AOMO LOG,May 12, 2012

Leigh & Mark

Mark & Leigh arrived: 6:30 pm

Guests: Robb Farion, Cheryl and Jesse

Clear sky.

Temp: 22C

Mark and I met at the gate to the forest and drove up in our own vehicles as we thought we might have guests joining us later in the evening.  Mark had his truck filled with tools as well as three garbage buckets full of crushed gravel.  Our early arrival was in order to prepare a site for our new biffy.

We had selected a site part way up the road between the heliport and the observatory.  For those who might not know, the clearing at the turn in the road is actually a heliport.  I for one would not ever want to be in a helicopter attempting to land there.  I think you would soon find out what an ant must feel hitching a ride on your weedwacker.

Mark and I dug out the site in order to level the ground and then filled it back in with the crushed gravel that Mark had picked up earlier in the day.  We measured and put a level across it to be satisfied of our work and then took some photos for posterity before cleaning up and preparing for the upcoming night of imaging.

Mark had brought his Astro-Trak with plans to take wide field images of the sky with his DSLR.  He was setting up on the outside pad when my my cell phone bleeped a reminder that I was to meet people that might show up at the gate by 8:00.  I took off and met Robb Farion at the gate.  I let him through and he drove his van up to the heliport.  HIs plans for the evening were to continue his learning of astro photograhy alongside Mark.

Before I had set off for the gate I had recieved a phone call from Cheryl.  She asked if herself and her daughter Jesse could join us for the evening.  I was more than happy to have them join us.  I told them that we were planing an evening of imaging.  Cheryl thought that would be fun for them to observe and told me they would join us soon.

When they arrived it was still not dark enough to start imaging.  I had uncovered the scope and computer in preperation and now I had time to introduce Cheryl and Jesse to Mark and Robb.  Thanks to the long twilight of May nights we had lots of time to talk about things above the Earth as well as our new biffy to be delivered.

Once we could see stars I asked Jesse if she wanted to join me in the dome to prepare to image some targets.  Jesse accepted and we proceeded to the dome and started preperations for imaging with the LX200.  I neglected to invite Cheryl, and she was too polite to speak up.  My appologies to Cheryl, and a note to myself to be completely inclusive of all our guests who visit us in the future.

Once I had the telescope aligned and synced to the computer we move the telescope to Zeta Hercules to enable us to focus.  Jesse and I decided to try imaging M13, so using this star made sense.  We were able to obtain a FWHM of 5.2 and no better.  I think the columation may need some more adjustment after we mounted the Sbig camera.  Another night we will play around with that.  There was still a fair amount of moisture in the air from the warm afternoon, which may have made the seeing a little poorer early on in the evening.

We moved the telescope to M13 and took a test image.   We then took a test image with the guide camera.  I had to move the scope a little bit to get a suitable star in the guide camera view.  We took another test image through the main scope to satisfy ourselves we still had a good view of M13.  I then showed Jesse how to take images to determine exposure through each filter.  She caught on right away.  By the time we had determined what we hoped were good exposures, I had Jesse set up for the images we wanted.

She set up a series of 6 min and 5 min exposures with each filter times five.  The guider was doing an excellent job on PHD so we let it go to it.  After starting the program and shutting down all light sources in the dome we went outside to join everyone else and let the program run.  Jesse’s image would take till 12:10am to finish.  Jesse and Cheryl stayed with us until almost 12:30am.  Mark volunteered to do the processing and we look forward to seeing how it turned out.  We hope to post it on this site when it is finished.

Cheryl had stayed outside and watched Robb and Mark taking images of a much larger portion of the sky.  Along with Robb, she asked lots of great questions and I was glad Mark was there to answer them.  Cheryl is also very engaged with local schools and public outreach in our community.  We had some very good conversations on these topics.  Mark and I hope to keep this dialogue open.

Mark used his laser to give everyone a tour of the night’s consellations and highlight some of the objects within them.  He was able to show some of them on the images he had taken.   It is always fun to wander around the night sky when it is dark and clear.  I never tire of the experience.

I am not sure which parts of the sky Robb was imaging, however Mark was imaging Hercules and the surrounding sky.  I look forward to seeing their images in the future.

