Archive for July 2010

Observing Report 29th-30th July 2010 (Ganymede shadow transit)

Posted by on July 30th 2010 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

The was a short period of clearish sky here last night, it was the first reasonable observing opportunity for a long time so I took the chance and got set up in the obsy. The Moon was up which meant that doing any deep-sky observing was a no-no, so I had to be content with Jupiter and viewing some lunar craters.

I couldn't get any good high-resolution data for Jupiter, as the seeing was quite bad, so I went for a slightly wider field of view than usual and managed to catch a few moons and a transit as well. Here's the first edit, run yer mouse over it to see what's what:




The processing of the lunar data will take quite some time, so I'll put the results in a separate post.


Posted by on July 29th 2010 in In the News

So what if Budgens is selling squirrel-meat? Grey squirrels are generally unwanted, regarded as vermin, and very tasty. Pretty much in the same league as rabbits, I'd say. Seems like this situation is being regarded as just another band-wagon for the whingers to climb onto. Grey squirrels aren't endangered, they're an introduced nuisance. FFS, it's not as if Budgens is selling Red Kite, Scottish Wildcat or Bechstein's Bat.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not anti-veggie. I have many veggie/vegan friends and a veggie wife, and we never quarrel about our different views. After all, being an omnivore is a natural thing, that's why we have canine teeth AND molars, isn't it?

But it's a life-choice and we're all entitled to make our own such decisions without recrimination. Eschew meat if you wish, that's fine, I don't have any problem with that, but there's no need to get shirty with others because they have more varied diets or the good business sense to provide for them.

Here's a thought... tonight the omnivores in our house will be dining on a humanely-shot wild rabbit, it's dead now and it'll still be dead when I start to cook it and when we eat it. The same can't be said of the fresh vegetables that will be boiled alive to go with it, or of the fruit that will be eaten alive for afters. Is being a meat-eater really an inhumane thing?


Mmmm... tasty!


Posted by on July 24th 2010 in Thanks

We'd be much obliged if all readers could have a look at the "Missing Luke Talion" Facebook page, and spread the word about it. The page was set up by our niece Katherine in the hope that somebody out there can help us to find out if Luke is OK.

I think that most of the info we have is on that Facebook page, but for the sake of clarity I'd like to add that my other half, Chris, is Luke's mother, I'm his step-father and Mike is his natural father.

If you have any info that can help, please post it via Facebook if you can. If you don't want to communicate via Facebook, you can email us via this blog's Contact Page.

Thanks for your attention.

*** Click here for an update posted 30/12/2010 ***

Observing Report 24th July 2010 (Sunspots in Active Region 1089 – Session 2)

Posted by on July 24th 2010 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics
Tags: ,

Just to prove that my first sunspots pic wasn't a fluke, here's another from this morning:

Sunspots in AR1089 (24/07/2010).
50/1000 stacked frames.
DMK mono CCD camera on the C80ED-R.


As you can see, this active region has changed quite a bit since the previous pic, and will probably change even more over the next few days. Hopefully the weather will permit more observing sessions.

Observing Report 21st July 2010 (Sunspots in Active Region 1089 – Session 1)

Using some black plastic sheet, some Meccano fasteners, some Superglue, some sticky-tape, a Cornflakes box, a cardboard tube and a pair of Val's old knickers, I constructed a safe solar filter using the some of the Baader AstroSolar Safety Film that I got for my birthday. It fits securely over the front of the C80 refractor:



OK, so I lied about the box, the cardboard tube and the knickers, it turned out that I didn't really need them :mrgreen:

Anyway, it needed testing properly so I nipped up to the obsy and grabbed some .avi footage of Active Region 1089, where there is an impressive array of sunspots. After processing in K3CCDTools3, Registax and PSCS3, I've ended up with the following two images which are essentially the same except for the application of a little equalization in the second image:

Sunspots in AR1089 (21/07/2010).
100/1000 stacked frames.
DMK mono CCD camera on the C80ED-R.

 As previous but equalized in PSCS3

I'll try to get more footage of this thing over the next few days to see how it changes. I'll probably use a bit of the leftover solar film to make filters for the D50's lenses, and then get some full-disc shots.

BE WARNED: Never view the Sun without a suitable Solar Filter! Solar observing is dangerous and can be hazardous to eyesight and equipment. Don't moan at me when you've burned holes in your retinas, set fire to your person/possessions and/or fried the chip in your camera. Proper solar-observing kit comes with serious safety advice - ignore it at your own peril!

Review – Merrell Siren Ventilators – First Thoughts

Posted by on July 21st 2010 in My reviews, Shiny new kit

So, here is a preliminary review of the contents of Package 3 - a pair of Merrell Siren Ventilators in Desert Sage from Fitness Footwear Ltd..

Like BG! I have actively tried to avoid any footwear with the word 'trainers' in the description for the last 30 years. I am not so out of touch that I haven't noticed that things have moved on in design terms from the last pair that I owned (dreadful plasticky, black and yellow Gola trainers only bought because the school PE kit list demanded them), but having seen my children's feet suffer whenever  I have foolishly bought them trainers that hadn't been fitted at Clarks - I was reluctant.

Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised when I first tried these on. They felt firm and supportive but they were not crushing my E width-fitting feet.  I will say that due to the curved footbed, if you are exactly a size 4 rather than just a bit longer than a 3 and a half like myself, I would probably go up a size. I have less room beyond my toes in these than I do in a normal size 4, but they are really comfortable.



As you can see from the picture, they may not make it into a Gok Wan top ten list of stylish footwear, but when I asked my highly critical 15 year old daughter if they looked OK with my jeans and shirt, she said they were OK and was more concerned about me not wearing a belt over the shirt.... Apparently it would have shown off my 'not-so-tiny' waist! Personally I think that they look good, so far I have worn them at the gym, shopping, on a country walk and on an evening out when the dress-code was smart casual and they haven't drawn any unwelcome attention in any of those situations. I am going to get a lot of wear out of these.

So, how do they perform technically?  Well I wore them for an hour's work-out down the gym on a day so hot that they had almost all of the doors open and the fans going. I was sure of my footing through all of the lunges, step-ups etc and they didn't affect my unimpressive performances on the rowing machine or the cross-trainer.  I'm not a naturally athletic person and I guess there must be footwear specifically designed for this type of indoor exercise, but these trainers either helped or did not impede my exercises. It was good that the grip did not make it difficult to do the stretching exercises at the end, in other footwear I have had to go barefoot. I foolishly did not wear any socks, but apart from some very slight soreness on the heels, my feet were fine - not bad seeing as they had only been out the box for 3 hours.

Later that day we went for a couple of hours walk around Croft Hill. This time socks were worn, and by the end of the walk the socks were damp, but the inside of the trainers were dry - they weren't joking about the ventilator bit, it is very efficient. They felt like a more protective version of my walking sandals, very light but much more support for my feet. Obviously on a slope there is no ankle protection so I had to be more careful about my footing, but in the dry the grip is secure. Now in very hot weather or when I am pregnant, my feet swell up at the end of the day so I had to remove the trainers in the evening after the walk as they were too tight on my little toes, but the good news was that nobody complained about the smell. The anti-odour treatment was doing it's job.

So in summary, these are good all-round trainers and will definitely be packed on my next summer business trip. I may even get round to using them in a hotel gym instead of just going for a evening walk and then "resting" in the hotel bar.

If you're interested in laying your hands on some Merrells, have a look at the sale items here.

Fixed Assets (and more Consumables)

Posted by on July 19th 2010 in Celebrations, Thanks

More pressies



Posted by on July 18th 2010 in Celebrations, Thanks

Good healthy vittles

48 today.


Package 4 – a raci little number

Posted by on July 17th 2010 in Astrostuff, Shiny new kit

The Celestron straight-through 9x50 finderscope supplied with my 8" Newtonian has served well for a while now but it's always been a neck-twisting operation to actually use it. The eyepiece is just too close to the main scope and it usually ends up in a position where it's awkward to look through it:

The original finderscope

I'd been considering shelling out for a cheap right-angled version but couldn't justify the expense, but then my luck changed - I found a cheap second-hand Orion 9x50 RACI* finderscope for sale on UK Astronomy Buy & Sell.

Setting-up is going to be a much more comfortable affair now that Package 4 has been delivered and its contents installed:

The replacement finderscope

The original finderscope won't go to waste, though - I've fitted it to the 80mm refractor in place of the supplied straight-through 6x30 which I'll keep in the spares box just-in-case.

Sorted 🙂

(* RACI = Right Angled Corrected Image)

Review – Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slams – First Thoughts

Posted by on July 14th 2010 in My reviews, New tricks for an old dog, Shiny new kit

So, down to the preliminary review of the contents of Package 2 - a pair of Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slams from Fitness Footwear Ltd..

I'd opted for the Army Green and Black version, on the basis that it would be a fairly neutral colour-scheme, nothing too flash. I mean, this is the first pair of trainer-type shoes that I'd acquired during the last 30 years (aside from some "trendy" toe-tectors), so I didn't want to overdo it (I must admit to being tempted by the Charcoal and Red version, though). The first image below shows the things in general, but the colour is better-represented in the second pic:



With some trepidation I pulled them on over a pair of thin trainer-socks and was pleasantly surprised by the fit, as I'm usually hard to please when it comes to this sort of thing. The arch-support is just right, and that's important to me as I have "flexible flatfoot" - a condition that's never a problem unless I'm barefoot or in flat-soled footwear. The best thing about the fit, though, is the security - with significant padding around the heels and below the ankles these things grip onto my feet perfectly, there's no slipping and sliding around inside, it's almost as if they're glued on. The soles flex in just the right place and don't have excessive torsion, and at the moment they have impressive grip on all sorts of surfaces. My only minor gripe is the sizing - I've been a size 8  for a few decades now, but these feel more like a 7.5  - there wasn't as much space beyond the toes compared to the other 8s that I own. That said, I reckon that 9s would have been too big and I guess that I'm just between sizes for this brand/model.

Within the hour they were being used on another trip up and around Croft Hill in scorching weather (more on that later). OK, it's not a major expedition, but there's some variation of terrain and plenty of steep grass to contend with. After a few hours and a few miles, all still felt good - no sweatiness, nice and cool, and very comfy. I kept them on for the rest of that day, and wore them non-stop all the next day, and there's been no soreness or rubbing.



So, what would I use them for? I reckon I'd use them on long low walks in good-to-reasonable conditions, but I'd need to build up more confidence in them before committing to wearing them up on the higher and/or rougher Lakeland Fells. It's just that I'm used to proper boots rather than what some other folk would call "Jessiehikers". Maybe I need to make that leap of faith and just do it. Regarding how they fit into my collection of outdoors footwear, they neatly fill the gap between my Keen Newports and my AKU Croda GTXs (all of which reminds me that I need to update my gear page).

I do like them, in just a few days they've become the footwear of choice for the school-walk, trips to the shops and just general dossing. I'll give them a decent work-out over the summer and report back in due course.

If you're interested in laying your hands on some Merrells, have a look at the sale items here.

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