Author Archive

Movement of Pluto over two nights.

by on Jul.09, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

The cloud gods were kind to me tonight. I have long been meaning to capture this.
Amazing how a probe shooting past it next week can encourage me to stay up late to do it.
Just as Pluto cleared the neighbours house a bank of cloud swept across that part of the sky.
But it quickly cleared, so I was able to take more exposures of Pluto’s position to compare to last nights images.

This animated GIF shows the movement I captured.

There’s a lot of noise in there, but Pluto is the largest object moving in the centre of the image.
Get in there!


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9th of July – A late one to catch some faint stuff.

by on Jul.09, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

On a work night it’s always bad news trying to stay up this time of the year to catch some dark skies. With New Horizons just a week away from whizzing past Pluto, I just had to get out and try and image this distant world. Anyway, I couldn’t do any solar work as there was too much cloud. So I waited until it got twilight and then started as the skies cleared.

First on my list was Venus, to try and catch some more cloud features with my Venus UV filter. No clouds visible, but look how much that crescent has deepened as it approaches the Sun.
Venus 15-07-08 21-18-32

Next was Saturn. Much too low in the murk to show many features, but  I wanted to catch some of the fainter moons. In this image I have managed to capture Titan, Tethys, Enceledus, Rhea, Dione and Iapetus. Saturn and its rings is overexposed in the image.

I then moved over to the position of Pluto as homage to New Horizons. Boy is it faint!
I have indicated the position of the “planet” in the copy below.
Pluto in Sagittarius

I have four days in which to do a comparison shot before it moves off this frame. Hopefully I will get a chance this evening (10th July) as it looks like it might be clear again.
Our understanding of this mysterious object and its moons will change dramatically over the coming months. Of course what it discovers will answer lots of burning questions, but I bet we find ourselves asking even more questions we never even thought of asking before the encounter.

I then went to an area of sky just below Delphinus where Comet C/2015 F4 was lurking. It is about 12th magnitude, but despite this it still has a distinct tail.
Come Jacques C/2015 F4 - 20150708

Hopefully in a couple of weeks time I’ll catch Comet 67P, which Rosetta is exploring as I type.

All in a nights work. Finally got to bed at 01:15am.
Come on darker skies, I don’t like staying up late… Yawn!!!

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Hydrogen Alpha Sun – 4th July

by on Jul.05, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

It was a lovely warm summers day. What better than to sit in the sunshine with my Lunt solar scope and take some images of our fantastic nearest star. Oh and drinking lots of cold fluids as well, of course.

The Full Disk.
HaSun 15-07-04

And a look round in a bit more detail of the features that were visible that day.

Huge prominence.
HaSun 15-07-04 15-19-05

A montage of four images centred around sunspot groups 2373 & 2376.
HaSun 15-07-04 13-52-09_stitch

And the same area in closer up.
HaSun 15-07-04 14-46-34Coloured

A prominence silhouetted against the Suns disk (Known as a filament).
Shows up darker as they are not as bright as the photosphere.
HaSun 15-07-04 13-54-24

Another active region, sunspot group 2378, has just rotated into view, with a small prominence on the limb as well.
HaSun 15-07-04 14-41-39

Is the line of dark going from the filament going down towards the sunspot group below a real feature, or just my eyes joining up the random dots?HaSun 15-07-04 15-01-32PColoured

These filaments could show up as very nice prominences in a few days as they are just about to head over the edge of the Suns disk.
HaSun 15-07-04 14-43-29P

Last but not least this filament has just moved onto the disk.
HaSun 15-07-04 13-57-55P-2Coloured


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What a compliment.

by on Jun.15, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

Crikey!! I must be doing something right.
As well as lots of praise on the evening, I also got this message left on my Web site, after my doing my talk about Rosetta & Philae at Cardiff Astronomical Society on Thursday evening.

“Just a brief message to thank you for your fantastic talk tonight at Cardiff Astronomical Society. We have had many memorable speakers over the years and your presentation was most definitely in that category. Your enthusiasm was very evident and I can honestly tell you that it ended far too soon. Thanks for a riveting talk and hope to see you back again”.

Feedback like this makes all the planning and putting together of talks and the travelling to the venue extremely rewarding and satisfying.

I absolutely love doing this talk.
Plus with Philae coming back to life this weekend, there will be lots more to add to this talk as events unfold.
With Ceres and Pluto also being revealed in greater and greater detail as I type, let me change the statement above:

I just love my hobby.

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Where to find Comet 67P This Summer

by on Apr.18, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

With the recent launch of the Rosetta ground-based campaign to observe comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from April until December 2015, I thought I would publish some maps showing where we might be able to find Comet 67P later this summer.

The comet has already been recovered by imagers in Chile.
Realistically us observers based in the UK are unlikely to pick it up until mid – late July and onwards.

The comet will at this time be moving through Taurus and into Gemini. It will be visible fairly low in the early morning eastern sky. It should be about 12th even 11th magnitude at this time, and that’s about the brightest it will get, being somewhat around the Sun in it’s orbit
This map shows the path of the comet below as seen from Earth.

So it is in a very distinct and easy to find part of the sky. Mid-month sees the comet passing between The Pleiades and Hyades open star clusters and out through the horns of the Bull by the end of July .
On the 8th of August, just 5 days before perihelion, the comet passes straight through the small open cluster NGC2158. This is a smaller cluster right next door to the much bigger M35 (NGC 2168). It just skirts M35 a little while later.
This is shown in the map below.
So we have some very familiar and distinct markers to help us find this very interesting comet. It is certainly a unique opportunity to observe a comet with a space probe going round it that I certainly don’t want to miss.


More on the ground-based campaign available here:

Maps produced using the free Planetarium Software C2A:

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Rosetta Ground-Based Campaign.

by on Apr.15, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

Amateur astronomers are being called on to take part in a Rosetta ground-based campaign to observe comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from April until December 2015.

Click on this link for more details.


There is also a Facebook group dedicated to it.

Some dedicated observers have already recovered the comet now it has passed solar conjunction.

Image below from their Web site:



Realistically us in the UK are unlikely to get hold of it until late July.

The comet will at this time be moving through Taurus and into Gemini, and visible fairly low in the early morning eastern sky. It could be about 11th or 12th magnitude at this time, and that’s about the brightest it will get.
Map shows the path of the comet below.

On the 8th of August, just 5 days before perihelion, the comet passes straight through the small open cluster NGC2158, which is a smaller cluster right next door to the much bigger M35 (NGC 2168).
So there really is no excuses for not knowing where to look.


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Lincoln Astronomical Society – 7th April 2015

by on Apr.08, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

Before my talk last night we were treated to a fine Sun Dog to the side of the observatory of Lincoln Astronomical Society.


I did my talk entitled “In the Footsteps of Piazzi Smyth – Astronomical Adventures in Tenerife” to Lincoln Astronomical Society  last night.


There were about 40 people attending that evening and if the multitude of questions afterwards are anything to go by my talk went down very well indeed.
Many thanks to Lincoln Astronomical Society for giving me such a warm reception in their wonderful facilities.
I really enjoyed the evening, making the journey there well worth taking.
Hopefully they will have me back for another talk in the not too distant future.

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My Sky Diary for April 2015

by on Mar.29, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

My Sky Diary for April 2015 is now available for free download in two pdf file formats from my Web site. A short printable version and a long version with full graphics.

It includes all the latest details about the now fading Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2.





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Partial Solar Eclipse – 20th March 2015

by on Mar.20, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

It looked hopeless at the start of the partial solar eclipse as there was mist and thick cloud at work.
But, as the Moon started to encroach onto the Suns disk, the clouds started to break and the event was starting to be revealed.

We could easily see the Eclipse progressing throughout without the eclipse glasses and followed it right through to Maximum and beyond. Skies were almost completely clear by the end of the eclipse.

Despite the cloud and a few forgotten items, I did manage to get some images through my 80mm refractor.

In the original images you can see the profile of the Moon is not smooth and the mountains along the Lunar limb show up really well in silhouette.

A great way to spend time at work with the blessing of my boss.


Eclipse Montage.

Irregular Lunar Limb Profile.

Safely Observing the Eclipse.


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Talks: Rosetta & Philae: From Concept to Reality.

by on Mar.17, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

Tonight I will be talking to Northants Amateur Astronomers.

Tomorrow evening I will be visiting North Essex Astronomical Society.

Both groups have booked me for my popular multi-media presentation,

Rosetta & Philae: From Concept to Reality.


Both groups feel like old friends now, as I have been to talk to each of them a number of times.

I am really looking forward to bringing the Rosetta & Philae, Comet 67P mission to life for them.

If you are in the area of these two groups on these evenings, do come along and say “Hello”.


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