Wednesday, June 30, 2021

wow, stars!

Couldn't figure out from the web site or paper calendar if there will be garbage collection. Still, with a small mountain of recycling piling up in the kitchen, I thought, I can't afford to miss it. So, I hauled the blue and green bins to the curb. Was surprised to see stars!

learned of constructor theory

Back in early May, I first watched this Quanta magazine video with theoritcal physics Chiara Marletto. I just watched it again. It's exciting.


She's working on constructor theory, which might introduce a very powerful switch. It might help reconcile quantum theory and general relativity with a new array of tools. They currently clash with each other. 

It was very interesting, her words. I was also intrigued by her note-taking, very old and very new.

I really do think we're off track.

I do think a "radical" approach might be needed.

wished Paul the best

Attended the Director Delaney Departure Derby event hosted by York University's Allan I Carswell Observatory. Bittersweet sending Professor Paul Delaney off on his retirement. Got a chance in the post-event Zoom to tell my Mars Opposition 2003 story.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

updated certs database

Applied some updates to the observing certificates database thanks to some corrective notes from RASC national office. Very interesting. Shared with the team.

rain and clouds

Wow. This weather is rotten. Hopefully it will improve near the new Moon...

submitted the eval

Completed the survey form for the RASC General Assembly. I was able to list my observations and suggestions.

3 ETM-Ts

Whoa. Acknowledged three RASC Explore the Moon - Telescope certificates.

Monday, June 28, 2021

reached out

Would much rather do the pitch in person, face to face. Such that it is, I asked a bunch of the "regulars" if they might be interested in banding together to form the new Observing Committee for the Toronto Centre... 


Woo hoo. Four people responded. So far!

sent JRASC edits

Returned edits for my new column article for the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

it's over

Attended the fourth and final day of the General Assembly. Virtual observatory tour day! We "visited" the meteor collection and analysis facility out west, ALMA aray in South America, and the new Roberta Bondar Northern Observatory, courtesy the Thebacha & Wood Buffalo Astronomical Society. It's a wrap.


The ALMA video shared by Dr. Sean Dougherty was surprisingly touching.

It is really the story of the close-knit community of people wanting desperately to get back to work, exploring the Universe.


The Dark Sky Festival was making it onto lots of people's bucket lists.


That was the University of Alberta Meteorite Collection.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

the third day

Attended day 3 events in the RASC General Assembly. The national council meetings were closed. Or were initially until some gentle protesting. Then in there was a meet-the-staff planned. But it turned out this was a very casual walk-around and chat type of thing. I suggested to Jenna that staff update their avatar description so that members unfamiliar with the staff would know who was who. Watched the "Mars Madness" panel discussion which was interesting. Had a quick dinner during the break and then attended the Annual General Meeting. During the Committee Reports segment, I updated members on 2020 activities with the Observing Committee. There was some drama at the end but overall it seemed a good meeting. I was blown away when Robyn Foret quoted me from Dr Hilding Neilson's talk!


Pitched Brendon of Thunder Bay about the Local Certification Centre function. And asked if their web site could be updated for the newer RASC observing programs. He said he'd look into it.


Heard from Lauri and Linda, from the national EPO committee. We're going to get in touch to talk about their new observing program.

a long day 2

Day 2 of the RASC General Assembly. Attended the Committee Presentations at noon. The three speakers started at 3:00 PM. Had a quick dinner then jumped into to meet peeps and visit Phil G's virtual tiki bar. Logged out at 1:45 AM. Not the last one standing but it was a long day.


Lots of familiar faces, er, names, in the Zoom session for the committees.


Enjoyed Bob King's committee report on Light Pollution Abatement, on multiple levels. I will try to reach out to him for strategies for dealing with my local community.


I was very surprised with Kate Russo's talk on the psychology impact of total solar eclipses.

Friday, June 25, 2021

and, we're off

Watched Emily Calandrelli's presentation. She was the keynote to start off the RASC General Assembly. Unfortunately her internet connection was bad so all her shared videos were unwatchable. Still, an invigorating speaker. It's good to hear that she is inspiring girls into STEM and improving understanding and better representation in science and technology industries.

he shared intercardinal tip

Arnold asked Chris and I about the intercardinal markings (on the "16 winds" compass rose) in the latest Stellarium. But he figured it out on his own. I encouraged him to share with fellow users in the Google Classroom. He did.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

tried for xi Boo

Tried to image binary star ξ (xi) Boo with BGO but it failed. The luminance and the colour channels look like I captured a meteor.

Stellarium 0.21.1 is out

New version of Stellarium out! Woo hoo! Looks like a bunch of my bug reports have been dealt with...

imaged Proxima Ophiuchi (Halifax)

The Burke-Gaffney Observatory robot imaged Barnard's Star. This star in Ophiuchus is known to have very high proper motion, approximate 10 arcseconds per year. Aimed at HIP 87937; the image is centred there. Barnard's Star is the bright star above centre.

Barnard's Star in luminance in 2021

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

I requested this target three times now. 

Even with two frames, it was a enough to see the rapid motion in a little movie.


Switched to the archive:

Wikipedia link: Barnard's Star.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

started digging

Started researching my next SkyNews article...

tried Gather

Played around a bit in Gather, in advance of the RASC GA. Spotted "alien" in the RASC space but I didn't know who that was. I invited Chris V so he jumped it. 

Gather character dialogue

No "clothing" option for balding old white guy...

