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.

Sunday, December 15

Stargazing LIVE 2014

We are planning our New Year events in support of the BBC Stargazing LIVE TV series. The series will air on 7th, 8th and 9th January and we will be holding public observing events in Cockermouth on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th January.

More details to follow . . .

Friday, December 13

Christmas drinks

Our annual Christmas social get together will be next Wednesday 18th December. We will meet at 8pm in The Swan Inn on Kirkgate in Cockermouth for a few drinks and a 'crack'.

Hope to see you there.


Wednesday, December 4

Comet Lovejoy

Jeremy has been busy photographing Comet Lovejoy with impressive results . ..

"Comet Lovejoy taken in the pre-dawn sky just before work today! It's only 10 x 30 second shots and the dawn has made the processing really hard.

This was taken with the Canon 300D and the MN190."

The forecast is not good for the next couple of days but Lovejoy is visible for a while yet in the early evening or early morning. You don't need fancy equipment it is easy to find in binoculars 'below' the Plough, if you know where to look.


Saturday, November 30

Comet ISON latest

Comet ISON has really given us lots of drama over the last few days. On Thursday as it reached its closest approach to the Sun it seemed to disintegrate and fade. Something appeared around the other side of the Sun although much fainter. Many experts wrote ISON of at this point, declaring what remained as something less than a 'proper comet'.

Then on Friday the 'Ghost of ISON' looked to brighten significantly, prompting hope that there was a comet of some type remaining. Perhaps we would so something in our morning skies after all?
Today though, things have changed again. Have a look at this SOHO image below.

That remnant at the top of the image is fading rapidly. It will soon move out of the field of view of the SOHO telescope, in all likelihood we will not see it again. However, given everything that has happened with this comet to date, who knows.

For a more comprehensive round up of the story to date check out Stuart's latest report at Waiting for ISON. Phil Plait also has a nice round up of the last few days at Bad Astronomy. There are also loads of great videos and animations at the Planetary Society ISON Live Blog.

Don't forget that Comet Lovejoy is still there and visible below the Plough in the morning sky.

Observing tonight cancelled

Unfortunately we have had to cancel our planned observing session tonight. Clouds around now and a poor forecast for later.

We will get some good weather sometime so keep an eye in the blog / Facebook / twitter for the next attempt.


Thursday, November 28

ISON's end

It's been a tense evening following the fate of Comet ISON as it rounded the sun today. Thanks to up to the minute information and photos on Twitter the full drama has been easy to follow.

As early as Tuesday concerns were being raised as ISON dimmed suddenly. Then the comet started brightening again. As it approach the sun this evening however it seemed to break up, smearing along the line of its orbital path. There seemed little chance of it making it past the sun.

Then some hope . . . Something was clearly seen in images from the solar telescopes, perhaps the comet has survived? After a bit more analysis and more images most experts are agreed that the comet is effectively dead

If, like me, you didn't manage to see the comet earlier this month then it looks like you'll have to write this one off. But there is still a comet visible in the night sky. It's time to track down Comet Lovejoy.
A big thanks should go to Stuart who has spent the last year keeping us all informed and inspired in the build up to ISON. His blog Waiting for ISON is still a great resource for observing and photographing comets, and of course has details on Comet Lovejoy. Thanks Stu.

Sunday, November 24

November meeting - Tuesday 26th

Our next meeting is this Tuesday (26th November) at 7.30pm.

This month we will be focusing on Comet ISON which promises to be a good sight in our winter skies. It has been visible in the early morning for a couple of weeks, although it has certainly been a challenge to observe it.

We'll look ahead to it's visibility during December as it emerges from the other side of the sun. Jeremy will be providing advice on how best to photograph it.

There will also be news on society observing events and, as we don't have a formal meeting in December, we will arrange our informal Christmas drinks.

Tuesday, October 15

Society Telescope

As our October meeting is covering equipment it is worth reminding everyone that we have a society telescope which is available for full members to borrow.

Currently the 'scope is sitting in my garage gathering dust. I have my own telescope and so I will not make use of the society one. I'm also looking to get some work done in the garage so I would really like to see the telescope used by someone rather than potentially getting damaged at home.

The telescope is an 8" Newtonian telescope on an equatorial drive with motors and a computerised controller.

If you think you can make use of it please get in touch. I will be bringing it along to our October meeting so anyone borrowing it can have a crash course in setting it up and using it.

A ideal opportunity to try before you think about buying your own 'scope.

Sunday, October 13

October 2013 meeting - Equipment Night

October is our annual 'equipment night'. This is an opportunity to explore astronomy equipment in a more hands on manner.

A great opportunity for those thinking about buying a telescope (or other equipment) to have a look at a range of telescopes / finders etc and ask questions before taking the plunge and parting with their money!

A group discussing telescopes at one of our previous Equipment Nights

If you already have a telescope and would like some help getting the best out of it then it is a great opportunity to bring it along a seek some advice.

So for a successful evening we need a good a range of telescopes and accessories. If you can bring something along and be prepared to tell people a bit about it.

Friday, September 27

Sky at Night under threat

As we mentioned at our meeting on Tuesday evening, it appears that the BBC are considering cancelling The Sky at Night.

I'm sure many of you, like me, will have been inspired and informed by the programme over the years. For me it has always been about more than just Sir Patrick Moore, and I have enjoyed seeing CAS members' images, and even CAS members themselves on the programme.

If you consider the programme worthwhile you may wish to consider signing an online petition the has been established at the following address (and already has over 30,000 signatures).


Monday, August 26

Remember . . .no meeting in August

We don't meet in August as it is the holiday season and the bank holiday weekend. This year we have some sunshine to enjoy for a change as well!

So, no meeting this Tuesday. See you and the end of September, keep an eye on the blog or Facebook for details of the next meeting.

Saturday, August 3

July Meeting Report

Thanks to Ian for an excellent talk on meteor impacts at our July meeting. Ian brought together a wide range of topics from astronomy and geology to give us all a comprehensive view of the history of impacts of space rocks on the Earth.

It was great to see such a good turnout for one of summer meetings, including one or two new faces. I hope everyone enjoyed it.

We will not have a meeting in August, so our next CAS meeting will be the last Tuesday in July.

Monday, July 29

July CAS meeting

The next CAS meeting is tomorrow night, Tuesday 30th July 2013 at 7.30pm in the usual venue (St Joseph's Church Hall in Cockermouth).

The meeting will cover an update on space and astronomy news in July and a talk by a local society member on the subject of Impacts on Earth!

See you there,

Wednesday, July 10

Wave at Saturn next weekend

If you are a regular BBC Radio Cumbria listener you may have heard Stuart Atkinson from Kendal's Eddington Astronomical Society being interviewed on the breakfast show this morning. Stuart was talking about an upcoming NASA sponsored event encouraging everyone to get outside and 'wave at Saturn' to coincide with a planned photo of the Earth being taken from Saturn by the Cassini probe.

If you'd like to get involved with this you have two options. Firstly you could just go outside at 10.30pm on Friday 19th July, or if you want to make more of an evening of it, get along to the EAS event at Kendal Castle and join in with the moon and saturn observation as well as a collective 'wave' at the appropriate time. Stuart has more details over on his Cumbrian Sky blog.

A simulated view of the picture Cassini will take
All this is, of course, just a bit of fun. The Cassini image will show the Earth as a small 'pale blue dot' just a few pixels across. So although we will all be in the picture, not details will be visible. But just knowing you are in a image taken by a probe sent by humans to a planet almost a billion miles away has got to be something to fire the imagination. It's an ideal opportunity for families to get involved in space exploration.


Wednesday, July 3

Tribute to Fearon Fallows unveiled in Cockermouth

Today saw the unveiling of a tribute to famous Cockermouth born astronomer Fearon Fallows, in the town centre.

A large piece of artwork dedicated to Fearon Fallows was created by artist Victor de Quincey and erected in the Lowther Went shopping street just off Cockermouth's Main Street, thanks to the Cockermouth Civic Trust. Described as one of Cockermouth's 'forgotten sons' Fallows was born in 1788 and studied mathematics at Cambridge before being appointed a royal astronomer and being despatched to South Africa to establish a southern observatory and map the southern skies.

Formal unveiling. 3rd July 2013
The Civic Trust kindly invited a representative of CAS along to the ceremony and I duly turned up at 11 o'clock yesterday to take part, only to find no-one around. Yes, I'd messed up my dates and in my enthusiasm gone a day early! Unfortunately I couldn't have attended today anyway.

