Friday, December 21, 2012

Hallgrimur's Church

This is and amazing piece of of archetecture in Reykjavík, Iceland. It looks just like a Space Shuttle!

Well, it seems that the Mayan Calendar didn't mean that the world would end today after all. I guess they just ran out days.
The story of the Mayan Calendar is very interesting, today ends a 5,125-year "Long Count" Mayan calendar. A new cycle starts tomorrow for another 5,125 years. Time measurment was complex and relied on observations of the heavens. It is said that today all the planets line up on the same plane in the Solar System. I'm not sure about that, but there has been a lovely planetary alignment just before dawn on the 10th and 11th December. From my front window I could see Mercury, Venus and Saturn together in a line in the Eastern sky and a beautiful cresent Moon. I got up at 6.30am with my binoculars to look at this spectical. Mercury could be seen easily with the naked eye. As the Sun started to rise Mercury faded leaving a very bright Venus and and Saturn. I didn't have my camera set up, which is a shame. I would like to have captured the image.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Compact Ranger 30x30 telescope

This is my very first telescope that I got for Christmas when I was nine years old.
When I was at primary school one of my friends was Steve McGuffie. He was in my class and new lots of facts about astronomy. I remember that he told me that the Sun was 93,000,000 miles away. He had a lovely little telescope with proper glass lens' and had a magnification of 30x30. I was amazed when I looked through it and how clear everything was. I asked my father to buy me one for Christmas and was sooo pleased when on Christmas morning I had one just like the one that Steve had with proper tripod and case.
I loved it and use it lots of times looking at the Moon, Venus and Jupiter from my bedroom window. It was a wonderful instrument!
Then, one clear night, I set up my telescope to look at Venus from my bedroom window. It was quite tricky to see it, so I had to balance the scope onto the edge of the windowsill. I was so determined to see Venus that I knocked the scope over and it fell out of the window with a crash to the concrete floor below.
The primary lens was smashed! I was so upset that I cried, it would never work again. I kept it for quite a while, hoping that maybe I would be able to find another lens. As well as the lens, the metal thread also got damaged and kept falling out. Such a shame...a lovely telescope!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Patrick Moore

Sad new today about the death of Sir Patrick. An honourable man who inspired many from different generations.

Last night I stayed up late watch 'Sky at Night' about Mercury and Apollo 17. The last programme as we know it.
I have watched Sky at Night since I was little back in the 60's and 70's. When I was about 9 years old my Dad bought me a telescope for Christmas. It was a lovely little telescope!
I watched the Apollo 11 landing and walked on the Moon with Patrick Moore and his team. I now have the DVD of the whole thing.  Patrick was an eccentric scientist a bit like the Doc in 'Back to the Future' but he was able to explain even the most complex systems into language that even children can understand. He also had an amazing sense of humour, I remember the Christmas 'Morcambe and Wise Show' with Patrick in it.

Eric Morcambe once said "You can see Patrick Moore on a clear night" Now you can...look to the stars!

Patrick died during the 40th anniversary of Apollo 17 and also in the same year as Neil Armstrong.

The life of Sir Pat:

Sir Patrick Moore

"My education was disjointed. The plan was Prep. School, Eton, Cambridge - I never made any of them. During my boyhood I was handicapped by heart trouble; I managed my Cambridge entrance exams externally, but then came the war, and I joined the RAF as a navigator with Bomber Command (I admit that I wasn't 100% honest about my age or fitness, but when I was found out it no longer mattered, and Flight-Lieutenant Caldwell-Moore was not even told that he had been a naughty boy). At the end of the war I returned home, then to East Grinstead. Cambridge was still open to me, but it meant taking a Government grant, which went against the grain. I prefer to stand on my own feet.

My interest in astronomy went back to the age of 7, and I had several slices of luck; a small observatory was near me, I was able to use it, and I published my first paper (about the Moon) when I was 13. After the war, I wrote a book about the Moon; it caught on, and writing took over my life - farewell, Cambridge! I set up my own observatory, first at East Grinstead and then Selsey, and since then I have been a freelance writer.

My aim was to spread interest about astronomy; in 1957 I began my TV series The Sky at Night, now in its 54th year of an unbroken run. Many leading astronomers and astronauts have joined me. I hope I have achieved my object, but that must be left for others to judge. I have been over most of the world, from Antarctica to Death Valley, so I have seen a great deal.

I won't bore you with personal details. Suffice to say that Lorna, whom I was to marry, was killed by a German bomb when we were both twenty (1943!) and so I remain, very sadly, a bachelor. My mother, to whom I was devoted, stayed with me; she died in 1981. I am now 88, and not very mobile, again thanks to the War. But until the age of 78 I was still playing cricket. I am well looked after in my Selsey home - and do not forget my two all-important cats, Jeannie and Ptolemy!"

