Thursday, 29 December 2011

George & Mildred and Windy Wet Wales..

This is a view I never get tired of, the Seven Sisters as seen from the comfort of a folding chair, viewed with a pair of 7X50 binoculars...

Unfortunately for me Santa forgot to drop of my 7X50's this year. :0(

But I do have two really nice sets of  field glasses and each of them  give a wonderful X3 magnification!!! 

I assume it's X3 magnification.... ...I may be wrong....

I even have names for them.....!!!!


Even if I had a pair of 7X50's I don't know when I would get a chance to use them. The weather in Pembrokeshire has been diabolical for weeks, even months.....

We have more than our fair share of cloud cover here in Pembrokeshire, as this small video shows....

On my next post I'm going to show the results of how many clear nights we've actually had since September.....

Clear Skies please for 2012


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Pembrokeshire Flu and the tiny Tasco 40mm

I'm just getting over a larger than life dose of Pembrokeshire Flu.

I never get the flu...but this year it hit good and proper...It's been over a fortnight since I was outside in the cold of the observatory. And at least a fortnight before that without any real observing.... courtesy of our wonderfully clouded out skies.

So with that in mind I have been trawling around our pc's hard drive and found this video of my last attempt at solar astronomy from the observatory.

The Sun as we all know is still heading South, and as such my possible window of viewing from the observatory is maybe limited to approximately an hour, thanks to the trees at the end of our garden.

I love the trees and so do the birds, especially the magpies who have bought a home in a nearby tree...

I will just have to wait a while until the Sun heads North once again...........  No hurry!!  :0)

Whilst digging around in the countless photo CD's I found this photo of my first telescope, the mighty 40mm Tasco refractor.

This picture was taken back in 1981. By then my trusty Tasco was already a couple of years old, and well battered and worn.

That little scope went everywhere with me, and gave me wonderful views of the night skies....everything from the craters on the Moon, Jupiter's satellites, Solar projection (as in the photo), in focus (and out of focus) stars.

Especially I fondly  remember seeing Albireo for the first time with this telescope...

The Pleiades, The Sword Handle, The Beehive, and many many more celestial wonders were snagged with this tiny Tasco.

I know many complain about small refractors..... especially small Tasco refractors...!!!, but I will always thank the makers of my 40mm Tasco.....

An excellent introduction to the night sky...

I only wish I had it now, it finally fell apart a couple of years after this photo was taken.

Maybe one day I will find another one like it in the back of a junk shop....... :0)

Monday, 5 December 2011

Dreaming of Barsoom

"As Mars is once again upon us, I thought I would post one of my log entries that I made back in January 2010......" Pembs Astronomer 

23rd January 2010  Observation of Mars....

I set up the telescope in the front garden and decided to have a good long look at Mars.
It's nearly at it's closest at the moment, shining brighter than Betelgeuse, and slightly dimmer than Sirius.

At first the red planet revealed nothing just the usual blank expressionless ruddy red, no detail, no imagination not a hint of any possible Martian detail.

But persistence I am told will reward, and definitely tonight persistence paid off.

Tonight Mars opened up and allowed a glimpse of its often hidden beauty.

The dust storms on the planet were obviously having a good well deserved rest, and I saw for the first time in over six years the Martian surface with it's tell tale mottled patterns.

This dreamer once again was transported to the  Mars of  H.G. Wells and Percival Lowell. The Mars of vegetation and wonderful canals, and possible highly intelligent creatures living on a dying planet.

I spent several minutes at the eyepiece and slowly but surely an image appeared, the more I looked the more was a 3D magic holographic picture.

And like one of those magic holographic pictures ...suddenly I saw it, the white tell tale spot..!!

Percival Lowell Canal system.
As I looked at the Martian disk a snow cap was visible at the 5 O'clock position.

The snow cap stood out....  a sight not seen by my eyes since the August opposition in 2003.

Even though Earth probes have visited Mars, not one creature from our beautiful blue world has ever set foot on Mars......NOT YET!

Several probes have landed on Mars, relaying valuable information and data. But only in the realms of fantasy and imagination have we touched the lands of this red planet of Barsoom.

The Viking 1 Lander 
The view through my telescope was breathtaking...

