Never got time this year to build my RAG Aurora talk… it’s nearly a year since we were preparing to head to Alta, Norway….
But work is nearly finished and so I decided to have another play.
This is the jpeg off the camera – way too dark and the aurora far too green – this was a very fast moving teal green, multi-band wave that stretched across the sky. It was far more vibrant and illuminated the scenery…. which is much bigger than it looks here – width wise, this combination captures 114 degrees (84 high, so with the camera angled, the top of the pic is around the Zenith) !
22nd Dec around 6.30pm – I only managed another 10 shots of this outbreak before the battery finally died (that was after eeking out some last shots by warming it up under my armpit!) Thankfully I’d captured the majority of this performance and it was fading out. It was then back to the lodge for dinner, a fast battery re-charge and then headed back out for our final evening….
Tripod mounted, (old) full frame D3 (only 12Mp) and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. Cable release and using mirror lock-up to reduce internal shaking.
800 ISO, 14mm, f2/8 at only 6 seconds – shows how bright and fast it was moving when you consider what the camera recorded (and the blurring of the bands….) Keeping to 800 ISO keeps dynamic range at the expense of shutter speed. I could have pushed to around 1200-1600 ISO as the cold would have kept the noise down, but that’s how it goes…
6th Dec 2017: NEF RAW file processed in Adobe LightRoom Classic CC (2018) and finished in PS CC 2018. I’ve cropped it down to a more pleasing composition and tried to depict what we saw (although this is more saturated).
The moral of the story is… always shoot RAW!
For orientation – the diamond of ‘Delphinus’ can be seen to the lower left just past the tree. Coming out of the top of the same tree is the (Summer) Milky Way, that bright white star just clearing the branches being Deneb in the tail of Cygnus. The bright orange star in the upper left of the photograph is Scheat – if you examine your star atlas, you’ll find it as the top right star in the ‘Square of Pegasus’ !
Plus a short movie, made from 13 files (pre Photoshop) put together in iMovie (the shot above was the third in the sequence)…
Some of you may remember that I picked up a Baader 8-24 zoom lens from Astrofest a couple of years ago for £60. It was complete but the mechanism was a bit crunchy and sticking. Eventually it packed up completely. This left me with two choices, abandon it, or to attempt a very complicated and almost impossible rebuild.
Anyone who knows me would guess that I went for the second option!! So, heart in mouth, I went for it
I would immediately stress that, unless you are very technical, or completely mad (like me), **** DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS ****. There are lots of tiny screws, lenses and spacers and plenty of grease.
The problem I found was that there are three rollers/ guides that run in a helical groove. See the screwhead to the left of the 20 in the first picture. If you look at the second picture you can see there is no roller. The screw of that, and the third roller , had sheared. These screws are tiny M1.8 x 4mm screws.
This is where the fun part/ insanity started, as I had to either extract the sheared screws or drill them out with a 1.3mm drill. It wasn’t possible to extract them so I had do some very nervous and careful drilling. This also involved a complete stripdown to clean everything. I mentioned plenty of grease … it was everywhere!!!
I gave everything a good clean and (eventually) got it all back together, and IT WORKED!! Yayyyy . I now have two working zoom lenses
About £70 and you’ll get a unit that really works with the Synscan Pro ( eq mount) or the Synscan ( az mount ) free app for android or phone. You get two connecting cables , one for an eq mount and the other for an az mount. The unit is powered by the mount and connects directly into the handset socket on the mount. Note that it does draw a bit of power , make allowance in the cold with a battery or power pack.You’ll need an handset socket adapter cable for the eq6 mount. Otherwise you can plug it into another SW mount.
Level and polar align, switch on power and connect to the local wi fi that comes up on your device settings. No need to add time of location. There’s a polar clock as well. The built in gps is very fast. Then Align . You can easily set the direction speed. Up and right directions light up to endure that you finish your alignment with these two directions. Then select your menu , Messier’s , ngc , IC and Caldwells. There’s named stars , tonight’s best and double stars. There’s also user objects , you can put in your own ra and Dec ( easier with a screen stilo ), it’ll store 25 of these.
There’s PEC , backlash etc. There’s even solar , lunar etc. tracking options. Accuracy ? I was really shocked. As good as my recent V4 handset. It appears that PAE is continual with a press on the star button. There are other features , “point and go” . Point your phone at area of sky, press and the scope will move there. ( not through space !)
For the money it’s not a punt , toy or a gadget. It’s a really viable upgrade to using or replacing a handset. At the moment there’s no easy way of using Sky Safari Pro with it ,( Southern stars have their own unit) but the phone app is straight forward to use. There are alternatives at twice the price and it’s a big thumbs up for SW .
Love this unit and can really recommend it for your Synscan mount. There’s a long review on Youtube.
Damian came around this afternoon and took to the microscope like a pro!
He processed slides from a sample of pond water I collected yesterday and kept in my mini-aquarium (square glass vase of Ean Ean’s) overnight – producing live, heat fixed, heat fixed and H&E stained slides, which were then observed with x4, x10, x20, x32 and x40 objectives and photographs and video taken using the Mikrocam 9.0 camera on my Dell E4800 laptop.
Damian processing slides in my kitchen sink:
The slides Damian produced:
Micrometer eyepiece and calibration slide:
Microcamlab7 software screen photo grab with calibration slide with 20x objective:
The following photo was taken at the eyepiece using Samsung S7 through the LOMO micrometer eyepiece and with calibration slide in field of view:
Video from microscopy session, by Damian and Andy. Most of the video covers views of live slides, in direct and phase contrast transmitted light, using 30W www.retrodiode.com LED illuminator for Zeiss IM microscope. There is a clip at the end of the video which explores an H&E stained heat-fixed slide that Damian prepared (https://youtu.be/dySnojsTteM). In the first video look out for the vortices the organism (I think it is probably Vorticella but needs to be confirmed – see this video for comparison (not ours) https://youtu.be/193EpXPU6QM) is producing either side of its mouth-parts:
x20 objective, live view:
x20 objective, phase contrast Ph1 annulus, live views:
I suspect that the following is a photo of the dead carcass of one of the feeding organisms in the following photos:
x32 objective, live specimen, series of photos of organism feeding – notice how mouth-parts are closed in some photos and open in others. This organism is also seen at the beginning of the video above. In this video you can see the vortices at sides of mouth-parts – especially in phase contrast. I think it is probably Vorticella but needs to be confirmed – see this video for comparison (not ours) https://youtu.be/193EpXPU6QM).
x32 objective, live specimen, phase contrast Ph1 annulus:
The beginning of the month saw some varying activity due to the Northern and southern Taurids. The Leonids around the 17/18 were preceded by higher activity on the 16th, also apparent on the comparison with 2016. Then a spike of activity on the 25th, several bright meteors were seen during the evening observing session, on the 25th, at the SPA meeting at Preston Montford in Shropshire .
I have included the meteor information to allow comparison with data. There were no indications of the fireballs reported earlier in the week along the south coast.
Next month sees the Geminids 13/14 Dec and the Ursids, 22 Dec, with the moon position and phase favourable to both, here’s hoping for clear skies.
Finally a screenshot showing the meteor detection on the zero frequency line having adjusted the offset on the funcube dongle.
This may seem a weird experiment to have done – but 2 weeks ago Ean Ean snipped off some hair from my armpit directly into a Petri dish to see what we grew. The reason for this behaviour was that my T-shirts and jumpers tend to develop a lot of holes in the armpit areas and we wondered what bacteria was doing the damage. I do have reasonably hairy armpits!
Pictures below of the bacteria we grew – they are small round bacteria – this is known as coccus (cocci in pleural).
The Gram staining (by Rhys today) shows that the bacteria are Gram Positive.
A brief internet search shows that common axillary bacteria include Corynebacterium and Propionibacterium. Another bacteria that is often present but in smaller number is Staphylococcus.
Corynebacterium is a genus of bacteria that are gram-positive and aerobic. They are bacilli, and in some phases of life they are, more particularly, club-shaped, which inspired the genus name. The principal features of the Corynebacterium genus were described by Collins and Cummins in 1986. They are gram-positive, catalase-positive, non-spore-forming, non-motile, rod-shaped bacteria that are straight or slightly curved. Propionibacterium is a gram-positive, anaerobic, rod-shaped genus of bacteria named for their unique metabolism: They are able to synthesize propionic acid by using unusual transcarboxylase enzymes. Staphylococcus is a genus of Gram-positive bacteria. Under the microscope, they appear round, and form in grape-like clusters. The Staphylococcus genus includes at least 40 species (Wikipedia).
My bacteria appear to be Staphylococci – round and blue.
Preparing sample for microscopy today:
1. The Petri dish culture – axillary (armpit) hairs are visible!
2. The spatula was used to scrape off the bacterial culture into this container and then it was mixed with small amount water: