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.

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Wednesday, December 10

Orion Nebula

A winter favourite of mine and many astrophotographers...the Great Orion Nebula M42 & M43

William Optics ED80II, Canon 300D
6 x 2mins @ISO400 + 6 x 2 mins @ ISO1600
Combined with Images Plus

Saturday, December 6

Moon, Venus & Jupiter conjunction

Like Robin I was blessed with a clear sky (although it was blocked by a tree to the south of my observatory prior to and just after the occultation!)

Moon & Venus
Canon 300D, William Optics ED80II @ prime focus (cropped)

Moon, Venus & Jupiter (plus 2 moons)
Canon 300D, William Optics ED80II @ prime focus


Friday, December 5

Venus Occultation - The Movie

Well the weather co-operated for a change and the whole event was visible, only slightly marred by a few whispy clouds. I hope some of you managed to see it too.

I took some shots of disappearance and reappearance using a Digital SLR camera with a 300mm lens on a fixed tripod. some of these have been combined into short video showing Venus re-emerging from behind the Moon (greatly speeded up, the actual length of this sequence was about 5 minutes)

You can see more pictures taken before and after on my website here

Friday, November 28

Venus plays Hide and Seek with the Moon on Monday 1st December

Hidden away in Dennis' observing notes for this month is a visual observing gem. Late Monday afternoon 1st December, the Moon will occult (pass in front of) the planet Venus, hiding it from view for an hour and a half. You will need a good low southern horizon though as all the action takes place betweeen just 11 and 7 degrees elevation.

For observers in Cockermouth, Venus is predicted to disappear behind the unlit side of the thin crescent moon when it is almost directly due South at 15:42 (The time will depend slightly on where you are, for example from Workington it will blink out about half a minute earlier, in Keswick half a minute later) and reappear at 17:12

The sky will still be quite bright at the start but I checked this afternoon and Venus will be easy to see with the unaided eye once you have spotted it. (Interestingly the thin crescent moon may prove harder to spot as its dark surface reflects far less sunlight than Venus' bright clouds)

Provided you can see low enough, you should have no problems spotting the re-emergence of Venus from behind the bright sunlit side of the moon in the much darker skies though at 17:12.

While you are watching, also look out for Jupiter nearby, just a few moon diameters up and slightly to the right.

This is also an excellent photo opportunity. If you manage to take any, send them to me and I will post them on the Blog.

Clear Skies

Saturday, November 22

November Meeting

Don't forget that our next CAS meeting, and last 'formal' meeting of 2008 is next Tuesday night. That's 25th November 7.30pm at St Joseph's church hall, Cockermouth.

This time we'll have a round up of the latest in space and astronomy news (and there's been quite a bit) and Robin will be giving us a talk on an unusual aspect of the hobby, radio astronomy.

Hope to see as many of you there as possible.

Saturday, October 11

A New Cumbrian Sky

Stuart has been busy down in Kendal preparing a new version of Cumbrian Sky, as AOL decided to close their Journal service he has been using for the last few years. So check out the new site at http://cumbriansky.wordpress.com

I'm sure you'll agree that the new blog looks very slick, and we can be sure that Stuart's posts will continue to be the excellent quality we've come to expect.

A quick check through my bookmarks shows this is now the third incarnation of Cumbrian Sky, for those intested in a historical perspective the original site dating back to October 2004 is still available.

Friday, October 10

Enceladus close flyby

Phil Plait aka the Bad Astronomer has a this early round up of Cassini's very close flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The first pictures look impressive

Enceladus flyby

Just yesterday, the Cassini spacecraft passed an incredible 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the surface of Saturn’s weird moon Enceladus. This icy ball has plumes of water jetting up from its south pole region, emanating from a series of parallel cracks nicknamed tiger stripes. Cassini flew right through these plumes! The images taken have not been fully processed yet, but the Cassini folks have released a few of the raw images. Here’s one:

Cassini raw view of Enceladus

Wow. The surface of Enceladus is entirely covered with ice; see how few craters there are? That means the surface is "new"; if it were older there would be lots more craters. That means the moon is recently (or continuously) resurfaced, which in turn means a dynamic process almost certainly involving water and a liquid interior. The cracks and plates look to be due to ice floes. We see the same sort of thing here on Earth and on Jupiter’s frozen moon Europa.

blog it

What's going on with CAS News?

OK. You'll probably see some strange things happening on CAS News over the next few days, let me explain. . . .

Basically I've switched the CAS Website address (www.cockermouthastronomy.co.uk) over to point at the former CAS News blog (www.casnews1.blogspot.com). That means the blog is now *the* CAS website. So why have I done that and what are the implications ?

Firstly, Why? Well you probably noticed that I haven't had much time to update anything recently. The CAS website hasn't been touched for ages and much of the information on meetings and membership was out of date. As only I have access to update the website, and only from one desktop computer that makes things more difficult. On the other hand the blog can be updated by other from anywhere with web access. So everyone coming to the same place means more likelihood of things being up to date. Also you all get the opportunity to comment on the blog, so can play your part. A second advantage of the blog approach is cost, it should be much cheaper to maintain as we use the services of 'blogger'.

So what are the implications of this move ?
  1. There may be an impact on email subscriptions. If you get CAS News via email then I haven't worked out whether it will still work or not. I may need to do some adjustments behind the scenes to get things back on track.
  2. If you have the former CAS website bookmarked you may still get to the old homepage at http://www.cockermouthastronomy.co.uk/index. If you do you'll need to type www.cockermouthastronomy.co.uk into your address bar (or follow this link) then bookmark that to replace the old bookmark.
  3. As I'm moving some of the old reference data from the old site to this one, you may get email updates of 'old stuff' you don't need. Just bear with me, that should only happen a few times before we are back on track.
  4. I could have broken everything ! Things seem to be working on my PC but if you are experiencing any difficulties please let me know on chris@cockermouthastronomy.co.uk (or cas@darwin.otherinbox.com if I've broken the email as well).
  5. If I've really, really broken it you probably will not be able to read this either !
At the moment I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

[UPDATE: I think I've redirected the feed so that the emails should work now. If you are not getting them let me know. I've noticed that the URL http://cockermouthastronomy.co.uk still links to the old site so if you omit the "www." part you can still get all the old site at the moment.]

CAS Meeting Programme

Below is our latest programme.

Sunday, October 5

September Meeting Report

CAS founder, Stuart Atkinson was our guest speaker this month and gave us an excellent talk on Visions of Mars. Stuarts presentation was packed with fantastic pictures of Mars and gave a real perspective on the way space probes and landers have changed our view of the Red Planet. You can find links to all Stuart's online work, and there's lots of it, over at Cumbrian Sky or Stuart's homepage. It was great to see Stuart and Stella again and we look forward to welcoming them to future CAS meetings.

New CAS member Peter Nicholson also provided an update on the new CAS telescope and some really useful beginners insights into preparing for and observing session.

Chris provided the usual update on space and astronomy news. If you missed it you can use the following link to view September's CAS News Presentation.

Hope to see you at the October CAS meeting.

Thursday, September 25

Big Skies at Big Wood

A big "Thank You" to Peter for organising an improptue observing session Wednesday night.

We made good use of a rare clear night under some wonderful dark skies at Big Wood, to put the new Society Telescope through its paces. I am glad (and a little relieved!) to say it performed impeccably, placing a string of chosen targets in the eyepiece.

The montage shows some of them. Can you identify them? There will be a full report on the observing session at next weeks meeting.


Wednesday, September 24

September CAS Meeting

Remember our next meeting is on Tuesday 30th September, 7.30pm at St Joseph's Church Hall. This month I'm very pleased to say that we have our old friend and CAS founder Stuart Atkinson coming up from Kendal to give a talk on his favourite topic . . . Mars.

Staurt's talk "Visions of Mars" will examine
how our view of Mars has changed over the years, from Percival Lowell's sketches to the very latest images from the MERs and Phoenix. Many of the images will be processed by Stuart himself. I'm certain it will be a fascinating talk, see you there.


Tuesday, September 2

Big Bang day is Nigh!

No not that one. You've missed that by about thirteen and a half thousand million years! But 10th September marks the start of an experiment which might just bring us a step closer to understanding what went on in the first fraction of a second in the life of our Universe. I am talking about the start up of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

BBC radio 4 plan to cover it with a series of programmes and their website is as good a place to start as any if you want to find out what all the fuss is about.

Alternatively, let the physicists tell you themselves in the Large Hadron Rap (I know what you are thinking but it is actually not half bad!)

Oh and by the way if you have heard that they might produce a black hole which will gobble up the Earth, don't worry they won't, I guarantee it!


Monday, August 25

Dark skies return and the first meeting of the new season

The skies are getting dark at a more sociable hour now signalling the start of a new observing season. Last night I spent an hour or so under partly clear skies checking out the new society telescope readying it to be put into service. I am glad to say it acquitted itself well, efficiently locating a good section of Messier objects prominent at this time of year. The globular clusters M2,M15,M13 and the double cluster in Perseus looked particularly nice, as did the planetary nebulae M27 (dumbell)and M57 (ring) The Galaxies were less spectacular as the moon was rising by this time but M82 (cigar) showed up nicely.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 26th is the first meeting after the summer break so if you want to make use of the new telescope, come along and take your "driving test" which will enable you to borrow it between meetings, provided you are a fully paid up member.

Hope to see you there

Thursday, August 14

Lunar Eclipse Watch Saturday 16th August

The weather forecast does not look too promising for Saturday evening but they don't always get it right so given a chance of some clear skies, I will be down on the Memorial Gardens Cockermouth from about 9 pm BST setting up the Society Telescope.

It is a deep partial eclipse so most of the moon will be in full shadow of the earth with the remaining sliver in partial shadow.

Every lunar eclipse looks subtly different depending on the amount of dust in the earth's atmosphere so events like erupting volcanoes and burning rainforests can affect the appearance

This image was taken during the partial phase of an eclipse back in 2004 viewed by society members from the Caldbeck fells. More pictures of that event here.

Here's hoping for some
Clear Skies

Monday, August 11

New Telescope for CAS !

I am very pleased to report that the Society now posseses its own high performance telescope!

It is thanks to the generosity of our members and the general public who supported past society events and was partly funded with help of a grant from the Cockermouth and District Neighbourhood Forum.

For the technically minded it is an 8 inch F5 Newtonian on a fully computerised Goto Equatorial Mount. What this means in practise is we have a telescope capable of finding, tracking and revealing thousands of objects, from the moon and planets to distant galaxies, which will always be available for society and public observing sessions. Additionally it can be borrowed between sessions to suitably trained full members of the Society for their own observing programmes.

It is hoped that, weather permitting, first light for the telescope will be the Partial Lunar Eclipse on Saturday evening 16th August, so if you want be among the first to try it out, keep that evening free and watch out for more details later this week.

Clear Skies


Friday, August 1

Weather cooperates for Partial Solar Eclipse

Well the clouds parted long enough for a few dozen passers by to get a good view of the partial solar eclipse from Cockermouth memorial gardens today where I had my trusty solar filtered 80mm wide angle refractor set up. Sorry no pictures of the event from there (I forgot to take the camera) but here is one of the diamond ring taken on the line of totality by the Norwegian airforce from Kvitøya high in the arctic circle.
Of course if anyone did take some shots, don't forget to bring them along to the next meeting (26th August)

Clear skies

Sunday, July 27

Summer Holidays!

It is holiday time so no meeting this month.
The Solar System does not stop turning though and there will be a Solar Eclipse on Friday 1st August (Total in parts of Siberia and China but only partial here). If the weather is kind I will be down on the Memorial Gardens with a small filtered telescope from about 9:30 - 11 :00 am.
By the way, if you are wondering about the surreal image it is a stereographic projection of the observatory on Pic Du Midi where a group of French amateurs are spending their summer holidays making some spectrographic observations. Click here for some more stunning photos from the expedition.

Have a good holiday!

Wednesday, June 18

June Meeting

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 24th June, 7.30pm at St Joseph's Church Hall, Cockermouth.

This month we'll have the usual round up of news, and there's plenty to go at. In addition Chris will give an update on NASA's Phoenix mission to Mars. We will also be running a practical session designed for all those of you who have been asking for help setting up you telescopes, a beginner's guide to polar alignment. There'll be some advice on what's up in the night sky this month.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, May 28

May Meeting and AGM Report

Many thanks to Robin and those members who turned up for our AGM and May meeting last night. I managed to make the latter part of the meeting, but by the time I arrived the AGM business had been completed. Thanks to Dave Moll and Denis Kelly for volunteering to join the committee, Dave will take on the Treasurer's role and Robin and myself will continue as Secretary and Chairman respectively. We'll also continue to look for volunteers to help us out over the coming months.

After the formal meeting Robin showed is some incredible amateur footage of the International Space Station (any chance of a link to that Robin?) and gave us the latest news on the Mars Phoenix landing. More on that mission next month. . .

