I along with a few fellow astronomers attended the Kielder Star Party from Thursday till Sunday. We arrived around lunchtime Thursday and set up the tent then the scope and had a beer! After dinner at the fabulous Anglers Arms pub the sky appeared to be clearing (This is something of a rarity at a star party!) so it was on with the red light torches and back to the ‘scopes….
I managed to get aligned and get a few images of the Veil Nebula but cloud came in around midnight and cut things short. Friday was a non event with cloud all day, so more beer and whisky was drunk and a film watched in the tent.
Saturday was cloudy till about 7pm, so after dinner, we prepared for another night under the stars – it was at this point that things went wrong, horribly wrong…… I went to power on the mount (HEQ5Pro) and instead of a nice BEEP, I got 3 in quick succession, not good news! I powered it all down and tried again but got the same and an error message saying the handset could not connect to the mount. It was the end of the night for me – I put the cover back over the scope and left it. Luckily my friend was having a bit more luck, so we did some visual observing for a while but my heart was not in it and I headed inside around 10:30 in a very bad mood! I did get up early morning with another mate and we had a whisky and watched Orion rise over the treeline – it really was an amazingly clear night, the first at Kielder I have seen for a long time.
Anyway, enough of my woes – it was a great weekend away (Not withstanding Saturday night), great to catch up with friends and the stars on Saturday were stunning, the Milky Way was so bright.
Here is the image of the Veil Nebula that I captured on Thursday.
Every year the Earth passes through a trail of dust left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle – This manifests itself in the annual Perseid meteor shower!
Last night me and my wife & kids went to a very dark site – Whiteadder Reservoir, about 45mins from our house. We took some chairs and sleeping bags and spent a couple of hours looking for the shooting stars. It was not the best show I have seen but we did see over 30 in that short time, I took the camera along but only managed to capture a couple. I never managed to capture any of the really bright ones but I did get a couple, one shooting through the milky way and another near polaris.
I have been playing about with the data from the CSOG star party that much that I forgot about the solar eclipse last Friday morning! I went to the local high school with my Daughter to see it but as usual it clouded over just as the event got underway! I did get a few shots though, here are the best….
This was my first trip away with the guys from Scottish Astronomers way back in March 2009. We hired a house in Dalnain Bridge for a few days and had some amazing weather – we were outside in T-shirts as it was so mild! At night we had some lovely views and I seem to remember that I managed to capture everything on my list – unheard of! When I look back now at the images it good to see how much I have progressed, but most of all it just brings back memories of a great weekend away, good company and dark skies!
Hi readers- I posted some Aurora images from my surprise birthday trip to Iceland in December, the aim of the weekend was to see the northern lights but my wife had also arranged a tour for something to do during the day.
We arrived late on Sunday night, at a wonderful guesthouse in the village of Mosfellsbaer not far from Reykjavik. After a brief chat with the owners we retired for the evening as we were up early morning for the Island tour, but not before I managed to grab some nice views from the bedroom(the panorama image).
Next morning breakfast was fresh homemade bread and cold meats/cheese, then we got wrapped up and the owner dropped us off at a local hotel where the tour bus was picking us up.
First stop was the geothermal power station, quite interesting from a geeky point of view! All hot water on the island is pumped from these stations for free – they use high pressure steam to generate electricity then pass the now cooler and condensed water (still at around 80 degrees if I remember correctly) along pipes to islanders homes and also to heat the streets in Reykjavik! The cold water is from springs and stinks of sulfur! not pleasant when having a shower….
Next up was a little church, I cant remember its name or much about it unfortunately. It really was a lovely setting, I got some nice pictures and especially like the one taken showing the church and the little crosses on the graves – even out here, they all had little Christmas lights on them. After about 20 mins we got back on the bus – freezing! and headed off to the next stop….
The Gullfoss Waterfalls – at this time of year they are mostly frozen and a wonderful sight, very slippy underfoot though. We got some nice pictures, had a wee wander round but it’s too cold! So went inside for some lunch and a Viking Beer 🙂 (just found out that beer was banned until 1989 in Iceland as well!).
After lunch we headed off to see the Geysir area where the world famous Geyser is located (which gave its name to all other erupting springs), the main attraction no longer erupts, I think it only does so after a major earthquake and thankfully there were none when we were there… The Strokkur Geyser does however erupt, with a frequency of around 5-8 mins, so we stood and watched this shoot boiling water 30m in the air. There are also lots of other little bubblers around as well, its quite a surreal place, very otherworldly.
