An eclipse and a comet this weekend…

There’s a lunar eclipse happening tonight, which lasts through until the early hours of tomorrow morning, and it’s attracting a lot of media attention. Unfortunately, much of the media coverage is at best misleading and at worst totally wrong. The eclipse happening tonight is a ‘penumbral’ eclipse, which occurs when the Moon drifts through the outer part of the Earth’s shadow. This part is much less dense than the central part of the shadow, the ‘umbra’, so instead of going orange, like it does during a classic total lunar eclipse, the Full Moon will just darken… a bit… and appear more greyish than usual, especially at the top. It’s still well worth watching, because every eclipse has its own appeal, and many astronomers and skywatchers think that the appeal of a penumbral eclipse *is* its subtlety. If you go out to watch it, as long as you don’t expect to see a tangerine- or a Hallowe’en pumpkin lantern-like Moon hanging in the sky, you’ll enjoy it.
The media is also telling everyone how a comet is going to “whoosh” or “zoom” across the sky on Saturday night, and are illustrating their pieces with dramatic photos showing comets from the past with bright heads and long, glowing tails. The truth is rather different. Comet 45P is not going to whoosh or zoom across the sky – in fact, it’s been in the sky for ages already, moving across it slowly, like all comets do. It’s just closest to us on Saturday night, that’s all. And those photos are all wrong because the comet is very small and very faint, far too small and faint for the naked eye to pick up on a dark night – and the nights won’t *be* dark this weekend because a big, bright Full Moon will be drowning out everything else in it! If you know the sky well, and have a chart or map showing where the comet is you MIGHT pick it up with binoculars or a small telescope, but it will be, as they say, “challenging”..!
Don’t be put off looking for the comet and the eclipse. They’re definitely happening – just not in the way much of the media is reporting s breathlessly.
If you want any more info, feel free to ask! In the meantime, here’s a chart showing the times of the different stages of tonight’s eclipse, which we hope you find useful…
Note:  the eclipse will be at its best at around half last twelve.

EAS February 2017 Meeting

Many thanks to all the EAS members who came along to Kendal Museum last night for our February meeting, especially the members who stepped up at short notice and gave short presentations. After our Secretary’s monthly News Round Up, and Simon’s report on last month’s observing night and his plans/hopes for this month’s. Richard Rae gave a fascinating talk on our nearest star, The Sun…

After Richard’s talk, our Treasurer, Liz Hodgson gave a very entertaining talk on the posters NASA designs for missions to the International Space Station. Then, to close the meeting, Moira Greenhalgh gave a short but very educational talk about the constellation Pisces – the first of her “Constellation Of The Month” presentations, which we will all enjoy very much in the months ahead, I’m sure!

Many thanks also to Ian Bradley who shared his most recent stunning astrophotos with us.

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



Hi all,

Quick reminder that it is our first meeting of 2017 this coming Monday night.

After my usual “News Round Up” bit at the beginning, I’d like members to step up and show any images they’ve been taking recently. You can either bring them along on a USB stick on the night, or email them to me in advance so I can put them in a Powerpoint. Don’t be shy, I’ve heard those cameras clicking…!

After the break I’m sure Simon will be telling us all about plans for upcoming Observing Evenings, after which I’ll be giving a VERY detailed breakdown of the year ahead, looking at the 2017 EAS Programme, events happening in the sky, space missions coming up, and looking forward to some things we can all cross our fingers and hope to happen this year…

So, hope to see lots of you there!

Stuart A

New EAS Twitter account


If you’re a user of Twitter you’ll be interested to hear we have a new, active Twitter account for 2017…



This blog is, of course, the main place for members and visitors to go for all the detailed information about our events and activities. The Twitter account will be used for very quick updates and to “spread the word” about what we’re doing.

Christmas Social Evening – Dec 5th 2016

For those who haven’t already remembered,a quick reminder that tonight is our end of year Christmas Social night, so if you’re coming please some food for the communal table, and something for you to drink, and we;ll all have a good end of the year do. There’s no “News Notes” section… I can hear you all cheering! .. but there will be our traditional Christmas Quiz, this year hosted by Carol!

So, hope to see you tonight, and remember to bring some grub!


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.


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!


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.



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!