Friday, October 15, 2021

avoid these terms!

I really like the and regularly visit for solar activity updates, sunspot identification, and interesting photographs.

But on skimming today's article on curious comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, I grew a little anxious. I hope this does not spurn other media outlets with phrases like "giant space volcano" headed towards Earth or comet in "superoutburst" ligthing up the whole sky.

Oh oh...

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Stellarium webinar tomorrow

Free Stellarium webinar tomorrow! For anyone interested in the computer-based Stellarium product. 25 hours to go!

Monday, October 11, 2021

registered a gaggle

RASC Weekly included a mention of the Stellarium webinar. Signed up another 19 people today.

still can't edit

While John G found he could work on the Toronto Centre web site, I still cannot edit the national pages. This an authentication problem.

reviewed a .STX file

Received Melody's first SkyTools observing list plan .STX file. Reviewed the entries and gave some suggestions for the tricky ones. Good progress. She's gonna have another go. That I did a big of digging to find planetary nebula Jones 1...

Sunday, October 10, 2021

still locked out

Still can't get into the RASC national web site, cannot edit my Obs Comm pages. I got saw some issues and then finally got kicked out on the evening of the 6th. This crippled other editors.

locked out of the RASC web site

And the problem is cascading into centres. In Toronto, we cannot edit our site nor perform other member services. What a... mess. Absolute mess.

cut a circle

Finally cut a Teflon pad for the big Dobsonian I'm repairing. Used one of my hole saw bits, without the pilot, in the drill press, to cut a small circle. The 1-1/8" (28mm) bit. It's a tad smaller than the original but close enough (from an airplane). The issue is that these saw bits are measured by their outer diameter; the next size up, 1-1/4" (32mm), would make a circle too large. With a box cutter, I chamferred the top edge. Next steps: sand with course grit the bottoms of all and re-glue into the Dob ground plate... Dizzard! I'm all out of epoxy.

Friday, October 08, 2021

free webinar on Stellarium Oct 13

I have scheduled a free online webinar for the Stellarium desktop software for Wednesday 13 October at 8:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time. Open to all.

See the information page on the Toronto Centre web site.

This is a webinar aimed at people interested in the Stellarium software, either completely new to the software, or with some limited exposure. I.e. beginners.

The Zoom webinar size is limited to 100 people.

Send a message to stellarium AT rascto DOT ca if you'd like to attend.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

had a quick look at Stellarium

Started poking around the newest version of Stellarium, 0.21.2.

Saw what Chris saw: the Bookmarks feature is re-jigged. Or rather, bookmarks are gone. Now there is the "Observing List" feature...

There's something different about the location settings, I think, maybe? Subtle labelling.

Overall, looks similar.

used the smartphone

Did a review of making a custom landscape for Stellarium. I wanted to prove the process that a panoramic image from a phone or tablet could be turned into a background texture in the software. I expected it to work but I had never done it. In fact, I jumped up in the middle of the afternoon, popped out back, and shot a panorama with the motorola e6 smartphone and built-in camera app. Perfect uniform grey sky for the task at hand.

The image looked good when done and was an odd dimension of course, 9400 pixels by 1700 pixels, approximately. It took me a few tries but I got it work. With GIMP, I produced a 4096x2048 PNG with transparency. Hacked the INI file. It all worked. 

So a good review in the end as I had forgotten a few of the particulars. Touched up my notes in the Advanced Stellarium Quick Reference Card. Prepped sample files for training. Proof of concept met. And I'm better prepared now for my upcoming level 3 training rehearsal with the Stellarium team!

no activity for the second day in a row

No progress. I sent the Executive Director a list of open items from the Observing Committee many of which require support from the national office. Over 20 items. And some of them are big. And they did not fix the web site access problem either...

the focuser is ready

Sent Alister a quick update. The new focuser 3D design was complete with better inner threads and a bevelled/chamferred edge on the tube. Did some quick checks in Cura too. Exciting. It is ready for a test print!

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

wasn't me!

Learned that other editors are having trouble with the RASC national web site. I was applying my final edits and I got booted. I thought it was because I had triggered a too-many-too-rapid-too-many-uploads flag. Sounds like I didn't break it... At least I was able to update to the new general certificate application form.

