Sunday, July 31, 2022

we've lumpy outer arms

Finally got 'round to reading the Space dot com article by Canadian science writer Elizabeth Howell entitled The Milky Way's outer reaches may have lumpy, choppy arms.

Howell reports that new data from the Hubble Space Telescope shows that the outer arms of our Milky Way galaxy may be clumpier and stubbier than originally believed. By measuring the dust signatures in the Perseus arm, scientists feel the outer edges of the galaxy might not be long, smooth, and graceful but rather shorter and chopped up.

The future Roman Space Telescope, which will study the entire plane of the galaxy, is expected to corroborate these findings.

The piece was published in January this year.


A word of warning: the Space dot com web site is laden with many, many ads that can make for a very annoying and distracting experience and can overload your browser and slow your device.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

OK now

Glitch I was experiencing in Stellarium is gone.

When I right-clicked (new technique) the Exoplanets button, the app crashed.

It would freeze for a moment then disappear.

Tonight? Everything worked fine.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

recorded show

Recorded my talk with Don K of the Ford Amateur Astronomy Club.

I think it'll be released on the weekend...


Found on YouTube on Mon 1 Aug '22.

prepared Bulletin update

Submitted a piece for the next monthly RASC Bulletin.

An update from the Observing Committee.

As usual, noting certificates awarded.

And notification of changes in the team...


Published on Tue 2 Aug '22.

updated NOC database

Over the week, did an audit of RASC observing certificates.

Wanted to make sure they were being received. Was able to close some loops.

Updated the master database.

We're in pretty good shape.

submitted to JRASC

Submitted my next column for the Journal of the RASC.

Applied the suggestions from Rhonda.

Put the materials in the shared folder moments before the request. Funny timing.

completed pin order

The final decision?

Concluded a long thread with national office on the Observing Committee pins order.

I'm not happy how all this was handled. More dropped or lost emails, lack of attention, emails not acknowledged, extreme delays, confusion with file attachments, some attitude...

But hopefully it is all sorted now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

certified another splitter

Approved another RASC observing certificate.

This time, a Double Stars application.

That was fun as it marks the fifth one in the newest category. And that little statistic means the DS program has now passed the long-time Deep-Sky Gems, established in 2013.

It's not an apples-to-apples comparison as the DSG is quite challenging, requires rather dark skies, a rather large aperture at times.

Still, I'm happy to see the Double Stars program flourish.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

helped with a DDO matter

Helped Chris V with a little matter at the DDO.

Dug through Evernote and did some simulations in SkyTools.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

updated site

Updated information on the RASC web site.

We're making the Observing Committee information pages more consistent.

Let Melody, the team lead, know.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

downloaded August Journal

Received the notification that the August 2022 Journal of the RASC was available.

I downloaded my copy.

cover of the August Journal
The cover features a fascinating star-less image of the Elephant Trunk nebula by Shawn Neilson. Dave Dev has another excellent image showcased in this issue. Kersti Meema shares a star trails image. There are many other compelling astrophotographs.

There's a short piece on the CHIME observatory.

John Percy talks about the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram which I look forward to reading.

There's an article on the late Rudolph Dorner, the benefactor of the RASC telescope museum.

In my Binary Universe column, I discuss Sequator version 1.6.0, an image stacking program which is fast and easy to use. It supports camera raw files and can freeze the ground or landscape across multiple frames.

barn door trouble

Heard from Ian B.

He shared a very interesting photo of Mercury near the Sun. Taken from Tiny...

And then he shared that he was having trouble with his barn door track. Electronic problems in the circuit board. He was irked.

Reminded me of all the trouble I had...

I had a bad wire, a dead resistor, and a faulty LED!

Monday, July 18, 2022

corrected logs

Received the repaired log file data from Greg at Skyhound.

It was a corrupted single log entry. It was for HD 41996 and involved a corruption of the saved instrument data.

This should fix my backup/restore trouble with SkyTools.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

viewed the first images

Monitored all the hullabaloo from NASA on the James Webb Space Telescope and the release of the first images.






The amazing telescope appears to be working very well. The engineers say better than expected. The scientists and researchers are gobsmacked.

SMACS 0723 galaxy cluster

I particularly like the SMACS 0723 image with all the galaxies, the gravitational lensing, the glow between the massive elliptical galaxies. Could stare at it for hours...

Friday, July 08, 2022

reviewed an app

Reviewed a RASC Explore The Moon - Telescope application.

It was well done. Very good sketches.

received links

Today, I received a link to the recordings from the Haudenosaunee Astronomy webinars.

Good stuff.

I didn't hear about the events until round 2.

And then, feeling under the weather, I missed round 3.

It'll be good to catch up on all the words and knowledge sharing from the workshops.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

kudos on training

Heard from Dave B through the grapevine.

While sharing results from an imaging session of the Cygnus Loop, he gave thanks for our training.

Would like to give a shout-out to Blake Nancarrow for his Stellarium courses as it is now my go to software for slewing to target within ASCOM EQmod framework.  It works like a charm, with for me anyway, using three close stars for alignment (Vega, [Altair] and Zeta Cygni in this case).  Then slewing to 52 Cygni.

Nice to hear.

spotted a new version

Just noticed a new version of Stellarium - for computers.

0.22.2 is out.

As of today.

The major changes noted are:

  • Added recognition licenses for skycultures
  • Many improvements in the Satellites plugin, esp. display of earth shadow and filtering
  • Improvements in AstroCalc: graphs, eclipses, transits
  • Improvements in Meteor Showers, Exoplanets and the Navigational Stars plugins
  • Updated DSO catalog
  • Fixed ANGLE mode for some rare cases
  • A large number of bug fixes and closed feature requests and enhancements (see full list of changes).

See the web page update for a full listing...

imaged Barnard's Star (Halifax)

While I was cutting logs, resting, the BGO Robotic Telescope imaged Barnard's Star for me.

Thank you.

I started in 2019, so this represents the fourth year capturing the rapidly moving star.

Barnard's Star

Centred on HIP 87937. Luminance only, 3 second subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left. Barnard's Star is the bright, obvious star above and slightly-right of centre.


Good image quality.

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

he thanked me for the update

David Ek thanked me for updating him.

I had shared my little success story.

His ASCOM digital setting circles app worked well with Stellarium and an Orion Intelliscope.

Another datum point for him.

tested DSC with Stellarium

Completed my first-ever test with a Dobsonian with digital setting circles (DSC) connected to Stellarium.

And it worked!

Another notch in the belt.


Equipment: Orion 10-inch Intelliscope, custom cable RJ-serial DB9.

Software: Stellarium 0.22.1, ASCOM platform 6, David Ek's ASCOM mount driver Digital Setting Circles


All this was triggered a few months ago while teaching a level 2 Stellarium course, if I remember correctly, when someone asked if I had connected Stellarium to a push-to telescope. 

I got me thinking that that was a bit of a black hole. I had a decent amount of experience with Stellarium and SkyTools and other software connected to an equatorial mount. A faint recollection of trying SkyTools with a Dob with digital setting circles. But, overall, not a lot of experience. No.

Perhaps that question was provoked when I showed the Stellarium Device model menu when advocating exploring the "built in" solutions. Stellarium shows Wildcard Innovations Argo Navis (Meade mode) in the list of mounts. A system I have actually used in a few different scenarios.

But none of it all together.

While I had the RASC DDO Orion 10-inch Intelliscope in my workshop (for Teflon repair), I wondered if I could maybe get some hands-on experience with this.

And somewhere along the line, I think Chris V had pointed out to me that the Intelliscope system had a computer data port. Yep, I checked, a small registered jack beside the mount cable port.


Sounded doable.


Checks on random web pages, store pages, etc. all supported that a data cable was available for the Orion Intelliscope system. A cable, called Orion IntelliScope to PC RS-232 Connector Cable, could be ordered to attach the IntelliScope Computerized Object Locator (the hand box) to a computer serial port. Of course, it terminated in the old DB9 female serial type plug. The Orion Telescope dot com web site said, the cable would work with any Intelliscope from Orion. It worked with programs such as TheSky6 Pro (huh). 

I initiated some searches to get the pinouts. I figured I could build my own cable adapter for testing. 

Found a short thread on Cloudy Nights. JMW shared his observation of the pins on the "Orion computer."

  1. RS-232 transmit, connect to pin 2 of a standard PC DB-9 connector
  2. RS-232 receive, connect to pin 3 of the DB-9
  3. ground, connect to pin 5 of the DB-9
  4. goes straight through, which is Data Terminal Ready (DTR) on the DB-9 side

I double- and triple-checked the pin layout for a registered jack.

Facing the metal contacts, with the clip or lock behind, for a male plug, they were read left-to-right. Alternatively, looking into a female socket, with the pins on the upper edge, once again, left-to-right.

Found my phone cables box with extensions, adapters, etc. It was at this moment, I discovered the registered jack on the Orion Computerized Object Locator was not the regular phone jack (RJ-11 or RJ-12) size. Rather, this was the smaller "hand set" plug size. The 4-conductor (max); not the 6-conductor. (Some call this RJ-8 or RJ-9.) 

Headed to the work bench and grabbed an unopened bag for a long curly handset cord. All 4 wires active (4P4C). Good. But I didn't want to cut it. Hopefully I could make a non-invasive solution...

Headed to the office desk and pulled the general electronic parts box. Looked in the RJ bits section and found a few. All right! The mini RJ sized, four conductor, adapters, for extending a handset cable. Cracked the case open, verified all four wires were in place (4P4C), and cut one end off. Verified continuity end to end.

Headed to the old Psion parts box and grabbed one of the custom a serial DB. Cut the proprietary palmtop end off. Looked up my old wiring diagram in Evernote.

Wired the handset adapter plug to the serial cable per the mapping. Insulated all the ends and secured the serial cable to the plug to reduce unwanted movement. 

Plugged the long curly handset cable between the Orion handbox and my hacked adapter. Plugged in the Staples USB-serial adapter (Prolific) and connected that to the Dell computer. Looked up the assigned COM port number.


Visited the ASCOM Telescope/Mount driver page. At first, I looked for Orion-specific stuff but didn't see anything. But after more digging, I learned of Digital Setting Circles driver by David Ek. His driver allows the use of a variety of commercial and homebrew passive encoder-based digital setting circles systems with any Windows software that supports the ASCOM standard. 

Visited his web site directly for specific notes, a download link, and installation instructions.

He lists Orion Intelliscope in the Supported Hardware section (though he says that not all were tested).


I installed the driver and had a look around inside. Populated options as best I could.

Digital Setting Circles ASCOM driver options

Didn't know what Area was so left it (it's unobstructed mirror value, optional).

Later I set the COM port to match up.


Grabbed my phone. Used Stellarium Mobile in real-time mode, noting Taurus and Auriga to the south.

Fired up the Dob mount. Went through the "standard" start-up process for the Intelliscope handbox and (while guestimating locations), settled on the Pleiades and noted my "warp" value.


In Stellarium—on the Windows computer, of course—I connected to the mount. 

Nothing exploded. 

No smoke.


Immediately, the DSC driver launched and guided me through its own alignment process. Goofed the first time so I did it again.

  1. position OTA to 0° altitude (i.e. horizontal)
  2. position OTA to 90° (vertical)
  3. pick a constellation - I chose Taurus
  4. click an alignment star within the constellation, the first of two
  5. move OTA to the star - I guessed
  6. click the Continue button
  7. click the second alignment star
  8. move OTA to the star
  9. click the Continue button

I was back in Stellarium proper and I saw the usual Stellarium mount reticule showing in the proper location. 

Look at that. 

Glancing at the Staples USB-serial adapter was informative. Unlike more adapters, it has status LEDs. The red RX LED was blinking at a good clip showing the mount/handbox communications.

Pulled up the Slew To window in the application. I initiated a search in Stellarium. Hit Current Object and then it Slew.

"slewing" in Stellarium with digital setting circles

Nice. Big window popped up showing the encoder values. I nudged the OTA until the numbers spun down to zero!

To be expected.

One more test...

dynamic reticule showing where Dob is pointing

I nudged the OTA and saw Stellarium "track" the reticule to the new location. I assumed the mount handbox would keep reporting its location to Stellarium.

As expected.


So that was an interesting exercise. It felt good to round out my experience, try another method for connecting a mount to Stellarium.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

a new trick in Stellarium!

This old dog learned a new trick.

During the Monday night Stellarium level 2 training course, one of my students (Larry?) pointed out that right-clicking the Move a Telescope to... button would bring up the Telescope Configure box.

How about that...

A super-fast way to access the configuration controls!

I had never right-clicked a button in Stellarium... In general, it's not a "normal" thing. You don't do that. Larry intimdated he discovered it just by clicking around with his mouse until something happened! Ha! So, this was rather intriguing.

Today, I took it one step further. 

I had a hunch...

It seems that for any button in the horizontal toolbar—which is for a plug-in—will act the same way.

I had the Angle measure, Show exoplanets, Toggle meteor showers, Show meteor showers search dialog, Artificial satellites, and the Move a Telescope to buttons in the toolbar.

Right-clicking worked for all (except the meteor search button).

This is a neat little shortcut that saves a bunch of clicks!

Take the angular measurement tool for an example. To get to the configure window by "normal" means:

  1. click the Configuration window button or press F2
  2. click the Plugins tab
  3. if necessary, scroll plug-ins list
  4. click the Angle measure item
  5. click the configure button

Four or five steps vs one!

Thank you, Larry.

Shared with the Stellarium trainers! Hopefully they can put it to use. I know I sure will. An awesome power-user tip. 

Needs to go into my Stellarium companion materials and shortcut guide too!

Asked Ian if he can check for a quick equivalent for the Mac OS...


Chris V texted me. Said this did not work on his computer. He's hanging back on version 0.21.1 as he depends heavily on the Bookmarks feature.

I dove into the release notes...


Found it!

Stellarium v 0.21.2 released, circa Sep 2021. Spotted in the "major changes" section of this version:

Right-click opens plugin configuration.

So, there you have it. A relatively new feature.

easy to remove

I dunno. Must have got my wires crossed somewhere. Or oldmanitis...

During the Stellarium level 2 teach Monday night, it came up —again—the question of "how do I remove a star catalogue?"

One of the participants had gone bonkers, click-happy, gung-ho, and loaded all the stellar catalogues in the software, and then found Stellarium too slow and sluggish.

In the session, I made my usual refrain: it ain't easy removing. I said, at the time, it required removing the catalogue files proper but also an edit of an INI or config file. I promised to provide more details after the class.

Today, I followed a hunch.

Previously, I loaded catalogue 5 of 9, to take me from mag 10.5 to mag 12.

I simply removed an extra star catalogue file from my "user area" in Windows:

c:\ users \bnanc \AppData \Roaming \Stellarium \stars \default

[ed: Path will vary according to your user profile. The "bnanc" is my username. YMMV. See other notes below...]

I noted catalogue number 4 (i.e. 4 plus 1 for the 5th of 9 catalogues) plus a JSON file.

I deleted the stars #4 file; I ignored the JSON.

Launched Stellarium... 

It worked!

I thought we also had to edit INI or config files but that does NOT appear to be the case.

This was fulfilling in the sense that this follows the process over on the Mac side. Ian B had recently run through the process for some Apple users and found it "easy" to do—just delete the unwanted catalogue files.


A heads-up for Windows users poking around in their boot hard disk or solid state drive. Some files and folders may be hidden, by default, preventing one for immediately accessing the path noted above. You may need to first configure your Windows Explorer, on the View tab, in the Show/hide group, to show Hidden items.


A heads-up for the non-programmers in the crowd.

The catalogue files are numbered per a common computer developer practice or convention where the first file is zero, the second file is one, the third file is two, etc.

So you'll need to do some mental gymnastics.


Shared with all class participants.

Shared with the Stellarium instructors.

shared a timeline

During my citizen science double stars talk, I noted that David L shared in the chat that he had a Celestron Micro Guide. And he also shared the instructions provided by baader planetarium if others were looking to learn how to use it. I made a note to follow up with him.

David signed up for the Stellarium level 2 course so we chatted a bit about it on Monday night. He was interested.

I promised to send me info.


I noted key dates and some notable discoveries.

  • 23 May 2009 - I received Celestron Micro Guide (CMG) from the late Geoff Gaherty
  • 22 Jun 2009 - measured double with CMG (using Celestron method)
  • 9 Aug 2009 - practiced measuring (with Teague method)
  • 19 Feb 2010 - refined measuring notes (with Teague method)
  • 10 Feb 2012 - made new workflow checklist for double star measurement

I noted that in early 2009, I read two seminal articles in Sky & Telescope magazine.

  • Feb 1999, page 116. Observing Double Stars for Fun and Science by Ronald C. Tanguay. He showed his method, using a CMG with an external protractor. I never really understood why he used the external one vs the internal except that maybe it offered a bit more resolution.
  • Jul 2000, page 112. Double-Star Measurement Made Easy by Thomas Teague.  He precisely showed using the CMG without external accoutrements, using it in the prescribed way by Celestron (Baader), and then his "better way." I immediately took interest in this refined method and practiced it thoroughly.

I shared that I started actively measuring and made spreadsheets to run on mobile devices to help rapidly collect data and begin on-the-fly reduction.

That brought me up to the current state of things.

I told David that on 17 Sep 2021, I was astonished to learn that Meade NEVER revised their instructions for their Astrometric eyepiece, despite gross errors!

Shared a couple more links.

My YouTube video on measuring double stars with a demo (in Stellarium no less!) of using a CMG/Baader reticule. Official title: RASC-TC Missing Data - Measuring Double Stars. Stored on the RASC Toronto Centre channel. Final edit uploaded on 10 Sept 2018.

A companion article to the video with the maths. In fact, I revised this article a couple of years later to make it universal. People can measure with a Meade or Celestron/Baader with 50 or 60 divisions and get the correct results!

I suggested that if David was interested in measuring doubles with his CMG, I would encourage you to do so. It's fun, fairly easy, and I have highly-refined processed and calculations to yield correct and accurate results.

And if it is something he wanted to encourage youth members to do, it can make for some fun projects with results worthy of publication for the Washington Double Star database.

Relayed I'm a big advocate of "run what you brung" so I like the idea that some RASC members might be able to easily get in the double measurement game by dusting off an old astrometric eyepiece.

David thanked me for my timeline of discovery. 

He's also noted that's going to talk to his centre peeps about the possibility of me delivering a general talk...

viewed his galaxy

Chris V shared a TIF file with me.

The result of his first imaging run with the BGO.

Galaxy NGC 7814, aka Caldwell 43. One of the Herschel 400.


He said, in the cover note, "My first BGO image, processed with FITS 4.0, thanks to your Journal story."

Ah, shucks. 

Glad he was able to make good use of FITS Liberator.


See the online results page for the small JPG.


In a follow-up text, I said, "That's an interesting galaxy."

He replied, "Third brightest in Pegasus. I compared my result to your lumpydarkness image."

Huh? I shot it before?!


So I did. Totally forgot about that. Imaged on 9 Jan '20

He got much better SNR than I did!

Monday, July 04, 2022

delivered Stellarium L2C

Taught Stellarium level 2 (computer) course tonight.

Small group. Good camaraderie. No tech issues.

Delivered for the west coast, Mountain and Pacific time zones. Made for a late night for me.

Good questions throughout. And good learning, both ways. I picked up a couple of new things...


Caught up with David L on other astro-matters.

received JRASC proof

Nebulous Nikki sent over the proof for my August column for the Journal of the RASC.

Ready for me to have a look.


Quick scan. Seemed OK.

almost 200!

With the rollout of the new Stellarium training course on the mobile product, I realised I needed a better way to distinguish our offerings for statistics.

Course codes, of course.

You know things are gettin' serious when you need to invent course codes to keep track of things!

Finally got 'round to deploying them.

Once done, I noted an impending major milestone.

level platform training
level 1 computer 199
level 2 computer 118
level 3 computer 25
level 1 mobile 10

Look at that. Almost 200 graduates from our level 1 introductory course!

I shared with the instructor team. They have made this possible.

One of them will be the lucky trainer to push us over 200 hoo-mans.

Friday, July 01, 2022

new FOV screen

Stumbled across a new version of Stellarium Mobile. 

Version 1.9.3 has a reworked screen for fields of view. Yes!

new Fields of View panel

They give you a Telrad, 1 degree circle, rectangle, a reticule (just a cross-hair), a binoculars icon, a telescope icon, and an Add button.

Go nuts. You can add as many as you need.

(I think there's more to this but overall a very welcome change. Previously, you were limited to one configuration so were constantly replacing a old one with a new.)


I shared the news on the Stellarium Training Series Google classroom.


Also note the main menu was reworked. A minor change in this version is the shift of the Locations command to the Settings meeting. Looks like they are trying to get the main menu short.


Sadly, we are still limited to one at a time...