After Cheryl, Jesse and Robb had all departed, Mark continued to image with his camera.  He shifted his attention to Cygnes and the surrounding Milky Way.  I look forward to seeing those photos!  I went back to the telescope and shifted my attention to M57.  I used a nearby star of 5 magnitude to re-focus and then slewed to M57.  After finding and locking onto a guide star with PHD I set up an imaging run that went until 4:30.  By that time twilight was upon us.  I then had to run darks for the night.  That took another hour.  By the time we finished everything and packed up it was 5:30.  Another hour and Mark and I would have been there 12 hours.

It was nice to have an all nighter at the telescope.  We haven’t had many nights this last winter that afforded us that.  The seeing wasn’t perfect and there is still work to be done on the telescope, but you know, I had fun.  Mark told me he had fun too so I would say it was a successful night at the AOMO.

Depart:     Mark & Leigh 5:40am

Temp: 11C

I almost forgot the bug report.  Although the mosquitoes were as large a Sykorsky Sky Cranes, they were not persistant biters.  It was also hard for them to land on you without you noticing.  I found the little flies more annoying in the early evening but they went to bed after dark.  On the way home I saw one deer in the medow behind the forest offices.

AOMO LOG, May 6, 2012

Leigh & Mark

Mark & Leigh arrived: 8:15 pm

Clear sky. (full moon)

Temp: 11C

Mark and I drove up to the AOMO with a plan to get the guide scope and camera operational.  We had been having problems with the Meade DSI camera the last time we had attempted to guide.  I had taken it home with me last time we were at the AOMO so that I could test it and try to find an insight into our difficulties.

I hooked it up to my laptop and home and mounted it on my Vixen 90mm telescope in my basement with it pointed to the trees across the street.  As soon as I opened the software I could tell I had an image.  I tinkered with the camera with several programs and found it worked with every one.  I now knew that the camera itself worked and the problem had to be with the PC at AOMO or the cables between the devices.

Mark and I started to fix the problem by mounting the camera on the ED80 and hooking it up to my laptop once again.  We were then able to aim at a bright star and obtain focus.  We then disconnected the camera from my laptop and connected it to the PC.  We were not able to get a picture with any of the software on the PC.

Mark suggested we check out which version of drivers we had mounted in the PC.  He had researched ahead of time and determined what version was most suitable for our setup.  We found we had drivers mounted for Windows7 64 bit which explained a lot.  We ended up having to remove the Meade software that we had on the PC and re-loading software that Mark had brought from home.  When we fired up the software we got an image.  Yahooo!

We then started up Maxim and after a couple of attempts and a computer reboot we were able to image with the DSI as well.

Next we mounted the SBig camera onto the LX200 and did some test images with it.  We had to shift to a dimmer star in Leo.  The camera worked fine and after a couple of tries we got the right spacer (or lack of) in order to obtain focus.

Now we attempted to image with the SBig and guide with the DSI using Maxim.  We were successful on our first attempt.  We took a 5 min image of a random selection of stars in Leo.  Without doing any fine tuning the guiding went very well.  Our stars were round.  We had not done a great job of focus and the seeing quality was poor so I wouldn’t say we got great images, however we could tell the tracking was working.

Our second target of the night proved more difficult.  We shifted to a galaxy (M95) to try a deep space exposure.  We had difficulty getting the Maxim software to pick a star instead of a hot pixel to guide on.  We knew there was probably and easy fix for this, however we were running out of time and wanted to try guiding with PHD before we had to quit for the night.

We discovered we did not have PHD on the PC.  Luckily I had a backup copy on my laptop so we were able to load a copy onto the PC.  After a few attempts we were able to get everything up and running again.  We were able to get the telescope to guide with the PHD while imaging M13.  Again we had not paid much attention to focus and the seeing was getting worse so we won’t be publishing any new images as of yet, however we could tell we were on the right track with guiding.  With more time and tinkering I think we should start seeing some results.

We ran out of time as being Sunday night I had to get some sleep before work on Monday.  For some reason my boss expects me to stay awake while he is paying me.  I find it also helps when you are operating machinery.  So Mark and I had to pack up but at least this night we felt we had made some great progress with the guide scope and camera.  We look forward to working more with this set up if the weather will co-operate.

Depart:     Mark & Leigh 12:00am

Temp: 8C


AOMO LOG, April 7, 2012

Leigh, Mark, Oleg and Harvey

Guests: Phil Northcott, Robb Farion

Maple Ridge Secondary School Astronomy club: Amy with her father Marty and little sister Rani

Mark, Harvey and Phil arrived: 7:10 pm

Leigh, Robb Farion, Amy, Marty and Rani arrived 8:10pm

Temp: 7C

This was another of those nights that turned out a lot different than I expected.  I was expecting to pick up Oleg at the second gate and meet Mark, Harvey and his guest at the observatory.  As it turned out we had more company than we expected.

When I arrived at the forest entry gate I pulled up to the key pad to let myself in.  A fellow standing next to the notice board on the right side of the road started walking over to talk to me.  I held off opening the gate to find out what the fellow wanted.  He asked me if I was with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada to which I replied I was.  He asked me if there was a “meeting” at the observatory tonight and if so could he join in.  I told him he was welcome to join us.  I suggested he follow me to the second gate and then ride the rest of the way in the Tracker with me.

After I went through the gate I walked back to get the key from the lock box and let our guest through the gate.  I noticed another car pull up behind so I walked up to see who it was and recognized Amy from the MRSS astronomy club.  Her dad was driving and her little sister was in the back seat.  I suggested they follow us to the second gate as well and I would relay everyone the last few hundred meters to the observatory.

While driving my first guest to the observatory introduced himself as Robb Farion.  He told me he is a friend of Graham Coates and learned of our observing session from him at a RC model event they attended together that same afternoon.  He was interested in trying some astrophotography so I was glad Mark was going to be at the observatory.  After dropping off Robb, I returned to the second gate to give Amy and her family a ride up.

On the trip from the second gate, Amy introduced me to her father, Marty and her little sister, Rani.  We barely had time to do our introductions before we reached the helliport below the observatory.  I parked the tracker and we walked the rest of the way.

Once everyone was at the observatory, Oleg headed up to the telescope with plans to do some collimation.  Harvey had his big Dobs set upon the west side of the observatory.  Mark was setting up his Tak on the outside pad with plans to image M95 again.  Robb set up his camera tripod on the north side of the pad.  Amy and her family introduced themselves to Harvey and Phil and Amy introduced her dad and sister to Mark and Oleg.

I kept busy helping Oleg in the dome and helping Mark some with setup.  Oleg made some improvements in the collumation and then took some images to analyze his work.

Unfortunately Mark had some bad luck with his mount and had to change plans for his night.  He got his AstroTrak set up to take some wide field images.

Harvey spent the evening chasing galaxies and showing the night’s sites to our guests.  The following is his report:


Spring is galaxy season. Every year I try to get a good look at the Virgo and Coma galaxy clusters. Last year from Hope Slide I had great views: it was almost like looking at a photograph. This year the weather hasn’t cooperated. So my goal going up to the AOMO was to see how many of the Virgo galaxies I could make out from there. As often happens, things didn’t go according to plan.

I came up with my friend, Phil Northcott.

I set up my 15″ Obsession UC and my 10″ Orion dobs. As it was getting dark, we looked at first Venus (nice waning crescent), then Mars (seeing wasn’t good enough to show surface detail) through the 15″. We then spent awhile on a tour for Amy and her family.  We looked at Mizar and Alcor through the 10″, since it was behind the dome from where we had set up the 15″. We looked at M108 (galaxy) and M97 (Owl nebula), because they are a short hop from Merak and so easy to find.  Amy said that was the first time she had ever seen a nebula and even though it was just a small fuzzy grey blob, she seemed pretty excited. The tracking platform worked well to keep objects in the eyepiece so everyone could take a look. The girls then went up to visit you in the dome and I shifted the 15″ back into Leo to look for M95.

I spotted M105 and at least one of the nearby NGCs as well as M96 of course, but didn’t pay them much attention except as necessary to help me identify M95 so we could look for the supernova. Once I had M95, we got Mark’s image of the supernova to compare. Mark wasn’t sure which was the supernova; Phil used his iphone to download an image that identified it. We were then able to see the supernova in the eyepiece and it was obvious that it had dimmed quite a bit since Mark’s photo (as expected).

We then wrapped up the evening with a few (poor) views of galaxies in Markarian’s chain and thereabouts, followed by a look at Saturn through the AOMO scope.


Depart: Marty, Amy and Rani 9:30pm

Oleg, Harvey and Phil 10:50pm

Mark & Leigh 1:30am

Temp: 7C

AOMO LOG, April 6, 2012

Leigh and Jim

Arrived: 2:10 pm

Temp:Partly Clear

My son Jim and I drove up to the AOMO Friday afternoon so that we could measure the old Generator shed in detail.  This was so that Jim can draft the drawings I need to in order to order the building materials to transform the shed into our future privy.

We also cleaned out the shed in order to check the level of the floor.   As it turns out the floor is pretty good.  A little finishing concrete to smooth it out and level it off will suffice.

The shed contained some interesting items.  Some can be used, some need to be disposed of.

We escaped just as a rain shower blew over us.  The Loon Lake road had been graded the day before so it was much smoother but muddy.

Depart: 3:25pm.


AOMO LOG, /Feb. 3, 2012

Leigh with Bruce, Cheryl, Jesse and Cody as guests.

Arrived: 8:30 pm

Temp: 5 C, Clear

As usual, I am slow at getting my log posted. I have to get in the habit of writing my log the very next day. … paved with good intentions comes to mind.

Friday, Feb 3 turned out to be one of those nights when everything you planned fell apart and yet the night turned out better than I could of hoped for. Friday was improving all day long so I made up my mind while at work to post an email to the AOMO mail group to let them know that I wanted to go to the AOMO that night. I got two responses so I planned to have an early supper and get into the forest by 7:30.

After eating I received an email from one of my earlier respondents that he couldn’t make it. I thanked him and finished getting ready to go. Although my main objective of the night was to load the software and get the guide camera operational, I grabbed a couple of my eyepieces so that I could do some observing as well.

I arrived at the forestry gate at 7:35 retrieved the observatory key and walked around eyeballing the night sky from the staff parking area awaiting my fellow observers. Timing is everything and this time it had conspired against me. I found out after I got home that my other companion to be had also sent me an email informing me he could not make it. I did not know that I was waiting for someone who was not going to show up.

By 8:00 I was just about ready to give up and give Mark a call. He had told me he would be imaging from in front of his home and had invited me over as a back up plan if things didn’t work out for the AOMO that night. Just before I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket a car pulled through the forest gate. I approached the car thinking it might be my evening companion only to find it was a lady with two of her children with her. She asked me if I was waiting for someone so I explained what I was there for and how I was just about ready to give up.

When she heard me tell her I was with RASC and that I was hoping to go to the AOMO that night she got quite excited. She introduced herself and her children. Her name is Cheryl and her daughter is Jesse and her son is Cody. As it turns out her daughter is attending Thomas Haney Secondary School in grade 9 and is very interested in astronomy. Jesse was very excited about the observatory so I invited the family to join me for some observing. Cheryl told me she would go home and get her husband and they would all get warmer clothes on and then come join me. Her son Cody informed us that he knew excactly where the observatory is located as he rides his bicycle through the forest regularly. It is his back yard after all.

I proceeded to the observatory. I opened up the dome, started up and loaded the new software into the computer and was just about to start up the telescope when my guests arrived.

Cheryl introduced me to her husband, Bruce and then we spent close to an hour in the office with me telling them the history of the AOMO and talking astronomy with Jesse. I explained what RASC is all about and invited them to future meetings and talks. Jesse and Cheryl both kindly offered to introduce RASC to the school astronomy club so that we can help the school in the future with our astronomy outreach program. If Jesse is any example, I look forward to working with such an enthusiastic and well taught group of young people. She displayed an incredible grasp of astronomy. As a matter of fact the whole family was knowledgable and enthusiastic when they got a chance to look through the telescopes.

