December, 2007: This month I have been observing two high-mass xray binaries (HMXBs) as part of an AAVSO observing compaign for Dr. Gord Sarty. These observations have been challenging as the variations are very small. During this process a new eclipsing binary star was discovered in one of the fields. We are still characterizing it, so can't say much more at the moment.
October, 2007: The weather has been pretty good lately with quite a few clear nights. That of course means that the equipment will fail putting the ARO our of service! That happened when I was running the ARO remotely from the Toronto RASCs observatory in Collingwood, Ontario. At the end of the night, when closing the dome, the motor did not stop and it shreaded its clutch. I ended up upgrading the shutter cabling, motor assembly, auto-shutoff controls, and power supply and everything seems to work much better.
There is also some research news. Two papers, based in part on observations taken at ARO, have been accepted for publication in the PASP Journal. See: In Search of Possible Associations between Planetary Nebulae and Open Clusters and The Period Changes of the Cepheid RT Aurigae.
Late August/Early September, 2007: The year up to now has been fairly uneventful, other than the generally lousy weather. We seemed to have turned the corner and have had a string of clear weather lately. I presented a paper at the RASC General Assembly in Calgary about the automated observing and processing that wer are doing for the variable star project with Dan Majaess and David Turner. Dan and David also presented papers based in part on stars observed at ARO. We did have some minor equipment problems recently. The cloud sensor lost sensitivity again (as it did about the same time last year) and had to be sent back for repair. I also broke two drive belts in the dome rotation motors - just wear and tear after 4+ years of use. When the dome rotation was out of order I decided to devote some observing time to an AAVSO alert about a suspected dwaft variable by doing some time series observations. All went well and I have developed the procedures to easily submit observations like this to the AAVSO database.
January 1, 2007: I was backing up to DVD my images from 2006 today and thought I'd report a few stats. I had clear enough skies to do at least some imaging on 82 nights even though ARO was down with equipment problems from about mid April to mid August. Accounting for those missing 4 months, that works out to about 1 night in 3 being clear enough to observe. This is about what I have quoted for years as being the fraction of clear sky nights in Nova Scotia. Not included in these numbers would be nights that I wasn't near home (vacation, etc.), nights of Nova East, etc. Data collected this year was about 23,000 images or 12.6 gigs - last year was about the same. Many of these were calibration frames associated with the variable star work that I've been doing this past fall.
In the past 10 days, I've also spent a lot of time working on automating the calibration, image combines, and photometric analysis for the variable star project. I am close to being able to have the ARO do all the data analysis at the end of the night and upload an excel-compatible file that contains the magnitude measurements of the target stars. Yahoo!