Experiences of starting astronomy

by Denise Powell

Excerpt:

Firstly, I am no Astronomer, just someone who has always been fascinated with the Moon and Stars having grown up watching the Apollo launches and have been intrigued ever since.

Being fortunate enough to have a second home in Normandy, in a small hamlet where we have no light pollution, we have spent many an evening sat outside with a fire just looking at the stars and contemplating life.

A couple of Christmas’s ago my husband surprised me with a Sky-Watcher telescope. Now, as keen as I was and as idiot proof as it apparently was, between us we just couldn’t fathom getting started properly.

Eventually, early in 2022 we went along to Cotswold Astronomical Society on a cold Sunday evening workshop. Everyone was so welcoming and after a couple of sessions and expert advice we were able to get it aligned properly. I am now actually capable of collimating the scope pretty much by myself 🙂

The full article can be read by clicking here or in the members area under Mercury Articles.

 

Spectra of stars

By James Weightman

Obtained by placing Star Analyser grating in front of camera lens. (OM-5 DSLR + 60mm lens; 12X10 secs, f/2.8 ISO800). 2 adjacent stars in Cassiopeia compared. Gamma (centre of “W”) shows emission lines whereas nearby Delta shows absorption lines.

Photos from James Weightman

James has captured a ‘sun dog’ is also known as a ‘parhelion’, which is a bright spot in the sky appearing on either side of the sun. The Sun Dogs are an atmospheric effect and are produced by the refraction of light from hexagonal ice crystals suspended in high cold cirrus and cirrostratus clouds. The crystals act as prisms and as they float down, they refract the sunlight horizontally. The refraction of the light means that sun dogs are coloured red at the side nearest the Sun and change from orange through to blue further from the sun.

A Sun Dog caused by refraction in hexagonal ice crystals in high clouds. 16 Oct 2023.

 

James has taken a photo of stars using a longer exposure time to create star trails caused by the Earth’s rotation. The colours are particularly interesting and these reflect the  temperature of the stars. James has identified Uranus and Jupiter as well as the open star cluster the Pleiades (Messier 45) in the constellation Taurus. James has also identified red stars in the constellation Aries.

Colour star trails, includes Uranus and 2 identified “red” stars.

Latest Radio Sky News August 2023

VLF SID reports by the Radio Astronomy section of the BAA have been published for August. Please see the Radio Astronomy section of our website to read the report.

Information about the RA group is available from the BAA website at https://britastro.org/sections/radio-astronomy

Excerpt: “The strong solar activity in July continued into early August, but then faded away by mid-month. We recorded 68 classified flares in August, compared with 150 in July. There were however two X-class flares recorded, although they were rather late in the evening for the European signals. The background X-ray flux shown in the satellite data was also fairly high, so many of the smaller C-class flares were missed. Many of the stronger flares were also multiple-peaked again, giving plenty of unclassified SIDs.”

CAS Sky Notes for October 2023

The evenings get dark pretty early and, as British Summer Time ends on the 29th, it will be dark early by the end of the month.  This gives plenty of time for observing, provided the weather cooperates.

Planets:

Mercury:  Mercury is still a morning object at the start of the month, but will be lost in twilight by the end of the first week.  It has a more northerly declination and so may be visible if you have a clear eastern horizon before dawn. The elongation on the 3rd is 13° and the phase around 86%.  The angular diameter is small, at around 5.5 arcsec and so it is not an easy object.

Venus:  Venus is now an easy morning object. It reaches greatest western elongation of 46° on the 23rd and is well placed.  It remains very bright, with a magnitude of -4.6 at the start of the month, but decreasing a little as it moves away from Earth.  The phase therefore increases from 41% at the start of the month to 54% by the end.

Mars: As it approaches conjunction in November, Mars is now lost in the twilight

Jupiter  reaches opposition next month and starts October by rising around 8 pm BST. By the end of the month it is visible for most of the night and will be a prominent object in the south-east.  I urge you to train your telescopes on it.  Look out for the 4 Galilean moons. Various websites will help you to identify them, www.shallowsky.com is worth using as it also shows the position of the Great Red Spot (GRS) and when it is visible.

Saturn reached opposition at the end of August and is visible for much of the night.  It is low in the sky, but is well worth viewing.  The rings are at a shallow angle and it is a beautiful sight if you have a clear evening and a clear southern horizon.  There is an interactive map of the moons available at skyandtelescope.org

Uranus is not far from Jupiter (in the sky – not in reality!) and so is becoming easier to find. It reaches opposition next month on the 13th.  I will send out instructions to find it with the November sky notes.  If anyone wants details before them, please email Neil at coord@cotswoldas.org.uk

Neptune reaches opposition on the 19th and so is well placed.  Contact your Coordinator if you want ephemeris to find it.

The Sun

Solar activity is still increasing and solar observations are a good idea.  Take great care to never look directly at the Sun, or directly through an optical instrument.

Ensure a proper filter is in place or project the image onto card. 

Aurora Borealis:  Increasing solar activity increases the chance of seeing an aurora.  There are a number of Apps that can give you warnings and chances of seeing Aurorae.  Mine is called Aurora Pro.

Eclipses:

There is an Annular Solar Eclipse on the 14th October which crosses Western USA, Central and parts of South America.  Nothing is visible from the UK

Partial Lunar Eclipse:  This occurs on the 28th October:  Details are as follows:

P1 (Moon enters Penumbra) :            18:02 UT (19:02 BST)

U1 (Moon enters Umbra) :                  19:35 UT (20:35 BST)

U4 (Moon leaves the Umbra):            20:52 UT (21:52 BST)

P4 (Moon leaves Penumbra):             22:26 UT (23:26 BST)

At maximum, about 12% of the Moon is in the Umbra

Meteor Showers:  The Orionid meteor shower lasts throughout the month, but reaches a maximum on the  21st-22nd October. The ZHR (Zenith Hourly Rate) is around 20. The meteors are fast moving, but can leave persistent trails.  This shower is favourable as the Moon is not a major problem, reaching first quarter around then.

Moon

6th October:  Moon is at last quarter             14th October:  New Moon

22nd October:  Moon is at First Quarter        28th October:  Full Moon     

To view this post in PDF format please CLICK HERE

NEW CAS MEETING OPPORTUNITY – Cancelled due to lack of support

Weekly Meetings Every Thursday

In order to introduce a more frequent open opportunity for members to meet on a social basis, the society has arranged to use as a venue The Bell Inn, on the Shurdington Road (NOT the Bell Inn in Cheltenham!). It is under new management, has been redecorated and they have a new menu starting on 1st October.

The bar staff will direct you to where we are seated, but look out for the sign on the table if you don’t recognise anyone.

The Radio Astronomy sub-group will meet on these days also, but if you have no interest in this aspect you can still attend and carry on your own discussions in whatever area of astronomy interests you.

The meeting are to take place at 6pm but this is flexible. If you want to arrive earlier or later that’s no problem.

The pub does serve food and Thursdays just so happen to be their curry night!

Members and their guests are welcome to come along and meet informally, with no set agenda. 

By making a meeting available every week it makes it easier to attend one or more each month, in addition to the normal monthly meetings and monthly telescope workshops.

 

CAS Sky Notes for September 2023

The nights are drawing in fast now and if the cloud ever breaks you should get some observing done!

Planets: 

Mercury:  Mercury reaches greatest Western elongation of 18° on the 22nd and so is a morning object.  It has a more northerly declination and so may be visible if you have a clear eastern horizon before dawn.

Venus:  Venus is now an easy morning object. It starts the month as a thin crescent (about 15%), but increases to a thick crescent (35%) by the end of the month, by which time it will have an elongation of 43° and very well placed.

 Mars is still technically visible in the evening sky, but is very difficult as it sets soon after the Sun.  It approaches conjunction in November.  On the 16th Mars passes 0.7° south of the Moon.

Jupiter is now rising around 9 pm by the middle of the month and 8 pm by the end. It is very bright low in the south east by late evening. 

Saturn reached opposition at the end of August and is visible all night.  It is low in the sky, but is well worth viewing.  The rings are at a shallow angle. 

Uranus is not far from Jupiter (in the sky – not in reality!) and so is becoming easier to find.  I will send out instructions to find it later in the month. 

Neptune reaches opposition on the 19th and so is well placed.  Contact your Coordinator if you want ephemeris to find it.

The Sun

Solar activity is still increasing and solar observations are a good idea.  Take great care to never look directly at the Sun, or directly through an optical instrument.

Ensure a proper filter is in place or project the image onto card. 

Meteor Showers:  The Eta Perseid meteor shower reaches a maximum on the 10th September but may be seen through the middle of the month.  The ZHR (Zenith Hourly Rate) is only around 5 though, so be patient!

Moon

6th September:     Moon is at Last Quarter     15th September:  New Moon

22nd September:  Moon is at First Quarter    29th September:  Full Moon

 

To view this post in PDF format please CLICK HERE

Crescent Venus

By James Weightman

Took advantage of (rare!) early evening to take picture of Venus with handheld camera. Care taken to stand in shadow of sun, it was then relatively easy to find Venus (surprisingly conspicuous) using coordinates from computer program, and then with steady hands to zoom in. Further details on image.