Time To Pull The Plug

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Modern-xiafs Updated to 4.x Series Kernels

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It’s rather been a while since I’ve worked on the xiafs module, but while I was flying to NYC last week I ended up working on it some on the plane and got it caught up with more the recent Linux kernels.

Specifically, kernel version 4.0.9 still works with the 3.16.4 branch, so there were no changes there. Kernel version 4.1.3 and kernel version 4.4.0 had very small updates, so they have their own branches. I haven’t tested any 4.2 or 4.3 kernels, but I expect they would work with one or the other of those branches.

The usual warnings about this still apply; you’d be crazy to use this on a production box, and while it should work fine it could conceivably blow your computer up or something. Don’t forget the whole 2GB volume/64MB max file size limitation either.

Astro Log: December 30th, 2015

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Equipment: Orion Skyview 6 Deluxe EQ, Nikon 10x50 binoculars (new item), 32mm TeleVue Plössl eyepiece (new item), 9mm Planetary eyepiece.

Previously viewed objects: Messier 42, Messier 45, Messier 31

Not much of a night out, but I did get to try out the TeleVue 32mm Plössl eyepiece I picked up a couple of months ago finally, along with the 10x50 binoculars I got for Christmas. Both were very nice, but while it was a reasonably clear night it was awfully humid. The eyepieces and the binoculars were fogging up a lot (hairdryer to the rescue there), and there was rather more of a haze than I like. I used the 6” scope instead of the Dob because I didn’t want to move a bunch of wood from a woodworking project I’ve been working on when what I mostly wanted to do was test out a particular eyepiece anyway.

The Orion Nebula looked amazing in the new 32mm, though. The binoculars were also really nice, but I think they’ll really shine when I’m out in the dark somewhere and can use them to look at some truly large structures. I think one of those folding chairs you can lay down in would be helpful, though; the 10x50s are small enough that you can use them without a tripod, but they’re still a bit heavy to hold steady and crane your neck at weird angles.

Astro Log: July 17th-18th 2015

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Equipment: 16” Dobsonian, 102mm Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope, 55mm, 32mm, 25mm, 12mm TeleVue, 9mm & 6mm Edge-On Planetary eyepieces, Paracorr, 12mm illuminated reticle eyepiece.

New objects observed: NGC 6426, NGC 6118, NGC 7142, NGC 5976A, NGC 5981, NGC 2403, NGC 2655, NGC 2715, NGC 6356, NGC 6342, NGC 6217,

Previously viewed objects: Venus, IC 4665, Messier 7, Saturn, Titan, NGC 5557, NGC 5866/“Messier 102”, NGC 5907, Messier 31, Messier 32, Messier 110, NGC 404, Messier 33, NGC 6633, Messier 51, NGC 5195, NGC 7000, NGC 7009, Messier 13, NGC 6207

Once again, I went to the Tacoma Astronomical Society’s Goldendale star party, and a fine time was had. This year I took my daughter with me, and while she only spent a little time observing and kept going to bed early, I think she had a decent enough time.

This year I brought two telescopes: both the trusty 16” Dobsonian, and the 102mm Maksutov-Cassegrain I picked up back in December that I haven’t been able to use much. I wanted to take some time trying out the Mak-Cas at a dark site, and while I didn’t spend as much time with it as I did with the Dob, I got some very nice views of Saturn with that telescope. I also tried out the illuminated reticle I got for Christmas and did a very good polar alignment with the Mak-Cas. It ended up being accurate enough that actually turning the RA knob knocked it more out of alignment than anything else, so I think that was a success. I’m not sure if it was quite an astrophotography quality alignment, because the mount itself wasn’t as stable as it should have been, but it’s worth experimenting some more.

I also got a lot of use out of the adjustable chair I also got for Christmas. I swear, this is one of the best things I’ve ever bought for myself. No longer do I need to make myself an absolute wreck by contorting myself for hours to look through the telescope. I also learned a neat trick to rub Pledge on the moving surfaces of the Dob (on the Teflon pads and the Formica) to help it move smoothly and not stick. I haven’t fully reassembled it yet, but already it seems to be moving like a dream. I had noticed that it was harder to use lately, but thought that it was just me.

As far as observing went, I had a pretty good go of it on these nights, as you can see above. I observed quite a few more new objects, and M51 was particularly noteworthy in its appearance. I could see well defined spiral arms in that galaxy. I should have looked at M81 to see how it looked in those skies, but failed to get around to it.

Astro Log: June 7th 2015

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Equipment: 16” Dobsonian, 55mm, new 9mm & 6mm Edge-On Planetary eyepieces, Paracorr

New objects observed: Iapetus

Previously viewed objects: Saturn, Titan, Tethys, Dione, Rhea

It’s been a pretty brutal time for trying to get viewing time in for a while now. It was finally “clear” last week, so I took the Dobsonian out to try out the Edge-On Planetary 6 and 9mm eyepieces from Orion that I got a while back. I tried to knock off some Herschel 400 objects, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me that night. I did get a look at Saturn and saw five moons: Titan, Dione, Rhea, Tethys, and Iapetus. Iapetus, as far as I can tell from my notes, is a new one at least. Unfortunately planets aren’t so great in the Dobsonian, but Saturn looked reasonably attractive as usual — just not as clear as I might have liked. No complaints about the eyepieces, though. I want to try them with a faster telescope sometime, and in better (and clearer) skies to see how they perform there.

