Welcome to the ASTRONOMY section of our BLOG.

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In September of 2012 – I semi-retired and only do a few days a week at work.

This freed up ample time to finally take up a hobby which has always interested me…astronomy.

So with my ever-faithful dog – ALFIE…..we embarked on the most excellent of adventures into studying and photographing the stars.

What follows is a visual essay of our adventures…what we built and how we solved problems and of course….the final photographs.






22 Responses to Astronomy

  1. Paul Johnston says:

    Hi Jim.
    This will be something i will look forward to reading and learning from i hope.
    Good to see Alfie on guard duty still.LOL
    Great image or M42 as well.

  2. Pete Humphries says:

    An interstella peacock in flight, wonderful.

  3. PeterT says:

    James, we are waiting for more ‘scope photos. We know the weather has been fine in Merry ‘Ol so give us something, my brother !! M8 , the Lagoon Nebula is one of my faces…hint hint. Or are you too far north?

  4. jimi43 says:

    Hi Peter

    It has actually been the worst weather for astrophotography in months. The days have been really beautiful…cloudless skies and very hot indeed….but this has caused the nights to be a total washout.

    The moisture from the hot day hits the upper atmosphere during the night as haze and the high ambient temperatures have meant that it is not possible to cool the camera much below zero so the thermal noise is higher than I would like.

    We need to wait now for the crisp, cold evenings starting in the Autumn, then we shall be able to get some more images done.

    In the meantime…I am building the rest of the observatory…phase II…the “warm room”. This will house all the computers, imaging equipment and the telescope mount control.

    We should be finished by the Autumn and I will be posting some pictures soon.

    Cheers my friend….


  5. PeterT says:

    Jimi, I have a question…..
    If I have an auto guider on one scope and a CCD camera working on the other, do I need to have two laptops for simultaneous guiding and imaging?

    I can’t see how both images can be seen and controlled on the same screen.

    Cheers – PT

    • jimi43 says:

      Hi Peter

      My setup is thus:

      ATIK 450 OSC on the main scope as the imaging camera

      QHY5 on the guidescope as the guide camera

      I control the ATIK via MAXIM DL and the QHY5 is controlled via PHD Guiding software (free).

      I open guiding on PHD and calibrate the scope near the object I wish to image. Once calibrated, guiding can be started and stopped within the same area of sky.

      Once the guiding has been set up I then turn it off and acquire the subject DSO using MAXIM DL and binning to give fast refresh (not saving images) and I then monitor the resultant images to focus (using a Bahtinov mask and frame the image to the best I can.

      I then switch guiding back on and turn off binning and start imaging using a preset plan.

      Both MAXIM DL and PHD can be on as PHD when not minimized will overlay the MAXIM DL screen and you can then lay the various windows out so you can see everything going on.

      Hope this helps.


  6. PeterT says:

    Brilliant ! Thanks Jim. Still no auto guider or CCD camera for me yet. But in the budgetary planning stages ! I will be doing a side-by-side setup with my C6 and ST80.

    I took what I thought were some great shots last night. 10 x 120 sec exposures of the Lagoon Nebula. Only to find I still had the telescope cap on !! Best to do the dark frames last, is what I learned 🙂 Then I got some good prime focus shots of M31 – but the focus had shifted. With no PC to see live view, I didn’t find out until I got home and saw some blobs instead of stars 🙁 This is harder than fishing for Nessy sometimes ! But I really enjoy it. – PT

    • jimi43 says:

      Hi Peter

      What camera are you using? If it’s a CANON with liveview you can see the image for focus and framing on the viewfinder.

      Without this facility or a laptop I am afraid you are at a say the least. Mind you…in the old days they managed it with film so keep at it!

      Just fitted the WROTHAM HEATH OBSERVATORY HUMBLE BASE TELESCOPE WEATHER STATION which is now up and running LIVE so you can see it by clicking the link in this page of the blog above. Check it out and let me know what you think.

      The gauges menu at the bottom is particularly impressive!


  7. PeterT says:

    Wow ! Your weather station is great ! I am using an Olympus E-510 DSLR with live view. I have a 90deg viewer for it and last night got some very crisp shots of the moon, so now I know I can focus it 🙂 I see a QHY5L-II and Laptop in my future.

    • jimi43 says:

      Hi Peter

      Yes..for planetary and lunar work the Olympus should give you acceptable shots but a webcam or QHY series will give you and AVI and you can then have thousands of BMP files to stack using REGISTAX which will give you really high quality images.

      Glad you got some shots done of the moon…post a link here if you can put them up on the net.