Slowly I wandered off to thoughts of poetry....yet unwritten..

I was here....
Tonight I sit upon Barsoom.
I think of a time when the Earth was my home.

What matters now is the Martian dust reflecting in my human eyes.

And starlight falls... but not a photon do I detect 
I gaze only at the Martian soil and reflect..

Poem by Pembs Astronomer, sat on a park bench just outside Mars City - 5th December 2089AD.  :0)


 Post Script  
Last night I looked out towards the east and noticed Regulus hovering just above my neighbour's rooftop. 

Sadly Mars which is in the vicinity of Regulus was obscured by a slowly moving rather large gloomy cloud. 

It was too cold outside last night, and I have a bad case of the man flu at the moment, so back to the warmth of the fire for me..

I haven't as yet had a decent look at Mars since I wrote the above entry in my observation book, back in January of  2010..

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Astronomy from the 1950's, and my analogue laptop...

Digging around in a charity shop the other day I found an interesting book titled:

The Modern Children's Library of Knowledge 
Book Two 
The World we live in.

This book was published in 1957, and towards the end of the book was a chapter about astronomy. 

It contained a wealth of astronomy information and most interesting to me a large collection of 1950's era illustrations.

I love these old astronomy pictures. 

Why don't we have more illustrations like these in modern journals and magazines.
Today's astronomy  magazines just don't interest me.

Too many adverts for a start, not enough "amateur" articles, and way too "glossy"......

I personally like black and white illustrations, be they photos or drawings. 

Saying that some of the most interesting illustrations can sometimes be in full colour:

In my perfect astronomy magazine I would like nothing more than to see the typesetting done on an ageing  typewriter, and all the illustrations courtesy of the 1950's and 60's..... 

There's a lot of Luddite in me I'm afraid..  :0)

Just to prove the point, here's an old  picture of my workshed with typewriter at the ready, or "analogue laptop" as I like to call it....  :0)

 I realise I'm a bit of a hypocrite as I have computer, but give me a  typewriter, planisphere and a star map any day. 

Also the clock drive on my Tal1 Newtonian is high tech enough for me.

Long live low tech .....

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Perseids, Jupiter and Hedgehogs..

It was clouded out in my part of Pembrokeshire last viewing the Perseid Shower seemed to be a non happening event.

I decided to have an early night and hoped for a clearer  Saturday morning..maybe the clouds would part and let me see the Perseid shower in the morning twilight....

The internal astronomer's clock was working well... I awoke at 2.40 am BST and could just glimpse the friendly Moonlight illuminating the window frame...

The clouds must have parted........

Quickly up and out to the observatory, no time to put shoes on....I grabbed my Celestron 8mm plossl from the shed.... into the observatory ...... slide back the roof...

The skies were approximately 90% fast moving cloud, not as good as I hoped, but what gaps there were quickly showed me the Moon... as it slowly melted into my neighbour's ash trees...

Looking eastward I noticed Jupiter high in the sky, the highest I've seen it for many a year.

Seems like Jupiter is going to be the first  port of call for the next few months...

13th August 2011 02:00 gmt ...
Training the Tal onto Jupiter I was able to witness a transit in progress of the Moon Io...something I haven't seen for a few years...

IO Transit
Using my Celestron Xcel 8mm eyepiece, the Tal returned a decent image of Io's shadow. 

But the shadow disc of Io was much more pronounced in my old Skywatcher 150mm refractor...

I should never have sold that scope..oh well  :0(

Throughout the whole observing session I didn't see one Perseid, but then I was only getting about 10% of clear sky view at the most....strangely though, most of the clear gaps were around or near Jupiter...

Perseids, Jupiter and Hedgehogs..

I've mentioned the Perseids, and Jupiter...what about the hedgehogs...?

In our garden these past few years we have had a hedgehog, living we don't know where, but it seems to like the garden enough to stay around.

These last few months our nocturnal neighbour hasn't been seen roaming through the garden.

We had thought that our Jack Russell had scared it she has often stood outside at night shouting at our prickly friend....

But last night whilst in the observatory  I had to go to my shed to fetch a sketching pencil, ...squatting just outside of the observatory was the Hedgehog Astronomer quietly sitting, taking in the scenery..

It was lucky that I didn't stand on our night time companion, especially in my bare feet...!!

Thanks to the moonlight, I was able to see where I was going....

So, no Perseids this year....welcome back to Jupiter...and Hello to Hedgehog Astronomer...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Three years plus since I last looked at the Garnet.

I can't believe it's been over three years since I last looked at Erakis  "The Garnet Star"...

Here's my last log entry of this colourful beauty....

Please click on the picture for a bigger image..

Next chance I get at the eyepiece, I'm going to say sorry to Erakis for not visiting sooner....

Friday, 15 July 2011

Full Hay (fever) Moon.

Full Hay Moon.

Last night I was too tired to fully appreciate the Moon.

Usually I find a spot in the garden, sit down on a comfortable chair and simply bathe myself in the moonlight..

It's so peaceful just sitting there contemplating and watching the Moon as she gently wheels across the night sky..

But the day's hayfever had left it's mark, and I wasn't feeling all that good.

A pity... as the Moon last night was one of the best that I've seen for a long while..

I quickly grabbed this photo, using the Tal 1 and a 25mm plossl afocal with my digital compact camera.

I don't want to wish away these summer days but, I'm  looking forward to next month's " Red Moon".

And red it usually is...... big and beautiful rising out of the Pembrokeshire landscape.

 I've already booked my front row seat......fingers crossed for a clear night....

Happy Moon watching...

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Mighty Atom ...

 Some weeks ago I was rummaging through a box, at one of our local car boot sales.....

I found an intriguing item.

It appeared to be a fountain pen, but on closer examination it opened out into a small refractor.

It works well considering the 1/2 inch aperture of the objective glass.

I christened it ...The Mighty Atom...

Last night the clouds were sauntering once again around  Pembrokeshire, and the Moon low on our neighbour's trees, could occasionally be glimpsed.

I grabbed the Mighty Atom, put it over the lens of the digicam and captured this shot......

It may be a toy to most, and only cost £1, but the Mighty Atom has pride of place in my astronomy collection.

Also I have found, that if you reverse the scope and look through the objective glass, it makes a really handy microscope...  :0)

If you ever happen upon a box full of dubious junk, and see a Mighty Atom, buy won't be disappointed..

Monday, 4 July 2011

Trying to find Napoleon's Hat..

There's a great asterism in Bootes called Napolean's hat.

I well see why it was given such a name.

I decided to try and locate it....

After a couple of failed attempts, I finally thought why not drop Arcturus  to the bottom of my field of vie.

Maybe then Napolean's hat would be easier to see without the distraction of  beautiful bright Arcturus.

It worked....

Up towards the 11 o clock position in my field of view, Napolean's Hat jumped out at me.

I don't know why I haven't noticed this asterism before, but now every time I turn my telescope towards Arcturus there it is.

Another friend to put on the observing list ....  :0)

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Harp Star.

The Harp Star -Vega
I started out last night with the sole intention of imaging M13..... but after a few attempts I became distracted by the beautiful brilliance of Vega.

Vega resides in the constellation of Lyra the Harp, this blue-white star is sometimes called the Harp Star.

In Greek mythology, Lyra the harp is said to have been played by the legendary Greek musician Orpheus. 

And whenever Orpheus started to pluck those strings, nobody it was said could resist listening.
Obviously Orpheus was busy last night, for Vega the Harp Star grabbed my attention....

I attempted imaging using a Nikon D50, connected via prime focus with a X2 Barlow.

I tried a 20 second exposure, and was able to capture the above photo.

Thank You Orpheus.....

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Yesterday was cloudy, windy at times, and spotting with rain, the Sun was nowhere to be seen for much of the day...!

I really was looking forward to visiting Cygnus with the Tal.

I wondered if I would be able to observe at all tonight.

The evening arrived, the clouds moved away, and a glorious summery evening was revealed.

By midnight the skies had darkened enough to get out there and observe.........

First on my list Albireo........

Albireo was the first double I ever viewed, back in 1979 with my 40mm Tasco table top refractor.

This double will always evoke fond memories.

Tonight though it was not shining with it's usual intensity, probably because of atmospheric turbulence.....

Sadr was next on the list, but as always, there are so many stars in this region that I was easily distracted.

I happily wandered of on a mini tour of our Galaxy with my 32mm eyepiece.

I then spotted a beautiful meteor......

It's radiant was close to Sadr and it made its way fairly slowly towards Ras Algethi.

It was at least of first magnitude, maybe slightly brighter, and golden in colour.

This event brought on a haiku:

Bright Meteor 
Racing across the night sky
But a speck of dust....

M13 next.... the 25mm plossl displayed it easily .
The view with my 8mm hinted at individual stars on the perimeter with averted vision.

M57 was easily found with the 25mm. The 8mm didn't  give any more detail, as expected.

From M57 it was up to the Double Double Epsilon Lyrae.
The 8mm xcel and x2 barlow displayed lovely Airy discs on all four marble white stars, a fitting testament to the Tals mirror.

I like John Herschels' description of these discs:     ...the star is then seen (in favourable circumstances of tranquil atmosphere, uniform temperature, &c.) as a perfectly round, well-defined planetary disc, surrounded by two, three, or more alternately dark and bright rings, which, if examined attentively, are seen to be slightly coloured at their borders. They succeed each other nearly at equal intervals round the central disc....   * source at foot of this post

Gamma Delphinus was next, though tonight like Albireo it was slightly fuzzy and not at it's best.

M71 in Sagitta...  found it with the 25mm plossl, but it was fainter than usual, probably due to the light pollution from a nearby streetlight....

Vulpecula next and M27...I found it easily with the 25mm, and it was quite impressive with the 8mm.
The dumbell shape was slightly hinted..very slightly.

An interesting point was.... that with the 25mm eyepiece I could make the Dumbell disappear with direct vision...then make it reappear with averted vision..

It was getting late by now, so I decided to have one last look at Cygnus.

I spotted M56, it was barely a smudge in the 25mm plossl... a little bit more of flying over the Milky Way ..

Then it was time to pack up....

I spent another 10 minutes or so just lying on the observatory floor, looking up and just marvelling at it all.

As John Cage once said "Everyone is in the best seat"

Whilst spying the glorious heavens above sure felt like it......


Friday, 27 May 2011

Binoculars, Peltier and Lawn Astronomy....

“Were I to write out one prescription designed to alleviate at least some of the self-made miseries of mankind, it would read like this: “One gentle dose of starlight to be taken each clear night just before retiring.” ..Leslie C Peltier

It's been really quiet here of late in Simpson Cross, not much observing as the weather has been really bad. The night skies that have appeared were not really that good for astronomical observations, I've spent the time available just observing with binoculars.

Newcomers to the hobby of astronomy invariably look for a telescope as their first instrument. This is false economy I feel.

I would suggest the humble binoculars everytime.
They're light, inexpensive and very portable..and there's loads to see in the night sky with them.

My favourite pair of 8x30's only cost £5. I used to have a very useful pair of 10X50's that only cost £1.50...they looked really rough , but the optics were fine.

If it's cloudy with no stars to view , read a book....that's what I do.....
As the weather has been playing up I have spent some of that lost observing time reading a brilliant book by a famous amateur astronomer, it's called The Starlight Nights  by Leslie C. Peltier .

I have to say this book captures my feelings about amateur astronomy perfectly.
The chapters I'm reading at the moment are based in the 1920's  and 30's.

It shows the reader a world were the pace of life was much slower.
A bygone age where our modern nightly orange glow of so called progress hadn't yet touched.

It seems to me with all our technological haste we are missing out on the simpler slower things of life.

The darkened night skies are one of these simplicities.
Leslie C Peltier's Starlight Nights reminds us to slow down.

I can't praise this book enough...

Famed comet hunter David H Levy gives a wonderfully succinct view of this book:
Many books explain how to observe the sky; Starlight Nights explains why.” 

Looking forward to warm summer nights
 Lawn astronomy
Hopefully the month of June will bring better night viewing than May. 
Summer is close, the nights are getting warmer and my annual " Lawn astronomy" season is close.... 
Let me explain:
Because most of the year seems to be cold, wet, windy...I guess you know what I mean....!!! , it's really nice to find a few weeks of the year when the ground is dry and the night time is hopefully warm & balmy. On these rare occasions I like to spend my nightly observing session simply lying in the back garden looking up at the stars overhead....
Often I wear headphones that are playing Jean Michell Jarre's  "Equinox" album.... 
This particular music and the beauty of the stars above, coupled with the warm evening,,, really is  therapeutic .......

Here's to a good summer ....
Clear skies   hopefully

Friday, 13 May 2011

6x5 foot Observatory

Just as you're about to come the clouds.

A familiar tale for all astronomers....not any more here in Simpson Cross.

A couple of weeks ago one of our neighbours kindly offered a pile of scrap wood for our fire.

It just so happened most of the scrap wood was the remains of his 8x6 foot garden shed.

I managed to salvage enough wood to make a start on an astronomy shed. I had two complete side panels, and enough wood to build the two remaining sides.

The building started on what must have been the hottest days of the year so far...

Somewhere I had heard it was the hottest April in the UK since 1911 ...!!!

The two sides bolted together quickly but the structure was still swaying quite a bit.....

Good job there was no breeze that day..

After fixing the remaining two sides the structure became really strong.... It might just stand up to the Simpson Cross  winter gales.

I was going to make a roll of roof with support posts, but as the observatory is only 6x5 foot I can easily lift off the roof when needed..

There's still a lot of work to do before the scope is fixed permanently, but at least the main structure is in place...

The cost so far has been for screws, hinges, nails, and extra wooden batons. Total spent so far £35.

I've made the roof frame, now I have to get some covers on it..

To set up my telescope previously required the eq platform to be taken outside, back to the house for the counterweights, back to the house for the tube, setting levels, align North...observe..

In total about 10 minutes....

With this observatory ...I slide the roof frame off completely, open the observatory door, sit on the stool...observe....

In total  30seconds.....

I've got a feeling that when the Winter returns, the amount of observing time is going to dramatically increase....

I'll post more pictures of the observatory as I go along.....

Clear Skies


Monday, 9 May 2011

Solar Observing ..Maidenhall car park ..Newgale.

I'm happy to report the weather behaved itself yesterday.

We arrived early and having made sure to pack the car with all the equipment I needed, I began  confidently to assemble the scopes.

Just one problem.....I had forgotten one "minor" item...the actual sun filter!!! ...

Luckily we only live 3 miles from Newgale so Helen was able to quickly go home and pick it up.

It wasn't long before Phil, a member of the Preseli Astronomy & Science Group arrived.
This was our first meeting, we had talked via the PASG forum, on several occassions. It was great to finally meet up.

Phil arrived armed with two refractors ...

A  meade 70mm was to be his main solar scope...and it proved to be a good choice for solar work...infact it  had the edge over my Tal reflector.

We carried out a few tests with each scope... Refractor Vs Reflector..

There did seem to be slightly better contrast with the refractor.

Such a portable refractor is ideally be suited for solar work out and about.

Once I find a decent donor refractor I'll make myself a "mobile solar scope" and keep it in the car.

During one session the dust cap for the eyepiece on my scope inadvertently  moved into direct focus of the suns rays ...only 2 second maximum ...but it was enough time to melt a sizeable hole in the plastic dustcap.
Always goes to show that even though great care is taken....respect of the Sun is paramount.....

Please always observe safely and carefully!!!

A couple of passers by took an interest in our observing, and were impressed by the sunspots they could see. Mention was made by one visitor of the wonderful late Summer Moon rises over Simpson viewed from Roch....

Maybe a visit to Roch in August/September is in order.... I know a good spot...up by the bottle recycling point, good parking a picnic area, and wonderful almost 360 degree views....

Perhaps I'll pencil that one in now.....

The weather behaved itself throughout yesterdays session. There was quite a bit of wind to begin with, but thankfully that eased off as the afternoon progressed.

The observing session was to be 2 hours between 2.00pm and 4.00pm , but thanks to the good company, the session was extended to 6.00pm .

This is the first public solar observing session I have attended...and it won't be the last....great fun!!!

Here's to a wonderful Summer....

Clear Skies 


Sunday, 24 April 2011

First light with my new solar filter..

Yesterday my solar filter sheet turned up.

It took ten minutes to fit it to my filter holder, and another five hours for the skies to clear sufficiently to allow me to test it.

Around about 5.30 p.m. the skies were perfect for observing with the Tal 1.

I well see why astronomers get hooked on observing the Sun, it was mesmerising as it hung there shimmering with life giving heat.

I've always been a night time astronomer, the sun always took second place to the moon and stars.

I think from now on, observing our nearest star is going to be high on my list.

First image with the new solar filter.

Helen and I went to our local bootsale in Haverfordwest
yesterday morning,
where I picked up for £1 this digital camera.

It has a 3.1Mp chip and a video mode that captures AVI's.

After setting up the Tal and solar filter, I managed to capture this image.

I've added a bit of colour with Paint shop Pro.

Also the video setting on the camera allowed for this AVI.

First impressions of my "Heath Robinson" solar filter are certainly encouraging.

I've got the bug for this white light filter. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend investing in a "Thousand Oaks" filter or suchlike.

And an added bonus....your'e not likely to suffer hypothermia whilst you observe...!!!  :0)

Here's hoping for more blue skies.....


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Sun Filter Project....

I thought it time to make myself a solar filter for the TAL telescope....

Before I say anything...please be careful when viewing the Sun, only use approved sun filters and projection methods.

Even looking at the Sun with the naked eye for a few seconds can cause harm.  

I found this out the hard way about 32 years ago...

I still have the small scar on my left retina to prove it.

As the prices of ready made filters range from £40 to £90 for my particular telescope, I decided to make one incoporating the Baader solar film., which cost £18.

I would buy the ready made item, but at the moment all my pennies are going towards my next project. That of building my observatory.

The initial idea for my construction method is described here:-     with slight alterations made by me.

I've placed an order for the solar film....
But I bet with the bank holiday post, I'll probably receive delivery next tuesday/wednesday...

This is how I intend fixing the solar film to the holder.

When the solar film arrives I will post some more pictures of my progress....

Clear "Blue" Skies


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Trying out the Tal ...down to Newgale...

Earlier this evening I got it into my head to try some astro observing from our local beach ...Newgale.

Helen and I got to Newgale at just gone 8:00pm, the night was drawing in fast.

I set up the TAL scope and first on the list was the three day (or thereabouts!!) moon..... a lovely crescent.

Mare Crisium took on the appearance of a smiley face. The 25mm plossl gave a good view...also the 15mm kellner ( I think it's a Kellner) was surprisingly good , giving quite sharp images.

I left the smiley moon and waited for the stars to switch on in the darkening twilight.

Sirius was first, followed quickly by Betelguese.

A couple of minutes later Rigel said hello.

Looking through the 25mm plossl and using a X3 Barlow, the lovely blue secondary of Rigel could easily be seen.

As Leo was well positioned two more doubles, Algeiba and Regulus went down in the observing log.

Castor was next ...what a beautiful double....

Then once again back to the smiley face of Mare Crisium...followed by a look at one of my favourites Aldebaran.....

It was about 9:00pm by now we were ready to head off home.

Whilst  I was observing, Helen had been beachcombing and had brought back enough driftwood to build a log cabin......!!

Finally before packing up I trained the Tal onto Cor Caroli in Canes Venatici......another beautiful double ...

As you can probably guess I like observing double stars   :0)

I managed to find some telescope room in the car amongst the driftwood, then we headed home.

I haven't tried mobile observing for many months...

This was my first attempt at Newgale....

Well worth the effort.....  I'll be back!!!

Clear Skies


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Transit of Venus 8th of June 2004

It's been a while since a put a post on here, thought it time to remedy that.

Whilst looking through my astronomy logbook I found this picture of the Venus transit back in 2004. 

This photo was taken in  our back garden. The day started badly, with cloud cover looking to spoil the event of a lifetime.

Luckily about 9.00am it cleared up and we had beautiful blue skies for the remainder of the transit.

                   This photo was taken with a Canon EOS1000 on something called "film emulsion"
             Some post imaging has been done to the picture, in other  words I fiddled with the contrast