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Perpetual Calendar

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.

Gina

Gina

 

Longcase Pendulum Clock

Traditional longcase (grandfather) clock but using 3D printed gears etc.  Also transparent acrylic clockface and mechanism front and back plates to show all the works.  The case is made of wood and pretty much traditional shape.  In addition to the usual hour and minute hands and dial this clock will have a moon globe above the main clock face similar to my moon dial clock.  I may add a small seconds dial if this proves viable.  There will also be an auto-winding mechanism driven from a stepper motor.   I'm hoping to add a striking mechanism once I have the main clock working.

Gina

Gina

 

Moon Dial Clock

This clock runs off a stepper motor controlled by Arduino and Real time Clock module.  It is about 300mm square with analogue display of hours and minutes with a sweep seconds hand.  Atop the main clock face is a globe displaying the phase of the moon.  The clock face is of clear acrylic to show all the gears etc.  This clock is finished and has been running for several months.

Gina

Gina

 

"GinaRep Mini" 3D Printer

This is a 3D printer with a 200mm square print bed and probably around 250mm build height depending on how things work out.  It will use many of the parts from my "GinaRep Pilot" printer which has now served its purpose and needs upgrading/rebuilding.  The Pilot printer had a moving print bed for the Y axis whereas the Mini will use Core-XY and the print bed will move up/down to provide the Z axis.  This arrangements minimises the mass of moving parts in the XY plane where motion is fastest.

Gina

Gina

 

Test blog

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

Gina

Gina

 

Finally got the new mount polar aligned!

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.  

michaelmorris

michaelmorris

 

Star Diary-Pitfalls and Craters

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.  

Astro-Nat

Astro-Nat

 

Once in a full moon

There is something so beguiling about a full moon. An endless source of inspiration for gothic novelists everywhere, it has become synonymous with dark and mysterious happenings, and I have grown up enamoured with it’s beauty. A hazy evening provided the perfect opportunity to try to capture this sentiment. I can't wait to do some luna photography with Herschel, to really get in amongst the detail.

Astro-Nat

Astro-Nat

 

