Posted Jan 3, 2009
I've actually watched the moon throughout this week. Tuesday evening just aftersunset I caught its first sliver of a crescent. And each night after it's been quite prominant. Trouble was I was at work and unable to get a closer view.
I got the 'scope on it tonight though and was rewarded with a brilliantly clear view coming up to first quarter. I also turned it onto Venus which is brilliant, but lower at the moment. It also is at its first quarter.
Posted Jan 3, 2009
Posted Jan 31, 2009
Late evening, I caught glimpses of Moon trying to shine through the murk and pretty much wrote off any sighting. On the way home from work it cleared enough to get a terrific view of the pairing, just 4 degrees apart. I had to stop just to take a look.
Just like that in fact.
Posted Jan 31, 2009
Posted Jul 18, 2009
I’ve been watching Jupiter over the last few nights. At the moment its like a lamp in the south eastern sky and at its best after midnight. It’s quite low down but unmistakeable. The ‘seeing’ around my neck of the woods has been quite brilliant, it must be the air being washed out by all the rain we’ve had. Jupiter shows as a disc which has always been difficult for me to discern, but these last few nights it’s been quite obvious.
It’s always fascinating to watch the changing positions of Jupiter’s moons and for once I could discern some relative variance in their brightness.
My main cause of interest in Jupiter though is to use it as a pointer to Neptune. Presently Neptune is sitting just above Jupiter in the same field of view. It is a perceptible blue colour and doesn’t twinkle. At the moment I get to see it in the SE ‘window’ between trees and neighbour’s house. Both planets Re just below the ecliptic.
What I can’t see at the moment, at least without staying up almost to dawn, is Uranus which is about 30 deg East along the Ecliptic. That should become more accessible in a month or so/ Something to look forward to.
I’m surprised that there hasn’t been any crackpot theories in the press yet that all the big planets are ‘ganging up’ on one side of the Sun and are going to cause an imbalance in the solar-system that will make the Earth fly off at a tangent. There are no prizes for the first to see that perennial claim.
Posted Aug 19, 2009
11 August 2009
I spent an hour outside on the evening of the 11th to watch out for Perseids. It was quite clear from my viewpoint in Hampshire’s New Forest and for a change no real light pollution except for a third quarter moon, but hey, you can’t have everything. I was rewarded with one fireball but no other discernable Perseid.
12 August 2009
Reasonably clear again for a short time around midnight, but no Perseids. Several other sporadic meteors however as there are a couple of overlapping showers.
18 August 2009
Turned the binnies on Jupiter again. A pleasant surprise to find three of its moons lined up on its eastern side.
The Great Square of Pegasus is very prominent right now. I made my annual pilgrimage and star hopped out along Andromeda and up three to the Great Galaxy. It’s still there.
It’s always a bit of a surprise to get the first view of the Pleiades at this time of the year. Strange because it’s wholly predictable, but it always gives me a bit of a start to identify that fuzzy patch at this time of the year. For me it’s definitely a winter sight and has no place in the summer sky. But nevertheless, there it is, poking above next door’s rooftop, harbingering away that winter is nye. Next thing you know it’ll be bloody Orion again.
Posted Jan 20, 2010
17 Jan 2010. Quite clear but a hint of mist/fog in the air.
Just after sunset, the slim crescent of a two day old moon. Just enough time to get the 'scope set up as it headed for the horizon between the trees at the far end of the garden. Earthshine was very prominent but the crescent was quite dim, although clear enough to make out the craters on the limb and the edge of Crisium.
Early evening in Auriga M36 M37 and M38 clusters. Faint but discernible. Turned the 'scope on Orion Nebula. The Trapezium was clear enough and M43 above M42.
Went back to the binnies for Praesepe M44, and nearby, M67 another fainter cluster
Mars was the showpiece though as it‘s becoming much brighter now and nearly a discernible disc to the naked eye. Turned the scope on it around 12.00 pm. No detail and only a vague indication of the polar cap.
