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  1. Gigaclear have provided optical fibre cable to our village of Upottery in East Devon with full Fibre To The Property at 1Gb/s both download and upload.  We are the first village west of Bristol to be provided with this ultra-fast fibre broadband. 

    They provided connection to a pot (like a water D head) just outside my premises and I am arranging the fiber optical cable connection from there right into my house and to the router they have supplied.  This blog describes the process of digging a trench and laying the cable then running it into the house.

  2. Well last night, my partner's Aurora alarm app went off whilst we were having dinner - so pudding had to wait!  We loaded the tripod and camera bag into the family truckster and headed off to Corton Beach under cloudy but clearing skies.  Sadly, the street lights dont go out until midnight so Corton Beach, relatively close to our house, provides a dark site with a northerly view back over the cliffs largely missing the 'orange glow' that is Great Yarmouth. Whilst we were on the Beach the clouds began to clear and both of us thought we could see a green glow over the cliffs and just below the tail of the Great Bear. Anyway I took a number of photographs the best of which was taken whilst the app was telling us that photography would show the aurora from most of England. I have attached the image - 20 sec exposure - ISO1600 - F3.5 - tripod mounted Canon 600D DSLR - 18-55mm at 18 lens  which has had the following image processing :

    • Application of autocolour at about 20%
    • Colour saturation enhancement using LAB color and adjustment of channels by increasing contrast.
    • Colour blurring using a gaussian blur.
    • Saturation of red and yellow colours reduced to reduce the orange red glow of some 'low pressure' sodium street lighting that I could not avoid when taking a photograph looking north.
    • General lowering of saturation across all colours and some repetitive luminosity layers to finish

    I think it shows some auroral activity. Looks very much like the low level auroral display that I photographed in Tromso several years ago. But as my partner says when I reach for the 'imaging software' - "Cheating again" - So who knows for sure ?

    A bit of a bonus was the very dark sky view east out across the North Sea.  Quite beautiful. We watched the Pleiades rise out of the sea and the Milky Way was absolutely marvellous. The dark lanes of dust could be traced with your finger and the Andromeda Galaxy was an easy spot with the naked eye. I took a sequence of images more or less centred on the Double Cluster in Perseus - 6x20 secs RAW-ISO3200 f=18 and F3.5- stacked in DSS - FITSwork etc.  I do like widefield astro photography and very much enjoy reading articles and viewing widefield images created by Professor Ian Morison - I have some way to go!

    It was very nice to see a couple of meteors - one was quite bright - and to capture the less than bright one shooting by and just under Messier 31 - an exposition in 'near and far'.



    Aurora over Lowestoftsmall.png

    Milky Way Andromeda and Meteor bestsmall.png

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    So I started staring at the sky many years ago, I lived in the Black Country (no not Birmingham but if you don't know where it is I'll live with it's close) where the night sky is frankly a permanent orange glow. I was fortunate to move to Cornwall a few years back and........wow, a whole new world came to life so I decided to buy my first telescope last January, a Heritage 100P; why that model I here you ask? Well firstly I lose interest, I have the attention span of a goldfish, I knew I would need something I could grab at a moment's notice and after 9 months I can say that box is ticked, for a newbie this scope is perfect! I also need to point out that I have the finances of a Neanderthal cavemen before the conception of money......but then with huge good fortune a 200P drops in my lap for less than a couple of mid range eyepieces.......I am in heaven not just looking for it!

    Skip a few months and here I am, owner of two telescopes, a starting collection in equipment, a library of books, numerous software programs and passion for darkness and being outside just staring. I know some constellations, I've seen Jupiter and Saturn, some clusters and scarily a 747 (that was a shock!), oh and yes that small circulating satellite the Moon.

    I hope to regularly update on my journey whether I find a new planet or nothing because I can't see through the mizzle (look that up, wasn't in my dictionary either until I moved here




    Observations of the Sculptor Galaxy ( NGC 253 ) by William and John Herschel


    Part 2.  Observations of "Caroline's Galaxy" by Sir John Herschel,  1830's


    Sir John Herschel, the only child of Mary Baldwin and Sir William Herschel, was born in 1792 when his father was in middle age and already famous as one of world's leading astronomers.  Having excelled in school, and no doubt inspired by his famous elders, John Herschel decided upon a career as a 'man of science' and set out to pursue a wide range of interests; with one particular focus being a continuation of the study of the heavens commenced by his father and aunt, Caroline Herschel.   

