RAG Meetings

RAG Christmas Social Event, Buffet and Quiz, 2018

Thanks to Ed and Heather, assisted ably by Doreen, and with marvellous music from a fabulous trio of RAG musicians, we had a fantastic Christmas Social Event this evening (14th December) at the forestry centre.

Ed laid on spectacular series of quizzes, including a Generation-game style memory game, general knowledge and general science team quizzes, touchy feely recognition game.

Raffles, food bought by members and music and plenty of fun!

A great evening, with a number of members of our families attending too.


RAG Monthly Meeting 30/11/2018

Thirty folks attended our November meeting of Rosliston Astronomy Group.

Ed gave us an update on the Peter Bokas Observatory build – the wall of the done is about 2/3 if it’s final height and the building is starting to appear!  In another few weeks we will have a completed shell which we will then need to outfit ourselves.

Ed also gave our main talk of the evening on Fractal Cosmology. We have never had a talk on this subject before and he linked the astronomical aspects of fractals to where they are seen elsewhere in nature.

After coffee, Alan and Angela Rodgers talked about weather predictions and equipment – useful for predicting clouds and rain in your garden/observatory location!


RAG Mid-month Meeting 16/11/18

With some new members present, Ed gave the group a fun and exciting update on the observatory build which is now actually happening and I led a group on a microscopy session where those taking part had to make their own slides of pond weed.

(The picture of the slide below is taken with hand held phone through Leitz Laborlux microscope – it is the end of a flat worm.)


Peter Bolas Lecture 2018 – Dr. Braddock astronaut space science 19/10/2018

The subject for last evening’s Peter Bolas Lecture was definitely a change for RAG. Those of you who were able to join us enjoyed a comprehensive and very thought provoking presentation by an active Scientist, based in Cambridge, who was extremely generous with sharing both his time and knowledge. Dr. Braddock had the skill of all successful Speakers – to be able to explain extremely complex concepts in a very simple and easily understood manner.

Dr Braddock is also very generous with his information, and we learnt a great deal about the science behind human existence in space.

Martin has agreed to return to us some time in the future with a different focus.



Mid-monthly RAG meeting

Although I had initially not intended at attend this meeting, I did go to drop off a telescope and stayed for a lovely social time with a great group of folks.

…..This led to one of my more hilarious experiences in Astronomy. Lee Bale helped me to change the European two-pin plug on a neon DADOS spectrometry light I picked up today for a bargain £10 at the International Astronomy Show. We could not understand why this seemed to have a poor connection. The light kept turning on and off. We cut the end off the cable and re-wired it, bent connectors to tighten them, trimmed plastic in the casing that we thought was splaying connectors and virtually resorted to throwing it in the bin in disgust……. Until Lee had the inspired idea of turning the main light off in the seminar room at at Rosliston. Magically, the neon light turned on steady and bright. We turned the main ceiling light back on and the neon light went out – and we realised there was a light-sensitive detector in the neon bulb housing which was turning it on and off. When we were working on it, each time we leaned forward to work out what was going on, our heads would shield the neon light from the ceiling light causing it to come on. Then we would lean back and it would go off again!


Mid-monthly RAG meeting 24/8/2018

Lee and Nick talked about 6 objects to observe in night sky and various telescope finder devices including Lee’s homemade version of a device similar to a Telrad – a beefy version with 50mm binocular lens in it, 1/10 wave mirror and in-built heater! He is suggesting a workshop to make our own versions of the same but improved over the commercial original- sign me up!

After Lee and NIck’s talk, I gave a brief demonstration of the DIY Spectroscope – thankfully it worked producing instant spectra for the lights in the room!


Nick Cox (left) and Lee Bale (right) give their talk at RAG:

Rhys tries out Lee’s homemade version of  Telrad finder:

Butterflies in Lichfield

On Friday evening after RAG, members of the astronomy group were invited to walk down to the Moth Group’s moth-observing area further in the forestry centre. It’s fantastic when scientific groups can share information and experiences. They showed us many beautiful moths but they did not have any examples of this intimate pair which Damian, Ean Ean and I saw on Saturday evening on a walk in Lichfield (the day after RAG) – these two are Six Spotted Burnet moths and were visible in broad daylight – I had not known that was possible until the moth folks told us that some moths were active in the day, and indeed Six-Spotted Burnets are one such species.


The following information comes from https://butterfly-conservation.org/1034-1540/six-spot-burnet.html

Six-Spotted Burnet Moths. Scientific name: Zygaena filipendulae

June – August. All over Britain, mainly coastal in Scotland. Medium-sized black moth with six red, occasionally yellow, spots. Frequents flowery grassland, woodland rides and sandhills.

The only British burnet moth with six red spots on each forewing, although care must be taken with identification, as in some cases the outermost spots can be fused. Rarely the red colour is replaced by yellow.

Flies with a usually slow buzzing flight during sunshine and is attracted to a range of flowers including thistles, knapweeds and scabious.

