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The appliance of science – set up and alignment October 16, 2008

Posted by astronomerdaz in General.
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Well, a structured method anyway!

I always seem to be unable to follow the same routine when setting up the scope, so tonight I plan to produce and document “The Plan”!

It looks initially like:


  • Use Wixey to set Altitude
  • Use Compass to set approximate North
  • Align finder with main scope
  • Align finder with guide scope
  • Align guide scope with main scope


  • Rough polar alignment using Polar204
  • Focus guide camera
  • Focus CCD camera
  • Set to HOME position
  • 1 star align with EQMOD
  • Polar align with PAM
  • 6 star align with EQMOD

I’ll also be working out the spacers and configuration needed for the DMK in any of the scopes, and when the SXV comes back, that will have the same treatment!

And a tip from Steve L – a little 3-in-1 carefully applied to threaded things will reduce the chances of this happening again! A trip to the local Halfords beckons!


New season, new resolutions! October 15, 2008

Posted by astronomerdaz in General.
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OK, so I have been busy, hence no posting here for a while! But the new observing season is upon us, so I will make a(nother) resolution to update the Blog more often!!

So, what’s been happening? Well, apart from being extremely busy at work…

Kelling Autumn Equinox Star Camp with other members of SGL – great success and great fun! See some of the photos of the weekend here

Sky at Night Autumn Equinox Part – at SPM’s house. Awesome!! And to cap it all, Andrew had one of his pictures used on the programme! Dead chuffed, the pair of us!! Here is his picture, and more pictures of the weekend are here

Andrews S@N Image

Andrew's S@N Image

Had a minor problem with the camera recently, the male-to-male adapter got jammed into the camera – so that’s gone away to be sorted! Frustrating or what!! Not had a chance to really use the camera yet, what with work and dodgy weather! Looking forward to Kielder though, and fingers crossed the weather does it’s bit!! Really looking forward to putting the camera through its paces….

And manage to re-acquire a WO66. Had to sell a few bits to get there, but worth it! I really regretted selling the previous one, so this ones a keeper! It will act as a guider, imager and grab-n-go for the odd weekends away!

Clear skies for now

Taken the plunge…. August 22, 2008

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So I saw the new ATiK 314L and drooled….

and drooled…

So after much to-ing and fro-ing and hum-ing and har-ing, I’m diving in!! Need to raise a good portion of the funds first so me beloved 350D has already been sold, and the ATiK16 will follow shortly. Leaves me a few quid to fund in the short term, unless I can flog anything else in the meantime (kidney, lung, etc.)

Hopefully will have it in place for Kelling in September – I have a date with Andromeda!!!

I knew this would happen……. August 19, 2008

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I start off with all good intentions – and then life comes along!!

Not posted since May, which is terrible really, but things have been hectic at work (aren’t they always, I hear you cry). So, to save a lot of waffling, here’s a quick run-down of recent activities in no particular order…..

  • Visited Sir Patrick Moore for the partial solar eclipse – hopefully got some good shots of the maximum on his film camera
  • Holidayed in Bude under canvas, and very wet skies! Still, it was a break!! Many thanks to Greg and Annette for the dry caravan and excellent nosh!
  • Had a birthday
  • Got an USB focuser controller for the Orion Accufocuser
  • Sill not started on the observatory
  • Attended the South West Astronomy Fair with First Light Optics – good day, but wet!
  • The SGL project to refurb SPM’s observatory to be featured on Sept S@N magazine – can’t wait to see that one!!

See, interesting isn’t it!!?

OK, so another note to self to post a bit more often, and hopefully with some astro-images as well. In the meantime, looking forward to Kelling Heath in September – should be fun!!

And the picture… May 12, 2008

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Theophilus and Friends

A short session May 12, 2008

Posted by astronomerdaz in Imaging Reports.
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Set up in the afternoon as, again, the evening looked promising. Bit of a struggle in the building site that is the garden, but work will be starting on that very soon!

Just did a couple of AVI’s of the moon and Saturn – although Saturn’s was poor. It really couldn’t dance much more on the laptop screen and after watching playback of the AVI, I don’t hold out much hope of getting anything useful. That said, Trevor has been doing some testing with FFT in Registax (here) so you never know.

The moon came out better, but I’m having trouble with Registax reading the native AVI from the Y800 codec. It could be a corruption as I can dump and recombine in VirtualDub and it works OK. I will reload the IC capture software tonight and try again.

Picture of Theophilus to follow soon……….

