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Home of South Common Observatory
The Quickening PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Friday, 09 February 2018 03:58


It is not really a secret anymore, but I found out in 2017 that I am autistic.

They used to call it Asperger's Syndrome, which I prefer, but the diagnostic manual changed, so now we are all Autistic. As opposed to the non-Autistic people, who are called Allistic. Whatever it is actually called, does not matter. The more I look back on my life, the more sense it makes. I have a pretty good memory. I've suppressed most of my childhood for years, because for me, an extremely emotional autistic person, it was extremely painful. And now, they are coming back, one by one. And every single one hurts today just as it did then. I do learn something about myself with each one though!

I used to have regular meltdowns as a child (which is what I learnt my tantrums were in 'Spectrum Speak'), and my Mum, bless her cottons, did her best, took me to the Doctors, took me to the child psyche, etc, etc. But no-one knew what to do....

One of the most painful things about my childhood was interaction with other kids. From my early childhood I remember clearly the day 'it' changed. The day that I was no longer tolerated by my peers. I was 6. I learnt very very early on that one-on-one with another human I could cope. My method: the same I use today - showing off! That is fine now, I realise now that I am going to continue to do things that interest me. If folks wish to look over my shoulder, that is fine too.  I suppose it is my way of socialising. I try not to shove it down others throats, but they keep asking me things, so I guess they wanna know, right?

Anyway, I digress...

Back then, that was devastating to me. I was an outcast. My eagerness to please became more and more obvious as I grew up, and the less and less I knew what I was doing wrong. I didn't get the rules. Written rules were not fine, but it was (and still is) the unwritten rules that trip me up. Why can Jane get away with that and I cannot? It is only now that I look back and realise quite how badly I didn't get the rules. I thought I was being treated unfairly. I got frustrated, I got angry, and then they started pushing buttons, because they got a reaction. And the cycle repeats, and still repeats to this day.... They are still out there, they just have different names nowadays.

Yes, I knew I was different, and no, I didn't want a label, or an excuse. They just seemed like cop outs, right? Well, sorta-kinda not it turns out. I am still learning, and having an annoyingly accurate memory for this stuff just, well, sucks.  But also is a bonus too.... Cos although it hurts, at least I can get a handle on what went wrong!

On the day of diagnosis I was free. I had an answer WHY. I suddenly didn't have to worry (so I thought) about stuff too much anymore. The weight lifted off on that day was amazing.

It was...

The Quickening

(Highlander.... Love that film)

Since then, I have been able to release my brain to work on shit I want it to.... mostly.

Don't get me wrong - I don't want any sympathy here.  I am not after a sainthood - I just want to put my own experience out there, because it turns out a lot of folks are in the same boat.  Wondering how they will survive the next day.  So if you read this, and it strikes a cord, well, do what works for you is what I am saying.


Instead of wasting huge effort (and you have NO idea how tiring it is unless you have done it) masking myself totally. Masking is another thing - copying - selecting little bits of Susan, and Greg, and Dinesh, and Jim, mashing it all together to try and make a face that works.....

But here is the catch.... It ONLY works for that person.

I have one for Gini, one for Emily, one for Sam, etc, etc. And sometimes they are incompatible. I will never forget taking one girlfriend home.  I couldn't function - I had to get out of the room, because the 2 masks were so totally incompatible.  I was paralysed.  The more people are present, the worse the problem, and the more tiring it is for me. But those that know me well make allowances. And for that I am glad.

Another example... Looking at people. I've always been good at this part, and as far as I know, folks have never noticed that I glaze over when looking at them. Silly things like getting distracted and pretending something caught my eye. All of it takes brainpower, and when you train yourself like I have, although not second nature, it is doable.

Another one.... Trying to work out what people were actually saying versus what their body language was saying.... People speak, words come out of their mouths. But does the body language match the words or intended action. Sometimes you get 3 signals, all in conflict. Mouth says one thing, head says another, body says something completely different. They might just be worrying, or stressed, but if I watch, I pick it up - I couldn't tell you what made me nervous of that person though, just that I don't trust them at that moment. You watch folks - the amount of out of sync communications that goes on is incredible. And I've had to teach myself that language.... I still get it wrong, but I am not too bad nowadays. (well, I hope anyway!)

I know none of this is actually important NOW this second, right? I mean, this stuff, well, it scars and hurts a bit, but I can cope, right?

That is what I thought.... Turns out, nope, if you do what I did and force all them emotions to the bottom of a pit, stick the most acceptable mask you can on and parade around copying people, it really fucks you up later on in life.... Depression is a bitch of a mistress.... Still, all this understanding seems to be helping with that part of it too, so onwards and upwards.

And so, in signing off, I will just say this....

I am free....
I am free to concentrate on the stuff I wish to in my own head.... sometimes
I am free to be me....

And seeing as it is currently 03:30am GMT, I guess that means I had to get this out before I could sleep..... Just another thing, insomnia. (4am now edited....)

Good Night Everyone!



Original: South Common Observatory - 2018-02-09T0400Z
Edit1: South Common Observatory - 2018-02-09T0400Z
Edit2: South Common Observatory - 2018-02-09T0415Z
(And probably more to come!)

Last Updated on Friday, 09 February 2018 21:35
New Camera - Starlight Xpress Trius SX-814 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Monday, 23 March 2015 03:23

I got my hands on a Starlight Xpress Trius SX-814 camera - specs are here

I've been playing for the last few nights with anything vaguely clear (its been shocking!).  Tonight I finally had a decent sky to play with for a little while, so went back to my old favourite Messier 51, the Whirlpool Galaxy (here for info and some of my other shots).  Mounted as usual on my EQ6 Pro and through the F/7 TMB 115mm running with a Televue TRF-2008 x0.8 Focal reducer.  The camera is mounted on the Starlight Xpress filter wheel via a T-adaptor screw fitting, then into the Focal Reducer, which fits the other side of the filter wheel using another T-adaptor thread.

I managed to get 12 x 10 minute exposures over the last 2 clear nights, and also have started on some 5 minute colour data for fun as well.  Here is the result so far.  That is a satellite in the Green data, giving the streak.  I am not sure which one, but might try and track it down.

Last Updated on Friday, 09 February 2018 21:55
Photographing an Iridium Flare PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Friday, 01 August 2014 15:50

Last night, I was taking 2 minute exposures of the constellation of Cygnus the Swan from my observatory.  This morning when I went through the exposures, I discovered I had caught something in one of the exposures.  It didn't look like a meteor, as it appeared to rise and fall in brightness over a period of time, whereas a meteor I would expect to start off dim and get brighter and then vanish.  My suspicion was that it was a satellite - specifically one of the Iridium group of satellites.

The Iridium satellites are used for satellite phone calls.  They are named because it was originally intended to launch 77 satellites providing call coverage around the globe.  However, it was determined that all 77 satellites were not needed to provide full worldwide coverage, so there are currently 66 operating satellites in orbit, with 6 spares in a holding orbit. The orbital height of the operational satellites is 485 miles on average.  They are travelling at 16,832 miles per hour, and complete one orbit of the Earth every 100 minutes.

The reason for the flare seen in the picture is that these satellites have 3 door-sized antennas angled at 40 degrees away from the main body of the satellite itself.  They are arranged equally, with 120 degrees between them.  When the light from our Sun hits the antenna, about 4-5 times a day the reflected light create a 6.2 mile wide circle of light on the surface of the Earth.  To an observer, this appears as a bright flash of light which suddenly gets brighter, then dimmer as the satellite moves over their head.  The date and time of each flash is easily predictable, as the orbit and attitude of the satellite is known precisely.

To find out whether I had accidentally caught an Iridium flare, and check which satellite and antenna  my camera saw the reflection from, I checked on, which provides detailed prediction for most satellites circling the Earth, including the International Space Station and Iridium Flares.

I was able to determine exactly which satellite I had captured - Iridium 72 - and the reflection was from the front facing antenna (its direction of travel).  At the time of the flash, the satellite was 640 miles away.

Here is the track of the satellite from showing the predicted position of the flare:

I PDF'd a version of the Flare information from, which you can download here.

FileDescriptionFile size
Download this file (2014-08-01-010147-Iridium72-FlareDetails.pdf)2014-08-01-010147-Iridium72-FlareDetails.pdf 598 Kb
Last Updated on Friday, 09 February 2018 22:05
Work in Progress - Veil Nebula Mosaic PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Saturday, 19 July 2014 15:22

I've taken many pictures of parts of the Veil Nebula over the years - you can see them in my Galley.  Back in the days when the New General Catalogue was compiled (thats where the NGC designation comes from), the parts of the Veil Nebula were given separate designations.

This year, I decided to see if I could take a picture of the whole of the Veil Nebula.  My camera (SXVR-H18) and telescope (101mm @ F/7) combination can only see 1.4 x 1.1 degrees at F/5.6 with my Televue Focal Reducer, so to get the complete veil requires taking images of different areas of the sky, and stitching them together.  You can see the boundaries of the panes in the image above.  Each 'pane' is the result of stacking many images together.  So far there are 97 images making up this mosaic.  So far, I have been concentrating on the Hydrogen emission wavelength with my Ha narrowband filter.

This will be a several year project, as I then need to shoot with an Oiii (Oxygen) filter, and then choose whether to shoot with an Hb (Hydrogen Beta) or Sii (Sulphur).  I might even be able to incorporate some of the data from previous imaging runs - time will tell.  I have some gaps to fill in the Ha band - I just need some clear nights!

Here are some of the other pictures I hope to incorporate should the inclination take me:

NGC6992/NGC6995/IC1340 is known as the Eastern Veil, or Network Nebula
NGC6992 is the bright area, NGC6995 is the 'rectangle' element of the Eastern Veil Nebula.  Between the Eastern and Western Veil, Pickerings Wisp is the fainter triangle shaped structure
NGC6960 is known as the Western Veil, Witches Broom, Finger of God, of Filamentry Nebula

At a distance of 1,470 light years away, the Veil Nebula is the result of a supernova which is thought to have exploded 5,000 to 8,000 years ago.  The resulting gas and dust released spread out into this 3 degree area of sky (roughly 6 times the diameter of a full moon) in the time since the explosion.  It is one of the largest, brightest features in the X-ray band.  The dust and gas is estimated to be travelling at the huge speed of 370,000 miles per hour away from the original star which spawned it.

Read more about the Veil Nebula and see a beautiful picture from the Hubble Space Telescope here:

Last Updated on Friday, 09 February 2018 22:05
2014-01-22 - Supernova in Galaxy Messier 82 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 21:14

This morning, I saw an interesting email come into my inbox.  It reads as follows:

Subject: [vsnet-alert 16812] Re: PSN J09554214+6940260: bright (11.7 mag) supernova in M82
At UT 2014 Jan 22.305, we obtained a spectrum of PSN_J09554214+6940260 (discoverer: S. J. Fossey) with the Dual Imaging Spectrograph on the ARC 3.5m telescope. We classify this as a Type Ia supernova with a Si II velocity of 20000 km/s. The best superfit match is SN2002bo at -14d. The supernova has a red continuum and deep Na D absorption.

A type 1a supernova is what happens when a binary star system starts to tear itself apart.  In essence, a very small dense white dwarf rips the material from the surface of its neighbouring star.  It appears to be relatively common when one of the stars in a binary star system inflates when it becomes a red giant.  The surface of the red giant is now much closer to the companion star, and so matter starts to transfer from the red giant to the smaller star.  As the smaller star accepts matter from the giant, the system becomes unstable, and the small white dwarf explodes violently.

The velocity quoted above shows that the shockwave of this star exploding is travelling at 20,000 km/s - thats almost 12,500 miles per second - pretty quick.

Type 1a supernovae are special because they allow astronomers to accurately gauge the distance from the Earth of the galaxy that spawned it.  Each one that is identified gives astronomers much more accurate data about the Universe around us.

I managed to gather a quick snap of Messier 82 tonight before the clouds rolled in.  This animation shows the difference between some Messier 82 images I took last year in February versus the 2 exposures I managed to capture tonight.


Last Updated on Friday, 09 February 2018 22:05

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