Actually it an old toy. I bought this (for more money than I care to confess) back in May but it's taken this long to get it up and running. The final part in the picture was Dad fixing the power supply at the weekend.
And what does the sun look like through it? Amazing!
This is my first stacked image of prominences on the limb:
My newly resilvered 16" telescope mirror! Galvoptics Ltd made the whole process so easy, helping me get the mirror off its support plate etc. Cost for stripping and resilvering both the main mirror and the secondary: £145 + Vat + £16 delivery to my door. Marvellous.
Now the bad news.... The coating needs 4-6 weeks to "cure" properly so it has to stay in the box till the end of next month.
I was just going through old videos and it seems I never got round to posting this clip of a Kestrel (I hope??) filmed from the garden of the family holiday house in Trimingham this summer. The garden overlooked the sea from a cliff edge:
Something a bit special here. It's another planetary nebula for my Herschel 400 list. Unlike most visual astro objects though, this one has a lovely colour. It's small, but I managed to push the magnification to an astounding 746X. Again , this is a fairly accurate sketch of what I could see through the eyepiece:
There's no point having an observatory without electricity to drive the telescope and to read the star charts etc, so Dad's back today fitting junction boxes and all that stuff. It's a big job; we had to dig up the path to put cables in.
In other words, they have bits sticking out the top and bottom. One of the most famous planetary nebulae is M76, the Little Dumbbell.
When William Herschel observed it, he saw the 2 distinct lobes of the nebula and gave them separate designations, thinking they were separate nebulae. The target for the Herschel 400 list is the Northeastern lobe, NGC 651.
My aim is to create sketches of the H400 objects which show exactly what was seen through the eyepiece, but which could pass for photos. Here's my attempt with NGC 651.
Original sketch, done at the eyepiece:
Ok, I'll win no prizes with it, but this is just the beginning. Next comes the proper sketching:
Then inversion in Photoshop:
Then desaturate and play around with levels and curves:
But it still looks like a drawing rather than a photo, so it's back to Photoshop to apply some more manipulation and a blur filter. The result? Pretty good!
That put me in a very difficult position; I mean, she's my soulmate, but on the other hand the Meade Lightbridge is one serious scope, with over 200 square inches of light-gathering surface, rendering galaxies of Magnitude 13 visible to the naked eye.
Luckily, I did not have to make the choice because Dad stepped in with a solution. He designed the base:
And paid for...
...the new Cambridgeshire observatory! (AKA "shed")
I won't lie to you, there have been teething problems, not least of which is getting the scope through the door.
But, like the Tardis, it's far roomier inside than it appears from outside:
I was very happy when Aaron told me that he was going to be 'working on the gardening this week.' It turned out though that I'd misheard, and what he actually said was that he was going to be 'working on The Guardian'.
Despite his fantastic qualifications (a First in International Relations from Exeter) I assumed they would start him off on coffee making and photocopying, but in fact he was immediately encouraged to find his own stories and to go out interviewing. And here's his first publication:
Well, it was a tricky one, as it's actually only part of something. Something very exciting!
It's... a telescope. But no ordinary telescope.
When looking at deep sky objects, especially galaxies, the limiting factor is the amount of light; they are just so darn faint.
The only cure is aperture. You need the very biggest scope possible. A 6"-8" diameter mirror is considered the minimum 'serious' sized scope for deep sky work, so I'm very lucky with my 10" scope:
But it's still not enough. The problem with a scope any bigger than 10" is cost and weight. The C14 Meade has a 14" mirror. Fantastic!
Price: over £6000. Not so fantastic.
Plus it's not really portable and ideally needs a permanent tripod base costing several thousand pounds more.
The solution for those with 'aperture fever' is to get a Dobsonian telescope. Dobs are also known as 'light buckets'. They are huge scopes but are not motor-driven and break down into separate parts which can (just) fit in a Fiesta. And best of all they are cheap. Or let's say affordable.
The largest standard size commercially available for a Dob is one with a 16" mirror. A 16" has 4 times the light gathering power of an 8" and 2.5x that of my 10". I bought one 8 years ago for around £1,500 but forgot that I lived at the time in highly light polluted skies, so it wasn't much use.
We moved to Hatfield and I left it in the garage for a year, then discovered,too late, that the garage leaked.
Water had wrecked most of the stuff we'd stored there, and damaged the scope too. For the next 4 years I kept it in the greenhouse, where it got even more dirty and mouldy. Then we moved to Cambridgeshire and I put it in our new garage, which - guess what? - leaks too. ;-(
Anyway, I'm now in the process of restoring the scope to its former glory:
I'm really good at taking thing apart, but not so good at putting things together again:
I've literally no idea how soil gets into a telescope:
4AoSers of a scientific bent will notice there's something missing: the mirror. It's in a bad state and is being stripped and resilvered at this very moment by a specialist company:
The 10" mirror has 78 square inches of light collecting surface. This beast has 201 square inches...Exciting times!