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Toot and I had a great time in Norwich last night. Dr Michael Foale CBE gave a talk about his life as an astronaut to a packed audience at the University of East Anglia. What an accomplished, kind and measured man. A couple of hours in his company passed very quickly. He has great interpersonal skills and although we only spoke to him very briefly, both my partner and I felt we had 'met him' rather than just 'heard him' speak. 

What an exciting, if not at times scary, life and career he has had?

Highlights include:

  • a spacewalk to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope's computer from a 386 to a 486 ( I had one of each but I only had to fetch them from Currys)
  • stopping the MIR space station from spinning out of control after it had been hit by a supply vessel
  • commanding the International Space Station

There were many children in the audience who were very interested in space and science. Dr Foale encouraged them to do what they were good at, pursue their dreams and not to be deterred by setbacks.  He paid particular care to encourage girls to pursue careers in science and aerospace.

He very kindly - let anyone who wanted to - have their photograph taken with him. A long queue of excited children formed down one side of the Lecture Hall.

"Dr Foale, I could tell you that the photograph is for my grandchildren, but really its for me"  said a very excited and pleased old man.

If you get a chance to hear him speak and/or go to events organised by ISSET or a 'Pint of Science'  - go for it!

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Christmas upright Armchair Astronomer 'transforms' into horizontal Settee Astronomer without any visible expenditure of energy as Moon obliges by rising almost directly in front of his sitting room window. I could get to like this 'indoor astronomy' as it offers a warmer winter alternative for the older stargazer.

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Just got back from Iceland having enjoyed a few days sploshing about in the geothermal waters, looking at waterfalls and geysers and eating lots of cod. As you can imagine, we were very excited at the prospect of seeing the Aurora Borealis.  Unsurprisingly, nights went by under a dense blanket of cloud. Then, on the morning of the last full day of our holiday, the sun came out and so did we.  After a full 10 hours traipsing about a glacier and investigating basalt columns on a black beach we returned to our hotel in Reykjavik.  Night fell - clunk!  One by one all the light pollution came on all over the city - but what was that faint sepulchre glow advancing from the far North across the slate grey Arctic Ocean?  Hurrah at the twelfth hour we got to see the Northern Lights. An excellent display it was too - lasting for about three hours. With the naked eye we could clearly distinguish green , magenta and blue light and we managed to take some photographs. Our astronomical cup overflowed.:icon_biggrin:

I have attached a rough and ready annimation which gives some impression from the early moments of the display.




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'.



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I was so keen to use my new 'fixing plate' - piggy-backing my little 66 mm. Altair Astro ED refractor, that I defied the clouds, a rain shower and finally extremely bright moon light.  First of all and to test the seeing I tried capturing some video clips of Neptune using my 127mm.Meade Apo Refractor and a x3 Televue Barlow.  An absolute disaster ! - Neptune was quite low over my neighbour's roof and the tiny image was 'bobbling' about on thermally active localised air currents.  Further more and because the planet was so near the horizon, colour dispersion was a major issue. I eventually gave up and decided to use the little Altair scope to image the full moon which by about 1.00am was looking quite good and stable in a dark sky.  Using my QHY5-11 colour camera at prime focus provided an image size that was just too big for the chip - so a 2-pane composite image was the way forward.  I also used the 127mm. Meade  with the x3 Barlow to capture some video of Mare Crisium but the atmosphere wasn't stable enough to take this amount of magnification with any great success.

The plate works quite well but the alignment with the main scope is a bit out - will give this a bit of thought and will probably make a few adjustments at some time in the future - I have a lot of projects on the go at the moment! :happy7:

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Bodging around with aluminium off-cuts in my shed :icon_biggrin:

I thought it would be useful if I could piggyback my cameras and smaller scopes on my 127mm. refractor mounted on a NEQ6 Pro. The weight would not exceed the maximum load and I already had an extension bar which would enable me to balance the different set ups.  I had some bits of aluminium in the shed and time on my hands.

Now, I know the workmanship is bit ‘here and there’ but I do not possess a pillar drill or much patience. I do however; have lots of nuts and bolts from Poundland and gallons of Gorilla Glue.  The fixing-plate cost very little and kept me amused for a couple of days - so as of this moment, I’m pleased with it!  Whether it works imaging wise remains to be seen and looking at the clouds overhead it might be sometime before I get to find out.

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You could have knocked me down with a feather, when at 1.00 am. yesterday my partner said "why dont we go down to the seafront and see if we can spot the Aurora".  So off we went in the family truckster with tripod and camera box in the back.  We were originally going to set up base camp at the UK's most easterly point but the lights from the Birdseye factory were a problem. We ended up on Corton Cliffs with a fine view North towards  Great Yarmouth and the offshore wind turbines. Well after an hour we had both convinced ourselves that there was a green auroral glow hugging the horizon. I took a number of 30 second images at ISO1600 with the aim of putting together a panorama using Microsoft ICE.  Well here it is believe it or not?

The red glow is light pollution from Great Yarmouth - those 'Norfolk Boys' dont turn the lights off at midnight like us ECO warriors in Suffolk.:happy7:

We returned home for 3.00am and had some pea soup to warm up - nice.


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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.:happy6:  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.:happy7:




Lowestoft Pier

Well I've made a start on constructing my permanent backyard telescope pier by drilling the 6mm. mild steel laser cut 200mm. dia. disc to take the three levelling threaded studs and the 12mm. bolt for fixing my pillar extension tube to the plate.  My investment in new drill bits and cutting oil turned out well, particularly as I have no pillar drill and had to accomplish the task using my trusty handheld Black and Decker. 

I am trying to minimise the costs involved by using as many bits and pieces that have spent many a year languishing in my shed.  Using the extension tube, which I already possessed, saved me the cost of a 'puck' and after rooting about in my shed I found some reinforcement bar and most of the timber I required for formwork to cast the reinforced concrete pillar.

By coincidence my friend Mr. Lidl had reduced the cost of a small angle-grinder to £9-99 :happy6: and as I had given my larger disc-cutter to one of my sons, largely because I could no longer pick it up let alone wield it in any purposeful way, I parted with the cash and now have an effective machine for cutting the reinforcement.  I have borrowed an arc welder from another son so I can weld the reinforcent together- excellent!:icon_biggrin:.

As a fair weather astronomer and sometime builder I'm awaiting a warm dry spell before putting the formwork and reinforcement together and mixing and casting the concrete (two pours). Looking out the window I guess this might be a while!:hmh:

Last night about 1.00am the sky over Lowestoft was dark and transparent. Jupiter was big and briight due south and most of the usual culprits for this time of year were visible through my handheld 11x80 mm. Helios biinoculars. I still could not find the comet lurking somewhere between the Great Bear and Hercules although I could easily see fuzzies of the same magnitude. I think I'm losing it!


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Spectrometer Mark 2

After completing my current oil painting blitz, I spent some time today completing 'Spectrometer Mark2' in the 'clean room' or the kitchen as my wife likes to call it.  The primary reason for the redesign is my desire to use either my QHY5v or QHY5-11 as the imaging camera, without dedicating either camera to capturing spectra.  So a modular approach seemed sensible and the ability to experiment with different diffraction gratings was also an objective.  Mark1 was virtually built for 'nowt',  Mark2 has required the expenditure of a few quid mainly on purchasing an extra mounting bracket for the QHY5 (I already had one in my bag of astro bits and bobs).  I made the base from hardwood samples  handed down from my late and great mate Barry Shulver.  The tilt and turn mechanism, for holding the diffraction transmission grating, was fashioned from a camera holder and tripod obtained from everyones favourite country 'Poundland'.

I used an on-line transmission grating calculator to work out the diffraction angles for different gratings and basic trigonometry to calculate the distance between the gratings and the cameras chips to fit the first order spectrum on the chip.  Hopefully, if I've got it right , it should work ok - so watch this space for my continuing 'Chad Valley' exploits in 'Off World Spectra'!


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Learning my Lines

Well eventually, I think I managed to get my 'thinking' head around some of the basics of using Visual Spec software for producing and calibrating a line spectrum of the bright star Vega. 

