Observing Log - Jupiter quick entry

July 6th, 2007 by webmaster

July 6
Humid, patchy clouds.
Looking at jupiter, the GRS was visible using my 15mm WA, barlowed, in my 8″ Dob. The spot was transiting around 11:00, minutes before Europa entered transit across the face.
Then the clouds moved in…

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Observing Log - quick entry

July 1st, 2007 by webmaster

Yesterday’s Saturn-Venus conjunction was clouded out. Today it is clearer -  enough to see that Saturn is at ~1:30 wrt Venus. It always amazes me when the motion of objects in the sky is that discernable over a short period of time.

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Observing Log - Planetary odds and ends

June 29th, 2007 by webmaster

Observing from Meaford
Temperature ~ 13C
With the moon almost full and mediocre seeing DSO watching is a washout. However, binocular and naked eye observing were fine. Three naked-eye planets in twilight - Saturn and Venus tight together in the west and Jupiter in the south - were very cool. Saturn and Venus were a day away from conjunction, with Saturn at 11:00 with respect to Venus.
Jupiter through 10×50 binocs recealed only two moons. I checked tha handbook, and sure enough Europa was in transit, so I brought out the Dob for a look.
Ganymede and Io were clearly visible west of Jupiter, and Calisto was just North - its orbital plane tilted just enough to miss the disk of the planet. Seeing was sketchy, so it took a while to spot the tiny black dot of Europa’s shadow. The shadow came and went as the seeing varied, but the moon itself remained invisible until a minute or two befor egress, when it stood out against the darkened limb. Very cool.

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Observing Log Entry - Binoviewing the moon

May 23rd, 2007 by webmaster

Observing from my backyard in Pickering.
I decided to have a relaxing session this evening, so for the first time in a long while I took out the binoviewers and superwide 20mm EP’s, and had a good go at the 1st quarter moon in Davros, my C8. The seeing was not great, so using a Barlow (~f/23) just made it fuzzy.
I began by just cruising around the Valis Alpes region, which is one of my favourite regions. I then moved on to the crater Aristoteles, and spent some time examining the teraced walls, sigmoid central rise, and the scree surrounding the crater.
Passing over the filled crater Egende, I noticed a mountain range in between Egende, Aristoteles and Eodoxus that makes about 2/3 of a circle. I presume this is another ancient, filled crater about the size of Aristoteles, but is not named in my atlas. I would guess it had very high walls once.
Crater cassini was nice and complex, with craters in craters, and worth spending some time observing.
At about 10:19 EDT I watched the occultation of 45 leonis, but shortly after this the seeing became so poor that I decided to pack it in for the night.

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Rainy nights are for image processing

May 21st, 2007 by webmaster

May 20
Rainy. Sucks for observing, but then I realized I left my USB 2.0 adapter in the city, so just as well really. Also, bonus in the sleep department.

Finally, with this crappy weather, I had a chance to process the images from May 7.

Although most of the following will be gobbledy-gook to most readers, it is in fact a record of the processing I played with:
M3 - stack of 30 subs of 8s, saved as FITS stacked in Registax with histo stretch, no wavelets. Levels in Photoshop - no curves, then used unsharp mask - 80%, radius 1.5, thresghold 1 level.
Repeated the same procedure for M53.

m3-edit3 - stacked in Envisage, saved as FITS, levels in photoshop
m53-edit4 - same
m3edit4 - same as edit 3, but enlarged image, then reshrunk it after unsharp. Better background level in curves.
combined is single frame merged with edit 4:


M53 - edit 4

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CAO Open House - Spring NGC’s

May 13th, 2007 by webmaster

May 12
CAO Open house
temp: 1C
Using: 8″ Dob “Beast”
Goal: bag the 17 Virgo and Coma galaxies from the spring NGC list.

This is a good night, because not only is it clear, I have the comeraderie of dozens of fellow astronomers. This has the advantage of sharing views in other scopes.

Coma Ber is near Zenith, making this set of starhops tricky with a Dob:
Starhopping, starting at  gamma Coma Ber, NW to
4274 and 4414
then back to Gamm and to 4559, large and brightish, some structure visible
back to gamma, starhop down to 4494, small and bright,
over to 4565.
Wow. This is one very nice galaxy with clear dustlane. Gorgeous!
then over to 4725, bright spiral
over to
5466 in Bootes - faint globular, real smudge, but with averted vision some pinpoint stars are visible. Actually a very pretty target.
Using 9 and 12 virgo as a starting point, starhop to
4216 - edge on
using sterism N or 4216 (with 6 Coma B) as a pointer, starhop to 4388 and 4438 - and generally appreciating the number of galaxies in this region.
Starhop to
4567/8 - siamese twins galaxies. Cool.
Then over to epsilon Virg and starhop to edge-on 4762
Starhop down to 4526 and 4535 - nice.
Down to Porima and starhop to 4517 - actually took a couple of attempts - faint edge-on is elusive.
4699 is positioned between 26 and 40 Vir, making it easy.
5746 is in the same FOV as 109 Vir - makes it easy. Very nice galaxy.

