Sun changes in Ha.

Keeping a stack of quick drawings, it’s quite satisfying to note that every view is different and changes over short periods of time add to it all.

There is quite a wide sweet spot in the fov, it’s also best to tinker around with focussing. I’ve seen quite a few forum posts where folk , mainly new to Ha, have either given up or expressed dissatisfaction with the views. Taking time and patience , as in all observing will reap rewards. Any slight haze in the sky will dramatically deteriorate the views, hoping for clear skies ! Nick.

DIY observatory pier kit

Hi Folks

I picked up the rebar ‘skeleton’ this morning so we now have all of the necessary bits to build the pier for the telescope. The ‘skeleton’ is pretty substantial and I could only just pick it up on my own. I have all of the ducting in the garage and I’ll have to see how that all fits together now. The piece you can see on the right is the template that I made for holding the studs in place in until the concrete dries. It’s a piece of plywood I had lying about, which for the last 10 years was actually the platform for the slide in the village playground. We replaced it recently with a new piece. Recycling in action, huh?







“White sunspot” 27/07/2017

“SpaceWeather” ( says:

“WHITE SUNSPOT”: Sunspot numbers have dropped to zero this week as dark cores associated with sunspot activity have vanished. Instead of dark spots, the sun has a light spot.

The correct name of this phenomenon is “faculae.” It is a cousin of sunspots. 

Regular dark sunspots are magnetic islands on the surface of the sun. Magnetic fields in these areas are typically thousands of times stronger than Earth’s magnetic field. Sunspot magnetic fields are so strong, they block the flow of heat from the nuclear furnace below. They appear dark because they are relatively cool compared to their surroundings.

Faculae are also made of magnetic fields. However, the magnetism of faculae is concentrated in much smaller bundles than in sunspots. Instead of blocking heat from below, they essentially form corridors that allow us to see into sun’s hot interior, creating an apparent bright spot on the surface of the sun.

These bright structures are more common than you might think. During the peak of a sunspot cycle, faculae actually win out over sunspots and make the sun appear slightly (about 0.1%) brighter at Solar Maximum than at Sunspot Minimum.

I could see no sign of it on the SOHO web-site today, but it is visible in H-alpha. The spot is clear enough, but not much doing on the prominence front.

Bordeaux ‘Astronomy’ continued….

27-28th July

Heading back to Bordeaux. The weather has not been great to be honest. The last two days are supposed to be getting sunnier – we’ll see…

This morning (28th), before breakfast, we witnessed the tidal bore – a phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave (or waves) of water that travel up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the river or bay’s current. As the tide is linked to the moon, I thought that was a good place to start this new blog entry.

Whilst cruising towards the next point of interest, I’ve explored the ship and had a visit to the bridge to see the goings on there – watching the surface radar was rather hypnotic. There were a number of binoculars on display as well.

On the top (sun – or lack of!) deck, are the liferafts – our first tenuous ‘Astronomy Link of the Day’ (spot the name on it!)

Yesterday we visited Saint-Emilion, in the rain… perhaps this is a good thing as J and I are slowly turning into fishes (Pisces), with all the wine we’re drinking at lunch, dinner and the many wine tastings at the different Chateaux along the way….! We don’t really drink at home and sharing a bottle of ‘Abbey’ dark beer on a Saturday over a curry zonks us out – so how we’re coping here is anyone’s guess!

…or perhaps we’re not coping! At Chateau Fombrauge….

Waiting for the wine to mature…

….just outside Saint-Emilion, there were a number of much older ways to tell the time, these sundials piqued our interest:

….including this stone multi-faceted version, dating from 1679

Sundials are one of the oldest tools for measuring time using the shadow of the Sun. The Egyptians used a shadow stick or shadow clock as early as 1500 BC. The vertical stick or “gnomon” marked the time of day by the length and position of the stick’s shadow. Gnomon in Greek means “the one that knows.” Sundials are often mounted on a base while some are designed to be hung vertically on a building, wall or tree.

Multifaceted sundials were complicated time keepers, some having up to fifty gnomons (or arms) on them and although not precise, were more a statement of an owner’s interest in science, mathematics, and art. They were also an example of a stone mason’s clever and impressive carving skills.

There were some interesting modern works of art on the estates well, including this oversized wine bottle that had a bit of a space theme:

If Jules continues to drink at her current rate, she might end up like what was on the back…!

Poor Julie!

St Emilion is a pretty place. It would have been stunning in the sun, with the light glinting off the limestone.

This last picture overlooking the town was taken from the grounds of the rather swanky ‘Hostellerie de Plaisance’ hotel and restaurant… in fact it was a Michelin…

Two (or double) Star (that’s one for Nick), establishment!

At the end of the day, I think I deserved my cold Meteor beer!

Damian & Julie

Cygnus colour.

Battle of the forecasts, sScopenights app says clear all night, clearoutside ; computer says no. Quite dark and pleased to see the sinking crescent moon. Allset up and a trail of the Milky Way with the ISS brightly running down Cygnus. A few other bright ones later , in all directions.Started off with a wobbly Saturn, low in the south.

Some favourites in Cygnus, kicking off with a return to the fast “Piazzi’s flying double “, 61 Cygni. A cheery pair , just perfect. Then some real colour , very much worth finding, omicron 1 Cygni (30 Cygni) with 30 Cygnus. A wonderful orange and turquoise combination in a lovely star field.This is a complex (triple ) visual group with many designations
Some really great colour in Σ2666 in Cygnus (SAO 49438).

Down to a fabulous view of Theta Saggitae, probably the nicest view of a triple group in this arrow. Mains being yellow and blue. The star is a subgiant about two billion years old.
Just getting cracking and the clouds massed and blew in so fast it made the stars appear to move backwards. Between the clouds it looked very clear and dark.

Checked out a few of the old timers including NGC 7789 ( ” Caroline’s Rose”) looking spectacular , double cluster and a great view of M31. Worth getting out there ,
Old Nick.

Tenuous Astronomy Links From Bordeaux!

J and I are enjoying our cruise around Bordeaux after winning it in a photography competition last year!

Second place photo  – featuring the sun and the ‘Cocktail of the Day’.

We arrived on Sunday and with an hour or so spare before getting together for the ‘meet and greet’, I ‘marched’ Julie off to see the German 12th Flotilla submarine pens!

We come back to Bordeaux to visit the old town and historic sites, so thought she wouldn’t mind a walk down the promenade….!

An imposing site…. Although not a Nazi ‘Superweapon’, there were plans for advanced submarines that the Germans never got the chance to build, including ones with revolutionary air-independent propulsion and fully electric boats designed to operate completely submerged, unlike their diesel counterparts that mostly saw action from the surface – where they were more vulnerable to Allied counter-attack. Of course the most infamous ‘Wunderwaffe’ (Miracle Weapons) were the V2 rockets that eventually lead to man stepping foot on the moon with the Saturn V…. can you see the link below…?

We have been following one of those ‘Super Yachts’, never quite able to get close enough to see its name or registration marks…. until we moored up at Pauillac (at one of the street junctions we came across this earthenware sundial dating back to 1815).

Back to the ship…

Although ‘military’ looking, some of the people on our boat had spotted folks waving back at us, plus she flies the civilian ‘defaced Red Ensign’, registered in the Cayman Islands.

Turns out after some web searching, she’s the 75 million US$ – Skat:

Owned by Charles Simonyi, a former Software Engineer from Microsoft (responsible for the Office Suite) and the fifth…….. space tourist!

Sunset from Monday evening…

In yesterday’s (25th July) ship’s newspaper, I found this news snippet:

And whilst walking around Bourg on the River Dordogne, Julie came across this flyer in the Tourist Information Centre:

‘A Night With the Stars’ – a local town’s own Science Night, with planetarium, exhibitions and the like (plus the graphic fits in quite nicely with Rhys’ weather balloon experiments that Andy has been posting…

We had a cruise further down the river during the day before returning to moor overnight at Bourg. Julie and I went for a walk after dinner and came across a local chap feeding a…. ‘Castor’ (link Castor and Pollux being the stars in Gemini)….. so, what is a ‘castor’ in French….?




Yep, I’m that close to a wild beaver – spent a good half hour with him and his two relatives, plus the ducks and enjoyed a lovely sunset before heading back to the vessel…

On our return we found another boat moored alongside us – Americans doing the came cruise, but in reverse! We had a fun chat with them and enjoyed a New Moon…

All taken with with the iPhone!

Damian and Julie