Saturday, December 10, 2011

Double Whammy

You know you've started to get in to this astronomy lark when you start to notice when the skies look different.

Friday Morning (9/12/11) I was waiting for my bus at 7am and thought that looks like Saturn up there but then about 5 degrees West of it was another red planet. Mars! I rarely see Mars being a late riser but to see the two together was a real plus.

Mars has started it's retrograde orbit when it appears to double back on itself (it happens 71 days every 25 months and is too complicated to explain - I've only just got the hang of it myself!) so the two were placed near each other in the sky.

With that in mind I got up early today (6.30am) and got the scope out and what do you know, wisps of fine cloud! I did get a good view of Saturn, my first this season and a quick glimpse of Mars.

This was my first view of Mars through my scope and it was possibly a bit cold; the scope hadn't "warmed up" sufficiently and everyone's central heating had kicked in but I think I could make out dark spots in the middle of the hazy red blob.

I wasn't able to take pictures as a) the moon was quite bright (but what a moon - eclipse tonight!) and b) the sun was rising however I shall persevere.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Light Pollution

Following my last post I bought a light pollution filter (Meade £19.99) to aid my visuals. I know I'm a tad naive but I thought this would enable me to see the heavens in a whole different light; clear definition of Andromeda and images of Jupiter so close I could choke on the gas clouds.

It didn't.

What it did do was get me to look at other objects such as double stars. My first was Mizar and Alcor (incidentally it was also the first discovered) and is located as the middle star of The Ploughs handle. This then led me to the doubles in Cassiopeia which in turn led me to the clusters in Cassiopeia. Definitely worth checking out if you have access to a dark enough sky.

Now I'm not stating that the filter was bad, I just didn't have realistic expectations. What the filter has done is produce much more definition in the cloud bands on Jupiter, I think Andromeda is a little clearer and I was able to see the Pleiades which is ENE at the moment and usually a no go area for me due to the orange of Sheffield's lights. It has also made my viewing of the moon more of a pleasure as well as it has toned down it's brightness.

All in all it was a good buy as it got me looking at different things. Filters, like eyepieces, vary in price enormously and expectations should be in line with what you can afford.

My next purchase will be an 15mm eyepiece which I hope would enable me to see eruptions on Io and craters on Ganymede, on the other hand I'm not holding my breath!


Friday, October 14, 2011

It's Jupiter!

I have just had the best view of Jupiter and its moons that I have ever had! It's a shame that the moon is so very bright though.
I even watched a moon go behind Jupiter during the session (approx. 21:50 to 22:30). The two bands were clearly visible. I even saw some other band shading above and below the main bands.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Right Back to Square Two

My first night out for 6 months, same location (sw Sheffield) & same kit. I'd spent a couple of evenings prior doing some naked eye astronomy and I'm glad I did. I thought I'd start off on something easy like Jupiter and although the "seeing" wasn't too good I saw the two equatorial cloud bands and the four moons at both 50x and 150x.

As the night was reasonably clear, there were some wispy clouds about, I thought I'd go off-piste. Given the recent news regarding the supernova I thought I'd have a stab at the pin wheel galaxy and what do you know; I found it! It was a blur but I could just about make out the "arms".
So, on a roll, I thought I'd have a go at my old nemesis, Andromeda. After about 15 minutes I found the all too familiar blur. Of all the sights I've seen I would love to see it in more detail. At both 50x and 150x I can only make out a faint glow in the middle of a smudge.

The title of the post relates to the fact that spending some time looking at the stars, with or without a telescope, means your locational skills get better and constellations become easier to recognise.

A successful night for me but I can see a future blog regarding scope maintenance as my focusing wheels were a little sluggish. Saying that tonight has made me want to save my pennies for a Dobsonian or standard reflector.Watch this space.Al

Thursday, September 29, 2011

First night at a new site

I have recently moved house with bigger gardens and luckily has dark skies. Last night was not only my first foray outdoors with the scope here, but also the first since I fitted my RA motor drive (to counteract the Earth's rotation once the scope is polar aligned).
Well, what a treat I had - some of the things I saw I've been wanting to see since I was 10 years old! The Milky Way was clearly visible - much more than I have previously seen.
All of the objects were viewed with my 4" mak with 25mm eyepiece, which gives me 52x. I really like this eyepiece for the wide field it gives me even with the 1300mm focal length of the scope.
* Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
* Ring Nebula (M57) in Lyra. This is a Planetary Nebula
* Alcor and Mizar in the Big Dipper and also Mizar's double
* The double cluster in Perseus - two open clusters, NGC869 and NGC884. NGC869 has a lovely haze of light behind the stars. NGC884 contains supergiants, some of which are 50,000 times brighter than our Sun!

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable night.


Friday, September 16, 2011

A blast from the past...

One more from the archives.
This is Comet 17P Holmes from 16th November 2007 at 22:20GMT.
Taken with camera only - ISO1600 6.5sec at f3.2 (hybrid DSLR Fuji FinePix5600 at 300mm).


What can I see with my (your) equipment?

I have just come across THIS superb on-line app via Stargazers Lounge.
It shows you the apparent Field Of View (what you expect to see) for a range of scopes, eyepieces and objects.


Supernova !?

In light of the Supernova in M101 (Pinwheel Galaxy) I thought it time to post something. Both Al and I are gearing up towards starting more regular viewings as the nights close in and get a little crisper.
I had all good intention of seeing the Supernova but as luck (or lack of!) would have it, cloudy skies and bad timing prevented this. Is there still time? ...... maybe, but it will be getting much dimmer now - I mean it's only got to travel a mere 27 million light years!! - that's approx. 6 mega parsecs!, CRIKEY. Here is M101:


Thursday, April 21, 2011

ISS Transit

Over the next week or so the International Space Station (ISS) will be rather bright - up to magnitude -3.6! Here is an image taken tonight (21st April 2011) at approx. 21:25 BST. The "star" to the bottom left is Saturn. (The other lines are phone cables).
The whole transit lasted about 5 minutes, this exposure is approx. 2 mins.
The ISS travelled west to east - that is right to left in the picture.

For data about transits please see from our links.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

What a night!

So, my first foray outside for a while and what a night it was!
The crescent Moon looked superb in the West and the full globe was actually visible due to Earth shine.
Swinging the other way to the East, Saturn looked splendid with Titan clearly visible. The rings haven't opened out properly yet, so not as good as she can be.
I think I had my last look at Orion and the Nebula (M42) as he sank below the horizon - shouting in the arrival of Spring I guess.
Now ..... as I moved to a darker spot something caught my (averted vision) eye. It was a cluster of stars slightly low and east of the Gemini twins Castor and Pollux.
I viewed the cluster with some delight and after consulting "Turn Left at Orion" found it was M44 - The Beehive Cluster (see photo). I have NEVER seen this before, but it is quite a large naked eye cluster.
A meteorite graced me with its presence towards the end of the session and showed a long trail. This was near my zenith (sounds painful but means overhead!).
Overall it was a great night. Very clear skies and just like a summer's evening. Lovely.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

3 day old moon

Just a quick one.
Last night was the best night for astronomy in weeks as my friend MJ will testify. The usual suspects were in all their glory, the Orion Nebula, The Pleiades and all. Going out about 7.15pm the moon was on it's final descent so I captured this snap of it's boat like shape.

I really wanted Saturn but unfortunately I wasn't around when it was at it's best angle for me (about 10.30) so here's hoping I get another chance soon.


Monday, March 07, 2011

Starry, starry night ....

Well it's cold, clear and the moon is low. Had a great view of the Orion Nebula at 52x - quite spectacular. Then simply had a go at a normal photo shot of the Pleiades and it's neighbours (shown here). Not too bad, about 14sec. exposure/ISO800 at 50mm so start to get a few star trails - but you get the idea. Clearly shows the different star colours. Saturn will be good soon - rings already opening out for us.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Strike While the Irons Hot.

Due to the quality of the picture below and due to another good night I thought I would take another shot of the moon. This one was taken 2 hours after the first (4pm & 6pm respectively). Note the shadows on the craters and also the mountain range, left of mid centre.

I also threw in a picture of Jupiter, at the top, as I think it'll be my last as it slowly sinks toward the horizon. There's even 3 moons for you!!


Daytime moon

Just a quick one.

Although I had a couple of good nights recently, saw the Plaedes, the Orion Nebula AND Andromeda all in one night the shots I took need a lot more work. I did take this shot of the moon about 30 minutes ago though. It's at 20X mag and is a stack of 3 pictures. Had I known how easy it was to stack I'd have taken more (Tch, still a lesson learned!)

Excuse the "blemishes" on the left hand side. Something needs a clean!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Saturn, at last.

I first saw Saturn through my new telescope on 18th January 2011 and I'll remember it for a long time. I was amazed at the colour and the way it outstripped everything else I'd seen so far. Yes, I knew what it would like; rings, check, browny colour, check, but nothing can prepare you for your first actual sighting. It was easy to find (SSW, 40 degrees elevation about 6.30am to 7.00am) and stood out in the eyepiece.

The next morning, same time, I tried to get some images and have included them here. Obviously they don't quite match the image that I'm portraying in words but you can see what it is!! The one directly above is 150X mag whereas the shot to the right is about 50X. Camera shake (nerves?) and the speed needed for the set up got me but I'll keep trying.

I've included a little video which I intended to use the frames from and stack to make one decent picture but it didn't work so you can see the full 15 seconds. Note how fast it moves across the eyepiece. The magnification is about 50x.

Now to shoot the phases of Venus!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A New Year, a New Lens

My main reason for this post is that I've been looking at the Plaiades recently. One of my starting points as a child so one to go back to with proper kit. I took this (admittedly poor) picture but as my camera only has a maximum of a 1 second exposure it's not great. Anyways there it is on the left. I'm unsure whether or not the blue tint is the reflection of the gas cloud they're passing through or my my movement! I will try to get a better shot and post it.

For Christmas I was lucky enough to get a 3X barlow lens (a barlow increases the magnification of your current eyepieces and is commonly found in sized 2X, 3X & 4X). My first attempt with it was at my highest possible magnification I.E. my 10mm eyepiece and the barlow lens which gave me a total magnification of 150X. I tried the moon but at such high magnification it moved to fast, so I tried Jupiter but struggled to focus on it properly and then last night I got my first ever glimpse of the Orion Nebula. At the same magnification I could see all the main stars in the trapezium and it will be an area of the sky I'll revisit over the next few months. However judging by attempt at Pleiades above I'll leave the shots of the Nebula to MJ!!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Let's get retro!

Firstly, A very Happy New Year!
I've been going over some old slides from when I had a proper camera and have come across some very good first time shots. Here is a good one of Orion. It was taken with a Canon EOS (film) camera (10 sec. exposure) with a 300mm Tamron lens and clearly shows the star colours, especially Betelge .... Betalu .... Betalgeuse and Rigel. Also the Orion Nebula (M42) is clearly visible as a red blur.
My task now is to get a comparable image from my DSLR....