Posts tagged 'Leonids'

Observing Report 17th-18th November 2012 (Part 1 – in like a lion, out like a… bull)

Posted by on November 18th 2012 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports

I spent ages outside in the freezing cold last night trying to catch some Leonid (LEO) meteors on camera. There were quite a few about and I was pointing the camera in the right direction, but after taking 443 30-second exposures I'd not managed to get one in shot.

I did, however, manage to snap this little beauty racing eastward between Auriga and Cassiopeia - it's a Taurid, probably a Northern Taurid (NTA):

I'm quite pleased with that result, and the whole exercise was good practice for next month's Geminids (GEM).

Observing Report 21st-22nd November 2009 (Mars at short notice)

Posted by on November 24th 2009 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports
Tags: , ,

Saturday evening was forecast to be cloudy and wet, and I was resigned to an evening of avoiding Strictly, Casualty and the rest of the Beeb's prime-time twaddle, but the forecasters got it wrong - just for a change there was more gap than cloud. I grabbed my chance and cranked-up the obsy.

At such short notice I'd not had much time to think ahead, so, as the Newt's cooling-fan purred away, I sat back and looked up for inspiration. Rising in the East was Mars, and just for once it looked fairly bright. Target acquired!

After the scope had been cooled and the collimation checked I slewed it around to Mars and set about trying to get a decent focus - not easy, as the scope was dancing around in the wind, sending the image dancing all over the webcam chip. After a quarter of an hour of this malarkey I was happy with the focus and set about grabbing some .avi data. While this was going on I was on the lookout for Alpha-Monocerotid meteors - a minor shower that peaked on the 21st. I managed to spot a couple of them and a few sporadics as well, but didn't have the dSLR set up so there are no pics. 

Most of the webcam runs had some blurring and fading due to clouds and hence got consigned to the Recycle Bin, but some were OK. By about 03:00 a full cover of cloud had rolled in and spoiled the show so I closed the roof, had a cuppa and started processing the data. I figured that the night had finished so I parked the scope and packed away.

Leaving the obsy at 04:00 I looked up again and all was clear, so I did a smart about-face and went back in. Half an hour later I was set up again and looking at Saturn for the first time in ages. I grabbed a few .avis before the clouds spoiled things again, and this time there was some drizzle so the session was definitely finished.

After a couple of hours of kip I finished processing the Mars data, ending up with some rubbish and a few decent images. From these I've made a composite image just to see if there are any noticeable differences due to processing or planetary rotation. For an explanation of what's what, see the text below the pic:


Upper images from a 7200-frame avi taken at 02:08 - left: best 10% of frames stacked, right: best 90% of frames stacked.
Lower images from
a 7200-frame avi taken at 02:20 - left: best 10% of frames stacked, right: best 90% of frames stacked.

Damned if I can tell any difference between them!

I'm quite pleased with this - it's by far the best Mars image-set that I've done to date, not bad for a cheapo webcam. I'm inspired to get some better data later this month when Mars is a lot higher in the sky.

As for the Saturn data, I've not yet found time to process it properly. First impressions are that the data's not worth the effort, but I might be tempted to have a whack at it. If I get anything worthwhile, I'll let you know.


And now for the rest of the astronews...

Followers of this blog will know that I'm a keen meteor observer, and they may be wondering why there are no observing reports here about the recent showers. Well, the weather's the main culprit...

The Orionid shower  peaked on the 21st of October. I managed a short visual session during the preceding evening when all was clear for an hour or so, and managed to spot four Orionids, but the main night was clouded out. Typically it was much clearer the night after too, but I was too busy to get out. It was a similar story with the Leonid shower on the 17th of November - clear the night before when I spotted about ten Leonids, and then cloudy and rainy for the main night and for the rest of the week.

Let's hope for a break in the weather around the 14th of December for the Geminid shower, which is always a good display.

Observing Report 21st-22nd November 2008 (Shooting Unicorns)

Posted by on November 25th 2008 in Observing Reports

After the disappointment of being unable to observe the Leonid meteor shower earlier in the week due to rain and cloud, things were looking up (pardon the pun) for the alpha-Monocerotid shower on Friday night. The day had been cold and clear, and what wind there was had turned to a gentle breeze by 21:00.

I decided to make do without the hassle of setting up the mount, and made do with a static setup with the D50 on a fixed tripod, taking a variety of exposure-sets across a range of focal lengths. The MaxIm DL5 software on the lappy controlled the camera and downloaded the pics while I sat next to the tripod and watched events the good old-fashioned way. The only problems encountered were due to the cold, at -3C the D50's batteries don't perform well, only lasting for 200 shots before they needed to be warmed up or recharged. Having a couple of spare batteries is a godsend for such conditions. The cold didn't affect me, though - I was wrapped up in my Alpkit Filo, astrobreeks and Skee-Tex Original boots, nice and comfy.

The session began at about 22:00 and during the next four hours I observed 12 meteor trails (10 alpha-Monocerotids and 2 sporadics), of which 9 were fully or partly within the field of view of the camera, which took a grand total of 412 pictures.

At about 02:00 the clouds rolled in and ended the session. After clearing away the kit, I went through all of the photos, and guess what...  there's not even the slightest sign of any meteor trails on any of them, despite cranking up the enhancement levels to ridiculous levels! Typical.

So, I'm sorry, but there's no nice photo of the event to show to you. As a last resort, before binning all of the pics, I dubbed 77 of the 30-second frames together to make a small video showing Gemini rising, a few jet-tracks and the clouds that ended observations:


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