Welcome

Welcome to the Cockermouth Astronomical Society website. Hopefully you'll find all the information you need about our society and astronomy in West Cumbria here. If not contact us.

For more regular updates and members images why not join our Facebook page.

Monday, January 27

CAS January 2014 Meeting

The next CAS meeting will be on Tuesday 28th January 2014 at St Joseph's Church Hall, starting at 7.30pm

We had an outstanding turn out for the recent Stargazing Live evening in Cockermouth, with so many members of the public coming to observe Jupiter and the Moon from the Memorial Gardens. 

Our meeting on Tuesday will assist those who are relatively new to astronomy to find their way around the night sky, tips on observing and equipment, basics of astrophotography and of course a summary of the latest news on astronomy and spaceflight.

We will also have a short talk by local member Chris McKay on the Project Ascend mission to launch a series of scientific instruments and cameras into space from Cockermouth School!

If you have any images you have taken in the recent weeks (Jupiter, the Moon, Supernova SN2014J, etc.) then please bring them along on a memory stick and we can share them.

See you there!

Thursday, January 23

Supernova in M82 galaxy

Recently astronomers have observed at new supernova, a massive stellar explosion, in the M82 galaxy in the constellation of Ursa Major.

Image Credit : UCL/University of London Observatory/Steve Fossey/Ben Cooke/Guy Pollack/Matthew Wilde/Thomas Wright

The supernova (now designated SN 2014J) was around magnitude 11 when first discovered, requiring a relatively large telescope to observe it. It is set to brighten over the next week or so to somewhere around magnitude 8, visible in modest telescopes.

Full details are available here and here.

Congratulations to the discovery team, students from my old university Physics and Astronomy department at University College London.


Sunday, January 12

Stargazing LIVE in Cockermouth - Day Two : the evening session

A fantastic success.

We had a really busy Stargazing event last night in Cockermouth. I lost count of the number of people who came along to look through our telescopes. Luckily we had nine telescopes lined up in the play area of Memorial Gardens to show people the Moon and Jupiter.


The early start at 6pm allowed families with young children come along, and they certainly did. It was fantastic to see so many youngsters getting their first view of craters on the moon and the moons of Jupiter. We quickly relocated a couple of telescopes to a low level to help our smaller visitors get the best views.

Unfortunately we were so busy we didn't get time to get any photos of the crowds. In fact it was well past 7.30pm before I got chance to quickly walk round the 'scopes and see which CAS members had turned up with their telescopes. 


Thanks for your support.

Thanks to everyone who came along and brought telescopes and binoculars. Thanks to BBC Stargazing LIVE, BBC Radio Cumbria, Cumbria Crack and others who helped to publicise our events. Thanks of course to everyone who came along and for all the great questions and comments. It was certainly a very successful evening to finish a great stargazing LIVE week.


We're not done yet!


We are not done with Stargazing LIVE just yet though. At the end of this month our friends at Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre in Ennerdale are holding their first Dark Sky Discovery Weekend of the year. On Friday 31st January and Saturday 1st February there will be a number of activities at the centre.


On the Saturday afternoon and evening, CAS members will be there to help show people the night sky from this fantastic dark sky site. There will also be an inflatable planetarium giving everyone a tour of the night sky regardless of the weather. More details on the LGFC website.


Following that there's a repeat dark sky event in February and look out for some more events during National Astronomy Week in March.


If you've been inspired. . . 


If the BBC Stargazing LIVE series and our events have inspired you to get more involved in astronomy then come along to our next regular CAS meeting on Tuesday 28th January. We'll be following up on our observing sessions with a chance to look at the telescopes in more detail, learn about starting out photographing the night sky and some hints and tips about finding your way around the night sky. No need to book for our meetings, just turn up at St Joseph's church hall in Cockermouth at 7.30pm. 


You can also keep up to date through this site, or our Facebook and Twitter accounts. 

I hope to see you at some of our future events.



Saturday, January 11

More solar observing images

The following pictures are taken with the CAS Solar Hydrogen-Alpha scope and Blennerhasset School Astronomy Club astrovideo camera.






Stargazing LIVE in Cockermouth - Day Two : Solar observing

Today's stargazing live activities started at lunchtime with a solar observing session in Cockermouth town centre. Our initial plan to set up on Main Street was foiled by the fact that the Sun wasn't high enough to get over the buildings . .

