Author Archives: Andrew Thornett

CCDSPEC Spectrometer/QHYCCD 6 camera – effect of turning on the fan

When I last used my CCDSPEC spectrometer with its QHYCCD6 camera, I was concerned about the number of apparent hot pixels appearing on the image. OK – it did not matter as the nature of the spectrum meant a few hot pixels were neither here nor there but still I wanted my new kit to work properly!

….Then I noticed that I had not been turning on the fan – so tonight I took pictures of the night sky (without telescope) using Nebulosity – with and without fan turned on the QHYCCD6 camera. The effect of cooling by this method is dramatic for these 30 second exposures as you can see below.

NB The spectrum of the night sky is just visible in the middle of each picture (30 second images).

All images from tonight’s session, including FITS files can be downloaded here:

QHY6 camera on CCDSPEC spectrometer – spectrum images of LRO night sky (30s exposure) without telescope – taken on 13/01/2019


With fan TURNED OFF:

With fan turned ON – only a couple of hot pixels remain:

Dark frame of fan turned ON:

Growing potatoes in Rosliston Martian Regolith Simulant

i turned 50 towards the end of last year and at the following RAG meeting our secretary Heather Lomas presented me with a tray of “Rosliston Martian Regolith Simulant” as a birthday present from the club. This particular Regolith simulant is very special as it is material from beneath the foundations of the new Peter Bolas Observatory on site that looks like it might have come from Mars! Of course no one knows exactly what Martian Regolith is like so for our purposes this material from beneath the forestry centre’s topsoil is good enough! I was quite excited to get such a historical present, remembering the foundation (pun intended) of our new observatory as well as giving me a chance to follow in the steps of the hero in the book “The Martian”. The Martian is a 2011 science fiction novel written by Andy Weir. It was his debut novel under his own name. The story follows an American astronaut, Mark Watney, as he becomes stranded alone on Mars in the year 2035, and must improvise in order to survive. The Martian, a film adaptation directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, was released in October 2015.

In the story, Mark survives by growing potatoes in soil made from Martian Regolith and mixed with human faeces – the latter I do not intend to do so I will need to find an alternative….


Present from RAG:

Flexible container (foldable as I would of course need if I was going to Mars..) for growing potatoes….

Seed potatoes (3 small potatoes left over from last Sunday lunch) – put into egg box to force them to sprout read for planting in Rosliston Martian Regolith next month!

For the faecal element I need something like this….

Peter Cole’s new Hale Rocket

Do you remember when Peter came to speak to RAG regarding military rockets as used in British military history.

It was an exciting talk and he showed us a rocket casing from a Hale Rocket of the time. That rocket casing was approx. half remaining, missing its tail.

Peter has now hit the jackpot and been able to obtain a nearly complete Hale Rocket. It is marked with the date 1871, and with Royal ordinance factory Woolwich.

He tells me it will have been used by the Navy as they used 24 lb weight whilst Army used 9lb rockets.


The Hale Rocket in virtually complete condition (there are couple holes) – it has been fired:

Peter proudly holding his new baby:

Particularly special about this rocket is its intact fins:

Sap from leaf 6/1/2019

Following are photos from sap coming out of cut end of house plant leaf.

Zeiss IM microscope.

No stain.


x32 objective, Optovar x1 intermediate lens:

x63 objective, Optovar x1 intermediate lens:

x63 objective, Optovar x2 intermediate lens, some sharpening with unsharp mask in GIMP2:

x63 objective, Optovar x2 intermediate lens, further contrast and brightness enhanced in GIMP2:

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.


Microscopy of fungus from plant pot in kitchen 9/12/2018 – Leitz Laborlux 11, Bresser Mikrocam SP5.1 camera, oil immersion objective

This fungus was growing on the earth around the base of the plant in a plant pot in our kitchen in Lichfield. Interconnecting hypae can be seen but the stand-out difference between these photos and those of fungus on bread and cheese I have posted in past is the lack of spores.

  • Leitz Laborlux 11 microscope.
  • Magnification 10-100x objectives. The 100x objective was oil immersion and I could not find the proper oil so used extra virgin olive oil as my immersion oil!


x10 objective:

SIngle hyphus:

Branching hyphae matrix:

x40 objective:

x100 oil immersion objective, using virgin olive oil as immersion oil (as I could not find the proper immersion oil bottle!):

Sructures at edge of algae from pot pond

The following two photos show structures on edge of an algal strand from my pot pond – not sure if these are part of algae or other organisms which are using it as a platform to base themselves….

  • Leitz Laborlux 11 Microsocope
  • x40 objective
  • Bright field
  • DCM-310 Camera for Microscope.
  • ScopePhoto 64 bit software
  • GIMP2 post-processing.