    In 1820, with the assistance of his father, John Herschel supervised the construction of a new telescope at Slough in England.  As described in the extract below ( from a paper presented to the Royal Society in 1826, titled "Account of some observations made with a 20-feet reflecting telescope ... " ), the telescope had a polished metal mirror with clear aperture of 18 inches, focal length of 20 feet and was modelled on the same design created by his father.


    It is this telescope, in the 1820’s and early 30’s, following the death of his father and the return of his aunt Caroline to Hanover, that John Herschel used to 'sweep' the night sky and extend the catalogue of nebulae and clusters of stars that was published by his father ( see W. Herschel's  Catalogue of One Thousand new Nebulae and Clusters of Stars ).

    On the 1st of July 1833, having complied sufficient observations, John Herschel presented to the Royal Society an updated list of the positions and descriptions of the Nebulae and Clusters of Stars that he had thus far observed.  As noted in the introduction to the paper published in the Philosophical Transactions, he had planned to wait before publishing until he had complied a fully comprehensive general catalogue of objects visible from the south of England.  However, due to his expectation of “several more more years additional work” needed to complete the task and his assessment that he now was in a position to address, at least in part, the then current “... want of an extensive list of nebulae arranged in order of right ascension ...”, he elected to present his list, “ ... simply stating the individual results of such observations as I have hitherto made ... “.  It was not until October 16, 1863, some thirty years later, that Sir John would deliver to the Royal Society his General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars.


    As well as introducing many objects that had not previously been recorded, Sir John’s list of 1833 included a re-examination of, and in some cases a small correction to, the positions of many of the deep sky objects observed by his father and noted down by his aunt.   One of these re-visited objects was, unsurprisingly, the large and bright nebula discovered by Caroline Herschel in 1783 and recorded in Sir Williams’s catalogue as V.1 / CH 10 ( object number one, of class five ( very large nebulae ) / Caroline Herschel #10 ).

    In total, John Herschel records around 2500 observations of nebulae and clusters of stars in his 1833 paper; with observation #61 being V.1, the “ Sculptor Galaxy “


    The measured position of V.1is given in RA and the angle from the north celestial pole ( all reduced to epoch 1830.0 ).  The description can be interpreted by reference to the legend in the paper.


    Thus, “ A vL mE vB neb “ becomes “ A very large, much extended, elliptic or elongated, very bright nebula “.  He also notes that in addition to this observation, #61, noted down from sweep #306, V.1 was also observed in sweep #292, “but no place was taken”.  

    The figure to which he refers , figure 52, is included towards the back of his paper and is a sketch he made of the Sculptor Galaxy.





    to be continued ...

  4. Gina
    Latest Entry

    This is my progress in buying, modifying and making 3D printers.

    1. Velleman kit
    2. UP Plus 2 - Proprietary 3D printer
    3. "GinaRep Pilot" created from the Velleman kit with variations and new parts
    4. "GinaRep Titan" - a larger printer with 300mm cube print capacity
    5. "GinaRep Giant" - larger still with over 400mm cube capacity
    6. "GinaRep Mini" - a replacement for the Pilot with improved accuracy and printing speed


  5. This is based on the ZWO ASI1600MM-Cool CMOS astro camera and vintage film SLR camera lenses.  In particular the Asahi Pentax Takumar, Super Takumar and Super Multi-Coated Takumar lenses.  I plan to use this rig for LRGB and where I have only one lens of a particular focal length for NB imaging.  Between these is the ZWO EFWmini filter wheel.

  6. 59b740250ae52_NGC104-47Tucanae.thumb.jpg.c5380d2368e4919288fc10bfdf181e0b.jpg

    NGC 104 ( also known as 47 Tucanae ) and NGC 121 in the constellation Tucana

    ( Please click/tap on image to enlarge page )


    Link to image on Flickr

  7. This is basically a mechanical perpetual calendar with 3D printed plastic parts but whether I drive it from a clock with hands etc. or simply from a stepper motor remains to be decided.  The display consists of drums with numbers and letters stuck on.  Each drum is driven from specialised gears and levers.  The mechanism is designed to be visible and show the workings.

  8. Gina

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    I'm new to blogs - never used them before so I don't know what I'm doing :D  I'll just experiment and see what happens...598b5ea6b4850_GearChain01.png.dd6b21a895f7895a24ca88dc76156518.png

  9. Three months ago I remounted the EQ8 in the observatory after my friend Chris made me a pier extension to raise the mount 15 cm. Unfortunately, a combination of cloudy nights, holidays, it not getting dark until early in the morning, and my lovely wife being ill has meant that it took until tonight to get the EQ8 re-polar aligned.

    SharpCap's polar alignment tool makes this pretty easy.  I used my Lodestar x2 mounted on a 60 mm finder/guider.


    I'll aim to try to see if I can get this even closer with full drift alignment on another night, but my guess that'll be close enough for now.



    It’s been a frustrating couple of weeks in the life of this (very) amateur astronomer. Of course, our old sparring partner the clouds have loomed large and thick, making viewing nights few and far between, and then, when a beautiful, visibility-for-miles kind of night did come about, Herschel said a firm ‘no.’ Try as I might, I could not get the power to turn on and stay on. I tried all the tricks in my arsenal, all the high tech stuff like swearing, switching it off and on again, swearing, changing the batteries, swearing, Googling, swearing, waiting 10 minutes, and of course, swearing. I managed to stop just short of giving her a damn good thrashing, but it was a close run thing. So, a day followed of getting in touch with Celestron and my local, very patient telescope dealer, and trying to ferret out the problem. Long story short, it turned out to be the notoriously fickle battery pack, which to be fair, looks to be held together only by the power of prayer. So, a power pack was duly ordered. leaving me with an out of a action scope for a few nights.

    Last night, now in possession of a fully charged power pack, a telescope which worked and the promise of a couple of clear hours, I headed out into the garden once more. I focussed my attention on the Moon, the planets are not easily visible to me at the moment due to trees in the way-I really must invest in a chainsaw-and it was not dark enough for any deep sky viewing, but the Moon was a lovely racing gibbous, and I decided to attempt to point my bridge camera down the eyepiece and get some lunar detail shots. At first, this went about as well as you’d imagine, and blurry grey smudges were the evidence to show for it, but with a little bit of practise and a fair bit of grumbling, I managed to hone in on some detail.



  11. 3rd of July 2017 / 21h30 UTC+01:00 / Stargazing Conditions: 80%


    After much reading and hyping myself so much, I was pretty stunned by the early notification on my phone that yesterday night could potentially be a good evening with good seeing. So I went home after work (with my phone still showing 80% of potential seeing), sat on my desk and prepared myself. I chose to watch the Moon, since I never really observed it, Jupiter, Saturn and search for the Sombrero Galaxy!

    Last week I searched for a few good atlases and stumbled unto the Interstellarum Deep Sky Atlas. A promising atlas which should arrive this week, but still would let me be without a field atlas, since it is a desk edition... After cramming in the forums I mainly found three downloadable recommendations:
    1) The Deep-Sky Atlas
    2) Deep-Sky Hunter Atlas
    3) TriAtlas
    I downloaded all of them and browsed through them, noticing that only the Deep-Sky Hunter Atlas exists in a field edition. I printed the normal Version on A3 paper to look if it fits the need and, hell yeah, I really like it so far!! Only downside (for me) at the moment, is that the constellations are in black lines in contrary to the Deep-Sky Atlas. So I think I'll print both of them, laminate them and take them with me on my sessions. (I will have to inverse the colors on the Deep-Sky Atlas though)

    To round everything up, I figured that I'll need a software too, to plan my sessions a little better and just give me the right impressions on where I will have to search in the sky. A while back I downloaded Stellarum, which seemed to be a great free app, but it simply kept crashing on my laptop... Searching for alternatives I found SkySafari 5 and Starry Night 7. Given the prices of Starry Night 7 and the fact that it isn't to be found on the AppStore, I went ahead and downloaded SkySafari 5 Pro. It is a beautifully simple app which does the job just fine and gives me the needed input to satisfy my thirst for knowledge (at least for now). At this point, I was wondering if someone knows if Starry Night 7 was up-gradable? So let's say I buy the Enthusiast Edition and wanted to up-grade to the Pro or even Pro-Plus version one day. Do I have to buy the App entirely new or does it give the opportunity to up-grade for a few bucks to the next edition?


