Monthly Archives: October 2015

Germs, disease, infection

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The runner beans planted at the end of July have continued to crop; well for me that we have had, so far, a mild and equable autumn.  And the carrot row is still yielding too ( the guinea pigs adore carrot tops, so there’s more than one pleased about that).  Even the yellow carrots, sown later and in a less advantageous position, are beginning to fill up their roots.

1 odd man out

The late sown peas, however, have succumbed to all sorts of fungus and mildew.  The plants look loathsome and the pods (for they have podded) look worse.  Top candidates for a bonfire!

2 germs, disease, infection

However:  ‘Just have a look’ says I to myself.  After all, there’s a reason for that tough cellulose membrane inside.  And there they were, sealed from the world and the wogglers:

3 sealed

Not a grub in them.  And though some of them had become cannonballs* while I was being squeamish, they still tasted pretty good.

*The use of this expression is, of course, a testimony to the power of advertising, except that I never buy that brand because I am too tight-fisted.

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Smug

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Last night: a little sky window two hours long, just enough for a photography autodidact.  This time I lugged the 10″ scope out, and went through the whole attach camera to gadget to eyepiece to scope thing all over again, strapping a variety of comestibles to the rear end of the tube to balance the extra gubbins at the front.

comestibles

… demerara sugar and rice …

The combination of 35mm and Barlow which worked on the 5″ wouldn’t come to a focus at all, but the 35mm on its own and subsequently a 25mm both worked.  I haven’t sussed out how to get a higher magnification yet, and this image (upside down as taken through a reflector) is nothing compared with the breathtaking eyeball view through my best 7mm eyepiece.  But this will do to go on with.

(Click for full size image)

(Click for image and + for full size)

Gained an hour, lost it

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BST ended last night (for once I remembered) and I thought with pleasure of an hour gained for a lie in or a lazy getting up time.

But there was that clear sky … and the conjunction moving ever closer, which I hadn’t managed to see for days.

(If you can’t see any stars, click the thumbnail for a larger image.)

I was up in the dark, confused by the time shift. The conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and Mars (below them) was tight and spectacular.

I was up in the dark, confused by the time shift. The conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and Mars (below them) was tight and spectacular.

One of the photos taken from the tripod showed the real colours of the planets without any processing at all: piercing white for Venus, yellowish for Jupiter, pink for Mars.

One of the photos taken from the tripod showed the real colours of the planets without any processing at all: piercing white for Venus, yellowish for Jupiter, pink for Mars.

Venus is moving down away from Leo; Regulus still visible above the planets.

Venus is moving down away from Leo; Regulus still visible above the planets.

Venus is a dead loss to observe through the telescope, with the eye or like this through a camera; too bright to see -

Venus is a dead loss to observe through the telescope, with the eye or like this through a camera; too bright to see –

so to get her phase at all, put in a filter or high magnification for the eye, or turn down the exposure for the camera.

so to get her phase at all, put in a filter or high magnification for the eye, or turn down the exposure for the camera.

Trying to get Jupiter through the telescope with my primitive equipment is a waste of time ...

Trying to get Jupiter through the telescope with my primitive equipment is a waste of time …

... though to my amazement the two faintest-of-faint dots among the noise at 1 o'clock really are Io and Ganymede. Can't find Europa or Callisto though, even with the eye of faith.

… though to my amazement the two faintest-of-faint dots among the noise at 1 o’clock really are Io and Ganymede. Can’t find Europa or Callisto though, even with the eye of faith.

The eyeball still has a lead over the lens. Even in this light, with my small telescope I could see Jupiter's main bands and all four moons.

The eyeball still has a lead over the lens. Even in this light, with my small telescope I could see Jupiter’s main bands and all four moons.

The Earth's shadow receded pinkly to the west.

The Earth’s shadow receded pinkly to the west.

It took three cups of tea and a paracetamol to decide if all the blips were hot pixels, random noise, or merely the unwashed state of the laptop.

It took three cups of tea and a paracetamol to decide if all the blips were hot pixels, random noise, or merely the unwashed state of the laptop.

Shopping

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After a series of gloomy overclouded days, with the sky like lead at 6pm, Clear Outside was offering this unlikely prediction for Saturday night:

Clear Outside (courtesy of First Light Optics)

Clear Outside (courtesy of First Light Optics)

Spot on.

It was never going to be a great observing evening, with a nearly full moon cluttering up the sky.  So I did a binocular test.  The 10x50s which I’ve been using for years (evident) have always been a bit of an issue, and I gave myself a small reward for being still standing, and bought two new pairs:  7×50 modest price, and 8×40 very cheap (with the thought in mind that I might return the cheap ones if they were rubbish).

bins

Although the objective lenses are the same size in the 10×50 and 7×50 and so should have the same light-gathering capability, I did think that the old binoculars had a slightly brighter image.  But the reason I bought 7x50s is that the field of view is wider.  We all know that I am an idiot observer, and if I can only see three stars, I haven’t got a clue what I am looking at, stars having rather a tendency to look exactly the same.  But with five in the view, it is much easier to work out where you are, and to star hop on to the next part of the constellation.

The 8x40s were pretty much rubbish by daylight; the image looked dim and woolly at the edges by comparison with either of the larger pairs – a quality issue as much as light gathering.  But I thought I would do them the justice of a night comparison.  Somewhat to my surprise, they grew on me; of course the image was not so bright and some faint stars were lost, and they got fuzzy at the edges.  But 40mm is still much better at collecting light than the 7mm of even the best-adapted night vision.  The field of view was even wider than for the 7x50s; and the bins are much lighter – I could hold them one-handed, and it was longer before arm fatigue made the cosmos shake and dither.

So maybe I’ll keep both.  Retail therapy.

Diversions

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While being productive I was listening.

O'BrianOnly two things wrong with this.  It’s abridged, so it doesn’t last long enough or include all the favourite bits.  And it is read (very well) by Robert Hardy; which is only an issue because his voice is so distinctive that I visualize Hardy’s familiar features instead of Aubrey, Maturin, Bonden, Wogan or Herapath.  But it cost about one tenth of the unabridged recording, which is a compelling argument.

After some judicious hacking I went to harvest some runners.  Gratifyingly, these come from my vegetable trial which involved planting runners at the end of July, obviously a ridiculous thing to do.  The late planted carrots are also making roots.  Less impressively, the pepper plants, after six months feeding and watering, have finally ripened one fruit (though there have been some green ones).

belatedI found some photo opportunities in the local garden centre.

closeI rather wish I had bought this one.  Perhaps another time.

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Passionate pedagogy

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RitaIt was strange to look back to a world where part-time university-level distance learning for adults was a revolutionary concept; the OU by success paving the way for every other university to take up that role.  The tape, retrieved from an ancient VHS collection, is almost clapped out, and its wavery sound and errant image proved on my senses how long ago, indeed, it all was.

The story of Pygmalion is always worth revisiting in its many retellings.  Frank thinks for a while that he is Mary Shelley, but, even without that darker shadow, Pygmalion is a questionable role, the powers of creation and ownership being so closely allied.  Endorsing this connection poisons the ending of My Fair Lady. Russell, following Shaw, had more sense than to ladle syrup into the closing scenes of Educating Rita, for which thanks.

So yes; Rita loves Frank.  And maybe Eliza loves Higgins.  Maybe, even, the statue loves Pygmalion.  But not without qualification.  And they all deserve to have slippers thrown at them.

You do not want to know

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how many hours and photos and batteries this took.

One has to start somewhere I suppose.

Ludicrous

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I’ve had a lot of goes at this, ending in general exasperation.

1 camera contraptionFinally, I seem to have got an assemblage of bits and positions giving an alignment which might, MIGHT, allow photographs to be taken through the eyepiece without wobbling all over the world.  This is a 35mm eyepiece in the cheap-and-cheerful barlow, with the camera platform gadget cranked up and back pretty much as far as it will go.  It thinks it can photograph the twigs on a tree off in the next field.

2 camera view throughHowever, it’s putting a bit of a strain on the tube, and I don’t know how the motor will cope with this great lump on the side.  Another point: it took about 40 minutes to get it all lined up.  I have grave doubts about my ability to get the whole assemblage out through the door like this, but on the other hand, trying to put it together correctly outside in the dark and with cold hands sounds impossible.

And even more to the point:  it would be very useful to have a nice obvious slice of moon to practice on.

3 clouds

Long view

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The crudest kind of piggyback. The main thing is to prevent it falling off with a loud smash when you accidentally knock it in the dark.

piggybackOnce attached, its alignment is a bit vague, but it does thus track with the telescope.  After potching about last night, pleased to find no star smears on a 15 second exposure.  But unfortunately my little Canon won’t do a real long exposure.

Cassiopeia and PerseusNo chance to practice today, however; total overcast.

Admiring Leo’s bottom

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The plan was to get up early if the sky was clear.  Somewhat surprisingly, this worked.

Equally surprisingly, the time exposures worked.  The optimum seemed to be five or six seconds; ten picked up more light, but the stars began to streak.  I’m not sure how much was due to star trailing proper, and how much to the gusty conditions; my tripod is bottom-of-the-range and will wobble easily.

Having crawled about over star maps to identify what has been photographed, the camera seems to pick up stars down to about magnitude 4.  It’s not apparent on the reduced-size images here, but in the full size images the camera also began to record colour, particularly evident in Betelgeuse and Rigel as they are lavish with their light.

Here are the deities again, with an aeroplane flying out of Leo to pass between Regulus and Venus.  It’s obvious how over-exposed Venus is but nothing can convey the oncoming-headlight effect of it.  Worth going out in the cold just to see.  PS the aeroplane really is there but invisible unless you open the full size image)

heavenly aeroplaneA tidy view of the back end of Leo.  Mercury is somewhere in the tree.  Pass me a saw, somebody.

Leo2

And then, of course Orion, with Procyon and Sirius filling up the frame.

OrionNow if only I can get the camera and the scope into use together, even as a piggy-back arrangement … the tracking would be invaluable for long exposures.

Onward?