On the subject of Mars Phoenix, there's plenty of images out there on the web (check the CAS News sidebar for some of the best). Below is one of the most impressive, a MRO HiRISE image of the lander, parachute and heat shield on the surface of Mars. More info on the Planetary Society blog here.

If you think that's impressive you should see this . . . . and this !!


Monday, May 26

First views from Mars Phoenix

It seems NASA's Mars Phoenix probe had a perfect landing. The first images are not available on the web and they look fantastic. Remember Phoenix is a lander, not a rover, so the view will not change over the mission. The lander is designed to do science.

These images are false colour at the moment, but I'm sure will be made more realistic over the coming days (or hours even). The main thing to note is the polygonal shapes in the ground, seen better below. These are similar to patterns seen in areas of permafrost on the Earth, and are exactly what the mission team were hoping for. Strong evidence of water ice just below the surface.

Keep checking the web for more details and mission results.

Phoenix is down safely !!

I hope some of you enjoyed the live coverage. I'm just looking forward to the first pictures now. Really good coverage available on the internet and TV. I'm sitting here with NASA TV on one laptop, Mars Live webcast (Sir Patrick Moore, Chris Lintott et al) on another laptop and CNN on the TV.

If you missed it I;m sure Robin will have all the latest pictures and news on Tuesday. I'm going to get some sleep now.

Saturday, May 24

Mars Phoenix Landing

NASA's Mar Phoenix probe is due to land in the early hours of Monday morning (about 1 am our UK time). There's loads of coverage on the 'net' including of course live coverage on NASA TV. Rather than list all the links here I'll just refer you to Stuart Atkinson's special Phoenix Landing Survival Kit post at Cumbrian Sky.

Enjoy the event . . .


May meeting and AGM

Tuesday 27th is our May meeting and Annual General Meeting. Unfortunately I won't be there as I need to be in London with work, but the meeting is going ahead and we need to elect out committee for next year. We really need some additional help now, as it looks like I will be more tied up with work over the coming year and can't get guarantee to get to every meeting, although I'm happy to continue with a committee role. That's dropped Robin in it a bit, so we need some help.

As I've said on many occasions before, that does not mean you need to stand up in front everyone and give talks. But there are lots of other things we need to keep the society going and improving. For example;
  • Could you store some equipment and manage the CAS library ?
  • Could you take an active role in posting news stories on the blog and website?
  • Could you look after the society bank accounts ?
  • Could you organise observing evenings once a month in the winter months and let people know when and where they are?
  • Could you organise a society trip to a place or event of astronomical interest?
  • Could you write a monthly 'report' for the Cockermouth Post?
  • Could you look after the membership list, issue membership cards and collect subs?
  • Could you contact and arrange some guest speakers ?
Hopefully you can answer 'yes' to at least one of those questions. If so we need your help !

Anyway, that's enough of the sales pitch. Make sure you get along to the AGM. Hopefully by then we should have some news from this weekend's big event (no . . . not the Eurovision Song Contest), the Mars Phoenix landing. In the meantime check out Stuart's blog where he is definitely looking forward to the landing.

Fingers crossed for Phoenix . .

Monday, May 12

Integrated Flux Nebula

Astronomy Picture of the Day (http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/) for Monday 12th May shows an interesting image of M81/M82 area of the sky with a little known foreground milky way nebula smudging across the sky.

If you follow this link: http://www.galaxyimages.com/UNP1.html you can read all about the Unexplored Nebulae Project and the Integrated Flux Nebula. It's fascinating and shows how significant a contribution "amateurs" can make to modern astronomy.

In a nutshell (and this is very simplified, you should read about it on the link above) the IFN are high-latitude nebulae "high above the plane of the Milky Way, many around the North Galactic Pole and Polaris...reflecting and being ionized by the integrated flux of all the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy" to quote Steve Mandel.

Saturday, May 10

Clear nights

With the recent spell of clear weather it's been nice to see some of the summer milky way. Sky transparency was particularly good on Tuesday night between 1 and 3am, with clarity right down to the southern horizon.

Several unusual events that night were a very bright Iridium flare at around 2.15am, some very bright meteors with long ionisation trails and something (which I didn't actually see as I was fiddling with my camera at the time) that lit up my whole observatory with a reddish glow! No idea what that was.

Attached is a picture of M20, Triffid Nebula, taken through my EOS300D at prime focus of 6" f/5 refractor. The exposure is a combination of 11 x 2 minute exposures (unguided) combined with ImagesPlus and processed in Photoshop and NeatImage. This was literally just above the hedge line, so I was surprised that it came out as clear as it has.


