If you watch the TV news at all you’ll know that there was a lot of fuss made on all channels last week about the “grand alignment of planets” visible in the morning sky at the moment. Lots of very impressive-looking computer graphics were shown in the reports, giving the impression that the pre-dawn eastern sky is ablaze with planets as bright as lanterns, all clustered closely together in a celestial spectacle to leave you gasping with wonder…
Unfortunately the reality is rather different. Yes, there are five planets “on view” in the sky before dawn, but they certainly aren’t as eye-catching as the TV people suggested! Well, not all of them; two – Venus and Jupiter – are strikingly bright. However, two of the others – Mars and Saturn – look just like stars, and Mercury is so faint, and still so low as dawn approaches, that finding it before sunrise is a real challenge.
But don’t let that reality check put you off! It’s still a fascinating and rare sight, so if you want to give it a go, you can find all the info toy need – including charts and observing tips – on our Secretary’s blog, here…
“Planets on Parade”
Thanks to the very hard work of EAS members, and the interest and support of the people who came along to it, our Stargazing Live “MoonWatch” last Thursday night – January 14th – at the Brewery Arts Centre was a great success!
Thankfully the sky was beautifully clear after sunset, and at half past four, as we set up the first of the half a dozen or so telescopes which we gathered in the Brewery garden for our event, the Moon was shining high and bright above us, and the view of its mountains, craters and seas was already spectacular.
It was already a very cold evening, and got colder and colder as the time passed, but a steady flow of people wanting to see the Moon through our telescopes kept us warm and busy! It was great to have so many kids there, and there were lots of excited shouts and gasps as they looked at the Moon through a telescope for the first time, marveling at the detailed view of its deep craters, jagged mountain ranges and dark grey seas. And they were even more excited when they were able to hold a big metal meteorite, and then a piece of the Moon itself…!
By the time we packed our gear away at 8pm, after almost four hours at the Brewery, we were all pretty frozen, but 50 or so people had seen the Moon through our telescopes, asked lots of questions, and even expressed interest in coming along to one of our meetings, so it had definitely been worth it.
Thanks to everyone who came along to support our event, from the members of the Society to the members of the public. And a special thank you to the Brewery Arts Centre for continuing to make us so welcome there.
To support the BBC’s “Stargazing Live” programmes we’re holding another of our popular “MoonWatch” events at the Brewery Arts Centre on January 14th… full details here…
It isn’t my best ever picture by a long shot, but at least it is a picture. The weather has been so attrocious that nothing has been possible. Short glimpses between clouds has been the best I could manage so far since about October. Anyway, managed to grab a few shots of Orions Great nebula, M42. Quite pleased given the difficulties on the night given that my mount decided not to autoguide properly. I used my Meade 8″ LX200R mounted in equatorial mode on my yard pillar in Kendal. The telescope had a f6.3 focal reducer attached to increase the field of view giving an effective focal length of 1260mm. I used my red-filter astro-modded Canon EOS400D at ISO1600. I took quite a few shots which I didn’t use for various reason poor, trailed stars and cloud! The final image is a composite of 227 seconds in total, comprising 1×120 seconds, 1×60 seconds, 1×20 seconds, 3×9 seconds subframes. These were overlaid in Photoshop to produce the final image – the shorter exposures allow the bright central portions of M42 to be not burnt out – they certainly were in the longest exposure.
Clearly, it needed more light but given the frustrating passage of clouds and the telescope issues, I’m quite pleased with the result. As Liz, my wife, said ‘You’d have been really pleased with that a few tears ago…’ To true but the better you do, the higher the standard you expect!