ATM & other do it yourself projects

Leisure Battery Powerbank

Hi Folks

Here’s my latest creation. I wanted a heavy duty power tank but I’ve always struggle to find a suitable box. Most plastic boxes have the handle on the lid, so all of the weight of the box is held on what are usually quite flimsy plastic catches. Anyway, after some searching I found this box on eBay for £19.99. The handle is attached to the main body and is made of substantial aluminium tube:-

I’ve fitted an inverter, a double mains socket with 2 x 5V 2.4A USB outlets, and 3 x 12V outlets. I picked up a second hand battery for £20.

The box is pretty sturdy and I’m going to put a plywood board on the lid. It is then strong enough to stand/ sit on


Solargraph – ready!

Yes, a day or so early… but I’m off straight after work tomorrow night to see my mum at her caravan in South Wales – so it was today or never!

This is second time lucky for this location (between Leominster and my run to my B&B). Two years ago (after waiting for the full six months) I returned to collect to find the hole had been, I think, pecked through!

The best way to get a fine pin hole you see is to drill a bigger hole first into the tin. Then cover with strong (turkey) foil and then pierce that with a needle to get a nice fine hole. Only for the birds to be attracted by the shiny foil and peck it out!!!

Well not this time birds! Used a No1 drill to go straight through the can – see how you get on with that…

I suppose we’ll find out in six months then!

It’ll be interesting to see if the wire fence (which the camera is behind so the sheep don’t rub against it), will come out in focus or be a surreal blur with the Church as the main focus…

Julie has instructions to start the one at home, my sister has hers, J’s dad has his and Andy has two as well…

And you can have one as well come the meeting at the end of the month. Yes, we’ll be a few days past the longest day, but still loads of time to get a great image – I’ve used up the paper and got six new ones ready to go. £5 a pop – first come first served, monies going towards the observatory fund.


Ha Solar Observing – Quark First Light 17/6/17

Have been umming and ahing for months (years!) over one of these Hydrogen Alpha ‘eyepieces’… Andy has been saying I should get one as well for ages…. but I was put off by the increasing price (they’ve gone from £650 at launch to £1099 now) and the reports of quality control issues and the response from the manufacturers to sort the problems… Whilst I’m sure there are issues, it doesn’t take many to make a lot of noise on the web…

So, when one came up on AB&S just over a week ago, including a 32mm Televue Plossl eyepiece I decided to take the plunge (despite the decent price giving me slight worries that something may be amiss).

I’d made contact with the seller in the week, exchanged contact details and all appeared OK – he sounded like a decent chap. He duly delivered it by hand on the Friday evening and we spent an hour having an ‘astro’ chat over a cuppa!

It seems that he just could “not get on with the Quark” (perhaps he thought it wasn’t a ‘good’ one, hence the inclusion of the eyepiece..?) In hindsight, I wonder if the actual issue was his scope – a Celestron 102ST, or more likely the focuser not being ‘true’. It wouldn’t take much droop for the incoming light to loose its parallelism and make the Quark go off-band…?

Anyway, surprise, surprise the wife was away over the weekend AND Saturday was clear – perhaps ‘new equipment syndrome’ doesn’t affect solar gear!?

Looking at the various ‘Solar Imaging/Observing’ threads on the forums you get better views first or last thing in the day… by the time though I’d done my chores, finished the Club’s Solargraphs and set the scope up, it was lunchtime (I’d even got up early just so I could make a new sun-shield for the scope – where does the time go?!)

With some trepidation I placed the Quark in the 2″ Televue Everbright diagonal (fitted with a 2″ extension tube sitting inside the focuser end and a Baader 2″ UV/IR cut filter) and waited for the Quark to come up to temperature before taking a peak…

No full disk solar views here (as expected – done the homework you see)!

With the Quark’s inbuilt Barlow, the 816mm f/8 Takahashi TSA-102s is effectively running at F/32 and 3264mm focal length (Daystar recommend between f/27-32 for the best performance). The Televue 32mm Plossl included in the sale giving a hefty 102x mag.

Thankfully the Quark appears to be a good one with a fairly tight bandpass (Angstrom). No apparent ‘sweet spot’ – just an evenly illuminated and focused view across the field, no ‘banding’ either… loads of surface detail – boiling in and out of focus.

The Quark came initially from The Widescreen Centre who had stuck a note to the box: “Dimmer image, good prominence views and EXCELLENT surface details. Would be good for imaging with CCD.”

Once that was out of the way I took a picture with the iPhone6 held up to the eyepiece (which I’ve always found REALLY difficult to do), to send to Andy (who was coming over for an afternoon of solar observing/imaging with his Equinox 80 and Quark).

Then we **enjoyed a good few hours observing, trying out some different eyepieces (Andy’s 17mm Vixen is too much for my set-up at 192x), experimenting with our DMK cameras and I got the sketch pad out as well.

**Plus having to help Andy sort his usual issues – looking for the correct size Allen key to tighten his scope to it’s mounting(!), finding the Baader solar film so he could make a filter for his ‘standard finder’, trying to rub the scratch off the back door he kindly added, etc, etc !     😉

Can you spot his helper…?

No, the guinea pig isn’t real !


Very pleased with the purchase and I think that really does complete the astro purchases…well the ‘big’ ones anyway…

Already purchased this morning a S/H 40mm Televue Plossl for a less magnified view when conditions don’t allow more (81x) and now looking for a 25mm TV Plossl (130x) to complete the solar set-up!

Even better, it gives the old Tak refractor a new purpose after it had become somewhat redundant after importing the TEC140 ED APO. It becomes the ‘solar scope’ with the Quark for Ha and white light views with the Baader Cool Ceramic Herschel Wedge.


Images taken over the space of 3-4 minutes with iPhone6


Sketches: white pencil on black art card. All with 32mm Plossl @ 102x

Prominence – only a single frame from a (second hand) old ‘Firewire’ DMK41 (it’s first light as well), captured at 2.41pm – the same one as that drawn first at 2pm above. Controlled via OACapture on my 2016/17 MacBook Pro.

‘Controlled’ in the loosest of terms(!)’, no idea what I was really doing with webcam imaging and trying to MANUALLY guide the mount at f/32… perhaps one day I’ll get the hand tracking control unit from the States that was promised 2+ years ago….  ;-(






Settings for Andy’s All Sky Camera 16/6/2017

For future reference for myself and also as a reference for others, the settings on my All Sky Camera can be accessed via links below. This is the camera I build at Ed Mann’s workshop. I have also included again another copy of Ed’s original instructions from which these settings were ascertained for my Dell Precision M4800 laptop and Dell Precision M6800 laptops – using the same All Sky Camera the settings are the same on both laptops. I am using VLC media player to play back recordings.


Settings on iSpy 64 on Dell Precision M6800 160617 (PDF version)

Settings on iSpy 64 on Dell Precision M6800 160617 (Word version)

Web settings for All Sky Camera 160617 (PDF version)

All-Sky-Camera-workshop-v2 (Powerpoint version)