Moving Along

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I am sad, but also excited, to announce that after 11 years I am leaving Daily Kos and joining Raintank, where I will be working on monitoring software and doing devsy-opsy.

It’s been a long and interesting ride at Daily Kos. I went through many election cycles, met lots of interesting people, learned a lot of things, had to solve a lot of difficult problems, and worked with some amazing people. It’s the only job that my kids have ever known me to have. Hell, Daily Kos even once saved my life.

I’m sad to be moving on, but I’m very excited about what I’ll be doing now. It doesn’t have the glamour of politics, but monitoring is important. I’m looking forward to it.

Kossack friends, I’ll still be on Twitter, reading the site, and hopefully poking my head up from time to time. Rest assured that my political opinions remain unchanged, and that I will not become a conservatist once I’m out the door. You’re in good hands with the rest of the tech team; they do good work, and you won’t have any problems with them. One nice thing about my moving on, actually, is that it provided the catalyst to address a lot of tech debt that had accumulated over the years, so it should be even smoother now in many ways.

Good luck, and farewell. See you on the Internets.

Astro Log: December 14th, 2014

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Equipment: 102mm Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope, 32mm, 25mm, 15mm, 12.4mm eyepieces, tabletop mount, AstroMaster 76’s mount.

New objects observed: none

Previously viewed objects: Messier 44, Messier 45, Messier 42, NGC 1981, Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Trapezium

New equipment! A 102mm Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope from Orion with a tabletop mount, suitable for packing in one’s luggage and taking on a trip.

Click the image for a larger view.
Click me.

There weren’t any new observations this night, but I did get first light on a new telescope. For a while now, I’ve wanted a small portable telescope that I could fit into my luggage and take with me on a trip. My other telescopes are portable, sure, but they take up a lot of room and can be hard to fit in the car if there’s too much other stuff. This telescope is a 102mm Orion Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope paired with a tabletop equatorial mount. This was the first clear night since I got the telescope, and I was determined to make use of it. I bundled up like I was going skiing and headed out.

I only used the tabletop mount briefly. It worked fine, but unfortunately I didn’t have a very sturdy table to use, and the 45º erecting prism wasn’t really enough to get convenient looks through the eyepiece. I think it will work fine on a more stable surface, and I’m getting a 90º star diagonal as well which should make it easier to use as well. Despite its small size, the mount appears to be quite sturdy. Polar alignment’s a little tricky, but that can be worked with. Even if I did astrophotography, though, I don’t think I’d use this mount for that anyway. The telescope does kind of push the mount’s boundaries a bit, but it’s still within the weight limits listed for the mount. This telescope fits the mount that came with my Celestron AstroMaster 76, though, so for convenience’s sake I just switched it over to that for the rest of the night.

It would be better if this scope shipped with a 90º diagonal instead of a 45º one, but I don’t have any other complaints about this telescope. The optics looked good, and while the main reason I got it was for the portability I think it will be useful for looking at planets, double stars, and other small but reasonably bright objects. Jupiter looked pretty good, although seeing was kind of crap. M42 was easily visible, although obviously without the same majesty you would see in the 16” Dobsonian. I think it will work great for what I wanted it for, but I wouldn’t want it to be my only telescope or anything.

I had some trouble with eyepieces dewing up, and the AstroMaster’s mount isn’t exactly the most stable mount in existence, so I didn’t get to use the telescope’s full potential. Still, it was pretty cool, and I look forward to using it more.

Modern-xiafs Updated to 3.16.4/3.17.0 Kernels

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I’ve been busy with work and goiardi lately, but I recently checked to see how modern-xiafs did against the 3.16.4 and 3.17.0 Linux kernels. The file ops functions changed subtly again, so there’s a small update to modern-xiafs to work with those kernels. The same update fixes it for both kernels, at least, so there’s only one version of the module for both kernels.

Usual warnings and statements from before, as always, still apply.

Astro Log: July 27th, 2014

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Equipment: 16” Dobsonian, 55mm, 12mm TeleVue eyepiece, Paracorr.

New objects observed: NGC 6756, NGC 6802, NGC 7086, NGC 7128

Previously viewed objects: Messier 13, NGC 6755, Coathanger

This was only the third night I was able to get out this year. It sucks, but I did get some new objects at least.

Messier 13 is, of course, not a new object. My six year old son had expressed a desire to look at something in the telescope though, so I went and got it in view before I went to try and wake him up. He insisted he wanted me to wake him up to look at stuff in the sky, but when it came time to actually get out of bed, he dug in and stayed there.

After that I headed off to try and tackle some more difficult objects. Of the various Herschel 400 objects, with the light pollution here and the time of year it is most of the ones I can get end up being open clusters. In addition to reobserving NGC 6755 and the Coathanger, I viewed NGC 6756, NGC 6802, NGC 7806, and NGC 7128. NGC 6756 was particularly difficult, only barely visible with averted vision with the 12mm eyepiece. None of them were particularly interesting either, sadly.