It was fun. Later we chatted with alien aka Aline. Jenna popped in for a bit. Learned a bunch of keyboard shortcuts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

read about HST glitch

Read that the Hubble Space Telescope is still down for the count. The article said NASA is still trying to sort out an issue with the "payload computer." 

computer says no

In the meantime, the instruments are in safe mode and no science is being done.

submitted photos

Entertained a request of the RASC Journal editor for some hi-rez eclipse photos...


w00t! Got the back cover of the August JRASC!

updated calendar

Updated the RASC national calendar with Toronto Centre events. Not a lot going on. Was very careful in entering the Stellarium course information.

posted Jun '21 doubles list

Prepared my double star "bulletin." It is a short list of suggested targets. I shared this on the RASC Toronto Centre forum. I post here for all.


Here's a short selection of doubles from my life list, ones I find interesting and impressive. Hopefully not too challenging.

staralso known asalternate catalogue(s)
HD 105288 CVnHJ 2596SAO 44039, HIP 59115
HR 4698 ComΣ1633SAO 82254, HIP 60197
40-41 DraΣ2308SAO 8996, HIP 88136
HD 132357 BooΣ1895SAO 45298, HIP 73185
HD 151367 HerΣ2098SAO 65531, HIP 82058

Double stars punch through bright skies so you can observe them any time, anywhere!

I look forward to hearing how you did! Share your log notes.

Blake Nancarrow 
astronomy at computer-ease dot com

Notable double star designations:
Σ = F. Struve, STF
OΣ = O. Struve, STT
β = Burnham 


Frank spotted duplicates. The first two I had mentioned last month. Ooops. Oldmanitis strikes again.

saw the old messages

Medium old. Yesterday I reported to the Executive Director that messages were disappearing from the ObsComm. Only the last 10 topics or threads were showing. The ED had no idea. No one else had said anything. What would have happened if I hadn't reported it? We can't have messages suddenly disappearing. Another step backwards. Users normally expect that a forum or a listserv is gospel, that all messages are kept, so it can be treated as an archive, and used in audit trail. The key contact at the developer said, "No data loss here." Then said, it was a "paging / display issue with forums that had more than 100 threads. This is fixed now." Uh huh.

Monday, June 21, 2021

heard of unfurl

I knew that new solar panels were shipped to the International Space Station. I knew they were smaller and more efficient. I knew the current/old panels were "wearing out" and Station needs more energy. And I had heard that the first attempt to deploy the new arrays didn't happen, due to Murphy's Law. But I spotted the article at that indicated some success. The first of the new six arrays was unfurled.

processed more apps

Processed a ton of Stellarium training course applications again. Another RASC Weekly notice went out (again with errors) creating a flurry of activity. And it also caused some people to think they would jump in the course happening today! Hope I didn't disappoint. I am happy for the promotion, it's great there is still a lot of interest, but I need to fix the wording in these things. And I'm kinda thinking we need a general purpose form...

taught level 2 again

Taught the level 2 intermediate Stellarium training course again. Al audited. Went fairly well.

on the hook

Was asked to (told I have to?) present at the RASC Annual General Meeting during the committee updates portion. Sunday evening. Hmmm. As I suspected. As the interim chair of the Observing Committee, I'm now on the hook. At least it's short n' sweet. Three minutes. It will feel like an Oscar speech...

I looked at the agenda. I'm TBA.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

happy solstice

How did the Sun greet you today?

I was treated to another beautiful day, pleasant temperatures, low humidity, partly cloudy but intense Sun at times. It sure looked like people were getting thunderstorms and rain somewhere. Watched the setting Sun trace long angled lines across the grass. Around dinner time, I saw the waxing Moon before heading indoors—the mosquitos were taking a great deal of interest in me.

We're at the solstice, the June solstice, when the Sun is moving from Taurus to Gemini, when the Sun furthest from the celestial equator, in this case, as far north as it can go.

the analemma

In the northern hemisphere of this little planet, that means the Sun will rise and set nearly it mostly northern extent, and will climb to its highest point in the daytime sky (during the day before or after). And that means summer time! Everything is flipped of course on the other side of the planet; it's winter season in the southern hemisphere with a shallow Sun angle.

The Sun is still...

I have always loved summer. I like the warmth of the Sun on my skin, bright blue skies, the green trees, all the fragrances in the air, all the animals and the birds and most of the bugs. I could do without millipedes and mozzies. I saw a marmot in the backyard a couple of days ago and I smelled the skunk. Today I listened to the cardinals and jays and robins and the hungry baby starlings. 

The only thing I don't like about the summer is the short night. Really gotta be on your game during an astronomy session.

I am grateful for my nice backyard. I am happy to be healthy. Many don't have what I have. We gotta fix that.

I think I carry in my heart a big dash of optimism. I hope we're making this world a better place. 

For all. For everything.

received SN Jul-Aug '21

SkyNews! Received my copy! Woo hoo. The July/August 2021 edition.

cover of Jul-Aug '21 SkyNews
There are pictures of the northern lights and an article on Apollo 15.

Brian Ventrudo discusses summer meteor showers. Nicole Mortillaro and Chris Vaughan help us find deep-sky objects.

Alan Dyer reviews SharpStar’s a small refractor.

Ivan Semeniuk reports on dark matter research in Canada.

And Elizabeth Howell reports on students and teachers contributing to real space science.

Showed Rhonda my piece, my "Hacking Your Scope" article.


The online article snippets shows my custom dew heater controller "None More Black," ha ha!

snippet of my "hacking" article

Hack on!

more errors in SkySafari

While working through the first returned Double Stars observing certificate log book, I was comparing the observer's sketches to simulated fields in SkyTools. The observer indicated she used SkySafaari to help her with finding targets and identifying stars. However, a couple of times she was confused.