Friday, December 07, 2012

Apollo 17..40 years ago today!

Today was a sad day 40 years ago, the very last Apollo mission, Apollo 17 launched at night to the Moon for the very last Moon landing. I wonder if we will ever go back to the Moon?

This morning when I came to work I could see the Moon shining brightly. It was almost smiling at me saying "When are you coming back again!" The Moon is so important, a staging point for longer journeys. A laboratory on the Moon instead of the ISS. One day we will return...but with peace...not money!

The launch is awesome to watch and listen...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Yule Moon

A beautiful sight on Wednesday of the Yule Moon with Jupiter sitting just 1 degree from it on a cold, crisp night. As the Moon was in the East, I cannot see it properly from my back garden, so took some images through my window. Though this is not ideal, I was quite surprised at the results.

This image taken using the Philips Toucam Pro II webcam with the Skywatcher 80ED Pro. 100 frames stacked in registax with the colour saturation turned up to show the subtle colours.

I also managed to image Jupiter even though it was very close to the bright Moon. For this I used my Philips Toucam Pro II webcam with just 200 frames of AVI and then stacked in Registax.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Autumn Sun

The Sun today with yellow filter fittedl.

A beautiful sunny day and the last day before we put the clocks today I set up my Skywatcher 80ED to try to capture a final image before Winter of the Sun and it's sunspots. The sun was quite low down and often was masked by trees, but I think I managed to capture some reasonable photos.

Lenticular Clouds?

This afternoon we had some beautiful cloud formations. I am trying to decide whether these are in fact Lenticular Clouds. They could be seen in the West and appear to line up with North winds that blew today. Just to the North of the clouds is Winter Hill which is about 1250ft ASL. The clouds remained stationary for a long time even though the winds were quite strong.
Have I seen a rare event today?

The weather was sunny today, but very cold with a biting North wind.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

International Space Station

A beautiful sunny day, gosh...we have not had many of those this year! Tonight was clear and we had a pass of the ISS at 19.52pm.  Although I have been reading the magazines and watching the Horizon programmes I have not really had a chance to get out the telescope again. Over Summer I built a new conservatory and that along with the contant rain and bad weather I have found it difficult to start observing again.
It was really nice tonight to sit outside and look at the constelations and find my way around again.

The photo is the ISS from my back garden with the Canon Eos 350.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


I just watched an amazing video of Curiosity landing on Mars!  I don't know why they haven't shown this on the BBC news or any other news for that matter... Something as incredible as this is not even 'news' anymore. In 1969 we watched in awe as Eagle landed on the Moon. Now we have the technology to land robots on Mars and send back HD videos and photos at the same time.
Also today I looked at a HD photo taken from the mast camera of the view on Mars, it was spectacular!
Is it not time that these missions and photos returned to us are given a higher profile on television?

With the advances of our knowledge and understanding of the universe and our solar system it is so sad that Emmerdale and Coronation Street are more important in life that trying to answer the fundamental questions of life. Where did we come from and why are we here?

Here is the link to the landing video:

"Nasa has revealed a high resolution version of the spectacular landing of Curiosity on the red planet.
The Curiosity rover quickly beamed back a host of low-resolution images as it floated down to the surface of the Red Planet on August 5.
But, now the NASA vehicle has been on Mars for more than two weeks, it has had time to send full resolution, HD images it took of its own landing.
The space agency has released the video complete with the audio from mission controllers as they watched the descent."

Friday, August 31, 2012


A nice picture! Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin at Neil Armstrong's Memorial Service.
It is very strange on television because I expected to see lots of things about the Apollo Missions, but nothing! Last night I watched some of Apollo 18 on Sky, I have to say that it was rubbish, nothing like reality even though they used some clips from the Apollo missions. It kind of trashed the Apollo missions and astronauts almost like they guy that wrote it never experienced Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon.
Give these two guys some respect!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong


He reached for the Moon, now he is with the stars!

Sad new about Neil Armstrong, he was a great guy, didn't want to rule the world, just be a normal person who inspired the young.

I am proud to have witnessed the first Moon Landing in 1969, something never to forget, I heard him say those words "One small step..." as I watched on television at 3.00am in the morning with Patrick Moore and James Burke.
The next generation find it hard to comprehend that a man walked on the Moon. Children now think that travelling to the Moon is like catching a bus with their IPads and vitual computer worlds. In 1969 this was real! They have missed so much...Neil Armstrong tried hard to make things real again!
"Neil Armstrong was a self-described "nerdy engineer" who became a global hero when he became the first person to set foot on the moon.
His first words upon stepping on the lunar surface have since been etched in history: "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind."
An estimated 450 million people watched the grainy black and white broadcast that showed Armstrong, clad in a white space suit, climb down the lunar module's ladder onto the Moon's desolate surface.
Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.
As commander, it was also Armstrong who notified mission control that the module had made a successful landing. "Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed."
He and fellow astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the lunar surface, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs.
"The sights were simply magnificent, beyond any visual experience that I have ever been exposed to," Armstrong once said.

