Open Clusters, CAO

Just about two years ago I photography the 32 objects in the summer chapter of Turn Left at Orion. Not thinking I would ever exhibit those pieces, I shot .jpg only, but, lo, I have been invited to a fabulous exhibition towards the end of the year (details eventual) that will allow me to produce both star fields and pinhole works.

I just returned from the CAO, a new moon weekend, and stayed up until 4am on Saturday evening to re-photograph in RAW the open clusters from the summer chapter, and all the others that Sky Safari identified as being visible that night. 29 objects in total, listed below, plus M31 and 31 (at bottom) because I was there.

I did manage to shoot some darks in the midst of it, but totally forgot to finish the night with some more in spite of trying to remind myself of it. I used Antares and Deneb, variously, to lock focus, and got a bit frustrated that I worked too slowly to stay on the east side of the meridian. By the time I got to M26, the scope flipped and I needed to refocus. But when I re-pointed to M26, the scope flipped again. On Phil’s encouragement I skipped a few objects to return to later, in favour of getting to objects further east and north in the galaxy. Of course, by 3:45am when I returned to M26, M11, and M73, I didn’t have the energy to get the focus right. And I found myself re-aligning the scope at 2am, which definitely improved my pointing (even though I took my time and used the 14mm reticle eyepiece to align earlier).

I have some ideas for what I will do with these for the exhibition, and for direct positive pinholes…looking forward to working through it.

Oh yeah, last night, though I packed up early, I saw M17, Omega Nebula (part of the Swan, which I’ve imaged previously but never looked at) – very lovely with my 24mm eyepiece.

NGC 457
NGC 559
NGC 663
NGC 752
NGC 869
NGC 884
NGC 6451
NGC 6882
NGC 6888
NGC 7243
NGC 7635
NGC 7789

Andromeda galaxy, rough pshop hack with a few darks and stack of 2

Andromeda galaxy, rough pshop hack with a few darks and stack of 2

Posted in Exhibitions, Making Art | Leave a comment

Jupiter, webcam manual stack

So, I exported an image sequence from some video I grabbed of Jupiter early in the evening yesterday. Randomly opened five in pshop and manually stacked. Here’s my first stacked image of Jupiter.

5 frame manual stack.

5 frame manual stack.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Saturn Opposition 2016

Right on.

I set up in the THO. I had to align twice because something was loose. I shot Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn with my dSLR, and then I stuck my planetary camera on the scope. Last year I totally failed at using this camera. This year, I stuck it on, couldn’t find focus, re-centred the planet in my telrad, and found the focus. Just like that. Then Bill told me to stick it on the 14″ in the GBO, so I did. I exported an image sequence from my .mov file and then Bill did a quick Registax stack before I tweaked it a bit in Photoshop. So there. Maybe I will do a manual stack of Jupiter – it is really great these days. Tonight I will test some wide field of the Milky Way using my iOptron sky tracker, and maybe, just maybe, look at the Spring chapter of Turn Left at Orion again.

Saturn at opposition, June 3, 2016, with C14 at the CAO.

Saturn at opposition, June 3, 2016, with C14 at the CAO.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Imminent Opposition

I was incredibly preoccupied this past year finishing production for my modeling views exhibition, which went up without too much fuss in January. And then I crashed.

I’m back in Ontario for the spring and summer and have spent the last two weekends at the CAO. The first, I tested some star trail exposures in preparation for the Beginner’s Astro Imaging Workshop of the RASC-Toronto Centre, taking place at the CAO in June. I got wrangled into being the lead mentor, and will be the point-person for star trails for any of the 19 participants who might be interested.

Blake helped me to ascertain that the lead-acid battery in my power tank is dead (see Bad Bat), and helped me along in creating two DC>CLA cables for the two cheapo lithium-ion batteries that should be able to power my sky tracker and dew controller. I verified they likely will not power my CGEM for very long at all. Supergenius also had a Bad Bat, and picked one up at Sayal; I will too, tomorrow, so that I can re-assemble my Power Tank. Hopefully without causing a minor explosion or zapping myself.

This past weekend was the Spring Work Party. I totally commandeered the pressure washer and cleaned up the front deck and the double switch-back wheelchair access ramp. 7 hours of non-stop pressure washing. It was awesome. And my body still hurts (for obvious reasons, but also because the black flies got me on my arm, my shin, my left ear, my solar plexus, and twice under my bra. Seriously.).

I was going to cancel my already-scheduled visit to the CAO this coming weekend, because my body still hurts (I also helped my sister move houses yesterday). But lo – Saturn is at opposition early Friday morning. I might even need to head there early, on Thursday, so that I can set up to try to image during the night of actual opposition, and give myself two more chances on Friday and Saturday. We’ll see.

Posted in Carr Astronomical Observatory, Observing | Leave a comment

real-time-slow-motion (all night sun) – Out of Site

A bit late in the posting, but here is some documentation of my video real-time-slow-motion (all night sun), which Earl Miller curated as part of his Out of Site: Contemporary Art Works On Queen St. West in early October, 2015.

The Queen Mother Café was a most wonderful host, and it was really great to present such a simple and quiet piece on the night of the craziness that is Nuit Blanche in Toronto. I am grateful for the help of Dave Kemp and Jackson Smylie for installation, and for Earl for seeing what I see in this work.

Here are some images, and a bit of my adapted statement.

before sunset.

before sunset.

after midnight.

after midnight.

Horowitz_Sol_DSC8014 Horowitz_Sol_DSC8034

crazy crowds.

crazy crowds.

real-time-slow-motion (all night sun) is a 30-minute video loop of the sun, presented from sundown until sunrise in early October, 2015. The HD video was captured using a high-resolution digital camera back connected to a telescope using a hydrogen-alpha filter, which captures wavelengths of light that permit observation of sun spots and prominences. Video was captured during summer 2015 at the Carr Astronomical Observatory in Blue Mountain, Ontario, which is stewarded by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Toronto centre, of which I am a member.

The sun is a fire ball, violently active, and yet its pace is so slow as to be invisible to our unmediated senses. In the video the sun appear nearly unchanging. The cosmos is real-time-slow-motion.

I keep returning to On Kawara and his sensibility about being and/in time. He made date paintings for close to fifty years, subtitling each piece from 1966 until 1972, when there was a 34 year-long gap. At the end of that gap, in February 2006, his chosen subtitle, translated, was “To view the earth with cosmic consciousness.” This feels impossible, unthinkable, incomprehensible…and yet I want to try.

So much of my work has involved collecting and durational practices and I tend to shoot lengths of video that are presented un-edited. With Trio, I presented un-edited synchronized footage of my best performances of a Franz Schubert composition for piano, cello, and violin, after just 7 weeks of learning, and limited musical training). With Blurry Canada, I presented hundreds of hours of video that I captured during a road-trip across the country and back, on two monitors (eastbound and westbound). The un-cut loop runs 2-3 weeks long, depending on gallery hours. In other, 2-dimensional, works, the time taken to make the thing is at least loosely evident, like with my 10×10” cross-stitch piece of the largest Globular Cluster in the Milky Way, Omega Centauri.

These practices pay attention to real time and its presentation.

Posted in Carr Astronomical Observatory, Exhibitions, Making Art | Leave a comment

Flappy Rings story in pictures

As I await delivery of JR connectors and a crimping tool, I have assembled the 29 rings, got the code to work (with a great deal of help from Rob and Ray), threw most of them up on the wall of the garage, and figured I could post some pictures in process.

01-prototype-IMG_9510 02-pileorings-IMG_9599 03-rings-cut-IMG_9606 04-rayassemblyinstructDSC_0012 05-pileoservos_DSC7614 06-base-stacks_DSC7505 07-support-stacks_DSC7517 08-pileoservos_DSC7614 09-spacers_DSC7616  11-servosready_DSC7618 12-readyforservosIMG_9886 14-3servosmounted_DSC7626 16-garage-mounting_DSC7637


bad solder.


really bad solder.


Posted in Arduino, Making Art | Leave a comment

July 16 &17, CAO – Orion Cam Fail; Photo 101; fog

So – Thursday night skies were not fabulous but good enough for ‘practice’, as Blake said, luring me from the kitchen and my hot chocolate back to the observatory. I can’t get an image on my Orion Solar System IV Camera – I have been able to in the past (with some focus and centering difficulty, and my old macbook pro), but not with my new mbp nor my new pc laptop.

After much frustration, Blake helped: pointed to Vega, adjusted focus while he fiddled with the very poorly designed image resolving software provided by Orion, and can you imagine: whenever I moved more closely in to focus, the star disappeared! Black screen. Nudge the focus just a touch, and it reappeared. Something is weird. And it is not just me. So…next time (maybe tonight, though it will be busy here this eve) I will try the ms Amcap software, see if I fare better with it. I may need to invest on a better astro cam, because I am totally failing at Saturn image capture this year.

I am also still struggling with finding the right mov>avi conversion software. Winff does not produce viewable/usable files.

Yesterday, Friday, it was grey and blustery – I think Blake said the winds reached 60km/h, gale force. It was pretty lovely out, and the air was so soft, since we were sitting in clouds basically.

