March Observing Evening

About a dozen EAS enthusiasts turned out on Thursday for what will probably be the last observing evening of this season.  A little haze high in the sky meant that there was a slight background wash making faint objects more challenging, but we still bagged a good set of observations.  

Orion offered final views of M42 (The Orion Nebula) nebula setting in the west, and we also took a long look at Betelgeuse (Alpha Orinonis) while observing individual stars including Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris), Castor (Alpha Geminorum) – a double separated by 90 light years or 5 arcsec viewed from Earth – and Pollox (Beta Geminorum).  

Open clusters were a feature of the evening, M35 in Gemini, M36 (“The Pinwheel”), M37 and M38 (“The Starfish”) in Auriga and M44 (“The Beehive”) in Cancer.

Galaxies M65 and M66, two of the “Leo Triplet”, were just visible in Leo, as were M81 and M82 in Ursa Major.

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák was seen as a very challenging fuzzy spot in my 115mm refractor, as was nearby M97 (The Owl Nebula) used for comparison.

We finished with pretty good views of Jupiter and the four Gallilean moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

My sincere thanks go to all members who come and make these sessions a success. There is still room for improvement and I look forward to canvassing members’ views over the next few EAS meetings to see how we can make then even better.

Simon

 

 

January Observing Evening

What a super session last night!  Thanks to all who came along – a dozen or more? – and made it such fun.  In addition to the hard core regulars, there were a couple of new faces too, so I hope we lived up to your expectations.  It was bitterly cold, with a little moisture in the air that caught some glow from the town lights to the east early on, but a very rewarding couple of hours in the company of fellow enthusiasts.

We started with Venus and Mars, of course, managing fairly high magnifications (100x through my 115mm refractor, even more in David’s 200mm Schmidt Cassegrain)  to reveal the crescent phase of Venus and the open face of Mars.  Venus was so bright that it had to be viewed through a neutral density filter.

The Pleiades were very high in the sky, as were targets in Auriga.  The Andromeda galaxy got another look in, setting towards the west, with galaxies M81 and M82 in Ursa Major rising higher in the north east.  Later on, as the moisture dissipated and the air became more transparent, Orion was best placed for views of the wonderful Orion nebula M42.

Everyone had something to contribute, either by way of information and explanation, or by testing others with challenging and interesting questions about constellations and star identification.  Huge thanks go to David for bringing his Schmidt Cassegrain planet gobbler, and to Graham for his boundless enthusiasm and knowledge – and the craziest telescope!  These observing sessions are taking on a real character of their own.

See you all soon

Simon

November Observing Evening

About a dozen enthusiasts assembled in the Boundary Bank Lane car park last night, enjoying a couple of hours of very clear dark skies.  We ran through the constellations as usual, noting how the positions had changed again from the previous meeting, then spent a most rewarding session chasing down a series of double stars.

The temptation with an observing evening is always to go for the better known galaxies and nebulae, so to ring the changes I had drawn up a list of double stars suitable for November viewing through binoculars and small telescopes.  This was a novelty for me – and pretty much everyone else in the group – and it was a revelation: double stars present a completely different set of challenges and rewards for small telescope astronomy, balancing magnification against resolution and demanding very careful examination of the images.  Each target also had a commentary, courtesy of Sky Safari (which uses several references from Jim Kaler’s works), so there was some technical astronomy discussion too.

We studied:

  • Albireo (Beta Cygni),
  • Alpheratz (Alpha Andromedae),
  • The Double Double (Epsilon Lyrae),
  • Polaris (Alpha Ursae Minoris),
  • Mizar & Alcor (Zeta Ursae Majoris & 80 Ursae Majoris),
  • Archird (Eta Cassiopeiae) and
  • Mintaka (Delta Orionis).

A big “thank you” from me to everyone who attended with such enthusiasm – I really do enjoy putting in the preparation for these sessions, and it is tremendously rewarding when members turn up, join in and so clearly appreciate the effort made.

Simon

October Observing evening

The October observing evening crept into November, when about fifteen (it’s hard to tell in the dark) EAS members, plus one rather surprised lorry driver, spent a couple of hours looking around the late autumn / early winter sky.

We found lots to see naked eye, reviewing the constellations of the season with the Milky Way clearly dividing the sky in two, then dived into the telescopes.  I was delighted that we had such a variety of scopes – two 8″ Schmidt Cassegrains on GOTO mounts, an 8″ reflector on a Dobsonian, my 115mm refractor, Stuart’s 130mm Newtonian, a couple of others I couldn’t identify in the dark and plenty of binoculars.

Ian took on the role of Messier-safari as usual, and he and David turned their scopes to Uranus and Neptune too.  My favourite of the night was the yellow-and-blue double star Albireo, showing clear and distinct colours enhanced by their proximity to one another.  Jim Kaler describes them in detail here.

Thanks to all those who came and contributed to a most enjoyable evening!

Simon

Summer Triangle

The “Summer Triangle” is a once-seen-never-forgotten asterism and is very easy to pick out at the moment.  I attempted a wide-angle image on Sunday night, which featured in the Observing Evening presentation after some quick processing.

Wide-angle astrophotos need a very different approach to processing, especially with light pollution that catches the moisture in the air and casts a colour gradient across the image.  Here is the more carefully processed version.

As well as the three stars making up the Summer Triangle, (clockwise Deneb in Cygnus, Vega in Lyra and Altair in Aquila), against the background of the Milky Way, you can pick out the smaller constellations of Delphinus and Sagitta, together with the “Coathanger” asterism – which looks spectacular through the telescope.

plain_32_integration_dbe_ht_c_acdnr_ps

 

September Observing evening

Well that was a bit of a mixed bag – low attendance probably caused by the disastrous change in the forecast when we gathered earlier in the week, but a real opportunity for a constellation safari and a Messier-hopping adventure with a very small group.

By the time I packed up at midnight, I’d got Globular Clusters M13, M71 and M56, M27 “The Dumbell Nebula”, M57 “The Ring Nebula”, M97 “The Owl Nebula”, Open Clusters M29 and M39, Galaxies M31 & M33, M81 & M82, The Coathanger asterism, NGC7789 “Caroline’s Rose”, NGC869 & NGC884 “The Perseus Double Cluster” and M45 “The Pleiades”.  Not bad for a modest 4.5-inch refractor.

M16 was a bit too low to be clear, Open Clusters M26 and M11 were hard to define.  I couldn’t be sure of Uranus or Nepune.  Maybe next month!

Simon

NGC 7789 “Caroline’s Rose”

Moira’s wonderful talk last night on the constellations around Cassiopeia made me look back into my archive for images.  I have reworked this one today – a September 2014 capture of NGC 7789,  an open cluster in Cassiopeia known as “Caroline’s Rose”.  It was discovered in 1783 by Caroline Herschel and catalogued by her brother William.

Caroline's Rose 2016 version reduced20 frames of 45 seconds stacked, Nikon D90 through Altair Wave 115/805, ISO 3200.

Simon

Planets still in a line!

Not sure whether this was worth the effort, from a photographic point of view, but it was still a glorious naked-eye sight from the trig point on The Helm yesterday morning just before 7 o’clock.  Mercury is there too, either behind that CIC (“curiously immobile cloud”) below and to the left of Venus, or lost in the sunlight.  Binoculars might have tracked it down, but scanning the eastern horizon with binoculars at sunrise is a mug’s game.

This is about 16 shots with a fixed 50mm lens, stitched together using a wonderful programme called PTGui.

The Lovejoy Trio

Here’s a preview of my three photos of Comet Lovejoy taken from the church car park in Old Hutton on the evening of the 18th of January.  Come and see them on the big screen at the February meeting (Monday 2nd, 7pm at Kendal Museum, all welcome!) when I’ll share a few words on how they were taken and processed.

50mm-SOS_S

300mm_compositeS

805S

Clear skies!

Simon