Wednesday, May 31, 2023

imaged Ceres (Halifax)

Woo hoo. Received a notification from the Burke-Gaffney Observatory.

Surprised this came in actually, given the terrible fires out east. They are desperate for rain.

The Ceres dwarf planet job was processed. This was the request I assembled (and edited) during my BGO presentation to the RASC London Centre on 19 May

It found its way into the evening queue and was imaged with the Apogee camera.

It appears a quick JPG was produced. Right. That happens when you request a single filter... Nice.

Ceres in luminance

Luminance. 10 seconds. North is up; east is left.

The exposure worked out well. When I first submitted the job, we noted the default exposure was too long. I asked for a better duration and edited the request. Bit of serendipity.


Shared the good news with the London crew...


The bright star at the 1 o'clock position just below the label text is Tycho 00868-0298 1.

The obvious double star at the 8 o'clock is not an official double in SkyTools 4. The bright component is Tycho 00868-0340 1. 

I like the neat straight line of stars at the bottom right, angled from SE to NW. SkyTools shows the beginning (bottom-left) and ending stars as GSC 0868-0691 and -0336, respectively.

Can you see it?

It's kinda amazing it shows in a 10 second shot.

I can see the faint smudge of Z 69-30 at the 10 o'clock position, about the same distance at the Tycho stars. An elliptical according to ST4, also known as PGC 38007.


Regarding "near Denebola."

It was, on the 19th, closer to the butt of the Lion.

At the time of the capture, it was almost 4 degrees away.

Officially, Ceres is in Virgo.


For people who want to try processing the image, I provide the FITS file below.

The reference is to the file store at the BGO site, the completed observations queue, indirect or not on blogger.

FITS image: download

Remember, you'll need software that can open FITS files...


I had a go, with FITS Lib 4 on John Starbird. Power method at 0.6.

Ceres in luminance edited by bla

Then GIMP, with a slight contrast curve.

received a good prediction

Received another alert from CSAC.

I was really hoping for good conditions to support the Ceres job, for the RASC London Centre...

Would it get queued this evening?

Subject:  CSAC Alarm for 2023-05-31 22:00:00 at BGO - SMU
From:  "Clear Sky Alarm Clock" <>

Favorable observing conditions at Halifax
Based on your BGO - SMU subscription.

Opportunities to observe at:  (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
05-31 @ Hour 22 for 2 hours (0%/Above Ave./Good)
06-01 @ Hour 03 for 2 hours (0%/Above Ave./Good)
Come on!

(Was this factoring in smoke from fires?!)

the game is changing

I had been following the Axiom mission to the International Space Station.

Peggy Whitson at the reins. Good to see.

From Spaceflightnow, I skimmed the article on their return.

The most intriguing part was this was a commercial crew, a company, industry, doing work and science. 

Not a space agency.

Very interesting. A very interesting moment.

One of this little subtle, easily-overlooked, almost background thing. 

But there's a shift happening. 

Musk and his SpaceX activities are making headlines of course. And some of those missions are private companies, commercial endeavours.

It's happening.

With companies gaining direct access to low Earth orbit and beyond... something that was only in SF novels before.

It will drive rapid change.

It was get even more interesting...

A "new era," Rayyanah Barnawi said.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

received a little thank-you

Sis grabbed my mail.

Ooh. A parcel. From RASC?!

Ah. RASC St John's. How nice.

St John's mug with cover

That was kinda of them!

For my talk.

Stainless steel. Removable clear cap cover. Signal Hill photo by Samantha Smith.

I will have to load it with some good java...

Monday, May 29, 2023

missed the Weekly


Where is it?

Where is the RASC Weekly?

Nothing showed up. Nothing issued. The e-newsletter issued every Monday is missing.


That's just great.

Now my notifications of training sessions are not being relayed. Other important and timely information is not being provided to RASC members.

The RASC continues to falter...

delivered Backyard for all

The second go-round.

Version 2. Sorta.

Taught the Backyard course tonight.

Funny title.

I did not teach people how to use their back yard, no; I taught how to use the Backyard software, Backyard EOS and Backyard Nikon, from O'Telescope.

Tonight was different in that it was a blended session or inclusive or for people regardless of the camera body.

When I ran this course earlier this year, I only offered it for the Canon owner. But, thanks to Ian B, it was clear the course could work for either product. They are effectively identical.

Tonight's course was the revamped and revised material, slide deck, quick reference guide, for both.

Another big change was the "pre-work." To make more time in the class in the software, we moved a bunch of things into an informational document for the participants to review ahead of the class. Mostly camera settings to consider, such as, in-camera dark subtraction, or camera-back image review display turned off.

I think that worked.

False star functioned well. 

It felt good. 

Medium-sized group. Overall, it went well. I ran a little long but I don't think anyone minded.

Some interesting issues and observations and questions came up, many to do with the Nikon camera. For example, it was noted that the white balance datum is not passed from the camera into Backyard. This is a limitation of the SDK unfortunately.

So, I've a bit of homework to do.

received a sale notice

A bell icon showed on Mnemosyne.

It was a notification from the SkySafari app by the Simulation Curriculum company.

A sales pitch.

SkySafari for Android was on sale. The full text was truncated but it looked like the price was $8 and change. Didn't capture the screen, dagnabit.

On John Valuk, I surfed into the Google store.

SkySafari 7 Plus on sale

OK. That's in-line with what I was expecting. Around $12 Canadian funny money. Maybe that $8 was USD?

This is one of those good sales they offer from time to time. About 50% off. 

I encourage people to wait for these sales from Sim Curr. It's a fair price, I think, when discounted. 

Launched SS6P on the motorola e6. 

in-app notice of new version

They noted it was actually more than 50% off. Indeed. 

And there's the expiry for the offer: 1 June 2023. Which is pretty quick!

Curious, I tapped the View button.

SS7P app info

Once again, info from the Google Play store.

What the hey?

"Not compatible."

Well, that just let the wind out of my sails.

I wasn't necessarily gonna buy. I wasn't gonna buy today. But I was curious my options. SkySafari 6 Plus and Stellarium Mobile Plus and some other apps (e.g. Pills) are taking up a lot of space on my phone. The phone is a modest device, works fine for me, but does not have a lot of memory.

I've even considered ditching SkySafari... I don't use it a lot. I've wondered if I can do what I need to with Stellarium. Be nice to keep both, for EPO, for demonstration purposes, but they are competing for space, the limited memory in the Android device.

Still, could an upgrade to v7 be an option? The Plus package with the mid-sized catalogues was a good solution for me.

But Sim Curr has slammed the door on this.

There's no upgrade path for me. Not now or immediately.

I ain't upgrading the phone anytime soon.

I hate these dead ends.

Anyhoo... the Public Service Announcement element of this blog post is to notify SkySafari fans that there's a good sale right now for the Plus version.

And I think it is viable or... safe, now? Over in Cloudy Nights, I watched many users struggle through the version 7 upgrade for months on iOS. Messy. Very messy. I would think most major issues are resolved and that the offering for Android is quite good, quite stable. But, obviously, I will not be able to test this. So, fair thee well...

Saturday, May 27, 2023

try decoding

We've been searching for signals from remote alien civilisations for a long time. I started giving spare computer time to the SETI project back in May 2004.

There was the WOW signal but we've never been able to prove anything from that.

We continue to scan. And maybe, one day, we'll detect something.

Space is big.

alien text

But then, what happens. Let's say we receive an alien message. The next task will be to translate it. This could be very challenging and also take a very long time. We might never crack it.

I enjoyed the learning-to-communicate part of the movie Arrival.

Just flashed-back to when I taught myself code-breaking back in 1973...

In the meantime, there's an interesting experiment happening.

You can have a go a decoding a message. 

The European Space Agency and the SETI group are simulating an incoming message. 

See the Gizmodo article for more info.

a more normal

Received the regular volunteer ask from the David Dunlap Observatory crew.

On skimming, I noticed a number of private events.


I flashed back to past events I helped at. Small public groups, youth groups, private sessions, all the public nights.

With COVID restrictions all but gone, the programming is returning what I last was involved in.

Miss being there.

Miss flying the 25 ton beast.

Alas, I'm far away now.

Friday, May 26, 2023

some family astro (Elgin county)

After Movie Night. The Guardians had saved the Galaxy again.

Clear skies on the drive home from London.

They wondered, sis and Mom, at the extremely bright point of light in the north-west. Definitely Venus.

I noted the Moon up high. I had to lean a bit into the passenger window to tag it. Very high up. [ed: Around 50° according the Stellarium.]

Back in St Thomas, dropping off Number One Sister, I had them measure the gap.

Two hang-loose apart. So, Venus and the Moon were about 40 degrees. [ed: Correct. 38° according the Stellarium.]

simulated sky from Stellarium

They described it as half-lit. Sounded like it was near Third Quarter phase. [ed: Oops. First Quarter.]

Earlier, Mom had spotted a star above Venus. From her driveway, blocking the street light, two were obvious, in a right-angle triangle.

I suspected The Twins. [ed: Correct. The lucida according the Stellarium.]

Thursday, May 25, 2023

like stars

Earlier in the day, my sis checked my mailbox. Flyers, coupons, medical notifications, and a card from Melody!

With a double star on the envelope, made with two star stickers. Cute.

I found a lovely thinking-of-you card within.

Good Friends card


I think I'm a gas giant.

learned Rükl atlas is back

Oh ho. Look at that.

Dave C pinged me. He shared a new item from Sky & Telescope.

Subject: Now Available: Rükl's Atlas of the Moon

Atlas of the Moon front cover

All right. Looks like the famous atlas is back in print! For $100 USD.

Atlas of the Moon by Antonín Rükl is now available! 

The definitive Moon atlas is back!  By exclusive arrangement with Aventinum Publishing in Prague, here is the 7th English edition (2012) of the late Antonín Rükl’s authoritative pictorial guide to the Moon.  Revised, updated, and improved with expanded text and maps, this venerable atlas by the master of lunar cartography is the ideal reference guide for beginning Moon-gazers and expert observers alike. 

Each full-page map is accompanied by copious details about the location, size, and etymology of named features.  In addition to the original 76 maps of the lunar nearside, this edition includes eight maps of the Moon’s libration zones, full-hemisphere maps of the lunar nearside and farside, 50 images of key lunar features, and an extensive guide to making visual and photographic lunar observations. 

This is fabulous news for people pursuing their RASC Explore the Moon or Isabel Williamson certificates and in want of an excellent paper atlas.

If you're inclined, buy now.

received alert for CAO

Haven't seen one of these for while.

A weather alert, good conditions, at the Carr Astronomical Observatory.

Of all my weather profiles with the amazing Clear Sky Alarm Clock system, the CAO location is the strictest. I don't want to travel 2 hours for mediocre skies. It has to be good. Sorry, correction, very good, above average, or excellent.

These more demanding constraints mean I don't receive these alerts often.

Favorable observing conditions at Carr Astronomical Observatory
Based on your CAO subscription.
Opportunities to observe at:  (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
05-26 @ Hour 13 for 5 hours (0%/Above Ave./Excellent)

Sadly, I can't take advantage right now...

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

met ED

Met with the new Executive Director of RASC.

While we've known each other for some time, we're wearing different hats now.

Caught up on my personal situation, matters in the national Observing Committee, and the training program that I built.

Started late; had a hard stop. But it was good, overall.

imaged 70 Oph for 2023 (Halifax)

That time of year, again.

Asked the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to image the fast-moving binary system 70 Ophiuchi.

I submitted the request on 18 May.

Again, I commanded the robot to centre on the field star GSC 0043402340.

binary 70 Oph in luminance

Luminance only, ½ second subexposures, 20 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, GIMP. North is up; east is left.

The sky conditions, for a change, were really good. The CSC showed cloud: clear; ECMWF: clear sky trans: transparent; seeing: average 3/5; Moon alt.: -15.

Wow, I've had quite a run now, going back 8 years

Annual image log:

2016 Aug
2017 Jul
2018 May
2019 May
2020 May
2021 May
2022 Aug
2023 May < you are here

It's high time I fire up REDUC...

Monday, May 22, 2023

received formal apology

I sent a note to my editor at the Journal. Showed what I had proofread and effectively approved versus was what published. I also I relayed my anger and my concern on how readers view these kinds of mistakes.

Nikki forwarded my note to James and asked what happened.

I received the following:

Subject:  Re:  Fwd:  error in Journal
Date:  2023-05-22 23:10
From:  James Edgar
To:  Blake Nancarrow
Copy:  Nebulous Nikki

Dear Blake, this is all my fault and for that I apologize profusely.  I can correct the online version, but the print version is already completed.

I intended the instruction to put the software name  in "italics" -- I have no idea where "Fourmila" came from.  There will be an errata in the forthcoming _Journal_.

Again, my deepest apologies.

James Edgar, FRASC, UE
Editor, RASC _Observer's Handbook_
Minor Planet (22421) Jamesedgar 

I greatly appreciate the apology. 

It is very disturbing though when he says he does not know how it happened.

lunar picture frame

Now this looks fun.

If you like the Moon, that is.

From my Google Discover feed, I spotted an article over at Tom's Hardware entitled Raspberry Pi Moon Calendar Shows Lunar Cycle With e-Ink Display.

Effectively a digital picture frame for the Moon.

Broadly, that's rather clever using an e-ink display for very low power consumption so that the thing can run continuously and show the lunar phase constantly.

Reminds me of some of my past project ideas, like information displays at the observatory, local weather sensors at home, current astronomy-related circumstances like sunset, Moon rise, twilight end, etc.

The daily quote is neat as well.

The maker created this for his Mom. Isn't that sweet?

Sunday, May 21, 2023

spotted spots!

Sis shares her Google Photos with me and I have a little daily look-see.

Spotted a smokey Sun in her online gallery.

I zoomed in and panned.

Uh huh.


Sun through smoke

The original shot.

Canon PowerShot SX420 IS, ƒ/5.6, 1/160, 83.33 mm, ISO100.

cropped Sun

Cropped with GIMP.

The large sunspot is very obvious. There is a gaggle of spots along the top edge of the sun, vertically oriented.

Pulled the annotated Sun image (21 May '23) from to ID the spots...

annotated Sun image from space telescope

The big spot is 3310.

Rotated the space telescope image about 65 degrees...

rotated SW image to match photo

So, the vertical grouping, top down is 3313, 3311, and 3314. 

I don't see the other spots, down at the 4 or 5 o'clock position. They may have turned away, actually...

Copyright © 2023 Donna Nancarrow. Used with permission.

why not subscribe?

Bit of a plug.

Visit the RASC London YouTube channel.

It's small. Not a lot going yet...

But Peter J has started doing more work on the recordings of the monthly meetings, tidying and trimming them.

Bryce Bolin's talk on comets is getting some hits. I enjoyed it live. I plan to watch it again. It was fascinating.

My BGO one will show up soon.

Anyhoo, pop in and subscribe. We'd like to reach 100 subscribers; we're at 46 right now...


Friday, May 19, 2023

imaged M85 (Halifax)

I was keen to image Messier 85 for a better description.

I have visually observed the galaxy twice previously, both times from the Carr Astronomical Observatory, so in dark skies. The first viewing was on 4 May '13, with a NexStar 11; the second, quickly on 23 May '15, through the GSO 16. Despite this, I did not have a good description of what I saw.

As it was still in our evening skies, hanging out in Coma Berenices, I queued up a job back on 7 May.

Aside: This task was provided by email to the BGO robotic system and I needed an email token. It was a simple thing to request my new personalised token for future email-based submissions. 

On 18 May, I thought we had captured some photons, but when I carefully read the communication from the bot, I learned of a problem. I don't recall ever seeing this message before. 

#bgosays Error: CCD camera error occurred during a special observation of M85 (ID 23798)! It will be tried again another night.

I checked the queue on Friday morning and saw all was well, the request was still sitting there. With 170 other jobs, in fact.

But then, at 10:37 PM EDT, I received a regular message. It had been captured. 

galaxy Messier 85 in luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint. North is up; east is left.

I grabbed the weather circumstances at the time. Cloud: clear; ECMWF: clear sky; trans: average; seeing: poor 2/5; Moon alt.: -17°. Saved the CSC chart. 

Curiously, this all went down after my BGO talk for the RASC London Centre!

To my eye, M85 is a large, bright, intense fuzzy star, while examining the zoomed out image. There's elongation from the north-east to the south-west. There is a soft glow extending outwards from the core, filling about a fifth of the frame of the imaging sensor. Very comet-like in its appearance.

A large cup-shape of stars sittings below the diffuse galaxy, with one star very near the core, just to the north.

Another obvious galaxy sits to the left or east. Perhaps spiral? An edge-on spiral? Zoomed out, I don't see arms per se. Might be a lenticular? It is oriented north-west to south-east. Bright core. Obvious lobes. Zoomed in, the core and lobes are in a large round structure. Using SkyTools 4 Visual Pro, I identify this as NGC 4394. In fact, ST4VP says it is a barred spiral, face-on! I concur, now, after carefully viewing while zoomed.

I can see a small, nearly round, fuzzy lint ball to the far right, west of M85. It is almost exactly opposite the 4394, slightly further away, slightly up. This is IC 3292. It is a lenticular but I'm hard pressed to say anything other than small and almond-shaped.

Due south of the Messier is a perfect round medium-sized soft uniform patch. Galaxy MCG 3-32-28. A ghost.

Magnitude 18 stars are visible.

delivered BGO talk

Delivered my talk on using the Burke-Gaffney Observatory.

This to my new home RASC Centre, London.

I did this waaaay back for the Toronto Centre. While I started with the same slide deck, much had changed. It was interesting bringing the presentation file up to date.

All went well with the tech.

And at the end, for fun, I asked for a target. Andrew chose Ceres. So together we loaded it into the queue. I think people enjoyed seeing the processes.

The event was recorded. I'll share the video when it is mounted...


I thank Tiffany for proofing my presentation.


Ceres imaged on 31 May!

noted the Oct 1942 doubles

Read Leland S Copeland's The Starry Heavens in October, with his all hand-drawn sky chart, from the Sky & Telescope magazine from 1942. Volume 1, Number 12.

He referred observer's to sights in Cassiopeia, including the doubles α (alpha), ι (iota), and η (eta). And the yellow-blue δ (delta) in Cepheus. He describes orange and blue γ (gamma) at the feet of resting Andromeda as handsome. 

Then he included a list of some 25 double stars, with separations from 2 to 36 arc-seconds, in the RA range 20 to 24. This is the third list in a series, with the previous lists showing in the June and August issues, and the next for December.

The data for the list came from the Boss General Catalogue, Aitken's Double Star Catalogue, and Innes's Southern Double Stars.

read of the formal stop of SkyNews

Dale posted on the RASC London forum.

He spotted, at last, the official closing notice on the SkyNews web site.

I followed the link he provided:

Found a stub.

That linked to the formal closure post.

I've scraped the page.

closure notice from SkyNews

So, it is finally done, officially recorded. Relieved to see this note, for clarity for RASC members and the general public subscribers. But sad too, obviously, with this symbolic article.

It was nice to see SkyNews offer RASC memberships to people suddenly without any product. Perhaps this will nurture interest and make for some new RASCals.

get in dark skies

Spotted on item on Google Discover.

And while I'm not a big fan of the source, I headed over to the article by Jordyn Read on Yahoo News.

Entitled: Don’t shy away from nature's dark side - celebrate it.

Photo showed people camping tents, under a beautiful clear night sky, Milky Way overhead.

The article opens, "Before humanity discovered fire, people lived roughly half of their lives in darkness, relying on the moon and the stars as their guides."

Indeed. But you gotta go back quite a ways--200 000 years--for that pure, primitive experience!

A service is mentioned in the article that wants to help people celebrate it. Camping services for hipsters? Apparently they are also offering a map service that indicates where dark sites can be located. I tried it for Killarney Provincial Provincial Park but it didn't seem to work.

The author also advocates turning off our outdoor lights to minimise impacts on animals. 

This piece reminded me of something I've thought of before, and documented pointedly of my neighbour's boy when I was on Evelyn Crescent.


Humans fear the dark.

It's the stuff of horror movies but let's avoid some other unnecessary connotations here.

It's simply a primal, deep-seated thing.

And I believe it manifests itself for some in interesting ways.

So that's something I like in this article's spin. 

Don't be shy.

Get in dark skies.

Go camping.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

tried for M85

Email message arrived from robotic Burke-Gaffney Observatory. 

Pleasant surprised. I started grabbing the weather data but then actually read the message...


#bgosays Error:  CCD camera error occurred during a special observation of M85 (ID 23798)!  It will be tried again another night.

So, I'll stand down. Will have to try for the galaxy again later...

received bookmark

Bookmark from sis.

Dark park!

From their Point Pelee trip.


Good to see RASC Windsor supporting the cause. Neat, seeing the upcoming events planned in the area.

See the national park page for more info.

Pointed out the bat event to sis. "Let's Get Batty" on 17 Jun!

wx for BGO

CSAC notification received.

For my BGO profile.

"Favorable observing conditions at Halifax."

Opportunities to observe at:  (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)
05-18 @ Hour 22 for 2 hours (0%/Average/Good)

Maybe we'll git some data tonight...

read about Betelgeuse brightening

Betelgeuse is brightening.

I heard this at yesterday's St John's meeting.

Did a quick Google Search. Found a item from a gogo good source, Scientific American. 

Check out the article if you're interested.

