Friday, December 07, 2007

Believe it or not the kitchen will be completed this weekend, it's been a nightmare of a job.

But this means I can start to sort out my workshop and extract the Skywatcher for the first time since I can't remember when.

The December edition of Sky at Night magazine includes on their cover disk two episodes about Jodrell Bank among other things, watched them both last night.

So, as long as the nights stay clear I'm looking forward to getting some observing done, especially over the xmas hols.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Just got back after picking the Mrs up from a night out, the sky is probably the clearest for a year.

So managed to pop out to see what my new skies are like for the first time since we moved. The most notable improvement is that I now have a clear view to my East and a darker sky to my South than previously.

Saw a meteor flash through Cassiopea before noticing that I can make out the bright band of the Milkyway.

All main stars of Lyra were visible to the naked eye including the double double which is very unusual.

I'm still very busy with the renovation of the kitchen so haven't had the time to sort out my workshop and hence the Skywatcher.

Next weekend we are spending a couple of nights in the Lake District so will hope to get some even darker skies assuming it stays clear.

More later.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Despite the clouds tonight I managed to watch the ISS pass over just now, it was so bright that I could easily see it through the thin clouds to my West. Jupiter was beaming away to the South but clouds are rolling in, pity that I didn't take my monocular out to see the ISS, might have seen the shuttle.

Another pass is due tomorrow night so will hopefully catch the shuttle then!


Monday, August 13, 2007

Last night I spent 2 hours from 10.00pm looking for the Perseids meteors, I managed to see 2!

But importantly I saw 2 meteors from the Perseid shower rather than what are known as "sporadic meteors". I know this because the 2 that I saw came from the direction predicted and I saw one flash to my left and one to the right within a minute of each other.
I'm hoping tonight to see more plus the ISS is due to pass over at 22.23 hours and with the shuttle docked should be quite a sight!

more later

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Just got my first sighting of the ISS since the house move, still busy on renovating the kitchen which should hopefully be finished in a few weeks :o(

Jupiter is beaming away at me from the south but I still haven't got the Skywatcher set up.

Hopefully I will get an evening of summer skywatching this week!

The OU day at the National Space Centre was interesting, but I wasn't impressed by the venue, more on that when I get the time.


Saturday, June 30, 2007

Still busy with non astro stuff but did pop out last night to get a glimpse of Venus, nice and bright but it was too early to see Saturn. Saturn should be quite close to Venus but it wasn't dark enough, Jupiter should have been visible but a large bank of clouds was blocking my view.

The OU Astro day at Leicester is tomorrow, will try to do a write-up on that.


Monday, June 25, 2007

No observing at all since the house move :o( However, I did get some good news last Friday, it seems that I managed to scrape a pass in the OU Introducing Astronomy short course, spurred on by a success I will be enrolling on another Astro course as soon as the worst of the DIY on the house is over.

Spent the last 6 weeks getting a base prepared for my new workshop and a major renovation of the kitchen.

Also, this coming Sunday is an OU day at the National Space centre at Leicester, free entrance etc, will try and do a writeup on that next week.


Monday, April 30, 2007

Managed to complete most of the End of Course Assessment (ECA) for the OU Introducing Astronomy course and get it submitted on time! I think I might scrape a pass, if not I will give up this course of academic study and stick to observing!

Found the time just now to nip outside with my monocular and take a peek at Venus and Saturn. I can't remember Venus being on view for as long as this, but then I haven't been following all of this for a long time.

It looks like the new garden should be better than than the previous one for skies. But I will have to wait until I can build a shed for the scope before it sees any action. The thought of hauling it all down the stairs and back up hill to a suitable spot is not very appealing!

But I'm looking forward to some summer evenings lying back in a deck chair and taking in the whole sky. Last summer I had one evening in particular when I could see M31 with the naked eye, that was my best ever observinf session!


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Well, it's been 4 weeks tomorrow since we moved house, what a nightmare! I'm still surrounded by boxes in my new study including the Skywatcher which has yet to be unpacked.

My first priority is to build a base for a new workshop at the end of the garden and also a shed in which to keep the scope. I don't want to build an observatory yet as I need to think about where to put it based on views of the sky.

We have fine views to the south and east from the garden which is elevated from the house which in turn is elevated from the road. On a clear day I can see Cannock Chase and in particular a tranmitting tower at Pye Green which is 20 miles away! So I reckon I have my own "barometer" for checking seeing conditions, if I can see the tower then the air is pretty clear.

Anyway, after all the house moving etc I'd forgotten to do my assignment for the OU short course on Astronomy! I had 6 months to do this but only started it yesterday and it has to be in by next Monday!

I was a bit phased to start with by some of the questions but I think I'll have a reasonable stab at getting a pass. I'll try to post an overview of the course once I've finished the assignment.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Here are the best of my photos from last night's total eclipse of the moon....

The initial phase seemed to go quite quickly but as totality approached it seemed to take ages to be complete.

I now switched my attention to exposing for the shaded part of the moon rather than the bright area.

The star visible to the right of the moon is I believe 56 Leo, will have to get confirmation of that though.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Amazingly it stayed clear all evening, so I rolled out the skywatcher and hooked up the camera to get some photos as the lunar eclipse took place.

I still haven't fully recovered from the flu so am feeling pretty well pegged out right now, will hopefully post some photos tomorrow assuming they turn out ok, I haven't uploaded them to the PC yet.

Anyway, this is the first time that I remember us having a clear night for a Lunar Eclipse ever, a brilliant sight especially earlier on when it was apparent that a bite had been taken from the moon's disk.

I wish I had the energy to stay up to watch the moon reappear.

Well, everyone is getting ready for the eclipse of the moon tonight, currently I have clear skies and have just been out with the Opticron. Nice view of Saturn quite high in the sky now, Sirius is very bright to the south and Orion was high in the sky quite early.

A quick look around the side of the house and Venus was beaming back at me quite high and very bright indeed.

Fingers crossed for the clouds to stay away for later!


Sunday, February 25, 2007

No clear skies for what seems like ages, having said that I've been suffering from a really nasty cold/flu type virus for the last 2 weeks, so I wouldn't have made much of any opportunities anyway.

That coupled with the prospect of moving house means I probably won't get much observing done for a few weeks, the up side is that the new house has a better garden setup for astronomy (I hope), I might even get to build an observatory!

more later

Friday, February 09, 2007

We had our first proper snow yesterday morning but by this morning it was almost gone. Then as I drove home at 3:45pm the snow came again, this time it seems the gritting lorries were caught out, the roads are now terrible.

So definitely no observing tonight, I've just been playing with a planetary motion applet, I got interested in this from the OU course and found this applet via Google.

I'm trying to get my head around the size/mass of the sun and planets and their distances and therefore how much gravitional force exists between say the Sun and Jupiter in order to have trapped Jupiter in a perpetual orbit.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Twilight and it looks like we're in for another clear night, just popped out to take a look at Venus and Mercury. Mercury is setting faster than Venus and so the gap between them is growing.

I have some work to do but will try to get out later to continue my hunt for M81 and M82.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Another clear day, blue skies since dawn.

Venus and Mercury were first again then, while I was waiting to get a polar alignment I got a fantastic sight my first Iridium flare cross overhead at 17:50 headed due North, I saw it as it reached maximum brightness which appeared to be far brighter than Venus, it then faded and appeared as a typically dim satellite.

I then spent some time looking at M42 using the 40mm EP, lots of nebulosity could be seen quite clearly and the stars of the Trapezium were easily separated even at this low power (25x mag). This eyepiece really shows the advantage of the large aperture of the scope, most people seem to want to instantly go for a maximum mag for their scope but usually with a huge loss in image quality.

Next I tried yet again to find M81 and M82, still no result.

By 8.30pm it was getting a tad too cold, and I have more work to do so will try to take another look later.

Woke at 4.30am and needed to check on some work I've been doing this week so getting back to sleep was not likely.

After doing some work I noticed that Jupiter was staring back at me, so I decided to cart out the Skywatcher. Because I didn't want to wake the wife I took everything out of the back door and round to the front. Then the weights and the battery + controller from the garage.

Due to the low altitude the view was quite fuzzy, although at low power I'm sure I could see 6 or even 7 moons! Too fuzzy to see any cloud belts though so a little disappointing, I decided to take a quick peek through the Opticron and that wasn't sowing any detail either so I can't blame the Skywatcher.

Pity about missing Saturn last night, right now Saturn is still chasing the Moon but over to my west out of view, that would have made 4 planets in 2 sessions.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Went back out at 21:30 and couldn't find Saturn at all due to the glow of the full moon!

It seems that whenever I get a decent clear night it always coincides with the full moon!

After the earlier excitement at seeing Mercury I aligned the skywatcher, I wanted to get some tracked images of my favourite constellation Orion. It's my favourite probably because it's one of the few that I could identify as a youngster.

Anyway, I was looking around when I noticed that a star just to the right of Orion seemed unusually bright, i.e. I hadn't noticed it before at all as being as bright as that. Next thing my wife was calling me to help with something. When I got back outside my bright star had disappeared.

So, it was a supernova, or more likely a plane or satllite :o(

Got a couple of tracked pics of Orion....

Not brilliant at this resolution but shows quite a lot of detail at full res.

Left the scope outside to hopefully get view of Saturn later
Blue skies!

It's been a glorious clear sky all afternoon, so I took the skywatcher outside at 16:30 to get it set up, while waiting for it to get dark enough to get a polar alignment I thought I'd see if I could spot Mercury.

My western horizon is the other side of the hill so I don't get much observing in that direction and there isn't anywhere local that I've found where I'd get an uninterrupted view and can park up.

Anyhow, I spotted Venus with the EB so went to grab the opticron on my camera tripod. Still wasn't really dark enough but by centreing Venus and then roughly tracking back down the ecliptic, bingo Mercury still not visible to the naked eye but quite bright through the scope!

First time I've seen Mercury since I was a youngster.

Hopefully it will keep clear!


Monday, January 22, 2007

Sunday I woke at 5.00am and having looked outside I noticed it was clear, so I decided to avoid the temptation to get more sleep and wait up for Jupiter to rise. By 6.30am the sky had clouded over :o(

Today, at 4.30pm the sky was perfect, but I had work to do, I thought I'd be OK for a couple of hours and anyway Saturn would be a while to rise. By 8.30pm when I had finished working, guess what? More clouds!

I have to get up early in the morning to catch a train at 7.00am so will soon be off to bed as it will be a long day.


Friday, January 19, 2007


Sitting here at just after 5.00pm on a Friday evening and more clouds, we've had some bad weather across the UK this week culminating in some gales on Wednesday and Thursday. On my way home yesterday I had to go through some flooding and past a large uprooted tree that thankfully had just missed the house next to it and the road!

So no chances for getting the scope out, but this morning it was clear as I left for work at 7.00am and Jupiter looked very grand to the south. If it's clear tomorrow I might get up early and get the Skywatcher out for it's first encounter with an old friend of mine!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Yep, should have done my homework before trekking off.

Just checked here and it seems I've missed out, the comet would have been too low for me to see it.

Last comet I saw was Hale-Bopp back in 1997.
Comet hunting!

At 4.00pm we still had blue sky but there was a lot of high Cirrus clouds that would make seeing conditions pretty poor.

While it was still clear I decided to jump in my car and go find somewhere where I could get an unobstructed view of the sunset from the comfort of the car! I had to drive several miles before I found somewhere to pull over without getting in anyones way.

The objective was to get a glimpse of Comet McNaught near Venus.

The sun went down and I got some nice views of the clouds near the horizon, should have taken the camera! At approx 4.40pm Venus popped into view and I waited until after 5.00pm but no sight of a comet!

It must be too low in the sky now, I had heavy clouds across the horizon just below Venus.

I need to read up on the viewing prospects, if I get up early for work I'll see if I can see it then.

Mission failed!
Clear sky

OK, so it's only 2.30pm but we have blue sky for the first time in what seems like weeks.

Fingers crossed!


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Well, travelling home from work at 5.00pm today things were looking promising, lovely clear sky.

So, got in fed the dog etc and generally rushed around to get changed and get the scope set up. Polar alignment was a breeze, set the scope aimed at Capella and started tracking while I dashed back into change again, I'd bought some thermals just after xmas so wanted to try out the long sleeve vest (just like my grand father used to wear!).

Rushed back outside again and Capella was still in the centre of the FOV!

Then I noticed the clouds....managed to get a lovely view of the Pleiades with the 40mm EP (25x mag). Then the clouds were everywhere :o(

I only had an hour or so tonight free as I have to do some work after supper!

What a let down, will try to get out later if I get the time and if it clears up of course!


Saturday, January 06, 2007


So I decided to not be lazy and went out to see what I could of Saturn. First I just took out the Opticron MM2 with my camera tripod, Saturn was low to the East quite near to the moon but not as close as it appeared with Stellarium. The Opticron zoomed in at max magnification (40x) showed the planet quite clearly, the rings quite easily discernible and overall quite a sharp image.

So tempted I swapped for the Skywatcher, the 40mm EP showed a similar view to the Opticron but as I increased mag the image quality dropped off considerably. I tried the 40mm (25x), the 25mm (40x), 10mm (100x) and the 10mm with the Barlow (200x), next I tried the 25mm with the Barlow (80x) this seemed to be the best combination but the sharpness wasn't a patch on the Opticron. However the Opticron doesn't give a large enough image to be useful.

Having said all of this the seeing conditions were nothing short of attrocious, although I'm not now so impressed with the Skywatcher for Planetary observing. Even taking into account the conditions it will obviously not perform as well as the Opticron for image sharpness at higher mag's. Of course this could well be down to the quality of the standard EP's which themselves seemed to be far better than Meade's.

The standard series of EP's for the Skywatcher seem to cost in the order of £40, the EP for the Opticron (albeit a zoom EP) was £90. So I guess I might need to invest in some higher quality EP's (some sell for £200 or more!).

Anyway, back inside now, I was about to say in the warm, but of course we have been having a very mild winter so far. Hardly any frosts that I can recall, our cricket team should have stayed home rather than tour Australia where we just suffered a 5-0 series defeat in the Ashes series! Worst performance for over 80 years apparently! But that's another story.

More later.
Well, first post of 2007 so Happy New Year to all!

First post because we've had nothing but cloud all over the Christmas break, I had been hoping to get some clear skies while I was off work.

Just noticed that it is clear at the minute but quite misty, we've had rain all day so everywhere is wet, could turn quite nasty if we get a frost!

Due to the poor seeing I thought I'd wait until later to get my first decent view of Saturn through the Skywatcher. Checked with Stellarium to see what time Saturn will be in a nice part of the sky. Guess what? It turns out that Saturn will be very close to the moon for most of the evening :o(

It will probably turn out cloudy soon anyway, the drawback that I've found with having a large scope on a decent mount is that you need to be pretty certain that by the time you get outside and align the scope that it hasn't clouded over.