Category: Blog

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!).


First session of 2018. A CCD Test-out.

Now does that feel good!
A clear night and nothing to get on with, plus the Moon won’t be up for a while.

So why not let myself loose under the stars and do some imaging?

I was also recently loaned a CCD camera to try, so I was really keen to test this out.

I had a very basic CCD camera many years ago, but didn’t really gel with it. It used to cause me much frustration and the results always seemed to leave a hell of a lot to be desired. Since then I have concentrated mainly on DSLR imaging, which I found much easier, selling the CCD for a give-away price many years ago at Kelling.

As time has gone by, I really want to start capturing objects a bit closer up and reveal a bit more detail than the DSLR can usually manage. So when the offer of using the CCD came my way, I snapped it up willingly.

First Target, the good old favourite M42, The Great Orion nebula.
This image was taken using the 190 Mak-Newt. 40 second subs.

Towards the end of the evening, as the Moon was appearing above the neighbours house, I used the ED80 to take a wider field of M42. Also 40 second subs.

Here’s Comet C/2017 T1 (Heinze), (Its out-gassing has nothing to do with the Beanz).

This comet is really shifting. First image stacked on the stars, so comet has moved to produce a streak during the 10 minutes time of all the sub exposures. Had to keep the exposures down to 15 seconds to avoid the comet trailing in each sub. Second image was stacked on the comet so the stars are trailed.

With care, I feel this CCD could produce some really fabulous results.
Bring on the clear skies in 2018.

Now where did I put my filter wheel?


Sky Diary for January 2018.

My monthly sky diary for January 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.


Chipping Norton Amateur Astronomers – 18th December

@Flat_Tim, Buzz and I will be out once again for what will now be my last presentation of the year.
This time we will be visiting Chipping Norton Amateur Astronomy Group on Monday the 18th of December.

For their Christmas Party I will be presenting my extremely popular audience-participation evening:
“Celebrate Tim Peake’s Principia Mission”.

CelebrateTim

I am looking forward to meeting a new astronomy group.

I wonder how they will be in having selfies taken with Tim in his Father Christmas hat.
(Yes, @Flat_Tim is so much into the Christmas spirit now, I hope he can stand up on the night).

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 done this with, they will really enjoy the evening I have planned for them.

All are very welcome, so if you are in the area, come along and say “Hello”.

The meeting starts at 8:00pm.

Venue:
Methodist Church Hall (use the side entrance to lower back room ),
5 West St,
Chipping Norton
OX7 5LH


Phaethon and The Geminids

Next week sees the maximum of the Geminid meteors. This fairly active shower is one of the richest showers of the year.
This shower is active from the 8th and goes on until the 17th of December.

Maximum activity occurs on the 14th at 02:00hrs.
It has a predicted Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of 100 meteors per hour.
Don’t forget though, you are very unlikely to see quite that amount of meteors per hour.
But it should put on a great show.

Observing conditions for the meteors themselves are extremely favourable.
The Moon is just approaching New, so will be well out of the way and will not interfere with observing.
It rises as a very thin crescent, which should also have strong Earthshine, rising after 4am in the ESE sky, so should be worth waiting up for if you have a clear horizon.

Most meteor showers are produced by the Earth moving through debris left in the orbits of comet, where the Earths and comets orbits intersect.

The BAA are even suggesting imagers webcam the Moon regularly during the shower to see if any lunar impacts from these meteors can be detected by amateurs on the side of the Moon in shadow.

With the Geminids, the parent body, known as 3200 Phaethon, is classified as an asteroid.
(I think that the boundaries between what is classed as an asteroid and a comet are going to get even more seriously muddled as we explore more of these minor solar system bodies).

Phaethon is an Apollo-type asteroid. It’s orbit reaches aphelion (furthest point from the Sun) well out beyond Mars (223 million miles), reaching perihelion (Closest point to the Sun) well inside Mercury’s orbit (13 million miles).

During the meteor shower, Phaethon makes one of its close passes to the Earth on the 16th of December.
It will reach at least magnitude 12, so should be visible  and will be well placed for observing from the UK.

This map Generated using the free C2A Planetarium Software shows the full path of the asteroid, moving left to right from the 14th to the 18th of the month.
It passes from Perseus into Andromeda and onto Pegasus over this time.
More detailed maps are shown below.
Click on the maps for bigger versions.

On the 14th – 15th, the asteroid passes just below the open cluster M34 as it moves from Perseus towards Andromeda.
It passes just above NGC 752 in daylight hours on the 15th.

After dark on the evening of the 15th, it is approaching Beta Andromedae (Mirach), which it passes due south of in the early hours of the 16th.

During daylight hours the asteroid moves towards the constellation of Pegasus.
As dark falls on the 16th Phaephon is moving below Delta Andromedae, and doesn’t quite reach The Square of Pegasus before daylight hits.

When darkness falls on the 17th of December, Phaephon is now well into the southern part of The Square of Pegasus.
Daylight hits once again before it starts to move out.

On the evening of the 18th, Phaephon is slowing down and fading as it moves southwards, its path running almost parallel to the Flying Horses neck.

Have fun hunting down this asteroid.

Let me know how you get on.

 

 

 

 


Sky Diary for December 2017.

My monthly sky diary for December 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.


Knowle Astronomical Society. Monday the 4th of December.

A very late booking.

@Flat_Tim, Buzz and I will be out once again for what will now be my penultimate presentation of the year.
This time we will be visiting Knowle Astronomical Society on Monday the 4th of December.

Once again I will be presenting my extremely popular audience-participation evening: “Celebrate Tim Peake’s Principia Mission”.

CelebrateTim

I am looking forward to meeting a new astronomy group.

I wonder how they will be in having selfies taken with Tim in his Father Christmas hat.
(Yes, @Flat_Tim has now started to get very excited about Christmas).

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 done this with, they will really enjoy the evening I have planned for them.

All are very welcome, so if you are in the area, come along and say “Hello”.

The meeting starts at 8:00pm.

Venue:
Dorridge Village Hall,
Grange Road,
Dorridge,
SOLIHULL,
B93 8QA.


A Rare Deep Sky Imaging Session. 16th November 2017

On the way home from work a strange sight beheld me. Looking towards the north-east, it looked like the shutters were being rolled back.

A clear night, with no Moon looked to be promised.
It’s been quite a while since I did some serious deep-sky imaging (Good grief, was it really the 20th of January!).
As I didn’t have work the next day, I decided I just had to get out and give it a go.

So early evening I got some of my next astrophotography workshop written, before venturing out into the dome.

I also took time throughout the night to stand out to see if I could see any Leonids.
Fat chance!
Didn’t even see a faint one.

The first target was NGC 891, a beautiful edge-on galaxy. The dark dust lane and a hint of structure.

A bit lower in the sky was comet C/2015 ER61 PANSTARRS.
The colour image wasn’t that good, but making it mono and inverting the image shows quite a long dust tail, going off the the right hand side of the image .

Next, I went over to visit an old favourite, The Pleiades Star Cluster.
The initial image looked good, but while I was processing this, more subs were being taken.

The image is definitely improved with the extra data.

While I was on the bright stuff, I thought I’d try the core of M31.
The galaxy was almost overhead, so the auto-guiding was struggling.
I gave up, but got 4 subs to make an image.
Some dust lanes can be clearly seen, so I moved on to a fainter Messier object.

M1 is the much studied supernova remnant, the Crab Nebula.
This is the remains of a star that was observed by Chinese astronomers to go supernova in 1054.

From there, it was adventure down south into Orion.
M78 was my first target.
A challenge in the light pollution, but the lack of stars visible due to the presence of dark obscuring dust shows quite well.

Further South, the Horsehead Nebula and Flaming nebula close to the left hand belt star Alnitak.

A visit to Orion must involve a look at M42, the great Orion Nebula.
The colour didn’t look too good, but the image itself contained a lot of detail.
So I overlaid the image taken tonight as a luminosity layer on top of a much more grainy image that captured the colour much better.
The result was finally very pleasing.

Last object in northern Orion was NGC 2174, The Monkey Head Nebula.

By this time I was getting cold and tired. So my last two objects were M81 & M82.
It was getting a little bit murky by this time, so I did as best I could and used the two images to build a wider field mosaic.
You can see how there are less stars in the M82 half of the image as the sky was getting worse.

 


Coventry & Warwicks AS – 10th November 2017

On Friday the 10th of November, after meeting the real thing a couple of weeks ago @Flat_Tim and Buzz will be taking me out once again for my penultimate presentation of the year.
This time we will be re-visiting Coventry & Warwickshire Astronomical Society.

Once again I will be presenting my extremely popular audience-participation evening: “Celebrate Tim Peake’s Principia Mission”.

CelebrateTim

I am looking forward to being made very welcome once again as they did on my two previous visits to them.

I wonder how keen this group will be in having selfies taken with Tim.

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 done this with, they will really enjoy the evening I have planned for them.

All are very welcome, so if you are in the area, come along and say “Hello”.

Their meeting starts at 7:15pm.

Venue:
Earlsdon Methodist Church Hall,
Earlsdon Road South,
Earlsdon,
Coventry,
CV5 6NF


Wolverhampton Astronomical Society – 6th November

On Monday the 6th of November, after meeting the real thing a couple of weeks ago @Flat_Tim and Buzz will be taking me out once again. This time we will be re-visiting Wolverhampton Astronomical Society.

Once again I will be presenting my popular audience-participation evening: “Celebrate Tim Peake’s Principia Mission”.

CelebrateTim

I am looking forward to being made very welcome once again as they did on my previous visit to them.

But I wonder how keen this group will be in having selfies taken with Tim.

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. But I’m sure that they will really enjoy the evening I have planned for them.

All are very welcome, so if you are in the area, come along and say “Hello”.

Their meeting starts at 7:30pm.

Venue:
Highfields Environmental Centre,
Boundary Way,
Penn

Wolverhampton,
WV4 4NT 

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