Three Weeks in the Wilderness Between the 9th to the 22nd of August, I was fortunate to spend almost three weeks camping with my girlfriend in the natural park of Causses du Quercy, France. It is a beautiful area of hidden caves, prehistoric artwork, gorgeous villages, mellow rivers, cool breezes and summer sun, delicious wine, cheese and paté and some of the most precious skies in Europe. I was fortunate enough to take along my 10" Moonshane and head out with my girlfriend to an area known as
M 35 and a Mystery
M 35 presents a gorgeous field of stars and must rank as one of the most beautiful open clusters in the heavens. Typically you see gentle curves and woven strands of frosted silver stars terminating with a larger, brighter and more colourful one at the curve’s end.
Sketch of M 35
It comes as little surprise, then, that observers have likened its pattern to an exploding rocket or bursting firework consisting of several hundred stars scattered over an area covered by the fu
The Eskimo Nebula - A View from the Arid Lands
By Way of Introduction
In a manner of speaking, we are born out of the earth, walk on it for a while and finally become part of it when we die and so too with a star. It is born out of the cosmos, wanders it for a while and finally becomes a part of it when it dies. In this way, both a star's existence, like a human life, is a rite of death, a being-towards a something else; a transformation.
The physical recycling of life serves as a reminder
Messier 15 - A View from the Arid Lands
Imagine a world where the sky blazes with the radiance of a hundred thousand suns. That in any direction you ever cared to look you saw more stars crowded together than anywhere else in the Milky Way – anywhere, perhaps, than that of our own galaxy's hidden heart.
Imagine a world of midnight brightness, a world without shadow, where the love of warmth would burn everything to ash. This would be the world of Messier 15, a primordial remnant forming from t
The Double Cluster - Caldwell 14
The Double Cluster or Caldwell 14 in Perseus is a visual extravaganza and probably one of the most breath-taking sights to be seen in the night sky. On a good night the soft glow from the combined light of the two individual clusters resolve into an awe-inspiring swarm of literally dozens upon dozens of blue and white stars surrounded by just as many unrelated Milky Way stars.
The true brilliance of the Double’s stars are dimmed by swaths of heavy galactic du
Double in Perseus - Part II
Epsilon Persei (ε Persei)
RA / DEC: 03:57:9 / + 40.01
Magnitude A / B: 2.8 / 8.8
Epsilon Persei is huge. It is young and burning at an extremely high temperature – around 27,000k – giving it that distinctive blue-white hue so common amongst the stars in Perseus. It has a luminosity of about 28,000 Suns, is around 16 times the Sun’s mass and nearly four times bigger. Needless to say, like so many other stars in Perseus, with les
Some Doubles in Perseus - Part I
Eta Persei (η Persei)
RA / DEC: 02:50:42 / +55.53
Magnitude A / B: 3.8 / 8.5
Eta Persei, Struve 307 or Miram, lies at the northern most tip of the constellation of Perseus about 1,331 light years away. Classed as a K3 supergiant, the star is estimated to be about 11 times the mass of the sun with a diameter 105 times greater and radiating with a luminosity of about 35,000 suns. The future of the star is still unknown but i
NGC 752 - A View from the City
NGC 752 or Caldwell 28 lies well within Andromeda's borders, just a few degrees southwest of the spectacular double star, Gamma Andromeadea.
Amidst the splendor and easy attraction of Andromeda’s galaxies, NGC 752 is an often overlooked but beautiful open cluster and will no doubt be a pleasure to contemplate through binoculars or a low-magnification eyepiece.
What I saw at 40x in the f/10 overfilled my field of view; four dozen and more sparkling gems scattered
Measurement of Doubles and a Jovian Moon - Baader Micro Guide
The reason for this rather long blog entry is to highlight what has been possible using simple and relatively inexpensive gear to measure the separation and position angle of a number of double stars and the sizes and distances of various objects within the Solar System.
The preliminary goal was fivefold:
to further skills in star-hopping and to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of star magnitude.