Dietmar gave a Photo 101 workshop, which was awesome, and graciously allowed me to do my favourite camera meter black-white-grey demo. As you can see in the image below, if you let the camera ‘balance’ the exposure at EV 0 (zero), it will offer an average metering that aims to make everything look middle grey. From left to right, that is a white wall, a grey shirt, and a dark navy jacket – and all look identically middle grey as per a ‘balanced’ meter reading. On the far right, you can see that by exposing the dark subject 2.5 stops ‘under’, you can actually get an accurate rendering of tonal value. See Ansel Adams. As per the Zone System, white will be around 3 stops ‘over’ EV zero to have details, and black around 3.5 to 4 stops. So..unless you want everything to look grey: learn how to control exposure!!

What a camera meter sees.

What a camera meter sees.

Enough lecturing. The evening was sweet and the white lights were on, so this:

CAO-fog02_DSC7544 CAO-fog01_DSC7549 Today, Andrew Wright and his family are joining us and I am so excited to welcome them! The skies look promising and Blake has giant bubbles. Happy weekend.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

mid-summer blues

It is July 15th and the summer feels so close to ending already, the next 5 weeks will go very quickly.

I have not made it back to the CAO since last new moon, but I will head there tomorrow and the forecast looks like there might be one good imaging night. I have purchased Backyard Nikon, and downloaded software for SkyNyx – I will do some driveway testing tonight so that I am not fumbling so much with learning tomorrow, and can hopefully just start capturing images. I am looking forward to hanging out with the gang, and Andrew Wright and his family are joining as my guests on Saturday night: I can not wait to see Sam and Lucy’s reactions to seeing things through the telescopes.

At AstroCats I purchased a Telrad to replace my crappy finder scope, which I think has been a source of problems with alignment. It always moves, and so if I am unable to set up before dark, and find a distant object to use to align the finder scope, I’m pretty much screwed – this was my first ‘wrong silo blues’ issue (amongst others), and I think the issue I had at Davin with Rob C. in May. Phil and Chris came out for moral support and to help me install the Telrad, and that first test of accuracy was successful and hugely relieving. Tonight on the driveway I will fine tune it against stars, and hopefully that will be that.

As for Imaging Saturn…I have yet to capture any usable data this year so far. I think after this weekend I will plan two more visits to the CAO, whatever the state of the moon, so long as the forecast is hopeful. I hope to end up back at Grasslands during the labour day weekend, but I will be on battery power there, and I have no idea if the smoke from the horrible forest fires will inhibit the seeing at that point (it sounds like it, there was a report that the fires will burn until the snow starts to fall).

I am also way behind on processing my 2011-2014 images for the Winnipeg exhibition…I have the pc laptop and Registax, and have found what I think is functional software for converting my .mov files to .avi (Lee H. pointed out to me that it’s likely re-writing the metadata/headerfooter, rather than re-processing, hence the quick conversion times, which makes complete sense). I just need to convert a bunch of files and start really learning how to use Registax.

In the meanwhile, I have spent the past month setting up studio in the garage and have been preparing the fabricated materials that Ray sent to me for the Flappy Rings (I am making 29 wall-mounted kinetic pieces that will loosely depict the ring-angles for each year of Saturn’s orbit, along with the appearance of the rings as the planet rises and sets over any given evening). I purchased two 16-channel PWM servo drivers from Adafruit, soldered and resoldered them, fixed my bad ground connection to the barrel jack, and played with the code (all with a bit of help from Ray, Rob, Garnet, and some good fb encouragement), and was able to run a full-size version to stress test the servo against the weight of the ring. A bit more fine tuning is needed, but I ran it for 8 hours and the gears do not seem to be stripping, no backlash, and so I ordered the remaining servos. The next weeks I will need to finish assembly and wiring for all 29, and maybe try to find a local gallery or studio where I can do a rough install. Ray is working on the Orbiter in Winnipeg, and I will spend more time there in late August before the semester begins.

Time is running short, I feel it, and the next six months until install will be pretty intense. Speaking of time, I submitted a proposal to a UAAC panel on the topic of art and temporality (in contrast to art and spatiality)…I will be there in Halifax in November in any event, but it will be nice to write about and present some research about art and spacetime in multiple senses. I hope it is a successful proposal!

In the meantime…I also am looking forward to shooting a lot more video of the Sun through a hydrogen-alpha filter…I may have found my all-night venue to screen a Real-Time-Slow-Motion loop of this in Toronto this fall, I’ll post more about it once confirmed. Life is good. The garden (and bunnies) are growing. And dusk is coming so I’ll get myself prepped for my evening driveway testing.

Posted in Carr Astronomical Observatory, Exhibitions, Imaging Equipment and Telescopes, Research/Creation | Leave a comment

CAO, first 2015 visit

It is really great to be back in Ontario for the summer, and to enjoy my first weekend back at the CAO. Ian and I walked the Margaret Paul Trail, and under the supervision of Blake, Elaine, and Tony, I set up for a night of imaging in the Tony Horvatin Observatory. It’s not in the melee of the gang, but protected from the wind and a really great place to do some imaging with computers without disturbing everyone with the extra light.

I thought I might capture some Saturn Friday night with my planetary camera and the club SkyNyx, which I borrowed – but I totally failed at getting an image on screen. Getting the focus is a real production, if the planet is not dead-centrered, but I think the real problem was being patient in adjusting gain and exposure levels. I did some daytime testing yesterday and was able to quite easily get some alien trees in the distance, though I have to follow up with Blake’s suggestion for capture with the SkyNyx.

In the meantime, having done the Summer chapter of Turn Left at Orion last year I thought I might try the Spring chapter (though, admittedly, on June 20th, late spring.) Blake printed up for me an observing list based on best times and off I went. The first several objects had already set or were behind the house, and eventually I stopped shooting the stars (variables and doubles) for boredom and went straight for the galaxies.

I think I got three nice shots, of Bodes M81, The Black Eye M64, and the Whirlpool Galaxy M51. I used Deep Sky Stacker on my pc laptop, then Photoshop on my mac, and with some basic processing lessons from Steve and Dietmar I did okay, I think. Considering I don’t use PEC or a guide scope – on this note, Ian showed me a new way to balance RA and DEC so that the worm gears are working against the gravity in both directions and I can see a clear difference.

Bodes is 90s, stack of 3 plus 1 dark
Whirlpool is 45s, stack of 4 plus 1 dark.
Black Eye is 45s, stack of 5, plus 1 dark.

We got clouded out for the rest of the weekend so I have packed up and will drive home soon and then have a lovely evening of Scrabble with some friends. The next couple of weeks will be focused on image preparation for my Modeling Views show, and continuing work on the Flappy Rings. Nice way to spend a summer at work and leisure.


Bodes M81


Black Eye Nebula M64

Whirlpool-dss-autostack-save 2-processed-wcolour.

Whirlpool Galaxy M51

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Modeling Views Update

It really has been some time since I last posted, primarily because throughout the fall and winter semesters I have been truly unable to work on the Modeling Views project in any depth. It has been a busy year. Some highlights…

I finished my Omega Centauri globular cluster cross stitch and included it in the Word Problems exhibition at the Else Scherle Gallery at Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre (scans and patterns of which also ended up at Art Toronto with MKG127 and at TPW’s Photorama).

Omega Centauri cross-stitch, 10x10", 2014

Omega Centauri cross-stitch, 10×10″, 2014

20 Trees of Canada were acquired by DFAIT and mounted at Canada House in London as part of the refurbished building and art collection, and Andrew Wright and I had a fabulous trip out there. Here’s a link to the collection.


Sitting gracefully by the installation of 20 of my Trees of Canada paintings at the Canadian High Commission in London.

The Toronto RASC honoured me with the 2014 Ray Thompson award for Astronomical Imaging for my Turn Left at Orion Summer Marathon, which I did in one night at the CAO last summer! I couldn’t attend the bbq and awards party yesterday but Phil Facetime’d me in and I got to enjoy the last of the rocket launches and the ceremony. Such a nice recognition! I’m soon to head east and have booked a visit around new moon at the CAO – last real chance to get some good Saturn images this year, and now that I have a pc laptop I might be able to get some better data…we will see.

me on the iPad in Regina receiving my award in Blue Mountain ON!

me on the iPad in Regina receiving my award in Blue Mountain ON!

Finally, I brought Rob and Ray Peterson out to Regina last month to work on the Modeling Views project with me – I am so grateful to them! We prototyped a large arc and I spend a good deal of time struggling with balancing the reality of all that physical data against making good art. In the end I have managed to abstract some of the celestial motions and objects in a way that I think draws the work away from being merely illustrative or demonstrative, and more about engaging a sensibility that I hope is more affective and lovely in the final installation. Below, prototype Flappy Rings…which at the moment is saving the entire project.

Prototype for what will be 29 flappy rings.

Prototype for what will be 29 flappy rings.

Posted in Carr Astronomical Observatory, Exhibitions, Making Art, Research/Creation | Leave a comment