Looking ahead to the May 9th MERCURY TRANSIT

On May 9th Mercury will appear to move across the face of the Sun – an event astronomers call a “transit” – and we will be holding observing events here in Kendal, both to watch it ourselves and to let other people see it safely.

Because Mercury will just look like a tiny black dot on the face of the Sun seeing it will require great care and special equipment not generally available to the public. At our events we will be following the transit by viewing images of the Sun projected by telescopes onto screens, or observing it directly through special “solar telescopes” or telescopes fitted with special solar filters.


We will star our Transit watching in Abbot Hall Park, from around 11.30am, 45 minutes or so before the Transit actually begins.


At 12.12 Mercury’s disc will touch the edge of the Sun, and three minutes later Mercury will be silhouetted against the disc, looking like a tiny black dot on it. The Transit will be at its maximum at just after 3.30pm, when Mercury will be not far from the centre of the Sun’s disc.

collage2At 5.00 some of us will move up to Kendal Castle to watch the closing stages of the Transit, the end of which will not be visible from Abbot Hall Park because of trees and buildings. Up at the Castle we will have a fantastic view of the end of the Transit because there will be no such obstructions.


At 19.37, with the Sun now low in the western sky, Mercury will start to move off the edge of the Sun, and at 19.40 the Transit will end as Mercury moves completely off the Sun’s disc, just an hour or so before sunset.

We hope lots of people will come and watch this exciting and rare event with us in Kendal. Cross your fingers for clear skies!

Aurora possible tonight…?

Now, as usual, NO PROMISES but it ***might*** be worth keeping an eye on the northern sky after dark tonight, because there’s a chance we might be able to see the aurora tonight. Absolutely no guarantees, I’m not saying it WILL happen, just giving everyone a heads-up that it’s a possibility. So, after dark, look north, and if you see a green glow, or even pale pink/violet rays, get to a better observing place if you can.

We were lucky enough to see the big “Mothers Day Aurora” from the Kielder starcamp, and I’ll show photos at the next meeting. Just be aware tho, that wen it comes to displays of the northern lights the camera does lie in fact it lies through its back teeth, exaggerating and enhancing subtle shades and hues to make even a modest display look like a drug-induced psychedelic hallucination. This will show you what my camera picked up on Saturday night, compared to what it actually looked like to the naked eye…


And here you can see, from L to R, camera view, processed view and naked eye…


Good luck everyone!


EAS observing session March 9 2016

Wow, that was a good Eddington Astronomy Society of Kendal observing session – probably 15 people learning about the night sky from Simon and looking through several different telescopes with different capabilities. Sky got hazy about 21:30, so we packed up. I must admit, the pint in the New Union, only a few minutes from home, afterwards was excellent.
Lots of Messier objects, i.e. faint fuzzies, seen through my 8″ scope – M42, the Leo Triplet of galaxies M65, M66 and NGC 3628 in the same visual field – nice to see them naked eye after imaging them last Monday night – M51, M101 [both difficult] and the spectacular doublet of M81 and M82.
The star of the night must be Jupiter which was spectacular – all 4 moons put on a show although two were being rather shy and hiding. I managed to connect a webcam – Philips SPC900NC – and demonstrate video image capture. The stacked image [Registax] is much better than I expected – probably because I tweaked the scope collimation on Monday night. Pleased with that. Couldn’t see the Great Red Spot trough the eyepiece but it is clearly there in the processed image.
Jupiter 09/09/16 @ 22:02

Jupiter 09/09/16 @ 22:02

Polaris from a static camera on a tripod - series of 15second images spaced by 15 seconds over 90 minutes.

Polaris from a static camera on a tripod – series of 15second images spaced by 15 seconds over 90 minutes.

I also pointed a camera at the Pole Star and captured a series of 144 15 second exposures with 15 second gaps between them over approximately 90 minutes. I removed images with aircraft in them or light from torches of people wandering about! The remaining  images I combined using the free Startrails software http://startrails.de/. There is an interesting object occurred about 19:14 which may be a satellite flaring or a meteor at approximately ‘7 oclock’ on the image. No Iridium flares were predicted around that time.