Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas and Thanks

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I'd like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and happy holidays.

I'd like to share a gift that I received the other day. One of the Cubs gave me a small gift and on the tag it read "Thanks for being a great Cub leader". That thought means a great deal to me. It means that people can make a difference by giving of themselves.

So I would like to thank those who volunteer for good causes, do the right thing even when it is difficult, add humor to our lives, contribute acts of kindness and respect, and expect nothing in return other than for others to carry on and do the same.

Everyone have a great 2008!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why Mang?

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A few people ask me about my cub leader name. Why Mang they ask?

When I joined the 433rd, we had our Akela and our
Bagheera. And since Baloo was taking some time off and might return, I had to find something that else that fit from the list of characters. In other packs, a common fourth was Kaa, Chil, Hathi, or even Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.

Mang doesn't get much mention in the Jungle Book. All of the names above get more play in the book, but they didn't feel right. Mang
was a great choice given my interests and the fact that both astronomers and bats are nocturnal. There was also the wonderful rhyme :
Now Chil the Kite brings home the night
That Mang the Bat sets free.
And, I always liked a good party!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Orion returns to the evening sky

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Image courtesy of NASA APOD, click image for more info
(Credit & Copyright: Matthew Spinelli)

Fall stargazing can be tough with all the overcast evenings we get. Tonight was one of those cool clear nights where the stars were brilliant and I was out for a walk. The first thing I saw was Orion low in the south east. Even through city light pollution it is magnificent.

Cubs need to know five constellations as part of their astronomy badge. Orion is an excellent choice because it is easy to find, provides easy pointers to other constellations, and contains a number of interesting objects that are also part of the knowledge needed for the astronomy badge.

Orion's belt is a cluster of three stars running east to west that have been credited for the positioning of Giza's famous pyramids (this has been debunked see Wikipedia). Orion's left shoulder is Betelgeuse, a massive red giant that would swallow Earth and Mars if it replaced our Sun. It so big and the gases inside it so spread out that it has been called a red hot vacuum. It is also the first star, aside from our Sun, to have a picture taken showing anything more than a point of light! One day this star will explode in a supernova bright enough to be seen in daylight. Then it will fade away.

Just below Orion's belt is a series of stars and nebula that are often referred to as Orion's sword. Among these is the great Orion Nebula a stellar nursery where new stars are being born.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hut 33 finds Mowgli

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The BBC premiered a new radio comedy called Hut 33 based on a group of code breakers at Bletchley Park in 1941. Very funny stuff from James Cary.

Here's a snippet from episode 6 "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" where we find out that Gordon may have been a Cub. Gordon and Archie are both codebreakers. Josh, the head of the hut, has a good heart; although, he's a bit out of his depth when it comes to details, concepts, directions, and codebreaking.
Gordon: Archie's very cynical about religion.
Josh: But Archie, our whole fabric of society is based on the teachings of the Bible. There's a very inspiring story of that baby who grows up to be really really famous.

Archie: You mean Jesus.
Josh: No, no, no, no. It starts with an M. I think he's separated from his parents and brought up by wild animals.
Gordon: Are you thinking of Mowgli!?
Josh: That's it! Which book is that in?
Archie: Jungle Book!
Josh: You mean, The Book of Jungle. Is that the old or new testament?
Hut 33 was extended for another season.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Browser beware: Next Blog

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The 433rd blogs are hosted by Blogger (a Google service). Part of that service includes the Blogger Navigation bar at the top.

Please note that the 433rd does not control where the Next Blog link will take you.

Current reports indicate there is ongoing abuse of blogging services to post objectionable materials. Some of these so-called spam blogs contain viruses and malware. If you do find yourself on a page with objectionable materials, please report it via the FLAG BLOG link (also on the Navigation bar).

At this time, we strongly recommend not using the Next Blog link.

Update: Google has been taking action to clean this up. There is a good article, here.

Nonetheless - use with care.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Move to and image problem

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We are moving the 433rd and Mang's blogs to the domain. Both will be accessible via the and

This site was the guinea pig and we hit a problem with Google's blogger where the header image doesn't always display. It seems this is a known problem and there is a fix about to be published.

Waiting with worms on our tongues :) --Oh sorry, that was bated breath.

Update 11/29: Google fixed the problem.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Weather forecasts for Stargazers

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Stargazing requires the cooperation of the weather. The weather channel is some help, but forecasts for astronomy are specialized. Fortunately there is a great resource, Clear Sky Clocks Charts, that can help take the guesswork out of the forecast.

Clear sky charts are forecasts for specific locations that are cleverly extracted from satellite photographs collected by Environment Canada for weather forecasting. The forecasts provide a lot useful information about observing quality beyond just cloud cover.

Below, I've included a few charts for Toronto and several Scout Camps we use:
Woodland Trails
Blue Springs Camp
Camp Goodyear (WildFlower Obs.)
Haliburton Scout Reserve

Thanks to Attilla Danko and Allan Rahill (at CMC) for this resource. If you find it useful, please use the email links on the charts home page and let them know.

Update: The name Clear Sky Clocks was changed to Clear Sky Charts to avoid a trademark issue with a company called Sky Clocks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Comet Holmes visits the 433rd!

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While I'm an avid amateur astronomer, for one reason or another I have never been lucky with comets. Either they or I have been in the wrong place or time and not linked up. In 1986, I saw Comet Halley in the Caribbean. It was not impressive. Comet Kohoutek was a major dud.

Tonight I came to our pack meeting opportunistically armed with some basic information about Comet Holmes, a camera tripod, and a pair of 11x70 binoculars. By around 8pm the cloud cleared off and both Cassiopeia and Aurigae were visible. I went out to the church parking lot and looked high up in the north east through the light pollution of Toronto.

Comet Holmes is unusual in that it is brightening as it moves away from the Sun. With its tail pointing away from us, we see only the head of it straight on. The comet itself is about 2km in diameter, yet the gas cloud forming its head is well over 1 million km across, almost as large as as the Sun.

I quickly found the nice little jewel box of stars in the core of Perseus and nearly jumped out of my skin! The thing is huge and right where it was supposed to be. Faint in the city sky, fuzzy, absolutely amazing, and visible from a parking lot under street lights. Within minutes I could see a hint of it unaided. Better still, every Cub present was able to see it and score a requirement for their astronomy badge!

Update 2007-11-17: Holmes is now the largest thing in the solar system - Incredible Comet Bigger than the Sun.

Update 2008-2-6: Here are two composite images of Comet Holmes that may be of interest.
This multiple exposure shot shows how Homes chanes and moves over time.
This shot shows Holmes from Earth and a close up of the head taken by the Hubble.

Knot Games

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I found some Games involving Knots here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Your first telescope ...

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I frequently hear from people wanting to get a telescope as a Christmas or a birthday present for someone who is just getting interested in astronomy. Even if they want one, resist. The best advice of experts is don't start with a telescope.

Update: If you really want to start with a telescope you should read Avoiding the Christmas trash-Telescope Blues.

Most inexpensive telescopes are very poor instruments that will be difficult to use and lead to frustration. Poor quality eye pieces, useless finder scopes, terrible tripod mounts, and advertised high magnifications that are unusable. Terrence Dickinson, a respected astronomy author coined the term "Trash Scope Blues" for these disappointments.

Different types of telescopes suit different purposes, requiring the buyer to consider trade-offs. Leave these decisions until you're more certain of what you need.

So what to get your budding astronomer? A good pair of binoculars, and a beginners' book on astronomy!
  • Dickinson's, "Night Watch" (4th ed.) is a good beginners book that I recommend. It contains lots of useful information, including discussions of telescopes for when you're ready to move up.
  • Binoculars for astronomy need to be able to gather a lot of light, so 8x50's are better than 8x25's (the 8 is the magnification and the 50 is the diameter of the lens in mm). You may want to read Tips for Store-Testing Binoculars. A rule of thumb is that the second number should be 6 to 7 times the first, hence 7x50's or 8x50's are good for astronomy. Of course, the larger the optics the heavier the instrument. While I have an excellent pair of 11x70's, they are simply too big for children unless mounted on a tripod. Also, look for binoculars that can take a standard (camera) tripod adapter.
Another good thing, is a Planisphere or star wheel. In a future post about the astronomy badge, I'll include some do-it-yourself templates for a simple one.

And if you really want to investigate telescopes, there are three two specialty stores in the Toronto area: Khan's and Efston Science are located near Yorkdale. Kendrick's is located near Dundas and Keele. no longer selling telescopes but still make good accessories.

  1. For a great example of where binoculars are better, consider our look at Comet Holmes. Also, I missed opportunities to see two magnificent comets, Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp, in part because I had no telescope at the time and didn't consider binoculars.
  2. A useful chart on binocular size can be found here.
  3. If you're looking for a simple free starter planisphere, look here.
  4. If you are considering a telescope instead of binoculars you may want to read a good article about the different types of telescopes. It covers reflectors, refractors, and compound designs. I'd also suggest talking to serious amateur astronomers about the pros and cons of each. BTW. Binoculars are refractors.
Update and important CAVEAT: If you want to see the rings of Saturn then hand held binoculars will not cut it. You probably need at least 20x magnification and that means a telescope!

Friday, November 9, 2007


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I intend to post articles of interest pertaining to Cubbing, Scouting, skills and badge work. I also hope to encourage discussions and provide stepping off points to other resources.

For information on the 433rd and events, please see the group web site and blog.

I welcome participation from the parents and youth of the 433rd and beyond.

Good hunting and good seeing!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mang's Bat Page - Contents

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This index of the Bat Page is updated regularly.
  1. Welcome
  2. Your first telescope ...
  3. Knot Games
  4. Comet Holmes visits the 433rd!
  5. Weather forecasts for Stargazers
  6. Move to and image problem
  7. Browser beware: Next Blog
  8. Hut 33 finds Mowgli
  9. Orion returns to the evening sky
  10. Why Mang?
  11. Merry Christmas and Thanks
  12. Astronomy and space in the news
  13. Help Save the David Dunlap Observatory!
  14. The Tides Game
  15. Twilight hours and a sunrise/sunset calculator
  16. EarthHour - Saturday March 29, 2008 @ 8pm
  17. The Wolf Moon!
  18. The Toronto Fire Service visits the 433rd!
  19. Another asteroid "near" miss?
  20. ScoutBlogs - the search begins
  21. Build your own Planisphere (Star Finder)!
  22. ScoutBlogs #2 Nipissing and the Google Search
  23. Reflections on light pollution
  24. You want to get a star named after someone ...
  25. Wakeboarding in February!?
  26. How many planets have rings?
  27. Earth's other moons ...
  28. Astronomers Badge
  29. APOD and other astronomy image sources
  30. The Carnival of Space
  31. Black Hole discoverer to be eaten by land developers
  32. Unofficial Carnival of Space Search Widget
  33. Observatory Tour - March 4th, 2008
  34. Light Pollution Awareness - The Globe at Night - Feb 25 to Mar 8
  35. BP Banquet 2008
  36. Linking with the 9th Benoni Cubs
  37. Snow Moon Eclipse - simple astrophotography
  38. Scouts in Space (not kidding)
  39. Polite Comments are Welcome, SPAM is not.
  40. Astronomical distances are .... (well) astronomical
  41. Article on Binocular Astronomy
  42. David Dunlap Observatory Tour and Photos
  43. Calculating Easter
  44. Do you recognize this badge?
  45. Making MOST
  46. Browser wars part deux!
  47. Navigation without a compass (or GPS)
  48. April - Last chance to see DDO Canada's largest telescope
  49. Laser pointers, bans, and stupidity
  50. The 433rd goes to the Moon!
  51. Emergency Preparedness Adventure - Saturday, May 10th, 9 am - 4 pm
  52. 50 Ways to get kids hooked on the outdoors!
  53. Understanding Website Tracking
  54. Great Cubbing activities at Akela's Cubs!
  55. Astronomy Sale ....
  56. Mang's Most Popular
  57. Astronomy Day - May 10, 2008
  58. The Great Astronomers Badge Swap
  59. Yummy Science Experiment - eating up the speed of light!
  60. Emergency Preparedness Adventure - Photos
  61. Carnival of Space # 54 is up
  62. Greenwash, Security Theatre, and Skepticism - Critical Thinking
  63. What's your favorite asterism?
  64. Hut 33 returns ... more Scouting connections
  65. Carnival of Space # 57 is up
  66. Camp cleanup with destructive science!
  67. Binocular Astronomy
  68. Swimup Camp at Wye Marsh (June 21st)
  69. Gone Home too soon ....
  70. DMC-eh? Why Canada's new Copyright law is a mistake
  71. What's a cub to do over the summer?
  72. Breaking news on NeosSAT
  73. Mentos and diet-coke explained
  74. Tunguska's Legacy
  75. Carnival of Space #61: Tunguska Edition
  76. Top 10 excuses for not securing your computer
  77. Using feeds to speed up your browsing
  78. Carnival of Space #62 - The Image Extravaganza! @ Space Disco
  79. Hut 33 and Astronomy
  80. Carnival of Space #63
  81. Missed it by that much ...
  82. The Economist Has No Clothes ... Why Economics is failing the environment
  83. More Scouting possibilities in Hut 33?
  84. Scam psychology, Whack-a-mole and the next 2012 hoax
  85. 2008 Scouts Registration
  86. MOST caught on camera!
  87. Mang gets a space telescope!
  88. Hot Jupiter Trojans! MOST finds exoasteroids?
  89. Background Checks and Scouting
  90. Carnival of Space #70 is up at Orbital Hub
  91. What's up @ Blue Springs Scout Reserve - Sky Forecast
  92. What's Up @ Lloyd Manor Park - Sky Forecast
  93. Double Iridium Flare spotted at the 433rd!
  94. Mang interviewed in Etobicoke Guardian
  95. Pyro Scouts and Boy Scout Trail
  96. More Scouting insight at Scoutmaster
  97. DDO Astronomers renew outreach program - Your Real Sky
  98. Planets and Stars - video - Just how big are they?
  99. Free Coin Counting Service!
  100. Scout Scarves, 100th post
  101. Carnival of Space #72 @ Twisted Physics
  102. Welcome Chil!
  103. web site updgrade
  104. Custom Jigsaw Puzzles
  105. Apple Day Reminder 2008 !
  106. Coat Drive for Romero House
  107. Welcome JOTI 2008 Particpants!
  108. The Great World Wide Star Count - Oct 20 to Nov 3, 2008
  109. Spaghetti Western Orchestra?!
  110. Skies Badge - South Africa
  111. First JOTI
  112. TD Coin Counting Machines Pass Scout Apple Day Workout!
  113. Padua JOTI "Light of the Peace" Video Project
  114. Carnivals of Space 76 and 77
  115. Light pollution - even more in the spotlight
  116. Carnival of Space #78 @ Simostronomy
  117. Annual Humber West Hobby Show Crest Design Competition
  118. One year of Bat Blogging!
  119. Think of the fallen
  120. 20008 Christmas Tree Sales begin soon
  121. 2008 Weston Santa Claus Parade
  122. What's up Sky Forecasts
  123. What's Up @ Woodland Trails - Sky Forecast
  124. Carnival of Space #79 @ One Astronomers Noise
  125. What's Up @ Otter Lake Camp - SkyForecast
  126. Carnival of Space #80 - (US) Thanksgiving Edition @ Starts with a Bang
  127. What's Up @ Camp Goodyear - Sky Forecast
  128. Tipsy Orion
  129. Carnival of Space #81 @ Tiny Mantras
  130. What's Up @ Haliburton Scout Reserve - Sky Forecast
  131. What's Up @ the Torrence Barrens Dark Sky Preserve - Sky Forecast
  132. 2009 Hobby Show Date and Details
  133. Avoiding the Christmas trash-Telescope Blues
  134. Skyforecasts all up for now