By the time I took them upstairs the sky had deteriated somewhat. There were bands of clouds starting to drift across our view. I put an eyepiece in both the 80mm guide scope as well as the LX200. It was interesting to my guests to see the different views the scopes offered. We viewed M42 as well as the Moon. We had also looked at a couple of stars while I aligned the scope. Betelguise brought out the most conversation as it is such a colourful star.

By around 10:00 young Cody was starting to have a hard time keeping his eyes open. Like most young lads he had had a much more active day than myself. If I could only have that much energy! The family said their goodbyes and thank yous and made their way out of the observatory. They requested I add them to my mail group so that they may visit again. I look forward to their company in the future. I have to admit their visit rescued my night for me. I never got the camera to work and would have probably not gone up past the gate at all had they not happened by. I extend a big thank you to Bruce, Cheryl, Jesse and Cody for making my night!

I then made some notes and a short shopping list. I re-tarped the scope locked up and travelled back down through a Moon lighted forest.

Depart: 11:30pm.

Temp: 5 C


Mark, Wayne and Leigh

Arrived: 8:00 pm

Temp: -1 C, Clear

Mark Wayne and I tried to take advantage of an unexpected clear night to try to finish what we had started doing on Jan 7.  We wanted to get the guide camera working and try out the new guide scope system.

I had brought along the cables and USB hub that I had purchased on the weekend to enable us to hook the camera and guide hardware to the PC in the office.  Mark and I ran the cables between the dome and the office and hooked everything up.

Wayne had brought his binoculars and camera.  He kept busy outside for part of the evening and then worked on his laptop in the office the rest of the night.

We then fired up the PC.  We got a “new hardware found” window as expected, however what we didn’t expect was a “drivers not found” message.  We both thought we had used a Meade DSI on this PC in the past.  At this point we were not worried as Mark had his wireless Internet device with him so he went to the office and downloaded drivers from Meade’s website.  We thought it would then work.  Unfortunately Meade had updated their drivers to Windows7 and deleted their Windows XP drivers.  Mark and I now regretted not bringing a disc from home that contained the drivers.  So much for testing the guider that night.

While Mark was downloading drivers in the office, I started the telescope up and moved it to Betelgeuse for alignment.  I used the Telrad that Mark had mounted on the telescope last visit to centre the scope.  Without adjustments to the Telrad I was able to find the star in the eyepiece of the telescope.  I was impressed.  Once I had focus and centred the star, I adjusted the Telrad to centre it as well.  At Mark’s suggestion I also put an eyepiece in the guide telescope and centred it to the main scope for now.  I had to use an old barlow barrel to lengthen the optical train long enough to achieve focus on the guide scope.

Once we established that we were not going to solve our driver issues we decided to take advantage of our clear sky and do some visual observing.  The eyepieces on hand left something to be desired, however we were still able to view M42, M45, Jupiter and the moon before calling it quits for the night.  I will put some better eyepieces on my shopping list for the upcoming year.  The different view through the two telescopes gives a nice flexibility as to the objects we can enjoy observing.

Next time up we will get the guider up and running.  Then we will try some imaging.

Depart: 11:30pm.

Temp: -1 C


Mark and Leigh

Arived: 4:30 pm

Temp: -2 C, Light rain.

On the way to the AOMO Mark and I encountered a tree across the road.  It had fallen down just past the road branches off to the UBC Liquid Mirror Telescope.  It was not a big loss to the forest as it was so rotten that it broke into 5 or 6 pieces upon impact even though it was about 8″ in diameter.  We had no problem clearing the road.

Our main purpose of going to the AOMO was to mount the new accessory mount bracket and guide scope with camera to the Meade telescope.  While I passed tools and parts, Mark accomplished the task.  We then strung some of the cables to see where we come up short.  I have some shopping to do.

We then mounted a Telrad onto the Meade on the oppisite side of the counter weights from the finder scope.  Next clear night we will give it a test drive as well.

I then made some notes and a short shopping list.  We re-tarped the scope locked up and travelled back down through a wet dark forest.

Depart: 5:30pm.

Temp: -2 C

AOMO LOG, Nov. 19, 2011

Mark, Leigh and Wayne

Arrived: 8:15pm

Temp: -4 C, 3″ snow, Clear mag 5 sky.

Depart: 10:40pm.

