Bathing in Solar Radiation and Smugness!

 General Astronomy  Comments Off on Bathing in Solar Radiation and Smugness!
Mar 302012

This is vaguely astronomical I suppose, but I’m feeling pretty smug because today we commisioned our new Solar water heating system. We had Solar PV installed back in October and last week we went over the 1 MWh barrier and that’s during the Winter months! That means we could have powered an old-fashioned 1kW bar fire for 1000 hours, or lit a 15W energy-efficient light bulb for over 7.6 years. In any language, we could  have powered the average American family for about 100 days!

So, today, the Solar water system went live. It’s already heated a full tank of hot water to 50 degrees C in just the afternoon so we won’t need to turn on the gas-fired boiler at all tonight.

Last week we had the loft re-insulated to over a foot thick, and the pipes re-lagged for free! (Thanks Tesco). Last year the 20+ year-old windows were replaced with very efficient new UPVC double-glazed units, and the walls are cavity insulated. We work mainly from home, so the cars remains on the drive for much of the time. Two Labradors and Chickens eat nearly all our food waste, and what they don’t eat gets composted.

Yep – feeling pretty smug right now! Pictures below.

 Posted by at 5:05 pm

Mars – The difference good seeing makes

 Mars, Planets  Comments Off on Mars – The difference good seeing makes
Mar 292012

Last night’s Mars image, shown here, illustrates the effect of ‘seeing’ conditions. The seeing was fairly good and stable last night – compare this image to the post, here,  from the previous night when the seeing conditions were not so good.


 Posted by at 8:25 am

Mars – Syrtis Major hoves into view

 Mars, Planets  Comments Off on Mars – Syrtis Major hoves into view
Mar 282012

Another Mars image taken last night from here in Ham.

The biggest and most obvious dark region called Syrtis Major is visible on the left in this image. It’s interesting that the Martian ‘day’ is about 24 hours and 40 minutes (in other words the time Mars takes to rotate once on its axis). This means that, for Earth-bound observers, we only see about 40 minutes of ‘new’ territory each night if we observe at the same time. So, Syrtis Major will slowly crawl into full view over the next few days (for UK observers at least).

A nice view also of the snake-like feature called Sinus Sabaeus with the ‘head’ part called Sinus Meridiani.

The seeing conditions were pretty jittery last night, so again this image is quite soft on detail. Not so many clouds visible either.

 Posted by at 9:50 am

Moon, Venus and Jupiter from Bath

 Jupiter, Moon, Planets, Venus  Comments Off on Moon, Venus and Jupiter from Bath
Mar 272012

Took this image whilst parked on Brassknocker Hill just south of Bath. Just a bit earlier I had taken a series of killer images of the trio with Bath Abbey in the foreground with my son, Tom, only to discover that I had no memory card in the camera!

This image was about a 10 second exposure, the moon is deliberately over exposed in an attempt to pick up the stars in Orion and Taurus.

 Posted by at 7:33 am

The Moon, Jupiter and Venus

 Jupiter, Moon, Planets, Venus  Comments Off on The Moon, Jupiter and Venus
Mar 262012

As described in my post on 22nd March this event was indeed a lovely sight yesterday evening with the young crescent moon very close to Jupiter and not far below Venus.  Take advantage of this current clear weather in the UK and watch out this evening when the Moon will be much closer to Venus

This image was taken from my garden in Ham with a Canon 350D using the standard 18-55mm lens. Setting were ISO800, f/5, 1/8th second exposure.

 Posted by at 6:54 am

Great seeing in the UK for Mars

 Mars, Planets  Comments Off on Great seeing in the UK for Mars
Mar 242012

High pressure is dominating over the UK for a few days bringing glorious weather and last night at least, great seeing conditions. I had perhaps the best eyepiece view of the Red Planet I can remember, and it was rock steady on the laptop screen. If only it was bigger than 13.2 arc-seconds!

The Northern Polar region is at the bottom and the dark area center bottom is Mare Acidelium with Sinus Meridian the dark region disappearing on the left. The large dark region in the upper part of the image is Mare Erythraeum. I think that the black dot on the right limb is the top of the volcano Olympus Mons poking through the clouds. (correction it is Ascraeus Mons poking up – thanks to Martin Mobberley for this).  Click on the image to see it at full size.

I’m adding his image for comparison – taken 24 hours later. The seeing was not as good, so a ‘softer’ result was obtained.

 Posted by at 10:25 am

Young Moon joins Venus and Jupiter

 Jupiter, Moon, Planets, Venus  Comments Off on Young Moon joins Venus and Jupiter
Mar 222012

This image generated by Stellarium shows the situation from the UK, looking West, as it will be on Sunday March 25th 2012 at approximately 7:15 pm. The Moon will be a thin crescent of about 9%. Keen observers will have noticed that Venus and Jupiter have moved further apart since their beautiful conjuction last week, however this will still be a lovely event to see.

If you click on this image to see it a full size, you can see that Venus is not far below the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters which is a lovely, bright, open star cluster in Taurus. Orion, The Hunter, is just off to the East. Also notice the line on the image; This is the Ecliptic which marks the apparent path that the Sun follows through the sky over the course of the year. The planets can also be found close to the Ecliptic plane and this explains why they are also seen in the Zodiacal constellations (but don’t mention the 13th constellation of the Zodiac – Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer) as it upsets the astrologers!)

 Posted by at 1:48 pm

First Mars Image of 2012

 Mars, Planets  Comments Off on First Mars Image of 2012
Mar 192012

Having just got back from a refreshing week skiing in La Tania, France, I finally got of my backside to do some Mars Imaging. I have actually tried recently but could not get a good blue channel, and I have realised that my secondhand Trutek blue filter has no IR-cut! (in other words it is a Type I). This meant I was getting IR leakage in my blue images, thus ruining the final RGB. Anyway, now I’m back to my good old Astronomik Type II RGB filters,and here’s the result from last night. This is an RRGB image, meaning that I re-used the red for the luminance. Additionally, I used the amazing WinJupos program to de-rotate the images and was therefore able to shoot longer AVI sequences than normal.

 Posted by at 12:07 pm