Friday, 29 August 2014

Returning Subaru echoes the Autumn starlight.

The Pleiads, rising thro the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fireflies
Tangled in a silver braid

A clear night with a whisper of a cooling breeze.

High up Vega is now noticeably Westward bound.

The Pleiades now spotted in the East… here comes the Autumn.

There are many names given to this most wonderful of star clusters, The Seven Sisters, The Starry Seven, Children of Atlas, The Seven Atlantic Sisters, The Hen and her Chicks to name just a few.

But my favourite name for the Pleiades has to be the Japanese name of SUBARU.
The Japanese language contains some lovely astronomy related names e.g. Hoshi=Star, Hi=Sun, Tsuki=Moon, Milky Way=Ama-No-Gawa.

Viewing Subaru through 8x40 binoculars never fails to bring a smile to my face.

This cluster was made for binoculars. Subaru along with the Orion nebula can always guarantee a spontaneous  WOW!!… followed by a dance around the garden.

Clear Skies

Mark  :0)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A swift view of the Milky Way

This evening’s sky was a delight , even with the nearby streetlights shining, the Milky Way stretched far and wide overhead.

At about 11.00pm I grabbed my “new/secondhand” Swift 8x40 binoculars and planted myself in the front garden.

Thanks to an earlier collimation my new binoculars were spilling out sharp pin-point stars in all directions.

My Swift Auburon 8x40’s cost £15 at a local bootsale, and I can highly recommend that particular model.

 One thing is to always make sure that any prospective binoculars have collimation grub screws.  These four tiny screws are easy to find (with a magnifying glass!) and are necessary to properly align the two objective lenses.

Without the ability to adjust the objective lenses you will quickly go cross-eyed and relegate the binos to the dustbin!

For all astronomy purposes I would never buy binoculars unless they have the four adjustment grub screws.

When I first tested the 8x40’s, I mounted them on a tripod and placed Arcturus in the field of view. I was rewarded with a lovely view of Arcturus and what appeared to be its identical twin! 

After a slight adjustment of all four grub screws, the double image of Arcturus merged back into one sharp starlight point.

Do they work?

Most definitely Yes….. so far I’ve had good views of M13, M33, M31, M81/82,  Kembles Cascade, the Sword Handle and The Coat Hanger.

Plus, ambling through the river of the Milky Way is a joy with those little 8x40’s.

Clear Skies





Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Gibbous Moon and Chasing the ISS


This evening I took the Schmidt outside to spy the gibbous moon.

I wanted to have a good look at the Moon Maiden and Gassendi before they slipped behind the trees at the end of the garden.

After about ten minutes of viewing the moon slowly but surely slipped behind the blasted trees... !

Never mind.... across I went to my favourite double Albireo.

With the 20mm Erfle in place I was able to distinguish the blue and yellow of this lovely double.

By defocusing the image the two stars exhibited an even stronger yellow and blue colour contrast.

Copernicus and Gassendi

Plato and the Moon Maiden

 Chasing the ISS

THEN ....  in the west I noticed the International Space Station racing towards me.

I wondered if I would be able to capture its image in the Schmidt.?

After a bit of frantic positioning I centred the ISS in the field of view..... for about a SECOND!!

I quickly tried to manually keep up with the ISS... and for several seconds I managed to see a decent image of what looked like two long horizontal bright bars, connected to a much shorter vertical bright bar.   

Did I see the space station, or was my brain playing tricks with me...? 

I'm not sure, but at least what I saw was not the usual star like point of light, as seen through my binoculars....

I will just have to wait, and with luck confirm my findings on the next favourable pass....  :0)

Clear Skies


Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sunrise over Cwm Cerwyn

Today's Sunrise ......  over Cwmcerwyn, the highest peak of the Preseli Mountains.
The weather has been kind to Pembrokeshire this July. Lots of amazing sunrises
Clear sunrise skies

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Misty Solar Sunrise

Up at 5.45am ...just missed the Sunrise !! 
Captured a few shots of our mist shrouded village.
Last night we slept in the shed again...... Around about midnight I spotted a lovely meteor trail.
The meteor started its journey around Vega and continued over towards Altair.
At around 3.45 I was awake again and enjoying watching a gibbous Moon as it perched itself seemingly on some nearby treetops......  The air was still, no cars to be heard, beautiful calm morning .....  with a gibbous shining moon ....  PERFECT....  :0)
Clear Skies

Monday, 14 July 2014

Spying on Venus

This morning whilst waiting for the sunrise I spotted Venus shining brightly over towards the Haverfordwest area...  it looked amazing ..... 

From the front garden it looked even better as it hovered above the rooftops.... 
What a beautiful start to the day....
Clear Skies

Friday, 11 July 2014

iPhoto Solar Projection

Today I managed a quick solar projected image...

After a bit of processing using iPhoto software I was able to obtain this final image..

Clear Solar Skies

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Moon Capture

Today's Moon Afocal with the digicam
Schmidt C8 Celestron - 20mm Erfle - Digicam (afocal)
Clear Lunar Skies

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Astronomy from our garden shed.


Tonight the skies were beautifully clear. I decided to give the 40mm refractor a bit of an airing.

The crescent moon looked amazing as it hung over the nearby rooftops.

I was able to capture a few shots afocally with the digicam.

It was so warm that we decided to sleep in the garden shed, with our heads peeping out of the doorway.

The stars after midnight looked amazing, and thanks to the street lights being switched off we could easily see what looked to be Noctilucent clouds way out to the north.

 I haven't seen NLC's since July of 2009......!!!

No Schmidt telescope for me tonight, just the naked eye, a sleeping bag, a heart full of poetry and the stars above....

Clear Skies


Friday, 13 June 2014

Barsoom is slipping away.

 It's now obvious that Mars is moving away from us. The red planets gibbous phase is now plain to see.

Due to the present size of Mars the polar cap wasn't distinct, and the whole planet seemed shrouded in a veil of salmon coloured mist.

So long Barsoom see you again in about two years time.

Saturn on the other hand was much better placed.....

The Cassini division stood out really well, along with five of the satellites, Titan Rhea, Dione, Iapetus (with averted vision)  and near the limb either Tethys or Enceladus  not sure which one it was.

Over then to M57 looked good in the 20mm erfle eyepiece bluish grey.

Epsilon Lyrae the double double of Epilon Lyrae in 9mm ortho split but shimmering.

Through the 40mm Kellner Albireo stood out a lovely complimentary yellow and blue.

I was really pleased with the Schmidt tonight.... no dew shield needed. 

Outside in the garden it was T-shirt weather, though a chill could be felt from about 23h30m onwards..... The clouds then slowly gathered  from the North West.

 Clear Skies


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Dreaming of Barsoom's Clouds

June 4th 2014  - 21h 30m UT  - Schmidt C8 Celestron x220 - A:III

Outside observing tonight at 10h 20m BST. Still not quiet dark, plenty of fast moving clouds, though with enough gaps to have a decent look at Mars, Arcturus, the Moon and Jupiter.

Mars is now noticeably much smaller, though the north polar cap is still evident and bright.

A white misty patch in the seven oclock position..... I wonder if it's a dust cloud formation?.

"CLOUDS!  imagine that   :0) .... yes maybe its a cloud bank"  my mind started wandering at this point....BARSOOM !!!

Jupiter next ..... washed out and watery, hovering as it did over Gilberts' house.

There have been many times when the neighbouring roof tops have thrown my planetary viewing into turmoil, tonight was one of them. Poor old Jupiter had an attack of the wobbles.

This year I have managed my fair share of sketches of Jupiter, so I can't really complain about this evenings wobbly Jovian dance..

It's by now 11.30pm and a cool breeze whispers its arrival.... I need to grab a jumper and wooly hat! .......maybe it's time to pack up Schmidt, and head back into the warmth of the house.

Tonight I spent about an hour circling Arcturus, Mars and Jupiter...  the time flew by quickly ...though I did  spend a fair bit of that hour Dreaming of Barsoom..

Haiku time......

the clouds of Barsoom
high above the martian soil
glinting in sunlight.

Clear Skies


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Chasing Mercury's Rainbow

This evening I traveled down to Newgale, though I had to wait about half an hour for the clouds to clear off.

In that time  I had the car park to myself, not a soul around, only the gentle breaking of the waves to keep me company. The sea was calm, the darkening sky was mottled with slow moving dense black cloud, a perfect setting to contemplate the Cosmos.

Finally the clouds gave way to the denim sky.....I spotted  Mercury hanging ghost like way out to the North West, towards St David's.

