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The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC
|Volume 58 – No. 5 – June 2019|
This month’s issue is a little lighter than I had planned as my two scheduled
contributors both got sick for a couple of weeks and are running behind on their
deadlines. The good news is that in each case it turned out to not be too serious and
they are both on the mend with promises of delivery for the next issue (maybe).
We do have an interesting equipment review for you this month. Jim Sofia kindly
agreed to give us a report on his Star Sense auto aligner. This is something I would
like to see more of in future issues. If any of you have a piece of equipment that you
feel is particularly useful, or a complete waste of money, we would love to hear
about it. Any eyepieces you feel are a great value or something you would instantly
replace if lost or damaged? A telescope that preforms particularly well. What about
you astroimagers? Are there cameras that you feel are a great investment that you
would recommend to someone looking to buy one? Maybe there is one that you
found very difficult to learn to use. Please share your findings with us. What about
mounts? If you are worried about your writing skills, we can work together to
smooth out any concerns.
This summer we are continuing the improvements to the FLO. The SkyShed Pod has
been installed and the Meade 14” LX-200 SCT has been setup in it. A user’s manual is being prepared
and we should be starting training on the system by the end of the month. We have had another, very
generous, donation and the details are in the FLO Update in this issue.
There is so much happening at the FLO you really need to come out and see the changes for yourself.
Toward that end we will be having a BBQ at the FLO on July 6, weather permitting of course. You will
notice that there is an FLO star party scheduled for that evening. We are still working out the details,
but we plan to start the picnic about 5:00PM. For planning purposes, we request that you let us know
if you plan to attend. Please feel free to invite friends and family. Bring your telescope and stay for
By Dave Chisholm
Full moon on June 17
Rise/Set 06:01/21:51 -> 07:25/22:06
Greatest Eastern Elongation June 23rd
Look for Mercury in the evening sky just after sunset
Visible just before sunrise.
Rise/Set 04:27/18:50 -> 04:29/19:56
Visible first part of evening.
Rise/Set 07:21/22:57-> 07:00/22:08
Visible late evening and through the night.
Rise/Set 21:19/06:03 -> 19:09/03:55
At opposition on June 10th. This is Jupiter’s closest approach to Earth.
Visible through the night.
Rise/Set 23:20/08:13 -> 21:20/06:10
Visible before sunrise.
Rise/Set 03:42/17:24 -> 01:51/15:36
Visible before sunrise.
Rise/Set 02:06/13:19 -> 00:13/11:26
StarSense – A Product Review
by Jim Sofia
I was happy to be at FLO on Saturday, May 4. Good turnout! After all this time, I was finally setting up outside after being clouded out and rained out with this weather! As I pulled out my StarSense camera to mount onto the Celestron 8” SCT EdgeHD that night, Gord suggested I write an article about the StarSense feature, so here goes.
My previous experiences have all been in the ALT AZ mode which typically required a 1, 2, or 3-star alignment. The StarSense camera, on the other hand, will automatically scan the sky, slewing independently. With the “Auto Align” command, the camera takes several internal “photographs” of the star pattern in different parts of the sky. It then correlates that info with the identifying info you plug in beforehand (time of day, latitude and longitude). This is sufficient to perform an alignment. And, when I do not have access to open horizons because of tree or building blockage, such as on my townhouse balcony facing South, I can perform a “Manual Align” and manually point the camera to three unobstructed positions in the sky to get an alignment. No specific star identification is called for because the camera is taking multiple star images. There are other alignment possibilities including polar alignment with a wedge and solar system alignment which I have not used.
As the scope slews to different positions in the sky dictated by the camera, the software reveals on the hand controller how many stars were “captured” in the image pattern. Typically, this can run, from my own experience, between 20 – 120 stars per slew. When the scope is aligned, one may also add up to ten additional alignment positions to the model to improve pointing accuracy.
If I am using the Mallincan Xterminator with a focal reducer, this is equivalent to using a 10mm eyepiece for viewing. It is not a very wide field of view! As a result, I need to check the pointing accuracy of the alignment each time so the image will appear somewhere on the computer screen. I do this by having the scope slew to a bright star after alignment then checking its position in the eyepiece. If it is not close enough to the center, I perform a calibration which requires me to center the star, giving feedback to the program about the discrepancy. I then need to re-align a second time and this almost always improves accuracy. It probably would also be wise to add additional alignment positions to the model which I rarely do but will do in the future.
StarSense saves time and simplifies the alignment procedure. The pointing accuracy and tracking for my use with the Mallincam is usually good – but not always. However, it works better, on average, than any previous alignment programs. I have used it with my Celestron SCT as well as the ArgoNavis/ServoCat setup on my 18’ Obsession dobsonian.
On this particular night, I needed to align twice. Why? Who knows! I then focused a star on screen using a Bahtinov mask and I was ready to go! I used 2 programs on the PC: 1) Stelllarium for remote GO-TO commands to the telescope, to center an object on screen using the handpad controls on-screen, and to use the “synch” command to improve GO-TO accuracy. 2) I used MiloSlick software to control the Mallincam camera, ex. set exposure time, stack images, apply darks, use Histogram, white balance, zoom, etc. The Starsense camera is compatible with other Celestron telescopes: NexStar se series, CPC, CPC dx, NexStar GT (with aux. Splitter), CGE pro, advanced VX, cg-5 (with aux. Splitter), CGEM, CGEM dx, CGE, NexStar SLT, NexStar evolution mounts. Here is a photo of the StarSense camera with my set up.
Sky conditions at FLO varied but were, at times, quite clear, especially at the zenith. I got some decent images that night with the Mallincam Xterminator II and 8” Celestron Evolution Edge HD with StarSense (see below).
Here are a few of the images I captured that evening.
Monthly Challenge Objects
This summer the improvements at the FLO will continue. As you may remember from last fall, we expanded the observing mound. The expansion is more than double the size of the original mound so we will have a lot more room but first we need to level it out and get some grass on it. That will take place fairly soon, likely later in June. At about the same time we will be adding gravel to the access lane to prevent the mud and the ruts we typically get in the spring.
The other project started last fall was the construction of the deck to house the SkyShed Pod for the 14” Meade SCT that was donated to the club. The deck is complete, and the telescope is now installed in it. Currently Tim Cole is working hard to get everything operational and to prepare a user manual. He will be announcing training sessions in late June.
A 6” Astrophysics refractor and dome observatory constructed by Rolf Meier has been donated and will be installed at the FLO sometime this summer. The details of moving and installing this are being worked out and if all goes well, we will be using this long refractor before Thanksgiving.
The electronics wiring on the 18” StarMaster has been upgraded and there is more to come. Some of you may have notice that the electronics on the StarMaster are a little sluggish when the temperature is below -10 C. This is a design limitation and not equipment malfunction. Dave Fedosiewich is leading a project to improve this for next winter. If at any time you experience any problems with the StarMaster, please let Rick Scholes or David Lauzon know immediately (email@example.com).
Another change of note is that we have introduced a test for All users of the 18” StarMaster. You will be required to pass this test before you will be certified to use the telescope solo. This applies to all current users as well. If you are not sure of your status, contract Rick.
Late last fall we re-introduced the user fee for the 18” StarMaster. The annual fee is $30.00 for the period October to September in keeping with our fiscal year. If you get trained on the telescope before October, just add $2.50/month any time after March. All fees are payable to our club treasurer, Oscar Echeverri (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please note that these fees are for use of the StarMaster telescope and not for use of the warm room or the FLO observing site. These are available to all members as a benefit of membership. Also note that a similar fee structure will apply to use of the 14” Meade when it becomes available.
One last note. We are always looking help maintaining the FLO. In the summer the grass needs cutting regularly (we have a mower on site) and in the winter we need the path from the warm room to the observatories and the observing mound cleared of snow. If you feel this is something you could fit into your schedule, even once, please contact Rick or Dave. Your help would be greatly appreciated.
M87 core and Jet – Paul Klauninger
Members In the News
Estelle’s Pick of the Month
Carp Star Parties
Paul Sadler has been working very hard to get the Public Star Parties organized for this season and he has received approval from the City for the following future dates. As always, these are weather dependent and subject to change.
Saturday June 22nd – Star Party at the Carp Public Library / DiefenbunkerRain Date - Friday June 28th
Monday July 1st – Star Party at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (no rain date)
Saturday July 27th – Star Party at the Carp Public Library / Diefenbunker
Rain Date - Friday August 2nd
Saturday August 24th – Star Party at the Carp Public Library / Diefenbunker
Rain Date - Friday August 30th
Saturday September 21st – Star Party at the Carp Public Library / Diefenbunker
Rain Date - Friday September 27th
Saturday September 28th – Star Party at the Astropontiac site in Luskville
No Rain Date
Friday October 18th – Star Party at the Carp Public Library / Diefenbunker
No Rain Date
Other Dates of Interest
Saturday July 1st – Canada Day solar observing at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum
Saturday October 5th – International Astronomy Day (Fall) at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum
FLO Star Party Dates for 2019
Our Ottawa Centre’s Members Star Parties at the FLO will continue this summer. If you haven’t attended before, be sure to mark at least one of these dates on your calendar. You are welcome to bring family members or a guest.
SUMMER & FALL DATES
May 4 – New Moon Good turn-out, great night
June 1 – Waning Crescent Moon, 3.8% illumination No Go
July 6 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 19.7% illumination, sets 11:53P.M.
August 3 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 2 days old, sets 9:51 P.M.
August 31 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 2.4% illumination
Sept 28 – New Moon
October 26 – Waning Crescent Moon, 3.5% illumination
7:30 PM Friday June 7, 2019 at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (directions). Note there is a $4.00 parking fee for museum parking. The meeting runs until 9:30 pm
PLUS: all our regular meeting features: Ottawa Skies, 10-minute Astronomy News Update, Observer Reports, and of course, the beloved Door Prizes!
All RASC monthly meetings are free and open to members and non-members alike. Refreshments will be available, and this will be a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends who share a common interest and chat in a relaxed, stimulating and fun environment. Please join us!
The Ottawa Centre 2018 Council
President: Mike Moghadam (email@example.com)
Vice President: Stephen Nourse
Secretary: Chris Teron (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Treasurer: Oscar Echeverri (email@example.com)
Centre Meeting Chair: Oscar Echeverri (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Councillors: Carmen Rush, Gerry Shewan, Jim Sofia
National Council Representatives: Karen Finstad, Ingrid de Buda
Past President: Tim Cole
2018 Appointed Positions
Membership: Art Fraser
Star Parties: Paul Sadler
Fred Lossing Observatory: David Lauzon & Rick Scholes (email@example.com)
Light Pollution Abatement: OPEN
Public Outreach Coordinator: OPEN
Hospitality: Art & Anne Fraser
Stan Mott Astronomy Library: Estelle Rother
Ted Bean Telescope Library: Darren Weatherall
Webmaster: Mick Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
AstroNotes Editors: Gordon Webster & Douglas Fleming (email@example.com)