Archive for September, 2012

Jupiter & Ganymede. Early morning 29th September 2012

by on Sep.29, 2012, under Astronomy Blog

A quick jaunt outside this morning to capture an image of Jupiter with my webcam.

I have finally found a problem with my new scope.
The corrector plate misted up very quickly, even in the dome.



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Two Bright Comets for 2013?

by on Sep.26, 2012, under Astronomy Blog

After a while without a really bright comet, we might just be in line for two next year.
If things go as expected, (But you never can tell how comets will behave!).

Latest news here. 

Click here to see my diagrams for their possible appearances next year.

Or here for animations of their appearances.

My Observers guide to Comet ISON for later this year and into 2014 has just been published.

It is currently available on Amazon Kindle download:


Costing less than a pint of beer, how could you not?



Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) could be very bright in March, heading north and passing close to the Andromeda Galaxy in early April in the early morning sky.


Path of comet C/2011 L4 from now until next April.

In November 2013, Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) could be an extremely bright object as it passes very close to the Sun.

It could be a naked eye object for a couple of months.
It is currently in Gemini, where it will stay for quite a while.
It will then pass through Leo and Virgo by the middle of November 2013.
At the end of November it will pass close to the Sun, then heads almost directly northwards.
It passes not too far from M13 on the 21st of December.
It will then pass a few degrees away from Polaris on the 7th of January.

Path of Comet C/2012 S1 over the next year and a half.

More details on the Sky & Telescope Web page.

More details will be posted here closer to the events, showing more detailed finder charts.

See the SkyHound Web page for more comet news.



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More webcam fun with my new scope.

by on Sep.25, 2012, under Astronomy Blog


Rupes Recta.

The region around Copernicus.

Kies and The Lunar Dome Kies Pi.

Sunset over Rupes Recta.


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190 Mac Newt – Webcam results.

by on Sep.25, 2012, under Astronomy Blog

Up until 3:30am on Saturday morning putting the new scope through its paces.
Moon and Jupiter cleared the neighbours house well before midnight.

So out came a 3x Barlow and my webcam that cost £8 (Yes, you read that correctly) to see what the images were like.

Jupiter & Io. (And Europa’s shadow on Jupiter).

The Moon’s Mare Orientale.

The southern Highlands around the crater’s Klaprov & Casatus.

The area around both Montes Recti and Montes Teneriffe.

The area around craters Parr, Bonpland and Fra Mauro.



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Kelling Heath 2012. 3 clear nights? Unheard of!

by on Sep.25, 2012, under Astronomy Blog

Despite the wind, this years Kelling Sky Camp got off to a fabulous start.
As usual, as well as doing astronomy it was a great social event, meeting up with friends and having a great deal of banter.

The Thursday evening started out extremely clear. The Milky Way looked absolutely stunning!

We tried some astrophotography which was hit and miss as the scopes were bouncing around in the wind, so the stars aren’t as pin sharp as we would like.

I managed to image The Cocoon Nebula and the dark Barnard nebulosity around it.

I also tried M33 – Spiral Galaxy in Triangulum  Galaxy, but the wind was too strong and it wouldn’t track properly.

Visually we were observing using my 10″ Dobsonian Telescope taking in views faint planetary nebulae and galaxies. Some fabulous views were had by all.

The Sky stayed clear until until 02:30 BST, when stars disappearing behind clouds called an end to a long night.

Bed for a few hours until I woke at 07:15.
A few cups of tea later, breakfast, then time for a quick power nap to set you up for the day…

(Thanks for taking this photo Steve! NOT!!!).

Friday night was perfect observing conditions. It was probably the best skies I have seen from Kelling since we have been coming here.
So the new scope and my trusty Nikon were put to full use through the scope.
I also did a few general unguided constellation shots.

The Pleiades Star Cluster.

The magnificent Orion Nebula.

The Triangulum Galaxy.

The area around the Bubble Nebula in Cassiopeia.

And to cap off a fantastic night, The Pacman Nebula in Cassiopeia.

We finally went to bed as the sky was starting to get light in the east and put an end to my astrophotography. Jupiter & Venus were shining brilliantly in the early morning sky.

Saturday night, after winning a new Bahtinov Mask in the raffle, also turned out to be clear from about 11pm. I managed to pick up a number of technical issues trying to guide that night. But I made good use of my time observing through my good friend Rod Greening’s home made 18″ Dobsonian, and taking some general sky images before finally succumbing to the extreme tiredness and going to bed.

Here’s to next autumn. 🙂


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Jupiter – Post Impact Image.

by on Sep.12, 2012, under Astronomy Blog

Following an amateur astronomers apparent video of a body impacting on Jupiter, I couldn’t resist getting out and having a look to see if I could image an impact scar. Observations from across the world who viewed the previous central transit of Jupiter’s disk reported that they could not see an impact scar. But that wasn’t going to deter me. I was in position as the impact site rotated into view taking images as it did so.

Here’s one result:
Jupiter 20120912 Post Impact

So I can confidently confirm that there is no obvious impact scar visible at the moment.
(It should be above and the the left of the Red Spot close to the planets equator).

Oh, and the Moon looked so gorgeous rising in the east as the dawn broke,  couldn’t resist taking a picture or two:

20120912 MoonThe Moon 20120912

Composite Image to try and show what it looked like.


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Amateur astronomers record a possible impact on Jupiter.

by on Sep.11, 2012, under Astronomy Blog

On the 10th of September 2012 amateur astronomers reported a flash on Jupiter where a body may have impacted with the planet.

See http://spaceweather.com/ on the 11th of September for more details.

A video of the event has been posted here:

There may possibly be an impact scar visible on the cloud belts over the coming days.
So far no impact scars have yet been recorded by observers seeing the most recent meridian transit.

The times when the impact site will be central on Jupiter’s meridian and visible from the UK are shown below:
(UT = GMT. Add an hour for BST).

Predicted times of the site’s central-meridian crossing: (times and dates in Universal Time):
Sept. 12, 04:43.
Sept. 13, 00:24.
Sept. 14, 05:55.
Sept. 15, 01:36.

What more reason do you need to set an alarm?
So get yourselves out in the early morning to have a look and see what’s happened.


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First Light on New Scope 190 Mac Newt

by on Sep.04, 2012, under Astronomy Blog

After lots of deliberation and reading reviews, I finally decided to buy a new telescope.
The Skywatcher 190 Makzutov Newtonian seemed to fit most of my requirements.
Its a great imaging setup, but optically excellent to enable high magnification for lunar and planetary imaging as well.

It was delivered yesterday after ordering on Friday from Green Witch Telescopes.
Thanks Lee for arranging the very prompt delivery.

The box as usual looked much bigger when it arrived than I expected.

It really does look the business.
When unpacked it was sporting a very stylish metallic black livery and white mounting rings.
Focuser is dual speed, that will help enormously, and is really smooth as well.
It is designed for photography, but there is an extension tube which can be pulled out of the focuser so you can reach focus visually. The finder was a right angled one, which I thought would be pain to use.

Despite the rising Moon that night, I took the beast out for its first light as soon as it got nearly dark.

A clear night when you have just purchased a new cloud magnet? That doesn’t happen very often.
I didn’t check the collimation at all, just used it straight out of the box, slotted it straight onto the EQ6 head and I was away.

The sky wasn’t quite dark, so my first target was the double-double in Lyra.

Seeing was a little jumpy, but both component in each double was easily visible within its own distinct and almost perfect Airy disk in a 10mm eyepiece.
Cracking up the magnification the 5mm eyepiece really separated them and there was quite a lot of space between each star.

Even using a 2x Barlow the Airy disks were very pronounced despite the wobbly seeing, and even more space visible between the stars. The image really hadn’t degraded as much as I expected as the magnification racked up.

My next stop was Albireo which looked wonderful with its contrasting coloured stars as always.

The sky was getting properly dark now, but the rising gibbous Moons glow could be seen behind my neighbours house.
Popping across the Hercules, I could see M13 shining through the bright glow as the Moon rose in the east, but the sky wasn’t really dark enough for real deep sky observing .

The field of view looked very wide.

Had I made a mistake in buying this scope as I also wanted to do some planetary and lunar stuff with this scope as well as deep sky imaging? The reviews I read did tell me it is capable of very decent planetary images, so I was keeping an open mind for now.

Visually, I was very pleased with my views so far, so here’s the real test.
Popping my camera on I tried a 15 second shot of Vega to see how good the collimation was out of the box

This much zoomed in and much reduced shot shows the result:

(Even with this short exposure, and the Moonlight it captured stars fainter than 15th Magnitude).
Those who a bit pernickety could say that the collimation might just be a smidge off, but would I be able to improve on it by tampering?  Probably not.

I then took a few 30 second subs of a couple of objects.
Thin contrails were interfering, so had to dodge those picking clear patches of sky with objects in them.

So here’s the results, all unguided and no light pollution filters were used.
They all need a lot more time, and I did the minimum of processing, but as test shots they really show a lot of promise.

Owl Cluster (5 subs).

M13 – (9 Subs) What a wide field of view!

Full resolution close up crop of cluster itself.

Just a 2x 30 second shot revealed part of The Veil. (I’m totally knocked out considering how bright the sky was).

And to finish, as I wanted to see what planetary stuff might be like, I had a quick go at the Moon.
It was partially behind a thick contrail and just above my neighbours house.
Seeing was extremely wobbly.

Visually the view through my 5mm eyepiece gave absolutely cracking views of the area around Mare Crisium and the southern highlands.

The craters close to the walls, were casting long thin shadow spikes across the mare.

You can just about see one of them above.
You could see the elongation of crater Messier A, and the Rimae within the crater Janssen really stood out well.
Despite the Moon’s low altitude and seeing the this beat any view through both my 8” and 10” Newtonians hands down.


So, I am now convinced that used with a webcam (or another camera) with the 5x Powermate will enable me to produce some fantastic planetary and lunar images.

So as you can imagine, I’m well chuffed with my purchase.
I think I am going to have so much fun with this scope.

And, Hey there’s no annoying spikes.

A very happy Dave.


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