Inside: Interview with Gemma Lavender Members astro images Skylight AR 101 F15
review Avalon Instruments M-Uno Mount Image of the month for July and August
Perseid meteor shower info
1 Eastern Veil Nebula by Andy Lee
Hi everyone and welcome to the second issue of Astronomy 4 Everyone’s group newsletter. The first issue has proven to be very popular, so thank you all for making it that way! Myself and the core team hope that it will continue to be an informative read for you, and we would ask that if there is anything you’d like to write or you’d like to see in future newsletters please do get in touch via the email address at the bottom of the page, we’d love to hear from you. You can of course find us also on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll find that if you click on either of the Facebook or Twitter logos you should be re-directed to those pages. We look forward to hearing from you in the future and wish you all clear dark skies, keep looking up and being amazed with the universe we all live in! Andy, Symon, Dennis, Sunita and BB
Interview with Gemma Lavender
First impressions of the new Skylight AR 101 F15 by John Slinn
Avalon Instruments M-Uno Mount A users review by David Barnard
Image of the month July 2013
Perseid meteor shower
Thoughts from the dark side
Image of the month August 2013
Members image gallery
To submit an article, review, story or anything thing else, including placing an advertisement in future issue’s please email Andy Lee firstname.lastname@example.org for details. 3
Interview with Gemma Lavender by
Andy Lee and Jasmin Evans Andy: Firstly can I say a big thank you Gemma for agreeing and taking time from your busy schedule to take part in this email based interview, our readers will very much appreciate it I’m sure. Gemma: Hello Andy and members of Astronomy 4 Everyone. Many thanks for having me! Andy: I remember seeing a newspaper clipping you tweeted Gemma at Jodrell bank out a while ago about, as a 14 year old, you were already doing an Open University course in astrophysics, what age and what prompted you getting into astronomy? Gemma: There was actually a misprint in the newspaper - I was actually doing a distance learning course with Liverpool John Moore’s University! I was around 8 years old when I first got involved in astronomy. My dad showed me a few constellations which, to be honest, I didn’t really appreciate at the time until I got out under the night sky myself a couple of evenings later. I also remember being showed Comet Hyakutake in 1996 and Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. I remember pretty much my whole family being crowded around the living room window with all of the lights in the house switched off for the arrival of Hale-Bopp. I’ll never forget that evening. Andy: So following on from there, can you remember what you first saw through a telescope and what is your favourite object to observe now? Gemma: The first object I saw through a telescope was Jupiter and its most prominent moons - Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto and that’s thanks to the distance learning course I did with Liverpool John Moore’s University - I did quite a bit of theoretical astrophysics and observational astronomy during the course and my main project was focussed on determining the period - the time it took for each of these moon to orbit Jupiter - from observations. However my favourite object is, and always will be, Saturn. It really is a beautiful planet. I remember first grabbing a view of it through my very first telescope and calling my family outside to have a look. They were all as equally impressed as I was. For naked eye “objects”, I’d say the northern lights, when I was in Iceland, are high on my list. We’ve all seen the pictures of aurora borealis but standing under it is really something else. Andy: I see that you have been a science reporter for Radio Cardiff in the past as well as writing for Astronomy Now magazine (along with a few video interviews/reports that I found on Youtube), and of course now with All About Space magazine. I was wondering how these came about and how much effect they have had on your career so far? Apart from all the extra time involved of course. Gemma: Out of all of those things, the first one that came about was writing for Astronomy Now magazine and later, Astronomy Now Online when I was still an astrophysics student at Cardiff University. Before that I was writing science-based news for the student newspaper Gair Rhydd -that means “free word” in welsh in case you were wondering! 4
I remember sitting in my room one weekend and thinking that I really wanted to get my work out to a wider audience, acting as a voice and educating about science whilst really revealing that you don’t need to go to university to truly understand physics and astronomy. You also don’t need a degree to appreciate the night sky or a book on the Universe. I find so many people shy away from getting involved in things that have been stereotyped to be difficult when it doesn’t need to be that way at all. I think we’re all capable of understanding, we just need it to be conveyed in an understandable language. That was pretty much, and still is my train of thought on writing to this day and during my second year of University, I sent an e-mail to the editor of Astronomy Now, Keith Cooper, with clippings of my recent written work along with some ideas of what I could write about. After a few email exchanges, one of my ideas was taken as a feature - about how we’d go about engineering a mission to the Red Planet Mars. I was commissioned quite regularly after that before being invited to report from my first conference - Exoclimes 2010 - which focussed on the atmospheres of other planets around other stars - exoplanets. What followed after my first article were invites to