Andrew Thornett

Observing Log 15/12/2017 @ 22:36 – 16/12/2017 @ 02:04, LRO, Andy and Damian – first ever views of some faint nebulae

Observing Log 15/12/2017 @ 22:36 – 16/12/2017 @ 02:04.

Andy & Damian


What a night! Incredible views from the centre of Lichfield – we can only imagine what the views must have been like from a dark sky sight. Tonight, we saw things we have never seen before – at least by eye – and only ever expected to see on photograhpic images. Wow! Just goes to show – it is worth going outside in the freezing cold.

  • 10” Orion Dobsonian Telescope with Explore Scientific (ES) 20mm, 14mm, 9mm 100 degree apparent field of view (APOV) eyepieces and Telrad finder.
  • 80mm Sky Watcher Equinox Pro telescope on William Optics EzTouch Alt-Az mount with 31mm Nagler and 6mm Televue eyepieces and 8x50mm finder.
  • Sky Safari Pro 5 planetarium software on iPad

Photos through image intensified eyepiece (IS):

Orion Nebula (M42):

M81 and M82 Galaxies in Ursa Major (below) – note that the Image Intensified eyepiece has significant field curvature and coma towards the edges of the field so the thin smudge of the top left of this image is not another galaxy but a spread-out star:

Double Cluster in Perseus (below):


Orion Nebula – Messier 42, Bright Nebula in Orion,15 Dec 2017, 22:36:35, Using my ten-inch Orion Dob in my back garden, standing in the snow, after tripping over the remains of the snowman built by Rhys and Hannah, and survived the treacherous and very slippery icy steps (and having put salt on them to keep myself alive), my first target was Orion’s nebula. Magnificent and stretching over half the field of view in my 14mm Explore Scientific (ES) 100-degree AFOV eyepiece. My eyes are poorly dark adapted, but the nebula looks green rather than grey tonight, suggesting the sky is very clear after the snow falls.

NGC 1975, Bright Nebula in Orion, 15 Dec 2017, 22:42:48, Visible other side of the fish-mouth, little detail visible.

Flame Nebula – NGC 2024, Bright Nebula in Orion,15 Dec 2017, 23:00:41, Definite observation of the Flame Nebula nebulosity. Once our eyes were relaxed, we could see filaments and tendrils over 1+ fields of view growing in brightness towards the main part of the Flame Nebula. Realised again it is a question of learning to observe this very faint object.

Messier 78, Bright Nebula in Orion,15 Dec 2017, 23:04:08, First ever observation of M78. Two stars with definite nebulosity. I thought it was an open cluster at first, but Damian realised what it was, and we star hopped around the area to confirm it.

Orion Nebula – Messier 42, Bright Nebula in Orion,15 Dec 2017, 23:05:20, Image intensified eyepiece – we could see tendrils curling around in circle behind M42 from tips of the wings of the nebula, these were not obviously visible in ES eyepiece. M43 also showed more detail in image intensified eyepiece BUT we could not see the Flame nebula in the image intensified eyepiece.

Messier 78, Bright Nebula in Orion,15 Dec 2017, 23:07:31, Seen in image intensified eyepiece (IS) but nebulosity less obvious (although still visible) than in ES.

Barnard’s Loop – Sharpless 2-276, Bright Nebula in Orion,15 Dec 2017, 23:25:05, I thought I could follow part of this – a C-shaped lightening as a strip at centre field of view – which I followed upwards and then right on to right in next field of view. Damian was not convinced so we will call this a possible observation only……

NGC 2244, Open Cluster in Monoceros, 15 Dec 2017, 23:29:33, First seen as definite smudge in Vixen 2.1x binoculars by myself! I am doing well tonight, as I have seen first most observations above. Damian mentioned NGC 2244 in his talk at RAG end last month. These Vixen binoculars are really growing on me as they do such a good job of identifying such objects. In ten-inch with 14mm ES, we saw definite structure in the Rosette Nebula itself and not just the star cluster. Wow! What a night! And from the centre of Lichfield. But it does require one of the clearest skies we have ever seen. In the IS only the stars of the cluster could be seen and not the nebulosity. This appears to show that the IS responds very poorly to very faint diffuse objects.

Messier 35, Open Cluster in Gemini,16 Dec 2017, 00:39:12, Damian tried out my Skywatcher Equinox Pro on his William Optics EzTouch alt-az mount. He found M35 with his Nagler 31mm, one of the most famous eyepieces of all time.

Pleiades – Messier 45, Open Cluster in Taurus,16 Dec 2017, 00:41:34, In 80mm with 31mm Nagler, masses space around stars just like binocular view. Never seen like this in telescope. Like binocular view -magnification 500mm/31mm = 16x magnification with excellent field of view much better than most binoculars.

Double Cluster – NGC 869, Open Cluster in Perseus,16 Dec 2017, 00:44:33, Likewise with 80mm Equinox and 31mm Nagler this gives excellent binocular view without aberration unlike most binoculars. Obvious uni-ocular view.

Stock 2, Open Cluster in Cassiopeia,16 Dec 2017, 00:49:03,80mm Equinox plus 31mm Nagler best view to view this. Looks like a man with Double Cluster at edge of field of view.

Double Cluster – NGC 869, Open Cluster in Perseus,16 Dec 2017, 00:50:17, Every bit of kit has its place. That includes a ten inch Dob with 20mm ES -spectacular!

Pinwheel Cluster – Messier 36, Open Cluster in Auriga,16 Dec 2017, 00:53:12, What a way to pan M36/37/38 in Auriga – the 80mm Equnix+31mm Nagler. Wow! Wow! Wow!

Pinwheel Cluster – Messier 36, Open Cluster in Auriga,16 Dec 2017, 00:54:39, Throw away the 80mm binoculars!

Double Cluster – NGC 884, Open Cluster in Perseus,16 Dec 2017, 00:55:41, Lovely view through 80mm Equinox with 14mm ES. More magnified at 37.5x although of course will not match light gathering and therefore brilliant diamond like quality of ten inch Dob. But 80mm is a lot more grab and go. Damian thinking of something similar for American trip in 2019.

IC 1805, Open Cluster in Cassiopeia,16 Dec 2017, 01:04:47, Started by identifying the cluster and checking it was correct by panning around and checking location. Once this was certain started looking for Heart Nebula.

Heart Nebula – IC 1805, Bright Nebula in Cassiopeia,16 Dec 2017, 01:05:59, Once we identified cluster we could then identify nebulosity. This is certain observation with tendrils of nebulosity evident. However, one criticism is applicable. If we did not know from or planetarium maps that this was the correct location could we be sure this nebulosity was not background star fields, too faint to resolve individual stars? Answer is we couldn’t as brightness only slightly different from elsewhere but once location established fact is we could see the nebulosity with certainty. Is this only going to be tonight when sky so clear? Possibly but in fact it is starting to mist up now so perhaps this is part of the skill-set l-learning to recognize things for what they are in the sky. Note all our observations so far have been by direct vision. Averted vision has not been required so far tonight.

Soul Nebula – IC 1848, Bright Nebula in Cassiopeia,16 Dec 2017, 01:13:01, Adjacent to Heart Nebula, also seen initially via cluster stars. Again, once identified, we could then start to see the nebulosity – becoming more obvious as we spent more time observing it – particularly one bright patch. Both Heart and Soul Nebula seen with ten inch and 20mm ES.

Messier 65, Spiral Galaxy in Leo,16 Dec 2017, 01:22:28, Failed to find these,

Bode’s Nebulae – Messier 81, Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major,16 Dec 2017, 01:23:00, Neat little objects in centre of field inn 80mm – of M81/82 and M42 – with 31mm Nagler.

Damian then changed to 6mm Ethos for M42 inn 80mm. Masses of detail. Quite bright. The combination of Equinox and WO mount seems to work well.

Orion Nebula – Messier 42, Bright Nebula in Orion,16 Dec 2017, 01:37:54,80mm through IS M42 bright but M43 not visible. Smaller image means less affected by field curvature and coma inherent in the IS.

Finished observing @ 02:04 – sky too misty and its too cold and my secondary has fogged up!

Campo del Cielo meteorite thin section – microscopy using Zeiss IM microscope (not using polarisation)

I have waited some considerable time for this meteorite thin section to arrive – from the famous Campo del Cielo fall. Largely iron (black areas), there are also some minerals.

The following photos are NOT polarised.


x4 objective:

x10 objective:

First trial of centrifuge on pond water 14/12/2017

“First Light” for my centrifuge – the second hand Eppendorf 5415c. I followed a procedure detailed on the Micscape website for using the centrifuge to concentrate the organisms in a pond water sample from Stowe Pool in Lichfield collected today.

The centrifuge worked well and did indeed concentrate the organisms (see photos below for procedure I followed) although the variety was limited in the sample.





4-Filtering-out-large-particles using tea strainer

5-Filling-Ependorf-1-5ml-tubes-with-pond-water – each one needs to have same amount fluid in order for centrifuge to balance:

6-Placing-Eppendorf-tubes-in-centrifuge- note that they are evenly spread around centrifuge to obtain balance at high G-forces – you should always use pairs and never one on its own:



9-Pipetting-off-excess-fluid-after-pellet-the idea is to carefully remove the fluid above the pellet of centrifuged solids at bottom of tube without disturbing the pellet. Ideally, the pellet and single drop fluid left after pipetting.

10-View-of-pellet-at-bottom-of-Eppendorf-tube. after pipetting – it is the brown spot at bottom of tube in picture. I used pipette to transfer the pellets and small amounts of fluid from 6 tubes to 2 tubes and centrifuged again to further concentrate the contents into two pellets:

11-Slide-after-pellet-and-drop-water-pipetted-onto-it-showing-concentrated-protozoa & debris. I pipetted the final 2 pellets onto a slide and the picture below shows many dark areas in the water drop – these are from the pellets:

12 Coverslip & nail varnish to seal it before viewing under microscope:

Photos of organism from sample today seen under Zeiss IM microscope x32 magnification. The first photo shows well one particular feature evident in many of the photos – which is that the centrifuge has caused chloroplasts to be concentrated on one side of the cell rather than spread throughout. Other photos show large vacuoles which I think are from damage to the cell. Most of the cells were inactive – I presume killed by the process, although the banana-shaped ciliated organism in the third photo below was alive and moving.


RAG Christmas Quiz 8/12/2017

If you missed it, then you missed a real treat! In spite of the ice and snow on the roads, a virtually full house turned out to experience Damian’s fantastic creation of a world where astrology and astronomy were both equally valid, and where fun and frolics were the order of the day!….But we couldn’t get away with it that easily. It was also his most difficult, and most astronomically-related quiz to date. However, don’t be fooled – as always, knowing your astronomy only got you so far – general knowledge around history, geography, archeology, popular music and culture were at least if not more important – and such knowledge led the (self-admitted non-astronomy experts) Jonathon and Dominic’s team to victory! It was a brilliant evening and we all really enjoyed ourselves. Thanks again, Damian!


Eppendorf 5415 C Micro-Centrifuge Variable Speed with Timer – photos & manual

An old but sturdy piece of kit – useful for microscopy – allows samples to be concentrated (e.g. pond water samples) making it easier to find targets of interest. Only problem is that the timer does not work so I need to source one of those.

I have found a replacement timer – I intend to ask Ed whether he can take a look with me to see if we can work out how to replace it – not asked him yet – help please, Ed!
I also picked up a spare rotor – the screw on top was missing from mine.
All these problems with second hand stuff – its cheap but often needs work to get it working – but then that is the fun of the thing.
Below are photos of the centifuge, spare rotor and new timer.

