Hunting Neptune

  Back in the day, and I mean starting around the turn of last century, you'd hunt for planets by taking photos through your telescope days or weeks apart, and then comparing the two plates.  Today I proved to myself that I have photographed Neptune from my front garden. This evening, I took this shot with my DwarfII - 10x15s exposures, stacked, and filtered to make everything cyan. In theory, somewhere in this image is Neptune. Good luck working out where. Cyan tinted star scape. Somewhere, Neptune is lurking. Last week, I did the same thing, but I tinted this one yellow. Yellow star scape. Neptune still hiding. Next, I composited them in Snapseed, and played with the opacity slider. Can you see Neptune now? Here are the two locations highlighted Neptune in two locations, circled Two very cool things about this. One, I did this with a telescope the size of a 1L UHT carton from my garden in the middle of suburbia! Two, it clearly shows how planets got their name - from the Greek  p

Good News (every) Week

  I do not often plug things. One, I suck at it, two, most things are perfectly good at plugging themselves. For this site, I am making an exception. We all know that there is a lot of horrible stuff going on in the world. And we do need to be informed about it so we can do something about it. But what about the stuff that has had things done about it? We hardly ever hear about that. A few years ago, David Byrne - ex-frontman of Talking Heads, and all-round nice guy, noticed this problem, and started a news site that focuses on solutions from around the world. https:// Well researched and excellently written articles about the good things in the world - giving us all a reminder of why we should keep going.

The Leaning Tower of Gingin and the Sun

  A six-month solargraph taken at the Gingin Gravity Discovery Centre, looking North at the Leaning Tower. Many thanks to the GDC and AIGO for letting me set the cameras up back in December! Scanned using Google Photoscan, and post-processed in Snapseed.

Summing Up What Sort of Photography I Do!

 Folks may have noticed that very little of my photography these days is "normal".  I do still take conventional photos with a fairly ordinary digital camera, but that is mostly my nature photography, and I do not often talk about that.  Great Egret - Herdsman Lake, June 2023. Nikon P900 I also do some astrophotography, up until recently using my mobile phone,  Milky Way, Pixel 6a, Guilderton, June 2022. but more recently with a Dwarf II 'smart telescope'.  Cat's Paw Nebula, Doubleview, June 2023, 98 x 15s frames, stacked in camera. These are not so much telescopes as dedicated astrophotography rigs controlled via a mobile app, and the results speak for themselves. They can align and stack multiple frames all by themselves, and compensate for significant levels of light pollution.  At the other extreme, I also experiment with in-camera cyanotype photography, using an 1830s era chemistry that is best known for making blueprints!  Mandurah Canal House, December 2020

Easy and cheap(ish) Astrophotography

Astrophotography is arguably the most technically demanding discipline in the art of photography, with high demands in both equipment and post-processing. In recent years advances in mobile phone technology have given everyone access to easy wide-field astrophotography, leaving three areas that still require high end equipment: Stellar, Planetary, and Deep-sky.  Is there still a place for high end equipment in wide-field? Absolutely! Just like the Instagram folks are discovering that a real camera takes better photos than a mobile phone, so too will a dedicated astro rig take better photos than a mobile phone.  But the mobile is accessible, cheap, and easy to use - so it will get folks in.  If you can get shots like this in a Bortle 5 area, it will get you excited, and some folks will be inspired enough to go further.  But what about deep sky? Enter the "Smart Telescope".  These are not so much telescopes as dedicated astrophotography rigs. These have many advantages - some o

AI Visual Writing Prompt 16/17 02 2023 and Tannis was not quite sure how she ended up embedded in the middle of a Varan combined tactics formation, but none of them appeared to have noticed her Cerian fighter. "Oh, well, I may as well go with it for now. It is not like they can do much with me in the middle of them, even if they do notice. Who knows? I might even be able to do some good", she mused to herself. A quick glance showed the CVR was running. Not bad last words. With that, she started checking her weapon loads.

Visual Writing Prompt 2023 02 07

Written  In response to this  prompt over in Mastadon. Part 1 Twice a year it came out of the river, always stopping in exactly the same place, no matter what was there. Buildings, vehicles, animals, anything there would be crushed - but it never went any further, and anything along the way was avoided. There it would stand for an hour, and then return to the river. No one knew why, or where it came from, or where it went. But they all agreed that it had a beautiful singing voice. Part 2 You wondering why none of us are worried? Well, it has been doing this for as long as folks have been here. Probably longer. We've had wars come through, and it pays no attention. Mind you, if you shoot something at it, it will come straight back at you! As for the crushing thing, well a few years back Old Harry left his ute there when he was on a bender. Only reason insurance paid up was that it was worth so little to begin with. Then there was that developer guy from out of town. Tried to stand h

