AstroNotes August 2020

Editors Message . Ottawa Skies . The FLO, An Update . Editor’s Message . Submitted Images . Lloyd Higgs - Obituary . Telescope for Sale . Estelle’s Pick of the Month . Announcements . Carp Star Parties . FLO Star Parties . Next Meeting Centre Information

Volume: 

59

Number: 

8

Pages: 

29

Download PDF version: 

How are you holding up? We are into our sixth month of living with this Corona virus and the Ottawa area seems to be cooping reasonably well. I hope you are too.

The weather has been very cooperative this summer with lots of hot nights and clear skies. Hopefully, you have been doing lots of observing. Remember to send me some of your images or sketches.

Restrictions are slowly being lifted. We are now allowed up to 100 people at outdoor events while still allowing for social distancing. That means our members only FLO star parties are back in action although we should keep the numbers to about 12 to 15 given the space available

And speaking of the FLO, this month we have a wonderful article from our FLO Director, Rick Scholes. Rick gives us some history of our private observatory and fills us in on the improvements and enhancements that have taken place recently. Great information for all. Thanks Rick.

As well as our usual monthly features, Hugo Lama shares a creative solution to something that is becoming increasingly popular. Want to use your smartphone for astrophotography be sure to read Hugo’s article.

Sadly, we have lost a lifetime member and former Ottawa Centre and National President, Dr. Lloyd Higgs. A brief article on Lloyd follows.

Clear skies.

Stay safe,

Gordon

Lloyd Albert Higgs

June 21, 1937 ~ July 20, 2020 (age 83)

Lloyd was born in New Brunswick, attended the University of New Brunswick and went to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, receiving his D.Phil. degree in 1961. He then began his career in research with the Radio and Electrical Engineering Division of NRC in Ottawa

As well as being a Rhodes Scholar, a Queen’s Scout, and an esteemed Rotarian Dr. Higgs was one of Canada’s most respected astronomers.

Dr. Higgs joined the RASC shortly after moving to Ottawa and took an active part in a number of capacities, including a term as Ottawa Centre president 1971-72. Always an enthusiastic supporter of the RASC, he contributed many scientific papers and reviews to the Society's publications and edited the Journal from 1976 to 1980. His election as the Society's Second Vice-President in 1984 led to a term as President in 1988-90, during which time he spoke at meetings of nearly all the twenty-two Centres. He received the Service Award in 1983 and as sited in the citation “few professional astronomers have been willing or able to commit themselves so whole-heartedly to the Society, yet he always gave the impression that he was the beneficiary.” On stepping down from his editorial role, Higgs wrote, "the frequent contacts with enthusiastic amateur astronomers were refreshing experiences which never failed to re-kindle my own flagging spirits." Undoubtedly many amateur members feel the same way about their encounters with him.

Ottawa Skies

By Dave Chisholm

 

The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 15:59 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Sturgeon Moon because the large sturgeon fish of the Great Lakes and other major lakes were more easily caught at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Green Corn Moon and the Grain Moon.

Comet NEOWISE

The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. The Perseids are famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. The shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24. It peaks this year on the night of the 11th and morning of the 12th. The second quarter moon will block out some of the fainter meteors this year, but the Perseids are so bright and numerous that it should still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Mercury

Not Visible

Rise/Set 04:26/19:36 -> 07:32/20:08

Venus

Visible before sunrise.

Rise/Set 02:33/17:20 -> 02:38/17:26

Greatest Western Elongation August 13th

Look for Venus just before sunrise.

Mars

Visible before sunrise, late evening at month end

Rise/Set 23:17/11:48 -> 21:41/10:36

Jupiter

Visible evening and through night.

Rise/Set 19:23/04:09 -> 17:17/01:58

Saturn

Visible in the evening and through the night.

Rise/Set 19:48/04:48 -> 17:45/02:41

Uranus

Visible before sunrise. Late evening month end.

Rise/Set 23:49/13:53 -> 21:51/11:54

Neptune

Visible all night.

Rise/Set 22:04/09:27 -> 20:05/07:25

The Fred Lossing Observatory (FLO)

by Rick Scholes, FLO Director

FLO is the Ottawa Centre’s private observatory, located between Almonte and Pakenham, about a thirty-minute drive west of the 417/416 interchange. The address is 365 Bennies Corners Road, Almonte. Use of the site is an Ottawa member privilege. The skies are moderately dark thanks in part to local lighting bylaws and cooperative neighbours. The site accessible all year round, as the entry lane is plowed throughout the winter. A site improvement completed this summer was the addition of gravel to a 60 metre stretch of the entry lane which became very muddy in springtime.

Unless otherwise noted all photos are by Rick Scholes.

Photo by Chris Teron

FLO is the location of our monthly member-only star parties, usually scheduled on a Saturday close to the new moon. If the skies cooperate, they are often well attended. The site has plenty of room for more than a dozen to spread out.

Photo by Chris Teron

Facilities

Long time members will recall that the facility was originally the North Mountain Observatory. It was moved to the current site and renamed the Indian River Observatory in June 1977. Fame quickly ensued when a young member, Rolf Meier, discovered his first comet in June 1978. This made national headlines for being the first comet to be discovered from Canada. In subsequent years four more comets were discovered from FLO using the original 16” telescope, three more by Rolf and one by Doug George. The site was renamed again the Fred Lossing Observatory after his passing in 1998. Fred was instrumental in the creation of the observatory and its unique 16” telescope, for which he won the RASC service award. He also served a term as president of the Ottawa centre.

The grounds contain a clubhouse, which provides respite from the cold in the winter and bugs in the summer. Inside you will find bench seating, space heaters, bug and wasp spray, hand sanitizer, a first aid kit, and logbooks for the observatory going back 50 years (the first entry was made in January 1971). There are several historical plaques and photographs, and an informative poster (donated by former FLO director Bryan Black) describing the history of RASC Ottawa. An ‘FLO historical highlight’ package of Astronotes issues has been compiled, containing a list and details of various significant observatory events that have occurred over the years.

Two donated telescopes located in the clubhouse are available for members to use. There is a 10” f/4 DOB and a 6” f/8 Newtonian (dubbed ‘Harvey’). Both have TelRad finders and there is a set of Antares 1.25” diameter eyepieces which fit these scopes.

Adjacent to the clubhouse, a roll off roof structure contains the 18” f/4.4 Starmaster DOB (donated by Mike Wirths). This telescope replaced the original 16” reflector in 2017. It can be operated in manual or GoTo mode and will accommodate both 1.25” and 2” diameter eyepieces. Operation of the 18” telescope is restricted to those who have received training and requires payment of a small additional annual fee.

Two additional structures which will house different telescopes are currently works in progress. Both are located on the new “north” mound, on the north side of the parking lot. A 14” Meade SCT (donated by Paul Comision) is contained in a SkyShed Pod on a raised deck. A silo structure originally built by Rolf Meier will house a 6” Astrophysics refractor (donated by myself). Both structures will be wired to hydro. Training sessions will be required before members can access these new facilities. Target dates for the commissioning of these scopes are not possible because of delays related to contractor availability and Covid-19.

Photo by Chris Teron

Observing Mounds

There is no charge to use the FLO grounds with your own gear. In 2018 a number of trees were cut down in order to improve the southward view. There is now a larger notch in the tree line spanning about 25 degrees of azimuth which allows views down to an elevation of about 10 degrees. This enables viewing of the low declination Messier objects in Sagittarius, for example.

Over the past year another initiative has been to enlarge the original south observing mound adjacent to the 18” telescope. When complete the mound will be more than doubled in size. This expansion portion of the area is currently off limits until the soil has settled and is seeded. It should be ready for use after the ground dries out in spring 2021. The original south mound area remains in use. Stay to the left of the orange cones.

Electricity is available for members who bring their own gear. There are two duplex outlets on the outside of the 18” roll off roof structure for south mound users. In future (when the two new structures are complete) there will be another external outlet located at one corner of the Skyshed Pod deck on the north mound. Setting up on one of the observing mounds is encouraged, but you can set up anywhere around the perimeter of the parking lot as long as you are mindful of other site users.

Site Use Guidelines

All FLO users should be aware of the following guidelines:

  • first person to arrive opens gate and leaves it open, with the lock locked on it

  • last person out closes and locks the gate (lock it left-handed, see below*)

  • drive slowly on the gravel/dirt lane, which is about 300m long

  • park with your car facing back toward the lane entrance, so that when you leave, your lights are pointing away from others who are there or who may arrive

  • clubhouse door opens with the same combination as the gate

  • fire extinguishers are located in each structure on site

  • logbook entries (including those who bring their own gear) are helpful for us to determine the level of site usage and they make an excellent historical record

  • report any issues to the director by email, as well as recording them in the logbook

Lock de-icer can come in handy during the winter, and I usually carry a bow saw in my car, though I’ve only had to cut my way in through deadfall across the lane once in twelve years. Regarding locking left-handed (*), this is simply a courtesy to the next person opening the gate because it means the numerals will be right side up; particularly helpful when it is cold and dark. See the two photos below; the second photo (showing “1111”, not the actual combination) is also a demonstration of how the set numerals align in the top part, not the middle, of the lock face.

