Archive for May, 2016

Hydrogen Alpha Sun – 22nd May 2016

by on May.22, 2016, under Astronomy Blog

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.
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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.

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After a rest, two talks this week. Leicester & Cambridge.

by on May.21, 2016, under Astronomy Blog

After a few weeks of rest, I start going round to astronomy clubs speaking yet again.

I have two outings this week:

On Tuesday the 24th of May, I am at Leicester Astronomical Society.
They meet at The National Space Centre, Exploration Dr, Leicester LE4 5NS.
Meeting starts at 7:30pm.
I will be speaking on Digitally Enhancing Astronomical Images.
If you’re in the area, come along and say “Hello”.

On Wednesday the 25th of May I will also be speaking to Cambridge Astronomical Association as part of their introduction evening at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge.
I will be showing them how to obtain deeper wide angle images of the sky, using an un-tracked camera.

Will be good to meet up with these two clubs yet again.
Thanks to both for asking me back.


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Mercury Transit – 9th May 2016.

by on May.11, 2016, under Astronomy Blog

I had no more spare holidays to take, so had to work the day of the Mercury transit. But I took my Ha solar scope into work so I could at least view the ingress of the planet at lunchtime.

Watching through the scope I could see the extremely small disk of Mercury just starting to bite into the Suns disk. Right by a bright prominence. It moved onto the disk much quicker than I remembered from the previous transit. That is an image that is hard wired into my hard disk upstairs and will live in the mind for a long long time. I showed a few people from work the transit from about half 12 BST, then packed up and went back to work.

When I finished work at 4pm, I dashed home and opened up the dome and started to take pictures. The skies had got a little bit hazy by this time, but I was determined to try. Clouds and thick contrails kept moving across the Sun’s face, spoiling many AVI files captured by my DMK camera.

All was well until a little after 6pm, when clouds finally thickened and the Suns disk and Mercury’s small silhouette finally disappeared from view.

A great day, with fine weather for most people across the country so most people saw some of the event.
Here are my results, which I am well pleased with, especially with the cloud interfering. See image at the bottom for the average conditions.
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Transit of Mercury – 9th May 2016.

by on May.08, 2016, under Astronomy Blog

Tomorrow we will be able to witness a relatively rare event when a planet moves directly between the  Earth and the Sun so will be seen to move across the front of the Sun. In this case it is the planet Mercury. Only Mercury and Venus, being closer to the Sun can do this. Mercury is a small planet roughly the same size as our Moon.

This is a fairly rare event. The last one I observed was in 2003. The next one will be in November 2019, where most of it will also be visible from the UK after midday until sunset. After that we have to wait until November 2032.

Mercury will be visible as a very small black dot moving slowly across the Suns disk.

Simulation of the transit taken from the SPA Web site. 

The SPA have also produced a pdf file guide to viewing the event which can be downloaded from here, as well as a video guide to observing the transit by Prof. Lucie Green which is available here.

Do not attempt to view the transit WITHOUT using proper equipment. You can ruin your eyesight in an instant, so look out for somewhere where a local astronomical society are holding an outreach event to view it. If skies are clear, Bedford Astronomical Society will be opening The Piazzi Smyth Observatory from 2pm and Stanion Stargazers, Near Corby will be at Stanion Village Hall and North Essex Astronomical Society will be in Great Notley Country Park that afternoon.

The disk of Mercury is extremely small, so a telescope with proper filtration is required to view the event.

The event starts at 11:10 UT (12:10 BST) when the tiny disk will move on to the Suns disk.

Mid transit occurs at 14:57 UT (15:27 BST) when the disk will be central on the disk.

Mercury leaves the Suns disk at 18:42 UT (19:42 BST).

Full details of the circumstances of the transit are given on the Time&Date Web page: http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/transit/2016-may-9

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Losing Comet 67P, but regaining the Sun.

by on May.04, 2016, under Astronomy Blog

With the success of my Rosetta & Philae talk, and being able to follow Comet 67P since I first picked it up last summer, it seems I am finally starting to lose this comet The brightness of the comet has now dropped to below 18th magnitude and it is getting increasingly difficult to image using my equipment from my light-polluted location and the increasing length of the day. Sad though I am to finally lose it, I got much more than I ever expected, and to capture it going past the Leo Triplet a few weeks ago was the tasty icing on a very luxurious cake. Still amazing to think that a probe is still orbiting this comets nucleus and another sitting dormant on its surface.

Comet 67P near the Leo Triplet.
67P-Leo_Triplet-20160406More comets like this please!

On a lighter note, despite the lack of dark skies now it is really nice to come home from work, sit in the garden and capture a few images of the Sun. There is a lot of activity around the limb at the moment. I also noticed a very faint prominence that was almost detached.

Soon be time to get out the barbie.
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