Undeterred we moved up Lowther Went and found an ideal spot outside Wilkinson's. After a quick word with the manager, who kindly gave us permission, we set up two telescopes.


We got plenty of interested looks, and a few people started to ask what we were up to. Soon we were showing plenty of people the Sun through a special Coronado H-alpha filtered telescope, and a normal telescope with a special filter on it.


We even managed to get a couple of cameras attached to the scopes and captured some reasonable images. There was a particularly impressive solar prominence visible through the H-alpha filter.


After a couple of hours of observing through gaps in the cloud it was back home to prepare for tonight's event. 6pm in Memorial Gardens.


Stargazing LIVE events today

Today we have two events today that anyone can get involved with.

At 12pm we will be in Cockermouth town centre with special solar telescopes, hopefully showing people the Sun close up, and safely. (NEVER look directly at the Sun with binoculars or telescopes, without special equipment). Hopefully we will see sunspots and other features on the surface.

Solar telescope

Later on we'll be back in Memorial Gardens from 6pm to look at the night sky. CAS members will be on hand with their telescopes to show people a range for objects. We will be near the Wakefield Road car park, close to the children's play area.

Wrap up warm and come along.


Stargazing LIVE in Cockermouth - Day One

Last night's Stargazing event has to go down as a success. Although there was lots of cloud around, and it was raining when CAS members assembled in the Wakefield Road car park just before 7pm, gaps did appear in the cloud later.

Believe it or not, in our fourth year of holding events in conjunction with BBC Stargazing LIVE, that's the first time we've been able to see anything! and prospects are better for tonight.

Eight CAS members arrived with an array of telescopes and other equipment ready for observing. The forecast was for patchy cloud although there were no signs of the cloud breaking at 7pm.

Waiting for the clouds to clear
After and hour or so of standing around chatting about astronomy, we started to see the faint glow of the moon through the cloud. Still total cover, but the cloud was getting thinner, and the rain had gone. . .

A first glimpse of the moon through cloud
Shortly after that we spotted Jupiter and the clouds around the Moon got thinner still. It was time to set up the telescopes.

Telescopes set up and ready for action
Eventually we had three telescopes set up and although it was obvious the weather had put others off from coming, we showed one person the moon and Jupiter. It was a good opportunity for members to try each other's telescopes and try their hand at imaging.

The moon through one of the telescopes
Perseverance paid of in this case, and we are hoping for better on Saturday night.




Friday, January 10

Stargazing update

We've been cloud watching for an hour now. We can just see the moon through thin cloud. Nothing much else but being optimists we are setting up a 'scope.

Stargazing update

The weather is poor at the moment for our first stargazing event tonight. We will still be in Memorial Gardens from 7pm to see how it goes. There is some optimism in the forecast that we may at least see some breaks in the cloud.

Check back here, or our Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates.

Stargazing in Cockermouth tonight

Tonight is the first of our Stargazing LIVE events this year. Following on from the excellent BBC Stargazing LIVE TV series this week, we are hoping to show people the night sky from Cockermouth.

We will be in Memorial Gardens, Cockermouth from 7pm this evening, with telescopes, binoculars and more. There is no need to bring you own equipment (although you can if you want), CAS Members will be on hand to show you some of the best sights in the night sky.

There is no charge for the event, and it is suitable for all ages. The forecast is for patchy cloud, so hopefully we will be able to see some of the night sky.



If the sky clears it will be cold so wrap up warm and come a join us.


Thursday, January 9

Northern Lights observing guide

If you wondering how best to see the Northern Lights, look no further than Stuart's excellent Cumbria Sky blog for an observing guide for beginners.

 

BBC Stargazing events in Cumbria this weekend

There are more than just our Stargazing in Cockermouth events going on in Cumbria this weekend. Our friends at the Eddington Astronomical Society in Kendal, and Border Astronomical Society in Carlisle also have events.

Later in the month we will once again be supporting Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre at their Dark Sky Discovery Weekend.

For details of all the events near you, wherever you are, check out the BBC Things to Do website.

Stargazing galaxies

On last night's BBC Stargazing LIVE Mark Thompson showed us how to find a few galaxies around The Plough in Ursa Major.

M51 Whirlpool Galaxy as you won't see it through a small telescope!

While these are *relatively* easy galaxies to find but still can be frustrating to track down in a small telescope.

If you want some help finding these and other 'deep sky' objects, including the Andromeda Galaxy 'only' 2.5 million light years away, come along to one of our Stargazing in Cockermouth events. We are in Memorial Gardens, Cockermouth with our telescopes from 7pm on Friday 10th, and 6pm on Saturday 11th January.

Don't forget you can help look for hidden galaxies at spacewarps.org.

Wednesday, January 8

Beat the clouds, see the Northern Lights

If you've been enjoying the spectacular views of the aurora on the BBC Stargazing LIVE from Tromso in Norway you can catch the live view from Norway at any time.

The Tromso all-sky camera  provides a new image every few seconds, just click on the 'latest image' link on the main page of their website. Or you can explore the archive of images.

The image below is from last night just after the start of the BBC Stargazing LIVE show and shows the extensive green aurora we saw behind Liz Bonnin on the programme.


Tonight there is cloud cover and snow in Tromso, so not much to see on the camera. Just as well the BBC crew were able to bring us live pictures from 30,000ft, well above the clouds.

You can also view some fantastic aurora images on the Spaceweather.com Realtime Aurora Gallery.

As mentioned on tonight's show, a large Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) erupted from the sun today and is heading for the Earth. I we get any clear skies over the next couple of days look out for aurora. Failing that check the camera in Tromso.

Don't forget our own Stargazing in Cockermouth sessions on Friday and Saturday

Sunday, January 5

Stargazing in Cockermouth 2014 - What will we see?

On January 10th and 11th Cockermouth Astronomical Society will once again be holding their annual 'Stargazing in Cockermouth' event to link with the BBC Stargazing LIVE series which airs for the fourth year running on 7th, 8th and 9th January on BBC Two.

This year we invite you to join us for a simple observing event in Memorial Gardens Cockermouth, which will provide a fantastic opportunity for everyone, young and old, to explore the night sky.

With plenty of telescopes, binoculars and amateur experts on hand to guide you, you'll see some amazing sights. Explore the craters and seas of the moon in amazing detail through telescopes that will make it seem you are hovering just above the surface.

See Jupiter, that 'bright star' in the evening sky, come to life as a real planet with cloud bands visible in its atmosphere. See its tiny moons, first observed by Galileo over 400 years ago, for yourself through a telescope or binoculars. Perhaps even catch a glimpse of the Great Red Spot, a huge storm, three times the size of the Earth, that has been raging in Jupiter's atmosphere for hundreds of years.

Jupiter imaged recently by CAS member Dennis Kelly
Observe the Orion Nebula, a vast cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the light of stars being 'born' within it.

Test your vision on the Pleiades, a cluster of stars known as 'The Seven Sisters' and used as a test of eyesight by many ancient cultures. How many of its stars can you see with the naked eye?

Learn where to find the Andromeda Galaxy, a twin to our own Milky Way. Light from this collection of over 200 billion suns started its journey two and a half million years ago. You can observe it with a simple pair of binoculars.

See many other 'deep sky' objects, like the Crab Nebula, the remains of a star that exploded as a bright star observed by Chinese astronomers in 1054 AD. The star has gone, but the remains are visible through telescopes today.

Learn how to photograph the night sky with fairly basic equipment that you may already have access to. We will have plenty of experienced society members on hand to show you how you can take some stunning photographs yourself.

If the Stargazing LIVE programmes have inspired you to explore the night sky further, wrap up warm and come along to Memorial Gardens in Cockermouth from 7pm on Friday 10th January and from 6pm on Saturday 11th January. We hope to see you there!

Friday, January 3

Our Stargazing event next week

Don't forget that the BBC Stargazing LIVE series is showing next week, each night from Tuesday to Thursday.

Our own events will follow on from that next Friday and Saturday evenings. We will kick off on Friday 10th at 7pm in Memorial Gardens, Cockermouth. We need as many telescopes as possible along with society members to assist showing members of the public the night sky. If you can come along and help, great. Even better if you can let me know beforehand, so I can plan best use of our resources. Email me at chris@cockermouthastronomy.co.uk

We will run a repeat event on the Saturday night, that's 11th January. We will start at the earlier time of 6pm. Again the more telescopes the better.

Weather permitting we are also hoping to do a bit of solar observing in the afternoon. Check back for more details on our plans and what were are hoping to show people.

In the mean time enjoy the TV shows.