  8. PeterT says:

    Hi Jim,
    My fuzzy shot of M-31 won the Photo of the Week on Astronomy Shed this week. I think they were just being kind because it’s not so good. Appreciation of my enthusiasm mostly. But I bragged to my family about it 🙂


  9. jimi43 says:

    I am truly made up at your success and it is very well deserved my friend!

    That is a very difficult image to get right…to get it all in for a start and then to process such a wide range of the hot core to the fine dust lanes!

    Brilliant mate! You’re on your way!


  10. PeterT says:

    It’s just a surprise to me how much of the result is in the post-processing. If I ever figure out Photoshop and such, look out ! I am looking forward to a good guide camera and then a nice CCD like yours 🙂

  11. jimi43 says:

    Yes…Photoshop is something which takes some mastering but you get to know what happens when you do this or do that so you need to take the data and play with it.

    The key thing to remember is you have the original data and as you gain experience you can go back and process it again for better results. You can also add data to the existing data by taking images of the object again. It is not important to get exactly the same shot again to do this. As long as you are in the same area, DSS (and other programmes) will sort out the alignment and add in the extra information.

    But for now, you have achieved miracles with what you have and certainly a guide scope/camera will expand your choices. Don’t forget, you can add a little 9×50 finder scope and QHY5 (best choice) to get this autoguiding. You don’t need expensive extra scopes which leads to extra weight. Stay with the DSLR until you have mastered it…you can get a huge amount of good data from a nice DSLR…especially in the winter when the weather will be your friend, naturally reducing the temperature of the sensor.

    When you do go to CCD, depending on your annual weather conditions, consider a mono one. I like the OSC for quick results but in retrospect, I think I should have gone for a mono.

    I will be selling the OSC at some point and going with a more sensitive mono…probably the 460EX


  12. PeterT says:

    Hi Jim,
    What happened to Astronomy Shed? Looks like they got hacked badly. Been off line for a few days. Dion must be upset about it!

    • jimi43 says:

      Hi Peter

      To be honest, I haven’t been on there this week as I am frantically trying to finish the observatory. I missed a really clear night the other night with Orion clear as a bell and I was spitting bullets as my DC system is temporarily disconnected while I put the warm room in.

      I have actually now finished the outside (all bar a bit of trim)…and now am finishing the inside insulation so that I can fit the plasterboard and console.

      As the weather has turned really cold (frost at night)….I had to finish the insulation before anything else in order to work on the rest during the day and evening. The days are so very short now that it hardly seems I’m out there and it’s dark again.

      Still….that makes for super long cold nights….ideal for the imaging.

      I bought a VIXEN Sphinx SX Deluxe mount the other day for a super price and now am going to put that up on its own pillar outside the warm room so I can do a bit of observing.

      Too much to do…not enough time in the day to do it!!

      Cheers mate


  13. PeterT says:

    Hi Jim,
    Happy Holidays ! The weather in Portland OR has been below the freezing point, although the skies are clear. But, BRrrrrr. Too cold for me with no obsy and warming room 🙂

    Hey – I’m gonna get a QHY5II-L soon for auto guiding and planetary work. What’s your experience with it? Cheers – Pete T

    • jimi43 says:

      Hi Peter

      We are having a cold snap too here in the UK.

      Yesterday the wind swung around to the north so we are being blasted with cold air from the Arctic. It was below freezing last night and crystal clear skies but unfortunately, I had to work late so I could not get out.

      I use the QHY5V for guiding…for some reason it seems to work better than the QHY5II-L. The latter is better though for imaging. I need to use it more but at the moment I am still struggling with getting the observatory finished and the power and data feeds are taking the time. I need to put an ethernet connection via cable to the house and that’s what’s holding me up at present.

      I have to admit I was really not happy about missing Orion and Jupiter last night…they were so clear but without the warm room to retreat into, I can’t afford to stay out there either even with the shelter of the dome. My circulation is not up to it.

      Keep in touch mate…some nice stuff coming out of your work!



  14. Peter says:

    Jim, what’s that big green job on your backyard ? Oh yeah ! It’s a glorious Obsy waiting to photograph the heavens. What’s up, mate? 🙂

    • jimi43 says:

      It’s totally the wrong time of year at present for a number of reasons Peter.

      Firstly and most importantly…the temperature is up in the low 30s which means with a delta cooling of ambient -30 degrees I can only get it down to freezing and that’s way too high. Winter at -10 degrees gives me -40 which is much better for removing any thermal noise.

      Secondly..I am totally wrapped up with the infill plane build at the moment which should take me through to September when I can then start working in the observatory.

      Does that make sense?

      Cheers mate…patience…patience!


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