Andrew Thornett

Microscopy of sample from bottom of pot pond 11/11/2018

For last few months, I have been cultivating a “pond” in a large pot in my garden.

The following photos are taken from a sample from the bottom of this pond today, using my Leitz Laborlux 11 microscope and Bresser Microcam SP 5.1 camera, with x4, x10, x40 objectives.

The photos and video below are all based around highly magnified microscopy of the antennae/legs of a small 2-3mm crustacean I found in the sample. In particular, I focus on other animal life (single and multicellular) living on or around these structures.

Obj = microscope objective power.



See the small group of oval objects attached to the antenna on the right – I think this is a group of other organisms using the crustacean as a platform!

On the other two legs visible, note the nodular structure to the chiton exoskeleton. Plenty of hairs to be seen projecting from legs and antenna.

Those group of oval organisms are seen attached to the antenna at bottom of photo below (photo & video):

Antenna (below):




These images show close ups of where the hairs arise from the chiton exoskeleton of the legs.

Rolling ball cells pot pond Leitz Laborlux 11 x10 obj 111118 (below):

Rolling ball cells pot pond Leitz Laborlux 11 x40 obj 111118 (photo and video):

Worm pot pond Leitz Laborlux 11 x4 obj 111118 (below, photos & video):

Worm pot pond Leitz Laborlux 11 x10 obj 111118 (below, photos & video):


Chloroplast movement in Elodea 11/11/2018

Elodea is a genus of 6 species of aquatic plants often called the waterweeds described as a genus in 1803. Elodea is native to North and South America and is also widely used as aquarium vegetation. It lives in fresh water (Wikipedia). Chloroplasts can move in all plants but are particularly visible in Elodea.

I used my Leitz Laborlux 11 microscope today to view a thin slice of Elodea leaf  with a bright light from the side to stimulate movement.


Video of chloroplast movement in Elodea, Leitz Laborlux 11 microscope, 40x objective:


Video of chloroplast movement in Elodea, Leitz Laborlux 11 microscope, 100x objective:


x40 objective:

In the next photo, look carefully – there are many tiny organelles visible apart from the more obvious chloroplasts:

x100 objective:

Microscopy of sheep’s brain, retina and optic nerve 3/11/2018

We dissected a sheep’s head today and prepared simple slides of brain, retina and optic nerve, and then viewed these with my Leitz Laborlux 11 microscope using x4, x10, and x40 objectives.


Dissecting sheep’s head:

The brain of the sheep can be seen just before removal.

Brain unstained slides, x4 objective:

The red streaks are blood vessels – note these are all unstinted sections.

Brain unstained x10 objective:

These sections were all made by using scalpel to cut thin section by eye and then squashing it on slide with some water based mountant using a cover slip. They are therefore quite thick.


Brain x40 objective: 

Optic nerve, unstained, x4 objective:

Optic nerve, unstained, x10 objective:

Optic nerve, unstained, x40 objective:

In the section below, looks as though an axon (projection from a nerve) has been pulled out – long worm-like structure.

Likewise, in the slide below, there appear to multiple coiled structures which I suspect are axons.

Retina, unstained, x4 objective (below):

Retina, unstained, x10 objective:

There appears to cells on stalks – are these neural connections to retinal cells?

Note the heavy pigment of the retina – black – it absorbs all light.

Retina, unstained, x40 objective:


Adding an on/off button to Ed’s battery pack

Today, I have added an on/off button to the battery pack Ed made for me. I have used a car/lorry 12V on/off button from Halfords, 25A cabling and connectors. This button goes between the 75AH leisure battery and inverter and is meant to avoid the situation where I accidently leave the inverter turned on draining the battery as happened to me recently. It took quite some time to get this working although for some reason I have not managed to get the 12V light to come on on the switch when it is turned on. More accurately, I did get that working too when the switch was not installed on the side of the case but it has not worked since I drilled the hole and screwed it on to the case!

The location of the switch below the plug sockets is to avoid the switch foulibg the handle of the case.



Microscopy of sample from beach at Bognor Regis 2/11/2018

I bought back to Lichfield a sample of water/material from the beach at Bognor Regis and today looked at this under my Leitz Laborlux 11 microscope.


Small piece of red algal seaweed.

These are most probably Red Algae, or Rhodophyta. From Wikipedia (, Rodophyta means ‘rose plant’. The Rhodophyta also comprises one of the largest phyla of algae, containing over 7,000 currently recognized species . The majority of species (6,793) are found in the Florideophyceae (class), and mostly consist of multicellular, marine algae, including many notable seaweeds. Approximately 5% of the red algae occur in freshwater environments with greater concentrations found in the warmer area. There are no terrestrial species, which is assumed to be traced back to an evolutionary bottleneck where the last common ancestor lost about 25% of its core genes and much of its evolutionary plasticity.
The red algae form a distinct group characterized by having eukaryotic cells without flagella and centrioles, chloroplasts that lack external endoplasmic reticulum and contain unstacked (stoma) thylakoids, and use phycobiliproteins as accessory pigments, which give them their red color. Red algae store sugars as floridean starch, which is a type of starch that consists of highly branched amylopectin without amylose, as food reserves outside their plastids. Most red algae are also multicellular, macroscopic, marine, and reproduce sexually. The red algal life history is typically an alternation of generations that may have three generations rather than two.

See also for simple guide to UK seaweeds.

x4 objective showing the tendrils of seaweed – individual cells are seen:

x10 objective – the individual cells now look like bones in the hand:

x40 objective showing structure in an individual cell – cell wall surrounds the cell and their are clear differences between the terminal ends of the cell and its middle part:

Sediment at bottom of pool in sand adjacent to wooden structure on shore.

x10 objective showing sand grains with some attached green algal growth:

x10 objective showing plant matter on top of sand grain:

x40 objective showing  green algal seaweed attached to edge of sand grain:

x40 objective showing microscopic algal plant matter on a sand grain:

x40 objective – close up of green algal free floating plant cell pairing:

Observing Log 1-2/11/2018, Bignor Hill, Sussex Downs, Andrew Thornett

Observing Log 1-2/11/2018.

Bignor Hill, Sussex Downs.

Andrew Thornett.


Back at Bignor Hill in the Sussex Downs, twenty minutes’ drive from Bognor Regis (see map) where my family and I were spending half term holiday week, this time on my own. After a great night’s observing on Sunday night, I have spent this holiday week hoping that there would be another clear night before we leave, and tonight was the last possible chance as we need to return to Lichfield tomorrow. Current Location 50º 47′ N 000º 41. Observing on Sunday was limited by a bright Moon and being accompanied by someone new to astronomy who needed to be at work the following day. Those limitations promised to be gone tonight.

I have bought along my Sky Watcher Equinox Pro 80mm telescope on Manfrotto video tripod and my Canon 10×30 image stabilised binoculars.

This is a very dark sky site and tonight it was particularly dark and clear as the Moon did not rise until just as this session came to an end.

I started at 22:00. Apart from getting out of the car and stepping immediately into a large puddle (typical for me) my first (well next reaction after an unprintable one following stepping into the puddle) was Wow! Wow! Wow!

A bright Milky Way ran across the sky and through Cygnus and Cassiopeia. Hundreds (if not thousands) of stars were visible. The only other time I have seen a sky like this was in Ladram Bay near Sidmouth in Devon. Owls were making noise in the background – that reminded me of observing nights in Rosliston Forestry Centre – but the sky here was many times better. I am hoping that this night will last and not cloud or mist over. Fingers crossed!

Pinwheel Galaxy, Triangulum Galaxy, M 33, NGC 598, UGC 1117, PGC 5818, MCG 5-4-69, CGCG 502-110,2MASS 01335090+3039357. I do not remember EVER having been able to so easily pick out M33 with binoculars as I could tonight, and I am using only a pair of 10×30’s at that…. although they are Canon and image stabilised with great contrast and pristine optics which does make it easier….

This was after seeing M31 as a bold bright white oval in the same binoculars, although it is worth noting I could not easily pick out the North American Nebula. I always put my difficulty seeing the North America Nebula back home down to poor Lichfield Skies/light pollution but after tonight where I can see that it is still difficult to pick out the North American Nebula even in dark clear skies I wonder…. perhaps it is a difficult object to see anywhere!

I turned my telescope to M 33….

M 33 was not round as it has appeared to me in the past in Lichfield, when I can only just pick it out due to light pollution. It was jagged in outline consistent with the presence of spiral arms. Although it would be claiming too much to say that I could see spiral arms tonight clearly, nevertheless I could see the suggestion of them. The central nucleus was brighter than the surrounding area and had an elongated nature to it consistent with a bar. I could observe tonight two definite brighter areas in the galaxy. Both were north of the nucleus (above it relative to the horizon). One was roughly vertically above it and the other to the left of the nucleus and above it. This latter brighter area was the brighter of the two. Using the map of M 33 on Sky Safari Pro 6, with confidence I identified the brighter knot above and left of the nucleus as NGC 604. I think (but as less confident) that the area above the nucleus was NGC 595.

[Added 2/11/2018 = Identification of NGC 595 and NGC 604 above confirmed as correct from further research – see

North American Nebula. Oh boy, what a difficult object to see! I have now picked this out and identified it with absolute certainty using 80mm scope and 11mm focal length setting on my Baader 8-24mm zoom eyepiece. Bear in mind that I do not have any filters with me tonight and this object is supposed to be far better seen with UHC filter. My identification is 100% certain tonight as I have double and triple checked the stars I used for the star hop and can see the outline of one side of the nebula…. the skies are still incredible, and the nebula can only be described as VERY faint and this is worsened by similar looking star fields in the surrounding dense part of the Milky Way. The Milky Way is still spectacular to the naked eye. Why do astronomy magazines list this as an easy object? It isn’t even easily seen in pristine skies! Perhaps all is different when using a filter – wish I had bought one with me.

Veil Nebula, Western Veil Nebula, Lacework Nebula, Cygnus Loop, NGC 6960, C 34, LBN 191, Without a nebula filter I could not say with certainty that I could observe any part of the Veil Nebula although there were possible hints of its existence in both the Witches’ Broom and Eastern loop……

M 39, NGC 7092, Worth saying I picked up this lovely object whilst looking for the North American nebula. Been years since I last observed this. Why have I waited so long?

M 29, NGC 6913, Fun little grouping easily picked out.

Milky Way now even more impressive than before. Stars visible down to about 15 degrees above horizon in all directions before atmospheric extinction.

Ring Nebula, M 57, NGC 6720, ARO 9, PK 063+13.1, PN G063.1+13.9, VV 214, Can’t leave Cygnus without observing the Ring Nebula. Looking much like it does under our skies in Lichfield, bright grey ring.

By now my telescope was distinctly dewing up – I have not bought any dew heaters with me…more accurately I have bought dew bands but not bought a battery…a mistake! But then I did not expect an observing experience like this.

Pleiades, Seven Sisters, Subaru Cluster, M 45, Mel 22, With the binoculars, the splendour of the Pleiades is evident.

Hyades, C 41, Mel 25, Aldebaran’s dominance over the Hyades, of which it isn’t even a member…

Cr 69, Collinder 69 which looks like it is something significant to the naked eye but I found it disappointing once the binoculars were directed towards it.

Orion Nebula, M 42, NGC 1976, LBN 974. M42 appeared as a very bright dense compact white area in the binoculars.

Barnard’s Loop, Sh 2-276, Can’t see this!

M 78, NGC 2068, Also can’t see this with the binoculars

M 37, NGC 2099, Having difficulty seeing even these clusters in Auriga – and realised even my binoculars had fogged up! I took a break in the car to warm my equipment – and me – up. Aw! My feet hurt as they warmed up!

I bought with me two sky tours that I wanted to give a try tonight. The first one came from Astronomy Now November 2018 and was a tour around the environs of the Pleiades and Hyades. The second was from BBC Sky at Night magazine November 2018 and was a tour along Orion’s Sword.

NGC 1980, LBN 977, The tour of Orion’s Sword started with this small bright open cluster. Nothing very exciting. Easily identified just south of M42.

Orion Nebula, M 42, NGC 1976, LBN 974, Next, I looked at M42 itself.

M 43, NGC 1982, I followed my observation of M 42 with M 43. This is de Mairon’s Nebula and is adjacent to the fish mouth on M 42 with a dark lane between. Again, easy to see tonight.

NGC 1977, I would not say this nebula is bright, but it was visible by direct vision tonight around the three stars above M 43. It is a diffuse reflection nebula.

NGC 1975, This was again visible as brighter patch of nebulosity surrounding two pairs of stars roughly to the north of the line of stars surrounded by NGC 1977. Not much detail seen but visible.

NGC 1981, Another bright open cluster easily seen to north of previous entries for the sword above.

Pleiades, Seven Sisters, Subaru Cluster, M 45, Mel 22, I started the second tour at the Pleiades, which looked like diamonds on black velvet!

NGC 1514, ARO 21, PK 165-15.1, PN G165.5-15.2, VV 17, Not seen although largely due to difficulty getting my mount to point at the proper location!

Hyades, C 41, Mel 25, Seen again as before.

NGC 1647, Large, scattered and not very exciting in my opinion after looking at it tonight!

M 35, NGC 2168, One of Damian’s favourites. Easily seen tonight. Gorgeous!

NGC 2158, The football to M35’s footballer. Easily seen tonight. Sometimes at home can be difficult to pick out but not in this dark clear sky.

Crab Nebula, Taurus A, M 1, NGC 1952, LBN 833, Easily found by star hopping not as much detail as when previously seen in Lichfield. I think this was due to my telescope dewing up again. Therefore, I swapped to my binoculars for the next few observations.

I started with the main clusters in Auriga.

M 37, NGC 2099, Bright in binoculars.

Pinwheel Cluster, M 36, NGC 1960, Also bright in binoculars

Starfish Cluster, M 38, NGC 1912, Also easily seen in binoculars.

NGC 1893 Again easily picked out with the binoculars.

I moved back to Andromeda to see the showcase galaxy there.

Andromeda Galaxy, M 31, NGC 224, UGC 454, PGC 2557, MCG 7-2-16, CGCG 535-17,2MASS 00424433+4116074, I spent some time looking at M31 with the binoculars – crossed nearly half field of view from end to end in binoculars.

M 110, NGC 205, UGC 426, PGC 2429, MCG 7-2-14, CGCG 535-14, IRAS 00376+4124,2MASS 00402207+4141070, Faint but just seen in the binoculars 

I wondered whether I would be able to observe M 101 in these skies.

M 101, NGC 5457, UGC 8981, PGC 50063, MCG 9-23-28, CGCG 272-21, Arp 26, VV 344, Not seen although I searched several times. This was a surprise as I expected it to be easy to observe. However, I was now at the end of my observing session. The sky in the direction of M 101 was different from other directions in that it was milky possibly due to light pollution from a neighbouring town – is Bognor Regis in that direction? M 101 was also quite low down and I think the binoculars were fogging up by now as well.

Consequently, I opted to call an end to the session, finishing at 01:00.

In summary I had an incredible evening of observing tonight in wonderful clear dark skies. I have discovered that dark skies really make a difference to what I can observe – and that difference in far more than the difference made by a bigger scope. I can see why Nick gets so excited about his trips to Scotland now!


Observing Log 28/10/2018 Andrew & Kevin, Bignor Hill, Sussex Downs

Observing Log

Bignor Hill, Sussex Downs, near Bognor Regis, 50º 47′ N 000º 41′ W,

28/10/2018, 21:00-22:45.

Andrew Thornett and Kevin Stone.


Equipment: Sky Watcher Equinox Pro 80mm OTA on Manfrotto photo tripod and video head with counter-balance arm added and choice of series of counter-balance weights, 8x50mm finder scope, Baader Hyperion 8-24mm zoom eyepiece, Tele Vue 8-24mm eyepiece attached to Tele Vue 2x Barlow lens (giving equivalent of 4-12mm zoom -reason for separate zoom eyepiece on Barlow lens is for convenience during swapping eyepieces), Sky Safari 6 Pro software on iPad.


The family and me are on holiday in Bognor Regis visiting old friends from when Ean Ean and I lived in Chichester. Tonight, I took one such old friend out for his first ever observing session with a telescope.


Bright Moon just over half full, Milky Way visible overhead, dark sky observing location which would have been brilliant for DSOs had it not been for substantial light pollution from the moon……but perhaps at the end of the week if clear……..who knows?


Andromeda Galaxy,M 31,NGC 224,UGC 454,PGC 2557,MCG 7-2-16,CGCG 535-17,2MASS 00424433+4116074,Current Location  50º 47′ N 000º 41′ W,50.783090627813934,-0.6827541544616841,0,0,0,Big bold and beautiful. We also saw M32 in orbit. A chance to discuss galaxy formation and the latest idea that M32 is the centre of a much larger cannibalised galaxy by M31.

I could also just see M108 but that was a but too much for Kevin to be able to pick out of the sky – too faint for him.


Albireo,$b1 Cyg,6 Cyg,HR 7417,HD 183912,SAO 87301,BD +27 3410,HIP 95947,STFA 43,Current Location  50º 47′ N 000º 41′ W,50.783090627813934,-0.6827541544616841,0,0,0,Introduced Kevin to double star observing with this particular pairing and discussed colour and star temperature and its implication for star development and age.


Double Double Star in Lyra,$e1 Lyr,4 Lyr,HR 7051,HD 173582,SAO 67310,BD +39 3509,HIP 91919,STF 2382,Current Location  50º 47′ N 000º 41′ W,50.783090627813934,-0.6827541544616841,0,0,0,Who couldn’t discuss double stars without looking at the Double Double?


Mars,4,Current Location  50º 47′ N 000º 41′ W,50.783090627813934,-0.6827541544616841,0,0,0,Dark central continent evident even at the low magnifications available to us tonight. Sky and Telescope magazine’s online Mars Profiler tool demonstrated that this was Syrtis Major.


Ring Nebula,M 57,NGC 6720,ARO 9,PK 063+13.1,PN G063.1+13.9,VV 214,Current Location  50º 47′ N 000º 41′ W,50.783090627813934,-0.6827541544616841,0,0,0,First time Kevin had seen the objects tonight and this included the Ring Nebula, giving him another wow moment. Smoky ring in Equinox 80.


Pleiades, Seven Sisters, Subaru Cluster,M 45,Mel 22,Current Location  50º 47′ N 000º 41′ W,50.783090627813934,-0.6827541544616841,0,0,0,Bright in binoculars and telescope at low power. Kevin was able to compare the view through the telescope, naked eye and binoculars. We discussed star formation and open clusters and our own Sun.


Moon,301, 50.783090627813934,-0.6827541544616841,0,0,0,We finished with a stunner – the Moon! The craters with high walls, central peaks, and often overlying smaller craters led to discussions about the formation of the Moon, ageing its structures and day and night on the Moon.


Kevin’s conclusions: On the way home, Kevin told me that there were no negative parts of the session. Most exciting had been the double star colours as he had not expected much difference between them. This surprised me together with his next statement that viewing the Andomeda Galaxy was the last interesting aspect of the session. His reasoning behind that was that galaxies are fuzzy and in distinct. He had found my brief discussion of the astrophysics illuminating and helpful. I will include more double and coloured stars in my outreach sessions from now on!