Where is spring?  Yesterday it was 70 – today it feels as though it is 20.    This evening I walked through pouring rain, my joggers filled with icy water until my toes lost feeling;  I had to wear gloves  to be able to hold the umbrella up without my fingers freezing to a claw and my ears were stinging. 

Too cold for bees today!

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Siding Spring Observatory

Siding Spring Observatory is located in the Warrumbungle Mountains about half an hour's drive from Coonabarabran in Central West New South Wales.  It is Australia's premier facility for optical and infra-red astronomy.

There are several telescopes on the site including the 2.3m Advanced Technology Telescope, the world famous 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope, 2m Faulkes Telescope, the 1.24m UK Schmidt Telescope, two Boller & Chivens Cassegrains 1m and 0.6m along with the 0.5m Automatic Patrol Telescope and 0.6m Uppsala Schmidt Telescope.

The 3.9 metre AAT Telescope:


The top end of the 3.9-m AAT - the black "thing" at the top holds the secondary mirror:


View of Siding Spring Mountain from the AAT cat walk.
The square building is the ANU/Mt Stromlo 2.3-m  telescope. The dome at the top-left is the new ANU/Mt Stromlo 1.3-m Sky-Mapper, the dome is complete but the telescope is not.



   Next are two views of the 3.9 m (diameter) AAT primary mirror.  The white "pedals" are the mirror cover – these lift up at the edges when the mirror is in use.  The primary mirror bounces the light to the secondary mirror.  The secondary mirror then bounces the light back down toward the primary.  There is a hole in the centre of the primary to allow light to pass to the "Cassegrain focus".  The tube in the middle of these photos is the path through the hole in the primary mirror.


This is my second visit to the Observatory as someone with permission to go inside the dome (many years ago on a school excursion we went to the observation room – where you peer through glass into the dome).  The first time we went out on the catwalk (about 8 stories high) I was so freaked out by having to walk on metal grating that I hugged the dome the entire path around!!   Quite literally!!   It was only afterwards that I realised how ridiculous this must have looked to any astronomers inside who might have been watching on the remote screens!!  (another strike against this astronomer's wife!).

This time I did much better – I did not make it to the railing but at least I walked away from the dome wall!


Wall of the AAT Dome:


Views from the catwalk:



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Feeling slothful

I am feeling really slothful today though I have heaps to do before I go to Australia  – both here at work and at home! But which type of sloth am I?

Sloths are extremely slow-moving mammals found in the rainforest canopies of Central and South America. Most sloths are about the size of a small dog and they have short, flat heads. Their hair is grayish brown but they can look grey-green because they move so slowly that tiny camouflaging algae grow all over their coats!! (doesn't that sound delightful??).  Their huge hooked claws & long arms allow them to spend most of their time hanging upside down – mothers also give birth to babies whilst hanging upside down!!!

Sloths have made extraordinary adaptations to their arboreal lifestyle. Leaves provide little energy or nutrition and do not easily digest – so sloths have a very large specialised, slow acting stomach with multiple compartments where symbiotic bacteria break down the tough leaves.  Up to 2/3rds of a well-fed sloth's body-weight consists of the contents of its stomach because the digestive process can take longer than a month to complete.

They have very low metabolic rates (less than half of that expected for a creature of their size), and maintain low body temperatures when active (30 to 34 degrees Celsius or 86 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit), and still lower temperatures when resting – they sleep from 15-18 hours per day so that is a lot of resting!!

Sloths move only when necessary and even then very slowly: they have about half as much muscle tissue as other animals of similar weight.  They mostly move at 15-30 cm (.5-1 feet) per minute but they can move at a higher speed if they are in immediate danger from a predator (4.5 m / 15 feet per minute).  On the ground their maximum speed is 1.5 m or 5 feet per minute.  They come to the ground to urinate and defecate only about once a week!  (given their speed of travel this must be quite an outing!).

The photo is a bit blurry because the light was low (they are nocturnal); I was taking the photo through glass and most unbelievably – the sloth was moving!!!! (look at that action!!)


Then there is Sloth in the Christian moral tradition, sloth (Latin: acedia, accidia, pigritia) is one of the seven capital sins or deadly sins. They are called the capital sins because they destroy charity in one's heart and thus may lead to final impenitence and eternal death. Sloth is defined as spiritual and/or actual apathy or laziness.

Medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas said Sloth is "sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good… [it] is evil in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away entirely from good deeds." (2,35, ad 1)

Mmm……   perhaps I had better start on my tasks!


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