Just a little one

I wimped out.

For the first time in three or four months the weather was clear and temperatures were reasonable on a weekend. I meant to go out and do some serious observing, but instead I managed to wipe out my mount’s model of the sky. It’s not an especially arduous thing to rebuild it – five or six synchs on stars on one side of the mount and three or four on the other side would make a good start, but instead I peeped briefly at Saturn and then I cut the session short and retreated back to the house. The temperature hovered around zero, which isn’t really so bad — but I wimped out. Next time….

You there, Murphy?

I suppose it’s a matter of attitude. It’s been months since I’ve done any observing, but tonight it looks as though the sky will be clear and the temperatures will be moderate. I’ve charged up a couple of batteries, the camera is apparently ready to go, and – apart from having to rebuild the sky model on the mount (fat finger syndrome!), the scope looks to be good to go also.

The last time I tried to rebuild the sky model at the start of the season I ran into problems. The ground was very wet, and the mount pillar had sifted slightly. Finding anything was tricky because both transparency and seeing were bad, and I had to wait for quite a while after sunset for everything to settle down. For this evening many of the same conditions will apply – as I walked out to the observatory this afternoon I found there were foot-shaped puddles in my wake and the bubble levels on the mount are seriously off-level, so the mount has shifted again. The mount is down over a meter into the ground, but frost is still having an effect. I suspect there is a lot of water movement going on underground, and that later in the spring the ground will firm up a lot more. In the meantime, I will tread as lightly as I can.

If things don’t work out tonight I will work on a custom horizon for the observatory so that I can try to improve my guess as to when objects will be visible. Come to think of it though, measuring the location of obstructions might be best done with an aligned scope. Hmmm….

Gas prices

It’s fascinating to watch the price of gas over time. You can see the price of gas in various cities across North America and create a graph of prices for each city over the last month, along with a graph of the crude oil price here. Looking at it for recent weeks I see we went from rough parity with Calgary AB to a position where we pay a premium of about 8 cents per litre more than the equivalent price there, all at a time when the current crude oil price has risen – and declined – by a few cents per barrel. [More to come]

A dark moon rises

Last night the moon was going to rise already in eclipse, and a friend decided to have a birthday party to coincide with the event (well, actually the birthday came first…). She lives in Scarborough, very close to Lake Ontario, and the intent was to head over to a local park and watch the moon rise over the lake. Alas! The cloud gods did not smile upon the event, and we were unable to see anything (truth in advertising: I got there late, checked out the sky, and declined to head down to the park in hopes of seeing a break in the clouds).

A little later the clouds did part for a few minutes, so we did see a partially eclipsed moon, but it was too late for moonrise. We should, I suppose, have expected this — the weekend weather lately has been cloudy, and the weeknights have had some great nights — as long as getting up in the morning wasn’t an issue. Can someone please send me winning lottery tickets?!

Weather impact

External power was lost shortly after 2.40 am today, March 2, 2007, and was restored at approximately 5.48 am. Since the outage was lengthy the UPS unit was unable to provide power through the entire period and some data may have been lost since software coverage is incomplete. Freezing rain is the most likely root cause for the external power loss — a number of local roads have been closed due to ice, flooding, downed power lines, and occasional downed trees.