I’m a serious astronomer you know!

After a recent astronomy event, I heard some people were making comments about people not being serious about the hobby and their attitudes dumbing it down. Added to this, a long time ago in an online forum, I remember someone commenting “Not another Orion Nebula Image!” when someone proudly uploaded their hard earned picture.

By the way, here’s my latest image of M42. ūüôā

This has made me think about this in some detail and made me question whether or not, I’m a “Serious” astronomer?

Let’s take a long hard look at that.

When I do my astronomy, what exactly is it that I do?

I absolutely adore astronomy and have done throughout my life. I don’t specialise in anything at all and am willing and able to dabble in all things. I particularly love taking images and sharing those with others online. In fact I am quite prolific, when the weather allows. As some online friends and followers might be getting tired of them appearing in their social media feeds, but is what i do really “Serious” astronomy?

Is anything I do really considered serious?

I am deadly serious about educating people in astronomy and sharing what skills I have in my workshops and talks, but what about my own observing / Imaging?

Yes, I am happy to stay up for long periods of the night, or get up early to capture something of interest to me.
I love capturing challenging objects, comets, asteroids and man made objects. The more challenging the object the better.

I also like looking and imaging the good old lolly-pops, the Messier Objects and the like.

But is this really serious astronomy?

Some people in the astronomy clubs I attend probably think that I am the most serious astronomer that they know.
But that really isn’t the case. Yes, I do take my challenges seriously, but only because I find these great fun to do.

Others in my clubs take images or observe and measure positions or the brightness of objects as accurately as they can. They then use that data to draw lots of graphs and submit their results into observing organisations. I am always wowed and impressed by people who show such dedication to collecting scientifically useful data. Now that’s a bit more serious than my efforts, isn’t it?

However that sort of observing really isn’t for me. Working in a scientific environment, since 1988, where I had to do this, made this sort of project seem too much like work. I just love getting out there, looking at something beautiful, or imaging a faint object to hopefully produce a really pretty picture. I post all my images online but only infrequently submit them to any of the more serious observing organisations. Is this not serious enough?

Like any hobby, we all do it because we love doing it.

I looked up the meaning of the word Amateur and found this:

“1784, “one who has a taste for some art, study, or pursuit, but does not practice it,” from French amateur¬†“one who loves, lover” (16c., restored from Old French¬†ameour), from Latin¬†amatorem¬†(nominative¬†amator) “lover, friend,” agent noun from¬†amatus, past participle of¬†amare “to love”.

Meaning “one who cultivates and participates (in something) but does not pursue it professionally or with an eye to gain” (as opposed to¬†professional) is from 1786, often with disparaging shades, “dabbler, dilettante,” except in athletics, where the tinge formerly shaded the professional. As an adjective, by 1838.

In fact the word amateur comes from the French Amour – To Love.”

Source: https://www.etymonline.com/word/amateur

So that sort of backs up my feeling about why I do what I do. I Love It!

The past year has seen me become a little bit semi-professional in that I have started to earn something from going around tutoring and educating, be it from my books, workshops or schools. Unfortunately, I still have to earn something to keep paying the bills. Were I to win a gob-smacking amount on the lottery tonight, or given a really generous donation (anyone?) I would probably do it all for nothing. And only because I love it so much.

Part of what i do in Schools is voluntary, as a STEM Ambassador. I love going in and encouraging the next generation to do STEM subjects, especially girls. I drove over an hour and half recently, to spend a morning in a school, to hold a full school assembly and bottle rocket workshop. I received not a penny for doing this, but I made sure that I gave the children a very enjoyable few hours of learning. On the way back, despite me also enjoying the event, I did ask myself “Why do I do this?” A few weeks later, I got a massive wadge of letters and drawings in the post from the children. That was worth more than any payment and I must admit that it did make me very emotional. That’s what I did it for.

So maybe I am a little bit serious in how I do my astronomy, but not quite that serious it seems to some others.

How about other people who are just dipping their toes in the hobby?
Are they really serious about astronomy if they only dabble a tad and don’t do any “Serious” stuff at all?
Is the real impact of the science lessened?

To me, everyone has a right to take whatever approach they have into a hobby.
It really does not matter how you dabble. As long as you keep on dabbling, who gives a damn?

We all do this hobby to get away from all the stress and frustrations in the world, of which there are far too many these days. If you feel pressured to do things, this, that or the other, just because other “serious” astronomers say that’s how it should be done, then you’re just not going to enjoy it and will give up on the hobby. And we want to avoid that at all costs.

Encourage as many people in as possible to ensure a rich mix of abilities and ages.
Youngsters are sadly lacking in astronomy clubs these days. A blog will follow on this later…

As long as you keep interested in the subject, continue to just get out there and enjoy our night (and day) sky.
Do what it is that you really enjoy, even if it is taking “yet another” image of M42.

Ignore the idiots that say what you might do isn’t really serious astronomy.

Just keep getting out and enjoying the sky in just the way that you love.

We’re all loving this hobby together in our own ways.




Apollo 12 – 50th Anniversary: Reentry and Splashdown.

50 years ago today is the day the three Apollo 12 astronauts, Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon and Alan Bean return to Earth.

Unfortunately, I am not able to produce any 3D images from the pictures.

In the early hours there was a TV transmission before preparations for re-entry.

A midcourse correction was made at 17:43 UT to make sure reentry was spot on.

At 20:29 UT, the command capsule separated from the service module.

Reentry started at 20:44.

Radar contact established by the recovery ship US Hornet less than 2 minutes later.

Contact with the command module Yankee Clipper established by rescue aircraft at 20:50 UT.

20:52 UT. Command module drogue parachute deployed.

20:53 UT. Main parachute deployed.

20:58 UT. Splashdown in Pacific Ocean.

21:08 UT. Recovery swimmers deployed.

21:15 UT. Flotation collar inflated on command module.

21:36 UT. Command module hatch opened for respiratory transfer.

21:40 UT. Hatch opened for crew egress.

21:58 UT. Crew arrive at US Hornet.

22:06 UT. Crew enter quarantine facility.

22:46 UT. Command module lifted from ocean.

Command module recovery completed and quarantined at 00:15 UT tomorrow morning.


Apollo 12 – 50th Anniversary: Almost Home.

50 years ago today the three Apollo 12 astronauts continue their coast back home today.

They perform a mid-course correction to keep their angle towards Earth correct for a perfect re-entry on Sunday evening. So they are almost home.

Not much more to say until Sunday when the astronauts do lots of general housekeeping. It will all kick off again on Sunday as they approach re-entry and splashdown.

Here’s my 3D image of The Moon.
I created this from two separate images taken by the crew as they receded from The Moon and could view it getting smaller and smaller through Yankee Clippers windows.

Alpha Monocerotids – Possible Meteor Storm

It is predicted that there could be an outburst, or even a storm of the Alpha Monocerotids meteor shower tomorrow morning.

The outburst is predicted to be at 04:50 tomorrow morning and may last for only 15 minutes.

The last outburst observed in 1995 saw 700 meteors per hour!

The thick crescent Moon will interfere a little bit, but shouldn’t spoil things too much, that’s if we get some clear skies, of course.

No telescope is required, just get out at the predicted time and KEEP LOOKING UP as the meteors could appear in any part of the sky.
More details on the Sky & Telescope Web page:

Have fun folks.

Apollo 12 – 50th Anniversary. The Journey home.

21st of November 1969.
50 years ago today, in orbit around The Moon, the three Apollo 12 astronauts performed a great deal of landmark tracking and photography from within the Command module Yankee Clipper.

Below is my 3D image created from one of their amazing pictures of the lunar surface.

At 20:49 UT tonight, they performed their transearth injection ignition, by firing the single SPS engine.

This would take them out of lunar orbit, sending them back towards Earth.

Less than 40 minutes later, they began a TV transmission as they started their 3 day coast back home.


Apollo 12 – 50th Anniversary. Last day on The Moon.

Today is the last day of Apollo 12 exploring the surface of Oceanus Procellarum.

There was a second EVA (Moonwalk) in the early hours of this morning.

The nearby Surveyor 3 spacecraft was inspected and samples taken to see how it had fared in the vacuum of space for over two and a half years.

The EVA finished at 07:44 UT.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image below shows landing site.
Evidence of the astronauts EVA can be clearly seen as well as the equipment and experiments left on the surface.

Alan Bean and Pete Conrad then prepared to lift off from The Moon.

Launch of ascent stage of the lunar module Intrepid was at 14:25 UT.

They docked with the command/service module at 17:58 UT.

The astronauts and their precious rock and dust samples then transferred themselves over.

The lunar module ascent stage was jettisoned at 20:21 UT.

It crashed onto the lunar surface at 22:17 UT.

The three astronauts will stay in orbit around The Moon until tomorrow, when they will begin their journey back to Earth in the evening.

This is my 3D image of the Davey crater chain, made by a string of possibly cometary particles hitting the surface one after the other, similar to Comet Shoemaker Levy 9 that hit Jupiter in July 1994.

Apollo 12 – 50th Anniversary. Landing in Oceanus Procellarum

50 years ago today, Alan Bean and and Pete Conrad successfully landed the lunar module Intrepid onto the surface of Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms).
Dick Gordon continued to orbit 60 miles above The Moon in the Command (Yankee Clipper) / Service module.

Unlike Neil’s landing on Apollo 11, they achieved a pinpoint landing close to Surveyor 3, which landed over two and a half years previously.

My image of the landing area (just) below, shows the landing site/s marked with a cross on the left hand side of the image.

During the EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity. Moon walk to you and me!), as well as collecting Moon rocks and dust, they also removed parts of Surveyor to see how it had fared during its stay on the Moon.

Explore Lunar Sample 12038 collected by the Apollo 12 astronauts by following this link:

In the early hours of tomorrow morning, they will perform a second EVA.

Here’s my composite 3D image of one of them on the Moon.
Was that a step too far adding in the Earth? ūüôā


Apollo 12 – 50th Anniversary. The Day before Landing

50 years ago today, the day before landing, in the early hours  the 18th of November 1969, Apollo 12 met The Moon and the engine was fired to place the Apollo 12 spacecraft into lunar orbit.

The astronauts then set about preparing the Lunar Module called Intrepid for tomorrow’s landing.

The un-docking of Intrepid from the command module Yankee Clipper will be in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

As Neil Armstrong had missed his landing site when Eagle Landed in The Sea of Tranquillity, they really wanted to prove the capability of accurately landing the lunar module.

Their intention was to land close to the lunar probe Surveyor 3 which landed on the surface of Oceanus Procellarum over two and a half years before.

Here’s my 3D image of Intrepid a little while before starting its descent towards the surface.





International Astronomy Show – 16th November

Tomorrow I will be attending the International Astronomy Show at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire.
I will be bringing in my books and 3D cards for sale.
(The 3D Cards help to support my STEM visits. The more I sell, the more STEM school visits I can do).
I will also bring along my free Virtual Reality space experience.
I also have a number of posters to give away to space enthusiastic children.
Come and ask me for a free Moon calendar for 2020 while they last.
I’ll look forward to meeting you all, so if you are there, please come over and say “Hello” as you go past my stand on your way to the cafe.
See you all tomorrow.

Apollo 50th Anniversary – Apollo 12: The first day.

It’s a busy day for the 3 astronauts aboard Apollo 12, 50 years ago today – 14th November 1969.

The crew are:
Pete Conrad – Commander.
Dick Gordon – Command Module Pilot.
Alan Bean – Lunar Module Pilot

The launch of the mighty Saturn V rocket was at 16:22 from Cape Canaveral.

36.5 seconds after launch there was an electrical disturbance, followed by another one 52 seconds after launch.
The Saturn V had been struck by lightning. Twice!

Luckily all systems were still functioning normally, so the ascent towards Earth orbit continued.

At 2m 41s into mission, the first stage cut off, separation occurring one minute later.

The five-engine second stage cut off at 9m 12s, separating at 9m 13s.

The single-engined third stage  (S-IVB) burned from 9m 16s until 11m 33s into the mission.
This placed the Apollo spacecraft into an elliptical Earth orbit.

The orbit of the Apollo stack was adjusted and trimmed by the third stage by firing a second time from 2m 47s until 2m 53s.

Now a big decision had to be made.
Had the lightning strike affected the Apollo spacecraft on launch?
Could the parachute deployment system at the nose of the Command module have been damaged?
Could the heat shield on the back of the command module have also been compromised?

As they were already in orbit, the only way to test these out were by using them.
This would involve aborting the mission and bringing the astronauts home now.

The other option of course was to send them onto the Moon and test these once they got back to Earth 10 days later.
Thankfully all extensive checks on the spacecraft now made while safely in Earth orbit showed that everything was working nominally.

As a result clearance was then given to “go for TLI” (Tran-Lunar Injection).

2 hours and 50 minutes into the mission, the third stage engine was fired for a third time to increase the velocity to about 25,000 mph.
This will send them into a highly elliptical orbit around Earth, sending them towards a spot in space, passing close to where The Moon will be in 3 days time.

At 3h 18s The Command Module Pilot Dick Gordon un-docked the Command Module (Yankee Clipper) / Service Module from the third stage to performed the transposition, docking and extraction procedure to remove the Lunar Module called Intrepid from atop the third stage. This was revealed when the panels fell away.

Once the Lunar Module was extracted the Command/Service Module moved away from the spent third stage.

After separation most third stages were crashed into the Moon’s surface.
This enabled them to test the instruments left my Apollo 11 which measured Moonquakes.
In Apollo 12’s case, the third stage entered into a strange solar orbit.
This orbit periodically brings it back towards Earth.
It was last spotted in 2002. It is due to come back near to Earth in 2032 and may be bright enough to be visible to amateur observers / imagers. Also catalogued as asteroid J002E3, its Apollo origin was confirmed when spectroscopic studies showed a signature matching that of the titanium oxide paint used on the rocket.

At 4h 20m into the mission an avoidance manoeuvre was performed to ensure they separated from the third stage.

The three astronauts then started their coast towards an area of space where they will meet up with The Moon in 3 days time.

They performed a TV transmission and at the end of the day The Lunar Module Pilot, Alan Bean entered the Lunar Module to start checking all its systems were OK in anticipation of the landing.

It was a great start to yet another lunar adventure for the second Moon landing.




Mercury Transit – 11th November 2019

The morning of the predicted Mercury transit on Monday the 11th of November looked bleak.
In fact it was absolutely pouring with rain.

However, the forecast was for an improving outlook for the afternoon, so we can always keep everything crossed and hope for the best.

As the morning progressed, the rain stopped and looked like it was getting a little bit brighter.
My fingers got whiter as I crossed them even harder.
Slowly some blue patches started to appear, and The Sun was better sighted through thin cloud.

I set up two refractors side by side on the EQ6:
1. ED80 with a Herschel Wedge for white light viewing / Imaging.
2. Evostar 120 with the Quark Chromosphere for Ha viewing / Imaging.

By the time I had set up, at about 20 minutes to 12, there were big enough gaps in the cloud to get some great views of The Sun at both wavelengths.
A Sundog heralded the improving conditions.

The Sun, of course, being at minimum showed absolutely no sunspots on its face. It was completely blank in white light.
Some nice prominences and some chromosphere details were visible in Ha.

Just after 12:35, this was about to change. The Moon sized planet Mercury was due to start trying, and failing, due to its size, to eclipse The Sun.
Its tiny disk would soon start to protrude onto the disk. I just hoped that with the small field of view available I had got the Quark pointed at the right part of the Sun’s disk.

The anticipation mounted as my great friend Kevin Earp joined me in the garden.
His house and neighbouring tree would block the view from his house.

Kev bought along his DSLR and Baader filter to try and capture the event.

The skies looked much bluer by this time, but scudding clouds towards the south kept covering the Sun as the seconds ticked by.
However, the temperature had dropped considerably and strong cold gusts of wind kept wobbling the scope.

In the moments around first contact, the pitch black edge of the diminutive planet could just be seen protruding into the Ha view.
We took turns at the eyepiece to witness the ingress of the planet onto The Sun’s disk.
Due to the bigger size of the Chromosphere compared to the Photosphere, it could be seen in Ha just before intruding into the white light view.

It was very interesting switching between both views to see how the view of the planets progress differed in the two different wavelengths. All too soon, the exciting part was over and the tiny black dot moved away from the limb.

At this point I set up the webcam to start taking images.
The seeing was fairly wobbly and clouds still kept interfering interrupting the imaging.

To ensure that Mercury’s movement didn’t blur its image, I reduced the AVI capture time to just 20 seconds.

Kev helped me to focus and we both set about taking our images. Kev with his DSLR and telephoto lens in white light.
Me with the Quark in Ha.

We both took a shot of the screen with our mobile phones, just in case the clouds obscured the rest of the event.

My first image came off the camera and I quickly processed it while taking some more.

I was knocked absolutely knocked out at the result (right).
The image of Mercury was very sharply defined.

I was hoping to capture a number of images to produce an animation of the planets movement, but a lot of the captures were ruined by clouds. But I carried on regardless.

Kev had rattled off a number of images and could see Mercury in his images.
They were especially sharp after learning how to use the mirror lock-up on his camera. ūüėČ

We had to move the mount closer to the house as by this time The Sun was heading towards the neighbours roof and would soon disappear behind it.

Kev also tried a few images in white light using the ED80 with his mono webcam.

A little while after, the clouds once again started to close in, and The Sun slipped beneath the roof and the event for us was over.

We weren’t worried as we’d had a great time sharing these moments and very much enjoyed the afternoon.

So another cuppa was due to warm the hands and sit and a good old chat in the warm before packing away.

It had been a great day.

Oh, and by the way, I was well chuffed to get enough images to produce a short animation:

To end the day nicely, there was a very brief display of Mammatus Clouds over Raunds just after sunset.

A Day of Two Halves. – 11th November 2019

Well today could be a great day (or not). But it could be a day of two halves.

If the rain clouds flooding the country relent, we could hopefully view the transit of Mercury which starts just after 12:35 today until Sunset. That’s good, as long as the clouds part so we can view it.

See my details of that event here:

However, there is another event taking place today which doesn’t appear to be getting a lot of attention at the moment.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is launching another Starlink cluster today.
This might not be as good.

The launch is scheduled for 14:56 UT, while the transit is in progress.
A backup launch windows is scheduled for 14:34 UT tomorrow (12th).

The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket can be viewed live here: spacex.com/webcast.

60 new Starlink satellites will be put into Earth orbit.

Once the satellites are in orbit, you may want to produce predictions for visibility from your location at:

It could look spectacular as the cluster catch the sunlight if the last launch is anything to go by.
But is the launch of these satellites going to be a really bad thing for us observers / imagers going forward?

See my previous blog entry about what this new constellation of satellites could mean for our night sky:




Walsall Astronomical Society – Solar Astronomy

On the evening of the 7th of November I will be re-visiting Walsall Astronomical Society.


Nicely timed just before the Mercury Transit next Monday (11th November) I will be talking about Solar Astronomy.

This will show what an amateur can achieve these days with the correct and safe solar equipment.
It will also give lots of details about the upcoming transit event and what we are likely to see from the UK (Probably clouds!).

Walsall Astronomical Society meet every Thursday at:

Rushall Olympic Football Club,
Dales Lane (off Bosty Lane),

Members £2:00
Visitors £1:00



Sky Diary for November 2019

My penultimate free monthly sky diary for November 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.

After 32 years of doing my sky diary, I will stop producing this after December.
It’s been a sad, and big decision for me to do this, but it is getting difficult to fit it in with my many other commitments.

However, it’s all not bad news.
All my sky diary events are currently and will in future be added to the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.
I will still keep this as up to date as I can and add new information as I hear about it.
Click here to view the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.

I will also be updating my blog (www.star-gazing.co.uk/Blog.html) with any new information on sky events as appropriate.

Transit of Mercury – 11th of November.

A transit of Mercury occurs on the 11th of November.
We see the very start of the transit and the fleet-footed planet will be visible as a very, very small black dot moving slowly across the Sun.

Do Not try and view The Sun unless you have proper solar filters in place.
You can seriously damage your eyesight if viewing is not done properly.

If you have eclipse glasses, these will not allow you to view the transit.
Mercury is far too small to be visible without being magnified using a telescope with the correct filters.

The view below my white light image of the transit of VENUS in 2004.

Venus is big enough and close enough to be seen without magnification, as you can see here.
Unfortunately, Mercury is nowhere near as big as this, so will not appear anywhere near as impressive.

In fact, it may be a bit of a disappointment to some who do get to view it.

So I hear your next question, What does a transit of Mercury look like then?

The image below is my white light DSLR image of the transit of Mercury from 2016.
The smudge towards the top of the image is a sunspot group (AR 2542).
Mercury is the much smaller dot in the lower part of The Sun.
Titchy isn’t it?

My image below taken using a hydrogen Alpha telescope shows this transit a little while later at about mid transit in much greater detail.
Mercury is still titchy! But as the detail is better, you can now see that it is showing a definite disk.

My closer view below shows it in a bit more detail.
Mercury is towards the left hand side of the image.
You can really see how much darker the planet is when compared to the sunspots and filaments.

So now you know exactly what to expect if you have the correct filters in order to view the transit safely.

So if you are going to try and observe the transit here are the details of the timings of the day.

The transit starts at 12:35 UT.
If you are using a hydrogen alpha telescope, you will be able to see Mercury slightly before the white-light view, as the chromosphere is a bit bigger than the photosphere.
Mercury will approach from the left-hand side of The Sun, just below the centre of the limb.
It would be very nice if there was a prominence on that side of The Sun, that it would pass over first. But we can only dream, Eh!
Mind you, having a sunny day, and being able to see this, might be a miracle in itself!

Mid transit occurs at 15:19 UT.
At this time the planet will be located just above the very centre of The Sun’s disk.

Sunset occurs at about 16:30 UT.
Sunset will prevent us from viewing the conclusion of the event, so it will be only just over halfway across the disk when this occurs. As a result we will miss Mercury slowly sliding off the Sun’s disk.

The transit finishes at 18:04 UT.
Mercury finally leaves the disk of The Sun.
We will leave that part of the event for our American friends. The whole event is visible from the eastern side of North America. The whole of South America can view the complete transit.

The next transits of Mercury will occur on November 2032 and November 2039.

Abington Camera Club – 28th October 2019

On Monday the 28th of October I will be visiting Abington Camera Club https://wpsite.clubabington.org.uk to present:

A Whistle-Stop Tour of the Universe (Hitch-Hiking on a Ray of Light).

So let’s hope that they 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.

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

Abington Camera Club meet at:
The Community Centre,

Wheatfield Road South,

Meeting Starts at 7:30pm.

Luton Astronomical Society – 24th October 2019

This evening I will be returning to Luton Astronomical Society to present:


This presentation overviews the events leading up to Apollo, what went on afterwards and the future of crewed spaceflight.

Luton Astronomical Society meet on the last Thursday each month (except December)

University of Bedfordshire,
Putteridge Bury,
North of Luton,
Off the A505
Postcode: LU2 8LE

Doors open 7.15 pm, meeting 7.30 until 9pm.
All visitors are welcome.
Adult admission £2. Children are free.


Sky Diary for October 2019

My free monthly sky diary for October 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.

Just to let keep you informed, after 32 years of doing my printable sky diary, I will stop producing my printable sky diary after December. It’s been a sad, and big decision for me to do this, but it is getting difficult to fit it in with my many other commitments.

However, it’s all not bad news.
All my sky diary events are currently and will in future be added to the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.
I will still keep this as up to date as I can and add new information as I hear about it.
Click here to view the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.

This and my Blog (www.star-gazing.co.uk/Blog.html) is where I will put any new information on sky events as they become known to me.

Open University Astronomy Club – 1st October

Tonight, I will be visiting the Open University Astronomy Club in Milton Keynes to present my:

Whistle-Stop Tour of the Universe (Hitch-Hiking on a Ray of Light).


So let’s hope that they 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, come along and say “Hello”.
They meet at The Open University in The Robert Hooke Room.

Meeting starts at 7:30pm.

Details on how to find the venue are on their Web Page:

Kelling Weekend

This weekend is the main Kelling Equinox Starcamp weekend organised by Loughton Astronomical Society.

Hundreds of like-minded astronomers meet up at Kelling Heath Holiday Park.

Some of them stay for more than a week to make the most of clear skies and a companionable weekend.

I can’t make it this year, so sending everybody attending fine weather for the event.

If you have been unable to get a pitch for this starcamp, there are many other across the UK.

Visit my Web page here for a list.

If I have missed any out, please let me know.

Kidderminster – November 1st.

If you are in Kidderminster on the 1st of November, I am presenting two Apollo 50 events for both Kidderminster Arts and Food Festival (KAFF) and Go Space Watch.

The day starts with the KAFF event with an afternoon of fully-immersive planetarium shows.
These will tell you all about the Apollo 11 landing. Hold your breath as you sit on the Moon watching Neil Armstrong land The Eagle lunar module, with landing fuel running low.

Booking available using Paypal from my Web site:

£4:00 per person.

For more information about KAFF, their Web page is here:

This will be followed by an evening audience-participation presentation bringing the lunar landing missions to life:

Magnificent Destination: The Apollo Moon Missions.

Tickets for this Go Space Watch event are booked via the Eventbright Web site:

£3:00 per person.

The venue for both events is:
Kidderminster Town Hall.
Vicar St, Kidderminster, DY10 1DB.

Comet Borisov C/2019 Q4 (Borizov)

Comet C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) has crashed into astronomical news.

It is the second object known to have originated from outside our solar system, make a dive in towards The Sun and then speed it’s way out once again.

The first known interloper Oumuamua (Formerly 1I/2017 U1) was discovered in 2017, and got people all excited.
Many observations of the object determined that it was a highly elongated object, essentially cigar shaped, prompting many people to propose it may have been artificial and built by aliens (Ha Ha!). It is composed of metal-rich rock and reddened by compounds called tholins laying on it’s surface. These are the same compounds which also give the red colours seen on Pluto, Charon and Ultima Thule (2014 MU69), which the probe New Horizons visited in July 2015 and New Years day 2019 respectively.

Comet Borisov was discovered in August at a distance of 3 Astronomical Units from The Sun.
It appears to have approached our solar system from an area of sky located slightly to one side of the double cluster in Perseus.
The comet was magnitude +18 at discovery.
Unlike Oumuamua, Comet Borisov was found long before perihelion, when it will be at it’s closest to The Sun.
This occurs on the 28th of December.

This very interesting object will be studied intensely during its apparition by lots of professional astronomers.

But as an amateur observer / imager, what are we likely to be able to see or image?

The comet currently lies in the northern part of Cancer, and heading steadily south.
It moves past the Sickle of Leo during October, passing very close to Regulus on the 4th of November.

So some early mornings are required if you want to catch the comet.

The comet continues southwards bound, passing almost directly through the centre of the constellation Crater mid-December.
Perihelion is reached on the 28th of December. The comet will still be quite a long way from Earth at this time, so don’t expect miracles.

It is unlikely to become much brighter than +15th magnitude, so observations are unlikely with very dark skies and a decent sized telescope. Astrophotographers are more likely to be able to capture the comet and I will look forward to seeing some of these images as they are released.

Sounds like a great little project for me to try my hand at over the coming weeks.

Use the map below to work out where the comet is.
Positions shown at 5 day intervals at 0h on the dates shown.
(Please note, the comet’s path may change as the ephemeris is re-defined. I will update if I see any changes).

Click on the map below to see a bigger version.

Click here to download a printable copy.

Nene Valley AS – 16th September 2019

Tonight I will be re-visiting one of my closest astronomy clubs to talk about astrophotography.

It will be good to catch up with my friends at Nene Valley Astronomical Society.

Nene Valley AS meet at the Village Hall in Chelveston.
Caldecott Road, Chelveston. NN9 5AT.

The doors will open at 7:30pm to start at 8pm.
Please use the door at the rear of the building.

£3:00 per person.

FAS Convention – 14th September.

On Saturday the 14th of September the Federation of Astronomical Societies (FAS) are holding their annual convention.

This will be held at The Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Road in Cambridge.

The FAS Convention is a great day of interesting astronomy talks:

  • Dr Mark Clilverd, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge.
    ‚ÄúSolar storm effects on ground-based infrastructure‚ÄĚ.
  • Dr Richard Ghail, Royal Holloway, University of London.
    ‚ÄúNew insights from our closest Earth-sized exoplanet: Venus‚ÄĚ.
  • Jenny Lister, 2018 RAS Patrick Moore Medal Winner, Wetherby Preparatory School, London.
    ‚ÄúAstronomy for all: its place in education‚ÄĚ.
  • Dr Floor van Leeuwen, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge.
    ‚ÄúDetails of the HR diagram as revealed by the second Gaia data release‚ÄĚ.
  • Prof Carlos Frenk, University of Durham.
    ‚ÄúEverything from nothing: how our universe was made‚ÄĚ.

There is also a chance to tour the historic telescopes and be tempted to buy some nice astro gear from some of the trade stands.

The event starts at 09:45, finishes 18:00.

£8 for FAS members
£10 for non-members
£4 for juniors (members and non-members).

Book tickets from the FAS Web site:

Comet 260P (McNaught)

Another comet that will be good to go out and watch is 260P (McNaught).
It is currently heading northwards in the constellation of Aries.

Images taken of the comet show it sporting a short but very distinct tail.

By the end of September the comet is in Perseus at about 11th magnitude, but still slowly brightening.
But it is not predicted to get very much brighter.

On the 8th and 9th of October the comet passes close to the open cluster M34.

The map below shows the path of the comet during September.

At the end of October and into November, the comet starts to trace out a retrograde loop.

The map below shows the path of the comet during October and November.


Comet 2018 W2 (Africano)

Comet 2018 W2 (Africano) is visible the next couple of months.

It is fairly high up at the moment in Perseus.
It reaches perihelion tomorrow (6th September). It is currently about 10th magnitude.

So it does require a reasonably sized telescope or imaging to pick it out.

The path of the comet takes it from Perseus and mid-month it moves into Andromeda.
On the 17th & 18th it passes almost directly between the galaxies M31 and M33.

The map below shows the path of the comet during the first half of the month.

On the 22nd of September it passes fairly close to the bright naked eye star Delta Andromedae.
The comet should have started to fade by this time.

The map below shows the comet path at the end of September into early October.

Around the 26th of September the comet passes through the bottom left part of The Square of Pegasus.

It continues heading southwards, fading all the time.

The map below shows the comet path during mid-October.

On the 4th of October Comet 2018 W2 (Africano) passes fairly close to Neptune.
It would be good if these two objects could be captured in a single image.

The last map below shows the comets path at the end of October and into November, where it should have almost faded from view and is starting to trace out a long retrograde loop.

Happy Hunting.



Duston Camera Club – 3rd September 2019

Tonight Duston Camera Club have invited me to present my

Whistle-Stop Tour of the Universe (Hitch-Hiking on a Ray of Light).

So let’s hope that they 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.

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

Meeting Venue:
Duston Community Centre
Pendle Rd, Northampton NN5 6DT

Meeting starts at 8:00pm.
(Doors open from 7:45pm).

Sky Diary for September 2019

My free monthly sky diary for September 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.

Just to let keep you informed, after 32 years of doing my printable sky diary, I will stop producing my printable sky diary after December. It’s been a sad, and big decision for me to do this, but it is getting difficult to fit it in with my many other commitments.

However, it’s all not bad news.
All my sky diary events are currently and will in future be added to the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.
I will still keep this as up to date as I can and add new information as I hear about it.
Click here to view the UK Cloud Magnets online calendar.

This and my Blog (www.star-gazing.co.uk/Blog.html) is where I will put any new information on sky events as they become known to me.

Jupiter and Moons August 22nd 2019

As the sky gets dark tonight, a transit of Ganymede’s shadow will be in progress, as will the great red spot.

The first two illustrations in the diagram below show the view at 21:20 UT.

Only 3 of the Galilean satellites are visible.
Io is to the east of Jupiter, but is hidden within Jupiter’s Shadow.

An hour later Io has emerged from the shadow and will be easily visible.
All four Galileans will be visible once again as seen in the lower diagram.

Ganymede’s shadow transit is still in progress and will move off Jupiter’s disk by 21:54 UT.