The last Moon of 2017?

The Moon kept me company over my left shoulder as I walked up the Wrekin in Shropshire today. It was quite beautiful up there, and luckily, the clouds stayed away tonight, and I was able to do some lunar photography through my 8″ Skywatcher.


Somehow, the Southern Highlands seem to be so much sharper than any details on Sinus Iridum. I’m wondering if it’s a collimation issue. Whatever, I’ve never had clearer photos of Clavius, so I’m pleased with tonight’s shots. I also took a minute of film, to try and stack the frames if I ever get my head around all the buttons and terminology on Autostacker and the rest.


Sindrus Iridum

Southern Highlands

The Trapezium part 1

I decided to test the optics of the little Skywatcher Heritage 100 a couple of nights ago, and looked at the Trapezium. Under city skies with  the 10mm eyepiece that came with the scope, I was just about able to see the fourth star. Yet I’ve read the trapezium is easily seen in a 3″ scope. I’m going to re-visit the Trapezium with the Heritage again as soon as possible and sketch it. Although I saw it from the city Monday night, I could still see the famous nebula and distinctive ‘fish-mouth’.

There’s some excellent maps on this Sky & Telescope page.

Planetary round-up

With last Tuesday’s observations of the icy giant Uranus fresh in my mind, I thought I’d delve in my observation book and find out the state of play on when I last saw each planet.

Mercury – I’d hoped for a sighting during the August 2017 solar eclipse, but I didn’t see it. Some did, and I suspect if I’d have not had a bit of camera panic, I’d have found it. So the last time I saw the elusive planet would be the Mercury transit of the Sun on May 9th 2016. I got some photos of the disc by eyepiece projection.
Venus – Last spotted in Shropshire early September as a morning object. I sketched and photographed the phases earlier in the year, when it was a twilight object.
Mars –  Last seen June this year as a swimming small globe in the telescope. Observations last year showed the polar ice cap. If I’m honest, I didn’t turn my scope to it much this year, so low in the sky it was.
Jupiter – The last telescopic observations I have are June 2017, but the gas giant made an appearance during the August eclipse.
Saturn – Last seen at Perton Library Astronomy group September 21st this year. It’s been ‘hedge skimming’ through the summer.
Uranus – Last week at the Trysull observing session with Wolverhampton Astronomy Society I got to see the planet through two different telescopes. Cool!
Neptune- I found this elusive planet through 10×50 binoculars on the 12th November this year. I used Stellarium to formulate the field of view, and used a crude sketch in my observation book. The boldest dot is the star Hydor, in Aquarius.

Light pollution

There’s snow on the roads tonight. So rather than take a drive out, I just set up the little 4″ reflector for a quick sky-tour in the car park where I live, which is less than a mile from the city. I don’t know whether the snow on the ground makes it worse for seeing, but it was pretty pathetic out there. The stars were sharp enough, but the Pleiades was only visible as a faint smudge to the eye, and the Orion Nebula not even visible in the scope. It makes me realise that even a five mile drive to escape the main glare of the lights is always worthwhile.
Still, I used the wide-field eyepiece to get a nice view of the Hyades and Pleiades. The Moon is occulting Regulus in an hour, though I doubt it’ll be higher than the buildings around. Damn this snow!
I miss the dark skies and low horizons of Shropshire. Hopefully it’ll be clear next Tuesday for the Wolverhampton Astronomy Society observation session.

This morning’s Moon, and last week’s observations.

The Trysull observation session was a great success. I’ve done a write up for the society newsletter, I’ll paste the text below. In the meantime, here’s the moon in the early hours of this morning through the little 4″ Skywatcher. I’m hoping to get another shot tonight. I haven’t got as many pictures of the waning moon.


This is 73% lit.

And here’s the text from the observation session, which is from the Wolverhampton Society website –


It was a case of ‘third time lucky’ for our new Trysull Observation Sessions. Two consecutive Tuesdays were postponed due to 100% cloud cover, but at last, the forecast was promising on Tuesday 28th November, and at 11am that morning, the text notification system informed everyone ‘it’s on!’