give talks at astronomical societies and writing opportunities with other science magazines such as Physics World and NASA Astrobiology magazine, amongst others. In 2010, I became a STEM Ambassador and was asked to give an overview of my writing and outreach work on Radio Cardiff’s Science and Technology Show, Pythagoras’ Trousers. The head presenter of the show, Rhys Phillips, contacted me after recording in Radio Cardiff’s studios saying that he was impressed with how I presented material over the radio and offered me the position of Science Reporter. Here I interviewed scientists for the show and gave general news reports based on a wide variety of science. When it was time for me to leave Cardiff, I joined Astronomy Now magazine as a staff writer where I eventually became a columnist before leaving to join the science journal, Nature. During my time at Nature, I started writing for All About Space where I had the opportunity to write their news, features and answer astrophysics questions sent in by the magazine’s readers. Obviously, I’m very fortunate to have such an opportunity to write for such a fantastic and beautifully designed publication. I’m always impressed with how my articles look when they’re printed. I just love what the designers and artists do with my work! Andy: During your time writing and reporting for Gemma interviewing Haley Louise Gomez at NAM 2011 these magazines you have come into contact with some big names in the astronomy world, to date who is the one that’s made the biggest impression on you and who would be the ultimate person for you to interview in the future? Gemma: That’ll have to be Matt Burleigh at the University of Leicester. He gave a talk on his hunt for planets around white dwarfs at the National Astronomy Meeting back in 2011 when I was working as a reporter for Astronomy Now magazine. His work was incredibly interesting and quickly became my favourite area of science research - an area that I hope I’ll be part of one day. To add to that, he’s clearly passionate about what he does and can explain it in a simple way so makes a great person to interview and add colour to an article. His work really inspired my planned future career. I’ve had the opportunity to interview an incredible amount of interesting scientists from all over the world in some many different fields. They’re all brilliant in their own unique ways. As for someone to interview in the future, I couldn’t possibly say. I find all scientists “the ultimate people” to interview they always come out with something to amaze and astound you. They usually tell me something that I never knew. 5 Background image: M31 the Andromeda galaxy by Andy Lee
Andy: Some of our readers may not have read some of your articles in the various magazines, so would you mind telling us about your main area of interest and why? Gemma: With a background in astrophysics, you can find me writing about anything and everything that’s related to physics or astronomy. To date, I’ve written well over 200 articles, so I’ve had quite a bit of exposure to different aspects of astronomy. For my main interest, I’m very much into finding exoplanets, their characterisation and what we hope to learn from their atmospheres. I’m also interested in space weather and the solar wind interacts with our very own planet. Additionally I’m fascinated by Antarctic astrophysics - where scientists take advantage of the conditions at the south pole to find out more about the cosmic microwave background and use scientific balloons to study various branches of high energy astrophysics. Currently, I’ve got a bit of exposure to some of these topics as I’m actually currently working at the British Antarctic Survey looking at the effects of the solar wind on regional climate and middle atmosphere dynamics. It’s an incredible experience to be around such intelligent and inspiring people from a wide selection of scientific disciplines - from gravity wave and space weather physicists to penguin biologists and ice core geologists - that have experienced the beauty and challenges of heading to the continent to carry out research. Andy: I see that apart from being a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society you are also a STEM ambassador, how important is it in your opinion to get into schools/colleges and promoting astronomy to the younger generation? Gemma: Without a shadow of a doubt, inspiring the younger generation is a must for the future of astronomy. I certainly pleased when I’ve inspired some school, college or university student to go into science writing or research. Andy: When I mentioned to one of our members, Jasmin Evans, about doing this with you she was very excited as she follows your articles in All About Space and shares a common passion with you about the great vastness out there above our heads, so the next question comes from her. Jasmin: Gemma what do you think about the chances of finding life in microbial or bacterial form on Mars and if so what would be the next step? Would we or should we send humans there if we knew it was inhabited or leave it alone and explore further afield? Gemma: Hello Jasmin! As you’re probably aware, we’ve sent a few rovers, landers and orbiters to Mars to have look at its soil, environment and general landscape. Clearly it’s not such a great place for humans with its thin atmosphere, cold temperatures and mainly carbon dioxide to breathe, so scientists are wondering if there’s any other type of life there - existing in, as you said, microbial form. Suggestions for the evidence of life dates back to when the Viking Landers first touched down on the Martian soil, becoming the first spacecraft to land on another planet back in 1976. Their goal was to look for life on Mars by conducting three biological experiments of which one of them involved releasing drops