    Enough rambling an off to my stargazing site!

    I arrived well early before sunset, which gave me the opportunity to once check again, if my finderscope was well aligned with the 'scope. It also gave me the chance to let my 'scope acclimatize the same way as last time and so I sat back and waited a little until the moon gained a little on contrast as the sun was setting.


    The Moon

    The Moon, being a waxing gibbous, shone bright in the slightly dark blue night sky with literally NO clouds in the sky. I put my 15mm BTS eyepiece in and looked at the beautiful moonscape. It is defiantly the first time I've seen the Moon so up-close and I was in awe by it. I never imagined that it could be so nice to look at all these craters and I began to wonder where they all came from. It is simply a battlefield of craters and each and everyone has its own story to tell... after a good 30 minutes of switching between the 8mm and 15mm eyepiece and lots of "ohs" and "wows", I figured I could try and photograph the Moon with my phone through the eyepiece... what seemed to be a really stupid idea at first turned out to be a really great shot (I think?)! (very little photoshop-magic to increase contrast and sharpness)




    Next on that nights list was Jupiter. I remembered the image last time I looked at it and I was thrilled to already clearly identify Europa from Io through the finderscope. I managed to see Callisto, Ganymede, Europa and Io. I think that Jupiter itself was a little less contrasty as last time BUT I think I could make out the Red Spot which really made me happy! I was so thrilled by the view I even can't write down how I felt...

    I switched from 15mm to the 8mm eyepiece and focused in... I kept focusing and focusing and focusing but nothing happened... As I looked up in the sky I was shocked... the beautiful cloudless sky had turned into a thick carpet of Cumulus Cumulonimbus... I immediately looked at the horizon on my right to see if there was a slight possibility of clear sky but the enemy had invaded the sky... To make matters even worse at that moment, I met my locations' neighbor, which is no other company then Arcelor Mittal... The sky with the clouds lit up in a bright orange from the molten metal... At that moment I knew it was over for that night...


    Thanks for reading


  12. Yesterday I was bitten by kernel update (to 4.10.5) on my main computer (I use Fedora 25). The boot process would at some point just stop, with nothing suspicious in the last visible boot messages; the machine was responsive, though, and Ctrl-Alt-Del reboot was possible. Booting using the previous kernel was fine. After reviewing the boot log (where -1 means second-to-last boot, -0 would be the last (successful) boot etc.):

    journalctl -k -b -1

    it turned out there was a problem uploading firmware blob to my Radeon R7 370 (I use the standard open-source driver):

    kernel: [drm] radeon: 2048M of VRAM memory ready
    kernel: [drm] radeon: 2048M of GTT memory ready.
    kernel: [drm] Loading pitcairn Microcode
    kernel: radeon 0000:01:00.0: Direct firmware load for radeon/si58_mc.bin failed with error -2
    kernel: [drm] radeon/PITCAIRN_mc2.bin: 31100 bytes
    kernel: si_fw: mixing new and old firmware!
    kernel: [drm:si_init [radeon]] *ERROR* Failed to load firmware!
    kernel: radeon 0000:01:00.0: Fatal error during GPU init

    Indeed, for my particular Radeon model the newer kernel tries to upload si58_mc.bin, but the file was missing.

    The solution was to get the file from https://people.freedesktop.org/~agd5f/radeon_ucode/, put it in /usr/lib/firmware/radeon and regenerate initramfs images:

    dracut --regenerate-all --force


  13. Filroden
    Latest Entry

    Another short clear window in the early evening let me practise set up and alignment of the new AVX mount again. I ran through my new alignment process, including calibrating the StarSense to the OTA. I then repeated the process and the handset reported a final PA accuracy of 30" in Dec and 3' in RA. However, (and with clouds rapidly moving over) I managed to take another sequence of 30, 60, 90, 120 and 180 second shots to test tracking. Here's the 180s (which is heavily affected by high clouds), which is consistent with the others but shows the trailing best:


    Q1. I roughly measure the trail to be 14 pixels, or 26.6" at my pixel scale, so 0.15" per second. If correct, my maximum unguided exposure would be 13 seconds to stay within my 1.9" pixel scale. Would a PA error of 3' give this sort of trailing?

