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Thursday, October 28

CAS Library: A reminder

Just a reminder to members that we do have a reasonably extensive library of space and astronomy books which are available for full members to borrow. Denis kindly looks after the books (and a couple of DVDs I believe), but due to storage and transport restrictions it is not possible to have them all available every meeting.

If you are looking to borrow anything then I would suggest speaking to Denis at a meeting or contact me via email and we'll see what we have.

Many of our newer books which are ideal for beginners have been out on loan for a while. If you have one of these books on loan and are not actively using it perhaps you could return it at one of the upcoming meetings to make it available for other members.

Also if anyone has any suggestions for books we should have available for loan, then please let me know. We can consider some purchases of particularly useful books.


Wednesday, October 27

Look out for UFOs / Sky Lanterns

As the bonfire and fireworks season approaches this year keep a look out for a relatively new trend; sky lanterns.

Sky lanterns, or Chinese lanterns, are small paper lanterns which act as hot air balloons and drift on the wind across the sky. Although they have been around for a while they seem to be a growing trend this year. I've seen many on sale in local shops and advertised as an alternative to fireworks.

The other night my kids spotted something in the sky over our house. On investigation there were about ten lanterns drifting over the house and I managed to catch some on the video below.

These lanterns will no doubt prompt lots of enquiries from people who have seen a 'UFO' and want to know exactly what it is they have seen. I've a few similar enquiries over the last couple of years. So if you have people telling you they have seen strange lights in the distance you can probably tell them what they have really seen.

It's worth noting that looking a bright lights in a dark sky plays havoc with our perception of distance. People will often assume they are seeing large objects (spacecraft ?) at a great distance moving very quickly. In reality it's more likely to be small objects, much closer and moving more slowly carried by the breeze.

Whatever you are doing this bonfire night have a safe and enjoyable one.


October 2010 Meeting Report

Thanks to everyone who brought their telescopes and other equipment along to our equipment evening. We had a really good range of telescopes with examples of all the major types of 'scope. There was also plenty of other equipment, including binoculars, webcams and books for people to look through.

Much of the evening was spent in informal discussions around the various 'scope. Robin demonstrated spectroscopy with the aid of a commandeered telescope, a diffraction grating and a box with artificial stars!

Robin has posted some further information here.

Webcam Imaging and Spectroscopy

Here are more details about the webcam imaging kit and the Star Analyser diffraction grating I demonstrated during the meeting on Tuesday

You can buy the cheap webcam, adapter and IR blocking filter here but be quick, they may run out. Note that the webcam will work with windows XP with the recommended driver but you will need to modify the camera firmware to make it run on Vista or 7 (contact me if you need help)

The Star Analyser diffraction grating can be bought here Contact me for an £8 rebate (fully paid up CAS members only)


Saturday, October 23

October Meeting - Equipment Evening

October is traditionally our equipment evening, and this year is no exception. It's a great opportunity for those thinking about buying a telescope, perhaps with Christmas in mind, to get some advice and see some telescopes up close. It's also a fantastic opportunity for those who are still getting to grips with their 'scopes to bring them along and get some practical help. The evening will be flexible so hopefully there will be something for everyone.

If the weather cooperates we will finish the evening with some practical observing over in Memorial Gardens so bring along some warm clothing.

Hope to see many of you there, and if you have any specific questions feel free to email me before to ensure we get a comprehensive answer for you.


Apollo launch video

I've just been checking my usual haunts around the web and followed a few links, as you do. I came across this video of the Apollo 11 launch back in July 1969. The video film was originally shot at 500 frames per second and has been slowed down and converted to HD video to give an 8 minute slow motion of the engines at launch. What's more it's got a very informative narration with it so you get full details of what you are seeing. Well worth 8 minutes of your time!

Friday, October 22

Comet 103P Hartley

For those who haven't managed to catch a glimpse of Comet Hartley yet, here is a great link to S&T magazine showing the comet in all its glory.


Hopefully we'll get some good views over the weekend, although the moon is still very prominent.

The comet is now apparently naked eye without visual aid and has a very large diffuse coma and some tail.


Friday, October 15

Comet Hartley & Double Cluster

Dodging the water-saturated skies (hair-dryer working every 10 minutes to de-mist the optics!) I managed to get a short series of frames to make a mosaic of Comet 103P_Hartley approaching the Double Cluster in Perseus (NGC 884 & NGC 869).

The image is compose of 5 frames, each made up of 6 x 1 minute exposures at ISO800, with the exception of the "comet frame" which is actually 6 x 2 minutes at ISO 1600 to bring out the coma in more detail.

All images are prime focus of the MN-190 giving an effective focal length of 1000mm f/5.3.

I have aligned the images on the stars rather than the comet nucleus, giving a pleasing background, but this does show the motion of the comet's nucleus over 12 minutes. Others have obtained images of a faint tail but this is not spectacular.


Thursday, October 7

Comet Hartley

I finally managed to track down comet Hartley in my binoculars tonight after trying over the last few clear nights.

The comet is just 'passing' the double cluster in Perseus tonight and tomorrow night. In 15x70 binoculars it is very faint requiring a dark sky, dark adapted eyes and use of 'averted vision' to pick it up.

Hopefully Jeremy has managed to get some good pictures to show us.


Wednesday, October 6

40 minute movement of Comet 103p/Hartley

The following image, taken at an effective focal length of 1000mm, shows the movement of Comet 103P/Hartley over a 40 minute period.

The image is composed of 20 x 2 minute exposures stacked at ISO800.

More images hopefully at the weekend (clear skies forecast).


Tuesday, October 5

September Meeting Report

Confusingly our September meeting was held on Saturday 2nd October. The meeting was a great success thanks to Robin Leadbeater stepping in to do an excellent talk on "a week in the life of an amateur astronomer". Not a typical week by any means, but a great insight into the work an amateur can do to help out with real professional science.

We also discussed and number of items under our news section including Comet 103P/Hartley which is currently visible in the sky. Jeremy Robin  (thanks for correcting me Robin) has posted an excellent photo here and we look forward to more of his images. If you want to find the comet your self there are finder chart on Stuart's Cumbrian Sky blog and the Sky and Telescope website. Let us know how you get on at our next meeting which is at the usual time and place on Tuesday 26th October.

That session will be our annual equipment night. This is an ideal time for those who have telescopes and are looking for some additional help and advice on getting the best out of them, or those thinking of buying a telescope. If you want some advice then bring you 'scope along and there will be plenty of advice on hand.


Monday, October 4

Comet 103P/Hartley

Comet 103P/Hartley is starting to brighten and is winging its way across the bottom of the W constellation of Cassiopeia towards Perseus.

The comet is visible all night, at a high altitude giving good clarity. However, it is still a little unspectacular visually, even though it is estimate at Magnitude 5.6 at the moment.

I took the following image on Friday night. It is a single 2 minute exposure at ISO1600. Just visible in the image is NGC281 (Pacman Nebula). The field of view in the image is about 2 x 1 degrees. The comet is 16.6 million miles from earth in this image.

More detailed images will be posted later in the week once I've processed them.

If the skies are clear take a look on Saturday night when the comet should be brighter and will be within about 0.5 degree from the Double Cluster in Perseus.

The comet is very small, estimated to be only 600 metres across. But is relatively bright as it will be within 10 million miles of earth at its closest approach.