Astrocamp Star Party – Brecon Beacons 22nd -25th March 2017

**** SORRY – CANCEL THIS – I just realised I can’t go that weekend. Oops ********


Hi Folks


I’m considering going to the Astrocamp Star party in the Brecon Beacons (22nd– 25th March). Is anyone else going , or does anyone fancy it?

Reply direct to me if you like


Ed Mann

07802 350187

Report on The Peak District Star Party

Peak District Star Party – Riverdale Campsite

Saturday 25th March 2017  

7pm to 11pm   No moon

M51 (The Whirlpool Galaxy) and NGC 5195  

It’s been my ambition for 20 years to see the spiral arms of a galaxy, and I finally got the opportunity to take my 16 inch Dob to a dark sky site last Saturday.  Shortly after arriving I asked a guy with a big Dob which galaxy is the best bet.  As I suspected, the answer he gave was M51.

I trained my scope on M51, and as usual, I could see this galaxy plus the fainter galaxy, NGC 5195 underneath.  Where I live, in town, I can see the bright core of M51, and the dimmer outer regions, but I can’t see any detail.  I was very much hoping things would be different in the Peak District.

By mid-evening I could see that the outer region definitely looked brighter in some places than in others.  I found that 150x magnification showed more detail than lower magnification.  As I moved away from the core, downwards and to the right, there was quite a dark area, then a brighter area as I moved further way from the core.  But I couldn’t piece the lighter and darker areas into a spiral.  By 10.30, however, I was confident I could see at least a little piece of a spiral.  The most obvious part started on the right of the core then swept down and round to the left underneath the core.  There was also a hint of one on the opposite side.  I decided that if I could work out from my own observations which way the spiral arms went round, then I would conclude I’d really seen them.  After finding some sketches on the internet when I got home I decided that this in fact was the case, so I’m counting the expedition as a success.

Other targets

As you might imagine, most other things looked a little more impressive, particularly M3, the globular star cluster just above Bootes in Canes Venatici.  The most noticeable difference was the Owl Nebula.  In the past I’ve only been able to see this using a light pollution filter, but it was clearly visible through the main scope without a filter in the darker sky.  I still couldn’t see the eyes though.  Unfortunately I could still only see the usual four galaxies in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster, M84, M86, NGC 4338 and 4435.  Maybe I’d have seen more on another night or if I’d stopped latter.

22 inch Dob and 13mm Ethos eyepiece

I had a look at M51 through an 18 inch Dob, and then a 22 inch Dob.  I could see a bit more detail in each, but not masses more.  It’s the same when moving from a 10 inch to a 16 inch.  There’s a worthwhile improvement in what you see, but not as much as you might expect.

Interestingly, both guys were using 13mm Ethos eyepieces, which would give them around 150x magnification.  The opportunity to look through a really big Dob and an Ethos eyepiece made the trip doubly worthwhile.  I have to say though, that I wasn’t sufficiently awed by the 100 degree apparent field of view that I’m going to buy one.  Nor would a larger telescope be practical given how I store and transport my scope.

The one thing missing

The one thing missing from this event was the car loads of locals who’d travelled up to see the wonders of the universe and take advantage of the clear sky and fabulous telescopes.  There weren’t any regular campers who wanted a look either.  I did, however, notice that the campsite bar and café were jam packed with people.  Shame.  At least some people benefitted from the experience.  I enjoyed myself.  Even my girlfriend said she enjoyed the evening.  Praise indeed!

David Geary

The Sun wakes up?

According to “Spaceweather”

“THE SUN WAKES UP: For much of the past month, the sun has been blank–no sunspots at all. This week is different. Two new spots are growing on the Earthside of the sun and they are crackling with C-class solar flares:

Big sunspot AR2644 has multiple dark cores as large as Earth and a ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field that harbors latent energy for strong M-class explosions. So far the smaller sunspot, AR2645, is the more active of the two, producing C-flares at a 5x greater rate.

Is the sun really waking up–or just turning in its sleep? Stay tuned for updates.”

Here is my image and GONG’s.

Galaxy Hunting Season

This time of year is, of course, galaxy hunting season in the Coma/Leo/Virgo areas, so make the most of it!

Here are a few more from last night. I have imaged the “Sombrero hat” before, but since it was well placed, I couldn’t resist another go at it.

I also tried for Jupiter, and again, somewhat disappointing. I think I will go back to the Toucam next time.

DIY Peak Star Party , Rivendale campsite from 24th March 2017.

It was great to see over 20 turn up ,in particular friendly faces from our club.

We had glorious weather with a stiff breeze on Friday. There was a sky full of contrails, which melted into some milkiness after that . Static homes provided security lighting now and again. But it quietened down later on. Those pitches to the rear having the darkest views.
Of particular interest were the Monster Dob Mob Dobs . The views of the spiral arms of M51 will stay with me .M13 filled the fov, as did M92. The galaxies showed so much interesting structure .
Even with my 10″ (sob)Dob, I caught the “Whale” galaxy and both Leo groups, including the lovely Triplet. Both Canes Venatici and Coma Berenices provided multi views of galaxies, before diving off into Virgo.

We managed both comets, 41P Tuttle at the top of UMa( some confusion there !) and V12 Johnson, faint in the club of Hercules.
It was a delight to catch an observable “Intergalactic Wanderer” ,NGC 2419 in Lynx. The hook of stars pointing to this most distant of globulars. Other Messier’s were soon toured, M3 giving super resolution. For a few folk it was the first view of some targets. There were some joyous grins, might have been drink or wind chill !
Saturday night excelled and gave a calm and clearer scene until later ,when mushy haze crept in. During the day it was very special to be able to observe Solar proms from a variety of set ups. A lot of activity up there and down here. Many thanks for sharing your setups and time, very much appreciated by all.

Phew, no mention of binaries (yet). I did nudge a few in the direction of Tegmine ! 
Hoping that we can find a darker site somewhere in that area. For those who fancy a couple of nights, it’s lovely. Make sure you book as far away from the statics as you can ! Nick.

Observing Log 24-25/3/2017, Andrew Thornett & Damian, LRO, Lichfield

Observing Log 24-25/3/2017, Andrew Thornett & Damian, LRO, Lichfield


Tonight I set up two telescopes: (i) my trusty ten inch Orion Dobsonian, my work-horse scope, and (ii) my Meade Lightbridge 16 inch Dobsonian, the enormous light bucket that I built the log cabin around – and which has not been out for some time (mainly because the ten inch is so portable and effective).

Pinwheel Cluster – Messier 36, Open Cluster in Auriga, 24 Mar 2017, 22:13:36. I started the observing session by looking at the open clusters M36/38/37 in Auriga. These three are easily found in almost any size of telescope and it was therefore a shock to me to find that it was very difficult to find any of the three clusters or M35 in Gemini using the sixteen inch telescope! I was expecting a highly detailed view of each cluster. Conversely, when I turned to look through the ten inch, all of these clusters were quickly found with far better views (although not as good on some other nights we have been out). Considering why this might be, it struck me that the sky was not particularly dark. When Damian arrived, he also commented that the sky was not entirely clear, but somewhat misty. This led to stars in Leo not being as bright as he would normally have expected. Further, my garden is in a somewhat light-polluted area and, hence, cloud (probable cause of mistiness), however light, will reflect back down to earth (and the telescope) some of that light pollution, brightening the sky background. I suspect that the 16” is more vulnerable to image degradation from all of these effects than the 10”.

Looking at the BBC Weather website it now says the sky is going cloudy, having promised clear skies all night previously….clouds not apparent here BUT sky is not fully clear and we have noticed the telescopes are dewing up very quickly.

NGC 2158, Open Cluster in Gemini,24 Mar 2017, 22:23:57. This is the “football” to M35 – a faint compact cluster on the edge of M35 – usually we can pick this up but not with 10” at 22:23 tonight, further confirming the lack of clarity in the sky.

NGC 2903, Spiral Galaxy in Leo, 24 Mar 2017, 22:31:51. Another failure – too faint? Although this was my feeling at this point in the evening, later on it became evident I was looking in the wrong place. Modern constellation stick figures on Sky Safari Pro 5 planetarium software on the iPad made star-hopping more difficult. Damian changed settings on my Sky Safari Pro to traditional constellation stick figures and I realised that I needed to look further east than I had been exploring.

Damian pointed out to me the “Three Leaps of the Gazelle”. He had described this in his talks but I had never identified them in the sky before. This is a naked eye observation, if you want to look for them yourself – quite satisfying to do so! The following is some information about The Three Leaps of the Gazelle from Nan D’Antuono (March 1997, accessed 25/3/2017). Along the southwestern border of Ursa Major, shared with the constellations Lynx, Leo Minor, and Leo lie three distinctive pairs of third magnitude stars known from ancient times by many names, one of the best known of which is the charming name “The Three Leaps of the Gazelle.” Three of the six leap stars are doubles.

  • (xi) Uma – This star is the “bottom” star of the southernmost leap, and is a fine close binary system for modest-sized scopes. The golden stars are magnitudes4.5 and 5.0 and are separated by 3 arcseconds; a lovely pair at 150 power.
  • (nu) Uma – The “top” star of the bottom leap pair of stars and a very different double from its neighbour xi. The components of nu are magnitudes 3.8 and 10.0, separated by 7 arcseconds. The bright primary accompanied by its faint speck of a companion, is a striking sight at 150 power.
  • (iota) Uma – The “top” star of the northernmost leap. This double is listed as magnitude 3.1 and 9.5, separated by 4 arcseconds. I have tried a number of times to split this with my 6 inch f/8 Dobsonian and have not been able to do it on nights when the scope has split zeta Bootis, a pair of 5th magnitude stars only 1 arcsecond apart. Fairly close pairs like iota with large magnitude differences between the components are more difficult to separate than stars whose magnitudes are of like magnitudes.
  • 65 Uma – A neat triple of white stars about 5 degrees due south of gamma UMa. At 45x, the star is a pleasant pair of matched white magnitude 6.5 stars. At higher powers one of the pair resolves into a magnitude 6.5 and 8.5 pair separated by 3.5 arcseconds. Of this latter pair, Burnham’s Celestial Handbook says that the brighter star itself is a double star whose components are a mere 0.3 arcseconds apart, making 65 UMa actually a quadruple star.
  • 2 (sigma 2) Uma – Visible to the naked eye at magnitude 4.5 under reasonably dark skies, and a fine system. This double’s stars are magnitude 5.0 and 8.5, 2.5 arcseconds apart. Looks good at 200 power. Sigma 2 has another companion of magnitude 9 about 200 arcseconds distant.
  • 23 Uma – This easy triple system’s A and B components of magnitudes 4 and 9 are 22 arcseconds apart; the magnitude difference is enjoyable. 100 arcseconds from the A star is the magnitude 10.5 C star.

24 Mar 2017, 22:46:22, Galaxies in Leo M65/66 – I found these in the ten inch by star-hopping. Clearly seen slashes, parallel to each other. The third galaxy of the trio was not visible. Sky appearing darker and somewhat clear now.

NGC 2903, Spiral Galaxy in Leo, 24 Mar 2017, 22:52:26. I star hopped to this…success…although not where I was expecting to find it – a testament to how poor my star hopping skills are – it happened I came across it by chance and as there is no other galaxy as bright as this one in the area I knew what is must be! I found it in ten inch. Damian came over to take a look and commented that it was not as bright as he expected. My own thoughts were that it was a lot bigger than I had expected and a lot rounder than I remembered it from last time I saw it with Damian (must be last year). In fact, tonight I thought I detected a hint of spiral structure in the galaxy but that is probably wishful thinking leading from looking at the professional image in Sky Safari before i looked at the object.

NGC 2158, Open Cluster in Gemini, 24 Mar 2017, 22:58:19. The sky is now clearly a lot darker and clearer and we found M35 in sixteen inch with good view and easily found the football NGC2158 adjacent to it again in sixteen inch. Looks like, as the skies get better, the sixteen inch comes into its own.

It is quite cold out here observing tonight!

Jupiter, Planet in Virgo, 25 Mar 2017, 00:08:33. Excellent view in 16” at low power with 20mm Explore Scientific eyepiece but blurred view at higher power using 6mm Ethos, probably due to poor collimation. Moving to 10”, wonderfully detailed view of Jupiter with 6mm. Three Galilean moons, good detail in belts no Great Red Spot at present time.

41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, Comet in Ursa Major, 25 Mar 2017, 00:20:47. After a cup of tea with Damian, I came back outside to find sky quality has deteriorated again. Much more misty. Unable to observe this comet due to mist, and also because it was located in Dobson’s Hole. Given the state of the sky, I bought the observing session to an end.

Conclusions from tonight’s observing session:

It was great to get back outside observing again – it has been too long – work commitments for both Damian and I have been too great plus skies rarely clear at weekends when we are free. For some reason, local skies like to be clear mid-week in Lichfield!

The sixteen inch delivered some excellent views at one point in the evening – above I have suggested that sky darkness was important. This might be the case but on reflection I think that sky clearness was more important. The large mirror performed poorly when the sky was not particularly clear. This is where the Orion ten inch seems to come into its own, peering through the gloom. However, when the sky was clear, the sixteen inch performed better than the ten inch as you would expect – tonight M35’s football was more easily found and observed than I can ever remember before.

Given the state of our local skies, this means that in practice the sixteen inch will probably need to be used in conjunction with the ten inch each time.

I was pleased at how easy I found it to roll the sixteen inch out of the log cabin. It was designed around this scope and this works well, although the grassed part of the garden could do with being flatter (quite bumpy and this makes rolling an unwieldy heavy scope across it difficult) and tonight I learnt how important it was to ensure the break on the eight inch castor wheels points outwards. Trying to turn them around by hand with nearly 70kg of telescope on top to get to the breaks and loosen them at the end of the evening was not easy!