    Q2. I also noticed (or believed I noticed) that the mount seems to move when tightening the mount bolt. I think that this further tightens the accessory tray which pushes on the legs more. I noticed this when I calibrated the StarSense on Betelgeuse. Normally, my goto would then be bang on centre but when I slewed back to Betelgeuse it was a little way outside my crosshairs (using SGPro). I wonder if this is causing me problems and whether I need to attach the accessory tray at all?

    Q3. I also use anti-vibration pads beneath the tripod feet. Could they also slip when adjusting the mount?

    Q4. Whilst the length of trailing seemed proportionate to the exposure time, the direction was not always consistent, particularly in the shorter subs. I'm assuming this could be the affect of many things: PEC, wind, seeing. Is that right?

    I did get reasonable 120s exposures the previous night, so I know it's possible. However, I'm quickly concluding that having tested unguided I now need to quickly move onto a guided set up (skipping over drift aligning though I probably should learn how!). I have a ZWO OAG and ZWO ASI224 so time to bite the next complexity bullet. As it's likely to be cloudy until Monday at the earliest I can start working on that now.


    I think I've just got my spacing right for the ASI1600MM-C.


    Which for my reference was 66mm for the Skywatcher field flattener plus an additional 1mm for the filter (1/3rd of the 3mm filter thickness on the Astrodon 3nm HA).

    I achieved this spacing with:


    The OAG has a spacing of 16.5mm and comes with a M48 adaptor so I'm hoping I can just swap out the 9.0mm FLO M48 to M42 adaptor and the 7.5mm Baader T2 extension tube.

    How good does a polar alignment need to be for guiding? Would it be happy with the sort of accuracy I was achieving above or would I need to drift align and improve it further? I'm hoping that a single StarSense alignment routine will get me close enough that guiding will take over (having also read that guiding seems to like an error in PA so that it only has to correct in one direction). Tune in next week for what I expect to be a frustrating first attempt :)

  14. Jim

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    Cold clear night tonight, finally got to see a few planets as a first.    Northern lights around 9 pm and Mars and Uranus came through pretty clear but the cold got to me after about a hour observing. Came out after 11 pm to watch Jupiter rise from the east.  Stayed for another hour before fingers dropped off.  I'm still learning the sky and how to use my equipment but overall I had a good night.    Hot chocolate then bed lol 

  15. M106
    Latest Entry

    i have been waiting for tonight all week, clear skies predicted and virtually no moon, slept all day so i could stay up all night, only to wake to cloud and clearskies changed from green to orange, and red for the rest of the week


    and my pentax adapter just arrived too. sigh...

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    Chris’s Backyard Astronomy.  January 2017.


    A view beyond Earth’s lifetime


    Happy New Year to everyone.  This month I am going to concentrate upon one topic only; something that came to my attention at New Year.  The item in question is described as a QUASAR and makes a year in my life appear extremely insignificant.


    Eyewitness report:


    “Almost Older Than Time. Would we be able to see it?


    On Monday the 2nd of January we gathered in Chris's back garden observatory to spot a tiny pinprick of light that had been travelling 8 billion years, yes that's right 8 BILLION YEARS to reach us!

    Chris had done his homework, mapped out its position and identified a few pointer stars to help us in our search. The bright moon and lovely Venus stayed handily behind the house so a reasonably dark, clear sky helped us in our search.

    Our luck was in, the pointer stars in the shape of a triangle were in the (telescope) field of view and using averted vision I spotted our faint target, impossible to grasp the enormous distance through space and time the photons from this QUASAR had travelled. Once spotted it was easier to see it again as we all took turns to look at this black hole in action; a successful night, thanks Chris.”

    Susan Feist


    Quasi Stellar Radio Sources (QUASAR)


    The name was adopted originally because such objects were first observed by ‘seeing’ their radio waves and so they were assumed to be stars.  Remember, telescopes are not just available to see things with your own eyes but some are capable of detecting lots of other forms of energy.  The Jodrell Bank telescope near Manchester for example was once the greatest radio telescopes in the world.




    Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope: Image credit mattbuck


    Up until the 1960s a multitude of radio wave sources out in the sky were listed and catalogued.  Critical to identifying these objects were to accurately log their precise position and then try and get identification too with a powerful visual telescope.  This proved possible in some cases and as a bonus it was possible to catch the light and determine the spectrum of the object (see my previous column).  Once you have the spectrum you can find out a lot of important information.