Size and Family

  • Family – Burnets and Foresters (Zygaenids)
  • Medium Sized

Conservation status

  • UK BAP: Not listed
  • Common

Particular Caterpillar Food Plants

Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil, but also occasionally on Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil.


  • Countries – England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland
  • The commonest and most widely distributed burnet moth in the UK. Well distributed in England, Wales and Ireland, becoming more coastal in Scotland and found on the Outer Hebrides. Also found on the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.


Frequents flowery grasslands, including downland, cliff-edges, woodland rides, roadside verges and sand-dunes

Successful detection of meteor shower by radio scatter at Damian’s house Streethay from Graves’ radar

After Peter Hill’s brilliant talk at the last RAG meeting, we were both motivated to pull out Andy’s radio meteor kit and give it a try. In the past Andy has had real problems getting it working at his house and we don’t know why. First step was to try it elsewhere – Damian volunteered his house for the task today.

A useful day of testing Andy’s portable meteor detecting equipment…

Picture contributions from Andy, Damian and Julie (+ annotations!)

Setting up at Damian’s house…

Dancing around the Maypole!

Getting there…

Done…. and ready to go!

Andy bought along a selection of aerials – in the end he chose the simplest and cheapest off the shelf one rather than the hand-made and carefully cut (length to frequency by Bill from Lichfield) versions below….

Our chairman with his radio equipment at Damian’s house (below):

Peter used his FunCube Dongle for his detections. To simplify this initial trial, Andy bought along for this test his Yaesu FT817 portable radio. We used Peter’s settings file and a cheap off the shelf aerial and cable and a car battery to power everything.

The aerial poles are an ex-military carbon fibre Clansman kit – 5.4m high! Andy initially bought these several years ago to use with his Radio Jove Jupiter radio-observing radio and aerials but they are also very useful for meteor detection!

Clansman aerial mast kit:

Immediate success with the military aerial at full height !

Screenshots from Spectrum Lab showing meteors in Damian’s garden:

Success was at the Graves’ frequency 143.049 MHz (Upper side band):

We then tried reducing the height of the aerial to roughly the same height as the aerial on the roof of my shed (2.4m) where my current aerial is located.

We found we were still able to detect aerials roughly every minute or so. Their peak magnitude did not seem to be as large as when the aerial was twice as high………so reduced height = less meteors and reduced magnitude of detection.

Next step was to take the set-up which we had just proved worked back to Andy’s house to see if it worked in his garden to test the theory that he lives in a radio black spot which explains his difficulties over so many years.

The following are screenshots from Spectrum Lab in Andy’s garden showing meteors:

Next steps for testing Andy’s meteor observing problems in his garden:

1. Test the same kit as above with different heights of aerial.

2. Erect aerial above and record meteors over 24 hours.

3. Try recording meteors with lower height aerial in Andy’s garden during meteor shower – no meteor shower major or minor today in standard lists.

4. Use aerial on top of shed with Yaesu radio to see whether meteors are detected.

5. If yes to 4 then try changing radio to FunCube Dongle to see if still works.

6. Try kit as above in Andy’s and Damian’s garden but this time using FunCube Dongle rather than Yaesu radio.

For future reference, we came up with this list of equipment we need to take with us on future radio meteor observing sessions, out of the home location (such as outreach sessions at the forestry centre):

  • Yaesu FT-817 radio – make sure power cable, audio cable in the box.
  • Laptop with spectrum lab and settings files.
  • Computer hood or box so can see screen in sun
  • Portable table and chairs or stools
  • Car battery
  • Inverter
  • Multiple plug adapter so can plus both laptop and radio into the inverter (at least two plugs)
  • 12V power supply for radio – alternatively 12V battery
  • Mallet to hammer in pegs for aerial
  • The C-Clamp on the aerial is larger than the Clansman aerial poles so need piece of wood to go in between C-Clamp and aerial.
  • Clansman aerial poles kit in green bag – make sure 6 poles, 2 x round discs for attaching the guide ropes, 3 x metal strips wrapped with guide ropes x2 per strip, 5 x pegs.
  • Extension cable for aerial (may not be needed depending on aerial used).
  • Aerial – today we used off the shelf Yagi for UHF – cheap and cheerful but effective! If this one is used then extension cable not required as it has long cable with it.

We then returned to Andy’s house to try the same set-up at his… plus a beer!

Damian and Andy

Review of RAG meeting 25/5/2018

Those members of the group not away for the bank holiday weekend turned up on a rainy evening to hear excellent talks by two of our own members: Peter Hill talked about radio meteor detection and the second talk was on meeting a UK astronomer by Paul Bertenshaw. This represents a new format to the evenings with separate before and after coffee speakers and went down well with everyone there. In the past a number of our members have used the opportunity to meet astronomers when they have given talks or hosted dinners in the UK and it was fantastic to hear Paul’s excitement as he talked about the experience and see His photos with the great man! I think I will book for the next one….

We have also made a decision to incorporate a members social time between 19:30 and 20:00 for the next three months, although everyone needs to ensure they arrive by 20:00 as the forestry centre entry barrier goes down at this time.