Posts Tagged ‘stars’

Northern Lights In The UK

Over the past couple of nights, it has been possible, if you are lucky enough, to view the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in most parts of the country, and even as far south as Cornwall. In fact, there were some amazing photos taken at Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall by a cameraman and photographer called Stephen Oxborrow (see pic below).

Northern Lights Over Goonhilly Earth Station

Northern Lights Over Goonhilly Earth Station by Stephen Oxborrow

This amazing sight, seen over Cornwall, was due to a severe solar storm hitting the Earth and causing very highly charged particles to hit the Earth’s magnetic field. Due to the intensity of the storm, the spectacle could be seen much farther South than normal (not just in the Arctic).

So last night I decided to take a quick drive up to Dartmoor to see if I could see the amazing Northern Lights. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful and could only see blackness (there is currently no Moon early in the night).  I did try a few places but all I could see in the sky was a vast amount of stars shining brightly back at me.  It was a real shame, and if I wasn’t alone, I may have stayed out a bit longer. Hopefully there will be another opportunity to see this amazing phenomenon at some point in my life.

If you saw any of the Northern Lights, please tweet me at @strethewey and let me know, along with any pictures which I will be happy to post on this blog. 😉

Leonid Meteor Shower

I was out on November 3rd at  a Fireworks show in Trispen in Cornwall and whilst I was waiting for the Fireworks to start I was having a good look at the Sky.  It was clear as a bell and a very cold evening, so the Stars were shining brilliantly. To my amazement, I saw a really bright and big shooting star followed by another, and another, and another and another. I think I saw a total of 6 or 7 in the end and they were all really clear to view, and were flying across the Sky right above us! It was an amazing sight as I wasn’t expecting to see a Meteor show as well!

A few days later I looked up whether there were any Meteor showers taking place around this time and found that the Meteors must have been from the Leonids which is a Meteor shower that happens throughout November every year. The best days to view them this year were on the 17th and 20th of November, so I was very lucky to see as many as I did in only about 45 minutes of viewing, a good couple of weeks before the height of the shower.

The Leonids are said to be a lot better quality than the Perseids in August as they are much brighter and about 10mm in diameter, and this was certainly true from my observations. The Perseids paled in comparison to the Leonids. These Meteors originate from a Comet named Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865 by Ernst Tempel, and radiate from the constellation Leo (hence their name).

Remember to keep an eye out for them next year as they are a great sight to behold!

Orion and the Geminids

Well last night was an amazingly clear night for looking at the stars and constellations.  Scores of starts littered the night sky, all twinkling in the frosty air. The most amazing scene was the great Orion constellation looking down on the world. From my back step, Orion filled a large area of the sky and was perfectly placed to view.  It was an amazing sight!

In the end I spent about 20 minutes just gazing up into the night sky, and I didn’t even use my telescope or binoculars as the view was great as it was.

I was also hoping to view some meteors as a friend of mine commented on Twitter recently that they had see three shooting starts in one night. These were probably meteors meeting the Earth a little before their scheduled full arrival on the 13th December. Collectively they are known as the Geminids and they reach their height in a few days time.  Hopefully it will be a clear night on that day, although it will be best to view them after midnight due to the predicted brightness of the Moon on that night.  It should be an awesome sight though and one to enjoy for sure! Am looking forward to it.

Time: 21:10 – 21:30, Longitude: 50.435423, Latitude: -4.093217, Viewing: North East

Pegasus, Jupiter and Polaris

I had to wait a whole week until the weather was good enough to go out and use the telescope again.  This time I went out to try and see the brightest star in the sky, but I still didn’t know fully how to use the telescope so it was a bit hit and miss.  I didn’t realise that I had to line up the viewfinder with the telescope beforehand, during daylight hours.  So when it came to trying it in the dark, it was very difficult to find the correct direction.  After several attempts, I finally locked on to the star but still couldn’t see it very well.

Having spent some time trying to view it through a telescope and binoculars, I decided to go and try and find out what it actually was.  After searching through several sites, my wife found that the star was actually Jupiter and during the month of October, it was the brightest it will be for a long time (see link in the right hand side column).  Whilst we were looking up about this, I learnt to find the ‘Square of Pegasus’ and where the North Star (Polaris) was in the sky.  This was useful as Jupiter is situated just below the ‘square’ which made it easy to find.  What made this extra relevant was that the ‘Square of Pegasus’ was right in front of us in the sky (North East) when we stood in our back yard.  This made it really easy to pinpoint other stars, planets and constellations, and we think we pinpointed Neptune further to the East.

(image taken from ‘The Sky X First Light Edition’)

Armed with this new information we went outside to have another look but, unfortunately, it had started to cloud over so we were unable to use the telescope anymore.  We did attempt to use the binoculars and thought we had zoomed straight in to Jupiter and saw a moon or two orbiting it, but we aren’t sure as the image kept changing.  We think the binoculars are a bit dodgy (they were only very cheap!) so we can’t be 100% sure of what we saw.   Will need to buy or borrow some binoculars to make sure.

So it wasn’t the best viewing but I did at least learn a lot of things about the Sky and its stars and constellations, and wherever I am now, I know how to find Jupiter as long as I can find the ‘Square of Pegasus’ first.

Time: 19:45 – 21:30, Longitude: 50.435423, Latitude: -4.093217, Viewing: North East