Observing Log entry 20/4/2018 @ 21:30-21/4/2018 @ 00:30

Damian gave me a call and I went around to his house last for probably the best galaxy observing session I have enter taken part in. This was largely facilitated by his amazing TEC 140mm telescope on Novohitch mount. The TEC is a highly corrected apochromatic refractor and something to die for, producing Takahashi quality images but with larger lens sizes (140mm vs 104mm in Damian’s Tak). The mount is perfectly engineered hand-crafted piece of kit and perfectly complements the TEC. It easily carries its weight. It is not motorised at the current size but does have push-to digital setting circles which repeatedly put the object of interest in the centre of the field of view. Damian’s iPad sits on a bracket on the side of the mount and shows exactly where the telescope is pointing using Sky Safar app. The combination means that, as an observer using this equipment, I felt as though I had that link to the sky as we moved the scope around – which is just not there with a GOTO mount such as my EQ6. Wonderful! Last night was a fitting tribute to the Novohitch’s maker, who sadly died very recently.

Then there were the galaxies. The sky was not perfectly clear and we were not in a dark sky site. Damian’s house is on the edge of Lichfield. However, in spite of this, we just couldn’t miss – any galaxy under magnitude 10 could not escape us! What I am not sure of is how much our increasing skills and experience as observers played a role in this – but what I am sure of is that I have never seen so many galaxies in such a short period of time!

We started in Virgo – 1, 2, ,3 ,4 ,5 galaxies – then to Leo, both triplets – 2 galaxies in first triplet, FOUR in second!! Several other galaxies in Leo, then to Ursa Major M106, M51 and even we could pick out M101 and see mottling within it (that one was VERY faint but we definitely saw it!!), then a whole list of galaxies across the Northern Sky including Whale Galaxy and a large range of others, then back to Virgo to pick up some more galaxies. I haven’t written a list down as last night I just wanted to enjoy myself but I will remember this night as one of the most amazing observing sessions of my life – even though the sky wasn’t perfect.

[Looking at Stellarium, I have identified some of the galaxies we saw:

In Virgo we observed Markarian’s chain including the eyes NGC 4435 and NGC 4438, M86, M84; also in Virgo M58 and M90, M85, and some close by NGC galaxies.

In the rear Leo triplet, M66 and M65 were observed but we did not see NGC 3638 (which is surprising as we saw fainter galaxies later on).

In the other Leo triplet, we could see M95 and M96 and two of NGC 3389, NGC 3384 and M105, which is strange because those latter three are all supposed to be less bright than magnitude 10, so I think that the extent to which a galaxy is condensed makes a big difference to our ability to observe it.

We also saw NGC 2903, NGC 3606 (we were on form by now!)

In Canes Venatici, we observed M94, then the Sunflower Galaxy M63, NGC 4449, M106, Whale Galaxy NGC 4631, and, in the general area, a number of others.

Finished with M13 and M92 globular clusters in Hercules.]


Solar Light Pillar

Forgot to post these…

From the morning of Wednesday 14th Feb.

Hand held Nikon D3 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

The first at 7.22am

70mm ISO 200 1/125sec f/5.6


and the second at 7.26am

70mm ISO 200 1/160sec f/6.3


A light pillar..?

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

An atmospheric optical phenomenon in the form of a vertical band of light which appears to extend above and/or below a light source. The effect is created by the reflection of light from numerous tiny ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere or clouds. The light can come from the Sun (usually when it is near or even below the horizon) in which case the phenomenon is called a sun pillar or solar pillar. It can also come from the Moon or from terrestrial sources such as streetlights.


See here for more details:





Views from today….

Following on from Andy’s earlier post from today (Darwin Walk and Biolam microscope)….

Lichfield Cathedral in the background…

3 hrs in…looking forward to lunch at Mable’s Cafe… Tweedledee and Tweedledumb taking a short break…(I’m not saying which, is which !)

Andy back at ours checking out my cheek cells ! You can see the photos he has just taken through the eye lens still on his phone…

My picture taken with an iPhone6 held up to the 10x eyepiece and 10x objective (plus 1.5x binoviewer).

