Monday, January 30, 2023

ran Backyard EOS course

Delivered the introductory level 1 course on Backyard EOS.

It worked!

All the technology worked and my camera live view worked.

Good crowd, a full class. I think all enjoyed it.

Very satisfying to get this one under my belt.


Ian B audited the session with an eye to Nikon cameras. It is my hope that we can teach the course as is, or with very minor changes, and accommodate for the other body. I'm keen to hear his feedback.

tried to catch it moving

Returned to the telescope for another look.

Stellarium Mobile showed the comet was now beyond HD 92192 and HD 91075. A bit more than their separation. Fast mover!

Grey field of view. 

I looked up.

Clouds everywhere.


I wanted to see the comet moving...

Sunday, January 29, 2023

tagged comet C/2022 E3 (St Thomas)

My phone made the sonar sound... I had been SMSing with my sis all afternoon.

Oh! Chris V. Hello.

"I just saw E3 in my Canon 10x42 binos, from my driveway (with lots of light around)."


Slipped on the aurora crocs and popped out to the deck. Nippy. Looked south and saw stars! Holy Universe, it was clear.

Grabbed the old binoculars and scanned around in the north... Ugh. Nothing. And it was darned cold. 

Back through the air lock. Grabbed the winter coat and the astro-chair.

Scanned some more, getting Stellarium Mobile to guide me. 

Nope... Between the horrible pack lights, the Moon, a 65% Moon, and high angle, I wasn't having much luck. And the oculars kept fogging up. A little bit of cloud...

Hauled out the ETX 90. Turned off the lights. Turned off the Windows 11 background (but it ignored me, stupid, annoying, PITA, freakin' Windows crap!).

After a lot of fiddling, a LOT of fiddling, I got the main 'scope aimed to the area and focused. I star-hopped from Polaris to OV Cep. To the triangle of DRS 28, HD 90089, and HIP 49688. Then proceeded further south-east.

Got it!


In the Meade ETX 90 with Celestron 26mm Plössl. Around 55x.

In an equilateral triangle with HD 91075 and HD 92192. Stars of Draco. Noted the mag 9 star to the east (HD 92838 according to SMP).

Big. Very large with averted vision. Huh.

Pin point core. Would not take direct vision.

Fan shaped. Opening up to the south.

Larger than I was expecting!

No colour for me...

It was about the same brightness as the nearby stars. I estimated mag 6 or 7?

Chris said, "Yeah. That agrees with the graph of collective estimates."

Wow. That was good to tag.

I thanked Chris for nudging me. Shoving me.


Stellarium computer was showing it in a different position, slightly further along.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

much fainter, OK?

Sheesh. What is wrong with everybody?!

This comet is NOT going to be easy to see!

C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was amazing. It was great. Wonderfully bright in the summer of 2020. Easy to see in binoculars. Nice long tail. Visible to the unaided eye for a while. Easy to tag in photography. Made an appearance in the morning and the evening, handy for all.

C/2020 F3, if I remember correctly, reached magnitude 2.2 or 2.3.

But this new, current "bright" comet in the north is going to be 10 or 20 times fainter!

The media is blowing this all out of proportion. The media is making is seem like you'll be able to observe an incredible green colour. No. No no no.

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) might reach magnitude 5. If we're lucky, 4.5.

If '20 F3 was 2.3 and '22 E3 reaches 5.0, it will be 12 times fainter! 

To the eye, in binoculars, visually in a telescope, it will not be green. 

Expect grey.


Try. Do try. Go for it. No harm, right?

Use a good chart or app and look in the right area. Have your binoculars handy.

Also, you need to look at 1:00 AM or 2:00 AM (or later). Not after supper! You need to get E3 as high into the sky as you can. So, go to bed and set an alarm, if necessary.

Just know, going in, this ain't C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).


Good luck.

Friday, January 27, 2023

took in the longer chart!

Spotted a note on Cloudy Nights, entitled "Even longer clear sky chart forecasts." From Attilla Danko no less.

For sponsored charts, he now displays an additional 5 days of cloud forecasts.

new extended display from Clear Sky Charts

There are two extended cloud forecasts; the CMC cloud forecast and the ECMWF cloud forecast. The extended data covers an extra 5 or 6 days into the future for a total of an 8 or 9 day forecast. 

Of course, cloud forecasts far out into the future are less accurate.

The extended CMC cloud forecast is available every 3 hours. The extended ECMWF cloud forecast is available every 6 hours. 

The extended forecasts on sponsorsed clear sky charts in a separate panel at the bottom of the chart image.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

demo'ed BGO

Helped Peter J get set up with the BGO.

Gave him a quick demo of the Burke-Gaffney Observatory web site, the Windows app, my email exchanges with the robot, etc.

I think he's OK to go.

We also spoke candidly of the RASC system...

editing a custom location

Another question was raised in Tuesday's Stellarium computer level 2 course.

Again, I paraphrase: "Can you edit and rename a custom location?"

This came up when I was talking about the trick of using a special symbol ahead of the name proper (the exclamation point, for example), to make your favourite locations bubble to the top. The participant had custom locations but wanted to add the ! symbol.

I thought it doable but wasn't sure the exact steps or end result, as there's not an official edit button. 

Tested in Stellarium (1.2 on Linux).

You can edit, sort of. Let's have a look.

  1. In the vertical toolbar, click the Location Window button or press F6 (Fn F6 on some laptops).
  2. Click the Reset Location List button, if necessary, to show all entries.
  3. By browsing or searching, locate your old location profile. E.g. "my backyard."
  4. Enter a new label or additional characters in the Name/City field. E.g. "! my backyard."
  5. It's a good time to review other details. Is the lat, long, elevation, etc. correct?
  6. Click the Add to list button. Obviously, this does not truly edit the old location; rather, you will now have two custom locations for the same spot.
  7. Browse or search for the old entry. 
  8. Double-check you've selected the old, duplicate item to remove.
  9. Click Delete from list.

