AstroBlast Day 2008

Astroblast 2008 Exhibition HallOn Sunday I travelled to Bedford for my first ever Astroblast. I got to Bedford School just in time to attend Nik Szymanek’s workshop talk on the basics of CCD imaging. I have attended a couple of Nik’s talks and at last this time he went a little further into how he gets his results, by covering his setup and how CCDs work as well as information on dark frames, flat fields etc.

I would like to hear from Nik all day long about his methods, and he does actually do some 1 day workshops now and again, so I think I shall book one of these once they are on at a venue near me.

AstroBlast 2008 StormtroopersI then walked down to the main exhibition hall which contained all of the exhibitors including Green Witch, Astronomy Now and many others. I also saw a recon pair of stormtroopers from the 501st garrison who were keeping guard and directing people around.

In the afternoon I sat in on a talk by Lee Sproats from Green Witch who gave a talk entitled “Telescopes of the Future” in which Lee spoke about the present and future research telescopes.

Lee began by talking about the history of telescopes and about adaptive optics, as well as active optics and how large mirrors are actually built and transported.

Here is a list of the telescopes that Lee talked about and some of the specifications of the telescopes:

Large Binocular Telescope

  • 2 x 8.4m F/1 mirrors
  • 11.8m aperture
  • 600 ton weight
  • 3x resolution of the Hubble Telescope due to adaptive optics

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

  • 3,200 Mp Camera
  • Paul Baker optical design
  • 1GB/sec download speed

Giant Magellan Telescope

  • 7 x 8.4m mirrors
  • 7 secondary mirrors
  • Same resolving power as a 24.5m mirror


  • 96 x 1.45m Segments (42m mirror)
  • 5,500 tons in weight
  • 6m secondary mirror

JWST (James Webb Telescope)

  • 12ft long
  • 39ft wide
  • 6.5m mirror


  • A 2.5m telescope on a 747 plane which can handle flying times of 8 hours


  • 18 x 10m mirrors
  • Mercury mirrors


  • 30m mirror F/1
  • 2m secondary mirror


  • 100m mirror
  • 130m high

It was good to see lots of activities for the children especially the rocket bulding, and I can’t wait to take my son in a few years so he can build rockets and do modelling etc.

Now I have mentioned rockets, I attended a talk by the Great British Rocketry Team, who gave an interesting talk on the different types of competition classes of rocketeering there are as well as talking about their trip to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which holds a lot of history pieces in the space museum. They also told us that Gagarin actually had to parachute out of his capsule when re-entering the earth’s atmosphere at about 60,000 feet. He also mentioned that Russia actually had their own Space Shuttle which looks almost identical to the US version, but the Russian’s did not think much of the design, and they only flew the shuttle twice and it was never manned.

As I was leaving the Astroblast the children all gathered on the front lawn and launched their rockets which they had made during the day, they were launched two at a time with help from an air compressor, some went quite high, and you had to keep your eye on them, so you did not have one land on your head!

I have fancied getting into some rocketry, but I think I will start with some simple stomp rockets and bicarbonate rocket kits first.

Overall, a great day of free talks and exhibitors, I look forward to attending next year’s Astroblast 2009.


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