The core of Comet NEOWISE

Although it is starting to fade now, Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is continuing to give us a great display.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s my latest YouTube video on finding the comet:

So as long as you are looking in the right direction, you should not miss it.

Before it got properly dark last night, I stepped out into the garden and was amazed to see that the comet is now so far north, that it was visible from my usual viewing spot by my shed. So it was a mad scramble to get out the mount, quickly polar align and take a few DSLR images of the coma through the scopes. I tried the C11 and the Mak-Newt. The Mac-Newt gave better images, due to it’s wider field of view and brighter image.

By the time I finished that, the comet was just about to disappear behind the neighbours roof.

So it was time to dash out to my darker site to capture more details in the dust and ion tails.
This comet has been depriving me of sleep, conditions were fairly appalling, and the surrounding towns were throwing loads of light up into the sky.
So I only did a quick imaging run before finishing by 12:30am before returning home to try and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Both images taken using a Nikon D750 DSLR.
First image of the core taken through my 190 Mak-Newt. Second image using my 72mm refractor.



Comet C/2020 (NEOWISE) – 17th July 2020

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you probably realise that there is a spectacular comet on display at the moment.
It’s Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).

It’s so far north that it is visible from the UK throughout the night.
As the evening gets dark, the comet can be seen in the north-north-west, fairly low down, but a very easy naked eye object.

Here’s my latest YouTube video on finding the comet:

So as long as you are looking in the right direction, you should not miss it.

The comet is currently in the lower part of the constellation of Ursa Major, The Great Bear just by the front paws.

On the 17th of July, it clouded over in the northern sky just before the sky started to darken. Typical!
So instead of staying close to home, I packed everything into the car and ventured out south to hopefully get a view of it and bag some more images.

Only 7 miles from home, I found myself parked up at the side of a country road within the North Bedfordshire villages area with a clear view towards the north.

The comet was now well above the low clouds, so I very quickly setup the two driven mounts, doing a very rough and ready polar alignment on each one. The sky still wan’t totally dark, but I I started capturing subs.

As the sky darkened the extent of the dust tail could be seen. It was so long.
One the sky was totally dark, I could follow it for at least 8 or 9 degrees, using averted vision.

It was a fine sight through binoculars, the pseudo-nucleus appearing star-like and the tail visible across the whole field of view and just outside, so probably about 6 degrees or so. Funny that the naked eye could see a lot more.

There were still some interfering clouds, but I started rattling off shot after shot.
The main driven mount was carrying a 72mm refractor with my Nikon D750 full-frame DSLR capturing close shots to try and capture detail in the ion tail. This had shown some lovely red colouration a few days ago.

The second more flimsy driven mount had a Nikon D5100 DSLR with a variety of fixed and zoom lenses to capture wider fields of view to capture the complete extent of the dust and ion tails and some wide angle star fields around the comet.

The sky seemed to go very clear at one point, but there was always some thin cloud hovering around the comet, and scudding in front of the comet, making it a real challenge to capture really clean subs. But I persevered.

I was absolutely gob-smacked at how long the tail was coming out in my images.
This confirmed what I thought I could see with the naked eye.

I continued a variety of shots until by 1am the clouds finally won the battle.
I watched and imaged the ISS pass over and then packed up for the night.

Now hours of processing follow…

The animation at the bottom shows material moving along the ion tail.

This was created from 40 reasonably clear subs.
The subs were stacked in groups of 10 to create 4 individual images.

The four images were then put together into the animated GIF.






























Adding Comet NEOWISE to Stellarium

If you are like me Stellarium is a fantastic planetarium program for showing people the sky and planning what you might be able to see.

My YouTube guide to finding the comet is here:

This guide is also available to view on YouTube.

Many of the maps I use in my guides are drawn using Stellarium.

But have you tried to find Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE using the software?

Is it there? Possibly not.

If you can’t find the comet in the software, here’s my guide on how to add the comet.

First step is to make sure that you have the most up to date version of Stellarium installed.
It can be downloaded from here:

Once the software has been installed, open Stellarium.

On the bottom left of the program, hover your mouse and a menu pops out.


Click the Configuration button. (Or just press F2).

This opens the Configuration Window.

Click the Plug-Ins Tab.

Scroll down the left hand side menu.

Find and click Solar System Editor.


Make sure Load at Startup is ticked.

Click the Configure Button.

Click the Solar System Tab.


Click the Import orbital elements in MPC format… Button at the bottom of this window.

Click the Lists Tab.

Where it says Select the type, select Comets.

Select Download a list of objects from the Internet.

Underneath where it says Select a bookmark… click the drop down menu.

Select the first option Gideon van Buitenen; comets as shown above.

Click the Get orbital elements button.


In the search bar start typing in the comets name C/2020 F3.
It should appear in the search list in the bottom of the window.

Select the comet by putting in a tick mark with the mouse.

Click Add Objects.

Close all the menus.

The comet should now be displayed and will be searchable when running Stellarium as shown below.

You and Stellarium are now ready for Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE.

Have fun.







Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) Now Circumpolar

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is now circumpolar from the UK.

If you’d like to see some of my Comet images, visit my Flickr Comet Gallery.

Visit my recent blog update on the comet.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

Selfie-C2020F3NEOWISE-20200712-Z75_5243-WebBeing circumpolar means that the comet is visible throughout the night as it never sets from our latitudes.

The comet starts to become visible in the North-north-western sky as the sky gets dark, easily visible to the naked eye.

The comet is sporting a very bright dust tail, but it has also developed a very nice ion tail.

Some images, including a couple of mine, showing not only the expected blue colour within it, but there is red as well.

The tail is now at least 8 degrees in length and the tail/s should get longer as our perspective changes as the comet passes Earth later this month.

The image below shows the progression of the comet across the sky.
It is moving away from the area close to Auriga.
The bright yellow star Capella and Beta Aurigae, visible lower left are your best guides to find the comet.

Once Capella is visible in the fading twilight, start hunting for the comet.

Move left to find the beta star, then extend the line outwards and slightly upwards to find the comet.
It should be at least 15 degrees above the horizon at this time.
At it’s lowest at around midnight, it is still 9 degrees above the northern horizon.

By dawn it is visible low down in the north-north-eastern sky, but be quick, the brightening dawn from 3:30am BST will drown out the comets glow.

At the time of writing (15th July) the comet is in the constellation of Lynx.
Unfortunately this constellation is small and fairly indistinct, so it doesn’t have any bright stars within it, so Capella and beta are still your best guides.

By the 19th of July, the comet has moved further north and will be located right by the forelimbs of Ursa Major, The Great Bear, very close to the third magnitude star Iota (Talitha).

As the comet is getting closer to Earth it should be looking a lot bigger. How bright it will be at this stage no-one knows. but being closer to Earth it should hold its brightness quite well. At this time the comet will still be in Ursa Major, located directly below familiar seven stars of The Plough.

The direction the tail is pointed would have turned slightly anti-clockwise and should also appear a lot longer as our perspective changes.


On the 23rd of July Comet NEOWISE will be at its closest to Earth when it will be 103m Km distant, ~40x the distance of The Moon.

Will the comet fragment and fade long before then? Or will it get brighter?

The only way to know for sure is to get yourself out at any possible opportunity and have a look at this magnificent object.

Sleep’s for wimps!!

It could be more than 25 years before we see another comet as bright as this.

If you’d like to see some of my Comet images, visit my Flickr Comet Gallery.

Visit my recent blog update on the comet.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

See my NEOWISE Observing guide on YouTube.


Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) update

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is now putting on a great show.

The tail has now extended to about 5 degrees long and getting brighter.
It is now sporting a dust and ion tail.

See my previous Blog entry from the 6th of July.

I have now added a video to help show where you can find the comet and what we might expect from it!

Just get yourself out and have a look, (When the weather allows, of course) and you might even see some noctilucent cloud (NLC) activity into the bargain.

Have fun.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is now visible from the UK.
Unlike Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) and C/2020 F8 (SWAN) which both failed to perform, this comet looks like it will make up for those and could be a real stunner.

A blog update and YouTube video showing how to find the comet and what we might see is here:

Spurred on by images folks across the world had posted online, I decided to make the effort to get up early and get out and see it.
I had to drive a little bit away from home at about quarter to 2, to get a low view towards the north-east, where I knew the comet would be located, below Capella in Auriga.