Stuart Atkinson from Eddington Astronomical Society (and founder of CAS) faired much better than I did and managed to attend the ceremony and speak about Fearon Fallows and his difficult life. He even made the local TV news as you can see here.

So we now have a monument to a local astronomer in pride of place in the town centre, and while I ws there it was certainly attracting a lot of attention from passersby.

The full piece

A small amount of biographical detail on the artwork

Tuesday, June 18

June 2013 CAS meeting

The June CAS meeting will feature a visiting guest speaker, Dr Paul Roche.

Paul is Director of the Faulkes Telescopes Project, and is the longest-serving member of the team, having started in early 2000 whilst Head of Education at the National Space Centre, Leicester. 

He is now Head of Astronomy at the University of Glamorgan, and the UK National Schools' Astronomer.

Pictured here is the Faulkes Telescope North instrument which was installed on the summit of Haleakala in Hawai'i.  

If you've ever wanted to take pictures with an observatory class telescope then this talk is for you.  The following picture was taken by Hull Collegiate School and shows the galaxy M106, about 21 million light years away.

Please come along and invite your friends as this is a rare treat for us in the quiet corners of NW England!

See you there, 7.30pm at St Joseph's Church Hall in Cockermouth on Tuesday 25th June. 


Thursday, May 23

CAS meeting - Tue 28th May 2013 7.30pm

This month's meeting will include a talk by local member and professional physicist Darren Parker on:

The Theory of Relativity

Darren has worked on the world's largest science experiment, the Large Hadron Collider, so hopefully he knows what he's talking about...I'm sure his change of career had nothing to do with the "leak". :-)

In addition to real science, bad jokes and updates on Astronomy & Spaceflight news, there will be the usual tea/coffee and biscuits so come along for a good evening.

Sunday, April 7

North America Nebula

Rising early on Saturday morning to see the last of Comet Panstarrs and M31, I decided to shoot the North America Nebula (NGC7000) before the comet rose high enough to photograph.

It's a large nebula complex spanning approximately 2 degrees x 2 degrees.  Noting that the moon is approximately half degree in diameter it shows how large this nebula complex is.

The following photo was taken using my William Optics 80mm diameter apochromatic telescope with a 0.8x reducer, resulting in an effective focal length of 436mm at f/5.

WO 80mm with Canon EOS300D
12 x 5mins @ ISO800
Processing in ImagesPlus and Photoshop

I made fairly extensive use of multi-layer processing with the high-pass filter at various strengths, blended into the main image to help enhance certain features of the nebula and make it more 3-dimensional.


Thursday, April 4

Comet Panstarrs & M31

Dragging myself out of bed at 3am to photograph the comet was well worth the effort.

The mornings have been so still and clear and the comet has been steadily inching closer to the M31 galaxy in Andromeda.  I found the best time to observe was between 3.30 and 5am.

The weather looks like it's taken a turn for the worse from this weekend, so your last chance to get a good view of the pair may well be on Friday night / Saturday morning.


Sunday, March 31

Comet PANSTARRS from Slate Fell, Cockermouth

Inspired by other CAS members' images of PANSTARRS I thought I would have a go at capturing the comet in the skies above Cockermouth. As the skies were clear (again) last night I packed a small rucsac with camera, tripod and binoculars and headed up to the top of Slate Fell, which overlooks Cockermouth.

I quickly orientated myself and found PANSTARRS in the northwest using my 15 x 70 binoculars. Then I set up my DSLR on a tripod and, not being an expert on astroimaging, just starting playing around with some settings in manual mode. I started out at a wide angle and using an exposure time of 20 seconds. Once I'd found PANSTARRS in the frame I tried to fine tune the focus and exposure time. Then moving the camera slightly so that the comet was near the centre of the frame, I zoomed in to a longer focal length and tried again.

Anyway, I was reasonably pleased with the results . . .

PANSTARRS above Cockermouth from Slate Fell
When I got the images onto my computer I realised that I had also got M31 (The Andromeda Galaxy) in the same frame. The galaxy was about 10 degrees above the comet that evening and will be moving closer, on 3rd and 4th April it should be in the same binocular field of view!

Slate Fell turned out to be a pretty good observing point and not too much of a hike in the dark from the Embleton Road. There was still a fair amount of light pollution from Cockermouth to the West and even looking East towards Keswick as in the image below.

Looking East towards Keswick and Skidaw
If you're looking for a really nice image of PANSTARRS check out Stuart's latest image over on his Waiting for ISON blog. I won't spoil the surprise for you, just go and have a look!

Friday, March 29

Comet Panstarrs from Sandale

Finally, after many fruitless attempts, I bagged Comet Panstarrs on the Thursday evening like many other Cockermouth-based astronomers.

 All exposures were taken with a Canon 300D mounted on a tripod.

PANSTARRS: CAS Members get in on the act!

Finally we are having some success in the Cockermouth area viewing the elusive comet PANSTARRS. With the forecast looking good for the next few nights and the moon rising late in the evening there is still plenty of opportunity to get out there and find it.

A couple of CAS Members have reported sucess;

Phil comments;
Got it! Saw it this evening (28 March) just after 8pm. Quite close to M31 and just a bit brighter. A classic comet, with a fairly well defined nucleus and fan tail, pointing upwards away from the horizon. I found it with the help of the chart here 
Well worth looking for if the next few nights are clear. 

Robin managed to capture this image from his garden;

C/2011 L4 Panstarrs: Robin Leadbeater (Stack of 10 images)

Robin says;
Still an easy binocular object, visible from around 19:45 UT using alpha and beta Andromedae (Alpheratz and Mirach) as pointers, visible well before the comet). This snapshot (stack of 10 images)  taken from the back garden at 20:24 UT  27-3-2013

I've seen the comet on the past two evenings. A really nice sight last night (28th March) when the sky was darker before the moon had risen. Very clear in my 15 x 70 binocular and also visible in a small pair of 10 x 35 binoculars.

Don't forget there is plenty of advice and updates on PANSTARRS over at Stuart Atkinson's 'Waiting for ISON' blog on the dedicated PANSTARRS page.

When you find it, why not leave a comment on this post?

Good luck and clear skies,

Meeting Report: March 2013

A big thank you to Robin for an excellent talk on Tuesday evening. Robin is a CAS stalwart and has given us many fascinating talks over the years. "T Tauri: A Star is Born" was no exception.

Covering a number of bases including; the basics of spectroscopy, the lifecycle of stars, variable stars and the physics of star formation, the talk was a real detective story tracking down the explanation for an unusual observation Robin made while helping a PHd student with his research.

Above all, once again, Robin demonstrated the real contribution to science amateurs can make in astronomy. The talk prompted plenty of discussion and I'm sure everyone who came along learned something new. I am certainly looking forward to hearing about Robin's next project!

Saturday, March 23

Society Telecsope

Don't forget that the society has a 200mm newtonian reflector telescope which is available for CAS members to borrow.

I currently have the scope, so if anyone would like to borrow it then please contact me and I we can arrange to hand it over.

In order to borrow the telescope you just need to be a Full CAS Member.

Sunday, March 17

CAS Meeting - Tues 26th March 2013

At our next meeting we will have the pleasure of listening to Robin Leadbeater, one of our local society members.  Robin's talk is entitled:

T Tauri - A Star Is Born

A star doubling in brightness in just 6 minutes certainly grabs your attention.  Seen earlier this year during some routine measurements Robin was making to assist a PhD student, it prompted him to learn more about these stars, which behave like our Sun would have done 4.5 billion years ago.  Hear what Robin found out at this month’s meeting, which starts at 7.30pm.

Sunday, March 10

Hunting for Comet Panstarrs

With the clear forecast for this evening I'm going to have a go at finding Comet Panstarrs at sunset.

Sunset for Cockermouth is approximately 6pm tonight so start looking from 5.30pm to 7pm.

The comet will be to the left of Mars low on the western horizon, which is in turn left of the sun.

Remember:  NEVER use any optical aids if the sun is still above the horizon!!!!

Tuesday, March 5

Keswick School Event - CAS Members' help needed

At our February meeting I mention the upcoming visit of Andy Newsham Andrew Newsam to Keswick School and our involvement in assisting with some observing for pupils and parents attending the event.

I have had confirmation that the event is on Wednesday 13th March at the school. The talk is from 7.30pm on the topic of "Things that go Bang in the Night", and there may be tickets available for those helping with the observing, if we can confirm numbers to the school as soon as possible.

So we need volunteering to come along from about 7pm, preferably with telescopes, to set up and show people the night sky, weather permitting. If you are able to help please email me ( chris@cockermouthastronomy.co.uk ) so that I can respond to the school.


Saturday, March 2

Society for the History of Astronomy conference

We often get notifications of astronomy events taking place around the country, and are not always able to mention these in a timely fashion at our meetings, so I though I would start posting them on our website for anyone who may be interested.

First up is the Society of the History of Astronomy who are holding their spring conference in York on 20th April 2013. If anyone has an interest in the history of astronomy, astronomers and telescopes there are plenty of talks that may be of interest. Details can be found on their website.

If anyone is interested in attending I can forward registration forms etc.

Tuesday, February 26

Waiting for the comets

A massive thank you to Stuart Atkinson for an excellent talk tonight on the approaching comets that will hopefully grace our skies this year.

After the talk many people asked where they could get a copy of Stuart's finder charts for various dates. They are all on Stuart's excellent blog dedicated to the comets, Waiting for ISON.


Sunday, February 24

CAS Meeting - Tuesday 26th Feb

Just a reminder that the next CAS meeting is on Tuesday this week at 7.30pm.

Stuart Atkinson will be talking about "The Coming of the Comets!" so come along and be prepared for the appearance of Comet Panstarrs in March and then Ison in September.

Lovejoy PANSTARRS Feb 9

Terry Lovejoy image of Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS)

If anyone has any images or observation reports from the last month bring them along on a memory stick.  Maybe you've had a go at imaging Jupiter, Saturn or the Moon?  Or maybe you were lucky enough to follow the recent Near Earth Asteroid?

See you there!


Sunday, February 17

Asteroid caught on camera

You may have missed it in the comments on the previous post. CAS member Robin Leadbeater managed to capture Friday's asteroid (2012 DA14) on camera.

Image: Robin Leadbeater  (www.threehillsobservatory.co.uk)

You can see the images as a video on YouTube here.

Well done Robin.  Did anyone else see the asteroid?

Friday, February 15

Asteroid 2012 DA14 approach

LIVE video feed of the asteroid approach is available here.

Finder chart available at Heavens Above. The asteroid is approaching from the and will pass through The Plough at about 21:00h. You will need binoculars to see it.

Russian meteor event

Check all the usual news sources for information and videos of the massive meteor event over Russia this morning. I will links and more information when I get the chance.

Note: this is almost certainly unconnected with the flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 tonight.

UPDATE: here's some links to the main stories about the meteor around the web.

Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society has a comprehensive post with links to many of the videos and posts around the web.

Universe Today is conforming that the event is unrelated to the asteroid 2012 DA14 pass this evening. The post also contains some excellent satellite images of the event.

As usual Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has a great summary with more videos and links of the event.


Tuesday, February 12

February 2013 CAS meeting

The next CAS meeting is on Tuesday 26th February and our guest speaker is Stuart Atkinson from Eddington Astronomy Society. His talk will be "The Coming of the Comets!" a look ahead to the potentially fantastic comets arriving in the spring and the autumn.

Check out Stuart's website for a sneak preview:


Sunday, February 10

A close encounter

On Friday a small asteroid, about 50 metres across, will pass close to the Earth. This Near Earth Object is one of many that share similar orbits to the Earth and occasionally come close to our planet. On this occasion the orbit is very well known, allowing astronomers to confirm that there is NO CHANCE the object will hit the Earth. It will however come closer than the geostationary satellites that orbit around 20,000 miles above the Earth providing telecommunications services.

The asteroid known as 2012 DA14, will make closest approach of an asteroid of this size since astronomers have been closely tracking and measuring such objects. This will allow detailed measurement and mapping of the object by professional astronomers. SPACE.COM have a nice summary graphic of the event here.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 size compared to space shuttle. Image Credit: NASA

So, given that it is such a close flyby, will amateur astronomers be able to see it? Well in theory, yes, it will reach magnitude 8, which is well within the reach of most amateur telescopes. However, as the asteroid will be approaching at around 5 miles per second, it will be moving very fast against the background stars and will be difficult to find and track. Experience amateurs will be trying to image it, and we can look forward to some interesting images over the weekend. If you want to try Sky and Telescope have a finder chart and details here. A number of websites are also planning to broadcast the event via live video including the Clay Centre Observatory in Massachusetts, USA.

More information on the asteroid and its approach can be found in these videos from NASA ScienceCast and The Planetary Society.

Update: Another excellent summary of this event from Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy.