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Get out there and view! is all about getting out and stargazing whenever opportunity allows.
If you would like more information please contact: Robin Wilkey
Prep, Get Out There, Review and Research
November may not have been the best month for observing from here in the UK, going through my log book i only have 4 viewing sessions logged, plus one session for the Leonids. But, while not knocked out by any stunning event, I have had worse periods without the clear skies.

But the trick is still to get out there when you can, make notes and research afterwards. Normally I would say PREPARE ahead, but eventually you will be able to find your way about the sky without resorting to too many charts, then you will be able to identify what you are seeing, or at least be able to place what you have seen so you can research later.

I find this very useful with Moon viewing. I now know my way around the surface in very crude terms, but make a couple of notes about peculiar shadows, locating them above below or to the side of a feature I do know how to find, then research afterwards. A small quick sketch is very useful, especially if there is no time to set up a proper imaging session. For the Moon I will even do a quick snap using a compact digital camera through the eyepiece (afocal imaging for a technical term), and hen view this alongside the fabulous FREE software from France - Virtual Moon Atlas on the computer. For those with an iphone, or ipod touch you can buy a program to display the Moon and its features, fully zoomable, for under a fiver.

But for planets the quick image isn't really good enough and sketching for moon positions or surface detail can be done very quickly then named up later. The stars are even harder to image photographically in the quick set up mode, but position can be noted. Galaxies and nebulas are difficult to appreciate WITHOUT imaging. The human eye is just not set up to view faint detail or colour.

If I know events are coming up, or can predict weather patterns for enough ahead to plan an evening viewing, I will spend some time using the computer to plan my observing sessions. Once you have a computer the software can be accessed very cheaply or for free., (Cartes du Ciel, Stellarium etc)

This pre knowledge and after-viewing research enhances my viewing experience. It becomes a very rewarding part of viewing, and even can make up for that cloudy sky!

Andy Burns - Chairman of Wiltshire Astronomical Society - Article appears in NWASNEWS - December 2009

A quick, grab shot of the Moon. Early morning.
Automatic exposure (unrecorded), taken using a small Olympus 790SW compact digital camera.
Note using the camera against the eyepiece or afocally, as described above, results in a back to front image. This can be flipped in software, but Moon maps have been produced to take account of this flip/ mirrored image. Andy
Background illustration:
Hot Blue Stars at the Core of Globular Cluster M15 - Hubble Space Telescope
Viewing Log: Saturday 10 November 2012 - Alton Hill Car Park - near Alton Priors - by Dawn Wilson
organised by the Salisbury Plain Observing Group (SPOG)

Reflection Nebula M78 in Orion - courtesy of Wikipedia

Equipment: Skywatcher 150PL 150mm (6") Parabolic Newtonian Reflector with 25mm Skywatcher eyepiece.

What joy! Finally after 7 months of rubbish skies, at least when I was free, a chance to go out observing. A small group of us from SPOG had arranged to meet at Alton Hill car park for an observing session and wonder of wonders the skies were clear as I packed Sidney (my telescope now 2 years old) into the car. Having dressed for the cold and with a thermos of hot chocolate I set off for our rendezvous at 7pm. On arriving I found Jon and Owen already there and looking at cloud on the horizon. We decided to set up in the hopes the forecast for clear skies would prove correct. As we were doing so Mark, Hilary and Robin also arrived and we began the nights viewing.

My first target was an old favourite and an easy one, M45 the Pleiades, visible to the naked eye. A beautiful sight even with a little high haze in the sky. Looking for a clearer area of sky I next went after M81 and M82 above the Plough or Ursa Major. M81 is a spiral galaxy and M82 a cigar shaped galaxy. Both can be seen in the same field of view in a 25mm eyepiece. Their location can be found by taking the distance between the bottom left and top right diagonal distance between the stars of the “pan” shape, and following the diagonal line on up the same distance beyond the top right star. Well that method works for me I do not claim to be an expert! At this point I also realised that my telrad finder was a bit off. OK it was a lot off. I needed a bright point to adjust the thing. Glancing around I could see Jupiter rising in courtly splendour above the tree at the edge of the car park. Perfect. Visible with three moons I sorted out the telrad and enjoyed the viewing before again casting about for the clearer part of the sky. There was a little cloud and haze coming and going but it wasn’t going to spoil our fun.

I could hear the others talking and the guys with the larger aperture telescopes were chasing down some very faint targets beyond what I could see with my 6” scope. I had a great view of the pale blue Uranus through Owens 15” Obsession Scope. Can I just say that I salivate at the thought of owning a scope like that, sigh, I can only dream. Anyway Hilary was also searching for the elusive planet with her smaller scope. I have dubbed her the Queen of Uranus (be careful how you pronounce it) since she always appears to be chasing that planet with some success. If it ever comes up for sale we should buy it for her. For those “planetarily challenged” the details would read:

For Sale. One planet, pale blue in appearance, 2,877,000,000 km from the Sun with a gravity of 8.69 m/s². Time to orbit the Sun 84 years with a mass of 86.81E24 kg (14.54 Earth mass). Discovered on March 13, 1781 by Sir William Herschel, this icy giant is the seventh planet from the Sun. It has the third-largest planetary radius and fourth-largest planetary mass in the Solar System, with 27 moons and a complex ring system a snip at £?

As you might by now have guessed I am a bit irreverent and believe that star gazing is not solely for the professional amateurs but for everyone. With so few women out observing and my own brain unable to retain the technical stuff (that’s what books are for) my mission is to demonstrate that anyone can enjoy the night sky through a telescope.

Back to the observing. Open clusters seemed like a good choice so I went after the three in Auriga, M38, M36 and M37. Having surprised myself by locating them fairly swiftly I went after M35 in Gemini as well. My trusty pocket sky atlas was very helpful in helping me pick targets. Now for more of a challenge M1 the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant. Happily I found this again without too much trouble. A foggy wonder in the eyepiece.

A brief stop for hot chocolate and to say goodbye to Hilary and Robin, only to welcome a late arrival from Pewsey to our group.
Orion was now visible in all its splendour with the Orion Nebula visible to the naked eye below the three starts in a line that are so distinctive and make up Orion’s belt. So that was M42 and M43 revisited. Another look at Jupiter followed with 4 moons now visible.
Back to the sky atlas to search for targets in a clear part of the sky and a couple of open clusters that were new observations for me at Jon’s suggestion. NGC1528 and 1513, in Perseus. I had to ask Jon to confirm these which he did with us comparing views between his Dobsonian scope and my Newtonian.

M78 a faint reflection nebula in the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex located above and left of Orion’s belt was successfully seen, followed by another new target NGC 1647 near Aldebaran in Taurus and NGC 1746 nearby. Both are open clusters.

I completed the night’s observations with a view of the Hyades open cluster near Aldebaran in Taurus, visible to the naked eye. The dew was by now heavy and my power pack for the dew heater for my eyepiece had run out of juice. The time was by now nearing 1am. Still 5½ hours observing seemed to have flown by and the cold had not been too noticeable with layers of clothing. We reluctantly packed up and called it a night. Thank you to Jon, Owen and Mark for their company and patience once again.

Dawn Wilson

Viewing Log: Sunday 5th May 2013 at Uffcott, by Peter Chappell
I had arranged a viewing session for 21:30 at Uffcott on the Sunday night, with it being a Bank Holiday the following day we could stay on later than normal. When I arrived at the appointed time there was already three cars in the lay-by, turned out the first to arrive was Sylvia Pilot and her nephew Ian, after this it was Hilary and Robin followed by a newbie to this group in Jeff and his son Harry.

After being introduced to Jeff and speaking to him for a while it turned out he had a Meade GOTO telescope but did not really know how to set it up and use it, so for the next two hours I would start Jeff from scratch and see if he could use the telescope. I explained to him about getting the set up and accurate as possible, this way any errors in the system will not be that great that the alignment will not be too far out. First thing was to get the tripod level, this is most important, number of times I have helped people out with GOTO problems only to find they had not levelled the tripod! After putting the Meade eight inch LX90 on the tripod and putting all the other kit on it, first thing we had to find was Polaris in the eye piece. After showing Jeff this I levelled the telescope, this is its home position. Powering up the hand controller, putting in date and time (correct to one second) and selecting ‘Daylight Saving Time’ (same as British Summer Time but this is an American telescope), the telescope slewed off to its second alignment star, this tuned out to be Arcturus. After we manually centred the star and entered this, the telescope slewed off to Vega for the final alignment. After this was centred, the telescope said we had alignment? I always like to check with another star to make sure, slewed around to Spica and it was in the eye piece.

First object of the night was Jupiter as this planet was setting fast in the twilight western sky, after putting in the commands to the hand controller the telescope went around to the ‘King of the Planets’, Jupiter did not look very clear in the 14mm Pentax XW eye piece, I think it was too low and the sky not dark enough to have a good look at this large planet, so we decided to look at Saturn in the eastern sky instead. This turned out to be pretty clear, we could make out the rings and Titan, the largest moon of Saturn and the second largest in the whole solar system! After we had finished with the solar system tour (all the other planets are too close to the sun to be viewed) I asked Jeff what he would like to view, something up there was the reply I got. So I started off with Open Clusters (O C), these are stars held together loosely by gravity, had a look at Messier (M) 38 in Auriga, after explaining about O C’s I then explained about Globular Clusters (G C), these are similar to O C’s but closer together and we looked at M 13 in Hercules. This was still pretty close to the north eastern horizon and was a bit dim to view. After this I gave Jeff the hand controller and let him control the telescope, had to give him some directions about the way it works but he was up and running quickly. After doing some O C’s and G C’s in the Milky Way we decided to go galaxy hunting and locate M 65 and M 66 in Leo, these are Spiral Galaxies with a magnitude of 9.4 and 9. After this we went off to M 104 in Virgo, the Sombrero Galaxy. Time to come back into our own galaxy and look at different stars and their colours, we started off with some double stars, whether by line of site or linked together, the best double star in the northern hemisphere has to be Albireo in Cygnus, followed this with Mizar and Alcor, both of these are double stars in the Plough handle. After this we looked at the colour of stars: Arcturus (in Bootes) is an orange star, Deneb (in Cygnus) is a blue/white, Capella (in Auriga) a yellow star and Spica (in Virgo) a white star, well this is what they looked to me in case I have got some information wrong! I suggested a Planetary Nebula (P N) and we had a look at M 57 in Lyra followed by my nemesis the Owl Nebula (M 97) in Ursa Major. We did some more G C’s in M 3 and M 92 the often over looked one in Hercules because of M 13? Back out of the Milky Way and look at M 81 and M82 in Ursa Major before Jeff and Harry’s final object of the night the Whirlpool Galaxy (M 51) and its interacting galaxy NGC 5195. Before they went we went back to M 13 and had another look at the best G C in the northern hemisphere, this time it looked much better as it was now higher in the night sky (around 23:30). I think Harry was very interested in some of these objects by the WOW’s I was hearing from him. While we were going through stars/galaxies another member had turned up, this was Peter Eslick, so that made seven for the evening. Not long after Jeff and Harry left so did Sylvia and Ian followed by Hilary and Robin, this just Peter and Peter with each having a Meade eight inch LX 90 to operate, can get a bit confusing but we both have the same names and equipment! As I was now on my own I did M 10 and M 12 (G C’s) in Ophiuchus followed by M 4 and M 80 in Scorpius (my favourite constellation) before heading off to the first P N to be discovered in M 27 in Vulpecula, up in to Cygnus and M 29, one of my favourite O C’s of the summer months.

By now it was 00:45 and my body was worn out, been standing for the best part of three hours 15 minutes, Peter was still looking at the sky as I drove home for the evening or should that be early morning? Once I got home I had to unpack all of my gear I had used tonight as it should be allowed to dry before putting it away.

This will probably be the last Adhoc Viewing session at Uffcott until we get dark evening again from mid-august onwards?

Peter Chappell

Whirlpool Galaxy (M51A or NGC 5194). The smaller object in the upper right is M51B or NGC 5195, in the constellation
Canes Vanatici. Credit: NASA/ESA

Viewing Log: Sunday 26th May 2013 at Hackpen Hill - The Triple Conjunction

Conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and Mercury, photo by Mirek Nikodem of Szubin, Poland, courtesy

We met and started off at Uffcott, but soon realised the horizon was not broad enough for us to see the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and Mercury, so the four of us, me, Hilary, Mike Partridge and Simon Kew quickly decided to scoot off to Hackpen Hill at about 9.30pm and when we got there Peter Chappell was already set up and viewing the conjunction and so there we were, viewing the marvellous sight of all three planets. At closest approach, the three planets fit inside a circle less than 3 degrees wide. It was a rare event. There won't be another triple conjunction this tight until 2026 ( In the picture, Venus is the brightest and lowest in the centre, Mercury is highest at just before 12 o'clock and Jupiter is furthest to the left. These were naked eye objects, but whilst Venus shone brightly all the while, Mercury and Jupiter kept coming and going to the naked eye. We also had binoculars and these were the best medium to view the planets. It was quite cold and by 10.30pm Venus was beginning to sink fast. A great night for those present!

Robin Wilkey Posted 27 May, 2013

Viewing Log: Saturday 25th January 2014 at Uffcott - Supernova 2014J in M82
Organised by Peter Chappell, we met between 7 and 7.30pm, with a variety of telescopes.

Jupiter was resplendant as expected in the night sky and at first we could only see three Galilean moons around 7.30ish, assuming Io to be orbiting behind Jupiter, when it appeared it moved quite quickly away from Jupiter, however, on looking at Stellarium later the moon we saw was not, in fact, Io, the most geologically active body in the solar system but magnificent Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System. Callisto was furthest out to the right, while Io and Europa were further out to the left. Another little point (literally) we didn't realise at the time was that one of the four inner moons, Amalthea was actually transiting Jupiter at the time of our viewing; in the centre of Jupiter, it was too small to see with our amateur telescopes, had we known it was there. The Amalthea group of moons were only discovered in 1979. The group, also consisting of Adrastrea, Metis and Thebe maintain Jupiter's feint ring system. Metis apparently was out to the left of Jupiter according to Stellarium as well. A moon called Himalia; Jupiter's fifth largest moon is the only other moon, besides the Galilean moons that can be seen in an amateur telescope.

Uranus, William Herschel's 'Georgian Star' proved a great sighting in Pisces to the west, a small feint green-bluish disk.

Orion, without the aid of the telescope was a spectacular sight on its own with a crystal clear sky lending it extra brilliance and transparency.

Perhaps one of the most exciting events of the evening was viewing the supernova in M82 (known as the Cigar Galaxy). Light from the explosion has taken 11.5 million years to reach us and is thought to be a white dwarf supernova. The supernova is known officially as SN 2014J. Suggestions from scientists at Caltec indicate that it still maybe two weeks before its brightness will reach its peak.

The supernova in M82 as imaged by Leonid Elenin (Lyubertsy, Russia) and I. Molotov (Moscow, Russia) on Jan. 22.396. It's located at right ascension 9h 55m 42.2s, declination +69° 40' 26?. It was V magnitude 11.7 at the time.
Courtesy Sky & Telescope Magazine

Robin Wilkey Posted 26 January 2014
The Partial Solar Eclipse on Friday 20 March 2015
Members met at Uffington White Horse Car Park to watch the eclipse; More info HERE
Viewing Log: Saturday 24th October 2015 at Blakehill Farm Nature Reserve

Today we had our first opportunity to view the night sky from our new viewing spot at Blakehill Farm Nature Reserve and although it was nearly a Full Moon (waxing gibbous 98%) we nevertheless saw some stunning sights.

The highlight for me was seeing the two ice giants, Uranus and Neptune, some 2 billion miles away at the outer edge of the solar system. Uranus is unusual in that it revolves on its side, as to opposed in line with the ecliptic, as do the other planets.

Significantly different from the viewing experience of Saturn and Jupiter, it is always an absolute pleasure to see these distant sentinels of our neighbourhood. With thanks to Peter Chappell.


How Uranus looked through Peter Chappell's telescope.
Picture courtesy of SGL

We also had an opportunity to view some DSO's (deep sky objects) surprisingly even though the Moon was pretty full, these included a great view of the Ring Nebula (M57) and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) which is our nearest neighbouring galaxy and in our 'Local Group', though because of the Moon we could not see its two smaller companions (M32 & M110), the main bulk of M31 appeared as a smudge of grey in both Peter's and Owen's telescopes, but still great to see an old friend on a good clear night.

The Andromeda Galaxy (M31)

We also saw the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters (Messier 45 or M45), an open star cluster containing middle-aged hot B-type stars located in the constellation of Taurus. Another gem was Albireo, the double star in Cygnus.

All in all we had a good night out at our new location, with grateful thanks to Blakehill Farm Nature Reserve

Viewing Log: Wednesday 10 February 2016 at Blakehill Farm Nature Reserve

Messier 103

Mike Partridge from Swindon Stargazers arranged a viewing session at Blakehill Nature Reserve (owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust) near Cricklade. This would be the first time we have used this place without a nearly full moon to spoil the sky, so it would interesting to see how different it would be from Uffcott?

I arrived at Blakehill and had my Meade LX 90 set up and ready for some viewing by 19:45, this time I would be using a Pentax 14 mm eye piece this would give me a magnification of just under 143. For this session I wanted to start a new viewing challenge, to finish the Herschel 400 list I will have to wait until the summer months as the four objects I need to tick off are in Scorpius, Ophiuchus (x2) and Virgo unless I do a late night session one day? I have covered a lot of the Messier objects but never dome them all, so I thought I would do a Messier marathon but using GOTO equipment! I know it is not in the spirit of the challenge but I know there are some I could not star hop too? So by following the classic list I should be able to get them all in about five sessions if I plan it correctly? So here goes….

Before I started the list I wanted to look at Uranus before it got too low to view, as usual all I could make out was its greenish hue thru the eye piece. The first two objects are Spiral Galaxies which I find hard to locate, these are M 77 in Cetus and M74 in Pisces both objects were faint fuzzy blobs to look at! M33, the Pinwheel Galaxy in Triangulum was a misty patch to look at. M31, the Andromeda Galaxy was good to look at, if you have good eye sight this object is the most distance you can see, personally I have never seen it without aid from at least binoculars. Nearby is M32 a dim Elliptical Galaxy and on the other side of M32 is M110 which was hard to locate for me! Into Cassiopeia and M52 and M103 these two are Open Clusters (O C) and dim to view but still my favourite deep sky object to look at. M76, the Little Dumbbell Nebula in Perseus is an object I rarely look at so it was a pleasure to see it, this Planetary Nebula has a magnitude of 11 which is about the limits for my telescope? Another O C I do not look at is M34 in Perseus, to be fair this is a constellation I never look at! M45, the Pleiades or Seven Sisters in Taurus is an object even I can see with my eye ball (in fact this object has the greatest brightness of 1.2 in the whole Messier list of 110 objects), it is best to view with my finder scope as I look thru the O C if viewed with the eye piece. An odd ball Globular Cluster (G C) is M79 in Lepus, it should not be there as most G C’s are located towards the centre of the Milky Way galaxy? Another pair of easy Messier objects is M42 (Great Orion Nebula) and M43 normally in the same field of view? The other Messier object in Orion is M78, a Bright Nebula even though its location is easy to find (eastern end belt star and go up a bit) I have trouble finding it, maybe a filter would help? M1 (Crab Nebula) the only Supernova remnant (from 1054) on the list was a faint patch to look at. The next four objects are all O C’s and I ranked them in brightness from M37, M38, M35 and finally M36? Wonder if other viewers would put them in a different order? Their magnitudes are: 5.6 (M37), 6.4 (M38), 5.1 (M35) and 6.0 (M36). By now time was marching on and Mike wanted to lock the place up, so my final object of the evening was Jupiter with its four main moons with Calisto and Europa to the east of Jupiter and Io and Ganymede to the west. It was now 21:50 and the telescope had a nice coating of frost on the tube, with little or no wind it was a great night to get out under the stars.

As for Blakehill being better than Uffcott, yes it probably is but not much better that is only my opinion others might disagree? The only light pollution comes from Swindon to the east which is an area of sky I do not view much anyway. Time to head home and warm up with a cup of coffee before putting all of the equipment used that night into the lounge and dry overnight (this is most important) before packing it all up the following day ready for the next clear night. As I write this (24th February) we have had four clear nights on the trot, unfortunately this is around a full moon and not very good for deep sky objects!

During that session I have seen 20 of the 110 objects on his list, so hopefully I am still on track to complete all the objects in five sessions? My biggest challenge will come during the summer months when I view Scorpius and Sagittarius, these constellations do not raise much above the horizon from the UK! The lowest object is M7 which I have seen before from Uffcott so I know I can see all of them assuming the weather is on myside?

Clear skies.

Peter Chappell

Get Out There and View!









































Ad-Hoc Viewing Sessions
(Supported by Swindon Stargazers)

A number of members have expressed a wish to do some Ad-Hoc stargazing where a date is set, sometimes at short notice and we meet up at a pub or some other landmark so that we can just get out there and do some decent viewing. If anyone is interested in this then you send me your contact details by email - your email address on the email itself will be good enough, however, it would be helpful to supply your phone number as well for short-notice viewings & cancellations!

If you would like to discuss such sessions further and indicate your interest as well please email Robin on the following: Robin Wilkey

We have three main viewing spots at the moment as follows:

East Kennett

Please note: The meeting place for East Kennett is the public car park, entrance only 50 yards from the Red Lion car park in Avebury, otherwise go directly to the viewing site.

Updated 27/10/2015.

Next Viewing: To be notified

To register your interest in these events email : Robin Wilkey