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.

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.