23. Back inside. Wound down.


Received an acknowledgement of my LON submitted data on 8 Sep '20.

Monday, August 10, 2020

processed NGC 891

Processed NGC 891 in colour with Photoshop. It is one of the RASC Finest I shot back in Sep 2016. A lovely edge-on spiral galaxy.

galaxy NGC 891 in colour

LRGB data from BGO. Pre-processed in FITS Liberator. Post: layer colourisation, luminance layer, each layer levelled and curved, cropped, with a top-level curve.


A few more edits...

stars reduced, saturation increased

Applied a Minimise filter on the star mask. Much better. Boosted the saturation a bit.

measure your sky

A Globe At Night campaign begins tonight. Gauge light pollution from your home location and submit the results via the web site. Or use your SQM meter if you have one. Or use Dark Sky Meter on iOS. I'm going to use the Loss of the Night app for Android...

Sunday, August 09, 2020

blogger changes

Ho ho! A positive change in the new blogger editor environment. Now I can see all (or many) of the tags-labels in the list screen. Thank you!


Thumb's down on the HTML coding change. Now paragraph tags are used and it's changing the spacing or layout a little bit in the posts. That's kind of a big deal.


Definitely a moving carpet...

checked SS iOS prices

Did some digging at the Apple Apps Store. Looked up SkySafari from Simulation Curriculum Corp. It is described as "Astronomy Guide To Night Sky."

  • SkySafari (basic) $3.99
  • SkySafari 6 Plus $9.99
  • SkySafari 6 Pro $27.99

All are said to have "Offers In-App Purchases."

Oh ho! So it is NOT FREE for iOS...

So I'll have to be careful in my recommendations...

stuck here

I'm re-reading my Calvin and Hobbes books. Need some joy in my life right now. 

From the Days Are Just Packed collection, a couple of pages in, I found a funny bit, in one of the "intro" panels, the quick joke in the second box. It starts with Calvin and his trusty friend and tiger extraordinaire standing outside and looking up at the night sky. Calvin, pointing, says, "There's Venus. There's Mars. And there's Jupiter." Then Calvin looks down, with a scowl. He says, "And I'm stuck here." Watterson's emphasis.

If I could, I would.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

helped with online event

Helped at the online DDO speaker night. Dr Brar talked about Einstein predicted gravitational waves 100 years ago. It was Andrew's first live production using OBS Ninja. He asked me to monitor the YouTube Chat.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

learned of repair work

Chris V shared a couple of photos from his visit to the David Dunlap Observatory. Richmond Hill is taking advantage of the "quiet time" to do repairs.

It's very interesting seeing the bare metal of the dome. And the blue door is not blue!

dome being reconditioned and refinished

It sure looks to me like the dome proper, and shutters, have already been repainted.

Louvres are out. The catwalk plates are out. Neat.

They are also working on the south dome which houses the 19-inch.

DDO Admin south dome reconditioning

They are going to remove the roof panels to refurb them.

It's fantastic to see all the work being done. It'll be so shiny when we return!

Monday, August 03, 2020

found new version of MCU

After a bit of digging, I found a new version of the MallinCam Universe software, version 5.0. Need to be on to get it... Weird. Happily, the app now writes out an AVI file correctly, proper playback in MS Films & TV and VideoLAN VLC. But the crop feature is not used, still, during recording.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

watched the splashdown

Watched NASA astronauts return to Earth in the SpaceX dragon. Wow. I hadn't thought about it... 45 years since a splashdown for the United States space agency. A pretty impressive mission overall.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

posted August 2020 doubles

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


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

Here’s a short selection of double and multi-star systems from my life list for your observing campaign. I found them interesting.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
HD 164536 SgrARG 31SAO 186152, PPM 267729
HR 6162 HerΣ2063 (Struve)SAO 46147, HIP 80953
HD 119702 UMiHJ 2682SAO 7867, HIP 66728
ζ LyrSTF A 38 (Struve), BU 968SAO 67321, HIP 91971
HD 144564 SerΣ2007SAO 101922, HIP 78875

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

Blake Nancarrow
astronomy at computer-ease dot com