Sky Diary for June 2019

Hits: 8

My free monthly sky diary for June 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 sad, and a big decision 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.
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 the information on new events as they come in.

It’s been very quiet on the New Horizons results from Ultima Thule lately, but don’t forget to watch out for the results and images.

Click on the link below for more details:
http://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/new-horizons-ultima-thule

 

 

 

 

 

Starlink – What have we just witnessed?

Hits: 438

Every now and again something slips under your radar.
Something so seemingly innocuous has a habit of biting you where it hurts.
Let me explain.

I’m always on the lookout for great visual observing opportunities and love getting other people to see them.
Spacelink was one of my slips.
I was aware that it was going to launch on Friday, but I was so busy that I didn’t check the circumstances of the launch.
I knew it was launching 60 small satellites into orbit, but we’ve seen multiple launches before with the SatCubes, so nothing to report here!
So I thought.

Had I checked the launch time, we would have been in prime position to see the rocket as it came over about 20 minutes after launch.
That would have been fabulous to see in itself, what the events that followed were even more spectacular.

Once the string of satellites were deployed an hour after launch, reports started to come in about the satellites being visible from the ground as a string of bright lights moving across the sky.

See this video taken by amateur astronomer Dr. Marco Langbroek (sattrackcam.blogspot.com) as they streaked over the Netherlands:

It is said that they are going to get a lot fainter as they move away from Earth into their higher orbits.
This is when doubts about what was happening here first started to echo in my head.

So what is Starlink?
It is going to be a global Internet network.
This SpaceX (Elon Musk) launch is the first 60 of a proposed 12,000 network of satellites.
They have been launched by SpaceX, Elon Musk.
It will take about 10 years to launch the rest of the satellites into orbit.

SPaceX aren’t the only company looking to launch a network of satellites.
OneWeb, Telesat amongst them. The most ambitious being Amazon’s planned network of 3,200 satellites.

Considering how spectacular the Starlink constellation appeared, it looked like it would be well worthwhile getting out to see before the satellite string starts drifting apart.

I started to look at the possibilities of them being visible from the UK, managing to produce some preliminary potential timings when it would be visible.
So I posted those on my Web page and social media on the Saturday.

It looked like others were interested.
At the end of the day, I had 1,682 visitors to my Web site.
Unfortunately Saturday night was cloudy for me.
Some people in the UK spotted it and said the satellites were about 4th magnitude, so still visible to the naked eye.

Undeterred, I produced some more timings for the Sunday evening / Monday morning and posted those online.
Luckily for most, being a Bank Holiday it wasn’t a school night.

Timings were now very easy to generate using these three Web pages:

CalSky:
https://www.calsky.com/csephem.cgi?&object=Satellite&number=44236

N2YO
https://n2yo.com/passes/?s=74001

Celestrac
https://celestrak.com

So last night I stayed up to see the appearance of them at 22:30 and 00:09 BST.

The earlier appearance wasn’t optimal, as the sky was still fairly bright.
It could just about be seen without optical aid, but the appearance in binoculars was stunning.
A string of bright satellites following one another in the eastern sky.
They got brighter as they got lower and then faded completely.

Nothing spectacular, but it was nice to have been able to see them.

The spectacle I witnessed at 00:09 was incredible.
I set up my cameras to take some images.
I knew what the ground track was, but wasn’t completely sure of the track in the sky, so it crept up on my, fainter than I expected and lower in the sky.
Each individual satellite was visible to the naked eye. The string very evident stretching across many degrees of the sky.

Below – The Starlink Satellite Train I captured.

It gradually got a bit brighter as it got nearer.
I took some pictures, and then after it passed over, it passed just north of Corona Borealis and went towards Lyra.
That’s when things got really exciting.

The angle between The Sun, satellite and me must have been just right.
As each satellite passes a particular spot in the sky, it produced a bright flare.
We got used to this with the Iridium satellites, but this was Iridium’s on steroids.
One after another the satellites flared, producing a spectacular glittering display in the east north eastern sky.
WOW!

Below – One of the flares I captured.

Texts and posts from friends showed that they had also witnessed this amazing spectacle?

But what did we actually witness?
Yes, this is an amazing achievement, launching so many satellites at once, reducing costs drastically.
For what? Global Internet Access. Good grief, do we really need it?
A lot of people are almost turning into online addicts, so can’t we just preserve places where we can truly get away from it all?

