Friday, 27 May 2011

Binoculars, Peltier and Lawn Astronomy....

“Were I to write out one prescription designed to alleviate at least some of the self-made miseries of mankind, it would read like this: “One gentle dose of starlight to be taken each clear night just before retiring.” ..Leslie C Peltier

It's been really quiet here of late in Simpson Cross, not much observing as the weather has been really bad. The night skies that have appeared were not really that good for astronomical observations, I've spent the time available just observing with binoculars.

Newcomers to the hobby of astronomy invariably look for a telescope as their first instrument. This is false economy I feel.

I would suggest the humble binoculars everytime.
They're light, inexpensive and very portable..and there's loads to see in the night sky with them.

My favourite pair of 8x30's only cost £5. I used to have a very useful pair of 10X50's that only cost £1.50...they looked really rough , but the optics were fine.

If it's cloudy with no stars to view , read a book....that's what I do.....
As the weather has been playing up I have spent some of that lost observing time reading a brilliant book by a famous amateur astronomer, it's called The Starlight Nights  by Leslie C. Peltier .

I have to say this book captures my feelings about amateur astronomy perfectly.
The chapters I'm reading at the moment are based in the 1920's  and 30's.

It shows the reader a world were the pace of life was much slower.
A bygone age where our modern nightly orange glow of so called progress hadn't yet touched.

It seems to me with all our technological haste we are missing out on the simpler slower things of life.

The darkened night skies are one of these simplicities.
Leslie C Peltier's Starlight Nights reminds us to slow down.

I can't praise this book enough...

Famed comet hunter David H Levy gives a wonderfully succinct view of this book:
Many books explain how to observe the sky; Starlight Nights explains why.” 

Looking forward to warm summer nights
 Lawn astronomy
Hopefully the month of June will bring better night viewing than May. 
Summer is close, the nights are getting warmer and my annual " Lawn astronomy" season is close.... 
Let me explain:
Because most of the year seems to be cold, wet, windy...I guess you know what I mean....!!! , it's really nice to find a few weeks of the year when the ground is dry and the night time is hopefully warm & balmy. On these rare occasions I like to spend my nightly observing session simply lying in the back garden looking up at the stars overhead....
Often I wear headphones that are playing Jean Michell Jarre's  "Equinox" album.... 
This particular music and the beauty of the stars above, coupled with the warm evening,,, really is  therapeutic .......

Here's to a good summer ....
Clear skies   hopefully

Friday, 13 May 2011

6x5 foot Observatory

Just as you're about to come the clouds.

A familiar tale for all astronomers....not any more here in Simpson Cross.

A couple of weeks ago one of our neighbours kindly offered a pile of scrap wood for our fire.

It just so happened most of the scrap wood was the remains of his 8x6 foot garden shed.

I managed to salvage enough wood to make a start on an astronomy shed. I had two complete side panels, and enough wood to build the two remaining sides.

The building started on what must have been the hottest days of the year so far...

Somewhere I had heard it was the hottest April in the UK since 1911 ...!!!

The two sides bolted together quickly but the structure was still swaying quite a bit.....

Good job there was no breeze that day..

After fixing the remaining two sides the structure became really strong.... It might just stand up to the Simpson Cross  winter gales.

I was going to make a roll of roof with support posts, but as the observatory is only 6x5 foot I can easily lift off the roof when needed..

There's still a lot of work to do before the scope is fixed permanently, but at least the main structure is in place...

The cost so far has been for screws, hinges, nails, and extra wooden batons. Total spent so far £35.

I've made the roof frame, now I have to get some covers on it..

To set up my telescope previously required the eq platform to be taken outside, back to the house for the counterweights, back to the house for the tube, setting levels, align North...observe..

In total about 10 minutes....

With this observatory ...I slide the roof frame off completely, open the observatory door, sit on the stool...observe....

In total  30seconds.....

I've got a feeling that when the Winter returns, the amount of observing time is going to dramatically increase....

I'll post more pictures of the observatory as I go along.....

Clear Skies


Monday, 9 May 2011

Solar Observing ..Maidenhall car park ..Newgale.

I'm happy to report the weather behaved itself yesterday.

We arrived early and having made sure to pack the car with all the equipment I needed, I began  confidently to assemble the scopes.

Just one problem.....I had forgotten one "minor" item...the actual sun filter!!! ...

Luckily we only live 3 miles from Newgale so Helen was able to quickly go home and pick it up.

It wasn't long before Phil, a member of the Preseli Astronomy & Science Group arrived.
This was our first meeting, we had talked via the PASG forum, on several occassions. It was great to finally meet up.

Phil arrived armed with two refractors ...

A  meade 70mm was to be his main solar scope...and it proved to be a good choice for solar work...infact it  had the edge over my Tal reflector.

We carried out a few tests with each scope... Refractor Vs Reflector..

There did seem to be slightly better contrast with the refractor.

Such a portable refractor is ideally be suited for solar work out and about.

Once I find a decent donor refractor I'll make myself a "mobile solar scope" and keep it in the car.

During one session the dust cap for the eyepiece on my scope inadvertently  moved into direct focus of the suns rays ...only 2 second maximum ...but it was enough time to melt a sizeable hole in the plastic dustcap.
Always goes to show that even though great care is taken....respect of the Sun is paramount.....

Please always observe safely and carefully!!!

A couple of passers by took an interest in our observing, and were impressed by the sunspots they could see. Mention was made by one visitor of the wonderful late Summer Moon rises over Simpson viewed from Roch....

Maybe a visit to Roch in August/September is in order.... I know a good spot...up by the bottle recycling point, good parking a picnic area, and wonderful almost 360 degree views....

Perhaps I'll pencil that one in now.....

The weather behaved itself throughout yesterdays session. There was quite a bit of wind to begin with, but thankfully that eased off as the afternoon progressed.

The observing session was to be 2 hours between 2.00pm and 4.00pm , but thanks to the good company, the session was extended to 6.00pm .

This is the first public solar observing session I have attended...and it won't be the last....great fun!!!

Here's to a wonderful Summer....

Clear Skies