Sunday, April 27

A quick update . . .

Just a quick reminder that our next meeting is on Tuesday. I won't be there, but there will be plently going on. As Robin reminds us on the previous post, bring you scopes etc if the weather's good.

Here's an very entertaining video that Stuart's just pointed out to me. An important message in there as well.

Have a good meeting. See you in May.

Sunday, April 20

Keilder Observatory Open for Business!

You may have caught the news on BBC Look North during the week but in case you didn't, the prestigious Keilder Observatory opens for business next weekend. This picture was taken in February so it looks like they have been hard at work over the past couple of months!) They are organising tours around it over the weekend so if it is decent weather I might be taking a run out. If you fancy a lift - get in touch.

You can read more about it and watch Maggie Philbin meeting astronomers at Keilder and extolling the virtues of keeping the lights low, on the BBC TV website.

For a more practical guide for astronomers, the Keilder Observatory Society website is probably the best place to go.

On an even more local note, if it is fine on 29th (meet night) don't forget forget to bring warm clothes and optical aids if you have them as we will be ajourning to the Memorial Gardens after Dennis' talk. If not you might have to hear about my trip to Cambridge for the BAA/AAVSO meeting instead, so better hope for.....

Clear Skies! :-)


Thursday, April 17

CAS News update 17-4-2008

A quick update of latest Cockermouth Astronomical Society and general news items

CAS News

Firstly we did plan to have our Annual General Meeting at our next meeting on 29th April . As I'm not available that night we have decided to move the AGM to the May meeting. We are still having a meeting on the 29th. Dennis will be giving a talk on the lifecycle of stars, and the evening is an opportunity for members to bring along their telescopes and get some advice and help setting them up and using them.

Space and Astronomy News

Good news from NASA this week. The Cassini mission has been extended again for a further two years. The cost over two years will be around $160m which is not much when you consider Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix cost $150m to make !

Stuart over at Cumbrian Sky has written an excellent article giving his opinion on the practice of selling star names. The article has received wide attention, getting a mention on Fraser Cain's Universe Today blog.

The Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter team have released some spectacular images of Mar's moon Phobos. As usual Emily Lakdawala has extensive coverage at the Planetary Society Blog so I'll just post the images here for your to look at.

Image Credit: NASA / JPL / U. Arizona

The world of Physics lost one of it's giants this week when John Archibald Wheeler passed away. Wheeler was active in many areas of physics and astrophysics and is credited among other things with inventing the term 'black hole'. He worked with many of the great physicists and taught some of them including Richard Feynman and Kip Thorne. There are many tributes to him on the blogs this week, none more personal and moving than this one from Daniel Holtz at Cosmic Variance.

I'll finish with a quote from Wheeler himself ;

“We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.”

Thursday, April 3

CAS Update - 3rd April 2008

Society News

First a quick report from our March meeting. We had a good turn out, including a couple of new faces which was good to see. Following the usual news round up, which I'm pleased to say is becoming more of a discussion tha a talk, I gave a presentation on the ife of Robert Hooke, a founder of the Royal Society and someone who made significant contributions to astronomy.

Next month is our Annual General Meeting, which means we have to conduct the formal business of the society including approving the accounts and electing committee members. As I've said at previous meetings we are looking for more people to help out on the committee, so please come with ideas and nominees. The meeting will be on Tuesday 29th April and Dennis has agreed to do a talk on the lifecycle of stars following the formal business.

Also we would like to take the opportunity (weather permitting) for people to bring along their telescopes for a short observing session in Memorial Gardens after the meeting. This will be an opportunity for people to get some help and advice in using their telescopes. That's something a number of people have been asking for.

Space and Astronomy News

There's quite a bit of news about at the moment covering Cassini's recent flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The probe flew just 30 miles above the surface and also managed to get some chemical analysis data of the plumes erupting from the geysers on the surface of the moon. Articles and Bad Astronomy and The Planetary Society give further details.

NASA's Spitzer Space telescope has been producing some spectacular images again. This image if M82 is actually a composite of images from Spitzer, Chandra and Hubble and shows infrared, x-ray and visible wavelengths.

Compared this this Hubble only image you can see additional contribution from infrared (red) and x-ray (blue) make indicating material, largely dust excited by stellar explosions, not normally visible.

Also worth checking out this week, Stuart looks ahead to NASA Phoenix landing on Mars. The lander will land on 25th May this year, and Stuart speculates as to what those first images will be like.

Tuesday, April 1

RAS National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2008)

This week over 650 professional astronomers are meeting in Belfast to discuss what's new. The event is NAM 2008 hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society. It is mostly pretty esoteric stuff but this year a group of astro- bloggers are planning to make it more accessible. Take a look at their NAM blog for the very latest breaking news!

Friday, March 21

March Meeting

Just a quick reminder that the next CAS meeting is next week on Tuesday 25th March. As usual we'll meet at 7.30pm in St Joseph's Church Hall, Cockermouth.

See you there,

Sunday, March 2

In the shadow of the moon - Film

If you're an avid reader of Stuart's Cumbrian Sky blog, you'll no doubt have seen his review of the film "In The Shadow of the Moon" shown recently in Kendal.

Well, you also have a chance to view it if you live in the Cockermouth area, as it's showing on Monday 10th March in the town's Kirkgate Centre. The film starts at 8pm and you should be able to book tickets in advance through the Kirkgate's box office (01900 826448).

Saturday, March 1

February Meeting Report

A wide range of topics were covered in the February meeting. For those who did not make it, here is a quick run down of what you missed.

With Chris away I was able to sneak in many of my favourite topics under the guise of "news" (Amateur exoplanet discoveries, gravitational lensing, spectroscopy, black holes, dark matter and the Large Hadron Collider to name just a few!) Those present even got a sneak preview of my latest "Mini Jodrell Bank" project. (Well we have to help out somehow, what with the threatened astronomy funding cuts ) The main event though was Ian's excellent review of how NASA plan to get back to the Moon. Apparently the smart money is on it being the 50th Aniversary of the Apollo 11 landing so mark it in your diary.

See you all at the March meeting


Friday, February 29

CAS Update 29th February 2008

I guess you don't often get to post a blog entry on 29th February, and I suspect many of us didn't even know what a blog was on the last 29th February. Perhaps unsurprisingly then there has been quite a few "leap day" related posts around the web this week. Check out this post from the bad Astronomer on "why we have leap days" or this one on Cosmic Variance. Orbiting Frog even goes as far as to suggest 29th February should be a national holiday.

Space and Astronomy News

Something you can get involved with this week (weather permitting) is helping to map light pollution through the GLOBE at Night 2008 campaign. Basically be counting the number of stars you can see with the naked eye in the constellation Orion. Full details on the GLOBE Website. Find a larger version of the fantastic(ly depressing) image at Astronomy Picture of the Day.

I previously reported on UK astronomy's loss of access to the Gemini telescopes due to lack of government funding. It now looks like common sense has prevailed and full membership of the project has been reinstated. Good News.

Universe Today reports that Pluto's 'new' moons Nix and Hydra may be adopted.

Society News

Tuesday this week was our February meeting. As I wasn't there I can't provide an update but I'm sure everything went just fine. . .

Saturday, February 23

CAS Update 23rd February 2008

Space and Astronomy News

The space shuttle Atlantis landed this week after a successful mission to ISS including the fitting of the ESA COLUMBUS module to the station.

As is traditional in these parts the weeks of fine clear (but cold!) nights were interrupted on the very night of the lunar eclipse on the morning of 21st February. It was an early morning event anyway, but there are as usual some excellent photos and videos out there on the net.

New Horizons, NASA's probe on its way to Pluto has passed the 9 astronomical unit mark. That's 1.35 billion km and almost at the orbit of Saturn.

The MESSENGER team have released some more excellent pictures of Mercury. This picture shows dark halos around two craters which may reveal something about different layers below the surface. Emily Lakdawala has more on this.

Society News

Our February meeting is this Tuesday 26th February. I won't be there, but Robin will step into the breach with news items and a round up of his activities over the winter. Ian Smith will also be explaining NASA's plans to return to the moon.

Tuesday, February 19

Heads up! Total Lunar Eclipse 21st February

Only for the dedicated though as the action takes place in the early hours of Thursday morning. It could be worth getting up for though if this run of excellent weather keeps up. There isn't another visible from the UK until December 2010

Saturday, February 16

CAS Update - 16th February 2008

Space and astronomy news

NASA have been testing a remote probe which could be the forerunner to a probe designed to explore the oceans of Europa, Jupiter's icy moon. Plenty of details in the Washington University press release. The team are also expecting to be able to draw close comparisons with Saturn's icy moon Enceladus.

