Rob Leonard

Nice video, shame about the weather…

What completely pants weather this week!

Did manage to have a 5 minute astro fix with this video. Quality isn’t amazing, and hopefully still works for people not on facebook- if anyone can find a better copy please post:


An Interstellar journey to the Orion nebula.Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprioImages by Hubble Space Telescope

Posted by Beyond Our Sight on Freitag, 14. Juli 2017


Younger Stargazers and Electronic Astronomy.

I’ve had a bit of an e-bay splurge over the summer and bought a few bits of kit, one of which has been a small ETX telescope for taking away with us (see earlier post) and another of which has been a little ZWO webcam type effort because… well, why not?

With the full moon out and not a lot of chance for DSOs I decided to spend an evening combining these recent purchases and looking at the moon, and I decided to see how the little camera coped on what should be an ideal target. Sam came out to join me and the little ETX was giving us really beautiful crisp sharp magnified views through the eyepiece. This, to me, is wonderful, and I can easily spend hours doing it- Sam liked it too, but wasn’t quite as fascinated.

So we got the laptop out and plugged the camera in and started looking at the exact same thing on screen- what a transformation! Sitting with the hand controller, controlling what appeared on screen, picking out the major landmarks and taking snapshots of it, he was in his element- he could not have been any more thrilled.

Without wanting to attach too much significance to one event and one child, I do think there’s a generation issue here. For me there’s something brilliant in the knowledge that the actual light my eyes are experiencing has travelled across space from the source of the object I’m looking at. But for younger people (and how much of an old git do I sound?), who are used to experiencing the world through screens and technology, this is what grabs them.

Some photos below to give you an idea of what we were looking at- they’re not the greatest as frankly I was having trouble getting anywhere near the controls!

A quickie…

After several weeks of either cloudy skies or work getting in the way there was an window of clear sky tonight. It was before proper darkness and a bit hazy too but beggars can’t be choosers…

Started off by lining up the scope and finders on Vega.

A quick sneak over to the Double Double, lovely and sharp in the 7mm

Down to the Ring Nebula. As was suggested to me, I’ve lengthened the tube of my reflector by attaching the plastic covers from a couple of document wallets with Velcro and this is helping a lot with contrast in my light polluted back garden. Even though the sky was a bit hazy, the Ring stood out as a lovely crisp..well.. ring!

And across to Albireo. Since the back end of the RAG mtg in May with Andy and Damian this has become a favourite target – I really love the contrasting colours.

Next up was M56 which is a new one for me. I managed to find it after a few sweeps between Sulafat and Albireo. It was a fuzzy dot in the 25mm, and a larger fuzzy dot on the 7mm! One to re-visit when the conditions are better…

M92 was lots better- was able to resolve 20+ stars around the edge in the 7mm- very pleasing.

And because you have to when you’re in that bit of sky, I took in M13 next. Always a joy… I find myself wondering if you were on a planet in that cluster would the sky look like Van Gogh’s famous Starry Sky painting? To quote Wikipedia “It has a densely packed central region, with up to a hundred stars populating a cube only 3 light years on a side. To illustrate: Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to Earth, is just over 4 light years away. In other words, stars in the cluster’s core region are about 500 times more concentrated than those in our immediate stellar neighbourhood.” I think it would really be quite something…

I was left thinking about that, because at that point the clouds rolled in a merciful 1 hour later than forecast. Only 40 minutes observing time, but 6 targets and a real bonus when I wasn’t expecting anything.

A little observing in France

We’ve had our last few summer holidays camping in France under wonderfully dark skies. As my interest in the night sky has grown I’ve wanted to bring my scope along- but as this would have involved deciding which of the children to leave behind, Mrs Leonard has said no! Inspired by what I’ve seen some of the club members achieve with much smaller scopes I found myself on eBay and eventually came away with a Meade ETX105. It has a nice sturdy mount with it, but with space really at a premium I was forced to use an alternative mount on this trip, otherwise known as a collapsible camping cupboard! It worked reasonably well, but rather lacks the heft and stability of the proper tripod…

Week 1 was something of a loss, with my not having accounted for the tall trees that covered the whole area, but one morning the moon did drift across the clearing our tent was pitched in and I ended up with a little audience of observers who came across from the playground to take a look. Also managed to get a couple of pictures…

Week 2 was rather better- the campsite was next to a busy road and rather light polluted, but a short drive to the beach (with Sam for company) solved that. The skies were pretty dark from 10pm onwards and once the scope was aligned we spent a long time looking at Saturn. It was noticeably higher in the sky than at home and the view was really clear and crisp in the 7mm eyepiece. It was only Sam’s second observing session so I spent the rest of the session teaching him the controller and looking at M13 Hercules Cluster, M31 Andromeda and M57 Ring Nebula. Hercules and Andromeda were bright and clear but the 4 inch struggled a bit with M57. The real highlight, though, was the great views without the scope of the Milky Way- clear and bright from out over the Atlantic 2/3 of the way across the sky to where the onshore light pollution washed it out a little. I’ve taken quite a few photos on various settings with the camera on a simple tripod and it’ll be a cloudy evenings project to try to turn them into something decent, but in the meantime a rather noisy jpeg is attached!

Canon SL1 / ISO 800 / f5.6 / 18mm / 60 secs exposure.
Rudimentary telescope mount…
Meade ETX105-EC / Canon SL1 ISO200 1/60 Sec


Think Tank in Birmingham

Had a fun time at the weekend at the Think Tank science museum in Birmingham. The planetarium there often has some good (if basic) shows and there’s a great set of photos by Tim Peake that you see whilst queueing , but there were 2 temporary exhibits of particular interest. One of them is a giant moon made from NASA images-seen below next to RAG Junior Member Sam for scale. There is also a mirrorball where each mirror is an image of an eclipse that is then reflected around the room. If you haven’t been the museum is well worth a visit even if it is a bit pricey…