There you have it. A revised name.


I used to tell people they might use a digit or digits (1, 2, 3, etc.) to ahead of their favourite locations names. But I noticed today that doesn't work well now. It is because there are a bunch of sites in the software that start with an apostrophe, e.g. 'Ain el Bell in North Africa.

So, the exclamation (!) remains a good symbol to get things to the very top of the list.

updated Stellarium mobile

My Android phone said an update was available for Stellarium. Applied it.

Looks like I'm at version 1.10.4 now. Update was made available 24 Jan.

More very minor edits it seems?

Google Play says this:

What's new

This update brings the following improvements:

* added the Large Magellanic Cloud in the free version
* follows device global settings to allow screen rotation
* fix an issue for devices without GPS
* many other bug fixes
There ya go.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

received Monday show link

Dr Elaina Hyde sent over the YouTube link for our Monday night show, from 23 January 2023.

If you missed the podcast radio show on York Universe from the Allan I Carswell Observatory, you can catch up.

Starts at 00:04:30 mark... Runs for one hour.

The YouTube "video" does have some visuals, images shared from the Online Public Viewing team, with astrophotography captured by Physics and Astronomy university students.

Supported by Astronomy.FM

You may also listen on iTunes.

decimal lat/long allowed in Stellarium

A question was posed in last night's Stellarium computer level 2 intermediate course regarding setting up a custom location.

I paraphrase: "Can you copy the latitude and longitude coordinates from Google Maps into Stellarium."

At the time, I thought the answer was "Yes." I thought I had done it before... 

Today I tested this in Stellarium (1.2 on Linux) I can confirm it does indeed work. But a bit of care or precision is merited. 

  1. In Stellarium, in the vertical toolbar, click the Location Window button or press F6 (Fn F6 on some laptops). 
  2. Select/highlight all the content in the Latitude field and delete it. I.e. blank the field. 
  3. In Google Maps, find your target observing site, zoom in, pan about to get the exact spot. Carefully select/highlight in the browser URL address line the latitude decimal value, e.g. 42.6865339, without any other data, just the digits and the decimal point within. 
  4. Copy the lat value. The Ctrl or Cmd C keyboard shortcut is handy. 
  5. Paste the lat value into Stellarium. Ctrl or Cmd V. You will see Stellarium immediately convert it to degrees, minutes, and seconds. Make sure it is North or South as needed. 
  6. Repeat for the Longitude value. It seems Stellarium recognises the MINUS value to mean WEST longitude. Yeh. Helpful for us in the Americas. But  double-check that. 
You'll need to figure out the elevation, if necessary, by some other means... 

Good luck. 


I shared this in the Stellarium social space for the RASC training courses, served up by Google Classroom.


Deborah M commented on my post. "Good to know, thank you. Great instructions."

invited to Halifax meeting

I was invited by past-president, current-director Judy B to speak at a hybrid meeting with the RASC Halifax Centre.

That's a ways down the road. Saturday 6 May, day-time event.

I'll be presenting with Blair MacDonald.

I've been asked to talk about the observing certificate programs.

Blair will be discussing "Challenging Astroimages."

Visual and photographic. Nice!

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

taught L2C Stellarium to 14

Taught level 2 Stellarium for computers course tonight.

Big crowd, 14 humans. All attended.

Went well. My custom data cable worked flawlessly.

No one hung around though for the open mic. Some switched to the RASC telescope session.

It was good to be able to speak to the Linux environment (while there were no users in this particular session).

And I was glad that Christopher B got his CPC mount working (again) with Stellarium (though via ASCOM). I was hoping a very direct method would work.

Monday, January 23, 2023

stood down from meeting

The January Meeting for Editorial Committee, for Wednesday, was cancelled.

The lead RASC volunteer is ill.

He asked that the event be postponed.

asked all courses be listed, again

Once again a Stellarium course in the week ahead was not shown in the RASC Weekly.

I asked firmly that all events be included in the future.

I explained that this was one element of our advertising and promotion!

Can't understand why it was omitted this time despite my previous ask and their acknowledgement

Not happy.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

enjoyed chas's visit

Caught up with chas.

While I showed him the sights, we talked of many things: RASC membership issues, Unistellar telescopes, harmonic drives, crazy weather of late, The Thing board game, electric cars, Ubuntu on the Surface Book, the Surface Laptop Go form factor, what it takes to be a centre president, what a centre might do given the poor handling of member by the national system, an elevated park, and old trains.

Also showed him the hacked ETX 90.

Friday, January 20, 2023

attended London meeting

Tuned into the RASC London monthly meeting, virtually attended, again.

Enjoyed guest speaker Alan Dyer's talk on chasing aurora.

I also like Dale Armstrong's report. Always great info.

Learned of an occultation coming up soon, flying right over the St Thomas, London area.

booked to talk on BGO

Invited to speak to the London Centre about the BGO.

I'm on deck for the 16 June 2023 meeting.

I'll dust off and freshen up my slide deck on the Burke-Gaffney Observatory.

Looking forward to it.


All these talks. I'm gonna have to get a concert tour t-shirt made up!

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

plotted the comet

Helped Melody with her SkyTools software.

I wanted to show her how to plot the path of a comet. Specifically C/2022 E3 (ZTF).

Of course, doing it in the SkyTools planning app set for one's location gives precise information.

path of comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) from Halifax

We also chatted about observing, double stars, and RASC software training courses.

discussed eyepiece shopping

Helped Jeanette (I hope) of Nova Scotia with her eyepiece shopping.

She had started to settle on a particular focal length. But for her small refractor, I wasn't sure it was right.

We discussed the exit pupil at length (referring to the RASC Observer's Handbook), eye relief, effective maximum magnification, costs, doublers, a try-before-you-buy approach, Canadian vendors to consider, Ontario vendors to avoid, etc. Oh, yes, and old eyes...

Lots for her to absorb.

checked the books

The ETM books are way simpler than I thought...

ETM books in hand

Mailbox was packed today!

Among other things, I received the Explore the Moon workbooks from RASC national office.

In a way, I'm responsible for these. The national Observing Committee administers the certificate programs while the Publications department produces these books.

As I began to edit and update the ETM materials, I tried to understand exactly what was in the book sold at the store. 

Seeing it in person, holding it, is best.

And my first impression, on opening the envelope, is that they are big!

Big in dimension. I was expecting, for some reason, a pocket-sized book. But they are 8½ by 11 inch size.

Anyhoo, these in hand will let me proceed with the revisions.

Monday, January 16, 2023

invited to speak on York Universe radio

I was invited today to speak at a future York Universe Radio program. Or programs... I was on the show back in November talking about the 2022 AIR program.

Dr Elaina Hyde then asked about January 23 and 30. 

I told her I was booked on the 30th—my new Backyard EOS training course, can't skip that! 😝

So I offered the first date.

You can tune into the live podcast at 9:00 PM on Monday 23 January. 

Among other things we'll be talking about what's coming up, astronomically, in 2023. And we'll have an update on comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF).

See the (new) Allan I Carswell Observatory (AICO) web page for a link to the Online Public Viewing (OPV) program on YouTube.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

only doubles (St Thomas)

Dressed for the cold. Put on two layers of jammy pants, astronomy constellation ones outside. Put on my astronomy vest with my BLOIS crest.

7:19 PM. Checked the battery on the voice recorder. About half. Red #42 theatre film on the computer LCD screen. I readied to go outside. Left the sketching gear for later.

Put the new MEC Guides duck down parka on again. Did up all the buttons tonight, for the flap covering the zipper. The Sony ICD-SX750 into the breast pocket. baader planetarium Hyperion Mark IV 24-8 zoom eyepiece into the right hip pocket. Custom Deep Red flashlight into the left. Custom red LED USB keyboard light installed.

Out the airlock.

On None More Black, the custom build, turned up the dew heater channels (they had been on, low, the whole time). Powered by the hacked computer PSU.

Centred on RA. Took off the safety tether on the objective cap. Removed the cover. Adjusted the north part of the blind; it had sagged. It was close after the park position command but centred on the Dec marker. Eek. Touched the glass but my gloves were on. Whew. No mark. Ocular into the Williams Optics 2" dielectric mirror diagonal.

Took a seat on Dave Getgood's BigDOC adjustable height astronomy chair. Powered on the motor drive system. Checked the time. 7:24. The hand controller of the IDEA GoToStar was fast 4 minutes. Fine, close enough. Checked the Daylight setting: it was not on. Checked the offset (in the location): 300 minutes. All seemed OK. Why had the 'scope pointing been so far off yesterday? Meh. Move on.

Woke up the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go with the fingerprint reader. SkyTools Visual Professional 4.0j R21 glitched again! Red mode was mucked up with white rows. Just in the short time going from inside to outside. Was it from minimising the application? I cycled the Night Vision. Minimised. OK now. Weird.

Remembered I did not need to do a star alignment; it was in memory. I had parked and maintained the power. I decided to use Betelgeuse. Given how cold it was, I decided to do a medium-speed manual pan close to the orange star in Orion. Didn't want to strain the motors. Then I remembered I had released the clutches, so the model might be screwed up. What the hey, I carried on. The LCD was sluggish. Looked in the Named Stars menu. Found 60 was the magic number. Scrolled down 2 items. Issued a slew to Betelgeuse. Huh. Not too bad. Centred in the Orion 9x50 right-angle corrected finder, then centred in the eyepiece. Synced on the star, in hopes of correcting the model.

7:33. Noted the battery level was already very low on the Sony. Oops. Found a bundle of new Energizers near the photo booth. It occurred to me that the recorder might be recharge mode. Is that a bad thing with alkalines installed?!

Considered Orion targets. ο (omicron) 2 Orionis was a new or unseen quarry. From the Sky & Telescope article. Looked up the alternate designations in the software. Hard time reading it with the old Mark I eyeballs... SAO 94218. Tried entering it into the hand controller. Goofed on the first attempt being in the wrong field, the GoToNova ID field. Oooh. Moved to the second SAO row and it was accepted. Slewed!

Somewhat bright star in the eyepiece. Checked the digital atlas. All right! On it, right on the star. Impressive, the pointing. Centred in the eyepiece.

7:42. Well. I noted a gold-yellow star... Saw the unequal wide pairing with HD 31374 to the north, roughly. Compared some stars in the east. I saw a triad of stars like in the software chart. Confident I was in the right spot. Tricky, I thought. Remembered that the optical path, extended with the external William Optics Crayford-style focuser, made the field of view smaller, more magnified. So while the zoom eyepiece was at 24, I needed to set SkyTools to the 20mm view, to better match the TFOV. [ed: Did I not make a special multiplier to compensate for this?]

Desired hands-free focusing.

Dialed the eyepiece up one notch. Took the custom DIY dew strap off for a moment to check.

West was at my 10 o'clock. Started to doubt I was on the right star. Panned about to verify the star field. It sure looked right... Pretty sure.

Couldn't hear the soft "clicks" as I turned the eyepiece barrel. Was it affected by the cold? Went to the 12mm position. 

I kept seeing flanking stars but they were not shown in the software. Set the Eyepiece View to Ideal mode but it did not reveal additional stars. In the Interactive Atlas, I zoomed in, turned on the Mirror flip. Again, no flanking stars. Checked the Object Information box. BU (Burnham) 553 was a triple. A was mag 4.1, B 11.3, and C 11.6. B was close at 36.2 seconds-of-arc while C was 100.4" away. [ed: Latest data on B from 1962 and C from 1918!] The brightness of B also matched in the chart, on hovering with the mouse.

The sky seeing appeared to be bad at the moment.

It was a mystery. Verified the field and position in the finder. Gah. The finder was blocked by the roof. So much for that. I could not spot B. But I was seeing magnitude 10 stars easily. And another random mag 11 star. Weird. Nope. No can-do. Not observed. For another day. Occurred to me to ask Melody if she got it.

Next! For fun...

7:57. Enjoyed Rigel! Intense blue-white star with the little delicate dim baby star. Near to the parent. 

B was to the south-west. Visible at the lowest power. It looked good. So nice. Just at the edge of the glare.

The seeing conditions were better than last night. (As predicted.)

8:00. Was B orange?! Did it have some colour? B was a bit right of the Tycho star 5331-1710 1. And another star beyond that. Those stars were south-west but B was actually south-south-west. 

Artificial seeing problems? Or "local" seeing problems? My eyes were watering. Combination of my environmental allergies (bad during the day) and the cold. I kept wiping my eyes. Kept blinking to get a clear view. 

Marked Rigel as observed. Ooh, and ST4VP screwed up again, switching to white colouring in the rows. Cycled again.

Wanted to work, like last night, in a proximal way. Turned on the check marks for all objects. Untagged items viewed previously and the comets. All centred on Rigel. Spotted something near Procyon.

Noticed the orientation buttons were readable. Earlier the text hadn't shown. Another bug.

Synced. Slewed to α (alpha) CMi. The pointing was off but it was not far away in the finder. Noted diffraction spikes, X-pattern, a cross, like a Newtonian, from the tree branches.

8:09. Oh. The wind. When the breeze blew over the light shield, it felt really cold. On my face and on my hands. Nasty.

Moved from Procyon, using the finder, to the to the target: HR 2950, STF 1126. A S&T target. West was at the 7:00 position. A big flying-V shape with a bright star in the centre. In a big triangle. A long line of stars. Panned to shift distracting Procyon out of the field. Zoomed to get fainter stars. Saw GSC 00187-1457 to the west. Saw BRD 2 (a different double). Easy, brighter, to the north-west, about double the GSC separation. Saw GSC 00187-0984 to the SW, a faint star. Eyes watered like crazy. Activated the Windows Magnifier (Windows +) to help read the screen. Tagged SAO 115775 to the south, another easy bright star. Cheated and looked up the circumstances in the application. A and B were very tight at 0.9" but nearly equal in magnitude, 6.6 and 6.7. C was wide, 43.2", and dimmer at 10.6. Kept lookin'.

Holy Universe! I thought I split the A and B! Going left and right. Roughly north and south. Zoomed in a bunch in the software but it didn't show the two stars, neither in the EV or IA charts. Fainter element was to the right. Didn't get a black line but two dots beside each other. A little infinity symbol. Checked the position angles: 171° and 249°.

[ed: Stelle Doppie says 0.8 arc-seconds! Wow!]

Hand was getting quite cold. The wind wasn't helping. Pined for a mouse so I could keep my glove on. Oh. Wanted for gloves with capacitance pads! That's what I need.

Huh. Sky & Tel was offering some rather challenging objects. Looked for the C companion. 

8:28. Ah, gee. Just got it. At the 12mm setting. I had to look above and left of the primary to get it with averted vision (with my usual left eye). Very tough. 

I still wanted to say A and B were left and right. Right, yes, north and south. That's why I had a bit of trouble focusing before, using that star as the reference. It was a fuzzy object to focus on, ha. 

Went to 8mm, the maximum zoom. B was pointing, nearly directly, to SAO 115775.  Oh, and C was visible, while very faint, under direct vision now, at 8mm (approximately 254x). C was roughly west. Somewhat inline with GSC 00187-0984 and about one third the distance. When I looked at the primary, C popped. Soft focus worked too. Wow.

8:32. Sirius was flickering like a light on an emergency vehicle.

I was happy to have tagged a couple of doubles. Wondered about a RASC Deep-Sky Gems target. Returned to Procyon and synced.

Slewed to NGC 2420. Short hop. [ed: Oops, a go-to action.] An open cluster. Nothing visible. Tree branches in the way. Checked the finder. Lots of branches in the way. Occulting branches. 

Cold. Frickin' cold. Went inside to warm up. And to kill time for the target to shift right of the naked tree.

8:57. Still branches in the field when I returned.

Checked the recorder battery level. OK. Nearly full.

Wanted to verify the position in the finder but it was not an option. The celestial object was still behind the wood limbs.

9:04. Slewed. Went to Pollux to get a nearby, easily confirmed object, to freshen the synchronisation of the sky model. Centred.

Still some diffraction or interference. Then back to the New General Catalogue object. aka Collinder 154, Melotte 69, Raab 56, or OCL 488. Levy 35.

9:06. Thought I saw it. The members were all faint. Two bright stars above (with SAO 79571). Another below (SAO 79563). A very large hockey stick. Turned off the distracting line in the software. Confirmed I was on it. West was to the left. Extremely faint. Could barely see the stars in the centre. Had to use averted. This target would benefit from a dark sky. Could barely make out 10 stars. [ed: SkyTools says it is a mag 9 cluster.] To re-observe...

Done. Shut down leaving the 'scope on the deck, knowing there was not extremely poor weather on the way. No imminent snow or rain. Brought in some gear.

The Surface was really cold to touch. The metal body was chilly!

Ah! Prepared to make a hot chocolate! Been a while! Yum.

9:15. Checked the chart. I had seen GSC 01373-2340, TYC 01373-1207 1, and GSC 01373-2463.

So, about 2 hours out. But kinda a school night. 

Sadly, no DSGs. Removed the red film. Reviewed what I did. Orion constellation, Rigel, Struve 1126 (seen before), HR 2950, NGC 2420. Couldn't split omicron. Passed the Collinder 69 cluster in Orion at the beginning. Still, I was happy. Two nights in a row.

The kettle went off... Hot chocolate in my big ceramic aurora mug.

Donna sent me a cute text with an image, a bear looking at a shooting star. Apropos. Reminded me of my astronomy for birds series.

Checked the weather for St Thomas from EC. Current Conditions: Mostly Cloudy, -5°C. Observed at: London Int'l Airport. Date: 9:00 PM EST Sunday 15 January 2023. Condition: Mostly Cloudy. Pressure: 102.5 kPa, Rising. Temperature: -4.7°C. Dew point: -7.4°C. Humidity: 81%. Wind: E 15 km/h. Wind Chill: -10. Forecast, Hourly Forecast. Tonight, A few clouds, -6°C. Mon 16 Jan, Mainly sunny, 2°C. Night, Rain or drizzle, 2°C. Detailed Forecast, Forecast issued: 3:30 PM EST Sunday 15 January 2023. Tonight: A few clouds. Wind up to 15 km/h. Low minus 6. Wind chill near minus 10. Mon, 16 Jan: Mainly sunny. Wind east 20 km/h becoming light near noon. High plus 2. Wind chill minus 10 in the morning. Night: Becoming cloudy in the evening. Rain beginning near midnight. Rain mixed with drizzle before morning. Temperature steady near plus 2.

That wind was bitter.

didn't go out

The alarm went off at 4.

Hit snooze.

Thought about it for a while. 

Actually got up and looked out the window.

But then...


Just didn't have the mojo. Didn't want to feel cold. Didn't want to have to put on all the layers to avoid the cold. Felt creaky and tired. Just couldn't force myself to try, despite the 'scope being ready, on standby.

Back to the warm bed.

No comet viewing...

Saturday, January 14, 2023

short session in the cold (St Thomas)

9:49 PM. Just finished a quick-and-dirty polar alignment. Looked like Orion was due south. Sirius was blinking madly. Oh oh, bad seeing. In the short time I was out, I felt really cold. Yes, no coat, no shoes. Still.

Suited up. Jammies under the jeans. Socks and regular winter boots. T-shirt, long sleeve, and the brand new MEC parka. Toque and gloves.

The mount was plugged in. But I had turned off the balcony string lights... I'd need my phone with the Globe app to re-energise the circuit. Dew heaters were ready to go. Already had the red flashlight (the bike light; couldn't find Deep Red). Needed to bring out some other stuff, particularly for the mount start-up process. Like an eyepiece. Later, I'd need to computer. And a table. Went inside to fetch things.

Put in the baader Mark IV zoom eyepiece and set it to 24mm, wide.

10:12. Powered up the mount. Wasn't sure the time. Used the time-stamp on files in the Sony voice recorder. Split the difference and entered a new time in the IDEA GoToStar hand controller.

Ran through a one-star alignment. Chose Sirius. Quite far off in RA; Dec was OK. [ed: Time zone issue?]

Zoomed in to 8mm just on a whim. No way. Seeing was horrible. No chance of seeing The Pup beside α (alpha) CMa.

Collimation looked OK, not perfect, but OK for now.

10:23. Brought out the table, Haas's book, and the John Grim computer, with keyboard light. Almost knocked over the table with the dead plants.

SkyTools seemed to be in white mode. Refreshed. Didn't work. Had to toggle the Night Vision. The glitchy behaviour persists...

At least the red brightness setting was better, I could see the labels on buttons.

Didn't have the mouse. That's complicated given the single USB port.

Checked for objects in Orion. Considered ο (omicron) Orionis. A double star suggested in a recent Sky & Telescope article. Unfortunately, it was blocked by the roof, too far to the west. Unfortunate. I could have done it earlier in the evening... Boo.

The horizon feature was working.

Rigel was also too late.

Used the check marks to plot all targets on the Interactive Atlas chart, ignoring Orion, looking for things near Sirius. Ah. ν (nu) Canes Majoris. Another S&T target. Right. Not far. Started star hopping...

Activated the Eyepiece View chart, selected the C8, and used the Orion finder scope option.

Wondered about the brightness of the screen. Turned off the Simple Natural sky background in the chart. Switched to black.

View in the finder was canted.

10:33. Found a flattened triangle. My target was in the middle. Slewed to it.

Viewed ν CMa. Nice. Yellow and... blue. Bouncing around. The seeing was so bad. Easily separated. Or was it yellow and orange? Sirius was still flickering so not surprising that all the stars in this area were bad. Waited for a good steady view. Centred. Pretty colours. When the seeing was good, it looked gold and blue. Blue-greenish? Faded out, what the hell? Cloud? No. Oops, fogged the eyepiece.

Marked as observed.

aka SHJ 73. Obvious double. Slightly unequal, maybe B was 1 magnitude fainter, 2 perhaps. SkyTools said they were mags 5.7 and 7.6. ST4VP only reported two stars. Equal colour? Both gold? Um, no, dusty blue. Terrible seeing! Matched the orientation. Turned off labels in the software. Faint companion was near the 12 o'clock position which ST4VP said was to the west. Not a lot of field stars. Correction! Not a lot of bright stars; there were many faint field stars. Bright star to the right, 3:30 o'clock, HD 47137. Confirmed I was at the 24mm detent on the zoom ocular. Noted the cup shape of stars to the bottom-left, near the E. Maybe B was at 12:15. Yellow and blue. ST4VP said the separation was 17.8" as of 2002. 

I liked the hood but the faux fur tickled. Legs were cool. I wondered about another layer under the coat, maybe a vest?

One more look. Yellow and orange, blue, green? Ha. Faint pair overall. Well, the A was was possibly naked eye... Faint compared to Sirius.

OK. Next?

τ (tau) CMa? What was that about? A stellar target in the zoomed out IA chart. Not in the list. Ah, it was in the Jewel Box... 

I decided to star hop from the rump of the Great Dog. Re-jigged the software. And started the journey... The L-O-N-G journey... I started getting blockage in the finder scope, from its mounting low on the OTA. I could have dropped the fabric light shield but I decided to carry on, using the ocular, eyepiece hopping.

Toes were cold. If it got worse, I'd have to switch to the Baffin Island boots.

Finally. Figured out where I was. On LZ CMa. Close to my target... Continued hopping. Fogged the eyepiece again. Gar! This was taking forever.

11:10. Got it!

Viewed the Northern Jewel Box from the RASC Deep-Sky Gems. Levy 296. Bright star in the centre, blue-white.

Also known as NGC 2362, Collinder 136, Melotte 65, Raab 52, OCL 633.

Had an overall triangular shape to it. Triad. Seeing still bad. Spires heading out, 120 degrees from one another. Very nicely framed in the 24mm. Lots of faint stars within. Looked like a double above the central bright star. 

I dewed-up the lens again! OK, break time. Headed inside to warm up.

[ed. The bright star is τ CMa. SkyTools showed it as a double star, with four companions! Also, nearby MX CMa is a double, Burnham 133, to the east.]

11:27. Returned. With sketching gear.

I had grabbed a tear-off from the table-top calendar. On the back, I traced a circle using a soup can lid. Had the Starry Night clipboard and a pencil.

Sat down and drew the scene.

11:36. Finished the sketch.

sketch of the Northern Jewel Box

The audio recorder, when I tried to use it, shutdown. The extreme cold had depleted the batteries.

Turned off the mount but kept power applied. Turned down the dew heater. On standby, ready to go for morning observing...

Done. Took the computer and recorder and eyepiece in.

I felt pretty awesome, back inside, on the couch, warming up, reflecting. A very short session but it was good! Got a S&T double, new to me! And a RASC DSG, sketched, yes!

11:50. I reprogrammed the Globe power switch to not turn off automatically--I had the Vixen mount in sleep mode.

I set a 4 AM alarm, for the comet...


Dang. Just discovered that the Winter Albireo double star was nearby. I would have taken a look!


Looked up τ CMa in SkyTools, aka HJ 3948. The software shows it as a five-star system. B, C, and D are all doable. P on the other hand is not, at 0.1" separation. 

In my sketch I tagged D! Cool. It's the nearby star straight down, in the east direction, part of the nearby equilateral triangle.

I did not see B and C.

checked the chart

The Fingal Clear Sky Chart is looking really good!

Been a while.

Really sunny now.

chart for tonight - lots of blue

Lots o' blue chips for the evening. From 7:00 PM to 2:00 AM, cloud cover - clear, ECMWF - clear, trans - above average, seeing - average! Then at 3 AM, the seeing improves!

I should have an afternoon nap...

Humidity - 80 to 85%. Will need the anti-dew gear.

made a plan

Made an observing list for tomorrow...

Er... Saturday night.

And Sunday morning.

If I can steel myself to brave the cold...

SkyTools 4 Visual Pro. Some doubles, some comets, some things to via again. One more look at Mars. Some Deep-Sky Gems.

Friday, January 13, 2023

updated DSG log book

Updated my log notes for the Deep-Sky Gems.

Forgot to update the log for the 37 Cluster, observed and sketched on 23 Nov '22.

Decided to drop in previous observations, as an FYI.

Forgot how many times I had viewed the unique cluster. And that I had imaged it too.

registered more peeps

Processed more applicants for our RASC training courses.

Mostly for the new Stellarium sessions in January and February.

But also a couple of applications for Backyard EOS.

I'm pleased that my Stellarium intermediate level 2 on 24 Jan is almost full.

received invite from NYAA

Received an invitation to speak at a North York Astronomical Association (NYAA) meeting on double stars.

Honoured to!

Pencilled in for early February...

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

closed the matter

Found a RASC calendar in my mailbox.

Sent directly from head office to me.

To replace the missing calendar.

This will be hand-delivered by me.

The matter is closed for me, personally.

But I still worry for other RASC members...

It took 41 days to receive my order. RASC had to ship out a second one. The paid staff had to duplicate their efforts. Or more. Very wasteful. Very inefficient. When we can't be.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

loaded LTVT

Downloaded and installed the Lunar Terminator Visualization Tool (LTVT), version 0.21.4.

See if I can get the selenographic co-longitude values from it...

Sunday, January 08, 2023

all cylinders


Kinda a crazy day.

In the middle of the day, I was full-throttle, full-multitasking, juggling all the chainsaws at once, gonzo doing stuff.

Astronomy stuff. 




Posted in Cloudy Nights. Continued email exchanges with the far-east astronomy association. Discussed with the Observing Committee the issues of paper atlases, or the lack thereof. Noted the RASC Observer's Handbook error being posted. Investigated selenographic co-longitude. Learned about His Majesty's Naval Almanac Office. Bookmarked an interesting article from the Journal of the RASC from 1965. Received a request from the Hamilton Centre. Received an acknowledgement about the Moon at Noon link I shared. Heard from the observing chair of the Edmonton Centre, feedback after our recent meeting. Updated the Publications Committee on the discovered error in my most recent order. Liaised with my Obs Comm team member representing the Kitchener-Waterloo Centre. Pitched the new SkyNews editor on a story idea. Followed up with a contact in the Victoria Centre, accepting the invitation to speak at a future beginner observers meeting, so to talk about double stars. Continued the dialogue with my St John's Centre contact on observing certificate matters. Asked the president who is responsible for editing certain content on the RASC website. Checked the weather conditions in the vain hope of observing. Checked the weather conditions and Moon phase in Halifax. Relayed an important observing certificate should be in the mail tomorrow. Received a note about a Local Certificate Centre rep stepping down. Recommended a computer accessory for a modern computer lacking an ethernet port, for an astrophotography rig. Downloaded Virtual Moon Atlas 7 to John Starbird. But remembered VMA was already installed on John Repeat Dance. Received Chris's Skylights. Drafted up notes on reviewing an ETM application. Looked into stockin' up on astro-themed hot sauce.

I think that's it...