Deep Sky Country

I have been blessed with that rarest of astronomical phenomenons these past two weeks-clear skies on nights when I can stay awake long enough to see something! Praise be! (Normal service has now resumed, I might add. As I type a thick layer of cloud has rolled across the entirety of the sky, and seems well and truly here for an overnight stay. Ho hum.) This past Saturday was, without doubt, the clearest sky I have seen since brining Herschel home, so I was pretty excited to get all the kit out and get set up, then waited patiently for the first stars to begin a-twinkling. Which they did. And boy, did they look beautiful, so inviting and twinkly and generally ready to be magnified through a telescope. So, I set up Herschel, loaded up the tablet and began to align my three bright stars. I focussed the eyepiece dead centre on them, chose three as far apart as I possibly could, and set to work, ready to view the wonders of the cosmos. Then, that little message appeared on screen. “Alignment failed.” Drat. Try again, making extra sure that I had the right stars and that they were properly centred. And…go. “Alignment failed.” Fine. Astronomy is teaching me nothing if not patience. And so, again, I sent Herschel roving across the sky, in pursuit of different stars this time. “Alignment failed.” In fact, quite a few more of these messages followed suite. At this point, my astronomer’s patience was running out, and I was donating frequently to the swear jar once more. For whatever reason, be it user error (highly likely) or the fact that it was a full moon, which was throwing out a butt-load of light (technical term there), I don’t know. But it was not my night. So the stars twinkled enigmatically above me, as I heaved my telescope back inside in disgrace, flicking a select finger or two at the moon as I went. Thankfully, I had a second shot last night, with beautifully clear skies once more and a late moonrise meaning that I had perfect conditions gifted to me once more. So, putting last week’s misstep behind me, I set myself up again. As if she were trying to make amends, Herschel gave me that glorious message “alignment successful” on her first attempt, meaning that we could get straight on with the business at hand. Where I live we are extremely lucky to have some of the darkest skies in the county, if not the entire country, in fact we’re currently trying to get my local area designated as Dark Sky Reserve. So clear nights afford the most spectacular opportunities for a bit of deep sky observation. I haven’t dabbled too much in this yet, either because conditions haven’t been right (still not ideal with light levels at this time of year, but possible) and not having the confidence to know what I was looking at. I had a bit of modest success a few weeks ago, a few smudges here ad there which were Messier objects, and a nondescript smudge which may have been a blown out bit of the Andromeda Galaxy. But nothing concrete. Well, last night, as both Jupiter and Saturn were being unhelpful in their positions, I decided that it was as good a chance as any I was going to get in the foreseeable future to do a bit of deep sky hunting. It took me a while to get my eye in. I went searching for nebulae and galaxies and Messiers, without much luck. It was only when I really took time to closely look that I began to see that somethings looked just a little bit different. At one point I was trying to polish an annoying smudge off my eyepiece, and when it wouldn’t go, realised that the smudge was actually something a few thousand lightyears away. This might sound a little underwhelming, but I don’t mean for it to, the realisation that I was viewing something with my own eyes that I had only before seen in textbooks (in this case it was the Dumbbell Nebula) was a real ‘wow’ moment, and once I knew what I was looking for, it turned into quite a fruitful night. Long after the clock had ticked over into a another day, and I put my Herschel away, I sneaked back out for one last look at the sky which had been so kind to me that night. What I saw took my breath away. I had been so focussed on looking at the little things, individual star and deep space wonders, that I had forgotten to look away from the eyepiece and look at the stellar canvas as a whole. It was truly beautiful. i know I overuse that wok, but it was. There must have been thousands of stars visible to the naked eye, like diamonds glittering against deep blue velvet. I have never seen the sky so full. Needless to say, it was another few hours before I made it back inside. Everyone should look at our night sky, see our universe in motion. So many stars. If there is a more humbling, awe inspiring experience to be had, I don’t know what it is.    

Astro-Nat

Astro-Nat

 

Lunar Exploration

I really love astronomy. I love nothing more than getting Herschel out and gazing at the universe until the wee small hours of the morning. Unfortunately, this is not helpful for maintaining a non-zombie like state during the daytime, which in turn leads to some tricky situations at work. This, combined with shockingly poor impulse control means that I have to implement a strict ‘no summer astronomy on a work night’ rule. This stands until the nights start closing in, or I can find a viable nocturnal job. Whichever comes first. Suggestions welcomed. So this rule really blows when the past 3 weekends have been cloudy, but weeknights have been gloriously clear, with twinkly stars and everything. Twinkling away like they’re mocking me. WhyIOughta…..*shakes fist at sky*. Anyway, determined to find a loophole in my self-imposed rule, I was delighted when we had an early moonrise on Monday night. Due to monthly cycles, cloud or timing, I have not yet observed the moon through Herschel, and so saw this as a new and exciting opportunity. I was able to spend a good hour finding my way around the maria and craters, getting very excited about nerdy things like the impact craters inside other impact craters (yeah. Told you it was nerdy.) To be able to observe all this before 9pm was, just a few days outside of the longest day, a real treat. I now am looking forward to setting my AltairAstro on the moon next time it puts in an appearance. Which could yield a number of results. And probably a lot of cursing. Watch this space.

Astro-Nat

Astro-Nat

 

Astronomy is Social Pastime...Honest!

This Friday just gone, I hitched up my (entirely metaphorical) breeches and went to my first ever astronomy social meeting. Believe me, my very anxious brain tried every excuse in the book to talk me out of it, not limited to poor weather, Friday night fatigue and post meal bloat leaving me looking like a blimp, because a room full of new people is enough to render me a quivering wreck. I am not god at social stuff. I am very awkward, and really rather weird. People don’t tend to like me much on the first meeting. Or the second. Sometimes even the third. But after that, I normally chill the heck out and relax into being something resembling a fully functioning human being, rather than a very unsubtle alien masquerading as one. So potential new social groups are not things to be taken lightly. But I came to the unarguable conclusion that I won’t get very good at astronomy bumbling around the back yard by myself, swinging my telescope every which way and occasionally getting lucky. So off I went. I should add, I insisted that my dad come with me, as he is annoyingly capable at humaning, so I felt safer with him there to divert attention from me. As usual with all things, I had no reason to worry. The AAS (Ashford Astronomical Society) were as friendly, welcoming and knowledgable as I could have dreamed of. I talked to quite a few members, all of whom were lovely, and really, really like astronomy. As I also really, really like astronomy, this gave us an easy opener for conversation. I feel like if I strive to talk to new people about astronomy, then my awkward first meeting problems could be solved! Although most people would probably not appreciate that, but I can iron out the wrinkles later. We had a fascinating talk about GMC (Giant Molecular Clouds) and probably my favourite astronomical thingy-majigs, Bok Globules, and not just because of the funny name, arguably the coolest things in the known and unknown universe. I am determined to see one.  Although the weather was against us, we had a really helpful talk about what is around behind all that cloud, and how to find it, invaluable for a newcomer like me. So, after all my flapping and dallying and excuse-making, I felt really rather foolish. I didn’t need to worry, didn’t embarrass myself (too much. I think.) learned a great deal and met some wonderful people. I loved my first astronomy social, and cannot wait for the next one.

Astro-Nat

Astro-Nat

 

Stargazing Session 002 - The Moon, half of Jupiter, no Saturn and CLOUDS.

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)   Jupiter 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 Abe

AbeSapien

AbeSapien

 

Viewing the Aurora Borealis

A couple of years ago, fed up with the daily grind and the men in our life (a frequent complaint, if I’m honest), my mum and I embarked on a girl’s trip. First, and anyone who has done this will know, came the trials and tribulations of choosing a destination. I am a bit of a space case, in that flying gives me the willies, and I will literally do anything to get out of it (truly, I once took a 9.5 hour bus journey at twice the cost to avoid a 1.5 hour flight), but thankfully, my mum loves nothing more than a cruise, so that was an easy issue to resolve. But where would we be chugging off to on the high seas? In the end we settled on Norway, because we had never been, and who would turn down the opportunity to see perhaps the most famous natural light show on earth? We are hot weather mortals, so we had to speed buy ski trousers and ear hats and those jackets that make you look like Michelin Man and look good on no-one, ever, because we were not just going to Norway, we were going 250 miles into the Artic Circle. In March. I have a condition called Raynauds, which essentially means that my blood vessels are tight arses and refuse to let blood pass to my hands and feet and in cold weather, I end up resembling those blue Avatar people, so I was beginning to question my own sanity. But press on we did, and soon, we were waving the men-folk off at Southampton port, and settling down with an obligatory holiday cocktail as we set sail. By happy accident, a couple of days into our trip was due to be the date of the total solar eclipse being visible from Torshavn, in the Faroes, so we diverted there for that occasion (see Why Astronomy? for details on that particular adventure). Soon, we arrived in Norway, viewing the most incredible fjords and proper, powdery, fluffy snow, not that damp smelly mush we get in England. But the main event, was of course, the majestic Aurora Borealis. We docked at Alta, near the northern tip of Norway, and stayed for 2 nights to have the best chance of viewing them. We diligently studied the weather forecast, and plumped to journey out on the second night, which promised to be clearer. But it still was no guaranteed thing. On the first night, we watched as those who had tried their luck traipsed back to the ship, glum faces revealing misfortune. Soon, it was our turn, and we journeyed to a golf course in the middle of nowhere, far away from city lights, mountains rising ghost-like form the horizon, a lake frozen solid with thick ice glinting in the moonlight. It was -22 degrees celsius. I was bloody cold. To be fair, I had used my extra clothing, including socks, gloves, hats and even a jumper, to wrap my camera up to protect it from the frankly ridiculous temperatures. You know, priorities and all that. We stood, (literally) frozen to the spot, hoping furiously that those lights would appear in the sky, and sure enough, rippling over the mountains, they began to dance. Now, if you’d indulge me, I would like to take a detour into science, by far one of my favourite detours to make, because I think that it makes the Aurora even more magical when you know why they dance for us. If some geek prattling on about physics and trying to convince you that it’s cool isn’t your idea of fun…well, you may be on the wrong blog, but feel free to skip the following paragraph. Auroras occur at the magnetic poles of our planet, when solar wind emitted by the Sun, containing charged particles, enters the Earth’s upper atmosphere and collides with oxygen and nitrogen atoms approximately 200 miles above the surface. These collisions and the resulting reactions cause the aurora that we then see, and the constantly shifting combinations of these collisions cause the lights to “dance” across the sky. The different colours depend upon the type of atom that is struck, and the altitude at which the collision takes place. Observe below: •Green – oxygen, up to 150 miles in altitude •Red – oxygen, above 150 miles in altitude •Blue – nitrogen, up to 60 miles in altitude •Purple/violet – nitrogen, above 60 miles in altitude Of course, our Sun is an extraordinarily powerful star, and the force of it’s solar winds are truly awe inspiring, and honesty slightly alarming. Just look at what it did to poor old Mercury. So the magnetic poles, and the busy little atoms contained within them, are actually shielding us from these harmful winds. The aurora is our planet visibly protecting us from the wrath of the Sun, in the most beautiful way imaginable. And I think, that makes it even more wonderful.