I trained the Schmidt onto this tiny spot of light. My 20mm Erfle eyepiece revealed a small shivering mass of rainbow colours...  no phase was detected!  Time to try my luck with the 9mm Ortho.

The 9mm eyepiece revealed even prettier rainbow colours, red, yellow and a lovely greeny blue....but still no phase detected!

Really I was pushing my luck as the planet was very low down on the horizon, but given the low altitude I hadn't realised detecting the planet's phase would be so difficult.

The little Schmidt had tried it's best, but Mercury had other ideas. At one point I thought I detected a slightly gibbous phase, though I reckon this was wishful thinking on my part!

After about ten minutes of observing, the clouds were back....  time to pack away the telescope.

Even though tonight's session was cut short, it was well worth the effort to get out and about in the county.

Clear "rainbow" Skies


Thursday, 15 May 2014

A quick peep with Tal2

The sky last night was beautifully clear, so I decided to roll back the observatory roof and give Tal2 a bit of an airing.

Firstly Arcturus was spotted, the diffraction spikes around the star made for a mesmerising sight. I took a good long look at this most wonderful of stars.

My thoughts were so far away that I completely forgot about my initial target ..Mars!

Mars noticeably now has a slight case of the "shrinks", at least it does through the 9mm Orthoscopic eyepiece.

Surface detail was very low tonight on Barsoom.

It won't be long before my National Geographic Mars map is replaced with my Moon Map.

After a few more minutes of telescope observing I decided to close up the observatory, sit on the garden bench and take in the night sky without the help of visual aids.

All was quiet in the village, the streetlights had gone off, and the evening was mine to take in the starry night.

Perfect..  :0)

Clear Skies


Monday, 12 May 2014

Moon, Mars and Saturn through and above the trees

Tonight the Moon  was calling me, a big bright gibbous Moon, sitting above the treeline, along with Mars.... they were irresistible! 

Plus at the other end of the garden a brilliant shining Saturn was winking at me from amongst the naked ash trees.

Definitely time to drag out the Schmidt.

I set up outside the front door, the street lights had all gone out, and the neighbour's lights all switched off...perfect for a spot of observing.

The north polar cap of Mars stood out well, plus a few dark markings. There seemed to be a hint of south polar cap, though this was probably haze or cloud.

The Moon was gibbous and very bright, almost sunglasses bright as viewed through the 25mm Kellner eyepiece (x50).

I can highly recommend wearing sunglasses for telescopically observing the bright Moon, and cheaper than a moon filter!

Saturn looked amazing tonight (x220), through the gaps in the trees I could easily detect some surface banding, with a hint of colour (brownish to my eyes). The Cassini Division was noted, but not very distinct.

Tonight was one of the best nights this year for actual observing comfort. I was sitting outside in jeans and t-shirt,  I don't often get to say that from where I live...

Fingers crossed for the warmer months ahead.

Clear "Warm" Skies


Sunday, 11 May 2014

Mercurial Rainbow Dancing

Would I see Mercury tonight?

Helen and I made our way to Newgale, we arrived at about 10.00p.m.

After about five minutes of searching I spotted a tiny point of light over towards the North West that was without doubt the planet Mercury.

Out came the Schmidt telescope, and quickly to locate the planet I put in the20mm Erfle eyepiece (x100), followed by the higher magnifying 9mm Ortho eyepiece (x220).

What a lovely rainbow!!

Due to the low altitude of Mercury I wasn't able to see any hint of a planetary phase.

All I could see was a swirling mass of rainbow colours, plus a sea breeze was nudging the Schmidt slightly.

The result of the planets low altitude, plus the sea breeze left Mercury a dance of swirling colours.

At one point I thought I had caught a glimpse of the gibbous phase, but I reckon my brain was playing tricks.

Mercury is a difficult planet to view, maybe I'll have better luck in late October when it becomes a morning object.

Clear Skies


Sunday, 4 May 2014

Astronomy from Newgale

Observing Mercury from Newgale.

For some of the month of May I’m hoping to be observing Mercury from the middle car park on Newgale seafront.

This location should favour excellent viewing of Mercury as it moves through the phases from gibbous to crescent.

I’ll be there along with my telescope: weather permitting on the 15th, 20th, 25th and 30th of May.

If you’re interested in seeing Mercury on those evenings, look out for a silver Nissan Micra… 

Nearby I’ll have my telescope setup…. 

Might see you soon......

Clear Skies 
Mark..  :0)

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Hanging up my blogging hat..... but not completely.. :0)

As I'm no longer on the internet I will have to make up my blog posts as and when I can. Which means that all my posts for the foreseeable future will be sporadic.

In the mean time I'm hoping to post photos and comments via our mobile phone over on my Tumblr site. 

I always keep a log book of my observing sessions, and will put the highlights on the blog when I can.

Below is one such highlight from early last November:

Log Entry for November 2014.

Due to the abysmally wet weather these past few months my night time observing  had been severely cut down to a handful of lunar viewings, a handful of Messiers, a few sightings of Venus and several sketches of Jupiter.   

Since the beginning of November it has been slim pickings astronomy wise from here in Pembrokeshire.

So few have been the clear nights that one sticks out in my was the first week of November.....

The best night in November was the night of  the 7th..... I decided to concentrate on some Messier objects and put the Celestron through it’s paces.

Celestron C8 SCT
M57 was glorious, it shone brightly with averted vision. 

My 20mm Erfle eyepiece did a grand job of teasing out the photons.

M13 in Hercules was easy to locate in the finder scope and again the Erfle really showed a lot of detail, a beautiful sparkling globular.

I trained the finderscope onto nearby M92,  a vague hint of it could be detected. 

The Erfle revealed a beautiful sparkling globular, not as big as M13, but well worth spending  time observing.

M31 The Andromeda Galaxy was a magnificent sight high up above, near the top of the sky. 

Nearby companions NGC 205 (or M110 if you prefer, I prefer NGC 205..!)  and M32 were easy to locate. The last time I saw M32 that clearly I was peeping at it through a 6 inch refractor.

To test the seeing, and to give the Celestron a challenge  I trained it  towards Epsilon Lyrae, the double double. Both stars revealed their companions easily.

Albireo in nearby Cygnus delivered a striking Yellow primary with a lapis lazuli blue. I’m glad Albireo was on top form tonight, these past several months this most favourite of stars was noticeably washed out, until tonight I was blaming the lack of colour on my ageing eyes….! Thankfully tonight the clear skies restored faith in my eyesight.

Gamma Delphinus had to go and spoil it though by returning a lack lustre green and yellow, not the bright lemon and lime colours usually detected. I reckon the skyglow of  Milford Haven might be the culprit for lack of detail in this most beautiful of double stars.

At midnight I began turning my eye towards Jupiter who by now was well above the roof tops and some distance away from the blessed trees of my next door neighbour.

An old sketch from my first printed astronomy book.

By chance I witnessed the emergence of Europa from behind the gas giant, plus at the same time a transit of Ganymede was also in progress.

It was complete luck that I happened to witness Europa emerging from behind the gas giant.

The satellites of Jupiter are a source of constant fascination, though I do have some trouble teasing out the details in the belts. 

This I know is in a large part due to the seeing conditions from my location.

The Celestron performed really well, though the mirror image of the planet is a bit strange, though I will undoubtedly become accustomed to it!

That dance of  Europa and Ganymede was  a beautiful grande finale to the evenings viewing. 

November 7th 2013

Final thoughts for now....

Three Analogue Laptops

These past few months I have been fortunate enough to grab several good albeit quick views of the Great Red Spot. The Celestron shows up the redness of the Jovian storm really well.  

Plus I've been lucky enough to witness some beautiful lunar shadows cast by the crater rim of Plato.   

I could have spent ages looking at the creeping shadows of Plato, but alas the swift moving clouds of Pembrokeshire had other ideas that night.

Mars is once again upon us, I'm hoping to manage some sketches and fingers and toes are crossed for some clear skies over the next couple of months.

Mr Herschel's Telescope

It was only last night that I noticed that Mars is now brighter than Spica......  

It's time to dust down and polish  Tal2 and the Schmidt...!!!  :0)

I'm off to write on one of my "analogue laptops"....... 

Catch you on Tumblr soon.

Clear "Mars" Skies


Thursday, 23 January 2014

January 23rd 2014 "Jupiter in my sketch book...Mars on my mind".

Due to the terrible weather conditions these past few weeks I've only been able to grab a few moments of observing time. 

The blasted rain has stopped many a decent observation....!!!  Lets hope February, March and April are kinder. 

Fingers crossed for excellent Mars observing over the next couple of months.   :0)