Vice-President's Message – July 2015

The summer months are now upon us. We hope that you are enjoying the amazing hot weather and clear nights that we have been experiencing. Your Vancouver Centre has been rather quiet for the past month in regards to evening public events. This is due to the fact that in the months of June and July, the days are too long and the evenings not dark enough to warrant a large planned public observing event. Having said that though , there have been and will continue to be impromptu evening observing sessions held and we hope that you will continue to join us for those. Our next pre-planned evening public event will be on Saturday, August 8 and the event will be two-fold. Firstly, we will enjoy the annual Perseid meteor shower at the joint Metro Parks/ RASC event at Aldergrove Regional Park. Check out our page at Meetup for more details. Secondly, the August 8 event will be held in conjunction with our sister astronomy club —the Astronomica l Association of Jamaica. The Jamaica club will also be observing on the evening of August 8, and afterwards our two clubs will share details and photos. Your Vancouver Centre was paired with the Astronomical Association of Jamaica in February of this year through the Astronomy Without Borders Pairing Program. To date, our communications have been restricted to email and Skype but with this first- ever joint observing event, we hope to solidify this pairing. If you haven’t already, please join the Vancouver Centre Meetup group for email notifications of all of our events at www.meetup.com/astronomy-131.

Clear skies,

Suzanna Nagy, Vice President

2015 International Astronomy Day @ SFU

8,000 – that is how many people SFU estimates attended the joint International Astronomy Day and Science Rendezvous festivities on Saturday, May 9. If you were there, then you know what a great success it was.

RASC’s contribution to the day included 19 tables of activities and displays. The Moon Phases with Oreo Cookies was so successful that I had to make a run to the nearest grocery store to buy more Oreos. One of our craft tables ran out of paper by the end of the event. The Solar System Toss to Pluto was a huge hit and Astronomy Bingo was enjoyed by both children and adults alike.

We hosted seven short lectures that were well attended with a good variety of topics, including “New Horizons and our First Visit to Pluto” by Scott McGillvray, “Are We Alone? The Search for Extra Terrestrial Life” by Stanley Greenspoon, “The Global Space Community” by Ken Lui, and Ed Hanlon’s Northern Lights slideshow to name just a few.

The weather was spectacular (the first time in 3 years we did not have rain on Astronomy Day) and RASC took full advantage with three solar telescopes set up beside the new Trottier Observatory for solar viewing.

A big thank you goes out to Vancouver Telescope and Pacific Telescope who donated an 8 inch Dobsonian as a door prize. The winner was the Chan family with children Carina and Colton from Burnaby, BC.

Canadian Telescope also donated solar viewing glasses, umbrellas, and binoculars which were given away throughout the day.

I can never thank our volunteers enough for all of their efforts. 40 RASC volunteers gave up their Saturday, many of whom were there all day — some arriving as early as 9:00 am to start setting up and stayed until 6:00 pm for take-down. I wish to acknowledge their efforts by naming each here:

Staff at Vancouver Telescope
Staff at Canadian Telescopes
UBC Astronomy Club and Ronan Kerr
Planetary Society and Ken Lui/ Catherine Lui
Karl Miller, Gordon Farrell, Doug Montgomery and their solar telescopes
Howard Trottier for opening up the Trottier Observatory for tours
Ted Stroman for his Moon and Apollo Mission display
Jim Bernath and his hands-on science displays
Adrian Mitescu, Phil Lobo, Pomponia Martinez and Bob Parry for helping Jim Bernath at his six display tables
Mark Eburne and his Light Pollution display
Stanley Greenspoon and Sarang Brahme at Craft Table #1
Benjamin Joseph and his son Mark as well as Jennifer Kirkey at Craft Table #2
Judy Zhou, Anca Datcu-Romano and Irena Datcu-Romano at the Moon Phases/Oreo Cookie activity
Scott McGillvray at Astronomy Bingo
Eimi Anazawi and Samer Aabedi at the Solar System Toss
Alan Jones who coordinated all seven lectures
As well as Muguette McDonald, James Smith, Kyle Daly, William Fearon, Ron Jerome, Michael Levy, Terry McComas, Jeremy Van Den Driesen and Leigh Cummings.

I don’t think that I missed anyone but in the event I did, please accept my heartfelt thanks.

And finally, a very special thank you to Simon Fraser University and its amazing staff for allowing rasc Vancouver to hold International Astronomy Day in the Academic Quadrangle and all fees waived. A special relationship has developed between RASC Vancouver and SFU and with the opening of the Trottier Observatory, we are looking forward to many more years of astronomy-related activities at SFU. From my lips to God’s ears— here’s hoping for many clear-weather night skies.

President's Message – May 2015

By Mark Eburne

Welcome all the visitors to the annual RASC Vancouver Centre Astronomy Day held in conjunction with SFU’s Science Rendezvous here at Simon Fraser University.

Every year, the RASC Vancouver Centre and its dedicated volunteers deliver outstanding displays and talks centered on the science of astronomy and the impact it has on everyday life here and around the world. This year is no exception.

You can always find something in the astronomy world to spark an interest in your mind or perhaps your children’s minds. Whether it is looking back in time or into the future of space travel, there is something for everyone.

In today’s world of high-powered telescopes imaging the depths of time or huge super computers building scenario models of what is going to happen, we can all enjoy the results of the thousands of dedicated astronomers and scientists making it simple for us to understand. Perhaps you just want to lay down in a dark area and look up into the night sky and wonder or peer through the eyepiece of a portable ’scope in your back yard. Whatever your astronomy hunger is, you can feed it here at Astronomy Day.

Please take the time to ask questions. All of our RASC members and volunteers here at SFU love talking astronomy. Who knows, you could start yourself on a new course of discovery. It’s all here. Enjoy the journey. Clear Skies.

Trottier Observatory and Science Courtyard at SFU: Wheels Up!

by Howard Trottier

Simon Fraser University’s Trottier Observatory and Science Courtyard had its official opening on Friday April 17, with a morning ribbon-cutting presided over by SFU’s President, Andrew Petter, and an inaugural public star party that evening which drew almost 2,000 people! This day was also a watershed moment in the long partnership between SFU and the Vancouver Centre of the RASC, which has now entered a new and exciting phase, centred around the exploitation of the observatory for public outreach, for student education, and for use by members of the Centre. Vancouver Centre’s major contributions to sfu’s astronomy outreach program over many years, as well the Centre’s participation in the development of the observatory and science courtyard, were formally recognized at the official opening in speeches by sfu’s President Petter, Vice-President of Advancement Cathy Daminato, and Dean of Science Dr. Claire Cupples. Vancouver Centre’s very own Vice President and Events Coordinator Suzanna Nagy also gave an address at the opening in which she highlighted the collaboration between the two institutions, and the exciting possibilities for future joint efforts that will be made possible by the observatory.

Orion, Taurus, and Venus, over the Trottier Observatory at SFU
Orion, Taurus, and Venus, over the Trottier Observatory at SFU
Suzanna Nagy at the opening of the observatory. Photo credit: Diane Mar-Nicolle, SFU
Suzanna Nagy at the opening of the observatory. Photo credit: Diane Mar-Nicolle, SFU

The collaboration between SFU and the Vancouver RASC took off in 2009 with an intense year-long effort that brought the International Year of Astronomy to SFU’s Burnaby campus (among the Centre’s many other iya events), where we hosted thousands of kids and their families at nearly a hundred daytime astronomy workshops and evening star parties; with the support of the Vancouver Centre, SFU also donated about 85 small refractors to schools and families that year. In the years since the 2009 IYA, the partnership between SFU and Vancouver Centre has grown ever stronger and our collaborative efforts have diversified considerably. As our members know well, the Centre now routinely hosts our monthly public lecture, as well as our annual Paul Sykes Memorial Lecture, at SFU , with SFU providing meeting space and AV services free of charge. Vancouver Centre also hosts its annual Astronomy Day in concert with SFU’s annual Science Rendezvous event, which draws thousands of young families every year.

The new observatory at SFU houses a state-of-the art 0.7m aperture telescope on a fully robotic alt-azimuth mount; this turnkey CDK700 system is built by PlaneWave Instruments, located in Rancho Dominguez, California. The observatory has a 20-foot diameter Ash Dome, with an electronic dome control system built by ace Instruments. The remarkable optical design of the CDK700 produces razor sharp stars over a huge 70mm imaging circle, and we will take full advantage of this capability with our 16-megapixel high-resolution cooled camera, built by Finger Lakes Instruments, complemented by a complete set of high quality broad- and narrowband filters supplied by Astrodon.

Whirlpool Galaxy, imaged at SFU’s Trottier Observatory on April 20
Whirlpool Galaxy, imaged at SFU’s Trottier
Observatory on April 20

Eager to assess the imaging potential of this exciting system, I shot this image of the Whirlpool Galaxy at the end of the first full night of operation after the observatory opened—not too shabby, considering that this was only twenty minutes of exposure through a luminance filter, shot through cloud that at times obscured the stars in the handle of the Big Dipper! (Full disclosure: I didn’t get around to imaging through the colour filters that night, so I colourized the luminance using the very first—and very crude—image that I took at my own observatory in the Okanagan, which also happened to be of the Whirlpool). Soon to come is a high resolution echelle spectrograph on order from Shelyak Instruments, in France—with this instrument we will be able to measure the periods of spectroscopic binary stars, produce Hertzprung-Russell diagrams of star clusters, and possibly measure the redshifts of the nearest quasars, among many other applications.

It may come as a surprise that the largest part of the capital cost of the project was not taken up by the observatory, but by the science courtyard that it anchors. While the project was originally conceived of as a variation on the traditional university teaching observatory (albeit with a large teaching space devoted to science outreach for public schools and home-schooled families), it was transformed into a high-profile public space when the university generously provided an extraordinary site, immediately adjacent to the centrepiece of the Burnaby campus, SFU’s iconic Academic Quadrangle, an architectural masterwork by Arthur Erickson.

Guests at the inaugural star party gaze at the illuminated star charts in the observatory courtyard. Photo credit: SFU
Guests at the inaugural star party gaze at the illuminated star charts in the
observatory courtyard. Photo credit: SFU

The site is meant to serve a new focal point for campus and community life, and is a very visible statement about the importance of science to society. While the observatory is the most prominent structure on the site, the space is filled with architectural landscape elements, big and small, that represent the science of astronomy, and which allude to the beauty and mystery of the universe as revealed by science. One of the largest and most novel architectural elements is a set of two huge concrete walls that are meant to represent an ancient observatory with a fixed slit view of the heavens, such as existed in Mesoamerica thousands of years ago. The walls are adorned with huge, realistic, seasonal star charts that are illuminated at night.

At the telescope with my brother, Lorne. Photo credit: SFU
At the telescope with my brother, Lorne. Photo credit: SFU

The observatory will support and enhance SFU’s very successful astronomy outreach program, called Starry Nights @ SFU, and will be used by students from across campus to explore the universe. We will also make telescope time available to schools throughout BC, by inviting them to submit proposals for observing projects—the observatory can be run remotely, and we will give the keys so to speak to schools whose projects are selected for observing time. Finally, as long promised, 20% of the observing time will be reserved for use by members of Vancouver Centre. At the telescope with my brother, Lorne As we look ahead to using this exciting new observatory, I’d also like to acknowledge the many other volunteers who have made Starry Nights @ SFU so successful—they come from all parts of SFU’s campus community, from the arts to the sciences, and include students, staff, and faculty, along with volunteers from the broader community, including of course the Vancouver RASC. SFU’s community outreach program is itself a community effort. Finally, but most importantly, I want to thank my brother Lorne, his wife, and my sister-in law, Louise, and their daughters Claire and Sylvie, for their astounding generosity, without which none of this would be possible. I can only hope that this facility will bring even a small fraction of their passion for science, and their commitment to science outreach, to the communities that we serve

Guts for a 10" f/4 Dob

haunting the usual place, Vancouver telescope. I have managed to find so much to interest me there. Nick seems to have new stuff most visits, and I will kill a few hours talking and looking.

This time there were a number of parts and a sonotube. It was what was left from a 10″ f/4 Dobsonian  F/4 is a very short focal range for Newtonians, but quite common NOW. When this was ground, polished and then coated at Pancro in the 60’s or 70’s, f/4 was unusual. Very few would have parabolized a mirror in this range with any degree of competence.

The mirror has little to identify it: a sticker from the coating  company, Pancro, and a focal length inscribed with  ‘ 39.8″ ‘ a cell, spider and secondary holder by Kenneth Novak, very well known and regarded in amateur and professional circles. The focuser was only a 1 1/4″, far too puny to delivery wide field viewing with 2″ eyepieces.

I am proceeding down the same road as my 12 1/2″ build, using baltic birch plywood, a very hard and dimensionally stable composite wood product. It usually comes in standard imperial thicknesses (1/4, 3/8″ and 1/2″ are my usual picks). The size is 5 feet by 5 feet. making it very tricky to cut up to smaller sizes, even on a 10″ table saw.

I cut a strip 10″ wide and used a finger-jointing jig I have used on many other projects.

The first was a case for an 8″ Maksutov M809 by Intes, the 2nd an eyepiece case out of Jatoba and the 3rd a case fror my smaller MN-61.

Quite simple to use, you can make it yourself as you need different ones for different finger widths. The tools you need are a table saw with adequate capacity to take a dado blade set.

The part is just a board with a finger of wood the width of the dado you are cutting. The finger acts as a registration point to cut the slots, and you then put the dado you just cut over the finger and repeat until you have cut all the fingers. For each side of the box, you gang the sides together in pairs to get them identical. For the second pair, you ADD a piece of wood between the finger and the plywood to get an offset. It should be close to the width of the dado but it doesn’t need to be exact, as any unevenness can be planed off once glued up.

You can add a gusset of wood, cut at 45 degrees to reinforce the interior of the box for robustness. If you need to make the box lighter for balance or other considerations, just use your table saw to rip a section off end end

 

You just need to test it first to make sure the gap is correct. I am testing a few scraps out to try veneering to surface of the wood for a more refined look. I have a choice of using maple, cherry or walnut. I am leaning towards walnut but that means I will have to match and tape together sections to do each side correctly.

Stuff You Find When Not Looking Too Hard

I have been of the receiving end of ATM luck for some time, mostly good luck as this is not as popular as it once was. Telescopes have been much the same. Since I got my two Maks though, I haven’t been as tempted as before with two exceptions. I got a 80mm scope as it was on sale used for a decent price

My first was a 12 1/2″ blank someone had made a start on but quit. I got it for $100 (less than half its usual price AND part of the hard grunt work of roughing done). It has gone slowly, my time eaten up by laziness, sloth, Diabetes and the work involved in paying for and maintaining a house.  I have restarted it but need to test it again to be sure where it lies, and if it needs more polishing. I now have the frame and box complete, it needs a mirror cell, a trunnion and a way to connect the top to the bottom.

This years http://www.tmspa.com/ is just south of Osoyuos so a double shot at Mt Kobau is possible. If you’ve never gone, please do it. Maybe I’ll have any entry this year.

I find things at Vancouver Telescope often. The above blank, a new (but scuffed) 3.5″ Newtonian secondary mirror, odds and ends. One was a new in box (since 1965) 10″ mirror making kit, with two Pyrex blanks, all the grit but no polish or pitch for $100. A steal considering its cost in 1965 was $67.50, about $400 in today’s dollars.