  135. Carnival of Space #82 The Video Edition @ Space Disco
  136. What's Up @ Camp Samac - Sky Forecast
  137. Carnival of Space #84 @ Next Big Future
  138. Ciao Padua - Welcome the Light of the Peace!
  139. FREE - Toronto Astronomy Festival @ OSC - January 10, 2009
  140. Project Earthshine!
  141. Carnival of Space #85 @ Cheap Astro
  142. Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!
  143. Carnival of Space #86 @ Collect Space
  144. Carnival of Space #87 - returns to Mars
  145. How You Could Pilot a Space Telescope (Upside Down)
  146. Carnival of Space #88 @ TheSpaceWriters' Ramblings!
  147. Astronomy Links from Jan/Feb 2009 Scouting Life Magazine
  148. Easy "Red Eye" Exit Pupil Method
  149. Carnival of Space 90 - Valentines Day Edition @ 21st Century Waves
  150. Explore the Night Sky
  151. Make Your Stargazing Events Shine
  152. Carnival of Space #91 @ Next Big Future
  153. Astronomy Tips for the Observer
  154. Mang NOT seen hitchhiking at Kenedy Space Centre.
  155. Earth Hour: Be Part of It
  156. Carnivals of Space 92, 93, 94, 95, and 96
  157. The Last Planet?
  158. Space Carnivals 97, 98, 99
  159. Orbits: Intro to NASA's Orbit Simulator - solar system small body tour
  160. 100 Carnivals (of Space) on the wall
  161. See the Sun through an Hydrogen-Alpha filter (May 2 11am-4pm)
  162. Orbits: Comet/Asteroid/Meteor Close Encounters, Near Misses and Impacts
  163. Carnival of Space #101 @ Robot Explorers!
  164. Space badge resource for Girls and Boys
  165. David Dunlap Observatory slated to reopen in the IYA2009!
  166. Carnival of Space #102 @ The Spacewriter's Ramblings
  167. Strange Orbits: Quasi-satellites, Horseshoes, Corkscrews and Earth Stalkers - Earths Other Moons II
  168. David Dunlap Asteroid
  169. Carnival of Space #104 - The Arrow Edition
  170. Carnival of Space #105 @ Space Disco(very)
  171. Three Ring Carnivals (of Space #106, 107 , 108)
  172. Shrinking Mars will not appear as big as the full Moon
  173. Twisted Carnival of Space #109
  174. Pet Rocks? Naming things in Space
  175. Carnival of Space #110 @ Kentucky Space
  176. International Space Station ISS - Watch it Build
  177. Carnival of Space #111 @ 21st Century Waves
  178. Mosquitos, Camping, and Astronomy, oh my
  179. Ribs! Ribs! Ribs! .... BBQ
  180. Nostradamus 2012: Not fit for the KYBO
  181. Carnival of Space #112 - The Big Moon Day Show @ Out of the Cradle
  182. FREE - Apollo Talk and Star Party @ OSC - Tonight July 24th 8-11pm
  183. UK Astronomy Badge
  184. The Carnival of Space #113 takes a hit @ The Dynamics of Cats
  185. Hey Boo-boo, look where they hid the picnic basket!
  186. Carnival of Space #114 @ Cheap Astronomy
  187. Iceteroids!
  188. Strange Planetary Alignment and all I got was a T-shirt.
  189. Carnival of Space #115 @ New Frontier News
  190. What's up @ the Ontario Science Center
  191. Carnival of Space #116 @ Habitation Intention
  192. Antipodean Astronomical Weather Forecasts and more
  193. Carnival of Space 117 @ Simostronomy
  194. Petition: designate David Dunlap Observatory lands a National Historic Site
  195. What's up @ Gordon's Park Manitoulin
  196. Carnival of Space #118 @ Cumbrian Sky
  197. 433rd 2009-2010 registration and information updates
  198. 3 Star Parties!
  199. Carnival of Space Hat Trick #119-121  
  200. Pirates on the Grand!  
  201. Star Symposium @ York University - Saturday October 3, 2009 
  202. FREE Spooky Star Party - OSC - Friday, October 30th 
  203. Carnival Quintette 122, 123, 124, 125 and 126  
  204. Review: National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Night Sky
  205. It's trashscope season again - don't be fooled