Saturday, September 30, 2006

I was just reading about supernovae etc and it struck me, when we see stars explode and we all think "wow look at that", we may be witnessing the extinction of a civilization.

Depressing or what?

Friday, September 29, 2006

No clear skies at all since last week.

Tonight I went along to my local Astronomy group meeting for the first time, it was nice to spend a few hours in the company of people who share this interest. I'd definitely recommend doing this for anyone interested, there seemed to be a real mix of levels of experience which means there's always someone to give you advice without you necessarily feeling like a complete novice.

With the absence of a clear sky we spent an hour watching some documentaries of Astronomical interest before heading for home.


Friday, September 22, 2006

After a rainy afternoon I was quite pleased to see some clear skies tonight.

Took the Skywatcher outside around 10.00pm but high clouds again spoilt the view. I did manage to get a glimpse of the double cluster, the increase in aperture from 80mm (on the Meade) to 200mm made this an amazing sight through the scope!

Just as I spotted the Pleiades a meteor flashed by them! The seven sisters were quite low in the sky but the Skywatcher easily showed lots of detail though I couldn't the complete cluster using the 25mm EP. I am thinking about buying a lower power EP, say 40mm, for this kind of observing.

When the Pleiades are higher in the sky I will try to get some long exposure photos, I have high hopes for that.

That's all I had time for last night what with the clouds etc.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

No chance for any clear skies since Friday. Ian, I tried to reply to your comment, without success. The photo of Vega was taken using a Canon 350D SLR attached to my newly aquired Skywatcher 200mm Newtonian reflector on its HEQ5 motorised mount. The equivalent 35mm focal length would be 1600mm and the aperture of the scope works out at f5. The photo was a 2 minute exposure using the HEQ5 mounts motor drive to track the sky.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Well, as it got dark the high cirrus clouds rolled in yet again. I had moved the Skywatcher outside before it got dark so was disappointed again. Then a clear patch revealed Polaris so I decided to have a go at aligning the HEQ5 mount.

I had been quite apprehensive about this, the instructions that came with the scope were very good but I was still struggling to get my head around some of it. I resorted to running Stellerium and choosing the "Equatorial mount" view, all became clear as to how it should work!

So tonight I bravely got on my knees to peer through the Polarscope and managed to align the mount. I will post some tips on this at some point, assuming that I succeeded...anyway, due to the poor seeing I decided to try out the camera mount with the mounts' tracking ability.

After a few attempts I managed to get this image of Vega....

This 2 minute exposure would appear to prove that the scope was aligned sufficiently for this exposure length :o)
Well, it looks very promising at the minute, not a cloud in the sky! Problem is that it's at least a couple of hours until darkness.

More later, hopefully.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Well, last night was a total wash out on account of thunderstorms circling the neighbourhood.

Tonight has not been much better with lots of cloud crossing from the South West to the North East.

The new scope may have to wait a few weeks before I get some decent viewing.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Last night was another lunar washout, I spent some time looking through the Skywatcher but the sky just wasn't dark enough to do much so I threw the towel in and watched one of my favourite movies "Contact". The film is based upon the book of the same name by the late Carl Sagan.

Today I've just got back from a visit to the Jodrell Bank Observatory, it's roughly a 50 mile drive each way from where I live. The planetarium has been demolished as well as most of the visitors centre. They are apparently starting work on an all new planetarium and exhibition etc.

Here's a nice pic showing the star attraction....

Friday, September 08, 2006

It's looking like a clear night tonight and am I glad, just been to fetch my new Skywatcher 200mm Newt on the HEQ5 mount Smile

Drove up to Sheffield to Rother Valley Optics, impressive little shop with some serious gear, the uy runnig the place obviously knows his stuff.

Got home and started the assembly process.

It looks like I'm in for a steep learning curve with these Equatorial mount thingies, all looks greek to me so far!

Initial testing of the optics on distant terrestial objects looks good.

First tips I need is how to transport the whole thing outside without getting a hernia Surprised

So far the best way seems to be to remove the OTA, then remove the balance weights that seems to make the tripod moveable. My only worry is that replacing the OTA seems a tad fraught, I'm worried about dropping it before I manage to tighten the locking screws.

Well, not a bad first night, in spite of the high cloud and the full moon.

The 200mm Newt certainly picks up faint stars and I almost blinded myself by looking at the moon without filters on the EP!

I didn't get around to aligning the mount but concentrated on finding how it all works manually to start with, then used the motor drives to fine tune things. The motors are so quiet that at first I didn't realise they were working!

My only complaint so far with the scope is that it seems one of the tube rings must have a rough edge on it, and while adjusting the OTA for balance etc. I have acquired some nasty scratches on the tube Sad

Other than that I'm quite chuffed with my choice Smile

Thursday, September 07, 2006

There was a partial Lunar eclipse this evening, but, the moon was out of view for me until the excitement was over.

By then I was in my reclining chairhoping for some eyeball astronomy but the full moon was by then washing out most of the sky.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to get my new scope and obviously have a play with it, but it looks like it will mainly be the moon will be my first target!


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Bought the September issue of the Sky at Night magazine this morning, so after reading that Neptune and Uranus are on view this month I decided to see what I could see.

So just as twighlight fell I was outside to take a look.

Got my first view in a while of Jupiter as it sank in the west, due to the low altitude I didn't see much other than the main moons.

The moon was bright to my south, which is where I was looking for the aforementioned planets, thanks to the moon and scattered cloud tonight's mission was not accomplished, my southern horizon is not good at the best of times. But I have a few weeks yet to see them, these will be a first for me, never saw them as a child like I did with Jupiter and Saturn, they are like old friends to me now!

Anyway, did get to see Lyra and Cygnus again along with Cassiopeia and of course Ursa Major. Albireo was a nice sight as always and the monocular gave a nice view of the doubles in Lyra but not of course the double double.

Earlier in the week I decided to upgrade the Meade ETX80 with something a tad more serious. This time I am refusing to be seduced by GOTO features and concentrate on aperture and a serious mount. After some advice I've decided to go for a Skywatcher 200mm Newt on a heavyduty motorised mount. At a price of £539 this looks like a bargain after I paid £300 for the Meade.

I was almost in the car on a 65 mile trip to the shop to buy this yesterday when I decided to check availability, that turned out to be a good call, the mount is out of stock until the end of the week. So hopefully this time next week I'll be the proud owner of a new scope. I will try to sell the Meade on eBay as I don't have the space to keep it as well as the new kit.