Using a Solarcan Puck at lower lattitudes

 The Solarcan Puck is a great little reusable solargraphy camera. It has a relatively wide aperture (f/90), so it can create  a decent image in a single day.  The limitation is that it has (for a camera of this type) a relatively narrow field of view - about 120 degrees.  This means that if you have it mounted vertically, you are going to be able to record angles up to 60 degrees above the horizon. This is fine if you are above about 50 degrees latitude. At about 50 degrees, the sun will never be higher than about 60 degrees above the horizon. Why that value? Probably because of where Solarcan are based:  in Scotland.  What do the the rest of the world have to do then? You can restrict yourself to winter months - but that is not much fun.  The other alternative is to angle your Puck upwards. But how far?  In the worst case, on the Equator, the sun will be directly overhead at Solstice. This means that the Puck will have to be angled upwards at least 30 degrees - but this would mean tha

Non alcoholic cocktails #7

Jamaican Wonder (Booth's Handbook 1966) This one has all but vanished from the lexicon of cocktails - there is a variant on the Absolut site, but that is the only one, and that cuts back on the lime. Even Simon Difford appears to have forgotten it. Here is a Lyre's zero-proof version: 1 shot Dark Cane Spirit or Spiced Cane Spirit 1 shot Lime Juice 1/2 shot Coffee Originale  Dash Angostura Bitters Mix in a highball glass, and top with chilled bitter lemon. Interestingly, the published version makes no mention of ice, so don't use any in this either. This is quite sharp, but the coffee flavours combine with the rum backing to present a very tasty and surprising drink. 

Today I noticed something odd about the UAP ads

 So I made the mistake of watching commercial news this evening, and there were a bunch of UAP ads. One thing that struck me was that most of the things being campaigned about are things that are not actually things the Australian government directly controls - where super is invested, home-loan rates, and so on. Now these things *could* be legislated, but doing so would transform our economy into a centrally planned economy. This is quite aside from the rather conflicting platform of increasing investments while dropping (or holding) interest rates. Presumably also via legislation. For a party that claims "freedom" as a defining feature, they sure seem keen on direct legislative control of the economy - a defining feature of authoritarian governments. 

Detecting the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai eruption with a barometer

Here's a bit of fun around the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai eruption. We all know about the tsunami alerts and the distance the sound was heard from. But did you know that domestic meteorological instruments in Perth were able to detect the eruption? Here is a shot of my personal weather station's history for yesterday with some very rough annotations. The eruption was at about 12:10 AWST, and just over six hours later, my barometer detected the shockwave. About an hour after that, it registered the rebound shock. This has been confirmed by multiple other instruments across WA, and you can even trace the movement of the shockwave across the country. Here is a snip from the station at Condingup. As you can see, the pressure shockwave hit there about 30 minutes earlier.  Condingup is about 600km East of Perth, so we know the shockwave travelled at about 1200km/h. Tonga is about 7000km from Perth, and the shockwave hit at about 18:25 AWST - about 6 hours and 15 minutes after the

SFF Music Video of the Week - #125

Well we've got a fun one this week! Banjo spaceships, alien abductions, and a country cover of a classic rock anthem. Offering up a counterpoint to my belief that almost any song can sound good when played by the right people (see - " ...Baby One More Time" by Ahmet and Dweezil Zappa ), this shows that some songs cannot be harmed by the style in which they are played. So sit back and relax (or not) as The Dead South cover "People Are Strange", from 2021.

Life of prepared cyanotype papers

Common wisdom says to use traditional yellow-type paper as soon as possible after it has been prepared. And certainly, you will get the best results from that. However, do not be dissuaded from using older paper. Last April I ran a workshop on building cyanotype cameras, and I had a bunch of kits left over. Today I pulled out some of the papers, and did some contact print test exposures. Pleasingly, despite being quite discoloured when unexposed, they exposed perfectly well, even with a very low contrast negative. So even after nine months, a well prepared paper with is still perfectly usable! This makes stockpiling for trips a much more plausible thing! On the left is a 20 minute exposure, and 10 minute on the right. The negative is notably low-contrast. As you can see, fully exposed areas still give excellent density, and the unexposed areas have nearly washed clean, with only a little residual staining.

SFF music video of the week - 124

There's been a bit of a hiatus, but I'm back! This time I go all the way back to 1933, and the legendary Fleischer Studios. Fleischer were the creators of the infamous Betty Boop and many others, and were the original animators of both Popeye and Superman. Here we have them taking on Snow White in their distinctive style, accompanied by jazz legend Cal Calloway.  Enjoy "St James Infirmary Blues" by Cal Calloway from 1933.