Tag Archives: telescope

Earthshine

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Lucky, lucky.

The eclipse was prettiest as it began, golden and low to the horizon:

Overexposed on the idiot iPhone held up to an eyepiece, but it caught the earthshine:

Better camera, better image; some time near maximum:

The last shot of the night, as the umbra moved off the disc:

(Three taken through a reflecting telescope, so the images are flipped).

Inghirami

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The moon was nearly full last night; just enough shadowed terminator to reveal some craters.

Considering that the photos were taken by a phone being held up in the vague direction of a cheap refractor, they weren’t too bad.  I couldn’t capture a complete moon image through the 25mm eyepiece, because the phone couldn’t cope with the glare.  The shorter eyepiece gives a less bright segment that the camera could manage, but the sweet spot in the 10mm eyepiece is a bit limited.

Pythagoras is the one with the peak; Sinus Iridium and Plato show up well given that they have no defining shadows:

Inghirami is a good name for a crater (its floor in shadow and tucked in behind Schickard) and I don’t think I have ever identified it before.  Grimaldi and Hevelius are further north.  Again, without shadows I am surprised that Tycho wasn’t just one flat glare:

 

Four in a row

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The seeing was terrible: darkness barely falls, and the sky is thick with heat, cloud and muck.  Nonetheless the new refractor let me peer out.

First there was Venus, dropping into the trees but showing a fattish phase; then Jupiter, which graciously allowed me to watch Europa being occulted behind it; then Saturn, rings wide open, with Titan just visible; and at last Mars, almost at opposition but so low it was just a big orange fuzzball.

I’ve seen them all better; but this is a moment to enjoy seeing them at all.

Well that was busy

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After significant wrestling with rugs, curtains, windows, tables, books, boxes, bargains, shoes, and incoming parcels, we got to the serious stuff.

This included corporate creativity in order to adjust the fascinator with two pairs of heavy duty pliers and superglue (a treasurable experience)

and discovering that we female rellies from far-flung places had instinctively colour-co-ordinated ourselves.

The view from the back of the portaloos was the best I have ever seen from a lavatory (the other aspects were good too) and strop didn’t seem to break out until later.  All good.

Meantime, writing a level 7 assignment with the other foot … yes, that worked.  Writing is agony, but here is a keeper (especially since I discovered that St Menas may have won the Battle of El Alamein):

It was lonely without the sky so in a heavily symbolic act … I may have overbought.  It came today,

and I have been using the cathedral spire to align the red dot finder.  Can’t see the spire?  The scope can.  In fact it can count each red warning light and the knobs on the cross on top.

But can it see anything else?  Naturally, the moon is rising behind a band of high cloud and has turned itself into a gigantic fuzzball.  Isn’t astronomy wonderful?

Recent intermission

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Reading time has been rather gobbled up.

I may have selected this based on a subconscious connection with grass and the breaking of impenetrable sod:

Somehow I have managed to miss reading it down all the years; meeting as an adult, it raised quite a few questions.  One concerns the apparently reckless way the father takes his family off on a dangerous journey.  We have gone soft now.  Or perhaps it didn’t seem as dangerous, when any life was dangerous – even staying tucked into the most secure and prosperous home could not protect you from the epidemics of infectious disease which cut swathes through many a family.  Or perhaps pressure of poverty was strong enough to drive the migrants on. Then there’s the way Ingalls apparently makes the decisions without input from his wife (ah the good old days – ‘she for god in him’ etc.) And worst, of course, are the passages dealing with the native Americans.  Ingalls is portrayed as liberal, humane, but assumes that the western country is his to take because the inhabitants “weren’t using it”, and he is furious when, having illegally moved into Indian reservation land, he and other settlers were required to leave “their” farms. Ugly.

Then there is this delicate little sippet of a book.

Ah, the pure sensory pleasure of its satiny dust jacket, the smooth crispness of the coated paper, the careful balance of text and image, the reposeful colours, the spine coherent without wilful springiness, the clean smell rising from every page turn. This made it quite difficult to concentrate on the actual subject matter, but it too was charming in its miscellany of science, technology, art and history, and although the coverage is very slight, there’s a further reading list handy at the back.

One phrase, though originally intended to be satirical, spoke truth to me as an observer:  Thomas Tomkis in 1615 characterised a telescope as “an engine to catch starres”.  Out in the darkness with the Dob, that’s just what it feels like.

Is it lunchtime yet?

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Or bedtime?

Because I didn’t have to get up at seven I woke at four.  As I blearily tweaked the curtain, Jupiter glowed in a frosty sky, and I could hear it even when I tried to tuck back under the quilt:  “You’ll be sorry if you don’t… you’re awake anyway … you’ll be sorry if you don’t.”  Luckily the thermals were to hand in the darkness.  And the essential fluffy feet.

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It’s quite a while since I’ve been out at this barbarous hour.  The Plough of course; Leo; Virgo arranged around the beacon of Jupiter; Hercules; Lyra rising.  I fail to like Boötes, whereas my cockles always warm to Corona Borealis and Serpens Caput (as if they cared!), and Draco provokes tragicomic nostalgia.  In the still air, each wave was audible, growling onto the remote beach, the seventh waves thundering and dumping with suppressed energy.

I took out the 5″, but it had decollimated itself so I could barely pick out the belts of Jupiter, though it was pleasant to see the four big moons in a row.  So I stuck to eyeball and binocular, working to ‘see’ the squashed house of Cepheus, which for some reason my brain never identifies even when I know I’m looking straight at it.  Cygnus came up in the east, and at last Aquila began to appear, and the whole summer triangle was absurdly simultaneous with the icy car and crunching grass.  A shred of the waning moon rose at six, and through binoculars the earthshine was awesome.

One planet; one meteor; one satellite; the moon; and a thousand stars.  As I came in I dropped the 5″ on its head, poor thing, and made it more woggly than ever.  So now – if you can – collimate THAT.

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A few bays along …

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… from my usual.  (Click a thumbnail for the gallery)

I abandoned my companions with indecent haste, raced home for the binoculars and the grab-and-go scope, and was out the front door in time to catch the infant moon before it dipped into the trees.  Its horns were as fine as threads.  I could see the disc of earthshine they embayed, while the sky darkened, and the air began to bite.

Revelling in the cold

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The revelling won’t last, though I daresay the cold will.  So I nipped out with the 10″ to take a quick look at the Moon, as everything else was wiped out by it.

I always like the waxing gibbous phase, which conveniently brings some of my favourite features to the terminator.  I took a lot of snaps through the eyepiece; always frustrating to find that while one segment is pretty good, other areas come out blurred.  And the Moon image in the eyepiece was surprisingly zizzy considering it isn’t warm, which won’t have helped to get a sharp image.  I’ve turned the pictures upside down to make them right way up, and now they look peculiar to me.

1-waxing-gibbous-10-nov-2016There’s something very satisfying about Clavius, with its arc of smaller craters diminishing gradually in size like Russian dolls.  The camera managed to pick up the central peak in Rutherfurd (on the southern rim) and the smaller craters D C N and J (running away from Rutherfurd in an arc).  The unevenness of the crater walls is obvious, and I see there is a tiny hint of the rather mashed down central peaks (inboard of C, as it were) and hints of some of the other minor craters in the interior.  I haven’t attempted to identify all the surrounding craters – this part of the surface is a bit busy.

2-clavius-10-nov-2016And I have a fondness for Gassendi.  I think it was one of the first craters I learned by name, with its very distinctive shape where Gassendi A breaks the main crater wall.  This image caught some of the detail – the long ridge leading away to the east just catching the sun, the slump or depression in eastern wall, the break in the wall to the south, and just a hint of the concentric ridge which lies within the south wall.  Also a hint of the raised material inside the northern rim where Gassendi A intrudes. It would be too much to expect to image any of the rimae with my feeble equipment.

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On the hydrogen alpha line

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Standard warning for non-astronomers:

Never look at the sun with your naked eyes, and especially not through any optical instrument such as binoculars or telescope as this is likely to cause permanent blindness.  The photos were taken through a specialist solar telescope which filters out almost all the sun’s light – never attempt to make a filter yourself.

Today there was enough sky, which was just as well, as I fiddled with the feeble tripod, trying to make minute adjustments with knobs which were only designed for coarse movements.  Even using a 35mm eyepiece the sun soon roamed off and away, and with a short eyepiece I spent more time chasing the image than observing it.  And it was hot.  And things were biting me.

Of course if you could get a straight look, it was wonderful. The hydrogen alpha emission line is in a beautiful red part of the spectrum, and in the eyepiece it shines.  In that moment when the focus was fine tuned, and the tripod stopped wobbling, the tiny image revealed a huge prominence, looking simultaneously as delicate as a veil and as monstrous as an apocalypse, rising and flying above the sun’s disc.  Then the image moved off, and it was back to the twiddling and wobbling again.

And the pictures.  Not astrophotography; that suggests something technical, planned, managed, processed, stacked.  With my basic equipment, it’s a challenge even to get the camera focused and steady. Nor are these snaps.  The images do not look like what I saw in the eyepiece, because the camera can’t render the perfect vermilion the eye translates; and to make any of the detail which the eye saw appear on the photographs, they have been tweaked using the primitive capabilities of iPhoto.  So here they are: pictures, anyway, artificial in any sense of the word.

One tweaked to reveal a hint of the delicate complexity of the largest prominence:

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and one fiddled with to show something of the active sunspot areas and even, I am amazed to see, some of the filaments crossing the disc:

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If you want to see what the prominence ‘really’ looks like try this link, and then click on the image to see it breathtakingly full size:

http://spaceweathergallery.com/indiv_upload.php?upload_id=129260&PHPSESSID=13ne21ph75ssvvpq8mopn98bj7

But of course it doesn’t ‘really’ look like this.  Even in hydrogen alpha.

Perfectly maddening

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Tiny jigsaw pieces of sky between clouds before the rain came in.  I gave up on the solarscope but because the 5″ tracks I was able to take a few glimpses through the Baader filter.  No good photos though, just a fuzzy one.

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Standard warning for non-astronomers:

Never look at the sun with your naked eyes, and especially not through any optical instrument such as binoculars or telescope as this is likely to cause permanent blindness.  The photo was taken through an astronomy grade white light filter  – never attempt to make a filter yourself.