Category: Blog

Sky Diary for March 2018

My monthly sky diary for March 2018 showing the events of the night sky visible from the UK is now available in pdf form to download and print.
Click here, or on the image below to download the pdf.

It is also available to share on Google calendars.
Click here to go to my Google calendar.

More sky events will be added to the live Google calendar as more information becomes available.

Retford & District Photographic Society

On Monday the 26th of February, I will be presenting to Retford & District Photographic Society

I will be giving them my Finding your way around the night sky and starting out in Astrophotography presentation.

Hopefully, we’ll get more people out there, enjoying and imaging the night sky.

The Society meets at 7.30pm.

St Joseph’s R.C. Church Hall,
Babworth Road,
DN22 7BP

Nene Valley Astronomical Society – 19th February

After a short rest, @Flat_Tim, Buzz and I will be out presenting once again.
This time we will be visiting my closest astronomy group, Nene Valley Astronomical Society, on Monday the 19th of February.
I will be presenting my ever popular audience-participation evening:
“Celebrate Tim Peake’s Principia Mission”.


I am looking forward to seeing my old friends once again.

Like all my other visits out with this presentation, I’m really looking forward to having a lot of fun with them during the audience participation bits. I’m sure that, like the other groups I have taken this presentation to, that they will really enjoy the evening we have got planned for them.

I wonder how keen they will be compared to the other groups about having their selfies taken with @Flat_Tim.

All are very welcome, especially kids above 10 years old (That includes me!).

So if you are in the area, come along and say “Hello”.

The meeting starts at 8:00pm.

Cost £3:00 per person.

Chelveston Village Hall,
Caldecott Road,

3D Moon.

After the media frenzy about the Super Blood Blue Moon on Wednesday, I thought I’d look through my collection to see if I have any full Moon images to directly compare lunar disk sizes. I found an image I took of the Full Moon just before the lunar eclipse started on the 28th of September 2015 with the same telescope and camera to see if I could compare them.

There isn’t actually that much in it, but can you make out which one is the so-called Super-Moon? No neither can I.

Out of interest, the 2015 eclipse was also when the Moon was fairly close to perigee, so the difference isn’t that much anyway.
But the media never went on then quite as much as they did this week about it being a super blood moon, did they?
Of course a much better comparison full moon image would be one taken close to apogee, when the Moon will be at its furthest.
One to try and capture later in the year perhaps.

However, when I posted the comparison image, a social media friend pointed out that there was a bit of a difference in libration, (The slight “wobbling” of the Moon) and that it could possibly make a great 3D image if they were scaled and positioned correctly.

So, given that the clouds are still about, I’ve got time to have a play.

First I had resize one image to exactly the same size as the other.
Next I had to work out which way each image needed to be rotated to give the best impression.
Hopefully once aligned that way side by side, when you go cross-eyed in the correct direction, the images are exactly registered.

The difference in the images seen by each eye should then trick the brain into perceiving a 3D image floating in the middle.

So here’s the result. Go Cross-eyed. Does it work for you?


Sky Diary for February 2018

My monthly sky diary for February showing the events of the night sky visible from the UK is now available in pdf form to download and print.
Click here, or on the image below to download the pdf.

It is also available to share on Google calendars.
Click here to go to my Google calendar.

More sky events will be added to the live Google calendar as more information becomes available.

A lunar imaging feast.

So, the Moon’s back once again!
Yes, so the Moon is nice to look at on the odd occasion, but boy, does it so regularly interfere with everything else.
And it always seems to be a clear sky when the Moon is at its brightest.

Up until about 10 years ago this was my main attitude towards the Moon.

So, when the Moon comes out, should I sit inside sulking, complaining about its bright light flooding out and hiding all those lovely deep sky objects and comets I love to chase down and image? After, would make a lot of sense as I am now starting to approach that Victor Meldrew stage of life! I know, I know, I can hear you saying “I Don’t Believe It!”.

But I have found as I have got older, I have started to re-discover the joys of that highly detailed lunar surface.
After all, it is the one celestial body that we can observe and image in unprecedented detail.
The changing angle of sunlight, bringing sharply into view different features each day, even changing significantly over a span of just a few hours, constantly gives us a new perspectives.

Features close to the terminator, the transition between night and day, (sunrise or sunset), create impressively long shadows that accentuate those features, making them look much more exaggerated than they really are and extremely dramatic.

Most of the features do get washed out close to full moon, looking a bit flat and lifeless, but bright crater rays show up really well at this phase. (If I was really that desperate to do some deep-sky imaging when the Moon is bright, I could always use a Hydrogen Alpha filter).

So, as I have re-embraced the Moon, I have learnt some very effective lunar image processing techniques and now understand how best to use my equipment to get the very best images. As a result my lunar images are now probably as good as my equipment will allow. If only I had a C11! We’re never satisfied with our equipment, are we? 🙂

Since starting proper visual astronomy at the age of 9, I am very proud of all I have achieved over those 47 years. The changes in the hobby and the equipment and knowledge available to amateurs these days is absolutely sensational. What else lies just around the corner?

Long may I be fit enough to keep pursuing and enjoying the hobby to its fullest.
If I can also help others to achieve their full potential in the hobby in the coming years, all the better.

So get out there, enjoy the Moon and Keep Looking Up!

Below are a selection of my lunar images.

If you want to see all my other images (Astronomy and Wildlife), click here to visit my Flickr Site 

Lunar Images

Flickr Album Gallery Powered By: Weblizar


My animation of Comet C/2016 R2

Finally finished my animation of Comet C/2016 R2 from Friday the 19th of January.

Phew! That was some effort teasing that out.

Two Comets to watch out for.

Comet C/2017 T1 (Heinze).
This fast moving comet is rapidly moving south.
Here’s an image I captured on Friday the 5th of January.
Over 10 minutes during which these CCD images were taken it has shifted considerably.
Left image stacked on stars, right image stacked on the comet. This comet was really shifting.

It will reach perihelion at the end of February, but it passes very close to the Sun, so like the infamous Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) before it, is unlikely to survive its close encounter with the Sun. It is about 12th magnitude and is unlikely to get much brighter. But don’t forget, predicting a comets brightness is hugely unreliable.

The map below shows the path of the comet as it dashes to the west of Pegasus as it approaches the Sun.
(Click on the image for a larger version). Map created using C2A planetarium software.

It passes to the east of the Globular Cluster Messier 15 between the 25th & 27th of February shown in this map.
(Click on the image for a larger version).  Map created using C2A planetarium software.

Comet C/2016 R2 (PanSTARRS).
This comet is becoming a lot more interesting. It is currently around magnitude 13, so quite faint.
It reaches perihelion in late May, but as the comet gets further away from Earth, it gets fainter and is likely to fade to about 14th magnitude by then.
I first caught the comet on the 8th of December 2017.
At that time, as you can see from my image below, it looked like many other comets, as faint smudge of light, but it showed a hint of two tails (Pointing towards 10 and 2 O’clock).

On the evening of the 7th of January, I was testing out a CCD camera that someone has loaned me.
I have had to enhance the image somewhat, but the tail/s look very intricately detailed.
There’s a heck of a lot happening with this comet.

I got another shot on the comet on the evening of the 19th of January.
Using the CCD camera, I was monitoring the images coming off the camera, they appeared to be ever so slightly different in each image. The image below shows the quick process I did on each set of images as they came off the camera.
The changes can clearly be seen. I’m working on all the 297 subs taken that night to try and produce an animation.
I may be a while.

The comet reaches perihelion in early May, but is not predicted to reach more than magnitude 13. But with that amount of activity going on already, who knows what might happen.

The map below shows the comet as it heads northwards away from Taurus, past the leg of Perseus and up into Auriga.
(Click on map for bigger version). Map created using C2A planetarium software.

Cranfield Astronomical Society – 23rd January 2018

On Tuesday the 23rd of January, I will be re-visiting Cranfield Astronomical Society.

My first presentation of the year will be entitled “The Voyager Missions; 40 Years and Counting”
Nicely timed to fit in with the anniversary and the recent activation of Voyager 1’s thruster after 37 years.

I am looking forward to the evening and meeting everyone again.

The Society meet at 7:30pm at the Cranfield Student’s Association Lounge every Tuesday evening.
All will be welcome, so contact them for more details:


7th January – Moon, Conjunction and another Comet.

On the 7th January, early hours beckoned me from my nice warm bed.
Time to grab some lunar images before catching the conjunction of Jupiter and Mars before dawn.
Then later in the evening, the second comet of the year C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS) showing some very nice structure in the tail (Oooh Kinky!).