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All Work and No Play . . . . . .

Hi all, As you may have read in one of my previous posts, my job with Greene King sees me coordinating till and IT installations during pub refurbs. Well, these last four weeks have been solid. We are trying to get as many pub refurb projects completed before the end of this month. Doesn’t do to have pubs closed at the busiest time of year! However, things are beginning to slow down on that front – although the meetings for jobs starting in the New Year are already coming in! This, added the fairly rotten weather have meant I have not been out with my binoculars as much as I would have liked. I have managed a few short sessions outside though and have seen the following: Venus – I get up early during the week, and always poke my head outside to see what the weather is like! Saw Venus was up, and quickly popped on my slippers to take a look. It was bloomin cold!! The sky was just beginning to lighten, but the view was crisp and the planet showed a definite crescent phase! I was so pleased!! Mars – I can’t see a disc, but the orange hue shows up well. Must wait to get the 150PL for a proper look!! Moon – again, impressed with the views I had. Observed the moon over a number of different phases, from just past new, to nearly full. The detail I was able to pull out along the terminator was pleasing. I have downloaded a Moon atlas, and am challenging myself to learn as much as possible on the geography of the Moon. Once I get the 150PL I am going to try for the Lunar 100! Messiers – I have downloaded a Messier catalogue spreadsheet, so I can start ticking off the ones I have seen. Not really had a chance to look for some of the dimmer ones, but (obviously!!) I have ticked off M31, 42 and 45!! I think I caught M1, but not too sure at the moment. I was in my back garden, and the LP was quite bad. Other stuff – I have downloaded a Plane Radar ap for my phone. I keep an eye on it during the day, and if I see a large commercial jet heading over, I pop out to take a look. An A380 at 33,000 feet is quite a site through the bincoluars!! I could very clearly ready the ’Emirates’ logo in red and white under the wings. Thanks for reading! I will try and do another blog before Christmas, work and weather permitting! Cheers Nige

Nigeyboy

Nigeyboy

 

Giant 3D Printed Skeleton Wall Clock

Based on some of my other clocks this will be a wall clock for my living room to go above the fireplace.  It will have a dial of around 3ft diameter with a sweep seconds hand as well as the usual minute and hour hands.  It will be driven by a stepper motor controlled by an Arduino Nano with Real Time Clock module to ensure excellent time keeping.  Unlike other clocks it will not have any extras such as moon dial or striking, nor a pendulum.  This will be of the simplest design using an epicyclic gearing principle with minimal number of parts.

Gina

Gina

 

First view of the Moon in the 20x80's . . . .

So, been another busy week, but not so much travel – just been pottering around the local area which makes a nice change! Also means I get home at a reasonable hour! Had a good weekend – my 10 year old son and I went to the Donnington Car Museum for a look around. He is mad about F1, and when we saw two of Senna’s cars, he was over the moon! I read that it is closing down for good on November 5th, as they can’t afford to keep it open any more – such a shame, as there is so much history there.   Anywho – on to other things. The weather has been fairly kind this past week, but it wasn’t until the end of last week I managed to get out under the starts with my 20x80’s. it was my first look at the moon through them, and I was very pleased with the view – the moon as just coming up to half full, and the detail along the terminator was crisp and sharp. I was able to make out Mare Imbrium. It was half illuminated, and some of the mountain peaks on the far side where just starting to be hit with sunlight. Further down, there were two craters in amazing relief – I think they were Eratosthenes on the left, and Copernicus to the right. Copernicus as in deep shadow, apart from the far left crater wall, which was bathed in sunlight. Overall, I was really pleased with the views, and have decided to learn as much about the Moon as I can, in readiness of the Explorer 150PL I shall be getting at Christmas. Further afield, I kept getting pulled back to the area around Cassiopeia, and Andromeda. I still don’t know what I am looking at really, but once back in the house, I am using Stellarium to work it out!! I found two clusters, close together below Cassiopeia – turns out it was N884 and N869, and each showed a mass of stars. I went back again to M45 to marvel at the sea of stars I could see. It is still fairly low from where I am, so hopefully the view will improve in the coming months. Next out, I want to try finding some globular clusters, such as M13. Time to start ticking off the Messier objects I think! Looks like it will be good again tonight, up till about midnight, but the Moon is nearly full, which might makes things tricky – we shall see!

Nigeyboy

Nigeyboy

 

3D Printed Chandelier for Living Room

The centre light fitting in my living room is looking tired and I want to replace it with something funky that fits my interests, like 3D printing and clocks as well as astronomy, so my idea is a giant 3D printed gear wheel with five globes as shades for LED lamps.  The gear wheel represents both 3D printing and clocks which contain lots of gears.  The globes can represent moons or planets.  Thinking about this, I guess I could add a star in the middle - I'll give it some thought.

Gina

Gina

 

Where did those 3 years go . . . . ?

Well, it appears to have been over three years since my last Blog entry . . . . . so what's been happening? Well, shortly after I my last entry, I was made redundant from my job as a Projects Coordinator. When I say 'Redundant', I was contracting, and the work dried up which was pretty crap. However, I wasn't out of work for long - got some more contracting work, and then just over a year ago I got a perm job with Greene King Pub Co. as a Regional Systems Manager - basically, I look after about 500 pubs IT equipment. My region is East and West Midlands, and the North East of England - so anywhere from Kidderminster in the South, to York and Scarborough in the North. It's a lot of driving (about 35,000 miles per year), but I love it! I get to see loads of the country, and always manager to catch Pop Master on Radio 2 now!! So, back to it - last time I blogged I was after a new scope. Well, I still am!! I have got myself a pair of Celestron Skymaster 20x80 bins as a stop gap, and have managed a couple of evenings out with them since I got them on my Birthday a few weeks ago! I still have the EQ3-2, and have now decided to get myself a Skywatcher 150PL OTA. I have been doing lots of research, and I think it is a good compromise between aperture and focal length. My 10 year old son is now getting interested in space and astronomy and to be able to see the planets is especially important!! Looks like I will have to wait from Crimbo for the scope - I have sent my letter to Santa already, and I am pretty sure I have been a good boy this year!! So, I hope to start Blogging weekly again now, to start with, with observations with my new bin's, and the in the new year, with my shiny new scope! Thanks for reading! Nige   

Nigeyboy

Nigeyboy

 

September - what to observe

September - what I have observed with comments and rating out of 5 stars by constellation for this month Hercules M13  ***** Quite open globular cluster, can make out individual stars around the edge and center, looks to be thousands of stars and seems very dense almost nebulous at the center. Best in 15mm EP and 2x Barlow M92 **** Dense globular cluster, can distinguish individual stars around the edge, nice in the  8mm EP and barlow Lyra Epsilon Lyrae **** - double double Nice to view and easy to distinguish the binary stars M57 ***** Ring Nebula. Easy to locate and you can see the ring clearly and also see the red and green. Very nice object to observe, cannot see center star Cygnus Alberto *** Double star. You can clearly see they comprise of a bright yellow and a dimmer (but bright) blue companion Vulpecula M27 ** Dumbell Nebula - very faint and hard to distinguish but you can just make out the dumbell  shape and cannot see any colour but looks brownish Ursa Major M81 & M82 *** Can view both galaxies as fuzzy hazes with brighter centers at the same time using the 15mm EP.  M81 (below M82) looks bigger and looks to be edge on.  

PaulM

PaulM

 

Pocket Sky Atlas book

Looks good full index of constellations, objects by type and the charts are very detailed. Charts are organised in 8 ascention sections each by when visible in the evening, midnight and morning so all in all very logically set out. Has a telrad finder symbol for star hopping which is a nice touch Was hoping it would contain what to view guides etc but there is no such info but can get this elsewhere to plan observing sessions Hope the pictures are useful as I never came across any when researching which sky atlas/guide to buy

PaulM

PaulM

 

Another step forward

Clear Outside said it was to be a clear night so I got set up and set about tonight's challenge - Polar Alignment.
I've struggled to do this properly since I got the scope, lack of visibility of Polaris being the major issue as I set up close to my house facing south.  I've now got the camera, mount and guide camera running through a USB hub and have managed to set up far enough from the house that I could see Polaris. 