Volunteer Help

RASC pays for hydro at the site, lane snow plowing, and a small rental fee to the landlords, the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA). The MVCA mows most of the parking lot grass for us, but beyond that we operate using volunteer power. During summer, grass on the observing mounds and around the structures needs to be mowed (mower and gas are stored on site). During winter, snow needs to be cleared on pathways to the structures. Occasional site improvement jobs (such as painting, repairs, landscaping, etc.) benefit from small volunteer teams to make the work that much easier. Finally, as the site facilities expand, I envision “telescope primes” to lead the training and maintenance on each of the telescopes. If you are a site user and are able to help in any of these areas, please contact the director.

Further Information

There is a specific Google Group for FLO users called “RASC Ottawa FLO”. It is used to provide occasional email updates on site or equipment conditions as well as notices of training sessions. If you are or would like to be a FLO user, it is a good idea to join this group. To obtain the gate access code, or for more information, or to join the FLO Google Group send an email to: flo@ottawa.rasc.ca. Be sure to indicate if you wish to be on the waiting list for 18” scope training.

Cell Phone Astrophotography Adaptor

By

Hugo Lama

Recently, after reading some questions from RASC members regarding cell phone adapters for telescopes, I made a simple wooden holder to try. Some months ago, as a result of the draw at one of our meetings, I got a 6” Newtonian telescope of questionable pedigree for my son. Usage was delayed by the need to increase the balancing weight on the tripod, that was purchased at one of our swap nights.

On the barrel of this scope there happens to be a clamping device for a support rod near the eyepiece. So, instead of clamping the cell-phone adapter to the eyepiece, I clamped it to the rod. That arrangement allows the cell phone to be swung out of the way for visual observations. (By the way, I clamped a metal clamp of approximately the weight of the cell phone to the other end of the telescope tube as counterbalance.)

It is the first time I have tried using a cell phone with a telescope and I find that the results are surprisingly good for an object like the Moon.

The issues are:

  • Once the object is centered in the eyepiece, swinging the cell phone over the eyepiece and locking it in place invariably shakes the telescope somewhat off target.

  • It’s a bit tricky to centre the cell phone’s camera on the field of view, as there is no indent or guiding pin to accurately make the alignment.

  • You need to take dozens of shots in hopes that you will get some that are not blurry, especially if you forget that your cell phone has a trigger delay feature. Even so, you need to practice just barely pressing the trigger, so as not to shake the telescope, as any motion may take some time to dampen out. (Only afterwards did I discover that my phone happens to have voice control, so that there need not be any physical contact.)

  • As for focus, after you focus on the object by eye, you are at the mercy of the cell phone’s focussing algorithm. I tried putting the cell phone’s green rectangle on an area that had some contrasting detail.

  • Because the cell phone lens is very small, it matches the exit pupil not badly, even that of a 12.5 mm eyepiece.

Some of the phone cameras have several useful options that you can try. Bottom line is that you need to do some experimenting on your own to find the optimum settings and procedure.

The equipment:

The telescope is a 6” Newtonian mounted on a just adequate equatorial mount. The photos were taken with a Samsung cell phone camera with an 8 Mb resolution, auto focus and exposure.

The images:

The Moon 2020/7/29 at 22:35 EDT. The complete Moon images were taken with a wide angle, long eye-relief eyepiece at about 50X.

The Moon 2020/7/28 at 21:15 EDT.

The Moon 2020/7/29 at 22:30 EDT.

The close ups were taken at about 100X with a 12.5mm eyepiece. And of course, you now see the round cut off by the telescope’s narrower field of view.

With this combination of eyepiece and camera lens, I noticed that the focus is not uniformly sharp across the field of view. So in this view the craters on top are quite sharp, but those at the bottom are a little softer.

Jupiter and 4 of its moons 2020/8/6 23:16

With wide angle, long eye-relief eyepiece at about 50X with voice command shutter trigger. This image is a stack of three of the best shots from about 30. The moon on the left is partially in the glare of Jupiter. I assume the glare is caused by the light leaking to adjacent cells in the sensor.