of nutrient water on areas of Mars’ soil. The procedure was that if they waited 10 days, any microorganisms would suck up the nutrients and release gases such as methane and carbon monoxide - indicators of life that the landers would be able to detect. However, gas was immediately emitted and with trials a week later not turning up the same results, combined with the other experiments yielding negative results for life, it was concluded that there really wasn’t strong enough evidence for life on Mars. However, running the old data through mathematical models of today, some scientists believe that the results from Viking is the best evidence for life so far and it’s likely that microorganisms might be there today. Of course there are other bits of evidence, while contested by the scientific community, could point to life on Mars. You might have heard of the Allan Hills meteorite that was proposed to have contained a unique pattern of organic materials, possible microscopic fossils and bacteria-like organisms which NASA announced, in 1996, had come from Mars after finding it in Antarctica in 1984. Of course, such 6
statements about the meteorite were called into question and some suggested that the molecules found could have formed by some other nonbiological processes on Mars. There is still split views on that meteorite, even today! There’s also some results from the Curiosity rover which suggests that Mars was once quite watery and able to support life in its past. However, as you probably know, life doesn’t need to be in an Earth-like environment to One of Gemma’s articles in issue 12 of All About Space survive. Some organisms could be living under Mars’ icecap or even deeply under the soil. If it exists, we just haven’t found it yet and it’s way too soon to stop looking. If we were to find something, there’s been some disagreement on how we should handle it. Some believe we can bring it back to Earth for testing while others think that alien microbes could contaminate Earth and spell disaster for us! I think to keep everyone happy, we’d have to leave the rovers to carry out any tests - to avoid us humans from landing on Mars and contaminating its soil or Martian microbes from “polluting” ours. Of course, there’s also the fact that the rovers cannot do everything and, anything a rover can do, humans can do faster. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the time comes. We should also be aware that there’s also a chance that any microbes that we do find could have come from Earth originally anyway by riding on meteorites - we’d be related then - and wouldn’t have found any alien life at all! Personally, I think it’s in our best interests to study any life we find on other planets but we shouldn’t be careless about it. Mars is like a stepping stone when it comes to exploring other planets beyond it. Andy: Is there any one person, or indeed persons, that you look up to and aspire to be like and for what reasons? Gemma: Not really any particular person but to those scientists that can balance their research and who enjoy and can find the time to educate the general public. It really takes some type of person to flit between heavy, hardcore mathematical problems or scientific concepts to still being able to relay their work into a language for everyone to understand. That applies to lecturers at universities too - I was very lucky to have some great educators on my astrophysics course. Andy: So what does the future hold for you, where and what do you see yourself doing say in ten years from now? Gemma: I hope to become a professional astronomer and hunt for exoplanets around white dwarfs. Because white dwarfs are the end stage of stars like our Sun, we might be able to get some idea of what will happen to our Solar System as our Sun evolves. Can planets survive the red giant stage before it puffs off its envelope to become a white dwarf? Can white dwarfs support life themselves? The questions are not only endless, but also incredibly interesting and could provide us with some pretty cool answers if we ever find a planet around one of these “dead” stars. Andy: Finally if you were asked by a young inspired person would wants to pursue a career in astronomy in its 7 Credit NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)
many shapes and forms, or even to becoming an astronaut on future missions to distant planets, what advice would you give them? Gemma: The first thing they should do is join an astronomical society or astronomy club - experienced members can provide a multitude of information on not just astronomy itself but observing and learning your way around the night sky. I would also say that if you’re hoping to become a professional astronomer or astronaut, it is paramount that you take the correct GCSEs and A-levels to get onto an astrophysics, physics, aeronautical engineering or equivalent course at university. It is also likely that you’ll need to complete a PhD. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule and some people have got into astronomy in some shape or form from other backgrounds. However, never leave it to chance and make sure you get the right qualifications beforehand. Also be comfortable with the fact that you might not understand everything or have compelling answers to questions as you progress through your education and career. Part of the fun is being challenged and attempting to solve the mysteries that the Universe throws at us! Andy: Gemma many thanks for your time and answers to these questions, may I on behalf of myself and our readers wish you every success in your future and your career, we all look forward to reading more of your articles in future issue’s of All About Space, and maybe even in this newsletter. If you’d like to follow Gemma on twitter please just click on the link below to go to her page.
Image artist concept of Kepler-62f , Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
Quick review and first impressions of the new Skylight AR 101 F15 By John Slinn, Founder of Disciples of the Dark Arts
The telescopes are based on the ye olde Victorian look of yesteryear with lots of brass and a long focal length to keep any expected false colour from the achromatic objective lens well under control.
Skylight Telescopes based in Raynes Park near Wimbledon London have been making hand crafted achromatic telescopes since 2009.
Some people may remember I tested one of Richard’s original 101 models in the summer of 2010 for about three months and I absolutely loved it. The views of Alberio and most double stars were wonderful, which is where this scope excels. Planetary views were excellent too and I was very sad to have to hand it back after the test time. It left a big impression on me.
Richard Day the proprietor constructs these awesome telescopes from his garden workshop and offers a complete bespoke service to his customers as well as the standard 101 and 60mm telescopes he makes in batches and short production runs.
Fast forward to early this year. By now I had seriously gotten bitten by the solar imaging bug! I was using a Lyra Optics 4” F11 with the PST solar modifications and ERF objective lens filter (anybody wanting more info on how to do this can contact me via Facebook personal message) and I was getting some great results. However, I was finding that whichever model barlow lens I was using at the time had a great effect on the image quality/fov which I couldn’t just put down to the seeing at the time. I reasoned that what I needed was a longer focal 10
length telescope with its native high magnification naturally built in.
vantages of Richard offering a complete bespoke service!
Enter the Skylight AR 101 F15! Richard had just announced this new model on the Yahoo owners group forums at the time and what really pricked my ears up and made me pay a deposit there and then for one was the fact that the new telescope was being constructed using a brand new 101 mm F15 objective lens from Televue Telescopes from New York!
I also specified a carry handle to be fitted to the top of the ‘Parralax mounting rings, and a Baader Steeltrack focuser, as I had used this on the original F15 I tested and found it to be excellent. (Richard can supply the top of the range Starlight Feathertouch focuser too if you wish.) I also handed over a new Coronado Sol Ranger to be adapted to fit as a Sun finder and a new Baader Sky Surfer V red dot finder to be fitted. Finally I ordered the colour to be the newly introduced ‘deep red’ – well it has to be red for a solarscope doesn’t it! The other colour choices being white/brass and black/brass
This was a first for Televue on two counts as they don’t supply lens to any other telescope manufacturer and this was to be a new lens with a different specification to any that had gone before. Richard was quite rightly proud and pleased that such an established and respected telescope maker with real pedigree had decided to work with him. I spoke to Richard and sent my specifications for the telescope to be adapted for Hydrogen alpha solar viewing (I had two inches cut off the OTA to achieve focus using the PST adaptations but had the off cut threaded so as to return the scope for normal night time viewing ). He also was going to engineer for me using his lathe a custom lens cell holder for my Baader ERF filter to be mounted on the brass dewshield and a further adapter to mount my Thousand Oaks white light filter as well – one of the ad-
I placed my deposit at this year’s 2013 Astrofest in February and finally collected it on the day of my ‘Disciples of the Dark Arts’ astrophotography meeting in June. We took it out of its carton and we were all wowed by its drop dead looks and finish. What surprised me most was that for such a long 11
telescope it was surprisingly light in weight. However, I found in use that My Skywatcher NEQ6 mount’s tiny backlash was showing up during imaging when there was the odd breeze blowing, so I have since sold the mount and am currently waiting for my new upgrade mount to arrive from Astronomia. It’s the AZ EQ6 PRO with its 25kg payload, over the NEQ6’s 21 (no doubt a future review coming to the Astronomy 4 Everyone magazine!) First thoughts on use considering I’ve only owned it for just over 4 weeks? We have had one of the best summers for years literally within days of owning the new scope – how lucky is that?! I have used it every opportunity I could – weekends and after work etc. and am still learning to get the best out of it, but first impressions?
quite long and large!) I’m sure you’re wondering what it cost? It may surprise you to know that it only cost me £1765 for a completely hand crafted, bespoke serviced gorgeous
It really is impressive, the optics are superb and once I’ve got to grips with the imaging ( I’m a relative newbie when it comes to solar imaging) I’m sure I’ll be producing my best work so far. The focuser is lovely to use and the Sol Ranger and Sky Surfer finder’s work well.
looking telescope which in this day of mostly mass produced offerings from China is fantastic value for money. You would not be disappointed owning one of these scopes. Prices for the AR101 F15 start at £1360 up to £2150. See the website for full details. John Slinn I actually put an eyepiece in it (shock horror!) to see the night time views (I really only use it as a solarscope) and found the diffraction rings in and out of focus were perfectly concentric with spot on collimation. On Vega, which is a very tough test for an apo scope let alone a achromac, there was a slightly blue/violet ring around it when it should be pure white, a testament to the excellent optics. Everyone who sees it tell me how beautiful it looks. It would look great just stood on a porch or in a conservatory looking out of the open doors to see the boats at sea and for terrestrial viewing (although
Images taken/supplied by John Slinn 12
Avalon Instruments M-Uno Mount A users review by David Barnard So why this mount and not the ubiquitous skywatcher NEQ/HEQ equatorial mounts for a lot less money? That's exactly the question I wrestled with when I decided to upgrade from my Astrotrac and join the big boys with an EQ mount.
The major advantage of this arrangement is that the dreaded meridian flip is avoided and you can image from east to west without stopping. Avalon have also taken a different approach to the drive mechanism by using toothed belts & pulleys which eliminates backlash so the mount responds very quickly to auto-guiding but has slightly unusual (so the manual says) periodic error such that auto-guiding is pretty much essential to get the best out of the mount. One side effect of the design is it also requires some unusual guide settings which were kindly provided by Ian King Imaging. Another bonus of not using gears is that the mount doesn’t require lubrication so is maintenance free. The mount is controlled with a standard Skywatcher Synscan handset which will be familiar to many and is nice and intuitive to use for a mount novice like myself.
I'll explain my own personal reasons/requirements for choosing it a bit later but first let me try and explain what it is and why it's different from the norm.
So what’s it like to use: well from my (so far) limited use, it’s a sheer joy but it does have some unusual quirks the major one being in balancing the scope. Because it uses belts and pulleys, the mount MUST be perfectly balanced and doesn’t require the slight balance offset often required by geared mounts to load the drive cogs. The mounts bearing must be of very high quality as there is no perceptible friction so balancing in DEC is dead easy but it’s in balancing in RA that is very different from a normal EQ mount. The main arm of the mount sits to one side of the polar axis and the scope sits on the other side. In order to achieve balance the actual arm, which is effectively a counterweight, is moved relative to the polar axis. This is done by removing 5 fixing bolts on each side of the arm and repositioning the arm in 1 of 6 different positions until balance is more or less achieved. Final fine tuning of balance is done using the small counterweights provided. There is obviously a fair bit of trial and error and this is NOT something you can do in the field but
Firstly the M-Uno isn’t an Equatorial mount in the traditional sense as its an Equatorial Fork mount. Fork mounts are most commonly used on Alt-Az telescopes such as the Meade range and in order for an Alt-Az fork to become an EQ mount normally requires the purchase of an Equatorial wedge which tilts the fork onto the polar axis. The M-Uno is effectively a single arm fork canted onto the polar axis without the need for a separate wedge. 15
needs to be done indoors where you can take your time.
The mount is beautifully engineered and has some nice touches such as a very useful carry handle which makes carrying the 15Kg mount very easy and the Dec adjustment bolts are super smooth and aren’t loaded by the scope so fine adjustment is very easy. Carrying capacity is similar the Skywatcher mounts at 25Kg visual and 20Kg imagining. So why did I get one and should you have it on your short list? Since I can only get out imaging on rare clear weekends and need to maximise those nights my own personal requirements were for a low maintenance mount; quick to set up; would track all night (no meridian flip) and auto-guided well and this ticked all the boxes . It also looks gorgeous and for once those Italian good looks are more than skin deep.
Once done, however, it’s a fit and forget issue and all you need do in the field is fix the small counterweights and away you go which makes set up in the field very quick and easy. If however you have more than one scope then getting a set up that will allow balance for all scopes takes a lot longer but heavier counterweights are available.
