Category Archives: Uncategorized


Long time no speak. The last two-and-a-half years have been very bad for astronomy or, more specifically, my involvement with it. I have done next to no observing – apart from a trip to Australia to attend OzSky 2016 in April this year, of which more in due course – and this has been nothing to do with the weather.

Back in August 2013, I was sent by a local employment agency to work in a local factory making wood-burning stoves. I didn’t want the job because it was badly paid, in awful conditions and well below my skills, but I agreed to go because, quite frankly, the recession had put paid to the normal computing/admin work I do and I needed the money.

To cut a long story short, the work, while just 4 days a week, consisted of 0700 starts and 1730 finishes with a paltry 30 minutes for lunch. Added to which, it was physical work so that meant that any thoughts of astronomy, even at weekends, wasn’t appealing and, not only that, I developed a bad upper back problem and severe tennis elbow both of which were directly related to the factory work I was doing. I spent the entire 2.5 years looking for another job, without success but, by Christmas 2015, I finally had enough and I handed my notice in after the Christmas break on 4th January 2016. My mum had died on New Years Day after a series of illnesses related to COPD and I decided that life was too short to be stuck doing something you hate.
Luckily I had saved up enough money to pay for a trip to OzSky 2016, so I went to Australia for 2 weeks and spent one of those weeks doing the only observing I had done for a good couple of years!

Fortunately I now have a much better job, in IT admin for a large US-German company, although whether the UK EU Leave campaign winning the referendum (unfortunately) will have affected this, only time will tell…the political shit has already hit the fan, despite the referendum actually being non-binding, so it’s probably only a matter of time until the arse falls out of the economy (again). We’ll probably end up scrabbling around for a few quid while our political ‘masters’ continue to stab each other in the back in a never-ending quest for power and to line their own pockets, all against a backdrop of cries of ‘We’re free!’ (from what exactly? We are hardly oppressed by the EU) and ‘We have got our country back!” (again, how exactly?) from the leave camp.

Rants over, is this preamble actually leading up to anything you ask? Apart from attempting to explain to my one remaining reader why I had apparently vanished off the face of the planet this past couple of years. Well, yes. This – my back and arm problems mean I can’t easily use my 18″ so, while I’ll keep it for spring/autumn galaxy observing (I have no immediate need to sell it) I am now planning on going back to a 12″ scope and I have my eye on an Explore Scientific Ultra Light 12″. I wanted to get a dob with some form of locating system but these were too expensive, so if I get one without, I should be able to fit my Argo Navis DSCs to it.

Sunset shots

There was a lovely sunset yesterday. We were out and about in the west of the island and returned home quite late. It was clear in the early part of the night, but I didn’t do any observing because it was a little murky and predicted to cloud over by 1 AM.

The top three photos were taken with a Canon 600D and a 24-105mm lens at 24mm or 32mm, the bottom photo was with a 6D and 100-400mm lens at 100mm. The photos were taken at Brook beach, Isle of Wight, and from the viewpoint above Blackgang Chine (lower two).

sunset6august13a sunset6august13c sunset6august13b sunset6august13

Observing, 8/9 July 2013

I hauled the 18″ out for some summer observing. Because it doesn’t get properly dark here at this time of year, I decided to go for some planetary nebulae as these are good targets for the less-than-dark skies.

Date: 8/9 July 2013
Conditions: Very mild (14°C/57°F), 74% humidity but minimal dew.
Seeing: Good; Transparency: Good, improving to very good later.
Instrument: 18″ (457mm) f/4.3 Dobsonian with 22mm TeleVue Panoptic (90x); 12mm TeleVue Nagler (165x); 9mm TeleVue Nagler (219x) and 5mm TeleVue Radian (395x)
Oxygen III (OIII) filter

I began with some eye-candy, M57, but the reason for this was that I was having a go at seeing the rather difficult central star from home. I’d seen it from TSP once, with a friend’s 18″, but not seen it from home.
It eventually popped out in moments of good seeing. Pretty faint, but it was there. 395x

NGC 6772, Aquila – This has eluded me in the past but  I finally got it tonight. At 90x, it’s invisible without OIII filter but looks like roundish irregular smudge with the filter. At 165x it is only just visible without the filter but with the filter added, it looks like a slightly oval with ragged edges. 90x, 165x

IC 1295, Scutum – Easily found, lying just east of M11. Very faint without the OIII filter but nice and obvious with the filter. At 90x it’s a uniformly oval glow, elongated east-west with a star lying just off the western end.
At 219x, it’s visible without a filter as an oval glow only just brighter than the background sky. The OIII improves the view and the PNe looks a little darker in the centre. 90x, 165x

NGC 6803, Aquila – small, bright and easily found at 90x without the OIII. With the OIII, the PNe looks larger. At 219x it is big and roundish with fuzzy edges. Slightly darker in the middle. 90x, 219x

NGC 6572, Ophiuchus – Easily found, looking like a fat, intensely blue-green star at 90x. At 219x it’s distinctly oval and very turquoise. OIII doesn’t do a lot except make the PNe look a bit larger while 395x shows a definite north-south oval, although at high magnification the colour gets washed out. 90x, 219x.

I also looked at the Veil Nebula, M11 and M27 before packing up at 0100 UT (0200 BST)



I’ve got a bit of a dilemma. I have a couple of observing trips planned for next year and, although they’re at star parties and I can get the use of larger scopes at the star parties, I am thinking of getting a smaller refractor or Maksutov-Cassegrain for the times I don’t have access to anything else, i.e. before and after the star parties.

Because of airline cabin baggage restrictions, and not wanting to trust anything to the deprivations of baggage handlers, I am going to be restricted to an 80 or 90mm short-tube refractor or a slightly larger (102mm or even 127mm) Maksutov-Cassegrain. But the question is, which? A short-tube refractor would give me nice wide-field views but a Mak-Cass would give me a bit more aperture and magnification.

Nice dilemma to have though.

On a totally unrelated note, I’m watching The Hunt For Red October and, in one scene the main character is boarding a flight from London to Washington DC. Naturally, it being an American film and showing a scene in England, it’s dark and pissing down. Nice bit of stereotyping there. Of course, it’s always dark and wet here, same as it’s always nice, hot and sunny in the US, even in winter.

More things…

I was going to the Webb Deep Sky Society AGM this weekend, as there are some really good talks scheduled and, also, my friend Larry Mitchell, of Houston TX, is doing a talk and I was hoping to catch up with him. However, some dire personal circumstances have intervened and I’ll have to give it a miss.  My mum is critically ill in intensive care with a sepsis infection, pneumonia and a suspected pulmonary embolism and her chances of recovery, we were told today, are extremely slim because her organs are shutting down.

What with one of the dogs dying, a family friend dying and now my mum looking as if she will not make it to the end of this week, this is a crummy year so far and we’re only half way through it. If someone tries to tell me that thirteen isn’t really an unlucky number I’m not going to believe them…!


Just a quick post to say a few short things, simply because they’re really too small to warrant a post to themselves.

1. Solar observing…I have decided to have a go at solar observing. You can see The Sun Spot (witty title!) page by going to the link above.  At the moment, I am using my old 90mm refractor and projecting the Sun onto paper until I can get a proper Ha telescope.

2. Had a small observing session last Sunday but because the Moon was a waning gibbous, a day after full, I just took the 8″ Celeston Newtonian out to look at bright objects. I managed to look at a few bright galaxies and globulars before I got a bad attack of vertigo and had to pack up (our family have fallen victim to a particularly nasty cold virus that’s doing the rounds – mine gave me a sore throat and attacked my inner ear).

3. Australia! I am planning to go to OzSky 2014. I just hope it’s clear and starry during the first week of next April. It’s not booked yet, but watch this space.

2012 – The Year That Was(n’t much)

2012 was a very poor year for me personally, from an astronomy point of view.

Highlights were the IoW Star Party in late March. As usual this was a superb event and we were rewarded with quite a bit of observing time. Also the Texas Star Party, my fourth, in late April. Every single night was clear right through, if cold, and I did more observing that week than I did all year. I managed to do most of the Astronomical League’s Globular Cluster program during TSP, using a 10″ Orion dob I borrowed from San Antonio Astronomy Association. More importantly, though, I caught up with my friends, which is more of a reason to go to TSP than just the observing.

Lowlights – well, 2012 was completely rotten as the weather took a turn for the worse in April and stayed that way. Next time a water company official or a government minister states we need rain and asks for water measures to be put in place, will someone please gag the twat?

The deaths of Sir Bernard Lovell and Neil Armstrong, in August, and Sir Patrick Moore, in December, meant it was a particularly bad year in that respect, too. On a more personal note, I was sad to hear of the passing of John W. Smith, one of the founding and most long-standing members of Vectis Astronomical Society. Although he was more into astrophotography, John was an influence on me in my first years in astronomy and he will be sadly missed by everyone at VAS.

I also got made redundant, with no sign of anything new on the horizon as yet, so I am hoping 2013 will be a better year!



Sir Patrick Moore, 1923-2012

The world of astronomy lost one of its most colourful and famous figures yesterday, Sunday 9th 2012, when Sir Patrick Moore died at his home in West Sussex. When I first got into astronomy, slightly over 20 years ago now, Sir Patrick was one of my main influences and I never missed a single episode of the Sky At Night. I was fortunate to meet Sir Patrick on a number of occasions and he never failed to be kind and funny.

At the age of 89, someone’s passing is never a huge surprise but still a sad loss.

R.I.P. Sir Patrick.

2012 has been a bad year for the fields of astronomy and space exploration, with the deaths of Neil Armstrong, Sir Bernard Lovell and now Sir Patrick Moore.


Common sense prevails

The proposed bill by (obscure) MP Rebecca Harris to move the clocks forward by one hour in winter, thus scrapping GMT, and two hours in summer – thus completely wrecking any chance of doing any serious observing in late spring, summer and early autumn – has been thrown out because it is in danger of alienating the Scots.

This is a great result for amateur astronomers everywhere in the UK. ‘Double summertime’ (GMT+2 from March to October) was a ludicrous idea for many reasons – not least stupidly dark winter mornings, even here in southern England – and it is great that it is not going to receive (waste) any parliamentary time until at least 2015.

The real reason for the government deciding not to back this is, of course, the Scots agitating for independence – or, rather, their SNP-led parliament is – and the UK government does not want to aggravate the Scots people into voting in favour of splitting up the Union.

In your face, Rebecca Harris!

Always did like them Scots. 😉



As well as being Armistice Day, today’s date is notable for another reason, it is the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of this century – 11.11.11. The date reads the same, no matter which way round you write it – even for Americans.

As it’s Armistice Day, here’s a poppy. It was one of a patch growing in the garden.