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Richie's Blog

South Common Observatory - Phase 4
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Sunday, 15 April 2012 21:36

For a few years now, I have been thinking of ways to improve my observatory.  One of the problems with Astronomy is that everything comes in boxes, and those boxes are needed to transport the equipment.  Typically, my Star Party gear consists of:

  • Power/Wires box
  • Telescope Box
  • Mount Box
  • Camera Box
  • Accessories Box

All these boxes are not needed when my kit is setup, so what to do with it when it is not needed?  Well, a while back now, I raised my pier by 12 inches to see the southern horizon better.  It worked very well, but meant that I now needed a ladder to easily access the scopes.  Hmmm - could I kill two birds with one stone here?

The answer is yes.  I have now put a false floor into the observatory, 12 inches off the concrete.  I now have a virtually clear floor in the observatory, and a great storage space for all the boxes I've accumulated over the last few years.

Whilst I was at it, I also built myself a Mission Control Room in a third of Gini's shed - thanks darling! :)

You can see the latest photos here: Building of the South Common Observatory

Here are a couple of taster images:



Moore's Marathon
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Friday, 16 March 2012 21:59

Moore's Marathon

Sir Patrick Moore has picked his 55 favourite night sky objects and over the month of April would like you to see as many as you can.  The Moore Marathon will help celebrate 55 years of The Sky at Night, which was first broadcast on 24th April 1957.

From the Moon to the star Albrieo, the Moore Marathon has something for everyone.  You can spot some with your eyes, others need binoculars or a telescope, and you can take part on your own or as a group.

On BBC1 May 6th and BBC4 May 10th, The Sky at Night will feature a selection of your observations, from the simple to the most interesting!  You can find the Moore Marathon observing forms by going to our website:

Here you have two choices:


Download, save on your computer, fill in and email back to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . To be included in the programme, this must be emailed by 24th April 2012.



Download, print and fill in by hand. Post back to: The Sky at Night, BBC Birmingham, The Mailbox, Birmingham, B1 1RF.  To be included in the programme, we must receive forms by 24th April 2012.

Message from Sir Patrick:

“I hope you enjoy the objects I have picked out for you to observe in April and I look forward to finding out how you get on. Good luck and thank you for taking part.”


FileDescriptionFile size
Download this file (SkyAtNight55_DetailedForm.pdf)SkyAtNight55_DetailedForm.pdfDetailed Form206 Kb
Download this file (SkyAtNight55_ObservingGuide.pdf)SkyAtNight55_ObservingGuide.pdfObserving Guide1333 Kb
Download this file (SkyAtNight55_QuickForm.xls)SkyAtNight55_QuickForm.xlsQuick Form57 Kb
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

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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