Daylight graphs

I've updated the my sky section of my main site to include a couple of daylight graphs. The first one graphs the rise and set positions of the Sun for the current day:

The second graphs sunrise/sunset times and total hours daylight for my location:

And the reason I added them? Well, no good reason really. They are sort of useful for a quick glance but the main reason I added them is because I fancied a quick bit of hacking (and also because I've been playing with compass-a-like graphs on my weather station site).


Exceptional sketches

Take a look at the two sketches in this thread on the SPA BB.

Wow! Just.... wow!


Request for images of Cassiopeia taken in October

Via this post on the SPA BB:

The Astro community are calling for images of Cassiopeia taken this October. There was an unusual brightening of a star which might have been a very rare gravitational lensing event. There are plenty of observations after it brightened but only a few before. These would help confirm the shape of the brightness change curve which must be symmetric for a lensing event.
This is in reference to an earlier thread on the BB.

Also see this news item on the BAA's website.


UK floodlighting petition

Via this post on the SPA BB:

Andrew Abbott has created a petition for the Prime Minister to ban floodlighting of buildings to reduce energy use, carbon dioxide emissions and light pollution.

You can read the petition and add your signature, if you wish, here.


Summary of petition...

Floodlighting of buildings is done purely for our own vanity. It is a significant waste of energy.

The Energy Saving Trust is asking us to cut down on our energy use by 20%, yet private companies and government still waste significant amounts of energy on floodlighting buildings. Why should our taxes pay to floodlight government buildings?

The Government must ban the floodlighting of buildings. Even before legislation is introduced, the government could set a lead in this to encourage private owners by switching off the floodlighting of government buildings.


Space wurzel

Warning: It probably helps if you're British, or, at the very least, know who Colin Pillinger and Kevin Warwick are and, ideally, why they're often the target for jokes (especially the latter — I really miss the KevWatch website).

Via Radio RTFM, Space Wurzel (MP3 file).

Mobile phones, the next big thing in astronomy?

Okay, I'm pushing it a bit with the title of this post, but I am fascinated by the results that people can get with the little cameras you get in mobile phones (or "cell phone" for those in strange parts of the world) these days.

I've used mine in the past to (try and) record sunspots, the Sun itself (although that one's really rubbish), Mars (yes, I know, I'm pushing it a bit there), the Moon, the Moon with Jupiter, a solar eclipse and various forms of atmospheric phenomena. The results have never been that great but I never really expected them to be that great.

That said, if LPOD is anything to go by, some of the better phones seem to give amazing results.

But, for me, none of the above quite match the image in this post on the SPA BB. Sure it's blurred. Sure it's smudged. Sure there's no real detail. But you can instantly tell which planet it is. An identifiable planet, on a mobile phone! How neat is that?


A bit more documentation

Given that last weekend's sessions introduced a new type of observing to my logs I felt the need to add a new markup item to my logging system. While doing that I realised that I had no definitive list of all the forms of markup that could be used in the notes for a session or an observation.

So, this morning, I created the list in the (still incomplete) documentation for the file format I use. I've also created a page for each type of markup; each page gives a brief description of the purpose of the markup, the syntax of the markup and also gives an example or two of the markup in use.

I'm glad I finally got around to doing this. From now on I won't need to go looking at my source code or old logs to remind myself how a specific markup item works.


More time stats

After adding the time stats to my stats page earlier to day I realised that I now had most of the tools in place to figure out which part of the day was most "popular" in my logs. I decided that it called for a nice little graph:

From this I deduce I'm not the sort of person who likes to observe during the early hours of the morning. ;)

Time stats

This morning I made a quick addition to the code that manages my observing logs and added some code that extracts the elapsed times for all my sessions. Using this I've been able to add a new section to my stats page that lists some time-based values.

As of now, since 2005-04-16, I've spent 93 hours doing something related to observing. On average I've spent about ½ hour per session. My shortest session is 1 minute long and my longest is 252 minutes long (although the the longest session is a little misleading because there was a break of about 1 hour during it).

Gravity 3D

I stumbled on a really nice bit of software this morning called Gravity 3D (sorry, only runs on Microsoft Windows from what I can see). It's a galaxy collision simulator (and it's free). I can't say how "useful" it is in terms of the science but one thing I do know is it's very pretty and very addictive.

The Polygon Worlds site contains other astronomy related software too, including Mars Explorer, Mars 3D, Earth 3D and Venus 3D.

Be sure to have a look in the gallery too.


Time for a new look

Now that this blog has moved to the new blogger system I've decided to throw away the old template and have a new look. I partly did this so I could make use of the new template management system but I also did it because I fancied a new look anyway.

As far as I can tell the change has gone off without a hitch and I think I've managed to retain all the bits and bobs and links and stuff that I had before.

The layout isn't perfect, there's some changes I'd still like to make, but that's low priority stuff and might not happen for a while.

Let me know if you see any obvious problems.

Leonids: my results

The logs for Saturday morning and Sunday morning are now up.

Here's what I learnt over the weekend:

  • If the outburst did take place I didn't notice it. The numbers of Leonids I saw on Sunday morning pretty much matched with those I saw on Saturday morning.

  • I saw way more Leonids than Ian did.

  • I seem to have seen a similar rate to that seen by Tristram.

  • Planning is a good thing. But when you do plan, try and pay attention to what you're doing.

  • When you do mess up in your planning, try and come up with a really good explanation for it. Hence...

  • When trying to observe a meteor shower outburst, try and have a session 24 hours before hand so that you've established a baseline for the following morning's observation. If you don't it's just really bad science. Okay? (I almost typed that with a straight face)

  • Putting a sleeping bag on the chair and then sitting on the sleeping bag keeps you so much warmer.

  • When you're sat out in the cold, at stupid-o-clock in the morning, looking at the sky and waiting for something to happen, it's impossible not to start thinking that you should take up a saner hobby.

  • The thinking in the previous point totally disappears the moment you see the first meteor.

  • Shouting "Woah! did you see that one!" makes no sense at all when you're the only person sat in your garden at 5 in the morning.

  • You'll never, ever, convince other people that sitting in the cold at stupid-o-clock on a Sunday morning isn't insane.

  • Drinking over ½ a bottle of wine the night before might ensure that you get off to sleep nice and quickly, but it doesn't make waking up any easier.
Can't wait for the Geminids.


Leonids redux

Following on from yesterday morning's "accidental" session I managed to get out again this morning to try again for the predicted outburst.

The sky wasn't quite so good this morning, ever so slightly misty and when I first went out there was some thin cloud to the west (which did clear after a while). I was also quite a bit colder this morning — just below 0°C.

As for the outburst? If there was one I think I missed it. I started out around 04:30UT and didn't move until around 05:30UT. In that time I counted 7 Leonids. By 05:30UT I was feeling cold and tired (two early mornings on the trot, I'm going to regret this) so I started to pack up. While in the process of packing up I saw 2 more meteors, both Leonids. One of them was probably the best one I saw for the whole of this session.

I'd like to have carried on observing right up until the sky getting too light but I just couldn't stick with it all the way this morning.

I hope the outburst did take place and that the time was off. Hopefully someone out there had a pretty good show.

As with yesterday the session log isn't up on my site yet. I expect to get this weekend's logs typed up some time on Monday.


Talking of meteors and radio astronomy...

Talking of meteors and radio astronomy... If anyone is interested in this subject and doesn't know much about it this post over on the SPA BB has some interesting links.

The Leonids (and a silly mistake)

Despite what I said yesterday evening, I did get to do some Leonids observing after all.

Late on last night I caught the forecast on the BBC and it said that things would clear up around midnight or so and stay clear into the morning. I then recalled having read an article in the November issue of Sky & Telescope about a predicted burst in activity set for around 04:45UT on the 19th (those quick off the mark will have noticed a problem already).

So, excited at the prospect of getting some meteor observing in and also excited at the prospect of observing a possible outburst of activity, I set my alarm for 04:10.

Despite some reluctance to get out of bed I was finally out and settled by 04:39 and stayed out until 06:00 (by then the sky was starting to get light and the cold was starting to get to me). I had quite an enjoyable time. I counted 9 Leonids in total. I also saw 2 sporadics and quite a few satellites.

And now for the silly mistake (you've seen it already, right?): I came into the office to warm up and to make this entry and then I realised the date. It's the 18th, not the 19th. I went to all the effort of getting out really early to try and observe an event that wouldn't be happening for another 24 hours!

I feel like a total idiot. A cold, over-dressed (hat, two coats, two t-shirts, jumper, two scarves, two pairs of socks, etc...) but very satisfied idiot. But I still feel like a total idiot.

That said, at least I got out and managed to observe something. The weather wasn't good late into the night last night and the forecast isn't that promising for tonight and early tomorrow morning (although, if it changes, and I'm up to it, I might try this again tomorrow).

The session log isn't up yet, I'll be typing that up in the next couple of days.


Megan is back!

Yay! Megan is back! And with a fascinating post too.

I really should have a go at this business of listening to meteor showers. I've being looking forward to the chance to observe a shower but, ever since I got back into observing, I've always had pretty bad luck with the weather. The same looks true for the Leonids this month — it's raining right now, has been raining for most of the day and the forecast for tonight is more rain. Tomorrow night looks like it'll be cloudy.

On the move, sort of

This afternoon I decided to make the move from the classic blogger system to the new beta system. For a short while there I thought it might have all gone horribly wrong but, thankfully, it all seems to have worked in the end.

However, given that this is a beta system... In other words, if something odd happens to this blog, if it goes missing or something, you know why.

In the event that anything does happen I'll try and ensure that some sort of note is placed on the front page of my main site.

One plus point: the new system appears to support the labelling of posts so I can finally do away with my old "file under" system (which was simply a set of pointers into Google's blog search engine).


Lunar mystery part II

Back in July I wrote about a little Lunar mystery that had turned up on the SPA BB. It seems that the mystery hasn't been fully resolved yet.

Geoff is still trying to clear up what it was he observed and he now has an observing plan in place to try and reproduce the situation. He's posted a list of dates and times when conditions should be the same as his original observation and is hoping that a few other people might be able to join in and help.

I thought I'd mention in case anyone reading might like to join in and also because not all the times listed are practical for UK observers — perhaps someone over the other side of the pond (for example) might like to join in to cover those times when most UK observers would be fast asleep?