If you’re in the market for a mount in this price bracket it should definitely be on your short list. Thanks for reading. If you’d like more info and pricing please use the Ian King link below.
The mount was originally designed for short tube, long focal length SCT type scopes which are relatively large and heavy and one problem I came across very early on was that with my small refractor, I simply couldn’t get balance in RA because the scope was effectively on the same side of the polar axis as the main arm and whilst Avalon have cleverly allowed the counterweights to be fitted on both sides of the polar axis they simply weren’t heavy enough. Avalon seems to have realised that their mount will be used with other types of scope and now offer an extender which lifts the scope above the axis and this allowed me to finally get balanced.
Whilst this sounds a bit complicated it’s not difficult to do but just takes a bit of time and care and only needs doing once. This is my first proper mount and other than the balance issue, the mount is pretty easy to use. 16
Perseid meteor shower August 2013 During August, clear skies permitting, we will be in for quite a display in our night skies with the arrival of the Perseid meteor shower. Here I will try and give you some extra information about them, how they came to be in our skies, how to observe them and how to try and capture some on camera. HISTORY Like all meteor showers this particular display comes from the tail of a comet, comet 109P SwiftTuttle and is a periodic one coming around every 133 years. It was discovered back in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Parnell Tutle, but was first observed it’s believed by the Chinese way back in 69 BC and AD 188. The next time we will see it from earth will be in July 2126 if predictions hold. The comet has a nucleus of approx 26km in diame-
Image graphic showing the debris trail left behind comet Swift-Tuttle and earths orbit showing how we go through the debris at the same time each year.
The speed of the Perseid meteors hitting earths atmosphere is approx 132,000 mph! This partly due as well to the speed that earth travels through space on it’s orbit around the sun, the speed is approx 67,642 mph. Friction caused by our earths atmosphere causes the meteors to heat up and burn up thus causing the streaks we see whizzing across our skies. Some meteors also have color to them when we see them, this is caused by layers of minerals contained within them, so for example giving off Orange/yellow hints at Sodium, Yellow is Iron,
comet swift tuttle image credit 1992 Herman Mikuz
ter.The reason comets cause meteor showers, although some may be caused by asteroids, is due to them leaving a trail of debris behind them, Meteoroids, this simply put floats in space after the comet has passed and it consists of largely dust particles, but due to the larger size of Swift-Tuttle some of this can be bigger, which in turn can produce more than the common looking “shooting star”, they can sometimes be seen as “fireballs” streaking across the night sky for several seconds and also sometimes leaving smoke trails behind them. 20 Perseids image credit Fred Bruenjes
Blue/green is Copper, Purple is Potassium and Red is Silicate.
to radiate out from just above the constellation Perseus, hence why they are called the “Perseids”. This area of the sky s called the “Radiant” If you happen to see a meteor during the time of this shower or during August, if you can re-track it’s path back towards Perseus then the chances are you have just seen a Perseid!
Most meteors are seen at altitudes of approx 34 to 70 miles above earth and tend to disintegrate at around 31 to 51 miles above earth. WHEN, WHERE AND HOW MANY?
As for how many will you see, well that will depend firstly of course if the skies are clear of clouds! But if they are then you’ll see more the darker the place you choose to watch from, away from pesky streetlights and the glow from towns and cities will help you to see the fainter ones. But of course caution on where you choose to watch from, never observe alone, it’s much better to observe in a group and more fun as well as you listen to the “WOW’s” and “OMG did you see that one?” coming from friends and family. Also it may be worth checking your local astronomy group to see if they have a public observing session planned near to you. The above graphic shows a chart of the estimated
Well the perseids can be seen from late July and through August, but the best time, know as the peak, of this shower will be on the nights/early mornings of 11th to 13th August.
meteors per hour as seen from London, UK. If you’d like to get an idea of the numbers from where you live click on the image above and input your location.
