There is some current web-wisdom going around that the human eye is unable to see polarised light – this is about as accurate as the observations of Mars as big as the full Moon.

With nothing better to do whilst sunbathing on a beach on a Greek island I practically put it to the test whether I could see regions of polarised light or not with the naked eye.

If you’ve done some basic optics you will know that if you look at the regions 90 degrees horizontally to the right and the left of the Sun, then these regions should be quite highly polarised.  Why?  Because any dust (dielectric) in these regions will be receiving light from the Sun at a glancing (shallow) angle and the light that is reflected from the dielectric towards your eye will be polarised.

I took a look at these two regions with the naked eye and saw nothing unusual.  I then picked up my Polaroid sunglasses and rotated them in front of my eye over these regions.  A bright patch appeared and disappeared depending on the orientation of the sunglasses, this was clearly a region emitting polarised light.  Now knowing precisely where to look I checked it out with the naked eye and could clearly see two mauve/purple regions precisely where the polarised light was coming from.  So the eye IS able to detect regions that are producing polarised light.  Mine can anyway :)

 

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Symbiosis or Evolution, or maybe a little of both?  It doesn’t really matter.  If you don’t know what I’m on about in the first sentence then you need not read any further and it won’t ruin your day.

Gaia – lots of misconceptions here – Gaia is NOT an organism, Gaia is a system.  A system that includes both living, and what we call non-living objects.  You don’t believe me?  Well the living objects certainly have a massive impact on our Planet’s atmospheric composition.  You don’t believe me again?  Then why do you think those looking for life on other planets propose using spectroscopy to look at the atmospheric components – and thus the clue as to whether life exists there or not?

Or our seas, rich in algae and plankton not only do they have a huge atmospheric impact, these life forms also have a necessity for the sea’s PH to be within certain bounds for their very existence.  So what?

I have written published papers on Biomimetics where I state that if Nature has produced a solution, whether aerodynamic, optical or hydrodynamic to some survival problem, then that solution is likely to be highly optimised and we are unlikely to be able to improve upon it – apart from using materials (like metals) that Nature doesn’t seem to incorporate into her living systems to any great extent.  Note that the living systems are not “heading” towards some sort of “perfection”, there are random changes occurring that may, or may not aid survival.  Those changes that do aid survival will allow the continuation of the life form, and vice-versa.  There is no “intelligence” involved here, but there are enormous timescales involved, timescales beyond human comprehension – and this is what makes evolution such a difficult concept to grasp.  But just take two things from this paragraph – very long timescales, and changes to living organisms that bring them more into “balance” with their surroundings in order to increase their probability of survival.

It is believed that the Earth is around 4.54 billion years old, and that life on Earth began around 3.8 billion years ago, unless you’re one of those that believe life began around 4,004 B.C.  So life has had 3.8 billion years to thrive, multiply, evolve and undergo symbiosis, creating billions upon billions of different bacteria, viruses, plants, animals, insects and birds – and during these geological timescales all these life forms have been undergoing change to increase their probability of survival in an environment that was also undergoing change.

In 2014 A.D. we are over 3.8 billion years down the life road, and the “system” that has evolved over all this time, Gaia, is now taking a very severe bashing from just one species – Homo Sapiens.  The system is actually having bloody great holes cut out of it, and what happens if you have a highly complex system in a quasi-equilibrium state and you take bloody great holes out of it?  It changes of course in an attempt to regain some sort of quasi-equilibrium.  And how does it do that?  How the hell do we know?  This is a multi-billion, probably multi-trillion component system we’re talking about here – who can possibly know how such a complex system reacts to the wiping out of whole animal species, and the felling of obscene areas of rain forest?  This is not Gaia “fighting back” as some sort of conscious organism that feels pain (I hope) – this is a complex life/non-life system in quasi-equilibrium that is having severe external constraints put upon the system – by our complete disrespect for our planet basically.

Is there global warming, climate change, melting of the polar ice caps, massive increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, life-form extinctions and a myriad other worrying things going on right now?  Some will argue that some of these things are not happening, and that some may be happening but they are “natural” occurrences and not the work of Homo Sapiens.  Then again, the average Homo Sapiens, like the Ostrich, is a master at sticking his head in a bucket of sand.

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Second upgrade for the week that required the earlier upgrade to go ahead :)

This time the in-storage Sky 90 and filter-wheel have gone back on.  It was taken off over a year ago as I got terrible star shapes with the M26C camera and I put this down to collimation being way out.  Realised later that it was the camera flatness that was way out, but I left the (flattened) camera on the TS80 and worked with that.  Checked the Sky 90 collimation while it was off the array and it looked alright to me.  So now need to see if it is indeed alright next imaging session.  Problem is, the computer that drives this imager decided at this very instant to pop its clogs – there’s always something!!!

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A small upgrade was made to the mini-WASP array this week – can you spot it??

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This is a Solstice-to-Solstice solargraph taken at the New Forest Observatory using the REALLY BIG pinhole camera.

You can clearly see the two New Forest Observatory domes, and the oval-shaped object in the middle foreground is the top of a Teak garden table.

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A new course is available at the New Forest Observatory for those wishing to set up their own “Mini-WASP array”.

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A lot has happened since the last post on this topic.

First off, I decided that rather than putting this lens on the mini-WASP array, I would piggy-back it on the C11 as I did originally.  Why?  Because otherwise I don’t think the poor old C11 rig in the south dome would be getting any use.  Fine.  I resurrected the old mounting board and got everything put together.  Initially I had the M25C and SXV guider for imager and guide camera, and I got some work done in the Cygnus region.  It then struck me that I might be better off using the Canon 5D MkII on the 200mm in the south dome to differentiate the work from the 200mm in the north dome.  So I set up the Canon 5D MkII for an evening’s work and then switched on the SXV guider to start guiding – it was dead :(  Now that is slightly annoying as it was working perfectly just a few days earlier.  Never mind, these things are sent to try us, especially in deep-sky imaging.

So as the Canon 5D MkII won’t connect to an SXV guider it was now clearly a good time to buy a stand alone Lodestar x2, which I now have installed in the south dome.  The defunct SXV guider is with Starlight Xpress for repair, so that if in the future I want to revert to the M25C and SXV guider – I can.

Final part of the story.  The Lodestar x2 doesn’t want to know about Windows XP 64-bit which I have on the main south dome computer.  Fortunately I have an earlier Windows XP 32-bit astronomy computer just sitting in the study doing nothing – so that has been re-commissioned and is now back in the south dome again, this time running the Lodestar x2.

So there are now 2 computers in the south dome, one running the Lodestar autoguider, the other running the Sky 6 and driving the C11, and also Remote View for the Canon 5D MkII.  Both computers go to a Gigabit LAN switch which then has a cable up to the study so I can control proceedings from indoors.

If we ever see a clear Moonless sky again I will be able to control both the north (mini-WASP) and south (200mm lens 5D MkII) domes from indoors and also run both systems in parallel.

Only 6 more days to go before opening up the BIG pinhole camera :)

 

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A friend on one of the astronomy forums asked me if these would be any good for taking flats:

Any good?  They are utterly superb!!!!!!!!!!!!  AND they are cheap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  AND you can get an A3 or even an A2 panel (also CHEAP) if you have a large aperture scope.

I think these guys may find they have an unknown market out there for their drawing light boxes :)

 

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Just been told I got today’s Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) http://epod.usra.edu/

Took a look, and yep, sure enough, my favourite insect – the Morpho Rhetenor butterfly which kindly provided me with the Patent design for a new type of Photonic Crystal :)

Thank you Jim at EPOD for continuing to publish my work.

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I am getting all the bits together to be able to put another Canon 200mm prime lens on the mini-WASP top plate.  I will use an M26C camera from the top TS80 scope and will put an eyepiece (shock-horror) into the TS80.  I haven’t actually looked through an eyepiece in years.

Goods that have arrived so far:

1)  Canon 200mm f#2.8 prime lens.

2)  Set of beefy scope rings to hold the lens and camera.

3)  Several 72mm – 52mm step-down rings to hold a 52mm IDAS filter in front of the 200mm lens.

4)  A 52mm IDAS filter.

5)  A Geoptik adapter for fitting the 200mm lens to an M26C OSC.

I am making up a pair of Aluminium mounting blocks that go between the scope rings and the top plate.  I will put two mounting holes into the scope rings to prevent twist – they only come with one tapped hole.

I am awaiting delivery of a 4th Paramount counterweight as the 3 that are already on there are right at the bottom of the counterweight shaft, i.e. I can’t put any more weight on top until I get the extra counterweight.

I am also awaiting delivery of a whole bunch of Allen bolts for the scope ring mountings.

So it’s all slowly coming together.  I will also put the Robofocus from the TS80 onto the 200mm lens and see if I can get it autofocusing (I know this is a non-trivial exercise).

As it looks like it will be clear tonight, I have put the 72mm – 52mm step-down adapter on the original 200mm lens and fitted a 52mm IDAS filter.  I set the lens to f#2.8 (i.e. wide open) and I will check yo see if there are any diffraction spikes or not.  If there are still spikes I will put an aperture in the Geoptik to cover whatever part of the lens iris is showing.

Busy, busy :) :)

 

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