Saturday, March 11, 2006

Blog move

Hi all,

This blog has been migrated to Word Press 2. You should automatically be redirected to the new server in a few seconds, if not then visit the new site.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Processed images from 06/03/2006

I've processed the best AVIs from the observation session mentioned in the my previous post. It was interesting to note the notable improvement in quality in the third image. The first image taken without a 2x Barlow turned out rather "pasty" quite possibly as a result of over processing.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Imaging at the University of London observatory

Update: 07/03/2006 - 15:50:00 UT

Following some further very useful feedback from several people and helpful tips on adjusting colours and level in Photoshop, I have managed to improve the image further.

Update: 07/03/2006 - 11:20:00 UT

Thanks to David Tyler and Joel Warren for their feedback and retouched images.

Original message:

I had the opportunity to use the 8" Fry Telescope at the University of London observatory last night. The Fry telescope is an 8-inch Cooke refractor which was made in 1862. Seeing conditions were very poor, the atmosphere are damp and there were a lot of cloud cover. During brief moments of clear sky I managed to capture six AVI movies using the Philip Toucam Pro II. I've only managed to process one of the images so far. I'll post the rest of the images here very shortly. In the mean time, your comments on the this image would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks to Theo, the observatory technician for being available to help us out and set up the telescope for all of us who attended last night.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sheds and country mansions

British rocket science is housed in the most oddest of places. Tucked away in the Surrey countryside, up a narrow lane miles from nowhere in particular is the Mullard Space Science Lab (MSSL)

Who would think, looking at that picture, that this is the home to some of the latest and advanced space science payloads? MSSL has been in this business for numerous years and has contributed to the advancement of astronomical discovery in many exciting ways. Most recently it sent up equipment onboard the Cassini mission to Saturn. As well as many notable successes there have been a few disastrous failures. Whilst on a recent trip to MSSL, we got a guided tour of the facilities and had a chance to check out the numerous achievements at MSSL. Amongst some of the latest work to be done at the lab is the develop of equipment onboard the Solar-B mission.

The scene above shows an engineering model of Solar-B. You can see the various connectors, wires, computational equipment and sensor systems, camera's etc. Doesn't look like much at first glance, but once all this high tech gadgetry is packaged up in to Solar-B and sent up in to space it will provide scientists with a unique new insights in to sun. Solar-B is the follow-up mission to the very successful Japan/UK/US Yohkoh mission. Using a combination of optical, EUV and X-ray instrumentation Solar-B will study the interaction between the Sun's magnetic field and its corona to increase our understanding of the causes of solar variability. It will be launched later in 2006.

Pictured above are some pieces of dark history at MSSL. Back in 2002, Ariane Space launched its first new Ariane 5 heavy launch rocket. Unfortunately the maiden voyage ended in disaster and had to be aborted by ground controllers in mid-flight. Onboard was ESA's Cluster mission, large parts of which were built at MSSL. Salvaged from the marshes of French Guiana were some pieces of the debris and what you see pictured above is a segment of the Cluster probe that was recovered. Sitting next to it is one of MSSL enthusiastic PhD students who told us about the disastrous incident.

MSSL is a fascinating place to visit. Outside the main building you’ll find long sheds that look just like – well – sheds! From the outside you would never imagine that the lathes, drilling machines, work benches and other equipment was being put to use to build some of the most high-tech space equipment in the world. Elsewhere on site MSSL are developing new clean rooms – ultra clean environments in which they can assemble and construct some of the highly sensitive equipment that will eventually launch in to space. MSSL is an adjunct facility of University College London who have their main campus on Gower Street in central London.