Monday, October 27, 2014

1561m 2014/10/26-27

1561m 2014/10/26-27 06:50–07:10 a.m. EDT Foxmead E windows 9 10x50b ne

I spotted Mercury at 06:50 with binoculars, and right away could see it naked eye. I was surprised at how high it was. It was twinkling obviously in the binoculars, so obviously the seeing was poor. I thought at first it might be Spica, but when I checked in SkySafari, I found Spica was still below the horizon.

Temperature = –2.5°C

Thursday, October 23, 2014

1560d 2014/10/23

1560d 2014/10/23 05:30–06:15 EDT Foxmead W windows 8 ne

Partial solar eclipse

I had a bad run in dialysis this afternoon, so was feeling exhausted when I got home. I didn't have the energy to open the dome and set up the telescope, so instead I sat in the living room with a Baader solar filter, and watched the partial eclipse from there. The most memorable feature was the very noticeable naked-eye sunspot, which could be seen just to the left of the centre of the Sun's disk. When the Sun set in the clouds over Georgian Bay at 6:14 p.m., it was about 30% covered by the Moon.

Temperature = 10°C

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

1559m 2014/10/07–08

1559m 2014/10/07–08 05:40–06:35 EDT Foxmead W windows 3–8 ne 7x50b

Lunar eclipse

Sometimes it helps to have low expectations: you're pleasantly surprised! The weather prospects for the pre-dawn lunar eclipse were dismal, so I didn't even bother setting my alarm. When I woke up at 5:42 a.m. I was surprised to see the partially eclipsed Moon peeking through a sucker hole, low in the western sky.

The Moon soon vanished into a cloud bank, so I went back to bed. I got up 10 minutes later and the clouds were pretty solid except for one small strip. The Moon popped out again for a few seconds at 6:02, then was gone again.

Finally at 6:12, the Moon emerged into a clear patch, where it remained until I stopped watching at 06:32, by which time it was completely in the Earth's umbral shadow.

Those who were expecting a "blood Moon" will have been disappointed. The colour during totality was more a pale orange, verging on peach. As I said in my article this week on, there's no way of predicting the colour of a lunar eclipse in advance.

Temperature = 10°C

Saturday, September 27, 2014

1558m 2014/09/26–27

1558m 2014/09/26–27 02:30–05:50 EDT Foxmead E window 8–3 ne

Checking hourly for aurora and zodiacal light. The transparency was poor, only down to about 4th magnitude. The Milky Way was not visible. When I checked last at 05:48 a.m., fog had set in so that Jupiter was the only object visible. According to The Weather Network, the temperature was steady at 10°C from 1 a.m. onward except for a drop to 8° at 4 a.m., which must have been what triggered the fog.

Temperature = 10°C (mostly)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

1557m 2014/09/25

1557m 2014/09/25 05:30 EDT Foxmead E window 8 ne

I checked the sky, looking for aurora (predicted) and zodiacal light, but could see neither. I later checked in Starry Night and found that the Sun was 18.2° below the horizon, so full astronomical twilight had not begun. I had the impression that the sky was lighter than full dark, so there may have been generalized airglow from aurora.

Temperature = 8°C

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

1556m 2014/08/19

1556m 2014/08/19 05:00–05:30 EDT Foxmead E window 9 ne 10x50b

Observed Jupiter and Venus again this morning. They are now 1.2 degrees apart. Jupiter is moving away from the Sun and Venus towards the Sun, so the separation is quite rapid.

There are many nice pictures from yesterday morning, but my favourite is this one taken by my old friend Klaus Brasch in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Temperature = 8°C 

Monday, August 18, 2014

1555m 2014/08/18

1555m 2014/08/18 05:00–05:35 EDT Foxmead E window 8 ne 10x50b

Close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. At 05:00 a large cloud covered the eastern sky, but this cleared away by 05:30. Jupiter could be clearly seen naked eye as a separate and much dimmer object. The view was improved in 10x50 binoculars.

Joe Rao has posted a list of similar conjunctions:

DATE                            SEPARATION               WHEN VISIBLE

1975 February 17               10 arc minutes            Evening sky
1999 February 23               11 arc minutes            Evening sky
2014 August 18                 15 arc minutes            Morning sky
2016 August 27                  5 arc minutes            Evening sky
2039 November 2                14 arc minutes            Morning sky
2056 February 12                8 arc minutes            Morning sky

I observed the one in 1999, actually the evening before, as the evening itself was clouded out.
Michael Watson has posted a nice image of the conjunction:
Temperature = 10°C

Sunday, June 15, 2014


After giving everything a chance to dry out thoroughly, I tested all the mounts this morning, and all seem to be functioning properly, even the CPC1100. Great relief! I guess, since these are supposed to be used outdoors, they are somewhat more tolerant of moisture than most electronics. I'm concerned about the CPC1100, since it was not flooded, but still was giving error messages. It was very humid on Thursday night, and high humidity might cause electrical problems in the mount. I've gotten error messages before from time to time, and then the mount was working OK the next time.



We had a flood in our house which drenched the basement room in which I store most of my telescopes and mounts. Not only that, but when I checked the CPC1100 in the POD (which wasn't in the flood), it was showing Errors 16 and 17, which usually means an electrical problem in the mount.

Monday, June 9, 2014

1554e 2014/06/09/10

1554e 2014/06/09/10 21:45–22:10 EDT Foxmead POD 8 28cmsc

Jupiter was blocked by house as sky was getting dark, low in the northeast. Mars was too blurry with 11mm Nagler (254x) so I backed off to the 16mm Nagler (175x). The disk is very small, 11 arc seconds and obviously gtibbous, but I could still see hints of dark albedo markings. The limb looked cloudy. No sign of polar cap, probably lost in limb haze.

Saturn was lovely at 175x, with Cassini Division plainly visible, plus a couple of moons. I hadn't made a chart ahead of time to identify them.

Finally I moved to the Moon, waxing gibbous, 11.4 days old. The Sun had just risen over Aristarchus and the Schröter Valley.

The mosquitoes were ferocious, as I expected, but I didn't feel like slathering on the Muskol, so I called it a night.

Temperature = 13.4°C

1553d 2014/06/09

1553d 2014/06/09 10:00–10:25 EDT Foxmead POD 8 28cmsc

I'm constantly amazed that I can turn on this telescope (Celestron CPC1100) after nearly 8 months of inactivity, tell it to wake from hibernation, then have it point within a few arc minutes of the centre of the Sun. There's a nice large sunspot group currently, plus some smaller spots. I first viewed with the 40mm MK-70 at 70x, but there were a couple of distracting spots in the eyepiece, including a tiny dead bug. I then switched to the 22mm Nagler at 127x, and the Sun fit snugly within its 82° apparent field of view, 38' actual f.o.v., enlarging the spots nicely.

I did a re-alignment on the Sun, and then slewed to Venus, which was nicely within the 22mm field! I centred it and used it as the second object for alignment. According to Starry Night, it is currently 85% illuminated and 31 arc seconds in diameter, about half what it was during the transit across the Sun two years ago.

The POD is full of dust, algae, and cobwebs, so I'll leave it open today to air out, and try some observing tonight, if the mosquitoes aren't too fierce.

Temperature = 23°C

Here's a picture of the Sun a few hours ago from Big Bear Solar Observatory in California:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

1552m 2014/05/24

1552m 2014/05/24 03:25:–04:00 EDT Foxmead N and E windows 3 ne

A new meteor shower with a radiant in Camelopardalis was predicted for 03:00–04:00 this morning. I woke up at 03:25 EDT (07:25 UT), and watched out my north- and west-facing windows through 04:00 EDT (08:00 UT). Transparency was poor; I could only see stars down to about magnitude 3.5.  I saw nary a single meteor.  Just to prove I was awake, I did see a nice passage of the ISS around 03:40 EDT (07:40 UT), confirmed on Heavens-Above.

Friday, May 16, 2014

51 years ago today...

...I made my first variable star observation for the AAVSO. Sara Beck at the AAVSO just sent me a scan of that first report:

The AAVSO is like an elephant: they never forget!

Monday, March 31, 2014

1551d 2014/03/31

1551d 2014/03/31 12:55–13:05 EDT Foxmead observatory deck 8 4cmrr

Sun: Nice flare at 12:58 involved in sunspot group near centre of disk. Many small prominences along left limb. A couple of long filaments on right upper half of disk. 44x.

Image from yesterday from Big Bear Lake, inverted compared to view in PST (Coronado Personal Solar Telescope):

Flare in sunspot group left of centre (light in this image) and filament below and to left had both rotated further onto the disk today.

Furr came out and joined me, standing guard over the animal burrow at the corner of my deck.

It was good to be back out on the deck looking at the Sun!

Temperature = 9.1°C

Monday, January 13, 2014

1550m 2014/01/13

1550m 2014/01/13 06:00–07:35 EST Foxmead E window 3 ne 10x50b

Watching the sunrise through thin layers of clouds, looking for Venus, which passed inferior conjunction two days ago. Finally spotted at 07:33 it between two layers of clouds. It was visible as an extremely thin horizontal crescent in 10x50 binoculars, horizontal because it is directly above the Sun, still below the horizon.

Temperature = +0.9° C

Inferior conjunction was on January 11 at 7 a.m., so this was just slightly more than 48 hours later, not quite as close as my 1961 observation 27 hours before inferior conjunction, but still impressive. Venus rose at 07:15, 18 minutes before I observed it, and the Sun rose at 07:54, 21 minutes after I observed Venus.