Monday, December 19, 2011


As today is mild and dry, I decided to bring the 11-inch SCT OTA in from the POD to keep it warm and dry for the winter. I'll probably use the 127mm apo or the 150mm SCT on the CGEM for any serious winter observing I might do.

Temperature = 4.7°C

Saturday, December 10, 2011

1497m 2011/12/10

1497m 2011/12/10 07:00–07:45 EST Foxmead W window 0 ne

Partial lunar eclipse: snowed out! Radar:

GEOS satellite:

Temperature = –4.7°C.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

1496m 2011/11/22

1496m 2011/11/22 05:35–06:50 EST Foxmead upstairs E window 8–5 ne

Mars and Regulus: Mars now slightly brighter than Regulus.

Saturn, Spica, and the Moon: Nice tight grouping. Light cirrus clouds moving in.

Temperature: -7°C

Monday, November 21, 2011

1494m 2011/11/21

1494m 2011/11/21 05:00–07:00 EST Foxmead upstairs E window 8 ne

Recorded out of sequence.

Mars and Regulus: Mars is now slightly brighter than Regulus.

Saturn and Spica: Saturn is now slightly brighter than Spica.

Moon: Waning crescent in between the two groups.

This session inspired me to write about "Solstice Observing" for this week's article.

Temperature: -8.7°C

1495e 2011/11/21–22

1495e 2011/11/21–22 17:20 EST Foxmead W window 8 ne 7x50b

Venus and Mercury: spotted Mercury about 4° below and to the right of Venus.

Jupiter: rising in the east. All 5 naked eye planets in one day!

[Accidentally logged before this morning's session, 1494m.]

Sunday, November 6, 2011

1493d 2011/11/06

1493d 2011/11/06 12:20–12:50 EST Foxmead POD 8 ne 28cmsc 4cmrr

Sun: Counted 33 spots in 7 groups for a sunspot number of 103. 70x in 28cmsc.

1492e 2011/11/05–06

1492e 2011/11/05–06 18:30–03:30 EDT Foxmead W window 8 ne 7x50b

Venus: Observed Venus for the first time this year as an evening star. Could not see Mercury just below it with 7x50s.

Later during the night observed Mars making an "S" of the sickle in Leo from E window..

1491e 2011/11/04–05

1491e 2011/11/04–05 20:36:55 EDT Foxmead W window 8 ne

Meteor: Sitting watching TV in the living room, I saw a beautiful fireball out the window:

I just saw a bright fireball, at least -5 magnitude, out my west-facing window at 08:36:55 EDT. Time is within 5 seconds, as I just synched my watch with my computer. It came down very steadily, slightly angled from left to right as it fell, and disappeared behind distant hills to the west. It was pure white in colour, and seemed a little bit larger than point-sized to my naked eye.
After posting this report online, I received several replies:
Subject: Re: [RASCals] Bright fireball
Date: Fri, 04 Nov 2011 23:18:36 -0400
From: Rob Weryk <>
Reply-To: RASCals Discussion List <>
To: RASCals Discussion List <>

Hi Geoff,

This was recorded by my software which runs the Southern Ontario 
Meteor Network.  You can view video clips from three of the 
stations here:

The event was travelling at about 14.5 km/s, ended at a height 
of 44 km, and reached a peak magnitude of at least -4.5.

  Rob Weryk 
Subject: Re: [RASC Toronto List] Re: Bright fireball
Date: Sat, 05 Nov 2011 11:40:38 -0400
From: Denis J Grey <>

Hi Geoff,

We also saw it up at the CAO last night. Very bright and also on
the western horizon so it's probably in Lake Huron.

It would definitely be on the All-Sky Camera network so let's
keep our fingers crossed.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

1490d 2011/10/16

1490d 2011/10/16 12:28–12:45 EDT Foxmead POD 8–3 28cmsc

Sun: 70x with new Kendrick solar filter. Counted 36 sunspots in 4  groups for a sunspot number of 76. The view was amazingly detailed using the full 28cm aperture. High gusty winds, temperature 13°C. Image from SOHO:

Monday, October 10, 2011

1489m 2011/10/09–10

1489m 2011/10/09–10 04:30 EDT Foxmead E window 8 10x50b

Searching for Comet Elenin. Once again no sign of it. I could see 5.4 magnitude star 37 Leonis close to its expected position, but no sign of the comet.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

1488m 2011/10/05–06

1488m 2011/10/05–06 05:25–06:00 EDT Foxmead E window and deck 8 7x50b

Another unsuccessful search for Comet Elenin. Between twilight and horizon haze, the faintest star I can see in the area is HIP53737, magnitude 6.5. Starry Night is estimating the comet's brightness at 6.07, but Mattiazzo's observations suggest it's at least 2 magnitudes fainter. Probably undetectable visually, but perhaps might show up on a CCD image.

Temperature: -2.1°C

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

1487e 2011/10/05–06

1487e 2011/10/05–06 19:40–20:35 EDT Foxmead POD 8 28cmsc

Polar alignment of  CGEM. I first aligned mount on Enif and Alpheratz, and then used the Polar Align feature to polar align in Enif. This was a good choice, since it was right on the meridian. Checked by finding M31 and M15, both of which were dead centre. Then I went to Jupiter which was a little off, but probably because it is near the horizon. Callisto right over S pole of Jupiter. Came in to warm up at 20:35. Temperature 5°C.

— —  22:00–22:50 EDT

Jupiter still well within field after 1.5 hours away. 255x was too much magnification; better at 127x, Much detail within NEB.

Uranus: Tiny disk at 127x.

Neptune: Even tinier at 127x.

DSOs: M31, M32, M110 (very faint), M33 (very faint), and M77 @127x.

Double stars: γ Ari, 30 Ari, λ Ari, and ζ Ari @127x

The Moon: Plato, Straight Wall, Tycho and Clavius well placed, 127x.

Temperature: 2°C.

1486m 2011/10/04–05

1486m 2011/10/04–05 05:30–05:35 EDT Foxmead upstairs E window 8 7x50b ne

Looking for Comet Elenin again. This morning the time was right, but the transparency close to the horizon was poor. I could see Iota Leonis, but no sign of the comet. Later when the Sun rose I saw what the problem was: very heavy ground fog.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

1485m 2011/10/03–04

1485m 2011/10/03–04 04:30–06:30 EDT Foxmead upstairs E window 8 7x50b ne

Looking for Comet Elenin. This comet was hit by a CME on August 19 and passed perihelion on September 10, both of which appeared to cause it to disintegrate. It was not visible when in the field of SOHO's LASCO C3 camera last week. This morning was the first chance for a visual observation. i woke up at 4:30, before the comet would have risen. When i next woke up at 6:30, the sky was too bright; all I could see were the second magnitude stars in the triangle of Leo, but not the fourth magnitude stars (Iota and Sigma) below it which bracketed Elenin's position. I'll try again tomorrow morning.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

2011 October 2

Moved CGEM mount slightly to the east and loosened azimuth so that adjustments work. Reading the manual I found that, during alignment pressing "Menu" switches to stars on the other side of the meridian. I also learned how to do a polar alignment using any bright star, not Polaris. I tried these out in daylight, and await a clear night so that I can try them for real.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1484e 2011/09/28–29

1484e 2011/09/28–29 22:05–22:50 EDT Foxmead POD 8–3 28cmsc

First light of 28cmsc on Celestron CGEM, Clearing was quite unexpected, but I decided to give it a try. It soon became very hazy again, but I managed a few observations.

Jupiter: 127x and 254x Seeing poor.

Deep sky: M45 @ 127x

Double stars: Almach @ 127x

The whole mount needs to be rotated to the right to get closer to Polaris. I also need to loosen the azimuth motion so that I can fine tune the alignment, which needs to be done in daylight when I can see what I'm doing. Things are a bit cramped in the POD with the GEM. The mount is absolutely silent when tracking, but fairly noisy when slewing. I also need to adjust the William focuser, as it is slipping under the weight of the big Nagler eyepieces.

Temperature = 14° C

2011 September 28

The dovetail plate to attach the Celestron 28-cm SCT to the Celestron CGEM mount arrived from Astronomics this morning. I tried it out in the CGEM's saddle then installed it on the tube with the supplied bolts. I was glad to see that it installed with four bolts, not the three I had thought. With two bolts snugged down on both front and rear cell, it seems very solid, and much better than a Vixen dovetail would have been.

I then went on to Step 1 of the Great Telescope Transformation: removing of the Explore 127-mm triplet apo from the mount, and storing it in its case. Though the case looks very nice, the scope must be in a very specific orientation and configuration to fit in the case, not the same as on the mount at all. I also removed the two 11-pound counterweights. I'm now recuperating before tackling the next steps:

2. Removal of the Orion Sirius mount.
3. Installation of the Celestron CGEM mount and counterweights.
4. Installation of the Celestron 28-cm SCT.
5. Balancing and testing.
6. (After dark): Alignment of mount.


Steps 2 through 5 were accomplished in stages this afternoon. The scope is now riding on its new mount, balanced and ready for the next clear night. The CGEM came with a 17 pound weight and this, along with an 11-pound weight from the Sirius, almost exactly balances the 27.5 pound tube plus finder, dew shield, William focuser and 2" diagonal, and Tele Vue 22mm Nagler eyepiece. If I add camera or binoviewer, I may need an additional counterweight.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011 September 25

I performed surgery on my CPC1100 today, removing the optical tube assembly from the fork mount because the motors have ceased operating after a nearby lightning strike a few weeks ago. I removed the cover plate from one arm, sprung the arm, and removed the tube. I've asked Blake Nancarrow to take a look at the CPC1100 mount to see if he can troubleshoot it.

I recently bought a Celestron CGEM mount to carry the 28-cm optical tube, and am awaiting a Celestron dovetail plate so that I can attach the 28-cm tube to the CGEM. The plate is on its way from Astronomics in Oklahoma, who had one in stock. I've also ordered a "wide-to-narrow" adapter plate from Orion so that I can use my Vixen dovetail scopes on the CGEM. This one mount should be able to carry all my various telescopes.

The CGEM has an interesting feature I was unaware of: you can polar align the mount accurately on _any_ star in the sky. This will be handy since I can't see Polaris from my POD's location. The CGEM also has the same basic interface as the NexStar and CPC, which I find more versatile than the hand controller on the Orion Sirius mount. It has more user-definable objects and a wider variety of named objects. I also really like the Celestron's "identify" feature which lets me explore the area I'm pointing at. The Sirius will identify a single object, but doesn't generate a list of the five nearest objects.

My main reservation about using the CGEM in the POD is that it will take up significantly more room, which is limited to start with. I've been finding with the Explore 13-cm on the Sirius that the POD is cramped. The 28-cm SCT tube will be a lot shorter, but a lot fatter and somewhat heavier, requiring more counterweights. We shall see how well it works.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

1483e 2011/09/11–12

1483e 2011/09/11–12 20:30–21:10 EDT Foxmead POD 8 13cmrr

Aligned on Altair and Alpheratz. Could just barely see Alpheratz because of Full Moon and hazy atmosphere. Confirmed alignment by returning to Altair, then viewed:

Double stars: Albireo @ 38x.

Moon: @38x.

DSO: M11 @ 38x.

Pointed to Polaris: still clearly off pole, but at least GoTo is working well.

22:30–23:40 EDT Foxmead POD 8 13cmrr 8cmrr

Resumed observations at 22:30.

Jupiter @ 190x (10mm+TV bino), 115x (25mm+Orion bino), 230x (12.5mm+Orion bino). Trying various binoviewers (Tele Vue BinoVue and Orion) on Jupiter. Surprisingly, the nicest image was with the Pocono 12.5mm orthoscopics and the Orion Shorty Barlow screwed into the Orion binoviewer. This combo was also much lighter than the TV combo. I began observations of Jupiter around 22:40 when it was still below 15° altitude: lots of colour fringing! As it rose, the fringing diminished and the seeing improved. Initially theimage looked "gritty" but then finer detail came into view. There was a transit of Io's shadow beginning at 22:56. I first could see the shadow definitely at 23:08, appearing like a condensation in the SEB.

Also looked at Jupiter and the Moon with 80mm GoScope @ 18x and 58x. View of Moon was spectacular. Jupiter's moons were clear and 2 main belts visible.

Star test: I did a star test on Alpheratz using the 10mm+TV. Bright outer ring on both sides of focus, but inner rings are very round and even, just a hint of diffraction in focus. I then looked at Almach with 10mm+TV: beautiful colour contrast of bright gold and pale blue.

I parked the scope at the end of the evening. We'll see how the alignment holds up next time.

This is probably a good example of what to do on a hazy Full Moon night: tinkering with mounts, eyepieces, and binoviewers.

Temperature: 13°C. Hazy but not damp, no dew.

Friday, September 9, 2011

1482e 2011/09/09–10

1482e 2011/09/09–10 20:30–22:00 EDT Foxmead POD 8 13cmrr

Aligned Sirius mount on Altair and Alpheratz. Alignment was quite a bit off, probably because polar axis isn't pointing exactly at north celestial pole. I will try adjusting the mount in daylight, as it's too heavy and awkward to do in the dark. I left the scope pointing at Polaris at the end of the session.

Moon: Gassendi and Artistarchus well placed, just as described in my article this week on
Observed with new 13mm Tele Vue Ethos (73x), and with Orion binoviewer with two 25mm Plössls and 2x Shorty Barlow in cell attached directly to nosepiece (∼150x).

Double stars: Almach: Blue secondary just barely visible at 38x, very nice with binoviewer (∼150x).

Observations discontinued due to bright Moon, poor seeing, and rising fog.

Temperature: 13°C

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

1481e 2011/08/29–30

1481e 2011/08/29–30 20:30–22:30 EDT Foxmead POD 8 ne 13cmrr Maria, Derek, Connor & Madeleine Friesen
Visit by the Friesen family. Maria is one of my dialysis nurses at Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital.
I had a bit of a problem aligning the mount, but once aligned we observed double stars Albireo (gold and blue) and Epsilon Lyrae (the Double Double), the Lagoon Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Owl Cluster (E.T.) We also watched a nice pass of the International Space Station, and spotted several other satellites, especially with Connor's keen eyes. I gave them a laser tour of the late summer sky, including the Summer Triangle (Vega in Lyra, Deneb in Cygnus, and Altair in Aquila), Sagittarius, Delphinus, Sagitta, Cassiopeia, and the Big and Little Dippers. Then we came inside to warm up and Louise showed the kids her spinning wheel.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Louise and I moved the CPC1100 into the house, and I installed the 127mm Explore apo triplet on Sirius mount in its place.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

1480e 2011/08/28–29

1480e 2011/08/28–29 21:00–00:35 EDT Foxmead E deck & E pad 8 ne 13cmrr

ISS: I noticed in Starry Night that the ISS was currently in the W, went out on the deck, and there it was!

Observing with 127mm Explore triplet apo on Sirius GoTo mount, 38x:

Deep sky objects: M71. From here slewed to:

Comet Garradd: Tiny wisp of fuzziness.

DSOs: M27, M31, M32, M110, M8, M16, M17.

Double stars: Albireo, Epsilon Lyrae, Eta Cassiopeia, Polaris, SS Cygni.

Neptune: Tiny blue green spot.

The Sirius mount is really cool, how it moves in RA and Dec to get from one object to another!

Back out again a few minutes before midnight for my first look at Jupiter for the year.
Jupiter @ 190x; is crystal clear and contrasty. The SEB is back in spades.

DSOs: Had a look at M31/32/110 @ 24x and 60x. The latter was most impressive (Nagler 16): all three galaxies nicely framed, and M31 stretching right across the field of view. M33 huge @ 60x. Double cluster magnificent @ 24x. Also looked at M34 and M76.

Setting up and taking down the refractor is a real pain—I've been spoiled by the POD! Since I suspect it will be a while before the CPC1100 is back in action, I think I'll install the 127mm apo in the POD tomorrow.

