Friday, 29 March 2013

Shining Bees & Whirling Galaxies...on a cold night in March.


The sky was clear and cold, the stars were shining, and my eyes were adapting to the darkness.

Armed with my trusty 8x30's I decided to search for a few Messier open clusters....

M44 "The Beehive Cluster' high up in the South was the first target... in the 8x30's it was a breathtaking sight.
The bees were certainly busy tonight, each one a sparkling icy white.

I panned down slightly to M67, which is a somewhat vague smudge of light in the 8x30's, but still very much worth a look.

Next.... up and over to Auriga....
This constellation held my gaze for several minutes as I took in the view of M37, M36 and M38... all in the same field of view.

Across to M35 in Gemini....  
M35 was just visible to my naked eye, many stars were visible through the binoculars.

Considering it is of visual magnitude 5.2, I was really pleased to see M35 with the naked eye from my slightly light polluted village. 




Next....Over to the Double Cluster in Perseus.... They were a bit disappointing tonight in the 8x30's. 
This was mainly due to a nearby street light throwing up an orange glare towards the direction of the cluster.  

At other times of the year the Double Cluster looks wonderful.....blasted street lights...!!!!

Then a quick look at the Hyades.... 

Whenever I search out the Hyades I get side tracked into gazing at Aldebaran, such a beautiful orange, which always has a mesmerising effect...

It was very cold tonight in Simpson Cross,  I was wearing my fingerless gloves, and the tips of my fingers were suffering for being out in the open... 

Before I escaped back to the open fire of our living room I decided to give Tal1 a quick walk around the the handle of the Plough...  

Seeing that the Plough was almost on the roof of the sky, and away from much of any possible light pollution,  I was hoping to glimpse M51 The Whirlpool Galaxy.

Tonight M51 turned out to be an easy target for Tal1. With the 25mm plossl I could clearly see both M51 and it's companion galaxy, plus a slight haze, mostly around M51.

Both M51 and companion took on a comet like appearance. 

No wonder Messier made up his list of objects to avoid... 

The cold weather finally beat me.... :0)

The night had finally got the better of me and the cold was too much....

In the East I could see a faint glow in the trees, I soon realised it must be the Moon waiting to make an appearance. 

Just above the trees Virgo was tentatively tip toeing across our neighbour's treeline...... 

When the temperature rises I might be able to sit awhile and draw those clusters, for now I've added a couple of sketches from memory......  Roll on the warmer weather.....

I said goodnight to Tal1, closed up the observatory ....  and left the night to the Moon and stars....

My hands really appreciated that warming open fire.....  :0)


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

First Light, PANSTARRS... Big Bino convert..


Yesterday evening near sunset, a bank of heavy black cloud lay to the North, but the North West through to the South was fairly clear....... I was  hoping for a chance to glimpse the comet.

I decided to head off to one of Pembrokeshire's best observing sites, a small car park named Maidenhall near Newgale.

This elevated site has a wonderful 360 degree view, especially out towards the sea.

Another good reason to visit Maidenhall last night was to meet up with friend and fellow astronomer Andrew Merrick, who was also hoping to see "First Light" on Comet Panstarrs.

Andrew had already set up his 72mm refractor, and right next to the scope was a lovely pair of 25x100 binoculars.....

The skies behaved perfectly; the Moon and Jupiter were visible, the stars slowly switched on and the cloud bank to the NW was fairly low... ideal conditions for finding Panstarrs......

But where was it....? ....  We both searched and scanned the horizon.... and then searched some more......nothing to be seen...!!!

Then finally Andrew snagged the comet in the refractor....

My little 8x30 binos were not up to the task, and I would have been searching in vain for much of the session....

Andrew's 25x100 binos were a different matter...

The Big Binos delivered a beautiful image of the dust tail, and the coma was very striking.

The overall big binocular view left a lasting impression.

Earlier this evening to mark the event, I made a Panstarrs sketch for my astro log book.


I've always fancied a pair of Big Binos, but I wasn't sure if they would deliver.

Thanks to several views of the comet, M42 and M45 last night, I'm now a Big Bino convert..


It was great to catch up with Andrew and his family......

I hope to meet up with him again soon at Maidenhall....... maybe next month for some Saturn observing.....


Monday, 4 March 2013

Twinkling Sirius and Messier March.


Not much to report for the last couple of weeks.

The night skies haven't been too bad, but the evenings have been really cold.  We have had a couple of frosty nights, perfect for spying the twinkling stars.

My favourite twinkling star on the frosty evenings has always been Sirius; when viewed through a slightly out of focus telescope Sirius puts on a lovely rainbow light-show of swirling colours.

This past fortnight it was nice to simply go outside on those few cold evenings and just look up at the stars without running to find my sketch book or camera.

If the weather allows, I intend this month to dig out the binoculars and search out some of those Messier objects.

Tal1 will be having a rest for the month of March.

Plus, fingers crossed for Comet PANSTARRS, lets hope it puts on a good show for all .


Last night I rolled back the observatory roof and grabbed a quick sketch of Jupiter.


I've enjoyed sketching Jupiter these past few months, and I'm looking forward next month to spending some time with Saturn.


Between the Comet and the Messiers, and a bit of twinkling starlight, I reckon March is going to be an interesting month of observation.