Some Doubles in Andromeda Perhaps there are some who think doubles are merely two stars close together and they may be right, just as one may be right in saying great music is only a bundle of notes strung together or that literature is just a large collection of words. But as with most things in life, if you spend time with doubles, hunting them out and learning from them, you come to realise that the grand majority radiate an aesthetic beauty quite unlike anything else. As with any art, there
Lunar Observations and Sketches This week, I've decided to wake up early and view Jupiter. This has been far from an easy task, but surprisingly, seeing has been rather good at these early hours of the morning and Jupiter’s two great bands and Giant Red Spot were easily visible every observing session. I drew an image of what I saw at around 4am, returned to Jupiter about an hour later to draw another field sketch and then wound the practice down as the sun rose around 6am. With these sketches
NGC 7510 - Open Cluster NGC 7510 is a young, open cluster in Cepheus just a couple of degrees below M 52. It is estimated to contain anything between 30 to 60 member stars, scattered across 10 to 15 light years of space and ranging from a magnitude of about 8 to 15. It is about 107 years old and although relatively unknown, its distance from Earth has been valued from anything between 7,000 to just under 17,000 light years. Putting this into some perspective, as the cluster's light reaches you,
Epsilon (ε) Lyrae & Struve (Σ) 2470 & 2474 Epsilon (ε) Lyrae, HIP 91919 - The Double Double Along with Albireo in Cynus, the Double Double in Lyra is probably one of the most viewed multiple star systems in amateur astronomy; it is relatively easy to find, makes a good test for one's optics and scope and is rather beautiful to behold. It is estimated that the star system is some 162 light years away from Earth, separated by billions of miles and orbiting each other over a period of hund
M 39 M 39 is a rather unassuming open cluster about 101 thousand lights years away and estimated to be about 9 light years across. The vast majority of brighter stars are Type A, Dwarf stars, something similar to Sirius, in their main sequence stage (burning hydrogen at their cores), whilst the brightest star is a Type B with a magnitude of about 6. This understanding has lead to an age estimate for M 39 of about 240 to 280 million years; a long time, but as things go in the universe, M 39 is a
Here I will conclude this little three part series. You can find the other two parts here: Part I: http://stargazerslou...3-part-i-space/ Part II: http://stargazerslou...-part-ii-space/ Up to this point, every wave known to science travelled relative to some medium, so where was the substance for light? Experiments were failing to find the Aether and Maxwell’s own equations did not conjure up such a substance, so what was going on? It was simple, argued a young Einstein, light, unlike any other
Following on from Part I: http://stargazerslou...8-qualias-blog/ Part II – Space Introduction Before we reach Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity it is necessary to allow Maxwell a voice on our stage, for his own discoveries would play a significant role in Einstein’s own radical insights. Maxwell – Setting the Stage Building on Faraday’s concept of Field (that which exerts a force beyond its physical presence), Maxwell found that electric and magnetic fields were in fact a single entity a
I don't assume that I'm an expert on any of this, so if there are pertinent mistakes in what is written, please correct me. The idea of these posts is simply to give a very rough and very shoddy idea of non-existential Space and Time (for existential notions we've really got to deal with Heidegger, Foucault et al). Hopefully these entries will be short enough to deal with in one sitting but give a general idea of the discourse conducted over the last few centuries. If it isn't working, or you th
M 27 - The Dumbbell Nebula General Observations Messier discovered M 27 in 1764. Some twenty years later, William Herschel recognised its peculiar shape. His son, John, called it the Dumbell and the moniker stuck. In the 19th century, Huggins observed that it wasn't composed of unresolved stars as was originally believed, but through the new science of spectroscopy, realised M 27 was in fact a gigantic cloud composed of luminous gas. Along with M 57, the Ring Nebula, M 27 is one of the most obse
M 29 - An Open Cluster M 29 is an unassuming, rather lacklustre open cluster made up of about seven bright stars some 3,740 to 7,000 light years away in the constellation of Cygnus and anyone with a 4" telescope or larger may wonder how it was ever included in Messier's list of objects not to be confused with a comet. The answer can be found in Messier's own notes where he writes of the star grouping as "seen...in the form of a nebula", perhaps highlighting just how poor the optics and lenses we
NGC 6826 - Caldwell 15 - The Blinking Nebula General Notes Planetary nebulae are the final stage of middle to low mass stars. They are essentially gigantic shells of gas surrounding the nucleus of a dying, progenitor star and one of the best examples of this kind is perhaps NGC 6826. On a cosmic scale, planetary nebulae are considered relatively ephemeral phenomena, lasting anything between 30 to 100 thousand years from formation to complete dissipation. It is possible that our own sun will beco
M 94 - Spiral Galaxy A Bit of General Knowledge M 94 is a spiral galaxy some 15 to 17 million light years away from us. It has a diameter of about 56,000 light years and contains some 60,000 million stars. In this sense, M 94 is considered a generally modest galaxy but it does have some rather special qualities. Like M 82, M 94 is a Starburst galaxy, which means it is in the process of creating stars. It appears that high density stellar waves are compressing cosmic matter into protostars at an
General Plan I've decided to include my general observing plan for the warm summer months ahead because I feel it will not only help direct my own observations and studies but may also help other folk trying to decide what urban wonders they might be able to try for in the following weeks. The listing information includes Messier objects, NGC wonders, and Double Star gems which I think are worth taking a shot at even if the possibility of success isn't 100%. Unless directed otherwise the listing
M 57: The Ring Nebula A Little on Lyra The constellation Lyra is rather small and faint from the city but it is easy to find due to being home to Vega, the 5th brightest star in the northern hemisphere. Interestingly, around 12,000 years ago, Vega (Alpha Lyrae) served as the Pole star and will again if mankind can survive another 12,000 years. Strummed like a guitar rather than plucked like a harp, the lyre is an ancient stringed instrument dating back to around 3,000BCE. According to ancient Gr