More recent observations.

I’m beginning to the Sagittarius is one of my favourite constellations. From my vantage point near Boscabel House, I’m able to get a fine view of it. There’s a great map of the area in the July 2018 Sky At Night magazine, (already out of date, Saturn has, I’ve noticed, has moved to the right of where it’s indicated in that map).
Tonight’s deep space targets were the globular cluster M22, the Lagoon Nebula (M8) and the star cloud M24. These are easily found with the 10×50 Opticrom bins, but the Lagoon Nebula needs a scope to see the nebulosity well. The little 4″ Heritage performed admirably with a 20mm wide-field eyepiece. It really is a pretty star cluster with emission nebula.
Whilst I had the 4″ on the van bonnet (true ‘grab and go’ astronomy!), I looked for the Dumbbell Nebula (M27) and it was easily found. Cygnus is right overhead now, and the 15 minute drive out away from the city lights was well worth it, I could see the Milky Way easily by 11pm.
I’m really getting on well with the red dot finder on the 4″. I easily found the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and the more difficult Bode’s Galaxy and it’s companion, in Ursa Major (M81 & M82). With its small focal length, it’s really low on ‘magnification’ with a 20mm eyepiece, but it’s obviously got the light gathering capacity to grab fainter objects, (the Opticrom binoculars couldn’t find Bode’s Galaxy tonight).
The Opticroms did find the two great globular clusters of M13 and M92 though.
The Moon was setting about 35% lit, waxing, with Jupiter to its left. I arrived too late to get a photo, but I do have a picture of Saturn taken earlier this week that’s better than my previous effort. Though I’m beginning to realise that proper astrophotography might take more commitment than I’m giving it.


The dust storm on Mars has cleared a little, and even through my clumsy DSLR/telescope combination, I can make out markings on the planet’s disc.

Mars2I’m hoping the next entry will have some news on the observatory project. I’ve got some time off in the next two weeks, but the moon will be full in a week or so, so deep sky stuff might be off the menu. But when the winter’s here, I’m holding out great hopes for some hard-core observing through a 16″ mirror.

Martian dust-storms

I met up with the Wolverhampton astronomers last night in the hopes of seeing the lunar eclipse, but no luck, we were clouded out (again). But it was at least a very pleasant evening, chatting about ‘scopes and stars and getting excited about the new observatory project.
But never mind, there’s been a great run of clear skies whilst the UK has been having a heat wave. I spent a few days in Somerset and saw a fantastic sunset from Glastonbury Tor. A sunset, is astronomy, y’know.

G22And so to Mars. I was so set on getting a decent Mars photo that I set the 8″ scope up by the side of the road, and got a quite disappointing image, showing a large disc, but no markings on the planet at all!

I felt better after visiting the Stargazer’s Lounge Planetary Imaging forum, (which usually makes me want to hang up my telescope), where they’re moaning about a great dust-storm on Mars, obliterating most surface features. So there’s hope yet of capturing some detail. I’d even be happy with a sketch, (I’ve got some good sketches from a previous close encounter with Mars in the early 90’s).
I also took some film of Saturn, which is playing see-saw with Jupiter at the moment. At 11pm Jupiter is highest, then, a couple of hours later, Saturn is higher.

As mentioned previously, with Saturn in Sagittarius it makes an excellent signpost for finding deep space objects. M23, M25 and M28 were ticked off, and M10 and M12 in Ophiuchus were also noticeably brighter than a few months ago from the same vantage point, when the constellation was lower and lost in the red haze of the Wolverhampton city lights. It’s a fantastic area of the sky, and one I hope to re-visit under darker skies soon.
And lastly, a Moon shot through the 4″ Heritage, from around ten days ago.


Saturn and Sagittarius

Saturn is in Sagittarius now, and a wonderful sight it is. It’s a great time for planets, with Mars, Saturn and Jupiter in the sky towards the south/southwest. I’m hoping to get an image of Mars later tonight. But first, a few things from an observing session earlier this week.
Sagittarius has more Messier objects than any other, fifteen according to my Universe From Your backyard book. I took my new 52mm Canon lens out to Boscabel House and managed to capture a few Sagittarius deep-sky objects with an 8 second exposure. It’s a fantastic constellation to do a binocular sweep on, and I also saw M11, the Wild Duck Cluster. Naughtily, I didn’t make notes, so, clear skies permitting, I’ll re-visit them tonight. I also used the 4″ Heritage on M8, M20 and M11 and had fine views of all of them. I’m pretty sure I haven’t studied M8 before, and certainly not in recent years.


Before leaving Sagittarius, here’s a more natural-looking picture of Saturn from almost a month ago, from the same spot.

Despite not having astronomical darkness, I also tried some long exposure shots of the area around Deneb, in Cygnus. On this quite badly-coloured shot, I can make out the North American Nebula.

And lastly, M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. How sad to think that under a truly dark sky, this isn’t far away from what you’d see with the naked eye. This took an eight second exposure.


Planets and open clusters

We’ve had a great run of clear skies. The night doesn’t get truly dark till after midnight, so I’ve not been arranging observing sessions for the club. I did take my Skywatcher out for a rare ‘roadside session’ the other night, because I particularly wanted to image Saturn. I took a minute film and did the usual Pipp/Autostakkert/Registrax thing, though I’m still not convinced I’m using the things right. But I got an identifiable shot, that is better than what I’ve got before of this planet. I think it’s a little over-sharpened.

The planets are putting on a fine display at the moment. Venus the brightest in the West, dipping below the horizon about 11.40. Jupiter is quite high, with Saturn to the left, lower, dimmer, and Mars to the left of Saturn, rising around idnight, very bright and red (though I didn’t capture the ruddiness in my shot from Pattingham below).


The photo of Saturn above was taken on the 23rd June, as was this photo of Jupiter.

Last night I was out again, and once again hooray for the table-top dob. That little 4″ reflector is really so much fun. Through my 9mm eyepiece I can easily see the cloud-bands of Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn. And last night I took in a lovey view of M39, an open cluster in Cygnus. The sky was full of summer haze even in the countryside, but still I managed some deep-sky work. Hercules was overhead, and the great cluster of M13 was surprisingly bright. Back in the early 90’s, I used a 4.5″ mirror a lot, and I’ve forgotten just how useful a small mirror can be.
The Wolverhampton Society has been really busy lately, I’m really pleased. Last month we had a trip to the Spaceguard Center in Knigton, and there’s an observatory project in the pipeline that’s very exciting indeed. I’ll post more about that later, but in the meantime here’s us at the Spaceguard Center, and here’s the observatory, on its way to Wolverhampton.






Summer Solstice Observations

There’s a lot been happening lately with the Astronomical Society. I’ll write that up in a separate entry. It’s quite exciting.
Last night I was able to go to Perton Library Astronomy Group. They’ve got an outside area where telescopes can be set up. It finishes at 9pm, so it didn’t get dark, but we were still able to get some good views of the Sun, Moon, and Venus.

The Moon in particular was fun to map out. I’d got my old Phillips Moon Map with me. Later, back home, I was able to get a photo of one valley that we were particularly interested in. More on that later. Here’s the Southern Highlands around 10.30pm…

There’s always something quite serene about a daytime moon. It’s far less dramatic than the night-time Moon.

Venus is showing about 60% lumination (is that the right word?) now. I’m finding I need glasses to fine-focus on the camera these days, and I forgot them last night, so I suspect I’d have gotten a better shot if I’d got them with me in Perton. But at least the gibbous Moon-like disc of our nearest neighbour can be made out.

Back home, I set the 8″ scope up to get some images of Jupiter, which is relatively high at 11pm now. While I was waiting for it to appear from behind a tree, I saw Vega over the city, and as an experiment, tried to find the Ring Nebula. I was surprised to see it, and was even able to make out the familiar doughnut structure of the gas ‘bubble’. I wondered what difference a light polluting filter would make?
The sky is so bad in Wolverhampton, that I could hardly see Albireo in Cygnus with the naked eye. What a shame. Nevertheless, with a high ISO and a half-second exposure I was able to image the stunning double, and the colours are apparent in the photograph, so I’m pleased.

From Wikki…
Beta Cygni is about 415 light-years (127 pc) away from the Sun. When viewed with the naked eye, Albireo appears to be a single star. However, in a telescope it resolves into a double star consisting of β Cygni A (amber, apparent magnitude 3.1), and β Cygni B (blue-green, apparent magnitude 5.1).[32] Separated by 35 seconds of arc,[17] the two components provide one of the best contrasting double stars in the sky due to their different colors.

And lastly, Jupiter. The seeing was not very good last night, and the planet being above a block of flats too, made it a rather poor object for photography, and I’m still using the software like an idiot, but the red spot (looking disappointingly grey) was facing the Earth. This was 11pm last night. A minute if film steadied in Pipp, stacked with  Autostakkert, and tweaked clumsily in Registrax. I’ve got a copy of Photoshop now, so I really should be capturing in RAW and doing proper tweaking.


Earthshine, Venus and Jupiter

Had a good astro-evening last night. Visited Perton Library Astronomy group, then headed out to Boscabel House ‘observing site’ (such as it is!) and got a shot of the Moon and Venus, which I’m pleased with. 1600 ASA, 1sec, f2.8.


Through the Heritage 100p, with my 9mm eyepiece, I was very pleased with the views of Jupiter too. The cloud bands were easily seen, and once again I was surprised by the capabilities of this £99 telescope. This next picture, however, was taken on the 9th May, with the 8″ mirror on the Skywatcher.


And lastly, the crescent Moon through the 100p. I’ve got more to write up later when I’ve got time, about M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici….