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ian_d's Blog

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Comet PanSTARRS

Well hooray! Managed to get a look at Comet PanSTARRS this evening, with 10x50 binoculars, at about 6.45pm - just before the clouds got in the way. Very nice it was too - looked great against the twilight background, with the tail clearly visible and a pretty bright coma. Glad I caught it this evening, because the weather prospects look rubbish for the next few days. That's the first comet I've seen since 17P/Holmes a few years ago, and the only naked eye one since Hale-Bopp. It's no HB mind -

ian_d

ian_d

Been at it again - M45 this time

Well, must be on a roll! Got about 25mins of clear sky here tonight, and in that time I managed to get my 4" refractor out on the EQ3-2 mount, with my Canon 400D stuck on the end at prime focus. Pointed roughly at the Pleiades, and took some 20s exposures. Cloud came in. Packed up. Uploaded images to computer, did the "false flats" thing, and hey presto! Very poor by most standards, but infinitely better than anything I thought I'd be able to pull off with the time / experience / gear I have. Ch

ian_d

ian_d

Inspired to have a go with DSLR

Having attended the excellent BAA Deep Sky Section meeting today, I came away determined / inspired to have a bit of a go at taking some photographs of the sky. I've never really been into the idea too much, and largely assumed it was all a bit too expensive / tricky to be bothered with. But the talks today made me think I should have a go. As luck would have it, clear skies greeted me when I got home, so I grabbed my old Canon 400D, a little tripod, and set about fairly randomly shooting the sk

ian_d

ian_d

Open clusters in Cassiopeia

After lots of being involved in public astronomy events this weekend, it was nice to just get out in the back garden with the Dob tonight for an hour or so. Nice conditions - good seeing, no clouds, although maybe not the best transparency. Certainly not a night for faint galaxies with the Moon dominating things. I decided to spend some time exploring the open clusters in Cassiopeia. First up was M103 - first time I've seen this as far as I can remember, and it's well worth a look - nice, compac

ian_d

ian_d

2 nights Stargazing Live with Cotswold AS

After having to postpone our Stargazing Live events from January due to the snow and ice, this weekend saw the rescheduled public sessions in Shurdington on Saturday night, and Nature in Art near Twigworth on Sunday. Our luck was in hugely - Saturday was clear enough (but with some cloudy patches) to be worthwhile, and tonight's session was very clear indeed. Two decent nights on the bounce, coinciding with our public events....what are the odds?! In the interests of simplicity, I used my 4" ref

ian_d

ian_d

V quick Dob sesh

A bit of a brief observing session this evening - fairly knackered generally, but sky too clear to ignore! Spent a bit of time on the moon, which I wouldn't usually do but it did look pretty special at x50 through the Dob. Blasted my dark adaption though! Then on to Jupiter - some really crisp detail tonight, much better than the other evening. Lots of bands etc in northern hemisphere in particular, Pleiades next, and specifically wanted to see if I could make out the reflection nebula by using

ian_d

ian_d

When it's twinkly, open clusters are the way forward

Whilst beasting myself on a 10km run this evening in the freezing cold (couldn't feel my toes until after 5km!) I couldn't help but notice the lovely clear sky overhead. So, once suitably refreshed, out I ventured once more with my 6" SCT for a quick look up. Clear it may have been, but steady it was not. Jupiter was a real challenge, even at modest power (x120) - dancing about all over the place, very hard to make out much on the disk other than the two most prominent cloud bands. It was a nice

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ian_d

Damien Peach eat yer heart out

Couldn't resist sharing this here - while I was out the other night (see previous post) I had a go at snapping Jupiter down the eyepiece with my iPhone. Got Europa and Io as a bonus! You had to be there, really..... :smiley:

ian_d

ian_d

A few quick double stars

Just came in from a quick observing session with the Celestron 6" SCT - far from ideal conditions out there tonight, very murky really and a big bank of cloud drove me back indoors after about an hour. But I got some good stuff done. First of all, I was able to confirm that my recent clean of the corrector plate had gone well - nice sharp image, no smudges or other unmentionables. I was also able to get the GOTO all properly aligned and calibrated - last time I tried (admittedly in a real hurry)

ian_d

ian_d

Been a bit quiet on the astro front of late, but...

Well, I've not had much to write about in terms of actual observing for a while - wall-to-wall cloud, snow, ice etc has pretty much put the kaibosh on that. However, never one to be defeated by a little thing like the weather, I've found a few astro-related things to do in the last week or so. I took a bit of a risk the other night and finally gave my SCT a bit of a clean. I've had it since 2008 and not cleaned it once; and a quick look at the corrector plate showed that it was more than just a

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ian_d

Observing with Cotswold AS last night

A very clear (but very cold!) night last night saw a few of us from the Cotswold AS get together for an observing session in north Gloucestershire - a nice dark site, albeit a bit muddy. I took my Celestron C6 SCT along, and there was a good collection of refractors and reflectors present too. Various nice objects on show; I spent some time on M42 as it's hard to see from my garden, and it looked fantastic at x63 - with a decent dark sky it is amazing to see how large it is, and M43 was really c

ian_d

ian_d

Cotswold AS meeting last night

Good meeting of the Cotswold Astronomical Society last night, with a very interesting talk about the solar system beyond Neptune. The current theories around how the solar system formed are fascinating. It's thought that Jupiter and Saturn, through their orbital resonance, catapulted Neptune out beyond Uranus and into the Kuiper Belt - causing several million years of chaos as comets and asteroids got deflected all over the place smashing into everything (known as the Late Heavy Bombardment - gr

ian_d

ian_d

A Crab and an Eskimo

A less-than-hopeful gaze out the kitchen window at about 7.30pm this evening revealed the unimaginable - an unforeseen clear night! Not to be sniffed at, as you know. So out I went - initially just to take in the naked eye view, which was good fun in itself and something I don't do enough of, actually. Testing myself to see how many constellations I could confidently identify was a decent challenge - and I'm still a bit hazy on some parts of the sky, particularly the obscure bits around the Pole

ian_d

ian_d

Long-awaited observing

Finally the skies cleared yesterday, and at last a chance to do some observing. It turned out to be a really good session - one of the best I've had for a long time - and I got through a good number of targets in just over 2 hours. I started off with the 4" refractor, hunting galaxies - the Andromeda Galaxy and companions, and M33 in Triangulum. These were really well placed at around 8.30pm, and despite a knackered red dot finder (!) I was able to get a great view of M31 with the 24mm Panopti

ian_d

ian_d

Fingers crossed for tonight

Signs looking moderately positive for some clear skies here tonight, so the plan is to get round some more of the Moore Winter Marathon and to do a bit of compare-and-contrast between my three scopes. Would like to bag M56 and M33 tonight if I can; M44 and M67 in Cancer should be easy enough in the 4", and if I take it round the front of the house to get a better southern horizon then I might get M41 and M50 as well. All of this may, of course, come to nothing under yet more gloomy skies - watc

ian_d

ian_d

Planning for when the weather improves

Not much chance of any actual observing in the coming days, so instead I've been thinking of targets to look for when the weather finally improves. I was browsing around on SkySafari on the iPad and noticed that there's a globular cluster in Cygnus - M56. I realised I'd never seen it, and I sort of wondered how I'd missed the fact that there's a glob so well-placed at this time of year. So, that's top of the list. I'm also keen to have a go at M33 through my 4" refractor - I've only ever seen it

ian_d

ian_d

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