Temperature: 8.1°C

Friday, August 26, 2011

1479e 2011/08/26–27

1479e 2011/08/26–27 22:40–22:55 EDT Foxmead S deck 9–3 8cmrr 10x50b ne

I discovered tonight that a lightning strike last week has knocked out the motors in my Celestron CPC1100. I'll have to have a look inside tomorrow in daylight, but for now I've set up my little Orion 80mm GoScope achromatic refractor.

Comet Garradd (C2009 P1) in Sagitta @ 18x. Right next to M71, and almost identical in brightness. M71 is slightly "twinkly" and the comet has a slight tail, but otherwise the two are almost identical at low power.

Deep sky: Besides M71, I observed M27 and M11 with the GoScope. Clouds had moved into Andromeda and Triangulum, but earlier I had observed M31 and M33 with 10x50 binoculars. In binoculars, M71 and Comet Garradd formed one indistinct blur.

Once again, the GoScope has proven to be a delightful little telescope, quite amazing for $100. I now have it mounted on my Manfrotto tripod which is very handy because I can crank it up and down to match my sitting eye position. All the DSOs were bright and clear in the stock 20mm eyepiece, and the mini-Dob mount and red dot finder make it really easy to use.

Temperature: 15°C

Here is an image of Comet Garradd in Sagitta made by Rick Fienberg the same night:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

1478n 2011/08/12–13

1478n 2011/08/12–13 11:00–02:30 EDT Foxmead E deck 3 ne
Meteors: I checked the sky from time to time, but the combination of high clouds, poor transparency and Full Moon kept the limiting magnitude around 2. No meteors seen.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

1477m 2011/08/10–11

1477m 2011/08/10–11 04:00–05:30 EDT Foxmead bathroom window 8–3 ne
Observing naked eye out upstairs bathroom window facing east. Observed 04:00–04:15 looking for Perseids. This is two mornings before the peak, but there will be a Full Moon coinciding with the peak which will dim the meteors. This morning there is a small window of dark between moonset and the beginning of morning twilight. My view includes most of the eastern sky below Jupiter, including Taurus, Orion, Gemini and Mars. No meteors seen.

One of the advantages of living in a house with large windows is that I don't have to get dressed and go outside to observe. This is especially handy on cold winter nights (or cold summer mornings—it was only 12°C at 4 a.m. this morning!)

Monday, August 8, 2011

1476e 2011/08/08–09

1476e 2011/08/08–09 21:30–22:35 EDT Foxmead POD 8–3 28cmsc

Tonight was my first attempt at astrophotography in many years using my Celestron 28-cm Schmidt-Cassegrain at Cassegrain focus, Canon Digital Rebel XT, 2-inch T-adapter, remote release, and angle finder, set to aperture priority (Av) and mirror lockup enabled. Otherwise all default settings on automatic. First the southern half of the Moon:

Then the northern half:

Then I made an image of Altair with the same settings:

Comparing this image to Starry Night, I find I've reached down to magnitude 15 with a 15 second exposure. The stars have trailed, probably due to the jumpiness of the drives on the CPC1100.

I was going to try to image Albireo, but clouds moved in and I called it a night.

I haven't tried any adjustments of these images other than shrinking them to 650 pixels wide and rotating the Moon images. Not bad for what my goal is: to make images to show what normal astronomical objects look like to the human eye through amateur telescopes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

1475e 2011/07/31–08/01

1475e 2011/07/31–08/01 22:15–23:45 EDT Foxmead POD 8 28cmsc 10x50b
[Translation: Session #1475 on the evening of 2011 July 31–August 1. Began observations at 10:15 pm and ended at 11:45 pm EDT. Made from Foxmead POD observatory, sky conditions dark, using 28cm Schmidt-Cassegrain and 10x50 binoculars.]

I've tended to become very terse in my observing log. Because others may be reading these blogs, I'm trying to be a bit more verbose here.

When I opened the POD I discovered a little praying mantis sitting on the hinge—very extraterrestrial! Taking the shroud off the telescope I was stung by a wasp lurking underneath it. So much for wildlife!

I woke the telescope from its "hibernate" mode and had it point to Albireo to make sure alignment was OK. It was very slightly off so I replaced M57 in previous alignment with Albireo. Telescope seemed to be running more smoothly this evening, with less clicking and jumping. Since I haven't had an observing session in two weeks, I concentrated on my variable star program, taking up where I left off last time. I have a list of about 30 variables that I cycle through.

Variables: [click on image to magnify]

While  observing next star (T Cep) thin clouds began to move in, making variable estimates impossible, so I packed it in for the evening.

Vesta: During the day, I'd written an article for on this week's opposition of Vesta, which has just been reached and is currently being orbited by the Dawn spacecraft, so I had a look for Vesta in my 10x50s. It is passing through an area of Capricornus devoid of bright stars, so is very easy to spot at around 6th magnitude.

This was a warm humid night, with sparkles of heat lightning around the horizon. When the clouds moved in, they were totally invisible, only detectable by stars in my observing field brightening and darkening. When I came in, the moist air was condensing on the outside of the sliding door.

Friday, July 15, 2011

1474e 2011/07/15-16

1474e 2011/07/15-16 22:20–00:35 EDT Foxmead POD 8 28cmsc

Bright Full Moon low in SE.
Saturn: 175x

Friday, July 8, 2011

1473e 2011/07/08-09

1473e 2011/07/08-09 23:00–01:30 EDT Foxmead POD 8 28cmsc David Gaherty

Moon: 70x, 175x: Just past 1st quarter.
Saturn: 175x: seeing very poor.
DSO: 70x: Butterfly Cluster, M15, M31 (for David)
DSO: Blue Snowball 175x, Blinking Planetary 175x, M103, M52, NGC457, M17, M18, M24
   With OIII filter: M16, M17, M8, M20
   without OIII filter: M20, M8, M21, M28, M23, M11, M26
Temperature: +13°C

Monday, July 4, 2011

1472e 2011/07/03-04

1472e 2011/07/03-04 22:30–01:30 EDT Foxmead POD 8 28cmsc

Saturn: Looked for Enceladus, which was at elongation, but couldn't see it. 175x


Pluto: Did not appear to be exactly in position shown in Starry Night, so I plotted what I thought was Pluto, and will check again in a night or two. 255x

Deep sky objects: mostly 70x
Deer Lick Galaxy NGC 7331
Blue Snowball 175x
Stephans Quintet 175x: could only see hint of fuzzies
M31/32/110 M76 M33 M57
Ghost of Almach NGC 404

Double stars: Almach, Psi Psc, 61 Cyg, ε Peg

Saturday, July 2, 2011

1471n 2011/07/01-02

1471n 2011/07/01-02 Foxmead 3-8 ne

The sky was too hazy with thin bands of high clouds to bother with telescopic observations. Because there had been reports of aurora last night, I checked the northern sky several times during the night, but saw no signs of aurora.

Friday, July 1, 2011

1470e 2011/06/29-30

1470e 2011/06/29-30 22:20–00:15 EDT Foxmead POD 8 28cmsc

[This is the first entry in my online observing blog. The line above is the same as I use in my paper log, and gives the basics of the particular session:
1470: number of session. Session 1 was on 1957/05/01.
e: evening (as opposed to n:night, m:morning, d:day)
2011/06/29-30: date
22:20–00:15 EDT: local time
Foxmead POD: location
8: sky conditions using Leo Enright's scale
28cmsc: instruments used: 28cm Schmidt-Cassegrain]

Saturn: 175x
Porrima: clean split at 175x
Antares: could not see Antares B at 175x

[Observation of RS OPH was deleted because it was discrepant, probably because thin clouds moved in during observation.]
I saw at least 6 satellites less than 8th magnitude pass through 70x field of view while observing variables.
Deep sky: Messiers 51/NGC5195: observed briefly, but passed behind house while I was switching to higher magnification to observe supernova.
Doubles: Kappa Boo, Epsilon Boo, 35 Com.
Temperature: +12°C