They can appear is any part of the sky but will tend Graphic from Stellarium at midnight 12th August 2013
For the UK the predictions could well be up to 60 per hour, and sometimes that can even climb to over 100 per hour! So pick the darkest safe location you can . HOW TO SEE AND TAKE PHOTO’S OF THEM Now once you’ve found that nice safe dark site you’ll also need to get comfy and settled. Getting your eyes dark adapted will help greatly, so don’t use any white lights, instead use red lights, if you 21
don’t have one you can easily make one using some red cellophane to cover up the white light of a torch. Getting your eyes dark adapted can take anywhere between 15 to 30 mins, but once you are fully dark adapted you’ll be able to spot many more meteors so it’s worth doing.
found in the past that doing a 30 sec exposure at 200 to 400 iso works well is dark’ish area’s. Also trying for 30 sec exposures at something like 18mm (wide field) will not leave any real star trails, but you could do 5 min exposure, you’ll have to drop the iso for this, you will get star trails but the meteors, if you manage to get one in frame, will show nicely. So get out early and have a play with the settings to see what works best, remembering as well that as the night goes on the darker it will get.
To get comfy the best thing to do is lay down or lay in a reclining chair/lounger, or you could use a camping roll mat and even a sleeping bag, remember the temperature will drop as it gets darker, even in the summer! If your away from home as well take a flask with hot drinks and also some snacks. Look roughly in the direction of the radiant and keep watching, remember they can appear in any part of the sky above you and the short lived ones will only last a second or two.
If you don’t have a tripod then why not use or make a simple bean bag to support your camera, they work very well and can be used on a chair, table top, car roof or the ground.
So thats how to increase your chances of seeing them with the mark one eye ball, but what if you’d also like try and capture one or more on camera? Well this will partly depend on what camera you have and if you can do say a 20 to 30 sec exposure. Most compact digital cameras now only have auto focus, this is pretty hopeless at night when trying to get a good focus on the stars above your head but DSLR’s are much better allowing manual focus, though this in itself can be tricky to do. The best way of getting a sharp focus is to set the camera to it’s widest field of view, this will increase your chances of getting a meteor in a shot, try and visually get the best focus you can using the brightest star you can see, once you have it as sharp as you can take a 2 sec exposure at around 1600 to 3200 iso, review the image on the screen on the camera and zoom in on a star, you should be able to see if the star looks sharp and pin point or a bit bloated/blobby. If it’s not pin sharp then move the focus ring a very small amount and then re-take another image and review again, if the star is now worst than before you have moved the focus ring in the wrong direction, so re adjust and try again. This can take a few images to get right, but once done stay well away from the focus ring! Remember also to delete those images from the memory card in your camera to free up space.
One problem you may get is dew forming n the lens so keep an eye on it during the night. Ways to help out with this are dew shields for the lens, heated dew bands or a 12v hairdryer, if you are tempted to use a mains hairdryer please safety first always, use an RCD! To take the shots you’ll also really need some kind of remote for the camera, there are loads available at varying prices, but one that is programmable is the best, that way you can set it up to take the number of shots you want, press start and sit back, relax and enjoy the wonders of nature’s fireworks above your head! You can also mount your camera on top of a motorised mount or on top (piggy backing) of a telescope on a tracking mount, this would allow you to take longer exposures without as much, if any, star trailing. You can also control your camera via a laptop or PC. There is various software available, some free, some you have to pay for, but check first to see it will work with your camera. If you do get some software to do this make sure you have a play
If you have a tripod great, mount your camera and choose the area of sky you want to cover, now you can do some test shots to find out what iso setting to use, this will be down to how dark your skies are to get the better iso to exposure length. I have 22
Perseids image credit Fred Bruenjes
Stunning photo of a Perseid meteor as seen from the International space station (ISS) taken by NASA astronaut Ron Garan.
with it before the night of the shower, you’ll want to be fairly happy with how it all works. If you are using a Canon DSLR then the software it comes with is pretty good and simple to use, otherwise Backyard EOS and Astro photography tool (APT) are both very good, offering more features and are really quite cheap at around 15 euro’s. Both are available to download as a trail version as well. Which ever way you choose to try and capture a meteor a little practise first along with patience, having the camera pointed at the right part of the sky when one appears and of course clear skies are the key to success. There are loads of guides to be found online, so have a look at some of them to help you get the most out of this amazing event and if you happen to capture any please feel free to email them to me at email@example.com and I’ll put them in the next issue. Have fun and I hope you get to see some and makes your wishes. Andy Lee.
12th October 2013
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THOUGHTS FROM THE DARK SIDE A JEDI’S EYE VIEW ON ASTRONOMY, THE UNIVERSE AND THE CAMPAIGN FOR DARK SKIES.
Greetings my Padawan’s. More disturbances within the force I have felt, since my last sermon. The Empire of Meade close to collapse, a couple of our suppliers are close to going out of business, and a few which do not make there promised delivery dates, even after taking deposit’s. I shall not mourn your passing those that fail. Your failure is of your own doing, and thus you shall become an “also Ran” shed no tears should you my Padawan. The world of deposit’s and supply is a mine field all of its own, to be avoided where possible, but when not 10% to 30% is fair if the delivery is going to take longer than seven days, beyond that if a higher fiscal amount is required, then a quicker delivery there must be. There are Laws in the UK that cover this, and stop the supplier from sitting on your money. If the company you are buying from has to place a minimum value order, with their suppliers then they must advise you of this. Giving you the option to cancel the order, so one may get from somewhere else that has it in stock. Beware the pitfalls of dealing with companies outside the country, I and many others have experienced the slowness and lies they will tell. A promised delivery of month appears to translate to a year and bit per £3000 spent. I heard the most stupid argument for keeping the street lights at full power all night yet. A cyclist group saying that they will not be able to see the road, the man making the argument, had it pointed out to him by a local Police officer, that by Law a bicycle must sufficient lighting to see the road at night, and to be seen by other road users.
Come to the Dark side you know it makes sense. Sy the Jedi.
Awel-Medi Evans, Fly me to the moon. Linda Harmening Sinkay's M20, the Trifid nebula
Dave Parker's wide field Cygnus
Dawn at Albury by Jonathan Shinn
Steve Basset's unguided M27
Dennis Butcher's Pinwheel galaxy
Mark Koehn's Lagoon Nebula
29 Chris Woodcock's iphone moon
Illustration by Bob Al-Greene.
www.bambinosbooks.co.uk My name is Janet Slinn and I am an Independent Usborne Organiser and Team Leader. Please see below a small selection of the marvellous Usborne Astronomy & Space related books and cards, all available to buy from my website. The story of astronomy and space An introduction to the mysteries of space and the secrets of astronomy. Packed with scientific facts about the solar system, comets, the Big Bang theory, telescopes, space exploration and much, much more. Diagrams and amusing illustrations help make complex ideas easy and fun. Includes star charts, a glossary and astronomy timeline, and internet links to recommended websites.
Night sky sticker book A fantastic book with over 120 features of the night sky to spot, with simple descriptions and accurate sticker illustrations. Children (and adults) can spot the various constellations, planets and satellites and place the coloured stickers next to each entry. Doubling as a spotters’ guide, each entry has a space for readers to log where and when they spotted the night sky feature
See Inside Space A flap book of astronomical proportions, packed with facts and information about the stars, planets and the universe. Fabulous double-page topics show our solar system, the Milky Way, how scientists think the universe was created and the latest space travel technology. Over 50 flaps reveal fascinating facts about the universe and there's a little book of star maps tucked in a pocket at the back of the book. Includes internet links to websites with the latest space information, games and photos. “A great introduction designed to stimulate further learning.” Publishing News “Perfectly pitched for Key Stage 2, a mix of facts, humour and novelty flaps...This series is proof that the right non-fiction still sells.” The Bookseller 31
www.bambinosbooks.co.uk 100 Things to Spot in the Night Sky Cards A pack of 50, double-sided, pocket-sized cards to help identify constellations, planets, meteors and other starry sights. Each card shows a feature of the night sky, one to a side, including a detailed picture and description, interesting facts, statistics and position in the night sky. An easy, convenient and informative companion for stargazing, with or without a telescope. With internet links to star maps and websites to find out more.
Astronomy and space sticker book Rocket into the wonders of space with this exciting introduction to astronomy, including over 130 stickers of stars, rockets, planets and much more to complete the pages. Encounter great galaxies, the burning sun and gas giants, discover how stars are born, what it’s like to live in space and much more. A fun and engaging way for children to learn about the solar system.
First encyclopedia of space A bright, lively introduction to space with simple text, amazing photographs and detailed illustrations. Provides simple explanations to questions such as “What are stars made of?” “Why does the Moon shine?” and “What do space toilets look like?” Includes free downloadable pictures and internet links to carefully selected fun websites.
For more information, on these or any other Usborne books, please contact me on 07802 833947, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or through my website www.bambinosbooks.co.uk 32