AA 10953 on 2007-04-30

Another shot of the sunspot in active area 10953, taken earlier on today:

I also noticed today that the spot is visible to the naked eye (using eclipse shades, of course).

Flight to the Virgo Cluster

Via this post on the SPA BB: A flight to the Virgo Cluster:

AA 10953 on 2007-04-28

I managed to observe the Sun both days of this last weekend. The spot in active area 10953 continues to look pretty impressive (well, impressive by "we've not had much to look at for a while" standards). I didn't take a photograph on Sunday because conditions were far from ideal but I managed to get this shot on Saturday:



I just had a rather silly idea, and it took no time to implement.

I was thinking that I've got a lot of observing logs now and, to a large degree, I can generally find the one I want (often via the log index). But it might also be fun to have a facility that selects a random logs.

So that's what I did: view a random observing log.


During the past couple of months I've had a pretty good run of clear days that have permitted lots of sunspot counts. However, the last time I actually saw a sunspot was 2007-03-03.

That finally changed today:


Astroblast 2007 - Photographs

I made it to Astroblast and had a really good day out. I don't really have time to write about it at the moment (although I do hope to some time soon) but, meanwhile, here's a gallery of photographs I took while there.

You wouldn't believe the trouble I had to go to to smuggle them out of the event.


Astroblast 2007

Tomorrow is Astroblast 2007. All being well I'll be going along again.

Looking at the website it appears that it'll be pretty much the same sort of thing as last year which, from my point of view (father with small child), isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Personally I found last year's effort to be quite enjoyable. I read a few negative reviews and most of the complaints seemed to revolve around the issue of it being "a bit lightweight" or "too aimed at children" — which I thought was kind of odd given that it seemed pretty obvious from the website that it was very much aimed at being a family day out with a particular emphasis on children. As someone interested in astronomy, who has a child and a wife who isn't that interested, it's nice to be able to go along to something relating to astronomy with my family and without them being bored stupid (let's be honest, the "hardcore" events have nothing of interest if you're not deeply interested in the subject).

The only complaint that made real sense was about the lack of catering facilities. As I understand it, this year, this won't be a problem (or so I was told by someone on the Greenwitch stand at this year's SPA convention). It's odd, though, that they don't seem to mention this on the Astroblast website.


The ISS, Leo and Saturn

Tonight I had my first go at photographing the International Space Station.

Earlier in the day I saw on Heavens Above that there would be a good pass this evening so I decided to have a go at photographing it. I went out with about 15 minutes to spare and set the Canon EOS 400D up on the tripod and did a few test shots. I had a hell of a time trying to get it focused well but managed to get close to something useful before it was time.

Just as the ISS approached I realised that I had the shutter speed set to 30 seconds rather than bulb and that I'd not yet used the remote in bulb mode and wasn't exactly sure how it worked so, rather than miss the pass, I just went for the 30 second exposure. This is the result:

International Space Station
Click on the picture for a bigger version

That's the jpeg straight off the camera, just with a slight crop, a tweak of the levels and a resize before uploading to my Flickr account.

It's not perfect, but as a first attempt I'm pretty pleased.

Growing up in the Universe

Not exactly astronomy, I know, but I'd imagine that most people reading this will be interested in the following, for more than one reason.

Richard Dawkins' 1991 Royal Institution Christmas Lecture will soon be available to buy on DVD. Earlier on this month a short advert was made available.

Now there's a short excerpt available, and (for me anyway) it's made all the more special because of who appears in it.

I am so going to be buying a copy!


Saturn and a mobile phone

Sorry about this, but this is yet another one of those "look what I imaged with my mobile phone" posts. I know it's not big, I know it's not clever, but, but, because I can....

This evening I was out observing Venus for a while and then, when Venus got low, I turned to Saturn. What a view! One of the best I've ever had. And, as I have a horrible habit of doing, in a moment of madness I decided to see what I could capture with the mobile phone. This is what I got:

Okay, Damian Peach it isn't, but you can at least tell which planet it is.


Accidental stereogram

Not exactly astronomy, but it does relate to one of my telescopes...

Over the weekend I was taking some new photographs of my two 'scopes to replace those on the tools page of my site (the ones that had been there had been taken with mobile phones and were of terrible quality). While reviewing the shots yesterday I noticed that two of them appeared to be taken from almost exactly the same spot and at exactly the same height.

In other words, I appeared to have accidentally created a stereogram. I then placed them side by side in one image and got this result:

Sky-Watcher Explorer 130M Stereogram

If you're the sort of person who can go cross-eyed without any trouble you should be able to see the 3D effect. Click on the image for a bigger version.

Newton from space

The most recent Google Maps update has seen the addition of lots of new high resolution images for Lincolnshire. Not only have the areas that already had hi-res images been updated, lots of new areas have been added.

So, I was having a look around and seeing what I could see and I noticed that, finally, Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth was covered. Because of this it's now finally possible to get a good view of Woolsthorpe Manor. The manor itself is the building in the top left corner of the cluster. If you look carefully in the small field to the left of the cluster of buildings you'll see some of the (in)famous apple trees.

Newton himself is also now visible thanks to this new update. Well, okay, not Newton himself, but if you look carefully you can see the shadow of his statue in Grantham.


As I noted a few days back, I've finally been observing Venus via a telescope (to the best of my knowledge this year is the first time I've ever done that). The log from the first session can be found here, the second session was a couple of days later.

Two things stand out so far. The first is that these sessions are probably the first time I've noticed filtering making a big difference to a visual image. I've found that, on the 905, a combination of the contrast booster and a 80A medium blue work really well.

The second thing I've noticed is just how tricky a target Venus is. While it's obvious that I've been observing something that has a gibbous phase I've been struck by how indistinct the view is. Of course, this won't be helped by the fact that I'm observing Venus when it's quite low to the horizon – lower than I'd generally observe other planets. It's probably also not helped by the fact that I'm not really using the best 'scope for the job.

But! Will Gater comes to the rescue. His great picture of Venus reminds me an awful lot of the view I've been having of Venus (albeit my view is obviously somewhat smaller than that). It's always nice to have something to compare to and that image really helps.


A quiet month on the Sun

Going on my records, and keeping in mind the limitations of my equipment, March was a very quiet month for visible solar activity. I managed 20 sunspot counts last month and only saw a sunspot for the first two days of the count. From what I can tell that's the least active month I've observed since I decided to do regular counts starting March last year.