Done! Mission accomplished.
All that remains is 6 fall NGC’s

Spent the remainder of the evening until 1:30 wandering and lookingthrough other scopes and socializing.

Some highlights:
NGC 4565 in the C14
M51 in an 18″ dob - Wow!
comet Lovejoy in a 14″ portaball
M13 in 12.5″ dob and C14. Go deep!


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Joys and frustrations of astrophotography

May 7th, 2007 by webmaster

May 7, observing from my backyard in Pickering - a suburb of Toronto.
Temperature: 4C dropping to 1C
Using: My C8 “Davros” @ f/6.3 and DSI Pro with broadband LP filter.
experimenting with DSI Pro, imaging GC’s M3 and M53

I began experimenting with 8s exposures, then 15 and 21s exposures. On screen, the different exposure times looked the same, so I stuck with the shorter exposures to minimize the periodic error issue with the RA drive on Davros. However, looking at the raw frames later, there was a significan difference. Live and learn. And note to self - adjust the histogram setpoints manually next time! Straight automatic image is disappointing, but I will process the subs myself later.


M53 - refocussed and realized that the temperature drop had caused a focus shift. That means the last few frames I shot of M3 will be out of focus. Live and learn. Again, somewhat disapointing automatic image, but i will see what I can do with processing.


I went back to M3 and recaptured another 35 subs at 8s with better focus, and most of these came out okay. But I won’t be able to see what I really have until I have the time to do some processing.


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I’ve got an astronomy blog, and I’m not afraid to use it…

May 3rd, 2007 by webmaster

Following the recommendations of my friend Paul Markov, I am making use of my blog  to record my observing log online. I may, one day, go back and type up the previous four years of journal entries - but I won’t hold my breath. And so, no time like the present. I will actually begin with my first good observing session this year for which I have records, on March 16.
March 16 2007
Location: Scotch Mountain Observatory (SMO), west side of house, sheltered from wind
temperature: -5C
Using: 8″ Dob, aka “Beast”
goals: DSO hunting for the FNGC list

NGC 1514 in Taurus - dim planetary
1788 in Orion - diffuse reflection nebula. Visible, but I wouldn’t have known it was there had I not been looking for it.
2022 Orion - distinct planetary, despite mag 12.4
2194 Orion - OC nice little cluster
2237 Rosette nebula. I have been looking for this for two years, without success. The open cluster  within it (2244) I have seen dozens of times, but the nebulosity was elusive. The hunt for FNGC’s has given me lots of practice at resolving faint nebulosity. This time, not only was the Rosette visible, but without a filter, and with some mottling and dark lanes clearly visible. Cool.
2359 -Canis Major - brightish emission nebula
2440 puppis - small planetary
2539 puppis - very nice OC, rich.
1931 Auriga - nebulosity, close to M36 & M38
2371/2 Gemini - double lobed “peanut” planetary, quite distinct despite mag 13 due to its shape, and proximity to guide stars.
2655 elipitcal in Cam
2903 Leo - big & bright spiral /w dust lane visible
2841 UMa - nice galaxy, bright.

by midnight the wind had changed, and the cold was getting the better of me.

This night I was surprised at how easy the mag 12 & 13 targets were - with practice, observing skills become better & better, increasing the effective apperture of the scope.


March 17
Location: SMO, SE side of house on deck
temperature: -5C
Using: 8″ Dob, aka “Beast”
goals: DSO hunting for the FNGC list - hammer away at the spring list, trying to hit everything but the Virgo & Coma galaxies. If I don’t bag these now, it could be another year…

2683 in Lynx - very nice egde on spiral, bright, I gave it three checkmarks.
3003 Leo Minor - this was a tricky one, faint streak
3344 LMi - face-on, fairly bright due to compact size.
3432 LMi - very tricky little bugger - even more so than 3003
3184 in UMa - nice galaxy (2 checks)
3877 UMa - nice edge on Galaxy
3941 UMa - eliptical with bright core
3079, 4026, 4088, 4157 UMa - edge on galaxies in UMa,
4605 UMa - dust lane visible in this edge-on spiral
3155 Sextans - spindle galaxy
3242 - Hydra - Ghost of Jupiter Planetary - always a treat
3384, 3521, 3607, 3628 - brightish galaxies in Leo, nice when there are multiple galaxies in the same FOV.
4490 CVn - nice pairing with Cocoon galaxy 4485
4449 CVn - brightish galaxy
4111 CVn - edge on galaxy
4214 CVn - irregular galaxy
4244 CVn - bright sliver, edge on spiral.
4631 CVn - very nice (3 checks) edge on.
4656/7 CVn - in same field as above, not nearly as nice
5005 CVn - nice bright elongated spiral (2 checks) - easy, near Cor Croli
5033 CVn - spiral, near 5005 above.
$038/9 in Corvus - rat tail galaxies. Not the same as in pictures, but very cool none the less.
4361 Corvus - planetary, mag 13 central star visible.
5907 in Draco - edge on, should be nice target, but I was getting cold and tired by this time.

Holy crap - I hit 30 DSO’s in one session! In two nights I nearly doubled my NGC count!


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