Monthly Challenge Objects

By Oscar Echeverri

Submitted Images

Simeis 57, the Propeller Nebula by Calvin Klatt

Comet NEOWISE by Calvin Klatt

This image was taken from the custodian’s campsite at the Alpine Club of Canada’s property at Bon Echo Provincial Park on the evening of July 24, 2020.  The camera is a ZWO ASI294MC pro (uncooled) attached to a Canon 18-55mm “kit” lens on a very small star-tracking tripod/mount.

The moon was illuminating large amounts of wispy cloud making the dim comet difficult to locate.  Nevertheless, a dozen rock climbers were able to see (eventually, using averted vision) the comet with the naked eye from the Alpine Club’s dock.  For most of them it will be the only time in their life they will have seen a comet.

Calvin Klatt

Telescope for Sale

Revised - For Sale: Celestron 11-inch SCT, with Pier and accessories

Vintage Celestron 11-inch SCT with fork mount and equatorial wedge, RA clock drive, setting circles, and steel square-tube pier with multi-adjustable levelling for perfect alignment.

Revised Package includes:

  • 10x40 straight-through finder scope

  • Telrad* finder

  • Foam dew shield

  • 2-inch 90-degree star diagonal

  • 2-inch Erfle* 35-mm eyepiece (80x)

  • 2-inch to 1¼-inch eyepiece adapter

  • Original manual

* The Erfle eyepiece and Telrad are fitted with included custom anti-dew heater system.

Very nice optics (2800-mm focal length, f/10 focal ratio) for deep-sky objects, double stars, planets, and the Moon. This is a wonderful platform for visual observing, astrophotography, and sketching at the eyepiece.

New firm price of $2,500 (for Kanata pick-up only). Contact brian.brightstar@gmail.com

Estelle’s Pick of the Month

The Library is closed until our physical meetings resume

Announcements

International Astronomy Day, Fall

  • Saturday, September 26

Carp Star Parties

  • Here is the schedule for our Public Star Parties for the summer. Thanks Paul.

  • PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL PUBLIC STAR PARTIES ARE ON HOLD UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE DUE TO THE VIRUS THAT CAN’T BE NAMED!!!

    • Friday, May 22 Canceled

    • Friday June 19 - Canceled

    • Friday, July 17 - Canceled

    • Saturday, August 15

    • Saturday, September 12

    • Saturday, October 10

FLO Star Party Dates for 2020

  • 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. The GO/NO GO call will be made on the Centre mailing list, about noon the day of the star party.

SUMMER & FALL DATES

  • July 18 – Waning Crescent, 27 days old – NO GO

  • August 22 – Waxing Crescent, 3 days, 19.7% illumination

  • September 19 - Waxing Crescent, 2 days old, 9.1% illumination

  • October 17 – Waxing Crescent, 1 day old, 2% illumination

  • November 14 – Waning Crescent, 29 days old, .01% illumination

  • December 12 – Waning Crescent, 27 days old, 4.2% illumination

Next Meeting

7:30 PM Friday September 11, 2020 THIS WILL BE A VIRTUAL MEETING ON ZOOM. Watch for email updates. Note there will be no $4.00 parking fee. The meeting runs until 9:30 pm

PLUS: all our regular meeting features: Ottawa Skies, 10-minute Astronomy News Update, Observation Reports and, sadly, no 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!

Centre Information

To subscribe (or unsubscribe) to our members-only discussion list (rascottawa@googlegroups.com ) please contact secretary@ottawa.rasc.ca .

The Ottawa Centre 2020 Council
President: Mike Moghadam (president@ottawa.rasc.ca)
Vice President: Stephen Nourse
Secretary: Chris Teron (secretary@ottawa.rasc.ca)
Treasurer: David Parfett (treasurer@ottawa.rasc.ca)
Centre Meeting Chair: Dave Chisholm (meetingchair@ottawa.rasc.ca)
Councillors: Carmen Rush, Gerry Shewan, Jim Sofia
National Council Representatives: Karen Finstad, OPEN
Past President: Tim Cole

2020 Appointed Positions
Membership: Art Fraser
Star Parties: Paul Sadler
Fred Lossing Observatory: Rick Scholes (flo@ottawa.rasc.ca)

Light Pollution Abatement: OPEN

Public Outreach Coordinator: Jean-Sebastien (JS) Gaudet

Hospitality: Art & Anne Fraser
Stan Mott Astronomy Library: Estelle Rother
Ted Bean Telescope Library: Darren Weatherall
Webmaster: Mick Wilson (webmaster@ottawa.rasc.ca)
AstroNotes Editors: Gordon Webster & Douglas Fleming (astronotes@ottawa.rasc.ca)