Click below to read the manual for this machine (PDF file):

Centrifuge_Eppendorf_5415C manual


Diehl Series 600 T85 springwound timer – finding a replacement timer for the Eppendorf 5315c micro-centrifuge

Diehl Series 600 T85 springwound timer – finding a replacement for the 5315c centrifuge

Is this the correct one?

or is this one a better choice?

or this one?

or possible UK source:


Damian processes Stowe Pool microscope slides for observing under Zeiss IM microscope with Andy

Damian came around this afternoon and took to the microscope like a pro!

He processed slides from a sample of pond water I collected yesterday and kept in my mini-aquarium (square glass vase of Ean Ean’s) overnight – producing live, heat fixed, heat fixed and H&E stained slides, which were then observed with x4, x10, x20, x32 and x40 objectives and photographs and video taken using the Mikrocam 9.0 camera on my Dell E4800 laptop.


Damian processing slides in my kitchen sink:

The slides Damian produced:

Micrometer eyepiece and calibration slide:

Microcamlab7 software screen photo grab with calibration slide with 20x objective:

The following photo was taken at the eyepiece using Samsung S7 through the LOMO micrometer eyepiece and with calibration slide in field of view:

Video from microscopy session, by Damian and Andy. Most of the video covers views of live slides, in direct and phase contrast transmitted light, using 30W LED illuminator for Zeiss IM microscope. There is a clip at the end of the video which explores an H&E stained heat-fixed slide that Damian prepared ( In the first video look out for the vortices the organism (I think it is probably Vorticella but needs to be confirmed – see this video for comparison (not ours) is producing either side of its mouth-parts:

x20 objective, live view:

x20 objective, phase contrast Ph1 annulus, live views:

I suspect that the following is a photo of the dead carcass of one of the feeding organisms in the following photos:

x32 objective, live specimen, series of photos of organism feeding – notice how mouth-parts are closed in some photos and open in others. This organism is also seen at the beginning of the video above. In this video you can see the vortices at sides of mouth-parts – especially in phase contrast. I think it is probably Vorticella but needs to be confirmed – see this video for comparison (not ours)

x32 objective, live specimen, phase contrast Ph1 annulus:

x20 objective, H&E stained heat-fixed:

x40 objective, H&E stained, heat fixed:

Microscopy of 2 week Petri dish culture of bacteria from hair in my armpit

This may seem a weird experiment to have done – but 2 weeks ago Ean Ean snipped off some hair from my armpit directly into a Petri dish to see what we grew. The reason for this behaviour was that my T-shirts and jumpers tend to develop a lot of holes in the armpit areas and we wondered what bacteria was doing the damage. I do have reasonably hairy armpits!

Pictures below of the bacteria we grew – they are small round bacteria – this is known as coccus (cocci in pleural).

The Gram staining (by Rhys today) shows that the bacteria are Gram Positive.

A brief internet search shows that common axillary bacteria include Corynebacterium and Propionibacterium. Another bacteria that is often present but in smaller number is Staphylococcus.

Corynebacterium is a genus of bacteria that are gram-positive and aerobic. They are bacilli, and in some phases of life they are, more particularly, club-shaped, which inspired the genus name. The principal features of the Corynebacterium genus were described by Collins and Cummins in 1986. They are gram-positive, catalase-positive, non-spore-forming, non-motile, rod-shaped bacteria that are straight or slightly curved. Propionibacterium is a gram-positive, anaerobic, rod-shaped genus of bacteria named for their unique metabolism: They are able to synthesize propionic acid by using unusual transcarboxylase enzymes. Staphylococcus is a genus of Gram-positive bacteria. Under the microscope, they appear round, and form in grape-like clusters. The Staphylococcus genus includes at least 40 species (Wikipedia).

My bacteria appear to be Staphylococci – round and blue.


Preparing sample for microscopy today:

1. The Petri dish culture – axillary (armpit) hairs are visible!

2. The spatula was used to scrape off the bacterial culture into this container and then it was mixed with small amount water:

3. Small drop put onto a slide:

4. This is then dried:


Unstained heat-fixed slide, with 63x objective:

Gram stained slide, x32 objective:


Gram stained slide, x63 objective: