Why do we do this crazy hobby?

With a fairly bright comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) developing very nicely in the eastern morning sky, we will have limited time before if dives below the horizon.
As a result, the usual clouds have interrupted proceedings, making it difficult, if not impossible to image.

But I’ve been doing astronomy for so long now, so I no longer think there is a personal attack on my enjoyment of astronomy and imaging.
I absolutely KNOW there is!

This morning was a typical case.
I looked out of the window at 4:00am. It was mostly clear.
Big clear patches with some cloud around, so looked very promising.

I got up and set up the scope.
By the time it was all up and running, the large gaps had got a lot smaller.
10 minutes later it was completely overcast, then started to rain. TYPICAL!
I covered everything over, and hung on in there.

It stopped raining, then some passing larger clear patches allowed me to get the camera focused and latch onto the comet, which by 5am, had just cleared the neighbours roof.

With clouds still drifting by, I captured a few claggy images.
These showed that the comet was moving rapidly against the background stars.

I could only do up to a 10 second exposure before it started looking visibly trailed.

About an hour before the sky was to start brightening in the east, the skies cleared from the west, eventually unveiling the comet properly.
It was easily visible in 10x50binoculars.

So the imaging game was now full on.

As well as my main rig, I also set up the Stellamira 90mm triplet on my old Astrotrac and took some other images using my Nikon D5100 camera.

With both rigs capturing images, I left them running and made a cuppa.

Once the sky got too bright to image any more, I took my dark frames and packed away.
Now to see what I had actually captured after I processed the images.
I have posted the resulting images below.

Yes, this hobby and the weather / Bright Moon / Light pollution / Lack of sleep etc. can be extremely frustrating at times.

But, with a little bot of perseverance and patience, when it all comes together I hope that you can see why we do this crazy hobby.
What a buzz!



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.



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

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).




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.

Betelgeuse Fades – But not likely to go supernova.

When the weather gives you a chance, get out and have a look at the bright red giant star Betelgeuse in the right shoulder of Orion.

It looks like it may have dimmed quiet a bit.

Betelgeuse can be quite variable, and has a complex light curve.

It has done something like this before.
But it is the faintest the star has been for 25 years.

If you listen to Brian Cox, he will tell you that Betelgeuse is likely to go supernova at any time.
But is it just about to? Probably not!

See more details on these Web sites:


So go out and have a look and see if you can see any difference from the last time you saw it.

Betelgeuse Fades.

Comet 289P (Blanpain).

Comet 289P (Blanpain) is heading northwards and should become a better placed object for us in the UK during December and January.

It will at it’s brightest on the on the 10th of January when it could potentially become a predicted brightness of magnitude +4.8 on the 10th of January. This makes it potentially visible to the naked eye (Fingers crossed).
But don’t forget just how unpredictable comets can be in the way that they behave.

Update 5th December 2019.
This comet is now only likely to only reach a maximum brightness of around 15th magnitude now.
Oh well! However, I’ll leave this as it stands anyway.

289P is currently in Aquarius and has a 5.36 year orbital period. It is currently a very faint magnitude 19.9, so will be very difficult to spot visually, but could be captured photographically if you have good equipment, technique and fairly dark skies. This task will get easier as it gets higher in our skies and brightens.

It starts moving faster and brightens rapidly as it approaches The Sun.

The comet reaches perihelion (closest to the Sun) on the 20th of December, still in Aquarius.

Towards the end of the year, it moves quickly through Pisces and onward into The Square of Pegasus where we will find it in the new year.

It continues heading northwards.
By the end of the first week of the new year, the comet should be found amongst the stars of Andromeda.
It approaches within a few degrees of The Andromeda Galaxy on the 8th of January.

On the 10th of January it should reach peak brightness of a predicted magnitude +4.8 when it will be about 0.1 Astronomical Units from Earth.

The week after sees the comet moving through the stars of Cassiopeia, passing fairly close to a few nice star clusters, The Owl Cluster NGC 457, being one of them, on the 12th January.
It will also pass close to Delta Cas and M103 over the next day.

A few days later we will find the comet within the constellation of Camelopardalis, but should be starting to slow down and fading rapidly.

The comet  reaches the head of Ursa Major by the end of January.

Happy hunting.
Let’s hope it gives us a flipping good show.


Starlink – Latest launch visibility.

On November the 11th,  Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the second cluster of Starlink satellites.

This launch saw another 60 satellites go into orbit, making it “largest commercial telecommunications satellite constellation in orbit”.

See my blog entry below about the first launch:

So we now have 120 of these in orbit. SpaceX plan to perform at least another 22 launches to reach a point where it will be able to offer global Internet access. It aims to achieve this by the end of next year. This will be 1,300 in orbit. The plan is to launch at least 10 times this amount in the future, so I was keen to get out and see how bright this new batch of satellites were, and how much impact they might be having in our skies this time.

Unfortunately, it has been cloudy or foggy each time the cluster was predicted to pass over my location, until this morning.

Predictions of passes can be obtained from the very useful Web page heavens-above.com

The main cluster wasn’t expected until around 6:15am, but I went out with my camera to set up well before time to set up the camera and take some test shots. Some bright Starlink satellites were already visible with the naked eye crossing the sky almost overhead, passing very close to The Plough.

Test shots done, I waited a few more minutes and watched a few ahead of the pack race through the field of view. As the minutes ticked away, the time of the main cluster approached. The increase in rate was very rapid and noticeable.

One after another the stream of moving lights moved across the sky fairly close together. The satellites were easily second magnitude, so were as bright as most of the stars within The Plough. They approached from the west, becoming visible as they moved into sunlight, close to Capella. They were at their brightest as they passed overhead near The Plough.

My image of the Starlink Satellites taken this morning.
The satellite tracks are shown close together.

Here’s my animation made from the individual images.
Each image was 7 seconds long, so satellite trails show movement in seven seconds.

The satellites brightness faded as they quickly moved towards the eastern horizon passing through Corona Borealis. They did not flare in the same way as I observed the the first cluster to do so. Maybe that’s because these were observed much later after launch. They were stringing out away from one another and getting into higher orbits when I observed them.

I have heard that some ground-based radio meteor detectors have picked up a lot of interference as they pass over.

Want to get out and observe them yourself?
There are two passes in the morning, ~4:50 and ~6:25 UT.
The times will change and as they spread out in their orbits will be further apart from one another over time.
They will also hopefully fade.

The first cluster of satellites seem to have faded from view since they were launched, but the jury is still out on that one.

So will these new satellites fade and their interference become less over time? Or will they continue to cause us problems on the ground, either as us amateurs or even the professionals? I guess we will soon find out.



Lincoln Astronomical Society – 3rd December 2019

On Tuesday the 3rd of December, The Flat Tim and Dave roadshow will be bringing fun and games for all ages once again for my very last evening presentation of the year.

This time it’s another visit to a very friendly and fun group, Lincoln Astronomical Society.

I shall be inflicting on them my ever popular audience-participation presentation:
“Celebrate Tim Peake’s Principia Mission”.


I am looking forward to meeting up with this group yet again and having lots of pre-Christmas fun with the audience participation bits. I’m sure that they will really enjoy the fun evening @Flat_Tim and I have planned for them.

All are very welcome, especially children as this presentation is aimed at all kids with any level of knowledge, at all ages from 10 – 110.
So bring along your children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents to find out what Tim got up to during his 6-month stay in The International Space Station, enjoy the presentation and say “Hello”.
If you don’t want to talk to me then at least come along and speak to @Flat_Tim as he can get very flat if no-one notices him.

The meeting starts at 7.30pm.

Lincoln Astronomical Society meetings are held at their observatory and lecture facility at:
23 Westcliffe Street Lincoln.
Click on the link above for a map.

Sky Diary for December 2019

My very last free monthly sky diary for December 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 this month.
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 calendar events as appropriate.

Keep Looking Up!


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. 🙂

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 and societies 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 was much more rewarding than any payment.

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.

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? 🙂


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.