I've known of errors or issues with SkySafari but these comparisons brought a couple to light.

The first is a somewhat gross error. The target star in Cancer is HD 75646 also known as STTA 96 or CCDM 08520+2543.

incorrect reference to STTA 96

The catalogue reference of Struve 96 is wrong.

It should be Otto Struve Appendix A 96 or STTA 96 or OΣΣ 96.

Curious, Chris and I found that same problem in Stellarium...

It seems the programmers don't really understand how the Washington Double Star nomenclature works.

The way the magnitudes are shown is also kinda strange. The 10.60 refers to the C companion while 8.45 refers to B. SS does not identify the individual members by letter codes as per the WDS so the user really is tossed in the deep end.

Later, I checked HD 109556 aka STF1659 (Struve), a lovely multi-star system in Corvus. Normally tapping on or near a star shows the identifier.

truncated star name

Right away I saw it was wrong. The star is not HD 10958. They dropped a digit! That would be really confusing to the novice user and junior double star hunter.

That star is specifically HD 109584, the 6th component of the Σ1659 double star, i.e. the F star. 

By the way, the separate value of 208.2" is pretty good. SkyTools 4 Visual Pro shows 207.4" as of 2002. The WDS (via Stelle Doppie) shows 209.4". 

They could really use someone to vet their databases.

Friday, June 18, 2021

tried a dark horse

a dark horse wine
While at the nearest grocery store, getting some lamb for the next vindaloo, I spotted a bottle in front of me (ha). It had a constellation on it, a horse rearing up. A dark horse.

This is Dark Horse Palimino Red 2018. A VQA Niagara region product via the in-house Wine Rack. Made with Cab Franc and Cab Sauv grapes. Made by Dark Horse Wines of Niagara Falls. Inexpensive.

Lovely colour. Fruity nose. A bit more sugar than others but still pleasantly dry. And a pleasant taste, not harsh, hints of fruit, berries specifically, a touch of spice. I like it.

met Sarnia prez

Met with the president of the Sarnia RASC centre. Great chat. Twisted his arm :-D to review Explore the Universe certificates in the future.

helped Montréal crew

Wrote a long treatment to help our Montréal volunteers in reviewing Explore the Universe certificates. Something I wanted a long time ago.

heard from Sim Curr

A response came in from the Simulation Curriculum crew, triggered by my query to Pedro.

From David W with Rosalind H and Keiron S copied.

He advocated using the LiveSky tool for managing observing lists. I shared that I had (after a time) figured that out on my own. 

He went on to say that one can share a list via the web and it makes a publicly accessible link. Good. I do see the broader benefits of the LiveSky environment.

I told the Sim Curr team that I had run into a lot of old documentation and confusing countermanding notes but that I appreciated they had limited resources and hadn't gotten around to updating things.

Near the end, he said this:

If you absolutely positively want to be a dinosaur, and "email" an old style observing list or host it on your own server (yuck!).

Wow. Don't know quite what to think of that.

I said that I appreciated the suggestion about email (such that it is) but told him it was throwing I/O errors. So that was broken. Perhaps they should not advise people to use that right now.

Just confirms my feelings. The company is incompetent.

It's a good app but their support systems suck. 

If a user is not tech savvy, they'll be screwed with all the problems.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

received an EtU from QC

Received an Explore the Universe application from an astronomer in Montréal. I acknowledged receipt and reached out to the nearest centre...

uploaded FNGC lists

Thanks for Dave C and Chris V, we produced SkySafari .skylist and Stellarium .json files for the Finest NGC targets. These will help people pursuing the RASC observing programs wanting to use apps in their planning.

more time I can't get back

More time wasted.

After hours of tests, experiments, reboots, researching, reading, I was still getting no where.

What I could do:

  • copy .skylist files into the Android/data... files/Observing Lists folder
  • use and edit observing lists on the phone

What I could not do:

  • see .skylist files into the Android/data... files/Observing Lists folder
  • and since I could not see, I could not copy 
  • email an observing list from within the phone app

So this created a bad situation. A very bad situation. I had edited and improved some observing lists that I now wanted to share with others. Can't. Can't copy or email the files.

locked out

The file visibility issue might be an Android problem. 

But then, why can I see the .skyset files in the Saved Settings and the .skydat files in SkyData? Huh?

The I/O error inside SkySafari 6 Plus on Android is clearly a problem caused by Simulation Curriculum. Uh huh.

No answers on the Sim Curr community forum.

No reply to an email to Pedro.

No ideas from Chris.

No helpful explanation in the on-board help.

No helpful explanation on web-based user manual.

No answers over in Cloudy Nights.

Just tried the "cloud" LiveSky feature and it looks like it might work. Even that was not without challenges! Dumb dumb things encountered. There's a "download" button for each observing list, thank the Universe!

I am obviously tech-savvy with programming experience with an educational background and a good technical writer and I am aghast! It is mind-bogging how bad this whole experience has been.

And they wasted a bunch more hours today.

