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.

Saturday, December 5

Christmas Social

As our November meeting was cancelled we said we would try and arrange a social event in a local pub before Christmas. I suggest we meet on Thursday 10th December at 8pm in The Swan on Kirkgate in Cockermouth.

If you can make it and can let me know that would be ideal. If you're not sure feel free to just turn up and find us. We are just meeting for an informal chat and a few drinks, nothing special planned but it would be great to see you all.


Monday, November 23

November Meeting Cancelled

Just to confirm that due to transport infrastructure and flood damage in Cockermouth our November meeting is cancelled. We will look to arrange an informal meeting sometime in mid December.


Saturday, November 21

November CAS Meeting

I'm not sure what the status of St Joseph's Church and Hall is following the serious flooding in Cockermouth over the last few days but from the TV footage I've seen, I think it will have been affected so it seems unlikely that our meeting will be going ahead on Tuesday. I'll post more when I know.

My thoughts go out to all affected by the floods. I hope you are all OK.


Thursday, November 5

The Jewellery of Luminous Giants & Dim Dwarfs

Notice of an event hosted by the Institute of Physics to be held at the Sellafield Visitors Centre:

Dr Christianne Helling of the University of St Andrews will be lecturing on the nature of interstellar dust, the effects of dust on luminous giant star formation and dim dwarfs.

Wednesday 18th November 2009, Sellafield Centre, Refreshments at 6.30pm talk starts at 7pm.

Please book by emailing WestCumbriaIOP@googlemail.com

Thursday, October 29

November CAS meeting

Just to confirm that the November CAS meeting will be held on 24th November. The agenda will be as follows:

  • Astronomy & Spaceflight News
  • An Introduction to Astrophysics - by Dennis Kelly
  • An Alternative History of Astronomy: The Unbelievable Truth - by Ian Smith

We have an "alternative" agenda this month, with the usual news slot followed by two brief presentations to get your mind going. The first will focus on Dennis' part-time Astrophysics studies. This will be followed by something to tease your imagination and test your knowledge of astronomical history.

See you there at 7.30pm.


Saturday, October 24

CAS forward programme

It's been a while since we've had a published forward programme for CAS meetings, but thanks to Jeremy's efforts we now have a programme of meetings over the next few months. We are working on adding to it for the rest of 2010 so if you have any ideas let us know.

You can find the latest version of the programme by following the "Meeting Programme" link in the toolbar above. Or simply follow this link.


Thursday, October 22

Lots of new exoplanets

A recent announcement of exoplanet discoveries has boosted the number of known planets to over 400. The haul of planets consists of 32 planets including so-called super earths. More details in this Universe Today article (and just about anywhere else you care to look on the web)

More details next week at our October meeting of course.


Tuesday, October 20

October CAS Meeting

Our October meeting is next Tuesday 27th October and this month our guest speaker is David Ramshaw from the Border Astronomical Society. David will be talking about Medieval Astronomy.

Of course we'll also have our usual round up of the latest in space and astronomy news.

See you there,


Saturn: The Big Picture

I talked about the equinox at Saturn at our September meeting. There were some pretty amazing images available at the time. However the Boston Post blog The Big Picture has put together this collection of some of the best images, including many I hadn't seen before.

If you haven't checked out the Big Picture it's well worth a regular check as it covers a wide variety of topics and news stories using just a collection of great images.


Saturday, October 17

IC405 & IC410

IC405, better known as the Flaming Star Nebula is located in the constellation of Auriga. It surrounds the hot blue star AE Aurigae which energises the gas. The nebula is both an emission and reflection nebula region, hence the blue, red and purple colours. The nebula is about 1500 light years away and spans about 5 ly.

Nearby is IC410, 1.5 degrees across the sky from IC405.

The following image is a combination of 14 x 5 minute exposures at 1600ISO.

IC405 & IC410
William Optics ZS80 & Canon 300D
14 x minutes @ 1600ISO
EQ6 autoguided
Approx. fov 3 x 2 degrees

Pleiades shines bright

Another clear night kept me out until 3.30am on Friday/Saturday. The following picture is a combination of 28 x 5 minute exposures.

M45 - Pleiades Cluster
William Optics ZS80 and Canon 300D
28 x 5 minutes @ 400ISO
EQ6 autoguided
Approx. field of view 3 deg x 2 deg

Friday, October 16

More Mars Meteorites

As always Stuart, over at Cumbrian Sky, has been keeping a keen eye on goings on at Mars and points out on his "road to endeavour" blog that Opportunity has stumbled (rolled?) across yet another meteorite.

Check out Stuart's post for more details. I'm wondering just how many blogs Stuart is running now ?

Cassini is back amongst the moons

You might have noticed that we've not seen many of those nice images of Saturn's moons from Cassini over the last few months. That's because Cassini has been orbiting over Saturn's poles and giving us some fantastic views of the rings instead.

However that's changed again as the the spacecraft is back in an equatorial orbits and has already sent back some amazing images including this great image of Tethys below. As usual Emily Lakdawala has much more information and images on the Planetary Society Blog.

Saturday, October 10

3,000 visits and counting

It's traditional to keep a track of visitors to websites and blogs on the Internet and I noticed the other day that Stuart's Cumbrian Sky has passed the landmark of 100,000 (yes one hundred thousand) visitors. That's a fantastic milestone, well done Stu.

That prompted me to check our own counter and we have reached the somewhat more modest milestone of 3,000 visitors. That's not bad for a blog that's really just designed to keep society members up to date on whats going on. We've been going for almost four years (since January 2006) and have over 400 posts on CAS News now.

So to 'celebrate' I've added a search panel to the side bar on the blog to help you search through some of those 400 older articles. It's over there just under the calendar.

While on the topic of posting I'd also like to pass on my thanks to Jeremy who has really picked on the mantle of the blog over the last few months posting news articles and his excellent images, while I've not been so active. Hopefully other things will calm down a bit for me soon and I'll be able to spend a bit more time blogging.

And of course thanks to all of you for keeping coming back.

Don't forget you can contribute by leaving comments on posts, just click on the "x comments" link under the relevant post. It only take a minutes and it doesn't hurt ;-)


Scale model of the Solar System

Today Kendal's Eddington Astronomical Society held an event introducing the solar system in a very interactive way, as a scale model. The event was a great success and I was delighted to be able to go along and help out.

The real attraction of this scale model was that both the distances between planets and the size of the planets were done to the same scale thanks to lots of hard work by Doug Ellison of the Unmanned Spaceflight forum. The scale was really enlightening, even for those of us who have been observing and reading about the solar system for years, you really got an appreciation of how much SPACE there is out there!

Thanks to Stuart's organisational and publicity skills plenty of people turned up to experience the event themselves, around 200 in total.

I spent the day 'orbiting' somewhere around the asteroid belt, talking to people, answering questions and generally trying to convince people that there is more to that part of the solar system than just Mars!

Congratulations to Stuart, Doug, EAS and everyone who turned out to make the event the fantastic success it was.


Saturday, September 26

Heart Nebula - NGC1805

I finally managed to have a quick go at processing last week's latest image, NGC 1805 or the Heart Nebula.

The image needs a lot of work, but here's a quick preview. Close up the image is full of noise, but reduced in size it's not too bad.

William Optics ZS80 with 0.8x reducer
Canon 300D modified
23 x 5 minute exposures @ ISO800

Thursday, September 24

September CAS meeting

A brief reminder that the September meeting will be held on Tuesday 29th September 2009 at 7.30pm in the Church Hall.

Topics for the evening include:

  • Summer Space News Update
  • Saturn's Equinox
  • International Astronomy at a Danish Star Party
  • Local Members Observing Updates - Robin & Jeremy

Please encourage friends to attend.


Monday, September 21

NGC281 - PacMan Nebula

My latest offering is a combination of 22 x 5 minute exposures at ISO800 with the modified Canon300D.

