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!