At the moment, apparently, the star is showing at 50% brighter than normal.

Orion constellation

Is it going to explode? Will we witness a supernova close at hand? 

No. Not now. Not for a while.

Still, it is curious. The lucida of Orion is keeping us on the edge of our seat.

The "current dynamics seem to be connected to its so-called Great Dimming in late 2019 and early 2020, which scientists ascribe to the star’s ejection of a massive blob of gas and dust."

I imaged the region on 29 Jan '20 showing Betelgeuse the same brightness, possibly slightly brighter than, Bellatrix.

I shared the AAVSO light curve on 5 Feb '20.

I'll see if I can find a new curve...

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

spoke to St John's

Delivered a brief talk to the members of the St John's Centre of the RASC. Talked about our visual observing certificate programs.

A few in the room, for their hybrid event; a bunch online.

Hilding was on hand, another speaker. Cool. Honoured to stand beside him.

They invited me to hang out. I was intrigued by all their planning for the 2024 solar eclipse. They are on top of it!

I learned a new word, courtesy Robert B: nychthemeron.

I like it!

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

quickly skimmed Jun 23 Journal

Received a notification from head office for the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. 

The June 2023 edition was available for download.

Headed to web site. The web page was wonky, sheesh. Fortunately, the bottom links worked.

After downloaded, I did a quick skim.

Spotted my letter to the editor wherein I criticised the president of RASC for not indicating that double stars too can be studied easily by citizen scientists.

cover for the June 2023 Journal

Lots of wonderful photography, as usual. I once again spotted fantastic work by Katelyn Beecroft of the London Centre. I relayed the news.

There's a historical peice on the David Dunlap Observatory that looks really interesting.

Oh ho. Something new. There's a What's Up in the Sky? column, by Scott Young, with observing highlights. But, notably, from James Edgar and Glenn LeDrew, a celestial calendar for the next two months with an accompanying all-sky planetarium full-colour chart. Awfully familiar! This was my favourite thing in the SkyNews magazine! How about that.

My Binary Universe column was a bit of departure. This time I offered a retrospective rather than a review of a specific software tool. For me, it was insightful. It revealed how many of the software packages I've reviewed since February 2015 that I still use. I was most impressed to see that many of the assessments still stand up while software is constantly evolving. I also took the opportunity to provide links, references back to previous editions (not unlike what I keep on my evergreen page). I hope this will aid the new RASC member, and possibly an existing one, who is curious about a software solution.

A great issue, me thinks.


Gah. A number of typographical and layout errors found their way into my column! Damn it.


The print edition cannot be corrected. But the online edition was revised. Discard your old copy and download the new version...


Enjoyed John Percy's article on the Astronomical League.


Errata appeared in the August issue.

Monday, May 15, 2023

enjoyed Aitken's first sighting of Sirius B

I read the September 1942 edition (volume 1 number 11) of Sky & Telescope. From the Seven Decade Collection.

A good source of reading material while I'm... resting for a while. I had forgotten about this!


Really enjoyed the fascinating intimate account of Robert G Aitken's first personal measurement of Sirius B as a young, unknown astronomer working at Lick Observatory on Mt Hamilton. In somewhat of an accident!

On 23 October 1896, with the 12-inch telescope, Aitken made the first direct measurement of Sirius B in some years. His work was verified the following night by Professor J M Schaeberle.

Aitken's article then delved into the earlier historical notes on the brightest star in the sky, such as Halley discovering its proper motion and Bessel proposing the influence of a massive but unseen companion. In fact, Bessel computed a 50 year period for the nearby dark star.

It was Alvan G Clark with an 18½ telescope at the Dearborn Observatory who visually saw Sirius B in 1862. This triggered a flurry of measurements by double star observers as the tiny companion arced ever closer to the bright host. They watched for 30 years but they could not compute a good orbit. 

Burnham was the last to see it in 1892. 

As Aitken re-aquired it, they substantiated Bessel's predictions.


Later in the issue, William H Barton Jr, in his Autumn Skies piece, encouraged observers to view Epsilon Lyrae. He cautioned that "a person with keen eyesight can separate the stars, but the average person cannot." In a telescope, it will be apparent why some call it the "double double."

Barton remarks that colourful Albireo is beautiful in the telescope.

He urges people to run what you brung. "Many people who possess spyglasses or good field glasses or binoculars fail to appreciate how much hidden beauty they will reveal." 

Oh, I like that.

Barton does a bit of deep dive into intriguing Mizar.

He closes on the importance on the studying and naming of stars, at the time, necessary in the grim war-time defense efforts.

A double star, delta, is noted being near to Jupiter, at 10 minutes on September 1. This provided by Jessa A Fitzpatrick on his Observer's Page column.

And finally, Leland S Copeland suggests a number of double star targets in his The Starry Heavens in September article.

Doubles galore!

zoomed with Chris

Caught up with Chris V in a quick Zoom.

We talked about my recovery, the DDO a bunch, 3D printing, Astronomy By Night, his upcoming trip. I wished him the best.

If we're lucky, we might observe together in some dark skies soon.

That'd be awesome.

shared deck with Tiffany

Heard again from busy Tiffany.

Said she's happy to review my BGO slide deck updates.

I added her as an editor.

received Starfest update

Received an update from Team Starfest.

Speaker line-up is settled. Their various ducks are all arranged.

Purportedly, registration will open the evening of Tuesday 16 May.

Visit the NYAA web site for more info.

Have fun, y'all!

Sunday, May 14, 2023

sought feedback

I feel funny.

I was going to say, "I don't like to toot my own horn." But that ain't quite right.

I clearly do the toot but I feel a little embarrassed or self-aware. 

The adjective self-aggrandising means promoting oneself as being powerful or important. 

That's not what I'm after.

Of course, I like to know what I do is well-received. But I hope this doesn't seem like I'm show-boating.

While I enjoyed delivering my talk to Halifax on Saturday, at the time, I felt a little on edge. The prevailing thing in my brain as that, "they all know this."

Obviously, I couldn't see the people in the physical room. Nor could I see all the peoples watching in the Zoom session. Judy was nice enough to give me feedback when I polled for people with certificates and pursing them.

Anyway, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was preaching to the choir and I wondered what value I was offering. Was I re-hashing.

I hate the idea of boring people. They've heard this all before. I don't want to waste people's time. Valuable time.

Along with that, I wanted to know about the technical aspect, the sound quality in particular. So many of my talks were marred with bad and garbled audio. In the end, I think that was my bad uplink rate when I was in Bradford. Yesterday, on a wifi link to a public shared institutional service, I really didn't know what was gonna happen.

My capital-Q thing. My Quality bar. How I always want to be the best I can be. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Quality. But that's a rabbit hole we best avoid right now.

So, after the session, I reached out to many, to get some feedback. Here we go.

"It was very clear. I had trouble hearing the person you were talking to who asked a question." 

"Love that you acknowledged the original occupants of the land."

"Quite the CV."

"I really appreciate how you speak calmly and you know so much about all of this. I liked the bit about how to log or observe. It was very helpful and I will read Paul’s article."

"I thought you did a great job of breaking down the observing certificates and making them sound accessible and approachable for new members. And explaining how to log."

"I think you did a wonderful job, audio and video was fine."

"I also want to thank you for presenting the RASC observing rewards to the detail you did. I’m sure many of our members don’t have an appreciation as to the programs offered, and to the variety of programs offered. FYI, there were three new members on our in-person audience today."

"Nice presentation today, all the more so because of the location where you gave it!"

"Good talk! I really liked your repeated phrases about recording observations! More is better in this case!"

"Thanks for the excellent talk at our meeting!"

"That was a great presentation last Saturday. Halifax looks pretty good for certificates on both observing and imaging fronts, plus we’ve supplied a lot of volunteers and directors over the years."

I did also note positive responses in the Zoom chat window, in situ. Not captured.

So? Yes, I'm chuffed. Yes, I'm happy. But again I hope I don't seem pompous. I just wanted to know it worked. I learned it did. And it feels the quality was higher than a lot of my past stuff. "Great success." Still not explaining it well. Validation? Yeah. Some nice accolades along the way? OK, I'll take 'em.

Bottom line?

I'm so glad it worked.

checked the 50 views

Oh. I missed it.

Juno hit 50 orbits about a month ago.

Check out the article at NASA Juno web site. They are offering a lovely poster image you can download. They explain each image.

50 images from Jupiter

Fantastic science and fantastic imagery.

One of my favourites is the shadow, down near the bottom-right. It's caused by Io. Reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

hope it went well

Stumbled across this article, a promotional piece, on the CBC web site, after the event.

I had the Saturday Science Rendezvous event in my calendar. Would have helped if I could.

I'm keen to here from the RASC London crew.

I hope it went well.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

delivered Halifax presentation

Delivered my talk on the national observing programs from RASC to the fine people of the Halifax Centre.

Seems like my internet connection was good. No tech issues for me.

we give goosebumps

A great synergy with Dave C and Dave L, Judy, and others present.

Honoured to pitch to them (though half are converts).

I'll keep an eye out for the recorded video on YouTube...


I like how Judy tweaked my intro, saying I was "bananas" about double stars... Get it?!


Found the full YouTube video. My part starts at the 1 hour 6 minute mark. Goes to 2:15. 

they unstuck JUICE

Noted an article on Mnemosyne, in Google Discover.


The ESA team successfully freed the antenna on the JUICE spacecraft.

Check the brief piece over at Gizmodo.

Apparently the affects of solar heating and shocks or vibrations released the stuck pin.

The team must be terribly relieved.

Friday, May 12, 2023

happy to see the link

Tyrone helped me add my blog URL into my profile on the RASC London forum tool.

Tooting my horn.

It works. I thanked the busy guy.

Some security restriction on old methods...

hello there Moon (St Thomas)

Hello, neighbour.

Snapped awake for some reason.

But there she is. 

She found me—in my new digs. 

I'm looking south-west now [ed: oops, south-east]. High up. Clear skies.

the Moon app

Seems very close to official third quarter. Daff Moon on the phone says it is. Illuminated 52.6%.

RASC Q-zero day. For people who like observing the Moon...

Thursday, May 11, 2023

the 300!

After Al and Kersti's delivery of Stellarium this week, we hit a huge milestone.

We have trained over 300 people on Stellarium level 1.


I am blown away.

I thanked the training team, including Ian B.

It is kinda freakin' me out!

helped Susan with Stellarium

Tried to answer some questions for Susan on Stellarium.

Set up a quick Zoom call.

Can you search but not centre? Not that I know of.

You might submit a GitHub feature request with a use-case.

Can the observing lists Highlight All suffice? Maybe.

Is there a shortcut to advance or retreat one month? No. But add your own. Easy peasy.

Scripting might offer more but that's a rabbit hole... 

saw Luna again (London)

Noted the Moon, again...

