Andrew Thornett

Star Trail Image from field near Streethay, near Lichfield, Staffs, UK, 3/7/2019 @ 23:02

My first ever star trail image – Damian and I went out into a field @ Streethay, near Lichfield.


Photo taken using my Sony A58 DSLR camera, 50mm prime lens F1.9, 10 min single exposure:

Following Damian’s advice, I took multiple 30 sec exposures 50mm prime lens, F2.2, using my Sony A58 DSLR on Damian’s tripod, and stacked them using GIMP2 to produce the following image of star trails around the Pole Star:

Above image, brightened a bit in GIMP2 below:


Observing after RAG meeting at Rosliston Forestry Centre 28-29/6/19

A group of us stayed to observe after the RAG meeting last night. Starting at about 23:30 we continued until approx. 01:00 – at least I had to leave then although some folks continued!

A very big thank you to Rob Leonard for bringing along his 8 inch and 14 inch Dobsonian telescopes. Unfortunately I now find it very difficult to bring my own scopes to RAG meetings although that might change in the near future (hopefully!) Rob’s 14 inch Orion USA Dobsonian telescope gives incredible views – it seems to be much better than my 16″ Meade Lightbridge Dobsonian telescope although may hr it is just better collimated! Certainly the difference in weight between 14″ and 16″ is quite remarkable.

The evening started with a view of very faint noctilucent clouds just about the Belt of Venus in the northeast. These were little more than a fluorescence of the sky at this point between the darker Belt of Venus and higher sky and not as good as those I photographed on Thursday evening and certainly nothing like the spectacular display I saw last year when Damian woke me up at 3:30am one day and said, “Look out of the window!”

The highlights off the evening were some excellent views of Jupiter and Saturn through the two Dobs – Jupiter was so bright in the 14″ that it blew my night vision when I looked at it! The Gallilean Moons were definite discs rather than points and detail was visible in the belts of Jupiter although I could not see the Great Red Spot.

Rob was able to swap between a single eyepiece and a binoviewer on 3.2x Barlow with 20mm eyepieces (Barlow needed to give enough back focus in the Dobs = ca. 6mm). I was able to fuse the images off Jupiter easily but when we looked at a single star I saw two of them! I have noted before that I tend to get problems fusing images with binoculars and Rob’s binoviewer probably has given me one of my best views through such devices in terms of allowing me to easily fuse images that I have ever experienced. Saturn also seen as single image – definitely no issues with the binoviewer itself. Perhaps because I have some difficulties fusing images in these devices I personally prefer a single eyepiece but of course many people (including Rob himself) feel otherwise.

Rob had a go at trying to find Pluto but I think it was asking too much of a misty sky that never got properly dark so we did not get to observe the minor planet…..

M31 and M57 gave spectacular views in the 14 inch. The sky was misty with lot of moisture which limited visibility but it was quite still and M31 showed some of the best detail in the tendrils of stars coming out of its heart that I have ever seen – in a view that occupied a large part of the field off view in this 14″ Dobsonian telescope.

The misty sky affected the view of the Dumbell Nebula which, although visible, was surprisingly faint leading some observers present to say they needed to use averted vision.

The object that really made an impact on me was my first ever view of NGC 6287. This is a compact globular cluster that looked like a bright slight out of focus star that none of us could quite focus to a point in a field where Sky Safari Pro 6 planetarium software told us there were no bright stars. The listed magnitude is 9+ = however being so small we could see that all of this light was focused into little more than a star like point and so the object was a lot brighter than the listed magnitude would have suggested. With extended objected the listed magnitude gives you the integrated light across the object. For galaxies such as M33 and M101 this means that the light is spread out over wide area as these objects are large in the eyepiece and so the brightness at any one point is low. However we could see last night how for NGC 6287 the effect is reversed giving a high brightness level at any given point. I have seen a similar effect in the past with planetary nebulae which are often small and bright as well.


RAG Monthly meeting 28/6/2019

Our June ‘End of Month’ Meeting, this next Friday, 28th, has a ‘double bill’ in terms of Guest Speakers. The room was virtually full to capacity with folks sat on the tables at the back as well as on the chairs.

The beginning of the evening saw the return of Dr Martin Braddock. Many of RAG Members responded to his request for our ideas about the Five Challenges for the colonisation of Mars. Indeed, one of our Mid-Month Meetings held a discussion that produced a plethora of ideas to add to individual replies. Heather sent all these to Martin, who has now collated all his results from a number of Astro Societies. He came along to share with us the results – what is it that amateur astronomers think are the biggest issues facing potential colonisers on Mars? Martin is an exciting and knowledgeable speaker and he expertly addressed a number of questions from the floor afterwards, including some from yours truly!

After the coffee break, our very own Lee Bale continued with his series of talks on stars. Tonight, our brains got stretched somewhat as we tried to grasp how a nebulous cloud contracts into stars that join the main sequence on the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram. It involved learning about four different nuclear fusion pathways……..

Two excellent speakers – my only concern is that we are raising the bar on quality of talks so high that I ask how can we maintain it in the future?


Dr Martin Braddock:


Lee Bale:


Noctilicent clouds seen on way near Whittington near Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK, 27/6/19 @ 23:21

On my way home from work in Tamworth last night, I saw these noctilicent clouds looking towards Lichfield. I only had my Sony Xperia ™ L1 phone with which to take photos so quality is poor but this is first time I have seen them this year!

Images below unprocessed except the first image which has been processed slightly using Photo Editor Pro on Xperia L1 and the other brighter one where attempt at processing slightly using the Sony Xperia L1’s inbuilt photo editor.


Photo taken on Sony Xperia L1 phone, processed in GIMP2:

Photo taken on Sony Xperia L1 phone, processed slightly using Photo Editor Pro on Xperia L1:

Photo taken on Sony Xperia L1 phone, unprocessed images:

Photo taken on Sony Xperia L1 phone, processed slightly using the Sony Xperia L1’s inbuilt photo editor:

Photo taken on Sony Xperia L1 phone, unprocessed images:

QHY10 Camera – the power of simple processing in GIMP2

As you can work out, I am very new to this astrophotography thing – I am simply recording my journey on this blog!

So.……now I have discovered the power of even very simple processing in software like GIMP2 used below.


Original image of trees at bottom of my garden – QHY10 single shot colour camera on Sky Watcher Equinox Pro 80mm OTA taken with EZCAP_QT software and debayered (colour shown) using Deep Sky Stacker (below):

In the image below, the image above has had its curves tweaked in GIMP2:

In the next image, the image above has further been sharpened using unsharp mask in GIMP2 (OK – it is over-sharpened but it shows what can be done!):

QHY10 Camera with Teleskop Express Flip mirror-off axis guider 16/6/2019

Teleskop Express ( produce a combined flip mirror-off axis guider & I think this is going to be perfect for the QHY10 camera.

I tried the combination tonight – and it works – with an extra extension on the 1.25 inch port (3x15mm in total but one needed on this device at least to act as eyepiece holder), the illuminated finder becomes parfocal with the camera and the pillar can be taken in to turn the device into a flip mirror for finding purposes or out to use as off axis guider.

So far only tried on the house beyond end of my garden – will need more in focus for focusing on the sky but the telescope has 2cm left do I hope this is enough!


Successfully obtaining colour image with QHY10 camera

Success! Colour image obtained with QHY10 camera. I made an aperture mask for the Sky Watcher Equinox Pro 80mm OTA to reduce light so that EZCAP_QT did not white out when the image was taken and then took the following FITS image:

As before, the image appears in black and white.

However, it turns out the is due to the need to select an appropriate Bayer matrix in astrophotography software – the following screenshot shows the above image appearing in colour when a particular generic Bayer matrix setting has been chosen. The pop box is obtained by clicking on “Raw/FITS DDP Settings” under <Options> in left hand menu options in Deep Sky Stacker (DSS) software:

Focus point on Equinox 80 to focus on trees/swing at bottom of our garden:

Aperture mask on Equinox 80:

Settings on EZCAP_QT software: