Quarantine – Week Two.

Self Isolating To The MAX!

Monday 2020/3/23
Found out an acquaintance had died with symptoms of the virus. Rest well Simon. Clear night – imaged M81

Tuesday 2020/3/24
Didn’t go to donate platelets today. Trains were far too busy to be safe. Kitchen work started. Slow cooker chicken stew for dinner.

Wednesday 2020/03/25
Meetings on MS Teams, Walked the dog. Kitchen work continues. Finished off the stew for dinner. Clear Nights – Imaged two comets.

Thursday 2020/03/26
Didn’t go to the cinema. More meetings and admin on line. Walked dog, park rather busy – 6 to 10 dogs out. Kitchen work done for foreseeable future.

Friday 2020/03/27
Job spec written, interview presentation written. Another clear night. Imaged M82

Saturday 2020/03/28
Went to shop. Fixed a radio I’d bought over 5 years ago in Minneapolis.

Sunday 2020/03/29
Lazy day. Went to shop – saw three people the whole time I was out. Shop now has plastic guards for the staff, and a gallon container of sanitiser with a pump handle. Fixed another radio.

Quarantine – Week One.

Self Isolating before it was popular.
Monday 2020/3/16

Went to work for a meeting and to start shutting things down. No announcement had yesterday been made, but it was obvious something was coming.

Tuesday 2020/3/17

Stayed home, took part in some teaching chats. Did some admin. Took dog to park.

Wednesday 2020/3/18

Sister’s birthday – one for her to remember. Had to go to work to check on some parts, effectively pointless as co-worker had no interest. Saw both Alan and Tony, neither should have been on transport due to their ages. Shut down the lab. Announced I’d not be in for at least two weeks – working from home

Thursday 2020/3/19

Working from home, more teaching chats and worked on tomography code. Took dog to park. Got the email I’d expected, work is closed for the foreseeable future. Work from home where possible.

Friday 2020/3/20

WFH. Catching up on email backlog.

Saturday 2020/3/21

Took down tree behind the shed. Last meter or so was still standing. Cut back brush growth and took tree down to just above ground level. Set up telescope, clouded out.

Sunday 2020/3/22

Took dog for long walk, central park and chase. Telescope set up, 3 hours on M82, and 20 min on comet C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS.

Winter Astronomy

I was really looking forward to the winter of 2019/2020, long dark nights, clear skies, low humidity, and lots of bright deep sky objects to observe and image. I’d planned ahead and worked out what would likely be best seen on what days, and what settings and equipment I’d use to record those archaic photons.

What crap weather we had!

I managed a total of about two hours with the telescope over the whole winter. I had it set up for rather longer, and even imaged for around six hours total, but equipment issues and high clouds meant only two hours of data was usable.

First up on the 22nd of December 2019 I imaged the rather dull stellar cluster M36

Messier 36 or M36, an open cluster of stars in the Auriga constellation

This was really more of a test of equipment than an attempt to image anything particularly stunning or interesting.

On the 30th December I added another 45min of data to my M82 / Bode’s Galaxy image – seen in the post previous to this one.

In January I didn’t bother with the telescope at all, and just tried a few short of the shy with a 50mm lens on the DSLR (Nikon D7000). Results are not worth showing here.

Latest results were from March 8th 2020, when I managed to capture the conjunction of Venus and Uranus. Again, I used the 50mm lens, DSLR and many short exposures (2 seconds x 25). I also took a similar number of shots in the region of Orion’s belt, to see if any of the nebulas there could be seen – this was really stretching things as light pollution is pretty bad and I used no filtering on the camera.

Venus and Uranus


Orion’s Belt

Here’s hoping for some better nights in the spring in time for Galaxy Season – the bright nebulas of the winter pass out of the night sky and numerous galaxies come into view again.

Bode’s Galaxy

Bode's Galaxy (Messier 81) - a fuzzy blob and some bright speks against a dark background
Bode’s Galaxy (Messier 81)

Another year has flown by with not as much time for astronomy and astrophotography as I’d like. Light pollution is terrible from my observing location in East London, so only the brightest deep sky objects are really suitable targets for me (at least until I get a decent filter, or go for narrowband imaging £££).

Earlier this year I tried to image M81, but managed to miss the part of the sky they were in. I ended up with two hours of imaging on a fairly blank area of sky. Yesterday I decided I’d try again. With the galaxy nicely placed in the sky and due to get higher and better for imaging as the night progressed, I set up and started collecting images. I ended up with 45 x 240s exposures, excluding those with satellite and aircraft trails, and star trails I used 39 exposures to make the imafe above.

It’s not perfect – the stars are slightly tear-drop shaped, suggesting there’s some misalignment  between the telescope and camera. This means the galaxy itself is also not as sharp as it should be.

I’m also still very much a novice when it comes to processing the image to bring out the best in them.

I’ll revisit this galaxy many more times over the years, but this is my starting point. Here’s hoping i can improve upon it.

Christmas 2019

Christmas is always a bitter-sweet time for me, I’m not one for big family get-togethers and my family seem to enjoy dying at the end of the year too. Over the years at least four have popped their clogs between Xmas Eve and New year. Let’s hear a hearty FUCK CANCER here too.

This year we house sat for a friend in West Norwood, meaning we got to look after a cute cat and have a quiet Christmas after a busy and stressful year.

Iceland served up a fine selection of nibbles and a marmalade glazed ham. Marmalade made another two appearances as we watched both the Paddington films, they were much better than I expected them to be.

Good Omens was excellent.

A small grey cat
Clover the Cat

Not to be outdone by the Cat, the Dog also appears.

The Dog at Christmas