May 31st 2240 GMTThe sky was somewhat clear but that was just relatively speaking with much of the sky covered by cloud. I started by taking a zenith shot with my compact digital camera.
I had a quick look round at some of the visible objects: Saturn showed an oval shape, with no resolution between the planet and rings, rather like an overexposed webcam image. I saw M29 and M39 in Cygnus and M13, the globular cluster in Hercules. I also potted the visible double stars: Albireo (Beta Cygni), DElta and Epsilon Lyrae.
May 31st 1030 GMTIt finally cleared enough to get a view of the Sun through filtered binoculars but I didn't see any sunspots.
May 27th 0835 GMT
There was a lot of moving cloud around, so I just did a bin scan and could see a single large sunspot.
May 27th 2300 GMT
Attempts to webcam Saturn failed due to overexposure, so I had to be content with some full disc lunar images and some webcam closeups.
May 26th 2015 GMT
More in hope than expectancy, I went out to look for Venus with the binoculars. Not only did I find it but I also found Mercury and Jupiter as well. As none was visible to the unaided eye, despite being in the same binocular field of view, I webcammed both Venus and Mercury with the Mak and SPC880. Both appeared very full discs but much larger on the screen than they appeared through a low power eyepiece. The final images showed that the phase of each planet was noticeably less than 100% but quite similar. I also made a combined shot so that the relative sizes and phases could be compared.
May 26thI tried some more full disc shots at 1000 GMT and 1200 GMT. Some filaments had appeared that may have just formed or may have become visible at the higher solar elevation. However, more persistent cloud moved in, making photography difficult. The 1200 GMT shot showed some filaments but was otherwise not a good shot with most of the disc overexposed.
May 26th 0940 GMTOh yes, it was the ISO. I did a few full disc shots with the DSLR and PST for the Sun. It sort of worked but not much detail was visible, apart from a filament.
May 26th 0920 GMT
I was having all sorts of problems with cameras on a PST shoot! The old camera seemed to give up trying to transfer files and I couldn’t focus with the DSLR. I ended up taking a few full disc frames with the newer compact digital camera (but not the best option for the Sun). Unfortunately, nothing worked.
May 26th 0730 GMT
I worked out why the Sun photos with the DSLR the day before were over-exposed: yes the ISO setting isn’t changed in automatic mode (should it be???). Although I took some shots with my compact in case, I could pick up the sunspots quite easily in my Mak and DSLR. Going for higher magnification in the conditions (hazy) didn’t show anything extra visually.
May 26th 2300 GMTOK, local midnight but, adjusting for GMT, it was yesterday. I’d been checking the conditions for a while and they weren’t good but I took the Maksutov out. The Moon showed quite a lot of detail but it’s low elevation and the haze did not inspire me to do much more than a few full disc frames with the hope of stacking them.
I swung round to Saturn and it looked nice and I could see some detail when I upped the magnification but I wasn’t too hopeful about getting a shot. In any case, I hadn’t seen Saturn for quite a while and was refreshing to see it again.
I did some high power shots of the Moon afterwards but it was too blurry at high power, so I ended up at about 250x magnification.
With no other object readily visible, I called it a night.
May 25th 1000 GMT
I took 2 sets of afocal full disc shots of the Sun with my Mak and compact digital camera and DSLR. I was intending to do some webcam captures but cloud moved in again. I was unable to stack the images from the compact digital camera and the DSLR shots were way overexposed.
May 25th 0930 GMTI checked the Sun with the PST and it was much quieter than on 23rd. I took some full disc shots and one set of close-ups of a region of filaments. Like the 23rd, the close-up produced less detail than the full disc shot.
May 23rd 2020 GMT
I tried webcamming the Moon with my Startravel 80. I couldn’t fit the whole lunar disc in the SPC880 but could get well over half in. At F/5 the lunar image did not “whizz” along like at F/13+ but the EQ/1 mount was a lot more wonky, so trying to hand guide was quite tricky. I took several imaging runs, hoping to stack and stitch. Fortunately, 8 imaging runs managed to stitch and stack to produce this final image.
May 23rd 1520 GMTThe weather had started off well for the day but was cloudy before I reached work. After teaching and the “white light” binocular scan I checked the Sun with the PST, doing mostly full disc shots but some regional close-ups as well. It was a lot more active than my previous viewing. The regional close-ups were too blurry (probably due to windy conditions and a flimsy mount) but I was pleased with one full disc image.
May 23rd 1515 GMTA solar binocular scan suggested that the sunspot had somewhat moved since the day before.
May 22nd 1535 GMT
A bin scan of the Sun revealed a single sunspot that had apparently rotated onto the solar disc.
May 21st 1940 GMTThe Sun was low and the Moon was starting to dominate, so I took some full disc snaps and webcam images. The full disc snap was taken afocally using a Skymax 127 and is composed of 15 images.
May 21st 1800 GMTI checked the Sun with the PST and the disc seemed rather bland with a few plages and small prominence. I took only full disc shots and stacked 10 of 15 images.
May 20th 2035 GMTAfter a long period of rain and cloud, the sky finally cleared somewhat, although low cloud near the horizon meant that a planetary search wasn't feasible. Nevertheless, a nice waxing gibbous moon looked great through my Skymax 127. The full disc shpt was composed of 14 of 15 frames stacked using Microsoft ICE, with further processing done using Paintshop Pro and GIMP.
The first regional shot featured Copernicus and Sinus Iridum
The second close-up shows Sinus Iridum and Plato and was composed of 12 images.
May 18th MorningThe conditions were hazy and I only managed to see a single large sunspot on an otherwise quiet solar disc.
May 15th 2050 GMTAfter a busy day, it was clear at dusk but I had little time to go out, as I had an early start at work the next day. I took 20 full disc frames of the Moon and 34 regional frames using digital zoom of the camera (lazy but quite good for short sessions!). I was able to stack all 20 full disc frames but I had the usual trouble of the bright part of the Moon being washed out of detail. The regional shots were more successful but I couldn't get them to stack into a single composite image but the 2 resultant stacked and stitched frames showed a lot of detail.
May 15thWith cold, wet weather dominating the last two days, I revisited some solar shots from September 17th 2011. I was able to get a reasonable full disc shot but was unable to process any close-ups to the point I could see any significant improvement.
May 13th mid morningConditions were marginally better than the day before and I was able to see a lot more detail through binoculars.
May 12th late morningI was hoping to photograph the Sun but, like the day before, there was lots of moving cloud about and it was a case of a binocular scan during a relatively clear period.
May 11th 2210 GMTI decided to have a go at Saturn. I could see little in the way of surface detail but the rings were clear enough. I tried magnifications from 64x to 246x and there was a bit of image dance but perhaps my hands were not as steady as usual. I managed to get one image but would be the first to admit it wasn't a great one.
I went in to try the DSLR and at 2235 GMT I saw a bright meteor about magnitude 0 flash south through Hercules. Apparently, I didn't manage any afocal captures with the DSLR but thought about doing a few constellation shots as an afterthought.
If Saturn was disappointing, the constellation shots were a big improvement on the week before and one of my objectives was to capture the maximum of Chi Cygni. I'll be the first to admit that amateur level photography does not give accurate brightness measurements but it was nice to see Chi Cygni clearly visible. The key improvement in the photo process was to get better focus because no amount of post processing can remove its effects.
Cygnus with Lyra:
Hercules, also showing Corona Borealis:
May 11th DaytimeI checked the Sun through binoculars at 0910 GMT. I was able to make out the solar disc through the moving cloud but was unable to see any sunspots.
A later check after the FA Cup Final showed a sunspot that had rotated on, maybe even since the morning.
May 9thI reprocessed a stacked full disc solar shot from September 15th 2011.
May 7th 1200 GMT
I checked the Sun with the PST and it looked rather quiet compared to the day before. As I was at work, I just had the compact digital camera with me. I produced a full disc shot from 2 stacked images and a composite shot of 8 close-ups that covered most of the solar disc.
May 7th 1025 GMT
We had an early lunch due to the time difference between myself and the class. The sunspot pattern appeared as a single sunspot to binoculars.
May 6th 0940 GMTI tried piggy-backing my PST on my ST80 to get more stability and I took quite a long shoot using the compact digital camera and DSLR. The first shot shows the full disc shot with the compact, the 2nd shows each of the regional shots stacked and stitched and the third shows the full disc shots using the DSLR.
May 6th 0925 GMTAs my back was slightly strained from gardening, I did a binocular scan of the Sun and could only see the two larger ones.
May 6th 2320 GMTNow this is where it gets confusing. It was past midnight, so it was May 6th but I had to adjust for British Summer Time ( BST), so it was 2320 GMT. So it was yesterday's time today or today's time tomorrow. Anyway, by the time I finished, it was just past 0100 BST (or 0000 GMT), so it was definitely May 6th. Anyway now for the session:
I multi-tasked by taking a few constellation shots with 30 seconds exposure with my DSLR, while browsing for deep sky objects with my 15x70 binoculars, something I'd done very little of in 2013 to date. My first target was the Beehive (M44). I couldn't remember seeing it before in 2013, a testament to the awful weather. I also realised that it was way past the optimum position for a photograph, so saw little point in trying. I looked nice enough, though, showing all of the main stars. A look at Saturn showed the rings but not the gap between the rings and planet, as usual.
Moving to the east, Cygnus was clear of the horizon. I could just about make out Chi Cygni without the binoculars and the binocular view of the constellation was quite superb, despite the low elevation. Albireo looked great. I took two sets of shots of Cyngus, Northeast and Southwest. Unfortunately, both sets of shots were out of focus.
Lyra looked nice and Epsilon and Delta Lyrae were readily visible. I could also make out the Ring (M57) but only just. I could also see Nu and 16/17 Draconi (well-know double stars). I took a series of images of Lyra. Although they were also somewhat out of focus, I was able to make them look sharper by reducing the image size.
I also checked out M13 in Hercules and M92 was also visible. M92 brings back funny memories, as it was so clear one night that I thought I'd discovered a new comet, until I checked the star atlas, which was why Charles Messier made his famous "catalogue" and I ended up writing the book.
Scorpius was rising, so I "snapped" the claw region. I wasn't sure but I saw a couple of small fuzzy objects in Ophiuchus which were possibly globular star clusters.
I also used Saturn as a signpost to attempt to photograph Libra.
I then moved on to the Virgo region, taking a few snaps with Spica lined up along the bottom of the frame. I could just about make out M5 while browsing. I could make out neither any of the Virgo Supercluster nor Leo galaxies but then they are usually difficult for binoculars from suburban locations, even when optimally placed.
The Virgo shots did not work.
I finished with a few frames of Cassiopeia (which were unsuccessful). I had a look at M81 and M82. I didn't know where the comet was but had a look for it anyway. I'd been glancing in the east in the vain hope of seeing an Eta Aquarid rising up but there was quite a lot of haze about.