Category Archives: Observing

Super Moon Eclipse

Early tomorrow morning or tonight (depending on where you are), if you have decent skies you may be able to enjoy this eclipse.

The eclipse begins about 02:35 UTC. The images came from Wikipedia, pretty good.

Not sure if I will get to see it or not, depends on this storm. The image below was taken from my front door this morning. We have around 30 cm / 12 inches of new snow on the ground and it looks like there is another 30 to 50 cm on the way.

I need to get out and see if I can get some of it cleared away, it has warmed up to -18 C, I’ll wait a bit more but the wind is supposed to be bad so I don’t want to wait too long.

Oh and yes the roads are passable if one get to them.

M 105

A very nice Hubble image of the Messier Object 105 or simply M 105.

A good telescope target not that it is all that bright or distinctive but it is in a nice region of the sky with plenty to look at.

The ESA caption: It might appear featureless and unexciting at first glance, but NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observations of this elliptical galaxy — known as Messier 105 — show that the stars near the galaxy’s centre are moving very rapidly. Astronomers have concluded that these stars are zooming around a supermassive black hole with an estimated mass of 200 million Suns! This black hole releases huge amounts of energy as it consumes matter falling into it and causing the centre to shine far brighter than its surroundings. This system is known as an active galactic nucleus.

Hubble also surprised astronomers by revealing a few young stars and clusters in Messer 105, which was thought to be a “dead” galaxy incapable of star formation. Messier 105 is now thought to form roughly one Sun-like star every 10 000 years. Star-forming activity has also been spotted in a vast ring of hydrogen gas encircling both Messier 105 and its closest neighbour, the lenticular galaxy NGC 3384.

Messier 105 was discovered in 1781, lies about 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion), and is the brightest elliptical galaxy within the Leo I galaxy group.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, C. Sarazin et al.

Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen is in our night sky and visible without a telescope. I cannot say it is a naked-eye object, but I will qualify that by telling you I have not been out in the most favorable time. Most of my viewing has been at 03:00 to 04:00 and if I could get outside a couple hours earlier I might indeed glimpse it. So I am looking to the west and not so much to the south. I do have pretty good skies too so if you have any light pollution at all you will need assistance in seeing Wirtanen (in my experience that is).

If you have even a small pair of binoculars you are all set. I chose the image above because it is a great facsimile of what I see (image from: Astronomy Sketch of the Day). If you have even a small telescope you may be able to see a tail.

How do you find it? The best finders chart I’ve found is here and the chart comes from the Comet Wirtanen Observing Campaign website.

Hopefully I will be able to get one of my scopes on it this weekend. From the weather forecast here that is in doubt, so it’s either brave the -20 C temps or hope the clouds and rain (!) stays away.

November Skies

Great month for sky watching, Around these parts one has to pick their days because it is the cloudiest month of the year; but when the sky is clear the viewing tends to be excellent!

Hoping for those clear skies for the Leonids!

October Skies – 2018

In the northern hemisphere October is typically a month of great viewing (and seeing). So far around these parts that does not seem to be the case. It’s early though so I am hoping for an improvement because November is TERRIBLE – cloudiest month of the year.

Anticrepuscular Rays over Southern Tuscany


This glorious image from C) Ollie Taylor (limks below), via ESA illustrates wonderfully one of my favorite things – Atmospheric Optics.

Keep an eye on the sky and you too can see many of the optical effects described in my favorite atmospheric optics site, oddly enough named Atmospheric Optics – check it out and see what you can put to use, I think it’s great fun when it works out. The coolest thing I think I’ve seen and I may have a picture of it is the supernumerary rainbow.

Here is ESA’s caption to this great photo: This panorama comprises five images showing the Sun setting over the medieval and Renaissance town of Montepulciano, southern Tuscany.

While the enormous ball of hot gas that is our star cannot be directly seen, its presence is suggested by the radiant streams of light emanating from below the horizon — called anticrepuscular rays, or antisolar rays.

Despite appearing to meet at a point just below the horizon, the rays are in fact near-parallel beams of sunlight. Similar to the way that parallel railway lines seem to converge at a point in the distance, this is a trick of perspective; while these rays of sunlight do eventually meet at the Sun, it is a great deal further away than they make it appear.

Earth’s atmosphere, made up of gases, particulates and clouds, has shaped the way humans have seen the Sun for as long as they have been able to perceive it, for example making the white-hot star appear yellow against a blue sky, masking the infinite blackness of space.

However, as soon as we get past this protective layer, the true effect of our raging Sun becomes apparent in the fast changing, and potentially harmful environment of space, where space weather rules.

Space weather refers to the environmental conditions in space as influenced by solar activity; besides emitting a continuous stream of electrically charged atomic particles, the Sun periodically emits billions of tonnes of material threaded with magnetic fields in colossal-scale ‘coronal mass ejections’.

These ‘solar sneezes’ can and have caused significant disruption to Earth’s protective magnetic bubble and upper atmosphere, affecting satellites in orbit, navigation systems, terrestrial power grids, and data and communication networks. A recent ESA study estimated the potential impact in Europe from a single, extreme space weather event could be about €15 billion.

For this reason, ESA is planning a new mission to monitor the Sun’s activity and provide early warnings. The spacecraft will be positioned between the Sun and Earth at a special position called the fifth Lagrange point. From here, it can observe the ‘side’ of our star, detecting rapidly changing solar activity before it reaches Earth, providing much-needed warning of extreme weather events, allowing measures to be taken to protect and minimise any possible damage to satellites in orbit or infrastructure on Earth.

More images by UK-based photographer Ollie Taylor can be found on his website, or via Instagram and Facebook.

The Perseids are Here!

My best recollection of the Pereids came from one night years ago now. I was in the back seat of my car, looking upwards through the hatchback window. No, not like that! I was the backseat passenger of a car load of students learning how to initiate intravenous therapy, actually the first class where the class was starting IV’s on each other. Anyway the 45-minute journey was an incredible Perseid viewing experience – as was the EMT class.

Ok, I digress. GO OUTSIDE AND LOOK TO THE NORTH! Not just now but tomorrow too!