Astro-Nat

Astro-Nat

 

Astronomy on a Cloudy Night

Ask any astronomer what most frustrating thing about the pursuit is, and they will likely give you an answer along the lines of ‘cloud.’ I always quite liked clouds, especially those fluffy ones like on the title credits of the Simpsons (puts on Nerd Hat, straightens bow tie, clears throat “I think you’ll find those are called Cumulus clouds.” Takes off hat, gets back into cupboard under stairs) so, naturally, when I was warned about what a menace they were, I was sceptical. Let me tell you, a menace they are. This weekend’s viewing was defined by my telescope racing to clear spots to try and pinpoint an object before the cloud closed in. Not very successfully I might add. So what was once my friend as a photography has become my enemy as an astronomer. But then, I will have to wind my neck in and accept that some nights will just go that way. In the grand scheme of things, a clouded off astronomy session is not a big deal, particularly as I have a shameful collection of DVDs of other people doing astronomy for when I can’t. So clouds are truly the enemy of free thinking astronomers everywhere, and I have myself spent  more time shaking my fist and cursing at clouds in the sky than actually looking at anything in it. Still, it’s given me scope to be very inventive with my curse words. Perhaps every cloud does indeed have a silver lining.  

Astro-Nat

Astro-Nat

 

The Scopening

It took a long time for me to get around to buying a telescope. Mainly because I am an incurable procrastinator, and just a bit miserly, so it took quite a while to quieten that old lady voice in my head telling me to save the money for a rainy day/something sensible/an impressively extensive booze cabinet (don’t ask, just a hankering I’ve always had.) But, on the dawn of my 26th birthday, I decided that my quarter life crisis was going to take the form of a tube with a bunch of mirrors in it. Racy, I know. While my friends are all getting engaged, having kids and settling into their dream jobs, I’ve burrowed further into the solitary, nocturnal world of astronomy. I think we all know who’s winning at life. (Hint; not the girl who just spent half a month’s wages on a tube with mirrors in it.) But, as usual, I have digressed. I went online and fervently researched my options. What could I see with different types of scope? What mount should I get? Should I get a Dobsonian, a Newtonian, a reflector, a refractor or catadioptric? All this was starting to sound a bit like a list of horrendous medical conditions, and every site I turned to offered totally opposing viewpoints and opinions. I was, and I only use this word for occasions when it is truly valid, befuddled. So I decided to make the treacherous journey to Sittingbourne (I’m from a little Kent village, it felt treacherous, alright!?) to speak to someone face to face in a telescope shop. I knew what I wanted. or rather, I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want one of these new fangled fancy-pants GoTo telescopes, I was committed to learning the sky by rote, and dazzling everyone with my ability to point to a star and say, “oh yes, that’s Vega, a main sequence star in the constellation Lyra with an apparent magnitude of +0.026, approximately 25 light years from the Sun.” As you can tell, I am well fun at parties. I had decided after research, that I would be well off with a Dobsonian refractor. I had my budget. I was prepared, but even so, I was nervous. Even armed with my notebook, full of notes and scribbles, I was anxious, concerned that I would have an experience not dissimilar to those I frequently have in car garages, whereby, because I appear a bit dopey, people think I don’t know what I am talking or can get me to part with more money than strictly needed (good luck with that one, as I said before; miserly.) However, I was truly pleasantly surprised. I visited F1 telescopes, and was helped to my decision by the man in the shop, who was extremely patient, putting up with all my questions and general thoughts (I tend to do a lot of my thinking out loud, I call it quirky, others call it annoying.) After a good hour spent musing over the benefits and possibilities, I came away with a Celestron, Astro-Fi 130mm Computerised Newtonian Reflector. Given that that is not the snappiest of names, I renamed her Herschel. Just to recap, I went in knowing for certain that I didn’t want a GoTo computerised telescope. That I wanted a refractor. I guess that sticking to my guns should not be high up on my C.V. But how pleased I am to have been challenged on preconceived ideas. As was quite rightly pointed out to me, a GoTo mount is invaluable (and now, after only a few weeks, I think I would rather lose an arm than forfeit Herschel’s GoTo capability) because it means that if you have a short window of viewing opportunity, you don’t have to spend an age faffing about trying to pinpoint a celestial body, your ever-so-clever telescope does it for you. As soon as I got her home, I slotted the parts together and aligned the sniper scope on top (not really called a sniper scope, but it for all the world feels like that’s what you’re using when that little red dot appears. I have never felt more badass in my life as when I’m peering down my red dot sight.) I made a fundamental mistake, however. I set her up in my bedroom. No sleep was had that night. None at all. Lots of quiet swearing, but no sleep. The swearing was because, of course,  I couldn’t align my scope and then astronomise (made that one up) through my window. And also because, when I used the motor controls to move my telescope, I got too close to the body and it bloody marked me in the side of the head. So, in a last ditch attempt to see something, anything, I manually focussed in on what I knew to be Saturn. And let me tell you, that fleeting, shaky glimpse of the ringed planet was a sight I will never forget. I was absolutely in awe, and all the frustrations of set up and misalignment and battered skulls melted away in that instant. I feel like the whole gambit of astronomy emotions were sampled on that night. And let me tell you, I couldn’t wait for the next one.

Astro-Nat

Astro-Nat

 

Why Astronomy?

Hello, bienvenue and welcome to my little blog. Pull up a chair and make yourself at home. This is a place for observations, thoughts, musings and meanings probably loosely about astronomy, and the universe as a whole.  Firstly, a little bit of background about your writer. My name is Nat, I hail from lovely Kent in South East England (although soon to be plotting a new course due west to Dorset, if we ever manage to sell the house.) That was my first diversion. I think I will have to set up a diversion count for this blog, as I tend to distract myself onto another topic very quickly, as you will learn if you stick with it. I will get back on track eventually. Probably. Does that count as a diversion too? Oh, I've confused myself already. Nevermind. So, yes, I have lived in Kent all of my 26 years, and for as long as I can remember, loved looking to the stars, even before I understood what I was looking at. It was always a casual interest, an 'Aw, isn't that lovely? OK, back to reality' kind of interest, until 20th March 2015, when by sheer luck, with no judgement or credit to be given on my count, I viewed perhaps the most spectacular and dramatic of astronomical events; a total solar eclipse. It was a tight thing too, because it seemed until the final throws that we wouldn't be able to see it. On arrival by ship to the fishy city of Torshavn (that's fishy as in it smells of fish, not untrustworthy. Any place literally called Thor's Harbour is plenty trustworthy in my book.) (Diversion #3) we were unable to dock due to inclement weather conditions, instead being forced to turn back out to sea and drop anchor off shore, watching the crowds jostling on the shore for the best viewing position fade slowly into a blur of camera flashes and parka jackets in the distance. Once anchored, it was tense wait as the thick clouds swirled above us, taunting us occasionally with snatches of the ever decreasing disc of the sun, but looking for all the world as if a view of totality would be denied to us. Some people went back to the warm comfort of their cabins, frustrated by the unhelpful weather, the promise of warm brew to stave off the icy March temperatures too much to resist after hours of waiting for something which seemed unlikely to appear. This meant that, being rather Hobbit-like in stature (one of the few occasions in which it has been a benefit, even if some people find the airy feet rather off-putting) (diversion #4) I was able to slip to the front of the ship, and peer out into the sky without the shadows of my fellow passengers heads diving across my view. There was a lot of disappointed grumbling to be heard, and the cloud was by now a thick black curtain, an apparently impenetrable, teasing veil. But then, with literally seconds to spare (how helpful for dramatic tension that timing was), the clouds parted as though brushed aside, revealing the moment when the disc of the Moon slid over that of the Sun, and a hush descended over those determined remaining crowds on deck. A chill filtered through the air, and it felt as though everyone held their breath in unison as the cosmos put on the most wonderful display of grandeur. I have never felt more tiny and fleeting than in that moment, never been more keenly aware that I merely a minuscule collection of atoms, standing on a lump of rock zooming through an infinite and violent universe which couldn't care less is I remember to put the bins out this morning. But I also felt wonderful, privileged to see it, a wake up call, if you will. Tiny, yes. Fleeting, yes. Insignificant, definitely not. By a strange twist of fortune, when we did later dock and clamber ashore to explore the Faroes, it emerged that, from the vantage point of the shoreline, where we should have been were it not for seemigly uncooperative weather conditions, they had been unable to see totality as clearly. What serendipity that bad weather turned out to be. So that is my long, rambling, ineloquent answer to the question that my mother particularly likes to ask me when I traipse in at 3 in the morning after a frustrating night viewing mostly clouds. In the 200,000 odd years that humans have been rattling around this lump of rock, what an honour it is to be alive in this tiny slither of time in the history of the universe when I can freely and confidently explore our universe from my back garden. What an honour indeed.

Astro-Nat

Astro-Nat

 

Stargazing Session 001 - Saturn, Jupiter & the Milky Way

21 of June 2017 / 22h30 UTC+01:00 / Stargazing Conditions: 88%   So, I crammed all of my new acquired stuff together and went to the darkest place I could find near my town. It's a mere 5 minute drive from my home. As I set everything up, I tried to wait for 20-30 minutes to give the 'scope a chance to acclimatize but I really couldn't!     Jupiter I looked west south west to find Jupiter, pointed my finderscope at it and I was amazed by how clear the image from the 'scope was!! I had a 5 minute stare through my 25mm BST eyepiece where I could distinctly see the two belts, the north and south equatorial belt. As clearly as the belts were also three of its moons were, namely Callisto, Europa and Io, although Europa was quite close to Jupiter. The color was also great and the view, simply mesmerizing!  I then switched to the 15mm BST eyepiece. First I was a little, let's say disappointed, but not that strong, by the magnification, and immediatly switched to the 8mm BST. To my surprise I wasn't convinced by the view either... So I decided to get back to the 25mm and calm down and enjoy the view as I clearly was getting hasty. As I started over, I remembered some words from a friend of mine who told me that watching the stars often comes down to 50% of actually seeing the stars and 50% imagination and concentration. So I tried the 15mm a second time and... I was hooked. I could now clearly see eight different colors and belts! I'm not quite sure what it was I saw, except the north and south equatorial belt, but I will have a look at some Jupiter maps and educate myself about the planet's surface. This will help in better understanding and watching next time, the case given that the seeing is as clear as it was that night. With the 15mm eyepiece Europa was now very distinct from Jupiter. I couldn't manage to get more detail out of the 8mm eyepiece, everything just got a tad bigger and a little fainter if my impressions were right. After good half an hour of watching the delightful planet and its moons I sat down and searched for Saturn, which was south not very high above the horizon.   Saturn I switched back to the 25mm eyepiece, pointed my viewfinder at Saturn and peaked through the eyepiece. What a marvel! I clearly could see some colors on the surface and easily distinct the ring from the planet itself. As I switched over to the 15mm eyepiece, the separations on the planet's surface became a tad clearer and the ring/planet separation obviously bigger. I encountered the same problem as before of not knowing what I was looking at, which bothered me a little. I have to do a little homework here and get myself started with some fancy vocabulary.   Milky Way All in all it was a marvelous first light experience and I clearly have to learn the stuff I'm looking at, but I think that's just me and my endless thirst for knowing things. I randomly gazed through the skies at the end, beeing absolutely overwhelmed by everything I saw. Furthermore, I simply was flabbergasted when I ran across the milky way in the north east... There were so many stars I couldn't see with my bare eye, but only with the 'scope (which made aiming with the finderscope a nightmare... How do you guys do that really?!). I'm glad I acquired the Skywatcher Skyliner 200P with the eyepieces. It is one of the best things I got myself and I think I will have a lot of fun with it and furthermore learn so many new things.   Thanks for reading, Abe

AbeSapien

AbeSapien

 

Prologue

Hello there,   I thought to myself that it would be great to write everything down I'm experiencing. From the very beginning, to the very end... So I chose to create this blog and use it as my small journal for personal observations, stargazing sessions, thoughts, reflections and what I recently learned. The greatest thing about this is, that it gives the opportunity to kick of many interesting discussions and I really can't wait to get started.   Around the end of winter 2017 I started gazing around with a pair of binoculars I found at home. I initially got them when I was 9 years old and literally forgot about them... They were eating dust for 18 years now. After gazing around a little I bought myself some interesting books about astronomy and how to find stars and star maps. I don't know if it was my subconsciousness leading me into ticking off a point on my bucket list, but after so much hesitation if I should buy a 'scope or n... BWAAAAH I cracked and bought one. Period!   Which leads us to yesterday night.   After many days of reflection and information overkill, I finally went for a Skywatcher Skyliner 200P with BST 25mm, BST 15mm and BST 8mm eypieces. I ordered it last week on FLO and I couldn't be happier! It arrived divided into three packages last night and I immediately had to assemble it! Armed with my cordless screwdriver set to 11nm of tension, it took me about half an hour to assemble it and check if it was collimated right. Collimation was not perfect but it was absolutely okay for a first ride (I really should admit that I am a little anxious to collimate it and it is so near "perfect" that I'm okay with it at the moment). All in all the pictures don't give enough credit on the built quality of the 'scope. It is a simple to assemble and use first 'scope. I'm really glad that all of you pushed me in the right direction.   After assembly and cleaning there were ONLY 5 damn hours left to wait until sunset... So I figured to simply develop a small evening plan in what I wanted to watch and gaze at. I simply chose to visit Saturn and Jupiter... Humble and modest for starters but hey, less is more and I really wanted to enjoy my evening out and not dish up myself with a list that a total novice couldn't handle and therefore risk to end up with a very disappointing first night.   I'll write up my first experience in the next post and if you're interested, keep an open eye. I'll also use the opportunity to thank everyone involved into getting me started with my first 'scope!   So let's go!   Abe  

AbeSapien

AbeSapien

 

'Box of tricks' now installed and working.