Posted Jan 20, 2010
Posted Jan 20, 2010
Yes it’s getting brighter all the time. It should be at its best on the 29th when it’s at opposition. It’s interesting to watch it against another fixed pointlike the Beehive. The motion is more obvious. It’s cloudy ‘here’ tonight so not much doing, but it could be better tomorrow night..
Posted Mar 21, 2010
17 March 2010
Last week I took the opportunity of a foray into the Sinai desert for a star party. It promised clear observing conditions and a chance to see the night sky untroubled by light pollution.
After a spectacular sunset which, as you might expect in the desert, showed a fairly considerable amount of dust in the lower atmosphere, it cleared overhead by about 9 pm to a brilliantly clear overhead circle. The Milky Way was apparent, but not as clear as I had hoped, and not horizon to horizon as billed. But the bright stars had a brilliance I’ve rarely seen before.
A 'resident' professional astronomer gave a half-hour introductory talk with a laser pointer showing the popular night sky sights, and three 10 inch telescopes had been set up to track Saturn, Sirius and Polaris. I’m not sure that all three of those would have been my choice to wow a group of people as an introduction to astronomy, when there were so many other more spectacular sights available.
I’d taken my binnies with me and had a good look around. It’s quite odd to find familiar constellations considerably higher in the sky than I’m used to, and Polaris well down towards the horizon. I’d been hoping to get sight of an early moon, but the haze low-down persisted until home time.
Posted Mar 22, 2010
Posted Mar 22, 2010
Yes it was great fun.
How would you like one of these on top of your house?
Posted Aug 8, 2010
7 Aug 2010
It turned out nice again last night.
I took the opportunity to take a look at Jupiter which is large and bright at the moment. In fact it looks rather larger that Venus, but not as intensely bright.
The Andromeda Galaxy, (M31) being nearly overhead at 2am, was nearly naked eye, but still better in binoculars. I’ll have to get the ‘scope out for its two companions though.
In one ten minute period of the half hour I was out, I spotted three meteorites and all checked back to Perseus. So three Perseids four days before maximum due on the 12 - 13. Does this bode well for a good showing this year?
Posted Aug 25, 2010
25 Aug 2010, 01:30 BST
Quite clear during the late evening. I took the opportunity to get the scope out again. Jupiter is getting handily between next door’s house and the tree. Give it a month or so and it will be there at a more sensible hour.
Jupiter is looking big and clearly discernible as a disc even at naked eye level. The main attraction is that the Southern equatorial belt, that’s the dark line below the equator, has disappeared. Sure enough it’s not there any longer. All it’s showing is a broad tan coloured band down to within about 20 deg from the darker polar region. But, get the timing right and it may be just possible to spot the Great Red Spot, which usually transits Jupiter alongside the SEB.
This session was to try to pick out Uranus which is about two degrees to the west of Jupiter. Using Jupiter as a signpost it was easy enough to pick out but was only just discernible as disc. With a bit of wishful thinking it might just have had a tinge of blue about it. Observations were not helped by the full moon about 30 degrees to the west.
Unfortunately the Moon was sitting pretty much where Neptune currently resides, so no hope of seeing that until after last quarter.
Posted Sep 6, 2010
6 Sept 2010 1:30 am
Jupiter is looking better all the time. The telescope was employed again last night to reveal that the Southern belt remains missing. But at the moment the planet is about as big as I’ve ever seen it. It comes to opposition on the 20th of the month.
The interesting feature tonight was that all four of the major moons were strung out on the right hand side of the main body giving a lop sided appearance.
Uranus was a little more prominent just to the top - right. Cloud came in about a half hour and finished the session.
Posted Jan 23, 2011
Just trying to get an entry into my journal. Second attempt.
The size of the print seems to be for the 'Visually challenged'. I'll bet there's not many of these to the pound.
Posted Feb 7, 2012
A modicum of success today.
I have never been able to get the telescope’s tracking to work correctly on the standard controller. The only time it’s worked is if I use the alternative Autostar star finder controller, and go through a rather long winded set-up procedure to use that instead. The problem with the standard set is that it resolutely refuses to track east to west. When it feels like it, it will track west to east but that’s not a lot of use if everything else is headed in the opposite direction. Now this is an old scope and does need some adjustments but apart from anything else that fault, makes it such hard work to use, and it’s what has largely stopped me using it since last year.
So I decided to try to get to the bottom of it. Now this scope, like any other I suppose, is manufactured to be used in either the northern or southern hemispheres of this world, and of course the default is for the northern. What that means is that without any alteration it will track east to west keeping up with apparent positions of stars as they traverse the sky. The default is set by the removal of one or the other of two screws in the casing of the controller. One sets the default for north, the other for south. To reset the default to southern hemisphere the controller requires the removal of a contact screw from the back of the box.
Having fitted the scope with a pointer tool to make the motion more apparent, and set the mounting up for polar alignment, I initially tried removing the north screw which made absolutely no difference at all. Removing the south screw made no difference either, the scope continued to track in the wrong direction. So, thought I, I’ll try the equivalent of a computer reboot. On this set up that means removing the scope from its mounting and removing the eight batteries from their holder. Half an hour later, new batteries and everything reset, switched back on and… it continued to track the wrong way.
Ah, but I had left it if south polar set-up. Refitting the south screw and removing the north one, switched on and voila, it tracks east to west. During the course of the afternoon I tried several times and it performed exactly as spec… wunnerful. Unfortunately, last night was pretty cloudy, but tonight clear, and very cold. I took the scope out and setup the north orientation and homed in on Venus. Absolute magic. Even with the rough orientation Venus stayed in the central zone for almost five minutes.
The clear conditions allowed a good view of its phase and it was great to have an uninterrupted view without having to make the continuous adjustments with the handset.
Posted Feb 7, 2012
Excellent that you have got to the bottom of the problem and it is now fixed
Our telescope hasn't been out for far too long (over 12 months). The last bit of astronomy I did were to fish out a camera lens I bought some time ago, check it worked with my new camera and take some handheld solar photographs - it was the 400mm lens I bought to photo the solar eclipse in Turkey and I found the solar filter still fitted to the front. I could pick out the main sunspots on the resulting digital images.
Posted Mar 5, 2012
5 March 2012
For the first time in a week we have clear conditions and I was able to take advantage of them for a change.
Mars was the prime target for tonight being just past opposition. Naked eye it has its usual amber colour. I can never really see it as red. In the scope it’s an amber disc, but I couldn’t realise any real detail, just a slight suggestion of a darker hue across the mid section, but nothing I could recognise. The polar cap wasn’t prominent either. I’ve seen it quite clearly before, but not this time.
Anyway, on to the Moon which is just a couple of days away from full. The most prominent feature tonight was the crater Aristarchus. It’s just inside the terminator (at about the 10.00 o/clock position) bright white because it’s one of the youngest craters on the Moon. It has a clear terraced interior wall, a prominent central pea and prominent rays. Just next to it is a much older crater Heroditus. The floor of Heroditus is lava filled and flat.
But, the most interesting feature lies just to the north of this pair which is Vallis Schroteri. This is a sinuous valley which meanders north, then west for 160km. It appears to originate from a smaller crater which gives it the appearance of a Cobra Head. In places the valley is 1000 meters deep. All this is on a raised shelf of rough appearance.
Due to the low angle of illumination, clearly seen tonight is the line of compression ridges named Dorsa Burnet. These are ridges formed within the lava flows of Procellarum due to the expansion and contraction of the lava during cooling.
All in all quite a good evening’s viewing. It puts me in mind to try out the Lunar 100 again.
Posted Sep 13, 2012