Bobbington Observations..

(Stolen from the society newsletter, but I wrote it anyway, so y’know!)

Bobbington Observation Session Friday 20th April 2018

By Richard Harvey

With our Tuesday Trysull observing sessions clouded out for much of the winter, we’ve tried to find an alternative observation site that’s available on other nights of the week. To this end, we visited a new site in Bobbington on Friday 20th April, and I’m pleased to report it was a most successful evening.

Members setting up at Bobbington
Pic 1: Astronomers Assemble

Members started assembling at 8pm, (picture 1), just as the sky was darkening and Venus began shining in the west. There was a five day old Moon also quite high in the west, which made an excellent target for us to align our finder-scopes.

Ten society members attended, and six telescopes were lined up on the hard-standing, ranging from small table top Dobsonians to larger 8” reflectors on equatorial mounts. I’d brought the society’s 12” Tom Collier in my van, but had forgotten to bring the swivel base! (Luckily, I’d also brought my own 8” reflector. We’ll be sure to use the Tom Collier Dobsonian next time).

The stars started appearing around half eight, and the constellation of Orion was spotted, very low on the western horizon. We took the opportunity to look at the Trapezium, below the belt of Orion, for possibly the last time this spring. The constellation was placed too low to detect the surrounding nebulosity of M42, but the large open clusters Hyades and Pleiades could still be seen as they headed towards the horizon, making room for the summer constellations of Bootes and Hercules, rising in the south, behind us.

I took some single shot lunar photographs with my DSLR, (pictures 2 & 3) before moving on to Venus.

Pic 2: The Moon (Richard Harvey. DSLR)
Pic 2: The Moon (Richard Harvey. DSLR)
Pic 3: The moon (Richard Harvey. DSLR)
Pic 3: The moon (Richard Harvey. DSLR)
Pic 4: Venus (Richard Harvey)
Pic 4: Venus (Richard Harvey)

The disc of the planet could be easily seen, and its gibbous disc around 90% lit could also be seen by keen eyes through the larger scopes. Venus will continue to ‘grow’ over the next few weeks and months, and will eventually display a much larger crescent as it moves towards us. (picture 4).

The new observing site is on the grounds of a campsite, and people from the adjoining campsite were invited to join us. Many of them enjoyed views of the Moon and Venus, having never looked through a scope before. At times, there were crowds of upwards of twenty five people milling around the telescopes, asking questions about space and telescopes. Having visitors made a nice addition to the evening, it’s always fun to share astronomical views of the night sky. The campers particularly enjoyed views of the lunar craters Hercules and Atlas, which were dramatically well lit on the north-east part of the Moon, to the south-east of Mare Frigoris.

Martyn was hunting double stars with his pillar-mounted 110mm reflector. The constellation of Gemini was looming high above us in the south-west, and Castor made for a striking double in the eyepiece. Castor is at least a sextuple star system, about 45 light years away. The two golden binary stars we could see this evening have an orbit of 400 years.

Bob used two Barlow lenses in conjunction on a Skywatcher 200p, to give a very ‘close’ image of a small lunar impact crater inside a larger one, a surprisingly sharp image, we all agreed. Meanwhile, Cath’s table-top Dobsonian was taking in some final views of the Pleiades as it headed towards the horizon. This cluster, (also known as the Seven Sisters and Messier 45), contains hot B-type stars located in the ‘winter’ constellation of Taurus. It’s one of the nearest star clusters to Earth.

Pic 5: A pair of Opticrom 10X50 binoculars
Pic 5: A pair of Opticrom 10X50 binoculars

Although Cassiopeia and Perseus were at their lowest position on their circumpolar travels, they were well placed for observation from this site with such a low westerly-northern horizon. It was an excellent opportunity to explore the clusters in this area of sky. A pair of Opticrom 10X50 binoculars, mounted on a photographic tripod gave us lovely, steady, wide-field views of this area. (picture 5). The first port of call was Melotte 20 – the Alpha Persei ‘Moving’ Cluster, a lovely loose cluster in binoculars, which includes the 2nd magnitude white-yellow supergiant Mirfak (also known as Alpha Persei).
Moving along from Melotte 20, we found the famous Double Cluster, NGC 869 and NGC 884 which lie at a distance of 7500 light years.

Also spotted was the smaller, less visited nearby cluster of Stock 2. This isn’t marked on all star maps, but it’s well worth a view. Travel upwards and to the right of the double cluster, and there it is.
Underneath the great ‘W’ of Cassiopeia, the Owl Cluster – NGC 457, (also called Caldwell 13) was also observed, very pretty and easily spotted against the now quite dark, spring night sky. I also found ‘Eddie’s Coaster’ – a recently named asterism in the style of The Coathanger in Vulpecula.
Next stop was Stock 23, also known as Pazmino’s Cluster. A pretty, small loose open cluster above, and to the left, of Cassiopeia. This region of the sky is rich in star clusters and very favourable for wide-field observing, and the clusters make for excellent targets when the night-time moon is out, and nebulae and galaxies are lost in the brightness.

The pillar-mounted 110mm reflector was still hunting double stars. Fine views of Cor Caroli in Canes Venatici, and Algieba in Leo. Cor Caroli is 130 light years away, and it takes 10,000 years for the secondary to orbit the primary. Algieba is 1000 light years away, with a 600 year orbit.

With Leo high in the south, the moon’s brightness made hunting for Leo’s galaxies a tough task on this night, but in between Gemini and Leo, we enjoyed splendid views of the Beehive cluster, both via an 8” reflector, and the tripod-mounted 10X50s.

With Capella shining brightly in the west, the bottom half of Auriga revealed its wonderful chain of star clusters, M36, M37 and M38, which were easily found in both telescopes and binoculars, above the ‘Leaping Minnow’ asterism.

In the south-west, after 10pm, a bright ‘star’ appeared above the horizon. We’d been hoping for a sight of Jupiter this evening, and we weren’t disappointed. The completely cloudless sky allowed us to get a telescopic view of the great gas giant. Having a low aspect, and looking through so much haze, the planet’s cloud belts weren’t apparent, but four moons were. I made a quick sketch, and later added the moon names after consulting the Jupiter section in April’s Astronomy Now magazine. Second furthest away from the planet, the great moon Ganymede shone slightly brighter than the rest, easily viewable in the two telescopes that were re-located for a better viewing of the Jovian world. One member told me this was his first telescopic sighting of Jupiter, which was a very nice ‘first’ to add to the evening.

Pic 6: Line of telescopes
Pic 6: Line of telescopes

Everyone agreed it was a very successful, enjoyable session. It was great to see the telescopes lined up in the viewing area, which was well out of sight of the main road (picture 6). Thanks to Wolvas member Steven Hare for accompanying me to the site to ask permission initially, the previous weekend, and special thanks must go to Rebecca for kindly letting us use the site.

Thank you also to the campsite residents for making us feel so welcome. We’re very much looking forward to returning to Bobbington for more astronomical treats.

If you’re interested in attending an observation session, please give a committee member your mobile number and you’ll be put on the ‘text notification system’, and will be informed of every upcoming session.

Coma Berenices and friends


19/4/18 Skywatcher Heritage 100p 2X Barlow

A quick post while it’s all still (mostly) in my head. Did a decent session with my new Opticrom 10x50s tonight. At last!
Observed by Boscabel House, near Tong. Slight haze, 5 day old moon.
Started in Cassiopiea, with clusters…. Double Cluster, Stock 2, then Melotte 20, (in Perseus). All quite easily found.
Then M36, 37 & 38 in Auriga. Bodes galaxy also spotted.
Not looking for anything in particular, I happened upon Melotte 111, the large open cluster in Coma Berenices, quite stunning in the new bins. This cluster is said to be one of the closest star clusters, hence its large apparent size.


Melotte 111  f/1.8 1.6s 1600ISO

From here, using star maps I was able to find M53, near the star Diadem. It’s a 7.7 mag globular cluster. I’m going to put it on my hit list nest time I get the large dobsonian out.
I scanned the area around Arcturus in Bootes, and found a rather obvious deep-sky object, but I didn’t know what it was. More map-checks revealed it to be M3, a globular cluster at 6th mag, just across the border in Canes Venatici. Yet another bright deep-sky object largely ignored by me because it’s in a faint constellation.
A big surprise was Jupiter, I didn’t expect to see it so early tonight. Three moons were seen and the disc was easily discernable in the 10x50s. I made a quick sketch of the moons – the furthest being the brightest.



Jupiter rising



Venus and other stuff…

The clouds have been clinging to the Midlands like glue. I’m sick of them. On Saturday I did manage to get another glimpse of Venus, and got an image, taken from the road to Albrighton.


With only a small scope, it was difficult to focus, but the disc can be seen, as well as the ab00.5partial phase. Hopefully I’ll get some more shots as it travels round the Sun, getting closer to Earth and showing a larger crescent. I used my SLR on my little Skywatcher Dob. Not the most robust set-up, but very usable for ‘roadside astronomy’. I can set it up on the bonnet of the van.
Talking about astro-gear, I’ve splashed out on some new binoculars. They’re Opticrom 10x50s and retail at £240. First Light Optics are selling them for £99, and I just couldn’t pass that up. My old 10x50s had been nocked out of line, so I had to buy some more. As usual, when you buy astro gear, it’s cloudy for weeks. I did manage a quick test between clouds over Tong, (a little lay-by observing site I sometimes use). I only had ten minutes before the clouds rolled in, but I managed viewsab01 of M36 (Pinwheel Cluster), and M38 (The Starfish Cluster), The Beehive Cluster, the double cluster, and I think M51, but once I’d checked my sky atlas, the clouds had beat me to confirmation. Quite annoying, to only get a brief window when you’re dying to try out new gear.
I’ve bought Steve Tonkin’s book on Binocular Astronomy too, and along with the Sky at Night ‘Binocular View’ feature, I’m looking forward to some good binocular astronomy over the summer.
Lastly, some society pictures. I’ve been setting up a bookshop at our regular meetings, and it’s going really well. Less successful are our observing nights. We’ve had two group sessions so far, in five months. Damn clouds.


Wolverhampton Astronomical Society members observation session March 2018

New Observation Site

This is a special blog post for the people from Wolverhampton & Perton Library astronomy clubs on the ‘observation notification’ text list. It’s intended to give details about a new observation site in Bobbington, by Halfpenny Green airport.
With only a few clear Tuesdays since November, WOLVAS club member Steve Hare and myself have been looking for alternative places around the same area that could be useable any day of the week. Last weekend we visited Farthingdales Camp Site, opposite Halfpenny Green Airport in Bobbington. The campsite owners have agreed to allow us use a portion of the campsite that is away from the security lights. We will also be able to use the (very clean!) campsite toilets.
This new site isn’t meant as a replacement for Trysull, but rather an alternative semi-rural site that can be used on other days than Tuesdays.

Where is it?

It’s very easy to find. Turn right at the Himley lights, if you’re coming from Wolverhampton, and stay on that road for 4.9 miles. This will take you past the Halfpenny Green Vineyard on your right, then Blakelands on your left. Not far after Blakelands you turn left into Crab Lane (signposted for the airport). After 0.4 miles, you’ll see the entrance to the campsite on your right, (see picture below).
If you come across the entrance to the airport on your left, you’ve gone too far.
The postcode given on-line is DY7 5DZ, but please note I haven’t tested this with my satnav. You have my mobile number in case you get lost.



The observation site is just to the left. As you turn right off Crab Lane and enter the camp site, turn left then follow the single-track road bearing right. There’s places to park, (indicated by the P).

We’ve agreed to pay £10 per session, as we’ll be using their land, and the facilities of the campsite. So however many of us turn up for a session, we’ll split the cost evenly between us. Steve and I agreed that even if only two people turn up, a fiver each is well worth it for access to a dark sky site with toilet facilities.
There’s a very good low horizon to the north, south and west, but the east is less exposed, with tall trees obscuring some of the sky.
There’s no access to electric like at Trysull, so I suggest bringing a flask for a warm drink.
I’ve enabled ‘comments’ on this post, if anyone has any questions or comments, click the ‘leave a comment’ tab.
Fingers crossed we get loads of clear skies!


Observing site, looking North