I am just about recovering from my second bout with the Covid virus so I thought I would do something vaguely astronomical which wasn't cloud dependant. We have had a lot of clouds in Lowestoft recently. I discovered a nearly completed low resolution transmission spectrometer with fixed slit in the shed which I was building some time ago for obtaining the spectrum of extended objects. Sounds very technical but as per my norm, very Valerie Singleton and Chad Valley.
Anyway somewhere in the
The weather continues to be very unfavorable for astronomy, so I continue to play in my 'shed of delights'. I have addressed some of the issues associated with using a 500 line diffraction grating as a simple filter cell. I did not want to permanently adapt my QHY5-11 camera for spectroscopy and so designed a 3d printed block to allow it to be brought very close to the imaging chip at the optimum angle for a first order spectrum at 550nm. This appears to have minimised 'fish tailing' of the spe
I am a hoarder so never throw away stuff that might come in useful. Being a tad environmental I try to re-purpose, re-engineer and re-use old kit that I purchased back in the day when I was gainfully employed. My old pre digital SLR lenses were first connected to my DSLR with a shiny new adaptor but then fell into disuse when I realised my EOS lenses performed better.
Now retired, with more time and reduced cashflow, I decided that rather than modding my DSLR, if I could attach my old
This has been a long time in gestation - first I built the 3d printer from a kit my son gave me for Christmas 2018, then I had to pluck up the courage to turn it on. The whirring and flashing lights are all a bit much for a man more accustomed to using Crayola 'chubby' crayons than digital vernier calipers. Then I had to get my head round Sketch-Up, Netfabb, Repetier Host , Slicer3 and how to stop molten filament from blocking up a very small hole in a very hot bit of metal.
In my shed I
Feeling quite 'chipper' today!
Many of my little 'summer' projects have been completed and seem to work. First - my bathroom extract system has been installed without me once falling off the ladder or putting my foot through the bathroom ceiling, second - I'm now producing tasty pizza and bread from my DIY wood-fired bread oven without upsetting my neighbours and third I've constructed four battery powered 'dew zappers' for camera lenses and scope objectives.
The following is proof:
Capturing images of meteors is a bit like fishing. After the event, you are always haunted by the big one that got away!
My widest camera lens is a Canon 18-55mm EFS zoom and even though this covers quite a bit of sky there is plenty left in which a bright meteor can suddenly appear.
As I had two camera bodies, a Canon 600D and 400D DSLR, I decided to try and use them in tandem to improve my chances of capturing more meteors. Fabricating a ‘meteor rig’, reusing equipment and materials
Having completed the excellent and free Future Learn - Open University short course - 'Data to Insight' (University of Auckland) I finally got around to doing something with the copious amounts of data churned out by my SDR LVST (The Lowestoft Very Small Telescope) meteor catcher. I decided to first apply my 'forensic intellect -Dr Lecter'🤓 to the 2016 Perseid Shower (I had a set of data collected from the 4th to 16th of August).
Having done a bit of reading - an American paper from the 19
Invited by two of our children and grandchildren to meet them, early on Christmas morning, on the beach at Southwold for a swim. Had serious misgivings about this: as I dont do getting up early, I do not have a wet suit and recently have been under the weather. Anyway as my partner does have wet suit and was keen, a few bah-humbugs thrown in my general direction got me out of my 'toastie slumber chariot' before 8:00 UT and by 10:00 we were at the water's edge. There had been a hard frost over
'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 - Geo
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
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.
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 ret
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
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 an
Bodging around with aluminium off-cuts in my shed
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
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
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
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
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', Ma
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 ide
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 m
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, plast
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
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
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 nort