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Richie's Blog


Astronomy in the Pub
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Saturday, 03 March 2012 00:00

What an amazing night Astronomy in the Pub was!  I've still not quite recovered a week later!

I just wanted to post a public thanks to the wonderful folks from Astronomy 4 Everyone, Hants Astro, East Sussex Astronomical Society, Viva Lewes, Brighton Science Festival and all the others who helped out with keeping 350 people entertained for 6 solid hours of Astro-fun!


Over 350 people of all ages turned up over the course of the night, and looked through our telescopes in the back yard.  The talks inside the pub were well recieved, and lots of people really had a great time by all accounts.  We were also extremely fortunate to have clear skies for the entire 6 hours!

Over the course of the night, we saw the ISS (twice), Venus, Jupiter and the Galilean Moons, the Pleiades, the Great Orion Nebula, and Mars.
Those who stayed with us till the end at midnight also saw Saturn rising.

Especially big thanks to (in no particular order!) Paul Foster, Andy Lee, David Michael Woods, Neil Richardson, Stephen Witcher, Gary Burton, Louise Winters, Darren Baskill, Simon Plant, Linda Lethem, Aaron Durrant, Mike Lethem, Simon Thorne, and the rest of the bar staff.  If I have missed anyone out, I do apologise.


In addition, the Brighton Science Festival and Viva Lewes also helped us publish the event, and I understand it was also mentioned on the local radio stations (not sure which ones though!)

I was too busy last night to take photos, but I do know that some folks were better prepared than myself.  If you happen to have any photos, please pass them on to me - I will be putting a page up with the photos from the event soon.

The good news is that it looks like this might become a regular thing in the South of England.  Watch this space!

 
A Good Idea?
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Monday, 28 November 2011 19:29

Totally off the Astronomy topic here, but I was having a think on the way home tonight.....

So here is the thought...  Solar panels on roofs are becoming ubiquitous, yet they need to be south facing.  Why don't we focus light onto them from others roofs with focused, moveable mirrors?  An array of mirrors on the roof of each house in the area could easily focus energy from the Sun onto solar panels.

There is also another possibility here - in hotter climes, the energy could be focused onto a tank of water - I wonder how much energy would be required to boil enough water to drive a turbine?

If neighbours worked together and each roof focused a little light onto any solar collectors in the vicinity, would that capture enough energy to do anything useful?

Food for thought....

 
Jupiter at the Herstmonceux Observatory and Science Centre
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Saturday, 29 October 2011 12:53

This year, I decided to volunteer at the Herstmonceux Observatory and Science Centre.  I figured that this hobby has given me so much enjoyment, it was about time I tried to give something back.  Of course, there is the added bonus of being able to play with some seriously impressive engineering as well!

If you haven't been to the Science Centre, I would urge you to make the trip.  They hold regular open evenings, and we get 4 scopes running - The 30 inch Thompson Reflector, the 13 inch Astrographic Refractor, the 26 Thompson Refractor, and a Meade LX200 16".  I will leave you to join me and compare the views when you come down.  You can find out about open evenings on the website at http://www.the-observatory.org/open-evenings.

Anyway - last week, I was lucky enough to be running the Meade LX200 16" in Dome C.  Jupiter is coming into opposition at the moment, so it was perfectly placed for viewing and imaging.  For once, we were lucky to have clear skies, with only the occasional cloud, and we saw Io and its shadow transit Jupiters disc.  The Great Red Spot also made an appearance. I've only been playing with scopes for 10 years now, and this was a rare treat for me.  I've seen a shadow transit before, but never with such clarity!!  The 12mm Televue Nagler eyepiece I purchased second hand really showed the planet and moons beautifully.

Once the crowds had gone when the centre closed at 23:00, I put my Skynyx 2-1c on the scope.  No barlow, just running the camera at F/10.  I was able to capture the end of the transit.  Here is a short video showing the transit:

 

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Collimation, Focusing and Seeing
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Tuesday, 11 October 2011 20:54

Over the last few years, I have been trying in vain to get good images of the planets.  I've blamed it on alot of different things, however, I think the real problem was insufficient attention to detail!

To try and correct my problems, I've been checking the collimation and focusing of my VC200L with my Skynyx 2-1c and Televue 3x barlow.

This first video shows the collimation of the setup.  To obtain this video, I pointed at Vega, and then racked the focus in and out.  It was a little cloudy as well, as you can see from the video!  I hope to run this past other astronomers as well to see if they think my setup is collimated 'enough' - because I really am not sure at this point!!!

Update: Damian Peach kindly looked over the videos - his opinion is that my collimation 'looks pretty good to me'

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Now for focusing.  I use a Bahtinov mask to achieve my focusing with Deep Sky objects, and so thought it might work here too.  This is a video shot with the Bahtinov in place - I am winding the focus knob in and out before finally achieving a 'good' focus.  Notice that the diffraction spikes jump around alot - I guess this is indication of bad seeing (and vibrations whilst I am touching the scope!)

Comments appreciated on this one also....

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Update: Damian also looked at this video, and commented 'the seeing looks a bit ropy in the video when focusing'

So to get a gauge on this, I shot this video, which shows the star Hamal in Aries both with and without the Bahtinov mask.  As you can see, the star dances around alot, which when compared to Damian's Pickering Scale videos seen here: http://www.damianpeach.com/pickering.htm - I reckon that is about a pickering scale 4...  Poor....  No wonder my Jupiter images are coming out pants!

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Pinwheel Galaxy Supernova
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Sunday, 11 September 2011 22:16

The recent Type 1a Supernova discovered by the Palomar Transit Factory, and labelled as PTF11kly.  It was discovered on 24th August, and anyone with images showing this supernova earlier should contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The skies have not been kinda for me to image this Supernova, however, I did manage to get some red frames for photometry purposes on the 6th September 2011.  I measured the magnitude of the supernova as 9.9 from this image using the wonderful Astrometrica software from Herbert Raab.

I hope to be able to image this galaxy over the next few weeks, and discover whether it continues to brighten, or starts to diminish.

If you wish to find and view this supernova for yourself, my friends over at the Society for Popular Astronomy have produced this wonderful guide.

 
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