It looks like UK astronomers have managed to secure some access for use of the Gemini telescopes which a couple of weeks ago looked doubtful. The story is covered by the e-astronomer and bbc news.

The Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have again teamed up, this time to image the most distant galaxy ever seen. The galaxy is an estimates 12.8 billion light years away, and is only visible due to a gravitational lensing affect caused by an intervening galaxy cluster.

The European Space Agency Columbus module has been successfully attached to the International Space Station after an 8 hour space walk.

Also making the news in the last couple of days is the discovery of a triple asteroid in a near earth orbit. The discovery was made with radar observations from the Arecibo radio telescope. Emily Lakdawala has the story one the Planetary Society Blog.

Society News

Our next meeting is on 26th February, amongst other things Ian will be giving us a talk about NASA's planned return to the moon, and Robin will be showing us his latest scientific adventures!

Finally a request for help. One of our members is having difficulty setting up and aligning a Celestron Nextstar telescope. If you have a similar computerised scope and could spare some time to help please get in touch with me in the first instance at chris@cockermouthastronomy.co.uk

Hope you are enjoying the recent run of clear nights.


Sunday, February 10

CAS Update - 10th February 2008

If you've noticed the last couple of weeks newsletters were missing, you'll hopefully appreciate that finding time to write these is harder than I thought! Anyway here's the latest update.

Society News

Firstly we had a great turn out for our January meeting with over 20 people turning up and it was great to see some old faces as well as new ones. Plenty of people signed up for membership for the full year, which was very promising.

The meeting itself was full with a news round up and talk on asteroids, both of which generated plenty of dicussion. It was also really good to have a couple of people come forward to help with various aspects of society organisation, we can still use more . . .

This month's meeting is on 26th February, and amongst other things, Ian will be giving us an insight into NASA's plan to return to the moon.

Space & Astronomy News

President Bush's plans for next year's NASA budget have been announced this week, and on the face of it they seems to be more positive that last year's. The planetary Society have some useful analysis. However, there's a lot of water to go under the bridge in US politics as I'm sure you'll have realised, unless you've been on another planet recently!

Following the theme of my talk at the last meeting, Universe Today has a story about yet another asteroid passing close to the Earth. It's hard to believe we're still here ;-)

More pictures of Mercury from NASA's Messenger probe have been released including these at Tom's Astronomy Blog and Astroprof's Page. Meanwhile Stuart at Cumbrian Sky was moved to write another of his famous poems about the mission, and was stunned to find the Messenger team adopted it and placed it on the offical website. Congratulations Stuart.

STS 122 launched this week after several delays. Now it's in orbit further delays to the mission have been caused by a mystery medical problem affecting one of the crew members. The shuttle is carrying the European Space Agency's Columbus module to attach to the space station, Stuart has written about this as a guest blogger at SpaceEurope.


Monday, January 28

Telescope for sale

Hi all,

Hope no one minds me using this as an advertising service...

I'm thinking of selling my EQ5 mount (with electric drives). It's seen several years of good service and has performed extremely well for its price range.

All of the pictures on my website (www.j.g.hunt.freeuk.com) have been taken using this mount, with unguided exposure times ranging up to 2 minutes at long focal lengths (750mm) and 10 minutes at wide field focal lengths (50mm). The accuracy of the tracking does depend on how well you polar align and balance the scope. But to be honest this is great performance - I think I got lucky with a "good one" rather than a "bad one" when it came out of the Skywatcher factory.

I'm not really sure what to ask for it, so perhaps open to offers at this stage to see if anyone is interested.

I also have an 80mm Helios refractor and a Celestron 8" SCT which I could add to the sale if someone wants the whole setup (but I'm going to keep the 6" refractor definitely).

Anyway, if anyone is interested email me: j.g.hunt@btinternet.com

Reason for sale is upgrade to an EQ6Pro.

I can provide pics of the mount/scopes if you're interested.


Sunday, January 27

January Meeting

Hello all. No time for a weekly update this week. Just a reminder that this Tuesday is our January meeting and you can catch up on all the latest news then.

Usual time and place; 7.30pm at St Joseph's Church Hall Cockermouth.

See you there,


Sunday, January 20

CAS Update - 20th January 2008

Astronomy News

The big news this week has been the fly-by of Mercury by NASA's MESSENGER Probe. The timing of the flyby provided us with our first look at the side of Mercury that was in darkness when Mariner 10 imaged the planet of 30 years ago. Emily Lakdawala has all the the latest analysis and images at the Planetary Society.

There has also been plenty of coverage at Bad Astronomy, Space Spin, Cumbrian Sky and Astroprof's Page to name but a few. More images at our January meeting.

Universe Today reports that Burt Rutan's X Prize winning company, Scaled Composites, has been found at fault for the explosion that killed three of it's workers working on the successor to Spaceship One.

Discovery of the 271st extrasolar planet TW Hydrae b was announced earlier this month. Meanwhile Centauri Dreams considers when we may be with respect to extra solar planets by 2020.

Also check out this week's Carnival of Space.


Nothing new to report this week. Full moon on 22nd January, so not the best time for deep sky observing even if the sky was clear. If you get chance check out Mars close to the moon tonight, and Saturn 3 degrees north of the moon on 25th January.

Society News

January meeting 29th January. I'll be covering the latest space and astronomy news and giving a short talk on the subject of Asteroids.

I'll also be asking for ideas for activities this year and asking you whether you can help out the society by joining the Committee. We are always in need of people to help out, and several of the committee members are struggling with other commitments at the moment. Being on the committee does not mean you have to stand up and talk, or know lots about astronomy. It's about using the skills and experience you have to help the society. You could help by; posting to CAS News, organising and storing society equipment, taking minutes at meetings, arranging guest speakers, looking after the society's accounts, writing articles for local press. I'm sure there are other things you can think of. . .

Look forward to seeing you on the 29th.


Saturday, January 12

CAS Update 13th January 2008

Astronomy News

This week is the 211th meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin Texas, and that means there's quite a bit of astronomical news items around this week Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has been giving regular updates as part of the Astronomy Cast team.

Among other things Phil interviewed Chris Lintott from BBC's Sky at Night about the results of the Galaxy Zoo project. Chris explains in this video how the team have explained the strange results from the project that appeared to indicate more galaxies spin anticlockwise than clockwise.

Remember that asteroid that might hit Mars on 30th January ? Well, it won't! Further observations have allowed the orbit to be refined and now the chance of an impact with Mars is estimated at less than 1 in 10,000. Oh well . . .

Cassini has being continuing to map Titan with its radar imaging equipment, the last pass of Titan was on 20th December, Space Spin has the latest images which show strong evidence of flowing liquids.

More news from AAS this week was the announcement that the Hubble Space Telescope has found this double Einstein ring. Full story at Bad Astronomy.

The Shuttle mission has been delayed again, and no won't launch until February.

NASA's Messenger probe will fly by Mercury tomorrow (14th January). Staurt has the latest images over at Cumbrian Sky as does the Planetary Society Blog.

Just posted at Tom's Astronomy Blog is this fantastic new image of Saturn's moon Epimetheus.

For the best of space and astronomy blogs this week check out the Carnival of Space.

Observing News

Mars is well placed for observing at the moment, you'll find it midway on an imaginary line between The Pleiades cluster and Castor and Pollux in Gemini.

Society News

Next meeting is on 29th January. See you there.


Sunday, January 6

CAS Update - 6th January 2008

Happy New Year to all CAS News readers. I said I would try and provide more regular updates this year by way of a weekly news round-up. So here's the first 'issue'.

I'll try and break down each update into three sections; space and astronomy news, observing news and society news. So here goes . . .

Space and Astronomy News

Spirit celebrates 4th anniversary: NASA's Spirit rover has just celebrated 4 years on Mars. This is a major achievement and is of course celebrated by Stuart in Cumbrian Sky and on Chris Lintott's blog.

Slim chance of meteor impact on Mars: There's a lot of excitement on the web about the possibility, estimated at about 1in 25, that a large meteor will impact Mars on 30th January.

Shuttle Launch delayed: The next shuttle mission (Atlantis) was due to launch before Christmas but has been delayed a number of times due to problems with a fuel sensor. Universe Today has the story.

Latest Cassini Image: The Cassini team have given us an early new year's present with this fantastic image of Saturn's moon Mimas as seen through the F ring.

Descriptions of the background to the image at Tom's Astronomy Blog and Emily Lakdawala's Planetary Society Blog.


Look out for Comet 8P/Tuttle this week. Not as bright as the recent comet Holmes but still worth trying to track down in Cetus. Finder chart here.

Society News

Our next meeting is on 29th January usual time and place. We'll be covering a round up of the latest astronomy news, discussing our plans for 2008 and I'll be giving a talk on Asteroids.