Category Archives: Weather


There was a nice little storm late this evening. The thunder was nice and loud – which didn’t go down well with the dogs and the puppy hid under a bed – although we were a bit short changed in the lightning department, with plenty of (boring) sheet lightning and hardly any forked lightning, but I was able to catch a cloud-to-cloud lightning bolt.
I was out in the garden watching and photographing the lightning and there was a very eerie rushing noise which sounded like the wind but wasn’t. I couldn’t make it out what it was as it got louder and louder…then the hail started – that’s what the rushing noise had been, the approaching hail.



Since 2009 I have tried to keep a record of clear nights and cloudy ones, and I’ve tried to be as accurate and as consistent as possible, with other people keeping a note of the conditions for me when I am away. Obviously it’s far from scientific, especially as I only started this in July 2009 and it’s a case of me keeping an eye on the sky and writing down what I see, but it gives some overview of the amounts of clear nights v cloudy ones.

2012 seemed to be a diabolical year for astronomy, the weather was useless, particularly through the summer months, with August in particular being very cool and wet, and I did very little from May onwards. However, looking at my clear sky spreadsheet, which I’ve kept going through all that time, paints a somewhat different and not quite so bleak picture which is somewhat surprising. I guess another factor in putting astronomy aside for a while has been burnout; simply put I’d been thinking of and doing nothing but astronomy for the previous few years so, combined with the cold, miserable summer we had, a fairly cloudy autumn season and a very cold and snowy winter, it’s not surprising that I put it aside in favour of my other interests for a while.

Anyway, this is what I have so far (ignoring the latter half of 2009, as I only started doing this in July of that year). For the purposes of this, I consider ‘partly clear’ to mean 50% or more of the sky to be clear; these are ‘observationally usable’ nights, in that I can at least do something.

2010 – 116 totally clear nights (32%); 54 partly clear nights (15%); Total = 170 (47%)

2011 – 104 totally clear nights (28%); 52 partly clear nights (14%); Total = 156 (43%)

2012 – 101 totally clear nights (27%); 48 partly clear nights (13%); Total = 149 (41%)

2012 was a leap year and 29 February was partly clear and not cloudy.

It looks like a downward trend, we’ve gone from 116 clear nights in 2010 to 104 in 2011 and 101 last year, but as this is so far only representative of three complete years, it’s too early to say whether this will continue. Obviously I hope it won’t but a decade or, preferably, two of this unscientific method of mine may reveal more.

As I type, the weather is quite chilly, windy and showery, not unusual for early May but I sincerely hope we get a reasonable summer this year. Even an okayish summer will be better than last year.

Back in business…

…I hope!

After 11 months of crap and cold weather plus a bit of de-motivation on my part, my observing stuff has been found and gathered together and the 18″ scope is out awaiting assembly later. I am hoping to knock off a few galaxies in the usual constellations this evening but I am also hoping it doesn’t cloud over. It shouldn’t do, according to the forecasts, but BBC/Met Office forecasts should be taken lightly. Anyway, the weather is predicted to go downhill after tomorrow.

It’s TSP week this week, I wish I was there but, from what I’ve heard the forecast isn’t looking promising for them either. Hopefully they’ll have a good week but they’ll have their work cut out to beat last year, which was epic.

Isle of Wight Star Party 2013

The 2013 Isle of Wight SP, which finishes tomorrow, was held between 7th and 11th March. I had planned to stay at Brighstone again but things didn’t work out and, as it happened, it’s probably just as well as, for the first time the weather has not been kind to the star party-goers. I had to work Thursday, Friday and Monday at my temporary job, so it wasn’t worth staying there, but I did pop over on Saturday afternoon to visit and see my friends.

I took a few photos of the site, with my small Pentax bridge camera (I am currently DSLR-less because I’ve part-exchanged my 7D for a 6D, which is full frame, simply because I want to get into taking more wide angle astrophotos, landscapes and maritime shots and the 6D’s high ISO performance is supposed to be nothing short of superb. I am hoping it arrives on Tuesday).


Isle of Wight Star Party 2013

Isle of Wight Star Party 2013

Isle of Wight Star Party 2013

Isle of Wight Star Party 2013


Despite the grotty weather, people had a good time and even managed to do some limited observing through sucker holes, plus some solar observing when the sun put in the occasional appearance. I was sorry I couldn’t stay longer than the couple of hours on Saturday but there’s always next year.

Hopefully the weather will clear this week because we have a bright comet to look forward to, Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) will be visible in the west after sunset. Wednesday is looking good and I hope the new camera has arrived by then.

