Category : General

Herstmonceux Astronomy Festival 2009

This was my first visit to Herstmonceux on the south coast near Hastings. I had heard so much about it and remember seeing the adverts for it last year, but I was still unsure if I wanted to drive for two and a half hours to get to the site, but I’m glad I made the visit.

After coming off of the M25 you are then driving a long a lot of tree covered single carriageway roads which have a lot of twists and turns, but once I had arrived I made out the numerous observatory domes immediately with the campsite right in front of the science centre.

Herstmonceux Domes and Tradestands

Luckily the weather was quite good, a little windy, but the telescopes on the Pulsar Optical tradestand did give visitors a view of the sun and the daytime moon.

The astronomy festival includes several tradestands from Ian King Imaging, Pulsar Optical, Telescope House and BBC Sky at Night Magazine as well as others. In a separate large tent was a collection of local astronomy societies as well as the SPA, which this year I actually joined for £12 for an annual membership which gets you a quarterly magazine, periodic newsletters and 5% discounts from astronomy retailers. They also provided me with a copy of the latest magazine, a pen and a red light pen once I joined.

The Herstmonceux site has 6 observatory domes, all were being used for various purposes during the day. One of the domes was being used for a very interesting exhibition of the history of the site underneath one of the telescopes. Another dome was the location for the talks during the day, again sitting underneath one of the telescopes. A third was open to viewing, the others were closed on the Saturday but open at other times during the weekend.

Herstmonceux Refractor Telescope in Dome E

Other amenities at the site included a beer tent, with a very nice Harvey’s bitter. There was also a canteen and lots of activities around the science centre. Herstmonceux does seem a perfect place for a school trip with a shop at the entrance and lots of science related activities in the centre.

I arrived at about the time Chris Lintott was speaking on Galaxy Zoo, but I did buy 3 lecture tickets for the afternoon, priced at £2 each. All three talks were very good, including:

  • Stuart Clark – “What’s Wrong with the Sun”
  • Ian Ridpath – “Exploring the Moon”
  • Nik Szymanek – “Imaging the Deep Sky”

One thing I must say though, is Nik please amend your talk, as I have now seen that same talk three times! Twice in Cambridge I think, and I did see your talk at the Bedford Astroblast, but at that you did do a slightly different talk.

I know it is difficult to gauge your audience at these events, but I would personally appreciate a slightly more technical talk on how to take the images like yours, instead of just going through the images you have taken and your Tenerife trips.

At the end of the day there was a raffle prize draw and then extra activities during the evening session, but I instead decided to leave at about 6.30pm,  but before I left I decided to walk down to the castle in order to get a few pictures of the very impressive castle and moat.

View all the photographs from Herstmonceux

Bought AE Pro Pier

Last week I bidded on an Astro Engineering Pro Pier on eBay, luckily at the last minute I won the auction. I do find that these kinds of pier don’t appear that regularly on the 2nd hand market, as most people are using them, so I’m glad I got it.

The only problem was that the pier was 200 miles away in Chester. So on Sunday I made the journey over to Chester in 3hrs, really easy when you have a Sat Nav!

AE Pro PierGosh those piers are heavy, it took two of us to put it on the backseat of the car and my wife had to help me get it out of the car when I got back.

There was a slight bit of rust on the bottom, so I am considering getting some smooth Hammerite and painting it.

I also purchased a 2nd hand Meade Ultra Wedge a while ago so now I have the set up. The next thing is to look for a shed and start that observatory project, as I’m fed up with the weight of the LX200 10″ and the time it takes me to set up.

So I shall be posting regularly and keeping you up to date on my observatory project.

Want to Buy an SPC900 Webcam. But Where?

Exactly. It seems to me that Philips have stopped producing our beloved SPC900 Webcams. Amazon, Play and Pixmania used to stock them online, but no longer do. So what now? I suppose you could always look on eBay.

Does this mean that the price of second hand SPC900 Webcams will increase as they become harder to get hold of.

I did discover the new range of Philips SPC webcams and wrote a blog post about them. But is the SPC1300 or SPC1330 the new astronomy webcam? Do the old 1.25″ adaptors fit these webcams? Or do we need to get the glue out and try to fit the old adaptors to the new webcams?

The SPC1300 is a 2 Megapixel CMOS camera, the SPC900 was a 1.3 Megapixel camera.

If anybody wants to try the SPC1330 they are stocked at Amazon or Play.com – both offer Free Delivery.

Or will this see the end of us using Philips Webcams for Planetary Imaging, do we now need to go back to Logitech webcams?

Starmen TV Programme on BBC4

Did you see the “Starmen” programme on the BBC? What a great astronomy programme, so good I had to watch it twice.

It was about us amateur astronomers and how important we are to keeping an eye on what is going on in the sky. I think my favourite part was actually seeing everyone’s astronomy kit, as well as the observatories that everyone had in their back-garden.

Terry Pratchett even appeared on the programme with his own bespoke observatory, the dome was actually made from wood.

It was amazing to know just how many people have astronomy as a hobby, and that so many people go to work all day and then stay up all night sitting beside a telescope.

Usually the only amateur astronomy on TV is on The Sky at Night, I would like to see more amateur astronomy on the BBC, perhaps we need a new Astronomy TV series which reviews astronomy equipment, teaches us the night sky, and instructs on how to use the kit in order to undertake astrophotography etc.

Rainbow Spotting

During heavy rainfall and Sun at the same time on Friday 22nd August 2008, at around 6pm, I looked around the sky for a rainbow, and there it was at the back of my house, with more bands of colour than I can remember ever seeing.

Rainbow Colour Bands“A supernumerary rainbow is an infrequent phenomenon, consisting of several faint rainbows on the inner side of the primary rainbow, and very rarely also outside the secondary rainbow. Supernumerary rainbows are slightly detached and have pastel colour bands that do not fit the usual pattern”. Is this photo below a supernumerary rainbow? It does seem to have a lot of colour bands.

Double Rainbow

The main image even shows a second rainbow trying appear above the main one, this is called simply a double rainbow. Two rainbows in the same sky is also something I have never witnessed before.

Apparently secondary rainbows are caused by a double reflection of sunlight inside the raindrops, and appear at an angle of 50°–53°. As a result of the second reflection, the colours of a secondary rainbow are inverted compared to the primary bow, with blue on the outside and red on the inside.

It is remarkable how quickly a rainbow can appear and how quickly it can fade away and lose it’s intensity and the number of bands of colour.

Rainbows are optical illusions and meteorological phenomena that cause a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines onto droplets of moisture in the Earth’s atmosphere. They take the form of a multicoloured arc, with red on the outer part of the arch and violet on the inner section of the arch. More rarely, a secondary rainbow is seen, which is a second, fainter arc, outside the primary arc, with colours in the opposite order, that is, with violet on the outside and red on the inside.

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