Pete Lawrence's blog

Comet and Cluster

Comet Garradd passes the globular cluster, M15 in the constellation of Pegasus during the first few days of August 2011. Here's how to find it and what it should look like.

Comet Garradd will be edging past the relatively bright mag. +6.4 globular cluster M15 in Pegasus, the Flying Horse, in the early hours of tomorrow morning, 3 August.

Closest approach is shown in the mock-up, here. M15 is relatively easy to locate by drawing a line from star Theta (θ) to Epsilon (ε) Pegasi, or Enif. Extending the line by half as much again will bring you right to M15.

Artificial Flares

Love them or loathe them, artificial satellites aren't going to go away. So why not make the most of them by enjoying some of the amazing effects they can produce. In this blog entry, I'll show you how to see one of the most spectacular events of all - an Iridium Flare.

What is an Iridium Flare?

An Iridium Flare occurs when sunlight is reflected off an Iridium communications satellite in low orbit around the Earth. The satellite has three door-sized reflective antennae which, if they catch the Sun’s light correctly, reflect it back so that it can be seen at certain locations on the Earth's surface.

What’s so special about an Iridium Flare?

Massing or Missing?

If you're having trouble spotting the dawn planets in the May sky, don't worry - you're not alone!

If you look up in the May 2011 night sky, you might start to wonder where all the planets have gone. Saturn's still there of course, heading ever closer to the star at the base of the 'Bowl of Virgo' known as Gamma Virginis or Porrima, but the other's are notably absent. 

A spring lunar mosaic

Why lunar mosaics are popular in the spring.

It's spring time and when the Moon's close to its first quarter phase it tends to sit high in the sky after sunset and looks quite superb. If you're into deep sky observing/imaging, the natural light pollution from the Moon is a bit of a pain, casting a glare across the sky which can cause all manner of issues with your shots. If you're into Solar System imaging on the other hand, the lure of the Moon is irresistible.

A Basic Guide to Telescope Mounts

A description of the basic types of mount most commonly used for both visual and imaging purposes.

Mounts come in two basic types – alt-az and equatorial. Although they sound different, they’re actually very closely related, an equatorial mount being essentially an alt-az mount with one axis tilted over so that it points at your local celestial pole. In the UK for example, as we’re in the Northern Hemisphere, our local celestial pole is the North Celestial Pole (NPC) which is roughly marked by the star Polaris.

Too much sleep!

When the weather's been bad, as it has been lately, it gives amateur astronomers the chance to catch up on sleep, hone their image processing skills and reconnect with the daylight world.

The weather plays a key part in visual astronomy. If the clouds roll in there's little more you can do than twiddle your thumbs. In my experience, the weather comes and goes in batches where you'll typically get a run of bad weather followed by a run of good weather.

Eclipses galore!

Solstice total eclipse of the Moon

Missed the solstice total eclipse of the Moon on 21 December 2010? Well, don't worry because there's an impressive partial eclipse of the Sun coming up on 4 January 2011, visible as the Sun is rising.

It seems like ages since the last eclipse of the Sun or Moon from the UK and then there are two in close succession! The total eclipse of the Moon which occurred during the Dec 21st winter solstice, was a troublesome beast for much of the UK because of cloud and general freezing conditions covering much of the UK. The Sky at Night wanted to cover the event but the weather was very difficult to predict. As usual, it was down to me to advise on whether or not I thought we'd get clear skies.
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