Friday, 4 August 2017

Nearby.. a lone dog howls..

The Full Mackerel Moon will be upon us on Monday,  nearby I can hear a dog practicing its lunar howling!

Up above, the slow moving clouds give way for generous views of the almost full fat gibbous Moon.

Out came the tiny Jason refractor, and with the help of my ancient Samsung S2 android phone I  captured a couple of lunar images.

I also made a sketch of crater Shickard, it being the most prominent feature along tonight's lunar terminator.

Over the last two lunations I have only been able to spot the waxing Moon about three nights out of a possible 28..!

I'm hoping this pattern will soon break.

Looking forward to some more lunar sketching in the near future.

Return of the Pleiades

Tonight I am reminded of the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks this year on the 12th of the month.

The Moon is badly placed for this years Perseids, but it is always worthwhile venturing out to have a look. With any luck I'll be out there on the 12th, an hour each side of midnight.

The Moon may wash out a lot of the action, but it will be interesting to see what does show up.

No doubt I'll be sitting in a deck chair or lying on the lawn till the early hours making wishes..

Usually whilst out looking for Perseid meteors the familiar shape of the Pleiades can be seen way off to the east.. a gentle reminder to prepare telescopes for the darker nights.

Clear Skies

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Last night's Moon

Last night was the first time for a week that I've been able to drag the telescopes outside.

With a magnification of x50 and a bit of juggling with my simple digicam, I managed to capture a few lunar images.

June 2nd 2017 - 21h30m UT
Other celestial objects of interest included:  (with 300mm/f5 Newtonian)

Jupiter - various zones stood out, but no real definition or sharpness. I noted that the South Polar region is rather darker than the North Polar region, at the moment.

With the 80a filter in place the planet returned a much more pleasing image.

Arcturus in Bootes was shining in all its glory, whilst just below Arturus the asterism "Napolean's Hat" could clearly be made out at x50 magnification.

Peeping around the corner of the house was the constellation of Hercules, the obvious target of globular M13 was easily found at x50.

Though the contrast of M13 was somewhat diminished, maybe due to the gibbous Moon scattering that extra Moon glow.

Failed to find M51...  Standing with a twisted neck, whilst balancing tiptoe over the garlic plants in the garden probably didn't help!   Better luck next time..

Spotted the double stars Izar and Cor Coroli, plus a quick glimpse of Antares.

Spent a good two hours outside, the time flew....

After packing away the big Newtonian, I grabbed the 60mm refractor and had a quick peek and Saturn, which by midnight had risen over several houses at the end of the drive...

Despite a seeing of AIII it was still worthwhile dragging out the big Newtonian, especially for viewing the Moon. 

Thanks to the 12 inch mirror I noted that the "ink black" shadows of the Spitzbergen Mountains really stood out more than I've ever seen them before.

I'll have to make a sketch of my findings.

Can't wait to see what Saturday evening might have in store......

Clear Skies everyone.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Cat and the Moon.

Theophilus chain - 300mm Newtonian.

The rain and wind tonight put pay to any chance of observing the heavens.

Never mind....more time to catch up on some poetry.

Here's a favourite poem of mine by W.B Yeats, plus a sketch of a few craters from a recent observation.

by: W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)
      The cat went here and there
      And the moon spun round like a top,
      And the nearest kin of the moon,
      The creeping cat, looked up.
      Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
      For, wander and wail as he would,
      The pure cold light in the sky
      Troubled his animal blood.
      Minnaloushe runs in the grass
      Lifting his delicate feet.
      Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?
      When two close kindred meet,
      What better than call a dance?
      Maybe the moon may learn,
      Tired of that courtly fashion,
      A new dance turn.
      Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
      From moonlit place to place,
      The sacred moon overhead
      Has taken a new phase.
      Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils
      Will pass from change to change,
      And that from round to crescent,
      From crescent to round they range?
      Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
      Alone, important and wise,
      And lifts to the changing moon
      His changing eyes. 
      Fingers crossed for some clear skies soon.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Great Red Spot

In awe, I watched the waxing moon ride across the zenith of the heavens like an ambered chariot towards the ebony void of infinite space wherein the tethered belts of Jupiter and Mars hang, for ever festooned in their orbital majesty. And as I looked at all this I thought... I must put a roof on this toilet. Les Dawson
Read more at:

In awe, I watched the waxing moon ride across the zenith of the heavens like an ambered chariot towards the ebony void of infinite space wherein the tethered belts of Jupiter and Mars hang, for ever festooned in their orbital majesty. And as I looked at all this I thought... I must put a roof on this toilet. Les Dawson
Read more at:
In awe, I watched the waxing moon ride across the zenith of the heavens like an ambered chariot towards the ebony void of infinite space wherein the tethered belts of Jupiter and Mars hang, for ever festooned in their orbital majesty. And as I looked at all this I thought... I must put a roof on this toilet. Les Dawson
Read more at:
The gibbous Moon was big and bright tonight, but my target for the evening was parked just under it, that being Jupiter.

For some days now I have wanted to capture the Great Red Spot,  tonight was the perfect opportunity to do so.

At x166 magnification the Great Red Spot stood out easily.

It seems to be much more of an orange colour these days, plus it looks slightly bigger than last year.

The seeing was terrible tonight, so I had to make do with just the two major equatorial belts and the impressive as always GRS.

No festoons or barges for me this evening.!

Hopefully the view will improve over the next couple weeks.

Clear Jovian skies

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The cry of the Cuckoo.

Jason looks to the Moon - 2016
Tonight I was out observing with the little "Jason" 60mm/f15 refractor. It's a lovely scope for a quick peep at the heavens, or in my case this evening specifically the bright gibbous Moon.

Whilst observing Clavius on the terminator, somewhere on the outskirts of our village I could clearly hear the cry of a cuckoo.

Since our move to Crymych this was the first cuckoo that I have heard from our back garden.

With the bright Moon above and the cry of the cuckoo,  I was reminded of the poet Basho. 

Moonlight slanting by Matsuo Basho
Moonlight slanting
through the bamboo grove;
a cuckoo crying.

Sketching the Moon craters. 

Here's a further sketch from last Monday's Beltane evening lunar observations.

01/05/17 - 300mm/f5 reflector "Oscar"

It was beautiful outside tonight, not a cloud to be seen. Lets hope it's the first of many this year.

Clear Skies everyone.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Beltane Moon

 “Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows, by itself.”   Bashō Matsuo

Oscar & Mark

From the darkening Mayday sky the Beltane Moon was calling.

Helen and I dragged out "Oscar" the beast of telescopes, our 12 inch reflector.

The Theophilus chain (Theophilus, Cyrillus, Catharina) stood out well tonight, highlighted beautifully along the terminator.

After taking a few more photographs I sketched the three craters using Conte pencil and Ink.

01/05/2017 - A:III 300mm/f5 Newtonian

The five day old Moon
Shows south Theophilus chain 
three beautiful pearls

Helen Lee

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Sketching the Grass Moon pt.2

From the "Atlas of the Moon" by Vincent De Callatay.

For the past week it has been raining cats and dogs here in Pembrokeshire. There has been little chance of catching any Moonlight.

Though last Sunday evening the sky was clear, and I caught a quick peep at dear old Selene.

I didn't feel like sketching that night, so I simply enjoyed the view.

So with one night in seven observable I wonder how the next week will fair.

Here are a few more objects to look for in the week ahead:

Moon 8 day - 05/4/17
Plato, Archimedes and Tycho.

Moon 9 day - 06/4/17
Clavius, Frau Mauro and Copernicus.

Moon 10 day - 07/4/17
Lansberg, Sinus Iridum and Hainzel.

Moon 11 day - 08/4/17
Aristarchus, Gassendi and Kepler.

Moon 12 day - 09/4/17
Wargentin, Rumker and Marius.

Moon 13 day - 10/4/17
Eddington, Grimaldi and Pythagoras.

Hopefully we will have better luck this week.

Clear Lunar Skies

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Sketching the Grass Moon pt.1

An old sketch of Plato from January 9th 2014

With any luck, over the next fortnight I will be making several sketches of the waxing April Moon.

Or to give it some of its other names:  Hare Moon, Grass Moon, Egg Moon, Pink Moon,  Seed Moon, Frog Moon, Awakening Moon.

60mm/f15 refractor

I like the idea of the April "Grass" Moon, our garden lawn is just coming back to life after the winter break.

I've made a list of a few lunar objects for each night up to and including the Full Moon.

This month I'm going to concentrate on observing with the 60mm/f15 refractor.

So with small refractor, pencil and sketch pad I will be on the look out for the following:

Old sketch from 2006 - 50mm refractor
Moon 2 day - 30/3/17
Langrenus, Furnerius and Messala.

Moon 3 day - 31/3/17
Mare Crisium, Cleomedes and Geminus.

Moon 4 day - 01/4/17
Atlas, Hercules and Taruntius.

Moon 5 day - 02/4/17
Gartner, Fractastorius and Charcornac.

Moon 6 day - 03/4/17
Meton, Lamont and Maurolycus.

Moon 7 day - 04/4/17
Abenezra, Montes Caucasus and Licetus. 

This small list will keep me busy for the first week and no doubt a few other lunar lovelies will be added as I go along.

I've kept each evenings target list to a minimum of three objects, therefore allowing me more time to sketch and ponder.

Next week I will make up a further list of lunar targets to find between April the 5th and 12th.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

When the wind blows.

VENUS - February 26th 2017 - 18h 15m UT- Jason 60mm/f15 O.G.

This chilly February evening still gripped by the days north wind didn't at first inspire confidence of an observation of Venus.

But as the sky darkened and the many clouds turned to black, Venus in solitude shining brightly in the west silenced my wintry complaints.

The Jason (60mm/f15) refractor was close to hand and within minutes was in the back garden, partially protected by hedge and shed wall.

Tonight would allow a test of my new "plastic" Huygens eyepieces.

Three oculars in all, a 20mm, 12.5mm and 4mm.

I had no idea how well they would work on such a bright object as Venus.

Being that all three are about the cheapest eyepieces you could buy I didn't have high expectations.

The 20mm and 12.5mm eyepieces returned lovely sharp views of the planet, with no false colour noted.

Next was the real test, the 4mm! Again a surprise, no false colour, no sparkly rainbow effects, just simply an enlarged sharp image of the waning crescent Venus.

To begin with I was dubious that any of the three eyepieces would deliver a clear image, probably the colour correction was helped by the focal length of Jason, being an f15 scope it is very forgiving of cheap eyepieces.

If I had used a telescope of f5 focal length I would probably have seen a lovely rainbow and fireworks display, I will have to try out these eyepieces on my f5 reflector one day soon.

After making a quick sketch of Venus it was time to pack up.

The north wind and the ever multiplying clouds told me to clear off and go back to the warmth of our kitchen..!

I was more than happy to oblige.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Venus and the Beehive.

It was cold 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.