They are Relentless

If any of you have ever run a website or managed anything that faces the internet, then you probably know what kind of relentless pounding a site gets from hackers looking for a way in. This being a WordPress blog, hackers repeatedly hit it looking for a way in. I guess I a lucky because I only get hit hundreds and not thousands of times a day.

They are wide spread and sophisticated. I block any IP I detect trying to break into the site. Certainly it is not perfect, but it at least keeps the pounding out of my stats. What is interesting is that the hackers will hit on a schedule. Three or so hits will occur within a few seconds from different IPs. Here is a sample from the error log (the target URL has been removed from the log).

[Mon May 27 11:18:23 2013] [error] [client] client denied by server configuration:
[Mon May 27 11:18:22 2013] [error] [client] client denied by server configuration:
[Mon May 27 11:18:22 2013] [error] [client] client denied by server configuration:

These three IP addresses reverse lookup to the following locations and DNS names:
United States:
United States:

I’m not at all sure what they are looking for (they are all trying to log in using the ADMIN account), but they are persistent. I have installed Better WP Security and followed most of its directions. It has good logging and good banning capabilities.

I don’t have anything to steal here, but I suppose I could be defaced or embarrassed. So I will continue to monitor and ban.

A Tribute to Elon Musk

A while back I was contacted by Katherine Long, part of a team that put together a tribute to Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX. Apparently Elon Musk is, due to his many accomplishments, the inspiration for Tony Stark in the movie Ironman.

I really admire Mr. Musk. He is a true embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit. And he is doing things in space from a private sector standpoint that are truly outstanding.

The graphic on the team’s site tells the whole story.

The graphic is quite large, so it is included below the fold.

Continue reading

On-Line Educational Resources

I was contacted by Jocelyn Salada with a request to link to her work on on-line education available in Illinois. Back in 2010, I linked to Astronomy Cast, an excellent astronomy podcast. One of the hosts of the podcast, Pamela Gay, is an assistant research professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. I think that is the link to Illinois education.

Jocelyn has assembled an impressive catalog of on-line education. Here is the description from the e-mail she sent to me:

This resource, is a compilation of every college program offered online in Illinois that is offered full and part time.

For the past year, we’ve been crawling through thousands of college catalogs to compile this information because many students that visit our website have requested a directory of all college programs that they can take online apart from the more well known online schools. Many of our students didn’t even know that their local colleges offer many online programs until this database was built!

This database will be updated yearly and will always remain free and open. Higher education for all students is a passion of mine, and passing knowledge to what types of programs exist out there in hopes that students will find a higher education program that excites them is our goal. I hope that your school, counselors, advisors, parents and students will find it useful.

The information can be found at:
Online Degrees in Illinois
Online Degrees Resource

Links deleted by request, see update below

Update: A scam?Not a scam!

Jocelyn followed up to this post with an offer to share more resources. I responded by asking what her connection with was and if she matched the person who I found with her name in LinkedIn. I have not received any response to this point. This lack of response leads me to believe there is an element of scam to this, but I cannot find anything suspicious about the content to which I have linked. However, based on the lack of response, the links are removed.

Update 2: Jocelyn replied. All is OK and links are restored.

Update 3 — November 23, 2012: I received the following e-mail requesting I remove the links. Contrary to the statement in the e-mail, this is the first request for removing the links. There is no link trading going on here either. As far as I know, I did not get any link in return for posting this blog entry, which is just fine. I did not expect one. I now really do wonder about the credibility of this organization.

You currently have a link on your site pointing to our website. We have recently received warning from Google that they are suspicious of link trading schemes surrounding the link on your site.

Please ensure that you take the necessary precautionary measures. We are requesting that you remove the link back to our site:


Please let us know once the link has been removed. Thank you in advance for your cooperation. We appreciate your help.

Best regards,

Eric Bergstrom
email redacted

January 2010 Scripture

For quite a while, and even more after my cardiac event, I’ve been a regular reader and, I suppose, a user of Magnificat. This is a monthly publication that has the liturgy of the hours and the mass for the day. So here are my selected quotes from January 2010.

Isaiah 58:8-9a

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Psalm 8:4-5

When I see the heavens, the work of your hands,
the moon and stars which you arranged,
What is man that you should keep him in mind,
mortal man that you care for him?

Matthew 6: 30, 34

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

Proverbs 2: 6-11

For the LORD gives wisdom, from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He has counsel in store for the upright, he is the shield of those who walk honestly,
Guarding the paths of justice, protecting the way of his pious ones.
Then you will understand rectitude and justice, honesty, every good path;
For wisdom will enter your heart, knowledge will please your soul,
Discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you;

Romans 12: 14, 18-21

Bless those who persecute (you), bless and do not curse them.
If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.
Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”
Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

Real Imaging from Lake Riverside

The equipment has been moved and the time came to take real data to make a good image. On September 20, 2008, my brother-in-law Art Fernandez and I got the AP-900, NP-101, and ST-10 combo all set up and took some nice data of M33.

Setting up the AP900 requires good polar alignment. On a one-night set-up, the first align alignment needed to be visual. On the first iteration, I aligned on the wrong star — I picked a bright star but not the named star to which we were aligning. The lesson is to start with the 44mm Panoptic, whose field of view is large enough to prevent mistakes. On the last alignment, the alignment star crossed the meridian during the alignment. The mount tried to slew backwards to get back home.

We then put on all the CCD equipment and balanced the mount. I tried aligning (using sync) on Jupiter, but results were poor. I finally got good alignment on a bright star and then using a search pattern from the believed location. Kind of like a sea search for a wreck.

My first idea for a “don’t stay up too late” target was the Cocoon Nebula. But by the time we got going, it was too high in the sky, so we moved to M33. So now come the follies.

FocusMax wasn’t talking to Maxim DL 5, so I had to find the newest version. If you need it go to the Yahoo! Focus Max group. Then I tried to use the Pyxis, but I could not talk to it. I learned later that the delivered software won’t work with a Keyspan USB to serial adapter. So no Pyxis. In rotating the camera, the mount moved against the clutches. Alignment lost.

Found a star, re-aligned. On our way. Except that Maxim DL 5 was obstreperous on the autoguiding calibration. It kept jumping from star to star between alignment frames. There definitely could be some algorithm enhancement there.

On focusing, acquire star in FocusMax didn’t work. It turns out that the error was that I did not allow syncs in TheSky. I control the scope from TheSky as the hub, but internal settings prevented it from working. On October 26, with help from CloudyNights, I fixed the problem.

The mount guided beautifully on 10 second exposures. I know I can push it further than that.

It got very cold, down to 43 degrees F. And in September. I blame Global Warming.

Take down was a lot of work.

And I have to mention the skunk. At about midnight, the definite smell of a skunk came down across us. Enough that it lingered in protected areas until morning. But thankfully, it was at least a quarter mile away.

Here is the resulting image.

M33 -- The Triangulum Galaxy

10fps vs. 30fps on a ToUcam Pro

In an excellent post on discussion thread in the Bad Astronomy / Universe Today forum, Mike (of IceInSpace) noted that the ToUcam Pro would compress data to achieve over 10 frames per second over its standard USB 1.1. This would degrade the quality of anything over this frame rate from the camera.

I happened to have discovered the fps control on my ToUcam over the weekend and took 2 avis of the Plato crater, one at 30 fps and the other at 10fps. This provides an excellent test case for this finding.

I have attached two jpgs, one from processing each of the AVIs in Registax. Both were processed in the same way:

  1. aligned with a single 256k box centered on the middle of the crater
  2. A reference shot of 50 frames was created and sharpened in wavelets
  3. The stack was limited to 60% and optimize
  4. The top 200 frames were selected and stacked
  5. The image was sharpened with wavelets 9.2/26.0/13.2
  6. Saved as TIFFs from Registax, JPGs and PNGs from Photshop, quality=80

No other adjustments were made to the images. The PNG images are below.

At 10 frames per second:

Plato Crater at 10fps

At 30 frames per second:
Plato Crater at 30fps

My first take is that the 30fps image has less noise. Seeing was not good, and that could be a major factor, since the improvements from faster frames could have overtaken the noise introduced from the compression in the camera.

TIFFs are available at the Observatorio de la Ballona FTP site.

Processing Frustration

Over the weekend I took several hours of data of NGC 2903 (The Perils of Changing Your Method ). I have taken several passed at processing the image.

I started by creating baseline combined, aligned, and stretched L/R/G/B images using MaximDL for reduction, CCDStack for combination, and PixInsight for stretching. These images have served as my baseline for all processing attempts. In that first processing session, I did a quick and dirty (so I thought) combined color image. I did minimal noise reduction, and sharpened only with a hi-pass filter in Photoshop. I figured I’d get a chance to see how it looked in color. It was an OK image.

My frustration has come from my subsequent attempts at finishing the image. In my second version, I did extensive work in PixInsight to sharpen the details of the galaxy. But the finished image didn’t look as nice on the printed page as my quick and dirty version. The outer arms were too dark, and i lost nebulosity surrounding the galaxy.

Last night I tried to split the difference — keep the outer areas lighter while still enhancing the inner detail. I failed completely. It lacked the sharpness in the center, had good detail in the outer arms, but the mid-area nebulosity was lost.

So the two times I spend more effort on the image, I just make it worse. Aaargh.

Equipment Change Dreams

A problem with any astronomical set-up is the time it takes to get it right.

So here I am with what appears (to an unaided eye) to be good seeing and Saturn is up, but I don’t want to take apart the CCD set-up to use the Web Cam.

I faced the same thing a year ago when I took the refractor off of the mount and put the SCT back. It was months before I got the whole set-up working again. And the refractor set-up worked well. It was not suited to galaxy pictures, and Winter is the season of galaxies.

I got NGC 2903 on Saturday, Moon somewhat bright, seeing pretty good. The test image is nice. I’ll post it when it’s done.

The Perils of Changing Your Method

Last night was clear — I planned and executed an imaging run.

I used CCDNavigator. The user interface caused me a fair amount of hearburn. It tries too hard to make the schedule work, so users who aren’t doing automated observing face edits that aren’t required for their use.

The software influenced my approach. A typical approach, emobodied in the software, is to use a stair step approach for taking your images. You start with the lower resolution color, and work up to the high resolution luminance. I have always evenly balanced my LRGB sub-images. I can’t say that I have a theory for doing so, and last night I accepted the approach indicated in the software. There is good reason to do so. When an object is lower in the sky, it is better to get low resolution data. I have not been binning my color, decided to tonight, so this was the approach.

So you take RGB away from the meridian crossing, and L just around it.

Overall it went well. Results will be posted later. However, a minor anomoly caused a problem. Normally I image with subimages taken L/R/G/B etc. With the RGB planned for early, I “grouped by slot”. and took shots RRRRRR/GGGGGG/BBBBB/LLLLLLL. The problem ocurred because the sky was too bright for the initial red exposures. They were all wasted. If I had done a patter of R/G/B/R/G/B…LLLLLL…R/G/B/R/G/B I would not have had the problem.

Live and learn.