Damian’s views in his Lomo Biolam microscope

Damian used his renovated Lomo Biolam microscope to view the small organisms we found in our recent trip to Branston water park and cheek cells we collected from his mouth and stained with H&E staining on 2/2/2018.

Andy and Damian

Cheek cells x20 objective

Cheek cells x40 objective

X90 objective. All these images taken afocally from one side of the binoviewer on the Lomo, using hand-held Samsung S7 phone through x10 ocular and objective mentioned. There is also 1.5x multiplication effect from the binoviewer.

Therefore the magnification on image below with x90 objective = 10 x 90 x 1.5 = 1350 x. Contrast and brightness tweaked in the image editor on the Samsung S7 phone – no other processing:

The following photos are all with x10 objective, otherwise as above. They are of organisms from Branston water park:

The following picture shows Damian taking pictures through the ocular using the a ocal imaging technique of holding his camera up to the ocular.

Daytime Moon over Lichfield

‎Damian and his wife Julie and I walked the route of the Erasmus Darwin walk today. The sun was shining and it was clear and we saw this beautiful day-time moon shown in photos below.

We also came across these paintings – query interpretations of famous Apollo moon landing photos in the local art galary.

The Erasmus Darwin walk is over 10 miles in length. It was one small step for Andy and one giant step for Dame – Andy’s step-counter watch recorded that he walked 27610 steps whereas Dame’s phone recorded 22200 steps – I have tiny legs!


Microscopy sample taken from edge of lake at Branston Water Park 20/2/2018 viewed 22/2/2018

Damian collected this sample 20/2/2018 when Andy & Damian went there. In the previous post, we described how we centrifuged this sample to get it ready for microscopy. In this post, we show microscopic images from the slides we produced.

  • Bresser Mikrocam 5.0 camera.
  • Zeiss IM microscope.

Andy & Rhys & Damian

Photo of large ciliated organism x20 objective bright field:

Photos x32 objective – mixture bright field and Phase Contrast images showing bacteria, diatoms, and something I don’t know!

Videos – Phase Contrast x32 objective:

Microscopy open water trawl net samples from Branston Water Park collected 20/2/2018 viewed 22/2/2018

The following images are from the sample that Damian collected 20/2/2018 on our walk to Branston Water Park viewed through the Zeiss IM microscope.

I had kept the sample fed with sugar dissolved in water over last 2 days and in sunlight and exposed to oxygen (opened top bottle).

All images with Bresser Mikrocam 5.0 5MP camera.

The black circles are bubbles.

Specimens killed with 10% formalin (20ml poured into 2 litre bottle) and then filtered with coffee filter to concentrate the specimen. Specimen mounted using water-based mountant.

I am particularly proud of the first photo. Darkfield achieved using Ph2 Phase annulus on Zeiss IM microscope with x10 objective and then I used GIMP to darken background a little (I used curves).


Darkfield image x10 objective Phase 2 annulus:

Same field as above, bright field, x10 objective:

Following images are all brightfield, x2.7 objective:


Flat worms & things: Microscopy sample of water from Branston Water Park, Lichfield Road (A38), Burton Upon Trent DE14 3HD

We went to Branston Water Park for walk and collected two samples:

(I) Trawl sample collected using homemade plankton net

(II) Sample from around water plants near edge + some plant parts to include surface-living protozoa.

Andy & Damian

Damian uses my homemade Plankton net to collect sample from Branston Water Park lake (I used a filter for an air conditioning system for the net – to give the required pore size which is measured in microns! Those protozoa are very small):

Creating centrifuged pellet from sample from around water plants next to edge lake:

Video of live microscopy of centrigue pellet from Branston Park lake water sample using x32 objective:

I am very proud of this video – definitely one worth watching!! Look out for the two layers of cilia on the one organism and the vortex-producing mouthparts in another clip, sucking in small organisms as food like a Dyson vacuum cleaner!

