Places of interest & Places to visit, including astro-tourism destinations

Observing Report- 17/11/18

Sam and I met up with Neil Wyatt on Saturday night for an excellent night’s observing and imaging at Brankley Pastures near Barton under Needwood.

Neil was already setting up his imaging rig when we arrived at 8pm, and Sam and I got our 8 inch dob out to get started quickly. Unfortunately we quickly found that it was a night of absent mindedness: I’d forgotten the trusses for the larger dob, Sam had left behind 5 of the 6 pages of his lunar observing plan and Neil didn’t have the memory card for his camera. I can see that if I’m going to do more of these trips a checklist is going to be essential…

The moon was high in the sky so we started off with doing planetary and lunar with Sam doing the finding:
– Mars- polar cap just about vsible but couldn’t see other surface features.
– Lunar- Copernicus, Tycho, Altai Scarp, Theophilus, Cyrillus, Catharina, and Clavius (just around the same time Roger was imaging it).

Unfortunately this was as far as the first page of the Lunar 100 log gave us. So next we tried for a few deep sky objects- looking at Vega, the Double double and the Pleiades. Neil also brought up the Pleiades in his ED66 and it definitely looked better it the little frac with wonderful contrast and sharpness. I then ran Sam home, which was a good opportunity to pick up some Hot Chocolate and Dob trusses!

On my return the sky was darkening with the setting moon and we switched to the 14inch for some more deep space stuff with views of M1 (faint), The Auriga Open Clusters M36 & M37, the Ring, Andromeda, M81/82 pair and the highlight of the night: M42. We switched between the dob and the ED66 and used various magnifications, eyepieces and filters. At 205x, without filters in the Dob we both managed to spot the 5th brightest star in the Trapezium. There is a serious risk of my getting stuck on this target all winter…

A really enjoyable evening, and a pleasure to observe in good company!

A note on the site: Brankley Pastures is a Staffs Wildlife Trust site near Barton- so quite convenient for many RAG members and where- at least in winter- it’s possible to observe with minimal risk of being disturbed. It’s not a completely dark site- there’s a significant patch of light pollution to the North (presumably from Tutbury), and another to the North East from Burton. But overhead the skies are much darker than home and there is a great southern horizon. It was brilliant, as the moon set, to see the sky come alive- with Auriga turning from an empty circle to one rich with naked eye detail. Just next time I need to remember all the key parts of my kit!

An ‘Astronomy’ related day – plus… I met an astronaut!

I started my working day photographing ceramics at Richard Winterton Auctioneers (you might have seen him on daytime telly – Bargain Hunt and David Dickinson’s Real Deal), ready for the next sale later in the month.

One of the early lots was this pair of Lorna Bailey limited edition ‘Celestial’ vases…. very much a space theme in evidence:

Later in the day I found Jon, our resident toy expert looking through some old newspapers, he’s here, hiding behind this one!

and..

I left work early as Julie had got us both tickets to Lichfield’s Guild Hall to see a talk by retired NASA astronaut, Winston Scott.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_E._Scott

It was a 5.30 opening for a 6.00pm start. We arrived just after the doors opened and I was surprised to see the back of a man in a blue jump-suit… the main man himself !

Considering Winston and his wife had only just flown into the UK and had been travelling most of the day, he had a big smile and seemed genuinely happy to meet and greet us (and everyone else) on our arrival. Julie and I had chance to talk with him before his presentation and I said I was a member of a local astronomy group. He asked about us and I told him about the new observatory. He didn’t just politely listen (as you might expect), but asked what sort of scope we were going to put in it, etc.

His talk lasted about half an hour. He told us about his childhood, education and how he finally joined the US Navy – becoming a fighter pilot, flying F14 Tomcats. As he explained for those that didn’t know their planes, that was the one made famous by Tom Cruise in TopGun – although he quipped that he had actually ‘flown’ the things! The picture below was taken after he had received notification that he was off to NASA for astronaut training…

He explained that he trained to become a helicopter pilot flying anti-submarine machines in the Vietnam war, before applying to NASA.

His talk continued about the training involved to become an astronaut and his two missions, which included early experiments for construction in space – what would become the ISS. One of the most important things he did (yet hadn’t practised for), was after the Shuttle had released a SPARTAN solar observation satellite that malfunctioned. It was decided that he (and his Japanese colleague) should try and manually rescue said satellite (because it was slowly spinning out of control, the Shuttle crew could not use the robotic arm). Instead the two astronauts strapped their feet into position and over a 3.5 hr EVA, Winston guided the Shuttle pilot ever closer to the satellite so the two astronauts could physically grab it and load it back into the Shuttle cargo bay!

 

The satellite in question:

A link to him talking about catching the satellite:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1tcA8GnPCj_xzMDYiKJ4X82BPtfpUyuUh/view?usp=sharing

He then explained the re-entry and landing procedure for the unpowered Shuttle and the extraction of the crew. He made an interesting comment… that you never see the crew leave the Shuttle as that is always done in isolation, “because some don’t cope with the return to Earth too well”, which is unlike the footage we see when they are being pulled / carried out of the Soyuz craft… had never occurred to me, that fact.

After concluding the main talk, the floor was opened for a half hour question and answer session which covered questions relating to travel to Mars, his training, pre-flight feelings and expectations, the private sector and space tourism, the future direction of space travel… and even his Navy ‘Call-Sign’… no, it wasn’t Maverick.. or Ice Man!

At the end Julie and I both went up separately to thank him. J got chance to ask a few more questions (!), one was about languages (as you might expect from a modern languages teacher!!!) and the other was about how they decide which way is ‘up’ in space – he’s answering that question below… (it depends on the craft).

We left with a signed photograph having had an absolutely super evening. We couldn’t have met a nicer and more down to earth guy. If intelligent life ever visited Earth, he would make a great ‘First Contact’ ambassador !

Damian and Julie

 

Moon, Planets and Stars over Sorrento, Italy 12-22/8/2018

Flew back from Sorrento today – from pristine blue skies to a cloud layer over the West Midlands! No chance of observing tonight in Lichfield, even if I owned a Takahashi!

To remember my trip, here are my photos of the Moon and planets (Venus, Jupiter, Mars) over Sorrento and of a couple of constellations during my trip – they show increasing separation between the Moon and Jupiter and an increasing phase of the Moon.

I don’t claim they are good – but they were taken hand held with my Samsung S7 phone and are a reminder of our wonderful trip.

Andy

         

         

Moods of Vesuvius

With so many other planets in the solar system now know to host volcanoes, I wonder if residents on those planets (and on exoplanets with volcanoes) see the range of volcanic moods visible to an observer here on Earth amd as demonstrated by Vesuvius this week below?

Duing our stay in Sorrento since Sunday, Mount Vesuvius displayed a wode range of moods as seen from our hotel and on our travels around the region. Our photos below:

Andy

Apollo, Diana and Mercury worshipped at Pompeii

Ean Ean, Rhys, Hannah and I visited today the lost city of Pompeii – destroyed in an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The population was part of the Roman Empire and the photo below is one Ean Ean took today of the Temple of Apollo at Pompeii. Devotees worshipped Apollo,  Diana and Mercury. There are many solar system astronomical associations with these gods.

The following are all extracted from Wikipedia.and Britannica.com:

Jupiter, also known as Jove, is the god of the sky and thunder. His children include Mars, Vulcan, Minerva, Hercules, Bellona, Mercury, Apollo, Diana, Muses, Nona, Decima, Morta.

Apollo is one of the most complex and important gods, and is the god of many things, including: music, poetry , art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, light.

Diana was the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and nature in Roman mythology. Like Venus, she was portrayed as beautiful and youthful.

Mercury was the god of shopkeepers and merchants, travelers and transporters of goods, and thieves and tricksters.

Andy

Why it was worth sending a rover to Gale Crater on Mars – lesson from the Amalfi Coast in Italy

This photos shows erosion in action on this island – like tje central peak in the martian Gale Crater, layers of rock are visible – the lower ones must have been laid down before the higher ones allowing a rover to sample different geological ages as it climbs the central mountain of the crater.

Andy

Island showing layering in rock similar to central mointain in the martian Gale Crater: