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.


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!


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

Activity over the past month

Well it has been a busy old few weeks with moving house and painting! But I’ve managed to get out a few times imaging, mainly from the ‘back garden’ which is much darker than where we used to live in Kendal.

Firstly, Comet Lovejoy. I managed to get images using my Williams Optics 66mm telescope on January 18th – when the sky was moon-free. I was quite pleased with this stack of 10 three minutes exposures that as I had to fight my mount for. [I ended up discarding most of the frames taken.] Not a patch on Simon’s but… I’m happy.

Comet Lovejoy, January 18 2015

Comet Lovejoy, January 18 2015

It was clear again a few days later, February 1st, but by now the Moon was very bright. I had to try but the tail was completely loss in the glare. The comet seemed smaller and fainter but the moonlight would cause some of that. The comparison is interesting as the images are to the same scale.

Comparison of February 1st and January 18th images.

Comparison of February 1st and January 18th images.

The Moon has also been quite pretty. On January 26th I managed to catch it between thick bands of scudding clouds… Canon EOS400D with 400mm scope on static [OK a floppy as hell and a pain in the proverbial] tripod, 1/200th sec @iso 200. Still came out quite nice.Moon Jan26 2015 images1960-63 Rotated

By the next clear night, the night I imaged Comet Lovejoy, the Moon and Jupiter were the really sensible targets.So here it is through the Williams Optics scope.

Moon February 1st imaged using a Canon EOS400D and a Williams Optics 66mm 400mm focal length scope

Moon February 1st imaged using a Canon EOS400D and a Williams Optics 66mm 400mm focal length scope

I stuck a webcam on my 8″ Meade and grabbed a few videos… first the Sinus Iridium at the NW corner of the Moon

Sinus Iridium at the NW corner of the Moon

Sinus Iridium at the NW corner of the Moon

and the SW quadrant where there were some really nice craters on the terminator – this is a mosaic of two images. The big sea is Mare Humorum and the prominent crater at the bottom is Schickard.

Mare Humorum and Schickard

Mare Humorum and Schickard

All in all, quite a successful few nights imaging.



Imaging M31 from near Orton, Cumbria

I thought I’d try my ‘new’ dark sky imaging site above Orton on the Appleby road last night. The seeing was poor but only a light breeze and no Moon – I put my Williams Optics 66mm scope on a polar-aligned driven mount and took this image of The Great Andromeda Nebula, M31.



The image was taken with my Canon EOS 400D [deep sky modded] without any light pollution filter – which I wouldn’t dream of leaving off at Helsington. It’s not great with some star elongation due to imperfect polar alignment – I’m not Simon and I didn’t try too hard… Total exposure 1170 seconds [4*180, 1*90, 1*120, 1*240 seconds] at ISO 1600. Also some star distortion [coma] towards the edges which is not unexpected. A higher resolution version is in the image gallery together with one of the M57 area in Lyra – another experiment. It wasn’t all plain sailing… I forgot a key piece of kit – my camera timer/control – so I spent a lot of time with a cable release in my hands!

All in all a pleasing result and certainly proof that the site has potential and is [for round here] very dark. The 30 minute drive to get there [and more importantly to get back!] isn’t too bad from Kendal either.

Stunning Rosetta pictures…

Rosetta is there and in orbit about comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The pictures are stunning – see and others here.

Great job after 30 years from conception, 20 years of planning and assembly, and 10 years getting into position to do this … I must admit I share Stuart’s frustration at the lack of images but if I’d been involved that long, I think I would like to look at the data myself first!

Ian B

Farewell NLC, welcome back dark skies…!

Well, I think the 2014 NLC season is now over, although there’s always a chance of a last display before August begins. And after a weak start it was a good one, with several big displays and a few more smaller ones. I hope you all managed to see at least one, I’ve been banging on about NLC for MONTHS!!! 😉

Now August is almost here the late night sky is actually dark again, and the Milky Way is really starting to look good. I was out the other night/morning taking photos, and here’s what I managed. This is a composite of three separate pictures but they were all taken with just a camera on a tripod, no tracking, no following, just a high ISO setting and a short enough exposure to ensure no trailing. A bit of enhancing afterwards – contrast, levels etc – but nothing no-one reading this couldn’t do. You don’t need Photoshop – I primarily use a free image processing package called “FastStone Viewer”. Anyway, here’s what I managed to get… click on it to enlarge it, as usual.

Milky Way Kendal b ss

We also have a comet in the sky, Comet Jacques. Around magnitude 6 at the moment, but expected to brighten as it slides up through Auriga, past the Double Cluster and then into Cassiopeia. I took this pic the other night…

2b crop labels

As I said, not much to write home about yet, but *this is how most comets look*, only very rarely do they become naked eye bright with a tail, so get out there with your binocs and take a look.

There’ll be full details about this comet, and more, at our next meeting, when we’ll also have a guest speaker so I look forward to a good turnout for that. Finally, if anyone is interested in the observing weekend up at Ennerdale but hasn’t contacted Carol about it yet, can you get a move on? Thanks!


NLC Displays seen from Kendal

In the past few days there have been two – yes, count them, TWO! – big displays of noctilucent clouds visible from Kendal and right across the northern UK. I hope some of you saw them, seeing as I’ve been banging on about these for months now! 🙂

Anyway, illustrated with a gazillion pictures there are full reports on my blog…

…but here are a couple of the pictures I took for you to see just why I’m prepared to lose so much sleep over these strangely beautiful clouds…



cockrel best s


Vesta and Ceres meet in the sky…

Saturday night Stella and I headed up to Helsington Church to try and catch two asteroids (well, strictly speaking one asteroid and one “dwarf planet”) meeting in the evening sky. EAS Treasurer Simon White was already there, set up with his telescope and camera gear, and we had to wait a while for the sky to darken enough to track down our prey, but eventually we did…

ceres vesta wide s

vesta ceres wide s

ceres vesta july 5 2014

Not very dramatic, I know, but a shot I really wanted to take 🙂

I also tried some shots of the Milky Way, but the light pollution from Lancaster ruined the effect… really can’t wait to get to a proper dark sky again…

m way ss