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Messages posted by: wildcard
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Last week I returned from a two-week observing trip on the side of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai'i.

The trip was kindly organised by Dave Kriege of Obsession Telescopes who visits the island annually and keeps an Argo Navis equipped 22" Obsession UC stored there at a house of a Keck Observatory worker.

Our primary observing spot was at 9,200' (2,804 m) point on Mauna Kea. At that altitude, you are typically above the cloud tops but just below the point where altitude sickness becomes a potential issue for most individuals.

Night time temperatures typically hovered just above the freezing point but the freezer suit and woollen gloves I packed for the trip made observing comfortable.
I must admit if felt weird pack cold weather gear for a trip to Hawaii. smilie

Suffice to say the skies at that altitude on an island in the mid-Pacific whose relatively low population and enviable outdoor lighting ordinances are to die for. They are dark and transparent and the airglow
which is typically visible at the best dark sky locations at lower altitudes elsewhere on Earth is minimal.

The quality of the skies was first evidenced by the immediately apparent zodiacal light that extended up from the western horizon to perhaps 60 degrees elevation or more.
Caused by sunlight reflecting of particles of dust and ice in the solar system, as one of my observing colleagues said, if you didn't know better you would think there is a floodlit football stadium down there.

A couple of Sky Quality Meters gave SQM readings around the 22.18 on each night.

The summit itself where the observatories are is at 13,800' (4,205m) and it is recommend that visitors to the summit first acclimatise at the 9.200' point first for half an hour to an hour before proceeding.
At 13,800' the atmospheric pressure is 40 percent less than at sea level and Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is common. One survey revealed that some 69% of workers at the top of Mauna Kea
have experienced AMS at some point. AMS can be serious, including life-threatening conditions pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) and cerebral edema (fluid on the brain).
Thankfully a well-graded gravel road allows for anyone who experiences AMS to be rapidly evacuated to below 10,000' where recovery is typically quick.

We were lucky to be given a VIP daytime tour of the Keck I observatory and our visit corresponded to a beautiful day at the peak.
The first thing that strikes you when you get out of the car is the definite diminished amount of air to breathe. You have to take things easy. It had been snowing up there and stooping over and throwing a couple of snowballs
would leave one feeling as if you had just run up several flights of stairs.

The observatory has O2 blood monitors and a check of our party gave us all the reassurance we were within normal levels. Emergency oxygen is available on site.

We were also afforded a VIP tour of the Keck mirror lab at the observatory headquarters in Waimea. There we were able to witness the multiyear painstaking refurbishment of the 72 mirror segments that constitute the two 10m mirrors on Keck I and Keck II.
Each mirror is equipped with multiple levers and actuators. One set positions each of the segments into its appropriate position to form a parabola. A second corrects for small imperfections within an individual segment. A third can distort the mirror by
microns thousands of times per second as part of the laser artifical star driven adaptive optics system.

One of the most remarkable attributes of our 9,200' observing point was the rapidity by which would get access it. During the day, we stayed at a beautiful rental house at 1000' altitude where the T-shirt and shorts temperature
both day and night was always perfect. It was only a 15 minute drive from there to the beach. Yet we could drive from the house to the 9,200' observing point via a high-speed highway and road in under 45 minutes.

In fact the road up is reputed to have one of the most rapid rises in the shortest amount of time for any road in the world.

Those wimps who climb Everest only have to climb 12,000 feet to get from Base Camp to the summit. On the Big Island you could ascend or descend through 13,800' in under a couple of hours including time
to acclimatise.

With our observing site at +12 North and with two of us having come from Sydney and five from the continental United States, the Aussies of course tended to want to seek out northern targets, particularly large
galaxies and the Americans southern targets. Thankfully there was plenty of time over our two week stay to do both.

Once Crux had risen, it was possible to see both it and Polaris at the same time.

Even familiar targets such as the Trio in Leo took on a new, fabulous appearance, Each galaxy so fantastically bright and extended.

On one occasion we observed until dawn which gave us the opportunity to witness a beautiful, dramatic and memorable sunrise ascend up through the clouds below us.

On another night we had the opportunity to observe with local astronomy club members at a 6000' location. Several of the club members worked at the Keck and it gave us a wonderful opportunity to chat to them about
work there and life on the Big Island.

We also took a road trip to the top of Mauna Loa which is home to the Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO), which is the premier atmospheric research facility that has been continuously monitoring and collecting data related to atmospheric change since the 1950's.
This is the base station from which the Earth's ever-increasing CO2 levels are measured and depicted in the now famous Keeling Curve.
The one-lane, winding and undulating road to the summit of Mauna Loa goes through one of the most incredible landscapes on Earth, passing through vast solidified lava fields.