A quick decision to take advantage of a rare clear night this month.  I did not put out a general group email as we were not even sure the road conditions would allow us to reach the scope.  As it was we needed to put the Tracker into 4wheel drive to make the climb past the second gate.  We found about 1-1/2 inches of snow covered everything.  Most had slid off the roof but there was still a skiff.

Wayne wanted to take some wide field images with his camera while Mark and I wanted to take those images of Jupiter that eluded us the last time we were up.

Mark and I got the scope aligned first.  It pointed surprisingly accurate to Deneb on the first try.  Different than the experience that Oleg and I had back in August.  This leads me to think it has something to do with daylight saving time.  I’ll have to put some more thought to this.

We mounted the SBig camera and found the PC couldn’t find the drivers.  It took Mark and I a couple of attempts to get them loaded again.   Persistance paid off and we were up and running.  We worked on focus for awhile and then swung the scope to Jupiter.  After we took a few test images, Mark went downstairs to work on some processing on his laptop while I set up an imaging run on Jupiter.    I then joined Mark and Wayne in the office for coffee while the program did its thing.

Later I moved the images onto my flashdrive and hopefully I will do a better job of processing than I have of keeping up with this log.

Departed: 12:00M

Temp: -3 C

Darkness meter: n/a

AOMO LOG, Nov. 14, 2011

Mark and Leigh

Arrived: 9:00pm

Temp: -1 C

Mark and I made a quick trip to the observatory in order to test fit an accessory plate that Brett had manufactured for the telescope.  Brett had taken the measurements at previous visits and we were anxious to give it a try.

Even though we did not have screws quite long enough to safely mount the plate on a permanent bassis, we were able to tell that it would fit perfectly.  Way to go Brett!

We removed the plate as we were not intending to leave it mounted.  Mark intends to drill holes in it to enable the mounting of a guide scope as well as a camera mount and possible other accessories in the future.  The guide scope has already been purchased and is a Sky-WatcherBK80 short tube refractor.  We intend to use Mark’s Meade DSII camera in combination with PHD guiding software.

We also took up a longer R232 cable to enable us to hook up the telescope with the PC in its new location in the office.  We then started up the PC and the telescope to test the connectivity.  On the first try the telescope connected with the PC and we were able to control it with the PC.

We got all excited at this point and decided to try to image Jupiter.  We went outside and could see it was nice and clear so we went up and uncovered the scope and opened the dome.  Once we had the dome opened we could see that it had clouded over in that little bit of time.  Oh well, we got some more practice at untarping and tarping up the equipment.

Depart: 10:40pm.

Temp: 0 C

Darkness meter: n/a

AOMO LOG, Sept. 17, 2011

Work Party: Leigh, Mark Eburne, Wayne Lyons, Allen Jones, Terry McComas, Ciara Morgan-Feir, Bob Perry and Pomponia Martinez

Arrived: 9:00am

Temp: warm

First of all I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all our volunteers that helped Mark and I with all the hard work that needed doing around the AOMO.

Allan and Mark set about falling trees in the northeast and southeast quadrants where the Malcolm Knapp Forest administration had given us permission to do so.  Our object was to open up the horizon for better views from both the outside pad and the main telescope.  This was very punishing work for guys who no longer do this sort of physical work every day.  I had the easy task of using my son’s Tracker to drag the trees up the hill where Terry, Bob, Wayne, Ciara and myself could limb them and buck them.

Bob also went to town with a gas weed wacker to knock down all the undergrowth that had sprung up around the building and pad.

Terry, Ciara, Wayne, Bob and I all loaded a trailer Mark had brought, with the limbs and other slash for disposal at the designated sight.  Terry, Bob, Mark and Wayne took turns driving it to unload.

Pomponia moved the PC from the dome to the office and ran the wires as well.  She also cleaned up the office and re-arranged the computer stand in the dome.

Thanks again to all of you.  You never complained even though your bodies were.  Amongst some well earned grunts and groans, we loaded up and called it a day.  Score for the day: Astronomers 22 trees, Forest 0 astronomer casualties.  Good day!

Depart: 4:00 aprox.

Temp: Still warm.

Darkness meter: n/a