Tuesday, 29 June 2010

An evening with the 'new' Society C8

This is the 'new' Cotswold AS C8 - kindly donated to the Society.

I had it out on 25th June - it was a clear night, but so near the solstice the sky was quite bright. I mainly wanted to try to collimate the scope so went out as dusk commenced. Venus was bright, setting in the west.

Collimation of a Schmidt Cassegrain is done by three adjusting screws at the front of the scope that tilt the secondary which is mounted in the middle of the corrector. With a medium power eyepiece the airy disk was easy to see, but adjusting the screws needs a bit of patience and persistence. I was getting close, but probably need to spend a while longer, but it was acceptable.

So quite respectable views of Venus and Saturn with Titan nearby. I then went onto Lyra to collimate on Vega a bit more, and then viewed Epsilon Lyrae - the double double.

I was not sure if I would be able to locate it with the still bright sky (full Moon tonight too), but I thought I would try for the Ring Nebula, M57 - actually it was quite easy to locate and see, but there are better views to be had.

To round things off, a stop over at Albireo, one of my favourite doubles, with a tremendous colour contrast between the bright blue and yellow stars.

So a big asset for the Society... gratefully received.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

C/2009R1 - at last !

Well last night managed to get my first real view of this comet. The northern sky was pretty grotty really, but managed to spot it in Perseus with 10x50 binoculars without too much trouble.

Tried to image it widefield with the Canon 300D and 50mm lens. First few images were good, but must have knocked the lens as the focus was way off on the 7th onwards. Grrrrrr...

Here is a combined stack of 6x8s at f/2 and iso 1600. Processed in IRIS, with synthetic background gradient removal. Not too harse, as you can see. Hopefully the pic looks fairly natural.

Notice the tail is about 1.25 degrees long, and there is a hint of a second tail too.

Just for the record - taken on 2010 June 16 at 00:50UT.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

C/2009 R1 (McNaught)

Created the Stellarium elements for C/2009 R1 - hoping to see it soon..

Here they are - just add to your Stellarium ssystem.ini file.

name = C/2009R1 (McNaught)
parent = Sun
coord_func = comet_orbit
radius = 1000
oblateness = 0
albedo = 0.8
lighting = TRUE
halo = TRUE
color = 1.0,1.0,1.0
tex_halo = star16x16.png
tex_map = deimos.png
orbit_TimeAtPericenter = 2455380.177
orbit_PericenterDistance = 0.405028736
orbit_Eccentricity = 1.000360164
orbit_ArgOfPericenter = 130.6996389
orbit_AscendingNode = 322.6221957
orbit_Inclination = 77.0330084
orbit_visualization_period = 600

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Mercury & Venus

A nice clear and transparent night last night, for a change.

Just after sunset Venus was brilliant in the west, and Mercury was visible in the binoculars, as it got darker, it popped into view, naked eye.

Apparently its only a small proportion of astronomers (1% ?) that have ever viewed Mercury, which is surprising as its really not difficult.

Mercury is getting fainter over the next few days, but still not too hard to find.

On the 15th there will be a nice alignment of Venus, Mercury and the cresent Moon, but it will be low and a good horizon needed. A nice photo op, though, but may be tricky to get a good exposure to show the three well at the same time.

Also possible on the 16th, though the Moon is not so nicely placed that day.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


Have seen a couple of nice images of Comet 2007/Q3, so thought it would be interesting to see where it is using Stellarium. Ran the elements from JPL Horizons, made a spreadsheet to convert the format, and then copy/paste into the Stellarium ssystem.ini file.
Here is the section to add, for anyone interested...

name = Siding Spring (C/2007 Q3)
parent = Sun
coord_func = comet_orbit
radius = 1000
oblateness = 0
albedo = 0.8
lighting = TRUE
halo = TRUE
color = 1.0,1.0,1.0
tex_halo = star16x16.png
tex_map = deimos.png
orbit_TimeAtPericenter = 2455111.745
orbit_PericenterDistance = 2.251607298
orbit_Eccentricity = 1.000146688
orbit_ArgOfPericenter = 2.082881084
orbit_AscendingNode = 149.4121666
orbit_Inclination = 65.64986316

Cloudy, but the kids enjoyed it

Was really pretty cloudy out for last nights observing evening. Was joined by staff & students from Tewkesbury School's Space Club and GCSE Astronomy class. Although we barely saw Mars, and Capella, and a pass of the IIS was just about visible through the cloud.

Next week is the last evening of this season, so fingers crossed, it may be a good one...

Monday, 22 February 2010

Clear night at WWT

Had a nice evening on Saturday at the WWT Slimbridge, with a substantially clear evening for viewing.

Kicked off with a short talk about the Messier objects, and then Martin Sinton filled a slot on cosmic scales.

Then went out and had some nice views of the Moon, Mars, the Pleiades, M42, M31. Was struggling to find M79, which was low in the mirk, and the scope was dewed up. Hopefull will get another chance before its too late this winter.

Thanks to Martin and Rob Davis from Cotswold AS for helping out on the evening.