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Galactic Guide

Amateur Astronomy

Amateur Astronomy

Helix Nebula


August 25th, 2010


While camping in Rhayader ( Latitude: 52.30 Longitude: -3.52) I finally hit solid gold. After years of searching for a good view I stared our destiny face to face. M31 - Andromeda (about 45degrees from horizon and about 80degrees (aka East this was about midnight)). Through my Konusviews 20x80s it looked a bit bigger (as in filled more of the view), but a little dimmer than this image:

A fuzzy, ill defined yellowish oval with a definite 'core'.

Just below it, was another blob of light - I thought was a star but appeared a little brighter/fatter than other stars. I didn't realize it at the time - but I had also captured M32. I was happy as Larry.

The Milky way as as obvious as a kick in the teeth too - strange that it should need saying but living in a city, it's a very unusual sight in it's own right. The moon set a bit early for the times I was observing (23:00 - 01:00 ish). Caught some perseids, including one which had a 'persistant trail' of a few seconds that was bright enough to catch B and my's attention despite being both focussed on setting up optical equipment.

Here is a 30second exposure of the night sky that B took, she's still experimenting with this kind of photography:

And this one

Meanwhile - other amateurs with much more money watched Jupiter get hit the other night (August 20):

The best part being that nobody knew it was going to happen - but the number of eyes watching it meant that two people independently recorded the event.

April 13th, 2010

(no subject)

cool, ice
Ever wanted to have a go at flying a real spaceship to a real planet under real physics?

Probably won't happen.

But Orbiter is a free space flight simulator which doesn't require a monster computer to run.

It's fiendishly complicated, but I managed to achieve orbit tonight (though I realized that trying to impatiently descend is a bad idea when I was at 50,000m from the surface and still traveling at 7kms). Naturally, once I learned this I immediately used a docked spaceship at the ISS to propel the ISS into an orbit that intersects with the earths atmosphere and then sat back and watched the fireworks as I managed to bullseye Ohio...

October 8th, 2009

(no subject)

at computer
The Orionids are annual meteor showers that occur at and are named after their radiant, which is located near the constellation Orion. The peak of the Orionid meteor shower occurs around October 21 and range typically from ten to fifteen meteors per hour.

The Orionid meteor showers are caused by the well-known Halley’s Comet, which was named after the astronomer Edmund Halley and last passed through the inner solar system in 1986 on its 75-to-76-year orbit.

About 25% the rate of the Perseids.

(no subject)

at computer
The mystery star thing relatively near the moon last night was Capella.

Capella (α Aurigae / α Aur / Alpha Aurigae / Alpha Aur) is the brightest star in the constellation Auriga, the sixth brightest star in the night sky and the third brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, after Arcturus and Vega. Although it appears to be a single star to the naked eye, it is actually a star system of four stars in two binary pairs. The first pair consists of two bright, large type-G giant stars, both with a radius around 10 times the Sun's, in close orbit around each other. These two stars are thought to be cooling and expanding on their way to becoming red giants. The second pair, around 10,000 astronomical units from the first, consists of two faint, small and relatively cool red dwarfs.[11][12] The Capella system is relatively close, at only 42.2 light-years (12.9 pc) from Earth.

September 27th, 2009


So fancy a good evening of astromancy any time soon?
Depending on your rota its pretty much up too you when, For me it'll have to either be a Saturday we're not RPing, a Friday night, or perhaps a Wednesday so long as we didn't go past 3:00 at the latest. Either way I think it's high time, if you're up for it.

On a related note;


The above scope for sale on ebay is of the computerised type we talked about going halves on, is of comparable if not slightly higher power than my wobbly one, and not nearly as expensive as I thought these would be.


September 4th, 2009

Astro News

After aborted mission to Alderly Edge/ Jodrell Bank, limited success was met in the car park of my building at about 3:00 AM.
114 mm Reflector telescope used with 12.5 magnification lens to get several clear shots of the Moon, focusing in on rugged mountainous region near the northern pole [possibly the Montes Alpes], and then Tycho Crater near the bottom of its southern hemisphere, a particular favourite of mine.
Cloud cover too patchy by the time we got out there to zero in on any particular stars or planets, if wed gotten out earlier I reckon wed have had a decent chance.
Old Luna however blazed right through most cloud cover even when there was some, and looked clear as crystal though the scope until branches began to interfere as it descended.

Estimated Ephemerides

Altitude: 15.5 - 17.5 degrees above the horizon by the time we got to it, fairly low but enough.

Magnitude 12.6 mv

Phase 174.72

Azimuth about 225

As weather conditions are similar tomorrow [Friday] night, a further attempt is likely then so long as water isn't raining down from the heavens at the time.


In other Astro News:

"Largest plante in the Universe" Discovered by Astronomers

Cosmic Canabalism - Andomeda Devouring its Galactic Neighbours

Japanese Astronomers Discover Most Distant Super-massive Black Hole

September 2nd, 2009

(no subject)

at computer
Class A (3 door hatchback): £26.48
Class C (5 door hatchback): £31.00

Weather: 12am-2am Mostly clouded.

Moon: Current Phase: Waxing Gibbous
Rise: 6:13 PM
Set: 3:56 AM

Planet Information
  	        Rise    	Set
Mercury 	7:59 AM 	7:06 PM
Venus 	        2:16 AM 	5:54 PM
Mars     	11:13 PM 	4:12 PM
Jupiter 	6:12 PM 	3:19 AM
Saturn   	6:28 AM 	7:24 PM
Uranus  	7:14 PM 	6:53 AM
Neptune 	6:17 PM 	3:52 AM
Pluto   	2:56 PM 	11:38 PM

Given the weather - are we still happy to make an attempt of it?

If so, how many want to come? What car do you want to use? (the smaller car will mean awkward travelling with telescope in face)

August 16th, 2009

Devon stargazing

cool, ice
I made notes in a notebook throughout the week. I then complemented these notes with Stellarium, an awesome piece of free software to get exact ascensions etc, as well as identify the things I couldn't identify at the time due to my beginner status.

Latitude: 50d 57m 44.68s N
Longitude: 4d 23m 55.40s W
Altitude 229m


Very bright object to the east low on the horizon, with a distinctive orangey hue @ approx 21:45. Thought it might be Mars, but did not expect Mars to be visible. Got the binoculars on it, orangey hue remained, three moons became apparent

 . . O   .

Drew a rough sketch as above. {In order} Europa, Callisto, Jupiter, Io. Later I thought I could just detect Ganymede too (to the right of Jupiter) but not sure. Exact location:

Azimuth: 3 hr 50m, 5.8°
Equatorial: 21hr 42m 15°

A couple of minutes to the north of it could be distinctly seen three stars. Here is a picture someone else took last month, I saw Jupiter on the other side of the three stars in a line,

Click to go to original

Each of those stars is part of Capricorn, from top to bottom the three stars are
42 Cap
44 Cap
45 Cap

On the 3rd August Jupiter occulted 45 Cap.

Also saw several satellites through the binoculars (Konusview Giant Binoculars 20x80), no details discernible - they move very fast.

A good dozen meteors seen (beginnings of Perseid shower, the light show left over from when Comet Swift-Tuttle (a reasonable candidate to eliminate human life on earth) passed by. We won't see Comet Swift-Tuttle again until 2126 (last seen - 1992) when it will be visible to the naked eye like Hale-Bopp.)

The rest of the Eastern sky was washed out by a near full moon with only Jupiter surviving for naked eye observations.


Very cloudy. Moon visible a little, Jupiter not visible. So we danced a polka a waltz and Levi Jackson.


Very cloudy. Even more cloudy than yesterday. No moon visible, and some rain as well.


Lovely cloudless day which was spent in a hot kitchen eagerly anticipating a good night's star gazing. Naturally, the moment we finished cooking a mass of clouds came overhead. As night fell there was a brief glimmer of Jupiter, but not long enough to train the bins on it. The moon was up until the very late morning/early afternoon.

A lucky break in the clouds along with the moon being covered later on, afforded a brief view of the Milky Way directly over head - and even a good number of shooting stars were seen in the small gaps - which lasted only a minute or so.


Was inside a cloud all day and all night. Actually inside a cloud. Visibility about 50-100m max. Boo.


Whilst playing live-action Pac-man, noticed rainbowish Sun dogs (aka parhelia) at about 20:00. Didn't get a picture, but it looked almost exactly like this :

The 'dogs' were a little more round than here

22.12: Jupiter out with a vengeance:

 O  . .   .

Jupiter, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto

23.30: (Azimuth: 40° 18h - Corona Borealis

Then saw a huge shooting star to the south - it must have covered about 20-30° of sky. I was stargazing with a child of approx 10 years old and we were both awestruck my it, it left a significant smoke trail behind it (perhaps one of three to leave such a noticeable smoke trail that night).

23.40 Azimuth: 18° 15' 17h27m
Equatorial: 14h 16m 19°10' Arcturus

0:00: Azimuth 80° 20' 3h50m - Deneb

Altair also looking fantastic in the South.

Sagittarius setting in the South, looks like a teapot?

0:12: Half moon looking pretty. Spent some time sketching notable bits. Seemed to have recorded Grimaldi, Mare Humorum, Copernicus and Eratosthenes and a southern triangle of craters maybe including Schiller?

0.30: My young stargazing companion heads to bed. Made a sketch of a constellation at Azimuth, 22° 22h which I have later identified as Scutum

Also, with a lot of effort, managed to get Collinder 399 in the Binoculars (aka Al Sufi's Cluster or Brocchi's Cluster) More specifically I was viewing "The Coathanger". Azimuth: 55deg; 21h40m, Equatorial: +20deg; 19h30m

0.52 Thought I saw a plane, but it didn't move. It was to still for too long for a helicopter but it seemed to be distinctly flashing from red to blue. I have now identified it as Arcturus, it was startling.

Somebody with a telescope came over and chatted - I identified Albireo for him he said he could see four moons in Jupiter through the 'scope. Took another look through the binoculars and saw the fourth. Checked on Stellarium and it looks like Io came out from in front of Jupiter during the course of the night!

 O .  . .  .

Jupiter, Io, Europa, Callisto, Ganymede. Although now Jupiter was setting and the line was at about a 40° angle to the horizon.

01:00 Took a look at Albireo, a binary star, and was able to identify both of them through the bins.

Also sketched an asterism, part of the constellation of Pisces.

1.12: For a few moments I glimpsed at Andromeda, but it was very blurred and I was in free mode (no tripod). I tried to set the tripod up and get a good glimpse but found it difficult. Extreme condensation was covering the lenses and the sky was beginning to cloud over. Called it a night and went to bed.


Complete cloud cover- no moon, no nuffink.

August 6th, 2009


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