Monthly Archives: March 2011

Stonking

I finished work tonight and headed down to Hythe to waste a bit of time in the shop, more on that in the other blog! By the way I left for work this morning armed with my scope in the vain hope that the sky would be clear

With that fact clear, on with the rest of my twaddle. The problem with dropping into the shop on astro-Friday is that the shop closes at five and the bus to Ashford leaves at five forty, what to do for half an hour except stand at the bus stop looking bored? And nip into Waitrose for something to scoff on the journey, Cheese sandwich always goes down well, especially when I haven’t had to make it!

I was tempted to nip into the camera shop and see if he still had the Meade 2x Barlow but I thought better of it, what with a rather important birthday looming on the event horizon, I’m gonna get a slap for that one!

The bus journey was uneventful apart from Mr & Mrs Chav having a “who can hit the hardest competition, it ended in a row as these things usually do. fortunately a substantial amount of extremely geeky reading material distracted me and made the journey pass rather quickly. After loitering around with the Ashford contingent we set off to Woodchurch for what was probably the most anticipated talk of the year. We weren’t let down, Drew’s talk was nothing short of brilliant. it was informative and entertaining and I really enjoyed it. I had hoped that there would be an opportunity for a little observing but the weather was against us and a mist had set in allowing only the brightest stars to be seen, not so great for telescoping. There’s hope that we’ll get an evening in over the next couple of weeks, I hope so.

My plans for the weekend have been somewhat scuppered by a foolish Facebook post early this morning. although I wrote “a weekend of (insert expletive meaning clump of earth) all, what I meant was A weekend of gaming on Saturday and painting on Sunday, there are mumblings of wanting the kitchen table cleared off, Herself wasn’t overly impressed with the way I phrased my plans for the weekend and has insisted suggested that we sort out the garden. my idea of concreting it went down equally well. I suspect I may need medical attention after she’s read this post.

However I have realised that “sorting out the garden” actually means “setting fire to stuff” so I’m in and I may purchase a bag of marshmallows for Sunday night, I wonder how easy it to cook sausages over a dustbin shaped incinerator?

Keep an eye on the blog, there may be pictures of Sunday nights conflagrations, I do love a bonfire!

Of course the problem with having a raging inferno in the garden is that the smoke will have the same effect as cloud and obscure most of the sky so a bit of astronomy is probably a no go.

So I plan to enjoy a weekend of arson and and the hope that there may be cake as a reward for making the garden a bit neater

I hope you enjoy your weekend, even if you’re not lucky enough to be setting fire to stuff

Aren’t telescopes brilliant

Yesterday I was lurking around t’interweb catching up and gaming news and general faffing when I received a text from Manky asking if I’d be up for a spot of telescoping on Monday night, I enjoy astronomy, but it is definitely a hobby that is shared with friends, and if the friends that you share it with are also interested in it that’s even better. So not wanting to turn down the chance of getting together with some brilliant mates and stand in the middle of a field on a rather cold night I readily accepted. I put together a list of targets and spent the day looking forward to seeing friends and some fantastic sights. When I got home I walked the pups, they were very pleased to see me, and set about gathering my chattels that would be needed for the session. I also managed to fit the flexible focuser that I bought for the Meade a few weeks ago. Just after six i made my way to the field we had arranged to meet in and made use of the last of the daylight to set the scope up. By the time the Manky and the rear admiral arrived I had set up the scope and had managed to pour a cup of coffee. Manky and I set about getting his scope set up and all that was left to do was wait for it to get suitably dark so that those of us with GoTo facilities on our scopes would have something we could use to align our scopes. This was actually quite cool as we watched various stars blink into existence as the sky darkened.

Once there were a sufficient amount of bright stars available we aligned our scopes and turned our eyes to the wonder of the night sky. The Great Nebula in Orion was first light for me, but I had a problem. My swanky new flexible focusing rod is weighted at one end and this made it difficult to maintain the scopes focus, just as I’d focused an object into a crisp clear image as soon as I let go of the rod the thing would slip down and cause the image to go a bit fuzzy. Not having any tools or the original focussing knob I couldn’t swap them round, although I think it may have been a bit of a fools errand in the dark, I settled for having to physically hold the rod to keep any objects from blurring. I must admit it was a bit of a pain but I wasn’t going to let it ruin the evening for me. Steve and Andy arrived a bit later, last time he came down Andy mentioned that he had found something that he thought might be a Mammoth tooth but he wasn’t sure so I offered to take a look at it. He bought it along with him tonight, sure enough it is a Mammoth tooth, and a beautiful specimen at that. Although I was examining it in torch light I could clearly see the tell tale grooves that are typical of the tooth and there was even root visible. The tooth also had remains of enamel and was considerably worn. It is remarkable that I was holding something that was part of an animal that disappeared about ten thousand years ago.

There was a total of nine chaps on the field, including a friend that I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. But for me the highlight of the evenings observing had to be the Moon, Just off full and as it rose across the channel it was orange and as it passed behind cloud there was a very thin band that gave the impression that the Moon had a ring system. the colour and the cloud also gave it an other worldly appearance, making it look more like a gas giant rather than our familiar Moon. As it rose higher it started to lose the orange tinge and was soon becoming the familiar silvery white colour that is so easily recognised.

All too soon the evening came to an end the cold and  fatigue getting the better of us, plus we all have to get up for work in the morning. so we packed up, said our goodbyes and headed home.

the first thing I did when I got home was fuss my adorable pups, Trudes would be cross with me if I didn’t say hello to them first, I don’t think Ronnii was to happy at the thought of me going out and not taking her. then once I’d said hello to Trudes i changed the focusing knob on the Meade back to the original one, it may be fiddly and in an awkward position but at least the image will stay sharp. I’m not sure what to do with the flexi-rod, I could try shortening  it so that there’s not as much weight on the end or I could pass it on to someone who may be able to make use of it. If it’s new owner finds it causes the same problem I may shorten it and give it another go.

All in all I had a fantastic evening, it wasn’t as cold as last time we went to the East Cliff and the Moon was well worth the wait. Pictures from tonight are available to view on Picasa and Farce-book go take a look. Maybe next time I’ll take the webcam and laptop and get some decent pictures with that. I hope that we get another evening out soon, all we need is to find a place with a little less light pollution and we’ll be sorted.

Thank you to everyone that came along tonight, it was a brilliant evening and I look forward to doing it all again.

how things have changed

I’ve been chatting on Facebook with an old school mate, as a result I’ve been reminiscing about my school days. When I was at school all the brilliant stuff had been done, man had been to the moon, we’d sent probes to Mars and Venus and the Voyager and Pioneer probes were on their way to the far reaches of the solar system. Whilst I was there we were not allowed to use calculators and digital watches were a new invention and cost a million pounds. Computers were things that made spaceships work or tried to murder you, and we were told that they’d never be useful in the home. One thing that has surprised me is how much of what i was taught at school was wrong, Just a few examples are that all Vikings were rampaging barbarians, the Romans were thieves who stole whole countries from the native inhabitants. having taken the time to properly learn about these things is how I have found out that my history teacher was one of the many of the teachers who were wrong, the Vikings were civilised farmers for the most part and the Roman occupation was all done rather peacefully, the real problems started when the Iceni decided that they weren’t too keen on the thought of being disarmed and felt it necessary to tell the Romans to get stuffed. there ya go a bit of history for you. when I left school it all started again, space shuttles huge great leaps in computer technology and digital watches were now cheaper than a house. One thing I was never really interested in at school was sport, I always had issues with sport, the teachers would prattle on about team building and camaraderie, blech! Most of the sporty lads at my school were gits, the chap i referred to earlier is an exception to this, I don’t recall him being particularly sporty either and cross country runs were just an excuse to bunk off for a smoke, note that I didn’t use the word fag so as not to confuse our colonial cousins.

would I do it all again? probably, it depends on whether or not I can know everything I know, although I do see a few paradoxes forming there, my super spiffing digital watch that cost me less than twenty quid would be hard to explain, although I could just let everyone think that I’m a millionaire.

I have to be honest and say that tonights post is somewhat rambling, I have no idea what i wanted to write about and still don’t, so I hope you’ve enjoyed this odd little entry, I do something a little more interesting next time. Who am I kidding it’ll be more of the same old twaddle, I think the reason for the randomness of the post is the fact that very little has happened this week, I hope something rivetting happens over the course of the next few days otherwise I won’t have anything to write about until late next Monday, I’m meeting Piers Sellers don’t you know, well I say I’m meeting him, I’m going along with a few friends to hear him talk, whether I get to speak to him remains to be seen, either way I’m looking forward to it.

Right I really am babbling so i shall stop before I cause a diplomatic incident or end up upsetting the digital watch collectors society.

ta ta

Is it the end of the month yet?

