May 2014

AstroCATS recap -fantastic show!

If you already haven’t you should add AstroCATS to your pantheon of annual astronomical must do's!

I missed the inaugural meet last spring but I won’t be missing any in the future if I can help it! Think of it as StarFest without the night under the stars. Increase the number of vendors by five or ten, keep the lecture series and there you have it!

This years event was held on the weekend of May 3-4th at the Hamilton campus of Mohawk College. It was hosted by the Hamilton Centre of the RASC.
In my humble opinion it is quite truly a warm up for the years star events in our neck of the Universe. I ran into so many friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was great! I must have been in this hobby for a while now I seem to know quite a lot of people!
The lecture scheduled into two halls for the whole of Saturday and until mid afternoon Sunday. I attended keynote speaker Damien Peach’s Skype lecture on imaging Jupiter through the ages...absolutely amazing! I was familiar with the evolution of planetary imaging but Damien’s talk began with the earliest sketching's at the dawn of telescopic observations of the great planet. A side visit to Mars (and a few other places) were included for our enjoyment. It boggles the mind to know that in this day and age someone is imaging the planets pretty much around the clock. All it takes is well under $10,000 of equipment and the desire. This is the gift that technology has been to amateur astronomy!
One of Damian Peach's Mars images

I have to note that I enjoyed particularly a late substitution for an absent Sky and Telescope magazine speaker. In my opinion it was a fortunate thing, or I would not know as much as I do now about ancient Egyptian astronomy. Sarah Symonds is a McMaster University professor in the Astronomy and Physics Department. She took us through the latest interpretations of Egyptian descriptive texts (written in hieroglyphs), astronomical tables, depictions of the sky on the ceilings of temples and tombs, and small instruments such as sundials.  One of the unique features of Egyptian astronomical activity she explained was of the construction of "star clocks", tables of star names charting the position of constellations through the nights of the year.  Her interest is in trying to deduce the way these tables were developed and the observational methods used to construct them.
(The Egyptians had a 360 day year with 36 ten day “weeks”. They evened out the discrepancy with the actual year by holding a five day party at the end of the official 360 day!)
I can’t say enough about another speaker, Ron Brecher. I met Ron at StarFest last year. At AstroCATS he gave two lectures on image processing and I missed the first. This man is what this hobby is all about -the love of the universe and sharing. If you would like to see some of the magic that Ron performs with Pixinsight image processing software go to . In an entertaining fashion Ron lead us through some typical image processing step-by-step and explained each with actual examples! It seems like magic to me...we have such power with easily obtainable and affordable tools! Ron enjoys sharing his knowledge. Also note that you haven’t missed him...he is at StarFest this summer!
As I said there were lots of vendors with goods to offer. Atik cameras were here from the UK...Rock Mallin brought his whole shop and staff from Ottawa. Also there were several clubs and associations in attendance. It filled up a full sized basketball court...I came for both days...I was not bored on day two!
Above: Rock Mallin bragging about his new 14 inch Carbon fibre scope.

I didn’t go with a shopping list but came home with some new software and an order for a tracking platform for my 16 inch Meade Dobsonian...that’s right, I said tracking (for a Dob)! The darn thing has a guide port, three axis controls and a handheld remote! Skystopper equatorial platform inventor Steve Germann of Burlington Ontario is a genius! His creation is described here It is Canadian...and it is currently the best in the world!

Steve Germann and his tracking platform for Dobsonian telescopes

Brett Tatton