Friday, 12 December 2014


Barndoor Mount  

This article was first written in 1996. As you read it you will see that it's focus was centered on film photography.  Obviously since that time, digital photography has nearly replaced film, however many of the same principles apply, just a little differently. For example film"grain" is now digital "noise". All of the information regarding the construction and use of the mount are unchanged regardless of the photographic medium however.  So whether you shoot film or digital, I hope you enjoy the article.   -Rod
This simple device is a great way to get started in Astrophotography. It is easily assembled from readily available materials, and produces some very rewarding results. It's function is to move the camera to compensate for the rotation of the Earth thus preventing the trailing of stars in the photos.
As you can see, there isn't much to this thing. Two boards, hinged on one end, with a 1/4 20 bolt running through a Tee nut. Position the hole for the tee nut exactly 292mm from the center of the hinge. I chose to buy a ball head adapter, but those of you with a little imagination and skill can probably avoid the $30 expense by designing something to hold the camera yourself.
You will see in the photo that I chose to motorize the mount. This motor is a 1 rpm AC motor (more details below) that I power with a battery and inverter. You may attach a handle to the bolt and turn it by hand if you choose. The concept is that the bolt must turn once a minute. Some simply watch the sweep second hand on their watch and approximate that motion with the handle position. The precision of this action becomes more important as you increase the focal length of the lens in use, as errors become more evident. I find the motor is a great solution to this situation. It turns precisely once a minute, and allows me to do other things while the system works by itself.
 How To Use the Mount
To use the mount you simply place it on a tripod, with the hinge to the west. Adjust the tripod so that the axis of the hinge points at the North Star, Polaris, or more precisely 3/4 of a degree offset. I won't discuss the finer points of polar alignment here, but there are many sources of information available. As you can see, I have 2 methods for attaining this alignment. The first is a very simple one. I simply gutted a pen and glued the tube to the mount parallel to the hinge. Simply sight through the tube until you get Polaris in view and you are relatively well aligned. The second method utilizes the Daisy BB gun sight you see in the photo. This unit "projects" a red dot in a window that then appears to project into the sky when viewing through the window. With this device, once properly aligned with the mount, I can simply place the red dot in the appropriate position and I am polar aligned. The Daisy sight is about $15 at sporting good stores.

Once you are polar aligned, mount the camera and aim the camera at the target, open the lens wide open and focus at infinity. I suggest that you use a cable release to trigger the camera, set on the "bulb" shutter speed. If you are using the hand turned method, you will begin to turn the bolt. If you have motorized the mount, I suggest that you have the motor running before tripping the shutter. Once you have reached your intended exposure time, simply close the shutter.
Regarding exposure times. I find it best to vary the exposure times. I usually start a about 1 minute and continue to double the time to 2 minutes, 4 minutes, etc. You can make them anything you want, but definately vary the times and take multiple exposures. It should be stated that this mount will not support extremely long exposures. Many issues contribute to this situation. First the nature of the design is such that errors in tracking will occur after a certain point. Second, the length of the lens in use can magnify these errors. A longer lens will show errors more quickly. I have used a 135mm lens for exposures of up to 6 minutes without objectionable errors, but I believe that is about the limit. Longer lenses, 200mm for instance, shorten the error free exposure times to the point where the resulting images usually do not show enough detail to be rewarding in my opinion.
I would suggest that anyone starting out try a 50mm or wider lens for at least some of the initial attempts. I find the wide field views and the wealth of items that show up in these photos to be extremely interesting and easy to do.
Obviously with our limit on exposure times, film speed becomes very important. Using 800 ISO film exposed for 2 minutes captures as much light as 200 ISO film exposed for 8 minutes. Since we know that we begin to see tracking errors at about 6-8 minutes, we need to grab as many photons as soon as possible. The difficulty is that as we increase the speed of the film, we increase the "grain" of the film. Opinions as to what is acceptable in this area varies greatly from individual to individual. I have had great success with Fuji 800g and Konica 3200.
I have found that the Fuji film provides good grain characteristics along with good speed. It seems to have a slight leaning towards the blue end of the spectrum, but it is not objectionable and can be adjusted in printing.
The Konica film is really a great film for widefield shots. It is so fast that it picks up an unbelievable number of stars and other features in a short time. It seems to be really sensitive to the red end of the spectrum, which can be ideal for many nebula.
Any 35mm camera that allows for holding the shutter open via a "bulb" or "time" setting can be used. Some of the modern cameras can pose a bit of a problem though as a result of their electronic shutters. It seems that these cameras consume battery power in order to hold the shutter open. This can cause some to exhaust the batteries during the long exposures, especially during cold weather. The solution if you own one of these cameras is to carry extra batteries or get a camera with a mechanical shutter
Regarding lenses. Another aspect to gathering as much light as possible as soon as possible is to use a "fast" lens. Many 50mm lenses sold as standard equipment are f1.4 to f2.0 making them ideal for our purposes. Longer lenses like 100mm or 135mm are available in anything from f2.0 to f4.5, most fall in the f2.8 to f3.5 range. The faster are better than the slower, remember we want to gather as much light as soon as possible. The good news is a that many of these lenses are finding their way to the local used market as more and more people move to autofocus. They are usually available for less than $100 and often for much less.
Zoom lenses, while usable, generally sacrifice a couple of things. First they are generally slower than their single focal length counterparts. Second, the are usually less sharp at the edges of the field. While this might not be noticed in general photography, stars, being the tiny point of light they are, have a way of bringing to light all of the shortcomings of lenses.
With regards to tripods, the sturdier the better, especially if you are hand turning the mount. A simple tilt head will work just fine, as all you require of it is that it can adjust to point the mount at the North Star. My own experience has taught me that there is no such thing as a cheap AND sturdy tripod, and that there is little as frustrating as a bad one. Look at the expenditure as a life time investment, as a good one can be.
Use a cable release to avoid shaking the camera while releasing the shutter.
 Processing Your Photos
This portion of the process will take some patience on your part. Most photo processing companies will take a look at your negatives and assume that you took some pretty dark pictures and try to compensate by printing your pictures way too light. The best solution is to find a local one hour processor at which you can talk to the operator and advise them as to the nature of your photos. If possible have them print a single negative using the entire range of settings on their machine (usually 5 or 6) then choose the one that is most pleasing.
Take care when doing the polar alignment. Small errors here can have significant effect on the photos.
Take along a watch with at least a sweep second hand. I prefer to use a cheap electronic stop watch to time the exposures
Get out away from the city lights. Sky glow will ruin your photos.
Careful when walking near your tripod during exposures. I have had photos ruined by vibrations transmitted to the tripod by people walking around nearby.
If you motorize the mount, attach a small "flag" of masking tape to the end of the drive screw. This allows you to confirm that the drive is working with a quick glance at the turning flag.
Try many different exposure times for each shot, and write them down. This will help you keep track of your successes and your Astronomy friends will want to know these details.
Don't be discouraged with failures. All of us who have attempted this process have had failures, but the successes are very rewarding.
 Construction Details
The mount I constructed is motorized. The motor was sourced from American Science and Surplus for about $2.50 and is a 1 rpm AC motor. I am not aware of a stock number, but the motor is marked as follows: Singer Controls Division Model 414 349-20 115v 60 hz 3W 1 RPM CW. It comes with a small gear that I slide a short section of 1/4" tubing over and slide the other end over the ground down head of a 1/4 20 carriage bolt. This provides the "coupling" of the motor to the drive bolt. Simple but effective. I find that this works well for exposures up to about 14 minutes. At that point the system begins to bind. To avoid that, I simply detach the tube and reset the bolt to the starting position after long exposures.

When measuring the placement of the hole for the drive bolt tee nut, take the time to do it accurately. Misplacement of the hole will be the source of errors in your photos.
Use a sturdy hinge. Avoid piano hinges as the ones I have seen do not seem to be very sturdy.
I mounted the ball mount in the center of the length of the board towards the front. The position of the ball on the board does not matter, but if it is your intention to use a heavier medium format camera, mounting the ball adapter closer to the hinge might reduce the load on the motor to some degree.
In some orientations the camera can be difficult to position exactly where you want it. It might help to include a spacer block under the Ball mount to provide additional height to allow the camera to swing freely to any orientation.
To power the mount in the field, I use a 12v 4 amp hour gel cell battery attached to an inverter providing 110v AC output. I have used this all night without approaching exhausting the battery. Obviously if you have access to AC power at your dark site location use it.
Attaching the mount to the tripod is accomplished with a 1/4 20 Tee nut in the bottom board. Anywhere is fine, I centered mine.
Here are a few shots taken with this rig

North America Nebula

California Nebula

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Random ... Or is it

IS WILLED... potentials

some new fRactal aRt


i think i found something

THE BEST !!!!!!!
Phil Plait

60 Years Ago Today: The Day a Meteorite Hit Ann Hodges

Sixty years ago today, at 2:46 p.m. local time, a meteor burned over Sylacauga, Alabama.
Normally, this wouldn’t be news, except that this fragment of interplanetary debris was pretty big, probably massing dozens of kilograms. It broke up high over the ground, creating a fireball bright enough to be witnessed across three states. Most of it became vapor and very small chunks, but one piece, with a mass of 3.9 kilos (8.5 pounds), survived its atmospheric entry. Falling at terminal velocity—a couple of hundred kilometers per hour—it made it all the way to the ground.

Kinda. Actually, there were two things in its way: a house, and Ann Hodges.
The rock slammed into the house, punching a hole in the roof. Still moving rapidly, it hit a radio (at the time, a pretty big affair), caromed off, and smacked into the hand and hip of Ms. Hodges, who was napping on the couch nearby. It left a fierce bruise on her side that, to this day, still gives me the willies. This event is the most well-documented case of a human hit by a meteorite in history. 

roof hole
Photo by the University of Alabama Museums

Dr. Moody James shows where Ann Hodges was struck in the hip by an 8.5 lb meteorite that crashed through her roof (right). The photos appeared in the Dec. 13, 1954 issue of Life magazine.
I first read about the Sylacauga meteorite when I was a wee lad, visiting a friend’s house. They had a complete collection of the well-known Time Life series of books, which covered various topics like biology, geology, and space. The article in one book had the picture of Hodges that made her famous, showing that enormous bruise. I was already a huge dork about space then, but those books, and that picture, strengthened my excitement. Getting nonfatally hit by a meteorite sounded like the coolest thing ever to me.
What I didn’t know at the time (and probably wouldn’t have appreciated at such a young age) was the real story that happened after Hodges was hit. There are some fairly complete articles about the aftermath at the Encyclopedia of Alabama and the Decatur Daily.
Basically, there was a tussle over who owned the meteorite. Hodges and her husband were renting the house from one Birdie (or Bertie) Guy. Legally, Guy owned the meteorite, since it landed on her property, but public opinion, unsurprisingly, sided with Hodges to keep it. The legal wrestling went on for some time until Guy gave up the lawsuit. But by that time interest had waned, and no one wanted to buy the rock. Hodges—and this brings me pain to write—used it as a doorstop. She eventually donated it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History, where it’s still on display.

That rock, even at the time, was worth a fortune. To give you an idea, a second piece was found not far away by a farmer on his property. He was able to sell it and buy a new house and a car. And his piece was less than half the mass of the Hodges chunk, with less notoriety as well. Were something like that to happen today, the meteorite would sell for a lot of money.
Hodges’ legal problems were so great that her mental and physical health suffered. She and her husband divorced, and she died of kidney failure in 1972 at the relatively young age of 52. It’s easy to wonder how much the event led to her decline. I also wonder, if Guy and the Hodges had been able to reach a friendly agreement, how their lives might have worked out for the better?
Postscript: Interestingly, in the fall of 2012 a smaller meteorite broke up and rained debris in Alabama not far from the earlier event. That’s just a coincidence, just like the coincidence that the drive-in theater across the street from the where the Hodges lived was called The Comet! Author Fannie Flagg also wrote an homage to the event in her book Fried Green Tomatoes; in it a meteorite hits a radio in a character’s house, who took it in stride.
It’s sad that real life didn’t work out so well for the Hodges. I collect meteorites; it’s a hobby of mine. I love their fantastic shapes, the science behind them, knowing they came from the Moon, or asteroids, or Mars. Holding a rock in your hand and knowing it’s more than 4 billion years old is profoundly moving. But some have a human story as well, and those can be just as moving. We think of the Universe as remote, inaccessible; but sometimes it reaches down and touches our lives. In many ways, what happens after that is up to us.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