The reason for the title is down to the fact that I have two brilliant events to look forward to, the first is this month’s astronomy club, our chairman will giving a talk on Earth impact, woo hoo! A subject that is a favourite of mine as it ties in with two of my past times, Astronomy and palaeontology. I’m really looking forward to hearing what Drew has to say, he’s a great speaker and I’ve enjoyed all the talks he’s given. The astronomy club is blessed because we have a wide range of members, from the absolute beginner through to consulate professionals; Sir Patrick’s a member you know. As a result we also have some great speakers, other than Drew I won’t express any favourites on here, but I’m sure that a certain chap will know that I also look forward to hearing him prattle on speak. I’m having trouble putting my next talk together, if I haven’t got a decent foundation laid down for it by the end of June I think I may change the topic, after all November is a long way off so it’s not like I don’t have time, he says half way through March!

I’m also hoping for good weather for the 25th, firstly so that I can get some observing done, through Dave’s scope with my Meade and also because a sterling chap called Jason has bought a bit of a beast and I want a clear sky for him so that he can show off his new toy to the other members.

Then on the 28th we go off to Cranbrook astronomy group to meet a chap called Piers Sellers, I’m very excited about this because the man in question is a bona fide NASA astronaut. I’ve never met someone who’s been in space before so this one’s special.

Now for a bit of a moan, here we are in a bit of a financial crisis. We’re all having to tighten our belts and give up a few cakes luxuries. So does the BBC really need to spend a god awful amount of money sending Dr Brian Cox to a desert in the middle nowhere to blow bubbles in order to explain how all the stuff in the universe gets made? The sequence would have worked just as well if he’d filmed it on the beach at Camber Sands and he wouldn’t have needed to hire a Mustang to drive to the desert, he could have gone on the train.

I can understand with wildlife programs, we don’t get Outer-Mongolian tree Frogs in England, but do we really need the creation of everything explained by a bloke blowing bubbles in the middle of the Navajama Desert? I bet if Dr Brian Cox had to fund the working holiday from his own pocket he would have suggested filming in Bognor. Don’t get me wrong, I like his program, I like anything to do with the exploration of space and time, I even enjoy the mudslinging rows that Horizon usually descends into, but does it need to be done at the expense of the license payer? If they can film The Sky at Night in Selsy surely they can film a bubble blowing boffin in Brighton!

I would like to take this opportunity to express my sympathies to the thousands of victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Oh happy day, well night!

When I left for work this morning I was greeted by the most fantastic clear blue sky, the first for a few weeks now. A few weeks ago it had been suggested that some mates and me got together and did a bit of observing from the cliff tops in the east of town. After waiting almost two weeks, stupid clouds, I sent a message to a couple of mates suggesting we go tonight. Manky bought himself a sexy new scope a month ago and hasn’t really had a chance to use it, so tonight would be a perfect opportunity. I also messaged a the members of AAS so that they would at least be aware that plans were afoot. A couple said that they would be along so the more the merrier.

The manky one arrived just after 6 and we collected our third and headed over to the East Cliff and set up scopes.

After aligning my scope I set it to The Great Nebula in Orion, it’s in his sword, I got a stunning view and through the 3x Barlow it was even better, Manky said that he’d found the same object and asked if we’d like to see, WOW! the field of view was narrow but the resolution was simply astounding, I could clearly see the nebulous cloud and some of the stars that my (Trudys) trusty Meade can’t quite get. It was definitely a sight to behold. I faffed about with a list that I’d compiled earlier today and have to admit that it was a 50/50 split between what I could see and what I couldn’t but worth it anyway. It is at this point I must sing the praises of GOTO scopes, with my Tasco, which has to be manually pointed at an object you really have to know exactly where the object you want to see is, with a GOTO, once it’s aligned you only have to press a few buttons and the on-board computer does all the hard work for you. So much of the things you wouldn’t be able to find or involve calculating angles are easily available to view.

Dave and I both agreed that both our scopes have strong points, whilst his, amazingly sexy, piece of kit pulled in nebulas in brilliant detail, it seems too powerful for some clusters like the Pleiades, it’s almost as though you’re seeing through the cluster. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way anti Daves scope, quite the opposite, it is a superb set up and I now know what I want by way of a new scope, I would be more than happy with one exactly the same as Daves. But my (Trudes) 70mm Meade gives a brilliant view of the whole cluster plus a bit more.

Anyway, back to this evenings observing, Dave was using his scope manually and after a bit of head scratching and fiddling we managed to get it aligned and the GOTO functioning, at this point he pointed his scope at the same object mine was aimed at, the remnant of a super nova known as the Crab Nebula. This has been something I’ve wanted to see through a scope since I got my Tasco almost ten years ago, the Meade just doesn’t have the power, through the Celestron it could be seen as a faint fuzzy blur. I must be honest and say that I found it hard to hide my excitement at this and I almost danced around the field with delight, thanks to a very good mate I have achieved an astronomical goal. As the evening went on and the stars traced their arc across the sky our number three suggested we have a go for Saturn. Once again we had stunning views and through the different scopes we had a good variety of magnification. I’ve seen Saturn a few times now and it never ceases to amaze me. To think that when you look at Saturn through a telescope you’re seeing another planet, but it’s huge, in comparison Earth is a tiny speck. Another object we saw tonight was M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, it’s over two and a half million light years away and contains more stars than our own galaxy. Just about this for a moment, our galaxy contains somewhere around 200 to 400 billion stars, the Andromeda Galaxy has around one trillion, that’s a lot. it’s possible that out of the 200 to 400 billion stars in our galaxy there’s about 500 million planets within the parent stars habitable zone, if M31 has one trillion stars, how many life bearing worlds are there?

So after a fantastic, if somewhat chilly, evenings astronomy with some brilliant mates I’m home and preparing to give the pups their last stroll for the evening I leave you to ponder the deepness of a question that when it gets answered will change the foundations of the human race.

For the astronomers out there here’s a list of the object we tried to observe, those marked * were also seen through Daves 5 inch F1.5 Cassegrain.

M66, M65, M67, M48, M50, M93*, NGC2362, M41*, M3*, M13*, M42* (the great nebula in Orion), M33*, M1* (Crab Nebula) M31* (Andromeda Galaxy) M44*, NGC2903* and last but by no means least, Saturn. We also had a beautiful waxing crescent moon with earth shine.

I can’t wait for another clear night, but in a few weeks when it’s a touch warmer, as I write this I’m shivering and I’ve been in for about an hour. Next time we’re going to head to Woodchurch, it’s a bit more central for AAS members who may want to join us.

One last thing I need to mention is poor Jason, who joined us at about 8ish and spent the entire time trying to align the scope he had bought down, so the only observing he managed to do was through everyone else’s scopes, bless him!

Since my last post

Hello, you’re back! sorry it’s been a while since my last post but I have been very busy. Miniatures have been painted, over the last week or so I’ve almost completed a Tau battle force, which amounts to a grand total of 35 models, one of which is a troop transport, out of the 35 I have 12 left, so quite an achievement. I still have about 51 models to build and paint but I can get about half done in around 10 days so I should have all the models finished by the middle of April, if all goes well.

On Friday 25th February I went along to the astronomy club. I enjoyed the evening and the talk was very different to the usual style, there were moments when I expected the speaker to reveal himself to be Brian Blessed. The subject matter was Pluto, the content did seem to meander quite a bit and it wasn’t until the last fifteen or twenty minutes that the title subject entered into the talk. despite the presentation, which I enjoyed although it was somewhat theatrical, the only points that were actually raised about Pluto were that it is very cold, very small, a very long way out and no longer classed as a planet. The final part of the talk on Pluto was a show of hands as to whether or not it should be reinstated as a planet. i am in favour of it being a planet, I grew up knowing that were/are nine planets in our solar system and I liked it that way, but the powers that be have decided otherwise, shame really.

On a similar note, there are plans afoot for the Manky one to bring his swanky new telescope down so that three of us can go over to a reasonably dark area of the town for a spot of astronomy. We’re just waiting for a good clear night, so I’m keeping an eye on the forecast so that I can give a bit of an advanced warning so we can all get together. I think it will be best to use the last bit of daylight to set up and then have a couple of hours astronomy, a flask of tea would also be a good idea as it’s still a bit chilly at night.

Open-mouthed smileI also discovered that you cant download ring tunes for your microwave oven Open-mouthed smile.

It’s Friday again and the weekend has arrived, I’m not at the shop this weekend, herself has been having radiotherapy this week and is feeling a bit worse for it, we were hoping that radiotherapy wouldn’t be as bad as chemotherapy, looks like we were a bit wrong there as it appears that this current course of treatment is having a more detrimental effect on her royal gorgeousness. Fortunately(?) she only has three more treatments to go, over the first week of April and with luck that should be the end of it, although mice, men and plans springs rapidly to mind. Whatever the outcome we shall weather the storm and get through this.

Other than the above the last couple of weeks have been quiet, hopefully things will pick up soon, there’s a couple of days out planned that I’m looking forward to so as soon as the weather turns warmer I shall make the plans a bit more solid.

Oh yeah, PS; I am extremely proud of my sweet little friend who has been working so very hard and as a result is being considered for a placement on a course at the University of Kent, well done you clever peanut.

XXX Open-mouthed smile