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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Astronomy

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As a follow up to the photographs we published in the previous post, here is a timelapse video showing how the aurora developed and then faded away.

Altogether it was visible to us for approximately 1.5 hours.

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As usual, following periods of increased solar activity, we are always on the lookout for potential sightings of aurora. We use two websites to help us with this:-

AuroraWatch UK

&

NOAA Space Weather Prediction Centre

The predictions for a visible aurora were quite good for this evening and the weather was  favourable, so we thought we'd take a wander up to Woodlands View to see what we could see. We've done this many times before with no success, but tonight was to be the night.

We thought we could see a faint green glow to the North, behind the wind turbines and electricity pylons, very low down on the horizon. After setting up our cameras, some initial test shots looked promising.

Between 8.30 and 10.00 p.m. we stood and watched as the the display slowly built in intensity; seeing the gradual appearance of blue and red into the range of colours and also spotting what at first looked like faint searchlight beams either side of the main glow.

We were lucky enough to be joined by Garry Mayes from Planet Earth Education and his son, who had also thought it might be worth making the trip up onto the moor and it also happens to be the 20th anniversary of Nettie's first visit up here for work experience.

We managed to obtain a good selection of photographs but Nettie managed to top the lot by capturing an 'Flaring' satellite against the background of the aurora.

Hopefully this is the first of many sightings that we will have at Woodlands View.

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Just a quick post to show two images from the total lunar eclipse in the early hours of Monday morning, as photographed from Woodlands View.

The first shows the 'blood red' moon and was taken at approximately 03.27 when the moon was completely in Earth's shadow (the Umbra - the darker central part). The second photo was take a little earlier on and shows stars that were not visible due to the glare from the full moon before the eclipse began.

Regarding the first photo, we were interested to know why there still appears to be a small lighter coloured 'crescent' to the bottom left. At this point of the eclipse, the moon was meant to be completely in Earth's shadow, so according to all the diagrams showing the stages of the eclipse should be all the same colour. The same crescent is visible in all photos that I have seen that were taken during the 'maximum' stage of the eclipse.

The closest explanation that we can find is that the moon was in fact right on the boundary between the inner (umbra) and outer (penumbra) shadows of the Earth. Close enough so that refraction of sunlight through different parts of the Earth's atmosphere caused the slight change in colour.

Whatever the reason, we had a thouroughly enjoyable evening watching the eclipse, despite the advancing mist and are looking forward to the next one in 2019 on the 20/21st January.

For more Moon information, don't forget to check out our Moon page which can be found here:-

http://www.woodlandsvieweducation.co.uk/index.php/the-moon

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Wal and I photographed this lovely Lunar halo the other night. The Moon was one day from being full and lit the sky and the clouds beautifully. This 220 halo is formed by moonlight being refracted by ice crystals in the clouds.  We often see full or partial halos around the Sun (or sundogs, arcs and other optical phenomena) but this is the first Lunar halo that we have managed to photograph.  It persisted for a few short minutes before gradually fading away.

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We have been lucky to have had two relatively clear nights for this year’s Perseid meteor shower. The absence of the moon has also made a good deal of difference to the 'seeing' conditions.

The night of August 11 provided us with several very bright meteor trails; however, they mostly appeared from the Southern part of the sky, away from Perseus. It is most likely that these were ‘sporadic’ meteors, meaning that they are not associated with any particular meteor shower and do not have a well-defined ‘radiant’ – point of origin in the sky. The sky was relatively clear but recent rain made for a lot of moisture in the air and camera lenses rapidly fogged over.

The night of the 12th appeared to be less clear, with some very high wispy cloud, but there was a definite increase in the hourly meteor rate as we moved into Thursday morning. Higher daytime temperatures meant that camera lenses stayed fog free at night, and we were much more successful with our photography.

We have include a small gallery of images with this post, in which there are two images that show what at first may appear to be meteors but are actually satellites that appear to ‘flare’ when they catch the sun’s rays at the right angle.

Some satellite flares can be predicted, such as the ‘Iridium’ flares that are caused by the shape of the body panels of a particular type of communications satellite, and can be very bright. Other, dimmer flares can be caused the solar panels of the same type of satellite and generally last longer than the brighter ones. The predictions can only be made because the satellites are controlled and their orientation in space is known.

It is also possible to see flares from satellites that cannot be predicted because they are out of control (tumblers), or from debris left after rocket launches.

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Last weekend, Wal and I played host to some old friends who we have not seen for some time. While we have kept in touch on and off for the last 20 years or so, they have not been up to Woodlands View since Wal and I took on the project.

Our guests, Florence and Kenneth Wood, were amongst the first people to attend the astronomy courses that were run by Linda Simonian in the 1990s. As it turns out they were putting their astronomical learning to amazing use and even invited Linda to work closely with them on a very exciting venture.

Florence and Kenneth are the authors of Homer’s Secret Iliad and Homer’s Secret Odyssey. These books are based on years of research undertaken by Edna Leigh, Florence’s mother, and by Florence and Kenneth themselves in order to unlock the astronomical knowledge that has been hidden within the epics for millennia.

"Homer’s epics ‘represent an ancient people’s thoughts related to the science of astronomy and expressed in the form of elaborate narrative poetry'."

For more information please follow the link www.epicstars.org.uk

It was wonderful to be able to show them around Woodlands View and we can modestly report that they had a splendid visit and were very impressed with everything that we have achieved.

We would just like to express our gratitude to a couple of generous and well respected friends for sharing their stories with us.

Hours of Fun.

 

 

 

 

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Below is a short video taken of the Partial Eclipse of March 2015, shot from Woodlands View. The video is composed from stills taken with a digital SLR, through a 200mm lens and solar observing film.

 

We have also updated the 'Eclipse' section of the sun page with a still image taken at around the maximum coverage. Link here.

 

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It has been a bit chilly ‘round these parts just recently so you have to be pretty hardy - or enthusiastic - to go out observing when there is snow lying on the ground.  Perhaps it was the cold air that sent shivers down my spine but it was defiantly rather spooky out at night with a waxing moon rising and a fox yelping out on the moors somewhere.  Then, looking back at my photographs of Orion I see a ghostly human form! She moves position between two frames and then vanishes, never to be seen again.  There was no one else on the plateau with me, and I would certainly have noticed someone standing in shot- especially as there are streetlights illuminating the scene.  There are also weird jellyfish or sprites in several shots that could not been seen with the naked eye.  Is Woodlands View haunted?

Err, no.

The jellyfish are caused by lens flare (they appear and disappear depending on whether the streetlights are in shot) and the ghost is me. I love photobombing long exposure shots!

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If you feel you can brave the cold, a sight currently well worth looking out for, is that of Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy). If you have access to a reasonably dark site and have clear skies, you may be able to make out this comet with the naked eye. However if you are in possession of a pair of binoculars, you will get a much better view.

The comet was discovered on 17th August 2014 by Terry Lovejoy (not a fictional antiques dealer from East Anglia). It has recently passed from the constellation Taurus into that of Aries and will possibly remain quite bright for some time. It has been in the news for a while, although the weather has generally not been favourable for viewing.

We’ve included two screen grabs from the free planetarium software, Stellarium, which show the position of the comet as it was on the 15th of this month and as it will be today. The photograph was taken on the 15th at the time shown in the first screen grab. You can just make out a hint of the tail, but the quality of the photograph could have been better if I wasn’t battling with 40 – 50 mph gusts of wind.

The green glow is from the comet’s coma – a fuzzy haze of gas and dust released from the comets nucleus as it is heated by the sun. The green colour is most likely to be from carbon compounds but you may struggle to make out any colour as our eyes are generally not sensitive enough.

 

 

 

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We have had some beautiful weather over the Easter period. Blue skies with fluffy white cumulus clouds during the day (with some high cirrostratus clouds producing sundogs at the end of one afternoon) and stunningly clear starry skies at night. 

After a hard day at Woodlands View, Wal and I were able to take a wander next door to the @stronomy Centre to have a look at the planet Mars through one ofthe 16” telescopes. Mars is at opposition at the moment, so it was great to have a closer look at this lovely red world. We couldn’t see any ice caps at the poles but we did see a darker area on the planet. Although the view was a bit wobbly due to heat haze from the surrounding hills, there were instances when the image steadied into perfect focus. Mars is well worth a look, even through a small telescope or binoculars. 

Mars is of great interest to our friend John Keegan (a.k.a Katharode). He hangs out online at PlanetFOUR. PlanetFOUR is one of the many Zooniverse projects - "a citizen science project designed to help planetary scientists identify and measure features on the surface of Mars . . . the likes of which don’t exist on Earth. All of the images on this site depict the southern polar region, an area of Mars that we know little about, and the majority of which have never been seen by human eyes before.”  By improving their understanding of these features, scientists can gauge the weather systems better which will be of great importance to humans when they come to land on the planet sometime in the future.

Kitharode has been involved in the project since it launched over a year ago, and is one of the moderators on the site. He is very interested in the ‘Spiders of Mars’ and other features such as 'fans', 'blobs' and 'yardangs'. He was telling us about the long dark tracks formed by dust devils on the surface of Mars.  Apparently these windy swirls can be hundreds of meters across and several miles high! Astonishing. Mars is a very interesting, dynamic place with plenty of opportunities to make new and exciting discoveries. Kitharode has given us many fascinating insights to this alien world with its high winds, enormous mountains and changeable icecaps. One day, when Woodlands View finally opens, he will be able to share his enthusiasm for the red planet with everyone.

Hours of Fun!

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Our first proper blog post I suppose.

We have added a map showing our location to the About Us Article  (located in the Main Menu) and also a rather nice animated orrery (Solar System model) to the Planets Article (located in The Sky menu).

Enjoy

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