Friday, 14 October 2016

Chasing Orion's stellar nursery.

Wide awake 3.00 am... outside the stars were shining brightly.
I didn't want to disturb Helen, so I tried to get back to sleep.... no chance! 

I couldn't see Orion through the low south facing window,  but I knew he was there, hanging in the sky, just waiting for a chance to show off. 

I started thinking about the Orion nebula...

Here's a sketch that I made of the nebula... almost 10 years ago...!

Stellar Nursery M42 the Orion Nebula - 150mm Newtonian reflector. 2006

In those ten years I have observed the nebula through various instruments, from 40mm refractors to an 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain.

This morning I would be able to observe with an even larger aperture.
I've been waiting since June to unleash "Oscar" our 12 inch Newtonian onto this most wonderful of stellar nurseries.

I lay in bed for maybe another ten minutes... I couldn't take it anymore, I had to go outside and start observing. 

Helen woke up about the same time, and was also eager to catch a glimpse of Orion's splendid star nursery.

Oscar & Mark

This morning's seeing was between Antoniadi II and III... best conditions for a long while.

Also the outside temperature was ideal for light clothing, and not a cloud to spoil the view.  

Within the next hour Helen and I managed to view the Orion nebula, the Crab nebula, Praesepe the beehive, all three star clusters (M36, M37, M38) in Auriga the Charioteer, plus Rigel and that brightest of star... Sirius.  

Also on the list was the Andromeda Galaxy M31, along with its companion galaxy M32.

Interestingly before the advent of large telescopes, the Andromeda galaxy was thought to be a nebula.!
I would have added M97 and M108 to the list, but Dave and Billa's house blocked the view!
The Orion nebula M42 deserves a further mention as it was the first time that Oscar had been let loose on this most splendid of winter objects.

Many astronomers see a faint greenish tinge to the nebula. Others mention a slight bluish tinge.
To my eyes the ethereal glow of the nebula was bluish grey.  

Surprisingly at the edges of the nebula I could just make out a tiny reddish tint..!

Did I see this colour or not..? Helen had a good look and also noted a slightly reddish tint. 

Preasepe the beehive (Messier 44)  was impressive. 

The Pleiades/M45 or "Seven sisters" turned into several dozen sisters through the 30mm ocular!

Sirius was bright to the point of being painful.
If you slightly defocus Sirius you will see a wonderful kaleidoscope of twinkling colour.  

With the 10mm eyepiece double star Rigel revealed its tiny blue companion really well.

Oscar put on a good show this morning, hopefully the first of many this season.

Clear Skies

Mark & Helen.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Exploring the Moon by Ernest H. Cherrington Jr.

 Time to catch up on some reading....... this book is brilliant.....

Beautiful book, lots of useful information about lunar crater,rilles and surface features etc.

 No fancy colour pictures or diagrams, just simple well labeled black and white images.

The book goes through each day of a complete lunation, with enough information to keep you busy for years to come...

You can dip into this book again and again.

 All Moon watcher should have a copy of this classic reference book. 

If you are a bit of a Lunatic... grab yourself a copy of this classic.

A definite keeper

Clear Lunar Skies 


Friday, 23 September 2016

The Astronomy Shed

Tal1 110mm reflector - Tasco 40mm refractor

If you want to make the most of your telescope, my advise would to be build yourself an observatory.

Back in April of 2011 I was fortunate enough to be given what to many would be firewood, but to me it was  the makings of a garden observatory.

Originally the "firewood"  had been a 7x5 foot garden shed, but due to age plus neglect the corners and part of the base had become moldy and rotten.

Taking shape

Luckily I was able to salvage a fair amount of the wooden side panels, though the roof was completely past it.

In all I had enough decent wood to make a 6x5 foot shed structure.

The footings of the new shed comprised of driftwood that we found on nearby Newgale beach.

The roof was another matter....
It had to be as light as possible, as I wanted it to slide out of the way when observing the night sky.

Looking better

After a bit of head scratching I decided to fit a tarpaulin over the roof framework that I had constructed.