Simulation Curriculum is clearly in trouble.

locked in dates

Locked in some more Stellarium training dates. Kersti will run a level 1 intro course on 12 July. I'll deliver another level 2 intermediate the week after. Al has offered to teach a level 1 in mid-July. Maybe Ian B will be able to tackle one too. That'll help catch us up. But then, the new bottle neck is intermediate level trainers. Ian said he'll start ramping up. Issued notices to people on the waiting lists...

explained the Q number

Helped Arnold understand the Q-numbering scheme with the RASC Explore the Moon observing programs. It made for a "eureka" moment for him.

heard of another EtU

Received word from the RASC Ottawa secretary of a completed and approved Explore the Universe application. Woo hoo. Awesome. Forwarded deets to national office and let the Obs Comm team know.

booked for GA

Booked in for the RASC General Assembly, received my ticket. Glad. Looking forward to the various talks and keynotes. 

masthead for RASC GA 2021

But will miss clinking glasses with people...

tuned into Moon at Noon

Popped into the RASC Moon at Noon, the last one. Answered a few questions in the Zoom and YouTube chats. Apparently, I'll have to make an Explore The Earth observing application soon for people living on the Moon...

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

discussed fibre matters

Had a bried discussion with the chair and maintenance manager of the Carr Astronomical Observatory regarding the status of fibre optic installations in the region as well as bandwidth numbers.

goose chase for custom lists


I'm surprised and not surprised.

Simulation Curriculum is messed up. Still messed up.

A key reason for coughing up funds for SkySafari 6 Plus today was to be able to receive custom observing lists from others, view them, use them.

So I went into the Search screen, swiped to the bottom, and I didn't see anything. 

I was certain that's what I used to do.


I was looking for "custom" or something like that... at the bottom... if memory served.

So I appealed to Google. It suggested a page from the online manual.

Topic: Observing Lists.

In the opening remarks:

You create and access observing lists at the bottom of the Search view, in the Custom Observing Lists section.

I was right. Or my faint memory was right or consistent with what the manual said.

Tried again.


Killed the app. Restarted it.


Rebooted the phone.

No joy.

Skimmed the manual page and noted at the bottom the section SD Card Import & Export.

If you're using SkySafari for Android, you can import and export observing lists to SkySafari using your SD card.
So I made a folder on my microSD as per the instructions and copied an old .skylist file there.

Checked the app.


Whiskey tango foxtrot.

I just paid money for this and it is not working right. Would I have to contact technical support and talk to a human? I loathed the thought of asking them for help. I'll do this on my own. Thanks for nothing.

Tried Google again this time indicating the "custom" option was missing.

Got a hit on CloudyNights.

DHEB, long-time user, had updated his SS6 Pro. Loaded a new list into the same ole' folder and it did not show.

Various people made suggestions but nothing worked.

So DHEB went to the Sim Curr community forum space for help. I read the thread.

Issues due to the Android, and the Android 10 security protocols.

But I wasn't on Android 10.

Still, I made a folder, in the internal memory this time, as prescribed by Ros.

Android/data/com.simulationcurriculum.skysafari6pro/files/Observing Lists

substituting for "pro."

Restarted the app?


Rebooted the phone again.


Scoffing shipwreckers! I was thinking I'd have to ask for my money back...

Then I selected an object, Achird from the Tonight's Best list, and tried to add it to an observing list.

Whoa, wait, what? A dialogue appeared saying it had been added to my observing list, the old one I had added! What? Where? How?

I looked at the bottom of the Search list again.

Nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

What now?

Fumbled around the Sim Curr web pages a bit. Noted a reference to Yahoo!Groups. What? Long gone, ya goofs!

Tapped the onboard help button, the circled question mark, in the Search screen.

At first, it looked like the same text as the online web page user manual that I had read already. 

Bottom of the onboard page sported a section Custom Observing Lists.


Spotted this:

In SkySafari Plus and Pro, you can create a custom observing list. To create a custom list of objects, first tap the Action & Settings at the top of the list. 

What? Action & Settings? Where was that?

I checked the Search list. No...

Where was this Action & Settings for crying out loud?

What list?

That was confusing.

But then something clicked. From the Search list I chose the Messier list.

There it was! The Actions & Settings at the top of the Messier list (it was atop the Tonight's Best too but I had not noted it).

And inside the list's actions & settings screen, at the top, was the button to Make Into Observing List.


Tapped it.

A dialogue appear confirming the creation of the new list. Which I almost dismissed before readed the last sentence.

You can find it under "Observing Lists" after tapping the Observe button.

Observe button?! What's the Observe button?

Headed to the main screen.

Between Settings and Time, an eyeball, labelled Observe. Tapping it shows:

  • Planner
  • Observing Lists
  • Observations
  • Sessions
  • Sites
  • Scope Display
  • Equipment

Uh huh.

So it looked like a big change, a big reorg, from version 5 to 6, with the new Observe button collating a bunch of related functions.

Excitedly, I tapped on Observing Lists and a familiar screen appeared. At last I saw my old 2020 observing list plus the new one just made based on the Messiers.


Went back and checked the online manual on the web site. I'm not crazy. Mama had me tested. It definitely says observing lists are accessed at the bottom of the Search screen.

So old data on their web site. One of the easiest resources to fix. Online manuals were invented to replace paper manuals. Online manuals should never be out of date. Fix your web site! Fix your web site for your paying customers! You gave me an hour of grief.

Wasted my time.

Hey, Simulation Curriculum. Hire me! I'll fix your terrible web site.

So annoying.

couldn't make a list

Can't seem to create a new observing list in SkySafari 6 Plus. Sheesh. Have I already encountered a bug?!

to show the path

Helped John D with Stellarium. He wanted to know what I used to represent the ecliptic. He said he used the Equator of J2000.0 though he suspected it was not the correct option.

path of the planets

I told him to try the COMMA key. I pointed out there was no toolbar button for it.

helped Arn with bookmarks

Arnold asked for some help with bookmarks in Stellarium. I sent over some tips, harvesting some content from my quick reference materials.

ooh, that's why

A day or two ago, I received another request to take a Stellarium training course. It appeared to be in reaction to the recent RASC notice. And later I confirmed the person had heard about it by this communication.