By now it was getting late in the day and starting to get dark – it gets light at this time of year around 11:30 and dusk is around 3:30. The next and final stop was Thingvellir national park and running through it is a massive fault line on the Mid-Atlantic ridge. By this time, we had fallen asleep on the bus as it was around an hours drive from the waterfalls up here. We both awoke cold and my wife got off the bus, had a quick look round then headed back inside, I felt the same but ventured off in the now well below freezing and gusty wind for some pictures, by the time I got back 10 mins later my fingers were numb! This is also the place where the first Iceland general assembly was established but nobody knows exactly where, there is a small area with a flag, cordoned off, that they think would be the area but nobody knows for sure. I got my pictures, wandered around and found another little church so got some more piccies of that and then headed back to the bus to thaw out, then we headed back home, a really nice and different day out.
After dinner at a local restaurant – Alafoss Cafe, we headed back to the guesthouse….. the owner came up to greet us and asked if we wanted a dip in the hot tub, well when in Rome as they say! He also asked if I had seen the weather and Aurora forecast, since he knew that was the primary reason for the trip. I said it looked to be starting but it would be another hour or so before it reached us. He agreed but also said that there was weather coming in so it might be cloudy by the time the Aurora arrived 😦 He then went on to say that if that was the case, he would call a friend who lived in the mountains around midnight and if there was any activity he would drive me up – this really brought home what wonderful hosts we had, they really would go out of their way to make their guests stay a pleasure. We got changed for the hot tub, at this time the weather was OK, maybe 20-30% cloud, -10 degrees but no wind. We settled into the hot tub, which is bizzare, a really hot bath, outside in -10 degrees, the steam from the tub must freeze and drop back down – when you get out your hair is frosty but the rest of you is lovely and warm!
So, on to the main event(for me!) – we were sitting in the hot tub, relaxing, I was looking up expectantly but not really seeing much, maybe a wee hint but nothing to get too excited about. The wife of the owner came round and asked if we wanted some Icelandic delicacy – rotten shark and a spirit known as ‘Black Death’ – how could we refuse! She also said that she thought there was some Aurora activity and she would switch off the outdoor light. Once the light went out, we could see it, still faint but definitely the Aurora, amazing, sitting in a hot tub in Iceland watching the Aurora overhead – just what I wanted, it was a bit like a jets contrail, going right over us from horizon to horizon. I watched for maybe 10-15mins then had to get out to get some images, in this short time it had grown a lot brighter and was very easy to see, quite like the early images in the video, a strong green colour, no real structure yet….
The next 2 or 3 hours were spent with me setting the camera up and letting it take a series of images then moving it as the Aurora shifted (next time I would try to take 2 cameras, one to move about and capture the best bits and one to leave on and take multiple images to turn into a time-lapse). It was everywhere by now, at the east side looking up into the dark mountains it seemed to be getting pulled down to earth, to the west it was sort of swirling around very slowly, overhead was a bright neon green band, in front at times, the hills had an ethereal glow above them…… I was like a child in a sweet shop! The best was near the end, looking straight out in front of me above the hills it was like fingers, playing on an invisible piano, that’s all I can describe it as, this only lasted a few minutes unfortunately and I did not manage to get an image but I was ecstatic with what I had seen 🙂 By now the wind was really getting up and more than a few minutes outside was too much, the clouds were nearly obscuring all the Aurora and I decided to bring the camera inside. I did stand at the window of one of the empty rooms (Which the owner had kindly unlocked for me) and watch the last remnants of the display with a glass of wine, before heading off to be, knackered but delighted to have seen such an amazing display of the northern lights.
Next morning was my birthday, we gt up to fresh pancakes, a little card and traditional Christmas tree decoration from the owners, its little things like that which made the trip extra special, and then we were told that a storm was coming so we should leave a little earlier for the bus to take us to the airport. In the event though, the bus had to pull into a service station as the road to the airport was closed due to the snow, its amazing how quick the storm came in and how much snow fell in only a few hours. Our flight was cancelled but thanks to Easyjet we were put up in a local hotel for the evening and flew home next day – this is where the Dorito’s and beer shot was taken, the hotel room that night, we had nothing to eat since breakfast and did not yet know what was happening with regards to food, so we walked to a local garage on got some supplies, beer, chocolate and crisps!
The whole trip/experience is something I will never forget, I really had no idea my wife had planned this, the location and the guesthouse was perfect, I really could not fault it, the owners were lovely and you really got the sense that they enjoyed what they did. The day tour was great, the frozen waterfalls, the geysers – you really appreciate that Iceland is a little island sitting on top of the earths crust. Obviously for me the main purpose was to see the Northern Lights and they certainly did not disappoint, simply stunning, a wonderful display put on by the interaction of particles from the sun and the earth’s magnetic field – well done nature and well done Mrs Blinky for organizing such an amazing weekend 🙂
So, you have seen some of the Aurora images, here is a short(ish) video of the highlights of the weekend, starting with the view from the bedroom balcony when we arrived and finishing with the wonderful Northern Lights:
Link to 1080p highest quality video (Download from Dropbox, richt click and choose save as, then play locally)
Link to YouTube video, will stream online but not as good quality, especially evident with the aurora
We have a visitor in the skies!! Comet C2014 Lovejoy is here, this comet was first spotted in 2014 by an Australian comet hunter, Terry Lovejoy(Lots of clues to that in the name eh?) on the 17th ofAugust.
This video is aseries of 15 second exposures, taken with a 7mm refractor and a QHY8 CCD, total time is 3hrs. The comet will be closest to the sun on the 30th of January, although this is relative as it will still be 120, 000,000 miles form it! Dont wait for it to come back around though, its orbital period is 11,o00 years…..
Here is an image of the same comet, this is 5 x 5 minute subs, the tai is visible, just….
M82, a relatively close galaxy, also known as the cigar galaxy has had a supernova eruption! This has the potential to be the brightest supernova for over a hundred years and has a lot of people in the astronomy community very excited…… Although it might look like just another star in the image, all the other stars visible are in the milky way galaxy, the supernova is a single star in another galaxy 11.4 million light years away
There are certain ‘types’ of supernova and this is a type 1a supernova meaning it is or rather was! a white dwarf star orbiting round a red giant, the immense gravity of the white dwarf, pulls matter from the red giant star and eventually has enough to reignite itself which causes the supernova explosion. As you can see in the image below (Which is not one of my best, it was blowing a gale and I only got an hour on target before it clouded over), the supernova is easily spotted and the star will briefly be the brightest thing in the galaxy, giving out more light in its brief 3 weeks or so than over its full lifetime!
The other galaxy in this image is M81 by the way, I do intend on getting more time on these objects as its nice to have the 2 different galaxy types in the same image.
Last week we (the family, me and Mrs Blinky and the 3 kids) took the caravan up to Bunree caravan site, up in Onich in the Highlands of Scotland. As well as being one of the most beautiful campsites I have been too it is also blessed with the darkest skies! The weather was fantastic, we had a shower of rain one night whilst in bed, the rest of the time it was bright and sunny and the nights mostly clear…
So, on to the astronomy! The first night I got 4 x 8min subs of the milky way region – I had to stop there as I also forgot to take the weights for the mount with me, you will see in the animation below that I had a childrens backpack with some cans of beer 🙂 in it to try and act as a counterweight but it did not work and I heard the mount struggling so stopped after 4 subs. Anyway, I got 4 subs and stacked them and am pretty happy with the result – this was taken with the stock 18-55mm lens on a Canon 1000d piggybacked on my 8″ SCT, first time I have done this and I like the results, although the lens is not great at the edges but for a nice simple setup it gave decent results…
BTW – click the images below to open an animated GIF or click the YouTube links for a video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dr0UyYvxiU
Finally after 3 days it dawned on me that the mount would track if it did not have the scope attached, so I removed that and managed to attach the camera to the HEQ5 Pro by just the tripod plate – the moon was well up on these nights and very bright, so I got up at 3am to start these exposures, it was my original intention to continue with Milky Way shots now that I could track but it was by now quite low on the horizon so I instead went to take some images of Orion, hoping to catch the elusive Barnards Loop but this never showed up – I think a combination of not enough aperture and a slow/crappy lens were the culprit but it was a bit of a gamble and as you can see Orion is still very low, it may have worked it it had been higher up, I dont know.
I finally got round to making an animation to show the couple of Asteroids I caught in my Makarians Chain image. Cant really find out any information about them other than the names! (1078) Mentha and (742) Edisona.