    However, visual recognition and thus scientific interpretation of some of these QUASARs eluded astronomers.


    3C 48


    I quote a lot of numbers and acronyms but really it’s not that complicated. QUASAR 3C 48 was the 48th entry in the 3rd Cambridge catalogue of radio sources.  In 1960, using a huge 200 inch telescope, astronomers Sandage, Matthews and Bolton finally pinned this particular radio source to a 16th Magnitude star.




    Mount Palomar 200-inch telescope. Image credit: Coneslayer at English Wikipedia


    A refresher on magnitude


    Remember, the magnitude scale works counter-intuitively in reverse. Each step is a change of about 2.5 times in brightness.  For example, to us the full Moon looks about 60,000 times brighter than the bright star Vega. On the other extreme QUASAR 3C 48 is about 10,000 times DIMMER than the dimmest star we can see with the naked eye!




    Brightness we see on Earth

    The Sun

    - 26

    Midday Sun

    Full Moon

    - 12

    Moonlit sky

    Venus (now)

    - 4

    Bright evening ‘star’ (now)


    - 2

    Yellowish star like

    Vega (bright star)


    5th brightest star in the sky


    + 4.5

    Star just visible with your eye


    + 8

    Farthest planet appearing reasonably bright in a 10 inch ‘scope

    3C 48 QUASAR

    + 16

    At the limit of a very large amateur ‘scope


    Capturing the light from the QUASAR to enable a spectrum to be examined was some feat in those days but they did so.  Sandage though was quoted describing the spectrum as “exceedingly weird”.  What followed was a 3-year period of doubt and false reasoning because the spectrum just could not be interpreted within the range of known objects.


    In 1963 two other scientists, Schmidt and Greenstein, re-examined the spectrum of 3C 48 from 1960.  Schmidt had previously examined a spectrum of a similar object (3C 273) and was thus experienced in these matters.  What he immediately concluded was not weird but that object 3C 48 showed a “redshift of 0.37”. So, now we need a recap on redshift.


    Hearing an ambulance


    Recall the last time you stood by as the ambulance sped towards you and then away from you.  We are all familiar with characteristic change in pitch of the siren.  As it approaches you the pitch gets higher then as it leaves you the pitch gets lower.  The lowering of the pitch as the sound source moves away from us is due to a ‘stretching’ of the wavelength caused by the speed of the ambulance relative to us. This is the Doppler effect and applies to all types of radiation including light.




    Normal spectrum above and red-shifted spectrum below.  The tell tale absorption lines are moved to the right.

    Credit: Georg Wiora (Dr. Schorsch) via Wikimedia Commons


    So Schmidt was saying that the spectrum of QUASAR 3C 48 told us that it was (and still is) moving away at truly phenomenal speed! As we have discussed before, the painstaking work of Edwin Hubble in the 1920s enabled a connection to be made between the speed that an object is receding and its distance.  On doing the maths 3C 48 was located at 4 BILLION LIGHT YEARS distant.


    Ancient photons hit Bishop Monkton


    This dramatic distance estimation created disbelief in the astronomical community.  Knowing how bright the object looks to us (Magnitude +16) and also knowing its distance, enables us to quite easily determine its true brightness close up and thus its power.  The calculation for most QUASARs shows they have the luminosity of 10 Trillion (10,000,000,000,000) Suns, easily one of the most energetic objects in the Universe!


    As you may imagine this stimulated a decade long argument as to whether the observations were true or were these QUASARS just objects in our own galaxy that demonstrated weird physics?  In more recent times, advancements in technology have enabled astronomers to study ‘normal’ galaxies in the region of these QUASARS and confirm that indeed they are very distant objects.


    On the 2nd January 2017 a group of villagers and friends congregated in my humble shed known as the Observatory and eventually, one by one caught a glimpse of light that has taken 8 BILLION years to get here.  I stumbled across a reference to QUASAR 4C 11.69 also known as CTA 102.  It is in the constellation of Pegasus looking west from the village at the moment.




    The old 9 inch SCT telescope used to spot the QUASAR


    This particular QUASAR was originally falsely classed as a magnitude +17 variable star.  Variable stars are quite common but are usually quite regular in their variability.  Not this one!  Recently its magnitude has changed from +17 to nearly +11, which is an increase in brightness of 250 times.  Think about this for a moment.  This is an object that is TWICE the age of the Earth, more than half the age of the entire Universe as we know it and visible in my 9 inch telescope.  Surely this is the most powerful and most distant visible object any of us will witness.


    Its brightness currently varies quite substantially on a daily basis so what is it?  CTA 102 was discovered in the early 1960s from its varying radio source but was laughingly thought to be signals from an extra terrestrial intelligence and American folk rock band The Byrds wrote a song about it in 1967 called ‘Younger Than Yesterday’.  It is in fact a giant black hole at the centre of a distant elliptical galaxy and its brightness is determined by what it is currently consuming.  So the recent huge increase in brightness is a burp of cosmic proportions quite possibly as it gulps in stars or even other galaxies.  I write this in the present tense but it is highly likely this object ‘died’ eons ago and no longer exists.




    A QUASAR; a disk of stellar material feeding a huge black hole and artist’s depiction of data via NASA’s Spitzer and Chandra telescopes. Credit: Nasa JPL


    The village group found it a challenge to observe but with careful attention to excluding all other light sources and using averted vision I believe all present witnessed the 8 BILLION year old photons.  Retiring to the kitchen to consume a well earned cuppa, some of us had another peek about an hour later and it had significantly increased in brightness in that time so obviously it had done similar to us.


    What next?


    A few days later, from the observatory I captured a star field image to show the QUASAR CTA 102 here in the centre of frame against known reference stars.  This is a stack of 20 x 30 second exposures.


    CTA 102s.jpg


    QUASAR CTA 102 approximately Magnitude 12. 8th January 2017; Chris Higgins


    CTA 102 is now going out of reach. If it is still belching at the same rate in the Autumn we should check back then to see if it has satisfied its hunger.  Feel free to join me. 


    Follow my Twitter feed for regular updates on this and new topics from the backyard observatory.


    Twitter: @owmuchonomy



  16. From the beginning of the human race, to nearly only 400 years ago, everything we knew about space would be observed from the naked eye. Then Galileo came up with his telescope, and the world awakened. We learned Saturn had rings. Jupiter had moons. Within just a few years  of that, our entire understanding of the Universe changed. In the next few centuries, telescopes became more complex, of different sizes, lengths, and powers. Hubble is up in space, the ultimate viewing spot. Unhindered by weather, light pollution, or any other inconveniences, it is used by scientists to study the great cosmos.


    For 26 years now, the HST (Hubble Space Telescope) has been enthralling us with its spectacular images of nebulae, galaxies, and other space phenomena. However, the telescope does more than just take pictures all day for us to enjoy. The HST was a combined NASA(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and ESA (European Space Agency) project, which went up with tons more scientific instruments than just a powerful camera.


    Since being put in orbit, over 4000 astronomers have used it to publish ~13000 scientific papers on various topics. The HST is truly a marvel of civilization. When Hubble went up, it had a flawed mirror, which was sending back blurry images. After a 1993 servicing mission, the flaws were rectified, and from then, it's been taking pictures of all the amazing things we know it for. It's been used to look at other planets, their moons, further galaxies, and nebulae.

    It's been used to find water on planets, moons, and other asteroids. It's been used to map Pluto, the furthest planet from us (now a dwarf planet). NASA's New Horizons mission will rival the HST, but it will take 9 years to get close enough to Pluto to give any challenge to the HST.
    It's been used to calculate the lifespan of the universe, Hubble helped astronomers nail down the age of the universe with an accuracy of about 5 percent. Our Galaxy, the Milky Way is set to collide with the Andromeda Galaxy, speeding towards us at the speed of a bullet. We know this all thanks to Hubble.


    "When massive stars reach the end of their lives, they explode in a fiery death known as a supernova. These violent blowouts may leave behind black holes or supercompact neutron stars even as they blow the heavy elements that form in the heart of the star through their galaxy. Hubble has helped scientists to better understand the supernova process." - Space.com


    Check out the gallery below to see what kinds of amazing pictures the HST has taken over the years, and also check out my original blog over at http://hridaysabir.blogspot.in/ to keep up with the latest topics I write on.

