Members' telescopesPeople started arriving at the Village Hall at 8pm. It was very encouraging to see such a good turnout. Around twenty astronomers of all ages and experience braved the crisp November night, and soon there was a row of telescopes set up, scanning the near-cloudless Trysull sky. Not everyone bought a telescope, but they didn’t need to. The telescopes there were used by everyone, and people drifted from scope to scope, looking at various cosmic sights, chatting about what they were looking at. It was a very friendly, convivial evening. At one point, as many as eight different telescopes of various sizes were in use on the large expanse of hard-standing behind the village hall.

There are no direct street-lights behind the hall, and the adjoining field gave us a generous view of a low southern horizon. We were also joined by a waxing gibbous Moon in the south-west, 70% illuminated, affording wonderful telescopic views of the Bay of Rainbows, (Sinus Iridum), which was brightly sunlit across the peaks of Montes Jura, (as can be seen in Cath Adams’ fantastic Lunar photos from that evening).

The moon (photo by Cath Adams)
The moon (photo by Cath Adams)
Sinus iridum (photo by Cath Adams)
Sinus iridum (photo by Cath Adams)

Closer observations of the Moon revealed a double central peak in crater Copernicus, and crater Reinhold, very distinct under the mountain range Montes Apenninus. The rugged southern highlands also made for some very interesting lunar observing.

Orion (photo by Cath Adams)
Orion (photo by Cath Adams)

With the ‘Summer Triangle’ of stars Alatir, Deneb and Vega journeying westward, some observers took a look at the Ring Nebula M57 (a planetary nebula in Lyra), before it disappeared behind the Village Hall Roof.
The double star Alberio, in Cygnus, was also observed, before it dipped in the west. The distinct colours of the two stars were easily recognisable. A bright golden star joined by a smaller, blue neighbour. Another double star, Polaris, was also ticked off by observers.
With Orion rising in the east, early observations of the famous Orion Nebula (M42), proved tricky due to the distant haze from Wolverhampton, six miles away, and the low altitude of the constellation. We turned our attention to constellation of Auriga, and its splendid open clusters, M36, M37 and M38, all of which looked beautiful, and distinctly different from each other.

The circumpolar constellation of Cassiopeia was almost overhead by 10pm, and some ‘scopes were turned to its neighbouring constellation to look at the pretty double open cluster in Perseus. The open cluster of the Pleiades too, made for an excellent binocular object, as did the Hyades cluster, (the closest open cluster to our sun), in Taurus.

With Venus and Jupiter not rising till the early hours, and Saturn too low to see, planetary observations were tricky, but at least two telescopes managed to get a lovely view of Uranus, in the constellation of Pisces. Observers saw an unmistakable small blue disc. It’s always a thrill to see this distant ice world, one of the least-visited planets by amateur astronomers. (This great planet is currently, as I type, 2,871,515,225 kilometers away!)

Other deep sky objects observed were galaxies. M81 (Bode’s Galaxy), and its neighbour, the cigar-shaped M82. Both in Ursa Major.
With the winter constellations of Taurus and Gemini rising, and Orion much higher in the sky, the Orion Nebula became a much better telescopic (and photographic) subject as the evening wore on. The great open cluster in Gemini (M35) was also observed.

The village hall was open for people to nip in whenever they wanted, to use the toilets and have a tea or coffee and biscuits. A few people had bought sky maps and astronomy books, and it was good to have somewhere bright and warm to take a break. At the next session, there’ll be chairs set out for everyone too.

The evening was a great success, and we look forward to more observing sessions at Trysull village hall. Our sincere thanks go to the booking secretary Joe Harper for letting us use the venue, and thank you to the people that kindly put donations in the box towards the refreshments and room hire.

If anyone wants to add their mobile number to the text alert system, just hand it to a committee member at the next meeting and we will put you on notification list.