 

January 2013

Weather has been poor, so little observing except hauling out my new refractor to try it out. I already own a small 80mm f/6.25 I got 25% off it price at a North Shore pawn shop years ago. I liked the scope for its quick setup. A few things were problematic. My tripod, a large Manfrotto with a bubble level head, has no trouble with my heaviest camera lens, a 200mm f/1.8 USM Canon telephoto. The 80mm ED with its long heavy tube overpowers the lock in the tripod head. In an effort to lock it securely, I have now broken the threaded part off twice, making it necessary the file in a slot in the remainder to use a screwdriver to remove. FFFUUU. I have tried it with my Canon 7D, and while it does get a focus confirm beep, the actual focus is a bit soft on occasion. My Canon 200mm f/1.8 has no such problem, focus in manual is unmistakable.

Someone who knows my love of telescopes told me a friend was clearing out some items and gave me an address. He had a few items like a nice tripod and some eyepieces that were duplicates of better ones I already owned. I told him he could go to a local telescope shop as he always had people coming in looking to add eyepieces but I was interested in the tripod.

He laughed derisively at my experience with my expensive tripod and said he thought this one would be better. I asked what telescopes he still had and he’d sold the two cheaper ones to some students on budgets. He got a case from the corner with an unfamiliar logo. He hefted the heavy for its size case up to a table to open it. A rather plain white tube with a dual speed focuser.

I have heard about AstroPhysics scopes and even looked through a number of them. I liked their color free look but the cost verses size argument lost me. This one was remarkably short and light for a 93 mm refractor. We set it up on his small tripod and did some observing of the city. Buildings in downtown, over 4 miles away, showed clearly in spite of obvious heat waves distorting the seeing. The white parts of Canadian flags visible on buildings were perfect without extraneous color fringes.  He said he seldom bothered to use his best eyepieces with it as it did fine with unremarkable Orthos or even Plossel EPs.

We covered it with a cloth and he got me some tea and biscuits and we talked while the sun went down and the near full Moon came up over Burnaby Mountain. We resumed observing, this time on a dark orange target hazed by pollution. It got clearer with altitude and he started showing me around all the little features I’d never bothered to learn the names to. Craters were nice in spite of the lack of shadows due to the near full phase.He got out a set of eyepieces in a box made of walnut. I KNEW what these were, a matched set of Zeiss orthoscopics.

I had wanted a set of these, being a camera buff who revered the name Zeiss but few ever showed up for sale. Neither did these 🙁 He targeted a number of double and multiple stars and the color contrast between them was very evident, not like my refractors more indistinct view.

Obscure rilles, domes and smaller craters dotted the area. One I had seen before in my 6″ only stood out due to its shades of grey being a bit lighter than the surrounding Even small craters in the bottom of Plato were quite clear. He informed me this little scope was one of their special projects,never repeated or equaled, called the “Stowaway” for its very fast f/4.9 ratio. He got me an adapter for my Canon and I hooked up my 7D. The city photos were clear and crisp, no autofocus but with its fast ratio the cameras sensors did work and give me a beep for focus confirmation.
A few pics of the moon, using care to use high shutter speeds to reduce glare and get proper contrast were in order. It use one of them for my wallpaper on my home computer.

I bought it for his asking price, too high for my taste, but fair considering it was around that price new back in the day. So far I haven’t used it too much. Just around Squamish for some pictures and some eagle watching this winter. I must say the white paint doesn’t cool off like my black tube refractor and frost up as easily. I didn’t realize what a desirable scope this was until using it and since then a few others who have seen/ looked through it have. One person who saw me using it was invited to look through it for a while and when he took a good look at it, must have know the scope, at least by its legendary reputation in astro-photography circles as he asked me if I was considering selling it. I just gave my head a quick shake and he gave a sigh and a small frown, his close encounter with this scope likely to be his closest one.

I took time to really star test it and was quite please with the results. A 5mm Nagler plus my 2X Big Barlow gave me around 190X. Jupiter showed its subtle color differences between zones that I never noticed before on my other refractor. Even the faded Red Spot was clearly visible near one limb. He sold me (for an extra $400) a small set of matched EPs called monocentrics. These are more specialized eyepieces, made either from a single piece of glass or several types cemented together. This means (back when coating glass was expensive and not as good) you had fewer air to glass surfaces from which light could scatter, meaning brighter images. The down side is you have a narrow field of view, typically around 30 degrees or less and little eye relief.

Jupiter was astounding with a 2mm and slighter better when I added a baralow. I had to admit it was fuzzy but subtle bands boundaries were visible intermitantly.

 

24 Inch Dall-Kirkham Mirror and Secondary Focuser

Years back, a chapter of RASC got a donation from the estate of Heinz Lorenz, a well-off industrialist who had his own observatory, the Innisfil Observatory.  Sadly, the structure was abandoned and later demolished after falling into disrepair.

http://urbexbarrie.blogspot.ca/2012/03/innisfil-observatory.html

The main mirror plus the motorized secondary support, spider and focuser survived. No secondary mirror though

Its main disadvantage is a fairly small field of view before coma becomes a problem. The primary has a figure that is only 70% as deep as a parabolic mirror for a Newtonian. A field corrector can fix this quite readily and is less of a concern now.

Anyway, the mirror got shipped around the a few other RASC center like Edmonton and then Okanagan. They decided it was too much work to get this modified to a Newtonian so they passed it on

The secondary mechanism was in really good shape and showed professional grade workmanship. The stalk was bored from a solid piece of Invar ™ a proprietary alloy that has very low coefficient of expansion, meaning the mirrors focus will no change with temperature. The secondary mount tilts but does not shift laterally, confirming it is a DK telescope. More on this later. The design included two switches which cut power to the motor if it moves too far from its range, about 1.5 inches. This range allows you to get enough back focus for adding various accessories like cameras, photometers or possibly even a spectrograph. The telescope was part of a group doing research and a 24 inch scope could do that.

The construction of the scope et al was done by defunct maker, Group 128, well know in professional circles. The main mirror is heavy at 24 inches in diameter and some 4 inches thick and made of Zerodur, a premium mirror substrate.

There are some peculiarities in a DK telescope. For those who don`t know, a Dall-Kirkham is one type of Cassegrain telescopes. The primary is elliptical, that is to say it is deeper than a spherical mirror but not AS deep as a parabolic one. The secondary is a convex spherical mirror. This does allow ease of alignment as the secondary only has to be adjusted for tilt, not centering

 

 

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

 

2012 INTERNATIONAL ASTRONOMY DAY SATURDAY APRIL 28

AFTERNOON PROGRAM, NOON-4PM, at the HR MacMillan Space Centre

Activities and displays by location at the Space Centre. Events run continuously. The RASC program is
free of charge. Events hosted by the Space Centre are with admission.

Main level (no admission required)

Lobby Craft – Rays of the Sun
Physics/Astronomy interactive displays
Book sale/give away
Gallery entrance Vancouver Telescope

Main Level (with admission to Space Centre)

Cosmic Courtyard Craft: Moon mobile The Apollo missions display

Lower level (no admission required)

Auditorium Lecture series
Auditorium area Light Pollution Display
RASC membership and astronomy give-aways
Children’s activity table

Upper level (in the Hubble Gallery) (no admission required)

  • Solar system display

Outside near GMS Observatory (no admission required)

  • Solar telescopes (weather permitting)

EVENING PROGRAM AT SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY, BURNABY CAMPUS
FREE AND SUITABLE FOR KIDS OF ALL AGES!
Campus map with parking and event locations

8PM (Room C9001, south concourse of the Academic Quadrangle):

  • John Nemy presents “Island In The Stars”, a tour of the night sky from the Milky Way to the edge of the universe, and “The Stargazers”, a visual and musical presentation of the best of amateur astronomy! Prepare to be entertained & inspired!

9PM (Lawn just east of the Academic Quadrangle):

  • Star party, weather permitting!