I asked the Executive Director how this could be. 

There are, and have always been, a few non-members who receive our email bulletin, having signed up from the website.

I was surprised. I had no idea. I just assumed the RASC Weekly and RASC Bulletin were in-reach channels. 

Do other contributors know this?! I asked this question but it was not answered.

I suggested they include a sales pitch. That was noted.

I don't have a problem per se with it including externals. 

But it means now that my notices on the RASC national calendar need to include the text "for members only" somewhere. If I'm lucky, that will get scraped into the RASC e-news post. Hrm.

This explains why, for a while now, I've been getting the odd non-member query...

heard it's out

Chris V pinged me on SMS. Congratulated me on my latest SkyNews article. Oh ho! It's out. I had checked my local on the weekend...

shared cultures supported in Stellarium

During the conversation about Native Skywatchers Summer Workshop on the RASC Toronto Centre forum, Katrina noted that she saw that Stellarium supported different cultures. Indeed. I confirmed this, said that I knew Ojibwe and Dakota/Lakota was included. But that I hadn't seen Mi'kmaq...

That said, a key strength of Stellarium is that it was an open system so more starlore information on stars, constellations (with artwork), and planets could be added.

Dakota sky

Then I dove into the app on the John Gomez computer.

Stellarium 0.21.0 has starlore or sky culture information for:

  • Al-Sufi
  • Almagest
  • Anutan
  • Arabic Moon Stations
  • Aztec
  • Babylonian (MUL.APIN and Seleucid)
  • Belarusian
  • Boorong
  • Chinese (traditional, contemporary, medieval)
  • Dakota/Lakota/Nakota
  • Egyptian
  • Hawaiian Starlines
  • Indian Vedic
  • Inuit
  • Japanese Moon Stations
  • Kamilaroi/Euahlayi
  • Korean
  • Lokono
  • Macedonian
  • Maori
  • Maya
  • Mongolian
  • Navajo
  • Norse
  • Northern Andes
  • Ojibwe
  • Romanian
  • Sami
  • Sardinian
  • Siberian
  • Tongan
  • Kukano
  • Tupi-Guarani
  • Vanuatu (Netware)
  • Western (Roman-Greco, H.A.Rey, O.Hlad, Sky & Telescope)

She was suitably impressed. Might even download the software. SkySafari has nothing like this.

And Stellarium can operate in many different languages.

procured SS6+

SkySafari 6 Plus was deeply discounted. Bought it to replace the "basic" on the Android phone. And to more easily build and test observing list files. It wants 402 MB of space. They STILL do not let you move it an external card. Grrr!

received four SS files

Dave C sent over Finest NGC lists for SkySafari, four files, for the seasons. I will install these on the phone for a quick check. The plan is to get these on the RASC site for observers to use...

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

attended part 2

Attended (as much as I could) the day 2 of the Native Skywatchers workshop.

Visit their amazing web site for more information.

"We need to change the way we tell our stories."

Monday, June 14, 2021

added more to the waiting list

Received still more registrations for Stellarium training. Yep, another RASC Weekly notice went out. Despite the typo, we garnered another dozen people.

attended workshop

Attended day 1 of the Native Skywatchers Educator & Community Summer 2021 Workshop.

Talks, tellings, stories, and sharing by Annette S. Lee, Jeffrey Tibbetts, Carl Gawboy, William Wilson, Wilfred Buck, Nancy Maryboy, David Begay, Will Morin, Janice Bad Moccasin, Ida Downwind, Paul  Horne, and Arvol Looking Horse.

Learned lots! Very inspiring.

"Step forward and we'll meet you half way."

Saturday, June 12, 2021

made lists for the FNGC

On 8 June, a member sent a note to the national Observing Committee chair address requesting a simple list for RASC Finest NGC observing program.

He correctly noted there was no list. Just a long (115 pages) PDF document with form pages with space for log notes, sketches, etc. He felt a straight list would be far more user-friendly in the field.

Indeed. In the same manner as the new Double Stars program, I have been thinking the others should have lists in useful formats. In fact, I think we should provide electronic formats for the popular software apps that can show observing lists.

I made a proper list in SkyTools 3. Done.

I copied this information to an Excel file and converted it to a table to support filtering and sorting.

I duplicated this information, recomposed it slightly, to make a nice printed format, which I at last saved in Portable Document Format.

Uploaded the files.

I will use Chris V's Stellarium files once finished.

Updated the Obs Comm team asking for help on the SkySafari file. Dave C offered to help on that.

Checked with the Observer's Handbook editor, James. He was very supportive.

Told the member. He was thrilled.

reviewed doubles in Oph

Chris B is working on an article in the RASC Observer's Handbook. He asked me about some doubles in Ophiuchus including 70. Told him I had in fact observed it visual and now I was photographing it with BGO.

I dug deeper into the other doubles he asked about. 

I did not have a good entry for λ Ophiuchi in the life list: no description and no date reference.

And I had a closer look at the sketch I had done for 36 aka SHJ 243. Oh ho! It's actually a 5-star system and I had captured 4 of the stars in my sketch! Sweet. Free pass for 2 more pairs on the life list!

received EtU app

Received the application, checklist, and log book notes from a new Prince George member applying for the Explore the Universe Observing Program. We no longer have a rep there so I'll have to process this one.

fixed links

Fixed the bad YouTube links on the national web page for the intermediate observing programs.

learned of a milestone

Received a wonderful note.