It took me a while to find the star, and longer to convince myself that I was looking in the right place.  Looking at the image in the finder scope didn't work for me as I'm looking over the city of Glasgow but once I had spotted it I was able to roughly align it by sighting along the side then top of the scope, and then centre it in the camera frame.  Once this was done the final adjustments in the finder scope were a breeze. What a difference that has made!  I've thought I was very close before but the goto proved me wrong every time as it never reliably switched between targets.  Like most things, it'll be easier to do in the future now that I've done it correctly.  There's no substitute for practice! This is a good example of why it is so important to stick to the basics and keep it simple.  

Synchronicity

Synchronicity

 

Raising the 200P Skywatched DOB on a water butt

Having done a few nights observing with my new 200P Skywatcher I've found its too low for comfortable observing So got a 9x50 right angled finderscope which had made things a lot better with positioning the scope as had the Telrad finder but the focuser was still too low for comfort having to crouch down all the time so went to the local garden center on the way home and bought a water butt for £10 which has worked a treat and had a good session observing Jupiter before the clouds inevitably rolled in 

PaulM

PaulM

 

Telrad finder and right angled finderscope fitted

After my experience with the standard finderscope on my 200P Sky-watcher and you having to either bend over the scope when looking low or crouching down on the floor when almost high vertically I ordered a right angled finderscope (https://www.firstlightoptics.com/finders/skywatcher-9x50-right-angled-erecting-finderscope.html) Now fitted I can see its going to be so much easier pointing the scope and its also the "right" way around so up is up and left if left With the finderscope fitted it was time to see where best to fit the telrad finder I had bought I had read other had fitted these and used 2" or 4" risers so the finder sits higher on the scope so I decided to get a 4" riser I tried a few locations before fitting the telrad finder in the only location that's suitable and as its only stuck on with adhesive strips I've also cable tied it down Sorry about the pictures there not very clear

PaulM

PaulM

 

First night with the new 8" 200P Skywatcher

First night with the new 8" 200P Skywatcher Well after lots of cloudy nights finally managed to get a few hours observing with the new 8" 200P Skywatcher dobsonian Firstly what is the 200P like to observe with - well after collimating it when it arrived I tested this on some bright stars and all looks good when viewing the stars when slightly out of focus, its bulky to move around but manageable as one piece. The finderscope is painful to use, you need to strain your neck to view low lying objects and its even worst viewing directly above so have ordered a Sky-Watcher 9x50 Right-Angled, Erecting Finderscope, it also stands a little too low so will have to get a base for it to stand on when required. Optically its fantastic - beyond expectations for the price.
First target was Jupiter and I took the opportunity to perfectly align the finderscope. It was still twilight and Jupiter was low looking South above nearby roof tops. Could clearly see the four Galilean moons all were quite close to Jupiter, Jupiter itself was clearly a disk and two bands could be observed on the disc. Very pleased with what I saw. I first used the BST starguider 60 degree 15mm EP and then the BST starguider 60 degree 8mm EP to observe - very crisp images and was able to keep Jupiter and all the moons in view for a good time even with the 8mm. Next I connected up the ZWO ASI120MC-S camera and attempted to view Jupiter with no success - couldn't get an image up at all The moon was visible low in the sky to the left of Jupiter so with the camera still attached and using Firecatpure I could clearly observe the moon through the camera on the laptop - amazing - childhood dream come through viewing using a laptop !!! After playing around with the settings in Firecatpure (mainly gain and exposure) I could clearly observe many features on the moon and also through the BST Starguider 2x short barlow lens. I had also downloaded the ASICAP software from the ZWO camera website and managed to take better and larger images through that compared to Firecapture. ASICAP also has an auto function for gain \exposure which was very useful - maybe I need to get more familiar with Firecapture? Next was Saturn - again no luck getting any images from the camera so viewed this through the BST starguider eyepieces and barlow and wow! Despite it still being twilight\getting dark and close to a waxing gibbous Moon and low in the sky and above some local roof tops Saturn could clearly be seem as a orange\yellow disk. The rings clearly defined and the cassini division visible. Titan was to the upper left of Saturn and clearly visible. Spent a good half hour observing Saturn in awe. As the moon was close to Saturn I spend a little more time observing with the camera and getting some more images and playing with the settings Looking around the sky I decided to concentrate on Lyra as it was high up and away from the moon Could clearly observe the "double double" that is Epsilon Lyrae, have to say the clarity of the 200P telescope and eyepieces was impressive - could clearly make out the separate stars M57 ring nebula - clearly observable as a ring structure was very impressed with what I saw Finally to end my session I looked behind me and decided to view M31 and could see the bright center surrounded by a very light haze, no structure could be seen and was to be honest a little disappointing , hopefully I will make better observations of M31 later in the year when the moon isn't around and also when I view from a darker location Overall a great first night of observing and was very very impressed with the 8" 200P Skywatcher, the BST starguider EPs and barlow lens less impressed with the ZWO ASI120MC-S camera

