Observing report Bognor Regis seafront 31/5/2017 @ 23:00 – 23:30, Andrew and Rhys, and photos Jupiter and Moon with Samsung S7 smartphone

Rhys and I spent a short while observing with an old pair of non-omage stabilised 60mm binoculars and Canon IS 10×30 binoculars on the seafront at Bognor Regis.

I could just make out M101 with the IS binoculars, less obvious in the non image stabilised pair. The Canon pair has excellent contrast which helped with this observation.

M51 – I THINK I could see this with 60mm binoculars but was not certain.

M13 – beautiful compact ball stars in both pairs binos.

M57 Ring Nebula – unable to observe this – probably too small to distinguish from a star.

M81/82 – failed observation- my eyes kept playing tricks and appeared to show these galaxies but then another location would also do the sane. Too faint.

Stinger of Scorpius visible above the water.

We were shocked how quickly the rising mist from the sea obscured the sky. Makes me wonder how much observing Sir Patrick Moore could really do from his garden in Selsey.

Andy and Rhys Thornett


Photos below are of Rhys observing in Bognor Regis, the sky over the beach, and photos of the conjunction of Jupiter and the Moon tonight and close up shots of the Moon:


Visit to South Downs Planetarium, Chichester 31/5/2017

The family (Hannah, Rhys and Ean Ean) and I visited South Downs Planetarium today. Actually, we just popped by on the off chance. This planetarium was supported by Sir Patrick Moore when he was alive, and it’s main building is named after him.

Amazingly, we turned up just in time to see a one hour long show hosted by none other than Dr John Mason, formerly on the BBC Sky at Night TV programme with Sir Patrick. This was the first full done show on the Hubble Space Telescope they have done. It was an excellent mixture of live lecture and interlaced video, reminiscent of our monthly talks at RAG prepared by Damian.

It has been a long time since I last met John and I include a photo of us both together below. Rhys and I stayed for John’s Hubble presentation. Although Ean Ean and Hannah opted to go into Chichester town centre instead, they did stay and watch a free video in an adjoining room on life on the ISS and greatly enjoyed that – although Hannah said it left her dizzy!

South Downs Planetarium is worth a visit. We discovered it is not generally open outside if presentations though so you should not just stop by as we did – ring ahead if you are in the area and book a show – you won’t regret it!



Rhys (left) and Andrew (right) pose with Sir Patrick Moore (centre):

Andrew and Dr John Mason (below):

Hannah admires the posters at the planetarium (below):

Andrew stands alongside the British astronaut, Tim Peake:

The natural world – a walk along the beach at Bognor Regis

We are visiting Bognor Regis for  few days to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary at the place where we got married. The following photos show what I found on a walk this morning from our holiday rental cottage to and along the beach. I was able to see that the beach is divided into several distinct habitats, from the hot dry barren uplands of the upper beach lorded over by the birds, to the fertile downlands around the sand pools, with a much wider variety of life evident.



Under the pier – the realm of the worms.

Although near the sea and damp, this area surprisingly turned out to be quite barren with only worm casts evident. There was minimal vegetation present which was near the pilons of the pier where they met the sand. The picture below shows the variety of forms of the worm casts.


The realm of the birds – the upper open beach:



The realm of the crustaceans – the sand pools in the fertile lower beach:

The realm of the crustaceans (rock pools – although here they are sand pools near the shoreline which are exposed for only short periods of time to the sun: I have always been a great fan of shoreline seawater pools – the excitement if turning overxacrock to find out what lives under it has never left me. Interestingly, today, I found that although the beech at Bognor Regis dies not have traditional rock pools, shadow sand pools with similar characteristics form in the sand near the sea/shore boundary at low tide around small rocks  and these can survive the time between the tide coming back up again. Looking in these today and turning over a few rock’s I found two crabs, one if which had very soft shell, and numerous shrimp-like creatures, a centipede/millipede, molluscs, and a variety if seaweed forms, demonstrating the diversity of life in this area:



Evidence of the realm of the deep sea:

There was also evidence of another habitat in deep water. Lobster pots indicated deep sea creatures caught for food and calcium carbonate worm tubes on those casts the smaller creatures that also lived there.

The natural world – a new area on the blog

I love astronomy. I also bought a microscope at Christmas and this re-introduced me to my love of microscopy. Together, they have have both reminded me of my childhood passion for the natural world and I realise it hasn’t gone away. My childhood hero’s were people like David Bellamy and David Attenborough and Patrick Moore. These individuals presented TV shows that excited my interested primarily in the science of the world around us. There is a now new area on this blog for members like myself to add all that excites them about the natural world. When entering such blog entries, please categorise as “natural world”. These items do not have to directly relate to astronomy or microscopy or optics but should be educational and demo state your enthusiasm and excitement!


Identifying two organisms in pond water sample 17/5/2017

The following are two photographs reproduced from my post 17/5/2017, which I would like to identify myself.

Looking at Patterson 1992, these might be different views of the same colony of single called organisms, the top being complete and the bottom a part of a colony. I would call this a Volvoid type organism, with potential identifications shown on scanned pages from that book below:

Difficulty identifying algae in pond water samples

I thought I would use the holiday period as a time to identify the algal organisms in the stream water samples in my previous post (from the stream next to the heritage canal in Lichfield).

…….and have discovered how difficult this is!

Quite simply – the features discussed in the books are not easy to identify in the photos I took. Therefore, I need to look down the microscope at samples taken to specifically look for features like cilia and organelles.


The following pictures show photos of organisms I was hoping to identify together with exemplar pages from identification manuals.


Below is a picture of one particular organism I have been trying to identify (green ball upper left of image) and below that several possibilities I think it might be:

The same organism is shown blown up further below in bright field and dark field:


Looking at the blown up photo, it looks like this organism is a multicellular green organism with around 60 or so cells. Organelles are clearly present.

i can not see cilia or flagella but that does not mean that they are not present.

Based on this, it seems to me that Eurodina or Volvox are possibilities for the identification of this organism, although note that below that Bruce feels it is more likely to be Volvox. I have pasted links to Volvox videos on YouTube at bottom of this post – those videos are not mine.

in any case, it looks like this organism is part of the following class – and may be in practice identifying the class of organisms might be the best I can hope to achieve for a while, until I get more experience.



 On 29 May 2017, at 10:07, Andrew Thornett wrote to Bruce Taylor:

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for you help in the past with my explorations in microscopy.
I have posted my researches at http://roslistonastronomy.uk/category/microscopy
I have been trying to identify some of the organisms I am looking at – I think I might be missing a basic part of the approach. Would you be able to guide me on how to approach identification.
See for example the issues I am having:
From: Bruce Taylor (www.itcamefromthepond.com):
Date: 29/05/2017 13:05
To: Andrew Thornett
Subject: Identifying pond organisms

Hi Andrew,

The difficulties you’re having with identification are quite normal. It will certainly become easier as you acquire experience, but there will always find some things in your microscope that resist explanation! Increasing magnification and image resolution will help. Some of your images are in darkfield, or partial darkfield, which is not very good for identification (except for a few very specialized applications, like spotting spirochetes in human blood!). For instance, I wouldn’t even attempt to identify the filaments in the second image (experience suggests unhealthy remnants of a filamentous green alga, but without a glimpse of the chloroplasts even that is in doubt).

In the brightfield images, I see a few empty diatom frustules in the brightfield images. The ones that look like bent canoes are cymbelloid diatoms (possessing asymmetrical frustules, like those of Cymbella). there are lots of sites that offer help with diatom identification (this one, for instance: http://westerndiatoms.colorado.edu/ ).  I don’t pay much attention to them, as a group, but the procedures for identifying organisms are the same for all groups. You need to learn the basic anatomical features that set one taxon apart from the other. Does your diatom have a “raphe” (central line down the middle)? What kind of “striae” (perpendicular or oblique striations) does it have? And so on.

As for the green ball, it appears to be a small colonial volvocid in a gelatinous envelope, such as Pandorina morum. However, we don’t see a lot of detail, so I wouldn’t necessarily try to give it a genus, let alone species. A general, high-level identification should be satisfactory. I’d simply call it a “volvocid alga, possibly Pandorina.”

I hope this helps, a bit!


Hi Bruce,
Another thing that I find somewhat confusing is that the books should two views of each organism looking down (valvular view) and what looks like looking across the structure. One of the organisms in my photos on link below shows square structure and I am guessing this is crossways view as it does not appear to be the same as anything in books you kindly sent me. But I can’t tell which one!
Also my reading suggests these organisms have different looks when as spores or mature organisms but I don’t know what difference in view between two is…..
From: Thornett Andrew
Sent: Monday, May 29, 2017 03:16
To: Bruce Taylor
Subject: Re: Identifying pond organismsIt does indeed – thank you very much.
“empty diatom frustules” – that explains why I could not work those out – I thought it was weird that they were only simple square objects without anything obvious inside them! Why would they be empty? Are they the remnants of dead organisms or is this part of the division process?
From: Bruce Taylor
Sent: 29 May 2017 16:12
To: Thornett Andrew
Subject: Re: Identifying pond organismsYes, these are just the shells of dead organisms. Diatom shells are made of silica (like glass), and are very durable. When the organism dies, the living part of the diatom is consumed by bacteria or other protists, and the shell sinks down into the muck at the bottom of the water. They can pile up down there and form large deposits of “diatomaceous earth,” which can endure for millions of years.If most of the diatoms are dead, it is usually a sign that your sample is old, or that it was taken at a time of year when algae are mostly dormant.best,

Videos of Volvox from YouTube (not my own) to compare with pictures above – do you think my picture is of Volvox?




Growth of bean plants – a model for alien life on exoplanets?

OK – this is a bit of a stretch. An experiment we did at home to follow the initial growth of bean plants by photography on our kitchen window at home. Is this a model for alien life? The growth and movement of plants is definitely alien as far as we mammals are concerned – and it is amazing just how fast they grow and the change in position of leaves to point to Sun and between day and night is a lot more than we expected in advance.

The following photo sequence is only over 10 days (it is a reverse sequence with earliest images at the bottom and latest at the top) – this has taught the children and me a lot about plant growth and I guess the main reason I am presenting it here is to encourage my astronomy friends to not miss any opportunity to educate our children and the public about the natural world – all science uses similar principals and all learning improves our ability to understand the world around us and our place within it.


Observatory appeal: Measham Tesco Bags of Help.

Measham Tesco kindly put Rosliston Astronomy Group’s observatory forward as one of their worthy causes. Members of the community shopping at the store chose between three causes – each time they shopped they received a plastic coin to put in the slot next to cause of their choice. Depending on how many coins you get, the store will give a donation of variable size.

So, will we come 1st, 2nd or 3rd……

Photo below from Ed Mann on 27/5/2017 @ 13:25:

Ed emailed, First place or second place I think. It’s a close call. We [observatory fund] are the box on the right.”

Observing after RAG meeting 26/5/2017 @ 22:45 – 27/5/2017 @ 03:15.

Rosliston Forestry Centre – observing session after month RAG meeting.

Various telescopes and binoculars.

Clear sky had been predicted all week on BBC Weather website. Clear skies are unusual for our meetings!

I had the pleasure of delivering a marvellous talk Damian had prepared on observatories – following the theme of Ed Mann’s observatory build which he gave a talk about as part of the evening – so we were all hyped up as we went outside to see the night sky. In fact, it started with a call to get outside quick and see the ISS as it passed overhead (International Space Station). This turned out to be the first of no less than FOUR passes of the ISS this night. Wow!

At the start of the night the whole group went outside to observe together. We observed the Great Red Spot on Jupiter – pale with red line around it – and there were many oohs and abs, especially from some folks who had never looked through a telescope before. Later we saw Saturn low down with a variation red / blue across planetary disc due to atmospheric dispersion. We saw two passes of the ISS as large group and this resulted in more excitement in those new to the hobby. I was also excited myself to (with Damian’s help) to be able to follow the ISS with the telescope allowing me to observe its solar panels and shape for the first time.

Later on Damian, Rob and I continued to observe into the early hours.

A brilliant night – and one of those rare predictable clear evenings so we were able to come prepared with our telescopes.


Early session with whole group:

The group enjoyed the view of the ISS and Jupiter:

Ed Mann demonstrates his All Sky Camera:


The group enjoys the evening show – apart from ISS there was Jupiter, Saturn, Ring Nebula, Open and Globular Clusters:

Later observing session – Rob, Damian, Andrew:

After the rest of the group left, Damian, Rob and I continued observing. Observing highlights from our later session included:

We spent some considerable time in Hercules. We observed the inverted 5 asterism and Napolean’s Hat (Pico 1).

We spent a long time finding the faint NGC 6229 Globular cluster in Hercules in both mine and Rob’s scopes (magnitude 9+). We had never seen this before. Quite faint compared to the very bright M13 and M92 globular clusters. Rob’s 8 inch Skywatcher Dobsonian performed very well compared to the 10 inch Dobsonian – the latter was brighter but at expense much more expensive and larger instrument.

We got brilliant views of comet C/2015 V2 Johnson near the star Izar. This is the first time I have seen this comet and it turned out to be quite easy to find. This was because it was quite bright and also conveniently close to Izar tonight. Again the 10 inch gave a brighter more contrast view. Magnifying the comet using the 9mm Explore Scientific eyepiece led to tail being seen. Compared to globular clusters where magnification resulted in more detail as stars became resolved, this was not the case with the comet, other than bringing out the more condenser central nucleus surrounded by the corona.

Rob’s 8 inch split Albireo well with lovely sapphire blue and yellow stars.

The Ring Nebula was great in both scopes but particularly impressive with 6mm and 9mm WE in Orion ten inch.

Rob found the Dumbell Nebula with 25mm eyepiece in 8 inch – definite non curvulsr shape easily seen. The 8 inch is amazing value for money and a great lifetime scope – highly recommended – it gave fantastic views of this and many other objects tonight and on a £/excitement and view basis it could not be beat. The Dumbell Nebulla was very bright and big with 6mm Ethos on 10 inch – a better view as you would expect from a bigger more expensive scope but comparing the views you do need to ask is it worth going from £300 (Skywatcher 8 inch) to £900 (Orion 10″ Dobsonian) for the difference in views?

Two policemen visited the site and took time to look at the Ring Nebula, Saturn, and the comet with us.

The Coathanger Asterisk only just fitted in the field of view of the 42mm eyepiece on the 10 inch – easier to observe in binoculars.

Several meteors seen during the evening.

Rob found the Rocking Horse Cluster and the Cooling Tower in his scope.

I am confident that I found the Bridal Veil (eastern part) of the Veil Nebula (this is the type of object where the Orion with Explore Scientific eyepieces came into its own). I started by star hopping to 52 Cygni and confirming the star relative to the location on open cluster NGC 6940, which looks like a rugby ball occupying the whole field of view. I could then see the VERY faint curve of the nebula to the eastern side of this star. I could not see the Witches Broom. Damian denied being able to see it – but I don’t trust that observation!

Damian found the Owl Cluster in Rob’s Skywatcher and that pretty little open cluster generated although “Wow!” of the evening – in fact Rob got himself really quite excited with everything he was seeing. I wasn’t doing too badly myself!…..and Damian had meant to leave earlier but never quite got around to getting to his car.

I found the globular cluster M56 in the 42mm in the Orion near Albireo. Going straight to 9mm revealed a mini starfish shape, a bit off centre – not quite round. Grew in size when using averted vision.

I showed Rob M81 and M82 in the Orion. I gave myself a pat on the back for dropping straight on it, although in truth it was probably more luck than judgement.

The final ISS pass occurred as we were packing up just after 03:00.

It has been fantastic to get back outside observing after so long – and to go home again with birds singing and the dawn breaking……just like old times!


Rob with his Skywatcher 8 inch Dobsonian telescope (below):

The two policeman who got quite excited seeing Saturn and a comet through a telescope for the first time (below):
The Summer Triangle where a lot of our effort tonight was based (screenshot from Sky Safari Pro 5):