NLC activity picking up…


Hope some of you saw the rather impressive display of noctilucent clouds last Thursday night/Friday morning? I saw it from Kendal Castle (of course!) and took lots of pictures (of course!) but rather than write all that up here, can I ask you to wander over to my blog where there’s a full report? Ta.


EAS Summer Sunwatch

Well, we tried. Oh, we really tried. A great turn-out at Kendal Museum by EAS members – well, EAS *Committee* members anyway – was grudgingly rewarded by the sky with tantalising hints of sunshine, and fleeting views of the Sun, but we were cheated out of any serious observing by the thick cloud that kept rolling over us. But we did manage to show the Sun to a handful of people, through a variety of telescopes – both directly, through solar telescopes, and indirectly, by projection – and there was a smattering of sunspots on the solar disc to look at. Thanks to the Museum for allowing us to set up camp in their yard, and to everyone who came along. It’s always worth doing events like this because even if just one person turns up and has a look, that one person will never forget it. Hopefully we’ll have more luck with the Sunwatch in September during “Stargazing Kendal”.





Thanks to those who organised the sunwatch yesterday (Sat 14th). In the brief interludes between clouds I saw a glowing red sun with flare through the solar scope and loads of sunspots on the projected images, sights only previously seen in pictures.
Somewhere in Kendal is one little boy who couldn’t wipe the smile off his face

The importance of good skies

As mentioned at the last couple of meetings, I’ve been taking every opportunity to catch a photo of comet C/2012K1 (PANSTARRS) making its way across the night sky.  It has brightened to about Magnitude 8 at the moment, but as the nights get shorter around the summer solstice, it becomes harder to photograph a such diffuse object against a dark sky.

Here is my effort from last night (to be precise, early this morning), highlighting several issues that upset good astrophotography.  20 exposures of one minute each, stacked together with the 20 frames aligned on the comet – so the stars appear as short lines because the comet has moved a slight amount from one exposure to the next.


What are the issues ?

1.  At this time of year, the Sun dips only 12º below the horizon at night.  Full astronomical darkness needs 18º below (which won’t happen again until the 3rd of August), so in astronomical terms the sky isn’t really dark.

2.  The comet is visually only about 60º away from the Moon, which is also above the horizon and more than half illuminated.  The moonlight lightens the background even more than the twilight, making it hard to distinguish the comet tail.

3.  Although the sky looks clear to the eye – and there are no clouds visible – there is a high level of humidity (about 90%).  The humidity catches the moonlight and creates the illusion of streaks across the sky as the telescope mount tracks the movement of the stars.

4.  The comet is now only 25º above the horizon, which means it is being photographed through much more of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Compare the result with an earlier photo, which was processed identically to the above.  This one was taken on the 26th of April in full darkness, with no Moon, 60% humidity and the comet at an elevation of 83º (almost vertically above the observer).


Even though the comet is a couple of magnitudes fainter, it is much more distinct in the photo.  Dark, clear skies are the key.



Heavens Above Podcast – June 2014


Just a quick note to say that the June edition of the Heavens Above Astronomy Podcast is now available, featuring Dan Beale, John Pye, Stuart Atkinson and making her Podcast Debut this month Carol Grayson, we also include an interview with our special guest speaker from this months meeting Prof Lionel Wilson

In this months episode, we talk about viewing Saturn, Mars, Jupiter & The Moon, and the conjunctions that are taking place in the next few days. We also give the best advice for looking at NLC & Carol talks about Lunar X & Lunar V that she talked about in the previous months talk.

There are several ways to listen to our podcast,

You can listen on iTunes using this link:

You can listen on YouTube using this link:

You can use this DOWNLOAD LINKRight Click and ‘Save Link As’ to download to your computer

Or you can listen on our website using the online player using this link:

Thanks – Dan

EAS June meeting

Thanks to everyone who came along to our June meeting last night, I know our guest speaker, Prof Lionel Wilson from Lancaster Uni, was very appreciative of the good turn-out.


If you missed it, Lionel gave a fascinating, very detailed talk about explosive vulcanism in the solar system, and some of his high resolution images of the Moon, Mercury and Mars were beautiful. He also found time to talk to our Lakeland Radio presenter members Dan and John after the meeting, recording an interview for their monthly forecast, which was very good of him.


The next EAS event is our Summer (ha!) “Sunwatch”, which will be held at the Museum on Saturday June 14th between 12 and 2. If you have a telescope suitable for viewing or projecting the Sun, please come along.

For those people wanting to watch the live streaming video of Earth coming down from the Space Station…


…here’s the link to the website:

And talking about the ISS, as I said last night it’s visible in the late night/early morning sky again, and here are the times for you… (click to enlarge)

ISS times_cr