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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 !