Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Today it is 20 years since my name appears first time in the observatory book of our amateur observatory in Iso-Heikkilä. For me, it also marks for how long I've been an active amateur astronomer in Turun Ursa, our association. It's weird how I still can remember how I climbed up that bedrock hill and how nervous I was, because I had promised to write something for the local Turun Ursa paper and they had asked me to come and visit. At that time I wasn't that sure about myself, I had been bullied at school a couple of year earlier and I had a very bad self-esteem. Still, I thank the gods that I went there again... and again... and again. There was just something in those like-minded people that gave me the feeling of belonging. (Plus the crazy nerdy humour. I just found some old article about us where I mentioned that a couple of our members had calculated that their newborn son grows 17 water molecules per second. Who wouldn't love those kind of conversations!?)

I can't really remember when my astronomy hobby has started, but I estimate perhaps around when I was 5 or 6. One of my earliest about the subject is that we borrowed a book for my brother about astronomy from the local library. It had a drawn picture of stellar lifespan and I found that pic extremely mesmerising. When I was 7 I already gave a lesson about astronomy at school (for each class separately). My first telescope I got when I was 8 and my second real one when I was 12. With that RET-50 I spent hours in our balcony in freezing temperatures looking for objects, starhopping and learning to know the constellations. I also read a lot about astronomy and learned the basics as well as entertained myself by reading star catalogues and learning the Messier objects by heart. (My god, I hated the ones that were not supposed to be visible in Finland - even if in the end we've observed them in our countryside observatory.)

So, when I was 15 I was ready to enter the social side of my hobby. I was lucky, since in Turku there's extremely long tradition with amateur astronomy as well as absolutely amazing facilities for this hobby. In these past 20 years Turun Ursa has had its ups and downs, but now with the renovation of Kevola (the countryside observatory) it's going better than ever. I'm very proud that I've been part of the association's history and hope I've been able to give back something to it for all those things it has given me. I wouldn't be the same person without it. Thank you Iso-Heikkilä. Every time I visit you I feel like coming back home.

Iso-Heikkilä observatory

Saturday, August 22, 2015

3D Printing

During the past semester I had a course of 3D printing. It was mostly a disaster, since first there was a train strike and our teacher couldn't get to Weimar and then the school's 3D printer broke up and they couldn't get the repair parts in time and then the lesson-free time already started and I was in Finland for the second weekend. (It was supposed to be a two-weekends course, but the other weekend was cancelled four times.) Talking about the German efficiency.

So, I couldn't really print anything with the 3D printer, but it was ok, because I like to do things with a budget. Meaning that people wouldn't always need to buy expensive toys to do stuff. That's why I acted as my own 3D printer and made a small Master West468 from the old BBC scifi series The Tripods. (Yes, that explains a lot about my internet nick, doesn't it?)

First, I made a 3D model in Blender. The teacher asked us to use Rhinoceros as well, so you can see that model in the pic as well, but personally I prefer Blender. After this, I used a freeware programme called 123D Make to create the layers for cardboard. Since it's a free programme it has its failings. I couldn't get it to show the other leg of the master, so I had to reflect each layer manually to make the tripod into a tripod instead of a bipod.

3D models of the master

After the model pdf files were ready it was just tedious cutting for a couple of days. I noticed on the go that it's a good idea to be really exact with the thickness of the sheets, since even 0,2 mm difference will get multiplied when you have 100+ sheets. I left a few of the layers out when the model started to deform. Still, the result was rather neat. George was happy to have a friend for his world conquering plans. That'll be interesting to see...

Building the 3D model of the master

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Noctilucent clouds

Waking up this good old blog again... The summer is here and almost gone, but there are still lots of warm days to come. I just came back from my trip to Finland. I say "trip", because "holiday" would give you a bit false idea about the time. I mean, I have the idea that "holiday" means certain time (at least a week), when you just relax, lay back and enjoy the time when you don't need to do anything. Maybe just read a book or sleep. Well, I had a "holiday" last time in 1997. But it's alright, because I love to plan things to do when I don't have anything else. Still, this trip was a bit of an overkill. I had three family celebrations with dozens of people (one of them was organised by us), one astronomy camp and several astronomy gatherings. But I also spent time with my best friends and my computer (school work).

I was in Finland when the first dark nights started after the summer lightness. It is a great time, since the colours of the sky are so pretty. Even if we can't see stars that well during the summer there are lots of other things to see. Like noctilucent clouds. They are really pretty phenomenon, which still is not understood fully. Noctilucent clouds are clouds which form so high in the atmosphere (ca. 80km) that even if the sun has set on the ground, up there it's still shining. There were a couple of really pretty shows of these. Here are a couple of pictures.

Paint the sky with noctilucent clouds
One night I couldn't sleep so I painted the sky with noctilucent clouds

Turku Cathedral with noctilucent clouds
Turku Cathedral and noctilucent clouds