cosmics winds...
from before the event of light...
rippling forces of origins...
particle existence
evolving... time dreams... of it
one sound before hearing...
an omnic-rush... stiring space
between  frequency / the first echo
re/echoing  kenetic dimensions
ancient visions... unstilling space
first pulse... in flight
threaded circles... strings of color
cast threads... tendrils weave realities
earth circles... centering electric whispers..
rythmns... in time's design
forever folding... closing nearer
in states of being
singularities overlapping
transmuting grids...
entwining pendulums
oscillating senses
by dh 204

new fractals
by dh  2014




ramblings of  it or not
realms of light ...
            spinning threads
            moments glowing
            electric fields
            within fabrics of dream
wave essences
           emerging frequencies
           magnetic tense
           intergrative spectrums
           dream sculpting transitions
densities of time
           asscensions of alignment
           recreating the instants
           increments of
           dimensions of quantum zero
clustering particles
           singulars / drift polarities
           psigraphic imaging
           solidifying layers
           equating balance
The I being...
by dh 2914
within the abyss
lost echoes... who called
who spoke
sometimes just a whisper
or moments of silent screams
I sleep inside my shadow
far from the blindness
of the light
drifting between the seconds
within a second thought
by dh 2914

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

LIGHT POLLUTION .... save the stars

 Astronomers consider Light Pollution to be the number one threat to civilization, trumping global warming, terrorism and reality TV.  Perhaps our priorities are a little skewed, but there is increasing evidence that light pollution affects all of us, whether or not we care about seeing the stars.


It is definitely a new problem.  Before the advent of electricity, everybody who looked up at night saw the sort of breathtaking stellar vista that always astonishes us when we're able to get far out into the country at night.  Before electric light became ubiquitous, the night sky was always like this.  Except that this isn't quite true: a full moon can be as devastating to the night sky as sub-urban light pollution, and our ancestors had just as much of a problem with inconvenient clouds as we do.  But at least they knew that, if the sky was clear and the moon was below the horizon, they could see anything they wanted.  All this began fading away as electric light became more widely available and we started lighting up our world.  Modern humans have an overwhelming fear of the dark, and are always amazed when astronomers claim to be able to see just fine thanks without a torch, so we spend large amounts of money on badly designed light fittings to banish the night forever.  And this causes problems.

Many creatures are attracted to light.  Witness the swarms of insects around every street light.  In parts of Switzerland, certain native species of bat have vanished because their food has been concentrated around the street lights, where larger bats prowl.  Since they can't compete, and can't find food away from the lights, they die out.
A more dramatic effect can be found around oil rigs, light-houses, and other intensely bright marine lights.  Sea-birds in their thousands deviate from their normal flight to circle these lights for hours on end, before dropping into the water from exhaustion.
Other birds sing for longer than they should, because of the longer artificial day, and shorter night.  As a result, they feed more, and mate earlier, and begin migration weeks or months early.  Which sounds fine, until they arrive at their destination where it's still too cold for nesting.
To a turtle, searching for a nesting spot at night, the land looks darker than the sea.  It seeks a dark beach, but these are becoming fewer and fewer.  When their young hatch, they head towards the light, since that should lead them to the sea.  Instead, they head away from the sea, and die in their thousands.

Physiological Effects

And these are just some examples.  But what about us?  How are we affected?  According to this article which originally appeared in National Geographic a few years back, darkness is as essential to our biological welfare, to our internal clockwork, as light itself. The regular oscillation of waking and sleep in our lives—one of our circadian rhythms—is nothing less than a biological expression of the regular oscillation of light on Earth. So fundamental are these rhythms to our being that altering them is like altering gravity.
The most obvious effect would be that we don't sleep enough.  And when we do sleep, we don't sleep well.  Too much light interferes with our sleep cycles, but we've all experienced the discomfort of a street-light, or a neighbours security spotlight shining through our windows.  The easiest way to wake somebody up is to simply turn on the lights in their bedroom, and wait a short while.  And now, according to three seperate studies (Meeting report: the role of environmental lighting and circadian disruption in cancer and other diseasesLight at Night Co-distributes with Incident Breast but not Lung Cancer in the Female Population of Israel and Artiļ¬cial lighting in the industrialized world: circadian disruption and breast cancer), too much light while we sleep can disrupt normal hormonal production, and appears to be linked to an increase in breast cancer.

Causes and Solutions

So what do we do?  We can't ignore the many benefits of electric light, and to propose that lights be banned at night (or after a certain time) like World War Two england is beyond ridiculous.  Lights on roads save countless lights in avoided collisions, lights in our houses and gardens allow us the time to pursue our modern lifestyles, and help keep our homes secure from criminals. 
The answer is to find ways to keep the light where we need it, and away from where we don't.  A typical motion-sensing security light is a great example.  It has two spotlights on a single fitting, mounted in a corner and angled so as to light up the entire area when it is triggered.  But if you look carefully at the beam of light it casts, more than half of that light is beamed up into the sky where you don't want it.  More than half the light you're creating (and therefore more than half the electricity you're paying for) is not only being wasted, but it's adding to the problem of light pollution.
Alternatively, some people install massively powerful floodlights in their gardens, to ensure that burglars will have no place to hide.  Unfortunately, the lights are so incredibly bright that they dazzle anybody who happens to look in their direction, so that the homeowner, concerned neighbours, even passing policemen are discouraged from looking into the area.  And if they do, they're blinded by the bright light shining in their eyes.  End result:  Massive light pollution, and the contradictory effect of having a bright light making it impossible to see the area it's supposed to be revealing.  

So install dimmer lights that illuminate without dazzling.  Position them intelligently, angled downwards so that all their lights shines where it's wanted, and none is wasted.  Many light fittings make this impossible to do, so scrap them and replace with an International Dark Sky approved fitting (available worldwide).  You'll find that not only do you improve your health, environment and security, but you will rediscover the night sky and regain a bit of lost beauty into your life.


An early audio recording of a TV drama, starring future Doctor Who companion Jacqueline Hill, has been unearthed by the film's director.

The play Requiem for a Heavyweight, is notable for also featuring the first lead performance by the future James Bond, Sean Connery as well as an early performance by Michael Caine.

The play was broadcast on 31 March 1957, performed live on BBC Television as part of the Sunday-Night Theatre series. It was written for US television in 1956 by The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling where it starred Jack Palance in the lead role.

Jacqueline Hill played Grace Carney in the UK version, which was directed by Alvin Rakoff, who would marry Hill the following year. Rakoff said it was his future wife who convinced him to cast Connery in the Palance role, when it was clear the actor wouldn't travel to the UK for the British version of the play.

He told BBC News:
I got a call from Palance's agent who said: Jack ain't gonna show. Something better had come up and he didn't want to come to England. Jacqueline said, Have you seen Sean?... the ladies will like him, which was quite a remarkable statement but it was true, women adored him and so I called him and narrowed it to two fellows and Sean got it.
The play was thought to have been lost until Rakoff remembered a recording he had asked the sound booth to make during transmission:
I had suddenly thought: 'Maybe this is an important piece,' and I spoke to the man in the sound booth and asked him to do a reel-to-reel so he had an audio recording, and he did.
After a search Rakoff recently found the recording in the attic of his London home.

Jacqueline Hill and Alvin Rakoff were married for 36 years, until her death in 1993. Rakoff, now in his 80's, is still working and has just written the conspiracy thriller The Seven Einsteins.

Acknowledgements: with thanks to BBC News

Thursday, 10 April 2014

psimension thoughtings

Some are into miracles
others into self... such a thin
thin line...
where east meets south
and  neither is direction
automatic postings of a world
turning silent...
a drifting wave...  an empire
wishful egos withstanding pain
fallen little soldiers
they didn't see it coming
sleeping off the edge
wakened as coffee turns to water
candy turns to stone
blessed are the flowers
that make it thru the winter
seeming to be...
go around the corners
towers of extreme
stalemate was the weapon
radical design... still the sane
can a moment equal moment
can second be a first
words of crumpled paper
mounting mountains of confusion
sunken by the weight
in what like states of being
servered by execuction
the winds untangled gale..
the table with two legs
pivots with hesitaion
sways away from centre
history incompleted
repeateded simulations... not for all
a warrior...  the period
ending of the sentence
brief  vision in beliefs....
before the stars

In the shadows of the
holographic universe
in time again
acceptence of seven dimensions
somewhere between the infinite
all there   ... heat then light
which memories instilled
the expansion ...
cauldrons of radical potentials
the nothingness particle
filiments swirl
form an essence
transpectral emergence ...
in circles of eleven ...
    Souls of chaos
    kenetic balance
    Awakening ....
from silence
heartbeat of the eternal
encoded patterns of conscienes....
.... electric
liquid ...
released from the cocoon
in presence evolves
quintessence entities
before light... after light
ethereal dreams
humonitc connections
in auric shadows
parapsizing the integers
block equations
the now...
the unraveld fields
in pastures of the 33..
elements in matrix form
coefficient notations
Symbolic integration
swirl... escape the cauldron of
osscillatings rings
the it is/ings
fractalize the death spiral
dissapations of the rule...
open fields... the uncreated
yet burns.. the flame
magnetic krystals... expotenial essence
shifting entities
a spinning cube
exchange designs
singular balance
conceptual fields of the sphere
all points beginning...
chaos... soil connections
unfolding sides.... windborne
presences intice the flames
untimely colours sparkle
dualities... evoke the earth
dreams dream themselves to sleep
pulsating... in presentry
scaling tones
slip steams embrance
merging reals <><>
all in a whisper
the rustling of leaves
twining flames into existence...

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Tips & History.... Astronomy

Astronomers in the world's oddest observatory cannot see the sky at all, and do not need to. The observatory is about I600m (1 mile) underground in an old mine in the western United States, and its 'telescope' consists only of a huge tank of cleaning fluid. Yet it can 'see' into the core of the Sun better than any visual observatory in existence.
The reason has to do with a sub-atomic particle called a neutrino. Neutrinos have no electrical charge and virtually no mass. As a result. they can pass through most forms of matter unchecked - a property which makes them extremely  difficult to detect. Most of the radiation generated at the Sun's core is absorbed by the Sun's surface layers.

Neutrinos, however, once created, are unaffected by the outer layers and so provide a direct indication of the activity in the core. Neutrinos are also largely unaffected by the Earth, so most pass straight through without even slowing down. But they can sometimes react with atoms of chlorine-hence the tank of cleaning fluid which is rich in chlorine.
By monitoring the reactions in the tank, scientists can gauge the number of neutrinos reaching the Earth, and thus the number being produced by the Sun. The tank has to be so far underground in order to block cosmic rays which would otherwise swamp the neutrinos' effects.
The smallest stars known are neutron stars, so called because their electrons and protons have been crushed together to form the sub-atomic particles called neutrons. A typical neutron star is only about 25km (15 miles) across, yet it may contain as much mass as a star the size of the Sun. As a result, a pinhead of neutron star material would weigh about 1 million tonnes-as much as two of the world's largest super tanker ships put together.
Neutron stars are believed to be the remnants of large stars which have erupted as supernovae at the end of their lives. Their intense gravity has the effect of concentrating the powerful radiation they give off into beams. Since many neutron stars also spin, the radiation sweeps across space like the beam from a lighthouse. As the beams flash past Earth, the star seems to pulse with energy-which is why rotating neutron stars are known as pulsars.

The first pulsar was discovered by radio astronomers at Cambridge, England, in 1967. Hundreds of others have been mapped since then. The first pulsar to be identified optically as well as from its radio waves was the small, faint star at the core ofthe Crab Nebula. Spotted in 1968, the star spins 30 times a second. Since then, other pulsars have been spotted which spin thousands of times a second.
One of the largest stars known is Betelgeuse, a red supergiant which marks the right shoulder of Orion. If Betelgeuse were positioned where the Sun is now, it would engulf the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. If it were possible to make a telephone call from one side to the other, your voice, travelling at the speed of light, would take half an hour to reach the other end of the line-even if the call were routed straight through the star's centre.
If the call were routed around the surface of the star, your voice would take an hour and a half to get through. Some astronomers believe that a mysterious and invisible object in the stellar group known as Epsilon Aurigae may be still larger. The object has not been seen directly but every so often it seems to cause a partial eclipse of its visible neighbour for a staggering two years at a time. By observing these effects, some astronomers calculate that, if the object is a star, it may be more than 3000 million km (2000 million miles) across-large enough, if it were in our solar system. to engulf all the planets out to Saturn.

Monday, 17 March 2014