Archive for the “News” Category

The first of 2-frames taken with the Canon 200mm lens and Starlight Xpress M26C Trius OSC CCD.

Bit of a story to this one.  Had some strange streaks across the image which I thought had wrecked the whole imaging session.  Bit of a shame really as this had 12 x 15-minute (3-hours worth) of subs in it.  Noel Carboni came to the rescue and processed this one, successfully removing the streaks as he did so :)  Also, Terry Platt very quickly sorted out the camera problem for me via Skype – all that was required was a firmware reload – problem gone!!

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Has anybody imaged the Polaris region recently?  Seems to have been a bit of mega-engineering going on out there courtesy of some highly advanced alien civilisation!

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I was just reading some very interesting observers’ comments on viewing the unbelievably faint Leo II dwarf galaxy.  Their attempts at visual observation of this elusive object brought back the memory that kicked off my imaging obsession, and relegated my beautiful eyepiece collection (and Binoviewers) to the storage cupboard.

When I first got my Celestron Nexstar GPS C11 scope back around early 2002 I only had visual observation in mind – I really didn’t see me moving into the imaging business – what’s the point?  So I spent 2 years with this fine scope just observing, and it was great, except I found myself going back time and again to the handful of objects that look great visually.  But I now remember what the real cruncher was that turned me to the dark side.  Like any beginner, of course, I wanted to see the Horsehead nebula.  I spent a long time convincing myself I was in the right area (which I now know I was) – but there was nothing to be seen.  No matter, there were various filters advertised that promised to help see this difficult object – none worked for me :(  So for 2 years in succession, when Orion was well placed I looked in vain for the Horsehead nebula – no joy.

I must have had imaging back in the subconscious however as when I bought the scope, I also bought the original Hyperstar to go with it – for two years it had sat in the bottom drawer unused.  But now its time had come.  I bought a Starlight Xpress H9C one shot colour CCD camera in the Autumn of 2004 and was set up for imaging around November-December 2004 with the scope in Alt-Az mode (I knew nothing about needing an equatorial mounting at this point).  So I was taking subs up to around 30-seconds (before trailing was apparent) and of course I went to the Horsehead nebula as one of the first objects to image.  When the Horsehead was clearly visible with just a single 15-second exposure – that was it.  The eyepiece never went back on, and I have only imaged ever since that fateful evening :)


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Here’s another very deep image that will make a stunning desktop/screensaver.

This time it’s the Rosette nebula in Monoceros.  An RGB Hyperstar image with added H-alpha and OIII data :)

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Would you like to own an image from the New Forest Observatory but cannot afford to purchase a numbered print?

Then how about your very own custom desktop/screensaver of your favourite NFO image :)

Just send me your desktop size in pixels and I will prepare for you a JPEG image of your choice to fit your screen.

For only £5 paid into PayPal – you will receive your stunning desktop image which you can choose from the huge selection available on here:

My own current desktop is the Horsehead nebula image shown below.

And if you are not particularly interested in deep-sky images yourself, then how about a really unique Birthday present for friends or family?

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Am I the only one who can clearly see a Meerkat in Simeis 147?  He sits there, curled up, with his tail coming round in front from between his back legs.

Since Simeis 147 only has the common name “The Spaghetti nebula” which implies a random structure – I propose the more endearing “Meerkat nebula” for Simeis 147 – a supernova remnant in Taurus/Auriga.

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I got an uncalled for e-mail from a Press Office today – I get plenty of these, but today I was a little shorter than usual on the phone.

Is it possible for them (the Press Office) to take some photos inside an observatory, they can let me know more about it. So I reply, yes it is possible tell me more. They then reply back – can I ring you? I say yes, and the main part of conversation goes something like this:

Me: So what’s in it for me exactly?
Them: Nothing
Me: So why would I want you round here disturbing my work and making a nuisance of yourself in my observatories then?
Them: <Silence>
Me: Thank you for your call. And I hang up.

I should have said, “Well if there’s nothing in it for me then there’s also nothing in it for you I’m afraid.”

I am sick to death of these parasites (B-ark candidates) who want something for nothing from me all the time. Maybe if they meet enough people like me they will slowly get the message.

The message is this:


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I only need 300 more hits to take me up to the half million mark :)

Take a browse through my Flickr  images today and let’s see if we can get there:


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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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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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