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!


Northern Lights MIGHT be visible from Cumbria over next few nights…

Absolutely NO promises, but it will definitely be worth keeping an eye on the northern sky after dark on the next few evenings because there’s a chance – a chance! – we MIGHT see the northern lights from our part of the world. Can’t give you any more info than that, no specific times to look etc, so don’t leave comments asking for more, I have nothing more – it’s just a possibility, but a possibility you shouldn’t ignore. Tonight and into tomorrow morning looks the most promising so if you have a clear sky where you are after dark tonight and/or tomorrow morning, eyes to the north and fingers crossed!

EAS Special Meeting Report


Last Wednesday we were delighted and honoured to have a very special guest speaker – Thomas Ormston, from the European Space Agency. There was a good turnout for the meeting, and the members who came along were able to take home with them a large selection of ESA material – posters, booklets and leaflets – which Thomas had very kindly arranged to be sent to us in advance…



But back to the talk! Thomas very generously gave up a night of his precious holiday time in the Lakes to come to Kendal Museum to give us a fascinating and very entertaining presentation describing what it’s like to work at ESA. We heard just how difficult and challenging it is to operate and control the spacecraft flown by ESA, how they are planned and launched, how they are rescued if things go wrong with them and long a process it is to get them to do – well, just about anything!


Thomas is a very gifted speaker, and his presentation was a masterclass in how to entertain, educate and inspire an audience. Everyone who came to the meeting learned an enormous amount and what ESA is and does, its history, its many successes to date – including an update on the end of the ROSETTA mission – and its bold and ambitious plans for the future, such as the ExoMars mission. There were lots of questions afterwards, always a sign of a good speaker, and then, totally out of the blue, Thomas surprised me by presenting me with this, a model of Comet 67P, as a “thank you” from ESA for my Outreach work on their behalf, which I will treasure forever…


After the meeting Thomas and his wife Mila joined some of us in the pub across the road for a couple of drinks, to thank him for his excellent talk, and he was happy to answer lots more questions…


I think everyone who came along to the meeting last week will agree it was one of our best ever, so thanks to everyone who came along to support it – as I’ve said many times before, it’s always great for a visiting speaker to see a big audience when they arrive – and special thanks to Anna Hall for opening up the Museum for us, making the event possible in the first place. And, of course, a huge thank you to Thomas for taking time out of his holiday to come and speak to us. We really appreciated it.

September Meeting Report


Many thanks to all the members who came along to our September meeting at Kendal Museum last Monday.

Simon White started off the evening by looking forward to the first “Observing Night” of the new season, describing what can be seen in the night sky at the moment and reminding everyone to keep checking the blog for updates on the date of the next observing night. Looking forward to that, Simon!

Next, EAS Secretary Stuart Atkinson gave a round-up of the latest astronomy and space news, including the exciting discovery of a planet around Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, and the timely discovery of the PHILAE lander on the surface of comet 67P, just weeks before the ROSETTA mission comes to an end.


After the break we were delighted to welcome friend of the Society JEREMY HUNT back as our guest speaker. Jeremy very kindly came down from Cockermouth at short notice (i.e. 24 hrs!) after our scheduled speaker had to cancel, unavoidably. Jeremy gave us a very enjoyable and informative talk about astro-photography, describing the equipment and techniques he uses to take his beautiful photographs, both from his own home observatory and when he’s away on holiday too. We were all very grateful to Jeremy for helping us out and everyone really enjoyed his talk. Several members interested in astro-photography were positively drooling at his spectacular photos!

Our next meeting is this coming Wednesday, when we have the pleasure of welcoming THOMAS ORMSTON, from the European Space Agency, as our guest speaker at a special out-of-programme meeting. Full details on that in a separate post on this blog.

SPECIAL MEETING: September 14th

Hi everyone,

An update on what’s happening Wednesday evening..

On Wednesday evening there will be a special “out of programme” meeting of the Eddington Astronomical Society of Kendal, for a presentation by Thomas Ormston from the European Space Agency. The meeting will be held at Kendal Museum, as usual, and will start at 7pm sharp. There will be a £2 per head charge to go towards room hire costs.

Some info about the talk:


Tales from a spacecraft cockpit: behind the scenes at the European Space Agency”. – Thomas Ormston, ESA

“We’re used to the most amazing images and data from spacecraft that orbit our planet and travel beyond to the furthest reaches of our solar system. In this talk you will find out what goes on behind the scenes at the European Space Agency and all the work that goes on to keep the machines flying and the data flowing. How do we get a picture from Mars? Do we use a joystick? Is it really like Apollo 13? You’ll find all this out and more, along with a summary of the latest news and results from ESA’s missions including the upcoming end of Rosetta’s mission and the arrival of ExoMars at the Red Planet.”

This is a VERY rare treat for us, a fantastic opportunity to hear a real expert talk, someone on the front line of space exploration by ESA, and it has taken a lot of organising, so it would be good to have a REALLY good turn-out for this event. If you can make it, please do.

I should also add that Thomas has arranged for a big – and I mean big – package of ESA material (booklets posters etc) to be sent to us, so if you come along you will go home with lots of fascinating info from the European Space Agency.

Look forward to seeing lots of you at the Museum on Wednesday night!