Monday, 13 February 2017

Venus and the Beehive.

It was chilly outside tonight, and the wind was starting to pick up. It would have made more sense to stay indoors, but the promise of Venus through Oscar's optics was calling me.

Venus sketch - post Photoshop

Tonight's image of Venus showed a distinct crescent, a very bright crescent!

I tried out the 80a blue filter on the 9mm ocular, it helped reduce the glare. 

We didn't stay out long;  after a quick glance at M44 the Beehive, Rigel, Aldebaran, the Hyades, and the Orion Nebula, it was time to pack up and retire to the warmth of the house.

It may not have been a long observing session, but it was completely worth the effort of hauling the 12 inch Dobsonian outside, albeit for only twenty minutes.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Radio astronomy in Australia (1958)

It's that time of year when the clouds invariably fill the night skies, and all astronomy activity is put on hold!

My thoughts as usual turn to radio astronomy. 

Astronomy has always been my main hobby, but it is followed closely by my interest in the radio spectrum, especially the amateur (ham) and radio astronomy frequencies.

Thanks to the winter cloudy stuff, often at this time of year I'm unable to collect starlight with my telescopes, but collecting  cosmic radio waves through the clouds is no problem with the right radio receiver.

Recently I've been able to catch up with a couple of vintage radio/astronomy related programmes.

Good old YouTube..

This past month has been pretty clouded over, with the odd clear night allowing some beautiful views of Orion and friends.

Apart from a few quick glances of Venus through the 60mm refractor, I haven't taken the telescopes out at all this month!

Fingers crossed for some decent observing in January.....

Happy New Year and clear skies for 2017

Mark & Helen.

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.

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