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My Telescopes

My Main Telescope - C14 and Paramount ME

My new Paramount MyT and 8-inch Ritchey-Chretien Telescope

MyT Hand Controller

My Meade 12 inch SCT on a CGEM (Classic) Mount

My 4 inch Meade Refractor with Sky Watcher Guidescope and ZWO camera on a CGEM (Classic) Mount

Skywatcher Star Adventurer Mount with Canon 40D


My Solar setup using a DSLR and Mylar Filter on my ETX90

DSLR attached to ETX90. LiveView image of 2015 partial eclipse on Canon 40D

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About the Site

 I try to log my observing and related activities in a regular blog - sometimes there will be a delay but I usually catch up. An index of all my blogs is on the main menu at the top of the page with daily, weekly or monthly views. My Twitter feed is below. I am also interested in photograping wildlife when I can and there is a menu option above to look at some of my images. I try to keep the news feeds from relevant astronomical sources up to date and you will need to scroll down to find these.

The Celestron 14 is mounted on a Paramount ME that I have been using for about 10 years now - you can see that it is mounted on a tripod so is a portable set up. I still manage to transport it on my own and set it all up even though I have just turned 70! It will run for hours centering galaxies in the 12 minute field even when tripod mounted.


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Moon, Venus and Saturn before dawn

Venus was brilliant this morning at 0545 UT in the Eastern sky.


This image provides some identification.



Clear spell last night

Last night after a dry day the skies cleared and gave me an opportunity to accurately polar align the CGEM mount on the telescope. The stars were bright and the Milky Way was visible as a very bright band crossing almost overhead. Although there are no street lights here as such there are two shoulder level walkway lights that would interfere but fortunately I had brought two black woolly hats that covered the lights completely and removed the problem entirely without even getting warm.  The standard 2-star alignment was followed with 3 additional 'calibration' stars added as advised. The drift method was used to polar align the mount by sighting on a star near the equator just to the east of the Meridian and using only the azimuth adjustments on the mount to maintain the star on the horizontal cross hair of the ccd image(using a small netbook)  until it remained there for more than 15 minutes without moving north or south. This was repeated using a star about 20 degrees above the horizon in the east but using the altitude adjustment on the CGEM until it too remained on the line for a similar time without drifting.  The laptop indoors was connected to the mount and camera via trailing wires from the terrace down through the window so that everything became more comfortable. The telescope was instructed from The Sky software to move to PGC 6382 a very faint spiral galaxy (shown as Mag 30 in The Sky - I must admit a lot fainter than I thought so is not visible) and a 30s image was taken as shown below:


The image on the right is a chart of the same area obtained by a plate solution - confirming that the "Go To" was accurate. The centre of the chart on the right is the exact location of the galaxy. Unfortunately cloud moved in at this stage and it has been raining ever since (Monday 3pm) , so further goto testing has not been possible.


4 Days of cloud and rain

No observing for the last few days as it has been cloudy and pouring with rain until last night - this morning was dry and sunny. It certainly looks better than the weather in the UK on the News channels on TV.



Cabrera White Wagtail

The White Wagtail below was imaged in Cabrera on Sunday 21st November. This is the continental version of the British Pied Wagtail which has black upperparts rather than the grey exhibited by the White Wagtail below.



 For comparison the image of a Pied Wagtail taken beside Loch Lomond in 2009 is shown below.



Leyland Observatory moves South for the winter - First Light at Sierra Cabrera 

Last night (22nd November 2010) the first images were captured using the 12" SCT/CGEM set up at the winter base of Leyland Observatory in the Sierra Cabrera mountains(actually the terrace of a rented villa) in the village of Cabrera just above the town of Turre in Almeria, Andalusia, Spain.

The latitude is just over 37 degrees North.

Having arrived at 9 pm on the 15th Nov(last Monday) after a 650 mile drive from the ferry port of Santander in the North where the boat arrived at 9 a.m. that morning I was somewhat tired but arrived to see a dark sky glittering with stars.

Cabrera is a village of modern moorish design villas 300m above the plain where the local town of Turre sits. Getting to the village is quite a feat - the inhabitants sometimes refer to it as Brigadoon because of its detached magical nature although I think it is more like Rivendell in Lord of the Rings!  (Sorry - beginning to sound as though I am selling something!)

This is one of the roads in to Cabrera with the Mediterranean Sea in the background


This is a typical Cabrera view



This is the view from the village centre.


This is the terrace of the villa where the telescope can be seen covered by its "Scope Coat"


This is the telescope and the view from the terrace looking to the North East. The optical tube assembly  is my 15 year old 12" Meade from my original classic  LX200 sitting on a Celestron CGEM mount. In reality the OTA is right at the weight limit for the telescope so it remains to see how the CGEM will fare with slews to several hundred galaxies per night - in terms of tracking, pointing accuracy and dealing with the workload. I aim to use The Sky, CCDSoft and Orchestrate scripts  working in harmony using the 23000 galaxy  RC3 catalog to image galaxies in terms of increasing radial velocity and thus distance to hopefully capture brighter supernovae. At present I am trying to get as near perfect tracking as I can by accurate drift method polar alignment.

 The view to the South from the terrace

First night images:

The first image of M74 combines 35 X 10 second images. The second image of NGC 891 is a single 10 second image. Clearly the images were not precisely focused - it is sometimes a challenge to prevent mirror flop with the LX200 OTA which requires the mirror to be "solidly" clamped.







Thursday 21st October 2010 - A very brief Supernova Search 

Although the night (of the 20th October) started well ,clouds rolled in and kept interrupting imaging of galaxies near the zenith - an attempt to  repeat a good night of imaging on Saturday 16th October, using the same sequence of galaxies as a first check on the new field of view of 17.2 arc minutes square  The first galaxy imaged was NGC 7250 from the series "Sky only 1a". The "Sky only" reference is to the way that The Sky Data wizard was set up to sequence the galaxies selected in a particular area of the sky as defined by the galaxies shown on the actual screen of the laptop. Galaxies are selected only by their visibility on the screen and not by using filters. Only 24 galaxies were imaged before clouds prevented further imaging.


Astronomy Centre in Portugal - COAA

I spent a week in October at COAA in the Algarve, Portugal


Equipment Upgrade to Celestron 14

After looking for some time I finally managed to acquire a larger aperture telescope (from eBay) to support my supernova searching. It is a 30ish year old orange Celestron C14  Optical Tube Assembly. It is in excellent condition optically and like all C14s, extremely solid.

The orange tubed C14 OTA


The first thing I did was to acquire a pair of Ironwood Observatories "flop stoppers" from Oceanside Photo and Telescope in Southern California. These prevent mirror flop that had also been a problem with the Meade 12" which I had solved in a similar but not identical way.  They can be quickly released to permit primary mirror focusing if required but I clamp them to prevent mirror movement and focus using the external focuser to prevent image shift.

From the T-Point model I established it indicated that the polar alignment was not correct. Instead of following the usual adjustments to the axes indicated by T-Point in terms of "tic" movement required on the ME I decided to use the tried and tested "Drift" method of alignment using CCD images with superimposed cross hairs. I spent a few hours of trial and error adjustment of each axis to minimise drift of the selected stars until a star was split by the cross hairs without drifting for at least 15 minutes on my 9.3 minute square image. The method is well described in this Sky and Telescope article.


The Planet Uranus

I accidentally rediscovered the planet Uranus in the early hours of this morning.  Having recently acquired a 14 inch OTA to replace its 12 inch predecessor and being used to pointing and clicking to go to any object I realised how difficult it was to find anything at all with the 14" and a non-aligned finder! Having failed to get any known bright stars in the 26 mm eyepiece I tried to locate Jupiter which was shining like a beacon in the eastern sky. Still no luck - I could not find it! I slowly "panned" back and forth in what I thought was its vicinity by sighting down the tube and spotted a definite disk in the viewfinder. Too faint for Jupiter but it struck me that this must be Uranus. I checked the chart and there it was - not far from Jupiter. I centred it, changed to a  9 mm cross hair eyepiece and "synched" it to "The Sky" software and made it the first mapping point in a new T-Point model. I now asked the telescope to slew to Jupiter and there it was at the bottom of the eyepiece field. I centred it and synched it and aligned the finder to the OTA. From now on everything became much simpler and after half a dozen slews to bright stars and mapping them I was getting fairly well centred objects in the 9 mm eyepiece. With a focal length of 3910 mm that corresponds to a magnification of X434. Replacing the eyepiece with the SBIG camera put objects into the field of view with each slew.


Heron under attack at Martin Mere

This heron came under repeated attack from the black headed gulls at Martin Mere today. Every time a gull dive-bombed the heron it simply ducked as you can see below.




A pheasant family were strolling around the edge of the mere




 Note that the last 3 images were taken through the double glazed window in the hide! The Green Sandpiper below was also imaged through the double glazed window.




A large number of lapwings were present.