Wednesday, March 29, 2023

shared the news of 23.1

Posted an update to the "forum," managed in the Google Classroom we built for the Stellarium training series.

Stellarium 23.1 is out...

I noted the strange jump in the version numbering scheme. The developers are switching to year number followed by the sub-version. 23.1 is the latest and as usual has addressed a number of issues.

Cautioned users of an important issue if using scripts. A potential security threat was identified. That may compel people to update.

sent revised letter to the editor

I had sent a letter to the editor of the Journal.

Noted a typographical error so I sent an edit correction.

I hope this will appear so to address an oversight in the president's recent remarks on citizen science.

tried to split HR 6043 (St Thomas)

2:00 AM. The alarm preprogrammed into Mnemosyne went off.


Nine minutes later, the alarm, again.


Nine minutes later, the alarm, again.


Snoozed to about 3 AM. Ugh. OK. Had to get up...

I was feeling stiff, creaky, and slow. Put on multiple layers. The new winter coat. The astro Crocs. And headed out the airlock.

The Meade ETX 90 was chilled and ready to go. Installed the Celestron 26mm ocular.

Surveyed the sky. Gah. I hadn't put up the visual blind and the local lighting was terrible. The horrible lights from the fitness centre blocks away! Light pollution everywhere. Held up my arms to block the blaring street and parking lot lights. Tried to get my bearings.

Oh no. Scorpius, off to the right, to the south-west. Wasn't expecting that.

Tried to identify parts of Ophiuchus but couldn't figure out the patterns.

I was sure I was seeing bits of Hercules though the bulk of the constellation was behind the big maple. Couldn't see Rasalgethi... Vega was hidden as well.

Finally identified Kornephoros or β (beta) Herculis.

Then spotted ζ (zeta) Her in the branches. Aimed the 'scope at this star, to begin the star hop.

Moved up.

And crossed over the border in Corona Borealis.

Landed at ν1 (nu) and ν2 CrB.

Moved up (or west) a bit more.

Viewed the lovely main pair, blue and yellow, of σ (sigma) CrB. Nice.

Finally, off to HR 6043.

I stared at this double for a good 30 minutes. Used the baader planetarium zoom eyepiece. Up and down all the magnifications. Soft, of course, at the 8mm mode. I triple-checked the field. Back and forth between the ocular and the computer. Cleared my watering eyes many times. Until it was almost blocked by the balcony roof.

I simply could not split it.

It wasn't horrible seeing. The transparency seemed fair. I was struggling with stray light. And I'm not really sure how well my eyes were working. But, still, for me, knowing what to expect, having worked on other tough doubles like this... I just couldn't do it.

I could not see the 10.6 magnitude companion next to the 6.3 primary.

I could not see the faint cohort some 5.6 seconds of arc away.

In the small aperture, in contrast with σ, it really looked like a single star...

And started to resign myself...

It's not a good target.

HR 6043 aka STT 305 is too hard.

I will need to remove this.

It needs to be replaced.

I need to revise the Double Stars certificate program target list.

Unfortunately, I will need to alter the master list...

All that started to sink in.

A bit dejected, I hauled the gear inside.

Headed back to the bedroom.


Noted that the three screens on John Starbird were all... on. Not showing anything mind you but not fully off. Some sorta glitch with the screen saver option, I gathered. Maybe a glitch with BOINC?


Had tried to use the small gooseneck lamp but the red bulb did not illuminated. Burnt out, I guessed.


Stumbled across a new bug. Or a new way to trigger the old bug. When I selected the alternate observation lists tab in the Object Information dialog box, it triggered the Night Vision error: the list items flipped into white colouring. Once again, I had to toggle the red mode option off and on.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

started cooling

Moved the small telescope outside.

To the deck.

To begin the cool down.

For the early morning session.

checked the chart

Early morning observing is not my thing.

Was not looking forward to an early alarm.

But tomorrow was looking best.

Clear Sky Chart for Wed and Thu

Seeing prediction was worse for Thursday morning.

spotted nearby objects (London)

After a lovely dinner, from the parking lot, before heading home, we looked up.

Venus and the Moon. Mars too.


Sunday, March 26, 2023

animated Wolf 359's motion

Made a quick and dirty animation of Wolf 359.

Per the amazing wikipedia: "Wolf 359 first came to the attention of astronomers because of the relatively high rate of transverse motion against the background, known as the proper motion."

Five years of motion from 2019 to this year.

animated GIF of Wolf 359

Assembled with GIMP 2.10.32 (r1).

I used my individual shots from the BGO.

downloaded April Journal

Downloaded the latest Journal of the RASC and transferred it to the phone.

Some reading material during my treatment tomorrow.

Oh ho!

cover of the April 2023 Journal
I spotted the text on the cover. A first. This is the first time that one of my pieces was referred to on the cover. That's nice and all. But I'm very pleased that it was this particular item. I really wanted to express my gratitude for the volunteer efforts of the Stellarium training team. Done. In writing.

On skimming, I noted Katelyn B's amazing Rosette image. I congratulated her on the RASC London forum.

My Binary Universe column in on GraXpert, the amazingly helpful and free gradient removal tool.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

re-examined photos


Had a look at the other not-so-great shots from Thursday night. On boosting the saturation and dropping the shadows and highlights, the aurora pops.

Again, it still kinda amazes me that the aurora borealis was visible to the naked eye in my terribly light-polluted neighbourhood.

Shot between 11:12 and 11:16 PM.


aurora at 11:12


aurora at 11:14


aurora at 11:16

Dancing around in 4 short minutes.

Most intriguing? Red! Red aurora is visible! Wow.

Processed in DPP 4.

animated Ceres and M100

Sunday night, asteroid Ceres, aka minor planet (1) Ceres, will fly past the galaxy Messier 100 (M100). 

Peter J asked me to arrange a run at the BGO but Halifax will likely be clouded out. Actually... snowed out!

I made an animation...

Start the viddie then zoom in.

It'd be neat to see live, alas.

Friday, March 24, 2023

learned about the Bz tipping south

Visited the Space Weather web site.

Some nice aurora shots, as expected.

Also a STEVE image! Wow.

The text was interesting.

This remarkable and surprising storm began on March 23rd when magnetic fields in the space around Earth suddenly shifted.  In the jargon of space weather forecasting "BsubZ tipped south."  South-pointing magnetic fields can open a crack in Earth's magnetosphere and, indeed, that's what happened.  Earth's "shields were down" for almost 24 hours, allowing solar wind to penetrate and the storm to build to category G4. 

We got lucky.

detected green (St Thomas)

Winding down. Tired. Was reading in bed the last few pages of No Country for Old Men.

Another notification from SPWC!

What the hey?!

ALERT:  Geomagnetic K-index of 8 (G4)
Date    2023-03-24 00:18
ALERT:  Geomagnetic K-index of 8, 9-
Threshold Reached: 2023 Mar 24 0404 UTC

Active Warning:  Yes

NOAA Scale:  G4 - Severe

Potential Impacts:  Area of impact primarily poleward of 45 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.

Aurora may be seen as low as Alabama and northern California.

Put some pants on.

Had a look.

I thought I could detect green with just my Mark I eyeballs.

I've never seen kp index 8 before!

Wow. We're gettin' a heck of a show.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

high kp values again

A roller coaster!

The NOAA alerts continued to roll in.

The latest: "ALERT: Geomagnetic K-index of 7 (G3)."

aurora from the city! (St Thomas)

I was too tired and/or lackadaisical to coordinate a trip to a dark site.

Peeked north from the deck a couple of times.

Not perfectly clear but overall fair. Not completed clouded out, for a change!

Shot a couple of blurry photos around 9:30 PM.

Switched the Globe LED RGB bulbs to red mode.

Went back out a couple of hours later, as the NOAA alerts continued.

I thought I could see something with the unaided eye! Spires. A glow from low, near the horizon, behind a low band of cloud, and climbing into the sky.

Captured a few photos, atop the tripod this time. Looking north-north-east.

aurora from The Elevator

Canon 40D, 18-55 lens at 55, ISO 1000, f/5.6, 30 seconds, manually focused, tripod. DDP 4: cropped, saturated, shadows and highlights dropped, white balance to auto.

What a surprise.

notification out of the blue

Received a text about the aurora. From a number I didn't recognise. But they clearly knew me.


OK then!


Oh! Learned later it was Denise.

sighting in Ontario

Chris V texted me that Denise C was seeing aurora.

Not surprised.

She enjoys darker skies in the Clarington region.

dropped then rose

The kp index values dropped mid-day but started climbing again.

They just hit 7 (G3) again!

I decided to have a look.

monitored the mailbox

I monitored the training inbox as Ian B began his delivery of the Stellarium level 2 intermediate session.

No one was needing a Zoom code. Good.

But one participant mis-read the start time and wondered if they could redo. No problem.

a good weather prospect

Chatter started on RASC forums.

The weather forecast was optimistic...

But I had to get back to work.

With my intense group...

predictions for level 7

In fairly rapid succession, more SPWC notifications peppered my inbox.

With a kp index value of 7.

Caught up on events during my lunch break.

ALERT: Geomagnetic K-index of 7 (G3)
Date    2023-03-23 11:33
Issue Time: 2023 Mar 23 1531 UTC

Active Warning: Yes

NOAA Scale: G3 - StrongAurora may be seen as low as Pennsylvania to Iowa to Oregon.

OK. Now I'm paying attention.

received another alert

Another NOAA SPWC alert came in.

"ALERT: Geomagnetic K-index of 5 (G1)."

Climbing... Uh huh. 

Still, kp 5 usually doesn't mean we'll see anything down here.

received aurora alert

An aurora notification, from the NOAA Space Weather service, arrived.

Received very early in the morning. I found it in the inbox during breakfast before "heading to work."

ALERT:  Geomagnetic K-index of 4
From    SWPC Product Subscription Service
Date    2023-03-23 04:37

Space Weather Message Code: ALTK04
Serial Number:  2353
Issue Time:  2023 Mar 23 0836 UTC

ALERT:  Geomagnetic K-index of 4
Threshold Reached:  2023 Mar 23 0836 UTC

Active Warning:  Yes

I usually don't get riled up with level 4.


This turned out to be the first in the day.

Many more would follow...

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

captured Wolf 359 for 2023 (Halifax)

Surprised (like last year) to discovered a message from the BGO robot while bedding down.

Good weather on the east coast, it seemed.

So, while aiming at field star GSC 00261 00377, I captured Wolf 359 again, the rapidly moving star in Leo. 

fast-moving star Wolf 359 in luminance

Luminance only, 8 second subexposures, 12 stacked shots. FITS Liberator 3, GIMP. North is up; east is left.


22 Mar 2023
4 Mar 2022
18 Feb 2021
12 Mar 2020
22 May 2019

I keep saying I'll make a little movie...

Wednesday, March 15, 2023


We scrubbed.

Cancelled the weekend astronomy adventure...

The weather in Kansas wasn't looking great.