Author Archive

Comet Catalina C/2013 US10 – My first glimpse.

by on Nov.28, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

A clear morning forecast, and despite the bright gibbous Moon, I decided to get out and find a clear eastern horizon to try and catch a first glimpse of Comet Catalina C/2013 US10. It would be low down in Virgo as well, but close to a fairly bright star, so SHOULD be easy to find. But it wasn’t. It just about showed up on some of my images. Here’s the best one of the comet as well as two wide angle shots as the sky brightened towards dawn. It’s right in the centre of the first image, just up and left of the brightest star. Not much to write home about – YET!!!

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Light Pollution, Astrophotography & Comet 67P

by on Nov.27, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

I live on a housing estate in a small market town in Northamptonshire in the UK. So for many years struggled with the effects of light pollution and its affect on my imaging. So I understand why some people give up on astronomy. I don’t have the resources to purchase state of the art telescopes and CCD cameras, so I use what I can afford. My currently scope is the first new telescope that I have owned for a very long time. Up until this point I have always bought instruments second-hand. My main telescope is now a 190mm Makzutov-Newtonian and most of my imaging is now done using a Nikon D750 DSLR. My DSLR is also used for all other forms of photography including holidays and the like, so taking the filter out to make it more sensitive to nebulae is completely out of the question. I would like a proper CCD camera, but will have to wait until funds dictate. So how do I get on with my current set up?Careful use of a light pollution filter and software massaging of the image does enable me to compete with the light pollution problem to some extent. I am constantly amazed at how faint an object I can pick up on my images using the techniques I do.

Comet 67P – Churyumov–Gerasimenko. This little beauty of a comet, currently being explored by Rosetta (& Philae when it decides to report in!) is currently in the constellation of Leo. I have been trying to image this comet on regular occasions being involved with a professional-amateur collaboration (PACA) run mostly through a Facebook page. Being involved in a small way has been fantastic and seeing my images being published amongst all the other comet hunters out there has been fantastic.

I first picked the comet up on the 18th of July. It was a very grotty image, but a tiny fuzz in the correct position meant I had caught the beast. It just avoided the dust bunny so apparent in the brightening twilight.
67P-20150718I continued to image the comet as much as possible throughout the summer and into the autumn. Here’s an image I took at Kelling Heath Star Party.

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At this time the comet showed quite a short tail. Weather and circumstances have conspired against me, so I haven’t been able to get out and take images as much as I would like. However, on the 12th of November I got up early and did some imaging of the comet, as well as a couple of other. I could see on the PACA page that it had started to develop a longer tail, so this was top of my list for imaging.

Here’s the resulting image.

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Now at the time I was really happy with this image, especially with the faint 14th magnitude galaxies in the field of view. My joy didn’t last too long as I soon saw an image that Damian Peach had submitted taken the same morning. He has even managed to capture a ringed galaxy close to the tail of the comet and a number of other very faint galaxies.


So you can imagine that I was a bit down at this point. That was until I looked at my image a little bit closer.

I stacked the image on the stars to show the background stars and galaxies a bit better, then cropped it to the same field of view as Damian’s image and can even see the ringed galaxy.


When I compared the two images side by side I was amazed to find that although my image was much more grainy and had less colour in the stars, I had captured all the faint stars and galaxies Damian had captured .

Considering Damian uses iTelescope to take his images, using state of the art instruments and under much darker skies. I now feel much better about my chances of capturing faint objects.
















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Sawtry Astronomical Society – 24th November 2015

by on Nov.23, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

Tomorrow evening I will be presenting my multi-media talk “The History of Manned Spaceflight – The Space Race” to Sawtry Astronomical Society.


They are a very friendly group and it will be good to meet up with them all again.

The meeting starts at 7:30pm and will be held at Sawtry Social Club, 10 Gidding Road, Sawtry, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 5TS.

For further informations contact:
Sawtry Astronomical Society
01487 831921

So if you are in the area, pop in, Say “Hello” and enjoy my presentation.
This will be my penultimate presentation of the year. Last talk of the year will be Worksop Photographic Society on the 9th of December where I will be talking about Basic Astrophotography.

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Image processing experiments

by on Nov.17, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

So, after weeks of what seem like cloudy skies, what else is there to do but to try out some more image processing experiments using newly learnt techniques on some of my deep sky images. First of all a re-process of this Orion Nebula taken a while ago using some of the more gentle massaging of data to bring out the best. The results are not perfect, but do show very promising results, so I will definitely be putting a bit more effort into getting more and better data to do this a lot more.

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I also started to experiment with adding  higher resolution monochrome images and superimposing the colour from lower resolution images.


Here’s a recent Crescent nebula image with the DSLR. Below that is a monochrome CCD image I took a while back, which shows a little more detail. The final image shows the monochrome image with the colour of the DSLR image added.

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Now an old CCD Image of the Horsehead Nebula in Orion, plus a DSLR image taken in Tenerife. Combining the two gives a very nice image.

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Horsey_regPAnd the last image to get the same treatment is the Pelican Nebula in Cygnus, close to the North American nebula.

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Comet Catalina C/2013 US10 is Coming.

by on Nov.14, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

Comet Catalina C/2013 US10 is just about to appear in our morning skies.
I have put together the circumstances of its upcoming appearance in our skies.

Click here to download my pdf guide to the apparition containing the maps shown below.

Image of Comet Catalina C/2013 US10 by  José J. Chambó taken on the 1st of October.

This December starts what could be a very nice apparition of a reasonably bright comet in our northerly skies.
Maps of the comets path at the end of this article.

Here I have given a brief history of this particular comet as well as the predicted apparition.
Don’t forget, we are dealing with a comet here, so any magnitude estimates may not match what actually happens.
If predictions are correct this could be a very nice comet and circumstances are in our favour so we can see it at its best.

The comet could spend about 6 weeks above naked eye visibility.

31st October 2013.
Discovered by the CATALINA Sky Survey on the 31st of October 2013.
At the time of Discovery the comet was 19th magnitude. There was some confusion about its identity with another object, hence the unusual comet name, but once its orbit was worked out and it showed cometary activity, it was identified as a comet having an orbit of several million years.

So it is possibly a new visitor from the Oort cloud way out on the outer fringes of the solar system.

When it passes the Sun its orbit will have been modified by the gravitational pull of the Sun and planets so that it will be on an ejection trajectory.   This means it will continue indefinitely on its outward path, never again returning to the solar system.

It has already put on a very nice show in the southern hemisphere during the summer before disappearing into the Sun’s glare as it approached solar conjunction which it reached on the 6th of November 2015. It was last seen at magnitude 7 sporting a very nice tail at least 3 degrees long.

15th November 2015.
This is the date of perihelion when the comet is at its closest to the Sun. It will still be too close to the Sun to be seen from Earth.  As it is lost in the Sun’s glow we are not sure how bright the comet would have got while it was behind the Sun until it starts to emerge into our morning sky.

Once the comet comes out of the Sun’s glare towards the end of November we will be viewing the comet post-perihelion. This is when the majority of comets are at their most active and hopefully at their brightest.

As the comet emerges from the Suns glow in the morning sky it is moving steadily northwards from Virgo towards Boötes.

By the end of November it will be a few degrees above the south eastern Horizon in the morning sky just as dawn breaks. As a matter of interest a much fainter comet, Comet C/2015 F3 SWAN passes extremely close on the 23rd of November.  CATALINA is estimated to be around magnitude 4.7 at this time, but as SWAN will be about 25th magnitude, and as both comets are only about 7 degrees above the south eastern Horizon in the morning twilight, although the bright comet may be viewed the encounter itself is impossible to see.

The comet should be bright enough to be seen with the naked eye at this time, that’s if you have a very low south eastern Horizon and can catch it before twilight starts interfering. Unfortunately at the end of November, the gibbous Moon starts to interfere in the morning sky.

CATALINA quickly heads northwards and each morning it becomes easier to see as its altitude increases before dawn. The beginning of December sees the comet well clear of the horizon in a reasonably dark sky before dawn breaks. Our best period of visibility is now starting.

7th &  8th of December 2015.
The very bright planet Venus lies just to the right of the comet and should help guide you towards finding it. They achieve an altitude of around 20 degrees before the growing dawn starts to interfere. The crescent Moon will also be close by on these dates making a nice triangle.

By the second week of December the Moon will have slipped out of the morning sky and its light will no longer interfere with our observing.

Maintaining a magnitude of 4.7, the comet keeps moving northwards.
Although the intrinsic brightness of the comet is fading as it moves away from the Sun, as the comet is still approaching the Earth, so it should maintain this apparent brightness until mid-January.

Throughout the whole of December it should be a very nice morning object just before dawn. The comet keeps heading northwards, just to the right hand side of Boots, becoming easier to see and image as its altitude above the eastern horizon increases each morning.

By the end of December the Moon once again starts to interfere with our observing.

1st January 2016 – New Years Day.
The comet lies very close to the 1st magnitude star Arcturus. Its tail will hopefully stream away to the south west pointing towards Ursa Major.

6th January 2016.
Passes close to the globular cluster NGC 5466 in Boöts.
The Moon is now starting to slide out of the morning sky so we will once again have properly dark skies with which to enjoy the comet in all its glory.

The comet glides northwards to the west of Boötes and approaches the Handle of The Plough.

10th January 2016- New Moon.

11th January 2016.
Passes close to the Hickson 68 group of galaxies. The comet is now a circumpolar object, never setting in our northern skies and will remain so throughout this apparition. This means that depending on where the Moon is, we can choose when best to observe it to avoid the Moons interference.

As the Moon starts to become visible in the evening sky, the best views will still be late evening or in the early hours.

15th January 2016.
Passes close to the 1st magnitude star Alkaid in Ursa Major.

16th – First Quarter Moon.

17th January 2016.
Passes fairly close to the face-on spiral galaxy M101. At this time the comet will be at its closest to the Earth, passing by at 0.72 Astronomical units. After this date the comets magnitude should start to fade as it recedes from Earth.

18th January 2016.
Passes just north of Alcor &  Mizar. Comet should have faded slightly to magnitude 5.2 by this time.

19th & 20th January 2016.
Passes fairly close to Thuban In Draco.

24th January 2016. – Full Moon.
Passes close to Kappa Draconis. Estimated magnitude of the comet at this time show it may have dropped to magnitude 5.9, so is now only just above the naked eye threshold.  The Moon again starts to interfere badly with our observing. Once the Moon slips into the morning sky in a few days’ time, the comet will then be best viewed in the evening.

1st February 2016.
Passes reasonably close to Polaris. The estimated magnitude of 6.1 means that the comet may have dropped below naked eye visibility. So we have now probably seen the best the comet is likely to bring us.

Keep observing it using binoculars or a small telescope. Those with photographic capabilities should be able to keep watch on the comet for quite a while yet. You may be able to see changes in shape or activity.

8th February 2016. –  New Moon.

15th February 2016.
Now in Camelopardalis the comets magnitude will have dropped over a magnitude to about 7.3.

22nd February 2016. –  Full Moon.

9th March 2016. –  New Moon.
The comets motion is now slowing right down as it recedes both from the Sun and the Earth.  At this point it starts a very long retrograde loop lasting until the end of November. Its magnitude will be about 10.

23rd March – Full Moon.

1st June 2016.
Passes close to Capella. The comet will now be very difficult to see as it will be a very faint magnitude 12.4 and low in the northern summer sky.

26th of November 2016.
The comet passes the very same spot that it reached on the 9th of March.
By this time it will be an extremely difficult 14th magnitude.

The comet is now far out in the solar system and will gradually fade back into the sky background and lost into obscurity.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it does give as a really good display. If my notes help you, let me know how you get on.

Keep Looking Up!

Dave Eagle FRAS – www.eagleseye.me.uk


Map 1. Path of comet CATALINA C/2013 US10.
21st November 2015 – 10th January 2016. Position shown at 5 day intervals.

Map 2. Path of comet CATALINA C/2013 US10.
5th January 2016 – 30th January 2016. Position shown at 5 day intervals.

Map 3. Path of comet CATALINA C/2013 US10.
25th January 2016 – 28th February 2017. Position shown at 5 day intervals.


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A couple of High Up Deep Sky Objects.

by on Nov.01, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

It was a damp murky night, with the street lights bouncing up into the sky. But after a few weeks of no astronomy I was determined to go out and try a couple of more challenging deep sky objects. The constellations of Cassiopeia and Cygnus were very high up, away from most of the clag, so I chose an object in each. So I used my 190 Mak-Newt and my new Nikon D750 to take my images. Despite the conditions, I was very pleased with the performance of my new camera. There will be many more to follow this winter. I am a very happy bunny. I also finished in good time to watch David Attenborough’s new series.

My first object was IC63. This is located about 3-4 light years away from the bright star Gamma in the middle of the “W” shaped constellation. The brightest nebula is IC63, and shows more of a pink colour than its fainter neighbour IC59. These two gas clouds lie about 600 light years from Earth. They are gradually being eaten away by strong radiation that is coming out from Gamma Cas.
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My second object in Cygnus was the Crescent Nebula, NGC 6888.
This is much further away from us at about 5,000 light years.
It is a shell of gas formed by shock waves around a Wolf-Rayet Star (WR-136).

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Update – Earth Flyby of 2015 TB145 is visible tonight.

by on Oct.31, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

Here is an update on the visibility of the  asteroid 2015 TB145 is due to pass the Earth today. I have looked at the circumstances again and it seems I was wrong in my last entry. It should be visible below the handle of The Plough once it gets dark tonight. Here’s the full path across the sky that day showing it passing just below The Plough.
TB145FullPathOnce the sky gets dark tonight, it will be visible below the handle of The Plough. USe the map below to find the asteroid. It passes close to the 2.5 magnitude star Phecda (Gamma) in the bowl of The Plough at about 18:15h. The asteroid will be at about 12th magnitude, so will need a telescope to find it. It passes almost halfway between the two spiral galaxies M51 and M63 at around 19:45h. Position shown at 10 minute intervals.


As the sky rotates  and it moves rapidly it will soon be lost from view as it gets lower in the north western sky and sets around 21:00.

Unfortunately this part of the sky is behind my house, so I don’t think I will be able to see it.

Good luck.

These are the orbital elements I used used to predict position of 2015 TB145 using the highly recommended C2A planetarium software.



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Sky Diary for November 2015

by on Oct.31, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

My Sky Diary for November 2015 gives full details of all the celestial events worth looking out for this month. The three planets Venus, Jupiter and Mars are making a fine sight in the eastern early morning sky.

There is a small printable version and a much longer version with full graphics and maps, both of which are available for free download from my Web site.

EEOTSNov2015So Enjoy, get out there and Keep Looking up!

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Earth Flyby of 2015 TB145 – 31st October 2015

by on Oct.29, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

The asteroid 2015 TB145 is due to pass the Earth on the 31st of October. There is no chance of it hitting us, passing by at about 1.3 times the Moon’s distance at its closest. Here’s the full path across the sky that day showing it passing just below The Plough.
TB145FullPathLooks good, but what are the circumstances for us based here in the UK?

I have added the orbital elements into my planetarium program C2A. For those who want to know which settings I used, they are at the bottom of this blog entry.

Straight away I can see that most of this path is when the sky is going to be too bright to see it as it passes below The Plough as this occurs during the day for us in the UK.

Unfortunately we will only see a small part of this particular pass in darkness, when the asteroid is passing close to Orion’s shield as shown in the wide angle view below. The position of the asteroid is shown in the image below at 10 minute intervals from 22:00h on the 30th of October to 06:00h on the 31st of October.

A closer view below shows the position of the asteroid at 10 minute intervals. It should be about magnitude 12 around this time, much lower than the 10th magnitude at its brightest later that day. But it’s definitely worthwhile getting out and seeing if you can capture this piece of rock about the size of a battleship hurtling past us.TB145Close

These are the orbital elements I used used to predict position of 2015 TB145 using the highly recommended C2A planetarium software.



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Wolverhampton Astronomical Society – 26th October

by on Oct.25, 2015, under Astronomy Blog

On the evening of Monday the 26th of October I am looking forward to presenting my popular multi-media presentation: Rosetta & Philae: From Concept To Reality to a new (to me) astronomical society, Wolverhampton Astronomical Society.

My talk reviews the mission and really captures the excitement of the day Philae “landed” on the comet’s nucleus in November 2014. There’s loads of  really good stuff now being published from the mission, especially after the comet passed perihelion in August and activity in the nucleus flared up. I will try and include as much of the new data and images as possible as well as showing how I have been keeping tabs on the mission and the comet over the years.

So, if you’re in the area, come along, say “Hello” and enjoy my presentation to Wolverhampton Astronomical Society.

The meeting takes place at Highfields Environmental Centre, Boundary Way, Penn, Wolverhampton, WV4 4NT at 7:30pm.



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