Saturday, January 07, 2023

reported an URL error

Reported an error in the 2023 Observer's Handbook on page 149. See the online Updates for corrections...

found a bent flat package

Found a package in the mailbox.

Largish. Flat. Hmmm... 

Bent to fit. 

Probably should not have been bent to fit.

Arrived on or before Friday.


Oh! Not who I was expecting it from!

Not directly...


discussed ETM-B and ETM-T

Had a meeting with an observer and a reviewer from the Edmonton Centre. The applicant is putting the finishing touches on his Explore the Moon-Binocular notes.

We also talked about the Explore the Moon-Telescope program.

A good discussion. 

We all got somethin' out of it.

Friday, January 06, 2023

checked the banner

Yes. Walter loaded up the banner image that I made for the Backyard EOS course.

Looks good!

And I figured out the layout this time.

banner for the BYE course

No superimposition.

And maybe getting some public attention...

updated SMP

Updated Stellarium Mobile Plus for the Android. Now at version 1.10.3.

Looks like minor bug fixes...


Hmm. Still called "Western" culture...

Thursday, January 05, 2023

finished the ETM-T edits

Went much quicker tonight. Easier.

Created a new Google Doc for the Explore the Moon-telescope program.

No missing assets.

Discovered the cell padding feature of tables! That was muckin' me up last night.

So, interesting. Now the ETM "guides" are effectively done.

prepped 6 certs

Woo hoo. We got a bunch of RASC observing certificates prepared for delivery!

Early in the day I heard from Samantha. She had contacted a different printer and had some extra copies of our old planets-in-outer-space certificate sheets made up. That would allow us to deal with the immediate backlog and have a few on hand until we get the new design done up.

Later in the day, she shared previews of 6 waiting certificates.

It is so good we have these additional checks and balances in place now as I totally screwed up on one of the certs. Wrong award! Oops!

I was very happy to get the ball rolling again and to serve a bunch of members.

disappointed with Sutherland

Crying wolf again... Scott Sutherland is screwing up people, again. He's trumpeting viewing the Quadrantid meteor shower when it is a full Moon! A full Moon! Man...

Does he really understand this?

Has he himself done this?

Has he observed a meteor shower?

He's listed as a meteorologist and science writer at the Weather Network. I've said it before—I'll say it again—he is not an astronomy expert.

I challenge him. Go outside and try to spot a meteor during a full Moon evening. Come on, take the challenge!

Good luck.

This is grinding my gears because I think it in the long-run he's hurting people. He's creating all the buzz and hoopla and when people go out they don't see anything. So they will get disgruntled and discouraged and jaded.

"To give a false alarm."

He needs to stop doing this.

Stop this nonsense.

If he wants to boost astronomy content on the web site, he needs to talk about things that are easy and practical and doable and fun. Hello, the planets easily spotted right now. The incredible winter constellations and the stunning star colours. Look at the Moon, when it's not full! Sheesh.

started the ETM edits...

Started a round of editing on the Explore the Moon materials.

Was wide-awake or not tired and itchy to do some work.

So I finally collated the ETM materials on the John Starbird computer. As I reviewed the ETM basic or standalone "guide", it looked like I had all the assets but one.

For the binocular version. The easiest, the smallest, of the documents.

Then, fired up Google Docs. That was a bit of a big deal. 

I was able to apply a number of the changes that were pending, such as the Latin name inclusion for lunar features.


Pretty happy with the overall result. It looks good in PDF form. It is ready for the team members to have a look-see.

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

realised something was missing


Totally missed it, until now.

I never migrated my custom rainmeter widget for the Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Not sure how I missed that...

tried the grabber again

Another quick test of Backyard EOS with a quick-and-dirty Y-mask for the Bahtinov grabbing capability.

A bit better.

some good double targets


Nice article at Sky & Telescope encouraging people to observe some doubles.

The piece is entitled Explore Double Stars in the "Winter Pair-a-gon." They emphasise a number of doubles in and around the Winter Hexagon.

It was also good to see them rally people. Have a go at spotting Sirius B.

The time is nigh.


I was curious though by one comment by Bob King. He said the "lack of humidity" helps with the sky's darkness. I don't know which desert he's observing from but their ain't no lack 'round here.


Melody pinged me about the article. Thanks.


Melody's nudge got me athinkin'. Have I viewed them all?

  • Sirius (ACG 1) - yes
  • ν1 Canis Majoris (SHJ 73) - no; yes on 14 Jan '23
  • Σ1126 (HR 2950) - yes
  • Σ1182 (HD 66801) - no
  • Castor (STF 1110) - yes
  • θ Aurigae (STT 545) - yes
  • Σ559 (HR 1442) - no
  • Rigel (STF 668) - yes

So, got some work to do then.

put up RASC calendar

Oops. Forgot. Kept forgetting.

Finally put up the 2023 RASC Calendar.

By my office desk.


This joins two other calendars, which is a little unusual. 

I've the AICO calendar from York.

And the table-top calendar.

Surrounded by daily and monthly astro-images.

considered SF

I've been thinking about SF for a couple of days.

Monday 2 January was Science Fiction day.

Science fiction, speculative fiction, SF, sci-fi, whatever you wanna call it, greatly shaped me. And I'm convinced it kindled my interest in astronomy (and the related sciences).

a flying saucer

During our family Christmas gathering, we watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. Or much of it. 'Til it got late and I needed to head home.

During the new year's eve gathering at my place, we wanted to watch the old, original, black-and-white Thing From Another World. But I don't have it, in any format. Mom might have it, maybe on VHS. I have John Carpenter's The Thing which I enjoy watching this time of year. It, like Apollo 13, makes me feel cold. Fun movies.

I have a loaner VCR to spin those up.

We did watch It's a Wonderful Life, a recent DVD purchase. I'd say it can be definitely categorised as science fiction, for it asks that key, core, critical question: What if...

Mom wondered out loud at the meaning of many things in 2001. I said that I had the Arthur C Clarke novel. I dug through a box 'o books and found it. Gave it to her yesterday. I'll be curious to hear her reaction, regarding the differences.

She also was keen to read the story that The Thing was based on. I said I had it too. In one of my anthologies, the short story, Who Goes There? I remember that being very entertaining and surprising. Handed off that book too.

As I declutter, I'm trying to read some of my old books. Then I'll sell them and/or give away.

There are some I am leaning to keep. All my Samuel R Delany works. Maybe all the Larry Niven too. A Canticle for Leibowitz.

Lost my mojo for Star Wars and Star Trek so all that's being collated and boxed up. Hopefully, I can sell these large lots to collectors.

I'll need to visit the SF shop in town. See what he says.

I read less SF now. And when I do, it's usually in the "hard" subcategory. Or cyberpunk.

I don't write SF anymore. A lot of unfinished ideas there...


Watched Dune by Denis Villeneuve. Watched it again. It is powerful, a visual spectacle, with very moving music. It leaves an impression. I looked up the release date for part 2: November!


Also spotted a board game! Infection at Outpost 31. That'd be a riot with friends... in a cold remote location!


Need to borrow the Blade Runner movies from Mom again... get my fix.

enjoying PD

Happy perihelion.

Normally I get a kick out of this day as it is often (for us on the north side of planet Earth) blizzardy or cold or snowy or icy or all of the above.

Today, cool, damp, wet, rainy, dreary, grey, grim, colourless, blah.


It's always noteworthy.

We're a million kilometres closer, in space, to our local star, than we are in June.

However you might do so, enjoy Perihelion Day.

I had oven bacon!

received Celestial Calendar on time

OK. He's back on track...

I had spotted Dave Mitsky's Celestial Calendar post recently, on Cloudy Nights, but it was very December!? Shared on 26 December!

Odd. When I scanned my inbox, it then became apparent the December release had never gone out. I wonder if he had forgotten, maybe found it in the Outbox? Better late than never, I 'spose.

But Mitsky appears to be on top of it, again.

The January release was just sent out.


I really enjoy his posts. It's one of my primary ways of planning astronomical sightings.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

new version a week ago


Missed it.

A new version of Stellarium came out. Christmas Day, no less. Version 1.2. I will have to read the release notes...

Stellarium with new sky cultures

Saw the new font Noto was utilised.

Observed that the term "Western" is no longer used in the sky cultures listing.

I noted "improved rendering of the Moon." I think one thing I'm noticing is the visibility of the features in the dark region, simulating Earthshine.

I like the new control to limit the labels for the solar system body nomenclature. This will be helpful on the Moon.

more people dragged in

Now Carina is involved.

And she said I should talk to Jenn. Who's Jenn?

Still trying to sort the missing calendar order.

I'm growing weary.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

shared fast movers list

Spotted a question on double stars in the RASC national forum. Wow. How about that!

Terry T asked if there was a resource for doubles with short orbital periods. For a friend. Intriguingly, he said, "I think he's up against a difficult challenge."

I shared I didn't know of a specific resource but that I had made by own, primarily using SkyTools, for some interesting "fast movers" to monitor on a regular basic.

Copied my table from my Google Sheets file into the Driven forum space. Amazingly, it kept the tabular structure.

received a thank you note

Received a nice note from my editor.

She recognised the writers and contributors.

A nice little surprise to kick off the year.

Happy New Year!
From:  Nebulous Nikki

I just wanted to say thank you for your wonderful, continuing contributions to the _Journal_.  Your work is always insightful and detailed and interesting, and I know our readers appreciate it.

So, from James and I both:  thank you.  You make the _Journal_ what it is.

You're welcome.

set up photographic calendar

Fired up the new desk calendar, with the first day, the start of the Pope Gregory the XIII's calendar.

Actually, I think I'll keep it on the coffee table. It's very attractive, has an integrated stand, and makes for an interesting piece.

set up new desk calendar

Box on the left. Willow Creek Press actually calls it a "box calendar." FSC certified paper with soy-based inks.

Day 1 is the Pipe Nebula aka Barnard 59 in in the Ophiuchus constellation. It is part of the Dark Horse.

One of the many astro-gifts from the family.

received first application

And the first application for the day (and the year!) came in...

Didn't take long.

The new RASC Bulletin hit member inboxes 40 minutes prior. 

A registration was received. People are learning about the new Backyard EOS training course.

All right!

I'm gonna have a full course!

realised the subject was fixed

And then it hit me.

A correction had been applied!

After the long back-and-forth exchange with national office, I had successfully conveyed my concern regarding the subject line for the RASC Bulletin emails. And finally seeing the interface in Driven, I was able to direct the editor as to what to change.

Back in August, the text "The RASC Bulletin" got dropped from the subject field, leaving only the month and year, making it difficult to search one's email folders for the releases.

The text is back!


The Universe is a little bit better.

found the Obs Comm report

Next up in the first RASC Bulletin for the new year was the update from my committee.

The Observing Committee Digest was included, with graphs.

I wanted to summarise the year for readers and recognise the efforts for the observers over 2022. We had a good year, third highest levels over the last 15 years. Good representation of centres across the country.

Obs Comm report in the Bulletin

The formatting got mangled unfortunately. The sublevel bullet points for the recipients was disturbed making it hard to read. The graphs were sized very small so the printing is illegal.

Alas, minor quibbles.

saw the BYE notice

Woo hoo.

The RASC Bulletin arrived my inbox.

"Is it, is it, is it...?" I mumbled as I scrolled down.

There it was!


The last-minute notice I was able to squeak in for the new Backyard EOS training course.

RASC Bulletin with Backyard training offer

I was very happy to see this notification included. I owe a big thanks to Reem of national office for supporting this endeavour over the holidays.

Another way I wanted to create a buzz. Use another advertising channel. Show we're not static. Give people something to look forward to in 2023. Keep me busy.