All Our Lives Are Lived In Circles

Things heavenly move so fast, like a turning wheel. Why is Leo over my flats as I put the van away just? It only seems last week Orion wasn’t even that far west. And why wasn’t Orion here so long this year? (of course, he was, we just didn’t see him so often).
I’ve just got back from the observatory and the 16″ scope needs adjustment, or something. Using the barlow on my SLR and T mount I could get some shots, but the focus was rubbish. Neither of the large-mirror society telescopes I’ve used have performed anywhere near as good as my old 10″ Dob, or even my never 8″. I really should put that dob back together for the summer, with a ‘correct view’ finderscope and a red dot finder. That’d suit me.
Anyway, I was fed up with the large scope, but did get a bit of bino action in later, and saw the Ed Asich Star Field, (Draconis) and the double star Pherkad, one of the ‘Guardians of the Pole’. Cool! I get lots of fun from the Sky at Night Magazine Binocular Sky section.
And in other news, I did a talk at a school, (in the church of the school yet!), and I’ve got three lovely books on astronomy history, about Copernicus, Galileo and the Hershells.

The Heratige 100p Table-top Dob

I’ve made a wooden box for my 4″ table-top reflector. Partly made from new floorboards, |I’ve made it so the scope doesn’t get battered in the van, and It’ll also double as a table. I took it over Shropshire recently and it performed admirably. The globular clusters of M13, M92 and M3 all appeared bright and sharp, and alongside me Opticrom 10X50s, and exH01cellent ‘wide field’ evening was had, (Beehive, Bernice’s Hair, etc). Constellation wise, Hercules and Bootes made their first appearance of 2019 (to me, anyway).
Although I took my 8″ reflector to the Elan Valley last October, when I was in the actual Dark Sky site, I found the 4″ on a photography tripod a lot easier to H03use. Not least because it was so cold, at -4, that I didn’t relish setting up an equatorial mount.
I’m going to write up my observations of Sagittarius and Capricorn from that evening sometime, it really is a rare chance I get to look towards the galactic centre.


Looking towards Perseus in the Elan Valley October 2018


Recent observations (that I can remember)

While it’s all still in my head, a quick write-up of tonight’s observatory antics.
Riiiight. M42 & 43, obviously. But also M78 through the 16″. A faint emission nebula, two stars ‘inside’. Great stuff.
All through the 16″ mirror, the great open clusters of M35, M37 and M38. Steve, who turned up with his go-to, showed me the globular cluster M3 and I was all why haven’t I been looking at this more!. Through the 16″ it was stunningly bright. Superb! Found by ‘star hopping’ from Arcturus in Bootees. Over to the right, a smaller globular, M53, but still a very worthwhile sight.
I found M3 in the dob also, by the way. So I get to say I properly found that.
M1 (supernova remnant) in Taurus found, and it was surprisingly bright in the 16″.
I looked at M40 below Sirius, (the ‘Little Beehive’) with the go-to.
Leo was almost lost in the eastern Wolverhampton haze, but I still found the two elliptical galaxies, M65 and M66. Later, as it moved into darker skies toward the west, I tried to find more but the dew beat me.
The double cluster was stunning through the 16″.
I should write up the other stuff I’ve seen lately. I did an evening amongst Taurus’s open clusters at the observatory site with my 8″ reflector in mid Feb, and it was great fun. Chalk up NGC , 1647, NGC 1746, and the fantastic ‘Poor Man’s Double Cluster’, NGC 1817 and 1817. It really does look like a malnourished version of Perseus’ showpiece.
The same evening I perambulated Canis Major, and more delightful NGC open clusters (2362, 2354), and the lovely Messier open clusters M46 and M47. Both distinctly different.
The most detailed star map I’ve found on Cassiopeia is in the ‘on-line download’ section of the Sky at Night magazine, as part of their deep-sky tour series. I’ve printed and laminated their map of the western area, and I spend a couple of hours with the 16″ enjoying the open and often sparse clusters in the imagined triangle between the double cluster and the first two stars of the ‘W’.
Here’s the tick-list.
Trumpler 1
NGC 654
NGC 663
NGC 659
All clusters, and some of them a lot more ‘wow’ than M103, which makes me wonder what was going on with the M numbers, (in the same way the double cluster has no M number but the Pleiades do!).
But you can’t argue with the M numbers. Especially if you’ve just bought a £28 book.
Phew! I still need to write up the binocular and 4″ mirror observations I made in the Elan Valley in October. Hmm.

Time to update…

The site’s domain is up in a few days, so it looks like I’ve either got to start putting stuff up here, or let it go. So I’m going to make a concentrated effort to update. I’ve done some smashing observations lately, through my own 8″ and the society’s 16″. But first, I’ll put up the current map-found and observed Messier list, (below). There’s still a good many to find.
In fact, I’ve been to a new astronomy show today, in Kettering, and it was a smasher. Quite crowded, due I suppose to it being free, and only on for one day. I’ll put some photos up later. But check this out . . .

MessierMy lovely new Cambridge Press Messier Objects book. I bought a Cambridge Press Messier Objects book in the early 90’s, (there’s a picture on here somewhere), and it’s one of my favourite astro books ever. So this new volume, well, I just couldn’t resist. I’ve had my nose in it a few hours, and it’s encouraged me to re-double my hunt, and become much more methodical.
And as for the blog, in the next few days I hope to put up some recent observations of open clusters in Taurus, Canis Major and Cassiopeia, and my Elan Valley dark sky photos from .. gulp! .. October last year. I also need to put up some news of the observatory.
But first, the current Messier list.

M1 Supernova Remnant in Taurus (Crab Nebula) (A)
M2 Globular Cluster in Aquarius (A)
M3 Globular Cluster in Canes Venatici 2018
M5 Globular Cluster in Serpens
M8 Diffuse Nebula in Sagittarius
M10 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus
M12 Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus
M13 Globular Cluster in Hercules (‘the ‘Great Cluster’)
M16 Open Cluster in Sagittarius
M20 Nebula in Sagitta (Triffid)
M22 Globular Cluster in Saggitarius 2018
M24 ‘Star Field’ in Sagittarius
M27 Dumbell Nebula in Vupecula
M31 Galaxy (Andromeda Galaxy)
M32 Galaxy (Andromeda ‘companion’)
M33 Spiral Galaxy in Triangulum
M34 Cluster in Perseus
M35 Open Cluster in Gemini
M36 Cluster Auriga
M37 Cluster Auriga
M38 Cluster Auriga
M39 Open Star field in Cygnus
M41 Open Cluster in Canes Major
M42 Orion Nebula
M43 Nebula in Orion
M44 Beehive Cluster
M45 Pleiades Open Cluster
M 46 Open Cluster in Puppis 2019
M47 Open Cluster Puppis 2018
M 51 Galaxy in Canes Venatici (Whirlpool)
M52 Open Cluster in Cassiopeia
M54 Globular Cluster in Coma Berenices 2018
M56 Globular Cluster in Lyra (A)
M57 Ring Nebula Lyra
M63 Galaxy in Coma Berenecis (Blackeye) (A)
M64 Galaxy in Coma Berenicis (A)
M65 Galaxy in Leo
M66 Galaxy in Leo
M67 Open Cluster Cancer
M76 Planetary nebula in Perseus (Little Dumbell)
M78 Planetary Nebula in Orion 2019
M81 Galaxy in Ursa Major (Bode’s)
M82 Galaxy in Ursa Major
M84 Galaxy in Virgo 2018
M86 Galaxy in Virgo 2018
M92 Globular Cluster Hercules
M95 Galaxy in Leo
M96 Galaxy in Leo
M103 Cluster in Cassiopeia
M104 Galaxy in Virgo 2018
M106 Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici (A)
M108 Barred Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major (A)
M109 Galaxy in Ursa Major (A)

I need guidance!

I really need to start taking my photography seriously now. The observatory is up and running, and there’s nothing to stop me from getting some guided mounts. Hell, I even know a guy that’s got some. I’ll see him tomorrow and try and arrange a meet up for a beer and a chat.
I’ve got some very unimpressive photos of M42 and the Andromeda Galaxy, (below) and they’re as good as I’ll ever get unless I get the camera on a guided mount.
It’s 2019 – the game’s afoot! I see spiral arms in my future!
And star trails will be no more!


Comet 46P/Wirtanen

A short piece I did for my local society’s newsletter.

46P/Wirtanen is a small short-period comet with a current orbital period of 5.4 years. It was discovered on January 17, 1948, by the American astronomer Carl Wirtanen, and expectations were high for the comet’s 2018 visit.

Many astronomers hoped for naked eye brightness reminiscent of 1997’s Hale Bopp, (which I remember seeing easily over the Albert Memorial from Queens Square, Wolverhampton. Hard to believe that was over twenty years ago!). Unfortunately, comet 46P/Wirtanen appeared fainter than hoped. At its closest approach, on the16th December 2018, it was only visible in binoculars from semi-rural sites. But even so, it gave amateur astronomers a fantastic, rare chance to study a comet.

With the new society observatory still being finely tuned, (and hopefully open to members to visit in January 2019), we’ve temporarily installed my 8” Skywatcher Reflector in the dome, and it was through this that I tracked the comet in the early hours on Monday 17th December. I took some very basic shots, with my Canon 750 DSLR attached directly to the scope with a T-mount.

The photos show the comet moving N N/W over a period of one hour twenty minutes. The comet was approx 11,580,000km away when I took these shots (only one second exposure time).

When you spend an evening observing, very few telescopic objects change in real time. Jupiter’s moons can change, and very often you see one disappear, or reappear from behind the disc. I’ve also seen lunar shadows creep across flat areas near mountainous regions near the terminator of the moon, and there’s oculations and eclipses, but even so, it’s rare to see something move in real time, astronomically.So it was a real treat to map, watch and image the comet’s path among the stars of Taurus on that Monday morning.
The comet will also be in the skies through January 2019.

Comet Wirtanen 16/17th Dec - 1
Comet Wirtanen 16/17th Dec – 1
Comet Wirtanen 16/17th Dec - 2
Comet Wirtanen 16/17th Dec – 2
Comet Wirtanen 16/17th Dec - 3
Comet Wirtanen 16/17th Dec – 3