It’s not often I get very excited by clouds, but today I made an exception. It was the usual bank holiday weather, grey, dark and raining on and off. No chance of any day time solar or late night astronomy this weekend, again! After all the nice weather we’ve had, you’d think it could hold off for when we’re having a break from work. But no!
So there I was sitting in the study tweaking some of my presentations when the weather made a dramatic turn for the worse. Much darker clouds rolled in and the rain started. Luckily, I looked out of the window and saw these amazing cloud formations. They looked positively weird, just the sort of thing you see portrayed in films depicting Armageddon. So what can I do but get the cameras pointed out of the windows and take some pictures. Once the clouds returned to normal the heavens opened their floodgates and for an hour it absolutely poured down. They were Undulatus Asperatum clouds apparently.
On Saturday the 10th of September I have had the pleasure of being asked by Paul Money to give my “Rosetta & Philae. From Concept to Reality” presentation at his long running and highly successful Horncastle Astronomy Weekend in Lincolnshire.
I am really looking forward to giving them all my favourite presentation and catching up with Paul as it’s been a long time since I went to his weekend (sorry Paul, life’s just been too eventful!).
I am also looking forward to meeting up with other attendees, some of which I already know from online social media.
With a great selection of speakers, (well I would say that, wouldn’t I), it should be a fantastic weekend.
On Saturday the 20th of August I attended a masterclass on Imaging Comets, by the one and only Damian Peach.
His comet images are just as spectacular as his planetary webcam images.
On arrival I was shown around Steve Knight’s observatory, perched on the side of the canal.
After this great start to the day it was onto the main course itself, watching a master at work.
Damian uses remote telescopes such as iTelescope to take his images.
He demonstrated how, using various imaging software, he composites the raw comet images to produce his wonderful masterpieces.
A great day. And I think I learnt a lot.
So when I got home, I just had to have a dabble using some of the techniques he showed us to see if I had.
I used an image of comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2, taken on the 6th of February 2015.
This was my original image I obtained from the data.
Note how the stars have trailed as the comet moved across the sky.
Using the technique Damian showed us I composited a comet stack and a star stack together.
This produces an image where both the comet and the stars are still, so no movement is discernible.
Although not quite perfect, it shows that, even at my age, you can still learn a heck of a lot.
And there is still a heck of a lot more to learn.
I am looking forward to being made very welcome once again and if my previous visits to them are anything to go by, it should be a fun evening.
They meet at:
Stanion Village Hall,
Old Brigstock Road,
Meeting starts at 8pm.
Email them at: email@example.com
After a bit of a rest from doing talks, on Wednesday the 27th of July I will be taking Bedford Astronomical Society on a wild trip across to the very edge of our observable universe.
I will be giving my Whistle-Stop Tour of the Universe (Hitch-Hiking on a Ray of Light) presentation to them.
So let’s hope that they strap themselves in and get ready for a journey that really is out of this world.
(Of course, it’s really just a good excuse to show some beautiful images of our wonderful universe).
The society meet at Bedford School at the Resource Room at The Piazzi Smyth Observatory in Pemberley Avenue. Meeting starts at 7:30pm.
So if you’re in the area, come along, say “Hello” and enjoy the ride.
I finally got time to put together a video of the Atlas V launch we saw from the Saturn V exhibition building at The Kennedy Space Centre on the 24th of June.
The GoPro background footage captured real time video.
I have superimposed another closer video of the launch taken with another DSLR and also my images using my latest DSLR at about the time each one was taken.
Note the delay in the launch and the sound reaching us across that distance of just under 5 miles.
Efforts to view or image the detaching solid rocket boosters were ruined by its close proximity to the Sun as it sped away. The MUOS-5, a military communications satellite, reached its geosynchronous orbit successfully.
I made a few mistakes in setting up the shots, and in all the excitement of the event I forgot what I was meant to do at certain times in chaging angles of cameras etc.
But as this was my first experience of a launch close up, I can forgive myself and and well over the moon at the results.
(Pun entirely intended).
We have just returned from 2 weeks in Anna Maria Island in Florida.
Of course, I had to make the pilgrimage to The Space Coast to visit the Kennedy Space Centre.
We went up on the Wednesday, knowing full well that the postponed Atlas V launch was re-scheduled for the next morning. The visit was amazing, coming face to face with Space Shuttle Atlantis was very emotional. The last time I imaged this shuttle it was a very tiny black dot against the face of the Sun just after it separated from the ISS on its last mission STS-35 in 2011. Wow! How time flies…
Anyway, back to the morning of the launch. We extended our Space Centre tickets, staying close by overnight. Next morning we were transported back to the Saturn V display to view the launch. The atmosphere was incredible and everyone was extremely excited – Including me of course.
We were meant to have a live Internet countdown, but after all the “Go’s” announced the air went silent. As the clock hit 10:30am, the rocket went off like, well a rocket. It wasn’t hanging about, that’s for sure. Those strap on boosters were giving that MUOS-5 communications satellite a real kick to get it up into a geosynchronous orbit over the equator.
Find out more about the launch by clicking here.
I followed it as long as I could, taking pictures all the while hoping to see the solid boosters separate, but it launched against the glare of the Sun and I lost it in the glare before that happened.
It was an extremely quick getaway and my videos only show the launch itself.
I used two cameras and a Go-Pro to capture the footage (Footage to follow) and quite a few images.
But I also made time to sit and watch the spectacle as well.
I will post more pictures of the rest of our visit later, when the jet-lag subsides.
Here’s a few of my images of the launch.
Following the great success of my recent Celebration of Tim Peake’s Principia evening, I have now adapted it as a shorter stand-alone presentation to take out to groups.
The presentation has been added to my current list of presentations shown here.
This presentation uses stunning graphics and movies as well as hands-on audience participation.
So if your club would like an entertaining and informative evening to Celebrate Tim Peake’s Principia mission, book me now.
The weekend started out with my Tim Peake Celebration evening on Friday.
It went down a storm. Great crowd, very interactive and fabulous fun to do.
Here’s a few pictures from the night.
In case you’re wondering, they are competing to peel a banana or tangerine with mock-up space gloves. Virtually destroyed the fruit rather than being able to eat it.
Sunday afternoon saw the Sun appear , so we had a very pleasant afternoon in the garden, with a barbie and a pint, while I was imaging the Sun in hydrogen alpha light. There’s lots going on despite the lack of sunspots at the moment. The hedgerow prominence was changing in form quite rapidly.
I will produce an animation as soon as I get time.
Later in the evening, I watched the ISS go right overhead in bright twilight. It was much easier to see than I expected, with the sky was so bright. An hour and half later Tim & Co. popped across the sky again, looking very bright in the much darker sky.
At the end of the ISS apparition, Mars was just clearing the neighbours house. This was the first time this apparition that I have stayed up to view and image Mars as it appeared. Being so low down the image was wobbling all over the place. I took videos using my colour Philips webcam to capture the colour and my monochrome DMK camera to try and capture the detail on the surface.
The images combine quite well.
If it stays clear, I might just stay up later and do a bit more. Maybe stay up late for Saturn as well.
The day started out with clear blue skies and sunshine, so straight out I went to capture some Hydrogen Alpha images. There were only a few small prominences around the limb, so I did a few close ups of the naked eye sunspot AR 2546 and a full disk before clouds started building up and we went out for a walk.
I experimented with tuning the telescope to get some detail in the spot, but Newton’s Rings were awful.
When we got back from our walk there were two layers of clouds, each moving in different directions making it extremely challenging.
However I did manage to get AR 2546 again and a white light image through my 80mm scope.