As of early today, a member completed the last three doubles in the Double Star program! 

That just made my month!

Thursday, June 10, 2021

three weeks out

Be careful what you wish for, I guess. I asked the Executive Director to stop painting rosey pictures and giving us overly optimistic deadlines for deliverables. I pointed asked when we could reasonably expect Digest mode to be implemented with the new forum tool. The answer came back after his meeting with the development team. Three weeks.

caught penultimate RASC show

Tuned into the RASC Moon At Noon webinar show event thing, at last, as Samantha, Jenna, and John discussed the solar eclipse and Samantha and Jenna sketched Posidonius. This week: Q minus 2. Spotted Dave over on YouTube. Congratulated Lisa Ann on her ETM award.

watched the partial occultation (Bradford)

3:00 AM. Woke with the motorola alarm. Suited up, grabbed items on the stairwell, and headed out.

Tried the entrance from Noble Drive but the gate to the water tower was closed (and presumably locked). Headed to the school—St Teresa Of Calcutta Catholic—and parked near the jungle gym.

Ugh. Four (no five) trips up the steep grade of the reservoir. Don't have a heart attack, don't have a heart attack, don't have a heart attack. I was warm at the end of it all but the breeze was refreshing. A slog.

Rested for a moment. 

Then began the assembly. Priority: the big telescope.

Put the make-shift windsock over the recorder microphone.

4:28. Set up the DSLR camera. Took test shots for focus and framing. Had the kit lens set to manual mode. Used a distant red blinkie light to get the focus.

4:38. Birds a'chirping. Started the Sony audio recorder. Oh oh, the battery level was low. 

The ETX-90 was on the large metal tripod—on Jupiter. The C8 with supercharged Vixen SP mount powered with the SLA marine battery—on Saturn. Filters and other solar paraphernalia ready to go. Low cloud on the horizon, up to about 5 degrees. Hopefully that would not interfere significantly. Actually maybe it would make the view pretty dramatic.

All four moons were Jupiter visible.

Snapped a shot of the setup.

big 'scope, little 'scope, camera

motorola e6, f/2.0, 1/15th second, ISO 2344, auto-flash, minor adjustments in DPP.

4:43. Put new AAA batteries in the recorder. Left it late and couldn't find the black-yellow rechargeables... Fortunately I had a some alkalines in astronomy case α (alpha) primus. Whew. Double-checked the time on the smartphone.

4:45. Colourful sky. Thick cloud bank...

colourful sky to the north-east

Canon 40D, 18-55 kit lens at 55, manually focused, f/5.6, ½ second, ISO 400, daylight, RAW, minor adjustments in DPP.

4:49. Looked again at the ringed planet. I had noted this before. Faint moon, about 1.5 planet-widths distant, toward the 2 o'clock position. Two bright moons (or stars?) formed an equilateral triangle. Three to four ring-widths away. 9 and 7 positions. Very nice view. It's gonna be good this summer!

[ed: From SkyTools 4 Visual Pro, Tethys and Rhea were both at the 2 o'clock (east), very close together; Titan was at the 7 (west), and star HD 200183 was at 9.]

Also snapped the scene with the smartphone.

the water tower

motorola e6, f/2.0, 1/15th second, ISO 1456, minor adjustments in DPP.

4:53. Listened to the animals and birds. Heard the town waking up...

The sky was turning a lovely orange-red. Put the jacket back on. 

They were clearly working on the water tower. Lots of vehicles, temp. structures. Safety fence.

I wondered about street location to the west—Mills Court. Looked like less elevation changes. But it felt less secure. Too bad the wagon has a flat tire... need to fix that.

Breezey. No dew. Removed the lens cap from the camera to reduce shake.

5:02. Here they come! The mozzies found me. Put on bug repellent.

GO train arrived in town. The 522.

Hints of a pillar.

faint Sun pillar forming

Canon 40D, 18-55 kit lens at 55, manually focused, f/5.6, 1/10th second, ISO 400, daylight, RAW, minor adjustments in DPP.

Had the Oregon portable weather station on the TV table. Relative humidity was 59%, air pressure was dropping, calling for rain tomorrow, 15.9° Celsius.

In the binoculars, I saw water. Reminded me of Rhonda's remarks during the comet session last July... [ed: Bottom of Cook's Bay. Georgina is over there somewhere...]

5:09. I spotted a family walking along the path. Up early for The Eclipse Show.

Looked to the school. No sign. Texted Rhonda. 

5:15. She said she was on her way.

Some more people wandered into the park. One man asked if the clouds were going to cause a problem. I didn't think so. Weird to talk to strangers...

I manually slewed the C8 to toward the NE. It didn't like the positioning, the hand controller thought it aimed below the horizon. So I rebooted the mount and forced it into sidereal tracking mode.

Sky was turning orange.

5:20. The Sun pillar was taller now.

tall pillar

Canon 40D, 18-55 kit lens at 55, manually focused, f/5.6, 1/50th second, ISO 400, daylight, RAW, minor adjustments in DPP.

5:24. Rhonda arrived. She noted it was clear. Impressed with my setup. She asked if I had eclipse glasses. Yep, various types, and the cards. She was curious how many trips it had taken me. "You got some cardio in." Tucker was confused! Ha ha. Showed her the Lake Simcoe. Oriented her to the setup, white filter on the C8, orange filter on the ETX. There should be some sunspots visible in the big 'scope.

A women arrived the park. "Love your setup." I thanked her. Too bad I couldn't let people have a look.

Rhonda asked about the path of the eclipse, the best place in the world. Nunavut would be good.

Oh. Oh, there it is. "Look at that!" Rhonda saw it.

Very cool. Two spikes pointing upwards.

The kids saw it.

5:37. Sunrise! Two spikes. Unfortunately, the camera could cope.

two points within the sunrise

Canon 40D, 18-55 kit lens at 55, manually focused, f/5.6, 1/125th second, ISO 400, daylight, RAW, minor adjustments in DPP.

Nothing was visible in the eclipse glasses. Indeed, already heavily filtered by the atmosphere.

Rhonda asked for the spatula was for. Fun tiny Sun images. 

Rhonda asked how long the event would last. About an hour.

5:41. Oh oh. Blocked by the clouds.

hidden by the cloud bank

Canon 40D, 18-55 kit lens at 55, manually focused, f/5.6, 1/200th second, ISO 400, daylight, RAW, minor adjustments in DPP.

"That's great," Rhonda said. "Here we go."

I thought it good.

It was getting hard to look at...

5:42. Knife edge!

a spike through the clouds

Canon 40D, 18-55 kit lens at 55, manually focused, f/5.6, 1/200th second, ISO 400, daylight, RAW, minor adjustments in DPP.

In post, zoomed in to reveal the thin arc of sunlight.

detail on Sun

Cropped and sharpened in DDP.

The DSLR was overwhelmed as the Sun cleared the clouds... Kicked myself for not making a solar filter for the camera...

Rhonda called me over to the C8 with Kendrick solar filter. It was very nice with the 36mm wide field eyepiece.

Almost cleared the cloud.

She could see it in her glasses, at last.

I couldn't see any sunspots. Regardless, it was amazing.

Rhonda observed that you couldn't see anything with the unfiltered eye. It was just a blob.

Rhonda didn't see anything in the Meade. I suspected it had drifted away.

5:50. Yes! Got them with the solar eclipse card in front of the camera lens.

the Sun filtered

Canon 40D, 18-55 kit lens at 55, manually focused, f/5.6, 1/4th second, ISO 100, daylight, RAW, minor adjustments in DPP.

Rhonda suggested photos through the C8. I could. But we'd lose the nice view.

I tried aiming the ETX. Did some tricks and got it aligned! But it was very faint... the dark filter and the small aperture. And low. Rhonda couldn't see it. Her after-image spots were distracting.

Told Rhonda about Katrina's remarks from 2017. "Moon's in front of the Sun, man!"

We tried the spatula and colander. The strainer was better, a couple dozen little crescents.

I showed her my super-duper eclipse viewer thingee with welder's glass. She really liked the view! Good optical quality I guess. Rhonda offered it to the family. They enjoyed that.

I had a look at Photo Pills.

6:03. I tried an afocal smartphone shot.

Sun and Moon in the C8

motorola e6, f/2.0, 1/30th second, ISO 144, minor adjustments in DPP.

Another shot of the gear, in full sunlight now.

time to pack up all this stuff

motorola e6, f/2.0, 1/60th second, ISO 59, HDR, minor adjustments in DPP.

Rhonda asked if I had RASC stuff, for the family, interested in astronomy. I thought I might. I found some business cards in the astro case. She was doing the promo!

She said "they loved that."

Mounted up the 40D to the SCT.

Big. I wasn't expecting that. Did not think to bring the focal reducer... Another little goof-up in my planning.

6:11. The Moon was moving away. Less than 50% coverage now.

Moon, Sun, and sunspots

Canon 40D, C8, Vixen Super Polaris with GoToStar tracking, manually focused, f/10, 1/10th second, ISO 100, daylight, RAW, adjustments in DPP and Photoshop.

[ed: Two sunspot groups were visible. Near the right, AR 2829, with two spots. Didn't notice it at first but got AR 2832 with 4 spots!]

It was quiet on the hill. Everyone else had left.

6:17. Oh. Sundog! A prismatic sundog showed to the right of the Sun. I pointed it out to Rhonda. Took a moment but she saw it.

Invited her to try the view in the Meade again. It was brighter. Tricky though with the small aperture mask and the 26mm Plössl.

Rhonda offered to bring the car around to the tower base. It'd be easier to pack up. She scouted things out. 

I switched back to visual in the Celestron.

She found the gate open! Good. She moved Ruby.

6:26. Another afocal shot.

winding down

motorola e6, f/2.0, 1/200th second, ISO 50, minor adjustments in DPP.

Very difficult to identify sunspots from dirt and dust!

6:26. Spotted some spots. Opposite the Moon. Definitely there [ed: that was AR 2829]. Visible despite the bad seeing.

Started to pack up. Birds were quiet, the cars were loud, and the cops were busy.

6:31. Checked the conditions. Now: 52%, 16.4°.

Continued the teardown. C8 last...

I spotted Rhonda near the tower. "Quick, quick." She saw the sunspots. Offered the view of Fourth Contact to Rhonda. "It's a big deal. Soak it all in." She was surprised how rapidly it changed.

I thought the Sun looked like a round object with an edge sanded flat.

We quickly swapped views to the finish. 

The Moon was clear of the Sun.

6:42. The End. We did it! "Wow," she said.

Rhonda graciously hauled stuff to the car as I tore down.

The car sank under the weight off all the stuff. 

Back home. Rhonda was feeling a bit off so we had to forego the celebratory breakfast.


On the last trip, the work crew started up the big diesel generator. At last, we learned where the continuous whine sound was coming from...


Oh! Stumbled across some screen snaps captured during the event... Forgot about these!

simulated view of the occultation

From SkySafari at sunrise. Simulating the view at 5:38 AM. Made the day before, actually.

augmented reality view before sun-moon-rise

From PhotoPills in Augmented Reality mode using the camera live view. Captured at 5:12 AM the morning of.

Monday, June 07, 2021

tried to resolve db probs

Had a meeting with Adela to try to sort out issues with the RASC certificates database. But it didn't really work over Zoom. I had hoped we'd plow through a bunch of issues but it was just... not right. So I sent her lists to be checked.

tried imaging from the deck (Bradford)

Quickly processed a photo from the deck.

Aquila and friends from backyard

Canon 40D, 18-55 kit lens at 18, manually focused, f/5.6, 30 seconds, ISO 800, daylight white balance, intervalometer, in-camera dark subtraction, barn door tracker, DPP.

Rough polar alignment...

Single shot. No stacking... yet!


Enbiggen and look for the Coathanger!

Sunday, June 06, 2021

more deck viewing (Bradford)

Spotted Spica. Visible at 9:51. Satellite flare, at 10:14, just for a second, lower but a good deal brighter than Spica. About 30 degrees to the east. Later, at 10:17, tagged Libra. This time I knew that alpha, dimmer, was below.

spotted spots (Bradford)

Observed the Sun.

Fluff floating and yellow butterflies flitting.

Noted a large sunspot at the 9:30 o'clock position (west), near the edge of the disc.

Also tagged two spots, actually, a complex region, at the 8:00 o'clock position, a bit further in.

Used, at last, the Meade ETX 90 with a custom off-axis solar filter made with one lens of an Eclipse Megamovie Berkeley solar glasses.

Optically superior to the U of T glasses. Also, it cast a nice orange tint.


Had a devil of a time. 

I had built the off-axis mask yesterday and simply could not see the Sun. Gave up when clouds rolled in and a (er, another) trip to NoFrills called.

Tried again this morning and encountered the same problems!

Started to wonder if it was a scale issue... but that didn't make sense. With SkyTools 3 Pro, I verified it would fit easily in the field of view with the Celestron 26mm ocular (at 48 times magnification). Yeah, as I suspected, it should be no problem.

rendered image of Sun in Meade 90

North is up. East is right.

Grabbed the Kendrick full aperture solar filter for the C8 'scope and mounted it on a tripod with work clamps. Ensured it wouldn't fall off. It was not windy so there was little danger from a gust. Placed it in front of the main OTA and finder scope. Then I was able to use the finder to bull's eye the disc. OK. On the cross-hairs.

Yes! In the eyepiece. Indeed, it fit nicely.

Great view, actually. The Kendrick film is awesome. Bright image but then, full aperture.

Went to the custom filter, carefully installing it to not move the 'scope.

Saw the Sun! But it was soft. Very soft. And dark. Unfortunately, the film in the U of T 2014 eclipse glasses is optically poor.

Looked at my remaining supplies and considered chopping up one of the orange, optically-good glasses when I suddenly realised I could make a non-invasive mask!

custom solar filter skyward


custom solar filter back


Shot with the motorola e6.

Much better view in the custom mask with the new filter.


According to, the large spot was Active Region (AR) 2827. The dual spot complex was not identified...

Screen grab from Spaceweather.

brand new spots

North is up. East is left.

Oh ho. Missed it while zooming in on the large scale image. The dual spot region is new and has not yet been labelled.

I did not see the spot AR 2829 near the middle...


The heat must have loosened things up! I found the Meade ETX optical tube assembly rotating. I tightened it up in the base. Odd. That also affected focus!


So, after a lot of fiddling and experimenting, I have a working solar filter for the little Meade. I will add this to the arsenal of tools for the 10 June solar eclipse.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Orion bought Meade

It must be true...

I had seen remarks in a groups about Orion buying Meade a couple of days back...

Spotted this article at Sky & Telescope. 

Optronic Technologies, Inc., aka Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, announced the acquisition of Meade Instruments following the approval of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California.

drafted Journal article

I drafted my next Journal article. Uploaded the files.

got s-biners, will tent

Woo hoo. My new s-biners arrived, delivered by an invisible delivery person while I worked on the custom solar filter in the driveway...


The Omuky S-shaped carabiners are just what I've been looking for, for the observing tent. They are large, 8.8x4.0cm. The pack included 7 pieces.

Friday, June 04, 2021

drinks on the deck (Bradford)

Lovely evening. Good way to wind down the week. Not great transparency but still it was good to watch the southern stars rotate above the trees. Spica, my birth-sign Libra stars, Zubenelgenubi and Zubenelschemali, the pincer stars of Scorpius, later deep orange Antares.


I thought alpha was above. It was brighter. But that's beta.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

ran the v-pub

Ran another virtual pub night for RASC Toronto Centre members, the meeting after the meeting.

helped backstage

Helped at the RASC Toronto Centre Recreational Astronomy Night meeting, backstage roadie, monitored the YouTube chat. Good talks. No technical glitches.

someone got in!

A completely random RASC member gained access to the Observing Committee's private group! I relayed the breach issue to various parties. Another step backwards...

learned about workgroups

Learned, at last, the purposes of workgroups in the new RASC environment. They are not just for managing access to private forums / listservs... Huh. This from Dave of Driven.

updated the team

Shared with the Obs Comm team that I was about to approve a Victoria Centre member's Explore the Moon-Telescope application.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

reworked the graphs

Submitted full-sized versions of the graphs from the Obs Comm report to Catherine B for her InDesign document. This for the annual report at the AGM.