Hi Mike,

Apologies for the delay in my response whilst I've been away on an observing trip to Mauna Kea.

Attached is an unofficial and unsupported version of the User Manual Edition 11 in epub format for reading on a smartphone.

The document was converted using Cailbre and the formatting is not good but hopefully it will suffice for your purposes.

Hi Brooks,

Thanks for the post.

I had replied to your direct email via a cell phone whilst I was on an observing trip to Mauna Kea but I will also follow-up here for completeness.

The job of the lithium coin cell is to provide power to the time of day clock in the absence of any other power source.

It does not supply power to the non-volatile memory where the SETUPS are stored and that memory will retain its contents even when no power source exists.

We recommend you power the unit OFF when replacing the coin cell.
Stuart Wolpert | January 15, 2020, UCLA wrote:
Astronomers from UCLA’s Galactic Center Orbits Initiative have discovered a new class of bizarre objects at the center of our galaxy, not far from the supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A*. They published their research in the Jan. 16 issue of the journal Nature.

“These objects look like gas and behave like stars,” said co-author Andrea Ghez, UCLA’s Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Professor of Astrophysics and director of the UCLA Galactic Center Group.

The new objects look compact most of the time and stretch out when their orbits bring them closest to the black hole. Their orbits range from about 100 to 1,000 years, said lead author Anna Ciurlo, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher.

Ghez’s research group identified an unusual object at the center of our galaxy in 2005, which was later named G1. In 2012, astronomers in Germany made a puzzling discovery of a bizarre object named G2 in the center of the Milky Way that made a close approach to the supermassive black hole in 2014. Ghez and her research team believe that G2 is most likely two stars that had been orbiting the black hole in tandem and merged into an extremely large star, cloaked in unusually thick gas and dust.

“At the time of closest approach, G2 had a really strange signature,” Ghez said. “We had seen it before, but it didn’t look too peculiar until it got close to the black hole and became elongated, and much of its gas was torn apart. It went from being a pretty innocuous object when it was far from the black hole to one that was really stretched out and distorted at its closest approach and lost its outer shell, and now it’s getting more compact again.”

“One of the things that has gotten everyone excited about the G objects is that the stuff that gets pulled off of them by tidal forces as they sweep by the central black hole must inevitably fall into the black hole,” said co-author Mark Morris, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy. “When that happens, it might be able to produce an impressive fireworks show since the material eaten by the black hole will heat up and emit copious radiation before it disappears across the event horizon.”

Full press release here with additional detail :-

4 minute video about Ghenz's research :-

Animation below of the orbits of the G objects, together with the orbits of stars near the supermassive black hole :-
Thanks for the post.

Argo Navis takes into account the correction for parallax error depending on where you are standing on Earth whilst observing solar system objects.

For artificial satellites in low earth-orbit you should use a reasonably accurate set of latitude longitude coordinates to compute where the satellite will appear above your local horizon.

For the Moon, a distance between observing sites of 228 miles would make a negligible difference given it is a quarter of a million miles to the Moon.

For users with exact polar aligned mounts who also use TPAS, reasonably accurate latitude and longitude can help refine the polar misalignment errors.
Hi Gordon,

Thanks for the post.

The GEM and Fork exact align settings allow for a fuller set of TPAS mount modelling error terms, including azimuth and altitude polar polar corrections, which aren't available on the equatorial table mounts.

As you are aware, there is no encoder fitted equatorial tracking axis on equatorial platforms and the ability to locate objects comes about through the innovations of the Equatorial Table Timer.

In effect the Table Timer extrapolates for that missing encoder but at the expense that the table was assumed to be accurately aligned in the first place.

Additional modelling terms would need to be added and significant enhancements made in order to support an analogous polar alignment feature for equatorial tables. The table's equatorial axis
is a third axis in a world of primarily two axis mounts which sets them distinctively apart. So unfortunately such an enhancement is not scheduled in the immediate term.
It's now 3am on the morning of January 1 2020 here in Sydney.

Wildcard Innovations wish you all a healthy, happy and prosperous 2020.

It's been a challenging year in Australia with the most widespread bushfires on record on the back of a severe drought.

Tragically lives have been lost.

It's a reminder to go safe and well wherever you are.
Version 3.0.4 fixes a bug that was introduced in version 3.0.3 and was found by pure coincidence.

Version 3.0.3 included a new implementation of planetary position calculations.

On the 28 December 2019 at around 00:00 UTC, users who powered their units on when running Version 3.0.3 would see an ENCOUNTERED BUG message a few seconds after initialisation.

By pure coincidence, Jupiter was then at conjunction, that is the opposite side of the Sun to the Earth.

A tiny, tiny rounding error as part of computing the angle associated with the positions of the Earth, Sun and Jupiter resulted in a value just slightly larger than 1 and that would consequentially cause an inverse trigonometric function to fail.

If a unit running 3.0.3 was powered on a few hours before conjunction or a few hours after conjunction, the bug would not occur.

We had reports from three users who reported the bug who just happened to have upgraded to 3.0.3 and powered on their units at the moment of conjunction.

Special thank you to those who reported it.

The bug was fixed in 3.0.4 and made available with 16 hours of it being first reported on a weekend.

Apologies to all for the inconvenience caused. The timing of the conjunction was both unfortunate and fortunate at the same time!

Wildcard Innovations is pleased to announce Argo Navis Firmware Version 3.0.4.

To show our appreciation of your support, Wildcard are providing a free license (subject to your acceptance of our End User Licence Agreement) to Version 3.0.4 to you as a gift.

Version 3.0.4 is now available for download -

The End User Licence Agreement can be found here -

To download the firmware, you will need to have registered and have a copy of your Registration Code.
If you registered in the past, you will receive a reminder of your registration code by email in due course.

If you have not registered before, you will find the registration link on this page :-

We highly recommend that you also download the following -

* Argo Navis User Manual Edition 11.
See http://www.wildcard-innovations.com.au/documentation.html
This edition of the User Manual includes a description of how to install and use the latest Argonaut Version 2.0 software utility for Windows (page 160).

* Argonaut Version 2.0 software utility for Windows.
See https://www.wildcard-innovations.com.au/utilities.html
A similar utility for Linux are available from the same URL.

To perform the firmware download to your unit, you will require the following additional components -

* Argonaut for Windows or sgzload for Linux.
These can be downloaded from here -

* A serial cable for connection to your Argo Navis from your PC, Wildcard Innovations part number pn-ser-cbl.
If you do not have a serial cable and would like to purchase one, we can supply it for AUD17.27 (approx. USD11.74) plus an additional low cost Airmail shipping rate that differs according to your region).

(Residents in Australia only, cable + GST = AUD19.00)

If your computer does not have an RS-232 serial port, we recommend you use the serial cable in conjunction with the Keyspan USA-19HS USB Serial Adapter.
Wildcard Innovations also stock these as their part number pn-usb and can supply it for AUD64.00 (approx. USD43.90) plus an additional low cost Airmail shipping rate that differs according to your region.

(Residents in Australia only, USB Serial Adapter + GST = AUD70.40)

To purchase either or both of the above you can pay securely online using MasterCard, Visa or AMEX using this URL -

Start by selecting your country in the pulldown menu. Australian residents will also be prompted to enter a Postcode.

The cable options appear beneath the heading "Communication and Power Cable options".

If you require a serial cable, enter a Qty of 1 in the pn-ser-cbl row.

If you require a USB Serial Adapter, enter a Qty of 1 in the pn-usb row.

Enter your name, email address, phone number, shipping address.

Then press Pay Now. This will then connect you to a secure server at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia where you can enter your credit card details.

To install Argonaut Version 2.0, refer to the step-by-step instructions starting on page 161.

To determine which version of firmware your unit currently has loaded, dial up MODE STATUS, STATUS VERSION.

We recommend you use Argonaut Version 2.0 to save your existing Argo Navis setups onto your PC. See page 182 on "Transferring setups".

If you are migrating from firmware version 3.0.0 or later, Argo Navis firmware Version 3.0.4 will preserve your setups.

However, if you are migrating from an earlier version than 3.0.0, then version 3.0.4 will restore your setups to factory defaults so we highly recommend you use Argonaut to save the setups so you can restore them later.

Please note that loading Argo Navis firmware version 3.0.4 will clear any existing asteroid, comet, satellite or user catalogs you already have loaded.
You should ensure you have the original data for any catalogs you may have loaded stored on your PC so that you can reload it after performing the upgrade.

To download a firmware file from your PC to Argo Navis, please refer to page 187.

Version 3.0.4 contains the following improvements :-

* Improved solution for some comet and asteroid orbits.
* More reliable first-time power-up when real-time clock coin cell battery becomes depleted or is replaced.
* Fix to bug that occurred in Version 3.0.3 at the exact moment Jupiter was at conjunction

Should you experience any difficulties, simply email sales@wildcard-innovations.com.au for assistance.

We thank you again for your support and we hope you enjoy Version 3.0.4.

Best Regards

Gary Kopff
Managing Director
Wildcard Innovations Pty. Ltd.
20 Kilmory Place, Mount Kuring-Gai
NSW. 2080. Australia
Phone +61-2-9457-9049
With apologies we have withdrawn Version 3.0.3 and will replace it with Version 3.0.4 shortly.

If you have already downloaded Version 3.0.3. we recommend you do not download it into your unit.

If you have already downloaded, we recommend you "roll-back" to version 3.0.2 which is on the web site.

With Version 3.0.3 we had made significant changes as well as to how the positions of planets are computed.
Like all solar system objects, their positions are a function of time.

As it transpires, there appears to be a bug which is a function of time in Version 3.0.3 that only happened for the first time today.
That bug will result in an ENCOUNTERED BUG error .

The firmware had been previously tested over the past couple of weeks so it is both unfortunate and fortunate that it was uncovered today.

We apologize for the inconvenience.
Seldom wrote:I'm not having any luck installing 3.0.3 firmware. Firmware update seemed to be working fine through load to 100%, but I'm getting an "Encountered Bug" message about 2 seconds after power up.

Have emailed Gary.

Hi Seldom,

We have received several reports of a successful upgrade including during beta test and now and three thus far of a problem similar to yours.

I have emailed you directly with he hope we can narrow it down.
astroal wrote:Have downloaded the Argonaut version 2 as well as the user manual. However, after reading the procedure in the manual to upgrade the Firmware, I am hesitant to monkey around with the unit that is giving me satisfactory performance. It seems to me that the advantages of the new firmware do not outweigh the hoops to jump through to reset Setups, Locations, user catalogues, etc. I am a person who does not dream in binary codes, so this is a bit of foreign territory to me.

Hi Al,

Thanks for the post and welcome to the Group.

Coming from version 3.0.1 or 3.0.2, the latest firmware is primarily about a fix to the computation of the orbits for some asteroids and comets. Not all, just some.

If coming from a version prior to 3.0.0, the enhancements are significant.

I can relate to the penchant of "if it ain't broken, don't fix it".

But in providing version 3.0.3 we hope to have provided user's with a choice of whether they upgrade or not either now or at any point in the future.
Plus we are here to assist if need be.

Wishing you all the best for the New Year!
Hi Robert,

Merry Christmas, thanks for the post and welcome to the Group.

Argo Navis allows you to align on any object at any time, including as the initial alignment stars.

For example, to align on Jupiter, dial up MODE CATALOG, PLANETS, JUPITER.
Ignore any NOT ALIGNED warning.
Press EXIT.
Press ENTER.
The display will show ALIGN JUPITER.
Centre Jupiter in the eyepiece and press ENTER.

Likewise you could also select any of the thousands of stars in the BRIGHT STAR catalog and use it in conjunction with MODE ALIGN in precisely the same way.

You can also create your own user catalog of bright stars, load them into the unit and then use MODE CATALOG, USER OBJECT, then use a combination of the dial and the ENTER button to access your star.
Press EXIT.
Align on your star.

By comparison, the MODE ALIGN STAR catalog is simply a convenient list whose brevity is designed for rapid access.
In a 20 Dec 2019 press release, the Planetary Science Institute describe how some 3,500 citizen scientist helped map asteroid Bennu.

PSI wrote:
When NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission spacecraft arrived at the asteroid Bennu, it discovered more rocks and boulders than envisioned. Mapping all these potential hazards was necessary to select a location to collect a sample of the surface for return to Earth. This effort was the work of multiple teams around the globe. One of those teams consisted of more than 3,500 citizen scientists who used CosmoQuest’s Bennu Mappers project to mark rocks, measure boulders, and map craters. Together, they made more than 14 million annotations of features on a global map of Bennu. CosmoQuest is a project that is based at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz. (CosmoQuest.org).

These volunteers had no way of knowing in advance if the sites they studied and mapped would be the one selected as the final sampling site for the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Folks who saw images with fewer rocks could hope “This is it!” But first, they had to first mark all the photos with hundreds of rocks and dozens of boulders so mission scientists could choose the images critical to site selection.

“It is amazing that more than 3,500 citizen scientists participated in CosmoQuest’s project to map Bennu and help mission scientists find the best place for OSIRIS-REx to collect a sample,” said Pamela L. Gay, Senior Scientist and Senior Education and Communication Specialist at PSI. “This kind of a volunteer effort makes it easier to find safe places to sample and scientifically interesting places to explore."

While the majority of people marked fewer than 10 images from the global mosaic, 68 volunteers marked 100 to 500 images, and 23 marked more than 500 pictures! Each image took as much as 45 minutes to complete, and these people put in weeks of individual effort during the four months it took to map this world.

Full press release here :-
erick wrote:Looks like I'm running out of excuses to TPAS my SDM! Thanks Gary, next quiet evening that I am setup under a clear sky. Cheers, Eric

Hi Eric,

Welcome to the Group.

All the best for the New Year!
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