Friday, April 2, 2021

April 12th 2010 GMT Betelguese


Betelguese was still above the horizon, as was Procyon, one of the main comparison stars. The other, Aldebaran, was blinking in and out of cloud, so I had to disregard it. Pollux was in a clear patch of sky but higher up than Betelguese but it was the best I could do. Rigel was just above some trees but, due to extinction near the horizon, appeared fainter than Procyon.

Whilst, it was not the most reliable of estimates, I figured that Betelguese was about magnitude 0.7.

April 12th Auriga and Taurus February 3rd reprocessed

I re-ran the stack, selecting the best 16 of 20 frames. Each frame was 18mm focal length, ISO6400 and 6 seconds exposure.

April 11th Moon February 3rd reprocessed

I tried to re-do an older lunar image but, frankly, the original was slightly better.

April 11th 1530 GMT Sun

I caught slightly more detail on the solar disc in hydrogen alpha light than I did a few days before. I used my Coronado PST and DSLR used afocally at 55mm focal length and automatic settings.

April 10th Moon January 5th reprocessed

 I needed to clear some space on my computer.  I had already copied many older files to backing storage and I started to check old photo files and see if  could get better images before deleting them. I reprocessed my lunar shoot from January 5th and ended up with this final image.

April 6th 0600 GMT Moon

The Moon was low in the south just after dawn and not well-placed, being spring. I got an image but not a good one.

April 5th 2035 GMT Beehive (M44)

I would have done a photo shoot the evening before, had I not flattened my camera battery on my meteor shoot. I started off doing some test shots on M35 but was not able to find focus. The problem was that the cloud was thickening quite rapidly and I was unable to get a decent image of anything. I returned to the house disappointed, knowing that I was in for a spell of cloudy and wet weather in the upcoming days.

April 5th 1930 GMT Betelguese

A quick comparison with Procyon and Aldebaran suggested a magnitude of 0.6.

April 5th 1230 GMT Sun

I caught some detail on the solar disc in hydrogen alpha light. I used my Coronado PST and DSLR used afocally at 55mm focal length and automatic settings.

April 4th 2340 GMT Binocular Scan


It was back to the time of year when it was daylight savings. It was after midnight (BST) but before 0100. I recorded the date as April 4th, although it was only 2340 GMT. So it had “today’s date” but “yesterday’s time”. To make matters even more confusing, my attempts at catching meteors “on film” had drained my battery and I was unable to perform my planned photo shoot of the Beehive Cluster (M44).


Not wishing to waste a clear night, I fulfilled a promise to myself to scan the night sky with my 7x30 binoculars that I inherited from my grandfather. Not having used them for a while, I focussed on the Beehive. It was interesting to see its stars, most of which were on the edge of visibility, twinkle in and out of view and not all at the same time. This was not something I could get with the larger binoculars, nor capture with my camera. It had zero scientific value (as do 99.9999% of my observations and photos) but was nice entertainment value. I also saw the star cluster Melotte 111 but I could only see its brighter members, losing the effect that I get with my larger binoculars. I could not detect any other star clusters nor galaxies, having failed to capture M13.


I turned my attention to Lyra. Epsilon Lyrae split clearly but the effect of seeing the two stars (which each show as doubles in my large telescope) close made a pleasing sight. By contrast, Delta Lyrae is a wider double, so not so exciting. I could split Nu Draconi but not Albireo (Beta Cygni), probably as it was low in the sky and the fainter component was too faint to show until later in the night or with a larger instrument.


For my last observation, I nearly fell backwards! Alcor and Mizar were near the zenith and, by looking at them, I nearly fell over backwards. They are quite well-known but not especially outstanding to view. They are not a “true” double star because they do not orbit a common centre of gravity but they are related. They are members of the Ursa Major Moving Group of stars that share a common motion through space and were probably born in the same cluster a few million years ago and are of similar distance from us in space.


I enjoyed my session but hoped that I would be able to get another chance to do a good photo shoot of the Beehive another evening.

April 3rd 1945 GMT Meteor Hunt

I had some clear, moonless sky for a change and it was full darkness. I aimed my camera high up in the west, near Gemini, with Canis Minor at the bottom of the field of view. I also caught Cancer in the top left (north east). I used my normal settings of 18mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 6 seconds exposure. I stacked 8 of 11 images.

I caught a meteor at 20:59 GMT from Hydra travelling north west.

April 2nd 1945 GMT Betelguese

I do not normally make variable star magnitude estimates at dusk. As Betelguese was getting lower in the sky and would be even lower at nightfall, I got my visuals in early. Aldebaran and Procyon were about the same height above the horizon as Betelguese, so I was able to make a reasonable estimate of magnitude 0.65. Unlike the spectacular fading of 2020, Betelguese was well within its published range but seemed to have faded from 0.45 in the autumn but the fade did not seem steady. I wondered how much of it was real and how much was due to the observing conditions.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Non-Astronomy Photos 2021

March 22nd Daffodils

As in 2020, I did not start attempting non-astronomy photos until later in the year Part of the reason was that I did not want to take photos that were too similar to those I had taken in previous years. Having said that, I could not resist this crop of daffodils.

March 14th Peacock

Peacocks from Corsham Court often stray into the town. Here's one we caught near the roadside.


Thursday, March 4, 2021

March 2021

March 30th 2150 GMT Moon

When we think of astronomy, we imagine crystal clear skies. Reality is often different. A sunny day gave way to a cloudy evening. The Moon was low down and in haze, so I needed to use 1/100 second exposure, instead of the 1/500 second exposure I would have used in better conditions. I was very pleased with the final result, though.

March 29th 2055 GMT Moon

The Moon was low but bright and only just past full. There were many sharp images and it was quite difficult to select the best.shot, a nice problem to have. When I processed the photo in GIMP, I was very pleased with the result.

March 27th 0210 GMT Moon

I did another shoot a few hours later but it was less sharp than the one the evening before.

March 26th 2050 GMT Moon

It was partially cloudy for most of the day. I was hoping to do a telescope shoot but it was not going to happen. I snapped the Moon at 300mm focal length, ISO 100 and 1/640 second exposure.

March 25th 2050 GMT Moon

An attempted lunar shot failed completely.

March 24th 1555 GMT Sun

I tried a solar hydrogen alpha shoot but all photos were ruined by cloud.

March 24th 1550 GMT Moon

With the weather in the evening being uncertain, I shot the Moon with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 100 and 1/320 second exposure.

March 23rd 2250 GMT Moon

I was overdue for a really good lunar imaging session. I had been pleased with my efforts with my DSLR but had hardly used my telescope all year. The Moon was high in the south west and well-placed from our conservatory to take some images without straining my hips, shoulders or back.

 It was a shame that my Bresser Electronic Eyepiece was functionally challenged, so I decided to do one set of shots with my Mak and DSLR. I took 20 frames at 1.54m focal length, ISO 100 and 1/100 second exposure and stacked the best 18.

I inserted a 3x Barlow lens into the imaging train to boost the focal length to 4.62 metres. I increased the exposure time to 1/10 second. An alternative was to boost the ISO setting. I stacked 19 images taken around Mare Crisium to get this close-up.

I stacked four photos to get this image of some of the southern craters.

Clavius was in this stack of 12 images.

The next stack of 12 images showed Clavius and Tycho.

The next batch of 17 frames revealed Plato.

11 frames showed both Copernicus and Sinus Iridium.

The next 15 frames showed Copernicus in a central position.

The next 23 frames showed another group of southern craters.

Another 23 frames revealed some more craters.

10 more frames showed Copernicus.

The next 15 frames showed another view of Plato.

The final shot with 25 frames shows Plato and Sinus Iridium.

It was not a 100% successful shoot. Some shots worked quite well, others worked but showed little more detail than in the full disc shots. On reflection, I should have used a shorter exposure and higher ISO. We learn to experiment!

March 23rd 1825 GMT Moon

It was early dusk and the Moon was high in the sky.. I snapped it with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 100 and 1/320 second exposure.

March 22nd 1845 GMT Moon

I tried another set of shots during dusk. I kept the same focal length and exposure settings but reduced the ISO to 100.

March 22nd 1730 GMT Moon

The afternoon before, it was clear, so I thought it would still be clear after sunset. It wasn't and the opportunity was missed. I took no chances and did a shoot before sunset. The moon was just past first quarter but libration made Clavius stand out clearly. It was also nice to see Tycho without its rays.I used my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 400 and 1/320 second exposure.

March 20th 2215 GMT Moon

Most of the sky was covered by various thicknesses of cloud. The Moon appeared to be in a clear patch of sky, so I had another go with the same settings.

March 20th 1955 GMT Moon

It was clearer a bit later but there was some thin cloud around. I tried the same settings as before and got a reasonable result.

March 20th 1845 GMT Moon

Conditions were poor but I had a go at the Moon with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 100 and 1/250 second exposure. No shots worked.

March 17th 2145 GMT Moon

I snapped the Moon with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 100 and 1/250 second exposure.

I switched lenses and settings to 18mm focal length, ISO6400 and 6 seconds exposure, or I thought I did. The first test shot showed that I had forgotten to set the ISO correctly. The second was more successful, showing Orion, Taurus and Canis Minor.

I stacked 15 of 18 images to get this snap of Gemini.

At 2012 GMT, I caught a meteor near Gemini that appeared to come from the direction of Canis Minor.

March 16th 2230 GMT Binocular Tour


I could not remember the last time I was able to do this. Conditions were not perfect, especially near the horizon but I saw some nice sights. This session overlapped with the previous one, as my camera was happily gathering photons. Firstly, I estimated Betelguese to be about magnitude 0.7, a small fade and closer to Aldebaran in brightness.


My 15x70 binoculars showed the Orion Great Nebula (M42). The Pleaides (M45) showed about 30 stars, a bit less than the 40 to 70 I usually see. The best sight was the Beehive (M44) riding high in the south. I was also able to capture the star cluster M35 in Gemini. The Leo galaxies M65 and M66 did not show and I could just make out a fuzzy path where the galaxy M81 in Ursa Major should be. The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) was above the horizon but it was low down in the murk.

March 16th 2130 GMT Meteor Scan

I set my camera up to catch meteors using my DSLR and intervalometer to take 6 second exposures at 18mm focal length, ISO 6400, as usual.

I started off doing a test shot of Gemini.

Unfortunately, I did not catch any meteors and the sky background overhead was not interesting.

March 16th 2100 GMT Deep Sky

Unlike the night before, it stayed clear after it became dark and the Moon was setting, as I performed a deep sky shoot. I started with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 2 seconds exposure. It did not go to plan! On my first set of frames on the Pleaides (M45), I had problems with camera shake, despite using shutter remote control. I reduced the exposure to 1 second then tried to stack multiple images but Deep Sky Stacker wasn't co-operating. Despite my difficulties, I ended up with a passable result from a single frame.

Early in the session (2107 GMT), I saw a bright meteor that easily outshone Sirius but, at about magnitude -2, it was not bright enough to call a fireball. Still, it bright, red trail was a fine sight. Ironically, had I not been deep sky shooting, there was a more than even chance, I could have caught it in a meteor search.

I managed 3 reasonable frames of the Orion Great Nebula (M42) and they stacked well.

 I changed to 70mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 6 seconds exposure. My first set of shots were of Orion's Belt and M42. It worked but I had taken better, similar shots in the past.

I stacked 10 frames of the Hyades with Mars.

The Mars with the Pleaides (M45) used the same method but produced a better result.

I tried to catch M35 but missed it.

March 16th 1855 GMT Moon

I repeated the lunar shot from the day before, with the same settings.

March 15th 1855 GMT Moon

I had another go with similar settings as it became darker.

I'm not sure which I prefer. I was hoping for some action in full darkness but it clouded over.

March 15th 1830 GMT Moon

It had been 8 days since my last successful day, with lots of frustration with the weather. I snapped the Moon about 30 hours since the new phase and caught some detail. I used my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 400 and 1/200 second exposure.

March 11th 2040 GMT Meteor Hunt


It was partially clear but cold and windy, so I stayed indoors and let my camera do the work at my usual meteor settings of 18mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 6 seconds exposure. I aimed the camera overhead to avoid clouds and extinction.

However, the photo shoot was a disaster. The shots were all out of focus and the battery ran out after 300 frames.

March 7th 2040 GMT Meteor Hunt


There was no particular reason why any part of the sky should produce more meteors than others, apart from the zenith being better, because there is less atmosphere for the light to pass through. I chose the north east because it was a darker part of sky, with less light pollution. However, I chose the Taurus area to make sure that the focus was not too far out.

I caught a short meteor trail at 2053 GMT.

I never caught any more but I stacked 7 of 25 images to get this shot of the Plough and Ursa Minor.

March 1st 1930 GMT Betelguese and Meteors

Although conventional wisdom suggests that photographic magnitude is different to visual magnitude, my test shot was aimed at Orion and also caught the main comparison stars of Procyon and Aldebaran. It suggests that Betelguese was about magnitude 0.6, which is what my parallel visual observations made it. Rigel seemed only slightly brighter than Betelguese but this is normal from the northern hemisphere. I have seen both stars emerge from the twilight from the southern hemisphere and Rigel always appears first.

There was no particular reason why I should have aimed at one part of the sky rather than another, so I aimed ar the Perseus/Auriga region, hoping for some nice shots of constellations. I stacked 4 of 20 images to get this.

I did not catch any meteors.