This first video is a compilation of highlights from the second video that follows afterwards:

Full video – shows a greater range of organisms and behaviour than the highlights video above –  if you are having difficulty accessing the embedded video below the URL for direct link to the video on YouTube is https://youtu.be/SKpROQCVp0A)


Photos from live microscopy of centrifuge pellet x32 objective:

Two flatworms:


I am having some difficulty identifying this. I can get it down to three types of genera but can’t be more specific. Note the two layers of cilia (hair-like projections):

The following looks like algae but is motile – the video shows two of them moving like liners on the sea:

I am not quite sure whether this organism is the same as the ciliated organism above or not. This one is free swimming whereas the other was (I think) attached at one end to some debris:

Is this following the same as above? This one sucked in debris and small organisms like a Dyson vacuum cleaner as I watched. It is on the video but was more impressive at the eyepiece, as the little doomed organisms could more easily be seem being sucked at high speed into the mouthparts (right side of organism in middle of cilia below):


LOMO Biolam Microscope restoration.

As you’ll have gathered, Andy got me an old LOMO Biolam microscope for Christmas. Included in the sale were an assortment of extras ‘upgrades’ (all in their own wooden boxes) to the original base unit (most I don’t think have ever been used), including a binocular head with a pair of x7 and x10 eyepieces.

Being 41 years old, it needed some TLC – the main issue being the infamous ‘Russian Tank Grease’ originally used!

You can tell it’s age as the serial number contains it’s year of manufacture – just like Takahashi do, so the ’77’ is 1977.

This instrument is still a ‘LOMO’ version, later, it was also made and marketed under the Zenith brand (we used their cameras at art college!)

Over time, this grease has solidified (think your bonfire toffee apples), so most things that were supposed to move were either very stiff or just plain stuck.

Not being very ‘DIY’, I’ve spent the last few weeks tentatively stripping it down and soaking various parts in white spirit and WD40.


Andy came round just after Christmas and we had ‘first light’ – this image is of a Lilly Ovary, iPhone 6 held up to the 10x eyepiece in the Binocular attachment (adds 1.5x mag) and a 20x objective (so 300x)

It was pretty tricky to achieve focus as the main (coarse focuser) was lumpy and the fine focus unit inoperable….

The microscope (thankfully) turned out to be pretty easy to take apart.

Below, the main/coarse focus unit (after spending a week in a bath of white spirit). Brushed clean with my old tooth brush and re-greased with a modern silicon alternative.


Image below – bottom of the ‘stage base’ – the bit where you place your slide (‘rotating stage’ also stuck!) This shows the silver-grey fine focuser mounted on the side.

Most of the microscope is cast metal and brass. The only plastic part was this strip of gearing for the condenser (the unit that focuses the light source onto the slide/specimen). The two screws though caught me out – the top being countersunk and the lower a pan-head!

The brass is ‘pre-polished’….

Below images (x2) – back of same ‘stage’ part….

…..and with gearing removed….

The biggest issue was the fine focuser. The actual unit is self contained, like the inside of a watch and ‘runs- dry’ – so no grease. Whilst it worked on it’s own, I could not get the fine focus to work once everything was reassembled…

The large metal pin (above) sits in that circular recess shown below in the middle of that brass piece. Inside the main cavity sits the fine focuser which mates to the fine focus gearing/knob just seen in the shadow right at the back.

It turned out that the brass part (with circular recess) is supposed to freely move up and down with a turn of the fine focuser…

….the movement dampened by a large spring that sits inside this circular recess on the other side (top). The spring is held in place under tension by the serial number ‘date’ cover shown earlier.


Once we had worked out how this works Andy………. hit it…… (carefully) with a hammer….(!!!) after judisious use of WD40. That freed the brass dovetail allowing cleaning, polishing and re-greasing…

41 years of grease (finally) removed !

Amazing what a bit of Brass can do!

Once all back together everything finally worked!


Andy headed off and I finished polishing up the chrome objective head and attaching the X/Y upgrade to the stage.

Later in the evening I popped over to Andy’s to try the microscope out. I still have the condenser upgrade to sort (Russian tank grease again) and then sort an LED / Halogen illuminator to replace the 15w bulb version (itself an upgrade over the supplied mirror).


Andy’s calibration slide – each line is 0.01mm apart.


The moon….?


ET’s hand !