Wednesday, April 21, 2021

helped at fun SN meeting

Helped at the RASC TC meeting. It was a special speaker's night with Tim Russ, actor, musician, and amateur astronomer.

Link to the raw video is available on the RASC Toronto Centre YouTube channel.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

met the SPAC team

Had a rehearsal run-through with the crew of the Seven Ponds Astronomy Club. I'm on deck for Saturday evening, 7:00 PM EDT, to talk about double star observing. All are welcome to the Zoom online event.

Monday, April 19, 2021

learned of next council meeting

I heard through the grapevine that the next RASC Toronto Centre council meeting is on 6 June.

celebrating National Volunteer Week

It's National Volunteer Week! April 18-24. Woo hoo, go volunteers!

meeting RASC

Attended the committee terms of reference working group meeting with RASC Toronto Centre crew.

listened to Chris and Shane's podcast

Listened to an Actual Astronomy Podcast by Chris Beckett & Shane Ludtke. Episode 110 - New Gear and Observing Reports.

They talked about various matters but Shane then discussed his new exciting observing targets with this small refractor, double stars. And he referred to the new RASC Double Stars program! Cool! Takahashi 76mm and Panoptic and a 2-inch baader mirror diagonal.

He said he found the list to be a "ton of fun." It shows pretty doubles all over the whole sky. He "highly [recommended] it" even for people not in RASC.

Chris recounted being on the RASC Observing Committee when I first started working on the program. He said the list is "so interesting and so good" and clearly a "labour of love." Chris said "it's really nice."


The mention is between 18:25 and 21:38 in the 1 hour audio 'cast. Incredible. 

Effectively, it's a review.

I'm so touched.

heard Ginny flew

Learned that the Ingenuity drone 'copter flew. An exciting day for NASA.

The SpaceFlightNow web site has a good article.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

wrangled participants

Did some class management for the Stellarium course next week.

Saturday, April 17, 2021


Too tired. It was cold. I was feeling lazy. Earlier I had considered some imaging with the barn door tracker...

submitted photos

Shot some requested photos for my SkyNews editor.

learned about sundials

Attended BSS meeting... Frank King welcomed everyone from 15 time zones. The speakers were Roger Bailey, Woody Sullivan, and Fred Sawyer. Amazing talks. 

Roger gave us a sundial tour in the French Alps, featuring the historic sundials of Zarbula and the modern dials of Remi Potey. Woody talked about how he prepared (with 700 observations) and built his reflection sundial in his man cave. And Fred (of Canada) showed incredible hybrid Peaucellier sundial designs.

I learned a lot.

Heh. Sure were a lot of grey haired white dudes...

Friday, April 16, 2021

applied more updates to VHC

More updates to my IDEA GoToStar Virtual Hand Controller app...

Foreshortened some of the data boxes. Changed labelling around the pier data box. Added a user confirmation to the Sync button. Added system date/time display. Change Window form title. Similarly, changed the titles of all the message boxes. Relabelled the direction buttons. Up, Down, Left, etc. was redundant. Indicated Declination and Right Ascension. Renamed the position button. Fixed the left and right direction buttons. Now the left button moves to the east with increasing RA. Added code to compare the system and mount times and throw a warning if different by more than 5 minutes. Added a Tracking checkbox. Filling it turns tracking on. This will make it easy to do drifts, when needed. Or, after I issue a Stop command.

Did a bench test of the Sync button. w00t! Looks like it is working correctly. That's huge! 

Virtual Hand Controller evolved

Made a read position code a procedure, so it wasn't buried in the read Position button. Now I called it after any release of a slew button.

Killed Visual Studio at one point. Note to self. Don't rename variables while in break mode...

I was not surprised to discover port conflicts when trying to use Stellarium and my VHC at the same time.

Not done... Re-watched Kelvin Le's video series.

selectable COM port added

Yes! Got the port selector working!

Set up a button enabler, using a trick learned in my Access VBA class!

returned to 1327 (Halifax)

I wanted to get some more data on Σ1327 (HD 79552) in Cancer. Queued up a job on 29 Mar 2021.

Struve 1327 in luminance

Luminance only, 4 seconds subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

Looks like good data.

Previously imaged on 5 Mar '21.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

reviewed viddie

Reviewed a RASC Toronto YouTube video.

commanded mount

Holy Universe! It works. From my Visual Basic app, I commanded the GoToStar mount!

next version of the virtual hand controller

Tonight I added movement buttons and was thrilled to nudge the mount! This was a major objective. I want to have a virtual hand controller on the computer to move in any direction as per a set speed. It is so amazing to see it work.

Added a big Stop button.

Added a Sync button. Another major objective. This is to be tested but if it works, it will be huge.

Hydra weirdness

Chris found a strange bug (two actually) in Stellarium.

If you search for Hydra, it takes you to the constellation. No mention of the other Hydra...

You can easily add this found item to the Bookmarks. 

But if you go to the Hydra in the Bookmarks list, you're taken to the location of Pluto's moon Hydra!


I reported the error.

registered for BSS event

Signed up for the British Sundial Society Virtual Conference! Woo hoo!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

received out of focus stars

Tried to image 11 LMi again. Queued on 9 April. Shot 15 Apr at 00:49:33 ADT. Not good.

read data from the mount

At last, I successfully coded a simple interface to read data from the GoToStar mount!

working VB code in Visual Studio

Look at that! After opening the (hard coded) port, I read some data from the mount, namely its date, time, time zone offset from GMT, and the latitude and longitude. And, finally, the side of the pier I was on. I was pointed at Alphard, at the time.

Woo hoo!

This has been a bit of a journey to this point... Sadly, because of incomplete resources and people that are making assumptions.

A couple of months ago I downloaded Visual Studio 2019 Community. Had a quick look 

When I went back in a week ago, it wouldn't let me proceed. At first I thought it was a trial and it had ended and that was it. But I was certain a variant of VS was free. And after some digging I confirmed it was. But Microsoft wanted some credentials. Fine.

Then I started following one tutorial on serial communications but I could not seem to reference any computer or system IO features.

Was it not possible in the free Community studio product?

I looked again at the ASCOM Telescope class and form code LXP source. Didn't make sense.

And oddly I did not find clarity in the Microsoft online docs.

Finally, a fresh Google search lead me to a post on MSDN. Leo Liu explained it. He said a Class Library using the .NET Framework was needed. 

I tried that and only got so far. Some progress. But I didn't know how to get the form to work with the class object.

But another look revealed it! A Windows Form based on .NET Framework. Filtering helped! It had been there the whole time but there are so many options presented I had missed it. And all the videos I had watched had not stated that requirement!

Didn't need a Class. Not yet, anyway.

I was in business finally.

Then I watched MISperry's video on YouTube again, a joy in simplicity.

Opened the port. He showed how to write to the port. Then I read the port. And was thrilled to find the smart ReadTo method. Yes!


I knew it! I knew it didn't need to be so complicated! And I knew my VBA experience would be helpful. The IDE in VS sure it convoluted though, sheesh.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

wired up a heating sheet

While installing a new CPU cooling fan to John Max, I wired up another (the second) 12V heating pad sheet thingee with RCA plug and lead wires for dew heating/warming at the telescope.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

updated the DS page

Updated the Double Stars program page at RASC national after uploading updated main PDF and Excel checklists, an updated PDF supplemental file, updated log book, and new Stellarium JSON bookmark list. One major change was to the notes for HR 3963. My notes in the supplement were rather confusing as reported by Melody. Good call. So I rewrote the descriptive text.

lovely chat

Helped Melody. We had a lovely phone chat. Clarified some bad text on my part in the Supplement for the Double Stars program. I wonder if an astrometric eyepiece is in her future...

reviewed an ETU

Reviewed an Explore the Universe application. Fun notes and sketches.

some fixes applied

Cool. Found in the inbox some messages from the Stellarium development team, encouraging me to check a pre-release version. A number of updates were applied. 

pre-release Stellarium with corrections

A carbon star list was added to the WUT and Search list. Great. The Hercules reference was corrected. The search result shows "Hercules" and "Hercules [star]." Brilliant. And then, a fix to the double star designations for items in the Struve appendices. Yes!

Saturday, April 10, 2021

made another diffraction mask

Made a diffraction mask for the C8.

Wasn't keen to haul out the Celestron Optical Tube Assembly to do measurements. But then I remembered the Bahtinov mask project. So tracked down the PDF. I recalled the grating was at the exposed glass edges so I could use that as a reference... Hold the phone! I grabbed the actual focusing mask I made. I had modified it to fit inside the OTA! That would help me easily and quickly get all the measures, including the secondary mirror!

Measured the diameters.

  • OTA inner diameter (ID): 22.7 cm
  • opening: 20.5 cm (that seems good, an 8-inch mirror is 203 mm)
  • central obstruction (CO): 70 mm

OK. Fired up Visio and located the apodisation mask I had made for the little Meade ETX.

Considered scaling up the ETX but didn't feel completely comfortable. So I started from scratch.

vector diagram for C8 apodisation mask

Like with the focusing mask, it ran off the page, too big for a single "letter" size sheet. So I cut the mask at a logical place. Printed on the laser in greyscale and cut out the pieces. Couldn't find the white glue so I used wood. It went fine.

Ready to try.

But now I'll probably have to wait 10 months... Hrrm.

another good course

We ran another Stellarium level course today. Ian B taught it, again. Scheduled specifically for RASC members on the west coast. Dozen keen participants, Ian reported. All went well. And almost all want level 2!

helped a TSTMer

Coached a new online presenter, scheduled for a future The Sky This Month talk. Zoom, OBS, Chrome, Mac OS, audio, video, speed and quality checks. All good. Reported in to the A/V team.

found catalogue error

Just spotted a little catalogue error in Stellarium. ν (nu) 2 Draconis aka 25 Dra aka Kuma. It is in the Washington Double Star database as Struve Appendix item number 35 or STFA 35 or ΣA35. Stellarium shows it as Σ35. Nope.


Found another! δ (delta) Cephei. Should ΣA58 in Stellarium not Σ 58.

Looks like this is a general issue with the Appendix items.


Oop. Definite. Tried ψ (psi) 1 Aqr. Should show as Σ B 12 not Σ 12.

Friday, April 09, 2021


One of the people working through the new RASC Double Stars observing program sent me a note.

Double star hunting has become a very pleasant observing experience!  Like a good book that is so interesting one doesn't want to end but can't put it down! 

This lifts me up.

found a Stellarium bug

I found an error in Stellarium white searching for constellation names. Leo, Ursa Major, Andromeda worked fine. 

If you search for "Hercules," you get dropped at the star Pollux! Weird. 

I tried again looking at the "suggestion list" and the constellation option was not offered. I also tried browsing the constellation list in the Search box. Same issue!

Actually, that's two different issues to be precise. The first is a cross-referencing problem. There are many celestial objects with the same name so you just need to clarify that in search results. But the second one is a definite bug. If you browser FROM the constellation list, you better end up at a constellation.

This was happening in the latest version, 0.21.0. I also tested in 0.18.0. Same problem. Wow. So this has been around for a while.

I reported the error to the Stellarium development team on GitHub. 

Told Chris.

Told the Stellarium community.

In short order Alexander Wolf replied. 

The second name of beta Gemini is Hercules, so, this is not an error, but I'll add context for it.

Indeed, Pollux has an alternate name. And Castor is also known as "Apollo." OK.

I was not encouraged by his clause "I'll add context." I hope he understands that there is definitely an error in the constellation list in the search. I think we're on the right track... 

Went back tto the thread and asked about the sources for star names. Alexander shared this:

Sources of the names for HIP 37826:

  • Kunitzsch, P.; Smart T. (2006). "A Dictionary of Modern star Names: A Short Guide to 254 Star Names and Their Derivations" (2nd rev. ed.). Cambridge, MA: Sky Pub. ISBN 978-1-931559-44-7
  • Allen, R. H. (1963). "Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning" (rep. ed.). New York, NY: Dover Publications Inc. ISBN 0-486-21079-0
  • IAU Catalog of Star Names (IAU-CSN)
  • Jack W. Rhoads (1971). "Technical Memorandum 33-507-A Reduced Star Catalog Containing 537 Named Stars", Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology; November 15, 1971
  • IAU Naming Stars
  • Bright Star Catalogue, 5th Revised Ed. (Hoffleit+, 1991)
  • Josef Klepesta, Antonin Rukl (1977). "Constellations: A concise guide in colour". ISBN 0600008932


Then he closed the thread. Huh?

Shouldn't it be closed when the bug is stomped out?

Then Georg Zotti shared some observations.

Hercules/Apollo are listed in the BSC and Allen, the latter mentions them as being in use until Flamsteed's times.  Today these names are totally out of use.  We have plans to let users exclude unwanted sources from the star names, when data are complete and somebody finds time to tackle a few major tasks around skycultures.


So the Hercules and Apollo references are from when John Flamsteed was around, i.e. the late 1700s. We sure do need some context.

The ability for the user to control the catalogue sources could be very helpful.

This also reveals something. For years, no other bothered to test the search of all the constellations! Sheesh.

I'll watch for a fix in a future version.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

looking for B (Halifax)

From the backyard with the C8, on 17 Mar '18, I tried to view 11 Leonis Minoris (HU 1128). Could not see the companion and I chalked it up to the magnitude delta.

So on 5 May '18, I sent the Burke-Gaffney Observatory over to have a look-see, snap! It's not definitive but there was a hint of a star, close in, to the primary. To the north-east. Perhaps. Maybe.

While working this, I went to the horse's mouth. The WDS showed a star not has dim as SkyTools alluded to, close, and about the 10 o'clock position. Huh. Maybe I was onto something... And maybe a faster exposure help.

I queued up another job at the end of last year. Half the exposure duration.

But when I checked the BGO images from 28 Dec '20, it was clear something had gone terrible wrong, with either the tracking, the stacking, or both. Sadly, all the channels were mucked up.

On 31 Mar '21 I submitted another job into the BGO robot queue. It shot the target on 9 Apr 2021 00:00:42 ADT.

No weirdness. i.e. to tracking or or problems with the stack. Not perfect, mind you, but good. 

And then I noticed something weird. There is something bright at 90 degrees! And it was in all the channels...

What the heck is that?!

All images: 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

double star 11 LMi in luminance

Luminance only, ½ second subexposures.

double star 11 LMi in red

Red only, 1.5 second subexposures.

double star 11 LMi in green

Green only, 1.5 second subexposures.

double star 11 LMi in blue

Blue only, 1.5 second subexposures.

This is very interesting. Queued up a new job right away.

Need more data...

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

shared lists

Chris made some bookmark lists for Stellarium for the RASC Finest NGC targets, broken down by season. I created a web page on the RASC TC site to host them (and future files).

delivered my TSTM for April

Delivered my The Sky This Month presentation. Covers 7 April to 5 May. This was for the RASC Toronto Centre. As usual, we live-streamed and recorded the event. I provided detailed notes in an article on our web site. As I am want to do, I provided a month-at-a-glance calendar (in a PDF file) with daily events and icons indicating the gear required. I also provided the suggested targets in observing lists for SkyTools, SkySafari, and a plain Excel spreadsheet. For the first time ever, I provided a list for Stellarium, to be imported into the bookmarks.


The extracted, edited video is available on the RASC Toronto YouTube channel.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

shared some good news

Answered a YouTube question on the RASC TC channel. Someone asked, of Dave Lane's talk, what the fees were for using the MRO. Shared the good news!

shared some pix

Sent over a bunch of sample images to my SkyNews editor. For the next maker article. Hopefully some of them will work.

turned up the wick

Stressful day. Had to get a move on with my TSTM presentation...

Monday, April 05, 2021

downloaded a VSP app

Downloaded HW VSP3 - Virtual Serial Port from HW Group. Very interesting...

Stellarium registrations triggered

The RASC Weekly e-notice shipped out. The RASC TC Stellarium course was mentioned. Nice.

a RASC Weekly message

'Course, the triggered a little flood of messages. I'm not sure why but some landed in the EPO mailbox. Anyhoo, got a few more peeps signed up!

forwarding a serial port

I also received an answer from Fabien of Stellarium Labs on my Stellarium Mobile Plus app's ability to control a mount.

If you have your laptop connected to the mount, the easiest is to forward the serial port on a TCP/IP socket on which Stellarium Plus will be able to connect.

Oh ho. Good to know.

He said that on Linux (and maybe on the Mac), one can do this just by running this command in a terminal:

socat TCP-LISTEN:10000,fork,reuseaddr FILE:/dev/ttyUSB0,b9600,raw,echo=0

Then the user would tell SMP to connect to the laptop IP on port 10000.

no free version for you

I heard back from Fabien on Stellarium Mobile Plus.

There is no free version on iOS.  We are adjusting the price regularly.  The iOS price might well go slightly up in the future.

Good to know. So not my imagination. There's no free, stripped down, limited version of Stellarium, like Stellarium Mobile (without the Plus) on the Android platform.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

recreated the search problem

Chris V explained this to me a little while ago but I was unclear.

He even sent an example, which I tried, but I did not get errors or problems. 

But today, it happened!

In Stellarium (the latest version 0.21.0 no less), I was searching for something. A rather common double star. 54 Leonis.

I noticed that if I typed "54 leo" (without the quotes of course), if I typed it fully and quickly, I saw * 54 Leo (with an asterisk) in the search results list. And when I hit Enter or selected the item, I went to an unknown star! Scant details in the object information display. Weird.

So I tried again. But I typed very slowly, pausing between each character. I typed 54, space, then "l" (lower-case L) and paused. The search results listing showed two items!

54 Leo

* 54 Leo

When I chose the first suggestion, without the asterisk, I got normal stuff! I was clearly on correct star and lots of normal data showed in the information list. Very weird.

I shared my findings with Chris. "Yes. That's what I've been talking about."

Previously Chris said it didn't matter what the SIMBAD option was in the Search window...

Neither of us understand what's happening but there's some sort of glitch in the Search window. The items marked with an asterisk appear to be things not found in a catalogue. But somehow the location is right.

Or so it seems.

I noticed when I zoomed in tight, to a very high level, the * 54 Leo marker was not on the star. It was a bit off. It seems to be tied to a location but not an actual object in a catalogue.

This creates a caution for users. When searching, certainly for common stuff, avoiding selecting items with an asterisk.

checked another ETM

Reviewed another Explore The Moon application from a RASC Toronto Centre member.

highlighted doubles

Look at that!

RASC double stars highlighted

All my doubles!

These are all the double stars in the new RASC observing programme highlighted in Stellarium.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

learned we can't make categories

I posted a question on the discussion channel at the Stellarium GitHub. I asked if the WUT lists might be user-serviceable. One of the developers, Alexander, replied.

Right now only developers can create lists for WUT tool. Theoretically we can add tool for creating custom lists of objects for WUT tool, but I see problem with unnamed stars.


But imagining it not possible is what got me reconsidering the Bookmarks.

made a list, in Stellarium!

I just made a list in Stellarium, using the Bookmarks feature, for a double star list. Exported it. For sharing. In the same vein as making a list in SkyTools! Wow. Wow! Some paradigm shifting brain rewiring stuff going on here...

helped two presenters

Helped Charles and Alex prep for their announcement Wednesday night... All sorted. They shared their slide deck with me. We did on the fly updating.

clarification on driver bitness

While trying to offer some help to a Stellarium user on Cloudy Nights, and relaying my ASCOM driver "bitness" matter, we learned some fascinating information from Bob D (a software developer). He explained that if a driver is an EXE file then it does not matter if the driver is 32- or 64-bit. Whereas if driver is an "in process" DLL-type file then it is indeed usable only from 32-bit apps. Good stuff!

Friday, April 02, 2021

tried to connect SMP to mount

I was thinking I could not test Stellarium Mobile Plus (SMP) with driving a mount...

No modern wifi mount. No wifi dongle. No standard mount.

Then a little light bulb went off somewhere... I think it was when I was reading the online help for SMP and saw something about control through a network. Wait. What?


On the laptop.

With a Bluetooth connection between the phone and the laptop!


9:40. Wired up and started the Vixen Super Polaris supercharged with the IDEA GoToStar system (still sitting beside my workstation). One-star aligned with Aldebaran, as usual.

Uninstalled 64-bit Stellarium 0.21.0 while downloading 32-bit. Along the way, added a bookmark into the bookmark bar.

(Huh, the 21 uninstaller didn't ask about "keeping files" or not.)

Paired the phone and computer.

9:45. Installed Stell v21-32b.

The installer said it found a Stellarium folder. Uh huh.

9:49. Launched Stellarium.

Will it have previous settings, I wondered... Yep. All the active buttons and plug-ins. Star catalogue 5 loaded. But nothing in the mount profiles list.

Loaner USB at COM4.

Made a (an ASCOM) profile for the Vixen-IDEA rig. Connected.

9:56. Good slew to Betelgeuse.

OK. Stage 1 done...

10:00. StellariumScope running and configured with ASCOM.

First attempt in SMP.

Instruments menu. Turned on Telescope toggle... 


It's trying to go through the Network but the IP host is wrong. Fixed that.

10:02. Attempt 2.

No luck. I saw a "probing" message with references to NexStar and LX200 but I think that's like "direct" support on the full app.

10:04. Trying Bluetooth.

Nothing on the device scan. Sheesh.

Phone doesn't seem to want to connect to the computer...

10:10. Initiated the Pair new device on the phone again. It saw (again) the laptop. Saw the common key. And Windows show it as paired (again).

10:14. Sent a file from the laptop to the phone successfully...

10:17. But I can't seem to send a file from the phone...

Went to Receive Files on Windoze. Working now.

10:20. Laptop appeared now in phone.

But then message Connected to service failed (5/5) appeared and it disconnected.

Guess I should read the manual... 

10:37. Found a Starry Night BlueStar Telescope adapter (with the NexStar cable)...

10:46. Tested with Stellarium 0.18.0 on desktop via laptop via StellariumScope work (as before).

Reset the BlueStar and paired with phone.

11:00. Cycled thru 5 times but then disconnect. I think it's looking for connected hand controller...

11:02. Plugged the BT adapter into the GoToStar. Triggered the connect on the phone. The red LED went out on the BT device. Something happening. Phone went to through the device types...


Dang, I thought the GoToStar hand controller might answer to LX200 commands...

11:11. Tried the Intelliscope cable with the BlueStar. Nope.

Back to the network solution...

Maybe I can try one of those LX200 drivers that... kinda worked.

Activated AdvancedLX200 ASCOM driver in StellariumScope. Nope.

Oh. Tried again and watched the Staples USB-serial adapter. Lots of activity!

And the AdvancedLX driver causes all sorts of other issues...

11:35. Tried everything I can think of.

Hmm. I have an OTG cable...


Well. At least I got newest Stellarium correctly installed.

I keep thinking though, why is the network method looking for a type of mount? My impression from the support text is that it will just work through the network. I dunno.

tune in Wednesday

Tune into the RASC Toronto YouTube live stream on Wednesday where I'll be delivering a The Sky This Month presentation. All are welcome.

built first mobile course

Built a new course! I drafted the content for the Stellarium mobile app training. 

Stellarim Mobile Plus on phone

I was surprised with the result. I thought I'd be able to cover everything in Stellarium Mobile Plus in a 2 hour course. Nope. Will need two courses! Tells you how rich the product for slates is. So that's more work... Anyway the level 1 introduction is fleshed out. Very exciting.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

sent in next Journal piece

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. Submitted my article for the next RASC Journal. Let Nicole it was ready to go.

This one was  in the can for a while, I wrote it a month or so ago. My proof-reader Rhonda was impressed: only one typo.