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Highlights of 2020.


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What a year ! Plagued particularly by rapidly changing weather , which has dominated observing . It's been a challenge that some of us deal with hoping for better times. Several rewards , starting with 

Solar.

June gave an indication that Sol was waking up.IMG_2702.thumb.JPG.430e71512e1d26db295a33fca347104a.JPG

 

31st of July gave an extraordinary prom.I hurriedly phoned up LeeB to have a look. We were both stunned at the extraordinary view.

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Since then only the weather has limited observing . http://halpha.nso.edu/ has given daily updates of wakening Sol , as have the reports of Aurora.

 

Night !

Some 46 sessions this year , boosted in the autumn by Mars opposition. Observing Mars was challenging with reducing the aperture and a moon filter being effective in controlling glare. A lot of detail was found , but took some teasing out.IMG_0066.thumb.JPG.1e8d792d5328498a6eb0d72937fd5ed0.JPG

September gave one night of extraordinary observing with the mare sirenum very obvious. Saturn showed surface details, a clear Cassini and an outer ring darker area . It was fortunate that Patbloke had come over and great to share such views. Jupiter didn't disappoint a few nights later with an Io shadow transit.

A busy year for both carbon and binary stars. Including "Hind's Crimson", "La Superba" and the "garnet star".

July brought a few weeks in darkest Northumberland , just amazed at how dark the skies are on the borders. 

Some specials included Comet C/2017 T2 Panstarrs rising up into Cassiopeia from Perseus ,  C/2019 Y4 Atlas and 289P Blanpain. Otherwise some excitement from

"Hubble's variable nebula"(NGC 2261), The "ghost of Jupiter" (NGC 3242) and the surprising bright M17.

Astounded to catch the Space X satellite train in late March , very close together and numerous !

The year ended with a spectacular view of Saturn sitting over Jupiter before the great conjunction.

 

A challenging year, but made enjoyable by transient and seasonal delights,

Careful now  and all the very best wishes for next year ,

Nick.

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Great stuff Nick.

 I think my highlight would have to be observing the Ring Nebula under truly dark skies at Galloway in October. Might seem a bit boring and I have observed it a few times at home under very light polluted skies where it is just a smudge. Galloway‘s very dark skies were a different story all together!! It truly blew me away, the observable detail was outstanding!!

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What a difficult year in life and astronomy. As for the Astro my favourite must be Comet Neowise. I walked up the lane with binoculars thinking how am going to find this thing and had to pick my jaw off the floor before even using the bins.

The following pic is a close up but I have a wide field that has already been posted on here so I won’t put it up again. My first big naked eye comet and it made quite an impression.

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Nick I was only thinking about the highlights of 2020 when your thread came up.

Looking back I had some wonderful nights in March/April observing a large number of DSOs in Leo, Ursa Major, Virgo and Coma Berenices.

Using my 12" Dob I had the best view of Mars ever and that goes back a few years. Then the delight of seeing Comet Neowise in my Helios Apollo 15x70 binos. I missed Hale Bopp so this has to be my best Comet. I was really pleased to observe all the Planets in a 10 hour period which started very early picking up Mercury.

Finally having two nights viewing the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction.

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I agree it's been a difficult year. One highlight was the insanely good weather we had for some time when the lockdown started, the best stretch of clear skies I've seen since I started observing, but I was too tired/overworked to do much observing then.

The highlights I have seen were Mars which I have never had a good look at before, and the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction.

This year has seen me using smaller scopes a lot more often, and towards the end of the year getting back into using binoculars after a few years of exclusively observing with telescopes (and monoculars).

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Neowise at a dark site with binoculars quite outstanding

Mars over multiple backyard sessions with each of my three scopes, I learnt so much of observed topographical features

The Great Conjunction on Sunday night from a local small hill with binoculars, the second of three attempts and very well worth the effort.

A difficult year like no other, yet for astronomy events, unforgettable for the right reasons.   

 

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Lovely post Nick, and a great idea to look back on the positives of a tough year.

I echo the comments about the wonderful streak of clear skies we had for a few months after lock down. I did plenty of observing during that period, day and night. Working from home allowed plenty of solar at lunchtimes and during breaks.

My highlights?

Unsurprisingly,  Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE is right up there. Amazing views that we all had, summarised in this post for me.

31st July was a red letter day for me. Two highlights of my year on that day, starting early in the morning managing to view all eight planets in one continuous session, the first time I’ve ever achieved that.

Later that day, viewing the same prom that Nick mentioned. Comments in this thread, but seeing ‘bombs’ of plasma falling down to the surface in real time was the most spectacular thing I’ve seen in quite a few years of solar observing.

Mars was pretty spectacular, again a fairly common theme I should think. I had many good sessions, but one in particular stood out which was on 22nd September, ahead of Opposition but when conditions were excellent and I had the best views I’ve ever had of the planet. For probably 20 years I have wanted to see the feature Valles Marineris, and that night, using mags of up to x360 in my 8” f8 dob, I saw it clearly for the first time. A lovely coincidence of conditions, scope, planetary rotation and a rare ability to drag myself out of bed at silly o’clock in the morning!

I’ll finish with another popular one I’m sure. The much anticipated Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. I was fully expecting a wash out, and so it turned out on the night of 21st, but like many others I had an hour with this lovely sight on 20th when they were almost as close. Wonderful views naked eye, in binos and through the scope. I even managed a rare (for me) DSLR snap of it which came out ok!

Interesting that the oppositions of Jupiter and Saturn didn’t really feature that highly for me, I guess because their low altitude led to fairly average views compared with other experiences I’ve had with them in the past. Overall though, a pretty cracking year I would say 👍

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Thanks for replies ! How could I have forgotten Neowise ! I have a pic somewhere on the phone , what a thrilling sight to show the grandchildren . Even my wife gave up Netflix for a view .

Happy Christmas and a better new year to all our readers ! 

We'll meet again , careful now , 

Nick.

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My highlights teasing out a 1.2° split on a double star I even think I could get a 1° if conditions are right.  Comet  Neowise I have a picture of that, Mars seeing surface details I have never seen that before, alas the conjunction was clouded out  I got a couple of pictures on the Sunday. Mercury I am hoping to see in January in a more favourable position for me, I am waiting for Jupiter and Saturn to get higher to get good views of these.

I have managed quite a few firsts this year Iota Cass comes to mind first time I have viewed all three components, Neptune another highlight many clusters and doubles just waiting to get to some dark skies and pick off some galaxies.

Merry Christmas everyone lets hope the New Year brings back normality

Be Careful

Paul

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Edited by wookie1965
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Nice report Nick. The year started well especially in March and April but deteriorated after that. 

Just did a quick count from my logs and was mildly surprised that I have 83 sessions logged for the year. This is mainly due to making a concerted effort to follow the progress of Mars (31) logs. Many of these sessions were short and through partially clouded skies but they are certainly a highlight of my year. Neowise of course was also very special.

The  major disappointment was getting no chance to follow the great conjunction. Only one view on the 20th, but better than nothing I suppose.

When I add  86 solar sessions I realised that the year was not as bad as I thought. Anyway here is to a Merry Christmas for us all  and hopefully to a better New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great report! Definitely solar for me, getting increasingly interesting month by month as activity grew. I bought my first Ha solar scope in 2014, so wasn’t around to see Cycle 24 rev up. Being able to chart the process this time has been a joy. Certainly that massive prom captured by Nick above was a highlight, but the past few months have seen some superb spots, active regions and filaments. Otherwise, because of the virus, I haven’t taken a telescope out of the city all year. But had fun binoviewing Mars and the Moon, and some memorable night vision sessions on the brighter dsos. 

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Great summary Nick

I love observing comets so for me the absolute stand out event has to be  Comet Neowise. 
During the last few years it’s been great to track quite a few comets as they made their way through the solar system but I have  been guilty of bemoaning that they have mostly been ‘fuzzy blobs’ with detail only visible in images or with large scopes. I longed for a ‘comety’ comet. After many false starts - ‘this could be naked eye next month’ etc etc - we finally got one. And a good spell of fine weather meant being able to observe it frequently.

I will never forget my first view as I  searched the low dawn horizon with binoculars and suddenly realised that what I wa seeing was  its tail above the trees. A real wow and goosebump moment.  Then the whole thing appeared and my gob was well and truly smacked - goosebumps on goosebumps! 
 

Thank you Neowise - I hope I’m still around for the  next ‘real’ comet. 

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