William Optics ZS80 with 0.8x field flattener (EFL 484mm f/5.5)
Canon 300d modified
EQ6 autoguided
22 x 5 mins @ ISO800

Tuesday, September 1

Venus and the Beehive

If you happen to be awake before dawn on Tuesday morning...then grab your binoculars and have a look SE at Venus, shining brightly 1 degree south of the Beehive Cluster (M44).

A perfect photo-opportunity (if it's clear...which the forecast says it should be).


Wednesday, August 26

IC 1848 (Soul Nebula)

My latest offering from Monday night this week is an image of the Soul Nebula, or more accurately IC1848. This is a beautiful open cluster with nebulosity to the east of the double cluster in Perseus.

Many images include the Heart Nebula which is a couple of degrees to the west of the Soul. I'll try and catch that one in my next imaging session and make a composite image of the two.

Unfortunately, I failed one of the 5 F's (framing the shot) by cutting the head off the Soul...

William Optics ZS80 with 0.8x Field Flattener (436mm f/5.5)
Canon 300D Baader Modified
14 x 5minute exposures @ ISO800
Darks, Flats & Bias with Sigma Clip Median Stack in ImagesPlus


August CAS meeting / Chris Lintott @ Kendal


Given that it's still summer holidays time, we're not going to have an August CAS meeting. So the next scheduled CAS meeting will be September 29th.

If you are thirsting for a summer astronomical top up then a visit to Kendal Eddington Astronomical Society on Friday 5th September could be the tonic you need.
Chris Lintott is coming to speak about Galaxy Zoo. Tickets are £3 each. If you're interested then contact Stuart Atkinson (STUARTATK@aol.com). I suggest given the short time between now and the event everyone contacts Stuart directly to ensure they get a ticket.

There may be scope to car share so if you're interested then get in touch with me by Thursday and I'll try and coordinate (j.g.hunt@btinternet.com).


Thursday, August 13

Mars HIRISE images

Check out the HIRISE website (http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/) some stunning new pictures of Mars including the following offering.

Victoria Crater imaged by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Tuesday, July 28

Universe Today: Stuart Atkinson art

Check out the Universe Today website:


Here you'll find a link to one of Stuart Atkinson's recent astro-art images of the Mars Rover Opportunity. Stuart has strong links with CAS and runs the Eddington Astronomical Society down in Kendal.


The Epsilon Aurigae eclipse has begun - It's Official!

Following my talk a couple of months back, I promised I would keep you posted on what is happening with epsilon Aurigae. The latest is the eclipsing object is now back after 25 years and is showing in the spectra I am taking, though it will probably be a week or two yet before it becomes measurably fainter. To make these discoveries official and to keep the astronomical community up to date the International Astronomical Union issue "Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams" (CBET) Here is an extract from CBET 1885 :-)

"E. O. Waagen, AAVSO, writes that R. Leadbeater, Wigton, U.K., reported (via the AAVSO Discussion Group) the spectroscopic detection of the start of a predicted eclipse for the long-period binary star epsilon Aur. The last eclipse was in 1982-1984.
A redshifted component in the K I 769.9-nm line has appeared in LHIRES III observations obtained on July 20.081 UT, offset by +15 km/s and with 62-mA equivalent width. This emerging feature is uniquely associated with eclipse phases, wherein visual light declines by 0.75 mag over 18 months."

More information about my eps Aur observations can be found on my website

Sunday, July 26

Shadow on Jupiter?

At the end of my observing session on Saturday morning, as the dawn sky was brightening at around 3am, I tried some quick shots of Jupiter to see if I could pick out the new impact scar (see previous blog entry).

Unfortunately, the lens had misted up quite badly by this point (unknown to me) so the image quality is not good.

Is that a dark scar on the top right side of the planet? Probably not...

[Image details: ZS80, Phillips Toucam ProII, 1000 frames stacked with CCDTools]

Veil Nebula mosaic

The following image is a mosaic of the Veil Nebula in its entireity, taken Friday night with my newly modified Canon.

Three separate groups of shots were merged together in Photoshop.

The first image, of the Eastern portion of the nebula, is 11 x 5 minute shots at 400ISO.

The second image, of the central portion is 1 x 5 minute shot at 400ISO.

The third image, of the Western portion of the nebula, is 3 x 5 minute shots at 400ISO.

Unfortunately the cloud came in and prevented a decent number of shots of the central and western portions, but nevertheless a fair amount of detail has come through.

All images were taken at prime focus of the William Optics ZS80, with an Astronomik CLS deep sky filter fitted. Images were calibrated with darks, bias and flat frames prior to co-adding in ImagesPlus.


Thursday, July 23

July CAS meeting - cancelled

Just a reminder to everyone that there will not be a meeting this month due to summer holidays.

Asteroid impact on Jupiter?

An amateur astronomer named Anthony Wesley has recently discovered a dark scar on the face of Jupiter with his backyard telescope, which is likely a result of an asteroid or cometary impact similar to the Shoemaker-Levy 9 event of the 1990's.

See Astronomy Picture of the Day for more...

Tuesday, July 21

Gamma-Cygni with modified Canon 300D

Finally, I succumbed to the temptation to have my Canon 300D modified...nervously I despatched it (insured) to Andy Ellis at Astronomiser and within 2 days I had the camera back in hand.

The speed of the service is second to none and Andy was good at letting me know when he received the camera and sent it back.

I was a little nervous about having the filter removed from the CMOS sensor, even though it was being done professionally. Rather than just having the filter removed I had it replaced with a Baader filter that cuts IR, but allows the H-alpha, H-beta and O-III through at 95% pass.

The resuts are spectacular...

Gamma-Cgyni with surrounding nebulosity
7 x 5 mins @ ISO400
Very poor seeing, with cloud often interrupting
William Optics ZS80ii, Modified Canon300D

The sensitivity of the camera is now fantastic. Can't wait for a decent clear night instead of one dodging the clouds!


Tuesday, July 7

June 2009 CAS Meeting

Thanks to all for attending the June 2009 CAS meeting last Tuesday. We were a bit depleted probably due to holidays, but it was a very interesting meeting with a riveting presentation by Robin on his recent Pro-Am collaboration on "The Mysterious Epsilon Aurigae" eclipse.

We were joined by two prospective new members at the meeting and we'd encourage them and anyone else interested in furthering their knowledge of the universe to come back!

Other topics covered included the demise of the Kaguya/Selene lunar orbiter. See here www.kaguya.jaxa.jp/index_e.htm for more info and great HDTV footage from lunar orbit.

The June launch of the new Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter also featured. Additional details of the mission can be found here: http://www.lro.gsfc.nasa.gov/

And finally...we have Dennis to thank for another great CAS monthly newsletter, which you can download here: www.jghpics.freeuk.com/letter_july.doc

Please remember that there will be no meeting in July. We will post a note to confirm whether the August meeting will be going ahead or not, subject to summer holidays. Clear skies!

Friday, June 12

M17 on a summer's eve

Fighting the mid-summer twilight and a waning moon, M17 emerged from the southern horizon last night through a short series of 4 x 5 minute exposures at ISO800.
A sequence of 10xflatfield, 10xbias and 5xdarkframes helped to minimise image noise, coupled with an Astronomik CLS deep-sky filter to lift the nebula from the light sky background.

Williams Optics ZS80ii, Canon 300D
EQ6 autoguided, 4 x 5 mins @ Iso800

Thursday, June 4

Interesting prediction of Nova

I stumbled across this on Sky & Telescope.com...


Perhaps we'll see a Nova whilst Scorpius is up in the southern summer sky.


Monday, June 1

M20 Triffid Nebula

Very low on the horizon at around 1.30am, the constellation Sagittarius is rising and revealing its intra-galactic gems such as the Triffid Nebula (M20).

William Optics ZS80II, Canon 300D
7 x 3 mins @ ISO800 (unguided)

M13 Globular Cluster

The gorgeous M13 globular cluster located in Hercules is easily visible to the naked eye at magnitude 5.8.

The cluster is also a nice target for beginners in astro-photography. At an apparent size of 23 arcminutes it shows up well even in large format cameras.

The following image was taken this weekend, despite a moonlit summer night with poor darkness.

William Optics ZS80II, Canon 300D
5 x 5 mins @ ISO400

Saturday, May 30

A successful CAS publicity event

Thanks to everyone who came along today to support CAS and spread the word about the society and astronomy in general. We managed to put on an impressive display in the church hall with plenty of pictures from previous society events, members images and information on the latest space missions.

Things got off to a slow start, with the good weather and a couple of football cup finals working against us, and keeping people away.

However, things started picking up after a while and literally hotted up once Robin and Peter arrived with telecsopes to allow people to look at the sun. We then switched to 'sidewalk astronomy' encouraging everyone walking past to stop and have a look. A much more succesful strategy as the pictures below illustrate . . .

It was really clear that many people just walking down the street were interested in astronomy and fascinated to see the sun through Robin's hydrogen alpha solar scope. That proved a real hit as we were lucky enough to have a solar flare several times the size of the Earth visible on the edge of the solar disc.

So we answered many varied questions on astronomy, space and sometimes vaguely related subjects, and people went on their way hopefully a little better informed. Perhaps we'll see some of those people again at CAS meetings.

So thanks again to all CAS Members who turned out to help and to everyone who spend a little of their sunny Saturday stopping to take an interest.

CAS event underway!

Just a reminder that we are down in Cockermouth today promoting CAS at the United Reform Church.

Come and join us if you get chance

-- Mobile post

Thursday, May 28

CAS Event on Saturday

On Saturday 30th May (this Saturday) we are taking part in an event in Cockermouth organised by the Probus Society to publicise local societies. The event is in the United Reformed Church Hall on main street in Cockermouth and will be open to the public from 10am until 4pm.

CAS will have a small display and members will be on hand to answer questions and give demonstrations.

If you are a member and can spare some time please turn up any time and lend a hand. If you are not a member then of course please come along and find out more about us.

I look forward to seeing you there.


Wednesday, May 27

May 2009 Meeting Report

It was good to see such a good turn out for our May meeting. We covered a lot of ground in the meeting, spending so much time debating the latest news and literally 'life the universe and everything' that we ran out of time for a refreshment break!

Following the news round up Jeremy gave us an update on the Hubble repair mission and some of the background to the amazing space telescope. After that Chris provided an update on ESA's latest missions Herschel and Planck.

Thanks again to Dennis for producing a comprehensive newsletter, I'll post a pdf version as a separate post.

Tuesday, May 26

Help needed on Saturday

I'll mention this again tonight but a quick request for help now. On Saturday we have a table booked at a Cockermouth Probus Society event in town to promote local societies.

We need people to turn up for an hour or two to man the stall and answer questions etc. We also need to put together some display material. I have quite a bit we could use.

If you can help please let me know ASAP and I'll put a rota together.



-- Mobile post

Monday, May 25

Veil Nebula

The Western portion of the Veil Nebula, also referred to as the Witch's Broom, or by its proper catalogue reference NGC 6960, is a large relatively faint supernova remnant in the constellation Cygnus.

The nebula emits primarily in OIII (doubly ionized oxygen) and without an OIII filter it is notoriously difficult to see visually or capture digitally. The following exposure is the result of 2 hours of imaging with my Canon 300D taken last night.

William Optics ZS80II
Canon 300D
24 x 5 minute exposures (ISO400)

Saturday, May 23

May CAS meeting

Don't forget that Tuesday is our May meeting. This month we'll be getting an update on some of the latest space missions including the successful Hubble servicing mission.

Don't forget to bring along details of any observations you been making.

See you there


Wednesday, May 13

Focussing with a Bhatinov mask

A couple of months ago I brought along a Bhatinov mask to the CAS meeting. I've started to use it to help with the sometimes tricky and always crucial task of focussing for photography.

You can download a mask specific to your equipment setup, print it, laminate it and away you go for about 50p!

The results of the mask are fantastic. It's incredibly easy to use and provides pin-sharp pictures.
The principle is that a diffraction pattern is created, with three (well six really) spikes. The central spike moves laterally between the two outer spikes to the left or the right as you move the focus. When you are in perfect focus the middle spike is centred between the other two as shown in the image below (taken last night).


I got a chance to shoot some pics of NGC7000 (North American Nebula) last night...The sky was really gorgeous until about 1.30am when the moon rose and spoiled any more deep sky work.

As you can see, I didn't get the framing of the shot right...and cut off the bottom of the nebula. Never mind, next time!

NGC7000 "North American Nebula"
William Optics ZS80II
Canon 300D
EQ6 Pro
7 x 10 minute exposures @ ISo400
Aligned and stacked with ImagesPlus using Adaptive Addition and DDP
Noise reduction with Neat Image and levels/colour balance in Photoshop

Tuesday, May 12

May 2009 CAS Newsletter

Dennis has kindly put together another comprehensive newsletter, which you can download by clicking the following link.

The newsletter gives a sky map for May and points to some highlights for the month, including Leo, Saturn and several Messier galaxies.

If you get the chance before the May meeting (25th May) then try and spot some of the objects mentioned in the letter and bring along your observations (oral, sketch or photo...) for discussion.


Monday, May 4

AGM report

Thanks to everyone who turned up for our AGM last week. After a quick news round up we progressed through the formal business of the day as quickly as possible.

We confirmed our constitution and approved the annual accounts. The new committee for 2009 was elected this now comprises;

Chair: Chris
Secretary: Jeremy
Treasurer: Dave

Plus other committee members;

Ben & Chris

Thanks to those people for stepping forward and to those standing down for all their support over the last few years.

After the formal business Robin gave us a report from a recent conference he attended including news of a new exoplanet announced at the event.

Thursday, April 30

Big Telescopes and Big Bangs

If you were thoroughly confused by my attempt to explain "Life Universe and Everything" in 2 minutes on Tuesday night, then you can get the official view from the experts in "In Our Time -The Vacuum of Space" on BBC4 tonight (Thursday) 9:30pm or if you saw this too late, then try the BBCiplayer
Also on tonight at 9pm is the first of 2 programmes on the builders of the new telescopes "The New Galileos"

Sunday, April 26


Beautiful clear skies last night gave me another chance to go for some deep sky targets.

IC1396 is a large relatively bright nebula in Cepheus, a bright smudge in the Milky Way with inky dark clouds running through it. One of the main structures within the nebula is called the Elephant's Trunk Nebula.

IC1396, 7 x 10 min exposures @ 1600 ASA
William Optics ED80ii, 585mm f/6.9
Canon 300D, full frame image

Thursday, April 23

2009 Annual General Meeting

Next Tuesday is our Annual General Meeting so we will have some formal business to take care of; we need to review the society accounts and elect officers and committee members for the coming year.

This year we will need some more volunteers to take up roles on the committee. Robin who has given a lot of support on the committee over the last few years and is currently our Secretary, has indicated he wants to have a break from committee work for a while. That means we are looking for someone to take on the Secretary role and possibly we'll need an additional committee member as well. So there is plenty of opportunity to get involved.

As I've said on a number of occasions you don't need any special skills to be a committee member and it certainly does not mean that you will have to stand up and give presentations ! Really you just need enthusiasm and a bit of spare time.

I'm sure you are all aware that all the committee are volunteers and without them we simply would not have a society. We can't expect that those that have done it in the past will want to continue indefinitely (there's a personal hint there!) so please continue how you can help.

On the subject of help, the response to my request for ideas and help with the International Year of Astronomy events has been underwhelming to date. Again we can't do this with just one or two people so I think that, in the best NASA tradition, the AGM will have to be a Go / No Go decision for these events !

All that said we will try and keep the formal business of the meeting to a minimum and Robin is lined up to give us an update on news from his recent attendance at Joint European and National Astronomy Meeting (JENAM09).

See you all there.


Wednesday, April 22

Amateurs at EWASS

I have just got back from a day at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science. Usually this is a conference just for Professional Astronomers. This year though there was a small session on Pro-Am cooperation and I was down there to give a short talk on spectroscopy. It was also a great opportunity to find out just what some of the professionals are up to. (There were over a thousand of them at the conference) I will be giving you the inside story at next Tuesday's meeting including the latest on ESO's proposed European Extremely Large Telescope, but if you want to keep up to date with the latest news, Astronomy Now are also blogging live from EWASS.

See you Tuesday

Thursday, April 9

CAS Newsletter - April 2009

We didn't get chance at our April meeting to hand out and discuss our new newsletter. Apologies for that, especially to Dennis who put a lot of work into pulling the newsletter together.

All is not lost though, as I've attached a link to the newsletter on this post. As you'll see if you follow the link here or click on the image below, Dennis has pulled a lot of useful information together about the night sky for the month ahead.

As usual we would appreciate you thoughts and ideas on the newsletter. Please provide your feedback by leaving a comment below, emailing me or contacting Dennis direct (details on the newsletter).


Sunday, April 5

M101 Galaxy

Despite a waxing moon spoiling the dark contrast of the night sky last night, I managed to take the following picture of M101 in Ursa Major.

To improve the contrast and reduce the moonlight I used an Astronomik CLS filter, which unfortunately also dims the total amount of light received.

M101, 10 x 1o minutes @ ISO400
EQ6 autoguided LPI
Canon 300D & William Optics 80iiED

Saturday, April 4

International Year of Astronomy 2009

At our March meeting we discussed what activities we should undertake to support the International Year of Astronomy. Our plan is to carry out a series of events in local schools and venues to raise awareness of astronomy and space science. More details are in the presentation below.

Full details are in this IYA Briefing Document (pdf file).

The Committee are continuing to work up ideas for these events, but here are 10 ways you can help . .
  1. Have you got contacts with local schools?
  2. Would you be willing and available to help out with some events?
  3. What ideas have you got for "ten things" we could cover?
  4. Would you be willing to prepare and give a short talk at and event?
  5. Do you know any useful routes we could try to get sponsorship?
  6. Do you know of any locations we could use for public events (church halls etc)?
  7. Have you can any useful contacts to publicise events?
  8. Have you got access to equipment we may need (display boards for example)?
  9. Have you got any useful posters or pictures we could use?
  10. What other ideas have you got?
Please get in touch via chris@cockermouthastronomy.co.uk or leave a comment against this post.



M51 Whirlpool Galaxy

Taken last Saturday as my first test image on the EQ6 mount. The setup comprises a Meade LPI camera acting as an Autoguider through my 6" f/5 refractor, with the mount in PC-Direct Mode, operating with PHD Guiding software - very straightforward.

8 x 5 minute exposures @400ISO
Canon 300D & William Optics 80iiED
Aligned & stacked with ImagesPlus2

Wednesday, April 1

Edinburgh IYA Event 18th April

To celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, there is a full day of talks taking place in Edinburgh on 18th April as part of the Science Festival. The event is completely free and the line up includes John Brown Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Chris Lintott from BBC Sky at Night and many other experts on a wide range of subjects. More information on the Festival website here

March 2009 Meeting Report

Thanks to everyone who came along last night for our March meeting. We had a fascinating talk from Stuart Atkinson on his recent, well deserved, VIP visit to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. He followed that with a visually stunning review of the first five year of the Mars Rover mission, providing us with an indication of where the rovers are now heading, and the promise of some truly spectacular images from Opportunity if the rover can last another 12 months or so. Fingers crossed . . .

We also discussed ideas for some CAS events to support the International Year of Astronomy this year. More on that in a separate post.

There's much more information on Mars Rover images etc on Stuart's blog, Cumbrian Sky. If you're not a regular reader, bookmark it today !

Sunday, March 29

March Meeting -31st March 2009

Just a reminder that our March meeting is on Tuesday 31st March, 7.30pm in St Joseph's church hall Cockermouth.

This month Stuart Atkinson (Eddington Astronomical Society Secretary, CAS founder and author of Cumbrian Sky) will be giving us a talk on his recent VIP trip to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an update on the Mars Rovers as they reach a landmark five years of operation on Mars.

See you on Tuesday,

Monday, February 23

February meeting

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow night is out February meeting. I'll be giving a update on the latest state of the search for extrasolar planets as well as our usual roundup of the latest space and astronomy news including the latest on Comet Lulin. See you there at 7.30pm


Saturday, February 21

4am comet

Like Robin I struggled out of my bed at 3am in the hope of snapping Comet Lulin.

Alas the clear skies tunrned cloudy for about an hour and then fortunately cleared again just before I decided to give up!

30 exposures of 90 seconds each
William Optics 80mm ; Canon EOS
Images aligned on stars

Same source images as above but aligned on comet nucleus
to show its movement against the stars

Lulin is travelling really fast at about 4 degrees per day, very noticeable in the space of a short of observing session. Have a look as soon as you can before it begins to fade as it speeds away from the sun.

Friday, February 20

Lulin Snapped !

While the spectrograph was doing its stuff last night recording some data for a Pro/Am project, I took the opportunity around 2am to take a snap of Comet Lulin. Visually it was easy to spot as a fuzzy blob in the ubiquitous Liddl 10x50 binoculars. The 80mm wide field refractor showed a bit more detail and a hint of the tail and anti-tail.

Clear Skies

Thursday, February 19

Look out for Lulin !

Comet Lulin is currently visible in Binoculars passing through the southern sky.

At the moment you need to stay up after midnight to see it but in the comming week it will move into the evening sky, passing below Saturn (in the south east around 11pm) on 23/24th February when it should at its maximum brightness, possibly even visible with the unaided eye from a dark site.

It then continues its westward path, becoming visible earlier in the evening until it passes close to Regulus on 27/28th. From then on it will fade rapidly as it rushes away from us to be lost in the waxing moonlight.

Detailed charts can be found on the Society for Popular Astronomy website and Sky and Telescope are publishing observing reports.

Good Observing!


Monday, January 26

January 2009 Meeting

Just a quick note to remind people that our next meeting is tomorrow night, Tuesday 27th January. Usual time and place.

I can't make this month, but Jeremy has kindly agreed to lead the session and provide a quick news update. Dennis is also pitching in with a quick presentation. So thanks to the guys for stepping in to at relatively short notice.

See you next time.


Saturday, January 10

Moon / Pleiades occultation

Unfortunately it was cloudy on the night of the 7th January 2009, when the moon/pleiades occultation occurred. As luck would have it, it was clear the following night...

So produced a montage based on individual frames of the moon and M45 taken on the 8th Jan but then merged them to show approximately what it would have looked like if it had been clear on the night before! Obviously the main flaws are in the exact position of the moon relative to the stars and the fact that the moon is 24 hours older. Never mind...

Single frame of moon taken at ISO100 with a 5 second exposure.
5 frames of M45 taken at ISO400 with a 5 second exposure. Aligned and stacked with ImagesPlus.
Moon and M45 images merged in Photoshop with position approximated to 1630hrs on 7th Jan 09.

13 frames of the moon taken at ISO100 with exposure time of 1/160th sec. Aligned, stacked and processed with RegistaxV4 .
3 frames of M45 taken at ISO400 with exposure time of 60 seconds. Aligned, stacked and DDP processing with ImagesPlus.
Moon and M45 images merged in Photoshop with position approximated to 1830hrs on 7th Jan 09.

The joys of trick photography.


Friday, January 2

Clear winter nights!

I hope you've all been enjoying the clear nights as much as I have over the holidays. Here are some of the pictures I've taken over this time...

Horsehead & Flame Nebulae
William Optics 80II, 21 x 2 minute exposures

M46, M47, NGC2423 & NGC 2426
William Optics 80II, 7 x 2 minute exposures

Venus at sunset