Happy Towel Day

To my eternal shame I wouldn't have realised this if it wasn't for the Bad Astronomer writing about it: not only is it the end of the world today, and not only is it Thursday, it turns out that it's Towel Day too!

Happy Towel Day everyone!

File Under: Towel Day, H2G2.


So long and thanks for all the fish...

This must be Thursday. I could never get the hang of Thursdays.
Arthur Dent
So, given that it's the end of the world tomorrow (UK time anyway), I thought I'd just take a moment to say thanks to all the other astronomy bloggers out there who read this little blog and who have provided me with amusement, inspiration and encouragement over the last year.

Annoyingly the forecast looks reasonable for the weekend so I probably had some observing coming – and it's a bank holiday weekend too.

Oh, and, if you don't mind: in the event that Eric Julien is wrong (what, really, you think he might be, or he might be having the biggest laugh possible? naaa, get out of here!) please pretend that you never read this blog entry.

File Under: Thursday, End of the World, H2G2.



It's the AGM of Newton's Astronomical Society and a little earlier this evening my son (who is 4) asked: "Are you going to your astrocomical meeting tonight?".

Sometimes, it does feel pretty comical doesn't it?

So, I headed off to Google and found that it's quite a common word. The best site I've found in that search so far is this one.

File Under: Astronomy, Comical, Astrocomical.

Wiki Wiki

Last night I added a new section to my astronomy website: a Wiki. It lives at wiki.astronomer.me.uk.

There's not much there at the moment (just a couple of reviews) but the idea is that it'll be the place where I put longer articles that don't really fit well into the structure of the main site. I also plan to use it as a place to keep some of my longer blog entries (reviews, experiences, rants, etc...) that would otherwise be lost in the depths of the Blogger archive system.

Unlike most wikis I don't allow free-for-all editing (for obvious reasons) but, if you're a registered user, you can write comments in the discussion pages associated with each article.

For the geeks and nerds amongst us (what, some of us aren't geeky or nerdy?) the answer to the question you're thinking right now is DokuWiki.

File Under: Astronomy, Wiki, DokuWiki.

The hunt for 37P fragment B

Further to yesterday's entry about comet 73P, I managed to get out last night and try and spot fragment B. While I did manage to spot it in the end I had a lot of trouble finding it and even when I found it the view was very unimpressive — from my location there was no way it was a "naked eye object even in moonlight".

You can read more about the hunt and what I saw in last night's log.

File Under: Comet, Schwassmann-Wachmann 3.


37P fragment B now naked eye?

Kaustav just alerted me to this:

May 10: Component B has reportedly become brighter than component C! It is a naked eye object even in moonlight. There are also reports of arcs and jets. Bill Weir reported that, "When it slid into the FOV I was blown away. Although smaller, it looked as good if not better than C had ever looked. I couldn't believe how bright it looked even with all the Moonlight." There are signs that the outburst may already be in the decline so get this one tonight if you can!
From here.

File Under: Comet, Schwassmann-Wachmann 3.


The Astronomy and Nature Centre

While having a look on the Scopes'n'Skies website this morning (yes, I have been having a look around to see if there might be a handy way of mounting a mobile phone — sad isn't it?) I noticed a new link on the opening page for something called The Astronomy and Nature Centre.

Our Pre-owned Zones feature the largest second-user display in the UK with over 3000 used items available!
Oh no, and it's a reasonably short drive from where I live too. This is bad news.

File Under: Astronomy and Nature Centre, Scopes'n'Skies, Astronomy Equipment.


M13 with the BRT

Last Friday I submitted a small number of jobs to the Bradford Robotic Telescope. So far I've had one back, it's an image of M13 in Hercules (which recently had a "close encounter" with comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3).

© Bradford University

As with previous shots, the above is simply a JPEG export from the FITS file via AVIS.

As I look at the image it's kind of interesting to think that the photons that went into making it will, at some point, have crossed paths with the Arecibo message.

File Under: Bradford Robotic Telescope, M13, Arecibo message.


Why have a 'scope when you can Skype?

On Friday night (actually Saturday morning by the time it happened), not long after posting my silly Moon images, I got an instant message via Skype from Kaustav to say that he'd got his 'scope set up, with webcam, and that it was pointing at Jupiter and did I want to try a little experiment? The experiment was to see how it would look if we started a video chat. So, we connected a voice call, fired up the video connection and this was the result:

Okay, not the best view of Jupiter — pretty terrible really, but I was impressed that it worked at all. Also, given that Jupiter is so low in the sky from here meaning that I can't see it from my observing location in my garden, that's the best view of the planet I've had so far this apparition.

File Under: Skype, VoIP, Webcam, Jupiter.


Being silly with the 905 and a mobile phone

Had another enjoyable observing session tonight until cloud stopped play. The Moon was pretty much washing out the sky so I failed to observe the comet but I did spend quite a lot of time observing the Moon (the log will probably go online early next week). At one point earlier on in the session and while the sky was still quite light, I grabbed my mobile phone and took a couple of images through the eyepiece. The first, with (if I recall correctly) the 15mm eyepiece in place, was of the whole moon:

Given that it was hand-held at the eyepiece and given that the camera in the phone (a Nokia 6280) isn't that good the image turned out better than expected (and better than the handful that I deleted at the time).

Also, just for fun, I dropped the 6mm eyepiece into the 'scope and tried a closeup on the region around Ptolemaeus:

This one's not so good but the craters are recognisable when compared to a map.

I'm going to have to crack at some point in the near future and start to play with a webcam or something.


Another enjoyable observing session

I managed to have another good night out with the 'scopes last night (the online copy of the log should be up later). The main targets were the Moon, Saturn and, of course, Comet 73/P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3.

I started out having a look at Saturn for a while and then moved on to having a good look around the terminator of the Moon. I got quite taken in by the view of Mare Serenitatis, especially the area around Dorsa Smirnov as it stood out very well. I did consider the idea of doing a sketch of the area, or at least a feature in the area, but decided against it as I wanted to move on to finding the comet. After seeing what Jeff got up to last night I'm sort of wishing I had made the effort now.

The view of the comet wasn't quite as good as the one I had a couple of nights back — moonlight seemed to be a bit of a problem. That said, I did manage to find fragment B this time around, I even had it in the same field of view as M13. Pete Lawrence managed to catch that sight really well in this image and this image (both from this page — I've pointed to them directly because Pete's updating the page after each session).

Update: The log of the session is now online.

File Under: Comet, Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, Moon, Saturn.


Finally got to see the comet

Last night was the first clear night that coincided with free time that I've had for a while so I ventured out with both 'scopes and a binocular and managed a good couple of hours observing before the weather got in the way.

The best part was that I finally got a look at Comet 73/P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3!

File Under: Comet, Schwassmann-Wachmann 3.