Comet Lovejoy and other February Delights

 

 

Comet pictured from an Oulton observatory. Picture: David Jackson

Photo by David Jackson (Norfolk man see below)

 

Given the weather not been doing much stargazing but done a bit of internet searching and exploring on various aspects of astronomy. Found this interesting blog talking about the comet  Lovejoy and some amazing photos. Also on there was a video of last years comet Rosetta and the “sound’ it makes. it ws speeded up and really sounded like the Predator -quite creepy!!Following the links on the site, Space.com, I found some really interesting video shows some fact some fiction but all really interesting. I never suspected how many layers I would find when I decided I was interested in the stars. I found Spacewatch; lovely for cosmic killers the most engrossing – have a look and tell me what you think. Also take a look at this article about a Norfolk man who managed a great photo of the comet – wish I could afford his gear!

I also found this site, Dark Sky Discovery which lets you know the best places to view the stars with Britain, with interactive maps, there are also surveys that you can take part in. Really so interesting and I must say time consuming, if you are planning to take this up for a hobby it will be good to know that it does take up your time. If you just want to lie under the stars, and looking no problem but if you want to know more and learn more about your hobby it takes time and money – things can be done inexpensively but I guess like anything else you get involved in a cost is expected and you will have to be firm with your budget.

Next month hopefully will get to see the solar eclipse on the 20th, although a total eclipse for some we should be able to see a partial eclipse in the UK…here hoping.

 

Shadows on Jupiter

Jupiter showing the shadows of the Galilean Moons

Jupiter and its 3 moons Io. Callistra & Europa

Not done a lot of stargazing this month due to the wet, cold and snowy weather, plus got myself a real dose of the flu mid month, just recovering from it now. So, not felt like doing much of anything really. One event that was on my calendar to not miss was the triple moon shadows on Jupiter. The three moons of Io, Callistra and Europa will all pass over Jupiter. We will not see this event again until 2032 so I was determined not to miss it. I have been told that seeing Jupiter and the Galilean moon is easy from the UK but not if you think you are dying of flu and it is raining and cloudy. So I was tucked up with my lemsip and watched the live webcast on the Livestream channel of the Griffith Observatory. This is a really great channel that I did not know about before but have spent quite a few days watching some of their previous webcasts. Wish I had found it sooner might not have watched as much Big Bang Theory over the past couple of weeks, who I’m kidding? I’d watched both. I fell asleep after watching the Io and Callistra moons so did not get to see Europa, but there is the recording on their Livestream website or a speeded up version on their You Tube channel. I forgot to mention I got a gift from my parents at Christmas and I am so pleased with it, a year’s subscription paid to the Astronomy Now magazine, it’s fantastic. The January issue has just arrived so much of interest in it especially for a beginner like me. You can see something of what is in it here.

Documentaries and Spica

Well not been doing too much stargazing this past few weeks when I had the time the weather was too wet or too windy to be out. Spent a bit of time on the internet and found a few very interesting documentaries on the universe. The two I enjoyed the most was in four parts this is part one from You Tube. The best though has to be The 7 Ages of Starlight, a BBC documentary. I have watched it a couple of times now as I find it fascinating.

Now when not watching documentaries, preparing for Christmas, going to Christmas dos – well you have to don’t you? I did actually get some stargazing in on the 16th. I manage to find the star Spica. This is a blue giant and the 15th brightest star in the sky, 250 light years from Earth part of the Virgo constellation. As it is one of the largest binary star systems to the sun there are quite a few observational studies on it. The Flag of Parά has a blue star representing Spica on it – just thought you might want to know that little know fact (I had to look up Parά – it’s in Brazil.)

Spica, the 15th brightest star in the skies

The waning crescent moon rose first then after midnight you could find Spica quite easily as it follows the moon, although I saw it as I was returning home after a party about 4am!! As it was not a particularly good night for viewing I was quite pleased with myself with finding it. Hopefully after Christmas I will have a planisphere to help me. Tell you about what that is next post.

 

November Skies…

 

Star Map of Polaris, The Big Dipper or Plough in relation to Cassiopeia

Well the colder weather is here and so is the rain. So hard to do any stargazing in a stormy sky, never mind getting so wet you look like you have been swimming not stargazing. That said November can be cold and crisp and a good month for watching the sky.  For beginners like me with the longer darker nights given a clear sky it is a good time to learn the constellations. I can now find and point out The Plough (or Big Dipper) and use it to find Polaris or the Northern Star, quite proud of myself when I first did it, brought back to reality when my 10yr old nephew pointed it out as quick – to be fair they had been learning it at school!  Wonder if he knows where Cassiopeia is? My main excitement though is we are expected to get a meteor shower from the 13th  –  21st November; The Leonids, this event occurs regularly but every so often it can become a meteor storm where thousands of meteors can be seen, can you imagine seeing that? Unfortunately that is not expected this year, but you will find me ready and waiting to see the spectacle on the nights of the 17th & 18th November, the best nights to view according to the Royal Astronomical Society.

Let me know if you will be out there too, watching the sky. Kind of nice to know there are others as crazy as me.

Meteor shower/storm from 2013, The Leonids

I should be so lucky, Not Once but Twice!

 

Magnificent solar eclipse

Solar Eclipse

What am I talking about, Solar Eclipes. Yes I actually have seen two. One was on holiday with my parents in 1999 the other again in Turkey but on an organised trip in 2006.

In 1999 I was in a Turkish resort on the Mediterranean   called Alanya. I was on the magnificent beach there early afternoon when I noticed something odd.  I was hiding out under a parasol (I burn)  when I noticed people gathering into groups. When I investigated they were using makeshift sun goggles to look at the sky, we were having a solar eclipse. It was quite dramatic as well as being fun, everyone spoke to one and other whatever the nationalities and during the week I was there we chatted again many a time. I found out later we were not in the best place to see it but it was certainly start of a lifelong interest for me. I found a video of the 1999 eclipse shot in Germany.

The second Solar Eclipse was a planned trip just for that. I went on a 4 day trip to Side, Turkey, by lunchtime on the 29th March 2006, I and a group of other like minded friends where ensconced on a beach. Around us was every nationality you care to name, at first it was just chattering and folk moving around. Then it all went quiet as the eclipse started. the first thing we noticed was the birds stopped singing and then the temperature dropped. It is so hard to put into words what the “blackout” felt like. Awe inspiring yes but also like an instinctive sense of fear mixed in with awe, no one was speaking you could just hear breathing. Then a resounding cheer went up as the sun started to appear, relief? I don’t know I just know it was thrilling. Behind me a Frenchman popped open champagne and  shared it and everyone was talking to their neighbours, similar terms being tossed about in many languages, magnificent, magnifique, harika,prächtig, to name but a few.  An experience I will never forgot but one I certainly want to experience again.

The sun emerging from a solar eclipse

Upcoming Stargazing Opportunities, 27-29 Sep

Hi guys! Check out what I’ve got for you below for some good stargazing opportunities coming up that involve the moon and combinations with planets and others…

Mars and Saturn

27 September: The Moon with Saturn!

Saturn will be very close to the Moon on this evening. The beautiful giant will be visible above the crescent Moon to the left right when night falls. Saturn will glow bright gold and set together with the Moon about an hour after nightfall.

28 September: The Moon with Saturn and Mars!

The Moon will slide between Saturn and Mars on this evening, with Saturn showing itself again as a bright star, this time to the lower right, with Mars making an appearance, slightly brighter, on the left side. Antares will also be visible below Mars.

29 September: The Moon, Mars, and Antares!

The Moon will team up with Mars and Antares again on this night to the southwest as night falls. Both Mars and Antares will line up below the moon and give off their signature orange glow.

The moon is one of the funnest objects in the night sky to watch because it’s the only heavenly body where you can easily see detailed features. Combine that with two other interesting wanderers and the next 3 days will provide good stargazing.

Courtesy of yours truly,

Andrew

Getting Away From It All

First of all, other than the actual stargazing, the one thing that I love the most about it is the “get-away-factor”. When I take that 30 minute drive along the Nature Reserve, I feel like I’m leaving my normal life behind me. My mind and my senses turn to a new task, taking in the trees, beautiful hills, fresh air, and ultimately that serene night sky. All of it put together stimulates my soul in such a way that helps me forget any troubles I might be having from the day-to-day grind. The tranquility of it is incredible and I’m sure you know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever spent time in awe of nature.

When I’m driving around, I like to spend some time choosing the ideal spot for stargazing. Usually, it should be in a clearing, near the top of a hill, or atop a stony area. Once I’ve chosen my spot and my gear is all set up, it’s usually just me, some nibbles, my tea, and the grand theatre of stars.

All this is part of the ritual. Since I’m just an amateur, I usually take my queues from Stardate to figure out where to point my gaze. Once my eye starts peering out there, I’m usually lost for a few hours!