Archive for the ‘Stargazing’ Category

Sky Show: March 2012

The night sky for March 2012 Credit:


Venus, Jupiter and the Crescent Moon Conjunction 26th February 2012

Tonight, just after sunset, Venus, Jupiter and a thin crescent Moon will line up and form a close thin triangle in the evening sky.

If you have clear skies, this spectacle will almost be impossible to miss after the Sun has set.

See the below diagram for positions of  the crescent moon, Venus and Jupiter – They will be an awesome sight!

Beginners Guide To Aurora

Beginners Guide To Aurora


Here is a very quick beginners guide to explaining aurora

Aurora = The Northern (or Southern) lights/ Aurora Borealis/ Australis

Usually seen near the poles of the Earth, but can be seen further South in the UK or USA.

So how and where does it come from?

“Coronal Mass Ejection” = A load of solar material hurled out of the Sun. A big one can contain billions of tons of “plasma”.

Plasma hits Earth’s “magnetosphere” causing “geomagnetic storms” = Aurora, also known as the Northern or Southern lights.

Geomagnetic storms are measured using a scale called the “Planetary Kp index” ranging from 1 to 9. 1 being low and 9 being a very heavy storm.

The higher the Kp index the higher the likelihood of Aurora and the further South it can be seen. 5 = Scotland 8+ Southern England.

Geomagnetic storms and aurora are very unpredictable and forecasts can be very vague, we don’t know the intensity or where the aurora can be seen from until it hits.

Here is a link to NOAA Space Weather Scales

To watch the aurora, you only need your eyes, just like watching meteors or the International Space Station. Look North and low down on the horizon, it may be faint at first.

Solar Flare

Stunning Aurora Images From Around the World

This photo was taken on January 22, 2012 in Fairbanks North Star Borough County, Alaska, US, using a Nikon D5000. The 'explodey' look is due to perspective from looking right up the magnetic field lines. The aurora in the middle of the explosion is pointing straight down at the camera. Credit: Jason Ahrns -- and 'regular' view of Jason's image of the aurora is below.

On January 22nd 2012, skywatchers in the northern hemisphere were rewarded with amazing displays of aurora. The cause of these displays was a Kp level 5.67 geomagnetic storm originating from solar activity on the 19th of January, produced visible aurorae throughout the northern hemisphere and viewers as far south as northeast England had great auroral views.

Here is a selection of aurora images and videos taken during the event.

See more here:

Sirius – Why Does it Twinkle

Sirius – The Twinkling Star

Orion and Sirius Credit VirtualAstro

During the winter months and around this time of year, after dark we in the northern hemisphere are able to see the mighty constellation of Orion rise high in the sky with a very bright companion in a nearby constellation: Sirius – The Dog Star.

Sirius is the brightest star in the sky and can easily be found in the faint constellation of Canis Major to the left and below Orion. Its name comes from ancient Greek meaning “glowing” or “scorcher.”

Sirius (a CMa) is the alpha star in this trusty hound and is roughly 8.5 light years away from Earth, making it one of the closest stars to us. It has a tiny companion star making it a binary system composed of “Sirius A” the main component (which is a white main sequence star) and “Sirius B,” a white dwarf star. As seen with the naked eye, Sirius can be seen to twinkle many different colours low in the winter evening sky. Read the rest of this entry »

Photographing The Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula 14/01/2012, originally uploaded by purpleface

Originally posted by Sarah Louise Lewis @_purpleface on Purpleface Photogtaphy

The weather over the past few days has been amazing. Lovely crisp blue skies, amazing sunsets & wonderfully clear night skies. And I’ve been using this to my advantage, taking as many photos of the stars as I can.
I had the idea to photograph the Orion Nebula (see above) for a few nights but I was waiting for the sky to become fully clear. I first photographed the nebula when the sky was hazy & the full moon was casting its glow across most of the sky. The photograph I got on that night was amazing (to me, it was amazing, obviously it’s not amazing to those with epic telescopes & satellites deep in space ;p) & it surprised me because I never expected to be able to capture a photograph like this. I thought it was reserved for people with powerful telescopes!

I made a pact with myself that I would go out there again when the moon wasn’t due to rise until 3am & when there was less haze around.

That night happened a few days later. It was -2 & there was frost on the ground so I wrapped up extra warm & took the camera out to cool (tell me if I’m wrong but letting the sensor cool on your camera helps reduce noise…I think). After a little while I started to photograph the nebula using various different settings. Now, you all know that the earth spins, this is what gives us night & day. Therefore, if you set your camera up to expose for 30 seconds, you’re going to get light trails instead of a still (for want of a better word) image. As my camera ISO goes up to 12000, I stepped it right up & I exposed for 3.2 seconds. For me, this is the best way to be able to capture a still shot without using a tracking device. I did, however, find that ISO 12000 was too noisy so I stepped it down to 5000. And that seemed to do the trick. I imported the shot into Lightroom, tweaked around with some settings & this is what I came out with.

I used a Canon 7D with a 90-300mm lens.

I’m pretty happy with it. Next step is to get a new mirror for the telescope (we accidentally knocked it over & the mirror smashed inside) & an adapter for my DSLR. Then we’ll be away! Hope you enjoyed this post, thanks for reading. If you have any questions you can either leave them in the comments box or you can join me on twitter (tweeting as @_purpleface) or facebook (

Stargazing Live Returns

Stargazing LIVE (co-produced by The Open University) returns for a second three-night series on BBC Two set to encourage everyone – from the complete beginner to the enthusiastic amateur – to make the most of the night sky.

On the 16th 17th and 18th of January Professor Brian Cox and Dara O Briain will broadcast live from the control room of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, interacting live with the audience and calling on a starry collection of the country’s finest astronomical minds to explore the majestic wonders of the skies above Britain.

In their own unique style, the pair will tackle some of the most intriguing questions in astronomy, such as Why Does The Moon Cause The Tides?, How Do We Know Where Black Holes Are When They Are Impossible To See? and What Will We Actually Say If We Ever Make Contact With An Alien Race?

Closer to home, there will also be hints and tips for getting started in Stargazing and advice on navigating your way around the skies.

And there’s more, with scores of Stargazing LIVE activities across the UK – find out where at Things To Do, the BBC’s activity finder website:

Make sure you check the guides on the Stargazing LIVE website as some were carefully crafted by meteorwatch’s very own VirtualAstro

Quadrantids Meteor Shower 2012

Originally Posted on Dark Sky Diary by Steve Owens @darkskyman on twitter

Quadrantid Meteor

On the night of 03/04 January 2012 the first meteor shower of the year will take place, the Quadrantids. This shower ranks as one of the best performers of the year, assuming your skies aren’t clouded, as they so often are in winter. If the peak of this shower occurs under ideal conditions – i.e. perfectly clear skies, free from light pollution – then you can expect to see in excess of 100 meteors every hour. The peak for this shower is very brief though, so you’ll have to catch just the right conditions at just the right time to see a display this good. This year’s peak is estimated to occur just before dawn on 04 January 2012. Read the rest of this entry »

Top Astronomy Events Coming Up in 2012

Stargazing Credit:


As 2011 is drawing to a close, the festive season is here and many of us are winding down and looking forward to the holidays. But this is a great time to look ahead to 2012 and pencil into our calendar and diaries the top astronomical events we don’t want to miss next year.

2012 is going to be a great year for astronomy observing, with some rare and exciting things taking place and a good outlook with some of the regular annual events.

So what top wonders should we expect to see and what will 2012 bring? Read the rest of this entry »

The Geminid Meteor Shower Rounds Off 2011

2011 has been quite a year, both terrestrial and otherwise. This week sees the last of the big scheduled astronomical happenings of the year in the form of the Geminid meteor shower.

This shower is one of the yearly standbys along with the Perseids that are always sure to produce. The Geminids have a long peak centered on the morning of December 14th when an idealized Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of up to 120 meteors per hour may be seen.

Problems will arise, however, from an 82% illuminated waning gibbous Moon in the adjacent constellation of Cancer. Rising roughly around 10PM local on the night of the peak, this makes for the worst possible Moon phase as it’ll be high and bright in the early AM hours, just as the meteor shower is getting into high gear. But as always, I wouldn’t let that stop you from looking! Read the rest of this entry »