Talking of preserving, we talk a lot about light pollution. Yes, I know, it didn’t take me long…
Online posts are showing a big trend of amateur and professional astronomers now up in arms, quite rightly, that this could ruin the night sky.
If these satellites continue to remain as bright as they are, it will ruin many a night sky image.

The satellites can only be seen if sunlight reflects off them.
In summer months, this happens throughout the night. The Sun is only just below our northern horizon at midnight, so although we are in darkness, they are still in direct sunlight.
In winter, the satellites will be hidden within the Earth’s shadow, so should not be seen when the sky is properly dark.
However, for two hours either side of sunset, the satellites will still be visible glinting in sunlight, whatever the time of year.

There was an outcry many years ago, when the Iridium satellites were launched. If the angle was right, one of the three highly polished panels, reflected sunlight to produce extremely bright flares. We came to love these Iridium flares, but these only occurred infrequently. Sadly they are being de-orbited and the last of them will soon be gone.

With the Starlink satellites there are planned to be 12,000 of the little blighters.
These will be spread around the globe evenly, so at any one time, some people have estimated, there will be more satellites visible in the night sky than naked eye stars.
Alarm bells were definitely ringing when I heard this.

So perhaps this weekend we didn’t just witness a spectacular display.
It could it have been the death knell of our rapidly disappearing night sky.
It has been reported then Elon Musk stated that the satellites won’t be visible in a dark sky.
But they definitely are visible. We’ve seen them!

Whether they will remain permanently visible, remains to be seen.
Will this sudden increase in space “junk” make low earth orbit more hazardous?

It’s too early to say as the satellites aren’t yet in their final orbits.

Let’s not dampen the moment for now.
This first launch is up there and we can do nothing about it – YET!

So just get out there and enjoy this spectacle while it lasts.
We’re keeping our fingers and toes crossed that it doesn’t turn out to be as bad as some predict, as the many satellites settle into their intended final orbits.

But if it does turn bad, it’ll be time to start a global campaign to get Elon Musk to de-orbit them and give us back our pristine dark skies.
Elon has already tweeted this morning that he’s already started to discuss this problem with the engineers.
But whether they do something about that impact remains to be seen.

Sod global Internet access!

Keep looking up!

Dave

Starlink Constellation may be visible from UK

Hits: 2435

I missed the launch of the Starlink Satellites.

A little while after release into orbit the 60 satellites were visible as a string of bright lights moving across the sky.

See this video taken by amateur astronomer Dr. Marco Langbroek (sattrackcam.blogspot.com) as they streaked over the Netherlands:

I’m not going to get into any conversations about them being light pollution.
But they’re now up there, and fingers crossed they’ll get a lot fainter as they move away from Earth into their higher orbits.

Given this info I started to look at the possibilities of them being visible from the UK.

We need to be quick as they will get fainter.

Here’s the circumstances I have worked out for tonight.

There are 3, possibly 4 sightings possible tonight (25th May), given clear skies.
These timings may vary slightly as the orbits are constantly changing.

Maps of the predicted passes are at the bottom of the page.

Like the ISS they will appear in the western sky and move eastwards.

25th May.
22:16 UT (23:16 BST) – Passes over mid France, so they could be visible at low altitude in the southern sky?
23:54 UT (00:54 BST) – Right over the UK. Will be at very high altitude.

26th May.
01:30 UT (02:30 BST) – Right over the UK. Very high altitude.
03:08 UT (04:08 BST) – Passes south west of Cornwall. A bit lower in the south eastern sky.

I have calculated a few more pass predictions, but these timings will drift as the orbits of the 60 satellites are altered.

These were spotted by some observers in the UK on the 25th.
They reported them to be about magnitude +4, so easily visible to the naked eye.

21:32 UT (22:32 BST) 
23:09 UT (27th May -00:09 BST)  

27th May.
00:46 UT (01:46 BST)
02:23 UT (03:23 BST)

28th May.
21:51 UT (22:51 BST)
23:27 UT (29th May 00:27 BST).

29th May.
01:04 UT (02:04 BST).
02:41 UT (03:41 BST).

Get out a while before the predicted event, as the satellites are still changing their orbits, so may appear early as they spread out and move away from one another.

N2YO gives you a really easy way of producing predictions for your location:
https://n2yo.com/passes/?s=74001

You can use Celestrac to find out circumstances,
https://celestrak.com

Heaven’s Above hasn’t got them on it’s database yet, but I have copied the orbital elements.
___________________
STARLINK
1 70002U 19999A 19144.10416667 .00000000 00000-0 00000-0 0 09
2 70002 053.0000 175.8692 0001467 047.2921 324.9821 15.42070599 01
___________________

If you copy and paste the text between the lines above, you can import them into the Web page: https://www2.flightclub.io/dashboard

You should then be able to reproduce the maps below:

Here are the maps of each pass that this Web page generated:

25th May – 22:16 UT

25th May 23:54 UT


26th May 01:30 UT


26th May 03:08 UT

26th May 21:36 UT

26th May 23:13 UT

27th May 00:50 UT

 

27th May 02:27 UT

28th May 21:51 UT

28th May 23:29 UT

29th May 01:06 UT

29th May 02:43 UT

 

 

 

Northants Amateur Astronomers – 22nd May

Hits: 13

On Tuesday the 22nd of May I will be re-visiting my very good friends at Northants Amateur Astronomers to give another talk.

Out of the Darkness: Pluto, New Horizons & Ultima Thule.

We will cover Pluto’s discovery, it’s subsequent demotion from planet 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 MU69 “Ultima Thule” on New Years Day.

Click the name of the group below to visit their Web page:
Northants Amateur Astronomers.

The meeting starts at 19:45.

Entry £3:00 (Non-Members £4:00).

Venue:
The Lounge.
Geddington Village Hall.
Queen Street Geddington
Northants.
NN14 1AZ

 

 

 

Magnificent Destination – Latest Presentation

Hits: 0



My latest audience-interactive presentation to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar landing is nearing completion. It has been designed to follow on from my Space Race presentation and covers the Apollo missions in much more detail.
 
Playing on Buzz Aldrin’s famous words, I have entitled it:
“Magnificent Destination”: The Apollo Moon Missions.
 
Suitable for all ages and interests, it is now available for bookings by astronomy clubs, social and youth groups and schools.
 
So contact me to book your talk.
 

Apollo Mission Images.

Hits: 0

I am in the process of downloading and processing of Apollo mission images to add a some previously unseen images to my presentations for this 50th anniversary year of Apollo 11 landing.

For details of my Apollo 50th Anniversary day, click here.
http://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/apollo-50th

Here’s a low resolutiono version of the animation of Earth rise I created from some of the images taken from The Apollo 11 command module Columbia.

Here are a few more images, before and after my processing and stitching together.

NASA archive images can be downloaded from here:
https://images.nasa.gov

 

 

Spot an extremely thin crescent Moon

Hits: 1

On Monday the 6th of May, Bank Holiday Monday, an extremely thin crescent Moon should be visible very low down in the western sky just as the sky gets dark.

Look towards the West at about 19:50 UT (20:50 BST) and you should be able to see something like the picture below.

The thin crescent is only 3.8% illuminated, with the dark portion of the Moon strongly lit by earthshine, as soon as the sky gets dark enough to see it.

The Moon will only be about 11 degrees above the horizon at this time.

So get yourself a good western horizon and clouds permitting, let’s see see if you can spot this very young 1.8 day old Moon.

The Moon will have set by 21h 11m UT (22h 11m BST).

Good luck.

Dave

Lincoln Astronomical Society – 7th May 2019

Hits: 0

On Tuesday the 7th of May I will be making my third trip to Lincoln Astronomical Society.

This time I will be telling them all about a hero of mine, Charles Piazzi Smyth.

He was the son of Admiral Henry Smyth, attended Bedford School and went on to…, well, to find out you’ll just  have to attend the talk entitled:

Piazzi Smyth and his high altitude Tenerife Observatories.

Lincoln Astronomical Society

Meeting starts at 7:30pm.
Cost £4:00 for non-members.
Lincoln AS meet at their observatory and lecture facility located at:
23 Westcliffe Street Lincoln.

Unfortunately, there is a steep set of 50 stairs leading to the observatory, which makes the site inaccessible for wheelchair users. Lincoln AS extend a sincere apology for people who might be affected by this.

Sky Diary for May 2019

Hits: 0

My free monthly sky diary for May  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.

It’s been very quiet on the New Horizons results from Ultima Thule lately, but don’t forget to watch out for the results and images.

 

Click on the link below for more details:
http://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/new-horizons-ultima-thule

 

Apollo Planetarium Taster.

Hits: 0

A taster from the Apollo immersive full-dome planetarium show I am working on to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

Have you booked your tickets for the 20th of July yet?
If not, you can get more details and book online using my secure online Shop:

http://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/apollo-50th

Active Region 2738 rotates onto Sun’s disk

Hits: 0

A new active region has moved onto the Sun’s disk.
However, it may not be a completely new sunspot as this seems to be the old active region AR 3736, which was very active with flares a couple of weeks ago, before it rotated behind the Sun’s disk.
 
See my Blog entry for the images and animation I took of it on the 24th of March:
 
This active region seems to have lasted and continued to develop while it was behind the Sun, until it has now re-emerged from behind the Sun’s disk and been assigned a new AR number 2738.
Here are my images of the active region in white light (left) and Hydrogen Alpha.

Asteroid Pallas Passes Eta Boötis

Hits: 0

Asteroid 2 Pallas reaches opposition this month.

The brightest Pallas reaches is magnitude +7.9, so it is well below naked eye visibility.
It will require binoculars or a telescope to view it as a star-like point moving through the southern part of Boötes, the Herdsman.

Pallas has an orbital period of 4.62 years and lies almost 3 astronomical units from The Sun.

On the 11th of April, at around 01:00 BST Pallas will be very close, approximately 4 arc minutes northeast, of the bright naked eye +2.7 magnitude star, Muphrid (Eta Boötis).
This will make the asteroid much easier to find.

The map below shows the path of the asteroid for the rest of April.

Happy hunting.

Dave

Mars moves between The Hyades & Pleiades

Hits: 1

Throughout the first week of April, Mars moves between The Hyades and The Pleiades Star Clusters in Taurus.

I took the images below on the evening of the 31st of March.

The map below shows the path of Mars as it moves through Taurus and between the two clusters.

Telescopically, Red Planet, showing a slightly gibbous phase, poses a real challenge as its apparent disk size is extremely small at only 4.6 arc seconds.

Enjoy the view with the naked eye or binoculars.
Dave

St Neots Astronomy Association – Monday 1st April

Hits: 0

Tonight, Monday the 1st of April, I will be visiting St Neots Astronomy Association.

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.

St Neots Astronomy Association meet at:
Little Paxton Pits Nature Reserve.
Which is just off the A1, north of St Neots.

Meeting starts at 7:30pm.

Sky Diary for April 2019

Hits: 0

My free monthly sky diary for April 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 whizzed past the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule on New Years Day.

Click on the link below for more details:
http://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/new-horizons-ultima-thule

Active Region 2736 near solar limb.

Hits: 41

On the 24th of March it was a clear sunny day. With clouds forecast to come over from midday, I decided to get out and do some solar imaging with the Quark.
Active region 2736 was close to the Sun’s limb. This set off a powerful flare a few days ago, and I know from experience that an active spot on the limb can show some incredible detail and activity.

For those interested, here’s the setup I use:
120mm Evostar refractor. It’s not the best for chromatic aberration, but working in narrow band the Hydrogen Alpha red wavelengths, this does not effect the image.
Lunt Herschel Wedge. For white light imaging.
Baader Solar Continuum Filter. To enhance spot and solar granulation detail when white light imaging.
Daystar Quark Chromosphere. I have now had this one almost two years and it is working extremely well. Click here to read my Quark, Or Not to Quark Page.
DMK41 Imaging Source camera. It is a monochrome camera. I create the orange colour afterwards in Photoshop.
A tilt adapter. To prevent Newton’s Rings when using the Quark.
An inch and a quarter focal reducer. To get a slightly wider field of view and brighter image.
Sharpcap Pro. 60 second videos captured.
AutoStakkert! Initial AVI processing.
Registax. Wavelet sharpening.
Photoshop. Further sharpening, Curves to reveal faint detail and adding colour.

The setup shown above was with the Herschel Wedge in place.

The seeing looked pretty awful as I started, but thought I’d persevere anyway.
As the Quark was coming up to temperature, I put the Herschel Wedge in to capture it in white light.

The spot looks extremely foreshortened and the surrounding bright faculae stand out pretty well against the darker edge of The Sun’s disk.

By the time I had finished taking this, the Quark had come up to temperature and was ready. So I removed the wedge and Continuum filter and set everything up for narrow band Hydrogen Alpha imaging.

One glimpse showed me that there was a lot going on around this spot. Some faint line of plasma were held suspended above the chromosphere, to one side of the spot.
As I was imaging, a strange bulge developed, which I had never seen before. Towards the end of the two hour imaging session, what looked like a surge prom was developing. At this time seeing had gone down horrendously and most of the detail in the captured AVI’s had now been lost. As the day was heating up in the sunshine, and some scudding clouds had now started to interfere, the time to finish imaging was fast approaching.

