Sunday, 31 July 2016

Perseids.. just around the corner..

It's that time of year again.....the Perseids are back..! 

Every August the deck chairs are dragged out of the shed, and the chai tea is prepared.

Then, for the next few weeks the Perseid meteor shower will be much on my mind.

This annual celestial fireworks display is probably one of my favourite naked eye astronomical events.

The peak of this year's event will be on the evening of the 11th into the early hours of the 12th.

Which for me means pulling an all night observing session through until early day break.

With any luck the skies will be clear, and I will be completely knackered from my all night vigil...!

The Perseid shower is one of the best meteor showers to observe. Many people are on holiday at this time of year, so  staying up all night is less of a problem.

Plus the weather is usually warmer, meaning we can all sit outside for longer periods of time.

Though you will usually still need some warm clothing at hand for observations between midnight and Sun up the next day..

Capturing the Perseids

28mm -  f3,5 - 1600ISO - 45 seconds

Above is the one and only Perseid picture I have ever captured.

This image was taken with a digital SLR camera, with around 45 seconds of exposure.

The trouble I find with digital SLR cameras is that the shutter staying open for long periods of time is dependant on the condition of the battery. I don't trust the battery to perform for the long exposures that I require.

Plus, leaving a camera out all evening might allow night dew to find its way into the camera body.

The last thing an electronic digital camera wants is water ingress across its circuits!

Zenit 12xp "Battered" 35mm SLR
This year to avoid that possible headache I'm going to set up my old battered mechanical "no battery required" Russian Zenit 35mm film camera.

If need be I can leave the Zenit shutter open all evening without a problem.

Those Russian cameras are built like tanks.

Leaving a £500 digital camera out overnight on a tripod is not something I would happily try.

But leaving a £1  Zenit "tank" outside overnight is not a problem....!

With any luck over the coming month, I will capture several "long exposure" meteor trails.

Also I have never tried capturing meteors with good old fashioned 35mm film...

I'm looking forward to the results.

Final thoughts:

Even though it will be fun to capture the Perseids, I don't aim to be spending that much time fussing and fiddling with cameras, tripods and film.

For me the enjoyment of meteor watching is simple.

Grab yourself a good deckchair, failing that a decent dry grassy spot and sit back and ponder the Universe.

For many of us, our daily lives are saturated with stress and fear.

We all need quiet moments to recharge and reflect.

These warm August "Meteor" nights allow us that time to recharge, reflect and dream.

Vincent Van Gogh had it right when he said-

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. Vincent Van Gogh
Read more at:
For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. Vincent Van Gogh
Read more at:
“I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream".

Fingers crossed for some Perseid fireworks

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Two Sun Dogs in the sky.

Whilst driving home last night, Helen noticed a familiar, but not often seen sight in the sky....
.... a Sun dog.!

These subtle patches of brightness can appear at anytime of year, though usually in Pembrokeshire, January, July and August seem to be the times that I have mostly noticed them.

The sun dogs are produced by a dance between sunlight and ice crystals in the atmosphere.

Those ice crystals act like prisms and re-scatter the sunlight into the colourful light show you can see in the above photograph.

Usually I only ever see the one sun dog, but opposite and equidistant, if you are lucky, you will find another one.

I have spotted a single sun dog on several occasions, but yesterday seeing both together was amazing.

We have Sun dogs, noctilucent clouds, rainbows, Sunsets, Sunrises, Moonrises and Moonsets, plus countless other day and night time naked eye wonders.

It just goes to show that you don't always need telescopes to enjoy the heavens above.

Clear Skies


Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The ghosts of everyday clouds.

I was having a wonderful dream this morning.... and then.... BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!BEEP! BEEP!

Somewhere in the village a car alarm was singing!  The sound was a cross between hyperactive cicadas and a flying saucer attempting to land in a nearby garden!

Here's a recording of this morning's cicada driven spaceship...!

It was about 4.00 am the birds weren't even awake...  I got up and double checked that it wasn't our car making that lovely noise.

Looking out of the north window I was greeted by a beautiful display of Noctilucent Clouds....

All thoughts of the annoying car alarm quickly disappeared.

I haven't seen a display of NLC since July of 2009.

Here are a couple of the pictures I captured that evening.

Can't believe its been seven years since I last spotted the "night clouds".

July 2009
July 2009

After about ten minutes the BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! stopped..!

Simpson Cross was again plunged into a wonderful July morning twilight.
Silence PLUS no street lights...PERFECT.

I simply leaned on the windowsill, and bathed myself in this most glorious of mornings.

July 19th 2016 - 04h06m BST

Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds in the sky, occurring some 50 miles up in the Earth's atmosphere.

The word noctilucent is derived from the Latin "night shining" and night shine is exactly what they do.

This morning's display had an ethereal wispy glow, its trailing silvered beauty traversed a large chunk of the northern horizon.

If clouds were ever alive, then the noctilucent clouds could be described as the ghosts of deceased clouds.

I may not get to use the telescope much at this time of year, but when you have such beauty as the ghost clouds to keep you company a telescope is not needed.

Clear Noctilucent skies


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Time for tea and cake.

The Teapot: July 2006 : View from nr Wolfscastle

It's that time of year when the teapot comes around.

The teapot is an asterism found in the constellation of Sagittarius.

It contains many interesting objects, so many infact that I will be re-studying the teapot for several weeks to come. 

Tonight I'm hoping to catch a few of the Messier objects that are scattered in and around the teapot.

Screen Shot : Stellarium
If I stay at home tonight, my only real chance of seeing the teapot will be at around 23.45 BST.

As you can see from the screenshot the asterism fits pretty much within the confines of the trees at the end of the garden...   Those trees are a real pain for extended observing of southerly objects...

I really now need to go mobile...!

Talking of mobile astronomy, does anyone fancy doing some stargazing evenings around the county of Pembrokeshire?

I cannot do any mobile observing for the next few weeks, I'm still recovering from shingles and painful abdomen muscles..!

A fortnight ago I nearly gave my self a hernia....!

Thankfully all is OK again, but no way am I lifting anything heavy for the next few weeks.

OK enough moaning ..... here are some "Teapot" Messier objects to see this evening:

That list should keep me busy for awhile...

All this talk of tea has made me thirsty... time for some Earl Grey... and definitely time for cake..!

Clear Skies

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Waiting for the sky to clear.

Waiting for the sky to clear...

These past couple of weeks have been terrible for viewing here in south Pembrokeshire. 

There has been almost constant cloud cover on practically every night for the last fortnight.  

I haven't been able to make observations with the big Dobsonian since June 8th. 

Though, due to some strained abdomen muscles, followed by shingles I reckon I wouldn't have been able to observe, even if the weather had been kind..!! 

Over the next week I hope to at least observe Saturn, which will be near due south at around 11.00pm for the next week...

Thanks to the nearby ash trees 11.00pm is perfect for Saturn watching in our garden....  

View southwards from our garden. photo: Stellarium

The above photo is a screen shot from the excellent Stellarium astronomy program.

It just happens that the "trees" template in that program looks exactly like the south side of our garden...

At this time of year the gap in our southerly tree line allows maybe half an hour of planetary observing.

As you can see I have to time my southerly observing  precisely...!

Maybe I should try my hand at mobile astronomy.

Clear skies