Cranfield Astronomical Society

On Tuesday the 19th of March I will returning to Cranfield Astronomical Society to present:

Rosetta & Philae: From Concept To Reality


My presentation includes the conclusion of this spectacular mission to Comet 67P – Churyumov-Gerasimenko, right down to its final image before it “crash” landed on the comet’s nucleus, plus some of the latest findings and images that have recently been published.

Courtesy of Dr Colin Snodgrass from the Open University, there is a chance for the audience to sniff Comet 67P.
I will be collecting opinions on what they think it smells like.

Thanks to a 3D printed model, they can also get a really good feel for what the comet looks like.

So, if you’re in the area, come along, say “Hello” and enjoy my presentation.

I’m really looking forward to catching up with this friendly group again.

Meeting starts 7:30pm.

CSA Lounge.
Building 114.
Cranfield University.

Luton Astronomical Society – Science Week Presentation.

For the second time, Luton Astronomical Society have invited me to do their British Science Week Presentation.

On Wednesday the 13th of March, I will be presenting my
Whistle-Stop Tour of the Universe (Hitch-Hiking on a Ray of Light).


So let’s hope that they and all the visiting children strap themselves in and brace themselves for a journey that really is out of this world. Of course, it’s just a really fantastic excuse to show lots of beautiful images of our wonderful universe.
Unfortunately, Flat Tim won’t be attending this time!

So if you are in the area, you can book a free ticket from their Web site:

Then come along and say “Hello”.

Meeting Venue:
University of Bedfordshire,
Putteridge Bury Conference Centre,
(LU2 8LE) Map

Meeting starts at 7.30 until 9.00pm.
(Doors open 7:00pm).

Slender Crescent Moon – 8th March 2019

Get yourself out and have a look towards the west after sunset tomorrow evening (8th March).

The Moon will appear as a very slender crescent low over the western horizon.
So make sure that you have a good low view in that direction.

The image below shows the appearance of The Moon at about 18:15 (UT).

So get yourself out and see if you can spot it.
Mercury is to the right and a bit lower than the slender crescent Moon so will be even more difficult to spot so low down.

But hey, give them both a go.


Sky Diary for March 2019

My free monthly sky diary for March 2019 showing the events of the night sky visible from the UK is now available in a printable pdf version for download.
Click here, or on the image below to download the pdf.

I also have the sky diary to share available on Google calendars.
Click here to go to my Google calendar.

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

Don’t forget to watch the results and images coming back from New Horizons as it whizzes past the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule on New Years Day. Click on the link below for more details:

Apollo 11 Anniversary Celebration. 20th July

This July is the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing.

I just couldn’t let the anniversary of this amazing achievement in human exploration go without doing something special to mark the occasion.

So, make a note in your diary for Saturday the 20th of July.

On that day I will be hosting an afternoon and evening to celebrate all that the Apollo missions achieved.

This will be held at The Saxon Hall in Raunds, Northamptonshire.

Afternoon – 5 Planetarium Shows.
In the afternoon there will be a five planetarium shows.
Using immersive full-dome planetarium projection, these shows will transport you to the lunar surface to witness the Eagle as it comes in to land with less than 20 seconds of landing fuel left.
Be totally immersed within all the action as you experience the historic mission and their return to Earth.

Evening – Space Race Presentation.
The evening will be a presentation over-viewing the space race of the 1960’s between The Soviet Union and The United States.
This resulted in Neil Armstrong and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin landing their spidery lunar module Eagle onto the surface of the Sea of Tranquillity.
What did they achieve while they were there?
What has happened since?
And looking to the future, what will happen next?

The planetarium shows and presentation are suitable for all children aged 10 – 110.
(Under 18’s must be accompanied by an adult).

Save the date of the 20th of July in your diary.

Booking will be opening on my Web site very soon.

West of London AS – Monday 11th February

On Monday the 11th of February I will be visiting West of London Astronomical Society (WOLAS).

I will be presenting Out Of The Darkness: Pluto, New Horizons & Ultima Thule.

The talk takes you through the history of Pluto, from it’s discovery by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, right up to the results of the amazing Hew Horizon’s mission. This amazing probe finally revealed Pluto and its Moons in fantastic detail as it shot past in July 2015.

New Horizons first extended mission allowed it to shoot past another Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule by the mission team, on New Years day 2019. All the data and images transmitted slowly across over 4 billion miles will take 20 months to be returned to Earth.

As this data is being returned this presentation is constantly being updated to include new images and findings. From the latest results released the end of last week, it looks like they are having to  re-write the text books entirely re-think how Kuiper Belt objects like Ultima Thule are formed way out in the solar system.

This is a new society for me, so am looking forward to meeting some new fellow enthusiasts.

WOLAS’s meeting starts at 8pm.

Christ Church,
Redford Way,
Belmont Rd,


1st January – Triple Conjunction Continues

The lovely triple conjunction of The Moon, Venus & Jupiter continues on the morning of the 1st of February.

Yesterday, The Moon was between the two more distant planets as can be seen in my images at the bottom of this page.

The Moon has now moved more to the East and closer to the horizon, so will be a bit lower in the sky, as well as a sporting a much thinner crescent.
The diagram below shows the view at 07:00am on the 1st for February.

Just get out and enjoy the spectacle and start your Friday off with a smile.



Sky Diary for February 2019

My free monthly sky diary for February 2019 showing the events of the night sky visible from the UK is now available in a printable pdf version for download.
Click here, or on the image below to download the pdf.

I also have the sky diary to share available on Google calendars.
Click here to go to my Google calendar.

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

Don’t forget to watch the results and images coming back from New Horizons as it whizzes past the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule on New Years Day. Click on the link below for more details:

Total Lunar Eclipse – 21st January 2019.

In the early hours of Monday the 21st of January there is a total lunar eclipse.
This is caused by The Moon moving through The Earth’s shadow.
The Sun, Earth and Moon are completely lined up in a straight line, with The Earth in the middle.

Here’s a composite image of a lunar eclipse taken in 2007.

The complete eclipse is visible from the UK, although you will need to stay up until the early hours of the morning to view it. That is if the weather decides to co-operate with us.

At the start of the eclipse, The Moon will be 46° above the south-western horizon.
As the eclipse progresses, The Moon will get lower and lower in the sky.
At the end of the eclipse The Moon will very low in the north-western sky.
Make sure that you take this into account and view the eclipse with a clear horizon in this direction if you want to see it right up until the end.

For more details about the eclipse click here to visit Fred Espanek’s fabulous Web site for more details:

To learn how to photograph the Eclipse visit AstroBackYard’s Web site by clicking here.

The diagram below shows how the Moon goes into the Earth’s shadow.
I have added the times that The Moon reaches crucial points during the eclipse.

02:36 – The eclipse begins.
At this time The Moon’s limb touches the outer penumbral part of the Earth’s shadow.
It will slip gradually into this fainter shadow, but any change in brightness as the Sun’s direct light is cut off is unlikely to be noticed until it gets much deeper into the penumbra.

When The Moon is deepest into the penumbra, you may be able to see a bit of darkening of the left hand limb at this stage.
This is more noticeable if you take a slightly under-exposed image of the Moon just before the partial umbral phase begins.

03:33 – The Moon reaches the Earth’s darker umbral shadow.
At this time the drop-off of light on that side of The Moon is very dramatic as all direct light from the Sun is prevented from reaching the surface.

There will be very little colour for a while, but within about 30 minutes, as more of The Moon goes into the umbra, we should hopefully be able to see some red colour starting to appear on the Moon. The only light reaching the Moon’s surface within the Umbra is passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. Most of the blue in the sunlight is scattered in the Earth’s atmosphere, so predominantly red coloured light reaches the lunar surface.

The further The Moon moves into the umbra, the darker and redder it will become.

How dark will The Moon get?
That depends on two things:

1. How deep The Moon goes into the umbra.
During this eclipse The Moon passes a little bit north of the central shadow, so will be a bit brighter than other eclipses where the path is more central.

2. Cloud cover around the limb of The Earth. The more cloud there is, the less light reaches The Moon.
Of course we have trouble doing local weather forecasts, so don’t expect a forecast for around the whole circumference of The Earth!

04:41 – Totality begins.
The Moon is now completely within The Earth’s umbral shadow.
No direct light from the Sun reaches the lunar surface.
Hopefully we will now have a lovely glowing red Moon shining in the only light reaching the Moons surface.
As the ruddy Moon is a lot fainter than normal, longer exposures can be used to reveal the star background behind The Moon, without over-exposing it. These make for great images.

Also look out for a turquoise tinge at the beginning and end of totality, which is light passing through The Earth’s ozone layer.
See the image I took below during the 2015 lunar eclipse which shows this effect really well.

The area of the lunar limb towards the edge of the shadow (north) may appear to be a bit brighter throughout totality as it is not so deep within the umbra.

This is especially pronounced at the beginning and end of totality, when the Moon is closer to the edge of the umbra.

An long exposure of the eclipse from the 28th of September 2015, showing background stars.

05:13  Maximum Eclipse.
We are now halfway through the eclipse.
So now time to make the most of the next 30 minutes we have left of totality.

Just before totality ends, don’t forget to look out for that turquoise tinge, which is light passing through The Earth’s ozone layer.

05:43 – Totality ends.
The Moon has now started to move back into the lighter shadow of the penumbra.
Some direct sunlight is now hitting the lunar surface.
The brighter lit portion of The Moon gradually gets bigger until direct sunlight reaches all parts of The Moon’s visible disk.
Any red colour which may have been visible will fade as the portion directly lit by The Sun increases.

06:50Second penumbral phase begins.
A repeat of the first penumbral phase of the eclipse now plays out in reverse.
By this time, The Moon is getting very low in the north-western sky.

But don’t forget to look behind you (Yes, it’s that season!).
Venus and Jupiter will be visible over in the eastern sky, shining like bright beacons.

The sky should now be getting brighter as dawn approaches.

07:48Penumbral Eclipse ends. The end of the eclipse.
The show is now all over.

Hopefully, if the clouds co-operated, we will all be very happy, but very tired bunnies.

The sky will be very bright and it will be either time to go to bed, or to get ready to go to work.
I’ve got a few planetarium shows to do that day!

Here’s hoping for some happy eclipsing.