The third astronaut on the mission, Michael Collins, circled the moon in the mother ship Columbia 60 miles overhead while Armstrong and Aldrin went to the moon's surface.

Born in Wapakoneta, Ohio on August 5, 1930, Armstrong had an early fascination with aircraft and worked at a nearby airport when he was a teenager.

He took flying lessons at the age of 15 and received his pilot's license on his 16th birthday.

A US Navy aviator, he flew 78 missions in the Korean War.

He studied Aeronautical Engineering at Purdue University in Indiana, and later earned a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southern California.

In 1955, he became a test pilot at the High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California, where he flew about 50 different types of aircraft.

Seven years later, Armstrong was selected by the National Air and Space Administration to train as an astronaut in Houston, Texas.

After retiring from NASA in 1971, Armstrong taught aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati for nearly a decade and served on the boards of several companies, including Lear Jet, United Airlines and Marathon Oil.

Armstrong married Carol Knight in 1999, and the couple lived in Indian Hill, a Cincinnati suburb. He had two adult sons from a previous marriage.

Despite his worldwide fame, the lunar pioneer shied away from the limelight. After learning his autographs were being sold at exorbitant prices, he stopped signing memorabilia.

"I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer," he said during one of his rare public appearances in February 2000.

"And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession."

However, he stepped back into the cameras in 2010 to voice his "substantial reservations" about President Barack Obama's space policy that shifted attention away from a return to the moon, with an emphasis on private companies developing spaceships.

Along with more than two dozen Apollo-era veterans, he signed a letter calling the plan a "misguided proposal that forces Nasa out of human space operations for the foreseeable future".

Armstrong underwent cardiac bypass surgery, earlier this month after doctors found blockages in his coronary arteries.

He died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures, his family said in a statement. He was 82."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Solar filter results

My first attempt at taking photos of the Sun.

These images of the Sun were taken late in the afternoon on 12th May with my Skywatcher 80ED Pro and the Baader Solar Filter that I made. The sunspots are amazing and you can also see some detail of the surface. I used the Canon EOS350d with a variety of manual settings to try to get the best result. The image in White light was taken with the camera set to 1/2000s and ISO 400. With the colour filter the settings were different.

Taken wth the colour filter and Baader AstroSolar Safety Film (Click to enlarge)

Taken in White light with the Baader AstroSolar Safety Film (Click to enlarge)

Close-up of the large Sunspot

I also took some photos using the 2x and 3x Barlow lens, but with the camera I had to use them with the star diagonal fitted. Although I captured the images they were spoilt because I could see specks of dust on the mirror.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Make an ED80 Solar Filter

I have a Skywatcher 80ED Pro Telescope and have decided to make a Solar Filter so that I can view and image our nearest star, the Sun.
First I bought some Baader AstroSolar Safety Film which cost about £20. I have been looking at designs for a filter as well as the instructions that come with the Baader Film... then before embarking on a major construction job I had a thought...Hobbycraft...I wonder if they have anything that might make it easier to mount the filter onto the scope. I took a tape measure with me to Hobbycraft and spotted an array of different frame boxes. There I found a round cardboard box with a lid and top. It was exactly the right size to put over the front of an ED80! I bought one along with some double sided tape for £4 altogether and set off to build my Solar Filter.

This is what I did... First, the box..

Next, mark and cut the bottom and top parts...

Use a sharp knife to cut out the rings...

Use double sided tape to stick the Baader Film to the lid and bottom of the box. It is best to lay the film onto the tissue paper provided and then place the top ring onto the film. Trim the excess film with scissors, then place it carefully on top of the box unit. 

Put the cover on top of the completed unit. It fits perfectly onto my 80ED Pro scope!

Next, paint it to match the scope...

Now I look forward to some great images of the Sun!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Venus and Pleiades

A beautiful sight of Venus and Pleiades together. I didn't take the scope
outside, I took the photos with my Canon EOS350d with a 200mm zoom lens mounted
on a tripod in my back garden. The last photo is a wide angle view showing some
of the other star clusters.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Moon and Venus

Tonight's image of the Moon and Venus.

Our Moon and Jupiter's Moons

This is a lovely photo taken last night of our cresent Moon with the Earthshine and Jupiter with some of it's Moons. (Click photo to enlarge)
There are some amazing sights in the sky with the constant dance between Jupiter, Venus and the Moon. Last night and tonight is beautiful to see!
The photos are taken with my Canon Eos 350d and 200mm zoom lens

Here you can see the whole of last night's picture with Venus at the top.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Venus and Mars

Had a lovely night in the garden last night. Venus was beautiful, Jupiter quite
low down. Mars high up.Took these images with my Skywatcher 80ED Pro and
Philips Toucam Pro II. These are 2000 frames at 10 fps, stacked in Registax.
Mars was quite difficult as it is small compared with Venus in the camera, but
you can see the Polar regions. Although the sky was clear, it was also hazy, so Orion and some of the objects low down were sinking into the haze.
The clarity of Venus is stunning with it's Moon like shape.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Venus and Jupiter in harmony

A beautiful sight last night of the conjunction with Venus and Jupiter at their closest point together in the West. I can't remember ever seeing this before with such bright objects in the sky together. These two photos are taken from my back garden in England.

At the about same time, this lovely photo was taken by Birgitta in Sweden from outside her apartment building near to Stockholm.
Royal Astronomical Society spokesman Robert
Massey said:'Although conjunctions are not that rare, the interest in this one
is a result of how spectacular it is.
'Both planets are very bright in the night
sky. If you know where to look, you can even see Venus in the day. The two being
so close together will be beautiful. Last night they looked like two
'It is also interesting for people because it
just happens to be something which you can see for yourself. In the northern
hemisphere we should look for them in the south west this evening. The pair will
appear to move to the west over the course of the night.
'While the pair will drift apart after a
couple of days, Jupiter will be visible for at least another two

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Pleiades and Orion

Had a good night in the garden earlier this week. Wonderful sight of a Cresent Moon, Venus and Jupiter all together in a line. I set up my telescope with the Skywatcher 80ED Pro and Canon 350d to try to capture Orion and Pleiades. It was very clear and no clouds at all, my only problem was the battery on the Canon 350d which doesn't seem to hold it's charge for long now, especially when it is cold outside.
Pleiades with some nebulosity showing looks amazing. Only about 30 subs at 30 seconds each.

Orion shows some detail without burning out the core. I like this image even though I didn't quite get the focus right.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Airfix Space Shuttle

At last I have bought an Airfix Space Shuttle model kit!

I wanted one of these for Christmas, but couldn't find any in the shops and on e-bay they were few and far between usually going for more than the retail price. I think they produced the kit to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle. I spoke with the guy from the local model shop and he told me that Airfix only produced them over a short period of time and they are now becoming difficult to obtain.

I used to buy lots of model kits when I was very young, mainly airplanes. I would glue all the pieces together and paint them, then my Dad would hang them from the ceiling in my bedroom. This kit has lots of bits to stick will probably take me weeks to complete it!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jupiter, Venus and the Moon

This is a lovely photo taken by Birgitta in Sweden.

The Moon with Jupiter close by and Venus all together in the sky just after sunset. Here in Northern England the sky was cloudy so I couldn't see this sight.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jupiter and Venus

On Monday 15th January I set up my Skywatcher 80ED Pro refractor in the garden and also the Philips Toucam Webcam with my laptop. The sky is clear and at about 5.30pm I can see both Venus and Jupiter together in the sky.

It took some time to set up the telescope because I needed three objects to align the SLT mount and I could only see two until it got a little darker. First I tried to take some images of Venus before it sank slowly in the South West. I used both the 2x Barlow and later the 3x Barlow along with the webcam to capture the images. I then captured around 2000 frames at 15 fps with the Philips Toucam.

After that I moved the telescope to track Jupiter and repeated the same thing again as with Venus.

With the image of Venus you can see some 'false colours' which is probably caused by the effects of using a refractor telescope. Maybe the Skywatcher 130m reflector would have been a better choice for imaging Venus as it is so bright.

Jupiter looks amazing, you can see the 'Great Red Spot' on the cloudbands at the top left and also a dark spot called a 'Barge' at the lower right in the cloud bands. These are storms in Jupiter's atmosphere.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Venus in Sweden and England

As the sun sets on a cold, clear night in Sweden the planet Venus shines like a beacon in the sky. Now the brightest object in the evening sky, even brighter than Jupiter. Birgitta in Sweden captured this image shortly after sunset...beautiful!

In England it is cold and frosty, the sky is clear giving a wonderful sunset. These images were taken here in Bolton of Venus just after sunset last night.

Really looking forward to watching 'Stargazer's Live' with Prof Brian Cox on BBC2 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm sure the sky will still be clear at the beginning of the week. Should be good. The programme is to be filmed at Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope in Cheshire.