The total cost of the astronomy shed was a bag of nails and a dozen or so bolts.

Even the tarpaulin was free, as we had found it abandoned in a music festival some two years previously.

Over the last five years this little observatory served me well.

I made countless observations of Sun, Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and a variety of open clusters, globulars and double stars were all captured and recorded from this little shed.

The observatory never leaked, and the roof stood up to the battering of five blustery winters.

I did have to change the roof cover once, but that was due to the Sun's UV light weakening the tarpaulin...  it became brittle and one windy day it fell apart .

Every year I would give it a coat of timber care paint, and make sure all panels and hinges were safe and secure.  Here are a few more photos:

White Tal1: ready for the night sky
A new coat of paint

White Tal1 "Excellent little scope"

As my telescope was in an observatory, set up time was reduced to a minimum.

Telescope alignment was already done, and the eyepieces were already in place.

It took me just over a minute to go outside, loosen the four roof ties and slide the roof back and start observing.

Many a time in those five years the gaps in the clouds only allowed a quick five minute viewing window, just long enough to take an observation from the comfort of the astronomy shed.

If my telescope had been indoors, it would not have been worthwhile taking it outside to attempt that five minute observation.

Red Tal

I calculated the observatory in total cost me approximately £30 to build.

If memory serves, this "red" Tal1 reflector telescope also cost £30 from a local boot fayre....

So in total I was fully kitted out for observing the night sky, from the comfort of a dedicated observatory,..........  all for the cost of £60....!

Astronomy does not have to be expensive.

Clear Skies


Monday, 5 September 2016

The moving month of August.

Our new house ... Third in from the right.. Preseli Hills in the background... just joking!

Recently we moved house, and due to the chaos that ensued I have been unable to sit at the computer and write up any blog posts.

Today is the first day that I have sat at the desktop for maybe three weeks.

In that three weeks Helen and I have moved all our worldly possessions some 30 miles north of the county. It took several van loads to finally shift all of our shackles.

We are now settling down in our new home...  When people say moving house is stressful, I know what they mean.!

First job... where to site an observatory....  haha !

Even though house moving had been much on our mind, in that time we did manage a few good August evenings of observing.

The nights that stand out where the evenings spent at the wonderful Fforest Gather 2016, near Cilgerran.

Thanks to the kind invite of owners James, Sian and their son Jackson, Helen and I were able to host several observing sessions.

Out of the six possible evenings that were booked, three were clear enough to do some observing.

The first evening revealed a beautiful near full Moon, a fairly clear Saturn and a slightly murky looking Mars.

The big old Moon was the one that stood out, and a line of eager curious astronomers quickly formed.

Several children and adults, (big HELLO to George, Joanne and Linda), could be heard saying "wow" as they looked on at the Moon.

The second night's viewing wasn't that good, but at least a few people managed to see big bright Vega and a quick peek at Arcturus....

Even though the evening was mostly cloud filled it didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd, and many questions were asked about all things astronomical.

The last evening was by far the best for observing, Saturn and Mars stood out well, though Saturn was the main attraction.

Waiting for the star light
For over an hour there was a continuous line to catch a glimpse of the ringed planet.

The children especially loved looking at this most beautiful of night time gems.

Between 9.00pm and 11.30pm the telescope was in constant use, mainly trained on Saturn.

So many people turned up on that last evening, we should have brought another telescope..!

Next time for sure..

Thank You James, Sian and Jackson and all the Fforest elves for making Helen and I feel so welcome...

You have some beautiful clear skies and night views at Fforest farm....

An astronomer's paradise....


Time to gather pencil and paper.

For the next few weeks I'm hoping to draw some sketches of Saturn before it dips too far into the west.

With luck I might even draw a few of Mars...  

After that it will be galaxy and nebulae season for the big scope.

I've never really tried my hand at sketching Deep Space objects....
It should be interesting to see the results as viewed through "Oscar" the big Dobsonian.

Clear September Skies 

Mark & Helen