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Christmas Day Dip

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

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 - Geo

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

Meeting an Astronaut -International Space School Educational Trust (ISSET)

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

Transformer

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.

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

Aurora Reykjavik October 2017

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

Corton Beach after Dark

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

Full Moon - early hours of the 6th of October 2017

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

Fixing a plate where the rain gets in and stopping my mind from wandering.

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

Oh no it isnt - Oh yes it is - Aurora Borealis - well is it?

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

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',  Ma

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

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 ide

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

'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 m

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

Starthrotch Analyser Mk1

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

16 Years old and still going strong

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

"I must be getting old"!

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

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 no

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

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 drop

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

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 bette

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

Antares

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 t

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

 

Saturnalia

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

Hawksmoor

Hawksmoor

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