Winter lasts as long as winter lasts, but this winter seems to have been interminable, probably because 2012’s summer was so poor, and there have been no real opportunities to observe. I hope 2013 will be much better. We can hope, anyway.

Losing the will to live.

It’s been ages since the previous post but that’s because nothing has happened. The weather continues to be utter shit and I have done no observing. What clear skies there have been have been spoiled by fog or the full Moon.

I am fed up with this and am this >-< close to saying ‘fuck it’, packing it in and selling my stuff. My interest is at an all-time low thanks to the crap weather and encroaching light pollution and, if I had the money and means to do so, I would emigrate.

The summer was dreadful, apart from 8 days in May, a few nice days in June or July and the first week of September when we did get some good weather and reasonable temperatures. It’s rained almost constantly and, because the ground is saturated, there’s a lot of moisture when it does clear.

Oh, and I am now redundant, with not much else in prospect, which doesn’t help.

The view from the dining room window this afternoon:



I am going to change things round, nothing major, just swapping my plastic shed at the top of the garden for the larger wooden shed next to the house. The main reason for the change is that I don’t like going to the top of the garden to observe because a neighbours’ lights interfere, erecting a tarpaulin each time is a pain in the neck and, also, there is not much room at the top of the garden because it narrows considerably so I end up trampling my aunt’s plants in the dark and I have also stepped in the pond on a couple of occasions! Fortunately the pond is only a foot or so deep.
I have always preferred observing on the lower lawn, although I have a better view of the sky from the upper lawn, I am not easily spooked or anything like that, it is just a matter of preference and neighbours’ lights aren’t so much of an issue on the lower lawn.

The big shed, which has a tiny, lean-to one next to it, is supposedly my aunt’s gardening shed but, in reality, is actually used as a dumping ground for stuff we don’t want. It’s full of things which need taking to the tip and, once that is cleared out, de-spidered (very important this, as I am a card-carrying arachnophobe) and repainted I can move my stuff into it. Apart from my scope and other astronomical items, it will also house my surfboards and the sun loungers.

This isn’t actually my idea, my aunt suggested swapping sheds as she pointed out, the wooden shed – which is a proper wooden shed, like a summerhouse, not that cheap ship-lap rubbish – will be much better for my scope than keeping it in the plastic shed which is poorly insulated and I don’t think it’s doing my 18″ mirror any good. The plastic shed also sometimes leaks slightly when it rains, due to the rain blowing in through the vents. And one more thing – I won’t be worrying that the shed will blow down every time a storm comes along!

Apart from the clear out of clutter, dirt and spiders plus the repainting, the other thing that has to be done is getting a ramp. The shed has a step up to it because it is built up off the ground to avoid damp and to prevent mice and rats getting in so, after making various measurements, I have ordered a wheelchair ramp which can be fixed to the step as and when needed. I chose a wheelchair ramp because these are both easy to get, not horribly expensive and what is safe for a person will definitely be safe for my big telescope.

This shows the current state of the inside of the wooden shed! All this stuff is destined for the tip, and just dumped in the shed to get it out of the way. There’s a large television lurking among that stuff somewhere!


Bringing my observing spot back down nearer to the house will also mean more sessions. Apart from the neighbours lights being a pain in the arse, I developed an aversion to going to the top of the garden to observe. Don’t ask me why, it just is. I think it’s because I felt overlooked, despite the fact my spot can’t be seen either from the neighbours’ house or from the footpath that separates the respective gardens, especially in the dark – and the footpath is another factor. The photo below is the neighbours’ house, as seen from my current observing spot, with the offending window; they also have an annoying insecurity light they put on for their dogs.
I also won’t have to lug my other equipment (eyepieces, books, dew zappers, etc) up the garden either. It can just be placed outside or stored in the shed.

Changing the subject somewhat, in the news this week, depending on which source you looked at (it was mostly reported on the BBC – interestingly it was only reported in the more left-wing liberal press) it was reported that the Arctic ice is melting at an ever-faster rate, meaning that it could possibly be all gone during the summer from 2030. This could have ramifications for the climate of Northern Europe because, as sod’s law would have it, it probably won’t improve and become a nicer Mediterranean climate, it will instead become stormier, resulting in more crap summers like the abomination of a ‘summer’ we endured this year. Scientists believe this will push the jet stream further south, allowing stormier weather in over northern Europe, which is precisely what happened this summer. This is worrying for the future of amateur astronomy in the UK, which is bad enough as it is but, that said, this is what *could* happen and not necessarily what *will* happen and, even so, we should still get enough clear nights – anyway, by 2030 (when I will be 60! 😮 ) I may well have cleared off to warmer climes.

Looking at my clear sky spreadsheet for this summer highlights just how bad summer 2012 was, with few clear nights. May was ok, despite the unsettled weather, June had four clear nights and two partly clear ones, July had 11 clear nights but August was the worst month, making dismal reading with a paltry ONE clear night and seven partly clear ones; this is highly unusual for August which is generally pretty good for observing. June I’m not too bothered about, as it’s too light to observe anyway, but it is usually our clearest month. Time will tell if this is an aberration or the sign of something more sinister.

We have had four clear nights so far in September but these have been marred by dew and fog. I set up the other night, only for everything to be soaked within a matter of minutes, overwhelming the dew zapping equipment and forcing me to quit before I’d even found my first object. Not only that, but mist also rolled in, making deep sky observing impossible.

Sky shots

In the complete absence of any observing whatsoever for ages I have been doing other things. Last week I went, with a friend, on a cruise on the P&O ship Oriana from Southampton to Amsterdam and Zeebrugge and back to Southampton and very nice it was too. Except for the rain as we departed and as we arrived home. However, I did manage to get a couple of spectacular sky shots.


Moon rising behind Oriana’s funnel

The tanker ‘Minerva-Julie’ against a spectacular sunset sky


Cloud shadows (upper part of picture) cast by the setting sun


My Deep Sky Binocular pin and certificate arrived while I was away. I haven’t got round to thinking about the next project – in fact I am wondering if the sky will ever clear again and why, exactly, I spent £3.5k on an 18″ telescope. Why did I take up such a frustrating hobby? So our latitude means that serious deep sky observing is not really possible between late May and late July but that’s not the point. Shit weather is still shit weather and it’s been going on for bloody months now! Observing is only part of it, I want some decent sunny weather and warm temperatures, something this country *is* capable of providing when it wants to.

Pope is, indeed, Catholic – tell us something we don’t know

In ‘breaking news’ last night it was announced that this second quarter – April to June – has been the wettest since reconds began in 1910. I think we could have worked that out for ourselves, given the appalling run of weather we have had for the past three months. It makes me more glad than ever to have been to the Texas Star Party this year, although thinking back to that does put into sharp focus just how utterly shit our climate can be is and what UK astronomers are missing. I wrote a while back about how our climate isn’t *that* bad, depending on where you are in the country, with the south east being better than the north west, but at the moment I feel like a prat to have written it.

Reading on Facebook and Cloudy Nights boasts/moans about hot weather and sunshine elsewhere does nothing to dispel the gloom either.

Beyond a joke.

This is what is passing for summer, this year. We have had two MONTHS of this, bar a short pleasant spell at the end of May.

Utter crap.

Spring? Summer? More like Autumn!

British summers have a reputation for being a bit..well…crap. They can often be glorious but, equally, they can be  just rubbish. This spring going into early summer has been utter garbage with, apart from a nine-day spell of glorious sunshine and 86°F temperatures, two MONTHS of rain, gales and more rain. This is utter crap even by our usual fairly low standards, but the south coast doesn’t usually get months on end of rubbish weather, this is usually the preserve of Scotland.

Part of the reason, apart from Atlantic lows coming in from the west is the jet stream which should be over the north of Scotland right now but, instead, is lying over the south of England. This is about the third or fourth straight year it’s done this and it’s getting old now. I have said for a long time I want to emigrate but now, if I could afford it and had a job to go to, I would go tomorrow as this is one crap summer too far!

It is admittedly academic, given that there are no real dark skies until the middle to end of July, but so far this June we have not had a single clear night…NOT ONE! I may not be observing at this time of year but I want high temperatures and sunshine, not wind and rain! Apart from that 9-day nice spell May was nearly as bad but we did actually muster up 14 clear nights out of 31. I was away for half of April but that was very poor from the information I was given. If it’s any consolation it’s the same situation on the Continent and, Down Under, conditions are also miserable (but not surprising as it’s coming into their winter).

What do we want? SUMMER! When do we want it? NOW!

Finally, and on a totally unrelated but more cheerful note, with the Queen’s Jubilee recently and other exciting British things coming up during the rest of the summer (I use the term summer loosely, given the current diabolical conditions), here’s a patriotic tune to tap toes to, the Grenadier Guards’ marching tune.


Oh and good luck England in their final Euro 2012 group game on Tuesday – and beyond…