Fourth of July

Firstly, I would like to wish my American friends a very happy Fourth of July! I hope you all have a great day. 🙂

It was clear last night but, as it’s only the beginning of July, it still isn’t 100% dark, so I didn’t take the 12 inch outside (although once the shed’s up and the scope installed, that will change as I won’t have the effort of lugging it in and out of my room) but I did do a quick binocular session.
My first interesting object – two objects in fact – wasn’t a natural celestial body but the International Space Station, at 2300 BST (2200 UT). The ISS flight path takes it over here and you see it about every 90 minutes on a clear night, not much of a big deal these days as it’s familiar enough. However, in front of the ISS was a smaller, fainter, satellite on the same course and moving at the same speed. I knew it wasn’t the Shuttle, as none are in space at the moment (and soon, sadly, none will be ever again 🙁 ) so I did wonder what it was, until I remembered an item I’d seen on the BBC News website earlier in the day about the Russian Progress cargo ship which was supposed to dock with the ISS but which had malfunctioned. Progress had overtaken the ISS while the mission controllers were working out how to fix the problem. I asked about it on Facebook and, apparently, it was Progress I saw.

I went back outside later, at midnight, with my 8×42 binoculars and just scanned around once I’d got dark adapted. I just looked for Messier objects and I saw M81, M82, M4, M22, M16, M17, M20, M8, M103, M11, M39, M10, M12 and M24. Ok, I know it’s not exactly hard core deep sky observing, but it’ll do me for now until observing can properly begin again later in the month.

In Astronomy Now last month it was stated that M7 is not visible from the United Kingdom. That may be true further north but not true on the Isle of Wight. I can’t see it from the back garden here because of a low hill with trees on the top of it about quarter of a mile away (last night, I stood on a garden chair to see if I could spot M7 in between the trees on the hill but without success) but, at -34 declination it is certainly visible, if a little murky from being so low down, from the island. I have seen it from the Vectis AS observatory site just down the road and I have seen it from the Military Road. So, yes, it is visible from the UK.

The new ‘observatory’ is finally under way. At left is the miniscule progress so far. With help – I have a dodgy back and worse knees and my aunt has arthritis! – this should be done this week and the shed assembled.