The observatory is located at our family home in the village of Sharnbrook (population
~3000), 10km north of Bedford (England). The levels of light pollution are moderate
but have increased markedly in the lower half of my southern sky, with a typical
naked-eye moonless limiting magnitude of 5.5 at the zenith. I was attracted to astronomy
very early on in life, inspired by images in books and the Apollo missions. I have always
been drawn to the beauty of the night sky and am amazed that nowadays from a humble
back garden one can produce images to rival those in the books I so admired as a child.
C14 on G-11 mount
C14 with run off shed
I also very frequently use a portable 20cm Meade LX200 for a wide range of observing
and imaging. Indeed it is my most used instrument!
Shown above is my 20cm Meade LX200 SCT, purchased back in January 1999, with an
Orion 80mm ED apo refractor on top, balanced by adjustable counterweights beneath
the Meade tube. There is much to be said for the convenience of this set up and its
portability and it is my most used instrument. It is light enough for me to be able to
quite easily move it in and out of the house and to convenient places in the garden
to avoid trees etc. It accompanies me on family holidays and has even ventured to
South Africa! The optical quality is good and the mount robust and reliable enough to
carry out long guided exposures with the help of the Starlight Xpress Lodestar and PHD
software, or manually through a cross-hair guide eyepiece. By adding suitable white
light and H-alpha filters it also becomes a great solar imaging set up.
An 80mm Megrez triplet fluorite apochromatic refractor (Strehl ratio 0.97) is used for
the purpose of wide-angle deep-sky imaging and an optically excellent Orion 80mm ED
apochromatic refractor for both deep-sky imaging and imaging of the Sun.
Megrez 80 Apo
Orion 80 ED Apo
I also own a 22cm F6 Newtonian Reflector on a Dobsonian mount, made by my late father,
John Garbett and I back in my school days, with expert advice from James Muirden and
the late Horace Dall. This is ideal for use by children.
I have used a mixture of drawings, DSLR and CCD imaging. In my opinion each technique has its
merits. The CCD cameras are SXVR-H18 and SXV-H9 models from Starlight Xpress Ltd (now both sold)
and the DSLR is a Canon EOS 450D, with IR blocking filter removed. I use filters and a
motorised filter wheel by True Technology Ltd for colour imaging. A PGR Flea 3 CCD
camera is used for planetary imaging, where the quick acquisition of many frames essential.
I also have a double-stacked SolarMax 40 hydrogen alpha filter manufactured by Coronado
to enhance my observations of the Sun - this gives remarkable views of the solar chromosphere.
PGR Flea 3 CCD
True Technology Filter Wheel
With this broad range of equipment I am able to study a very wide range of astronomical
objects which I can share on my web site. I hope it encourages you to have a go for
yourself, whether it be with the naked-eye, binoculars or a telescope!
A Visit to the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge
Approaching the university observatory building (1823): a magnificent listed building...
The Northumberland 12-inch achromatic doublet refractor (1833)
The poor quality lens was replaced by a finer specimen to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the instrument, manufactured by A.E. Optics Ltd. For some
years after its construction it was one of the largest refractors in the world.
Solar Physics Observatory (SPO) and 16-inch telescope
Thorrowgood telescope (built by T.Cooke & Sons 1864)
8-inch f/14 achromatic doublet - an excellent lens
Three mirror telescope (perfectly achromatic 5-degree field)
36-inch telescope (probably the largest in the U.K.)
Built 1951-1955 by the firm of Sir Howard Grubb, Parsons & co.. Has f/4.5, f/18 and f/30 options.
N.B. the Battcock Centre building sits adjacent to it.
The Kavli Institute for Cosmology (2008)
The occasion of this visit was to the 50th anniversary meeting of the Webb Society, where the keynote speaker was Professor Carlos Frenk (pictured on the left below).
To the surprise of both my 11 year old son, Ralf and I, this lecture was also attended by the 15th Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees. We got to meet both of them after the lecture and Ralf had his oppotunity to ask the question he had in mind. Two friendly and genial men!