Fast proper motion stars.

There are some fast proper motion stars up at the moment in Ursa Major.
Lalande 21185 (SAO 021185)at +7.5 shows the brightest red dwarf in ouf hemisphere. (RA 11h04m23s. +35 52′)At 8.31 light years away it is one of the nearest stars. It shows an enormous 4.78″ of proper movement per annum ( 8th largest motion)and has two giant planets of 5.8 and 30 year orbits.

Another fast mover is Groombridge 1830 ( SAO 62738) A variable +6.4. (RA 11h53m51s. +37 37’25”)This has the third fastest motion of 7.04″ per annum. ( Barnards star at 10.29″ and Kapteyn’s at 8.7″) It’s 29.7 light years away, part of the galactic halo. Incredibly old at 10 billion years.

Fastest of all is Barnard’s star (+9.5), it’s the fourth closest and the nearest in the northern hemisphere at 5.9 lys distance.

Of interest ,as regards observable motion,is Kruger 60 at the base of Cepheus, it orbits at 44.6 years.This is a wow pair of red dwarf binary for me ! Some of the smallest stellar masses known. RA 22h28m38s DEC +57 47′. Separation at 1.5″ at +9.8 and +8.3)I find it fascinating that over a few years we can observe changes such as these in the sky.

I was lucky enough to be handling some meteorites belonging to a friend the other day . Thinking about these not being any part of this planet was very moving. We are very lucky to have access to our Universe , to hold it in the hand is quite magical. You can collect your own micrometeorites by passing a magnet over any dry outdoor surface , such as rain gutters or that old paddling pool left out !


Heq5 pro Rowan belt conversion.

Lee came up today and fitted this belt conversion. From ordering , it arrived in the post after two days. All parts are beautifully engineered to exacting tolerance. The optional puller worked wonderfully well. We loaded up the ota with the 20lb. C6r ota.

Tracking, you couldn’t hear a thing. Slew rate at x9 and there’s just a lovely quiet whirr. There’s not the rattle of gears starting up and ending slewing. In addition there’s no need for lube on the cogs ( none) and elmination of backlash. Just need some clear sky to first light. It was great to get rid of the slack in the Dec , which had been annoying for some years.

The fitting instructions are such that you do need a practical expert at hand ! Time to fit was just over an hour, without need to strip the mount right down. Many thanks to Lee !


Astronomy in Harrogate

I have spent half term with Ean Ean and the children in Harrogate. The following pictures show that astronomy is everywhere, even in Harrogate!

Ean Ean has been advertising our astronomy group by wearing the club beanie.

The following is a photo of Venus over Harrogate.


I found this telescope in an antiques shop.

Although not astronomy, it is optical….a rather funny opticians display in Harrogate.


Spring galaxies.

Sky Safari allows you to make custom lists. These  might be of interest,We are very much hoping to observe galaxies at the Peaks. We have a couple of 16″ Dobsonians going , in addition , the “Monster Dob Mob” will there , with 18″, 20″ and 22″ Dobsonians,


Sodium D-line Quark

I see there is a review of the Sodium D-line Quark in the March edition of “Sky at Night” (at £1099). I have heard it said that D-line images are like a mix of White-light and H alpha. Here is a copy of some images I did from a couple of months ago where I did exactly that mix. Interesting to compare that with the image in the magazine.

Anyone spent £1099 so we can do a real comparison?!

Sun is still very quiet, but as a bonus extra, I have attached an image from yesterday. (rotated so it fits a screen aspect ratio better)

Absolute beginners . Advice for February.

An old friend asked me to forward advice to a teenager who had been to a local meet and got bitten by the observing bug.

It would certainly make an interesting open discussion topic. I thought my answer might be of interest,
You’ve taken the most important step,coming to meetings and asking questions. (Hopefully we might get to observe and break the cloud curse . Rosliston does have impressive dark skies. )If you’ve just started out, this might be of interest. This is just a kick off, hopefully some star hopping charts will be posted and some simple equipment guided. These are all better explained when out observing together.


Starting in February 

Practical advice.
First wrap up warm. Most heat is lost from the neck. So a scarf is good . February is the coldest month , don’t stop out too long. If the stars are really twinkling , it won’t be much good. Views high up are better. Low down and you’ll be looking through 90 miles of air , instead of 5 straight up.

Sit out in the garden with a red torch / head torch and a sky chart. It takes about 20 Minutes to get your eye dark adapted. Don’t look at anything bright ! Avoid observing when the moon is full. You can get good views by looking at the sky opposite the moon, if it’s bright.

Get to know the constellations and their shapes and where they are in the sky.Find their shapes and major stars. Keep a notebook put useful info down. It’ll all be confusing to start with. Easiest way is to concentrate on one constellation at a time.Get to know it’s shape , stars and where it is against neighbours.

This is one of the most useful starter guides around. It’s quite cheap on Amazon. Another good buy is the Collins Gem

This little book has loads of easy information and is pocket size. Astronomy is not better by spending lots of money. Simple equipment will get you results, it’s the sky that will give you good views.

Find your directions in your garden. Stars rise in the east and set in the west. Planets move along a line called the ecliptic , it runs east to west along the southern sky. Venus and Mars are visible by eye just now . Jupiter is very bright before dawn in the south.
Avoid any direct light when observing, that includes house lights, streetlights and the full moon.

Don’t squint with one eye at the scope. It affects your vision. Either hold your hand over your other open eye or use an eye patch. It really makes a difference .

For the best advice have a look at . There’s a beginner’s section on there and lots of useful stuff. The free app. ISS spotter will tell you when the ISS comes over, quite a sight.


Righto, let’s start. Find the Plough and the two pointer stars point to Polaris. This is due north and the sky rotates around it ( well nearby ). In winter the earth points away from our galaxy ( the Milky Way) and out into space. It’s the time of year to spot galaxies. In summer we point towards our galaxy . You can see this as a wide band right across the sky. It’s the time of year to see clusters of new stars and the great dust clouds of the Milky Way.
The same stars will be in the same positions every year, just learn them once ! There’s a lot to learn, take it slowly . Best way is one constellation at a time. Make notes of each constellation, it’s easier than the whole sky. I’ve repeated that , in case you’re confused already.

You’ll notice that the main galaxies , clusters etc. are given M numbers to identify them. These are Messier numbers , after the astronomer who found them. There’s a lot of history in astronomy. All objects are catalogued and referred to by numbers , such as the NGC and other catalogues. A simple chart will show where to find these targets . The easiest way is to hop from star to star checking with your chart. Use angles , compass and clockface times to get to your target. It’s much easier from the edge of town to begin with. The constellations are easier to find.

Dark sky will blow you away with dense star fields. Use low magnification , like x50 to spot these in the scope.


Need some dark sky, M51,M81 and M82 are up at the moment. Use x50-x80 on these faint targets.

Many types, the Orion Nebula , M42 is visible by eye under the belt of Orion. You’ll need a bit of dark sky and reading to get to into dark, emission , reflection and planetary nebulae.

Double stars.
Real gems , point the scope at Mizar / Alcor in the handle of the Plough . Find Cor Caroli for another lovely double. Near this is the galaxy M94.

Venus and Mars are up in the early evening. Venus gives a lovely bright crescent. Mars is small at the moment. Every two years the planets are opposite the sun and look bigger in the scope. These are oppositions. Some oppositions get the planets close and a lot of detail can be seen.

However bright, it won’t hurt your eyes, it’s the same brightness as a rainy road on a sunny day. However a moon filter won’t tire your eyes out. Look at the shadow line across the moon ( terminator) . This will show craters, shadows, peaks and volcanic rills in the surface.”Moon globe” is a great app.

There have been some so bright to be visible by eye in the last few years . There’s a morning one in Bootes at the moment. It’s very faint ( C/2012 V2 Johnson) and in a big scope I haven’t caught it.

Read as much as you can and keep notes.

Astronomy is the sort of pastime that the more you put in, the more you’ll get out. That includes planning your sessions and making lists of what you’d like to see, a clipboard is great .”

(I also advised about getting  the ” Pocket Sky Atlas” and the “2017 guide to the night sky”. )
Good luck and clear skies !
Old Nick.

“La Superba”, Y Canum Venaticorum.

The happy hunting grounds of the “Hunting Dogs”, Canes Venatici are well placed. This glorious area beneath the handle of Ursa Major. A favourite area and kicking off point for the Coma Virgo galaxy clusters.

It holds many galaxies including the magnificent M51( 27 million light years away) M94 (16 million lys away)and M63. A few years ago these were good targets from the edge of town. Light pollution has worsened . On rare nights  “The Whale”, “Cocoon” and “Hockey Stick” still come out. The most stunning being NGC 4449 which resolves to stars. However for small scopes and bad skies there are some stars worth locating.

Canes V is marked out as a line between Cor Caroli (“Heart of Charles”)at 115 lys away and fainter Chara at 27 lys away. These are useful pointers for galaxies. Cor Caroli is a wonderful binary for small scopes. It’s easy to find by eye and half way between it and Arcturus is the globular bright M3. A most useful pointer.

In addition there is a lovely star in CNv which I use as a tester for observing conditions, the fabulous “La Superba”. Once again, small aperture will serve you well, scooping up maximum colour. See what you think. If you can still get “Hind’s Crimson” star, you’ll see the much finer colour of this “Vampire Star”. Be aware that both these carbon giants are variable , catch them at their brightest !

Back to the superb one.Here’s its location and a few notes from Jim Kaler.

Y Canum Venaticorum – La Superba
Y Canum Venaticorum, called “La Superba” by the 19th-century Italian astronomer Father Angelo Secchi, is one of the deeply red-toned “carbon stars.” Y CVn is a semi-regular (SRb) variable star; its magnitude range is from 4.8 to 6.4, over a period that averages roughly 157 days. Other periods, including one of 2000 days, are suspected. “Y” is one of the reddest stars in the sky, and is classified variously as a C7 supergiant, or as a CN5 supergiant. Its beautiful poppy-red tone is easy to see in 50 mm binoculars.


Carbon stars are highly evolved cool red giants with atmospheres rich in carbon molecules. Most red giants and supergiants are richer in oxygen than carbon; carbon stars reverse the ratio. The unusually deep red color of these stars is the consequence of the efficiency of these carbon molecules in absorbing the star’s blue light.

Carbon stars were originally classed as warmer “R” and cooler “N,” and are now combined into class “C.” As giants, they are dying, and are in a mass range where the carbon byproducts of helium nuclear fusion are lofted to the surface before escaping into space. Huge absorptions by carbon monoxide, cyanogen or CN, carbon-2, and carbon-3 are present, giving the star its remarkable spectrum. The beauty of the spectrum is what caused Father Secchi to gave the star its name. It was described by Agnes Clerke in 1905 as having “extraordinary vivacity of its prismatic rays, separated into dazzling zones of red, yellow, and green, by broad spaces of profound obscurity.”

With a surface temperature of 2200 K, La Superba is one of the coolest of naked eye stars, though one authority puts it at 2800. At 710 light years away, the star’s luminosity is 4400 times the Sun’s, after a large correction for infrared radiation. This gives it a radius of about 2 AU – notably larger than the orbit of Mars. La Superba is most likely in the process of becoming a luminous giant for the second time, brightening with a dead carbon-oxygen core. Its mass is not well defined, but was probably initially at least three times the Sun’s.

Typical of its breed, Y CVn is losing mass, at a rate of about one ten millionth of a solar mass per year – a million times that of our Sun’s own solar wind – with a flow velocity of about 10 km/sec. Y CVn is surrounded by a huge detached shell of matter with a diameter of around 2.5 light years. The shell subtends an astounding 11′, or 0.2 degrees, as seen from Earth. It implies that the mass loss rate was 50 times higher in the past. La Superba seems poised to eject its outer envelope, becoming a planetary nebula with its dead white dwarf core at the center.

La Superba is also the sky’s brightest “J star.” These are a very rare set of carbon stars which have a huge elevation of the heavy isotope carbon-13. Though carbon-13 (with 7 neutrons in its nucleus rather than 6) is readily made in the nuclear reactions that help generate stellar energy. But no one quite understands what causes it to be so abundant in the J stars.

[Adapted from STARS by Jim Kaler, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy, University of Illinois]

clear skies ! Nick.