Archive for November, 2013

Got today’s Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) with “Fibonacci Spirals in the Garden” –

Thank you Jim for continuing to publish my work 🙂


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Got out on 23/11/2013 with the Canon 200mm prime lens and the 6-Megapixel M25C one-shot colour camera to do some imaging on the California nebula.  Managed 12 x 5-minute subs before the cloud came in.  Very pleased with the result for just 1-hour of total imaging time.  Will definitely return to this one and try to get the magic 8-hours if the weather allows.

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Another non-astro post, so if you’re not interested please stop reading here.

A certain Bank has been accused of wrecking small businesses, as if this is some kind of new behaviour – sorry, it is not.

In a past life I was deeply involved with UHV precision metal-bashers (engineers) and one guy in particular became a good personal friend of mine.  He had run a precision engineering firm for something like 40 years and during that time had always been in the black.  Clearly this popped up on the local Bank’s radar.  He was paid a visit by his local Bank manager who proposed he should take out a loan (he didn’t need any loans he was doing alright thank you very much) to build a huge warehouse-like extension on the back of his factory.  Why?  So he could expand his business – and here’s the best bit – the manager said, even if you don’t expand and you hit hard times, you can still rent out all that extra space – it’s a win-win situation.

You can probably see it coming from a mile off can’t you.  He was paid a visit because the Bank was well aware that a tough period was right on their doorstep.  Yes times DID suddenly become hard, and what happens in hard times?  People tighten their belts and there’s nobody out there looking for huge warehouse type spaces to rent.  What happens next?  Of course – the Bank asks for its loan back.  And so a business that had run profitably for over 40 years had to fold.  Nice isn’t it.  Within a year of the Bank’s visit a profitable 40 year old business had closed with all the added fallout of job losses and distraught families.

I didn’t know my friend had actually done this, otherwise I would have warned him off knowing the way Banks operate.  After having to sell his business and then suffering pretty tough times for a few years he did manage to start up again and got another precision engineering company underway, but he had lost those 40 years of profitability and had nothing to show for all that time he was running a successful manufacturing business.

Banks wrecking small businesses – it’s nothing new!!

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I recently fitted the M25C 6-Megapixel one shot colour CCD to the Canon 200mm prime lens.  Took around an hour to flatten the chip to the lens using CCDInspector, but the time was worth it as I managed to end up with the magic 0.0″ collimation 🙂  As a test shot I went for the Gamma Cassiopeiae region and took 10 x 10-minute subs.  There was a blazing Moon up which didn’t help matters much, but despite the biggest light polluter in the sky wanting to cause problems, the image turned out pretty well in the end.  Processed by Noel Carboni, I find I am falling in love with this lens – it gives me exactly the field of view I’ve always wanted to take since starting out on this game.  So why didn’t I do this long before?  Several reasons really.  I wasn’t overly impressed with DSLR lenses up until now, too much glass and very poor star shapes out at the edges as a rule.  The “too much glass” is also a problem with the 200mm prime as well, you get ghost flares from any bright stars in the FOV, I guess that’s something I just have to live with.  I also didn’t like the fact that you didn’t use all the expensive lens electronics if you stuck a CCD on the back, seemed like a waste of money and technology.  I also couldn’t believe that you could get the performance of a good quality refractor costing anything from 2 to 4 times as much as the lens – wrong again.  I am pretty sure Canon don’t realise what a gem of a lens they have here for astrophotography – just as well really or they would almost certainly bump the price up from the very reasonable £600!


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You would have thought that with a whole Cassiopeia mosaic I would have caught the Lambda-Lambda asterism – and of course I did.  It is in this image top left of the main star Epsilon.  Reason it wasn’t immediately obvious to me in the mosaic was due to the way I had to crop the 4-frames to get the whole constellation to fit 🙂


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Not managed to image this one myself yet (non-stop rain) but I found a new asterism in Cassiopeia that bears a strong resemblance to the Greek letter Lambda.

Will grab this with the mini-WASP array at the first opportunity 🙂


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Arrived today 🙂  This is clearly a labour of love.  Beautifully presented, oozing quality, and very fine attention paid to the detail throughout.  I had the honour of going through Brian’s Ph.D. thesis on “A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud” some years ago.  This thesis differed very significantly from every other thesis that I had gone through during my 23 years at Southampton University.  How did it differ?  There was not a single spelling mistake, not a single typo error, no grammatical errors, no errors with the presentation of any of the diagrams, and of course no errors of fact.  With 23 years in higher education – I had not seen such a perfect piece of work produced in a Ph.D. thesis before.  What has this got to do with “Diableries”?  You get the same presentation in Diableries as you got in the thesis.  Word perfect, perfect layout, extreme attention to image quality and detail – Brian is clearly a perfectionist – and Diableries is an example of stereoscopic perfection available for you to appreciate in front of a roaring log fire this winter.  Superb job Brian 🙂 🙂


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Just over one year ago I wrote the piece below:

I guess I have reached that age where I feel I can do much better than the dimwits who are running this country.  I feel highly underwhelmed at their complete lack of vision and foresight.

I have just seen a “Grand Designs” programme where a couple of guys with a couple of million quid turned a water tower in the center of London into a mega-palace worth (I would imagine) somewhere between 10 and 100 times their investment.  This got me to thinking – what could we do if we had Government budgets to play with, and we thought even bigger than those two developers?

Keep with me for just this last piece of the jigsaw.  My first job was at Harwell, yes the atomic energy place.  The U.K. was, for a significant period of time, the font of all knowledge when it came to nuclear reactor design.  We really knew what we were doing.  As a second piece of interlinking knowledge – there are only two places on the planet that can build the new huge steel pressure vessels needed for the next generation of nuclear reactors – and yes, one of those two places is of course the U.K.

A quick Google (always a bad thing to do on an empty stomach) says that the U.K. electrical energy consumption is around 36GW, so let’s call that 40GW.  There are current nuclear reactors rated at 800MW, so let’s say that with our greater know-how regarding reactor technology, we could put together a reactor with 1GW output.  So we could build 40 of these reactors, say over the next 10 years, and we could be energy independent.  It would be possible to get off the gas supply circuit, which is only going to lead to tears, and use electricity for all our domestic and commercial needs (the car and petrol would last a bit longer unfortunately).  It would be possible to even make electricity free for all domestic users – should the Government care to be so brave.  I don’t know what they would do about the current energy providers and the stink they would kick up – but if it was left to me I would give them 10 years notice to find another job.

Such things are possible if you have the will, and the money to back the ideas.  America is thinking about a trillion dollar investment into defence alone – a nuclear-based U.K. would certainly come in at less than that figure.  It could be done.  We won’t do it – and we’ll continue to fret and worry at the current economic situation without taking the really bold measures that could propel us out of this situation.  We won’t do it while we have lily-livered brain-dead Politicians running the show.  Rant over.

I now see some action in Somerset – though unfortunately not at the level of commitment I was hoping for – still, at least it’s a start.


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Two nights ago I got the last of four frames for a whole of Cassiopeia mosaic using the Canon 5D MkII and a 200mm lens.  You can see the result here

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