Author Archives: Peter Hill

February Meteors.

February is not noted for its meteor showers, only a handful of minor showers and some daytime showers.

Minor Activity

Radiant Duration Maximum
Aurigids January 31-February 23 Feb. 5-10
Alpha Centaurids (ACE) February 2-25 Feb. 8/9
Beta Centaurids February 2-25 Feb. 8/9
Delta Leonids (DLE) February 5-March 19 Feb. 22/23
Sigma Leonids February 9-March 13 Feb. 25/26

Daylight Activity

Radiant Duration Maximum
Capricornids-Sagittariids January 13-February 28 Jan. 30-Feb. 3
Chi Capricornids January 29-February 28 Feb. 13/14

The radar reflections using Graves, gave a total count of 1140 meteors, with an average daily count of 41 and average hourly count of 2 (1.7), the max hourly count observed was 7 and max daily count 62. The contributions to activity from the Centaurids , Leonids and Capricornids are discernible on the charts below. March is another month of no notable shower, but lots of minor showers.

Clear Skies

Pete H


January Meteors.

The main meteor activity this month around the 3rd/4th of January with the Quadrantids peaking in the early hours of the 4th Jan. Graves decided to go off line between 09:00 and 15:00 on the 3rd Jan. ( see red block on hourly plot).

The average hourly rate during the month was 2.2, with an average daily rate of 52.3. The variations during the month are due to the combinations of minor showers during the month, these are listed in table below.

I omitted the total count for 2017 in my new year post, this was 16,727with an average daily count of 46. It will be interesting to see what Andy’s magnetic collector picks up over the year.


Radiant Duration Maximum
Zeta Aurigids December 11-January 21 Dec. 31/Jan. 1
January Boötids January 9-18 Jan. 16-18
Delta Cancrids (DCA) December 14-February 14 Jan. 17
Canids January 13-30 Jan. 24/25
Eta Carinids January 14-27 Jan. 21/22
Eta Craterids January 11-22 Jan. 16/17
January Draconids January 10-24 Jan. 13-16
Rho Geminids December 28-January 28 Jan. 8/9
Alpha Hydrids January 15-30 Jan. 20/21
Alpha Leonids January 13-February 13 Jan. 24-31
Gamma Velids January 1-17 Jan. 5-8


Happy New Year from BASMO

New year celebrations caught by the all sky camera.

Below are the daily and hourly meteor counts for December, the peaks for the Geminids and Ursids are clearly shown. Unfortunately Graves went off line between 20:00 on 13/12/17 and 08:00 on 14/12/17. The increase in activity on 31st is beginning of Quadrantids, which will be peaking on the 3/4 Jan.

Here is a comparison with December 2016, Graves went off line last December for most of the 29th Dec.

This final plot shows the daily meteor activity throughout 2017, the major showers are marked, for more information on meteor showers go to

Happy New Year

Pete Hill


Variable Stars – Update.

  1. Mira in Cetus is about to increase in brightness- see attached section of SPA notification.

Mira the Wonder Star approaches maximum

The star Omicron Ceti, Mira, has a special place in the hearts of variable star observers, as it was one of the first stars to be recognised as being variable. It spends most of its time well below naked-eye visibility, but then over a matter of just a few weeks it brightens up and again joins the constellation pattern of Cetus.
    It was this behaviour, first spotted in the 16th century, that earned it the name of Mira, meaning ‘Wonderful’. Until that time, stars were supposed to be fixed and unchanging.
     Mira has recently brightened and is now again just visible to the naked eye, though at the moment it is still around magnitude 5, which is on the verge of visibility from most UK locations. However, it should get brighter, as its maximum is expected to be in a month or six weeks, around mid to late January.
     A normal maximum is around magnitude 3.6, which would make it visible from typical UK suburban skies but not dramatically obvious. However, because the star is brightening fairly early in its rather irregular cycle of around 332 days, it could be that it becomes significantly brighter than usual, so it is well worth watching out for.
     The peaks of 2007, 2010 and 2011 all reached around magnitude 2, so Mira then became virtually the brightest star in Cetus. In some years, maximum occurs when the star is too close to the Sun to be observed, but the coming maximum will take place when the star is easily visible in the evening sky.
     Use the chart here to pick out Mira, which is best found by first using the stars of Aries to locate the brighter stars of the Head of Cetus, which is shown by a polygon just above Mira itself.
     To make estimates of its magnitude by comparing it with nearby stars, take a look at our Variable Star Section’s news story, which provides a list of comparison stars and their brightnesses. There is also a link to more information about Mira.

2. The latest edition of Sky at Night Magazine (January 2018) also has information about Mira (p.59) as well as an article by Paul Abel on how to estimate the brightness of variable stars. ( p.79/80)
Clear skies
Pete Hill

Winter Solstice – Solargraph.

On the 21st June I set up my solargraph, this had a0.3mm laser drilled hole ( as supplied by the pinhole factory, also resistant to bird attack ( although I’ve had no problems previously)









It was sat on the end of my raspberry canes on the allotment.











On the 21st Dec I removed it , opened it up in a dark room with a red light and placed on Epson scanner, scanned at 1200dpi, in colour and saved as a .tif file for processing in Photoshop, see image below, had to repeat scan as first image contained some very strange artifacts, tinsely bits from scanning the Christmas card from Rosliston forestry centre!









Then it was processed in Photoshop CS6, first flipping horizontally to put image right way round and then inverting the played with levels, curves contrast and exposure, final image below, with camera view for comparison beside it. ( enlarge solar graph, shows detail better.)

Happy Solstice- Pete Hill









November Meteors

The beginning of the month saw some varying  activity due to the Northern and southern Taurids. The Leonids around the 17/18 were preceded by higher activity on the 16th, also apparent on the comparison with 2016. Then a spike of activity on the 25th, several bright meteors were seen during the evening observing session, on the 25th,  at the SPA meeting at Preston Montford in Shropshire .

I have included the meteor information to allow comparison with data. There were no indications of the fireballs reported earlier in the week along the south coast.

Next month sees the Geminids 13/14 Dec and the Ursids, 22 Dec, with the moon position and phase favourable to both, here’s hoping for clear skies.

Finally a screenshot showing the meteor detection on the zero frequency line having adjusted the offset on the funcube dongle.

Pete Hill

Major Activity:


Duration Maximum
Leonids (LEO) November 13-20 Nov. 17/18

Moderate Activity:

Radiant Duration Maximum
Northern Taurids (NTA) October 12-December 2 Nov. 4-7
Southern Taurids (STA) September 17-November 27 Oct. 30-Nov. 7

Minor Activity

Radiant Duration Maximum
Andromedids September 25-December 6 Nov. 14/15
Alpha Monocerotids (AMO) November 13-December 2 Nov. 21
Alpha Pegasids October 29?-November 17? Nov. 1-12


Venus and Jupiter conjunction 13/11/17

Took a yomp over the fields on monday morning to get a clear eastern horizon just after 6 am, as I was setting up Venus was rising through the early morning glow a scintillating red spot light. All images taken Canon 450D on tripod with cable shutter release. All shot in raw and processed in P.S.6

Having taken images , quick dash back home to get off to London, hence delay in processing!

First image 18-250mm Sigma at 87mm ISO1600, F22, 1″

2nd image 180-500mm sigma at 500mm ISO1600, F22, 0.25″

3rd image same lens as image 2, at 180mm, ISO100, F22, 2″

Moon 180-500mm Sigma , at 500mm ISO100, F22, 0.1″

Pete H

Variable Stars

Following the mid-month meeting on 10th Nov here are some resources and suggestions for variable star observing:


The American variable star organisation and their beginners programme.


 The SPA site and beginners programme.


Calculator to forecast minima times for Algol (when it is in eclipse)

 Article by Gary Poyner.

 BAA variable star section, click on beginners on sidebar to go to beginners observing programme.


 To get started it was suggested that the following would make suitable targets, observing with naked eye or with binoculars (10×50)

Eclipsing Binaries:

Beta Persei (Algol), nightly observations but hourly either side of predicted minima ( see calculator)

Beta Lyrae, nightly observations, early evening , while still relatively high.

Pulsating Super Giants:

Delta Cephei, nightly observations.

Zeta Geminorum, nightly observations.

For all four targets see the SPA link ( 4th link-observing programme) for further notes and star charts with comparison stars, if you were at meeting you also have alternative star charts /comparison stars that were circulated.

Recording observations:

Date Day time Estimated brightness Estimated magnitude Conditions
07/03/10 1 22:30 Equal to epsilon and zeta perseus.

Dimmer than alpha perseus.

3.0 No moon, cold with low humidity, some high haze.
15/03/10 9 21:10 Brighter than epsilon and zeta perseus, but dimmer than alpha perseus. 2.2 Cold, no moon, high hazy cloud.
23/03/10 17 21:30 Brighter than epsilon and zeta perseus, but dimmer than alpha perseus. 2.2 Cool, light haze, moon first quarter, but 20Oto S.



Record in a similar format as above, compare variable to other stars on charts to get estimate of magnitude, remember lower the number the brighter it is.

Once you have collected enough data , have a go at plotting light curve, magnitude on vertical axis,with magnitude decreasing down the side , time on horizontal axis.

For Algol convert time from first observation  into hours, for the others days is fine.

Any queries come back to me,


Pete Hill