I had been taking images for over two hours, from 09:11 until 11:19. I tried to take an AVI every 2 minutes or so. It was finally time to stop imaging and then start processing all those AVI’s to produce the images for the animation. I ended up with 37 images at the end of the imaging run.

This is a single image of the active region. I then spent the best part of the whole day processing the images and getting them ready to make animation to show what was going on. At one point a strange “bulge” appeared.
The phone shot of the screen below, shows what I could see.


The resulting animation is below. I was totally blown away.
There is so much going on here.
The active region itself is bubbling away nicely, plumes of plasma being thrown out with the surge prom/s developing towards the end of the animation. The suspended plasma is seen streaking across and falling into the sunspot, following the magnetic field lines of the spot. You can also see the rotation of the Sun throughout the duration of the animation, as the active region moves closer to the limb.

I could look at this animation for hours. Totally mesmerising.

That’s why I love doing solar stuff.
You just never know what you are going to see every time you set things up.

This ius a single image of the

 

Cranfield Astronomical Society

Hits: 0

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

Rosetta & Philae: From Concept To Reality

RosettaTalk

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.

Venue:
CSA Lounge.
Building 114.
Cranfield University.

Luton Astronomical Society – Science Week Presentation.

Hits: 0

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).

HitchHiking

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:
http://www.lutonastrolink.org.uk

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

Hits: 0

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

Hits: 1

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:
http://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/new-horizons-ultima-thule

Apollo 11 Anniversary Celebration. 20th July

Hits: 1


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

Hits: 2

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.

Venue:
Christ Church,
Redford Way,
Belmont Rd,
Uxbridge,
Middlesex.
UB8 1SZ

 

1st January – Triple Conjunction Continues

Hits: 0

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

Hits: 0

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:
http://www.star-gazing.co.uk/WebPage/new-horizons-ultima-thule

Total Lunar Eclipse – 21st January 2019.

Hits: 1

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.

 

 

Practical Astronomy Show – 9th March 2019

Hits: 2

The Practical Astronomy Show comes to Kettering, Northamptonshire.
https://practicalastroshow.com

A FREE, yes I did say FREE whole day of practical astronomy.
What’s not to like?

The Practical Astronomy Show brings a selection of leading astronomy businesses, organisations and educational institutions together under one roof, for one day.

Astronomy products and services will be available for purchase from various stands.

Organisations involved in astronomy education, outreach and tourism will be available to meet and greet the general public.

I will have a small stand at the show.


As well as selling my books and promoting presentations and planetarium, I will have lots of hands-on fun for visitors as well.
This will, of course include the ever popular whiff and feel of comet 67P and some new 3D astronomical images.

I will also be promoting all the local astronomical societies in my area.
If your society would like me to hand out some leaflets, please let me have them.

A list of the main attending vendors is at the bottom of this page.

As well as the trade stands displaying lots of astronomy goodies, there are a number of free talks as well:

  • Dr Paul Abel – UK Visual Astronomer.
  • Dr Robin Glover – Author of SharpCap PRO image capture software.
  • Gary Palmer – UK Astrophotographer.
  • Damien Peach – UK Astrophotographer.
  • Niels Haagh – designer of the unique Panther mount.

EXHIBITION STANDS – HALL
Exhibitor stand numbers so far…

F1 Altair Astro / iOptron / Pegasus

F2 Widescreen Centre

F3 Tring Astronomy Centre

F4 Orion Optics

F5 Rother Valley Optics

F6 Starlight Xpress

F7 365 Astronomy

F8 Peak2Valley Instruments / Saturn Instruments

F9 Ian King Imaging

F10a Gary Palmer Astrophotography – Speaker

F10b Dr Robin Glover SharpCap PRO – Speaker

F11 Altair Astro

F12 WW Astro

EXHIBITION STANDS – GALLERY & PENDEEN
Exhibitors so far…

656 Imaging

Teleskop Schutzbauten

Space Rocks

NPAE Precision Astro Engineering

MSG-Meteorites

BAA – British Astronomical Association

Campaign for Dark Skies

Online Astronomy Society Academy

Webb Deep Sky Society

BBC Sky at Night Magazine

International Astronomy Show

Star-Gazing (That’s Me Folks!)

Tim Treadwell