Archive for February, 2015

In the days of TOS, Scotty was an inspiration for engineers, today I believe the inspirational figure is Tony Stark – and I must agree, he is a very worthy successor to Scotty.

Spock was my inspiration in following a life in science, he was my scientific Muse – it is as simple as that.

I first came across Spock on TOS whilst living in New Zealand from 1966 to 1968.  It is strange that New Zealand being at the arse-end of the Universe actually got TV programmes before the U.K. But I digress.  Star Trek became compulsory weekly viewing.  Strangely, the day we left New Zealand to come back to the land of the living dead – the U.K. – some two years later, we saw the premier of Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 in a Cinema in Auckland.  That same evening we boarded the Australis and returned to the U.K.  Leaving New Zealand that evening was the shittiest way to end a day I’ve known – so far.

However, the U.K. did offer repeat viewings of TOS over the following years and this reinforced my interest in science, chess, maths, logic and all things Spock related.  Eventually, driven by Star Trek, more specifically Spock,  I ended up taking a B.Sc. in Physics Maths and Astronomy at the University of Sussex which in turn led to a career in Semiconductor Physics and finally an Academic career at the University of Southampton.

Today, unhindered by a day job – and yet unable to travel amongst the stars – I can still live amongst the stars and nebulae, by imaging them, and bringing them indoors.

But – the main driving force behind the science all this time, for me, was Spock.  A hugely influential part of my life has gone – I will miss you Spock 🙁


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Last night I managed to get another 11 x 20-minute subs on this region to go with the 7 x 20-minute subs I got a few days ago.  This shows Coddington’s nebula – which is actually an irregular galaxy – and towards the bottom left is a large red Carbon star V Y Ursae Majoris.  The star’s name gives it away, these are to be found in Ursa Major.  Blazing Moon last night didn’t help with trying to improve the dataset – but even so there are traces of the Integrated Flux Nebula coming through which is to be expected as it is pretty dense in this region (close to M81 & M82).


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With the 200mm/M26C Trius combo in portrait mode I managed to grab 10 x 4-minutes of the Castor/Pollux region after 3-hours of setting up (focus mainly) in the freezing cold.  The chip turned out to be not flat for this image, so the next morning I brought it indoors and flattened it pretty precisely.  Now waiting for the next clear night to see how well (or not) I’ve done.  Would like to grab a 2-framer of the M44 region if at all possible.

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Should have done this one Friday night when the Moon was a little closer to the planets but didn’t manage it.  Using the Canon 5D MkII and a 50mm prime lens I managed this shot, ISO100, 10-seconds, f#5.6

This image was shown on Meridian weather at 6:30 p.m. on 23/02/2015

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The one-way trip to Mars known as Mars One seems to be unfolding as it fails miserably under close scrutiny.  This is a great shame, and potentially a missed opportunity.  We should embrace this ground-breaking idea and support it with as much cash as we can spare, and indeed spur the team on to an even greater Mars One expedition!  Why?  Here we have a chance to create and launch our very own B-ark.  We can give a glorious send off to all those middle-men, Politicians, PR Consultants, Lawyers, Solicitors, used-car salesmen and of course the telephone sanitisers, and at the same time push forward the frontiers of Space Science.  It’s clearly a win-win situation and we shouldn’t let it slip through our fingers.

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Not a lot of colour in M106 itself 🙁  But plenty in the stars 🙂  The Sky 90s always seem to be able to grab star colour very nicely.

24 x 20-minute subs using the mini-WASP array.  And yes – that star in the centre was used for focusing and guiding 🙂

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The cloud didn’t finally shift until 9:00 p.m. last night – but when it did we were left with a pitch black, clear, Moonless night like I haven’t seen for about a year.

After a couple of stalls where the object I wanted to image was behind trees, I settled down on the M106 region with the mini-WASP array and 20-minute subs.  I needed to refocus the refractors after an hour but in the end got 24 x 20-minute high-quality subs which I will enjoy looking at today.  Shame I went to bed at 1:30 a.m. as it appears to have stayed clear all night.  Need to get more automation sorted out!


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Never forget Dr. David Kelly:

I won’t forget!


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Last night I was very disturbed by a one and a half hour documentary on BBC4 about a young man I had never heard of before – Aaron Swartz.

For those of you in the American Government Departments responsible for this young man’s death – and you know exactly who you are – you are the most despicable pieces of filth I’ve ever come across in my lifetime.

If there is a Higher Being out there dishing out Justice – you’ll be getting yours soon!!

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