Seen in this posting on the SPA BB:

Green Witch, Cambridge Astronomical Association and the Institute of Astronomy are organising a one-day astronomy event called ASTROBLAST. It will be held at the Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Road, Cambridge from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday 22nd April 2006.

It is aimed at beginners, especially children, families and school teachers but there will be something for all ages and experience. Talks, children's activities, astronomy society stands, trade stands and visits to the historic telescopes will be included, together with one or two surprises that are yet to be confirmed.
Sounds like, well, a blast!

File Under: Astroblast, Green Witch, Cambridge Astronomical Association, Institute of Astronomy.


Worst sketch ever!

In a comment posted to my previous entry Matt mentions that he's done some sketching while observing but "No sketching I want to share".

What people do with their own observations, and how happy they are with the work they do, is obviously none of my business and I wouldn't want to hassle anyone into making their observations public. I do, however, think there's an issue here that often needs to be tackled: sketches done as part of an observation don't need to be pretty, the important part, in my opinion, is that they convey something useful that you'd never have got from any text.

The image shown above is from one of the first sketches I ever did, it was during a quick session back in May last year when I was observing the conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter. It's a pretty crappy sketch, done in a hurry and with little experience behind it. The point of the sketch was to try and get on paper a quick representation of what I was looking at — it wasn't to try and produce anything pretty.

The only reason why the image hasn't been published anywhere before now is that it pre-dates my use of blank templates for doing sketches (hence the lines in the image) and it also pre-dates me sorting out a useful method of getting my observations online. Given that, for that observation, I'd also snapped an image (albeit on a mobile phone via the 10x50 binocular) I've never bothered to go back and scan it in.

I'm happy to share it, not because I think it looks nice (it doesn't), but because it contains some useful (well, useful to me anyway) information about the impression I had when looking through the binocular. Although it's a very rough sketch and some of the positioning is a bit out I can see that Tycho and Copernicus stood out well and Mare Humorum was on the terminator.

File Under: Astronomy, Sketching.


Albert Einstein Action Figure

I guess this is my first "not really astronomy" post, but it's almost astronomy related.

I know a few of you who read my blog are also now playing BlogShares. Those of you who do, if you've not noticed yet, there's a new raffle on the go and the prize is an Albert Einstein action figure.

I can hear Matt bouncing up and down in his seat right now (another member for the launch crew eh Matt?).

So, if you've got a bunch of chips burning a hole in your pocket, you know what to do...

Even Marvin thinks it's a good idea. That's why he's pointing a gun at my head, he's making me buy raffle tickets. I wouldn't normally, honest...

File Under: Geek Toys, Desk Toys, Albert Einstein, BlogShares.


Looking forward

Over the past few days I've been getting a little annoyed at how terrible the weather has been during winter. When I got back into observing last year we were more or less into spring and I had a reasonable run. However, soon into the run, I was in to summer and getting annoyed with the very short nights — I kept looking forward to winter and the idea of it getting dark nice and early so I could observe at sensible hours.

How wrong was I? The weather has been pretty awful and the few nights when it has been clear seem to have coincided with a near-full Moon or me needing to be doing something else (often both at once so I've not even managed as much Lunar observing as I'd have liked).

Next month it will be one year since I acquired my telescope and the whole cycle starts again for me. Hopefully I'll manage to get more nights in this time around than I did last year.

My mood is improved by Tom's timely reminder that I should be able to enjoy the delights of a couple of comets. Although I've observed plenty of comets in the past, I've not yet observed one since I started keeping my log.

File Under: Astronomy, Lousy Weather, Comets, C/2006 A1 Pojmanski, 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3.


Linking interests

As most people reading this will know, towards the end of last year I started work on a website to hold and display data collected with my WS3600 personal weather station. Also, since the latter half of last year, I've had a site up and running that holds online copies of my observing logs.

One of the things I do with my logs is note down the weather conditions at the time. I first started doing this in October last year, using a little Maplin indoor/outdoor thermometer. Since January this year I've switched over to using the WS3600.

So, I've got historical weather data on the weather site and I've got dates and times recorded in my observing logs. The next obvious step was to somehow tie the latter up with the former.

I'm not 100% happy with the presentation of the links yet, but I've now got a system up and running. If you have a look at this log, for example, you'll see "[More]" links next to the weather data. Clicking on any of them will take you to the weather data for that session (or observation, depending on where in the log you click) and it will highlight the period in question. By way of an example, if you click on the "[More]" link next to the temperature reading for the second observing session on 2006-01-11 you'll be taken here.

Okay, it's probably not that useful, but it was fun making it work and it's nice to have some sort of link between the two sites and the two interests.

Update: "[More]" is no longer the link. The link is now "..." followed by . Still not quite what I'd like (I'm not sure what I'd like yet) but, I think, a little cleaner than it was.

File Under: Astronomy, Weather, Personal Weather Station, WS3600.


Somewhere on a planet like Mars...

My first play with Terragen.

File Under: Terragen, Mars.

Frappr Too

Matt's done it, so how could I resist? This blog now has its own Frappr group. If you're a reader (either regular or passing) feel free to add yourself to it.

File Under: Frappr, Social Web.

Planet Building

A few days back Matt posted about having discovered Orbiter and how it makes for a nice little "rainy day" distraction (as a long-time Orbiter fan I can confirm that it does — then again I'm a bit of a flight-sim nut so that's no surprise).

I think I've found another rainy day distraction.

While reading Kaustav's blog this morning I was following the links of the posters of the comments in this post and ended up over at Palette. It was there that I saw mention of Terragen.

Oh wow! I can feel an addiction starting already.

Fjords anyone?

File Under: Terragen, Landscapes, Planet Building.


Scientific McCarthyism

Run, don't walk, over to the Bad Astronomy Weblog and have a read of the article Outrage at attacks on NASA science.

Update: The Slashdot effect seems to have kicked in. If you're trying to read the story and can't get onto the BA's site try this mirror of the article.

File Under: Religion, Science, NASA.


"Roger, go at throttle up."

I was meaning to write about this back on the 28th of last month but somehow never found the time to do it. While reading John's America in Space blog this morning this entry reminded me that I was going to mention it.

After 20 years I still have very vivid memories of the loss of Challenger. I was in my second and final year at York College of Arts and Technology, studying an OND in Computer Studies (apologies to those not from the UK who might not understand what that means). I'd got home a little earlier than normal that evening and happened to walk into the living room of my parents' house just as John Craven's Newsround was starting. I didn't pay it much attention at first but, when footage of the Shuttle launch came on, it caught my eye.

The reason it caught my eye was that, by 1986, for most popular media the Shuttle was old news — it wasn't at all unusual for a launch to happen and it only get a passing mention on the TV. I stared at the TV while feeling rather suspicious, wondering if something had gone wrong.

It had.

I can still recall the feelings: I was shocked, horrified, devastated, amazed and confused.

And, even today, when I see the footage and hear the quote I used for the title for this entry, it still stirs up some strong emotions.

Fast forward to 2003-02-01 and the loss of Columbia (something I was meaning to write about yesterday). That day I was in my baby son's bedroom, putting together a flat-pack wardrobe, when my wife came in with the telephone. "It's Nick," she said. Nick's a friend and co-worker although we seldom, if ever, talk at weekends (we both work from home in different parts of the UK). "Odd," I thought, "why would he be calling me on a weekend?" I took the phone off my wife and he asked "Are you watching the news?"

Needless to say, the wardrobe got left for a couple of hours.

File Under: Space Shuttle, Challenger, Columbia.