Observing the Geminid Meteor Shower – peak 2am, 14th Dec

based on a BAA circular

Active from December 6-17, but with a slow rise to maximum on 14 December.

The Geminids are currently the richest of the regular annual meteor showers, producing an abundance of bright meteors at the maximum. Timing this year is good as the maximum occurs just before new Moon, so no interference by moonlight, enabling many fainter meteors to be seen in addition to the brightest members of the shower.  Peak activity expected at about 02h on Thursday, December 14.

In recent years, from the UK, the Geminids have shown typical peak observed rates of 70-80 meteors per hour in good skies if clear, so we might expect something like this on the peak night of December 13/14 (Wednesday night/Thursday morning). However, the maximum is quite broad and respectable Geminid rates may be expected throughout the nights of December 12/13, 13/14 and 14/15. Past observations have shown that bright Geminids become more numerous some hours after the rates have peaked, a consequence of particle-sorting in the meteoroid stream. Geminid meteors enter the atmosphere at a relatively slow 35 kilometres per second, and tend to last longer than most in luminous flight and may fragment into a train of ‘blobs.

The Geminid shower radiant (at RA 07h 33m,  Dec +32°, just north of the first magnitude star Castor in Gemini) rises early in the evening and reaches a respectable elevation above the horizon (> 40°) well before midnight, so observers who are unable to stay up late can still see a good show if clear. However, the early morning hours of Thursday, 14th December are likely to see the greatest Geminid activity, when the radiant is high in the sky.

Where best to look: As with any meteor shower, when observing it is best to look at an altitude of 50° and 40-50° to either side of shower radiant, rather than looking directly at the radiant itself, although Geminid meteors may appear in any part of the sky. It could be quite cold so wrap up well with plenty of layers of warm, dry clothing and make sure that you wear a hat, gloves and thick socks if you are outside for any time. No equipment is required – just go and look!


Public Moonwatch 25 November 2017

There was a successful EAS moonwatch last night at the Brewery Arts Centre despite the odd cloud obscuring the view. Lots of ‘Oh’, ‘wow’ and ‘cool’ from the passers-by as they clearly saw the craters on the Moon, many for the first time, through Society members telescopes. Lots of different ages… very young to, shall we say, senior citizens. There were pulses of visitors coinciding with the start and end of various Brewery events, so quite busy at times.  

EAS Astrophotography Workshop, Helsington Church, Aug 18th

After promises of a clear sky, last night’s “Astrophotography Workshop” up at Helsington Church was thwarted by cloud, so the half dozen or so EAS members who came along saw nothing of Saturn or Mars or any other planet – or any star for that matter – but we were able to grab some photos of a lovely, huge orange Moon as it rose before it too was swamped by cloud, and there was lots of useful advice being shared so it was still worth going. We’ll try again another night, once the weather improves and  the Moon is out of the way, so keep an eye on this blog for updates. In the meantime, here are a few pics I took last night. I’m sure others will post their photos too…




Images from Mercury transit

The Mercury transit of the Sun was interesting last Monday. Hard to say it was spectacular but when you think what you are actually looking at… But the weather couldn’t have been better in Kendal – for a change!

It was an interesting photo opportunity but with the planet being so small, it was hardly a visual treat even with telescopic aid. However, that we could see it against the Sun was good. Normally in the twilight sky it is quite a challenge to find it if you didn’t know which of those faint ‘stars’ it was… Still fascinating to think that that is a real world passing between us and the Sun, albeit one only about 40% bigger in diameter than our moon. and less than 40% of the diameter of the Earth. At less than 60 million km from the Sun [Earth is 150 million km away], it is a stark place as recent NASA Messenger probe showed in some detail for the first time.


A few of my images. A still taken at 16:11 GMT. Nice sunspot groups – one oviopus group and a much smaller one between Mercury and the large group. Taken through my 8″ Meade LX200R fitted with a Baader astrosolar film filter.


A time lapse video of most of the transit – well at least until the Sun dropped behind a telephone pole and then into trees. The gaps coincide with me putting the camera on a solar scope and also a disloded cable on the laptop running camera [Astrophotography tool] making it go onto hibernation – fortunetly I spotted it quite quickly. The odd ‘cloud like’ bands running through towards the end are telephone wires!


Finally a comparison of a white light image with that from the solar telescope. The main spot group is faint at H alpha wavelengths but the small group is quite prominent. Several filaments are obvious.


Perseid meteor article

There is a really good article on the Persied meteors by Pete Lawrence on the BBC website ‘how-to-watch-the-perseid-meteor-shower’. Forecast looking good for Tuesday night but less good Wednesday [Metcheck: 50% cloud at midnight 30% cloud after midnight] and bad Thursday night/ Friday morning. I’m thinking of heading out tomorrow evening to Orton to get east of Shap quarries and hopefully a good dark eastern view. Ian

At last – an image I’ve wanted for ages

I’ve wanted to get an image of the Rosette Nebula for may years after imaging a part of it with my 8″ Meade at f6.3. Lacking the patience and persistent clear skies to mozaic it, I needed a well tracked short focal length scope. Here is the March 2012 image.

Rosette Nebula - imaged 18/3/12

Rosette Nebula – imaged 18/3/12

I tried a few weeks ago with a poor mount and struggled and got

Rosette Nebula, 23 minutes Canon EOS400D iso 1600, WO 400mm scope

Rosette Nebula, 23 minutes Canon EOS400D iso 1600, WO 400mm scope

So I invested in a new mount and first light, with Simon White, Carol Grayson, Stuart Atkinson and Stella Coxon present at Old Hutton Church,  I managed the image I wanted. A stack of twelve 5 minute exposures and

Rosette Nebula

Rosette Nebula

one very happy bunny! Cracking start. Now to push when the skies relent and we can see stars!


Public moonwatch 21 Feb 2015

Another typical frustrating weather window for a EAS moonwatch. It came, it went! Some lovely clear skies with Venus and Mars and a striking crescent Moon sinking into the trees on the hill behind the Brewery Arts Centre, and then drizzle, then clear, then… well you get it!

With three small aperture telscopes there, plenty to look at.  Many families came through with small children who were most impressed, especially at the jagged Moon terminator. Well worth it for them. A striking contrast between white Venus and red Mars. The ISS also put in a show, catching us by surprise as we hadn’t looked when it was visible, popping into view really close to Mars and soaring upwards. Looked relatively faint and reddish so probably seeing it through a lot of thin cloud.

Moonwatch 21 Feb 2015

Moonwatch 21 Feb 2015

Mars and Venus were very low on the horizon and by 18:37 they were dipping behind the hill. Not a great pic but…

Moonwatch Moon Mars Venus 21 Feb 2015

Moonwatch Moon Mars Venus 21 Feb 2015

The crescent moon quickly captured thru the telescope – eyepiece projection and a compact camera. Pity about the tree!

Moonwatch Moon  21 Feb 2015

Moonwatch Moon 21 Feb 2015

Another imaging attempt

Many years ago, I managed to get an image of the Rosette Nebula using my 8″ Meade LX200R – well to be honest, part of the nebula. The image won’t fit on the camera chip as it is just too large. So with a clearish night, I tried using the wide field Williams Optics 400mm scope. I didn’t get enough images, and had to discard quite a few due to the vagarities of my mount. I ended up with 23 minutes of reasonable images – not enough but gave me hope that success was possible.

Rosette Nebula, 23 minutes Canon EOS400D iso 1600, WO 400mm scope

Rosette Nebula, 23 minutes Canon EOS400D iso 1600, WO 400mm scope

All I need now is a clear sky with no Moon before Orion disappears until next year.

I did manage to get a real nice image of Jupiter using my 8″ Meade, a x2 Barlow lens and a Philips SPC900NC webcam. I took a video of 3800 frames at 10 frames per second [much more than I normally do through a cock-up!], aligned in Registax and choose the best 2900 frames. The result is very pleasing.

Jupiter Feb 7 2015 - South is up

Jupiter Feb 7 2015 – South is up