Out the panoromic window.

In a blue, brightening sky.

Well up, bright, due south, I'd say.

rising Moon (London)

Just spotted the Moon.

Just rising. Over the distant hill. 

Nearly perfectly lined up over the tall dual stack of the energy management facility. Somewhat scenic.

Low, yellow, still gibbous. Not quite official third-quarter yet. Daff Moon on Mnemosyne says 65% with an age of 21 days 2½ hours.

Clear skies tonight.

No smoke...

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

this obscene rock and roll

From the Wrong Hands blog site by John Atkinson, cartoonist from Ottawa.

A good one from 24 Mar '23.

What if the planets of the solar system were not named after the gods, but rather the gods of rock 'n' roll?! 

what if

Jagger cracks me up.

All cartoons © John Atkinson, Wrong Hands.

no choice

Been a while.

Caught up on the Thoughts of Dog twitter feed.

Good one!

so nice

The human should definitely go out and enjoy the view.

posted the who's who

Assembled the final-final who's who list for the RASC London Centre.

Now an admin needs to pin it on the forums.

Should make it easy for noobs to learn who's at the helm.

took in red Moon (London)

Rolled over to my right which afforded an expansive view of the southern sky through the fantastic window.

Oh. What's that?

In the south-south-east, spotted a gibbous moon, quite dark though high up and more than 50% illuminated.

Surprisingly dim.


Almost red.

Must be thin cloud...


I realised later it had to be something else.

Checked the Fingal Clear Sky Chart.

As I suspected, smoke!

Damn, forest fire smoke is back...

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

updated talk schedule

Bit of a shuffle recently on the talk circuit...

Most are with centres of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Here's the current itinerary:

  • Sat 13 May - Halifax - observing certificate programs [link]
  • Wed 17 May - St John's - observing certificate programs [link]
  • Fri 19 May - London - the Burke Gaffney Observatory [link]
  • Wed 14 Jun - Kingston - observing certificate programs [link]
  • Mon 26 Jun - York University - general and RASC ETU [link

Busy, busy.


Updated on 11 May, adding the York Universe webcast.

heard from BGO steward

Heard from Tiffany, the Human.

She was catching up on emails regarding special requests with the Burke-Gaffney Observatory.

Nice. I appreciated the follow-up.

Interesting timing...

Suddenly remembered that I'll have to let her know my London meeting presentation got bumped up!

Monday, May 08, 2023

reviewed Weekly

RASC Weekly went out. 

It included my requested 3 items for the Stellarium training.

However there was a typo. At least one. On the time zone. So not ideal.

But it also looked like the notification text was different.

Which just further supports they are not copying and pasting. Just copy-paste what I send. And they are making some decisions about the content. But without any checks or an official proof-read/review by the training team. I am regularly surprised.

I also don't like that the link goes straight to the registration form. People have no information about availability through this direct path, though it is fast or immediate. I do feel it throws some off as their expectations are quickly not met. But not a deal-breaker.

All this is so ironic.

It is the purview of the Communications department of RASC.

But the communication channel between Software Training and Comm is not working correctly. Static. Noise. Distortion.




Sunday, May 07, 2023

learned a new asterism

Read Chris V's Skylights.

Always packed with awesome information.

I learned something new in the 7 May edition.

I learned about the Arch of Spring asterism with the bright stars Procyon, Castor, Pollux, and Capella, plus fainter stars Menkalinan and Mirfak.

Venus is in the area making for a pretty view.

Saturday, May 06, 2023

trouble with JUICE?

Saw some headlines alluding to problems with JUICE... A bit of trouble?

Surfed into the ESA web site.

Found an article entitled "Work continues to deploy Juice RIME antenna."

Apparently there is a small pin that is stuck. Once released, the antenna can be fully deployed. 

wiggling the antenna

The engineers have a few things they're going to try over the 2 month commission period...

This antenna is very important for the ice-penetrating radar instrument. A primary objective, I believe.

Friday, May 05, 2023

imaged St. Katherine's Wheel (Halifax)

While reorganising my Messier life list, I found a few objects where I had not had a great view. Or I had not described the view in a lot of detail. M99 fell into the category. Needs another look.

Knowing it was well-placed, I asked (back on 29 Apr) the Burke-Gaffney Observatory to collect some photons.

Messier 99 (Coma Pinwheel, NGC 4254) is located in the constellation Coma Berenices near the bright star  HD 107170 (SAO 100039, HIP 60089). Commonly referred to as St. Katherine's Wheel.

St. Katherine's Wheel's in luminance

Luminance only, 60 seconds subexposures, 10 stacked shots. FITS Liberator, Paint. North is up; east is left.

I looked at the weather conditions. The CSC chart showed cloud: 20%; ECMWF: cloud 79%; trans: average; seeing: average 3/5. The Moon altitude was 23% in a full phase! Stoopid Moon. Washing out the scene. Unfortunate timing. Still, that might mean this a more representative view through the eyepiece in a modest telescope.

I see a lovely face-on spiral galaxy with a medium-bright large core. The arms are quite interesting and everything seems a little askew with the galactic core off-centre, shifted to the south. The arm to the south seems solitary, isolated. It must be a barred core! Feels like the arm to the north is fanning westward dragging along smaller arms and additional structure.

Within the arms, fascinating detail, dense versus loose regions. Wow. Star-making regions, large nebulae. 

This would be really wonderful in a dark sky in a big aperture in a nice ocular.


I wouldn't have known it but SkyTools 4 shows two small faint galaxies near the star. I can see LEDA 165065 to the west, a small round fuzzy dot. The one to the east, curiously, I cannot detect, even though ST4 shows it as a bit larger.

Almost due north of M99, I can see another round fuzzy, LEDA 169040, about level with the mag 13.7 star J121851.4+143016.

Just east of 169040, I can see LEDA 169043. Small appearance. Fuzzy, small, almost perfectly round.

Due east of M99, further afield, is LEDA 165069. A very faint almond, canted north-south.

North-east of St. Katherine's, also a good distance away, south of the star, is LEDA 165066. Slightly larger and brighter than all these other round fuzzies.

Stars visible in the magnitude 16 to 17 range.


Nice little treat.


Pre-processed again in FITS Lib

M99 again, luminance, reprocessed

I should not have used the Scaled Peak Level feature. Left it at 10 this time, versus 100. Increasing this does not seem a good idea with a moonlit sky.

That southern arm in the galaxy is more apparent. It's crazy long! It wraps all the way the western side and starts to curve around the top.

Really interesting the empty void between the arm and main part of the spiral. Empty.

learned of new ED

The Board of Directors for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada issued an announcement to members today.

"Meet our new Executive Director"

They informed us that they have engaged Jenna Hinds. Of course, she worked with RASC for about 3 years so is very familiar with the people, the operations overall, the dynamics, our main goals. It is safe to assume she worked very closely with the past ED so saw much of what was involved in the job. Intriguingly, her official role previously was Outreach Coordinator but she did way more than that. I would think that board experience might come in handy.

They said they hope she can allow RASC to "survive and thrive." 

We need to do some pretty significant recovery first. 

I liaised quite a lot with the previous ED; I presume that will continue. 

received good wx for BGO

Have a job in the hopper...

Even though the Moon is bright.

Received an alert from the awesome Clear Sky Alarm System by Mark Casazza.

Favorable observing conditions at Halifax

Based on your BGO - SMU subscription.

Opportunities to observe at: (Clouds/Trans/Seeing)

05-05 @ Hour 23 for 1 hours (10%/Average/Average)

05-06 @ Hour 04 for 2 hours (0%/Average/Average)

Huh. Some cloud at 11 PM... None at 4 AM. 

Might get lucky.

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

checked the transits

Holy ink spots, Batman.

There are a lot of transit events at Jupiter this month ...

Let's do a deep dive, shall we?

3: In progress at sunrise, single shadow, Io transit ends, GRS crosses meridian.

8: In progress at sunrise, single shadow, Ganymede transit begins, Ganymede transit ends, Io shadow transit begins, Io transit begins, Io shadow transit ends, Io transit ends.

* 10: In progress at sunrise, double shadows (briefly), Io transit begins, Europa transit ends, Io shadow transit ends, Io transit ends.

* 15: GRS at meridian at sunrise, Ganymede shadow transit begins, Ganymede transit begins, Io shadow transit begins, Io transit begin.

* 17: Europa shadow transit begins, Europa transit begins, GRS nears meridian, lunar occultation begins!, lunar occultation ends, double shadows in progress, double transit in progress, GRS past meridian.

* 22: Afternoon, double shadows, Ganymede transit begins, Io transit begins, GRS crosses meridian.

* 24: GRS crosses meridian, Europa shadow transit begins, Io shadow transit begins, Io transit begins, Europa transit begins, Europa shadow transit ends, Io shadow transit ends, Io transit ends, Europa transit ends.

26: In progress at sunrise, Io shadow transit in progress, Io transit begins, Ganymede emerges from eclipse, Ganymede occulted, Io transit ends, Europa emerges from occultation, Ganymede emerges from occultation, GRS crosses meridian.

* 31: Mid-day, GRS crosses meridian, Io shadow transit begins, Europa shadow transit begins, Io transit begins, Europa transit begins, Io shadow transit ends, Europa shadow transit ends, Io transit ends, Europa transit end.

Now, most of these events are just after sunrise. A few of these events are in day-lit skies. So, challenging... For the keener? All require a telescope. Tracking recommended. The shadow of Io is the smallest of the inky black dots. And you'll need good seeing, to boot.

At the beginning of May, Jupiter rises at 6:45-ish and sets at 6-ish. By the end of the month, 5:00 and 4:45.

The Big One is on the 17th.

The 26th is fascinating for other reasons.

Now... some of these don't seem to match up with the RASC Observer's Handbook. But then, I only checked for ones visible in Ontario...

Monday, May 01, 2023

applied Mitsky's data

Reviewed Dave Mitsky's May 2023 Celestial Calendar, posted on Cloudy Nights.

The email notification hit my inbox just after midnight, this morning.

Seems to be some gobbledygook text in the middle but the first bit was fine...

Corroborated some events in Stellarium. Notably the Jupiter moon events. And the various occultations.

My online astronomy calendar is up-to-date for May.

I've yet to look at the Observer's Handbook...

oh yeah

Forgotten about this...

A while ago I asked the Stellarium team for a wish list item, to allow the ability to mark or select some of the elements in the Oculars plug-in. I.e. Allow the user to mark an eyepiece and telescope, say, that would be displayed and used. As opposed to the entire listings. Like how it is handled in TheSky.

Received a GitHub notification this morning.

Some of the programmers were talking about related matters.

Huh. So it's still on the radar. I still think it is a good idea to improve usability.

In the meantime, I continue to recommend users deleted all the example / template entries.

And (since I remembered it) to use the Alt o keyboard shortcut!