PaulM

PaulM

 

Useful websites

After doing my usual research\looking around the web I have bookmarked the following useful web sites I will keep this blog entry updated as I come across other useful websites; Light polution web sites I've used the first website to shorlist a few locations within an hours drive or so from my home for dark sky viewing http://www.nightblight.cpre.org.uk/maps/
http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html
Interactive Observing Tools - such as Jupiter moon tracker \ Neptune triton tracker https://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/interactive-sky-watching-tools/
Star maps with planets \ moons of Jupiter Choose the different charts from the Charts drop down menu to view the different maps\views https://in-the-sky.org
Darksky weather forecast https://darksky.net/forecast/53.4029,-3.133/us12/en
Clear outside - provided First Light Optics This is also an android\iPhone app - I have downloaded the Android app and it looks and gives the the same information as the website http://clearoutside.com/forecast
Telescope - Field of view tool Useful for seeing what the FOV is for selected celestrial objects though a combination of different telescopes\eyepieces\barlow\reducers https://astronomy.tools/calculators/field_of_view/

PaulM

PaulM

 

First use of the telescope : Jupiter\The Moon

Since getting the telescope (a week ago) I have had no luck really with getting some observing in as there has been 100% cloud cover  But one evening early on before it got too dark I managed to view Jupiter and its 4 moons low in the sky with the new BST Starguider barlow lens and eyepieces At the same time I setup the viewfinder so it was dead on using the 15mm eye piece  Well what can I say compared to my 4" reflector Jupiter looks great. Could clearly see the four galilean satellites and banding on Jupiter despite it still being light and early evening. The clarity and crispness of the view was very very good - better than I expected if I am honest and was very pleased I also liked how easy it was to guide the telescope using the little handle under the scope to follow Jupiter and keep it within view, unfortunately clouds appeared soon after I began viewing Jupiter and then it disappeared behind some houses for the evening In anticipation for a break in the clouds I got the laptop out and connected up the ZWO ASI camera in preparation for viewing the moon and Saturn An hour or so later the moon was viewable and again through the BST Starguider barlow lens and eyepieces the moon looked fab - very clear and crisp. To view the moon I had to move the telescope out of the conservatory into the garden - this was the first time I have had to move the telescope property - its a bit of a stuggle but managed to relocate it and in the future will remove the telescope tube from the base and move both seperately so I don't trip up or put my back under any strain walking and carrying it all at one Once in the garden I pulled up a garden chair and small table and put the laptop on the table and attached the camera to the focuser and started up the Firecapture software and after aligning the telescope via the view finder on he moon was seeing a white smudge so after focusing I managed a clear and crisp image on the laptop and watch in excitement as the section of the moon I was observing slowly glided across shimmering away. Using this camera you do not get to see a large section of the moon (certainly not the whole of the moon) but for me the camera will be about imaging planets but was happy to be able to mount the camera, use the software (changing the gain \ exposure and other setting) to get a good image. I also did come capture but these were saved in the default SAT format which I couldn't view\playback so after the moon disappeared behinds clouds for the night I adjusted the setting in Firecapture to save movies as AVI and images as JPEG for next time. So overall a good but short session viewing Jupiter and its moon and our very own moon and getting familiar with the ZWO ASI camera as well as the eyepieces and guiding the telescope. As I have been doing much reading up I was appreciative of what I was seeing using the 8mm and 15mm eyepieces and the barlow lens, whereas when I was using my 4" I use to randomly change eyepieces not knowing what to expect to see haha !

PaulM

PaulM

 

Drivers\software for the ZWO ASI camera

In preparation for my first nights viewing (been cloudy since I bought the telescope) I readup on how the ZWO camera is used and supporting software Firstly went to the ZWO website (https://astronomy-imaging-camera.com/software-drivers) and downloaded the following onto my Windows 10 laptop; ASI drivers ASICAP software - to capture images with the camera At the same time I also downloaded FireCapture (http://www.firecapture.de/) as this seems to be the most populate software for working with ZWO ASI cameras  - I could be wrong though !! Unpacked the camera and plugged it into the laptop (via USB lead) and fired up Firecapture - it gives you the option of ZWO camera on startup and all seems to be working ok - getting an image from the camera I also after watching some tutorials on the Firecapture site setup default folders to capture to and played around with some of the other settings\icons etc So happy that the camera works and the laptop\software is setup and ready for my first observations

PaulM

PaulM

 

Books : Making every photon count \ Turn left at Orion

As I ultimately was to get images of what I observe I acquired the following book from FLO Making Every Photon Count  read the first few chapters - is very good so far and aimed at the absolute beginner I also bought 2nd hand Turn left at Orion Ok book - pretty basic diagrams of the constellations and star maps\objects of interest (all in sketch form) but good enough to find objects of interest and there is info about them 

PaulM

PaulM

 

Collimating the telescope

Well being new to all this and doing much research and reading up I knew I would need to check the collimation of the telescope so bought a collimation cap for this With the instructions provided with the telescope it was pretty straight forwards to do and as I have also watched a few youTube videos and read some how-to's so I knew what to expect and do So firstly fitted the collimation cap and check things - things were not ideal (see attached image) So using the instructions the first thing to do was alter the secondary mirror (the one that direct light into the eyepiece) which was straightforwards so I could see the three tabs on the edge of the primary mirror (in the attached image you can only see two) Once this was done it was time to adjust the primary mirror. There are three holding screws and three allen key bolts, the allen key bolts move\adjust the mirror and the holding screws hold it in place. So following the instructions I attempted to loosen the allen key bolts with no luck using the smaller provided allen key - I had to go into the shed and get a much smaller allen key that would fit. So by adjusting things I got the central circle lined up and tighted up the screws. All in all 20 mins to read through the instructions and do the adjustments - now I have done it once its will be more straight forwards next time

PaulM

PaulM

 

New eyepieces \ telrad finder \ collimation cap \ barlow lens

While waiting for the telescope to arrive I went and bought the the following; Telrad finder - looks like a nice piece of kit and looks useful to star hopping as I plan to view deep sky objects (DSO) and the dimmer planets not visible to the naked eye BST Starguider 2x short barlow lens BST starguider 60 degree 15mm eyepiece BST starguider 60 degree 8mm eyepiece Rigel Aline Collimation Cap

PaulM

PaulM

 

Building the 200P telescope

The 200P Skywatcher 8" Dobsonian telescope arrived in two large boxes, one containing the base, tools and screws etc and another containing the actual telescope\tube and accessories (viewfinder \ eyepieces) Assembly of the base was straight forwards and all the tools required were provided - allen keys \ screwdriver - overall took around 20 mins and due to its size is a little cumbersome for a single person but not an issue - once built seems sturdy enough Telescope was very well packaged (thankfully) so took this out and mounted it onto the base with ease Fitted the eyepiece adapter and viewfinder and was done I will be keeping the box the telescope\tube came in as I plan to travel to better viewing locations in North Wales All in all 30 mins to unpack and build Its a bit bulky and cumbersome to move around and pretty heavy but manageable  

PaulM

PaulM

It's getting dark...

There's an old saying, 'If you want to give the gods a laugh tell them your plans for the future'. 
My plans were along the lines of spending the very light nights setting up and testing ASCOM,  PHD2 and other software and practising my post processing.  What actually happened was that my laptop died, taking with it all of the settings that I'd struggled to figure out - but hadn't noted down  It also had lots of personal data that hadn't been backed up recently so a new laptop and dozens of hours getting the old hard disk connected and copied.  I also had and my mount in bits as I tried to figure out how to improve the latitude adjustment. Anyway, on Thursday night I had everything assembled, all the software re-installed and maybe working and a free evening to play with it.  I got on quite well before it clouded over and Friday night was forecast to be clear.  By twilight I was all set up and ready to go.  I started work as soon as it was dark enough for the guide setup to work and got a good series of exposures up to 3 minutes long guiding with perfect stars - I was delighted! After trying a few things out I set the rig up to take a series of 20 second exposures of M11, the Wild Duck Cluster.  It was still too light but I wanted to see if it would behave when left alone. A bit later I started on M27, the Dumbell nebula.  There was quite a bit of high, wispy cloud blowing through so I kept it to 30 second subs - 198 of them.  Basic processing has got me this image which is my first public post on Astrobin.  I still need to go through the images and remove the poorer quality ones, re-stack and spend more time processing. https://www.astrobin.com/full/360831/B/  

Synchronicity

Synchronicity

 

Light relief for Cosmologists

'Calculating the Cosmos' by Ian Stewart and 'The Universe Next Door' a New Scientist compilation are both extremely enjoyable reads and have kept me going in between the'dark clear nights' here on the east coast.  So having time on my hands this summer, I prepared a digital image and poem in 'homage' to two of my favourite pursuits: reading books on cosmology I barely understand and eating shellfish most people tend to avoid.    'Winkles in the fabric of Space-Time' - mixed media - George Roberts - June 2018   "If there were winkles in the fabric of Space-Time At the Planck scale squid and plaice would rhyme If the Universe and Albert Einstein could spin on one sharp pin Might each sardine simultaneously be alive and dead in it's tin? Perhaps dark matter would even cease to matter? If cod, god and gravity were resolved in batter".   George Roberts from the book 'A Brief History of Gastropods'  

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

Gina's Ultimate All Sky Camera

I'm hoping this is my final and hence "Ultimate" generation of all sky cameras.  Based on the ASI185MC CMOS astro camera and Fujinon fish-eye lens of 1.4mm focal length and f1.8.  Image capture is provided by a Raspberry Pi 3 in conjunction with INDI drivers.  This is used with KStars/Ekos client software running on a Linux Mint desktop indoors.  Communication is via Wi-Fi.  The astro camera is an uncooled version but I have added a Peltier TEC cooler.  This cools the camera down to something like -15°C for night sky imaging with longer exposures of around a minute.  Daytime imaging is also covered using the camera's minimum exposure and gain.  The colour camera differentiates between dark clouds and blue sky and also shows the colours of stars at night. This Blog will describe the construction of the hardware and the special driver coding used to control dew heater, camera cooling and focussing.  

Gina

Gina

 

Creating a Pond Garden.

I'm starting with an empty area about 10 x 4 metres between sun lounge and observatory in front of living room window and facing roughly south.  I have killed off most of the weeds and grass by covering with an old tarpaulin for a year or so.  This has also stopped the ground from drying out and making it easier to dig.   In addition to providing a path to the observatory, this will provide flowers and shrubs to see from the living room window.  Plus a small pond and fountain.  The latter is something I have been working on in 3D printing and plan to have something unique.  Apart from the pond there will be planting areas and slabs and ornamental stepping stones. I have removed most of the tarpaulin and started digging a hole for the pond.  The latter is a pre-formed pond I bought from Amazon :-
Bermuda Sand Pre Formed Pond 128 x 84 cm. Here are some photos of pond hole digging and the general area.

Gina

Gina

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