The new combined 12v power hub/focus controller/USB hub is now installed on the mount head and all wired up.  I'm pleased as a really really pleased thing with it.   A billion thanks to my friend Dave Lloyd for all his help. The wiring to and from the mount now consists of just 4 cables. 12v power to the EQ8 USB to the EQ8 (EQDIR cable) 12v to the new power hub mounted on the mount head USB to the USB hub on the mount head   ount body and a 12v power and a USB cable to the mount head

michaelmorris

michaelmorris

 

New 'box of tricks' passes final testing

Before Christmas I decided to swap my perfectly good HitecAstro DC focus controller for an Ardunio-based system.  This would give me the flexibility to swap over to stepper motor-based focus motors at a later date.   I also wanted to bring my 12v power distribution up from the pier to sit in the middle of the dual mounting bar with my two refractors on one side and my SCT on the other.  This new arrangement should  lead to a significant reduction in the cable spaghetti I seem to constantly wrestle with. I have all the eye-to-hand co-ordination a dyspraxic slug, so for me, soldering usually lots of yelling and high car parking fees (for the car park at my local A&E department).  With a promise nothing particular at all, I managed to persuade my good friend Dave that his life was really empty and unfulfilled and what he really needed was to fill his days building me a custom-built box of tricks containing a Ardunio DC focus controller with optional hand controller (Thanks to Rob Brown - https://sourceforge.net/projects/mydcfocuserrelativedcfocuser/) and a 6-output fused 12v power distribution box. Last week Dave delivered the finished article to me and this evening, I've just finished testing it all. The last jobs will be to label up each output and switch; mount the 7 port USB hub on the lid; cut all the existing 12v power leads to just the right length and put RCA plugs on them; and finally mount it all on the dual mounting bar.

michaelmorris

michaelmorris

 

EQ8 reinstalled with pier extension and extra counterweight

My new EQ8 mount is now back from my mate Chris.   Chris made a 15cm high pier extension to raise the whole kit and caboodle so that the observatory walls don't get in the way so much. Because the whole mount + cameras/filter wheel/focal reducer + counterweights weighs in at an estimated 82 kg, the pier extension is made from a solid block of 19cm diameter alumunium! With this concentration of mass, gravitational lensing will now swamp the punny effects of 9.25" mirror on the C9.25". One the subject of counterweights, Chris got hold of a Celestron CGEM 7.7kg counterweight and bored out the central hole to 1.25"so that I can use it as a third counterweight on the EQ8. This allows me to push the two original 10 kg weights far higher up the counterweight bar.  

michaelmorris

michaelmorris

 

Lowestoft pier aka. George's column - nearing completion

The pier construction project for my 5 inch refractor is nearing completion. Today, I bolted the oak capping, the mild steel levelling plate and my NEQ6 Pro equatorial mount to the top of the reinforced concrete column.  All in all I think the project will have cost me about £120 for materials but I did have some of the stuff I needed already in my shed.  The weather, true to form, has suddenly turned grim - grey clouds horizon to horizon.  I guess this is my fault. Everything seems to have turned out alright so unless the earth crust folds under the imposed weight I should be imaging Jupiter very soon subject to jet stream and cloud cover. The fabrication-construction stages were as follows: Obtaining via the Internet the laser cut 6mm mild steel disc for making the levelling plate. Drilling it to take the  3 stainless steel threaded studs used to fix the levelling plate to the top of the concrete pier. Drilling it to enable my existing extension pillar/puck to be bolted to it. Cutting and welding reinforcing bar to create a reinforcement cage for the concrete pier. Choosing the best location and marking out for the pier. Drilling my existing concrete paving through into the concrete sub base ( i didn't want to dig the paving up for the pier foundation). Chem fixing shear studs and the bottom of the reinforcement cage into the concrete sub- base. Constructing the timber formwork for the pier. Casting the concrete in two pours. Removing the formwork after 14 days. Painting  the levelling plate using three coats of Hammerite. Making the timber pillar capping and eyepiece tray from some surplius oak kitchen worktop. Boltting and levelling the capping, levelling plate and NEQ6Pro to the top of the concrete pier. Now I can turn my shed endeavours towards Spectrometer Mk3.  

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

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