Ooooh. Maybe that accounts for the radio silence today...

asked if we can hide it

Pinged our webmaster to find out if we might have an orphaned page on our site that will not be visible to the crawlers...

no stars (Bradford)

Curbed the recycling. Cloudy! I need to check HR 6043.

coached on list-making

Did some over-the-phone coaching for Melody. Showed her how to make a list in SkyTools 4 Visual. She's gonna have a crack at the Deep-Sky Challenges program!

reviewed a viddie

Reviewed a short RASC TC RAN video before release.

no replies

The list grows. The requests are piling up. I thought I'd hear from the staff at RASC national office today. I think I have 10 open pending queries with them. And at EOB, nothing. No replies, no call backs, nothing. Sheesh.

lots of paper in an office

There are a lot of members in the lurch here... it's not just me.

skimmed SkyNews

Looked quickly at the new SkyNews in bed before fading. I look forward to reading the article on the James Webb Space Telescope. No article from Yours Truly in this issue.

redid the tube

It worked!

After a lot of tests and trials of OpenSCAD and MeshMixer, I had a rethink. I believe it was during my catch-up chat with Ward, while trying to demystify meshes and solids, that I decided to redo Alister's focuser tube from scratch in TinkerCAD.

Not trivial. Took me some time, some YouTube videos and 3D design tutorial pages, to learn The "Tinker" Way of doing things.

Celestron First Scope focuser tube from TinkerCAD

This is version 1. Overall it's good but I want to redo the tube.

The inner threads don't look deep enough. I need to make the cutter 1 mm bigger I think. 

Also the edges of the tube are not chamferred. I didn't think this possible in the new tool but I learned today how to do it. 

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

the last SkyNews of 2021

[ed. I did not post at the time of arrival that I received the Nov/Dec issue of SkyNews.]

cover of the Nov-Dec 2021 SkyNews
Chris Vaughan reviewed the latest edition of The Backyard Astronomer's Guide (TBAG). One of my favourite books and (I believe) instrumental in my getting seriously into the hobby.

Eric Klaszus shared his meteor hunting adventure. 

Nicole Mortillaro discussed cold weather observing.

And Dan Falk wrote about the new James Webb Space Telescope.

Oh yes. And many geek out on what they'd like Santa to put under the tree or in the stocking...

Once again I am liking the new cover design.

See the snippets online.

made some lists for motors

I finally got 'round to making some motor maintenance lists as well as the parts-supplies-tools list for the impending CAO mini-work party. I'm on duty for winterising the mowers and changing the oil for the generator.

Ah, ah, winter! No no no no.

Need to double check if we have all the supplies on site.

a special meeting

Attended the special council meeting of the RASC Toronto Centre on the matter of land acknowledgements.

a gap

Reminder (late) arrived in the electronic inbox. Journal submissions due.

I declined.

I wrote 41 articles for the RASC Journal starting for the February 2015 issue. Consecutive. This will be the first gap.


Sent the mount-control notice for the next Stellarium level 2 gig.

Monday, October 04, 2021

getting consensus

More soft votes coming in... I put out a simplified proposed 2022 budget for the Obs Comm to accommodate for more pins, including a new set, and more sheets. Looks like everyone is OK with what I'm suggesting. I snuck a "absolutely no brown ones" line into version 1 of the proposal but no one caught it. Oh well.

off the hook

Yesterday Paul M asked if I might deliver the Sky This Month presentation for RASC Toronto Centre for November. Ugh. I don't know if I enough cycles. There are other factors too. It gave me pause. But then he pinged me today. He found another presenter willing to take it on. Good!

invited to speak at Sarnia

Was invited by the Sarnia centre to deliver a presentation on the RASC observing programs. They asked about October but I had a conflict! So we pushed to the Monday 15 November meeting.

hacked the code

Did I speak too soon? OpenSCAD is not without issues. It seems the Customizer form fields, if they were not initialised with a decimal number, will not accept a decimal number. So I truly had to hack the code a bit... Trying to get the bolt diameter to be 35.5 mm.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

copied the bolt code

Holy Universe!

It worked.

I copied the code available from the Thingiverse Nut Job Customizer and dropped it into OpenSCAD.

nut job code in OpenSCAD

Woo hoo! The Customizer populated and then the bolt appeared. Yes! No errors. It's... it's incredible. 639 lines of C-like code.

Sidebar: I'll be able to make other fasteners for 3D printing with this tool... Or hack the code of my 3D models... Interesting (said in my best Mr Burns voice).

This is brilliant. I need to generate a very large bolt pattern with a 1mm thread pitch for Alister's focuser tube and the Customizer inside Thingiverse is broken. 

It seems many things are broken in Thingiverse...

Now that I have OpenSCAD 64-bit on the Windows laptop, I'll be able to make the part to import into my 123D project.

Well. I'll be able to do that when STUPID WINDOWS 10 stops thrashing the hard drive!


Guess I'll do this in a few hours... stupid stupid stupid!

Hey, Microsoft. Your operating system IS a virus.

worked the numbers

Worked some of the count and budget numbers for the national Observing Committee. Discovered some cautionary situations. Predicted inventory numbers for the next year or two. Shared with the team. Heh heh...

learned how it went

Debriefed with Chris, Denis, and Ralph after the Dunlap Institute planet party webcasting from the Carr. Lots of good info.


YouTube video now online. Total run time is 2½ hours. Michael Reid starts around 5½ minutes in.

pitched more peeps

Pitched some more people for the intermediate Stellarium course on 18 October. Was very careful with the dates and times on this message... after the cacophonous confusing deluge from last week!

viewed the new config

Read the article over at SpaceFlightNow on the orbital outpost. It's titled, Cosmonaut shares new perspective of International Space Station.

Great shots show the new configuration of the canted Redwire solar panels plus the recently-added Russian Nauka lab module.

the ISS as of autumn 2021

The photographs were captured by Pyotr Dubrov from his Soyuz before returning to Earth.

The excellent shots show the exterior of the ISS from a few hundred metres. Been a while since we've seen some good beauty shots. There are two SpaceX Dragon spaceships and a Northrop Grumman Cygnus supply craft docked. I particularly enjoyed the view of the lab’s new roll-out solar arrays.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

learned the parts separated

Yesterday, I received an email from Alister! 

I was starting to wonder what had happened. Hadn't heard from him for a while about his Celestron First Scope focuser tube issue. 

Had he dropped off the edge of the Flat Earth...?! Did he not care any more? Had he thrown the whole telescope in a big round bin? Had he found someone nearby to help? Had he bought the replacement part from Celestron? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha... oh... ha ha. That was a good one!

I was rather pleased to hear from him. He shared that he had finally discovered the misplaced parts. Two different boxes, he said. He included some measures.

The best news was made abundantly clear in the attached photo.

Celestron First Scope focuser tube parts

The focuser tube was a two-part item! Yes! 

I immediately took mine apart. Easy. Look at that!

A whole bunch of problems went away, dissolved with this photo. The tube part proper, it's construction in a 3D model tool, now got a lot easier. Alister would not have to drill and tap a collar piece. That he found his meant I didn't have to do anxiety-inducing exploratory surgery on mine (although it probably would have been moot).

Measured the outer diameter of the threaded part of the collar with my trusty ole' micrometer, twice: 35.5 mm. Double-checked the inner diameter of the tube: 35.0 mm.

I could now finish the 3D design... Onward and upwards.

check out all our events

Be sure to check out the RASC Toronto Centre web site for all the events we're doing in October!

checked a double sketch

Mr Chapman shared a double star sketch from his little log notepad. I used my checker and in 15 seconds I knew he was on target! He was happy to hear that. Love it!


Heard from a long-lost member of the Observing Committee. Wow! Very good to connect.

the good, the bad...

Out of the blue... A member used my apology email to reach out. There was some good news and some bad news.

The good: her Explore the Moon certificate and pin had arrived, at last, after 69 days! Whew.

But then she said, "Any chance of me getting a certificate with correct spelling of my name."

Oh my Universe.

After all that!

It is still not right, 69 days in...

Kinda kicked the pegs out from under me.

Friday, October 01, 2021

made new app forms

I built new application certification forms in Microsoft Word, for the Explore the Universe and the generic app for all the other RASC observing certificate programs. The originals were lost years ago. Not having Adobe Acrobat, I hunted around for a cheap or free PDF editor tool. Found PDFescape. Easy, light-weight, fast. Just what I needed. I converted the PDF exported from Word to a fill-in form. Circulated the drafts to the Observing Committee for review. The prime reason is to switch from the previous chairperson's home address for mailing apps and logs... 


Here we go again. RASC events happening on the same date. Dividing, conflicting, and upsetting our resources. I myself am caught in the middle. I could go to the the CAO to operate telescope camera equipment there. I'm a super. I have the keys. I know what to do. Or do I stay in the GTA? I am one of the few trained operators of the 74-inch telescope. And I have some experience running a camera on it.

T intersection sign

I truly don't know which way to go. There are only a few people who can do, or are willing, this.

reviewed the by-laws

Read the RASC Toronto Centre by-laws. Was looking at how members need to be notified of the Annual Meeting. And what information needs to be provided.

relayed the EPO call

And I shared the volunteer ask for an event at the end of the month, with the Ontario Science Centre. The chair of the Toronto's Education and Public Outreach did not post this himself directly on the forum.

relayed DDO ask

Shared the volunteer ask for the October events planned at the David Dunlap Observatory. The DDO chair still can't get do this, still can't get access to the Toronto Centre forum, to share updates and news. Account issue, related to the new database. Ongoing glitches. I've asked national office twice now to resolve this matter... It thwarts our DDO team's ability to rapidly convey messages.