About 8 weeks ago, I affixed my homemade spectrometer to the business end of my 127mm refractor and obtained some faint and blurry video of Alpha Lyrae and its first order spectrum.  Anyway time passes and after a lot of fiddling about and numerous software crashes, I managed to plot a wiggly line and identify three of the Balmer Series Hydrogen Absorption lines ( well I think I did or it could all be wishfull thinking). The thing is I've ended up with something and hopefully its a calibrated spectrum of Vega.  I leave you to be the judge?

I tried using Wiens Law and my spectrum to calculate Vega's temperature and was at least half the published temperature of 9600K.  I concluded that Vega does not therefore radiate energy as a 'Blackbody'.

Anyway this small scientific step has wetted my appetite for spectra and I have some virgin video of Deneb and Altair to play with which at my current rate of progress should keep me busy until Boxing Day.  I am also considering a new spectrometer design - using a camera with better controls and a a bigger chip. This could see me undertaking some 'serious shed action' after Christmas. More glue Santa if you please!


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'One of those'

After many a night of stretching pillow cases over the end of my telescope, no offence intended, I have finally got around to making myself a light-box for taking flats.  I can only hope this will improve my images.

I gleaned most of the materials from the back of my shed, added a few LEDS and a switch from my best mate Mr Maplin and attached a bungee and batteries from everyone's favourite country 'Poundland'.  It doesn't look pretty but I cant wait to try it. Come on weather make an old man's evening just a little more cheery. I've almost used up the Scandinavian Noir series I recorded from the Telly.  If the I don't get a clear night soon I will be forced to watch tennis or football.



When I was a ten year old kid I used my pocket money to buy job lots of old broken clocks from Maidstone Market.  I would take them home and spend hours in my Mum and Dad’s cellar taking them apart ostensibly to get them working again. They never did but hey I never let failure deter me.

Nowadays, being happily retired (and no gloating intended), I have many an hour to while away in my shed.  Nothing that I can get away with, gives me greater pleasure than recycling old bits of metal, plastic, wood and abandoned technology - for astronomical functions. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t – so no change there then!

My latest project, to construct a thermometer for taking the temperature of stars or as it might be described a ‘Chad Valley Spectrometer’, is well under way.  It remains to be tested but what with the transit of Mercury and the sudden outbreak of rain which followed, I await a clear night with mounting excitement. 

The ‘Starthrotch Analyser’, catchy name ehh, has been constructed from a vandalised Logitech E3500 webcam, a section of chromed tubing, some aluminium plate left over from a DIY yard gully, 3 BRE hardwood samples from my late and great mate Barry Shulver, a piece of galvanised mesh, half a dozen screws, some pieces of black felt, Gorilla glue and lots of Evostik impact adhesive.  I did have to purchase from ‘Edulab Scientific Supplies’ for about £10 - 3 slide mounted 100 lines/mm transmission gratings.  All in all and if it works, quite a‘thrifty’ piece of kit!

My daughter, Rachel, was quite impressed. She thought the general appearance of the ‘Starthrotch Analyser’ was very ‘1960s Star Trek’, my partner Toot believes it would not have looked out of place in ‘Blake’s 7-the cardboard years’. Praise indeed!

I will let you know in a future post whether it works or not, although my best guess is it probably won’t! 

I wonder if I could make an operational ‘photon torpedo’ from a second hand Halfords top box and an obsolete Tom Tom - SATNAV?  Anything is possible in a shed.

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I like a bit of recycling and so, after I realised that I had not used my old ETX90 RA for at least two years, I decided to get it out of its fabric carry-case and give it 'the once over'. I have to say that little scope is a robust little beggar and optically as sound as the day my partner Toot purchased it for my fiftieth birthday. The fork mount is definitely passed its sell by date but the OTA is definitely too good to waste sitting on a shelf in a bedroom.

So today I decided to remove the OTA from the forks so that I could use the ETX on my recently acquired Star Adventurer equatorial mount or otherwise piggy-back on my 127mm.refractor. Being a bit cautious, I consulted the relevant pages of Mike Weasner's site and after a bit of a rumage around to find the right sized imperial allen key, I threw caution to the wind and set about separating the scope from the forks.  Once the four hex screws were removed it only required a bit of brute force to slide the two bits apart. 'Houston we have separation' and the jobs a good un!

The next part I really enjoyed, a quick trip to Maplins to buy a flight case to house said OTA. I really like pulling out the precut sections of foam etc. However, I have relunctantly come to the conclusion that I have run out of items of furniture in our sitting room behind which I can  hide the now seven flight cases from Toot. I have also covered most of my backyard with sheds and if I put anymore stuff in the loft, I will inadvertently convert my house into a bungalow.

I'm really pleased that I shall be using the ETX again. It will be good for imaging brighter comets and white light solar work.  Hopefully, I will be able to use it to watch the transit of Mercury.

On a more positive note, less cash or space intensive, a piece of transmission diffraction grating film arrived mail order from Israel this morning. So next week on rainy days I will be working on my Mark2 DIY filter or the 'VCS'  (aka a very cheap spectrometer).  I made the COAA version using an Epson printer to print lines on acetate sheet and this works quite well  (image in one of my albums) but number of lines per millimetre limited by the printers operating parameters.  I have been reading Jeffrey L Hopkins 'Using Commercial Amateur Astronomical Spectrographs' published by Springer.  It is an excellent practical read on spectroscopy particularly suitable for someone like me.  I sit firmly on a spectral line somewhere between 'reasonably untechnical' and 'complete numpty'.

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Late on February 10th and in the early hours vof the 11th, I tried out my newly purchased QHY5-11 camera.  Whilst awaiting the appearance of Jupiter over the hedge, I had my first go at 'guiding' using ther QHY5-11 as a guide camera and my Canon DSLR as an imaging camera.  All went surprisingly smoothly. Orion was loitering in the south-east and although the light pollution was not good ,  I targetted  Alnitak and all the usuaL culprits.  I chose a guide star, locked on and started a series of 3 minute exposures.  One was ruined by a passing satellite but after excluding this one, I managed thirty minutes  worth of photons without mishap.  Oh how my cup floweth over!  Then disaster, the guide star broke up before my very eyes and everything went 'pixels- up' on my clockwork laptop.  Trying not to panic, I saught reassurance by telling myself that the camera driver was probably playing up.  So I followed the set course used by computer experts worldwide. I turned everything off. Then turned it all back on.  As the camera booted up, I scanned the computer screen for stars. Completely black!!!!!!!  At this point I imagined the next morning's conversation with my long suffering wife.  " You only purchased the camera yesterday and you broke it on the same day"!  "What are you like @*$££££"?:help:

Then it dawned on me, the earth had been spinning and both Barnard 33 and my selected guide star had disappeared below the ridge tiles on the kitchen extension to our house.  No wonder PHD Guiding had struggled!  What a turnip?   I have to say this act of genius was not a one off. The week before I had stayed up to four in the morning taking video clips of Jupiter using my old QHY5v planetary camera. The following day whilst eating my breakfast I realised that I had forgotten to use the infra-red filter.  So if anyone wants several gigabytes of blurry videos of Jupiter, apply immediately to avoid disaapointment. I must be getting old!

Anyway, the image of Alnitak, the Flame and Horsehead nebulae turned out better than I thought and I did get some useable AVIs of Jupiter.  The seeing was a bit poor so the Jupiter images are not that sharp, but all in all  I'm quite pleased with the QHY5-11.  I believe QHY are bringing out a new camera this year to replace the QHY5-11 so I purchased it at a very good knock-down price from Modern Astronomy.


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Puss in Bootes

The early hours of the 8th of January were not for the faint hearted. Although the ambient temperature was well above freezing the wind chill here on the UK east coast was significant. After a couple of hours outside I needed a hot cup of industrial strength Marmite to thaw out my inner self. On a positive note the sky was clear of cloud and significant moonlight. I thus set foot to first view Comet Catalina through my big bins and then photograph it.


The comet was far too low in the north east for me to use my big refractor- so bins it was. I store my dustbins in a fenced enclosure on the north side of our house, sounds grand but isn't, and so balancing my bins on the bin enclosure fence I discovered that the comet had conveniently raised itself above Arcturus such that said balanced bins pointed straight at the comet. In the past I have not found comets to be so accommodating.


I must say with the street lights off after midnight, my 80x11 bins did a good job of showing the comet albeit quite a small image. With averted vision I could clearly see the spread of light between the two tails. Nice!


I then spent an hour and a bit with fixed tripod, Canon 600D DSLR and EOS 18-55mm lens, snapping away like a good-un! Twenty or so RAW images later, raw- well the wind was, I returned to the warmth of our house. Today I have done what my partner, Toot, describes as 'cheating' using a number of software programmes to collate and enhance my snaps. I have attached the resultant annotated image for your inspection!


The reasons why I like comets a lot!


They are truly exotic denizens of the deep.
Their astronomical configuration, position and luminosity are constantly changing in real time.
They are often hard to locate, they disappear and sometimes reappear.
They are very old but have the appearance of youth.
Their performance is unpredictable.
They are sometimes spectacular and always exquisite.
They travel alone.
They are evaporated and reinvigorated by sunlight.
They are driven and destroyed by gravity.
They might have created all life on earth and may one day end it.




Pantomime Season

Toot an I have just returned from a short tour of Turkey. Part of the itinerary involved very early pre-dawn starts. Looking out from our hotel balcony on the 4th. December at approximately 04.20 I saw what I thought was a comet . Oh no it wasn't, oh yes it was! At first I thought it was a first glimpse of Comet Catalina. It was approximately south east and close to the horizon. The twin tails appeared to be as they should be pointing away from the sun. But then I returned home to Suffolk and viewed Catalina through my big bins. My comet was much too bright and much lower in the sky than Catalina. So either we spotted a new comet or more likely the con-trail from a twin engined jet flying away from us at an acute angle. Oh no it wasn't, oh yes it was, oh no it wasn't


Anyway I managed to photograph what ever it was with my Canon compact camera. You can make your own minds up!




Les Granges

Toot and I had a wonderful week with Olly and Monique in the Haute Alpes. We enjoyed the magnificent dark skies, the stunning Milky Way, looking through Olly's big Dob and drawing and painting with Monique.


We saw for the first time: The Crab Nebula, The Swan Nebula, The Eagle Nebula and all of the Veil Nebula. The Witches Broom was fantastic and through a wideangle eyepiece and Olly's monster of a Dob it appeared almost 3D. We also looked at the Lagoon and Triffid Nebulae before they dropped below the horizon. From our backyard and through my 127mm. refractor, we quite often look at M13 but such views were no preparation for the visual trreat we had through the big Dob at Les Granges. Blew our socks off!


The skies were really dark and each clear night, I treated myself to a couple of hours taking unguided photos with my Canon 400d DSLR mounted on a travel tripod. I have attached a selection of images from our week.


During the day Olly helped me improve my very basic astro imaging digital skills. The man has considerable patience! He also took me through an imaging run using side by side mounted refractors to capture several hours worth of colour and luminance data of M33. Whats more I got to take home the data to practice my new learnt skills. At some stage my version of the M33 data will appear in my gallery.


We really enjoyed our stay at Les Granges, Olly and Monique are very nice people and excellent hosts. I cannot think of a better place to enjoy and image the night sky. During the day and if you can pull yourself away from the laptop, the landscape is spectacular, there are plenty of opportunities for walking, cycling, climbing, birding, photography, painting and even collecting fossils. A great place for both strenuous activiy and rest.


Thanks Olly and Monique


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Right up Mount Teide

I decided to try the month's free access to the Bradford Robotic Telescope on Mount Teide, Teneriffe. So thanks 'Sky at Night' Magazine! The free trial is limited to a number of given objects and the exposures and filters are all preset, so you cannot go wrong, but all in all I was quite pleased. I am considering investing the less than prohibitive £3 a month inorder to try out the real thing. Seems to me a very inexpensive way of accessing objects near or below my southern horizon with better kit than I can afford under clearer skies. I also can do it without getting cold or staying up half the night. This month in Lowestoft it has been mega-wet and if autumn turns out anything like the summer, I cannot see me gathering many photons in my backyard!




Excitement mounts

It's a very miserable afternoon in Lowestoft. It is raining and the sky is an unrelieved expanse of grey stretching from horizon to horizon. Early this morning the sky was clearer but not sufficiently devoid of cloud to permit the useful deployment of my 'scope. Due mainly to my overwhelming cheerfulness, I spent a happy pre-dawn hour with my 11x80mm binoculars looking at all the usual summer astro-culprits . This afternoon I have been removing malware with mixed success from two laptops. Why do companies and individuals invest so much time in devising and spreading digital diseases across the internet?


On a much more positive note and egged on by my son, I purchased an Altair Astro Lightwave 66ED-R refractor to go on my Star Adventurer mount. Its a very nice looking bit of kit, all new and nicely engineered in its aluminium travel case. Next month I'm off to Northumberland for a week's holiday, so weather permitting and assisted by some of my grandchildren, I should be aquiring some widefield photographs of the 'dark' night sky. No wonder excitement mounts!



Every year in June the red super-giant star Antares becomes visible from our south facing bedrooms and over the roof tops. This year Saturn can be seen just above the claws of Scorpius,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,quite a sight without binoculars or a telescope.


I managed to get a nice photo with my little Lumix compact camera balanced on the window-sill. The minimal light pollution after midnight and the lightly applied assistance of APS providing all the help this inexpensive camera needs to capture this star 600 light years distant and nearing the end of its pre-supernova existence.





I look forward to Saturn coming to opposition each year or each 378 days to be precise. The sky over our backyard in the early hours of the 24th of May was clear and the stars shone bright. In the east, the stars of Cygnus and Lyra were shining brightly and Saturn was a brightish yellow presence due south over my neighbour's house rooftops. Through the eyepiece its rings shone bright, the Seeliger effect making a clear difference. Sadly, my imaging and images were affected by the planet's low altitude and the turbulent atmosphere through which the reflected light from the planet had travelled. Images taken with my 2.5x Barlow were significantly better than those in which I used my 3x Barlow.


I managed to get some still images of the planet's moons using my Canon 600D DSLR and made a composite image using the image of the planet obtained with my QHY5v camera. I really like placing the planets in a starry background. For me it provides context for the subject of my photographs.




blog-0317909001430577503.pngThe 26th of April turned out to be a nice clear night. It wasn't balmy out but on the other hand it was metallic simian cold! Winter was behind me and as I looked up at the waxing moon I noticed that Jupiter was much further west than it had been a few weeks before. I decided to capture my last Jovian images of the season and take a picture or two of the our old Moon. As a bonus I managed to get some video clips of Venus as it climbed above our house extension roof.

I'm looking forward to seeing the summer constellations and the Milky Way arching over our backyard. As I get older Iblogentry-6990-0-41892000-1430577447_thu'm turning into a warm weather astronomer!


Chasing the Eclipse

As the weather forecast -Lowestoft seafront for the 20th March - was for cloud, cloud and more cloud, my partner and I set off for predicted 'clearing skies' in rural Lincolnshire. This required an early morning call at 4.30am. Strewth this was just like being back at worK! Anyway after quick coffee and cereal, we leapt into rhe 'family wagon' and headed at a brisk pace north west. It was a dark and stormy morning, but as we approached our favoured observation site, a recently manured field twixt Gedney and Holbeach in Lincolnshire, the clouds began to evaporate. As we set up our camera and laptop the sun suddeny appeared through and between the clouds. Donning our eclipse glasses we assumed our default nerd personae and were approached almost immediately by a journalist and photographer from the local newspaper. Clearly, we were a two for the price of one photo opportunity. A number of passing and local folk enquired as to our purpose and state of mind. Many were genuienely impressed by the live view image on my Canon DSLR, of the moon moving infront of the sun.

We managed to capture some nice images and video of the eclipse. After packing our kit in the back of the car we adjourned to the near by tea room for mushrooms on toast and hot chocolate. At midday, we set off back home to Lowestoft.

Days later the memory of the eclipse still lingers, as does the smell of manure in our car!


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