Friday, December 23, 2011

Lenticular Clouds

This is a rare sight and I must admit that I had never heard of these type of clouds. These were seen in West Yorkshire yesterday.

Weird and very beautiful. It seems that these are caused by winds which pass over the Pennines causing air turbulants that produce 'standing waves'. Standing waves are all to do with resonant frequencies. They rarely happen in this country, but they can be seen in America near to mountains. Sometimes people think they are flying saucers!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Latest Jupiter Image

Last Thursday I took my Skywatcher 80ED Pro into the garden to try to capture an image of Jupiter in all it's glory. It was a beautiful, clear evening and Jupiter had moved far enough from the almost full Moon. I have not taken a planetary image with this scope before using a webcam, so I wasn't sure about the focus settings. I remember having problems with this and had to mess about with it. Once I had the telescope set up and tracking I was able to set up the Philips Toucam Pro to get the image onto the centre of the CCD sensor. After taking a couple of avi videos using K3CCD I tried with the Barlow lens to make the image bigger. This is quite tricky, because it is usually hard to find the target and it needs to be dead centre. When I put in the Barlow lens I found Jupiter was aligned perfectly! The tracking was perfect as well, so I was able to capture up to 3000 frames of video without it moving.

After capturing Jupiter I then went inside, stacked and processed the image using Registax 3 and Photoshop.

In the larger image I can see a dark spot or shadow on the left of the surface. I am not sure if this is a Moon in transit or a storm in the atmosphere of Jupiter. The image was taken at about 8.30pm GMT on 10/11/11.

I am really pleased with this image, my best of Jupiter so far!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Swedish Moon

The Moon and Jupiter has been wonderful in Sweden and here are some lovely photos sent to me by Birgitta taken from Storvik which is North of Stockholm in Sweden. Birgitta has used a Canon Powershot A650IS to capture the images.

A beautiful image from Birgitta of the Moon and Jupiter seen from Sweden. Here in England it was cloudy, so we couldn't see this. The sky cleared the next day, but Jupiter had moved to the other side of the Moon.

I love this photo of the Moon....very spooky! Thank you Birgitta!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

New LRO photos of Apollo Landing Sites

Remarkable new images of the Apollo landing sites on the Moon have been released by Nasa. (click photos to enlarge)

The pictures clearly show the hardware left on the lunar surface by American astronauts in the 1960s and 70s, including Apollo 17's "Moon buggy".

The images were acquired by the robotic Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been circling Earth's satellite since 2009.
Such shots have been returned before, but these are the best yet.
LRO has recently lowered its orbit from 50km above the Moon's surface to just 25km.
This makes it easier to see equipment, such as the descent stages that put the astronauts on the surface. Some of the science experiments are visible, also - as are the trails of bootmarks left in the dirt as the crews positioned these science packages.
Harrison Schmitt sits in the LRV
The Apollo 17, 14 and 12 sites are the focus of the latest release.
They were viewed by the narrow-angle imaging system on LRO's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) instrument.
At the lower altitude, this instrument sees objects at a resolution of 25cm by 25cm per pixel.
In an extreme blow-up of the Apollo 17 Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), it is just possible to discern the condition in which the astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt parked the buggy - with its wheels turned to the left.
LRO has been a highly productive mission. It has now returned several hundred thousands pictures of the lunar surface.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Return of the ISS

After a long absence during the summer months the International Space Station can now be seen at a reasonable time. I went into my garden to watch this spectacular object pass overhead. I would like to capture a still image with my Skywatcher 130, but it is so difficult to get the image onto the sensor of the webcam. I need a lot of patience, something that I lack at the moment.

It's hard to imagine how the ISS can stay in service without the Space Shuttle. What happens for instance if one of the astronauts in the ISS becomes ill and needs to return to Earth. Would they have to rely on the Russian Soyuz craft?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dawn now in orbit!

Gosh! Is it really four years since the launch of the Dawn Spacecraft!
This morning Dawn has arrived at the asteroid Vesta and is now in orbit. When the mission was about to launch I sent my name and our family names to NASA to travel aboard the Dawn spacecraft.

It is amazing to think that I am in orbit around Vesta at this moment!

"The Dawn probe has successfully entered orbit around the asteroid Vesta.

Nasa's robotic satellite sent data early on Sunday confirming it was circling the 530km-wide body.

The probe has taken four years to get to Vesta and will spend the next year studying the huge rock before moving on to the "dwarf planet" Ceres.

Asteroid Vesta looks like a punctured football, the result of a colossal collision sometime in its past that knocked off its south polar region."

"Today, we celebrate an incredible exploration milestone as a spacecraft enters orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt for the first time," Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.

"Dawn's study of the asteroid Vesta marks a major scientific accomplishment and also points the way to the future destinations where people will travel in the coming years. President Obama has directed Nasa to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, and Dawn is gathering crucial data that will inform that mission."

Vesta was discovered in 1807, the fourth asteroid to be identified in the great belt of rocky debris orbiting between Mars and Jupiter.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Apollo 11 launch day

Today in 1969 Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on its journey to the Moon!
Gosh...I remember so well listening to this on a little transistor radio sat in the sunshine on a banking next to the gymnasium. Lots of us gathered around and cheering as the Saturn V lifted off!
It is amazing to think that only a week ago I felt the same emotions as the Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from the same place for the last time. I wonder if we will see another launch in ten years time of men going to Mars?

This is amazing footage of the launch

Friday, July 08, 2011

Last Space Shuttle Flight

What a sad day...the end of an era!

I watched the launch of the very last Space Shuttle launch at school at about 4.40pm today. Amazing to watch history in the making and my 'face in space' goes with the shuttle!

Face in space is a link to NASA to upload your name and photo of yourself to go with the flight. The launch was today, but Atlantis returns on 20th July....the day that man landed on the moon...what could be better? Well done NASA!

It would be fantastic to be able to see the Atlantis when it arrives at the International Space Station, I will be waiting to see a pass of the ISS and Atlantis over the UK, but this won't be for a few days yet. Would be even better to image it!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Saturn viewing

Well, last night I brought out the Skywatcher 130 and had a look for Saturn. It was still light, so I hunted for the planet that was located to the South West higher than the Moon. When I found Saturn it was very clear and with the 10mm eyepiece you could easily see a dark band at the top part of the planet. Saturn along with some of it's moons was a joy to see!

Now I need to get out my Philips Toucam Pro II and see if I can still image Saturn like I was able to a couple of years ago.

The image above was taken with my Skywatcher 130 and Philips Toucam Pro II back in 2007.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Space Shuttle 30 years old!

April 12 saw not only the 50th anniversary of the first human space flight but also the 30th anniversary of the first flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Now we are looking at an end of an era as the Space Shuttles are retired and sent to museums across America.

Two of the shuttles didn't survive, Columbia and Challenger.

The space shuttle programme played an important part in space travel, even if there seemed to be lack of interest...until something went wrong of course!

The big question is ...what will replace the shuttle? It will be years before there is a new replacement and all we can do is look at the cutting edge of technology in a museum...sad!

Happy Birthday Space Shuttle Flight STS-1 30 years!

Click here to see the flight!

Yuri Gagarin 50 years!

OMG...I remember watching this on television in black and white when I was 6 years old!

I didn't really understand what was going on, but my Dad told me all about it. I have always remembered the name Yuri Gagarin because I couldn't pronounce it when I was 6 years old but my Mum and Dad helped me to say it.

An amazing flight!

Since then we have learned more about it since Russia has opened it's doors.

It seems that after the momentous space flight, Yuri's capsule came down in a farmer's field and had to knock on the door to ask to use his phone to contact the space centre!


The capsule from the Vostok 3KA-3 rocket carrying Yuri Gagarin.
He even came to Manchester!

See the videos

Monday, April 11, 2011

April Moon

While doing some Deep Space on Saturday night, I also took outside my Skywatcher 130m to have a good look at the Moon.

I can't image with the Canon 350d on the Skywatcher 130m, so I just used it to look closely at the Moon. I took photos with the Skywatcher 80ED and this time I got the focus right!

This is a beautiful image of the Moon on Saturday, you can see the craters very clearly.

Whirlpool Galaxy

For the first time for quite a long time I set up my Skywatcher 80ED and Canon 350d camera to try to image some deep space objects. On Saturday night the sky was clear and it was warm outside as well. A lovely night!

At first I tried to image with the Orion Nebula as Orion was sinking into the western sky. Next I pointed the scope at M51 Whirlpool Galaxy. This was very high, almost at azimuth, so I wasn't sure if the mount would allow it to track at such a height. Surprisingly, it tracked without a problem.

I then took 30 subs at 30 seconds each. I think I needed more subs really, but the battery on the camera began to die. The image was stacked with Deepsky Stacker and processed in Photoshop. I think that I may be able to improve the image with some patience!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Tycho in Colour

This image was taken 5 years ago on the 10th April 2006. It is an amazing image of Tycho with the ejecta rays from the huge crater. With some patience I managed to bring out the colour using Registax, Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro. I used my Skywatcher 130m and Philips Toucam Pro II modified webcam. I have never been able to capture anything like this since!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Super Moon!

Tonight is a Super Moon! The Moon is now the closest to the Earth in 18 years and it is a full Moon which makes it beautiful to watch!

Took these images tonight with my Skywatcher 80ED Pro telescope and Canon 350D camera.

In reality, the Moon is only slightly larger than usual, but with clear skies and a full Moon it looks very bright. I looked at lots of websites tonight about the Super Moon and the bad omens connected with it.

The earthquake in Japan is an amazing co-incidence don't you think?

Now I am not the sort of person to spread doom and gloom, but when you think about it possible that the Moon had something to do with the earthquake in Japan?

Do you think that the forces of gravity involved makes it possible? Earth and Moon interact with each other applying forces on each other. If the Moon is closer to the Earth then a larger force by the Moon is exerted on the Earth which may cause stress in certain areas of the Earth. Maybe it was 'the straw that broke the camel's back' and the Earth cracked and caused the earthquake in Japan and not long ago in New Zealand. Here is a good explanation of the 'Supermoon' and it's myths!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

ISS and Discovery

ISS and Discovery approaching from the West with Hyades and Pleiades in top left.

Tonight I set up and waited for the International Space Station and Discovery to make it's high pass over England. It was 18.45pm and clear skies. I set up the Canon 350D on a tripod and aimed at the West, the point of approach, with a wide view. Overhead the ISS was very bright mag -3.3 ... a wonderful sight!
I managed to capture three 20 second exposures. One on approach, one overhead and one decending away to the East.

ISS and Discovery overhead with Hyades and Pleiades to the right.

In the photos you can also see the star clusters of Hyades and Pleiades as the ISS passes close by.

ISS and Discovery silently moving away to the East.

I also made a video of the ISS using a 'Flip' Camera.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Orion wide view

Tonight I set up my Canon 350D on a tripod ready to capture the pass of ISS and Discovery. The ISS was a beautiful sight approaching from the West and destined to cross the Orion Constellation. Then just as the ISS reached vanished! I checked on 'Heavens above' and sure enough it fades before it peaks!

Never mind...try again tomorrow!

Still managed a nice photo Orion without ISS!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Discovery - end of an era!

Discovery on it's final launch February 24th
As I write this, the space shuttle Discovery is docked to the International Space Station for the very last time. It first launched in 1984 and has completed 39 successful missions. Discovery delivered the HUBBLE Telescope bringing a window into the universe from space and later returned to service HUBBLE.

Sadly, there are only two more Shuttle missions before the entire programme is ended...I wonder how they are going to carry on servicing the ISS? It must be fantastic for the astronauts to look out of the window to see Discovery arriving for the final time!

Discover on it's first flight in 1984.

Discovery has flown 38 flights, completed 5,247 orbits, and spent 322 days in orbit. Discovery is the orbiter fleet leader, having flown more flights than any other orbiter in the fleet, including four in 1985 alone. Discovery flew all three "return to flight" missions after the Challenger and Columbia disasters: STS-26 in 1988, STS-114 in 2005, and STS-121 in 2006. Discovery is presently flying the second to last space shuttle mission STS-133, having launched on (NET) Feb. 24, 2011.

STS-41-D: First flight
STS-51-D: Carried first incumbent United States member of Congress into space, Senator Jake Garn (RUtah)
STS-26: Return to space after Challenger disaster (STS-51-L)
STS-31: Launch of Hubble Space Telescope
STS-60: First Russian launched in an American spacecraft (Sergei Krikalev)
STS-95: Second flight of John Glenn, oldest man in space and third incumbent member of Congress to enter space
STS-92: The 100th Space Shuttle mission
STS-114: Return to space after Columbia disaster (STS-107)
STS-116: First night time launch of a shuttle since the Columbia disaster. Last Shuttle launch from LC-39B
STS-131: Longest mission for this orbiter

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Stargazing Live!

Three nights of live astronomy with Brian Cox from Jodrell Bank in Cheshire.

I have never seen anything like this before, prime time television on BBC 2 HD, lots of high tech link-ups and huge touch screens! I watched it all last night and tonight and thought it was excellent...another one tomorrow! This week has many events happening, today was a partial eclipse of the sun that could be seen at sunrise, yesterday a conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus and right now as I speak, Earth is the closest to the sun possible. (Not that you would know that here with the snow!) We are also in the peak of a meteor shower, which showed up live on one of the live clips.

I didn't like the bits with Jonathon Ross, he had no idea at all and probably got paid a lot of money for being on the show...they could have chosen someone better! Dara O Briain was funny at times, but talked too much!

Another good thing about this is that Dianne Oxberry, from North West Tonight is there showing photos and chatting with the crew at Jodrell Bank, a lot of air time was given to this which made it even better.

I have sent lots of photos to the site, maybe get a mention?

A great programme, I have followed Brian Cox on Twitter and sent messages as well. Maybe now people will look up more at the sky instead of their mobile phones!
"Jodrell Bank, home of the iconic Lovell telescope, is hosting a major BBC astronomy event.
Stargazing Live, which takes place between Monday 3 and Wednesday 5 January, is being broadcast every night from the Cheshire site.
Dr Tim O'Brien from the University of Manchester research facility said that staff were looking forward to "showcasing the observatory".
"We're keeping our fingers crossed for clear skies," he added.

Stargazing Live is presented by Professor Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain
Stargazing Live is co-hosted by scientist and TV presenter Prof Brian Cox and comedian Dara O'Briain, an amateur astronomer, in an attempt to introduce more people to the wonders of the night sky.
All three programmes are being broadcast live from the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics where University of Manchester researchers control all three telescopes on site well as five others in Cheshire, Cambridgeshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire.
Dr O'Brien said January promised to be an 'exciting' time for stargazers with three major astronomical events, including a partial solar eclipse, taking place.
"Some of the most spectacular starscapes are in the winter, with constellations like Orion, Taurus and the Pleiades all being visible," he said.
According to Dr O'Brien, the recent cold snap had actually helped stargazing, though he was mindful that any willing stargazers should consider the freezing temperatures before venturing out into the winter night.
"Sometimes in the winter, when you get these clear cold nights, if you're lucky and you don't get the fog, all the water vapour is frozen out of the atmosphere and you can get some very beautiful, clear nights for looking at the sky," he said.
"If you spend any length of time outside, you see more and more because your eyes get used to the dark and you'll see the fainter and fainter stars.
"If it's not too cold, get wrapped up warm and persuade yourself to get outside - get a glass of mulled wine or something - and look at some of the stars, it's just beautiful."
Hearing the stars
Of course, anyone who knows anything about Jodrell Bank knows that the centre is not strictly speaking stargazing, but rather star-listening, as all eight of the main Jodrell-controlled telescopes receive radio, rather than light, waves.
Dr O'Brien said they "do have some telescopes that you can look through at Jodrell Bank, but they're rather small."

Mon 3 Jan: the Perihelion (point at which the Earth is closest to the Sun in its annual orbit) occurs
Tues 4 Jan: a partial solar eclipse is visible for a short time after sunrise
Weds 5 Jan: the Quadrantid Meteor Shower happens in the constellation of Bo├Âtes and the Comet Hartley passes
Stargazing Live: local events
"All our big telescopes are radio telescopes, picking up radio waves coming from outer space, rather than visible light, the sort of stuff you can see with your eyes.
"So we don't need clear skies, we can see through clouds with radio waves, which is why we're able to do that level of astronomy from Cheshire, since it's cloudy [there] relatively often.
"We can also do it during the day as well, so in principle, radio astronomy is something that you can do 24 hours a day."
With that in mind, Dr O'Brien said the team at Jodrell were "keeping our fingers crossed for clear skies, but it's all been set up so that there'll be images brought in from around the country."
Adding: "If we're unlucky and the clouds gather over Jodrell Bank, I'm sure there'll be other places where it will be clear and people have the opportunity to get out and look up and see some of the amazing things you can see in the night sky."
Whatever happens though, Dr O'Brien said the whole three days would be a brilliant way of showing off the Centre for Astrophysics.
"I think for a long time, Jodrell Bank has been seen as an iconic representation of science and engineering as a whole, not just astronomy.
"When it was built, [the Lovell telescope] was the world's largest telescope, and it's still the third largest steerable telescope in the world, so it still has a key role to play in international astronomy.
"We're looking forward to having a chance to showcase the observatory."