  17. What is the best I can expect to see through my skywatcher 1114p telescope and the best way to see it, i.e how to combine lenses etc

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    So I've recently purchased this little gem. It is so good! Surprisingly showing me Venus and Mars in great detail.

    The scope boasts a 4" aperture with a 400mm focal length(quite short tbh) but gets the job done with messier objects.

    it has this beautiful red finish which I shouldn't include as a feature but it sure does look gorgeous. Unfortunately it has only seen the sky once

    due to the bad weather here :clouds1::clouds2: but the views were worth it.


  18. My EQ-2 mount is nearing the end of its useful life. It has suffered a screw shear on the Dec. Slo-Mo controls, and now the handle of the main mount bolt has disintegrated. Although I would like to repair the mount, and keep it in operation, unfortunately, it is getting left behind in my astrophotography journey, and a replacement was due within a year or two. The recent disasters have only highlighted the need for this, and so a replacement is on its way! More next week....


    ===========IN MEMORIUM============

                                     EQ-2 (2012-2016).

                            A Wonderful Telescope Mount.

          Who Passed Away While Drift Aligning On The Front

              Path, And Who Will Never See The Stars Again.

                                    WE WILL MISS YOU

  19. 11 / November 18, 2016 / Home / 1955-2035 JST / Cold & clear / 15x70, 8x42

    I went outside before moonrise to find The Golfputter, and I succeeded. I saw a shooting star pass from south to north just below M31. The last 10 minutes were consumed by a conversation with the next door neighbor, who'd stepped outside for a cigarette.

    CONSTELLATIONS:          And / Ari / Aur / Cas / Cep / Per / Tri


    Kemble 1 (As/Cam)             -

    M31 (SG/And)                     -

    M33 (SG/Tri)                       Same hazy patch

    M36 (OC/Aur)                     -

    M37 (OC/Aur)                     -

    M38 (OC/Aur)                     -

    M45 (OC/Tau)                    Naked-eye only.   I doubt I'll ever resolve more than two points of light.

    Mel 20 (OC/Per)                 -

    NGC 752 (OC/And)           I liked it! It appears as a widely distributed patch of stars; I pictured them as grains of sand being disturbed by the Golfputter.

    Golfputter (As/And)          First sighting! It's distinct, but unlike Kemble's Cascade, doesn't suffer when viewed through lower magnification. 

  20. It is a premise of the Galilean principle of relativity that every reference frame behaves mechanically like an enclosed compartment at rest.  As a consequence of this premise it is presumed to be mechanically impossible to discern the motion of any reference frame by observing experiments conducted within that reference frame.  Material objects in flight within an enclosed compartment will manifest a particular velocity that arises from momentum transfer through physical contact with the compartment walls.  Objects in flight outside of the compartment will exhibit essentially the same behavior via contact with the external physical structure of the moving compartment.    However, a sound wave in flight through an enclosed compartment where the air has no wind currents in it will manifest one particular velocity while a sound wave propagating through the still air outside the compartment will manifest some other velocity — in a moving enclosed compartment the contained air’s velocity is the same as the compartment’s velocity and would add to or subtract from the sound wave’s propagation velocity.   There is then a difference in the mechanical behaviors of material objects and sound waves when they are moving through any particular medium based on whether that medium is within or outside of a moving enclosed compartment.  Under certain conditions an observer in a stationary or moving reference frame may not have to apply the principle of addition of velocities from the Galilean or Lorentz transformation equations to the propagating sound wave.  Not every reference frame is an enclosed compartment.

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  21. Igor - it lives.. again.

    Apple have just replaced the MBP's complete circuit board for the failed GPU under the GPU repair scheme. Free to me.. but if it hadn't been covered it would have been at least £800. However my battery snuffed it during the time under the desk so that was replaced too. The Apple bods noted my hard drive was also on the way out - I'd known this for a while.. so I've fixed a replacement myself. In short the screen, keyboard, and case are about all that remain of the original MBP... 

    However I now have a working graphics chip again :D bring on the deconvolution fun again.... and the laptop that means I can now use the telescope in the garden again for astrophotography!

    I'm tempted to switch over to a ODroid based INDI installation, simply because it's less hassle having a completely designated controller. How well Kstars and INDI work.. hmm will have to see.