Monday, March 31, 2014

Important Announcement

I will be using the pen-name "Philip Poolman" officially from midnight April 1st. Whilst I had no issue with using my family name, I was advised for marketing reasons that my birth surname of "Pugh" did not have much international appeal. Many people outside the UK have pronounced it "Pugg".

Note that I will continue to use my birth name of "Pugh" in all personal or legal matters and I am only allowed to use the name "Poolman" for publishing.

Note that I will also be retaining my messageboard names of M44, Sunny Phil and The Man with the Corrugated Iron Roof.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Website Re-launch

April 9th

 Some minor wrinkles to iron out but I've now got 2 mirror sites:

April 3rd

New video released of my home town:

April 3rd

I have been changing my images more frequently than the original idea of every few weeks and have added some interesting links to my "Other Stuff" page:

March 28th

Website development is now complete:

No doubt I will be adding bits from time to time and I will change some of the pictures every few weeks to add variety but the basic site structure is now there! I have completed the work of having large and small font versions of each page and checked out all the links. I have had a lot of constructive feedback and would like to thank East Midlands Stargazers and Chris Stewart in particular. Some of the suggestions were not easy but I can now say I'm happy with it for now.

I now enter a 2 week phase where I will make minor corrections and additions and then I will create mirror sites. Remember that most of the recent content is hosted on this blog.    


March 26th

I've now created the new Software Downloads page: Each page has a new set of images and you can now use a smaller font if you are using a large screen device:

It is not yet possible to switch directly to small text on all pages but you can now switch back to large text on the small text pages.

I have some small "bugs" to fix but the site is quite useable.

March 21st

I am just updating the drop-down menu and styles there is now information for the headings and I've solved the problem of what happens if someone's browser doesn't find the background file.

March 20th

I've made some modifications to put more help on the main pages but testing hasn't gone too well! I'm also experimenting with giving the option to change text size but I won't be doing it on all pages to start with. I'm going to include Software Downloads but I need to recheck and update links. In the meantime, you will be directed to the legacy page. I'm now thinking that I'm a long way off doing the mirror sites.

My website: has been re-worked. I am in between writing projects and am waiting for "green lights" from publishers before I continue. I decided that my website was in need of a vast overhaul. I have made navigation between pages much easier, with a common drop-down menu on all pages. Now, nothing is more than one click away.

Initial Relaunch

I completed the inital re-launch on March 14th 2014.

In the meantime, I am incorporating improvements made as a result of feedback. OK, I cannot implement all suggestions, due to technical reasons but am doing things to make it easier.

The main improvement I am working on is that each heading (in block capitals) in the drop-down menu will have its own information page. As these pages need to be written and the drop-down menu changed on all pages, this will take some time.

I am also monitoring the website visits, as well as receiving feedback. The Software Downloads page, which was on my previous website seems to be getting a few visits, so I am thinking about re-incorporating it in the new one. However, as it needs to be updated with new software versions, this (again) is in the pipeline.

Hopefully, my website will become a one-stop place (not a "shop" because that implies you have to pay!) for astronomers and music lovers. I also include some general interest links as well.

If you have any comments, please leave them here or e-mail

Happy browsing and I will post any updates here and on Twitter.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

March 2014

Monthly Video

This is the monthly video for March:

March 30th 0840 GMT

I bin scanned the Sun through cloud  and was surprised to see only one sunspot, which appeared about to rotate off. In the Big Bear images, I could see that it was barely discernable as two sunspots and the other sunspot I had seen the day before had shrunk and lightened quite considerably.


March 29th 2130 GMT

Conditions had deteriorated quite badly and the only object even worth thinking about was Jupiter. It wasn't the best time to get first light for my newly acquired Lumix. I didn't get the settings right for the shot with the moons and conditions had got worse by the time I captured the disc. I could see the cloud belts and some shading around the poles but it wasn't the best view I'd ever had. The photo caught pretty much what I'd been able to see.


March 29th 0940 GMT

There was some haze about but conditions were better than they had been for a while.  Two sunspots were clearly visible in the "bins" but a later look at the Big Bear images showed that the sunspot on the right showed two close ones.

March 27th 1205 GMT

After a rather cloudy time, solar viewing was just about possible, with two sunspots visible through moving cloud. Even though it is likely that some smaller sunspots may have been visible under better conditions, the Big Bear images showed a recent decline in solar activity.


March 24th 1030 GMT

A solar binocular scan showed that one sunspot had rotated on, whilst another had rotated off. Also some of the ones that had been around for a few days had changed shape. An interesting time.


March 23rd 2010 GMT

I realised a few weeks ago that I hadn't scanned the night sky with binoculars for absolutely ages. I was intending to do a constellation shoot, so what better to do while waiting for the camera to take a shot then process. As I normally do the day before a "school" day, I decided to concentrate on one area of sky. I went for Cancer. I set the focal length to 18mm, exposure to 30 seconds and ISO to 800, as I normally do for these shots.

I felt like a look at the Beehive (M44), as I'd failed to photograph it and, being ideally placed, it was just superb. I couldn't see the nearby M67, though. The Pleiades (M45) looked superb. The Orion Great Nebula (M42) was not at its best, even though I'd had a half decent shot of it the night before. M41 in Canis Major showed well but the Tau Canis Majoris cluster showed only the brighter members. I totally failed to bag M81 and M82 and, hardly surprisingly didn't get M65 nor M66 either. Although the conditions were not perfect, each of the galaxies were well placed for observation and I'd seen them before under similar or worse conditions. Even though it wasn't well placed at all, I did catch the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), probably my last view until late summer. At least I bagged ONE galaxy. I also split Mizar and Alcor.

I nearly forgot to mention that I saw a satellite pass close to Regulus during the session.

As for the Cancer shot, I'd taken better but was pleased to see the Beehive in it, although a close-up would have been much better.


March 23rd 0930 GMT

The weather forecast was "changeable", so I bin scanned the Sun before I possibly lost it for the rest of the day. The sunspot patterns had changed and rotated a bit from the day before.

March 22nd 2045 GMT

Now let me be honest here: It was more of a night where I learned what doesn't work than what does. To cut a long story short, no I cannot get focus on my Startravel 80 and T-mount. That ruled out my otherwise excellent idea of turning my ST80 into an F2.5 setting. I could not find the Beehive (M44) in my finderscope (perhaps it needs a dark site) and it clouded over. I also managed one out of focus Pleiades (M44) shot before cloud obscured that as well. The session ended with me rushing indoors to keep my equipment dry.

It wasn't a total waste of time. The ISO 3200 4 second exposures I took were the Orion Great Nebula (7 of 9 frames stacked) and five each  of more star fields in Cancer and Jupiter with moons. One shot showed something that I could not tell whether it was a 'plane, satellite of meteor.


March 22nd 1020 GMT

The Sun continued to amaze and inspire! A rather quiet disc from the day before had exploded into life in little over 24 hours. Had we not been going out, I would have happily rigged up a proper imaging session.


March 21st 0735 GMT

After a poor day the day before, I woke up to an almost cloudless sky! I saw new sunspot activity in addition to the sunspot I’d been following  for a few days beforehand.

March 20th

I reprocessed a photo of Orion taken from Ghana for an Astronomy Wise article.

March 19th 2140 GMT

I went out with the Startravel 80 and straight through connection to my DSLR. The idea was to catch the Beehive (M44) but I failed. I used ISO 3200 at 4 seconds exposure at prime focus. I did a few widefield shots of Jupiter and some in Cancer. I caught stars but missed the primary target. I was thinking of switching to another set-up so that I could see M44 with an eyepiece before imaging but cloud moved in before I could try it.

March 19th 1715 GMT

I checked the Sun with my PST. I couldn’t see any prominences but could see the sunspot. I could see some faculae but, as the Sun was low down, the contrast was not enough to make it worth trying a photo.

March 19th 1200 GMT

Conditions were quite poor, with lots of moving cloud but I managed to see the sunspot from the day before. It had shrunk and possibly faded but the fade may have had more to do with the conditions. It is possible that there were smaller and fainter sunspots about but I missed them due to cloud. 

March 18th 1630 GMT

After a few attempts to bin scan the Sun, only for it to get cloudy again, it finally stayed clear for a while. As expected, two sunspots rotated off, or as near to off that I couldn’t see them with my binoculars. The remaining large sunspot was at a different orientation from the day before as I saw it later in the day.

March 18th

As I was writing an article about the southern hemisphere for Astronomy Wise, I reprocessed a shot of Sirius and Canopus.

I added another shot of Canis Major.

I also reprocessed a shot showing Canis Major with Carina.

March 17th 1220 GMT

The morning had been mostly cloudy but I was able to see the Sun through thin cloud. The sunscape was dominated by one large sunspot, whilst a previous group seemed ready to rotate off to the far side.

March 16th 2245 GMT

It had been cloudy during the evening, so I just took 41 frames of the whole lunar disc. It was about as full as it could get, bar an eclipse, with just a tiny hint of a terminator. Contrary to popular opinion, I like seeing the full moon and its ray systems and they showed really well. The exposures were ISO 400 at 1/400 second exposure. I stacked 18 of the frames to get this image.

March 16th 1225 GMT

I checked the Sun with my PST. It looked more interesting, than in “white” light but was far from really active. I saw 2 small prominences and, as the day before, some prominences.

I attempted some full disc images with ISO 400 and 1/50 second exposure then some close-ups with 1/10 second exposure. Although the results weren't as good as I'd hoped, I managed four reasonable images.

March 16th 1115 GMT

I bin scanned the Sun in clear conditions and confirmed the observation from the day before that the Sun had really gone quiet and that some sunspots had either gone or faded below binocular visibility.

March 16th 0200 GMT

I was putting the finishing touches to my revamped website and then it cleared partially for a few minutes. Only the Moon was visible, so I had a go at afocal shots.

The full lunar disc was disappointing but I managed some detail from 4 of 9 close-ups.

Unfortunately, it was the only set of frames that anywhere near worked.

March 15th 1415 GMT

It cleared for a little while before we left for town, so I had a quick look at the Sun through my PST. There were no prominences visible but there were some nice filaments. I managed one half decent image before clouds rolled in again!


March 15th 1040 GMT

It was partially cloudy but I was still able to see sunspots through my filtered binoculars. Although the Sun seemed quieter, it is more probable that the fainter sunspots were lost to the conditions.

March 14th 2300 GMT

I remarked to my family that there was a moon out there waiting for me to snap it. Unfortunately, my DSLR decided to pack up and I missed the chance to see Tycho's rays dominate a near-full moonscape, with Copernicus and Kepler also prominent. 

March 14th 1430 GMT

The same weather pattern of foggy mornings and clear(ish) afternoons continued. Not only had the sunspots rotated from the day before but there were changes of shape, number and pattern.

March 13th 1830 GMT.

I decided to get my lunar photo shoot in before the fog descended again. My first 15 frames  of 23 were out of focus and I thought I'd wasted the session but I managed 8 decent frames with the same settings as the day before.


March 13th 1615 GMT

The fog did not clear until late afternoon. I saw that the sunspot patterns had changed again and a new sunspot had rotated on.

March 12th 2050 GMT

I’d taken several afocal Moon shots before I realised that they were overexposed! I quickly changed the settings to ISO 400 and 1/400 second exposure. Fortunately, I got 35 frames that were not overexposed and stacked them all to get this.

March 12th 1500 GMT

After a cloudy morning, it cleared somewhat in the afternoon to reveal an active Sun.

March 11th 2030 GMT

I went out to find a waxing gibbous Moon and did some afocal full disc shots and close-ups.

The full disc shot was composed of 49 frames out of 62.

The first close-up was from 13 frames out of 13, although it seemed to be lucky.

The second close-up was composed of 19 of 19 frames.

The third  close-up was composed of 22 of 35 frames.

I also obtained the last close-up from the same original image. I cropped out some dust motes.

March 10th 0840 GMT

In hazy conditions, a solar bin scan revealed two new sunspots had formed or rotated on.

March 9th 2100

I went out with the DSLR and took some widefield shots of Jupiter and the Moon. 

This image was taken by stacking 5 frames:

I followed this up with:

Close-ups of the Moon. Some of these have been cropped to remove dust motes:

The first close-up was composed of 11 frames:

The second close-up was composed of 5 frames.

The third was taken using the best 5 of 12 frames.

The fourth was composed of 6 frames.

The fifth and final one was composed of 5 frames.

Close-ups of Jupiter:

Unfortunately, I was only able to use 2 frames out of about 30 but at least I got the main cloud belts.

Widefield afocal shots of Jupiter to try and catch the moons that didn't work

Afocal full lunar disc shots. I spotted the straight wall visually and hoped I’d caught it on “film”. Only 3 out of 33 frames were usable but the overall result was not bad.


March 9th 1045 GMT

I checked the Sun with my PST and saw a large filament and small plage but the disc was relatively quiet. I shot a few frames afocally.


March 9th 1020 GMT

A solar bin scan revealed another sunspot.

March 8th 1950 GMT

I stacked 51 images of the Moon to obtain this photo.

I used the T-mount and T-ring with a 2x Barlow lens and Magni Max 1.6x image amplifier to do some lunar close-ups. Many were blurred or out of focus (no live view!).

This one was just one frame that worked from a  set.

The next photo was composed from 2 frames.

This shot was from a single frame:

I finished off with a widefield view of the Moon with Jupiter.

March 8th 1145 GMT

A solar binocular scan showed just one sunspot, the other having rotated off.

March 7th 2145 GMT

I started off with some afocal shots of the full lunar disc. I was about to return with attachments for prime focus imaging, only to find it had clouded over. At least I managed to stack 27 of 29 frames to get a reasonable result.

March 7th 1115 GMT

A solar binocular scan revealed the quietest Sun I’d seen for a long time, with just one sunspot visible near the east and west limbs.

March 4th 2230 GMT

I went out again with my Maksutov, with the intention of snapping Jupiter. It was hard to get focus but I did a series of 2 second exposures at ISO800 to get the moons. Visually the moons were all visible but one (Europa) was very close to the planet. Even at low power, the cloud belts and shading near the poles was visible. I took some shorter exposure shots with just the DSLR, with a 2x Barlow and 2x Barlow with 1.6x magni max image amplifier. Getting focus was far from easy.

I also had a go at Mizar and from the camera views, a short exposure of 0.2 seconds seemed to give the sharpest view while still rendering the stars visible. It wasn't my best photo shoot. Jupiter's moons didn't work and I could get Jupiter's main cloud belts but little else.

March 4th 2110 GMT

I returned out with the camera and tripod and took a series of shots of the Plough and Leo at ISO 800 and 30 seconds’ exposure at 18mm focal length. While watching, I saw a mag 1 meteor travelling relatively slowly from the claws of the Great Bear through Leo at 2122 GMT. I also estimated the brightness of Betelguese to be mag 0.5.


March 4th 1830 GMT

It was still very much twilight and I took several afocal shots of the Moon, both full disc and close-up. I stacked 8 of 15 frames to get the full disc shot.

The first close-up was composed of 15 frames.

8 frames were used to obtain the second close-up.

12 frames were used for the third close-up.

The 4th close-up was composed of 8 frames.

2 frames were used to compose the 5th.

The final image was composed of 36 frames and covers the whole disc.

March 4th 1030 GMT

The weather was again, best described as "changeable". From what I could see from Planet Earth with a pair of binoculars, sunspot activity was lower but this was more likely due to sunspots rotating from view, although I suspect they were visible in larger instruments than mine.

March 3rd 1030 GMT

There were some clear patches between showers and I managed to see some sunspots through my binoculars and do my usual drawing.

March 1st 2330 GMT

The sky was cloudy for most of the evening but cleared for a while. I shot 8 frames of Leo before I realised I was shooting at ISO 3200! Fortunately, I managed to get a few stars. I managed 6 frames of eastern Ursa Major before cloud rolled back in. These were at ISO 800 and I used Deep Sky Stacker.

March 1st 1335 GMT

I had a quick look at the Sun with the PST. There seemed a lot of activity where the sunspots were but I did not notice any prominences. I took a few afocal shots with my DSLR.

March 1st 1110 GMT

A bin scan of the sun showed that the really good stuff had rotated off but some of the newer sunspots had enlarged, one disappeared, others shrunk and a new one appeared.