Lovely Lacerta.

Swadlincote 30/8/17 Celestron C6r.

Some light haze , the moon low along the south and it got slightly darker. This humidity acts as a heat sink , helping to produce good seeing . An evening with the delightful sliver of Lacerta, fields full of stars and some treasure.

Open clusters.
NGC 7209, a Christmas tree with a ring of stars.
NGC 7243 , trails of dusty small stars . There are many clouds of stars in these clusters.
NGC 7245, fainter and wide. NGC 7296 , an arrow head and a ring.
NGC 7394 , around 12 sloping stars.
IC 1434 , lovely and dusty inns field of stars.
IC 1442, dusty surrounded by darkness.
Fainter are Berkeley 96 and 98 and King 9.

Binaries, some gems here.
The triple h1735 (SAO 51698), a line at x50.
2 Lacertae (SAO 51904) gives a glimpse of the faint +11.6 companion.
Σ2902 (SAO 51957), pleasing wider view in a packed field.
Σ 2906 is beautifully close.
8 Lacertae is a wonderful multiple system , set in nebulosity.
12 Lacertae gives a wide white and blue, as does the challenging 13 Lacertae (SAO 52317).

A constellation well worth visiting for it’s dusty clusters and full views,

Microscopy of altered flour 31/8/2017

Hannah and I looked at some flour which had altered in appearance – it looked more clumpy. It had been around for some time. We wondered if it was still edible.

To compare, we looked initially at “good” (i.e. relatively new) white and wholemeal flour, and then compared images of the altered clumpy flour under the microscope.

Zeiss IM microscope, Bresser MikrOkular camera.

Andy and Hannah

White flour x4 objective 310817 – the following images show that good white flour is white/black/grey in colour with small amount of residual brown (residual wholemeal we assume not removed during cleaning process implemented to make flour white):

White flour x20 objective 310817:

Wholemeal flour x4 objective 310817 – the following photos show that wholemeal flour is very similar to white flour, except there is a lot more brown colour (wholemeal) in it – in both white and wholemeal flour circular carbohydrate areas are present in abundance and there is some clumpiness:

Wholemeal flour x20 objective 310817:

Altered white flour x20 objective. In the following photos, it becomes clear why the flour is altered in texture. Under a microscope the flour stands out from good white and wholemeal flour by having large amoutn green colouration in it (which immediately made us think that it was contaminated with fungal growth as this looked similar to our previous images of the green mold on bread). In addition, the clumps are significantly larger, as are the oval carbohydrate inclusions. The green fuzz appears to be located around the edge of the inclusions, suggesting fungal growth around the food source. We have been able to identify mycelia (fungal elements) confirming the diagnosis. We suspect that this is a form of penicillin – in any case no bacteria were seen, suggesting that the fungi are producing anti-bacterial substances which are killing off the bacteria. So, is the bread fit to eat? It could well be entirely fit to eat given its anti-bacterial properties but it does have fungal growth and we therefore recommended it was thrown away to be safe.

20x objective, showing mycelia:

Altered white flour x32 objective:

Altered white flour x40 objective:

Stand by your (Solar) scopes!

Big spot appearing (2674): “A big new sunspot is rotating into view over the sun’s eastern limb. AR2674 has two dark cores larger than Earth and sprawls more than 150,000 km from end to end. The active region is crackling with minor C-class solar flares. It is too soon to say if bigger explosions are in the offing. Amateur astronomers with safe solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor developments.”

Quark; Fun in the (Bank Holiday) Sun! Monday 28th August 2017

Damian’s review – see Andy’s previously posted!


Wow – a Bank Holiday and sunshine!

Julie was pleased – we’d only just got back from a short break in South Wales at mum’s caravan, so all the washing was sorted whilst the house solar panels were kicking out the kWs and now it was all out on the line drying awaiting my super ironing skills!

I invited ‘observing buddy’ Andy (yep, that’s him above – shy you see!) around too, he came with his own Quark Chromo plus his SkyWatcher Equinox 80 and new to him Manfrotto tripod with video head. I like this a lot – far better than his Altair Astro Sabre mount.

Ice creams, food and drink, sun and warmth, good company… this solar malarkey is rather good fun!

So, third time out for the Quark and new sketching tools….

This time the Pentel 0.7mm Graphgear 1000 mechanical pencil was equipped with the new ‘Pilot Color Eno Neox’ red leads that had come all the way from Japan (via Amazon!) I gave Andy my second Graphgear pencil, but with the *orange Neox leads so he could try sketching (in reverse) as well. I like the mechanical pencil – it’s got a nice grip, retains it’s balance and you don’t need to stop to keep sharpening the point! I like the way this device has an extended metal tube to hold the lead and the way it retracts for safe storage.

*Coloured mechanical pencil leads:

When I started this experiment I chose Pentel red leads first as reviews stated they were less susceptible to snapping than the Staedtler ‘Mars Micro range’. They were also reasonably priced, so ‘worth a chance’ to see if they would ‘work’ on black paper (that the scanner could pick it up and I could see enough to work with when actually outside). The Pentel’s were… OK, but I found them rather hard and ‘scratchy’. This did give a nice filamentary effect to prominence sketches, but were quite hard work to get some coverage down onto the paper and took a bit too much processing in Photoshop afterwards to get the look I was after.

The internet search continued… to the Pilot Color Eno Neox – there is a cheaper ‘non Neox’ version I understand. These get good reviews in artistic circles. Soft but not too brittle, plenty of pigment, easy to rub out…   more expensive!

A purchase on Amazon and a wait for delivery…. I disappointingly found that the orange lead colour appeared more white on the cheaper black (dark grey) paper I was already using with the Pentel leads. In office scanner tests there was still enough of a colour to select in Photoshop for tuning later. Next purchase was a better black card stock. Thicker card, more ‘tooth’ to pick up the pigment in the leads and darker to aid colour contrast.

‘Canson’ black card stock (Amazon yet again). It has a decent weight (240g/m2), is much ‘blacker’ than the cheaper paper I had been using (helps the scan afterwards as well as giving more contrast when sketching), plus takes rubbing out without leaving marks on the surface. I still feel that perhaps the grain is too much, so will continue my search for an even smoother stock.

This though was an improvement, but decided that the red leads would be even better. So another purchase and wait!

Photo: Samsung Galaxy S7 through 32mm TV Plossl

Same, with iPhone 6

Well, it still doesn’t appear a rich red (like you see in Ha observing) when sketching onto black, but it’s easy to see when actually sketching out under the sun. It’s also much easier to scan and then tease into what I want the final image to be, without having to push/force things in Photoshop.

The orange leads could even be used for night time sketching as it would be easy to desaturate any remaining colour back to white.

The leads are easy to work – plenty of colour/coverage is easy to put down with minimum effort. I’ve not had one snap as yet either. They are easy to rub out without damaging the paper, soft so can be manipulated/smudged for subtle effects – would be good for galaxies/nebula…. but being soft, will run down quickly…. remind me of my old (and favourite) Caran d’Ache pencils from art college.

The other purchase that arrived for this observing session was the photo studio flash umbrella from eBay for £6 that had been mentioned previously on a SGL forum solar post. I had intended to fix with a goose neck device, but found that a bulldog clip did the job just as well. This is much lighter than the felt like fabric I’ve used at night (which gets damp…) It does let a small amount of light through, but being silver backed, doesn’t get overly hot. I found that using my sun hat pushes out the loose fabric of the umbrella – giving me room to work/sketch – a ‘result’!

Now you see me…

Now you don’t!

Another good three hours then under the sun. Some nice proms and a sunspot to entertain us. The Quarks performed superbly yet again. Under the right conditions I think both the new 25mm TV Plossl and the second hand 20mm Pentax XW will be of use from what I saw on Monday.

Sketches from the day – I think I’m homing in finally on my own style. Not quite there yet (think it’s the background that’s putting me off). My own representation then of what I saw – never going to be exact like a photograph, but a record of the event… with some fiery oomph thrown in!

Sketches not reversed.

Above prom seen at around 7pm on the GONG image below.

Below sketch of prom seen at roughly 10pm on the GONG image below.

**Also see Roger’s images posted from the day…



Clear skies,


A little observing in France

We’ve had our last few summer holidays camping in France under wonderfully dark skies. As my interest in the night sky has grown I’ve wanted to bring my scope along- but as this would have involved deciding which of the children to leave behind, Mrs Leonard has said no! Inspired by what I’ve seen some of the club members achieve with much smaller scopes I found myself on eBay and eventually came away with a Meade ETX105. It has a nice sturdy mount with it, but with space really at a premium I was forced to use an alternative mount on this trip, otherwise known as a collapsible camping cupboard! It worked reasonably well, but rather lacks the heft and stability of the proper tripod…

Week 1 was something of a loss, with my not having accounted for the tall trees that covered the whole area, but one morning the moon did drift across the clearing our tent was pitched in and I ended up with a little audience of observers who came across from the playground to take a look. Also managed to get a couple of pictures…

Week 2 was rather better- the campsite was next to a busy road and rather light polluted, but a short drive to the beach (with Sam for company) solved that. The skies were pretty dark from 10pm onwards and once the scope was aligned we spent a long time looking at Saturn. It was noticeably higher in the sky than at home and the view was really clear and crisp in the 7mm eyepiece. It was only Sam’s second observing session so I spent the rest of the session teaching him the controller and looking at M13 Hercules Cluster, M31 Andromeda and M57 Ring Nebula. Hercules and Andromeda were bright and clear but the 4 inch struggled a bit with M57. The real highlight, though, was the great views without the scope of the Milky Way- clear and bright from out over the Atlantic 2/3 of the way across the sky to where the onshore light pollution washed it out a little. I’ve taken quite a few photos on various settings with the camera on a simple tripod and it’ll be a cloudy evenings project to try to turn them into something decent, but in the meantime a rather noisy jpeg is attached!

Canon SL1 / ISO 800 / f5.6 / 18mm / 60 secs exposure.
Rudimentary telescope mount…
Meade ETX105-EC / Canon SL1 ISO200 1/60 Sec


DSO spotting 28-29/08/2017

Finally!- a reasonable night for DSO spotting. The Moon had set, but the sky wasn’t as transparent as it might have been. Still, beggars can’t be choosers!

I started with NGC 7331 and the “Deer Lick” galaxy group in Pegasus. I imaged this some time ago, but I wanted to see if I could improve on it.

Then Planetary nebula hunting in Cygnus and Cepheus.

First NGC 7048, a reasonable size PN in Cygnus.

Then, a couple of small ones. NGC 7026 (the “Cheeseburger”) also in Cygnus.

Then NGC 7354, a small one in Cepheus.

Finally, NGC 7538, a really nice nebula that contains largest known protostar, also in Cepheus.

And so, to bed – – – .


Picture saved with settings embedded.


Nebula fest ! 28/8/17.

Swadlincote 28/8/17 Celestron C6r.

A light haze didn’t look promising , but gave surprising results. Seeing was absolutely spot on .
M17 ,”Swan nebula”, lovely sight with the Swan sitting on its pond. Even visible without the Oiii filter.
NGC 188 in Cepheus, “the ancient one” , some sight of our oldest open cluster, way above the galactic plane. Xi Cephei (Kurhah), white with a blue companion.
IC4756 (“Graff’s cluster”) in Serpens , a huge view at x30.
M2 , way below M15, I put x150 on this spectacular globular. It resolves with sparkly foreground stars.
NGC 6543 (“Cat’s eye nebula”), so very bright, took up to x200 to get a lighter core. Σ1878 in Draco, a lovely delicate binary with a whisper of a companion.
Epsilon Arietis challenging at 1.4″, but split cleanly , showing how good the seeing was.
M76 , which looked better without filters , as did the “bow tie ” of NGC 40.
NGC 7009, the “Saturn nebula” looked lovely with the filter, although shaped , little sign of the arms.
NGC 6946 (“fireworks galaxy”) , once again , no show , the milkiness of humidity taking away contrast of these fainter treasures.

A great night for some meandering and lingering around the sky, clear skies ! Nick.