Mending Stuff is Good!

Meade 884 Delux Tripod

A friend recently found that her telescope tripod was damaged even though it was properly stored in the supplied case. The tripod in question is a Meade #884 deluxe field tripod (cost about £180 new) but suffers a few design problems which no doubt caused the problem:

  1. The supplied case is too small to easily pack the tripod
  2. The locking wheels/knobs which hold the tripod in the correct position are on the inside of the legs which means they all bash against each other when the tripod is folded for storage, and
  3. The locking wheels/knobs are made of brittle plastic.

The problem here was a broken plastic knob on one of these locking knobs.

Easy to solve eh? Well not quite, a search for Meade tripod spares gave no real results so I had to find out what these things are really called and then find a supplier. It turns out that they are usually called “Star Knobs” or “Handwheels” in the world outside of astronomy and tripods.


I found a supplier in Portsmouth who arranged to get three for me, and I collected them earlier today. Fantastic service from Cromwell Tools who even called me to let me know they had arrived. I fitted all three just make the tripod look the part and she now has two spares should the problem happen again.

Anyhow, anyone with a similar problem may be interested to know, the thread is M8 and about 15mm long, the Cromwell part number is GAN4255987H (direct product link) and they cost a paltry £1.50 each inc VAT.



IW Planning Applications

Suburban Milky Way

The Milky Way On My Doorstep – Copyright Chad Powell

A lot of you will know that I have been pretty busy lately with the IW Dark Skies project.

You can follow what we are up to at

Well, I need some help – if you care about this Island, please take a look at our latest post and read about two plans which, if implemented as they stand, will seriously affect our skies.

Feel free to comment on the post there or perhaps you’d like to make your feelings known to the IW Planning Department or the companies concerned.

Whatever you choose, we need your help.

Isle of Wight Dark Skies Initiative

A group of us from Vectis Astronomical Society (VAS) has been preparing to submit an application for Dark Sky Status here on the Isle of Wight.

Well the time has now come to make this initiative public so we have arranged a meeting as detailed here, here, here and, for those who can’t be bothered to click on the links(!), just below here.

Vectis Astronomical Society (VAS) is pleased to invite you to:

The Public Launch of

The Isle of Wight Dark Sky Initiative

Newport Parish Church Centre, Town Lane, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 1JU

7.15 pm on Friday 24th May 2013

Bob Mizon – a senior member of the British Astronomical Association and Campaign for Dark Skies, and Martin Morgan-Taylor – board member of the International Dark Skies Association will give a presentation entitled

“Dark Skies – Dark Future?”

This will be followed by a short presentation outlining details of the VAS application for International Dark Sky Status for the Isle of Wight

Our Island is already well known for its dark skies, as celebrated each March by the “Isle of Wight Star Party” attended by around 100 observational astronomy enthusiasts and professionals. This event has featured in recent editions of Sky at Night and Astronomy Now magazines.

Professor Bill Martin of the University of Hertfordshire Centre for Astrophysics and Atmospheric Instrumentation Research has operated a dark sky monitoring station on the Island for several years, and has stated:

“with the data we have from the Isle of Wight you potentially have the best combination of dark skies and clear weather in the UK.”

Most types of pollution are being tackled but, so far, light pollution seems to have had little attention even though it can affect all our health and well-being.

VAS is committed to reduce light pollution on the Isle of Wight and believes that achieving International Dark Sky status for the island through the International Dark Sky Association will:

Strengthen the island’s tourism industry Improve the well-being of the population Reduce environmental impact Enable further education and scientific research projects Recognize our Island as one of the most environmentally friendly and enjoyable places to be on earth.

Please send letters of support to:

Isle of Wight Dark Skies Initiative, 35 Forest Road, Winford, Isle of Wight, PO36 0JY

Is it all down to chance?

Is everything we do governed by or down to chance?
After this week, I think so…

You know what it’s like, your working day is dictated by events which may have been arranged or planned by others, and they seem to assume that because those things are written down or added to their diaries, that they will happen whatever.

Well this week, I know better! Things don’t happen in the way we assume and that’s mainly because we think things will always happen in the way they were planned. In fact these “things” are much more likely to happen in the same way experienced by a gambler. Let me give an example:

Assume I order something from the internet, I see the item is in stock and happily accept the suppliers delivery date… Mistake! – How on earth can the supplier know that their delivery company will have all their staff on hand to deliver my goods? How do they know the ferries to the Island will be running? etc etc….

The situation is far more like a gambler throwing a die/dice – sometimes it’ll be a 6 but much more likely is a number 1-5. OK, so my delivery is predicted on Monday, but that assumes we threw a 6, mostly we don’t; perhaps we threw a 4 as it snowed near the courier’s depot, that means we won’t see our purchase until, at best Tuesday and probably Wednesday or perhaps even Friday!

At every stage in the supply chain everyone “throws the die”, the end result is difficult to predict but as a rule of thumb, it’s safe enough to assume that not everyone will throw that elusive 6 and that your delivery will be late…


Sue and I recently visited Iceland for a short break. Here are some of the photos I took - pictures are in a gallery so, click on the picture then click the RHS to advance, and the LHS to go back.

All the city pictures are Reykjavik and the others show the country when we ventured a bit further afield – I haven’t yet sorted them further but I think they give a taste of the place.

Oh.. and BTW is doesn’t work properly with Internet Explorer 9 but then you are using something better than that aren’t you?

You are welcome to use any of the pictures shown here but please include the following credit if you publish them:

“Photo(s) courtesy of Brian Curd –”



Watching the BBC programme “The Genius of Invention” at the moment and, slightly distracted by Fox Talbot and his connection with the Wiltshire village of Lacock, I  decided to Google “Lacock“.

I have to declare something of an interest as I know my mother worked at nearby Stonar School some years before I was born, and that her father, my grandfather, was involved in a project there to collate FTs letters.

Having satisfied the FT connection to Lacock, I was amazed to see nothing on the  ”Lacock” Wikipedia page about the Folk Festival back in the 1970s. As those years were an important part of my youth and attendance of the festival was almost obligatory, to say I was disappointed was something of an understatement.

I am fully aware that the Festival was rather stolen by Chippenham but I am amazed that the “public facing” history of the village is so poorly reported on Wikipedia.

Oh well, I suppose I’ll have to dig out my old photos and edit the entry myself…. if you can help with pics or anecdotes I’d be very happy to hear from you…

Those were happy days indeed……..

After the floods…

Not much I can say about the weather really…. This pic was taken by Sue on Friday:


It should/does enlarge if you click on it.

Irish Newspapers Will Now Be Ignored

The following article is from Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at

This newsletter often points to interesting articles available elsewhere on the web. I usually give a 2- or 3-sentence introduction, followed by a link to the article of interest. According to a coalition of Irish newspapers, if I provide a link to an Irish newspaper, I am a pirate.

The National Newspapers of Ireland has adopted a new policy. Any website which links to one of the 15 NNI member newspapers will have to pay a minimum of 300 Euros ($395 US dollars), with the license fee going up if you post more links. See for the details.

Note that this is not a fee to post an excerpt or some punitive measure for the copying of an entire article. No, the NNI wants to charge for links alone. It doesn’t apply just to newsletters or web sites, the NNI wants to charge the same fee to ANYONE who even posts a single link in a Twitter message or any other message in any public place on the Internet. That includes Facebook, all blogs, all web pages, and perhaps anyplace else online!

This is one of the most stupid ideas I have read in recent times. The National Newspapers of Ireland obviously has no idea how the web works and also has no concept of the amount of valuable publicity that links to their members’ newspapers can provide.

Online news site Slashdot suggests this is an elaborate way to commit suicide.

Whatever the reasons, I will abide by this rule. I will no longer refer to any Irish newspaper web site until the National Newspapers of Ireland wakes up and rescinds this foolishness.

Investigating this madness a little further, I discovered an Irish Solicitor who agrees with Dick.

Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore, CBE, FRS, FRAS (4 March 1923 – 9 December 2012)

patrick moore

The BBC has just announced the death of Sir Patrick Moore.

A group of his friends and staff said in a statement the broadcaster “passed away peacefully at 12.25pm this afternoon”.
It added: “After a short spell in hospital last week, it was determined that no further treatment would benefit him, and it was his wish to spend his last days in his own home, Farthings, where he today passed on, in the company of close friends and carers and his cat Ptolemy.

Anyone with even a passing knowledge or interest in astronomy will surely know the important contribution Sir Patrick made during his life – His Wikipedia entry tells the story far better than I ever will.

Sir Patrick, an honorary member of the Vectis Astronomical Society for many years, will be sadly missed by astronomers everywhere.

Newport (IW) Golf Club

Had a round at Newport Golf Club this week.

Along with the other PIGS (Pointer Inn Golf Society) and guys from the Traveller’s Joy and Salvatore’s, we took a chance with the weather and had a knock about competition between the three pubs.

As it turned out we didn’t get too wet and thoroughly enjoyed the day. After a warm welcome in the clubhouse we ventured out on to a damp but well tended course. As Newport was one of the two Island courses I hadn’t played, I didn’t really know what to expect. I needn’t have been worried though as, despite being on winter greens for just about all of the holes, the course was in great condition and a credit to all involved.

To make things even better I shot a round of 39 points!