Update: Subsequently found out that the DMK was set to the wrong codec, which explains why Registax didn’t like the file! Things have now been set correctly! Ho hum!!

Moon from 7th May May 8, 2008

Posted by astronomerdaz in Observation Reports.
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Went out to try and get the moon and Mercury but it was dropping too low to my horizon, which was annoying. So I got a nice photo of the moon showing some earthshine and a stack of 30 close ups which I need to process later.

Taken with my Canon 350D, 50mm lens – a single exposure of 2 seconds at ISO200

Oh, I do like to be beside the sea-side… May 6, 2008

Posted by astronomerdaz in Camping Trips.
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Had an excellent weekend, spent in the company of friends at Cromer, North Norfolk. We were camping at a site in East Runton, about a half-hour walk to Cromer itself.

Saturday morning saw Daz and Mrs Daz cook breakfast for 17 – practice for Kelling again – while the tent was set up for those staying just for the day. Saturday itself was spent in the pub, as the purpose of the weekend was to celebrate a friends birthday, although Mrs Daz did a stint on the beach with some of the younger members of the party (She caught up with the drinks a bit later 😉 )

Dinner was “fish n chips” from a travelling van that visited the site, and they were pretty damned good. So much so that one-who-shall-remain-nameless commented it was the best haddock he had had all year. It wasn’t till later he discovered it was actually cod (he doesn’t like cod because of its bottom-feeding nature). His wife and I were struggling to stop laughing every time he mentioned how good the fish was – it was her idea but we couldn’t get to the friend who mentioned that the van only sold cod and there was no haddock!

Sunday breakfast, 17 again, followed by breaking down the aforementioned tent. The day was just fantastic, spent down at Wells on the beach – although queuing for 30 mins for a car park ticket was no fun. We hadn’t packed any shorts for the weekend, because our weather forecasters (predictably) got it wrong again! So, we made do with rolling our trousers up and paddling in the little warm pools that were dotted around.

A stroll out to the sand dunes resulted in yours truly receiving a little burning to his balding pate, nothing too serious you’ll be glad to learn, and a cooling beer or two soon revived him! Claim to Fame – I queued in the shop next to Neil Kinnock! Shorter in real life, but the voice was unmistakable!

A really nice curry rounded the day off in Cromer, and a nice stroll back to the tent (via The B’s caravan for a quick beer and Spiced Morgans) in the warmer-than-expected evening twilight made sure Daz, Mrs Daz, MiniDaz slept well. Daz-ette is a 17 year old teenage girl, hates camping and says she was cold all night and that she won’t be coming camping ever again thank you very much!!

Monday was another great day but as it was our last day, we took out time packing up the tent and stuff and then spent the day in Cromer itself. A wander through the streets with ice creams, looking for rock before munching yet more fish and chips down by the sea was how we spent the morning, and a no-rush drive got us home about 5:30pm.

What a difference camping in warm, sunny weather makes – the tent doesn’t need drying or airing (although we will be setting up the inner tent for a bit of cleaning), and all the camping stuff got put straight away in the shed. Easy! We now have another list of things we’d like ready for the next trip at the end of May; toaster, better lights, etc.

Pendine sands, here we come….

Variable Stars talk – A.S. May 1, 2008

Posted by astronomerdaz in Society.
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Last night was the monthly talk at the society. We had Dr Alec Crowe, a teacher at Bedford School, talking to us about variable stars. Very interesting topic and hopefully, we’ll be able to set up an observing programme and get members involved in making estimations.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking some potential candidate stars – some naked eye, some binocular and some for small/medium telescopes. Best to start with the easy ones and go from there! Of course, I’ll be asking advice from the SGL crew as well!!

I like driving in my car (beep, beep…) April 30, 2008

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Trying to sort out my new company car this week – need to get the order pretty soon otherwise I’ll miss the return date of the current one. Doesn’t help when the fleet company take several weeks to get a list over to me!

Narrowed down the choices to Renault Grand Scenic, Ford S-Max and VW Touran. All will be 2.0 diesels and have a pretty good MPG and low-ish CO2 emissions (less tax!!). Just waiting on specific quotes and test drives now.

Boot space is of course important, and the ability to fold the seats flat. My current Nissan has to have the seats removed and its a PITA to do – the interior gets all scratched up and makes the car look untidy! Did fancy the Galaxy (it is CAVERNOUS) but the tax and MPG were on the wrong end of the scale 😦

Soon as I know which one, you’ll know!