Archive for September 2008

Andromeda reworked #1

Posted by on September 29th 2008 in Observing Reports
Tags: ,

Had another go at processing the Andromeda frames, here's another version:


Andromeda Galaxy (M31).

(Nikon D50 at prime-focus on C8-N, ISO 200, no filters, 22 x 30s colour exposures stacked with DSS, reprocessed in PS CS3)

Observing Report 26th-27th September 2008 (Andromeda)

Posted by on September 28th 2008 in Observing Reports

After what seems to be many weeks of overcast skies, Friday evening was clear enough to get out and test the new focuser setup. After a delayed start due to a mucky secondary mirror, the scope was recollimated and set up in the back yard. I did a few visual checks of random bright stars to confirm that all was OK, then decided that it was time to grab a few images for analysis later.

I slewed the scope around to the faint blur that is the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31), then slapped on the D50 for some prime-focus shots. This was to be my first semi-serious foray into taking this sort of shot, and I just wanted to get a few images to stack and play with, nothing too difficult.

Anyway, focusing was a lot better with the new setup. After transferring a few shots from the SD-card to the laptop to confirm image acceptability, I rattled off a series of raw files (NEFs), all at 30s, just to see what could be achieved at such relatively short exposures.

After a quick look around to see a few double-stars, the dreaded dew started to form and it was time to pack away and start photo-processing.

The individual frames didn't seem too bad - focus was just a tad out on the later pics, it looks like there was some minor focus-drift over time. The stars at the corners of the pics are distorted due to coma (typical of Newtonian optics - correctable with optical hardware, at a price) but the central stars are hardly trailed at all, which means that the initial polar-alignment of the mount was either very good, or just plain lucky!

Anyway, I plugged them all into various bits of software and , much later on, it spat out the following pic. There's a definite hint of spiral structure there, and the centre's not burned-out too much due to over-exposure or drastic levels/curves adjustments. Not bad for a first attempt with a basic set of frames, and I reckon I could drag more detail out of the data, given enough time. That said, I'm quite chuffed with it as it is.

Next time I'll go for much longer exposures, and more of them.


Andromeda Galaxy (M31).

(Nikon D50 at prime-focus on C8-N, ISO 200, no filters, 22 x 30s colour exposures + 1 dark frame stacked with DSS, processed in PS CS3)

Hinckley ablaze

Posted by on September 26th 2008 in In the News

There's a big fire in town, and rumour has it that the town-centre's been closed off. Luckily for us, the huge column of black smoke is going north-westwards. The helicopters from the emergency services are dwarfed by it. This roving-reporter has decided to stay at home and watch from the garden.

It's been burning for well over an hour now, and it's showing no signs of going out. The neighbour reckons that it's either B&Q or a tyre-fitting yard that's burning. If that's the case, they're about 50m from the fire-station.


Posted by on September 23rd 2008 in Just for fun, LMAO!

Received in the mail today from my good friend Dave:


If only they’d been pirates…

Posted by on September 19th 2008 in Just for fun

Ahoy there, me hearties! Here be a few great speeches from history, fer yer readin' pleasure.

Let’s see what the text-filter does t' them:


Queen Elizabeth I:

My lovin' scallywags, we be persuaded by some, that be careful o' our safety, t' take heed how we commit ourselves t' armed multitudes, fer fear o' treachery; but I assure ye, I do nae desire t' live t' distrust me faithful an' lovin' scallywags. Let tyrants fear; I have always so behaved meself that, under God, I have placed me chiefest strength an' safeguard in the loyal hearts an' good will o' me subjects, we'll keel-haul ye! Shiver me timbers! And therefore I am come amongst ye at this time, nae as fer me recreation or sport, but bein' resolved, in the midst an' heat o' the battle, t' live or die amongst ye all; t' lay down, fer me God, an' fer me kingdom, an' fer me scallywags, me honour an' me blood, even the dust. I know I have but the body o' a weak an' feeble wench; but I have the heart o' a king, an' o' a king o' England, too; an' think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince o' Europe, should dare t' invade the borders o' me realms: t' which, rather than any dishonour should grow by me, I meself will take up arms; I meself will be yer general, judge, an' rewarder o' every one o' yer virtues in the field. I know already, by yer forwardness, that ye have deserved rewards an' crowns; an' we do assure ye, on the word o' a prince, they shall be duly paid ye. In the mean me lieutenant general shall be in me stead, than whom ne'er prince commanded a more noble an' worthy subject; nae doubtin' by yer obedience t' me general, by yer concord in the camp, an' by yer valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory o'er the enemies o' me God, o' me kingdom, an' o' me scallywags.


Abraham Lincoln:

Fourscore an' seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty an' dedicated t' the proposition that all men be created equal. Now we be engaged in a great civil war, testin' whether that nation or any nation so conceived an' so dedicated can long endure. We be met on a great battlefield o' that war. Ye'll be sleepin' wi' the fishes! Break out the biscuits 'n weevils! We have come t' dedicate a portion o' that field as a final restin'-place fer those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It be altogether fittin' an' proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. Yo Ho Ho! The brave men, livin' an' dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power t' add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can ne'er forget what they did here. It be fer us the livin' rather t' be dedicated here t' the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. Have ye seen the size o' the cabin-boy's hornpipe? Yaarrr!! It be rather fer us t' be here dedicated t' the great task remainin' afore us - that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion t' that cause fer which they gave the last full measure o' devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall nae have snuffed it in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth freedom, an' that government o' the scallywags, by the scallywags, fer the scallywags shall nae perish from the earth.


Sir Winston Churchill:

I have, meself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothin' be neglected, an' if the best arrangements be made, as they be bein' made, we shall prove ourselves once again able t' defend our Island home, t' ride out the storm o' war, an' t' outlive the menace o' tyranny, if necessary fer years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that be what we be goin' t' try t' do. That be the resolve o' His Majesty’s Government-every lubber o' them. That be the will o' Parliament an' the nation. The British Empire an' the French Republic, linked together in their cause an' in their need, will defend t' the death their native soil, aidin' each other like good comrades t' the utmost o' their strength. Even though large tracts o' Europe an' many auld an' famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip o' the Gestapo an' all the odious apparatus o' Nazi rule, we shall nae flag or fail, avast. We shall go on t' the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas an' oceans, we shall fight with growin' confidence an' growin' strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landin' grounds, we shall fight in the fields an' in the rivers, we shall fight in the hills; we shall ne'er surrender, an' even if, which I do nae fer a moment believe, this Island or a large part o' it were subjugated an' starvin', then our Empire beyond the seas, armed an' guarded by the Flyin' Dutchman, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power an' might, steps forth t' the rescue an' the liberation o' the auld.


If ye find any others that ye want translatin’, just let me know afore the end o' the day an' I’ll see what I can do.


Swabbin’ the decks

Posted by on September 18th 2008 in Just for fun, Site update

Been doing a bit of tidying up:

  • All unused tags (created by an auto-tagging plugin that I used for a while) have been deleted;
  • Quite a few new links have been added to the blogroll dropdowns;
  • Some other bits and bobs have been added to the sidebar;
  • All dead links in posts have been repaired or deleted;
  • Hell, I've even cleaned the screen and removed all of the cookie-crumbs from under the keys!

See you tomorrow, fellow pirates, but only through me one good eye!



Extended coverage

Posted by on September 16th 2008 in Shiny new kit

Spurred on by our efforts to use a tarp to extend the comfy space around our tents while site-camping on holiday, and frustrated by the scarcity of Exped Arc Tarps on the market, yesterday saw the acquisition of a new bit of kit - a Khyam Atrium, which is in the current Yeomans sale at £20 below RRP.

It's a tent extension/porch/canopy affair with webbing straps and an elasticated and toggled drawcord to allow a neat and secure fit over the openings of most small/medium tents, and the poles are adjusted for height/width by means of a tension-band system between the pole-ends. If that's not enough versatility, the "middle" pole is adjustable in length so that you can get the height/width just as you want it. There are plenty of guying and pegging options, and, as you can see, there's plenty of room under it:



2 pics above: width = 3.5m, height = 1.5m



2 pics above: width = 2.8m, height = 1.8m


Above: pole-end spacing = 1.5m


Above: elasticated and toggled drawcord etc..


Above: length-adjustable pole.


Specs from the Khyam website:

Poles: Fibreglass - 9.5mm

Flysheet: Polyester 185T - 68D / 5000mm - Flame-Retardant - Taped seams

Height: Adjustable

Weight: 3.9kg

Dimensions: As the Atrium is fully adjustable it is not possible to list or show all dimensions.

Packed size: 64x12x12cms

Colour Options: Castle Rock / Paloma

Just in case you were wondering…

Posted by on September 14th 2008 in New tricks for an old dog

Those crinkly rings in the previous post have quite a few uses:

  • Stick one around a water-bottle or similar when camping - it makes it easier to find in the night, no need to fumble about for the torch and ruin your night-vision;
  • Put two around your SLR/dSLR lens when taking night-shots (one on the zoom-ring, the other on the focus-ring). This way, I can adjust the zoom in the dark without moving the focus by accident;
  • They're useful for marking various bits of the telescope setup - the focuser, the auto-focus control box, the ends of the tripod legs etc..

They're currently on offer at Lakeland.

Crinkly rings

Posted by on September 13th 2008 in New tricks for an old dog

... can it be true? That I hold here, in my mortal hand, a nugget of purest Green?


Still worried about the LHC?

Posted by on September 12th 2008 in In the News

Chasrle found a great weblink where you can check to see the effects of the colliding hadrons:

Has the Large Hadron Collider destroyed the Earth yet?

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