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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.