Andrew Thornett

Next stage of putting new shingles on roof of our log cabin/observatory in Lichfield

Rhys and I addressed the back of the log cabin today. In a previous post I described how the roofing felt on the observatory was blown off in recent high winds and how I started the process of re-roofing the cabin with shingles. Ed Mann has meant me a ladder which is an absolute God-send for this work as the cabin is 2.4m high and I am a bit short! My own step ladder is not up to the task.

My son Rhys, also member of RAG, is somewhat taller than me and this really helped today as we successfully shingles all but one row and the apex of the back of the observatory together.

NB for anyone wondering we were not allowed to have an observatory or dome in our garden (household rules!) And in any case there are a lot of trees at bottom of garden which obscure views of sky and this was where the observatory had to go….so instead the log cabin has double doors and a ramp to allow the 16 inch Dobsonian on castors to roll out on to the lawn.

This follows from previous post:

New shingles on front of our observatory in Lichfield 11/5/2019


Moon, Methane and Messiers

Splendid night of observing and (hopefully) imaging last night.

Sam had his mate James round, and then Andy T came over to join us as well. Due to the long evening twilight and the terminator being in a prime position on the moon, we started there. Once they’d got the hang of it the 2 lads were thoroughly enjoying scanning up and down the terminator taking videos of moonscapes, which when I get some time will hopefully become some nice images.

The areas we looked at were the craters around the South Pole (Scott and Amundsen!) then worked our way down (the image appeared upside down in the mark/planetary camera) past Cuvier, Stofler, Albertegnius and Hipparchus toward the smoother area that’s more dominated by mare. The highlight for me was Albertegnius which was just in the perfect position to be in complete darkness, but with the sun illuminating just the summit of the central peak.

By this time Andy had set up his spectroscopy rig and took a reading from the moon- and matched in to an internet reading of the sun- explaining to the lads that this was because all the light coming from the moon was reflected from the sun, and how the technique enables us to derive what the elements are in the star.

We also did some visual exploration of the terminator- and no matter how amazing the views of the moon through the planetary camera, there is nothing for comes close to the stunning HD quality through the eyepiece. Even at 465x through the zoom the view was sharp and full of contrast; a really stunning view.

It was, by this time, bed o’clock for the boys, but Andy and I carried on. First step was swapping the mak for the 130pd-s and setting some imaging runs going on globular clusters with the planetary camera as I felt that the glare from the moon made any other targets a bit unrealistic. I’ll post these when I get the chance to do some processing!

For the same reasons I decided to go for similar targets visually whilst Andy did his spectroscopy and we shared the results with each other. First up, though, was the double-double- it didn’t split as easily as normal which suggested the seeing wasn’t great (I already knew my scope was both cooled and collimated). Nonetheless I pressed onto some globs:

– M13 Obvs! Always a lovely sight. Whilst there Andy moved the scope onto NGC 6207- a new one on me, and just next to M13. It was a struggle to see and needed averted vision to spot, but at Mag 11 the skies cannot have been too bad to pick this up.
– M92 It’s a bit smaller, but somehow feels more compact and symmetrical than its big brother.
– M3 Again- like M92, more compact and symmetrical. It was nice going through these one after the other- on their own globs are all similar, but when looking at them one after the other you really start to see the differences.
– As we were in the neighbourhood popped over to see the Whale galaxy- several club members have been imaging this lately so it was good to have a proper look. With proximity to the moon it was quite an effort to find this and I had it in the eyepiece for quite a while before I was sure I had it. By relaxing and just looking around the target it became obvious how huge it was- nearly filling the ep at 210x. I couldn’t make out the distinctive shape, however, and neither could we spot NGC4656
– Next stop as M5, which was visibly smaller, but with a dense bright core and was pleasingly circular.
– The next Messier glob easily visible looked to be M9. Whilst aiming the scope Andy asked about the bright light in the same direction- which is over towards East Mids airport- and we both agreed was clearly a plane- although not moving too much. Realising that this meant it was heading towards away from us I tried to aim the scope at it, because sometimes it’s a great view in the eyepiece. This plane turned out to have horizontal banding and 4 moons. JUPITER IS BACK!! Albeit hugging the horizon in a boiling atmosphere. Because of this the views were not brilliant, but it was great to see after a long break. Andy quickly headed back to his spectroscopy gear and lined it up- the result was a mixture of the same elements we’d found from the moon, plus a couple of lines for methane. Very pleasing! I then moved onto M9 and caught a quick glimpse, but was kneeling uncomfortably over the telescope by this stage and was getting decidedly cold so we decided to head in for a cup of tea in the warm and to look at Andy’s spectroscopy results.

Suitably refreshed, and with the moon down near the horizon the sky was darker, but also more hazy. We decided to look at some summer targets and started off with the Ring nebula. I think the effects of time and cold were beginning to set in by this stage as I struggled to get it in the eyepiece- not helped by the fact that everything was dewing over. Andy quickly rectified this and we were rewarded with some lovely rich views and spent some time comparing the views in the Baader zoom with Andy’s Binoviewers. The conclusion was that the binoviewers offered a different experience- more natural and pleasing to look at, but also there was some loss of detail. Partly this is caused by the higher magnification available to the Baader, but we also thought it may be down to the greater number of optical surfaces involved on the binoviewers. We returned to M13 to see if we’d find the same outcome- and it was pretty much the same; although the binoviewers rendered the glob as a sphere- a wonderful view.

I’d have liked to try them out on Jupiter, but by this point it was behind the neighbours house, so we returned to deep sky targets instead- trying for M51. Unfortunately, by this point, the sky was pretty hazy and despite being certain I had the dob in the right place, I could not see the galaxies. Spent a while trying to remove dew from EPs, finders etc, but it was pretty clear that the sky was lightening and it was time to pack up. Big thanks to Andy for coming over- observing in company and sharing ideas adds so much to an evening and the output from the spectroscopy was really interesting!

Spectra of Moon, Vega and Jupiter taken with CCDSPEC on Sky Watcher Equinox Pro 80mm scope with Rob Leonard 11-12/5/2019

Rob kindly invited me around for an evening of observing. The Moon was half full and high and the humidity level high with mosture all over our telescopes but we still had a whale of a time – quite apt description as Rob found the Whale Galaxy for an amaxing view in his 14 inch Orion US scope – all star hopping – well done to him!!

I took some spectra of the Moon, Vega and Jupiter, using my CCDSPEC spectroscope on my Equinox – I know manual alt-az mount is not ideal but it is transportable so I used my Manfrotto mount tonight manually guided and star-hopping to targets – limiting me to bright targets. I would still like to take spectra of the Ring Nebula but I can’t see it in the CCDSPEC so I do need my EQ6 or HEQ5 mounts up and running to have a chance with that….

Particularly exciting tonight was our spectra of Jupiter, showing methane absorption lines – Jupiter’s spectrum is essentially that of reflected sunlight but its atmosphere does absorb light in the methane bands.

Rob and I were able to identify two of these bands in our spectrum this evening of the planet.


In spectra below my spectrum from tonight is in red and reference spectrum is in blue.

Moon – essentially this is a solar spectrum from reflected light:

Vega – Balmer series lines very obvious:

Jupiter – showing two methane absorption lines – one of main features that are different between Jupiter’s spectrum and the solar spectrum (In spectra below my spectrum from tonight is in red and reference spectrum is in blue).

New shingles on front of our observatory in Lichfield 11/5/2019

Re-roofing hone observatory after previous roof blew off in recent storm. Today, got quite a bit of front done. The tarpaulin is a temporary cover tacked down between repair sessions to previous ingress water before the new roof if water-proof. Rhys and I have never done this before so lots of lookong at videos on YouTube. Hopefully we have got it right!


First radio observations at Peter Bolas Observatory – Radio Meteor Scatter from Graves of Lyrid Meteor Shower – 6/5/2019

Radio Scatter Graves Radar Peter Bolas Observatory Rosliston Forestry Centre,

Lyrid Meteor Shower,

6/5/2019 @ 10:30
Andrew Thornett

Successful detection of Lyrid meteor shower at the new Peter Bolas Observatory during an observatory working party session on Bank Holiday Monday.

The surprise was the frequency of meteors shown on screenshots below – there are up to 11/12 meteors evident on singe screenshots!

On Saturday, we had an outreach day and had difficulty getting radio scatter to work. Eventually we found a broken wire in the aerial end of the aerial cable at its connection – a temporary Heath Robinson approach got it working. Since then, I have soldered the connection and today was a chance to test it.
I also changed laptop from my (expensive, cant afford to lose it) main laptop to a spare Dell PC that is 10 years old and not the end of the world were it to get broken or stolen!
Trying it out today – I could not seem to get good signal through the microphone port on this new machine but I had a spare USB microphone port which I plugged in and the laptop and Spectrum Lab successfully detected the microphone and almost immediately meteors were seen on the screen – great success!


Photos of myself observing meteors by radio scatter at Rosliston & serial screenshots at 1 minute intervals from Spectrum Lab:

Science Day @ Rosliston Forestry Centre 4/5/2019

Thanks to all members who turned up for another great outreach event at the forestry centre! A great team of people working hard to make the event a success – you were all brilliant!

Poor forecasts kept the crowd numbers down to below last year’s turnout, but there were still many families and the rocketry and dot-to-dot activities went flat out most of the day.

At the telescopes, we saw a series of four solar prominences develop and change in sequence at the solar limb next to the current sunspot – some great views in clear spots between cloud! Both white light and hydrogen alpha filters were used to show the public these phenomena. Many folks had never viewed the sun or seen a sunspot before. I was also able to view the sunspot in calcium-H filtered light on my scope, although the view was not as spectacular as through the hydrogen alpha filter.

Bob and I set up an aerial to detect meteors by radio scatter – initially unsuccessful until we found a broken wire! Once fixed in a rather Heath Robinson way, we detected a fair number of meteors (a few screenshots below).

Next outreach event is the 7th Lichfield Scouts summer camp next month – see you there!


Meteors detected by radio scatter today:


Rocket launching next to the Peter Bolas Observatory:


Telescope field and Training Room:


Making a hole to insert bottom of meteor radio scatter aerial:


Successful detection meteors by radio scatter from Graves 143.049MHz at Rosliston Forestry Centre

During today’s science outreach event at Rosliston Forestry Centre, Bob and I achieved successful detection of meteors from Graves by radio scatter on 143.049MHz, on my silver Dell laptop running Windows 10/Spectrum Lab software, together with Yaesu FT-817 radio & 2 element Yagi on Clansman mast.

Bob and I set up an aerial to detect meteors by radio scatter – initially unsuccessful until we found a broken wire! Once fixed in a rather Heath Robinson way (indebted to Lee Bale without whom we could not have got this working today), we detected a fair number of meteors (a few screenshots below).


Meteors detected by radio scatter today:


Meteor radio scatter equipment:

     Making a hole to insert bottom of meteor radio scatter aerial:


Photos through Cheshire sight tube and Catseye collimators after Lee has collimated Orion 10″ Dobsonian telescope

The photos below are through my Cheshire colliminating eyepiece sight tube and through Catseye collimators today – latter are 2 x 2″ collimators, one of which at least is a Blackcat collimator. Lee collimated the scope for me on Friday night and I thought it would be useful to keep a record of what the reflections seen through the sight tube should look like when the scope is properly collimated, to help me with my own attempts at collimation in the future.

The wrinkly edge at one side of view is the top of my sofa!

This post follows from the previous one regarding Lee’s collimation on Friday night:

Lee collimates my Orion UK 10″ Dobsonian Telescope


View through Cheshire sight tube:

View through Catseye collimators: