Hannah Thornett

Microscopy of water from Stowe Pool, Lichfield, 31/7/2019

This year, I haven’t had much opportunity to use my microscope.

My daughter Hannah and I collected a sample of water from Stowe Pool in Lichfield and I looked at it under my Zeiss IM35 microscope.




x4 objective, x2 Optovar (equivalent x8 Objective):

Shows protozoa feeding on vegetative debris. See video below for movement of multiple protozoal organisms in this field of view.

x32 objective:

Ball of cells – cilia visible on each cell:

Cilia visible from corners of stack of cells, and below this diatom:


Stack 4 cells with cilia at corners:

Photo x32 objective, x2 Optovar (equivalent to x64 Objective):

Detail of cell wall and contents at junction between two algae cells:

Algae fonds x32 Obj x2 Optovar:

Stack 4 cells with cilia at corners:





Site of the Peter Bolas Observatory 27/5/2018

Heather told us all on Friday night that building of the new Peter Bolas Observatory at Rosliston Forestry Centre will start soon. It has taken such a long time to get to this point. The family and I (Hannah, Ean Ean, and Rhys) felt this was a good time to record what the site looks like prior to the start of building for prosperity!

The observatory is going to be build on the corner of the archery field near the bird of prey centre and next to the tree trail and large sundial, and not far from the café and seminar room.


Live and stained microscopy (H&E and gram staining) of bacteria in single culture from previously taken mouth swab from Hannah 5/11/2017

Today, was Hannah’s turn. Both children prepared slides from the culture we have grown from a swab taken a couple weeks back, stained with H&E and Gram stains and viewed live, H&E, and Gram stained samples under the microscope using x4, x20, x32 objectives. For some reason, we weren’t able to obtain focus with the 63x objective today – not sure why!

Our conclusion – Hannah has Gram positive rods in her mouth, most likely Actinomyces, possibly Actinmyces Israelii.

Actinomyces israelii is a species of Gram-positive, strict anaerobic, rod-shaped bacteria. It is known to live commensally on and within humans in the mouth, vagina and colon, A. israelii is an opportunistic pathogen. It was named after the German Surgeon, James Adolf Israel (1848–1926), who studied the organism for the first time in 1878 (Wikipedia).

Andy, Rhys and Hannah

Rhys and Hannah made these slides:

Microscopy-culture-form-Hannahs-mouth-051117-x4-obj-live-sample (below):

Microscopy culture form Hannahs mouth 051117 x20 obj live sample Ph1 (Phase contrast gave much better view than non-phase live images, although bacteria could be seen in both – in Phase contrast the bacteria appear dark as if stained (below):

Microscopy-culture-form-Hannahs-mouth-051117-x32-obj-live-sample-Ph1 (below):

Microscopy-culture-form-Hannahs-mouth-051117-x32-obj-Gram stain (the first one also has Phase annulus 1 in place, 2nd photo does not. In theory phase contrast should not be used on these samples but we found today it did enhance the image by darkening the background and improving contrast). It is clear that this bacterium is Gram positive (blue) and consists of rods:

Microscopy-culture-form-Hannahs-mouth-051117-x32-obj-H&E stain – again first image also has Phase annulus 1 in place and next two do not. Although the pictures look similar, the stains are not staining the same things. H&E stains nuclei and membranes blue and cytoplasm pink regardless of Gram staining characteristics. Some bacteria are Gram positive (blue) others are Gram negative (pink):


Hannah re-plates out Petri dish cultures from 22/10/2017 to obtain single organism cultures and adding penicillin to existing Petri dishes 29/10/2017

Our Petri dish cultures of air born bacteria and fungi and mouth swabs from Rhys and Hannah from 22/10/2017 are now covering whole of Petri dishes. The air born cultures (open Petri dishes left outside for 4 hours to collect sample) show wide range of organisms – bacterial and fungal cultures – and the mouth swabs show much more limited number bacteria mainly (with smaller areas occupied by fungi). Interesting the swabs from the two children appear to have grown quite different bacteria, if the macroscopic view of the Petri dish is anything to go by. Rhys’ mouth swab has brown a gelatinous yellow-coloured shiny organism, whereas Hannah’s a rougher looking dry appearance to her culture.

Today, Hannah used a bent sterile needle on a diabetic syringe to attempt to plate out new cultures from the old ones on new Petri dishes – the idea is to obtain a single culture. She used her mouth swab culture Petri dish for this purpose.

After that, she poured some Benzylpenicillin powder (out of date penicillin from my surgery) into the old Petri dishes (her swab culture and one of air cultures) to see over this next week what effect that will have on the organisms present – she tried to get a straight line on the mouth swab – difficult to achieve as she did not want to touch the penicillin and contaminate it! – and more liberally splatter-gunned the air culture as this has lots different organisms and she wanted to see what the pencillin’s effect was on different ones.

As we do not know what we have grown here, there is a risk that some of these organisms are pathogenic (could lead to disease) so Hannah used sterile technique and gloves and we cleaned everything thoroughly afterwards!



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:

Trip to Penang, Malaysia, August 2017 – possible opportunities for observing

This is my first entry in my astronomy blog for our family trip to visit relatives in Malaysia. This trip is mainly to visit my wife’s family but hopefully there will be some observing opportunities too. Weather here is a reasonably constant 33 degrees C or so but with high humidity and this often results in posts of clouds that can obstruct observations. In the past, this has been particularly frustrating at Ean Ean’s mum and dad’s house – they live at the base of Prnsng on the side away from the ocean and with the cloud – arrrhhh! One memorable year we were here during the Perseid meteor shower and I went outside and saw nothing whatsoever due to an almost complete cloud layer. The following day the university’s astronomy society reported a wonderful and spectacular meteor observing session on the other side of the island!

This year I am hoping to remedy that – I have emailed the local astronomy society and another contact I found on the internet that has previously organised meteor observing sessions…..and am now waiting for responses – hopefully one of them will be organising another Perseid meteor observing session this year. This is due to fall on 12/13 August whilst we are in Penang.

There is one really big positive about observing the Perseid meteor shower from Penang, if I can find a good location (transport at night is an issue I need to find a way of overcoming). That is, that unlike the UK which will suffer from a virtually full Moon (5 days past full) all night, in Penang the Moon does not rise until 11:20pm on12th August, as the following screenshot from Sky Safari Pro 5 shows, a massive improvement on the UK where it will be near zenith by this time:

The only equipment I have bought along this year is my Canon Image-stabilised 10×30 binoculars. These are easily hand-held and the image stabilisation really makes a difference. They have excellent contrast which makes up for the small aperture. The obvious down side is magnification. If I can attend an event then other attendees may have a telescope or two I can take a look through…..you never know!

At the moment we are in Kuala Lumpar and over this weekend we are visiting Malaca – we might find something astronomical there, I don’t know! That reminds me – I better take the binoculars along. It would be frustrating if the sky was wonderfully dark in Malaca and I did not have the binoculars.

I have also discovered that there is a telescope shop in Penang now – a new addition since I last came there. I don’t intend to visit it though. I really don’t have anything I need to buy, although I suppose they might rent out telescopes…..


Map of Malaysia showing location Penang upper left and higher resolution map of Penang Island itself:

Information on organisations that I have contacted to see if they are arranging a Perseid meteor shower observing session this year:

Information on the Perseid meteor shower from Astronomy Now:

Tech Dome Penang science discovery and education centre:

There is now also a science discovery centre with what looks like full dome presentations on astronomy in Penang. They certainly emphasise their astronomy related educational content and offer astronomy courses and day passes to participate in various activities.