There was a consistent band of cloud just in the area the comet should have been. It looked like it was going to clear, so I persevered and waited.

I watched Venus rising a little bit towards the east, but the area around the location of the comet stayed consistently cloudy.
Behind me, The Moon, Jupiter and Saturn were very prominent. I was also surprised how high Mars was.
I really ought to get my self up earlier more and get out to do these planets one morning…

The sky was really starting to brighten by this time.
At about 10 past 3, it really looked like the clouds were not going to reveal the comet, so I threw my camera and binoculars into the car and headed where I thought I would get a clear view. After about 5 miles, I found a turn off with a clear view in the comets direction. A quick squint and I could easily see the comet with the naked eye, despite the brightening sky.
I scrambled to get the camera set up and focussed before rattling off a number of images.
This was a very nice looking comet, looking absolutely stunning in 10×50 binoculars and was well worth getting up for, before it started fading into dawns glow.

Here are a couple of the images I took.

The map below shows the path of the comet during July.
Click on the map for a bigger view.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is currently below Capella in Auriga and visible low down in the north-eastern sky a little while before sunrise.

After about a week, it passes through Lynx and you should also be able to see it low in the north-western sky just after sunset, so we should have two opportunities to see it each day.
By mid July, the comet will be moving in the lower part of Ursa Major below The Plough.
By the end of July the comet will be moving through galaxy fields in the constellation of Coma Berenices.

How bright it will get, who knows? It’s a comet after all.

But do make sure that you get yourself out there to have a look at what could turn out to be a long awaited and magnificent comet.







Barnard’s Star – The rapidly moving star.

Barnard’s Star is a very interesting star.

It is known as The Runaway Star, and for good reason.
It’s apparent motion across the sky is relatively fast.

This is a result of it being fairly close to us and its motion changes by a degree every 351 years.

Below is an animated GIF of Barnard’s Star showing its rapid movement across the sky.

One image was taken by me in June 2012.

The other image taken by Nick Hewitt more recently.

You can see how much the star has shifted north over 8 years.


Look Out For Venus

My YouTube video shows you what to expect over the next few weeks as the planet moves ever closer to The Sun and lower in our evening sky.


Venus is looking magnificent in the evening sky at the moment as you can see from my series of images below.

My YouTube video shows you what to expect over the next few weeks as the planet edges ever closer to The Sun and gets lower in our evening sky.



Saving Apollo 13 – 50th Anniversary Event of Launch day.

Today is the 50th Anniversary since the launch of Apollo 13.

A special event organised by Go Space Watch in Sutton Coldfield has been cancelled, so I have offered to do my Apollo 13 presentation online instead.

Details of the meeting are below:

Saturday 11th April. 7pm BST (6pm UT).
Dave Eagle – Apollo 13 50th Anniversary Presentation.

Saving Apollo 13: Houston We’ve Had a Problem.

Join to the meeting using the Zoom link below.
Meeting ID: 808 786 331
Password: 030400

Venus Photo-bombs The Pleiades.

In the first week of April, Venus Photo-bombs The Pleiades Star Cluster in Taurus.

On the evening of the 2nd it will be just below The Pleiades.

On the 3rd, Venus will be at its closest to the cluster lying close to Merope.
It will be a dazzling jewel amongst the much fainter stars within the cluster.

On the 4th of April, Venus will have started moving away from the cluster as the bright planet heads eastwards.
(Or is that The Pleiades heading westwards?).

Let’s hope we get some more clear skies.

Have Fun.




One Million Interactions

One Million Interactions – Inspiring the next generation of space scientists.

The One Million Interactions programme is a partnership between the UK Space Agency, ESERO-UK, STEM Ambassadors and the Careers and Enterprise Company to support the UK space sector to deliver 1,000,000 interactions per year with young people. Each time you speak to one young person that counts as one interaction, so if you speak to a class of 30, that is 30 interactions. The programme will offer volunteering opportunities and bespoke training for STEM Ambassadors from the space sector.  We wish to re-engage with space employers to increase the number of volunteers and active engagement events within the Space Sector.

If you are an Ambassador working in the space industry, or wish to engage with STEM activities with Space as a theme, we would love you to link into this initiative. 

If wish to link to this scheme please contact your regional STEM Ambassador Hub here

or E Mail Kathryn Kroon

Moon, Venus & Pleiades

There’s a nice conjunction of The Moon, Venus & Pleiades star cluster coming up.

On the evening of Thursday the 26th of March, the very thin crescent Moon will be low in the western sky as the sky darkens.

(Note: The size of The Moon has been exaggerated in these images).

The next evening (27th March) The Moon is higher in the sky.
It is now approaching Venus and The Pleiades.
Theses are themselves getting closer for a close encounter early next month.

On the evening of the 28th March the three objects are close together, making a nice triangle.
This will be a great photographic opportunity to capture the three objects in one image.

The next evening The Moon will have started to move away as the crescent thickens.

Early next month Venus photo-bombs The Pleiades.
I’ll post more details about this later.

Keep Looking Up!

Keep Safe and well.

All diagrams produced using the excellent planetarium software Stellarium.

Jupiter, Mars Saturn & The Moon

If you are blessed with clear skies (yeah right!) over the next few mornings there will be a nice display of planets and The Moon in the morning sky.
Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and The Moon are all visible low down in the south-eastern sky a little while before dawn.

You will have to get up and be out looking by about 5:30am UT to get the views shown in the diagrams below.

Tomorrow 18th March. 5:30am UT.
The Moon will be close to Jupiter and Mars.

Thursday 19th March. 5:30am UT.
The Moon has moved away below Saturn and will be visible as a thinner crescent very low to the horizon.
Jupiter and Mars have moved a little bit closer together.

Friday 20th March. 5:30am UT.
Jupiter and Mars are at conjunction. Mars, with its fast apparent motion overtakes Jupiter as it moves eastwards along the ecliptic. The two planets will still be fairly close together on the 21st, but Mars will soon move away over the next few days.
The Moon is now a lot lower down that morning and rises a little later.
So stay out there to give yourself the challenge of spotting The Moon in the brightening sky after you have spotted the conjunction.

Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) Starts to Brighten.

Due to cloud cover I missed the Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) passing close to The Owl Nebula a short time ago.

But the excitement is building.
This comet has started to surprise us.
In the last week or so it has brightened significantly.

I took this image of the comet on the 22nd of March 2020.
The comet has started to produce a tail.

Currently around 8th magnitude the comet is passing south of M81 and M82 in Ursa Major over the next few days.
The map below shows a close up of its path at this time. Click on the chart for a closer view.

The full path of the comet during this apparition is shown at the bottom of the page.

During the month it moves very slowly westwards through Ursa Major toward Camelopardalis.

It finally reaches that constellation , which it reaches by the end of April.

It crosses towards Perseus, which by this time, (mid May) its apparent speed will have started to accelerate and the comet should brighten even more as it approaches The Sun.
Unfortunately it is now heading towards the evening twilight as it passes through Perseus as it approaches perihelion.

At this time it will be visible fairly low down in the north western sky, above and to the right of Venus just after sunset.
How bright it could be at this time remains to be seen. It has the potential to become a naked eye object.
But we all know just how unpredictable comets can be.

Here’s one of my old images of Hale-Bopp put into a Stellarium view of the sky on the 18th of May 2020 at about 22:30 UT.
We can only keep our fingers crossed that it does give us a very nice display like this (or maybe better?) in the evenings fading light.
Of course I have used an extreme amount of artistic license here. But hey, we can always dream.

The comet reaches perihelion on the 31st of May, when we will definitely be lost from view in the northern hemisphere.

The map below shows the full path of the comet during the apparition.








My Sky Diary now online

My Sky Diary of events is now available electronically using a TeamUp calendar shown below and on YouTube.

Thank you very much to Steve Tonkin from binocular Astronomy and Neill Sanders from Go StarGazing, who are helping me to keep this right up to date.

To set up the calendar up on your mobile device, so you can carry it around and keep up to date,
download the TeamUp App from their Web Site:

Once the app is installed, add my Star-Gazing Sky Diary calendar using the URL below.

Please do let me know if I have missed anything out or have made a mistake.

Any mistakes are entirely my own.
Please do let me know if I have missed anything out on the calendar.


Letchworth and District Astronomical Society – 26th February 2020.

Tomorrow evening (26th February) I will be presenting to Letchworth and District Astronomical Society.


I’m looking forward to showing them all about the fantastic Rosetta and Philae mission to Comet 67P.
It’s been a long time since I’ve talked to Letchworth, so am looking forward to meeting them all.
I hope they enjoy feeling and getting a whiff of Comet 67P and finding out all about the latest results.
Their meeting starts at 7:30pm.
Standalone Farm
Wilbury Road
Letchworth, SG6 4JN

Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) passes The Owl Nebula and M108

See my blog entry on the comet with maps of its full path here:

On the 24th and 25th of February Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) passes about 1 degree of The Owl Nebula M97.

On the 26th it also passes close to the galaxy M108, as it makes its way into the bowl of The Plough near Merak.

Use the map at the bottom of this blog entry to find the comet.

The image below by Michael Jäger of Weißenkirchen, Austria, was taken as the comet was approaching the Owl nebula on the 21st of February.

The galaxy is currently at 12th magnitude, so will require a reasonably large scope and dark skies.

It should be relatively easy to capture in photographs as it makes a great photo opportunity.

So we have three days chances of at least seeing something.
That’s if these winds and clouds ever give us a break.

The map was generated using C2A planetarium software.

Affinity Photo Astrophotography Image Processing Guide

I am very pleased to announce that my new Star-Gazing Guide to Affinity Photo Astrophotography Image Processing is now available to order.

Click here to visit my Secure Online Shop to order a copy.

Affinity Photo guide is 70 pages long and usually costs £9:50.
This includes postage and Packing (UK Only).
Oversees visitors, please contact me for postage costs.

This new guide is available at launch cost of £8:00 until the end of February. Saving £1:50 on full price.

My Photoshop Astrophotography Image Processing Guide is also available for £9:50.

Deep Sky Stacker and Moon Imaging Guides (40 & 48 pages) are also available. They cost £8:00 each, including  postage (UK Only).
Please contact me if overseas for postage costs.

All of my guides can be ordered from my secure online shop:
Click here to visit my new Secure Online Shop to order.

Raunds Community Library Apollo 13 Event

As part of the Apollo 50 celebrations, I am helping to organise an Apollo 13 Event at Raunds Community Library.

This will be held on Saturday the 7th March.

Free Space Craft morning for the Children’s Club.

Plus spectacular family Planetarium Shows.
10:30, 11:15, 12:00 & 12:45.

Tickets will be available from the library from tomorrow.
Planetarium tickets are £3:00 or two for £5:00.

Learn all about what went wrong with the Apollo 13 mission which happened 50 years ago next month and experience the spectacular full-dome Apollo mission show Capcom Go!

Love your Local Library.


Rugby & District Astronomical Society – 16th February

Tonight I will be re-visiting my friends at Rugby & District Astronomical Society to give another presentation.

Out of the Darkness: Pluto, New Horizons & Arrokoth.

We will cover Pluto’s discovery, it’s subsequent demotion from planetary status and the results from the New Horizons flyby.

Added to this are the latest results from the flyby of another Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69Arrokoth” on New Years Day 2019.

Click the name of the group below to visit their Web page:
Rugby & District Astronomical Society
Their meeting starts at 19:30.

The venue for the meeting is:
Church Lawford Village Hall
School Street,
Church Lawford,
CV23 9EE

Venus Passes Neptune – 27th January 2020

On Monday the 27th of January Venus passes just 4 arc minutes south of Neptune in the evening sky.

Venus is moving much faster than Neptune, so you may be able to see the movement over an hour or so, if you observe carefully.

Images taken at intervals will certainly reveal the changing angle and distance between the two planets during the early evening.

The map below shows the movement of the two on the 27th & 28th of January.
The positions of the planets are marked at 0h UT.

The planets are fairly close to the bright 4th magnitude star phi (φ) Aquarii, which Venus passes on morning of the 28th.
By the time the sky is dark enough on the 28th, Venus already well clear on the other side of the star.

Use this to help identify the distant ice giant during the encounter.
The map was created using C2A planetarium software.

Let us hope for some clear skies after the rain which is predicted for the UK tomorrow.

Comet C/2017 T2 passes the Sword Handle

Comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) is approaching the Double Cluster (Or The Sword Handle) in Perseus over the next few days.

See my blog entry below for more details of the comet.

Comet C/2017 T2 will be at it’s closest to the clusters on the 27th of January, when it will be closest to NGC 884.

It takes quite a few days to pass the clusters, so hopefully we’ll get some clear skies around this time to capture the comet close to them.

Have fun.

The map below shows the position of the comet at 0h on the dates shown.
Map generated using C2A Planetarium Software

Comet C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS

Comet C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS is getting brighter.

It will come to perihelion in early May, when it will be in the constellation of Camelopardalis.

It will be at its brightest around this time and moving fairly fast. It was predicted to become as bright as magnitude +8.5. However, the brightness comets can achieve are always fairly difficult to predict, it certainly seems to be exceeding expectations and has already reached a magnitude of +10.8.

Below is an image I took of the comet on the 29th of November.
(Notice the track of the small asteroid moving just above the comet at the time).

If this brightening continues, it may (or may not) get a lot brighter than +8.5.
So how bright could it become?

The only way to know for sure is to get out and keep having a look at it.

It is certainly a very nice comet already with a distinct dusty tail visible.

This comet is going to favour northern hemisphere observers and is heading north.
It will also maintain a high northerly altitude throughout its apparition, taking us right the way into the Summer.

The maps below show the path it will take amongst the stars.

It is currently in the head of Perseus. As it tracks across its path, it passes a few notably bright objects.
These should make for very nice images with the objects being so close together on the following dates:

The Sword Handle Double Cluster in Perseus.
Between the 25th of January and the 2nd of February.

Open Cluster NGC 886 and The Heart & Soul Nebulae.
13th March and a week either side for the larger nebulae.

Gamma Camelopardalis.
11th & 12th of April.

A nice cluster of galaxies including NGC 2633 and 2643.
15th & 16th of May.

Galaxies M81 and M82.
23rd to the 25th of April.

Galaxy IC2574.
25th & 26th of April.

4th & 5th of June.

15th & 16th of June.

24th & 25th of June.

NGC 4490.
1st July.

Coma Berenices Star Cluster.
17th, 18th and 19th of July.

(Click on map for bigger view).




Penumbral Lunar Eclipse – 10th January.

The day of the penumbral lunar eclipse was bright and sunny, so it looked quite hopeful that it would be clear to catch the penumbral lunar eclipse that evening.

As the sky darkened, some thin cloud built up. So in anticipation I set up the 190 Mak-Newt and let it cool down before The Moon poked its nose above the neighbours rooftops.

As soon as it cleared the roof, The Moon mostly stayed clear of cloud for the early part of the eclipse.

So it was on.

I managed to capture a few images with my Nikon DSLR, but the thin cloud was gradually getting thicker as the eclipse progressed.

Here’s The Moon taken at mid-eclipse at 19:10 UT.

Towards the end of the eclipse a nice lunar halo formed, but by the time I got my other camera out to capture an image, it had faded.

I took 5 images in total.

So I made an animation from them to show the progression of the shadow across the Moons disk.

My animation of the Earth's shadow playing across The Moon's surface. Pity the latter images were ruined by thin cloud. But at least I got to see it.

Posted by Dave Eagle on Friday, 10 January 2020

Pale Blue Dot – 30th Anniversary Celebration

The 14th of February marks the 30th anniversary of Voyager 1’s Pale Blue Dot Image.

The image below is the image in question, showing the distant speck of light, which is The Earth floating in a shaft of sunlight.

This iconic image illustrates the unique astronomical perspective on Earth: when observing our home planet from space, national boundaries disappear and the fragility of Earth becomes evident. This perspective is pertinent to remind ourselves to treat each other with kindness and take care of our home planet together.

Looking at events unfolding across the world, the awareness of our impact on the environment is becoming more and more marked.

The anniversary will be celebrated on the by a number of events organised across the world between the 13th and 20th of February.
To see what it is all about and how to get involved, see the Pale Blue Dot Web page:

What a Stupid Hobby.

So, the social media frenzy starts again!
We have had an ideal Christmas and New Year break for doing astronomy. Lots of spare time, and no Moon to blot things out. But it wasn’t to be. Of course, the always unpredictable (or should that be predictable?) UK weather has decided that we couldn’t see anything at all up in the sky over the holiday period.

Now everyone is now starting to go back to work. They have much less time to do the hobby and the bright Moon is back blotting out the fainter objects. People’s astronomy kit, a lot of it brand new after their Christmas presents were opened, itching to have first light on at least something.

As a result lots of people are wondering why they have all this lovely equipment standing around gathering dust.
Like many hobbies the equipment can cost a lot of money, depending on how deeply you get involved, and it is a real waste if it stands in the corner of the room and doesn’t get used.

There is a long-standing joke in astronomy that any newly delivered piece of astronomy equipment becomes a cloud magnet, attracting clouds for weeks after it arrives.

“What a stupid Hobby. I’m giving it up” is the main cry heard. “I’m selling all my gear”.
But what are they really saying?

Any hobby has its frustrations.
Take ballooning for example. Fantastic if you do that sort of thing, but, as anyone knows who has booked a balloon flight, it does require fair weather for a smooth flight. That leads to many days of frustration I’m sure. But when they do get good weather and launch they enjoy the flight and the hobby.

Astronomy is the same.
Yes, it can be extremely frustrating, especially if the weather prevents you seeing something that only happens very rarely.

Like me, if you have a real passion for the subject you persevere with it. You take the ups and the downs. Anyone who has learnt a musical instrument will know just how difficult and frustrating that can be. But those who have a real passion for it will battle their way through the pain barrier and master their chosen weapon.

Astronomy is very much the same. Yes, it can feel like the elements are conspiring against you. Yes, it does feel that your equipment is feeling very much unloved, sitting gathering dust week after week.

But, when the weather is fine, the skies clear and the stars are out in all their glory, there is nothing to beat it.
It takes you away from all of life’s stresses as you peer across the universe and enjoy everything it and your dusted-off equipment can offer.

So please do persevere with it because astronomy really will be much the worse for your departure.
If you do give it up, maybe the interest was definitely there, but certainly not that passion that really does help carry you through the pain.

Starlink – What’s all the fuss about?

Tonight there will be an opportunity to see the last set of launched Starlink satellites passing over the UK skies.

The last couple of launches have stirred up the astronomical community, amateurs and professionals alike.
See my blog entry made after the first launch:

And my images of the constellation from the second launch:

There are tens of thousands of these satellites planned. Another 60 are due to be launched next week.

The Heaven-Above Web site shows me that there is a visibility of the latest cluster of satellites visible tonight.

The first satellite starts passing across the UK sky just after 4:30pm.
It appears just north of Saturn, passes north of The crescent Moon, into Aquarius, Pisces and towards Cetus and Taurus.
Its magnitude is calculated at +3.9. But it would be a good idea to observe exactly how bright it actually appears and if it flares at any point as it catches the Sun.
At this point it disappears into The Earth’s shadow a short time before it sets.
The map of this pass from Heavens-above is shown below (Click on the image for a bigger view):

But that’s not all.
Once this satellite passes across there will be an ongoing procession of Starlink satellites, each separated by only a few minutes.
This stream of satellites will last until 20:11 UT.

The height above the southern horizon of the Starlink satellite track will gradually increase as the evening progresses, each satellite following the previous one at a very slightly higher altitude.

By the time satellite 1046 passes over at 18:20, this satellite will be 83 degrees high, passing north of Pegasus and Andromeda. It will fade quicker into The Earth’s shadow as it enters Perseus. The magnitude of this satellite is predicted to be +3.9

By the time the final satellite 1050 passes us at 20:11.
It is only visible very briefly, disappearing very quickly into the Earth’s shadow over in the western sky close to Delphinus.

If you do get the chance to view them, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about them.

If the weather prevents you from seeing this particular sighting, there are a few more opportunities over the next few days.
Visit Heavens-Above for more details.

It will be interesting to see what impact these will have.

The new ones to be launched next week will definitely be much brighter.

Dimming of Betelgeuse – Supernova or not?

When I’m doing my planetarium shows, the children really love the fact that Betelgeuse is so huge if it were in the same position as our Sun, it would swallow many of the inner planets, including Earth, Mars and almost Jupiter.

For more details of my exciting school visits, click here:

However, Betelgeuse has recently been attracting attention due to its behaviour. This has bought to the attention of the public that celestial objects aren’t quite as constant as they appear at first glance, but do change. Sometimes sometimes quite quickly and dramatically.
Many social media feeds are buzzing with excitement.

See my original post about this by clicking the link below:

Yes, this bright super red giant naked eye star has dimmed in brightness, but we have known for years that it does do this on a fairly regular basis. It is a variable star.
What makes this a little bit more intriguing is that it hasn’t been quite this dim for more than 40 years.

On the 20th of December 2019, the weather finally allowed me a chance to have a quick look at Orion and try and work out roughly how bright it actually was.

Here’s my image with Betelgeuse marked. It is the bright star in the right shoulder (left hand as seen from Earth) of the constellation of Orion, the Hunter.

Betelgeuse was definitely fainter than Rigel.
I would say that it was on par, or even slightly fainter than Aldebaran in Taurus.

So I guess this makes the magnitude of Betelgeuse that evening about +1.0.

Betelgeuse is normally brighter at about +0.4. So this marks quite a significant drop in brightness.

I did notice that the nearby star Procyon, in Canis Minor, at magnitude +0.3 was also brighter than Betelgeuse.

Having been looking up and admiring Orion since a child, the Hunter did indeed look distinctly different, just  from standing in the garden staring at it. Or was it just interpretation and expectations from the knowledge I had?

Being a known variable star, observers have been monitoring the brightness of Betelgeuse for years.
The light curve below has been published by the AAVSO:

Betelgeuse is at the very end of its life, and if you listen to Brian Cox, you will know that it due to end its life in a supernova event, where it will literally tear itself apart when the stars fuel has run out and it can no longer support its own weight. It will collapse onto itself, the resounding “bounce-back” resulting in a brilliant “explosion” of light.

Is this fading of the star a prequel to the supernova event?
When is it likely to happen?
Are we really likely to see Betelgeuse brighten dramatically very soon?

To be perfectly frank, astronomers really do not really know.
It could be tomorrow, or it could be in 50,000 or even 100,000 years time.
So the statistical likelihood of this event occurring during your ~90 (give or a take a few years) year lifetime is extremely small.

The last supernova that we viewed from fairly close quarters was in 1987.
This was a naked eye supernova called 1987A, but was only visible from the southern hemisphere.
That supernova was located in the Large Magellanic Cloud and lies around 168,000 light years away from Earth.

Betelgeuse is only about 700 light years away, so is a lot closer.
If it did go supernova, it would appear much, much brighter in our sky.
If it did “pop” today, the speed of light dictates that it would take another 700 years before we see the supernova.
But, let’s suppose Betelgeuse actually went supernova just over 699 years ago.
If that is the case, the light is already well on its way and could reach us within the next year.

When the event happens, we will witness Betelgeuse brighten enormously, and extremely quickly.
At its brightest it would be as bright as the Full Moon.
All that light will be contained within a minuscule point of light, making Orion looking very strange indeed.
Betelgeuse would be a fantastically brilliant star in Orion’s right shoulder, making astronomical observations very difficult for a number of months. The bright light will make the sky background extremely bright when above the horizon, blotting out many fainter objects.
The supernova will be so bright, that it will be visible during the day.

After many weeks outshining all the other stars in the sky, the supernova’s light will start to fade.
Over time the light will fade so much, it will drop below naked eye visibility.

From then on our view of Orion will change forever, The Mighty Hunter effectively will effectively lose his right shoulder as we will now longer be able to see Betelgeuse with the naked eye.

But what a legacy Betelgeuse will leave behind. The fading supernova and its remnant should keep astronomers busy for many, many years to come as they observe the repercussions of the stars demise and the expanding shock-wave and cloud of debris emanating from the position of this ex-star.

But Hey! Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen!
But wouldn’t it be fantastic if it did?
We just love all the intrigue and speculation.
That’s what makes this wonderful hobby so fantastic.